Thursday, November 19, 2009

Words to write by... #4

Two quotes today, taken from a letter that George Elder wrote from Leadville on September 24, 1879, to his mother in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. At the time, George had recently moved to Leadville, hoping to make his way as a lawyer. (Aside: There were many many lawyers in Leadville... about 150 in 1880, according to the census. Lawyers were outnumbered only by miners [3204], laborers [1021], carpenters [487], salesmen [370], hostlers/teamsters/livery stable folk [255], saloon keepers/bartenders [228], restaurant workers [192], and engineers [163].)

These two quotes actually form the foundation for my fictional explorations of Leadville during the Silver Rush period:
"... it seems to me that a man cannot help becoming like the country out here."
"A murderer is safer in Leadville than a Horsethief."
Taking the latter quote first ... I figure that since murder didn't rate as high on the scale of importance as thievin' a horse, my protagonist, Inez Stannert, has a fair bit of latitude in investigating matters of "life and death." Provided the death doesn't involve a horse.

As to the first quote, I just love exploring how individuals responded to and became like "the country," as George puts it. To me, "country" includes not just the extreme physical conditions, but also the extreme "social climate." People came to get rich, to escape the past, to reinvent themselves, to save souls, to raise families, to make a living, and so on. Wonder what G.E. would've thought had he known that, 130 years after he penned his personal missives, someone completely unrelated to him would take creative inspiration from his observations and his words ...

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