I’m an early riser, especially so when I’m camping. It was about 5:30 a.m. on a July morning, and the sun was just coming up over the mountain in Mt. Pleasant, Utah where we were participating in a mountain man rendezvous reenactment. I was dressed in my “mountain mama” outfit, and ready for the day. I truly believed that no one was up yet, so I headed across the street to the town’s cemetery. It was a beautiful morning, and it promised to be a hot day. I was enjoying the peace and solitude of the graveyard while looking at the names and dates on the headstones. As I wandered through the cemetery though, I realized I was not alone.
A man in mountain man buckskins stood quietly reading a tombstone, and I laughed a little. It was my dad. Dad and I have a lot in common. Dad introduced me to genealogy as a teenager; we have spent many hours together discussing how to find our ancestors–and we are both early risers. We stood quietly talking about the people from the past who lived history; as reenactors, we were just pretending we were part of it. As we talked about the people buried there, I realized that it would be possible to piece together stories even though the main characters are long gone.
I had been to Europe just the month before, and visited several cemeteries while I was there. Every time, I lamented the fact that these were the voices and faces that make up the history of the world I live in, and that their stories had died with them. I wanted to know their stories. I really wished I could speak with them to find how they fit in with the history I know and my own life.
I was majoring in English at college at the time, and during fall term I was asked to connect stories and poetry to my own experiences as a final project for my American Literature class. It was Walt Whitman’s poem, Leaves of Grass that provided the impetus for my project. I thought about those cemeteries as I wrote, and even made a special visit to a local cemetery to help me with my project. I threw my heart and soul into it, and I was rewarded with an A. I was so excited by the things that I had written, that I could not stop researching, and so the Untold Stories project was born.
It’s been a dozen years since I wrote that essay, and I still find myself itching to write these stories. My kids are grown and gone, and the rush of my life has slowed a little. So now I have time. My blog begins with the stories found while writing that essay, and continues with other stories found along the way.