Writing excellent chapters
Clients will learn to research, plot, structure and write excellent chapters for their novels. Chapter 5 is the start of the cattle drive in Burke’s Garden, Tazewell County, Virginia in the fall of 1852. Your research needs to be completed before you start to write a chapter. This will lend itself to how you structure each chapter. The photos are essential to see in your mind’s eye exactly what you are writing about, so you can describe it to your audience, in vivid detail. The plotting in this chapter is about developing the central protagonist, John Thomas, into a John Wayne type rough and ready man. The stampede shows John in action as this John Wayne type character, who handles the situation with confidence and manly leadership, in what could have become a very dangerous scenario.
Cattle Drive, October 1851
Mount Up with Wings Like Eagles ©
Library of Congress Copyright # TXn 2-084-818
“YUH THINK YA KNOW ME, maybe ya think o’ me as a scoundrel, but let me tell ya that I’ve never done anythin’ like ‘at before and reckon never will again, that can compare in business enterprise with what I now contemplate in muh dark mind’s eye and it weighs on muh chest, muh brother. It’s a dishonor which will become my journey out of this Garden of contempt in which I’m not destined; I’m no’ talkin’ o’ this cattle drive to Baltimore City Port, to do our Pap’s bidding. Cain’t stop muh journey into darkness—got t’ carry it through-remember this! Give ya muh word here—I’ll carry it through, ain’t stoppin’, ya can hold me to my word.
I gotta telling ya everythin’ bluntly now. Ye’re hearin’ it ‘cause I’m not strong-willed enough ta quit it, it’s caught muh up in its whirlwind, like chaff blown off from the grain. I wish I could reclaim half muh lost honor tomorrow. I’ll carry out muh plans and ya can bear testimony I told ya ‘bout the darkness and destruction takin’ over muh life. No need fer any more details, y’all find out in time, it’s muh fated future I’m fixin’ for; jus’ as yo’re destined to be a hero, like our ancestors: Daniel Boone an’ Colonel Haynes Morgan. I got no honor nor glory in muh path, the filthy dogs I’ve lain down with done given me fleas. Don’t cha pray fer me, I’m not worthy, ain’t no use to’t at’all—don’t need it!” Abijah affirmed as he sat astride his fourteen-hand black steed, next to his brother Haynes’ spotted gelding, a beautiful and spirited beast, though Haynes’ large frame almost made the gelding he rode seem a toy horse. A short distance away, just within earshot, their father John sat mounted on his magnificent white gelding.
“What’ cha speak of ain’t no business of mine,” Haynes replied quietly, “but as yore own true brother, I can implore ya t’ take precautions for yore life; I’ll pray for ya anyhow, no matter how ya tell me otherwise. Yo’re muh brother, albeit a stubborn one, and no matter what comes of yer dark and deceitful plans, I still care for yer well-bein’” With that, he pulled the reins back on his gelding and rode over to his father.
“Boys, I hear ya jabbering about somethin’; seems o’ consequence, however, we’ve cattle to get to the Baltimore City and on to Liverpool! Open the gate, Abijah, let out only our Shorthorn and Red-Roan and keep the others back so y’all can commence to drive them rascals. Fine folks in United Kingdom are hungering for our beeves!” John called. He glanced with a fatherly pride and affection at his two stout sons, both dressed for the ride as he was. They were all outfitted in off-white canvas duster-coats, dark brown slouch hats, fashionable breeches and the finest boots with pointed toes, small rounded cavalry spurs, and clover-patterned, metal-plated heels.
“Yes, Sir!” Abijah hollered back, “There’s three-hundred an’ some miles t’ cross this October an’ jawing with muh brother ain’t goin’ ta get the job done; that’s so, Pap!”
