Book Review: Gone to the Grave

GoneToTheGraveAbbyBurnett

The leaves cross over our graveyards

When the cold wind blows and raves

They whirl and scatter on the frozen ground

Then settle on the sunken graves

They put me to mind of the children of the earth

The mournful condition of us all

We are fresh and green in the spring of the year

And are blown in the grave in the fall.

–Florence Elizabeth Rutherford, 1873-1889

Rutherford Cemetery, Independence County, Arkansas

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Abby Burnett’s Gone to the Grave: Burial Customs of the Arkansas Ozarks, 1850-1950 is an interesting, intriguing read exploring the traditions surrounding death, local customs and rituals concerning bereavement, and the burial practices in the Arkansas Ozarks. It is excellent in its research, narrative, and visual presentation. I highly recommend it to anyone interested in such subject matter.

I had the pleasure to meet author Abby Burnett, a former freelance newspaper reporter, at the Books In Bloom event in Eureka Springs, Arkansas May 2015 and again this past week during her presentation at the Fayetteville, Arkansas Public Library. Her speaking and presentation abilities are every bit as impressive as her knowledge and expertise on Arkansas burial history and customs.

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 “This painstakingly researched and thoroughly engaging book is as much an anthropological and sociological study as it is a historical and folklorist account of death, dying, and burial in the Arkansas Ozarks…there is virtually no source of information that Burnett hasn’t explored—epitaphs, business ledgers, funeral home records, obituaries, WPA questionnaires, health department regulations, oral history interviews, ministers’ journals, censuses, mortality schedules, doctors’ notes, undertakers’ record books, historical photographs, museum collections, and newspaper accounts…”

–Allyn Lord, Director, Shiloh Museum of Ozark History, Springdale, Arkansas

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I hear a voice you cannot hear

Which says I must not stay,

I see a hand you cannot see

Which beckons me away.

–S. N. Lyle, 1875-1932

Lowes Creek Cemetery, Franklin County, Arkansas

“Living History” Cemetery Walking Tour

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The Eureka Springs Historical Museum will host its 7th annual “Voices from Eureka’s Silent City” cemetery walking tours on Thursday, Friday and Saturday, October 15th, 16th, and 17th.  Then again on Friday and Saturday, October 30th and 31st.  The living history tours feature live actors in period costumes portraying early citizens of Eureka Springs.

This year, actors and guides will be presenting  compelling stories of some of Eureka’s former leaders in service and philanthropy who now reside in the Silent City,  the Eureka Springs City Cemetery:  A WWI Army Colonel, a socialite, a prominent lawyer/mayor, a descendant of a Native American Chief, and an early proponent of baseball, among others.

I will be attending this event. It should be a fun, interesting experience.

For more information and pictures from previous walks take a jaunt over to Eureka Springs Historical Museum!

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Cemetery Walk Eureka Springs 2014

 

The Legend of Jack O’ Lantern

Halloween History From Ireland
In my book ‘Storytellin: True And Fictional Short Stories Of Arkansas’ I write about one of the first Halloween adventures I can recall as a young child with my younger brother and parents as we went about trick-or-treating American style in the 1950s. We encountered plenty of costumes and decorations, most notably the ever-present carved pumpkins called jack-o-lanterns, without consideration of the origins of the holiday art.
Did you know the carving tradition began in Ireland?
Ed Mooney, an accomplished and award-winning Irish photographer and storyteller posted a very interesting tale titled ‘The Legend of Jack O’ Lantern’ on his blog ‘Ed Mooney Photography ~ The home of Kildare based Photographer, Blogger and Self-Proclaimed Ruinhunter’.
Pumpkins are indigenous to the Americas but not to Ireland. When it came to Irish Halloween carving, turnips were all the rage according to a post-Christian Irish legend and a rather interesting fellow named Stingy Jack (no relation, I hope!)
Here’s Ed’s retelling of the old story he heard as a youngster:

Ed Mooney Photography

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Every October, carved pumpkins begin to peer out from porches and doorsteps. These orange coloured fruits inscribed with ghoulish faces and illuminated by candles are a sure sign that the Halloween season has begun. However this was not always the case.  Irish emigrants brought their many traditions to the shores of the United States in the early 1800’s. And along with Samhain, the legend of, Jack O’ Lantern. The practice of decorating Jack O’ Lantern the name comes from an old Irish folktale concerning a man named Stingy Jack. where large turnips were carved out and a small candle was placed within. Many of you may have heard or perhaps even witnessed a strange, atmospheric or ghostly light on your travels at night? It is a common sight to see especially over bogs, swamps or marshes. Many witnesses have claimed that it resembles a flickering lamp in the distance which…

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Sharing a Love of Mysteries

Waterside Kennels Mysteries

One of my favorite places in the world is a library. That’s where I’ll be today, visiting with fans and friends at the Fayetteville (AR) Public Library. If you’re in the area, I hope to see you there!

Susan Holmes Book Discussion-Signing 10-11-15

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I’ll be back here soon to share more about facts and folktales in regional mysteries. Remember there’s a giveaway in progress, so be sure to leave a comment!

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Farmers’ Market

Autumn is my favorite time of year. Weather is cooling, leaves are turning brilliant colors, and Halloween (my daughter’s birthday!) all make it an enjoyable season for me. The downside? It marks the end of the Fayetteville, Arkansas Farmers’ Market held outdoors on the square in downtown Fayetteville. Thought I would take a break from writing and post some pictures.

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Fresh, locally grown herbs, flowers, and vegetables

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Looking East from the Fayetteville Bank

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Taken from the old Post Office Building grounds

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Sidewalk at the old Post Office

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West side of the square looking north

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Street musicians on every corner!

