Friday, June 10, 2011

Interview with author Susan L. Krueger

Addie Slaughter
The Girl Who Met Geronimo

By Susan L. Krueger

Interview with the author

1. What made you decide to do a chapter book on Addie Slaughter?

It was a trip to the Slaughter Ranch in Cochise County. Reba Wells Grandrud made arrangements for our writers group to stay at the ranch and while we were there, Reba presented her talk on the Slaughter family. I realized others would relate to the children who lived on the ranch, especially Addie.

2. I understand John Slaughter is a rather well-known figure in the Old West. Tell us a little bit about what kind of man Addie's father, John Slaughter, was and how he related to his children.

John Horton Slaughter was a small man with big ideas. He wasn’t afraid to track down the meanest outlaw or to try to make a success of the biggest ranch in Southern Arizona. He doted on his own children and probably never forgot that he almost lost them to smallpox. The foster children that came to live at the ranch were also a joy to him. The family photo album is full of pictures of a smiling John holding one child or another.

3. Why did you decide to do the book about Addie, rather than John Slaughter?

I thought it would give children a unique perspective of what life was like in the Wild West to hear it in the words of a child who lived it.

4. Tell us about Addie's mother and her stepmother.

Eliza Adeline was a mature woman with two young children who left her home and family in Texas and followed her husband to start a new life in Arizona. She was well prepared for the task of setting up a new home. Viola, on the other hand, was a southern belle teenager with no idea of how to be a housewife and mother. It took time but she rose to the challenge magnificently.

5. What are some of the hardships Addie and her family endured while living in the Wild West?

There was the real and present danger of outlaws, Indian attacks, and wild animals. But, when I think of the smallpox that killed her mother, the tuberculosis that plagued her father, and the many injuries that happened around the ranch, I would have to say their greatest hardship was the distance to medical care.

6. How did you research the lives of the Slaughters?

Reba Wells Grandrud was the historian during the restoration of the Slaughter Ranch. Our collaboration made all her painstaking research available to me, including the stories that Addie had told her own daughter about growing up in Tombstone and on the ranch. Between the two, there is no better source.

7. The contents of your book are based on historical facts with some dialogue and background fictionalized. What percentage of the tale would you say is pure fact, and why did you include fictitious information?

Every bit of the book is as historically accurate as I could make it. While it is based on Reba’s research, she did additional research after the book was written to make certain all of our facts were correct. However, I did want Addie to tell her own story so the dialogue is, of course, mine. I wanted children to hear Addie’s voice so she could come alive to them.

8. There is a poignant scene in the book where Geronimo takes off one of his beaded necklaces and gently holds it out to Addie. And then, he bows to her. Was that a factual scene? Why do you suppose he did that?

Yes, this really happened. It was certainly the most memorable thing that ever happened to Addie when she was a child. Geronimo was on the Slaughter Ranch many times and had given Grandma Howell a hand-carved wooden spoon. It is believed that Geronimo’s generosity to the Slaughter family had to do with his respect for the determined, fearless John Slaughter.

9. The Slaughter Ranch has been restored and is open to visitors. Can you tell us where it is, and what guests can expect when they visit the ranch?

The ranch is 15 miles outside of Douglas in South-eastern Arizona. The ranch buildings have been restored and the area is beautiful. It is well worth a visit and will bring the time period alive for visitors. The website is:

10. Is there anything else about the ranch or the book that you would like to share with us?

Only that I love family history and it has been a delight to preserve Addie’s stories.

11. If somebody wanted to contact you to speak at their school or historical group, how can they get in touch with you?

My publisher at (480) 940 -8182 would be happy to hear from them.

Photo used with permission by Tim Trumble.

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