Last week I wrote on research, as I’m writing a novel set during the Civil War and even with a solid public school education and college, there is a lot about the Civil War that most of us don’t know. This week, I learned all about the Battle of Vicksburg.
When Vicksburg fell to the Union, the war was essentially over, even though it continued for a couple of years. Vicksburg was the last stronghold of the Confederacy on the Mississippi River, and so when General Grant and his troops took Jackson, Mississippi and then marched on to Vicksburg, they pretty much took control of the entire Mississippi River and already having set up strong naval positions on the east coast and in the Gulf of Mexico, the Confederacy was basically surrounded and supplies from the western Confederate states were cut off, so it was only a matter of time.
So that was fun to read about and nowadays there are all these great sites about everything that you can look at, and one leads to another and soon, you’ve spent five hours reading about what people wore in the olden days.
Interestingly, a lot of the folks who put up these Civil War sites are also involved in recreating battles of the war, which is a big industry. You can buy an authentic Civil War army tent replica, for example, and evidently a lot of those folks buy a lot of stuff. And they also seem to own a lot of guns. And red baseball caps?
This is what is amazing here, I’m getting all this great information that has been carefully and lovingly collected and assembled and put into website form by someone who probably is as different from me, politically, environmentally, financially, philosophically, as anyone could be, yet here were are with at least one common interest.
I realized that even if this person and I would end up fighting over almost everything, if we start out with our common interests, we might find that we are not so different from each other and then maybe we can talk about the difficult stuff. Maybe. Of course, if I keep going deeper and deeper into the research chain, I can end up in right wing conspiracy territory, and that stuff scares the crap out of me.
Another thing you learn when researching is that times have changed even the meaning of important places and things, in this case, video games have changed history, or how we see it, or research it, anyway.
A character in the novel I’m writing, working title An Honorable Death, is a horse trader, more precisely, he’s pretending to be a horse trader, and I needed to figure out where he would tell people he came from, so I figured a good place to sell horses might be on the Oregon Trail, maybe at the beginning of the trail. In fact, he ends up coming from a town in Kansas where the Oregon Trail splits into two trails, the Oregon and Santa Fe trails. So if I’m a horse trader, that’s where I want to be. That’s where the equine action is in 1862!
But if you Google “Oregon Trail” in 2019, all you get are references to the ground-breaking video game “Oregon Trail.” Not one thing on the first couple of pages about the real Oregon Trail, one of the most historically important routes in our country’s history. So if you want to find info on the Oregon Trail, just type “The actual Oregon Trail” in the search window, and voila! All the info you need on the Oregon Trail, and it is fascinating.
Note, however, that many educators and historians have lauded the video game for its accuracy, and they say many of our young people at the time of the game’s popularity (my kids played it incessantly for a year or so) learned quite a lot about the history of the Oregon Trail while playing that game.
Thinking about travelling in the west, I recalled a trip I took with a few pals in the summer between my junior and senior years of college. We drove an old Toyota Corolla with over 100,000 miles on it all around the Rockies, the Grand Tetons (which means big breasts, you know. Yes, that’s what the French guys who “discovered” that dramatic mountain range were thinking of after months camping out with other dudes), and camped in Colorado, Utah, Wyoming, and other states. The natural beauty and wonder of this country is amazing.
In one place, in Wyoming, we heard there was a natural hot springs off some small road somewhere. Not an official park site or anything. We liked adventure and swimming holes and other secret local water features offer some of the most fun experiences a young traveler can find. So we asked someone who lived in the area where the spring was, and got directions.
We were so excited! An actual hot mineral spring bubbling up from the earth and it would be like a large hot tub in the middle of a beautiful landscape out in Wyoming near the Tetons! So we drove and got a little lost but finally found the dirt road to the other dirt road that led to the springs. There were a few locals parked there enjoying the springs, including some pretty girls around our age! It was like heaven on earth!
So we got our shirts off and had our bathing suits on and we’re about to go in when Ken, my friend, spots a sign off the side of the road.
The sign said that it was fine to be there and to swim in the hot springs at your own risk. But, and it was a big but, we should be aware that the water is sometimes infested with liver flukes and we should be aware that this can cause health problems.
Well, there was no Google back then in 1979, but the word “liver fluke” was enough for me. Our pal Marc wanted to go in anyway, but we talked him out of it. We asked someone there what a liver fluke was, and he said some kind of parasite. Hot mineral springs and pretty girls be damned. I used to go fishing for fluke and that was fun, but liver fluke sounded disgusting.
I think we made a good decision. I googled liver fluke and here’s the gist: “A liver fluke is a parasitic worm. Infections in humans usually occur after eating contaminated raw or undercooked freshwater fish or watercress. After liver flukes have been ingested, they travel from your intestines to your bile ducts in your liver where they then live and grow.” https://www.healthline.com/health/liver-fluke
That’s kind of gross, no? The thought of a fluke in my liver is very unpleasant. Imagine how big that fluke might be today! That’s a keeper! I might have finally one the pool bet!
Anyway, sorry to gross you out, but I had to share the joys of Google, both gross and not-gross. And also, if we find our common interests, we might be able to like each other. But please don’t ask me to be in a Civil War battle reenactment. I’d rather watch. On TV.
Smoking in Bed has no parasites, but there is a dream where the protagonist goes fluke fishing with his dead father and instead of catching a fish, he catches his girlfriend. Relax, it’s a dream.