The Legacy of Claire Delany
Today I’m happy to welcome author Faye Roberts as she shares about her book, The Legacy of Claire Delany.
A lady rancher is a rare breed of woman with a spirit of survival branded into her soul—an enduring legacy passed from one generation to the next.
Imagine for a moment, being gifted journals written over the past one hundred years. Four generations of thoughts, heartaches, challenges and triumphs. What secrets did your ancestral mothers keep? What lessons could they teach you now?
Marina Townsend receives such a gift with a stipulation attached—put the diaries into books to create The Silver Cross Legacy. What starts as a simple narration of the lives of Rose, Birdie and Mavis, changes Marina in ways she could never imagine. The fourth and final book is the hardest of all for her to write—that of her mother, Claire Delany. Written during the final year of Claire’s battle with cancer, her mother reveals deep secrets, along with kernels of wisdom that lead Marina to make hard choices about the ranch, her marriage, and the way she’s leading her life.
Faye Roberts started her writing career after winning a contest through Guideposts Magazine. She wrote for various inspirational magazines and published a book of devotionals for working women. Faye branched into fiction with her first novel, Fragile Treaties, that was selected as a finalist for a Willa Award, telling the story of Lily Bodeen, the matriarch of the Silver Cross. Since then, Faye worked on a family saga, weaving actual historical events into the lives of the mothers and daughters who run the Silver Cross Ranch from 1897 to 2014. The series is available on Amazon both is print and e-book format.
The Silver Cross Legacy Series:
Book One – The Legacy of Rose Bodeen
Book Two – The Legacy of Birdie Bassett
Book Three – The Legacy of Mavis McCall
Book Four – The Legacy of Claire Delany
On The Trail Beyond – The Life of Louisa Cody, wife of Buffalo Bill
Hey Lord, Can Angels Type? Five-minute Devotionals for Working Women
As a writer, I bring the lessons of history to a modern world searching for heroes. It’s said the more things change, the more they remain the same. We have the same desires, hopes and dreams of those who came before us. We want a better life for ourselves and our children. We want to belong, to matter and to make a difference. No matter the era or the circumstances we are born to, we want strength, acceptance and peace. The intention of my words is to bring that kind of hope to my readers.
Blessings on your journey,
For more information , visit www.fayerobertswriter.com
or visit her on Facebook at Faye Roberts Author – The Lessons of History
Sneak Preview of The Legacy of Claire Delany
December 10, 2013
Silver Cross Ranch
Mom’s diary beckons from the kitchen table. Included inside the diary is a bookmark, an iridescent blue feather with note attached—Good words do not last long unless they amount to something. Chief Joseph.
A hot pot of tea now accompanies the book, along with a plate of lemon cookies baked this morning. It seems fitting to include them as a christening to her story as they were a common thread running through previous journals. After the shocking revelations in my three foremothers’ diaries, what secrets will I find in hers? As with Gramma Mavis, will Mom’s words reveal I never really knew her either?
And is it a coincidence that I begin her book on this date, December 10th, the day she changed her will and then died just hours later? The change that left me grieving her loss, while feeling completely betrayed and my life turned inside out?
Mom wrote her final letter to me on December 10th, 2010. A light snow was falling that morning. Weak and pale and oh so thin, in a faint whisper, she asked for paper and pen. How she had the strength to write all morning speaks to the deep-down fortitude I now know runs in the family. She then refused her pain meds, and instead asked for some tea and two of the lemon cookies her friend Ruby had baked the day before.
“Call Ben and ask him to come by for a visit. Tell him it’s important.”
Benjamin Lichovich, her crusty attorney, came out of her room minutes before sundown, carrying a leather briefcase as old and weathered as he was. He pulled the door closed as if it were made of lead, his eyes rimmed wet with sadness. Per Mom’s earlier instructions, I had a roast beef sandwich and strong coffee waiting for him in the kitchen.
After feeding Benjamin, I went to check on Mom and found her sleeping. The deep creases between her eyebrows had smoothed and her labored breathing had evened. She was at peace. Hank sat in the cozy chair next to the bed, holding her hand. Six hours later, she left us. Two long breaths and a final sigh, leaving her earthly home with quiet dignity and a faint smile.
It’s been three long and difficult years since I started this journey into the past. My girl Rachel was fourteen then and still in the bud. Now a senior in high school completing a semester as an exchange student in France, she’s blooming full and bright. Like our foremothers, as I now call the ancestral women before us, she has an independent spirit, wide-eyed enthusiasm and a good head on her shoulders.
And me? The homestretch is in sight. I’m relieved and even proud of the first three books—The Legacy of Rose Bodeen, The Legacy of Birdie Bassett and the Legacy of Mavis McCall, the previous caretakers of the Silver Cross, and my amazing ancestors. The joy of putting their journals into everlasting words for Rachel and future generations has been worth the struggle.
