We’re so happy to have Duncan McKnapp take a break from his travels of wild Florida to visit with Novel PASTimes.
Novel PASTimes: Duncan, welcome to Novel PASTimes! Can you tell me where you come from and where you live now?
Duncan: Thank you for letting me be part of Novel PASTimes! I never thought anyone would be interested in anything I have to say. My brothers always thought I was beyond help. Ha! Well … where did I come from? I was born in the rolling mountains above Dahlonega, Georgia. The place is called, Beckler’s Cove. It sure is beautiful there. I miss it. Right now, I call central Florida my home. Kinda wish I didn’t claim this swamp as a home. Seems like I’m either sweating, swatting bugs, tripping over alligators, or tramping through snake-filled, warm water.
Novel PASTimes: I don’t think that sounds like much fun!
I heard you father passed away. I’m so sorry for your loss. How are you coping with your grief right now?
Duncan: Yeah, he passed on to his reward. He was a good man. How am I coping with his death? Not very good for a tough woodsman. Staying in the swamps or hiding in the woods, refraining from contact with other humans is how I can heal. When he died, I barely made it home in time to be at his mountain funeral. There was so much I should have said to him, while I had the chance—in earlier years. I guess I was always at odds with my father. But I loved him. Loved and respected him. Know what I mean?
Novel PASTimes: Which of your Dahlonega, Georgia brothers is your favorite and why?
Duncan: Ahh, I don’t have a favorite! That wouldn’t be nice! Jim always kept me “in line”. He could be tough. Samuel had a gentle spirit about him. Phillip was too young for me to connect with. I guess Jim would be my favorite, that’s because we were closest in age, and he sure could make me feel remorse for my sins. I miss Jim. I can’t sit and talk with him, no more. But I feel his presence with me in the woods, and I hear his chiding when I do stupid things.
Novel PASTimes: I hear you are friends with Ella Dessa. Are you sweet on her? Or are you interested in another girl?
Duncan: When I was too young to be smart, I was in love with a girl named Fern—like the feathery, green plant you’d find in the mountains. I wanted to be with her all the time. I hurt her. Messed it up. I didn’t open my mouth and say the words, “I love you!” Ella Dessa is a sweetheart. I don’t think any man alive wouldn’t fall in love with her. She makes a man long to have a wife just like her. She has a soul of gold. But I always knew she wasn’t for me, but I once tried to catch her attention.
Novel PASTimes: What made you decide to leave the farm?
Duncan: Ahh, I hated farm work. Who wants to milk cows all their life? I like being a free man. I like beautiful women and exploring new land. Florida has always pulled at my heartstrings … if there’s such a thing in me. I’m amazed at the white beaches and rolling waves on the shores. I like the natives. I like warm weather, and I don’t mind huge alligators. They make a man watch where he steps or wades, but keeps a man on his toes. You see, I tend to go barefooted a lot. And by living in Florida, not many people are goin’ to go searching for me. It’s too wet, too hot, too muggy, too wild, and too dangerous. I can let my wooly, red hair grow long, and no woman demands I cut it off.
Novel PASTimes: You sound very independent, but despite that, do you still miss your family? Why or why not?
Duncan: Let’s keep this question to ourselves. Yes, I miss them more than ever, as the years roll on. Miss my mother the most. She held our family together. I miss my father, because he taught us boys how to be a good man—even though I didn’t follow his teachings all that well. I miss my brothers and my sisters, because I counted on them to keep me straight. They were the homemade glue that cemented me to my past and who I was supposed to become. But a man makes his own way in life. Sometimes he lets go of the things most important … like family.
Novel PASTimes: What would you like to do for the rest of your life? Do you have any goals?
Duncan: Goals … hmm. Most people who know me would say, “He ain’t got no goals. Duncan has left the good life behind. He’s left the mountains, left his home, and chased away the love of his life.” But they don’t know the future. There’s one young woman I’m going to track down. I need to ask her forgiveness for something in the past. And … I’ll let you know one thing. This thing I tell you is between you and me … not for the world to know. I think I know where that one young woman ran off to. In the future, I may see if I can find her. I need to see how her life has turned out. And if there are second chances in this world, I just might change my ways, in order to let her know how much I’ve always loved her.
Karen Campbell Prough’s love of the 1900’s fuels her stories of a bygone era. She is the author of short stories as well as a series of three books,
which include: The Girl Called Ella Dessa, Within the Candle’s Glow, and With This Peace. She and her husband live in Florida, near the beautiful Peace River–
the setting for With This Peace.