Saturday, June 11, 2005

I think the muse is back!

We've all been there...nothing new and exciting seems to inspire us, we look for new stories and they seem like the same ones we've been telling. Life gets busy and we just slide along. No more!

I spoke of my efforts to nail down information on a ghost steamboat in Minneapolis. I'm no closer than I was before on that one, but the process of searching for that information opened up some new avenues to pursue. At the time, I thought, "hmm, coolio," but that's as far as it went. Until yesterday.

What was special about yesterday? Nothing really. In fact, it was a really long day. It was the first day of my summer vacation, and I drove four hours to the University of Iowa to attend a staffing for two of my students who just finished speech camp there. It was well worth the four hours down, and the return trip back home for the information I gained to help those kids. It also helped me relocate my muse.

What? Well, to understand this happy occurence, a bit of geography is helpful. To get from where I live to Iowa City, about half of the trip follows along the Mississippi River. To understand the rest of this occurence, put yourself in my place. Long drive. All alone. Mind wanders. Although the parents of these two little boys were somewhat incredulous that I'd make that trip for a 90 minute meeting, the other benefit it yielded was all that alone time, with nothing more to do than drive. You can ponder many things when you're in a car for 8 hours by yourself, driving the sleepy Iowa highways.

In my ghost searching, I learned of Mary B. Greene, one of the first woman riverboat pilots and founder with her husband of the Greene line. The Greene line may not mean anything to you, but I'll bet you've heard of the Delta Queen, one of the vessels of the Greene line. Mary lived most of her life on the river, still taking a turn at the helm of the Queen well into her final years. Stories say she was kicking up her heels two nights before her peaceful passing on the Queen.

Stories also say that she hasn't really left the Queen, even though she died in 1949. One story claims she is responsible for bringing two crew mates together, eventually becoming married. That story has been retold dramatically on "Unsolved Mysteries" already, but there are plenty more.

So I'm recharged. Some of her descendents and fellow crewmates are still very much in this world. Grandchildren post regularly on various steamboat message boards. I'm hoping to roll up my researcher/oral historian sleeves and develop stories told in the first person, Chatauqua style, of Captain Mary Becker Greene. I'm a bit tall---she was five feet, I'm 5'8"---but after all, my job as a storyteller isn't really to be Mary, but to paint pictures of Mary for the listeners' imaginations with my words. I'm excited at this possibility and hope that any sandbars along the way are easy to pull over. It's so good to have my muse back!

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