MUSEUMS AND WRITING PART 1

Writers are often asked: “Where do you get your ideas from?”  The answers are myriad: from my imagination; news clips; bits of over-heard conversation; family stories/characters; biographical/historical/political/philosophical tidbits shared; or “I dunno.”   When asked, I have a ready answer for the setting of the Huachuca Trilogy:  “…from visiting and falling in love with the area and from one-liners told by my brother-in-law over a New Year’s Eve fire about his Grandmother Josephine.”

Other questions will center on research: when, where, and how much? I use many tools in researching material: books, the internet, old photos or news stories, interviews and travel. To be in the place has meant travel to Chicago and west across the plains and mountains; time spent in the San Pedro River Valley with Bisbee and Tombstone to the east and the Huachucas to the west; walking the streets of El Paso, Albany, San Francisco and Los Angeles; calling on memories of feelings, experiences and relationships.

One of my favorite methods is to visit museums where I have learned about local characters; clothing, tools and utensils in use at the time; learned about the geology of the area or absorbed quotes from the diaries, letters or notes of those before me.  In my second or third visit to the Bisbee Mining and Historical Museum, I came upon an amazing exhibit on 19th century farming life. In bold display was a story of the original Josephine as she stopped a Model T from running off with her friend’s children. The 1925 tale is found in HUACHUCA WOMAN, the chapter on Annaliese, The Matron of Bisbee:

“” I was holding Howie, asleep on my shoulder, a sure cure for anyone’s blues.

“Jo, the brakes are gone. I can’t slow her down.”

Quick as that, I shoved Howie to the floorboards and he didn’t even stir. Don’t know what I thought I could do but, with that precious carload of life yet to be lived, I had to do something. I threw open the door and skidded my heels along the roadway, digging my back into the Ford. All the while, I was yelling at Anna, “throw her into reverse, cut the engine.”  The kids held on hard, squealing as we slid down that rocky road.

“Aunt Jo, make it stop!” from Bruce

“I’m scared, Mama!” from Utah.

And, “Help, help!” from Vicky and Franny, a frantic duo.

“Anna, head for that ironwood tree!” I gasped. It surely seemed a long, long while before that machine gave up the fight. We were slowing and the ground was taking a slight upsurge, enough to bring us to a grinding stop against the old tree. In the end, my shoes wore out, my feet and back were all scraped up, but I wasn’t feeling no pain, yet.

“Rah, rah, for Aunty Jo,” a chorus of my favorite little ones let out.

“Oh, Jo, you are my hero, our hero,” from Annaliese. “Let me see your poor feet.”  I’d barely managed to hobble away from the car when the pain took over.  ”

Do museums bring out stories for you?

Does your imagination go to work envisioning a time and life?

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