But for the grace of God, there go I...
Most of you know there is always at least a pinch of truth in my stories. In my new book, The Vaquero’s Heart, my heroine, Pearl Pickett, is inspired by historical bad girls Pearl Hart, Belle Siddons, and Laura Bullion, among others.
Female outlaws of the Wild West had hard lives, usually wound up in prison, but bounced back pretty strong after their release. 'Cause Jesus is in the redemption business! Laura Bullion became an interior designer after her life with the Wild Bunch got her sent to jail. Apparently, time behind bars straightened out her thinking, or at least clarified what she did not want to do again: break the law. Pearl Hart, a not-so-successful stagecoach robber, joined a Wild West show after her incarceration. Her time performing was short-lived, however, as she chose obscurity over fame, disappearing into the mists of history. Most intriguing to me, though, is the story of Belle Siddons. A very pretty girl, she used her good looks to spy for the South during the Civil War. She was caught and jailed, but only for four months. She went on to marry a gambler who discovered and encouraged Belle’s proclivity for poker. Belle was never in love, though, until she met Archie McLaughlin (among several of his aliases), and she was head-over-heels for the stagecoach robber. At this time, Belle was running her own saloon in Deadwood and once again began a career of spying–to feed information to Archie. From payrolls to gold shipments, Belle had Archie in the money. Then a simple slip of her tongue tipped off the law. Based on Belle’s casual, careless words, Archie was arrested, and sent to Cheyenne for trial…but was lynched along the way. Belle never recovered. She fell into a bottle, lost her saloon, wandered around drunk, and was arrested one final time in 1881 in San Francisco. It is the last historical reference to the beautiful–and foolish–woman.
Now, my heroine Pearl Pickett, has, of course, a much happier ending. But isn’t it amazing, even humbling, to think how easily a life can slip off course? What’s that old saying? “But for the grace of God, there go I?” Or another comment I heard the other day: the same parents can raise brothers and one becomes a preacher and one becomes a crackhead. That darn Free Will the Lord gave us. When I think of all the poor decisions and bad company I entertained in my younger days, it gives me chills. I sure am grateful I heard the Shepherd’s voice. And I had a praying sister. What about you? Any near misses with disaster? Do you ever think about "what could have been," and thank the Lord it wasn't?