Louis L’Amour is not known for having the frontier female as a main character. However, of all his voluminous novels of the West, the one I remember the most features the widow Evie Teale and her tumbleweed notes of love and longing, which seemed to find their way into men’s hearts:
Charlie McCloud, Stage Driver: Well, what are you up to, Conagher? Drifting again?
Conn Conagher: I got tumbleweed fever.
Charlie McCloud, Stage Driver: You too? Half of the cowboys in the country are chasing tumbleweed.
Conagher captures an elusive element of storytelling–finding the unexpected. The best romance has the reader finding love in the most unexpected places.
We don’t think of the frontier as hospitable to the pursuit of writing. The letters of the heroine and Frank Churchill in Jane Austen’s novel, Emma, spring from a proper milieu–the English country house. Besides, pioneers settling the West had more than enough to do without frittering away the precious daylight hours penning their desire.
What writing that could be done would seem better confined to communicate whether or not one was still alive. One remarkable 1852 letter from daughter to mother records the disasters encountered along the wagon trail to Oregon, including deadly alkali water to a wagon wheel running over a boy’s head. Exhausted, the letter ends with a bit of spirit, albeit sarcastic:
“I suppose you will expect to hear something of the beauties of this great paradise called Oregon, but you must wait awhile before you can hear much flattering news from me.” — read the full account in the Journal Standard here http://bit.ly/VU31Tr
In Texas, during those years when the land came to be farmed, life was still hard. Lonely claims out on the featureless plain, where the black-land soil was rich but hard as hell to plow, courtship flourished here and there. One set of letters from an 1879 collection has recently surfaced. John was courting Emma, taking her for a buggy ride and giving her a kiss that was apparently memorable, for she wrote to him: “I don’t reckon that …buggy horse will ever forget Christmas.” But she had promised to marry another, prompting an eloquent exchange:
“Floyd can never love you more sincerely or with a more heart whole love than that I bear you,” John wrote.
“Although you think I have deceived you to a certain extent, God knows it was not intentionally done, for I always thought too much of you to treat you in such a manner,” Emma replied.
— from the collection of Melvin E. Brewer, now part of the University of North Texas archives (http://bit.ly/YgvYoQ)
In 1934, a notable Texan proposed to his love and was predictably impatient when she delayed her answer. He wrote:
“It is an important decision. It isn’t being made in one night.. but your lack of decision hasn’t tempered either my affection, devotion or ability to know what I want.” (italics added for emphasis)
Her name was Lady Bird. His was Lyndon Baines.
Now that’s finding romance in the most unexpected places.