Writing Life Stories Session III
May 19, 2015
We had a couple newcomers to Session III and we welcome them wholeheartedly. There’s always so much we don’t have time for, even though each session lasts two hours.
This week I spoke about the relationship we build with our readers. How do we connect with them? We allow them to share what we’ve experienced by taking them with us, taking care to show, and not tell. Isn’t it strange that we, as writers, best tell our tales by showing and not telling?
To some readers, it might sound strange for me to discuss writing techniques in a Life Stories class. However, this is a Life Stories class, not a just the bare-boned facts about my life class. In my honest opinion, it is imperative that those leaving a written legacy to generations in the distant future take care to make their stories interesting, educational, engaging, and entertaining. Let readers get to know you, those around you, and the times in which you lived. What was your life really like? Who were you at different stages of your life?
Once again, I read the story told to RamBlyn Rose by the Happy Camper to illustrate how recorded lives transcend time. Here it is:
Standing in the Middle of Time
As told by the Happy Camper to RamBlyn Rose
First published in Backwoods Folklore Volume 1
Once upon a time ago, as the Happy Camper hiked along Jimmy Come Lately Creek by way of a fresh deer trail, he spotted an old overgrown road. It ran up the western side hill and appeared mighty inviting. He decided to explore it a ways.
Well, one curve ran into another and before long, he had traversed further than he originally intended.
Eventually, the thick underbrush began to thin and not too far after that was what at one time must have been a clearing. He spotted a rusted ax stuck into an old moss covered stump and various and sundry other farming implements of great antiquity spread about. Through the second-growth timber, he discerned a small pathway and followed it through draping moss and four-foot ferns. The path stopped in front of an ancient, seemingly abandoned, homestead cabin.
“It was an eerie feeling walking up to that place. Everything was left in its place as if someone just sat it all down, expecting to return to the tasks shortly. Everything was covered in moss, cobwebs, and rust. The door to the old log cabin stood open, daring me to enter.”
The Happy Camper is by nature, intrigued by things hidden and unknown. He would have to investigate. His eyes sparkle as he continues. “A thrill envelops you when you come across something long lost and hidden. You become highly sensitive of your surroundings. It hits you that there is a past, present and future and that now, you are standing in the middle of time. Of course, we always are but; often times we run on a type of automatic mode.”
The last rays of the late morning sun drifted lazily down through the forest canopy, highlighting the entryway. The Happy Camper knew it was ridiculous but; “I was tempted to knock on the door before stepping inside. Still, it seemed some sort of announcement was in order so, I cleared my throat. That made it right, somehow. So, I walked inside and looked around. I was overwhelmed. Plates were stacked on shelves and everything was here.
“On a thick old plank board was a dust-covered book; I picked it up and gently dusted it off to discover it was the diary of the man who lived here nearly one hundred years ago. I sat down on the plank board, still sturdy after all the years, and flipped through the pages of the diary. I read the last entry the man made. He’d planned to go into town for some provisions, and judging by the looks of this place, he never returned.”
The Happy Camper showed me the diary. We looked up what the author’s day had been like on July 15, 1895. It had been cloudy, just like today; this July 15, 1993 is for us. The Happy Camper let me read on a bit.
What ever happened to this author of long ago? The Happy Camper spent long hours researching old archives in the library and County Court House but never found mention or record of his homesteader friend. Yes, I say friend, because they have established a relationship, after all. Kind of. Well, maybe acquaintance is a better word but I trust you understand. Whatever. The mystery remains.
Maybe he had gone into the town tavern for a drink and was hit over the head and shanghaied out to serve on a merchant schooner. Or, as Sweet Lucy from town told me, “There were bodies found buried beneath the counter of that old tavern (the old Sundowner,) when it was being remodeled years ago. Back then the police figured those skeletal remains were those of men the Shanghai’s hit on the head too hard. You know, they’d hit ’em on the head with a belly club or cane handle or pistol butt and kidnap ’em to sea. Maybe your missing homesteader is one of those skeletons.”
The Happy Camper has his own theory. “I feel that the guy fully intended to come home after a very short trip into town. We got to remember, town was a good distance away, approximately twenty miles. I just got the feeling that maybe he went to pick up a mail order bride.”
I was intrigued as to how the Happy Camper came to his conclusion. He said, “There was never any mention of a woman in his diary but; men don’t normally stack their nice plates on special plate shelves, as he had. It was like he was fixing the place up because he expected some female company. The sadness is in the fact that there is no official record of his existence—only what I’m holding right here in my hands. Did anyone know he was missing? Did he pick up his bride? Did cougars, or a mad bear, or outlaws ambush them on their way home? If he picked her up, there are two people missing.”
Perhaps you will find them.
Memory Triggers for this week
• Trail names
• Outdoor Ed.
• The future
• Big to small
• Twin Bridges, Montana
• Sleeping with potatoes
• Letters lost in snowbanks during blizzard
• Fence down surrounded by sheep
Have a great week!