Still, there is one left to complete. Claire McCall Bernier McIntyre Delany. For ease of a book cover, I will simply call her book The Legacy of Claire Delany.
I was going to wait until after the holidays to move to the final, and possibly the most difficult one of all, but why? Jarred and I don’t leave for our holiday with Rachel and Papa in Paris for another week, giving me five days here at the ranch before driving to Denver.
This morning I retraced the steps I took five days after the reading of Mom’s will. I walked up the hill to The Community, Gram’s name for the Silver Cross Cemetery, sat on the same bench, and pulled the letter out of the pocket of the same red wool coat I wore that day. The letter that changed our world.
December 10, 2010
Silver Cross Ranch, Colorado
My dear daughter Marina,
As I write this final epistle in the book of my life, I’ve one foot above ground and one over the edge. And if you’re reading this letter, then I’ve indeed let go, fallen headfirst into freedom and left you behind.
Benjamin Lichovich, my long-time advisor and friend, has read you the will and explained your inheritance. You planned on a clear deed to the ranch. Instead, I put the home place into a trust. Three people now decide its fate— you, Benjamin, and Hank Delany. Nothing can be done with or to the ranch without all three votes in consent. Nothing can be bought or sold.
You are angry, confused. This is not a betrayal, sweet girl. Trust me.
Your husband is livid and wondering what possessed me to give such a vote to Hank. I may have married my ranch foreman merely two months ago, but I trust him, and I can count on one hand those worthy of such a responsibility.
Jarred didn’t think much of my ways so he really shouldn’t be surprised with the decision. What I called living independent and self-governing, he called stubborn and short-sighted. I don’t care what Jarred thinks but am sorry he’s kicking Silver Cross dirt in your face. I’m most certain he is.
My hands may have been shaky and my hair all but gone when I signed the will, but my mind was as clear as the Colorado sky. The decision that determined the future of the Silver Cross was made only after long talks with God, Benjamin and Hank. I did it to protect all that I love as a snarling badger protects its young.
Yet the land was only part of the legacy.
Next, Benjamin presented you with the old wooden strongbox that sat in the tack room for years. The top of the box was nailed shut, the way Hank found it. Benjamin handed you a hammer to pry off the top. Jarred most assuredly sat on the edge of his chair as the nails gave way, and then scowled at the contents. Nothing but some books that smelled of old age and old leather. He may have grabbed one of the books to see if I’d stashed bills inside, knowing my distrust of most bankers, but nothing fluttered out from between the yellowed pages.
Maybe he read an entry out loud:
“January 5th, 1928
Snowed over a foot last evening and is still coming down. The cold seeps into my bum knee like a thief.”
How disappointed he must have been when the book contained only a woman’s mindless wanderings. I imagine him storming into the cold morning and lighting up a Cuban Montecristo. He will never understand the true treasures inside the box. But you will, Marina, and learn that no price can be put on heritage.
Hank and I were cleaning out the old tack shed last year to find items to sell at an auction. We’d needed money to pay the property taxes. Like most ranchers, we are land rich and cash poor. The box was used as a sitting spot for oiling saddles and bridles. When I went to move the box, it was heavy, and I realized there must be something inside. I’d hoped for something like old horseshoes that could bring a few bucks.
Hank grabbed a hammer and pried off the lid. Inside were twenty-four journals wrapped up tight in a canvas tarp. All were bound in fine leather with the same inscription written on the first page of each book. Yet the authors and their handwriting changed with the times—Rose Bodeen Steele, Isabel Steele Bassett, and Mavis Bassett McCall. The pages had yellowed, but the ink was as legible as if the words were written yesterday. As I read, the intimate thoughts in the diaries became as precious to me as the land.
You come from a line of five women who have run this ranch, each uniquely different. Gran Lily was the matriarch. Fire destroyed her journals, the same fire that took the original ranch house, but you will read about Lily in her daughter Rose’s diaries. Next came Isabel, and then Mavis. And finally, me.
I’ve included my own journal in the box, written over this last and final year of my life. Sixty years of traveling feels like only sixty days when the end of the road is in sight, and one tries to cram all their life stories into one book. I wanted a longer journey, but the big C had guns more powerful than mine. One final bomb blew up my earthly future but could not destroy the road home. Like our foremothers, I wrote my own chronicle with brutal honesty, cutting away any proud flesh that covered over life’s wounds.
Set off on your journey at the beginning and read the books in order, starting with Rose, then Isabel, Mavis and finally mine. One hundred years of the history of the Silver Cross is detailed in the books. The women write of wars, industry, and new technology. But more than that, they reveal success and joy, grief and crushing sorrow. Hard work and hard times. Birth and death. Challenges endured and overcome, and those that left deep scars with wounds still oozing beneath the surface.
