Black River

William Ramon Daugherty, University of Texas at El Paso


For many young parents, what it means to raise a child successfully eludes them to the point of frustration. They might feel at some point they’ve “cracked the code,” so to speak, when they reach some epiphany about how their own child behaves and reacts, the euphoria short-lived when their child befuddles them yet again. Parenting seems to be a living organism in which the parent, child, and parent-child relationship all grow and change simultaneously, the end goal not really an end goal at all, but a series of smaller goals, goals that enact a relationship of understanding and empathy, but not until after the parent learns to reject approaches of domination, control, or ownership. Parenting then isn’t really specific to parents. It’s not really a search for what good parenting is, but what humanity is. What is it that makes us human? I suspect a working answer lies in my understanding that I, each of the systems in which I participate, and each of the relationships I cultivate, are living organisms subject to consistent change. Humanity isn’t a condition then, but a navigation of a process. My thesis project, Black River, is a novel in stories about Tom, a cynical, self-hating ex-musician turned thief, who stumbles upon Janie, an orphaned young girl abandoned in a home from which Tom steals, and he feels obligated to take her for the sake of her own survival. At the time Tom finds Janie, he is in a somewhat dormant state of mourning over his own daughter, Charlie, now several years deceased. Tom and Janie’s story is told through many interconnected short pieces, and these are punctuated by additional stories about characters outside the novel's main story. The chapters that involve Tom and Janie are each a snapshot of moments on their journey north from the Las Cruces, New Mexico farming valley up Interstate 25 to Ft. Collins, Colorado where Tom’s mother lives. As a whole, the novel is thinking about parenting, some definition of humanity, and what it means to care for anything or anyone. I understand my novel to function at its core according to a mirroring of its themes and its structure. That is, the themes, parenting and a search for humanity, move in the same way the novel’s structure does, which meanders nonlinearly for a while, finds unity or understanding at a later point, and then attempts to build upon that unity. Part One recounts Tom and Janie’s path through New Mexico, the stories jumping forward and backward through time, recalling the disjointed learning process through which parents struggle. Part Two begins at the southern border of Colorado and follows a linear path northward up I-25 after Tom learns better how to reenter society after having been a loner for several years, and after he better understands his role as a caretaker for Janie.

Subject Area

Creative writing

Recommended Citation

Daugherty, William Ramon, "Black River" (2019). ETD Collection for University of Texas, El Paso. AAI13863542.