MEMORIAL DAY – WW1 CENTENARY – MARGARET TANNER

I wrote this a few years ago, but I feel that at this time it is still relevant. Not Western, but many ranch hands, farmers and small town men answered their country’s call to arms in WW1.

THE FINAL ROLL CALL

The young captain waited silently by the war memorial erected for ones such as he. He belonged to the ghostly columns of a long dead army, who had passed this way before.

The captain was one of the glorious dead. He had once been a mother’s laughing boy, strong in limb and bold in spirit. He had survived a mad dash across no-man’s land only to be felled when a sniper’s bullet pierced his heart.

In the shadows behind him, the others waited for the last member of the battalion to arrive, so the roll call would be complete.

The distant sounds of bagpipes wafted on the air. Giant oaks and poplars guarded this sacred place. People had gathered, not huge crowds of long ago but quite a few still.

The ranks of marches grew thinner year by year, as old warriors joined the ghostly ranks of their long dead comrades.

This was the final pilgrimage, and the captain knew the battalion would not need to muster here again. Over eighty years it had taken for the final name on the roll to be called.

The soldiers watching from the shadows were young and fine, the weight of years that had burdened some of them was lifted, as were the hard times of struggling to rebuild a life after war, when people didn’t understand.

There was no sadness in these ranks, because over the years mothers, wives and sweethearts had passed on and joined their youthful dashing loved ones. The bloody carnage on the Western front, where the battalion had been decimated, the mud and horrors of winter on the Somme were shrouded by the mists of time. Limbs torn off, chest and stomachs blown open. Some died quickly, others lingered, calling out to their mothers from no-man’s land, some returned home and became fathers, who in turn gave their sons to yet another war. There were those too who attained fame and riches before they joined their comrades in the battalion

A snaking column finally came into view led by mounted infantry. The sun slid out from behind banked up clouds to glisten on campaign medals and to warm the cold limbs of stiff old men. Banners and flags danced and fluttered on the wind, and it took all the strength of the bearers to hold them in place.

Behind the battalion’s colours the lone survivor marched.

In the flower of his youth Jim Stanton had been tall and lithe as a sapling, and the khaki uniform had suited his reckless good looks. The poppy strewn fields of France had almost delivered him into the ghostly arms of his waiting comrades, but the time had not yet come for him to re-join the battalion.

He returned home, one of the conquering heroes, married and had three sons. His eldest boy’s burning plane had plunged into the sea, in a later war that never should have been. Had not the generation watching from the shadows fought a war to end all ways?

Some had never known a woman’s love or sired children, Even though they were in the prime of their young manhood, they had never reached their full potential because they had bought freedom with their blood.

The last survivor marched slowly with labouring breath and unsteady gait. He was hunched over, frail and ravaged by age, and even as the spectators clapped him they would have wondered why such an old man would bother marching, when he could have watched it on television in the comfort of his home.

The eternally young of the ghostly battalion waited for the captain to bring their comrade back into the ranks once more.

Old Jim’s breath rasped from his worn out lungs, pain knifed into his chest and his shoulders ached with the strain of struggling to straighten them.

“Oh, tottery legs don’t let me down now,” he pleaded. “Let’s do a deal. If you get me to the lawn area I won’t ask you to take me up the steps into the shrine forecourt. Heart keep pumping the life blood through my veins for a little longer.”

The family reckoned he was too old, but he had shown them. He almost chuckled but it took all his strength to continue breathing.

Why couldn’t they understand what had driven him. Now Les and Harold were gone, he was the last one left to represent the battalion. At re-unions and marches over the years, the numbers had dwindled until now, there was only him.

He shook his head slightly to clear it of the ringing noises so he could hear the band again. They gave him the strength to struggle onward. Not much further now. Victory was close at hand.

He suddenly pictured all those laughing, carefree boys who had given up their youth. Even as the old man stumbled, the young captain came forward and reached out a hand to guide this old warrior to where his comrades were waiting.

A golden haired youth, on a dazzling white steed, sounded the Last Post, and to the sound of muffled drumbeats the battalion marched away.

*****

As well as writing Westerns, Margaret writes historical romantic fiction. Several of her stories are set against the background of WW1.

