Tattered Past

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

Wednesday, May 28, 2014


Yesterday I went out to the Desert Foothills Library in Cave Creek. 
When I got out of my car there was a bobcat walking along the sidewalk right in front of me.
I followed him around to the patio and watched him catch a snake and have his breakfast.
This is the sequence of photos with cropped and enlarged versions in Set II.

Set I.

Set II.

I posted a couple of these on FB last night and everybody loved them so much I thought I share here so people can see them better. It was an amazing thing to watch even with the snake. Just like Indiana Jones

Tuesday, May 27, 2014


I love finding little hidden places wherever I go. Sometimes they are full-size like the 
Snow White wishing well at Disneyland. Quiet little places that few people stop and 
take the time to really enjoy. 

I do this when I travel and even near home.

When I was small I had a couple of "secret places" I would ride my bike to and just
 be by myself. Perhaps I wrote stories in my head, or imagined I was living in a 
different era with no cars or buildings. 

One magical place is the park around Tumwater Falls in Tumwater, Washington.
Here's my hubby and I in front of the falls a few years ago. 

The trail follows the little canyon along the river and there are all kinds of little places 
just full of  magic. I can picture little people, or perhaps fairies, or whatever, 
going about their business among the rocks, plants and tiny waterfalls. 

Sometimes just a fallen tree or a system of roots offer a perfect living space for my 
imaginary friends.

I've obviously never outgrown the magic of being a child in my imagination. 

Do you have magical places you can visit? Do they bring a sense of childish charm?
Do you  imagine being an inhabitant of that place? Do stories emerge?

Write about one of your magic places; either from a childhood memory or something more
recent. If you don't have such places go looking for them. A patio, a quiet corner of a park,
a garden, a library nook. Find your quiet places and escape into your own imagination.

Tuesday, May 20, 2014


 Facebook has been full of proud family photos of graduations. Many of my friends have children and grandchildren graduating from various levels of education.

I remember my sister's graduation from Great Bend High School in 1961. She looked so regal in her white gown and I was so proud.

 Betty didn't go on to get a higher education. That was her only graduation.

 I was only 7 or 8

I did go on to college but the funny part is I had other graduations. Mom and I moved to Arizona in the spring of 1967 and I had to go back to grade school after two years in junior high. The school I went to had a regular graduation with gowns and everything. I don't have any of those photos handy. Nor do I have any of my high school graduation photos handy. 

This is from community college. That was a good two years and I graduated with honors and as a member of Phi Theta Kappa. Then I went on to ASU and another graduation.

Proud moments. Each one has a special memory. What are some of your graduation memories? Or perhaps a memory from somebody else's graduation. 

The community college photo was taken on the balcony of the apartment I shared with a friend from high school. We had fun times especially when the kid below us blasted his stereo and we would jump on the floor to try to get him to stop. He later told me that he could tell when we were REALLY mad because the chandelier would get to swaying. 

Okay, not exactly a graduation memory but that's the way it goes. One memory leads to another. 

Tuesday, May 13, 2014

Life Times

The last couple of weeks I've given two talks about research for writers. Many paths have brought me to the place of being able to do this. Thirty-five years as a genealogist and twenty-four as a professional, research and writing for various western history publications, my own book and years of doing it all.

As I'm telling a bit about myself I talk about the nine years I spent actively involved in a group of authors, historians, aficionados, and others who met every year for a major to-do in southern Arizona. Of course that brought up lots of memories; but also a lot of thoughts about how my life has gone through phases.

Of course, I have my childhood days, my teen years, my college days, my early marriage, raising a family and becoming a grandma. But there's also the years I was involved in a church, the years as a Girl Scout leader, volunteering at my daughter's grade school, various clubs and organizations. Most of those have completely different people involved and sometimes I have to think a bit when I remember somebody or worse when I run in to somebody.

Who is this? Where do I know them from?  I wonder if they know what happened to so-and-so who it turns out was from a completely different time in my life. Sound familiar?

One of the eras for me was that nine years of Western History Advocates. I met so many wonderful people, many who have become steadfast friends. I met authors, actors, historians, collectors and just every day folk who are in love with the Old West. I thought I would share a few of my memories.

