Out of the blue cometh a writing challenge from Laura Givens that was both intriguing and unexpected. I was challenged to write a short story on a topic of her choosing, with the assurance that it would be some mundane and unimportant event in history. In turn, I could select some obscure aspect in history which she would have to write a story. Okay, I accepted.
Then came the actual challenge. I was to write about Martha Jane Canary (Calamity Jane), a significant figure in the Old West. But, the assignment was strictly limited to her time in Piedmont, Wyoming when she washed dishes for a living.
I considered this problematic. Calamity Jane has been very inconsistent in her accounts of her early life. She falsely claimed to have married Wild Bill Hickcock and has made other occupational claims that cannot be verified. Even how many children she had is inconsistent. Finding much detail about her early days is tough. But, the assignment was for a fictional story, so I gathered what I could from the library for basic background, then began my story.
At some point, I expect to have that story posted on this blog or a link to it somewhere else. Likewise, I hope to have Laura’s story linked as well.
Laura also got to write about an unimportant aspect of a major historical figure. Alferd Packer, Colorado’s most popular cannibal, sat in prison from 1874 to 1901 for manslaughter charges stemming from an expedition of miners where he was accused of killing and eating some of them. He was paroled in 1901. He actually got a job as a night watchman at the Denver Post. It was his time at the Post that Laura was assigned to base her story on.