Missing the country-side

Electric streetcar rails made circular patterns on the paved intersections of busy streets while the trolley’s bells deafened my rural ears. Businesses of every kind lined up one after another, many sharing common walls. Women wore feathers and stuffed birds attached to their hats and paraded them down the street like migrating nests. Barouche carriages transported men and women in their finery. At least the clamor and Jangle of wagons pulled by tried horses reminded me of home.

I set my luggage down and rubbed my tired arms.

Excerpt from The Last Bordello, 1901

daily word prompt: Jangle

Don’t lick your dog

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In the last fourteen hours, I’ve seen more scenery than a turkey vulture. I tell Daddy I can’t wait to go. For the most part, it’s true. I won’t have to think about the vulture’s nest – a tangled up shack were Frank lives.

I put on a nicer dress, the blue one with Sailor pockets, brush through my hair tangles, and think about chopping it off. I stare at the scissors when the familiar voice calls out.

“Emmy! Emmy!”

I twist my hair into a braid.

“She’s in the house, Scoot Bug,” Daddy yells from behind the house.

“Emmy! Emmy!” he yells again.

I find Scooter outside. He’s hugging Choppers and licking his fur.

“Scoot! Your mama doesn’t like for you to lick dogs.”

He gives me a devilish grin and spits mutt hair from his mouth.

If he asks me to whirly-bird, this time I’ll say no. I’ll show him the still-in-the-carton Tinker Toys instead.

“Ba-boom-ba-boom. Ba-boom-ba-boom. A hullabaloo!”

He’s doing it again. His few words tell me he’s been with Frank.
“I thought you couldn’t leave without your parents watching over you.”

“I am watched over.”

“Yeah? Where?”

Scoot points toward his house, but I know his parents can’t stand on their front porch and keep an eye on him a good hundred yards away.

Halfway between Scoot’s house and mine, I see him waving under the clump of live oak trees. My arm’s too heavy to wave back.

Excerpt from The Moonshine Thicket

Sail – Daily word prompt

School’s out, but …

“Class dismissed.”

After Miss Primrose’s words, the students Dash outside to breathe in the real world.

“Scoot? Want to go to the swimming hole to look for Frank? If he’s there, we can’t stay long. Your Mama will have a hissy fit if we’re late coming home.”

His eyes light up. “Grab your muskets, boys!” he shouts. Then, for the first time today, he pulls out his blues harp. As he plays, his cheeks puff out and suck in, puff out, and suck in like what I picture a blowfish doing.

As we walk to the swimming hole, I think about my birthday even though I don’t want to. Without Mama, it wouldn’t even be a birthday. It would be a few friends, a cake and presents without promise. Now I have to talk to The Secret Keepers, Miss Helen or Miss Delores. If they know where Mama is, maybe they can send word that I refuse to turn twelve without her.

Excerpt from The Moonshine Thicket

 

daily word prompt: Dash

What poverty looks like

All I hear is the rotting porch creaking from the wind.

“It’s the right thing to do,” I say over and over while pulling open the screen door that has more holes than a liar’s tale.

The house is crowded with litter. I step over a broken radio with its back unscrewed, a screwdriver next to it. The one chair in the tiny sitting room lies on its side, wood glue next to its broken leg. Papers torn from a Big Chief tablet, marked with music notes, are scattered across the floor. A tattered pillow sits on a mattress in the corner. Beside it, Frank’s harmonica. I picture Frank sleeping here. My eyes get watery.

The kitchen smells like the sandwich I made Frank – moldy and spoiled. Plates and bowls are caked and crusted with old food.

I walk the few steps to her bedroom. The door is open. I concentrate on the body beneath the covers and see the slight rise and fall of the life underneath.

Excerpt from The Moonshine Thicket

Daily Word Prompt: Paper

Eggs against Prostitution and Alcohol Reform

(1901) Meta learns, while attending the Women’s Christian Temperance Union rally, that soiled dove Sadie has snuck out of the bordello and is hiding in the background. As Meta listens to the speakers advocating for women’s rights, and the men become angry at the progressive words, something unexpected happens.

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Excerpts from The Last Bordello,  Chapter 28: Eggs of Folly

Meta Duecker

“Due to the efforts of the WCTU, the age of consent has been raised from thirteen to fifteen. We strive for even higher,” Miss Fisher <Minnie Fisher Cunningham, Women’s Right Activist> said. “Every day, the newspapers report acts of violence against women and remind us of men’s incapacity to cope successfully with this monster evil of society.”

“What are you saying, missy? We men ain’t capable?” The man’s words elicited angry comments from the crowd.

Miss Fisher hesitated before she continued. “We know you men are hardworking gentlemen. For women, education is the key, both in and out of the home.”

Some women clapped. Others squinted in puzzlement as if the thought of learning something other than child-rearing had never occurred to them. Her words enlightened me and affirmed my goals.

