My brother, his wife Marian, and I took our fifth road trip to gather family history, sifting through county records and newspaper archives – finding local articles, and deeds. We made Marian come as she has a sense of direction.
In the past four years we’ve explored the Sacramento Valley, the gold country of Northern California, the cemeteries of Southern California, and our father’s family farm in Minnesota – visiting cousins and taking pictures of homesteads and headstones. Our latest three-week excursion covered 5,000 miles on a 4,500-mile foray. We drove through Nevada, a corner of Arizona, the Rockies of Colorado, the expanse of Wyoming, and the flatlands of Montana. The extra 500 miles we spent heading off into the wild blue yonder. Gordon won’t look at a map so he makes Marian, but when she tells him which way to go he doesn’t believe her. I can’t read a map and get carsick if I take my eyes off the horizon so I stay out of it.
He says, “I didn’t know you were religious.” I say, “Only when you’re driving.”
We returned home a day early, every empty space in their no longer new hybrid littered with crumbs and stuffed with stacks of information. Was our trip a success? You betcha! Did we find everything we were looking for? No, but enough to satisfy us until the next journey. We discovered pictures, a hundred newspaper articles, and books that others had written about the family. However, we also discovered the best legends WEREN’T EVEN TRUE!
Grandpa didn’t gamble away the ranch. They never owned a ranch. And if they had owned a ranch, it wouldn’t have been worth $150,000. Hell, in 1915, you could’ve bought the whole godforsaken state of Montana for $150,000. They were giving land to homesteaders – why would anyone pay for it? And not only was J.S. Hoy not castrated for sleeping with a med student’s wife (turns out he had mumps as a baby), Henrietta Wilcox didn’t poison him either. Truth – the downside of research. The most interesting legends turn out to be just that. Legends. That’s why I titled our history Lore, Libel, and Lies – so I could leave them in.
Catherine Sevenau is a local writer, humorist, and storyteller. Her third book, Through Any Given Door, a Family Memoir is available now as a free web series at Sevenau.com. Catherine, a longtime Realtor and Owner/Broker at CENTURY 21 Wine Country, can be reached at [email protected]