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Richard L Bowers

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The Keeper's Gift
by Richard L Bowers   

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Books by Richard L Bowers
· In Voyeur's Time
· King Rat's Memoir
                >> View all

Category: 

Literary Fiction

Publisher:  Richard Bowers Publishing ISBN-10:  098161096x Type: 
Pages: 

450

Copyright:  2010 ISBN-13:  9780981610962
Fiction

Young Uley Bauer once had it all, the adventure of a life time and the fortune of a hometown boy. Then when everything was lost in California, he wandered aimlessly through a land raw and cruel until he chances upon a benefactor in a gallant old man. Within a few years he comes to terms with his losses and returns to his hometown where everything has changed: the only brother he knew is dead. Everything he held sacred has vanished and he is soon forced into another reality with three half brothers who are living in their own world of lost generations.

Epic adventure novel set in early America.

Barnes & Noble.com

I followed Russell upstairs into his room where he walked over to a table that had several maps, books and papers stacked. 

“I could use somebody I can trust out there.”

“Ca, Ca, Cost three hundred dollars for passage to California. Maybe take a year. That’s what the stories say in the paper,” I said calculating.

“Where’d you hear that?” he asked.

“In the paper. They ran several stories last year.”

“Well look at this. It’s Captain Fremont’s book Narrative Across the Rocky Mountains. I read all of it and there’s too much hardship tramping up and down the hills. Besides, it takes too long and it’s too easy for a man to deceive himself in the time it takes to get there. The sea’s the best way to go.”

Russell opened a large map of good grade parchment and laid it on the table. “Look at this. From Kansas City, we hire-on a steamer as deck hands or a barge even… We work our way south down the Mississippi… In New Orleans, we hire-on a ship to Panama and not go around the horn below South America but hike across Panama to the Pacific. Panama’s the short cut. See it’s only fifty miles across there. The Bay of San Francisco is a short sail up the coast. All total three months tops. The short cut is what makes all this work.” His large brown eyes showed the excitement of the trip. “I love sailing. My dad loved sailing.” He unfolded a large second map of California to cover up the ocean map. “All the mines are located mostly around the Sacramento River here with tunnels all over the place and further on down here around Mariposa. That’s Spanish for butterfly and see the Fremont Mine there - they’ve got shafts and tunnels everywhere. There’s plenty of room out there to explore for gold, even on down to Rio De Los Santos Reyes – that’s River of the Kings… We’ll find something for sure.”

I stared at the map in total silence trying to fathom some connection or understanding of something, of anything then nausea came over me. I began to think of an adventure I had experienced before. I faced unusual problems in caves underground. I was confronted with poor visibility – in tunnels or shafts so filled with dense air that I could only see a few feet from the lantern. I had to strain to see further. I shunned the joy, an act that felt like an old dream.

The challenge for me wasn’t there. On days when the space became restricted and the passage kept going on, I pushed my body through the crevices, trying to relate impressions from elbows, knees, neck, even feet helping the tunnel to come to life like a vivid picture in my mind. I made fingers of all my body parts. My right and left knee told the slope of the floor, my right and left elbows gauged the walls, my flexible back felt the ceiling and my cheeks a guide for any changes in airflow. As I spent more time underground, my sense of touch quickly altered drastically to such a degree that I couldn’t hold an image from the rocks brushing my legs or make out that objects character and condition. My inability to focus from hindsight hampered my imagination. I began to disassociate from the cave’s features, imagining what was ahead beyond the dark and how I might become wedged, how I would have to slide back out a cave’s gap if the overhead ceiling fell or how something could jump out in front of me.

Through the following year I came to believe that I wasn’t cut out for cave exploration because I couldn’t see with my mind and body as clearly as I could with my eyes, and this handicapped me in that environment. When things felt wrong in the cavern even in full lantern light as the air sucked it in or my breathing changed, I began to panic, because I thought something was there. Eventually I told Russell I lost interest in the caving sport, feeling with my body, depressed that I was challenged when those assembled pictures jumped blank in my mind. I couldn’t hold the pieces in one complete picture. Russell said, “There’re plenty of other things to do.”