John then belted out, “Pat, yo’re the head drover walking with the belled lead-steer, start yore walk to Peter Litz’s farm entrance off Burke’s Garden Road, he’s got fifty head to join us and then farther down the road we’ll meet up with James Vail at Medley Valley Road and fifty more of his head; then out the road south over Garden and Bushy Mountains, then the Big Walker Range and into Wytheville!” With Pat at the head and the herd a distance behind him, the earth shook as pounding hooves signaled the beginning of the drive. From the dried mud patch in the pasture, dust flew into the air behind them as the cattle came forward. Pat was using his walking stick judiciously, tapping the lead-steer to move this important leader animal through the wooden-planked gate in the direction of Litz Lane at the end of his master’s lane. He saw Abijah, the wrangler, ride over to the smaller horse pen and open the gate to let the remount horses out to mix into the herd as well.
Haynes blurted happily, “Pap, they’re on the move now! I ’ll ride drag until we move these mighty beasts all together, an’ then I can switch to outridin’ and let the Litz boy ride drag, OK, Pap?”
“Sounds like a drive!” John called back. Pounding hooves beat the ground as the cattle came through, though Pat kept a gentle pace so as not to spook them. John kept pace with the herd along the lane, thinking how fortunate he was to be surrounded by the immense grandeur and majesty of the Blue Ridge Mountains that God had carved eons ago. Now they formed a fitting frame around his home. He saw Betsy and the other children waving and smiling from the manor house, and he waved a jaunty farewell in return. Then he turned his attention forward to the path of the drive. Out of the thick early morning fog loomed the eerie silhouette of the partially fallen and charred tree that had been struck by lightning a month earlier. Its fateful demise had marked a key moment in the wisdom-oriented discussion of Faust he had shared with his literary friends and neighbors. He had never taken an axe to the tree but had left it to burn itself out in the heavy rains of that day. He judged there was no rush to do so, as it was no threat to the rest of the mountain trees. Lifting his eyes above the fog bank, he admired the early fall colors of the undulating foliage canopy that rolled to the top of the Garden Mountain before him.
As he continued his progress, John reflected upon past drives, contemplating what might lie ahead over the next two months. It would require his constant vigilance for the safety of the drovers and the cattle. Threats along the drive were numerous: cattle rustlers, bears and panthers lay in wait, sheer rocky ledges posed “falling” hazards, and some cattle were lost when they drifted off in search of food or water. The thought of these dangers awakened at the sight of the lighting-blasted tree, so John began to construct a prayer for protection, guidance, and wisdom in his mind. Although he was not superstitious, he and all his friends were startled with the timing of the lightning strike. Suddenly recalling James Vail’s parabolic story from their discussion and pondered it with all seriousness. He had mindlessly walked his horse in the midst of the flow of the cattle to the end of his lane, then was jolted out of his lofty daydream. He reached for his whip, clinched it, and cracked it, which began to turn the herd to the right and away from the charred tree dead ahead…..
The National Road to No. 245 McHenry Street,
‘Cow Dealer’-David Gamble’s Packing House ©
Library of Congress Copyright # TXn 2-084-818
“MAMA! MORNIN’S SLIPPIN AWAYS! With all due respect to a lady, we’re dickering over a head count of our cattle that amounts to your count of one hundred and forty-nine and my correct count of one hundred and forty-six; amidst a violent lightening and rain storm, our cattle becoming anxious by the moment and me and my drovers are soaked to the bones. I’m content with paying your twelve and a half cents per twenty head of cattle, the toll is equitable,” John said as he stared down from his steed, intently at Charlotte Hillman, who owned the tollgate on the Valley Pike, about one and a half miles south of Winchester, noticing her smug squinty eyes, leathery skin and crooked lips, silvery hair under a black bonnet, dressed in a roughly hand-sewn black dress. “Now if’n you could find it in your lovely-heart to take my ninety-two cents we’ll be on our way.”
“Mr. Thomas, you’re right, my apology you’ve been an honest patron. Indeed, I shall take your ninety-two cents and ya’ll can be on your merry way,” Charlotte replied as she extended her wrinkled-old hand to receive the coins John had divided out, prior to their arrival at the toll house. “Have a fine drive and don’t catch cold!”
