The Stinson Journals takes up where A Man in the West ended.
Safely in Idaho City, and fresh off finding out that he has both a name (Granger Stinson) and a mercantile store that was left to him by a relative, Moot leaves Idaho City to take care of some unfinished business with the man who had caused them the most grief on their journey to Idaho. Moot chases Donovan Jacobs, and Laura chases Moot up and down across Montana. Both kept journals of their adventures, and the book alternates between those journals.
The Stinson Journals
Shall I be one who only finds darkness among the light, or one who finds the smallest light in the greatest darkness? Or should I look for neither, find neither, and experience nothing? --Laura Cullop
Christmas Day, 1878.
This turned out to be a really nice day. I have been worried the last few days about how I would be today. Last year was the first Christmas since mom and dad died, and I was sad to the point of ruining a fun day for both M and J (Moot and Jimmy. Most of the time, Laura refers to them by initials only.) I still miss them terribly, each day, but especially on days when we would have been celebrating a birthday or holiday. I hope they would be proud of me.
We had a fun exchange of gifts. J gave me a nice bow, and M a belt. He picked them both out at the store yesterday, and didn’t pay for either, but he was thoughtful enough to remember Christmas. M gave J a very nice pair of spurs, which I think J will probably sleep in tonight. He gave me a necklace he had made. He whittled a small cross out of some beautiful reddish wood, and put it on a finely braided horsehair necklace. I shall cherish it always. I think I embarrassed him when I kissed him on the cheek to thank him. I gave J a book to read, Pilgrim’s Progress. He said that he thought I understood that he wanted a rifle, and not a book. I told him that a rifle may be what he wants, but being able to read is what he needs. I gave M an empty journal to write in. I have been working with him on writing. I so hope he uses the journal to record some of his thoughts and feelings. I would like to know so much more about him.
December 26. Business was very slow today, both because it is the day after Christmas, and because it snowed about eight inches starting about nine this morning.
December 27. I really need to get working on my New Year’s resolutions. I know that for many years before, I picked a few things that sounded good and said they were my resolutions. This year, I want to be serious about them. There are so many things I need to learn and do.
December 28. I feel incapable of being J’s mother. He is at an age where he needs a man to guide him, not his older sister. I try not to nag him, and try not to resent the fact that I am responsible for him. Sometimes, like today, I don’t do either very well. It’s almost nine o’clock, and he isn’t home from whatever he is doing yet. December 29. As usual, we went to church today. I had to elbow J several times to keep him from falling asleep. M seemed anxious about something during church, and later I figured out what it was. He showed me his journal. He hasn’t written much, but he is making the attempt. I shall always try to be encouraging to him.
December 31. I wish those dreadful fireworks would stop and people would go to bed. January 1, 1879. I combined my list of resolutions from the original seventeen down to three more inclusive resolutions. They are: 1) I will do much better at running the store. If Charlie (although we never get Charlie’s last name, he is the person who was running the mercantile when Moot, Laura, and Jimmy arrived. He was watching the store as a favor to Moot’s father, who owned the store before his death.—J.B.) were to leave, I would be too lost to run the store by myself. I must become much more proficient in my mathematical and record keeping skills. Charlie can do numbers like profit and margin and loss in his head better than I can do them on paper. He also has a keen sense of what should be stocked in what quantities. I shall learn from him all that he can teach me this year. 2) I will read at least ten books. I have neglected my personal growth of knowledge since our trip to Idaho began. I have not read a book besides my Bible in all that time. Mom would say to me that the Bible contains more than enough for any person to read and learn, and of course I agree. However, I also want to know about history, geography, and philosophy. I also want to read some novels for the fun and enjoyment of the stories they contain. 3) I will make at least five new friends. I feel like I am at my worst in social situations. I am terrible at meeting people and remembering their names. I have no real friends besides Moot and Charlie. I especially need to make some female friends near my age. There are things I could talk about to them that I can’t talk to anyone else about.
January 2. I wrote to Winnie Longley today. (When the children were orphaned in Colorado, the first town they came to was Monument. There, they stayed the winter with Winnie Longley and her husband, James. It appears that Laura and Winnie became very close during that time, with Winnie helping take the grief of Laura’s parental loss.—J.B.)
I’m sorry I haven’t written for so long. Please forgive me, as I have no excuses. We are doing well, considering all that we have been through. Jimmy is in school and actually appears to enjoy it. I think most of that is that he has way more stories to tell than the other children his age, and no one to catch him on it when he exaggerates like only he can. Moot is such a different person than when you knew him. I am teaching him to write so he can put his thoughts on paper to share them. Although he doesn’t speak, he communicates very well. Sometimes, when we are alone, I feel like I can have a better conversation with him than with anyone else. I hope at times that we might someday be more than friends, but I’m afraid he looks at me as a child yet.
Moot’s father, of whom we knew nothing, owned a general store in Idaho City. If it weren’t for all you taught me in Monument, I surely would be lost beyond all hope. As it is, Charlie, who was running the store when we got here, has agreed to stay on and help for as long as we want him. I try to learn something from Charlie every day.
I don’t know if I will ever make it back to Colorado, but if I do, I would love to come and see you if it wouldn’t be too much of a burden on you.
January 5. I was made quite uncomfortable in church today. The sermon was about forgiveness. I know I must be more patient and forgiving with Mrs. C. (I believe this is Mrs. Culbertson, who Laura describes in an earlier entry as “touches everything, and buys nothing.”—J. B.) It’s just that she causes me so much extra work every time she comes in. If she would at least put things back where she found them and how she found them it wouldn’t be so bad, but I find myself following her around the store so I can fix things as she messes them up. I have come close to being cross with her several times. I will try to forgive her, and perhaps that will create a solution to the problem. Moot looked very handsome today in his Sunday clothes.
January 6. Mrs. C didn’t wait long to try both my patience and my abilities to forgive. She entered the store a few minutes after we opened, and within a few minutes had more than a dozen items out of place. In as sweet a manner of which I am capable, I asked her if she either could not touch everything she passed, or at least put things back as she found them. She took quite the offense and huffed out of the store saying she would not do business with people who treated her so rudely, and she would make sure her friends all found about it also. I was near tears over the whole circumstance when Charlie reminded me that Mrs. C in truth did not shop in our store. For as long as he could remember, she had never spent so much as a dime there. And as for her friends, Charlie says she doesn’t have any, so don’t worry about that. I shall make the attempt to make Mrs. C one of the friends I make this year.
January 8. I asked Moot today if he is keeping his journal. He was rather sheepish in his answer, so I know he meant no. I encouraged him to keep at it. Someday his family will want to know about his life and how he came to be such a good man. I wish I could grow up faster so he could see me as a woman instead of a child. I never get tired of being around him.