My mind was wandering. Russell had said something. “What?”

Now Russell looked at me and spoke, “We can have a new life out there in California…. What’s wrong with making a fortune and living the good life? Any one good day is worth two tomorrows.” Unrolling a third map from sheep’s vellum, a garish one that looked like an oversized gypsy card and he began talking in a different voice of enthusiasm. The chart took on the qualities of the living. “This is another map of the west coast. It shows a lot of the rivers and mining towns. It has more detail. See from the Bay of San Francisco it’s a short ways over to Pueblo de San Jose and the Marshall’s diggings. Here’s Las Mariposas further over here in the Sierra Nevada. The Spanish were in there first… Even before the Marshall’s diggings up here. And anything further down than this is unknown territory.” His hand pointed to the places but his voice held the strength, they told the truth. The voice inspired to pull something wonderful from inside me, there sprang immortality. I felt it tug from deep inside me, not from his words but from the strength of his voice.

Some of the places on the California map sounded menacing. Starvation Pass, Desperation Summit, and Dead Man’s Canyon and were good reasons to stay away. “Wa, Wa, What’s this?” I asked pointing to a smudge on the map. It looked like someone marked an “X” and tried to erase it. 

“That’s down by Rio De Los Santos Reyes and Tulare Lake and more mountains… It’s all unexplored down there… It’s an entirely different country out there. The mountains go right up into the clouds. You have to commit yourself. This could be our best adventure so far. Think of all the new things and places we’ll see.” He looked around, his voice dropped even lower, and he held his finger to his lips. After checking the door to see if anyone was there, he came close enough to talk so only someone within a foot could understand. “You remember me telling you about my Uncle Eaton. The one that was in the Indian Wars, well, he gave me an old map several years ago and I still have it. He says it shows where the Spanish buried some gold they couldn’t get out of the mountains in California. When they closed down the Missions they also shut down the mines and tried to take the gold out at the same time.” He pulled a small brown animal skin out from a hiding place under the table and laid it on top of the other maps. The intricate drawing had more detail than the other maps and looked cryptic with the symbols and a foreign language. “My uncle carried it around for years thinking he’d go out there and look around, but when he took sick he passed it on to me. What do you think? Looks like a treasure map. Huh?”

The pictures on the map had been drawn in ink and pigments of earth and other sundry colors and were indeed a work of art. All detailed with jagged mountains, odd shaped rocks, wavy connecting lines of rivers and streams, and bold coded symbols like suns and open triangles and arrow-like lines. Some lines hint protection and others guidance. A geometrically arrayed compass placed to the side blended into the total enthusiasm for antiquity. And there were Spanish wording and labels scattered about to be used as instructions in some way.

I goggled the drawing to make a kind of pretend sense from it and remarked. “Maybe it’s in code of some kind. Maybe this is a sun symbol here… It sure looks old… What’s Yerba Buena here?” I asked pointing.

“I think it’s what they use to call Bay of San Francisco - It’s above Monterrey.”

At the sound of a distant creak from within the house, Russell quickly refolded the treasure map and returned it to its hiding place up under the table.

I bent over the California map. A part of my mind thought abstractedly, trying hard to see the things he described, the adventure that would be there, the colorful mining camps, the green valleys, and the snow capped mountains, also, I wanted to visualize the west as Russell thought it would be, perpetual and untamed. I looked down at the map again and couldn’t visualize the mountains, it stayed flat and empty and blank. I didn’t want to leave my hometown for something unknown even though I couldn’t think of a good enough reason to stay except for the memories of growing up here and always knowing Sedalia. Everything I knew was right here – I loved my hometown. I felt comfortable here. The accounts that came through the newspaper about California were only entertaining to me. I guess my mind stored them away as farfetched and not to be acted upon or repeated, like the encounters with the weird creatures in the proverbial mountains, the many prehistoric ice caves, and the lost bags of buried gold. These stories I had read in the paper. They interested me a great deal but I never had a reason to talk to anybody about them, even Russell.

