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Gale Visits Weekly Paper: Ghost Town time travel story
I found I had a few vacation days coming and no special plans. Well, I thought, it might be neat to visit Carbons Creek where my great, great grandparents lived and published a weekly newspaper. More than likely it is a bigger town now, although it would still be rural I decided to dress down and relax a bit, and spend a day or two visiting the town and relatives. After that I could move on to see the Ozark Mountains. Since I am on the air pretty regularly as a news reporter and anchor I felt I needed to get out of Chicago for a change of pace. The Chicago look might be a turn off to the local people. I put on some washed out jeans, an old plaid blouse, tennis shoes and threw some similar stuff in a bag. I topped it all off with a baseball cap and let my hair hang straight down to my shoulders. It was warm out but spring in the mid-west can change quickly, so I took along and old plaid jacket.
An internet search told me the paper was still publishing and run by people with the same last name as mine. I decided to just drop in casually like I was just passing through and see how they receive a long lost cousin. Sarah herself settled there from Chicago after the Civil War. I got there a bit before noon and slouched, so to speak, over to the newspaper office. A glance around and I knew this wasn’t grandma’s news office. I saw three work stations with very up to date computers. My guess was that they related to the news editor, advertising specialist and a typesetter/compositor. No doubt some of it was for work they contracted to do in addition to the weekly paper.
Well, I walked in and went to the glass counter/ cabinet which held copies of the current paper, Platt books, and a self-published book on the town’s history. When an elderly woman asked if she could help me I bought one of the books. As she was counting change for me she said “You look familiar young lady. Sort of like that Chicago reporter I see on TV all the time.”
“You got it, that’s me. Anything else familiar?”
“I do think there is something about you. Like you resemble someone I know.”
I spotted a portrait of Sarah and John on the wall. “Her, maybe?” I said pointing to the picture.
“Oh, my goodness,” she said.
Gale meets family
The woman left and came back with a man who introduced himself as John Neilson, a descendent of John and Sarah. My cousin to some degree or other. He wore tan Dockers, a cream colored shirt and a striped tie. So much for my dressing down for the locals. His light brown hair was cut in a conservative fashion.
“I’ve seen your television reports. You give credit to the family as a reporter. You report the facts, no holds barred, it seems.”
“I try. I’ve gotten to know Sarah lately…” I started to say and quickly shifted gears. “That is to say, I found some of her writing that someone posted on the internet and wanted to see where she lived and worked.”
He smiled, a bit indulgently, I thought. If he is going to humor me, I’m out of here.
“I heard you the first time,” he said. “You’ve been to the ghost town, haven’t you?”
“And if I have?”
“Whoa. Sarah said that Gale is a feisty one. She hopes you stay that way.”
It appears that I’ve lost control of this conversation. “O.K. You got me hooked. What do you know that I don’t know?”
He invited me into his office for coffee and motioned for a woman, who turned out to be his wife, to join us.
He introduced us and said, we could have something stronger but we got a paper to get out. As we settled down with our coffee he said,” listen Sarah left some private writing. Not everything she wrote is on the internet. The name Gale has come up in conjunction with the ghost town. Something about a brash young woman who wore outrageous clothes. She liked you a lot. Listen, if you’ve got a bit of time how would you like to stick around a few hours and help get the paper to bed. Afterward we can go to dinner with some family members who would love to meet you.”
Newspaper goes to press
Somebody brought in some donuts and that seemed to be a signal that it was time to get the paper together. John introduced me to the crew and told them I agreed to help out. The news editor gave me a handful of items. “Can you follow-up on these and give me about a column inch each, ready to go?”
“Sure,” I said. All I had to do was remember from Journalism 101 what a column inch is. We don’t have them on TV. I proceeded to call to verify details on the items, I introduced myself by name and that I was helping out at the Sentinel and needed to verify some facts. Some knew my name from TV. I told them I as just helping out while visiting some relatives.
When the paper came out there was a short item about me, along with a picture John took of me working the phones.
