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Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Starry Night


When a babe was to be born anywhere for miles around, she was there. Sometimes she was the lone attendant, and again she helped Dr. Taylor, who had been in the valley from the beginning; and more than once she worked with some young doctor who was so panicky because the baby didn't hurry that she would have to tell him to keep his feet on the ground, and that millions of babies had been born before a doctor or a medical college had ever been discovered. One night at midnight she waked up one of the boys, and told him that his father was out saddling the pony, and that he must go for Dr. Woods, who lived about five miles to the west. The boy finally wakened up and got his clothes on, and found that she was just ready to leave with a neighbor for his home, and that someone must go for the doctor. The pony had been saddled by that time, and was tied with a heavy rope to a tree near the door. The boy put on plenty of clothes and then mounted the pony, while his father held the little beast to keep him from standing on his head. The father pointed to the seven stars then showing up in the southern sky and told the boy to keep them to his left and to ride until he had crossed the railroad, and then go up to the first house and yell until someone came out so that he could inquire for the home of Dr. Woods. The directions being given, the pony was untied and turned loose, with the end of the rope fastened to the horn of the saddle.
Tales and Trails of Wakarusa
by A.M. Harvey

My favorite pieces of research material often come from tales written in and around the era I'm writing. The accounts told by the people who walked the Kansas prairies and breathed her air during her beginnings are priceless treasures, especially to someone like me who didn't grow up appreciating the history in my own backyard.

But this post isn't necessarily about Kansas history, it's about a tiny piece of treasure I found within the pages of one of those books. A treasure that could have been found in any book written from any where in the world.

Shortly after I read this little passage, I carried my happy determined-self outside. You see, I grew up under the canopy of city lights. I couldn't imagine navigating my way through the streets using the stars not to mention navigating miles through wooded terrain without a compass.

It took a trip out to the countryside before I fully understoond the idea of using the stars for navigation. Oh, I know men have been using the stars for travel for thousands of years. I'm sure many of us have read similar accounts of sailors sailing acrossed vast bodies of waters, but most of them had some sort of navigational tool. This child didn't carry a compass. He relied on his eyes and the instructions of his father.

Have you ever found a hidden treasure during your research? Care to share?

If you'd like to explore Tails and Trails of Wakarusa click here.

And don't forget Seduced by History blog is giving away a free Hearts Through History Campus Workshop to one lucky June commenter.  So, be sure and leave a comment.

You can visit me at http://www.reneelynnscott.com/ or at http://christinarich.wordpress.com/

20 comments:

Anastasia St. James said...

I can get lost in history. It is, in fact, a draw back because research once began is deuce hard to draw to a close. :)

Great passage, Christina! Tks for sharing it.

Brynna said...

I love pieces like this, not just the history but the aspects of nature. We get too caught up in our mechanized world sometimes. :)

For those of you who love history, I'd recommend a great book--historical fiction (and not a romance, though the title sounds like it). Based on a real AND exceptional woman. It's called Love is a Wild Assault. Author's last name is Hamilton.

Great blog, Christina. :)

Renee said...

I think research is my favorite part of writing. *g*

Renee said...

Brynna, thank you for the recommendation. I'll have to check it out.

Angelyn said...

Great post. Stars are just one aspect of the historical landscape that still remain years and centuries later. It's fun to go to places featured in books you've read and find they are exactly as portrayed. Like the little spring behind Fort Parker from the Texas frontier stories of Cynthia Ann Parker. Even more fun to write using real landmarks. Thanks!

Renee said...

Angelyn, I couldn't agree more. In one excerpt they speak of a stone bridge. That bridge is still standing. I know I have pictures of it somewhere. I'll have to post it. The story of the men who built are an interesting lot too.

Anna Kathryn Lanier said...

I love books based on diaries and letters. I have several books on my shelf that are real diaries or fiction base on them. Thanks for sharing this passage, that reminds us how people found their way before google maps....lol.

Barbara said...

I agree that research can be so addicting, I hate to stop sometimes. Hidden gems, as you point out, are wonderful prizes we're often rewarded in the process. Thanks for sharing this.

Renee said...

Anna, I picked up a few similar books over the weekend at our libraries $5.00 bag sale. One of them is an account from a doctor living in the 1800s. I really can't wait to get into that one since my next book involves medicine.

Renee said...

Barbara, thank you for stopping by.

Michelle Muse said...

I have a hard enough time when people tell me to turn "east" or "west". I'm like-uh, no. Left or right. I can't even imagine trying to navigate by the stars. I guess it's what you are used to though. This is beautiful and enlightening. Thanks for sharing!!

J K Maze said...

I enjoyed reading this post, especially since I recently discovered something when doing research. Because of a Scottish/Viking class and a family name, I researched and found there was an Earl of Orkeny in the medieval times with my grandfather's first name, also around 800-900, a lady pirate with my mother's name. Because of that, I've put a lady pirate in my WIP.

Joan

Renee said...

Michelle, I'm so unobservant I'd never be able to listen to directions like the 4th house down three rights and a left. My navigational skills tend toward the nearest Taco Bell, or at least they used to until I could no longer eat there.

Paty Jager said...

Great post! I use little tidbits I find when doing research. I like to throw in trivial things that interest me.

Renee said...

Joan! That is awesome!!! I have found all kinds of interesting stories of my ancestors, but I'd be over the moon fersur if I had come across the kind of research.

Renee said...

Paty, thank you for stopping by. I'd love to read one of your books.

Vonnie Davis said...

Great post. Finding books written in the language of the time are priceless.

Renee said...

Thank you for stopping by, Vonnie.

Angelique Armae said...

I love doing research for my novels. It's easy to get lost in a favorite time period. For me it's the 18th century and Regency. I can spend hours researching the great houses and the beautiful clothing.

Renee said...

Angelique, I think Regency is one of the most interesting time periods ever, but I could never write the era. I'm sure the purists would have my head on a chopping block after the opening line. ;)