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A Vision of Lucy (A Rocky Creek Romance)
by Margaret Brownley

Published: 2011-06-28
Paperback : 336 pages
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Trouble follows Lucy wherever she goes. So does a vision of second chances . . . and love.

Lucy Fairbanks dreams of working as a photographer at the Rocky Creek newspaper. Her deepest hope is that her father will see her as an artist, the way he thought of her deceased mother, whose ...

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Introduction

Trouble follows Lucy wherever she goes. So does a vision of second chances . . . and love.

Lucy Fairbanks dreams of working as a photographer at the Rocky Creek newspaper. Her deepest hope is that her father will see her as an artist, the way he thought of her deceased mother, whose paintings still hang on their walls.

But disaster follows Lucy on every photo assignment: a mess of petticoats and ribbons, an accidental shooting, even a fire.

When Lucy meets David Wolf-a rugged, reclusive man who lives on the outskirts of town-she thinks she can catch the attention of the town with his photograph. She doesn't count on her feelings stirring whenever she's near him.

Two things happen next that forever change the course of Lucy's life. But will these events draw her closer to God or push her further away? And how will David accept this new vision of Lucy?

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Excerpt

Rocky Creek, Texas

1882

Drat!” Another skirt ruined. Lucy Fairbanks straddled a branch of the sprawling sycamore tree and arranged her torn skirt as modestly as possible. Everything she owned, except for her Sunday-go-to-meeting best, was either patched or hopelessly tattered. At least she hadn’t ruined her stockings, having left them at the base of the tree along with her high-button shoes.

“Pa’s gonna have a fit,” her brother called from the ground below. Thumbs tucked into his red suspenders, sixteen-year-old Caleb Fairbanks stared from beneath a straw hat.

“Pa’s not going to have a fit,” she called back.

“Will too!”

“He can’t have a fit unless he knows what I’m doing.” She shot him a warning glance. They shared chestnut hair and clear blue eyes, a gift inherited from their mother. Their stubborn

chins came from their father’s side.sternly. Four years his senior, she still felt protective of him, though lately he’d protected her more than the other way around. “Quit wasting my time and pull on the rope.”

To her relief Caleb did what he was told without argument.

His feet firmly planted, he took hold of the rope with both hands and leaned back. Lucy’s prized camera rose slowly from the ground until it dangled precariously in midair.

“Don’t let it drop,” she called anxiously.

She grabbed hold of the bulky black leather box and sighed with relief. “I have it!” Working quickly, she pulled the extra rope from around her waist and secured the camera. “There. That should do it.”

Caleb wrinkled his nose. “I still don’t understand why you have to take photographs from a tree.”

“I told you,” she said patiently. “Mr. Barnes promised me a job at the newspaper if I capture a picture of the wild white mustang.”

She’d badgered the bullheaded editor of the Rocky Creek Gazette for months before he’d reluctantly agreed to print her photographs in the newspaper. At last he’d given in, though he showed no enthusiasm. Obviously, he hoped she’d fail and go away.

“Pa says there’s no such thing as the white mustang,” Caleb said.

Pa was probably right, but the myth of a white horse once ran rampant among the Indians. They claimed it was the reincarnation

of a beautiful woman massacred years earlier in an Indian raid. The Indians had since been moved out of Texas to Indian Territory but the legend remained.

For the sake of her job, she prayed the animal really did exist. Some people claimed to have spotted it in the nearby meadow, which is why she chose this particular spot. “No wild horse is going to make an appearance with you around. Now scat.”

“When should I come back and get you?”

“Just after the sun goes down. And Caleb—not a word to Pa.”

Caleb hesitated. “Don’t forget, you promised you’d talk to Doc Myers.”

“I haven’t forgotten,” she said, dreading the thought of, yet again, going against her father’s wishes, this time on her brother’s behalf. All she seemed to do lately was defy her father’s wishes.

Since her brother made no motion to leave, she made an impatient gesture. “Go on, be gone with you. If you don’t hurry, you’ll be late for work, and you know how Papa feels about tardiness.”

Caleb’s face grew somber as it tended to do whenever anyone mentioned his job at his father’s store. A surge of sympathy

rushed through her. Caleb wanted to be a doctor in the worst possible way, but Papa was dead-set against it.

“I’ll talk to Doc Myers, Caleb. I told you I would. Now scat!”

“Promise?”

“Promise.”

Caleb sauntered back to the wagon a short distance away and, out of habit, checked the mule’s leg. Moses had originally

been owned by the pastor, who couldn’t bear to see him put down when he became lame. Instead he gave the mule to Caleb, who nursed it back to health. The animal had served the family faithfully ever since.

“That a boy,” Caleb said, patting the mule’s rump.

