Emerson Sharp. We meet him as an eighteen year old. For the last eight years, every aspect of his life has been controlled by Paw. Before age ten, he was Maw’s boy, but that changed drastically when Paw decided it was high time he had a field hand. He could have hired someone, but his own son was free.
Excerpt from chapter one:
The smell of breakfast meat in the skillet woke Emerson. Bacon. And potatoes and eggs fried in the grease.
Emerson got up and trekked to the outhouse. It was the same way every morning began since those first couple of days almost eight years ago.
Emerson washed his hands in the basin on the porch and went inside.
“Tuesday,” Maw remarked as she placed the coffeepot on the trivet on the table between Paw and Emerson.
She kept track of the days of the week and looked forward to Wednesday with her circle of women friends and especially to Sunday. Paw saw Sunday approaching and worked Emerson and himself harder to make up for losing a whole day in the field.
“Say the blessing,” she said.
Emerson did and then poured a cup for Paw and one for himself.
Paw sipped, replaced the cup on the saucer, leaned back as if he had all the time in the world, and stared at Emerson with a funny little smile on his face. Paw had never acted like this before. Emerson sat forward. He noticed some gray hairs above his father’s ears in the black hair Maw kept cut short. That smile of his crinkled up a passel of wrinkles at the corners of his eyes. He couldn’t understand how those things had happened to his father without him noticing. Emerson gulped a mouthful of coffee.
“Boy,” Paw said. “Time for you to get married.”
Emerson snorted coffee out his nose and set to coughing.
Paw rounded the table and pounded him on the back. Maw ran from the sink, drying her hands on her apron.
When the coughing fit quit, Maw wiped up the table with a flour sack dish towel. Paw told him to take a bath, cut a handful of flowers from the garden, put on his go-to-church clothes, and call on Deborah Simmons.
“You court her ever’ day until Saturday. Saturday’s yore weddin’ day.”
As Paw grinned at him, Emerson thought of the gaggle of young men that huddled after church services to size up the girls. The less attractive ones were characterized finally as “Least she ain’t plain as Deborah Simmons.” In that moment, Emerson saw himself as the laughingstock of Terre Haute—hell, the entire state of Indiana—and for the rest of his life.
“Deborah Simmons! For Christ’s sake, Paw!”
Maw slapped the back of his head for blaspheming, and Paw clouded like a July thunderstorm boiling up, a living mountain high as heaven and full of black anger flashing fire.
So maybe Shane didn’t grow up in Indiana. If he had and been about Emerson Sharp’s age, he would have in his late forties when he rode into the valley and met the Starretts in 1889. I think that cold fit. Give or take a few birthdays.