ETTA MISPLACED takes an enhanced look at the life of Etta Place before, during, and after the years spent with Butch and Sundance; in the States, on their voyage to South America, and the adventures at their ranch in Cholila, Argentina.
Starting out, traveling with her sister from Boston to California, Etta gets off the train in Texas intending to explore the western frontier. She then meets the handsome Harry Longabaugh, The Sundance Kid.
After a few enjoyable years, Etta had to leave her home in Argentina as the Pinkerton's were on an intense manhunt for the threesome. Etta joined her sister and her family in San Francisco, and later found a new love.
This account spans the years between 1896 and 1952; from the old west and Argentina, to WWI, the roaring twenties, the depression, and WWII. Over the years Etta Place found a home the hearts of many.
ETTA MISPLACED gives you adventure, romance and history.
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The Story of Etta Place The Woman Who Was Much More Than The Sundance Kid's Girlfriend
By Honor Lee
AuthorHouseCopyright © 2013 Honor Lee
All rights reserved.
Raton, New Mexico Territory Winter 1896
* * *
She first noticed him in the dining room; a good looking man of medium build, golden brown hair, light brown eyes, and sporting a sandy colored mustache. He was dressed informally yet had a clean well groomed appearance. He was handsome, in an unfussy way. She couldn't explain the intensity of her attraction to him, and couldn't help from staring. He seemed to be very amenable, talking with the mixed collections of society assembled at his table. The night before, he dined with men who appeared to be ranch hands and a boy who might be part Indian. This evening he was dining with the owner of the mercantile store and his wife, and another rather severe looking gentleman. They seemed to be lingering in conversation and exchanging books. She thought; I really must meet him.
Later, when she was in the lobby, she waited until the proprietor had no one in close proximity to him, to ask if he knew the gentleman seated at the table in the corner.
The gracious clerk came around to the front of his counter to take a look in the dining room and almost bumped into the man in question. Etta had no way of knowing that the handsome gentleman of her interest was approaching the lobby with hopes of meeting her, or to at least have the chance to look at her once more. The introductions were made.
After a tongue-tied moment by the gentleman, when he'd lost his breath and his mind looking at the pretty young woman standing before him, he at last focused on Etta speaking; she was saying that she was from Boston and was fascinated by the west....
"From Boston! What brings you to New Mexico?" "Well, I didn't come here directly. I started out with my sister, on our way to San Diego, with plans to work as a governess or tutor for a family there. We made a stop and visited family friends in Fort Worth and I stayed on to learn more about the Texas way of life and see more of the west. Before I travel on to California, I wanted to learn more of the west, so I went to Denver and now here."
Fortunately, Harry Longabaugh did remember where he was from. "Sounds like me, my original plans got ambushed somewhere along the trail. I'm from Pennsylvania, but it's been awhile since I've been there."
"Do you live here in Raton?" "No, no, I've been on the trail heading south, coming down from Canada. I thought I'd come through here and see if they had work over the hill in Cimarron, at Springer's, the CS Ranch, but now I'm takin' a break from ranch work. Sometimes when work's slow, and I have ready money, (Harry had just recently been exceptionally lucky at the card tables) I like to spend some time cleaned up, away from that, and in a town where I can get a hold of some good books." "Oh, does this town have a library?" "I don't know, I haven't found one, but a lot of folks will let you borrow their books. Old George Pace owns a dry goods store just down the street and can try to order books or let you borrow one. I can introduce him to you if you're goin' to be in town for awhile." "Oh, I'd like to stay awhile; how long will you be in town?"
At Etta's question their eyes met and lingered in shared attraction. Etta blushed a very noticeable deep crimson. It wasn't just from a feeling of awkwardness, but also from enchantment. Each wanted the moment to continue and found it hard to break the spell. Finally, he spoke, "I'll be here for awhile. If you're goin' to be here tomorrow, I can take you around to see the town, if you haven't seen all of it already; you most likely have. Or, I can get a buggy, for a ride to see the territory around town." "Oh yes, yes, I'd like that. I hope it won't take you from your books, but it would be splendid for me." "Then it's settled. I'll meet you here when it warms up, about nine or ten?" "Ten would be best, let it warm up a bit. So enjoyable to have met you, Mr. Longabaugh; I look forward to hearing your stories of the west." "Please, just Harry, tomorrow at ten." "Good night.... Harry." "Good night.... Etta."
* * *
By ten the next morning the temperature hadn't warmed in any way noticeable. Harry hired a horse and buggy from the livery stable and it was now in front of the hotel. He was waiting in the lobby, sitting on a hard uncomfortable chair, though there couldn't be a chair anywhere that would make him feel at ease at the prospect of seeing Etta again. He just about didn't blink while watching the staircase, waiting for her to appear. When she approached him, coming from the dining room, he was at first startled, and then stunned again by her prettiness.
