When I started to write The Gauntlet Runner one of my goals was to keep it historically accurate as possible. I really wanted the reader to understand and feel what an early settler family experienced. Good, bad and ugly.
It was a hard, brutal life. I strove to paint a picture of the hardships and everyday threats they experienced. The Gauntlet Runner was not meant to be a ‘Hollywood’ version of the F&I War. I didn’t have birds chirping or the settlers singing while they toiled in the fields.
It was a time when you could get a little, insignificant cut on your hand and be dead in a week from infection. They worked from dawn until dusk and most frontier families had to clear cut their land by hand before they built their homestead. Added to their troubles was the constant threat from wild animals, venomous snakes and native raiding parties.
Isolation was a real part of their lives. Normally the first group of settlers owned plots of land that were miles apart. They were seperated by dense, deep forests that might have an old Indian trail linking some of them. In The Gauntlet Runner, the Murray family was a day or two trek to the nearest fort or trading post. Any protection had to be self-provided and that left most famlilies vulnerable to raids.
It also wasn’t uncommon for the father and eldest son to leave for weeks at a time to set trap lines, hunt for the season or to check the traps. This usually left the wife to take care of the home and children. As for the kids, they were no more than extra hands for the farm. They were forced to grow up quickly and most could shot a musket very early in their lives.
Added to their troubles was the French and English who constantly fought over land rights and trade routes. The English encouraged and rewarded the settlers to move into the frontier but provided them little protection.
The forgotten party in all of this was the Native population. They saw all these English, German, Dutch and Swedish settlers cascade over the Allegheny’s and make their homes on sacred lands.
The settlers were basically used as ponds by the English and the natives were used by the French to secure their trade routes to the south.
The French encouraged the native population to fight back. Settlers were taken captive. They were tortured. They were killed. That was the reality of life on the frontier. It was all part of the French propaganded plan to ‘scare’ any other settlers from moving into the territory.
I would be doing an injustice to the early settlers and natives who were just trying to survive, if I presented a picture that all the parties lived happily together.
Some readers might not enjoy the scenes of torture and scalping but it was a part of this life. The Murray family were like thousands of families who only wanted to have a better life but were caught in the middle of three great powers struggling to make the Ohio Valley region their own.
The Gauntlet Runner was meant to tell their story in all its brutality and hardships.
I would love your feedback.