I thought I’d do a short series of pieces about the various characters in my novels, and I’ll be putting these out on my blog over the next few days.
The Sinclairs are a diverse group with vastly different personalities and backgrounds. Everyone is affected by their own experiences, and the Sinclair family, and the other characters who interact with them, are no exceptions.
Perhaps it’s appropriate to deal with Guthrie first, as he is the patriarch of this most dysfunctional family. But rather than me describing Guthrie’s character, it seemed a more interesting approach to look at him through the eyes of one of the other characters. So, here is a letter that Guthrie’s elder son, Guy, has written to one of his old friends back in Boston, describing his life at the family ranch in New Mexico.
Greetings from the wild and wooly West, and please accept my most sincere apologies for my tardy correspondence.
I can scarcely believe that more than a year has passed since I returned home to my father’s ranch in Cimarron. I had expected this to be a short visit and fully intended to return to Boston at the earliest opportunity having performed my filial duties. I was convinced that I would quickly grow weary of the ranch and be pining for sailing, and shooting parties, and all the other attractions of the civilized East coast.
But amazingly I don’t miss that life at all, and I find that very hard to believe after spending so many years in Boston. My life here is vastly different. Instead of idling my time away at theatres and restaurants, I am out every day come rain or shine, doing hard, physical labor, getting tired, sore and dirty – and I love it. Well, maybe not the dirt, but I love the freedom of this life. I am no longer bound by the constraints of Boston society. I have to work for and earn everything here and that makes it so much more satisfying than my old life.
My only regret is that I did not come home sooner. I have been absent from my father’s house for far too long. As you know, he sent me to stay with my late mother’s family in Boston when I was seven, ostensibly to be educated, but also because his ranch was under constant threat of attack by Apache Indians. His decision was undoubtedly in my best interests but it meant that I am far better acquainted with my maternal relations than I am with my father.
The constraints of distance, compounded by the dangers of travel, conspired against us so that I saw my father on only rare occasions during my childhood and adolescence, although we corresponded. But now I welcome the opportunity to become reacquainted with him.
I don’t recollect ever telling you of his background. He grew up in Scotland. The Sinclair family owns property and estates across Scotland and almost certainly came to Britain with the Normans. My father was raised in the tradition of noblesse oblige and he takes his responsibilities seriously. He is a thoughtful and paternal employer to the Mexican vaqueros and the other ranch hands we employ. He is unfailingly fair in all his dealings with them, and when any man in injured or sick, my father always provides for the man’s family.
His mother’s family, by contrast, are English and hail from the south west of England. Her family also arrived with the Normans but they can trace their lineage back beyond even 1066. By all accounts they are a fairly rebellious group of individuals who were Parliamentarians during the English Civil War. The Royalists signed the surrender for the south west at their family home. Apparently, after the King was restored to the throne, one of his mother’s ancestors was sent to the Tower of London for his part in the war. My father assures me though that the man escaped with his head!
My father was a younger son, and as you are doubtless aware, the traditions of the British aristocracy dictate that a younger son either enter the church or the military. I can only assume that my father has inherited some of his mother’s family’s characteristics, because taking the decision to seek his fortune in America was certainly an act of rebellion. I suspect that he felt his elder brother was undeserving of the land and properties he inherited, yet alone the titles. Certainly my father rarely has a word to say about him. My father is the sort of man who would say nothing rather than insult his Scottish and English relations. Unfortunately the same rule does not appear to apply to his relatives on this side of the Atlantic.
He can be confoundedly aggravating at times, for whilst he is fair and patient with his employees, he frequently fails to demonstrate the same traits in his dealings with his family. On the contrary, he can be obtuse and bull-headed and apparently profoundly lacking in imagination – particularly when dealing with my brother.
Yes – you did read that correctly! As you may recall, I grew up believing that my younger half-brother was dead. You can imagine my amazement when it turned out that my brother was, in fact, alive albeit lost to the family, for all these years.
Suffice it to say here that my brother did not enjoy the same privileges extended to me as a child. His lack of education and, dare I say it, social graces, means that he is constantly at odds with our father who makes no allowances whatsoever for Johnny’s unfortunate upbringing and history. Neither one of them understands the other. As a direct consequence of this, they argue a great deal and it often falls to me to try and negotiate a truce between them. The irony is that neither of them sees how alike they are. I might as well call a spade a spade a spade – they are each of them as stubborn as mules, pig-headed, and convinced they are always right. I frequently get the urge to bang their heads together.
I said that I found this life gives me a sense of freedom I haven’t known before. But my brother brings a whole new meaning to the word. He knows no rules or restraints. He is brave, headstrong, and fearless, with the most peculiar code of honor that I’ve ever encountered. But such traits are not always a good thing, and I worry about his recklessness and him. More than anything I want him to see him happy, and that in itself demonstrates a huge change in my attitudes since coming home. I’ve never cared so much for another human being. Of course I cared for my father, but never having the opportunity to spend much time together, it was a sort of detached affection. And of course I was very fond of my Boston relatives . . . well, most of them. But Johnny is my brother, someone I thought lost to me forever. I find myself wanting to know him better and wanting to protect him, even if that means protecting him from our father.
I think perhaps that my father’s marriages, his first to my mother who died, and his second to my brother’s mother who ran off when he was just a small child, have soured him. He has never remarried and I sense a loneliness of spirit in him. After too many years alone, he now struggles to come to terms with our arrival in his midst, and most particularly with Johnny. Mind you, my brother blows through life like a tornado so his presence would be a shock to anyone who had become accustomed to a life of solitude.
Father has an extensive library and reads a great deal, taking solace in his books. Shortly before I returned home, his closest friend died and he very generously took in the man’s daughter, making a home for her here. But I’m afraid that the presence of a shy young girl was not nearly enough to prepare him for the invasion of his home by two independent and strong-minded young men.
Still, I am optimistic for the future. My father has enjoyed passing on his knowledge and teaching us about ranching so that we will be well equipped to run his empire ourselves one day. And I see some progress between him and Johnny – I think Father now counts to twenty before yelling rather than a mere five or ten.
You should consider a visit. I think you would find the scenery and the way of life stimulating. It is certainly a world away from Boston. But what I would like most is for you to meet Johnny. I guarantee that he is quite unlike anyone either of us has ever met in our lives. I would delight in seeing your reaction to him.
Please send my warmest regards to your family.
In haste, your old friend,