Etta had hardly slept, She was up early, dressed, and after pacing the floor in her room decided to go on down to the dining room. Though almost too excited to eat, she ordered a biscuit and tea. She could hardly hold herself together while she waited for the clock to strike ten. At exactly ten, Etta excused herself, leaped up from her chair and, summoning restraint, walked slowly to the lobby. Her smile was wide and her eyes full of pleasure when she saw him. Harry's smile showed his pleasure.
* * *
"We're going to need a cover for you to keep warm and protect your coat and dress. I'll ask the clerk for a blanket." "Thank you Harry." Etta waited in the vestibule enjoying the brightly colored stained glasswork in the skylight.
"We can start out with a walk in town; give it time to warm up if it's going to." Let's go down the next block, to Pace's store. You might like to see George's book collection, and then we can walk around town from there before our ride to see the surroundings, if that's alright with you?" "Oh yes, in fact I'd like to buy some postage stamps and then find a store that carries face powder." Harry laughed and said, "I could let you know where to find gun powder, but I'm completely flummoxed where face powder is concerned; we can try at George's store, or the department stores."
George Pace came home from the civil war in 1877. At first, he made some money operating a small store at the Willow Springs Ranch Station which was the center for the areas commerce when the coal mines started operations in 1879. He then went on to run a store in Otero, but when the railroad moved its headquarters to Raton, five miles north, the population in Otero dwindled rapidly. Coal mining was already a booming business when George moved, in 1882, to the new city of Raton where he built and opened his store. He received approval to be post master and got the rights to run the post office in his store.
When Harry and Etta stepped into the store, George was running around frantically as usual. While they looked around, they got into conversation with a couple of the clerks who told them about the time they tricked Mr. Pace. Mr. Pace was always in a hurry, and whenever the clerks had paperwork for him to sign, Mr. Pace would hastily sign each paper without bothering to read it. One morning, the clerks carefully drew up an official looking paper stating that George Pace was to be hung at sundown that day. When it was presented along with other papers, George scribbled his signature without even the slightest examination of the contents. Later, at the time of the store's closing, the clerks showed Mr. Pace what he had signed. George flushed bright red, and then agreed that he should slow down and take more time with the paperwork.
The morning vanished along with the clouds, and though the skies were clear, the temperature remained chilly. Harry took Etta out in the buggy around the hill just at the end of town. While he pointed out various volcanic features of the land and spotted the occasional creature, they talked about themselves, and the course the country seemed to be taking.
"Do you know New Mexico well ... Harry?" "Pretty much, I travel this way now and then. Next, I'm heading southwest to a ranch to see if there's work. I don't commonly go much further south into New Mexico. It just seems like bad country, even with the Lincoln County wars being over, and Billy the Kid long dead, and the Apache Chief Geronimo and his bunch long ago surrendered to General Miles; there's still Apache out there that I wouldn't want to tangle with."
"Was that an Indian boy with you at dinner the night before we met?" "Yep, that's GoForth, but that's not his full, right name; it's long and unpronounceable. He's from Oklahoma, part Osage, I think. He's very smart; one of the brightest youngsters I've ever met. You know, he speaks English, Osage and Spanish; a genuine shame that his being part Indian holds him back from the chances he should have. An associate of mine took him in with our bunch of ranch hands the first of this year, and finds him work. In a couple of days he's goin' to ride over to a ranch in Alma, in the western part of the state, to see if there's work, and check if some of our friends are there. Don't ever worry about him on the trail; I swear he can make himself invisible. If you'll join me, he'll be dining with me this evening for an early supper, and you can meet him then."
Seeing Etta start to shiver, Harry nudged the horses on. At the hotel, he escorted her to the lobby. They assured each other they would meet in the dining room for supper. Harry was staying in a smaller, more humble hotel, a couple of blocks away.
* * *
GoForth was about thirteen or fourteen, and on his own, as many young boys were out on the great western frontier, during that era of the 1890's. Butch Cassidy, Harry's recent acquaintance, had taken notice of the bright youngster earlier that year. Wanting to give him a break and not wanting to see him starve, Butch found work for him; sometimes just as a runner, like now, riding to deliver messages. Also, GoForth had considerable knowledge and a sixth sense about horses.
"GoForth, stop staring at the lady." (Harry was having the same problem). "I'm sorry ma'am but gosh you're pretty." "Thank you for the compliment Goforth. Tell me more about your people on the reservation, and why you left." "That's just my trouble ma'am, the people on the reservation made fun of me, and the whites do too. I don't have people. My mama died when I was 12; my father was a white man who left before I was born. Reservation life wasn't getting me anywhere, so I headed out. I have met some bad people along my way and some good, like my friends Butch and Harry. First, a ranch lady in Utah, and then after that Harry, showed me how to read and write, and some arithmetic, so I'm doing better already. But, when I go up to folks looking for a job, they ask my name and if I'm an Indian, and that's the end of it."