Suddenly, a bolt of lightning struck a tall lone hickory in the open farm field next to the white clapboard toll house, of which the reverberations shook John to his deepest fibers in his gut, startled him and his worst nightmare commenced before his eyes, as his vision was nearly blinded as another streak of lightening flashed and cracked over the herd; the herd in front of him, all at once, cattle heads and horns popping skyward, quivering and panicking they began kicking, mooing and scrambling in the direction of Winchester on the Valley Pike at a pace he knew was an eminent danger to the cattle, drovers, citizens and their property in Winchester.
“Boys! Settle ‘em, keep ‘em calm!” John hollered imperatively with all resolve to head off a potential stampede into town, as he reached for his Colt Dragoon and simultaneously spurred his gelding and thought intuitively to ride into the open field where the lightning had struck, realizing the cattle would not move in this direction, which would enable his positioning around to the front of the herd to guide them to the next open field where he could circle them to avert disaster.
“Pap, we’re on them!” Abijah yelled dashingly as he and Haynes were like canister shot out of a cannon as they both reached to unholster their Dragoons, disaster loomed.
“James and me got ‘em to this here side of the Pike!” Peter exclaimed as he and James spurred their steeds opposite Haynes and Abijah’s chosen direction.
“Pat and Tom! Drive up the middle, stay the course on the Pike; lead ‘em where we want them to run!” John ordered with alacrity as he spurred his steed from a canter to a gallop, the rain beating down so hard he felt droplets hit his skin through the duster. “Ride into them!”
“Ya, sir!” Pat responded as he and Tom headed into the mix of manically-alarmed and stampeding cattle, when in a moment’s time, Tom was surrounded by cattle running wild in the melee, like a covey of flushed quail flying in all directions; he disappeared from John’s sight and his riderless empty saddled horse moved along with the herd.
“Man down!” John hollered, as Pat swooned like a huge bird of prey to where Tom was last seen, kicked cattle to part them, leaned down the right side of his horse and with his massive tree trunk sized arm, grabbing Tom by the collar of his duster and hoisted him out of the bovine madness, placing his mud covered duster, face and legs-headlong over his saddle horn. “He’s saved!” John belted out as he continued his frantic course toward the open field, feeling relieved and hoping the boy was not injured.
Anxious moments passed; John unconsciously had spurred his horse headlong and frantically into a gallop, riding beside the herd, while he discharged his Dragoon in the air, now outpacing the herd, he knew he had to position his horse at the apex of the stampeding cattle. He had commenced to instigate sheer terror into the lead cattle he had scalloped up to, as they were frothing at the mouth and lunging their massive-muscular torsos forward in a saddened hyper-state of crazed trepidation and panic. He holstered his Dragoon as the beasts began to come to their senses and circled back unto themselves as their stampede momentum slowed, the Dragoon transitioned to a whip, the next weapon to secure control, as he cracked it in the air and the cattle continued to turn he struggled to balance himself in the saddle while keeping far enough apart from the animals as to not become gourd by their menacing pointed horns.
He had to wipe the rain from his face as if a raging waterfall’s splashes were smattering on rocks and the droplets sprang upwards and pelted his countenance dripping off his skin. As his horse slowed with the cadence of the herd, the gelding dipped into a ravine neither saw before them; John lost control of the reins momentarily, as the horse’s body angled downward and then quickly back upward to where it’s head slung backward and almost smashed John’s face in his struggle to remain balanced in the saddle.
“Whoow, boy, whooow!” John muttered as he regained his balance and took in a deep breath, smelling the: mud, cattle and rain mix in the swollen and moist air.
“John, we got ‘em slowed,” Peter robustly shouted as he came from the other side of the apex of the cattle stampede and had returned his Dragoon in exchange for his leather whip.
“I pray your son’s okay? What’d Pat do with him?” John spoke as he whirled toward Peter and the two came to the vortex of the herd’s movements. He spied Abijah and Haynes on the far side of the herd and they too, were cantering toward John, as well as James; Pat was nowhere to be seen with Tom.
“I think they still behind us; I see Tom’s horse stirrin’ in the midst of the herd,” Peter reported, as Haynes and Abijah came closer to join them. “Haynes, ride in with your brother and gather up Tom’s horse, all them cattle settling now and the rain lettin’ up a bit.”