He scrambled up the side of the wagon and hopped into the seat. Fairbanks General Merchandise was written on the wooden sides. Whooping at the top of his lungs, he grabbed the reins and drove off, making enough noise to raise the dead, and probably scaring away every living creature within miles.

Lucy watched her brother with a fond smile, then immediately went to work setting up her camera. That annoying Mr. Barnes and his wild mustang. Next he’d have her chasing after ghosts. Of course, she wouldn’t mind chasing after the rumored “Rocky Creek wild man,” who was as elusive as a ghost, if he really existed. Anything would be better than spending long hours trying

to get a photograph of a stallion that might be nothing more than a fanciful legend.

Sighing, she released the brass lock of her camera and carefully

pulled out the folding lens. The maroon-colored bellows stretched out a full fifteen inches, and she secured the extended part to the branch as well. Once she was satisfied that her precious

camera was safe, she reached into the satchel attached to another branch for a dry gelatin plate. Though such plates were expensive, they saved her from having to worry about them drying

out before they were developed. They also saved her the hassle of having to cart along her darkroom tent and chemicals.

She inserted the dry plate into the camera, then pulled a black cloth from her pocket and draped it over the back of the camera to prevent light from reaching the focusing screen. Squinting through the viewfinder, she made a few adjustments with a turn of a knob.

From her perch, she could clearly see the meadow, a favorite

grazing spot for wild horses, deer, and elk. Behind her, the Rocky Creek River wound its way through the valley, its fast-moving waters tumbling over a series of small waterfalls as it elbowed its way to the river below.

What if her father was right and no such white stallion existed? If she didn’t find the mustang, her career as a newspaper

photographer was doomed before it began. Unless, of course, she found something even more impressive to photograph—

like the so-called Rocky Creek wild man.

“Just you wait, Mr. Jacoby Barnes,” she muttered. “My photographs are going to make your newspaper the most popular one in all of Texas.”

Contemplating success, she surveyed the far horizon. May was her favorite time of year. The meadow looked like an artist’s

palette, and red, yellow, and blue wildflowers filled the air with sweet perfume. Sweeter still was the high, thin sound of a warbler’s song.

A cloud of dust in the distance caught her attention. Moving a leafy branch aside, she could just make out the silhouettes of three horsemen racing toward her.

The horsemen drew nearer. Strangers, by the looks of them. Instead of passing on the road below, they cut across the meadow and disappeared into the nearby woods. Definitely strangers.

Sighing, she leaned back against the trunk of the tree, grateful for the thick green foliage that protected her from the warm sun. As usual, she’d forgotten her hat. She hated anything

confining. Hair piled on top of her head in the haphazard way that she favored, she impatiently brushed a wayward tendril

away from her face.

She waited. A blue jay flew into an upper branch and protested

her presence with a harsh jeering jaay, jaay before taking to the skies. A bushy-tailed squirrel started up the trunk of the tree, spotted her, then ran back down and vanished in the brush. A bee buzzed in her ear.

A rumbling sound alerted her. Peering through the branches, she realized it was the Wells Fargo stagecoach, two days late as usual.

Sighing, she wiggled into a more comfortable position and restlessly swung her bare legs. No wild stallion would make an appearance as long as the stage was in the area. She had no choice but to sit and wait.

The rumbling of the stage grew louder, as did the impatient

shouts of the driver urging his team of six horses up the slight incline. To while away the boredom, she decided to take a photograph of the stage as it passed below.

She adjusted the camera so that it pointed to the road and peered into the viewfinder. The image, though dim, was clear on the frosted glass. No black cloth was needed. She moved the lever to adjust the shutter speed to high.

Fingering the leather bulb in hand, she waited. The bulb, attached to a rubber tube, allowed her to take photographs without jarring the camera. Steady, steady—

Startled by voices, she pulled away from the camera and blinked. The stagecoach had stopped directly below her and the driver disembarked, hands over his head.

It was then that she noticed the three horsemen she had seen earlier, their faces now hidden beneath bright-colored kerchiefs. She had been so focused on the stage she failed to notice their presence until now. The sun glinted against the barrel of a gun and she gasped. Covering her mouth with her hand, she watched the drama unfold below.

The stagecoach was being robbed. Shock soon turned to delight. She couldn’t believe her good fortune. A wonderful photographic opportunity had practically fallen into her lap—or more accurately, at her feet. Just wait until Jacoby Barnes hears about this!

The gunman came into view below her, yelling, “Get the box!” He was no doubt referring to the green wooden Wells Fargo money box strapped next to the driver’s seat.

Praying the bandits would not notice her high-button shoes strewn at the base of the tree, she peered through her viewfinder.

