Although I never realized this fact at the time, my father created my love of historicals. The summer I was eleven, my family drove from northern California to southern Illinois for a family reunion. Three girls in the back seat of a dome-backed Volvo, Mom as a co-pilot (a non-driver who struggled with maps) and Dad who was determined we made 500 miles a day. He'd chosen the fastest and least scenic route to drive east but on our drive home, we took the time to explore and wandered off of Route 66.
Dad took us through ghost towns and historic places (someplace in Kansas famous for the cattle drives; Virginia City, NV; Pikes Peak, CO; we saw wagon ruts in the prairie; stood on the battlefield where Custer had his last stand). But what I remember most were quiet walks through old, old cemeteries he'd find alongside a rural route. My sisters and Mom lost interest after the first two or three locations, but I liked to listen as he read the gravestones and pointed out several dates grouped close together. The guesses he made about what might have happened to cause the deaths of babies, children and adults wove a bundle of 'what if's' through my head. Had illness struck them down? A storm that cut off their supplies? An attack by Indians? The possibilities were hard to understand when related to my everyday life in the suburbs, but the experience sparked an interest in history and especially the frontier west.
Next time you're driving through an area with a couple small towns and have an hour to spare, visit a cemetery and see if a story doesn't wind around you from what you read on the etched headstones, plaques and monuments.