Thursday being a slack day on the paper, John showed me around the town. The old newspaper building had been preserved along with the press and other things used in the past. We toured Doc’s old medical office and Ed’s saloon. I saw Sarah’s buggy was preserved. I recall seeing it at the ghost town. Because of an incident with some ruffians, Ed and Doc got written up by a dime novel writer. They got big reputations they did not want.
“John, I’m glad the paper is staying in the family. It was fun working with you guys. Keep in touch.” I gave him a card with my office address and wrote my personal email address on the back.
“Thanks,” he said. “I’ll do what Sarah would do and put you on our subscription list.”
I don’t know why but I was wiping away a tear as I left.”
I took off from Carbons Creek and headed south to find the Ozarks and hear some mountain music. I’ve heard there lots of little theaters throughout the hills with local bands. It sounded like fun and maybe I could write a feature on it later. As I was headed down the highway there was a split in the road but no road sign. I cut off in the direction that seemed to have hills ahead. I went over a hill and hit a sharp curve at 60 mph and the road ended.
After making a panic stop I closed my eyes, took some deep breathes and slowly opened my eyes again. When I quit shaking I looked around and saw some familiar weather beaten buildings. Maybe I’ll get that drink that I didn’t get yesterday.
When I went into the old weathered saloon I found a nice looking Irish bartender who had set out bourbon on the rocks for me. That might settle my nerves, I thought. I settled onto a bar stool and sipped at the bourbon.
I didn’t know how he knew that I’d like bourbon, at the time I didn’t care. “I bet your name is Ed,” I said.
“That it is. And by any chance would you be Gale, the lovely lady that Sarah has told me about. You look a lot like her, by the way.”
“And you are reputed to be a gunfighter.”
“A horrible injustice perpetrated by a writer of penny dreadfuls.’Tis true I will not hesitate to defend meself and others if need should arise, but I do not seek out trouble.”
“I know that Ed... I know the story of how you got a reputation by being the subject of a dime novel.”
Another man came into the saloon. He introduced himself as Ned Buntline, a writer of dime novels and other creative literature.
“Than this must be the scoundrel who wrote those books about me and Doc. I have a good mind to shoot him right here.”
“Hold on Ed. Buntline might be the best known of the dime novel writers but he is hardly the only one. Put away the gun and we can all talk about it.” I’m not generally overly nervous around guns. I’ve taken training on firearms but I wasn’t raised in the Wild West. Some might think Chicago can be more dangerous and I wouldn’t argue with them. But if Ed did something impulsive he might regret it. I stepped between the two men.
“Mr. Buntline. I’m a journalist and in some ways as well-known as you. If I interview someone, thousands of people know about it and may recognize these people afterwards. I try to be careful not to give any misleading information that could cause the subject of story harm later. If it is a news story than there is an obligation to present the facts. Some other stuff is optional Some is just entertainment. Nothing wrong with that but I do feel an ethical obligation.”
“Young lady, Sarah…isn’t it?”
“No, I’m Sarah!” And it was Sarah just coming into the room.
“Sarah, keep out of this. There’s enough hot tempers here.”
Even though Sarah is my great, great Grandma however many times removed we agreed to use first names to avoid confusion. Ed put down his shotgun and Sarah sat on a stool next to me. To answer your question Mr. Buntline, I am Gale.”
“My, you two could be twins.”
“No we couldn’t,” I said, for reasons I didn’t want to explain. “But you see, Mr. Buntline. It does go to show that a person’s identity means a lot to them and they don’t like anybody screw…, ah, messing with it. Sarah, a moment ago, didn’t like it when you took me to be her. And that’s just on the personal level. On the professional level we don’t like someone claiming to be us and publishing our work. Somebody like Ed doesn’t like his character misrepresented.”
“On the other hand, people like myself have written books that brought fame and fortune to people who would have been losers otherwise,” Buntline said.
“Are you sure they aren’t losers anyhow?”
Buntline put on his hat, downed what was left of his drink, gave us a slight curtsy and left.
“Well where did that get us?” Ed asked.
“Don’t know,” Sarah answered. “But at least nobody got shot.”
I did want to get his autograph though. On the other hand I wouldn’t be able to explain how I got it. I guess I’ll see if the Ozarks are still around here somewhere.
© 2013 Don A. Hoglund