The lens was focused on the driver, but if she moved it to the right, just so . . . with her heart pounding from excitement, she leaned forward and readjusted the camera, tightening the rope that held it.

A twig snapped and one of the robbers looked up. She quickly pulled back and lost her balance. Arms and legs flailing, she fell through the air, letting loose an ear-piercing scream.

She landed on the stagecoach roof with a thud, sprawled facedown.

The startled horses whinnied and the stage took off, taking

her with it and leaving the startled gunmen, passengers, and driver in the dust. view abbreviated excerpt only...

Discussion Questions

From the publisher:

1. Lucy believed the camera could see things often missed by the human eye. This proved true when she discovered something surprising about herself. Have you ever looked at a photograph and discovered something new about yourself or others?
2. Having your photograph taken in the 19th and early 20th centuries was serious business. A person might have only one photograph taken in a lifetime. How has the ease of taking pictures today changed your view of picture taking? Do you think we place more or less value on photographs today? Was there ever a time that you felt a camera was intrusive?
3. As a child David was taught that God was harsh and unforgiving. How did your childhood view of God influence your faith? What misconceptions did you have to overcome to grow in your faith?
4. Lucy’s plan to be a newspaper photographer met with one failure after another. Still, she persisted until, at last, she discovered God’s true plan for her. What are some of the ways that God has revealed his plan for your life?
5. Pastor Wells said that prejudice was a quick way to form an opinion without getting to know someone. Have you ever changed your mind about someone after forming an initial opinion? Was the way you came to regard the person more favorable or less so?
6. Ma believed that every pot has a lid, which is way of saying that there was the right man for every woman. Do you agree or disagree? Why or why not?
7. Gaining acceptance is a major theme of the book. David, Lucy, Timber Joe, Barrel, Lee Wong, and even Old Man Appleby (by his own admission) faced some sort of discrimination. John Saltmarsh wrote: “The more we love any that are not as we are, the less we love as men and the more as God.” In what ways can we apply this to everyday life?
8. One of the themes of the book is abandonment. David was left on the mission steps as an infant. Lucy felt that her father deserted her emotionally. Describe a time that you felt either physically or emotionally abandoned. In what ways did it affect you?
9. Lucy was deeply touched when David recognized her photographs as art. Has there ever been a time when someone failed to appreciate, acknowledge, or validate your achievements? How did you overcome this?
10. As a child David assumed the boys meant to do him harm. It wasn’t until years later that he learned the truth. Think of a hurtful incident from your childhood. Do you now have a different understanding as to how or why it happened, or does your original impression remain the same?
11. Lucy chased the white stallion much as David chased the box taken from him as a child. Both horse and box remained elusive. Has there ever been a time when something you wanted seemed so close but yet so far away? What do you think God is trying to teach us at such times?
12. After a long and tedious battle, the 19th Amendment was finally ratified in 1920, giving woman the right to vote on a national level (almost fifty years after women were able to vote in Wyoming). Why do you think it took so long? Do you think groups like the Suffra-Quilters helped or hindered the cause? How did war slow the process?
13. In what ways was guilt manifested in the men responsible for putting David on that boat? Has there ever been a time that you felt guilty for something you did or didn’t do?
14. Neither Lucy nor Caleb shared their father’s hopes and dreams for them. In what ways can a parent’s aspirations for a child help or hinder?
15. How much influence do you think David’s plight had in Lucy’s decision to work for women’s rights?

Notes From the Author to the Bookclub

A Note from Margaret:

Thank you for your interest in my upcoming new release A Vision of Lucy. I hope you have as much fun reading it as I had writing it. The story takes place in 1886 and deals with love, loss and forgiveness—themes that are just as relevant today as they were in the Old West.

The idea for Lucy Fairbanks was sparked by an advertisement in an old newspaper. Julia Shannon of San Francisco took the family portrait to new heights when she shockingly advertised herself as a daguerreotypist and midwife.

Lucy doesn’t deliver babies but she does take photographs—no easy task for anyone in the 19th century, let alone a woman. Lucy is determined to capture the “perfect” picture and she’s not about to let an intriguing stranger like David Wolf and his long-held secrets stop her. Photographs can reveal more than they hide and David and the little town of Rocky Creek are about to find out that anything can happen when posing for Lucy—and usually does.

As for me, my writing career began, and ended, early. I wrote my first book in fifth grade—a mystery without an ending. Unimpressed with my essay on why I wanted to be a writer my eighth grade English teacher not only flunked me but suggested I not even think about a career as a writer.

To learn how a church picnic changed my life and helped me to realize my dream of becoming a writer, checkout my “homestead” at margaretbrownley.com. You’ll also find recipes created by my chef daughter, more sage advice for photographers and a fantastic new reader contest.

Until next time,

Margaret

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