“In three words I can sum up what I’ve learned about life: it goes on.” Robert Frost
I’ve had an amazing week learning about our little town and the surrounding area. There is only one book in the library about Woodlake, published in 1971. I have a digitized copy of that book. This week I had the privilege of thumbing through the original handwritten manuscript of that little book housed in a 1950s-style blue canvas three-ring binder.
I have the original manuscript of her other book, The Swift Seasons, in a little blue canvas binder as well, which I am going to digitize starting today. I get excited about the little things I’m learning or at least surmising. Yesterday during one of my interviews Robert took me outside to his backyard.
“Want to see the old Antelope School?” he asked me. “This is it. It used to be on Grandma Fudge’s property. Then it moved to Blair’s property, and then they brought it on skids here.”
Robert and I shared information back and forth for several hours. “This is so much fun!” he told me.
What I know about Antelope School is that it was first built in 1870. Woodlake erected a new Antelope School in 1895. So would this have been the new 1895 school or the one built in 1870? Or is it the sheep shed put up in the 1860s on the Davis’s property?
The builder didn’t date the school anywhere, least of all the floor boards, but look how wide they are. Keep in mind that we cut down big trees back in the 1800s. This picture came from Linda and Bob Hengst.
When I came back from Linda’s house, Vince said, “What were you doing all that time? You were over there for three hours!”
In the evening I started the boring work. It takes 30 seconds to copy each picture, but I have someone to talk to the whole time. I copied about 45 of Linda and Bob’s pictures, and 75 from Robert. At home, it takes about 1 minute to create a TIFF file for each picture, and another minute or so to resize it for my blog so I can see what I’m writing about as I write each caption. Finally, I pick which pictures I know enough about to caption for the day, and that takes at least 20 to 30 minutes to write 50-70 words. You wouldn’t think it would take so long, but here’s the deal.
- I wasn’t there when it happened. I don’t know the people, usually, the place, because they aren’t around anymore, or the time.
- Usually, I just have a name to go by, if that is on the picture – that’s about 2 words.
- Sometimes I have a little story. That’s about 20 words if I’m lucky.
- I have tons of books about things like trains and floods in Tulare County, Native Americans, and the general history of Tulare County. I have an 1892 Atlas of each township in Tulare County with the names of all the property owners at that time.
- I have notes from all the people I’ve interviewed, and sometimes audio files.
- I have a few newspaper articles that are photocopied, but all the archives from the Woodlake Echo have been destroyed, so all those pictures and original articles are gone.
So every picture is a bit of a puzzle piece, and I do my best to sort through my evidence and write the best 70 words possible for each picture. As of last night, I had finished 109 or about 60% of the required 180-200 pictures. As I talk to more people, I’ll have to narrow it down and throw some of them out, I’m sure.
A friend asked me what I do all day, and how much time I take writing my book (probably wondering why I hadn’t been calling her much :)). It seems like I don’t do much, but I don’t seem to have much time to do tons of other things. I have lots to talk about – as long as you are interested in Woodlake’s history.
“You only live once, but if you do it right, once is enough” – Mae West