Our women were not without fault, nor were they without grit and determination. And not without blind faith that gave them the ability to dig deep for the strength to overcome whatever trials they faced. And face them they did, like wild mustangs racing headlong into a driving wind. A wind that tore outer layers away and left them naked and cold, struggling to survive. A wind that made them stronger and wilder and freer. A wind that made them each proud to be called Lady Rancher and Owner of the Silver Cross Ranch in southwest Colorado.
As I read my foremothers’ diaries, admiration and acceptance shoveled in hungry holes. The diaries answered questions as to why I lived like I did, and why I made my decisions, both the good and the ridiculous.
Through their courage, I found my own, and am now able to face not just my past, but also the future. After closing the last book, I am at peace with my life, and at peace with my death. I am that mustang and can feel my bloodline pulling me through the wind, giving me renewed strength. In finding acceptance of my earthly home, I look forward to running back to God without fear, knowing green pastures and still waters and forgiveness await my homecoming.
Soon I’ll race the wind one last time. I’ll run to meet Lily and Rose and Gran Isabel and my mother Mavis. Though my body is weak, my heart beats strong with excitement. I anticipate the final sprint toward home as I round this last bend.
I assure you that after you read the journals, you’ll understand what a fortune you have been given, the gift of your ancestry. With this gift I pray you derive a better understanding of my decision concerning the ranch. I pray the words written in the diaries will give you wisdom, faith, and the power to forgive, those same gifts our wise foremothers gave me. The added stipulation in the will concerning the diaries will assure they become a living legacy, not only to you, but to Rachel. That their wisdom will give you the courage to do what you know is right, not merely with the ranch, but also with your life. The courage to run your own race through the storms of life that blow your way.
The blank book is for you to write your own legacy to give to Rachel someday. The inscription in the front is the same as the first page of every journal in the box, one of the treasures you will unearth as you excavate and discover where you came from.
People search a lifetime for a place to belong, for a life that fits right. They search for answers to questions they can’t put into words. They wonder where they came from and where they’re going. They search for acceptance, a place to call home. I know I did, and I’d bet my best saddle that you are searching right now, yet not knowing what you are even looking for. Many of your questions will become clearer as you read, as will many of the answers.
Finally, Benjamin handed you this letter and stated you were to walk to the top of the south pasture, where we citizens of The Silver Cross Community reside (me being the newest member) and read it alone while sitting on the bench that faces my resting place, with the Shining Mountains beyond. I assume you are sitting there now, having trudged through a foot or two of snow to make the trek. Your cheeks are cold and tinged with pink, yet your blood is warm and your body tingles from the exertion. You feel very alive as you breathe crisp, clear air.
For now, child, sit on the hillside overlooking the Silver Cross and drink in the sight like sparkling water. Taste it, feel the beauty filling you with joy and peace. Smell the air, cold and crisp with winter. Let it caress your cheeks, your lashes, your soul. Breathe deep and long. Let the land satiate your thirst for understanding and cool your anger toward me.
Finally, shut your eyes and feel the roots under your feet, grounding you from the chaotic winds of change that are coming. Feel the strength of the land, Marina. Let it fill you to overflowing before you walk back into your world. Let it fill you with trust and an open mind.
And may the Spirit of the Lord be entwined with your own as you continue your journey.
With love everlasting,
It’s amusing now that Jarred thought the books would be complete in mere months. I assumed the same, and never dreamed when hearing the stipulation in the will of writing the women’s diaries into book form, that it would take a year to complete each book. I would not inherit the land until the books were complete and approved by Hank and Benjamin.
In the meantime, the land would be in a trust with all three of us having to agree on decisions made concerning the ranch. Both Hank and Benjamin made it clear the ranch could not be put up for sale until I’d honored her wishes.
I had no idea what a hard road it would be, not just for me, but also for my family. Jarred and Rachel have struggled over boulders along with me, as have Hank and even Benjamin, who is never without a red bow tie that’s always tilted a bit to the right. He told me the other day when he came by for pie and coffee that the books were the only thing keeping him alive. “Get ‘em done, girl, so I can finally remove this tie and die in peace. I can’t face your mama in heaven until this is settled once and for all.”
So many tests. So many failures. So many moments I felt like giving up, not just on the books, but also on the ranch, and on my marriage. Yet just when I was ready to raise the white flag in surrender, those darned, beautiful foremothers would pick me up, dust me off and get me going again.
I hope to be finished with Mom’s story by Rachel’s graduation day in May, if she decides to have one. The last we spoke she was hoping to stay in France since she already has enough credits to graduate. We can discuss her future at Christmas, and maybe there will be answers for my own future as well. I’m tired of living two lives.
When Mom’s legacy is complete, and all four books approved by my two partners in this crazy venture, then I can go home and stay put. Therein states the final question. Where is home? Embarking on this final leg of the journey, where will I be led? Which fork will be taken? There’s no map and no guide. Only tea, cookies and a journal. With cup in hand, I take the first step into an unknown future.