Today Wednesday Writers Welcomes Ada Brownell, author of Peach Blossom Ranch, a book that has been described as suspense, romance, humor, murder, insanity, hope, fun, wrapped in a Western you won’t forget.
You won’t believe the work required to run a peach and horse ranch, or the types of diagnoses that could get you committed to an asylum in the early 1900s.
To write this historical romance I drew from my experiences growing up in Fruita, Colo., near Palisade’s peach country, and from my years as a journalist covering the Colorado Mental Health Institute at Pueblo, a former asylum.
In this Historical Romance, a handsome young man inherits a ranch in ruin and hopes to marry a beautiful young widow who is an attorney. But she takes up the case of a brilliant doctor committed to an asylum because of one seizure. Will the rancher, the attorney, and the asylum patient achieve their dreams?
Peach blossoms, regal horse flesh, three beautiful women and one handsome rancher almost fall to the background in this book as an insane asylum surfaces, holding people who are not imbeciles, as they called them in the early 1900s.
My career as a newspaper reporter dropped me into that pit, and one piece of authentic historical information that I was given by the now Colorado Mental Health Institute at Pueblo told the story about some of the characters that appear in my historical romance, The Peach Blossom Rancher. The rancher’s intended wife is an attorney and she’s trying to get a doctor released who was committed because of one seizure. Here’s how the document ended up in my book:
Silence descended on the courtroom as the patient stared. Finally, Dr. Dillon Haskill spoke. “The list is headed, ‘The Eleventh Biennial Report from the Board of Lunacy Commissioners, dated 1899 to 1900.’ First, I’ll read some diagnoses that might”—he eyed the judge—”might show insanity. Seven types of mania. Six types of melancholia. Five types of paranoia. Nine types of dementia.”
He took a deep breath, squirmed at the straitjacket, and then started on the list again. “Now for the questionable diagnoses. Thirty-nine patients admitted because of intemperance.” He smiled. “I don’t think those folks listened to Solomon, who wrote in the Bible, Wine is a mocker, strong drink is raging, and whoever is deceived thereby is not wise.”
Snickers drifted over the room.
He searched the list again. “Eleven men and three women admitted with syphilis. End stage of this disease can result in insanity, but are the patients held in an area separate from others to avoid spread of the disease?”
Under Dillon’s condemning gaze, the superintendent squirmed.
Dillon tipped his head toward the paper in the silent courtroom. “Here are only a few of the ones I believe aren’t a true diagnosis of lunacy. Religious excitement.” Dillon scanned the audience where low murmurs began. “Be sure and don’t get excited about meeting Jesus and having your sins forgiven, or you could end up in the loony bin.”
People covered their mouths to prevent laughter from exploding.
“Domestic trouble.” Dillon cocked his head sideways. “Better be sure the neighbors don’t hear arguments with your wife.” A low giggle swept through the crowd.
“Ill health and privation. Better not get sick or hungry. Exposure. Don’t stay out in the cold or the sun too long, or you’ll be found insane.”
The superintendent jumped to his feet. “This imbecile is again making a mockery of this court.”
The judge faced the attorney. “This is an interesting list. May I see the paper he’s reading?”
Archibald handed it to the judge.
The hard lines in the judge’s bulldog face softened as he studied the shaking paper in his quivering hand. “I’ll read some of these to the court myself. Jealousy. Sunstroke. Grief. Disappointment. Childbirth. Rheumatism. Injury. Suppression of menses. Excessive use of tobacco. Injury to spine. Loss of money. Christian Science. Cerebral hemorrhage. Hmmm. According to what I’ve learned, that is a stroke where people often become paralyzed on one side, and it may mess up their speech, but they don’t lose their minds. I guess it goes along with ‘injury to spine.’ Paralysis is what we have here with the teacher, Jim Cook.”
He lowered the paper, studied Dr. Haskill, Pete, the boy with Down’s Syndrome, and Jim, and then shook his head, and his eyes bore into the superintendent. “Who makes these diagnoses?”
Peach Blossom Ranch
by Ada Brownell
EXCERPT, End of Chapter One
The young lady rancher flipped her blonde braid over her shoulder. “But I wouldn’t keep her around here. She has a temper to match her red hair. Yet, after her parents died, she lost her spunk. Claims Wellington compromised her, but nobody believed it.”
John took his knife out of his pocket and began grooming his fingernails. “She was doing a lot of praying when we found her in the barn loft, and she wanted me and Abe to leave her alone. Soon as I understood a baby was on the way, I went for Polly.”
Edwina wrinkled her little turned-up nose. “What’s that terrible odor?”
John stepped to the fence. “Might be coming from my prize pigs. See the big one over there I call Gertie?”
Gertie trotted close and rubbed her prickly mud-covered back on the hog wire.
“I expect to make big money from pork while I rebuild the horse herd and work in the peach orchards. You ought to try a few pigs. You get a quicker turnover with your money than with horses. Your papa used to raise them. Besides, it’s always nice to have smoked ham and bacon available.”
Edwina leaned over the fence. The pigs grappled with each other over the slop, snorting and grunting. “I might get some. The little ones are cute. Since my papa is in the wheelchair, I’m running everything. How is the pork market doing?”
“It sounded great to me. It …”
Gertie stuck her snout through the fence and sucked Edwina’s lacy pink dress. Edwina jerked the skirt out of the slimy jaws and then, stringy pig saliva slid down her pretty legs.
“Eeeeewwww!” she squealed, holding her dress out away from her. “I didn’t know pigs would eat clothing.”
Laughter almost escaped John’s lips. He pressed his fist over his mouth until his insides quit quaking in case she was mad enough to use the gun strapped on her slim middle. “Gertie probably smelled the cornstarch you used to starch your dress. I’d guess for her it was quite tasty. I’ll get you a towel.”
“Don’t bother.” She grabbed a big blue handkerchief from the buggy, wiped at her legs and jumped in the driver’s seat. “You probably wanted me to stand over by the fence so that would happen. You are incorrigible, John Parks. Get someone else to go to the church picnic with you!”
As the dust rose from her departure, she almost ran into the mailman.
John meandered to the mailbox. Strange. He hadn’t asked her to the picnic. He never intended to.
Want to read more? Read the first chapter free or purchase the book at http://ow.ly/4ETL302QdhW
About the Author:
Ada Brownell has been writing for Christian publications since age 15 and spent much of her life as a daily newspaper reporter. She has a B.S. degree in Mass Communications and worked most of her career at The Pueblo Chieftain in Colorado where she spent the last seven years as a medical writer. After moving to Springfield, MO in her retirement, she continues to freelance for Christian publications and write non-fiction and fiction books.
She currently is working on another novel, plus compiling her more than 125 articles from The Pentecostal Evangel into a book.
She is author of Peach Blossom Rancher, released By Elk Lake Publishing in 2016; The Lady Fugitive, Elk Lake 2014; Joe the Dreamer: The Castle and the Catapult, 2013; Swallowed by Life: Mysteries of Death, Resurrection and the Eternal, 2011; Imagine the Future You, released 2013; and Confessions of a Pentecostal, Radiant Books, out-of-print but released in 2012 for Kindle;. All the books are available in paper or for Kindle. Imagine the Future You also is an Audio Book.
You can connect with Ada at
Blog: http://inkfromanearthenvessel.blogspot.com/ Stick to Your Soul Encouragement
Amazon Ada Brownell author page: http://www.amazon.com/-/e/B001KJ2C06