I deeply appreciate my growing following of loyal fans of the Tumbleweed Sagas. I’m going to use today’s post to talk about the American frontier and freedom in light of the current pandemic. Oh, and just so no one gets their pants bent out of shape, I’m not aiming to foment rebellion, just lookin’ to get folks thinking about freedoms as maybe folks 150 years ago might have.
Perhaps, you share my concerns about preserving our liberties and rights during this time of stay-at-home orders, quarantines, restrictions on gatherings, virus testing, surveillance, and so on connected with this COVID-19 pandemic. Judging from media op-eds and seeing paranoiac posts on social media these days, folks seem to raise justifiable concerns as to how many of our liberties might be forever lost. I do think it’s appropriate to talk about our liberty in comparison with the American west of the 1850s and what might be considered to have been the last great revolution for freedom. As author of western genre fiction set in an era when the American west was being tamed by folks mostly looking for a second chance at life, I get to creatively weave in how they protected their hard-won and at times elusive freedoms. Many had escaped the perceived freedom-sapping social and political injustices broiling in the east. They sought the sense of freedom associated with tall mountains, big skies, crystalline waterways, and fresh air. The Sioux and Kiowa and Comanche already lived that freedom. But the mightier forces of westward-bound frontiersmen, gold-seekers, and settlers supplanted them. Once established in their new-found lands, they became quite protective of their newly won freedoms.
We are rightly concerned about the COVID-19 responses that seem to be putting our liberties at risk. People often compare it to the Spanish flu of 1918, but many other pandemics have existed. Yellow fever was widespread. It struck Corpus Christi back in 1867 and killed 11 percent of the city population, including a half dozen of my own ancestors. They had no idea it was caused by a female mosquito. Folks that caught the fever hunkered and sweated it out until they recovered or died. Others simply continued their lives as ranchers, farmers, merchants, smithies, or whatever. No hunkering down.
Is 2020 all that different from a hundred or two hundred years ago? Maybe in terms of more people and more technology. Were people any less intelligent a century or so ago? Did they give up freedoms to the extent we’re being called to do? While a single COVID-19 death is too much, how much freedom are we willing to give up to slow the progression of deaths? Is there a law of diminishing returns as suicides mount, “elective” surgery folks endure pain, drug addicts scream for help, citizens fear criminals released from our jails? Can closed businesses hope to recover? What of the collateral effects of ensuing poverty? All lives are so very precious, but so is freedom. What is our price?
As an example of the value placed on freedom, I was struck by my cousin Patrick Dunn’s feelings about freedom back at the turn of the 19th century. For several decades, he owned and successfully ranched North Padre Island adjacent to Corpus Christi, Texas. He sold his rights to the island in 1920. To the end of his days, he regretted the sale. He equated the island with its grasses, sand dunes, and easy sea breezes to a sense of freedom not to be found on the mainland much less anywhere else on earth. Seems Patrick Dunn truly captured the essence of freedom. Freedom is life.
What will be the nature of our liberties after the crisis of the coronavirus has passed? As a life-long student of history, I offer up a thought about the old west as best expressed by my famed author cousin Mary Maude Dunn Wright (aka Lilith Lorraine) back in 1932, “Not in the spirit of judging their actions by artificial standards which in their day had no existence, but by asking ourselves if we were in their places, should we have acquitted ourselves as well…?” My Tumbleweed Sagas beg readers to answer that question. How much fight is in you to protect our freedoms? Could we acquit ourselves as well as our frontier ancestors in protecting our liberties? There’s an oft-quoted phrase, “freedom isn’t free.” Folks gone before us at times paid the ultimate price to attain it. Would you?
I contend that the experience of the main character in my novels, Texas Ranger Captain Luke Dunn delivering justice and redemption to preserve hard-won freedoms across the vast Nueces Strip of the 1850s, has parallels in today’s world. Readers and listeners are drawn to the built-in raw edginess and pace of the Tumbleweed Sagas in its all-too-real frontier era setting where freedoms could command a high – even ultimate – price.
Thanks again to my growing following of Tumbleweed Sagas enthusiasts, as Nueces Reprise continues to exceed sales expectations. I do appreciate every review that’s posted. My latest Saga, Nueces Reprise, is available online in print, audio, or eBook from Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and directly from my publisher at defiancepress.com. And you just might want to read or listen to Nueces Justice, the first Tumbleweed Saga. Thanks. Y’all stay safe and protect your freedoms ya hear.