“Sir, yes, sir,” Haynes responded as John saw Haynes reined into the middle of the steadier cattle. They expediently commenced into the herd, “Pap, we got ’em!”
John looked over his left shoulder to see Pat coming toward them and Tom sat behind the saddle on the bare horse, holding his right elbow in his left hand. He hollered out, “You okay, boy?”
“Yes, sir, few bruises and hurt my elbow!” Tom yelled back. “Elbow came down hard on the ground; I’ll be fine after a bit of healin’ time!”
Historical research and plotting of chapter: John reflected, they drove on through Salem, Big Lick, Buchannan, Lexington, Rocktown, Staunton to Winchester. Before they hit Winchester, they came to the Tollgate on Route #11 just south of the town owned by Mrs. Charlotte Hillman. She drove a sharp bargain and insisted that an accounting for every single beef was taken. After John haggled with her over the actual count, a lightning strike in the pouring down rainstorm spooked the cattle and they stampeded down through the Valley Pike and John got to the head and circled them onto a farm. The drovers regrouped and then hit a side street that took them to Kent Street, north 3 miles through Winchester town to Berryville Pike.
From Winchester they rode today Rt. #7 to Millbank Farm the residence of Plantation owner and dairy farmer Daniel T. Wood, built in 1850 by he and his father Isaac. They overnighted there and the next morning drove the 9 miles to Berryville and Audley Plantation off the Berryville Turnpike, to Audley Lane, turned left or north, as John Thomas rode a few miles to the farm. Fox-chaser horses were added to the drove from Welbourne Plantation at Audley Plantation awaiting John’s arrival. Then he came back with the 4 new horses to where he had left the drovers and the herd to water on current day Route #340, known as the Harpers Ferry Road or Jefferson Pike and headed north to east of Charlestown, then into Bolivar, south of Harpers Ferry, cross River twice, second time at Sandy Hook, then north of #340 to Frederick.
On the National Road or National Turnpike, they head east on what was called the Frederick Road toward Baltimore until they hit Calverton on the way into The Port of Baltimore City. They came into Calverton which was at the west end of Baltimore City, still the village know as ‘Calverton.’ John got the 150 head of cattle to the ‘cow dealer’ meat packing house of, David Gamble’s, which was at No. 245 McHenry Street owned by David Gamble. The slaughtering process began and John would also make money from the hides sold to a local tannery, on Calverton Road in the area known as ‘Butchers’ Row.’ The cattle were slaughtered by Gamble and the meat was salted and put in hogshead barrels, each weighing 1,000 pounds and then placed onto the freight wagons and taken to Prat Street docks to load onto the ship, owned by James Corner & Sons, at the foot of Frederick Street. The firm owned a three-masted, two-decked ship called the James Corner which had been launched in Baltimore on February 3, 1848. It was 147 feet long, with a male figurehead intended to represent the man after whom it was named. Its captain in 1851 was Richard Bennett, and it routinely sailed between Europe, South America and various American ports. The ship would have docked at Liverpool’s port at The Royal Prince Albert Dock, complete with hydraulic cranes, to take the hogsheads off the ship mixed with other luxury goods and Dulany’s Fox-chaser horses on board.
John enjoyed the arduous drive because at the end he met the Estate’s Gillie of the Englishmen, Edward George Geoffrey Smith Stanley, 14th Earl of Derby, known to John Thomas as Lord Stanley, who was born in Knowsley Hall, just outside of Liverpool in Lancashire in 1799. He became Earl in June, 1851 at age of 52 when his father died, and he was very literary, having translated Homer’s works. He was into horse breeding and fox hunting on his 2,500-acre estate and was known to have been in his county seat in the Fall of 1851.
The cattle were transported to Liverpool, England, as the grass-fed cattle were considered so desirable that they were shipped overseas to the finest dining establishments of United Kingdom. John and the Gillie of Knowsley had previously arranged with the Baltimore shipping company to ship the bought beef back to England for restaurants there, as well as the Fox-chaser horses from Richard Dulany. The Gillie gave John literature from Lord Stanley. On this trip John got a copy of the newly published novel titled, The Whale by Herman Melville, a first edition of only 500, first published early October, only in England. He read it on the return ride home and then gave it to his son Vincent Henry to read. He also thanked him for the copies of Goethe’s Faust in English he gotten for him two years earlier from the last cattle drive.
