Once upon a time away back in 1804, there lived a young boy named Andrew Grant.
The story centers around Andrew Grant, aged fourteen in the year of 1804 (I mentioned this anecdote in the previous post). He longs for the glory of adventure, the freedom and rambling of fur trappers, who depart from the little town of St. Charles, in the Louisiana Territory, to the far west and north, to trap the animals that abound at that time. Written from first person perspective, I find this a very interesting story to write, especially for the reason that my main character is a young lad, and I must get myself wholly into his shoes–I must ask myself: How would a boy at that time, think, feel, behave, and talk? What is the basis for his adventurous longings, and the most common question I must constantly ask myself: Is this what he would have really said and done, in that day and age? For one thing, I have little to go by, when it comes to writing the dialogue. Of course, I have the Rose of Old St. Louis, and other such books, but how would I write the dialogue in the way that people would have two centuries ago?
As for describing the dress, we have plenty of portraits to examine. The knee breeches, overcoats, ruffles–high-waisted gowns…. and of course, the dashing military attire of our American soldiers in the early 1800’s. My favorite part of those old uniforms is probably the large cocked hats. They look quite noble, and refined, in contrast with the modern day gray helmets and camo-hats our soldiers wear today. But yes, these cocked hats could be described as being a bit showy.
The story line: Andrew Grant works at his father’s store in rural St. Charles. Voyageurs and traders and trappers come and go from the little town, and his desire to follow them to the far horizons of the great, western lands, untouched by any white man at the time, brings our young Andy to a state of deep wistfulness. Moreover, his uncle, a trapper, left a few years ago and never returned. Thus, Andrew wants all the more to venture out–to seek his passionate desire for exploit, and to find his dear uncle, whose absence he deeply feels. When the Corps of Discovery passes through town, led by Captains Lewis and Clark, Andrew suddenly sees a ray of hope and opportunity. This saga follows Andrew, in his attempt to join that renowned expedition, and thus, we are led onto that fascinating, epic journey with the young boy. I intend to call this novel, To Seek, To Find.
I was a young lad then, in the year 1804—about 14 years of age, strong, tall and slender. As long as I can remember, I always longed for adventure. Nothing seemed to happen in the small town of St. Charles, Missouri, far off in the wilderness. I kept my father’s small supply store for coming and going trappers. They always stood about, telling stories of their exploits, and I always felt a twinge of envy when I thought about what I was missing out on. Day after day it seemed, I toiled along, sweeping the same old wooden floor, going about, measuring and measuring, filling in orders, figuring… and my father insisted that I keep up with a decent education. To me at the time, it seemed like a useless chore, worthless and arrantly unnecessary. My good friend Jonathan’s departure with his pa who was going to begin a new career as a trapper, hoping to make a fortune, just about did it for me. Rebellion struck my heart, as I watched him go down the Missouri with his father, into the woods, north of St. Charles.
St. Charles, when I was a boy, was a small settlement far off in the wilderness. Yes, Indian attacks could have been frequent, but nothing of the sort ever came around when I lived there as store keeper. My family consisted of me, my brother, and my father. My brother, about four years younger than I was, attended the small school in town, but in short time he’d be old enough to help tend to the store and I reveled in the day that would happen. It meant something of liberation and the open path of exploit that Jonathan had found.
There was another previously unmentioned reason for my longing for the west, its promise and horizon of glory… hope lay out there too, beyond the wide Missouri and its murky depths—my uncle, Father’s brother, was out there somewhere. His name always fell upon my lips as a tacit urging, a reason to venture into that blank, vast beyond, where isolated bands roamed, where creatures dwelt in their wilderness seclusion. Somewhere out there was he—dead, alive, hostage? My imagination taunted me with the possibilities. On quiet evenings I would slip out silently, after the day’s work was done, and with a pounding heart I’d walk towards the banks of the Missouri, thinking of that old sea shanty, Shenandoah. An old ballad of the boatmen but it haunted me, because its words linked me to this kin of mine, whose whereabouts were undetermined, a void of enigma I could not cross.
My uncle was a trapper, and he was one of the daring fellows who dared sail past the Teton, into Arikara, Mandan, Hidatsa territory. But four years ago, one autumn, his party never appeared on the waters going by St. Charles. Nary a boat, nary a man, nary a word of where he had gone to, came to our ears. It became accepted in the town that my uncle’s band was lost to that land where no one had been. Father wearily took it to be fact, he didn’t argue or believe…he merely went on as though all had been before uncle left. But I? No, I refused. I rebelled against the implicit concurrence that my uncle would never come back. He was alive. Living. And someday I would find him. I could still see him, swaggering in with his wide grin, easiness in stride that indicated serenity, vivid blue eyes full of laughter. He had a slight tinge of Irish brogue in his voice, like Pa, and when he talked it felt as though some sonorous chord had struck a bell, fiddle and forte all at once. I wouldn’t forget him, I fiercely vowed. Aye, come sixteen, there would be a man, fixed with intent, set on going to seek, to find, to pursue… to find was the point—to find a lost kin, to find the daring passage to exploit.
But now the store had to be tended to.
All of it would change, however, in a single day.
It was one afternoon when I was leaning against the counter, daydreaming, imaging what it would be like when I was sixteen, I could get out of here, and go west maybe, and become a trapper like all of the men who came through here were…find my uncle and bring him back, show Pa that he’d been wrong to not believe.
It was that day, in May 1804, when a group of men on a large keelboat and a couple of smaller boats came upriver….
Featured Image Picture Credits: from the internet