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Monday, June 12, 2017

What Did That Say?

I love history, which is no surprise, of course, to anyone who knows me. I not only enjoy writing about the past, but researching those bits and pieces that make the historical story I’m writing realistic, interesting and accurate.

Research comes in many forms. I can spend hours in a library, hunting through books. Or online, looking for one particular fact. But my favorite type of research is the kind I didn’t plan.

You’ve probably had the same experience. You stop to grab lunch at a restaurant off the freeway and discover the nearby town has, for more than a hundred years, hosted a festival in celebration of prickly pears. Or that there is a fully restored Civil War-era mental hospital only a few blocks away.

In my trips to research a story, I’ve come across some really fun facts. Did you know there was a salt war in Texas? Neither did I until I was researching for this blog. Bonus: I discovered the Texas Historic Sites Atlas while looking for a picture of the marker.

Were you aware there was a Revolutionary War battle in St. Louis, Missouri? That’s right, halfway up the mighty Mississippi. The Battle of Fort San Carlos was fought when British-led Sioux, Sac, Fox and Winnebago warriors attacked a newly built French entrenchment in May of 1780. That historical fact came from a local newspaper article my mother forwarded to me.

Ever heard of Crash, Texas? It’s a town that was built for the express purpose of allowing spectators to witness a train crash up close and personal. A friend sent me that news story. It was a wonderful idea for a stunt—until it all went horribly wrong.

Then there’s the Great Santa Fe Trail Horse Race, begun in 1848 and revived in 1977. I found out about it when researching the coach stops along the Santa Fe Trail after visiting the Pony Express Museum in St. Joseph, Missouri.

And do you read the footnotes and attributions at the end of a historical research article? (My music history professor would be proud so of me.) There are some wonderful tidbits to be found.

I love running across obscure information while I’m researching something else. And you can find some of the most interesting—and mostly useless—tidbits in some unlikely places. ebay® is one place that surprised me. I found some cool info on china and crystal and Texas artifacts there while researching my novel, TEXAS ROSE.

For Sale June 20

What’s the most unusual fact you discovered in the most unlikely place?


  1. Oh my word, those are some interesting, and funny, historical places you've visited. Sounds like such fun to discover these places and their bits of history. The only thing that comes to mind as far as interesting objects or places I've encountered is a metal fountain in the shape of a man's head in Charlotte--the fascinating thing about it is that it moves.
    All the best to you, Tracy.

    1. That's cool, Sarah. Who was the man? Or was it a random head? lol

    2. I tried to find out, but I didn't see who it was modeled after--random head I guess. Here is a link to see what it looks like and who the sculpture is:
      It's really weird.

  2. Tracy,

    Tumbling down those research rabbit holes are my favorite part of researching. It's entirely too easy for me to spend hours tumbling rather than writing, though. *grin*

    One of the many unusual gems I've encountered by accident (or good fortune), is the LeMat revolver. OMGollyWolly. I want one. For the curious, here is a general description of it on Wikipedia.

    I found an original LeMat offered for sale in an online gun auction (many years ago), and it's starting price was $15,000. Just a tad outside my budget.

    Best of luck on your upcoming book release.

    1. You have excellent taste, Kaye! I'd love just to shoot a LeMat, let alone own one.

    2. Oh my gosh. To shoot one would be fabulous. To just hold one would be *almost* as satisfying. lol

  3. I can so relate to your post. If it has a history, I have this need to find it. My 'winter' job, in my mind, is spending Sunday afternoons in the special collections section of the local library. It has genealogy also, so I'm in heaven.

    Thanks for sharing your finds. Love them. Doris