Since the late 1980s my path has led into the past. Not so much that I’d want to live there. I’d hate running to the outhouse, freezing my buns off at night when the fire went out, reading by lamplight or worse candlelight. I’d love riding horses, but not in the rain or a blizzard. Living in the country suits me really fine as long as I have the modern conveniences. The path that led me into the past was in my mind.
I began to interview people and write the stories their fathers and grandfathers had passed down to them. Each time I wrote one of those stories for my historical newspaper column, I journeyed into that story and lived it, just as I’d lived the stories my dad told when I was a kid. After writing a few nonfiction historical books and tons of columns, and articles for anthologies, I wrote an historical Western, and I was hooked. To sell that Western, it became a romance. Women don’t make good Western heroes, I was told.
Many years later, with nine Westerns under my belt, all but one of them historical, I’m as much in love with the past as I ever was. The outlaws and lawmen and ranchers fascinate me, as do the women who put up with them. I can’t help it.
Then a couple of years ago, I put together a lot of those interviews, went out and found some more, gathered loads of old photos and took some new ones of my own and was fortunate enough to find a publisher when I attended the Women Writing the West Conference in San Antonio, Texas. I spent another summer with hubby driving the wheels off my car to get more interviews, take more pictures and we ended up with a book about four counties in the Boston Mountains filled with stories and photos. It’s never been enough for me, whether writing fiction or nonfiction, to just tell about a thing that happened. What I have to do is tell the stories of those folks involved in that happening.
And that’s the book we came up with. The Boston Mountains: Lost In The Ozarks published by Old American Publishing. A fine long reach from my first, a little short book consisting of a double handful of interviews and some essays on my efforts to meet and talk to the people and get their unique stories. It was called Wandering In The Shadows of Time: An Ozarks Odyssey published by Seven Oaks Press. I met a couple who’d been married 75 years and lived deep in the Ozarks in the same house all that time; a man who said he was the first baby born to the Ft. Sill (Geronimo) Apaches after they were sent back to Oklahoma from Florida; I met women whose tales of growing up in the wilds of the Ozarks sent shivers up my spine.
I still have a drawer filled with unpublished interviews, letters, old newspaper articles, all relating to the past. My past and yours. If I live to be 150 and write every day I won’t be able to tell them all. My own family’s history is yet to be told in its entirety.
Recently I was invited to write my mother’s story because I mentioned on Facebook that she was a “Rosie the Riveter.” The book Proud to Be: Writing by American Warriors, came out a few months ago, sponsored by the Missouri Humanities Council, the Warriors Arts Alliance and Southeast Missouri State University with my mom and dad’s story of their service during WW II. It’s filled with stories of men and women, warriors all. This made me doubly aware that I should be doing more to record my own family’s history.
This blog has seemed to have no purpose, my postings scattered through all kinds of subject matter, so I’ve come to the decision that it would best serve both myself and my readers if I used it to record a lot of the history that I’ll never have time to write about otherwise. So I hope you’ll all tune in each week to see what sort of adventures you’ll find here. Tales out of the past about people who really lived written by someone who’s experienced at this sort of story telling. I’ll try to keep everyone entertained.
Oh, and I have lots of pictures as well. Just to whet your appetite, I’m sharing a couple here you might like if you enjoy journeying into the past once in a while.