History is a kind of introduction to more interesting people than we can possibly meet in our restricted lives; let us not neglect the opportunity. Dexter Perkins
"I think my wife helped you with your book." That was the subject line of an email I received last week. What it had to say touched me personally. His wife, Kristi, who had helped me understand Trammell family genealogy very early on, died last year. When my book came out, a friend sent him a copy, and he said he cried a little when he realized what it was about. And I teared up a little in appreciation for him letting me know.
His note started me thinking about all of the people I've met over the years of doing this project who have also passed away. I have had the good fortune to meet people who have been pillars of the preservation of history -- people who have been incredibly influential.
I was able to speak with Mary Medearis, the sage of SW Arkansas tales and history before she died. Through an introduction by "Buffalo Ed" Talley, I was able to meet "Mr. Sam" Dickinson in Prescott, a 93 year-old who had traveled north and south America collecting primitive art and artifacts. Dr. Gordon Pettey wrote about the Smuggler's Road around Nacogdoches and was an original gadfly. Judge Jim Lovett from Red River County was an amazing legal historian and his enthusiasm for playing history detective was infectious. Gail Martin at the Southwest Arkansas Regional Archive not only knew her history, but was just the most wonderful person you could ever meet.
It wasn't just people who wrote about history whom I've met, it was people who were part of it. Henry SoRelle and his brother A.C. were part of an effort in 1958-1959 to find the Hendricks Lake treasure. Diana Waldrop Herring was the daughter of Barnie Waldrop, a Carthage TV repairman with treasure dreams of his own. She pushed the plunger to dynamite the bottom of the lake and instead of treasure only found piles of fish and snakes floating to the top.
The stories each of these told me not only contributed to the story of Trammel's Trace, but their own unique personalities became part of how I understood the stories they told. Truly, meeting people like these has been the best part of this work. It makes one realize how delicate history is in the hands of those who cherish it and pass it on, and how important it is that we receive what they offer and cherish it ourselves.
I am thankful.
And someday I'll tell the story of how I traveled to the middle of Arizona to meet an 80-year-old hard hat diver only three weeks before he died.