Jefferson County, Commonwealth of Kentucky
May 16, 1865

Mother does not cease weeping. Though Frederick has been gone to us lo these many years, the return of his Affects and few Belongings from the Far West Territories strikes her anew with grief at each parcel opened. My own heart is heavy with her sorrow, but as much as he was my oldest brother Frederick was also a stranger to me being long gone to his work and passion for physicks and healing arts learned by harsh experience in the War. Into my care he left his large case of instruments and medicines; a curious legacy to leave a brother younger by twenty years, and more as a reminder that as men we never knew each other. My much interrupted studies of law and letters have ill-prepared me to descipher his receipts and instructions, although I can read the label ‘laudanum’ as well as any barber, I would suppose.

Memphis, Tennessee
August 20, 1866

Can boredom be, in fact, a terminal condition? Perhaps I should ask the spectre of Frederick if the practice of Law, in his medical opinion, has ever been the source of ultimate demise. My mother’s brother, long established in his practice and my presumed mentor has identified me as his most helpful transcriptor and editor for cases of agricultural dispute in my training for the legal profession. Though it be the site of my monotonous Indenture, this river city bustles with energy, musical entertainment, and the company of educated men and an Abundance of beautiful women.

Mobile, Alabama
February 2nd, 1868

Yestereve upon the advise of H.R. I located an apothecary wherein there sourced many elixirs claiming to aid malaise and gout (which having consumed great quantities of the local Pig and Whiskey, I have convinced myself that I surely will soon accrue, my continued youthful aspect and vigor continued, it would seem, notwithstanding overconsumption). To my great surprise and consternation, they are very similar to those already found in Frederick’s medical case, but for Purchase at great Expense. I have started the work of comparing Frederick’s receipt book to the vials in his bag and with much satisfaction have reconciled much between the two. This work has given me much gratification, perhaps in defiance or because of my uncle’s dire warnings that it Surely the work of the Devil to cure men’s souls with Potions, not Prayer.

Osceola County, Florida
November 16, 1870

Although H.C., J.O. and other members of collegiate brotherhood presumptively established this lodge as a hunting and fishing retreat, I have yet to actually shoot or consume fin nor fowl. This is perhaps just as well, as we have remained so far in our cups that the use of firearms should be contraindicated by men of intelligence. H.C. and S.F., having depleated the last of our whiskey, returned this afternoon with a large quantity of London gin, a small barrel of local citrus fruits and a chattering handful of soiled Doves in bright silk. Were my friends to apply their skill at ferretting out quality liquor and coin-willing women to their family’s business endeavors they would surely rule our home Commonwealth. I have secured the assistance of flame-haired Claudette (whose name is most likely authentic as her French accent) to help me with extracting the peels and juice of the various Citrus Fruits to replicate Frederick’s receipts. Claudette has identified beneficial aspects of the Grape Fruit, a large specimen of which I am not familiar but to which she assures me have qualities most helpful for curing a large head caused by overconsumption when combined with dried Devil’s Claw and cassia; it is also proved most delicious when mixed liberally with Gin.


Baton Rouge, Louisiana
August 5, 1871

I have booked passage on the next passenger train departing West, and thereon via coach from San Antonio will retrace Frederick’s path north and west. The sooner that I can remove myself from the environs of New Orleans will most surely be most beneficial to my longevity, as my dearest and lovely Genevieve’s newly-betrothed and ancient ogre of a husband and his family have much power in Louisiana and the entire Delta. I wish her Godspeed, and fervently pray that she carefully apply her knowledge of my “especial” dark medicants and tinctures to the expiry of her so-called helpmate, whose cruelty is widely known. The odes of Horace give me again greater solace than scripture: “On neither weak nor vulgar wing shall I be borne through liquid air.” Surely it is not a sin to pray for the escape of a tender soul who suffers, even at the hands of tyrants.

Denver, Colorado Territory
October 30, 1873

Having collected a great quantity of Herbs and Roots from traders in Albuquerque and Santa Fe to replenish my stores, I have contracted rooms in Town in hopes that I might spend the winter months distilling and bottling my receipts for beneficial tinctures. I am both compelled and frustrated with the proximity of the looming and hazy purple Rocky Mountains, which already have a preponderance of snow in this autumn season, but I have been told they are still a several-days journey. Would that I could spend my every day in the peace and serenity of a mountain place, which having experienced such environs in Taos I am now convinced lends clarity of vision and character, such as God might grant peace to a wretched man.

Parley’s Park City, Utah Territory
June 5, 1874

A curious and most wondrous place, is this desert framed by mountains. I have for the first time in my many years of wandering decided to secure a parcel of Forrested Land, which is a several-days journey from Parley’s Park City where I might sell my various elixirs and tonics for Profit and buy such supplies as needed, including most recently a small copper alembic which will serve nicely as my primary method of Distillation. At that Town I also now receive packets of mail and letters, of which are many from my mother, who though she complains of declining health my dearest sister Olivia assures me is as sturdy and hale as my favorite mule, Bartholomew. There is a small lake on my Property and there are an abundance of helpful bittering Ingredients found in the nearby Woods. With every crisp breath, I take in the solace of these mountains, which does in some ways soothe the jagged edges of my soul, constant as a worried tooth I ache for Genevieve and pray for her safety and release...


© 2017 Darby Doyle This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, businesses, places, events and incidents are either the products of the author’s imagination or used in a fictitious manner.