He half smiled in his usual way and said, “I asked Nathan to go and he said he didn’t know. I knew wild horses couldn’t get him to go…. Besides, you can buy your grandfather’s farm that you’re always talking about when we get back…. Think of it as our last adventure before we have to settle down. Uncle Eaton always said the quickest way to the almighty dollar is the gold. And we’ll not be seeing any of it going to creek banks nor caves back here. Sharpshooters will be eating for sure that’s truth but the demand is the gold.”

Russell was truly an adventurer. When I first was introduced to him through Nathan at an outing I was moved not just by his unique charisma but his inborn sense of exploration and old school eagerness for living. I recall after meeting at my parent’s tavern, we’d hike on out to muddy creek. We’d follow the county road with a vague idea of exploring the woods. He always talked about where the road went and after I remarked Kansas City, he’d continue on wondering where it went from there. Often after pausing at a crossroad and after deciding which road to follow he would casually remark, “I wonder what lies down the road we didn’t take?”

One summer day when I was about fourteen, Russell and I both hitched a ride out of Sedalia, an adventure considered not too safe back then. We got over twenty miles from home near Boonville, a long ago way station in Cooper County. We began following down a creek, looking for whatever interesting things were supposed to be on creek banks and gravel bars. We came upon an old frontier style house. The place looked to be deserted: the yards were over-grown, front and back, in tall grass, long bending tree branches obscured boarded-up windows, and the inside looked shadowy and quiet, as if all light had gone away. We approached cautiously. We had heard enough Halloween tales to have better sense, yet we both believed were something inside, a story even. When we tried the front door, it swung opened.

We stood in a great room where we found a bible on old books neatly stacked alongside yellowed newspapers and we sat on stick-furniture made from saplings and poured over the articles out loud to each other, stories of unusual people from a long ago time that seemed impractical today. In the spring-fed cellar, Russell found aged potatoes and apples and canned fruit and other vegetables amounting to over a couple of years reserve and he was startled by the sanguineness of the cache, that these people had planned on staying here for a long time and that they had looked forward to being well fed. The smell of the cellar sweet and sour at once with some opened jars of fruit and pickles and the dank wet rising from the rock foundations and the faint cleanth drifting up from the water. We stayed all afternoon in the house. Both of us never thought to disturb or take anything with us. As the shadows got longer in the day we put back our findings exactly in the same places we had discovered them, including the tattered books.

As we hiked cross country to the road, we began imagining different versions to account for the house and its inhabitants: the canned goods clearly disclose the presence of women; the boards on the windows suggested their absence might be a long one or used as a defense in case of attack; the newspapers might be that they only stayed here some of the year or a season after taking over from the original tenants. The Bible had names like Oren Haught and Evalyn Goodspeed listed which suggested a migrant past. The afternoon passed into dusk as we explored the possibilities.

We tied to hike back to the house the next weekend, but could not retrace the same path. We walked the creeks and traveled all the roads but never anything close to finding the house. We endeavored a third weekend and couldn’t find the place.

We really wanted to find that house which we now believed to be an outpost of some kind. We made drawings and sketched maps and went looking the next summer and couldn’t find it even then. We never did know where the place was. It was as if the place never existed. We searched more along the creeks but could never discover a place that extraordinary ever again. We felt enriched by the experience and saddened from the loss.