A man, close to the front, pumped his fist. “My wife don’t have time for more learning. We got six kids needing supper on the table.”

Querulous male voices erupted from the crowd.

“Why do women prostitute themselves to the abnormal passion of man?” Miss Fisher continued. “Because they are poverty-stricken, destitute above temptation, and driven by necessity. They sell themselves, in marriage or out, for bread and shelter, for the necessities of life. How can we blame them? They have no other recourse but to live in a society that dictates what they—we—can and cannot do. To solve this problem, we demand that women be allowed to exercise their inherent, personal, citizen’s right to be a voice in the government—municipal, state, and national. Then, women will have the power to protect themselves.”

“We men protect our women just fine,” a man shouted. Other men yelled their agreement.

Mayor Hicks stepped to the podium, his lips pursed. “Enough of your heckling. Save your disagreements for editorials in the newspapers. She has a right to free speech.”

“So do we,” someone yelled back.

The mayor banged a fist on the podium. “These women are invited guests. By God, we will show them our Southern hospitality.”

The raw egg came from nowhere. It narrowly missed the mayor’s head before landing on the bandstand floor. He squinted, scouring the crowd.

Poor Mrs. Fenwick held a shaky hand over her mouth.

Miss Fisher reached below the dais and pulled out a speaking trumpet. “The true relation of the sexes can never be attained until women are free and equal with men,” she said, her determination thundering above the chaos.

The second egg hit the podium dead center. The crowd either gasped or laughed. Some men took hold of their wives and scurried them away, while the women in black remained steadfast in their chairs behind the podium.

…  The yolk running down the front of the dais did not deter Miss Fisher. She stood firm, her voice amplified by the speaking trumpet. “As the great Susan B. Anthony said, whoever controls work and wages, controls morals. Independence is freedom. Independence means happiness. Therefore, we must have women employers, superintendents, legislators. For moral necessity, we must emancipate women, pull them out of prostitution, and safeguard our country. Thank you.”

 

 

 

The Red Bordello Door-To Enter Or Not?

 

If you choose to go inside…

Madam Fannie Porter will answer your knock, her  head tilted back and a hand on her protruded hip. If you are a customer, she’ll first point out her list of rules and if you don’t follow them, the ratchet of a shotgun will show you the way out.

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Then, she’ll point to one of her soiled doves –Chubby Greta from west Texas with her big brown eyes and no nonsense attitude; timid Lillie who grins but rarely exposes the gap where her tooth had been knocked out by a brute; Sassy Sarah with her flaming red hair and ample bosoms. Then there’s Sadie. Well, Sadie …

If you are a lost young woman steered to the wrong “boarding house,” Madam Fannie will keep you safe. She might also offer you a job as the bordello’s pianist.

But perhaps you choose not to enter.

You may be against vice, the Social Evil, the Grand Wrong. Then go to the public forum in Alamo Park. Hear Minnie Fisher (Cunningham) speak out on women’s rights. Listen to Women’s Christian Temperance Union‘s Texas president, Helen Stoddard, speak out against prohibition. But prepare yourself. Texans likes their beer.

Whichever choice you make, know this. The Last Bordello is not a novel about what goes on behind closed bedroom doors (okay, perhaps a tad), nor is it merely a whodunit. It’s about powerful women at the turn of the twentieth century who fought for their standing in life. While some found prostitution to be their only means of survival, other women fought for equal rights.

The Last Bordello depicts the struggle and determination of both sides.

Oh, and I suggest NOT entering Southwestern Insane Asylum.

It is 1901. So, would you enter or not? Are you curious about what’s inside? Appalled? There’s no wrong answer. There’s no right one, either. I’d love to hear your response and a reason or two why you chose to go in or stay out. 

All the best,

Carolyn

 

The Last Bordello – visuals of settings in the novel

Research, research. I think it’s the reason I write historical novels. Here are some places that are mentioned in the novel set in San Antonio, Texas, 1901.

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Menger Hotel (lots happens here)

 

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County courthouse

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Brackenridge Park

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Otto Koehler’s house

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Southwestern Insane Asylum

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Buckhorn’s Saloon

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Alderman Richter’s Bakery

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San Pedro Park

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Meta’s homestead

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And, believe it or not, the original location of Fannie Porter’s bordello at the corner of Durango and San Saba. (a bit different now!)

The Last Bordello-True Characters

Inspirations for the novel – true characters in The Last Bordello (San Antonio in 1901) Opposing forces or unified goals?

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Madam Fannie Porter

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Butch Cassidy

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Kid Curry

 

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Etta Place and the Sundance Kid

 

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Helen M. Stoddard

 

 

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Mayor Bryan Callaghan

 

 

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Mary Eleanor Brackenridge

 

 

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Minnie Fisher (Cunningham)

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Carry Nation

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Mayor Marshal Hicks

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Otto Koehler