Monday, July 06, 2009

Donald Fagen - Ruby Baby

This song is soooooo smooth! I think it captures that “hipster” sound of the 50s. Yet it was written and recorded by Donald Fagen – a member of the 70's super group Steely Dan. This music is so “out of place” for the 70s when Black Sabbath, Led Zeppelin, Aerosmith, Lynyrd Skynyrd, The Sex Pistols and David Bowie were pouring out of the radio.

And yet … not. The horns put me in mind of Earth, Wind, and Fire. Maybe Bachman-turner Overdrive.

The guitar though … so “beat”. Can’t you just see the “cool cats” in their smoky lounge hunched over cups of bitter coffee? Definitely an East Village vibe going on here.

My weekend was good. I made lots of progress with the story. If you call spending endless hours putting together timelines and developing great overarching ideas of why the story is developing – only to realize the “bigger influence” the “missing piece” … has been missing all this time – BECAUSE IT WAS THE WRONG TIME, by about 10 years. *sigh*

Here’s the deal. Sometimes it’s hard to sort out our own prejudices from those we imbued our characters with. We also (in historical novels) have to look and see if there are bigger influences pushing and shoving the action.

My intuition (prejudice) is that farmer’s aren’t horribly organized people. I can see them getting mad as individuals at specific events – and seeking solutions. I can even see a group of farmers in one area bringing a lawsuit to reclaim damages to their land. And so it happened. A group of farmers in Butte County - on Dry Creek - brought a lawsuit against the Little York Mine.

This is the first complaint against the mines. It happened in 1872 and it WAS about damages. But the farmers lost. Then – there were another series of other lawsuits culminating in Woodruff v North Bloomfield – and these lawsuits are all based on “rights”. The recent passage of the 14th Amemndment in 1868 highlighted individual rights of a group. (and I am doing a horrible job of describing this in a paragraph. But land rights of one group over another - and how they used resources - and who was effected by the use - had never been part of the legal cannon prior to Woodruff v. N. Bloomfield)

The farmers seem very organized. Indeed, it appears one specific lawyer is always involved. I haven’t been able to find out much about him. His name is George Cadwalader (and I cannot wait to give him a new name, because I cannot spell that last name correctly FOR THE LIFE OF ME!)But he’s got to have some stake in the outcome. Or else why is he ALWAYS the lawyer for the farmers in these lawsuits against the miners?

What's his reason though? I don’t know. I’m hitting a brick wall each time I try to find out something about him.

Then – I discovered a commentary by an environmental historian. He pointed to the San Francisco railroad men – the Big Four – and how it was in their best interest to create a ground swell of negative opinion against mining because they’d decided agriculture was the future of California and the key to prosperity to the railroad system. So he proposes the Big Four contacted a Sacramento newspaper and the newspaper began publishing editorials favorable to farmering and land reclamation and flood control. (Because it is hard to run a RR if the tracks are flooded or washed away.)

Eureka! I went off to the 4th of July celebration happy – and ready to start researching this connection. It solved so much of my story line dilemma. Cadwalader must be connected to the newspaper and the Big Four!

Only when I started poking around further, I found it doesn’t fit. The transcontinental RR was completed in 1869. The series of lawsuits begin in 1872-1884-ish. I’ll keep trying to follow this lead, but I think the “environmental historian” has scooched things around to fit his own prejudices.

Then there are also three real-life brothers, the Belcher's, in this story. I want to work them in – but they keep ACTING IN WAYS that don’t support my story (how dare they!).

Now my choice becomes: abandon them or mess with the facts? I keep wondering why I’m so tied to preserving the facts in this piece of “fiction”. Is it because I really should be writing a history? I hope not. Is it because I don’t trust my own abilities? YES. What don’t I trust? I don’t trust my understanding of human nature. Or of cause and effect between men and different businesses.