Death loss rate on the drive was 13% and the meat was cut up, dried and eaten by the drovers. Fur trapping parties passed, immigrants in caravans and coffles of slaves, which ran north/south in Shenandoah Valley. A wagon train of immigrants going west passed them and John had a short conversation with their leader. A river crossing: the drovers first encircled the cattle in a half moon fashion and the herd was bawled at, threatened by gun fire in the air and struck on the behinds with whips, but the cattle often broke. On second attempt drovers swam the cattle across rivers successfully and built a makeshift corral, made with logs and brush, that was constructed on the opposite bank to keep cattle from scattering. Some cattle took fright at a swim; consequently, with lassos around frightened cattle’s necks, they guided them into the river and across. Another tactic was they crowded the cattle and all hands charged the cattle; this got the remainder of the cattle in the river. Some of the steers would rush furiously by drovers, head butting and kicking. Barges loaded with cattle to cross at Harpers Ferry the Potomac River.
Drovers got little sleep and were much fatigued; hardly time to eat on many days. They started out at sunrise and ended up at sunset, rain caused soaked shirts and drovers were benumbed by the cold. Drovers and furriers dressed hooves of cattle that came up lame in towns, also put iron shoes on split hooves. Drover’s roads were typically 40 feet across, called drove way or the Oxen Road.
John knew where each sod of grasses were and where water could be gotten along the drove way. Cattle became harder to drive when they did not get grass or water, caused frequent breaks. Hallooing, bawling, whips and everything on which drovers could muster was used to keep cows moving. Cattle would at times turn off from the road, and they wandered, they took refuge in the dense brush, stopped to fight each other and appeared willing to do anything but go quietly. Horses became weak over time, even though drovers rode 50 minutes and walked their horses 10 minutes. They had remounts to change out their tired horses for fresh ones.
They were tough to find. The herd and drovers rested on the Sabbath. Free-range practice, the crops were fenced in, like they were in Celtic countries, but laws would soon change. Baltimore and Philadelphia received the finest of beeves, then exported to England. In 1837 cattle sold for $3.00 per head, in 1854, 500 lb. animals brought $14.
In Maryland local farmers would prepare for fall drovers by leaving fields of corn to dry on the stalk or corn already shucked or other needed feed. Drovers made agreements with owners to overnight their cattle on acres of mountain sod (grassland cleared). Sods had strange names like: Click’s Hacking, Goodbye Sod or Shill’s Sod.
Drovers had with them: pair boots, 2 blankets, 1 breeches, duster coat, buck-knife, 2 flannel shirts. They went fishing after they stopped moving cattle for the day. Per 20 cattle the tollgates charged 12.5 cents; Drovers had half-shelters strapped to their saddles with leather pouches for food, utensils, a plate, spare horse shoes, etc. Local fiddler and bone player joined them one night, they danced and sang along. Star gazing by J. T., sets his mind to God’s Creation. Every 10 days changed clothes and they washed clothes in creeks.
They encounter along the drove way deep gullies and steep banks. Heard wolves at night howling, wrote letters by dim lantern light. John saw graves with wooden markers, names washed off, along the drove way. Read Bible at night, saw deer, bear, rabbits and flocks of wild turkey. Fine evening sun set, J. T. takes his knife carved initials in a tree. Heavy fog on some mornings which burned off.
John writes a letter to wife Betsy, “I been thinking of home and the bright angel of my every thought; all day in my mind I’ve been with my Betsy.” Had a pistol shooting contest; some overnight places had no grasses for cattle; rode into town to church service.
Learn More About Writing A Novel At Woodmont Writers Enclave
Get updates about Woodmont Writers Enclave, the farm, Professor Bridges’ writing, and more!
Want to be a Writer? Join Us Now!
Our seven-day writing class will help you accomplish your writing goals and renew your spirit.