The Fifteen Mile House
But first, since Friday Fictioneers is all about fiction, I’ve asked Ula Grace if I could use the play she wrote about this house. For those who have followed my blog, they may remember that Ula was Tedbook’s Foreign Correspondent for many years. Now she is a student at Rutgers University (an honor student I might add… that’s what grandparents do) and in her living room, on their hearth, there is a ball and chain from Folsom Prison, she wanted to know all about the history. Here is the story she wrote for a creative writing class. I know it’s over 100 words, live with it…
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Prison Break… by Ula Grace
California, late 1880s. The barn at the Fifteen Mile House, not far from Folsom State Prison. A convict is attempting to saw through the chain holding the ball to the shackle around his ankle. He is wearing black and white prison stripes.
Whilhelmina Deterding walks into the barn. He doesn’t see her.
Convict: (muttering) Almost there, almost there…
Wilhelmina gasps and hides
Convict: (breaking through the metal) Finally!
He turns around and sees her
Convict: (still holding saw) Don’t scream. I won’t hurt you if you cooperate. I’m gonna need new clothes. You’re gonna find ‘em for me.
Wilhelmina: (pointing to the door of the tool shed) Th-there should be some clothes in there.
Convict: Go git ‘em for me.
Wilhelmina walks to the door of the shed. The convict follows behind. She reaches in and pulls out a pair of coveralls and a coat
Wilhelmina: (quietly) Are you from Folsom? How did you escape the chain gang?
Convict: (taking off his uniform) It’s better if you don’t know.
Wilhelmina averts her eyes as he strips and puts on the coveralls, leaving the striped uniform on the ground next to his shackle
Convict: I’m gonna leave now. Yer not to make a sound or a fuss til I do. Nor leave this barn til ten minutes after I leave, ya hear?
Wilhelmina: (to herself) What am I supposed to do with these prison rags…?
The Convict hears her as he leaves with the coat over his arm
Convict: (calling back) Make ‘em into a quilt or something!
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Well, Wilhelmina never did meet the prisoner in real life, but there really was one, and he did escape from Folsom Prison in the late 1800’s and cut off the chain attached to his leg to free him from the heavy ball in the barn at her ranch. He exchanged his striped uniform for a pair of coveralls and that supposedly made it’s way into a quilt she made.
The Fifteen Mile house was about 16 miles from Sacramento, California and was the second pony express stop from the city going east.
My Great-Great-Grandparents William and Wilhelmina Deterding came to this country from Germany in 1846, traveling across the plains in a covered wagon. They eventually established a ranch in 1857 near what is now the town of Folsom. They had 5 sons and 5 daughters and one of the daughters was my Great-Grandmother Matilda, she was born in that house. In addition to being a pony express stop, stage coaches would stop off there, travelers often staying overnight. Dances were held there too, judging by the ticket stubs we have.
A look at Wilhelmina and William in my sister Marja’s house today. In the center is a hair wreath she made in 1877. It would have been mine, but I made the mistake of wondering how much it might fetch on eBay within earshot of my mother.
We are fortunate to have an actual photograph of The Fifteen Mile House, and when I took a snap with my cell it took on an eerie appearance due to the reflection in the glass. “Perfect for Friday Fictioneers!”
Presently, across from this historical marker, a Costco stands in place of the old house.
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If you would like to read another story by a then 14 year old Ula Grace… Best Friends
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This week Rochelle choose my photo for the Friday Fictioneers writing prompt… always an honor. To read all the stories this old house prompted, click on the frog…
This week’s entry in Leanne Cole PHOTOGRAPHY’S photo contest called Monochrome Madness. You may have seen this photo before in Full Color… not this time. The theme… ‘Christmas where you are.’
Best Friends… a story by Ula Grace
I was five years old when they moved in across the street. They had a little girl the same age as me, and I wanted to meet her so bad, but I was too shy. One day as I was playing in the street on my trike, I was riding it up and down the road in front of our houses, I fell over. I started crying and then there she was, kneeling next to me asking if I was ok. She leaned down and kissed my knee, “There. All better.” She said, smiling.
I looked up at her and smiled back, “Yeah, all better.”
From then on we were inseparable, we did everything together, I waited with her in hospital while her baby brother was being born. I held her hand on the first day of high school, as we walked through the doors, I helped her get ready for her first date, she was so excited. I was there when she came home that night; I was the one who comforted her when it all came crashing down. I was the first one who she told her biggest secret. I was the one who picked her up off the floor of the cafeteria, the one who dried her eyes and cleaned the cuts and bruises. I was the one who kissed all the wounds.
The one who kissed her lips and whispered, “All better.”
And I’m the one who has a diamond ring in my purse, the one who is desperately hoping that she will say yes.
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A short story by frequent contributor Ula Grace. Miss Grace is familiar to regulars as TedBook’s foreign correspondent and is the author of ‘The Cuban Diary’ found here. She attends Spring Street International School and is currently in the ninth grade.
The illustration of the little girl on the tricycle is by Tom Hessel
DIVING by Ula Grace
As we put on our bulky Scuba gear I smile in anticipation of the underwater trip we are about to take. I haven’t been diving in a couple of years so I’m a little nervous. But as soon as we get in the water that all goes away, and I immerse myself in the beauty and mystery of the ocean we are part, if only for a short time. We swim deeper and deeper toward our destination: a sunken ship. I am so enthralled by the fish that I fail to notice the huge shadow in front us until it looms up ahead recognizable as a boat. We swim over it. It is it’s own whole habitat, separate yet in union with the ocean. There is all kinds of coral and underwater plants growing on the hull and deck, and along the railing of the ship. Fish are everywhere, miniature purple ones swimming in schools, and large ones swimming solo. It makes me sad to leave this underwater paradise.