Excerpt

Chapter 3

I followed Russell upstairs into his room were he walked over to a table that had several maps, books and papers stacked.
“I could use somebody I can trust out there.”
“Ca, Ca, Cost three hundred dollars for passage to California. Maybe take a year. That’s what the stories say in the paper,” I said calculating.
“Where’d you hear that?” he asked.
“In the paper. They ran several stories last year.”
“Well look at this. It’s Captain Fremont’s book Narrative Across the Rocky Mountains. I read all of it and there’s too much hardship tramping up and down the hills. Besides, it takes too long and it’s too easy for a man to deceive himself in the time it takes to get there. The sea’s the best way to go.”
Russell opened a large map of good grade parchment and laid it on the table. “Look at this. From Kansas City, we hire-on a steamer as deck hands or a barge even… We work our way south down the Mississippi… In New Orleans, we hire-on a ship to Panama and not go around the horn below South America but hike across Panama to the Pacific. Panama’s the short cut. See it’s only fifty miles across there. The Bay of San Francisco is a short sail up the coast. All total three months tops. The short cut is what makes all this work.” His large brown eyes showed the excitement of the trip. “I love sailing. My dad loved sailing.” He unfolded a large second map of California to cover up the ocean map. “All the mines are located mostly around the Sacramento River here with tunnels all over the place and further on down here around Mariposa. That’s Spanish for butterfly and see the Fremont Mine there - they’ve got shafts and tunnels everywhere. There’s plenty of room out there to explore for gold, even on down to Rio De Los Santos Reyes – that’s River of the Kings… We’ll find something for sure.”
I stared at the map in total silence trying to fathom some connection or understanding of something, of anything then nausea came over me. I began to think of an adventure I had experienced before. I faced unusual problems in caves underground. I was confronted with poor visibility – in tunnels or shafts so filled with dense air that I could only see a few feet from the lantern. I had to strained to see further. I shunned the joy, an act that felt like an old dream.
The challenge for me wasn’t there. On days when the space became restricted and the passage kept going on, I pushed my body through the crevices, trying to relate impressions from elbows, knees, neck, even feet helping the tunnel to come to life like a vivid picture in my mind. I made fingers of all my body parts. My right and left knee told the slope of the floor, my right and left elbows gauged the walls, my flexible back felt the ceiling and my cheeks a guide for any changes in airflow. As I spent more time underground, my sense of touch quickly altered drastically to such a degree that I couldn’t hold an image from the rocks brushing my legs or make out that objects character and condition. My inability to focus from hindsight hampered my imagination. I began to disassociate from the cave’s features, imagining what was ahead beyond the dark and how I might become wedged, how I would have to slide back out a cave’s gap if the overhead ceiling fell or how something could jump out in front of me.
Through the following year I came to believe that I wasn’t cut out for cave exploration because I couldn’t see with my mind and body as clearly as I could with my eyes, and this handicapped me in that environment. When things felt wrong in the cavern even in full lantern light as the air sucked it in or my breathing changed, I began to panic, because I thought something was there. Eventually I told Russell I lost interest in the caving sport, feeling with my body, depressed that I was challenged when those assembled pictures jumped blank in my mind. I couldn’t hold the pieces in one complete picture. Russell said, “There’re plenty of other things to do.”
My mind was wandering. Russell had said something. “What?”
Now Russell looked at me and spoke, “We can have a new life out there in California…. What’s wrong with making a fortune and living the good life? Any one good day is worth two tomorrows.” Unrolling a third map from sheep’s vellum, a garish one that looked like an oversized gypsy card and he began talking in a different voice of enthusiasm. The chart took on the qualities of the living. “This is another map of the west coast. It shows a lot of the rivers and mining towns. It has more detail. See from the Bay of San Francisco it’s a short ways over to Pueblo de San Jose and the Marshall’s diggings. Here’s Las Mariposas further over here in the Sierra Nevada. The Spanish were in there first… Even before the Marshall’s diggings up here. And anything further down than this is unknown territory.” His hand pointed to the places but his voice held the strength, they told the truth. The voice inspired to pull something wonderful from inside me, there sprang immortality. I felt it tug from deep inside me, not from his words but from the strength of his voice.
Some of the places on the California map sounded menacing. Starvation Pass, Desperation Summit, and Dead Man’s Canyon and were good reasons to stay away. “Wa, Wa, What’s this?” I asked pointing to a smudge on the map. It looked like someone marked an “X” and tried to erase it.
“That’s down by Rio De Los Santos Reyes and Tulare Lake and more mountains… It’s all unexplored down there… It’s an entirely different country out there. The mountains go right up into the clouds. You have to commit yourself. This could be our best adventure so far. Think of all the new things and places we’ll see.” He looked around, his voice dropped even lower, and he held his finger to his lips. After checking the door to see if anyone was there, he came close enough to talk so only someone within a foot could understand. “You remember me telling you about my Uncle Eaton. The one that was in the Indian Wars, well, he gave me an old map several years ago and I still have it. He says it shows where the Spanish buried some gold they couldn’t get out of the mountains in California. When they closed down the Missions they also shut down the mines and tried to take the gold out at the same time.” He pulled a small brown animal skin out from a hiding place under the table and laid it on top of the other maps. The intricate drawing had more detail than the other maps and looked cryptic with the symbols and a foreign language. “My uncle carried it around for years thinking he’d go out there and look around, but when he took sick he passed it on to me. What do you think? Looks like a treasure map. Huh?”