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Fayetteville’s old post office on the square

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One of the many flower vendors

Looking forward to next year’s market!

Book Review: Moriarty

Moriarty

It is not in my nature to publicly speak ill of another author. As a rule, when I read a book I find less than enjoyable, I tend to move on without comment and find something else to read. That’s been my rule up to this moment. What follows is a notable and necessary exception.

 

The plot of Moriarty by British author Anthony Horowitz takes place after Arthur Conan Doyle’s famous detective Sherlock Holmes and nemesis Professor Moriarty struggle over Reichenbach Falls and disappear into its depths as described on the book’s cover:

“Days after Holmes and Moriarty disappear into the waterfall’s churning depths, Fredrick Chase, a senior investigator at New York’s infamous Pinkerton Detective Agency, arrives in Switzerland. Chase brings with him a dire warning: Moriarty’s death has left a convenient vacancy in London’s criminal underworld. There is no shortage of candidates to take his place—including one particularly fiendish criminal mastermind.”

No spoilers intended but don’t believe a word of it. Not. One. Word.

This work drags the reader down the proverbial garden path where they are thrown into the deep well of disappointment and left drowning in a dark pool of unforgivable author deceit.

The attempt at constructing a clever plot fell woefully flat and unsatisfying, torturing this reader for some 300+ pages of a 362 page work as I struggled chapter after chapter to find something enjoyable. In the end, the reading experience left me exhausted, day after miserable page-turning day.

The entire work is overloaded with a multitude of pretentious and unnecessary descriptive elements and tedious dialogue both of which slowed the story down so much its equivalent wretched sluggish experience would be attempting to swim the Thames with an iron ball and chain on each leg.

Did I like the book? No. Would I recommend it? No.

I purchased Moriarty because of my familiarity with the televised work of Mr. Horowitz. Most notably, his screenplays on Midsomer Murders, Poirot, and Foyle’s War—three of my favorite television series and all are delights. He also authors the Alex Rider books for young adults. I have not read that series but after slogging through Moriarty, I won’t.

In my opinion Mr. Horowitz may be best suited to screenplays.

Folklore In Fiction

Here’s a re-blog of fellow Arkansas writer, Susan A. Holmes, on ‘Folklore In Fiction’ with an excerpt from her book Deadly Ties. She will be speaking at the Fayetteville, Arkansas Public Library, October 11th from 2 – 4 p.m. Event will include her presentation, questions and answers, meet and greet, and books sales and signings.  Don’t miss this opportunity to visit with the author. More information on the presentation can be found here.

And now, the re-blog:

Folklore in Fiction

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The Yokum Dollar

I’m an “up close and personal” kind of researcher. So when I’m working on my regional series, that means I’m often out in the hills, meeting people and listening to the stories that have been handed down, one generation to the next, keeping the old legends alive. The story of the Yokum Dollar is one of those legends that I heard on multiple occasions, with each storyteller claiming some connection with the families involved. I stayed true to the heart of the tale when writing the legend into my own book, while fictionalizing elements as needed to suit the plot. Here’s the excerpt from Deadly Ties:

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….Maggie wandered among the exhibits, watching craftsmen make brooms and baskets, tapping her foot to the dulcimer music, and listening to the storytellers who had drawn a sizable crowd in the shade of tall oaks. She stopped to listen to a woman dressed in a style Maggie imagined was common among frontier women long ago. Sturdy boots peeked out from beneath the hem of her skirt, and the simple cotton blouse she wore looked homespun. Her steel gray hair was tucked beneath a bonnet.

“This here story has been handed down through my family ever since 1826,” the woman told the audience. “That’s about the time the first Yokum—that’d be Jamie Lee Yokum—settled along the big river herabouts. My family farmed the land down-river from the Yokum place, which is how I come to know this tale.”

“This land belonged to the Chickasaw tribe, and they were good neighbors, always sharing what they had. They were good traders, too, and pretty near famous for their beautiful silver jewelry. They always had plenty of silver but nobody knew—’cept the Indians, of course—where it all came from. Some said it was from a silver mine, and some claimed it was Spanish silver, but nobody knew for sure.

“When the government decided they wanted the Indians’ land, the Yokums traded some of their wagons and supplies in exchange for information about the source of that silver. As the story goes, the Indians shared their secret with Jamie Lee. They told him where he might find some of that silver, and he told his brothers. Times being what they was, and money being about as hard to come by as an honest politician, the Yokums decided to use that silver and make their own coin. They minted their own dollars with that there silver. For years, people all over the Ozarks used the Yokum dollars as legal tender.”

The storyteller looked across the crowd. “Well, you can probably guess what happened next. The federal government didn’t take too kindly to somebody else making money. They didn’t like the competition, my granddaddy said.” There were chuckles and murmurs of agreement from some in the crowd.

“The federal agents confiscated all the Yokum dollars they could get their hands on. What they really wanted was the source of that silver, but Jamie Lee wouldn’t tell ‘em where to find it. After a while, the agents gave up and went back to Washington.”

The storyteller paused for a sip of lemonade. “It wasn’t long after that when Jamie Lee Yokum passed away. His two brothers died soon after, crossing the Rockies on their way out to California. Those men were the only ones who knew the Indians’ secret and they took that secret to their graves, but they did leave some clues in letters they’d written to their cousins. Over the years, a lot of people have searched high and low for that silver, but nobody’s ever found it. But who knows? Maybe you’ll be the one to learn the truth about the Indian Silver Legend.”

Deadly Ties © 2013

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To this day, people continue to search for the famed silver, with many a treasure hunter convinced a mine or cave does indeed exist somewhere in the hills. Some believe the answer lies near or under Beaver Lake in Arkansas while others argue the location is Table Rock Lake in Missouri. And so the legend lives on…