Daring Masquerade

When Harriet Martin masquerades as a boy to help her shell-shocked brother, falling in love with her boss wasn’t part of the plan.

http://amzn.com/B071R7R42J

Allison’s War

On the French battlefields, a dying soldier’s confession has the power to ruin the girl he loves.

http://amzn.com/B071NTMVGD

Lauren’s Dilemma

Three soldiers stole Lauren’s love, only one will keep it.

https://amzn.com/B0778MPL8B

A Rose In No-Man’s Land

An army nurse and an English Captain find love on the French battlefields. Will he marry her and risk the gallows for a murder he did not commit?

http://amzn.com/B015JWZHL0

 

SIMILARITIES BETWEEN FRONTIER AMERICA AND FRONTIER AUSTRALIA – MARGARET TANNER

 

FRONTIER LIFE – AUSTRALIA AND AMERICA

Life on the American and Australian frontiers have a strikingly similar history. For example, take the The American Homestead Act, and the Australian Act of Selection, which is the basis for my novel, Frontier Belle.

 

America: The original Homestead Act was signed into law by President Abraham Lincoln on May 20th, 1862. It gave applicants freehold title to up to 160 acres of undeveloped federal land west of the Mississippi River. The law required only three steps from the applicant – file an application, improve the land, then file for a deed of title. Anyone who had never taken up arms against the U.S. government, including freed slaves, could file a claim on the provisions that they were over the age of twenty one and had lived on the land for five years.

 

The Homestead Act’s lenient terms proved to be ill-fated for many settlers. Claimants didn’t have to own farming implements or even to have had any farming experience. The allocated tracts of land may have been adequate in humid regions, but were not large enough to support plains settlers where lack of water reduced yields.

Speculators often got control of homestead land by hiring phony claimants or buying up abandoned farms.

 

Most of us visualise the frontier home as a rustic log cabin nestled in a peaceful mountain valley or on a sweeping green plain. But in reality, the “little house on the prairie” was often not much more than a shack or a hastily scratched out hole in the ground. In the treeless lands of the plains and prairies, log cabins were out of the question so   homesteaders turned to the ground beneath their feet for shelter. The sod house, or “soddy,” was one of the most common dwellings in the frontier west. The long, tough grasses of the plains had tight, intricate root systems, and the earth in which they were contained could be cut into flexible, yet strong, bricks.

 

Ground soaked by rains or melting snow was ideal for starting sod house construction. When the earth was soft and moist, homesteaders would break the soil with an ox- or horse-drawn sod cutter, which was an instrument similar to a farming plough. Sod cutters produced long, narrow strips of sod, which could then be chopped into bricks with an axe. These two- to three-foot square, four-inch thick sod bricks were then stacked to form the walls of the sod house. A soddy roof was constructed by creating a thin layer of interlacing twigs, thin branches, and hay, which were then covered over with another layer of sod. To save time many sod houses were built into the sides of hills or banks. Some settlers gouged a hole in a hill side, so they only had to build a front wall and roof.
As a result of their extremely thick walls, soddies were cool in the summer and warm in the winter. Soddies were also extremely cheap to build. Of course, there were drawbacks to sod-house living. As the house was built of dirt and grass, it was constantly infested with bugs, mice and snakes. The sod roofs often leaked, which turned the dirt floor into a quagmire. Wet roofs took days to dry out and the enormous weight of the wet earth often caused roof cave-ins. Even in the very best weather, sod houses were plagued with problems. When the sod roof became extremely dry, dirt and grass continually rained down on the occupants of the house.

A typical American log cabin measured about ten by twenty feet, regardless of the number of inhabitants. Settlers often built lofts across the cabin roof or lean-tos across the rear of the cabin to give the family more space. Typically, frontier cabins featured only one room, which served as kitchen, dining room, living room, workroom, and bedroom.