This installment in Ula’s Cuba Stories takes place in Playa Girón.
To read other stories… THE CUBAN DIARY
Photography for this story courtesy of Steven Gutmann
A RIDE AROUND THE CITY… by Ula Grace
The wind rushes through my hair as if in a hurry. We breeze down the ocean side highway in our neon pink Caddy at the start of our tour of Havana.
Our first stop is the Hotel Nacional, a hotel built in the 30’s and famous for housing people like Al Capone and others. We speed toward our next destination: Vedado. On the opposite side of Havana as Old Havana, otherwise known as Habana Viejo in Spanish. Next the Plaza de la Revolucion, with the black outlines of Cuba’s greatest now dead heroes: Ché Guevara and Camlio Cienfuegos. Below Ché there is his famous quote “Hasta la Victoria Siempre” (in English “For Victory, Always”).
We leave the plaza and drive onward. My favorite place is next: The John Lennon Park. I had been waiting to go here throughout the whole drive. We arrive at the park to find dry, scraggly, yellow grass and burning bronze benches, one of which a bronze statue is lounging with the words “Ustede puede decir que soy soñador pero no soy el único” (in English “You may say I’m a dreamer but I’m not the only one”). I rush out of the car to sit next to my Idol for a picture, but I have to sit on my bag because the bench is too hot. As we reach the bench we are met by an old man holding a pair of eyeglasses for the bronze John. He carefully places the glasses on the statue and waits for us to finish taking pictures. As we walk back to the car, I look back and smile to see how carefully the little old glasses man handles the little bronze glasses.
We go next to a lush green park and stop for a beverage. When we leave I decide to sit on the back of the seat and my auntie Krissy sits up with me. We ride like that to our next stop: a green house that my mom specially requested to see. But we couldn’t go inside. To end our tour, our guide took us through a tunnel under the ocean to a castle. All in all it was a fantastic tour in a ridiculous car and was thoroughly enjoyed by all.
Another installment from our Foreign Correspondent, Ula Grace, as she recalls her visit to Cuba with her parents Krista and Steve.
To see other stories… THE CUBAN DIARY
WHERE THE REVOLUCIÓN STARTED!
The Comandancia in the Sierra Maestra, near Bayamo
NOTEBOOK ~ LEAVING CUBA
As I leave Cuba, I think about these past few weeks and how amazing they have been. I think about all the dives we went on, the two wreck dives and seeing the ships loom out of the darkness perched on their underwater precipice. Horseback riding through fields of tobacco, trotting on the red muddy cart track, surrounded by cliffs of a reddish hue. Lounging in the sun on the white beaches of Varadero by the sparkling turquoise water. Walking through the sweltering streets of Havana, marveling at the crumbling façade on colonial buildings. The plane wheels are spinning faster and faster as we speed down the runway, the nose of the plane tips up and I sit with my body pressed against the seat, the seatbelt tight in my lap. We’re in the air flying at incredible speed, to me this is as normal as walking, I was flying soon after I could walk and then I learned to swim. I look down on the ocean and see the green spit of land that is Cuba recede from view and blue gradually became the only color in sight.
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TedBook’s Foreign Correspondent, is on her way home, her mind filled with stories to tell. She sends this dispatch as her plane takes off heading north. More to come…
Ula’s earlier stories are here…
Foreign Correspondent Ula Grace
Finally news from Cuba! TedBook’s Foreign Correspondent and Travel Editor, following in the footsteps of another author that spent time in Cuba and liked cats, here Ula is trying out Cuba’s most famous export. We anxiously await her next post.
Guest Photographer… Krista Strutz
Ula’s earlier stories are here…
There’s salsa music playing while I sit on the cobblestone steps watching people dance. If I stare straight ahead I can see over the red-tiled rooftops of Trinidad. I see the ocean, a great expanse of blue condensed into a thin line on the horizon. One of the dancers is a little girl, she’s wearing a bright pink shirt. She’s accompanied by her aunt or older sister. She looks to be about nine years old and already a great dancer. Her dark hair is pulled back into a neat bun and adorned with fake flowers. At the end of the song, they leave the dance floor. I see the cobblestone stairs beginning to fill with people. It’s fun to watch the band play because they all dance to the music with the rest of the dancers. The music they are playing is traditional that has been turned into rock. I convince my mom to dance with me, but neither of us can lead so we dance by ourselves, until a man in a red sweatshirt starts to dance with me. He’s a good dancer and conscious of the fact that I’m not the best. As we dance to the salsa, out of the corner of my eye I see someone join my mother. They are dancing faster than we are. When the song ends, I go back to my chair only to be asked again by a gentleman about 70 years old. We dance by the table my parents are sitting at. He also dances slowly, but as the song goes on we dance faster. When the song ends, he kisses me on the cheek and then we leave.
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Another dispatch from our Foreign Correspondent, Ula Grace, traveling in Cuba with her parents Krista and Steve. A few days prior I had received an email from Krista, here is an excerpt…
And now we are in Santiago. Last night, with the help of a new local friend, we snuck Ula into a fabulous and seedy house of music, and danced! (the locals said I dance like a Puerto Rican – whatever that means!) Fantastic! Heading off on another memorable overnight bus to Trinidad tomorrow, and hopefully a little beach time. We really like Cuba in general; the people are very nice and helpful, the streets are incredibly clean even within all the colonial decay. And people are very surprised and pleased when we tell them where we are from!
I am curious to know what ‘dancing like a Puerto Rican‘ means to a Cuban… it can’t be good. Anxiously awaiting Ula’s next post… and Krista’s… I’ll keep you posted.