The pictures on the map had been drawn in ink and pigments of earth and other sundry colors and were indeed a work of art. All detailed with jagged mountains, odd shaped rocks, wavy connecting lines of rivers and streams, and bold coded symbols like suns and open triangles and arrow-like lines. Some lines hint protection and others guidance. A geometrically arrayed compass placed to the side blended into the total enthusiasm for antiquity. And there were Spanish wording and labels scattered about to be used as instructions in some way.
I goggled the drawing to make a kind of pretend sense from it and remarked. “Maybe it’s in code of some kind. Maybe this is a sun symbol here… It sure looks old… What’s Yerba Buena here?” I asked pointing.
“I think it’s what they use to call Bay of San Francisco - It’s above Monterrey.”
At the sound of a distant creak from within the house, Russell quickly refolded the treasure map and returned it to its hiding place up under the table.
I bent over the California map. A part of my mind thought abstractedly, trying hard to see the things he described, the adventure that would be there, the colorful mining camps, the green valleys, and the snow capped mountains, also, I wanted to visualize the west as Russell thought it would be, perpetual and untamed. I looked down at the map again and couldn’t visualize the mountains, it stayed flat and empty and blank. I didn’t want to leave my hometown for something unknown even though I couldn’t think of a good enough reason to stay except for the memories of growing up here and always knowing Sedalia. Everything I knew was right here – I loved my hometown. I felt comfortable here. The accounts that came through the newspaper about California were only entertaining to me. I guess my mind stored them away as farfetched and not to be acted upon or repeated, like the encounters with the weird creatures in the proverbial mountains, the many prehistoric ice caves, and the lost bags of buried gold. These stories I had read in the paper. They interested me a great deal but I never had a reason to talk to anybody about them, even Russell.
He half smiled in his usual way and said, “I asked Nathan to go and he said he didn’t know. I knew wild horses couldn’t get him to go…. Besides, you can buy your grandfather’s farm that you’re always talking about when we get back…. Think of it as our last adventure before we have to settle down. Uncle Eaton always said the quickest way to the almighty dollar is the gold. And we’ll not be seeing any of it going to creek banks nor caves back here. Sharpshooters will be eating for sure that’s truth but the demand is the gold.”
Russell was truly an adventurer. When I first was introduced to him through Nathan at an outing I was moved not just by his unique charisma but his inborn sense of exploration and old school eagerness for living. I recall after meeting at my parent’s tavern, we’d hike on out to muddy creek. We’d follow the county road with a vague idea of exploring the woods. He always talked about where the road went and after I remarked Kansas City, he’d continue on wondering where it went from there. Often after pausing at a crossroad and after deciding which road to follow he would casually remark, “I wonder what lies down the road we didn’t take?”
One summer day when I was about fourteen, Russell and I both hitched a ride out of Sedalia, an adventure considered not too safe back then. We got over twenty miles from home near Boonville, a long ago way station in Cooper County. We began following down a creek, looking for whatever interesting things were supposed to be on creek banks and gravel bars. We came upon an old frontier style house. The place looked to be deserted: the yards were over-grown, front and back, in tall grass, long bending tree branches obscured boarded-up windows, and the inside looked shadowy and quiet, as if all light had gone away. We approached cautiously. We had heard enough Halloween tales to have better sense, yet we both believed were something inside, a story even. When we tried the front door, it swung opened.
We stood in a great room where we found a bible on old books neatly stacked alongside yellowed newspapers and we sat on stick-furniture made from saplings and poured over the articles out loud to each other, stories of unusual people from a long ago time that seemed impractical today. In the spring-fed cellar, Russell found aged potatoes and apples and canned fruit and other vegetables amounting to over a couple of years reserve and he was startled by the sanguineness of the cache, that these people had planned on staying here for a long time and that they had looked forward to being well fed. The smell of the cellar sweet and sour at once with some opened jars of fruit and pickles and the dank wet rising from the rock foundations and the faint cleanth drifting up from the water. We stayed all afternoon in the house. Both of us never thought to disturb or take anything with us. As the shadows got longer in the day we put back our findings exactly in the same places we had discovered them, including the tattered books.
As we hiked cross country to the road, we began imagining different versions to account for the house and its inhabitants: the canned goods clearly disclose the presence of women; the boards on the windows suggested their absence might be a long one or used as a defense in case of attack; the newspapers might be that they only stayed here some of the year or a season after taking over from the original tenants. The Bible had names like Oren Haught and Evalyn Goodspeed listed which suggested a migrant past. The afternoon passed into dusk as we explored the possibilities.
We tied to hike back to the house the next weekend, but could not retrace the same path. We walked the creeks and traveled all the roads but never anything close to finding the house. We endeavored a third weekend and couldn’t find the place.
We really wanted to find that house which we now believed to be an outpost of some kind. We made drawings and sketched maps and went looking the next summer and couldn’t find it even then. We never did know where the place was. It was as if the place never existed. We searched more along the creeks but could never discover a place that extraordinary ever again. We felt enriched by the experience and saddened from the loss.




