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  • Susan Stoderl

Experiment | A Forgotten Novel |Prairie Dust, Chapter 1


Grass plains with run down cabin.
Cabin on the Prairie

Colorado 1908

Saturday Night


Late April drafts blasted through the gaping cracks of the tarp-covered doorway. Smoldering hay within the stove’s belly manufactured a musty incense. James, or Jim, as most folks called him, hummed tunelessly as he stropped his razor. The roughly hewn farmer was very excited to meet his new neighbors at the square dance and box supper. A newly purchased shirt crisply awaited its first wearing on the foot of his cot.

Jim, who grew up in the Methodist Episcopal Church, was not much of a dancer. That didn’t stop a crowd from gathering around the punch bowl to listen to his charming banter. Jim was a gregarious socializer. Despite being weathered at forty-six, he could still charm the ladies. Flora, his wife, discovered this as a young girl. Twelve years his junior, the pious young girl had defied her strict parents by running off to marry the twenty-eight-year-old cad of New Holland, Ohio—sometimes, much to her dismay.


Aubrey, Jim’s oldest son, had already dressed and supposedly left for the dance. “Supposedly,” being the operative word. Jim reminded himself to speak to Aubrey about his dalliance. Jim doubted it was much of a secret to anyone other than Aubrey’s over-developed ego. If he could see Aubrey's horse tied to a post outside the Haast girl's shack, so could the neighbors. Jim had stared down the wrong end of a shotgun several times as a young man. The boy should have left the buggy behind the house or in the shed.


Although overindulgent with Aubrey, every time Jim watched him, whether it be a quick wink of a bright blue eye or the ease with which he carried his naturally muscular physique, Jim relived a small part of his youth. Jim was reluctant to part with these memories.

And just as much as he indulged Aubrey, Jim denied and confined Louis. Louie, as he was called, was equally handsome, but still a gangly twelve-year-old who was shy and unsure of himself. Jim was sure Louie would remain hidden to avoid going to the dance. Someday Louie would be a real looker with his mother’s tall litheness and smoke-blue eyes, but right now, he often resembled one of the sandhill cranes that angled their way along the river bank.++


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++ This is part of a novel I began many years ago and I am now experimenting with serializing it occasionally as a blog post. I used this in a newsletter but did not put it in my blog, so I am inserting it here, so those who did not see it, have the beginning entry.



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