If I loosely follow the Belcher brothers (all lawyers, and involved with these farmer vs miner lawsuits along with Cadwalader) … I’m going to have to change Chadwick (my made up lawyer) a little bit. Right now he's a grumpy, semi-reclusive, fly-fishing, human-disdaining man. He didn't have any family when we first met in my imagination.

Now as I add facts to my fiction, I find he has a brother and a half-brother.

Reading the original legal papers for Woodruff v. North Bloomfield I discovered a Belcher on each side of the suit. (How interesting, eh?). I figured I could handle that. Then I came across the much-younger half-brother and wasn't sure where he fit in. Although it says at one point he sits on a powerful committee for the Hydraulic Mining Association. Still, I thought I was on my way.

I'd have the two full brothers share a practice, the baby half-brother come west, study law with them, then he "goes bad" by accepting a job with a RR company which also has financial interest in the mine ... and story line set! (Especially because it adds the railroads and then the missing link about why all these farmers are bringing suits against the mines using the same methodology.)

But more digging yeilds MORE UNRULINESS and an unwillingness to follow my suppositions.

One of the brothers is a "brilliant anbd flamboyant orator", a member of the California Constitutional Convention, and become a State Supreme Court Justice and takes the farmers side. Clearly "my" Chadwick cannot be this man. This man must be amialble, and social, and interact with people successfully. So I was going to make Chadwick the other brother, who I pictured being the reclusive logician of the family. He'd look up case law, develop brilliant strategies used by the orator brother.

And if those two worked together then it must be the younger, half-brother, who is the rouge working on half of the miners and railroads. Ta-da! Story line straightened out.

But more research leads me to believe the two full brothers had a falling out. Biographical sketches state the brothers practiced law together until 1874. Then there's a split.

It also says the half-brother was the City Attorney for Marysville and he brought a suit against the mines on behalf of the city. That just screws everything up. If he's the city attorney, he cannot also be legal council for the miners in a similar suit two years later (or I guess he can if he isn't emotionally invested in the decision). Then I read the 1872 lawsuit and see it's one of the full brothers working for the defense (also known as the miners.) In 1882 the other brother is legal council for the farmers in Woodruff v. N. Bloomfield.

Clearly this is why the partnership disolved. Over this very issue. Who’s in the right? Farmer or Miner? One stays on the farmer side, becomes a noted jurist, but never leaves the area. This will be Chadwick. So now I have to make him friendly. The other moves to San Francisco, never marries and is equally prominate in society. Clearly NOT Chadwick (although the never marrying part is apt).

The two mining industry supporters, one of the full-brothers and the half-brother, end up in San Francisco. Both working for law firms however, it appears there must be a riff here too, as they don’t work for the same law firm – even though one is a full partner in his firm.

Hmmm – lots of motivation and circumstances to consider. What do I use as spice? What do I use as the main ingredient? And how much do I stray from the recipe?

I guess this is all going to simmer on the back burner. My friend Herman, from The Netherlands, arrives today for a short visit. Jason arrives tomorrow. (He and Herman will have a great time talking cars, cars, cars!) Wednesday Herman will continue onto Kentucky – and Jason and I will attend a Durham Bulls Baseball game.

Doesn’t sound like much time for writing. Hopefully there’ll be some great marinating going on in the back of my mind.


I got a girl and Ruby is her name

She don't love me, but I love her just the same

Ruby Baby how I want you

Like a ghost I'm gonna haunt you

Ruby Baby when will you be mine

I guess the Belcher brother’s are my ghosts … story, story when will you be mine?


mamie said...

There are a few Cadwalladers (note the extra "l") in the Raleigh area. They pronounce their name Cad-wilder (cad rhymes with bad).

I've loved Ruby Baby since the Drifters did it. But you weren't even an idea back then, haha. Love the version in the post. Smooth is right.


Anonymous said...

Loved the video with this song, and yes, it is smooth. Reminds me of a smokey, high-class bar in S.F.

Well, as your research is proving, life is more interesting than anything one can dream up !!!!
Good luck ! tp