Left Behind: Meet the Characters of Back Side of a Blue Moon
January 16, 2023
There must be a hundred or more good ways of dying, some better than others, some worse, so why did she take the slowest path possible to the grave?
Times are hard along the Sabine River, and the little East Texas town of Ashland is crumbling under the weight of the Great Depression. Families are broke and hungry. For many, their last meal may well have been their last meal. Families are giving up and leaving town. Everyone knows the fate that awaits the scattered farms. No one can save Ashland. It is as isolated as the back side of a blue moon.
Into town comes Doc Bannister wearing a straw boater and a white suit. He is the miracle man. He has a homemade doodlebug machine that, he says, can find oil and make them all rich. Oil, he swears, lies beneath the blistered farmstead of Eudora Durant. She thinks Doc is a flim flam man. The sheriff believes he is a con artist. Both are convinced that Doc has come to town to swindle every dime he can get before hitting the road again. Ashland knows Doc may be crooked, but he has brought hope to a town that had no hope.
Eudora has everything Doc wants. She is a beautiful woman who owns cheap land. In Ashland, she is known as the scarlet woman. Whispers say she murdered her husband. No one has seen him since the night they heard a shotgun blast on her farm. The town wants oil. Doc wants Eudora. But Eudora is too independent and stubborn to fall for the charms of a silver-tongued charlatan.
She holds the fate of Ashland in her hands. Will she let Doc drill? Is there really oil lying deep beneath her sunbaked land? Can Doc find it? Or is he more interested in finding love than oil? What happens when a man with a checkered past comes face to face with a woman whose past is as mysterious as his?
EUDORA DURANT KNEW there must be a hundred or more good ways of dying, some better than others, some worse, and she wondered why she had insisted on taking the slowest path possible to the grave. She couldn’t blame anyone for her lot in life. All she had to do was look in the cracked mirror beside her bed from time to time, and she knew where the blame fell, and it landed squarely on her shoulders.
She had been a fine looking lady in her early twenties. Just about everybody in Ashland said so. Tall. Slender. Flaming red hair that draped elegantly across her shoulders. It was said from the front pew of the Baptist church to the front porch of Douglas Peabody’s feed store, that Eudora possessed a winsome smile as warm as mid-day in August. Feel bad? Feel blue? Feeling sorry for yourself? Just wait ‘til Eudora comes by and smiles at you. You’ll be cured between good and morning.
She hardly ever glanced at her reflection anymore.
Somewhere during the last ten hard and unforgiving years, she misplaced her smile, then lost it altogether, and discovered she no need for one. What was a smile anyway? Not much more than a scar on her face, and she could turn the corners of the scar down much easier than turning them up.
The belle of the ball was no longer invited to the ball.
Eudora Durant paused just as the little mule dragged the plow to the end of the cotton row. She ran her fingers through her red hair – plastered with sweat against her face. Dirt caked her neck, and her mouth was as dry as the earth beneath her feet. Lord, it had been a long time between rains. She felt the sun knife its way between her shoulder blades and shuddered when she realized the blue and yellow blooms on her feed sack dress had faded much like the flowers in the field. The dried red clay defied a plow point blunted from too many days in the cotton patch, and a new blister was forming like a cyst between the fingers of her right hand.
Eudora glanced at the sky, and there wasn’t a cloud in sight, only turkey vultures circling overhead, and she figured they were betting that either she or the mule would drop before dark. They might be right. The sun hung at three o’clock, and Eudora knew she had four good hours of daylight left before she and the mule could rest for the night, unless, of course, the Good Lord made the sun stand still like he did in the Old Testament. She felt as if she had been sentenced to punishment without ever being informed of the crime.
On days like today, she wondered if life would have been any better, or at least any different, if Roger J. Middlebrooks had not left town and gone off to some college in Oklahoma City to become a lawyer just like his daddy.
Eudora loved Roger then.
She never forgot their last night together, walking home from Wednesday night prayer meeting. Brother Joseph Heckler had preached until ten, then got down on his knees and beseeched the sinners for an hour, but the hard-hearted had gone home without being washed in the blood of anybody’s lamb. Moonlight fell among the pine limbs and lit their path as it wound through the edge of the thicket. A cool wind kept the heat of the night from being so oppressive, as it dried the sweat from their faces.
“You know I love you,” Roger had told her.
“You know I’m coming back someday to practice law with my father,” he said.
“I’m asking you to wait for me,” he said. “You’ll be my wife as soon as I hang out my shingle, get set up in business, and have enough money coming in to buy that little white cottage behind the bank, the one you’ve always wanted.”
Eudora stood on her tiptoes and kissed him. In her eyes, Roger was the most handsome young man she had ever met, and he could have been walking tonight with any woman in the County, but he had chosen to be with her, the only child of a third-grade teacher and an Irish handy man who had worked himself to death chopping down pine logs and hauling them to old man Harry Bateman’s lumberyard.
“I’ll wait for you,” she whispered. “I’ll still be waiting for you the day after the world ends. Don’t worry about me. I’m not going anywhere.”
He held her tight while the moon played hide and seek with the clouds. She pledged her troth to him, and he pledged his troth to her, and the heavens smiled, and all was right with the world.
No doubt about it, Eudora thought. She was hands down the happiest girl in Ashland.
She was twenty-two years old.
She was marrying the second richest man in Corrin County.
His daddy was the richest.
She was marrying the best looking man who had ever come driving into her County, maybe into all of Texas.
What could go wrong?