(The below is a story of fiction based on a little fact. I hope you enjoy what my imagination has come up with. I now bring you a short story of a woman that tamed the wild west.)
The year is 1919. The war to end all wars had ended just a short year before, and soldiers are returning home with their pockets full of cash and fire in their eyes. The economy of the United States is the best it has ever been, and being a citizen of the wealthiest nation on earth is a heady experience. She’s a dancer in one of the world’s greatest vaudeville shows—the Ziegfeld Follies. New York is the center of the universe. What she didn’t count on is that her love for her husband is stronger than the pull of the limelight and fortunes that await her.
Blanche Russell is married to a man who is diagnosed with pulmonary tuberculosis. His breathing is becoming more and more labored as time wears on. He’s continually tired, losing weight, and coughing up blood with more regularity. This condition has no cure. Blanche knows that staying in New York is a death sentence for her husband.
Unbeknownst to Bill and Blanche Russell, the cure for his disease is but a year away. However, Blanche knows that to save her husband they must, together, do something—and do it quickly. So, in early 1920 they begin a journey that will take them to a place they did not know existed. It would be like traveling to the dark side of the moon without a flashlight or telescope.
In 1920 Bill and Blanche Russell loaded up their Detroiter Touring car. It was new just three years prior and, after purchasing it from a widow, Bill had kept it in good shape, so they put their faith in the automobile, and not the tried and true conestoga wagon and team of horses. Early in the morning of February 19, 1920 Bill slowly let out the clutch of the Detroiter, and holding hands with the love of his life, rolled down the street, traveling towards the western city limits.
Bill and Blanche left New York hoping to find relief for Bill’s symptoms. It was a known fact at the time that the dry climates of the Southwest would greatly improve Bill’s condition. So, the couple, carrying all their belongings, set their sights on Utah. They had kin in the southern part of the state and their destination was the home of a distant cousin in Cedar City. They never made it.
After crossing the Colorado River at Lee’s Ferry in Northern Arizona the Detroiter gave its last cough. Bill was more fortunate. He was gaining back the strength his illness had been taking from him. He could now breath without pain. Something he had not been able to do in New York. Blanche was the happiest she had ever been in her life. Her husband was showing signs of regaining the health and heartiness she had seen when she first fell in love with him. This spot, where their car quit on them, was going to be their home. She made up her mind and her decision was final.
Blanche O’Brien came from strong, hearty, Irish stock. Her great-grandparents had immigrated from Ireland in 1847, at the height of the famine, a time of mass starvation in the country. Born in Brooklyn in 1897, Blanche was raised in a strict Catholic home. Her father, and his father before him, as well as her older brother, were proud New York City policemen. Her mother was strict and demanded much of the growing girl, but Blanche had other things on her mind. She was a strong willed child that grew into a woman that knew what she wanted out of life, and was willing to do anything to get it.
Women’s suffrage held her attention for awhile, but it was the draw of the footlights of the theater that finally pulled her in. The Follies. Oh, what glamour and fame awaited her. She was going to be the star of the show. That is, until Bill Russell walked into her life. The tall, dark headed stranger in uniform captivated her. He was all she could see that night he walked into the theater and sat in the second row. She made up her mind that he was going to be hers. No discussion. It was settled.
Bill Russell fought in the trenches of Western Europe. He, along with many of his fellow soldiers, returned a hero. He had survived. Shortly after his return he and Blanche were married. She continued to dance in the Follies, while he began his career as a fireman for the City of New York. Life was perfect. Children would soon follow.
Not long after they were married, and Bill began fighting fires in the downtown high rises, he began not feeling quite himself. He was tired and had a persistent cough. Blanche was worried. So many soldiers had returned from war with physical ailments. Surely, Bill could not be one of the stricken.
When Bill was diagnosed with pulmonary tuberculosis Blanche swore that he would not be taken from her. She prayed, cursed, and pleaded with God. She would find a way to make him better. With, or without, His help.
After several months of seeking medical advice throughout the state Blanche came upon the idea that the path to Bill’s wellness lie in the Southwest. A land of warmth and less humidity. A place where he would be able to breath and eventually retain his health. A place where a person could stretch, and did not feel overrun by a multitude of people roaming the streets.
When their car quit on them the young couple was parked next to a small stream. The area was beautiful. Blanche could not stop staring at the high cliffs around her and the endless sky above her. Long into the night she sat and stared at the stars, while Bill slept peacefully nearby. As the sun was peaking above the cliffs to the east Blanche came to a decision. This was going to be home.
(Thus ends the first chapter in the life and times of Blanche Russell. Sometime in the very near future we shall see what awaits the woman that puts her brand on an untamed land.)