The Writer's Corner
Dust of the Earth (a mini story)
Written by Duchess McCain
The sun was slowly drifting west in the sky and Eliza was waiting
for the minute she could escape it. She reached into her basket and
pinned another sheet to the line. Today was washing day, and there
was so much laundry! She guessed that spring fever also gave people
a hankering to move west. For the past two weeks most all of her
rooms were full and the diner was always full. She picked up that
last sheet and secured it to dry in the sun. As she carried her
basket inside, she heard a rider coming. Shielding her eyes, she
looked out toward the road.
“Ms. Eliza! Ms. Eliza!!”
“What is it Mark?”
“Pa sent me in to ask you if you’ve got a room you could spare. We
were riding back into town when we came across a couple whose wagon
was broke. Pa says we don’t have room enough at our place. He told
me to ride in and ask you.”
“I think I have one available. Why don’t you hop down and help me
prepare the room before they get here.”
It was full 45 minutes before Lucas rode in with the couple. Mark
leaned out the window and then called back to Eliza.
She checked her hair once; after all it had been a hard day. As she
passed from the kitchen and through the dining room, she began to
hear the people murmur. They stared through the doorway at the new
comers. Lucas took off his hat, and smiled at Eliza as she drew
near. Mark quickly joined his father.
“Eliza, this is Mr. Russell Douglas, and his wife Lucy. And this is
Ms. Eliza O’Neal. She manages the finest hotel in town!”
Eliza blushed slight. “That might be because there is only one hotel
in Buckville.” They spoke briefly of the accident with the wagon,
and then she led them to a table, and went off promising to return
with coffee and pie. Lucas remained standing, and offered to help.
As they made their way past tables, she once again saw the people
staring and talking in hushed voices. One woman picked up her child
and left in a hurry. Once in the kitchen she turned to Lucas.
“Why is everyone acting that way? Is it so weird?” Her cheeks were
“I guess most folks have never seen a white man marry an Indian
“Well, maybe if they see us with them, they’ll warm up to the idea.
Lucas, she talks better English than most people out here.” Eliza
paused, and began to smile again. “It will be a privilege to have
her stay here.”
She handed him a tray with the plates of pie, as well as forks,
cups, and napkins. In her hands she carried the coffee, as well as a
small pitcher of milk for Mark. Before they had reached the table
Mark was up, and out of his seat. Lucas stared at his son as he
quickly took a plate, and set it down before Mrs. Douglas. Mark
licked his lips and smiled, but then suddenly jerked at his mistake,
and quickly handed her a fork, napkin and cup. She laughed quietly,
and thanked him. Russell looked up at Lucas.
“This is quite a chivalrous young man you have here.”
Lucas beamed. He knew that Mark had his mother’s loving quality.
Every time he went to help someone or reach out to those in need,
Lucas saw Margaret. He hoped that Mark would never grow out of it.
He was snapped back to the present as Eliza asked how long repair on
the wagon would take.
“Well, part of the wheel was rusted and it broke, we’ll have to have
a new one made. And while we’re working on that . . . oh I’d say
about a week.”
“Lucas I told you, I don’t have the money to repair my wagon. I
guess we’ll just be stuck here until I can find a job.”
“I know where you’re coming from; I was in financial trouble too a
little over a month ago. Tell you what; there are still some things
around the house that I haven’t gotten around to fixing up. If you
help with those while the part is being made, I’ll make sure that
the repairs are paid for.”
Russell looked at his wife. She nodded.
“Thank you Lucas. You are very gracious to us.”
Eliza put her hand on Lucy’s arm. “You and your husband are most
welcome here at the hotel. And I am so busy right now I could use
some extra help.”
In the midst of all the talk, Mark stared at Mrs. Douglas. She had
the dark skin and hair of an Indian, and yet, her manners and her
way of speech were so fine. At a lull in the conversation, he piped
“Mrs. Douglas, is Lucy your Indian name?”
Lucas gave him a sharp look. “That is not the kind of question to be
“I don’t mind Mr. McCain. He’s just curious. No Mark, but it is
similar to my Indian name. My name was Luthien, which in the tongue
of my people meant laugher.”
“Luthien,” Mark repeated. “How did you get your new name?”
“When I was just a child, two white families lived near my tribe.
One was Russell’s family, and the other was their friends the
Gilstraps. They taught us how to speak English, and we shared with
them the secrets of the land. But what we did not know was that the
white men were moving closer and closer. There was a town that was
built, not unlike this one. Soon the white men were all over our
plains and land, having no respect for our property. My people
fought back, only to those who harmed them. The Gilstraps and
Russell’s family did not agree with the townspeople. One day, the
oldest Gilstrap boys came to our chief and told him that the Army
was on the way to come and subdue us. Our chief did not want a
fight. He told us that we were going to move to the mountains. As we
began to leave, some of the men from town attacked us. Someone had
warned them, and they didn’t want us to escape. My brother, who was
at the time too young to take up a bow in war, was shot and killed.
