April 02, 2006

Writing an article for the Journal Of Big Bend Studies

Last Friday, I submitted an article for the Journal of Big Bend Studies on the Ore Terminal. It's published by the Center for Big Bend Studies at Sul Ross University in Alpine, TX. It should be included in the next issue, which I believe is summer or fall '06. If you've read through this website, then you'll have a pretty good idea of what's in the article, although the article is a nice, succinct, academic history.

It's a brief history of the Ore Terminal and a first attempt to correctly outline the events in the life of Moser and the Del Carmen Company. I cover up to Moser's death in 1915 and then the Glenn Springs Raid in 1916. More still needs to be done, but it's a good start at clarifying the history. One of the things I learned at the Center for Big Bend Studies' annual conference last November is that a surprising amount of history is written by amateurs, that is, people who work in other fields and find an interesting project.

I recently spoke with Farmer Jennings' daughter to let her know about the article. She once again confirmed that Jennings' experience with the Del Carmen Company did not leave a big impression on him, mainly because he was a cattleman. Still, his memoirs are valuable and interesting. Other relatives of his have described him as a "real character".

I've found that as I'm able to delve more into the people of the time, they are real characters. For example, in speaking with Aimee's son from her second marriage, Aimee sounds like a fascinating lady. She was the first to ride on the ore buckets. She braved a brush with Pancho Villa. She was strong, humble, and well-liked. But, unfortunately, Aimee's son will not give me permission to publish much about her or her father, Louis Lyon, Moser's partner.

Even Aimee's son sounds like a real character. He told me that when he was in his early 20's, which I suppose is the mid 1940's, he was a cowboy in Chihuahua.

It's interesting, interviewing descendents is almost like ethnography. The simplistic view is that once I'm able to track them down, to connect them with history, then interviewing them should be easy, because in contrast, finding them was so hard. If only that were true. Because these are family stories, I sometimes run into the two headed monster of familiarity and intimacy problems.

What I mean, is on the one hand, these are family stories and they're familiar. Because they are familiar, the family members of the descendents don't feel that they are important, or hold importance beyond the family. So to them, they are not a big deal and aren't quite sure why someone outside of the family would be interested in them. However, in fact, many of the stories add color, if not hard facts, to real events; they are real history and of interest to other people as a result. Really. In my discussions with Aimee's son, he has given me new avenues to research and new ways of interpreting events. So the conversations are really valuable.

On the other hand, the stories are so familiar, they are intimate memories and as such, are held tight, not to be shared with others. So, I'm against, "I can't imagine other people would be interested in this," as well as, "I'm not going to share these because they are too private."

It's frustrating because the truth is fascinating. I was I could tell all of it. Just about everything in the article for the Journal of Big Bend Studies is backed up by documentation, so it's a good summation of how far I can get by interpreting the documents I've been able to find. However, I know there's more; I just wish I could talk about it.

Posted by Joelg at 09:40 PM | TrackBack