Professional Reviews

Mirelia Patzer of Historical Novel Review Blog
Posted May 22, 2010 as follows -

"In the early 20th century, ULey Bauer is a young man of great promise, but luck works against him, and he soon finds himself embarking on a journey, driven by wonderlust and the need to find himself. Drawn to California, along with his friend, Russell, they set off on a journey towards their seperate destinies.

Uley's travels takes him to small towns and busy mining camps. Along the way, they gather friends and make enemies. They meet ruthless enemies who would steal the clothes off their backs and meet colorful characters who will forever change their lives. In the rough and tumble world of California in the 20th century, Uley is tested, and through trial and error, he forges a new life, enters manhood, and discovers himself.

The Keeper's Gift is a sweeping novel of 458 pages. Richard Bowers weaves true stories of his hometown in Sedalia Missouri with actual California history to recount this epic tale. The novel is written in first person narrative in Uley's own voice and is pleasing and easy to follow. I did encounter some spelling/typos in the book, but they were easily overlooked in order to focus on the richness of the story. The author writes in great detail, painting colorful images and showing readers the era with vivid description. It is a "journey" and "character" driven novel, deep with meaning, as the main character travels from one local to another to his destination. If you like stories of this era, then this novel is sure to please."



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Reader Reviews for "The Keeper's Gift"

Reviewed by Carol Phelan Aebby 12/23/2012
"The Keeper's Gift", this book will lead one to a great cerebration on many subjects, enriching the readers' life experience, and knowledge.

I wish you, Author Richard L. Bowers, a rewarding, and long writing career.

In respect and admiration,

Carol Phelan Aebby
Reviewed by Andre Bendavi ben-YEHU 12/23/2012
I have enjoyed the writing style of the author of "The Keeper's Gift". By the sample I have read here, this is a fantastic book.

I wish You a glorious success for Your book,"The Keeper's Gift".

In appreciation,

Andre Emmanuel Bendavi ben-YEHU


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