Thursday, September 16, 2010


Nannie Tiffany was born in
Union, West Virginia September 14,1860.
Walt Alderson and Nannie married in 1883
and set out for a cattle ranch in Montana.

They enter that land
of divide and gulches
and build their home
at Lame Deer
between hills
feathered with pines.

A hardscrabble life
and a flame
consume their cabin
until it becomes one
symmetrical hill
of charred wood, ashes,
and a half-eaten meal.

What survived the funnel
of heat, looted.

Nannie and Walt
measure loss: spoons,
dishes, clothes, a stool
covered with coyote skins,
their beds. A cup
a friend held.

They move often, temporary
dwellers never staying long enough
to measure a tree's growth.

She learns isolation
with each child.
She learns to keep feelings
rooted in muteness.

At thirty-five her husband dies.
She does what she can:
runs a boarding house, makes bread,
keeps a cow, sells the milk.

Linda Watskin ©2010

A Bride Goes West (Women of the West)
by Nannie T. Alderson, told to Helena Huntington Smith, J. O'H. Cosgrave II (Illustrator)


  1. I like how you took one word, backbone, and developed a poem of power based on history. I really appreciate the second to last stanza. "She learns isolation with each child. She learns to keep feelings rooted in muteness." So much there. Fine, fine work.

  2. Lovely and powerful if poignant images here that build a clear picture of life for pioneers. I particularly like the fifth stanza.

  3. I love the last two stanzas. Understated, powerful. The title supports what's unsaid.

  4. This poem reminds me of the work of Julie Buffaloe-Yoder, a published poet who writes of similar women in similar circumstance, only in the the South and you can find her here

    I commend her to you. She is widely published I think, in many journals and chap books. I like your work here as much as I like hers, and as a raconteur I like her the best.

  5. Christopher,
    Thanks for the tip and compliment. I quickly checked Julie's blog and loved the first few poems I read.

  6. I love the way you picked up the words and ran with them. Your story/poem says a lot about the lives of the early pioneers.

  7. I'm an American history buff as well as a writer. Your poem appealed to me on many levels. I especially like the last two stanzas. Very well written,


  8. Linda, I love what you did with this prompt, the story you told. I like it that I cannot even tell it is from a 'wordle' as everything makes perfect sense.

    I wonder how many people keep their feelings rooted in muteness. Well done.

  9. perfect story.

    well constructed words...

    my entry is here

  10. i especially like the last two stanzas.

  11. A well-penned look at history. Backbone, to be sure.

  12. hello linda, i love reading stories of the ladies who came first... i often find myself looking at their faces, their clothes, their children, their husbands... you have brought to life a wonderful dusty past to consider and ponder as i turn the switch and light the darkness...

  13. A sad yet hopeful story. I'm glad you took only one word from the wordle - and that one resonates with so much more than it describes. Wonderful poem about a strong woman; a survivor.

  14. Terrific telling. While I haven't read your source material, I imagine you've captured the tone incredibly well. The voice suits; the words are wonderful.

    Recently read "Shannon" due to Dave Bonta's recommendation (it's about one of the members of the Lewis & Clark Corps of Discovery) & think you might enjoy it. I loved it.

  15. Thanks for the recommendation. I just requested the book from our libray consortium.