When my mother saw this, she put me on a horse, and told me to ride
for the Gilstraps’ home. When the father and oldest boys went out to
look for my tribe, all were killed or had fled. I was twelve at the
time. The oldest boy, Malachi, told me the news. I looked at him and
said ‘My people are gone. Now I will learn your ways, and you will
be my people.’ Malachi frowned and said ‘But we killed your people!’
‘No Malachi,’ I replied, ‘You did not kill my people. Those from the
town killed my tribe, but not you, not your family. It is the way of
your family that I wish to learn.’”
Here she paused, thinking back. Russell put his arm around her.
“We liked her name, Luthien. When she chose to learn our ways, she
asked us to give her an American name. We gave her the name Lucy.”
Eliza smiled. “They are both beautiful names.”
It was late before Lucas and Mark made it home. Lucas felt tired
just thinking of all the work tomorrow. He hung is hat on the peg by
the door and turned towards their bedroom. He stopped short,
realizing that Mark had sat down by the table. His gaze was distant.
“Pa? Will you tell me about those Indians that you met just after
you and Ma got married?”
Lucas couldn’t believe it. It was 30 minutes past Mark’s bedtime,
and he wanted to sit here and listen to a story. . . and tomorrow
was a school day! Lucas propped his leg on the chair opposite of
“You did finish that extra homework that you were assigned?”
Mark swallowed, and tried to think of a way out of this, and fast!
“Most of it.”
Lucas raised an eyebrow.
“Say Pa, it’s getting pretty late. I’ll finish it all before
breakfast tomorrow, I promise!”
“And who’s going to feed the chicken, and take care of your horse?”
Mark just bit his lip.
“That’s what I thought.” Lucas crossed his arms. “I’ll wake you up
30 minutes early tomorrow. You can do your chores first and then the
rest of the homework. I don’t want you to be late for school, or be
falling asleep during class.” He paused. He thought of Margaret,
smiling at his good intentions, but reprimanding him for being too
harsh. His face softened as he stepped towards Mark. He put one
gigantic hand on the boy’s head, and chuckled.
“You know, I won’t know what to do the day you stop making up
excuses to get out of chores!” Lucas ran his hand through Mark’s
hair and then rubbed it down the back of his neck.
“Aw shucks Pa, I won’t ever grow out of not liking chores!”
“I bet you won’t!” Lucas picked him up for a giant hug.
Lucy came in the back door, her hands full of groceries. She had a
large woven bag over her right shoulder, and a basket in her other
hand. She smiled as she set them on the counter.
“I was able to find everything on the list. The lady there was quite
helpful. She even went to the back to find just what I needed.”
“Thank you so much. I just have so many things to do, I would have
never been able to make it to the store.” Eliza hurriedly took
things out of the bag and put them away. She stopped a moment.
“Where did you get the bag?”
“I made it.” Lucy smiled, proud of her work. “Our people had to be
able to make their own supplies. I can make bags, baskets, clothes
of all sizes, and many other things. I will make for you a similar
bag, if you wish.”
“I would like that very much.”
Eliza turned, hearing a noise, and saw Lucas coming into the
kitchen. He took off his hat and nodded to both of them.
“What are you doing here Lucas?”
“Oh well I came into town for some supplies, and I wondered if you
needed anything over at the store.”
Eliza stifled a laugh. “Well thank you very much, but Lucy just got
everything I needed.”
Lucas muttered something under his breath. Then he flashed one of
his broad smiles.
“The work is going really well. I think Russell is really
encouraged. I’d best be going soon . . .”
Eliza interrupted as she remembered something.
“Luke, where’s Mark? He said that he would stop by and help out
Lucas lowered his head and coughed.
“Yes well, he somehow managed to get out of doing some of his
homework, so his teacher made him stay late and finish there at
Eliza smiled. “I don’t guess he’s too happy about that.”
Lucas shook his head, and smiled back. Then he put his hat back on,
and left saying something needing to get back soon.
“I’m glad to hear Russell’s encouraged about it.” Lucy looked
wistful. “He was so anxious to get there. I know that the wagon
breaking was hard for him.”
“Where were you and Russell headed to? Did you have a job promised
“Russell would like to have his own spread. I told him that I would
also like to teach. We are hoping to move out to territory where
there are still Indians. It is our hope that we would be able to be
friendly with them, and that I would be able to teach the children.
They would have a better chance, whatever may happen, if they knew
how to read, write, and figure. Maybe some day they would even be
able to live in a town and work along side white men.”
