The volatile 1960s find thirteen year old Samantha in a small town in rural Montana, groping her way into her future as America is doing likewise.
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Samantha at the Crossroads by S.K. Smith
In the late 1960s, America was at a crossroads. It was divided over the war in Vietnam. The counter-culture challenged the World War Two generation. The Cold War held the threat of nuclear destruction. The race to the moon was in full swing. The sleepy cow town of Mineral Valley, Montana was no longer as isolated from the rest of the country as it once was. The culture war of the 1960s touched the family of a thirteen year old girl, Sam Matijevic, growing up in this small town.
In the early 1900s, the Milwaukee railroad was giving away land in central Montana to entice settlers to work in the mines that supplied the coal they transported to market. Sam’s grandparents had immigrated from Austria-Hungarian to homestead near Mineral Valley. Grandpa had worked as a coal miner to sustain his ranch until an accident had killed him during the Great Depression, which left Grandma a widow with seven kids. Sam, as a second generation American, did not experience her father’s life on the homestead, but she felt it. Her father’s feud with his brothers that drove him from the ranch left him with a hurt that he held onto as if it were a legacy for his children. He had tried to run a gas station at the edge of Mineral Valley, but the business had failed. As his father had, he took up the trade of a coal miner to hold onto his dreams.
In 1968, Sam noticed that the frequency of the trains on the Milwaukee railroad was tapering off as the local mines were closing up. The town, as well as this young girl’s life, was at a crossroads. Sam was clinging to her childhood as she was reluctantly growing into a woman. She watched her two cousins, once close to her, slip away as they were being seduced into the 1960s counter-culture. Meanwhile, with the help of an understanding teacher and an elderly artist, Sam was breaking the pattern of having her reality defined by others. She was beginning to see what she really saw, hear what she really heard, and feel what she really felt.
Sam and Tim dumped the grocery bags on the table, leaving the kitchen to Mother and Debbie. As Debbie complained to Mother about her miserable life as a teenager, Sam hustled Tim to the front door.
"Where is this secret place?" Sam whispered as they slipped outside.
"Somewhere in the hills beyond Big Sioux," Tim nodded to the northwest.
"I'd like to find this place, now." Sam looked up at Big Sioux Boulder and noted it getting close to evening. She sighed, dismissing her hopes. "But I can't. Dad will be home soon. Then after supper, there's dishes. Then it'll be dark, and it will be too late."
"But there's tomorrow—" Tim couldn't tell her all that was in his heart. Not yet.
"I just can't wait till tomorrow." Sam said with some renewed hope as she walked Tim to the front gate. "When will you stop by?"
"After 'Jonny Quest' is over." Tim couldn't miss his favorite cartoon show.
"I'll be ready," Sam promised.