Friday, October 10, 2008

What Got Me Started?

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.

Linda Carroll-Bradd


Celia Yeary said...

This made me laugh--There were three of us girls, and we traveled from Texas to California more than once to visit Mother's relatives.First trip was in am old 1940 Ford--with the "hump" in the middle of the floor in the back seat. Since I was the middle daughter, I always had to sit in the middle, on the hump--it's still like that today--I'm always stuck in the middle.We had no air conditioning, kept a canvas water bag tied to the front of the radiator, and drove through New Mexico, Arizona, and on to points in California--during July. I remember the first mountains I'd ever seen, and I begged and cried until my mother made my older sister trade places with me, so I could stick my head out the window to take it all in--my sisters didn't seem to be mesmerized by the sight, anyway. Yes, like you, it gave me a taste of the "Wild West"--and some of the places and memories are now in stories I write. Very nice post, Linda.

unwriter said...

Good thoughts. We used to visit a lot of cememtaries around the state when I was a kid. There could be a million stories there.

Paty Jager said...

Oh, I love walking through cemeteries and wondering about the people who are buried there. And I find great names there too.

The places off the beaten track or ghosts towns are what really make my creative brain start working.

Great post!

Lauri said...

I posted earlier, but for some reason it disapeared! So, I'm trying again....

I too love old cemeteries, and am always amazed by the big headstones from the 1700 and 1800's--how did they set them with only a horse and wagon?

Once we rented a jeep and spent two days visiting ghost towns in Colorado. Our three grown sons still say it was one of the best family vacations.

Fun post.

Kathy Otten said...

When I was younger my brothers and I used to explored the ruins of forts along Lake Champlain. In Crown Point, NY is an old stone fort with a large flat rock flush with the grass in what we assumed were the parade grounds of the fort. The rock is covered with carved graffiti of the soldiers who onced lazed around on their off duty hours. There are names, dates and pictures. One particularly artistic man carved a large cannon in the center of the rock. I've always wondered about him, some British soldier, far from home. Who was he and did he survive the Revolutionary War? It sort of blows my mind that over two hundred years later this anonomous person is long gone but that tiny piece of him is still there.

Tanya Hanson said...

Hi Linda,
Oh, old cemeteries are a favorite haunt of mine (pun intended.) My college town's was a great place to make "rubbings" of headstones for art class. I love the stories headstones family lost all their kids to dipheria in just a couple of days. Sigh.

Last year about this time, we visited "Authors Ridge" at Sleepy Hollow Cemetery in Concord MA where I got to "visit" with some of my favorite authors, Alcott, Emerson, Thoreau, and Hawthorne.

And I absolutely adore Virginia City!

Thanks for the wonderful post.