"Goforth is a strong name. What if you used a white man's name just to get by, or, I'm sorry, does that idea bother you?" "No ma'am, that'd be alright, but I can not think of a name, and I can not rightly use the name of someone else." "I know of a good man with a strong name who wouldn't mind your using it. His name is Merritt; Merritt Barnes. He lives way down in San Antonio, Texas. He's a fine, decent family man who's well educated and a journalist; how would you feel about using that name?" "That would work alright, but I'd like to keep GoForth in there too. I could be called Merritt GoForth Barnes and just go by Merritt Barnes for white folks." Harry was smiling, "Well, my friend, taking on a new name calls for a celebration, I'll order champagne."
The next day promised once more to be downright wintry. Harry had let Etta know that he planned to get himself to the barber, and then meet a friend at the Home Ranch Saloon, (to play cards) He asked if he could see her in the evening at supper. Happy she'd be seeing Harry again, Etta used the day to write to Mabel, do some mending, and to start reading the book Mr. Pace had lent her. It would be an excellent topic for conversation, though it seemed there was so much to say by both, and their talk flowed effortlessly.
"Harry, where is young GoForth, no, I mean Merritt this evening?" "He's already had something from the kitchen; seems he went out hunting real early this morning and brought in a deer for the cook. One of these nights soon, it'll be offered on the menu. Besides your letter writing; did you get around to reading your book?" "Oh some. I've read many of Emily Dickenson's poems, now this book has even more, and I like her style of writing immensely. How about you, did you have time for reading; did you start your book?" "Oh yeah, George really came up with a dandy one this time. I've just barely got it started. Ol' Barnaby Rudge is such a dim witted funny guy, the whole story is interesting; but, what's remarkable is that the people Mr. Dickens wrote about half a century ago, are just like folks today, they just talk different. GoForth, Merritt, says he started the Mark Twain book; that means he'll be lost for awhile. Etta, it looks like tomorrow might be clear and sunny; would you care to go for a buggy ride to see more of the country around town?" "Oh yes! I'm so happy you asked, Harry, I'd like that very much. Could we get something from the store, or from the kitchen, for a picnic?" "We surely could, Etta."
They started out while the morning was still frosty, but the sun was strong and the day promised to be warm by afternoon. They rode along in the buggy in no particular hurry, not caring where they went. Bundled up and sitting close, they talked about themselves; each intent on sharing and learning more about each other.
"Etta, tell me about your upbringing and why you're headin' to California. You're so young. How old are you Etta?" "Harry, I was born in 1878, I'm now eighteen." "Gosh Etta, I'm older 'n you. I'm almost thirty. Please, go on."
"I'm the second of three children; my sister, Mabel is two years older, and Buddy, my younger brother, is fourteen. We were all born at our home in Boston. We were schooled at home also. My father was a Doctor. I think my father went into medicine just for the simple fact that his father had been a doctor. If he could have chosen his destiny freely, I think he would have been a frontiersman. He liked to take us children up to Maine, on camp out trips, much to my mother's horror. I thought it was the best fun."
"He died two years ago, in 1894 in the Tai Ping Shan area of Hong Kong, doing disease research and studying the bubonic plague. It may have been his way of proving his worth to himself by going there in the first place. His death devastated us all."
"My mother couldn't manage to handle us children or the household; so my sister, Mabel and I took over. Then our mother became more and more agitated with Mabel and me. After corresponding with my aunt and uncle in California; it was arranged for Mabel to be employed as governess for a family there in San Diego. Mabel is a bright, talented, lovely person, and with her excelling in her studies and music, she'll be exceptional as a governess. The original plan for me, I'm sure, was something much less glamorous in the Boston area. It was Mabel who suggested to mother that I should find a position as governess also, or teach music; my passion is the violin. Our uncle Stephen could oversee the household affairs; so, as it turned out, I could travel with Mabel.
Boston Spring 1896
Boston's new North Station was noisy, crowded, and full of the excitement of departing travelers, their well wishing friends, and anxious people greeting their arriving loved ones. In the spring of 1896, increasingly more people were going west, either to visit family, or to try their luck on the western frontier. The great drive west by the early pioneers in their covered wagons had come to an end. The train was now the most popular mode of transportation.
Rather than sit across from each other, the two attractive young ladies sat side by side on the plush seat in their train car. The youngest, with her gray-blue eyes wide with excitement, had already taken off her hat; her chestnut hair had come loose from its pins and made a soft frame about her delicate face. She was leaning across her sister to wave goodbye to their mother, their kid brother, Buddy, and their Aunt Charlotte and Uncle Stephen. Many years would pass before she would see any of them again.
Mabel, just twenty years old, was the older sister, fairer in complexion of the two, and with her bright blue eyes and soft light auburn hair, she reminded one of the silhouette on a cameo. While she waved along with her sister, Etta, she could scarcely believe they were on their way west. Both girls stood out; their beauty and loveliness were noticed.
Excerpted from ETTA MisPLACEd by Honor Lee. Copyright © 2013 Honor Lee. Excerpted by permission of AuthorHouse.
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