With the wonderful acceptance of my latest novel, Jack Slater, Orphan Train to Cattle Barron, I thought it might be fun to discuss some of the background and little points of interest in the book. First off, of course, are the orphan trains. These were operated by the Children’s Aid Society in New York City. It’s estimated that as many as 200,000 orphaned or abandoned children were moved from the east coast to homes and families in the hinterlands of the western frontier between 1854 and 1929.
That’s an incredible number. The Children’s Aid Society was founded by Charles Loring Brace in 1853. The 1850s were bad, but it was following the Civil War that the numbers of orphaned and abandoned children soared. Stories have been written about some of the children who grew up to be civic, business, and political leaders in their adopted communities.
It was a combination of stories that the concept of Jack Slater began to form. The greatest majority of the children that rode the trains to their new homes and families found warmth and love, hard work and plentiful food, but I couldn’t let Jack have that kind of happiness. He was a feisty, strong willed boy with an incredible sense of personal responsibility. No, he had to ride into an atmosphere of cold, fear, and depredation.
It was those personal characteristics that kept him alive and made him into the man he became, allowed him to find two strong loves, and become a community leader. Which brings us to one of the fun parts of the book. Fun, that is, from my point of view as the writer. He settled in a wonderful valley south of Elko, Nevada that is home of many fine cattle ranches today. The grass is high and rich, the water is pure and cold.
Slater met a man named Paddock who lived in a little town called Skelton and bought some land from the man for his ranch. Paddock said he named the town after his mother, which Slater found rather humorous. Those of us that wander all over this great state of Nevada are rather familiar with Skelton even if we don’t immediately recognize the name. Today, we call it Jiggs, Nevada. The saloon is closed, but the sign always says open. Paddock’s story about naming the town after his mother is real. It’s history.
On his travels Jack made numerous friends, including the first sheriff of Deadwood, sat at the table where Wild Bill met his end, and participated in protecting the herd of one of Wyoming’s first major cattle ranches.
I have to say, of all the stories I’ve written over the years, this one was plain old fashioned fun to write. I took on the character and just let it flow, and apparently the currents and eddies were adequately postulated. Jack Slater, Orphan Train to Cattle Barron is an Amazon Best Seller, my first best seller. Thank you, Jack, it’s been a fun ride on that old train.
Until next time, read good books and stay regular
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