History and Rabbit Holes

Post by Doris McCraw

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I am a history lover. No, not the kind taught in most schools, but the history of the people, the ‘man/woman’ on the street who however small, made a difference. I also enjoy the obscure, or not so obscure. On August 7 I posted a blog about Colorado and Gemstone Mining. Yes, there is more than gold in them there hills.  For those who want to be edified, here’s the link: http://prairierosepublications.blogspot.com/2016/08/colorado-and-gemstone-mining.html

Broken Headstone, due either to age, vandals or neglect. Societies are being formed to restore these priceless pieces of history.

I also, in addition to work today, attended the Pikes Peak Posse of the Westerners inaugural ‘rendezvous’. The Westerners is an international organization of people who enjoy history. It was a chance for history lovers to get together, have a picnic and enjoy talking with other history buffs. It was held at the Historic Evergreen Cemetery Chapel and what a place to inhale history. I felt privileged as the president this year to institute this event. As our emcee, the honorable President Theodore Roosevelt said, “history does not end here, it begins here”.

Historic wooden headstone – Silvercliff, Colorado

So when I speak of ‘rabbit holes’ I am talking about finding a subject and spending the time needed to truly find all there is about it. Sometimes this can mean spending hours to find a single piece of information, or years-like the women doctors-because you don’t want the stories to die. Cemeteries are wonderful places to ‘begin history’.

Sometimes it’s as simple as finding an appropriate name for a character that is era appropriate. Maybe you’re looking for the name of a town. All of these can take you on journeys you never expected.

Store Fronts, Victor, Colorado dates indicate they were built after the fire of 1899

Writing history, whether fiction or non-fiction, is a responsibility. Too many people can make the mistake that what you see on television, in the movies or in that novel was the way it was. While some do get it correct when writing, many do not.  A story from my home town illustrates this fairly well I believe.  A farmer from the mid to late 1800’s was prejudiced. He disliked a whole group of people, but he also would hire them to work on his farm. Now, if we believed what we saw and read. this employee would be sitting outside, ostracized. That was not the case. This prejudiced farmer demanded that everyone be treated equally, with no regard to their differences. They ate at the table, mingled with the others and the family. While he was prejudiced and very vocal about it, the little detail told a different story.

So the next time you ‘grab’ onto a piece of history, go the extra mile and join me down the ‘rabbit hole’.

Angela Raines is the pen name for Doris McCraw. Doris also writes haiku posted five days a week at – http://fivesevenfivepage.blogspot.com and has now passed one thousand haiku and photos posted on this blog. Check out her other work or like her Angela Raines Amazon author page:  http://amzn.to/1I0YoeL

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18 thoughts on “History and Rabbit Holes

    1. Sarah, that story made a huge impression on me when I was younger and first heard it. As they say, it’s the little details that tell the full story. Glad you enjoyed the post. Doris


  1. Great post, Doris! Though sad, seeing the headstone/markers along the emigrant trails tells of the struggles pioneers endured to reach their dream destination. Yes, there are many stories from our history and I’m so glad you’re helping to tell them and sharing them with readers like us!


    1. Thank you Gayle. As I mentioned in my response to Joe, spending so much time in cemeteries I see more than the average public. While gravstones are sad, they are the beginnings of bringing the stories of people back to life. That is pretty important to me as a writer, and to the others who are striving to restore and preserve these pieces of the past. Doris


  2. I live the ‘rabbit hole’ concept, Doris. I also think that writing history, whether non-fiction or fiction, comes with a responsibility to be as accurate as possible in the everyday detail ( within the bounds of the work). Your group sounds fascinating and where better than a historic church to meet. If it’s anything like Scotland pre-1855, the main source of records of the population births and deaths were kept in the church vestries and extra detail was often found on the gravestones outside. (Official Government Records for Scotland began in 1855 and were afterwards centrally stored in Edinburgh.)


    1. Nancy, I so agree with you on all points about writing, history and ‘rabbit holes’. Oh to be a fly on the wall when events, and the people living them, were happening. Here’s to the ‘future’ of history and history writing. **Smile** Doris


  3. While I agree it is good to accurate to capture the complexities of a period, I’m scared of going too deep down a rabbit hole and not returning to the writing. Sometimes I’ll do research first or simultaneously, but I also (and often) write the scene first and then research later to make sure it is correct. It helps to keep me focused where I might not otherwise be. (Also, I think I read that E.L. Doctorow wrote this way which boggles my mind.) History is great, there is so much we can learn from it and hopefully see what’s happening today or in our future. Also congrats on your Presidency in the Pike’s Peak Posse. I hope it wasn’t a nasty campaign. 🙂


    1. Travis, I do both. Sometimes I write the scene or story and sometimes I do the research. However, time limits are wonderful when researching and writing. I get more done that way.
      So far the Presidency has been pretty smooth, they do as I suggest. **GRIN**. Doris

      Liked by 1 person

  4. I definitely like being edified. When a young reporter in Central Ohio back in the mid 1970s, one of my first features was about a pioneer cemetery lost inside a dense jungle-like woods on a hilltop. Time and neglect had roughed up the gravestones. This was back before the Internet, so I took a trip to the local library’s historical section and checked out some of the names I had detected on the gravestones.


  5. Interesting post, Doris. A student once told me that World War II had nothing to do with him. If history classes focused as much on how ordinary people lived as on laws and wars, Americans would know more about the past (and the part women have played). My opinion, anyway. (Thanks to my restraint, the student left my class alive and well. 🙂


    1. Kathy, you showed more restraint than I would have. History, if ingnored can come back to bite you, and that can really hurt.
      I once had an audience member, when I was portraying a fictional historic character to better tell the story, tell me “if history had been taught this way, I’d have learned so much more”. That made my day and let me know I was on the right track in sharing my passion for the people and stories of the past. Thank you for sharing your story. Doris


  6. Even if you’re not writing about history, being accurate is important. I hate when I read something in a story (or see on TV) that I know is wrong. For me, sometimes rabbit holes are fascinating and other times frustrating. “Why can’t I find what I need?”
    Fun post.


    1. Kate, Those rabbit holes are double edged swords. I also agree, being accurate as possible is important in writing. Those ‘mistakes’ take me out of a story so fast, I can’t always get back…it haunts me. Doris


  7. I love cemeteries. There is a spirit alive that calls out to me in a cemetery. My husband and I have discovered old seemingly abandoned ones while camping, and even wandered through a very old one while on our trip in Alaska. My mind immediately conjures up a picture of the person buried there, how they died and lived. Actually I have never thought of writing while sitting in one, but it might be quite inspiring! I belong to the westerners posse in Casper. Great organization.


    1. Neva, I think we may be kindred spirits when it comes to cemeteries. Like you, they call to me and the need to find the stories can be invigorating and scary. Let me know how it goes if you spend some time writing there.

      I enjoy the Westerers a lot. If I’m up that way, it would be great to set in on one of your meetings. Doris


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