Bill O'Neal who has authored numerous books on Texas and Arizona. At one of the earlier meetings he commented about the magic of Tombstone and the sound of boots on the boardwalk. 
He once called me to comment on an article I wrote for the Tombstone Times. What an honor.

Allen Hatley who has a number of books about Texas history to his name. He came across as 
kind of a grouch but I'm proud to say we became friends. He has since passed away.

The members of one of the panels.
Michael M. Hickey, author, publisher and host for all these events; Lee Silva, author of two mega books about Wyatt Earp and writer for various publications; Ben T. Traywick, retired Tombstone historian and author of numerous books and articles; Terry "Ike" Clanton, relative of the famous Clantons and advocate of all things Tombstone; Steve Gatto, author. 
Tim Fattig, re-enactor in Tombstone and author of a book on Wyatt Earp and numerous articles; Bill O'Neal; Lee Zigler, author, writer and historian.
Michael M. Hickey's company published my book on the death of Ike Clanton. He has since passed away.

Marshall Trimball, Arizona Historian and author of numerous books on the state of Arizona.

Jan Deveroux and Bob Alexander. Both are authors, speakers and just plain great people.

Richard Lapidas, author; Michael M. Hickey and Terry "Ike" Clanton.

My husband and I getting in the middle of things.
Don't you just love those black suits and string ties?

Moosad Ayoob, author, gun specialist and columnist for the Handgunner magazine.

Leon Metz, much admired history author who wrote the introduction for my book and 
Jeff Richardson who has written many articles about the history of Phoenix.

Dakota Livesay, speaker and editor of the Chronicles of the Old West journal.

I still run in to many of these people or we stay in touch via phone or internet. They have meant a great deal to me and there are special memories to go with each one. 

What phases have you gone through during your life? Are you still in touch with those people? What special memories do you have of them? Write about those phases and how each one changed you.

Tuesday, May 6, 2014

Research and Memoirs

 Last Friday was my talk at the Desert Foothills Library in Cave Creek, Arizona. It went well even with the butterflies and bees buzzing in my stomach.

When I started I asked those present to tell me what kinds of things they are interested in writing. Memoir was the most common answer. I know at least a couple of people in the group are also doing their genealogy.

I'm sure there are all kinds of psychological reasons for the popularity of these two endeavors. I know I started my genealogy, in part, because I never knew my dad or his side of the family. Then I was just plain addicted to the research and finding more and more information.

Writing my memoirs is also, in part, to answer questions of what happened during some of the times I have blacked out in my life. Also to let my daughter and grandchildren know what my life was like.

Both endeavors, and writing in general, require research. A scary word to many. Historical fiction author, James Alexander Thom wrote, "Anything that supplies facts, expands your mind, and enriches your soul will likely make you a better novelist (or any kind of writer) in your own time, and that qualifies it as research."

I then asked those present how many had visited the Musical Instrument Museum in north Phoenix. Almost everybody. I pointed out that not only is that an amazing place but it is full of things to enhance their writing.

One area was made up to look like a Victorian parlor with instruments and information about what was popular and even how much they cost.

I wanted to sit right down and write about all the details but instead I took a lot of pictures.

 I'm not musically oriented and didn't know there were square pianos. For some reason I thought anything that wasn't an upright or grand piano was a different instrument like a harpsichord or something. I won't get this wrong if I ever put it in a story.

I was most fascinated by the Grand Harmonicon or display and stand for glasses. I didn't look to see if there was a line for how much water to put in each one or even if they needed water. Perhaps the glasses were just different sizes or thicknesses. 

A little bit of research tells me that the glasses were harmonized and played by rubbing the rims with moistened fingertips. Now I have a vision of a vaudeville type act; a man in pressed pants and bow tie standing on a stage and playing "God Bless America" on his travelling harmonicon. 

The beginnings of a story. Or an idea for a memoir of playing water filled glasses as a child or even trying to make sounds with glasses by rubbing the rims. 

The world is full of so many things and all it takes is to stop and consider or remember and then start writing. 

Write about making instruments from things at home or school.

Write about watching somebody play an unusual instrument.