The Prairie Fire by Larry Sweazy – Selection 4 of #DealMeIn2020

The Card: ♥Ace♥ of Hearts.

The Suit: For Deal Me In 2020, ♥♥♥Hearts♥♥♥ is my Suit for Books I picked up at the 2019 Holiday Author Fair a the Indiana History Center. This week’s selection is by one of the authors I met at the fair.

The Author: Larry Sweazy – see his web site page listing his short story output at http://www.larrydsweazy.com/short-stories.html He also had a story in the “Indy Writes Books” anthology that this blog was a proud “first edition sponsor” of a few years back.

The Story: “The Prairie Fire” from the anthology “The Trading Post and Other Frontier Stories.” Four from this anthology are in my Deal Me In 2020 plans. Sweazy was quoted in “Current Publishing” saying that “This story is the first frontier-based short story I’ve published in several years. This anthology features stories by some talented writers and good friends.”

BUT…what is Deal Me In? I’m glad you asked!  Full details may be found here  but generally speaking it’s a reading challenge where participants try to read one short story a week for the year, the reading order being determined by the luck of the draw. See here for the list I’ll be reading in 2020. 

The Prairie Fire

“The burial would occur the next morning as the sun ate away at the darkness. It was The Between Time: when the sun, the moon, and the stars shared the sky with their wonder and knowledge. Naxke’s people believed it was an opening, a spirit path to travel safely.”

I like stories featuring Native Americans and especially so if those characters speak in an authentic way. How would I know what is an “authentic” way? I guess I don’t, so maybe what I mean is they’re speaking how I imagine they would. How I formed that imagination might be hard to track down. Probably from tv and movies, I’d have to admit…

This story begins with an Indian woman, Naxke, anxiously awaiting the return of her husband, Kitha, who was never late to an arranged meeting time with his wife. Her  sister, Seke, comes to comfort her (maybe?) and they speculate on what might have happened. None of the possibilities are good, however, and sure enough, the chief’s son Tu-Co-Han shows up with the news that Kitha is dead (or, as death is described in the story, “Kitha no longer walked in this world”), probably at the hands of a fur trader, Galligan, who has been captured.

Naxke is immediately suspicious of Tu-Co-Han, who is a rival of Kitha’s in regards to who will be the next chief.  That evening after “… night had completely fallen. The sky was full of silver beads on the black cloth of forever,” there is a council among the tribe to decide what to do – a kind of trial if you will – where, at first at least “…no one spoke a word, only the fire had a voice, and it only offered short snaps and pops from green wood.” When reading this passage, I have to tell you that I felt like I was in that wigwam, with the fire warming my feet and crossed legs as the arguments were made.

What will happen regarding the future of the tribe and the fate of Galligan – or Tu-Co-Han – I won’t betray for fear of writing “spoiler alert!” but the story has the feel that it’s not just the fate of the characters in the story at stake but the future course of the tribe’s way of life as the westward expansion of The White Man continues to put pressure on the native inhabitants. If you are interested in this anthology, it may be found at Amazon at https://www.amazon.com/Trading-Post-Other-Frontier-Stories/dp/1432845055

I enjoyed the story a lot and in particular some of the language I’ve quoted above.

(Below: I like when the author of a story in an anthology signs the title page of his particular story in the book instead of in the front… 🙂 )

What about you? Have you read any good “Frontier” stories or stories involving Native Americans? What are some of your favorites?

Next up in Deal Me In 2020: Ray Boomhower’s A Woman of the Limberlost (Gene Stratton Porter) from Indiana Originals

♪♫♪♫ Personal Notes:

My prairie memories are from lengthy summer camping trips as a child, tv and movies and a College Ecology class multi-day field trip “in the 80s” where we visited the easternmost original prairie remnant in the United States. We also visited the Ridgetop Hill Preserve near Eureka College in Illinois (also notable as the alma mater of President Ronald Reagan). Then, in 2002, on a trip out West, I stopped in Hays, Kansas at the Fort Hays Historic Site that looked remarkably “Dances With Wolves-y” to me at the time.  Also, in 1978, my family camped one night at Prairie Dog State Park in Kansas. I only remember this because overnight the winds became so violent and strong that we ended up breaking down our pop-up camper and hitting the road at 4 a.m. in fear of it being blown over by the winds!

Below: Prairie Dog State Park and its rather desolate campground.

prairie_dog

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Ridgetop Hill Nature Preserve in Illinois. Site of an overnight field trip in the Ancient (personal) History of this blogger!

ridgetop hill prairie

 

8 Comments

  1. Dale said,

    January 29, 2020 at 9:29 pm

    Jay,
    The quotations you include are incredible! I’ve enjoyed some frontier stories by Willa Cather and Janice Holt Giles. But this one sounds just as good as anything I’ve read by them.
    -Dale

    Like

    • Jay said,

      January 29, 2020 at 9:49 pm

      Ah… Willa Cather. Tom Outland’s Story and The Enchanted Bluff are among my favorites. I’ll have to look into Janice Holt Giles. Thanks for making me aware of her.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. marianallen said,

    January 30, 2020 at 11:01 am

    Naturally, I like Tony Hillerman’s books and stories, but my heart belongs to PORTRAIT OF AN ARTIST WITH TWENTY-SIX HORSES by William Eastlake. The first time I read it, I was so young it seemed psychedelic. When I reread it as a mature reader, I recognized character shifts and flashbacks, and it was no longer mind-blowing, but still a fine book.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Jay said,

      January 30, 2020 at 1:56 pm

      Hi Marian,
      One of my book clubs read a Hillerman book once, and I remember liking it quite a bit. I hadn’t heard of Eastlake’s book before, but I am making a note of it. Thanks for the comment!
      -Jay

      Like

  3. Scott Fifer said,

    January 30, 2020 at 7:05 pm

    I’m currently reading Sweazy’s book, The Lost Are the Last To Die.” I have thoroughly enjoyed it. The writing is excellent, and like you with the Native American dialogue, I found his characters’ dialogue very natural and flowing. I’m ready to go looking for more of his books now, including the prequel to this book.

    Like

    • Jay said,

      January 31, 2020 at 9:34 am

      Hi Scott! I spoke with him for a few minutes at the Indiana Historical Society’s annual Holiday Author Fair. Nice guy, I think he copies of The Lost Are the Last to Die for sale there, but I was looking more for short story fodder for my annual project. I’m also thinking of an Indianapolis Bicentennial Deal Me In project that I may start mid-year, once I populate a deck of Indy-only stories…

      Like

  4. February 3, 2020 at 8:26 pm

    Jay, I have not read this author at all so need to check this out and I totally agree that I learn something new each time I pick up a selection for this challenge. I just read Sherman Alexie’s ‘Every Little Hurricane’ as part of reading assignments for a fiction course I am taking and truly enjoy his writing.. But my selection for today is non-fiction – https://www.ladyinreadwrites.com/on-keeping-a-notebook/

    Liked by 1 person

    • Jay said,

      February 4, 2020 at 9:09 am

      I like what I’ve read by Alexie but want to read more!

      Like


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