Monday, June 24, 2013

2013 June 24th: Sharing a Story: You Can Call Me "Major"

I usually tend to write family stories that are as accurate as I can come by, except for using dialogue to flesh out the individuals.  However, the following story, while having elements of  a true story, I chose to frame it in a more fictional mode and it turned out to be a fairly interesting opening bit  -- at least to this writer's eye.

You Can Call me “Major”

The train slowed as it chugged into the Calgary railway station. John Brown McPheeters carefully adjusted the Civil War button on his lapel. He snorted a sardonic laugh and thought to himself, This little pin opens lots of doors – even if it started as a joke. He had been just 19 when he volunteered for the 8th Wisconsin Infantry regiment, Called ourselves the Eagle regiment, and carried that scrawny Honest Abe eagle with us.

Johnny, as he had always been called even though he was almost now sixty, enlisted as a private and was a private still when he was mustered out in Alabama two years later. When he got home, his dad took to calling him Major. Poppa was just trying to make fun of me being only a drum major for the regiment --- not a real soldier. Major McPheeters this and Major McPheeters that. Soon all the village and surround towns were calling him Major. All those folk meant it as a joke, but I got that last laugh.

A couple of decades of farming up north of Madison took him away from the jokesters, but the nickname stuck. He was known as Major McPheeters even when he returned to Madison.. Sure did open the doors to that government job in Madison. They were right happy to have Major McPheeters head up the Department of Services Affairs. And old Senator Barrett was proud to write a letter of recommendation to that Calgary banker, what with my “war record” and being the son of old Garrison McPheeters. Hmph, that opened some doors.

Pappa, are you ready?” Young John, Jr., knocked at the door to the compartment.

Almost. I'll meet you and your brothers at the livery. Banker Talbot's meeting us there,” muttered Johnny. That Banker Talbot found us good homestead land about half way between Calgary and Edmonton – enough for me and the boys to make a pretty good stake. I aim to go back to the states a rich man.

Johnny shrugged into his jacket, put his hat on his bald head, and hefted his well worn satchel. This was going to be his time. Away from the old man, away from his history, and away from the jokes. He gave the Civil War pin a quick shine with his coat sleeve, and headed out to meet the Calgary banker.

His three sons and the banker were waiting for him at the livery. Johnny drew himself up straight, and tall as one can be at 5'6”, his blue eyes clear and calculating.

Good Day to you, Banker Talbot. I'm J. B. McPheeters, but you can call me “Major.”. Reckon you've heard about me.”

~ ~ ~ 

 © Joan G. Hill, Roots'n'Leaves Publications


  1. I love how you wrote the story and it evolved from molester to "man of business". I used a similar writing style in my own FH book... Imagination + fact can equal a good story

  2. Thanks, Pauleen. When I first started researching the "Major" I wasn't sure whether the history as the major came from the village folks and their need for a "hero" or whether Johnny himself fabricated the history, or both. Even now, on any given day, I can flip-flop on the chicken-egg bit.

  3. awesome tale! joan. the ring of truth... we hear it. now where 'truth' may lie is more than anny of us can ever tell, just like following that rainbow on a soggy day can lead us to the pot o gold...

  4. great story Joan! strong w the ring o truth. now where that truth may really lie none of us can ever really tell... but it's all about the story anyway is it not?

    1. aha, great wordsmith, herself, thanks for the good words. Appreciate it.

  5. I am totally captivated! WELL DONE! So glad you share it.