If you hike enough trails in Glacier National Park, you’ll sooner oer later come along a pack train of mules hauling supplies to backcountry chalets, fire towers, and ranger stations. If I’d worked on one of those instead of as a bellman, I wouldn’t be spending all this time looking at YouTube videos about how to pack a mule and how to harness a mule.
Why do I care? One of the characters in my novel in progress hauls goods around the area in a mule train. So now I need to learn how he handles the mules and the tack. If I were in the Matrix movie, I could just download all that info into my brain and be an expert.
This is the kind of detail that really slows down the writing.
When we lived in Eugene, Oregon during the time I would have been in kindergarten, we seemed to have family and friends throughout Washington, Oregon, and California. So, we were on the road a lot in our giant, four-door 1950 Nash 600.
On one of those trips, we were passing a flatbed truck. Mother was driving, Dad was riding showgun, and my younger brothers and I were in the back seat. In those days, it seemed to be customary to tap the horn twice before passing somebody. Mother did that and then started doing around the truck when it swerved into our lane to pass a smaller car in front of him. Mother honked again and put on the brakes.
The truck driver saw us, over-corrected, and went rolling down through a field. I have know idea who called the police, but we were parked off on the shoulder for ages. After the officers figured out what happened, filled out their paperwork, we were allowed to go on.
The odd thing about this is that after it happened, my folks never spoke of it. Growing up, I didn’t think of it often, so never asked for details. The subject just never came up, and if there were injuries or fatalities in the truck (which seemed certain to me), I can see why my parents wouldn’t want to speak of it. Otherwise, I have no idea why–at least when I ws an adult–I never asked, “What do we know about the near collision with the truck when I was five?”
I’ve been searching digitized newspapers, but so far haven’t found anything. It would help if I knew for sure which state we were in when it happened. In an Internet age when we seem to hear about everything, most of which isn’t important, it’s frustrating to look back in time and find nada, zip, and endless void.
Malcolm R. Campbell is the author of Fate’s Arrows, available in e-book, audiobook, paperback and hard cover editions.