Eliza licked her lips. That was a tall order, thinking about Indians
and Americans living together. Suddenly she realized that as
ridiculous as it might sound now, Lucy wasn’t just talking about it.
She was actually trying to take steps towards making that possible.
She may not see the desired results, but maybe she would be able to
influence people for the right.
Eliza struck a match, and lit the lamp in her room. She yawned, and
sat down on the edge of her bed. She picked up her Bible from the
table and starting reading in Genesis 1. Slowly the Word began to
illuminate her weary mind. And God said, Let us make man in our
image, after our likeness: . . . So God created man in his own
image, in the image of God created he him; male and female created
he them. . . And the LORD God formed man of the dust of the ground,
and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and man became a
He was a tall man, several inches over 6 feet. His spurs chimed as
the heels of his boots made a resounding thud. He took off his dusty
broad-rimmed hat as he came in the door. The man slapped it on his
pants twice and then hung it on the stand by the door. He sauntered
over to the counter and rung the bell.
Eliza came into the room, wiping her hands on her apron. She looked
up at the man who couldn’t have been much shorter than Lucas. He
wore a red checkered shirt and a dark blue bandana around his neck.
His face was tanned with the sun. A young man, probably in his
twenties, followed behind. Eliza smiled, and welcomed them.
“I was told that we could get a real nice, hot meal here.” The tall
man shifted his weight, and rested his hand by his gun.
“Well, we do our best to provide meals like home.” She walked around
the front desk and pulled out the guest book.
“May I please have your names?”
“It’s Ethan Edwards, and this here is Martin Pawley.” As Eliza wrote
she tried to make conversation.
“You look like you’ve been traveling for quite a while.”
“We’ve been travelling for 3 years ma’am. 3 years and nothing to
show for it! But we’ll find what we’re lookin’ for. Find her, or die
She was confused, but figured it best not to ask anymore questions.
Quickly she led them to a table. As she prepared their food, she
mulled over the peculiarity of them. They were an odd pair.
Certainly Martin was not the man’s son. She could tell that the man
had been drinking. Eliza bumped into Lucy, and almost screamed
trying to keep the plates in her hand level.
“I apologize Eliza. I am so sorry. Are you all right?”
“Yes I am fine. None of the food spilled.” She paused just outside
the door. “Would you please grab their coffee?”
As Eliza neared the table, she could sense something was wrong. She
set the plates down, as Lucy came up behind her. The man glared at
Lucy with contempt.
“This buckskin, does she work for you?”
“Ethan. . .” Martin looked nervous.
“Stay out it kid.” He looked back up at Eliza. She returned the
“Mrs. Douglas and her husband were moving west to buy a spread.
Their wagon broke down just outside of town. I am providing Mrs.
Douglas with a job, as well as a place to stay while their wagon is
Ethan snorted. “A couple Indians pretending to be like us. Don’t be
so easily fooled by ‘em.”
Eliza’s green eyes flashed, and then she quickly regained her
“Mr. Douglas is a respectable man, who married his neighbor’s
daughter, who just happened to be an Indian. Mrs. Douglas was
rescued as a child, while the rest of her family was slaughtered by
over-zealous men, who had no respect for human life. She was raised
just like you or me.”
Ethan flung his fork down and stood up. “They’re savages, all them.
Why should we respect their lives?!”
“Because Mr. Edwards, God created man in His own image. He breathed
into Adam the breath of life, and man had a soul. We all descended
from Adam, and therefore are all related. There is no reason why you
should not show her the same respect that you do a white women.”
Ethan just stared at her. “Well I ain’t got anymore respect for
you.” He shoved his chair in.
“Come on Martin, we’re heading out.”
“But Ethan, I didn’t get to finish eating!”
“We’re leaving now.” He snatched his hat from off the stand, and
slammed the door behind him.
“I’m sorry Lucy.”
Eliza couldn’t think of anything else to say. Lucy came near her,
and placed her hands on Eliza’s shoulders.
“Eliza, you understand what I have been trying to teach people for
years. And more than that, you are my sister in Christ. I have
accepted Christ as my Savior, but so many won’t accept me into the
church family. You have accepted me into your home, and made me part
of your family.”
Eliza smiled, and tears came to her eyes. She prayed that Ethan
would come to understand the truth that she now knew. All men were
created equal, and God gave them all the right to life, to liberty,
and to the pursuit of happiness.
The character Ethan and Martin are taken from John Ford’s movie “The
Searchers.” If you are not familiar with the movie, I encourage you
to either watch it, or read the Wikipedia article about it. Not only
will it help you understand this story, it very clearly shows how
much hate and prejudice can destroy a person.
These stories are based on the TV series
Here are some other great stories. Enjoy!
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