Chase Your Dreams

Saturday, June 9th, 2018     Marie Sontag     Start the Conversation


A few weeks ago I had the privilege of talking with middle school students about how to chase their dreams. This week I received some wonderful notes from them. One student shared, “I really enjoyed your presentation and was inspired by your stories. I loved how you talked about our dreams and how we should pursue them.” I hope I get to do more of this in the 2018-19 school year.

I spent the month of May in California conducting more research for my upcoming historical fiction novel, Yosemite Discovered, and taking an Immersion Master Class in Yosemite with writing mentor, Margie Lawson. I’m still trying to process all we learned.

An exciting part of my trip was documenting many of the historical locations mentioned in my upcoming novel. I’ll share some of these video clips in the next few blogs. One of these sites was James Savage’s Merced River trading post. Here’s a link to a video I shot at the site,, and a picture of my visit there.

Below is a short excerpt from the upcoming novel describing an Indian attack at this post.

Excerpt from Yosemite Discovered, Chapter Eleven –
South Fork Trading Post, California Gold Country
February 5-7, 1850

… The Yosemites’ chilling war cries rang out, followed by a volley of arrows. Daniel’s comrades poked their weapons through gaps between the logs and shot at anything that moved. Rounds of gunfire popped. Acrid smoke filled the air. Natives within fifty feet of the fortresses fell in their tracks.

Daniel heard a whiz and then a shriek.

“I’m hit!” Greely cried out.

He turned and saw an arrow sticking out of Greeley’s shoulder. Banyon propped his friend up in a corner of the fortress and pressed a handkerchief against the man’s shoulder to slow the bleeding.

Returning his gaze to the battlefield, Daniel saw more Yosemites fall, many pierced with arrows. Jim’s Yokuts s had joined the fray. The advancing Yosemite renegades retreated to the cover of trees and rocks.

Before long, a tall, feathered Yosemite about a hundred yards away emerged from between the rocks. He raised his bow and appeared to shout orders. Taylor took aim with his Number Five Belt Revolver and fired. The Indian continued to shout and wave his arms.

Daniel, his world still spinning, forced his mind to focus. The warriors crept forward. Still out of range for the men’s revolvers, he knew a bullet from his carbine caplock rifle could reach them.

The feathered brave and his followers advanced closer. The tall Indian paused to nock an arrow and draw back his bowstring.

Daniel lifted his rifle over the top of the barricade and fired.

He missed.

The Indians charged.

A second later, Brown’s cousin, crouched next to him, screamed. He turned. Taylor collapsed. Blood flowed from the young man’s chest as he clawed at the arrow that now impaled him. With eyes still open, he stopped moving. He didn’t move again.

Daniel squeezed his eyes shut. It was his fault. How could he have missed? He clenched his teeth, reloaded his rifle and popped his head above their tiny fortress. The tall brave motioned for more Yosemites to follow.

Holding his breath, Daniel fingered his rifle’s trigger. Drawing a bead on the Indian, he fired.

Blam. The native fell to the ground.

Several Indians raised their arms and yelled. The Yosemites pulled back. An eerie quiet settled over the battle scene.

He reloaded his rifle and filled his pockets with ammo. “Banyon. Cover me. I’ll move up behind those rocks and pick off the Indians behind that ridge.”

Banyon nodded. Daniel moved out. A few arrows rained down, but none reached him. He scrambled over loose stones and hid behind the safety of an expansive boulder. From here he watched the Yosemites gesture to one another. A medium-built, muscular brave did most of the talking. Probably another leader.  He took careful aim and fired. The man fell to the ground.

Just as he predicted, several braves crept toward his position. Once they came within fifty yards, the barricaded men fired their rounds. Several Yosemites clutched their chests where bullets found their mark. Others stopped in their tracks when Yokuts arrows pierced their bodies. After another thirty minutes, the renegades disappeared into the woods. Jim waited an hour, then called the men back to the post.

Limik and the other women scurried to patch up the wounded.

Banyon thumped Daniel on the back. “I’ll have you in my barricade any time, Whitcomb. Good shootin’ out there.”

Four men staggered in, carrying Taylor’s limp body between them.

“No. Not good.” Daniel stared at Taylor’s corpse. “Not good enough.”

Long-haired Brown, bandaging his bleeding hand at the table in the back, glanced up. He saw the men transporting Taylor and wailed. “No.” Running to his cousin’s side, he cradled the youth’s head in his hands. “I promised his ma I’d keep him safe.”

It’s all my fault. Daniel’s nose and eyes burned. He grasped the edge of a table to steady himself. If I hadn’t tried to bury my sorrow in a bottle, his cousin would still be alive.








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