For the historical stories I write it helps me to enhance a scene if I take a peek into the past. A while back I wrote about going to two Power Shows and experiencing a look back in time as we watched the steam engines work, and when we walked through the antique tractor lines. My relatives talked about waiting with anticipation for the steam engine to show up when they were children. They could hear the beast chug and thump a mile away while smoke plumbs sailed above the trees on the country roads. With the sun bearing down on hot and humid summer days, they watched the men bale hay or combine oats and corn. What they left out were the extra details that brings the scene to life. The arid smell of black smoke surrounding the steam engine and workers, permeating the workers and spectators clothes, skin and hair. The bits of ash that floated in the air and landed anywhere the smoke did then smeared a black streak with each sweaty wipe of a chambray shirt sleeve. In the air, along with the ashes was chaff off the dry oat or corn plants that stuck on sweaty skin causing an itchy feel. The billowing dust from dry hay as it went through the baler turned workers faces grimy black as working in a coal mine would. At least that is the way one of my aunts explained my mother's father looking when he came home at night from the coal mine. Insects like deer flies buzzed around sweaty ears sending cold chills down the men's spines. Horse flies, house flies and sweat bees insisted on biting when the men were busy. Looking for details that can be written into a story is one of the reasons I like to go to museums. We went through the museum at Marengo, Iowa recently. Sightseers aren't always allowed to take pictures, but where I could I did so I could remember the details of items that interested me for my Amazing Gracie Mystery series. I set those stories in a small town in Benton County Iowa back in 1903 and have written nine books. I love reading historical books, but that was an era before I was born. If I want to write vivid details, I need to do research. [caption id="attachment_592" align="alignnone" width="200"] Book one in Amazing Gracie Mystery series titled Neighbor Watchers. Found at Amazon, B & N and Smashwords.[/caption] We got a guided tour of the buildings on the property which was great. The tour guide could give us information about each building's history. The fact that exhibits in the museum are local makes the stories and items even more interesting to me if there's a place in one of my Gracie stories I can use them. [caption id="attachment_575" align="alignnone" width="300"] This cabin was built by a bachelor that until he married had lived in a one room house that looked more like the wood shed. The cabin was just a little bigger than that.[/caption] [caption id="attachment_576" align="alignnone" width="300"] The wash tub with scrub board and the rinse tub with wringer set on the porch ready for use.[/caption] [caption id="attachment_577" align="alignnone" width="300"] In the back yard was the family cemetery.[/caption] [caption id="attachment_578" align="alignnone" width="300"] Across the street was a Phillips 66 gas station. Along side the museum was a row of horse pulled farming equipment.[/caption] [caption id="attachment_579" align="alignnone" width="300"] In side, this little gem was one of the exhibits. It's a dried lemon from the 1850's under glass and sitting on cotton. A newly wed couple was given the lemon before they left in a wagon train from Ohio to Iowa to homestead. The lemon was thought to have medical properties. The couple must have stayed well during the trip. The lemon wasn't used and the bride kept it for a keepsake. The story of the lemon was passed down through the years and the descendants of the newly weds gave the lemon to the Marengo museum.[/caption] Of all the things that hung on the walls, these ice tongs reminded me of a time in my childhood when we had an ice box. When the block of ice melted, we bought another one, and the owner of the ice house would carry it to our Model T car with ice tongs. [caption id="attachment_581" align="alignnone" width="225"] This quilt was on exhibit at the Iowa County, Iowa fair that same day. It reminded me that patterns have been passed down through the ages.[/caption] [caption id="attachment_582" align="alignnone" width="225"] A doctor's office from the past with a nurse on duty.[/caption] [caption id="attachment_583" align="alignnone" width="225"] This was a selection of night clothes. A vast wardrobe of the period hung in other areas. We were told the local theater borrows the clothes for their plays.[/caption] [caption id="attachment_584" align="alignnone" width="225"] This is a tree trunk that a family donated with the family story. The blade of a long handled scythe is sticking out of the tree and the handle is laying behind it. At the beginning of the Civil War farmers were parking their plows and leaving for duty in the Union Army. One farmer had always been taught that if he axed his scythe in the tree and it stayed there, he would come home from war all in one piece. The scythe stayed put which was a problem. The tree grew around the blade and the handle rotted off. The farmer came back safely four years later and went back to farming. He gave instructions to never cut the tree as the farm was handed down. Eventually, the tree died and the farm was to be sold in recent years so they cut the tree and gave it to the museum along with the story.[/caption] [caption id="attachment_586" align="alignnone" width="300"] This is the kitchen of a farm house a 100 years ago. After an elderly woman passed away her family donated all the furnishes to be set up in rooms just like in the house. Voice buttons with the son of this owners describes what it was like to sit in the cozy kitchen on cold winter days, warming up in between doing chores.[/caption] [caption id="attachment_587" align="alignnone" width="300"] The fainting couch in the living room with keepsakes of the family. with a book case behind the couch.[/caption] [caption id="attachment_588" align="alignnone" width="225"] This table, with a crocheted doily, reminds me of one I have. Only mine have the claw feet holding glass balls.[/caption] [caption id="attachment_589" align="alignnone" width="300"] This oddity was a small ironing press that probably was used by a woman that did laundry for others.[/caption] [caption id="attachment_590" align="alignnone" width="300"] Often called a Sad Iron, this iron was placed on the wood cookstove to heat. The handle comes off and was placed on another iron that was hot. This was one my mother used.[/caption] [caption id="attachment_591" align="alignnone" width="300"] This was like one my mother used after the wood cook stove was gone and we had a gas cook stove.[/caption] I enjoy looking through antiques and seeing items that jog my memory. Hopefully, I'm helping my writing at the same time. Until next time, Fay Risner Booksbyfay
A woman that has worn many hats in my life time. Join me here and find out about those hats.