Homesteaders could often build a log cabin in a matter of days, using only an axe and auger. No nails were required for the task. The first step in construction was to build a stone or rock foundation, to keep the logs off the ground and prevent rot. Once the foundation was laid, settlers would cut down trees and square off the logs. These logs were then “notched” in the top and bottom of each end then stacked to form walls. The notched logs fitted snugly together at the corners of the cabin, and held the walls in place. After the logs were stacked, gaps remained in the walls. Settlers had to jam sticks and wood chips into the gaps, then they filled in the remaining gaps with cement made out of earth, sand, and water. Fireplaces were built of stone, and often had stick-and-mud chimneys. Most cabins had dirt or gravel floors, which had to be raked daily to preserve their evenness.
Australia: In the colony of Victoria the 1860 Land Act allowed free selection of crown land.  This included land already occupied by the squatters, (wealthy land owners) who had managed to circumvent the law for years and keep land that they did not legally own.

The Act allowed selectors access to the squatters’ land, and they could purchase between 40 and 320 acres of crown land, but after that, the authorities left them to fend for themselves. Not an easy task against the wealthy, often ruthless squatters who were incensed at what they thought was theft of their land.

In 1861 the Act of Selection was intended to encourage closer settlement, based on intensive agriculture. Selectors often came into conflict with squatters, who already occupied land and were prepared to fight to keep it. The bitterness ran deep for many years, often erupting into violence.

The first permanent homesteads on the Australian frontier were constructed using posts and split timber slabs. The posts were set into the ground, about three feet apart, according to the desired layout. Slabs of timber were then dropped into the slots. A sapling or similar, straight piece of timber ran across the top of the posts, which allowed them to be tied together so they could support the roof. Clay was often plugged in between the joins and splits of the cladding to stop draughts. The internal walls were sometimes plastered with clay and straw, lined with hessian/calico, white washed or simply left as split timber. Roofs were pitched using saplings straight from the bush and often clad with bark. Early settlers learnt from the aborigines that large sheets of bark could be cut and peeled off a variety of trees and used as sheets to clad the roof.

So, as you can see, there is not much difference between our two countries in this respect. My novel Fiery Possession is an example of this.

FIERY POSSESSION

American Wild West versus Australian Frontier.

Only a fine line divides love and hate, and when the hero and heroine step over it they create a firestorm of passion and betrayal. .

 

https://www.amazon.com/dp/B06XWYF3ZW

Margaret Tanner writes Australian frontier romance, and American westerns romance. offer)

Margaret’s website:

http://www.margarettanner.com/

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

THE SOILED DOVES SERIES – MARGARET

I am excited to announce that Western Romance Author Susan Horsnell and I have embarked on an exciting series, telling the story of soiled doves of the old west. Book 1 – Sophie, Book 2 – Tess, Book 3 Annabelle (Susan Horsnell) and Book 4 Laura with Claire and Grace on the way.

LATEST RELEASE – FALSELY ACCUSED – MARGARET TANNER

Hi everyone,

I just wanted to announce that my historical romance novel, Falsely Accused, has just been released by my publisher, Books We Love.

On board the convict ship taking them to the penal colony of Australia, Maryanne Watson and Jake Smith meet and fall in love, but Jake hides a terrible secret that will take him to the gallows if it ever comes out.

On arrival in Sydney the lovers are separated. Maryanne is sent to work for the lecherous Captain Fitzhugh. After he attacks her she flees into the wilderness and eventually meets up with Jake who has escaped from a chain gang.  They set up home in a hidden valley and Maryanne falls pregnant.  Will Jake come out of hiding to protect his fledgling family? And how can love triumph over such crushing odds?

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http://www.amazon.co.uk/s/ref=nb_sb_noss?url=search-alias%3Daps&field-keywords=falsely%20accused%20-%20kindle

http://www.amazon.com/dp/B00LEXEVES

 

 

Amazon Countdown Deal – Savage Possession

My historical novel, Savage Possession, is only 99 cents on Amazon at the moment in the new Amazon Countdown Deal.

A sweeping tale of love’s triumph over tragedy and treachery in frontier Australia.

A mistaken identity opens the door for Martin Mulvaney to take his revenge on the granddaughter of his mortal enemy.

An old Scottish feud, a love that should never have happened, and a series of extraordinary coincidences traps two lovers in a family vendetta that threatens to destroy their love, if not their lives.

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http://amzn.com/B008EL0FTI