Tattered Past

Tattered Past: My ongoing journey through genealogy, history, writing, self-exploration and art. ~~~ Rita Ackerman

Wednesday, April 23, 2014

T is for Travel and Tramp

One of my all-time favorite authors is Elizabeth George. She writes a series of thrillers set in England along with short stories and a new young adult series.

Her book on writing Write Away: One Novelist's Approach to Fiction and the Writing Life is fantastic. I especially liked how she described her process for the description of the scenes she uses so expertly in her novels.

Ms. George describes her research technique as "travel and tramp." She travels to England and drives around until she finds a scene that catches her eye. (I know, we all wish we could do that.) She gets out and walks the area and describes everything she sees, feels, smells, hears and perhaps even tastes. She returns to her hotel and transcribes the recordings for that day. Yes, she is dedicated and that is why she can travel to another country to do research.

For the rest of us we can do the next best thing. The smells, tastes and sounds of a local coffee shop can help bring a similar shop in England to life. Traveling the highway that follows the Oregon Trail route can help us describe what the people who migrated along that trail saw and felt.

Travel and tramp is also important to family history. This house was built by my great, great grandfather, John Riley Keith. He made the blocks and built the house probably with help from sons and nephews.

It is still known as the "Keith House."
These are my grandparents and one of my uncles to the side of the house.

This is the house when my daughter and I visited in 1990. By then it was a rental and in very sad repair. Holes in walls, torn wallpaper and filth everywhere. I couldn't bring myself to take photographs but the renter did take us on a tour of the house. I climbed the narrow stairs and saw the pass-through from the kitchen to the dining area. The bathroom that had been converted from an upstairs bedroom. 

On the same trip we visited "Keith Canyon" a few miles away. This was part of one of the dugouts. 

Who would think of hills like this in Kansas. Homes, barns and corrals were all built into these hills. 

Nearby was the site of Cash City.

 Now a pasture. The buildings were moved or torn down for other uses. I stood out there on the prairie and listened to the wind, heard the grasses waving and the creak of the windmill. We found bits of metal and pottery. I could look out to the same horizon and wonder about the hopes and dreams my ancestors brought with them from the East.