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  • James Wheeling

Curiosity, research and an impatient husband

History makes me curious, I can’t help it.

Why did people do the things they did? What drove them or inhibited them? What about all those lives that never had their story told? We all learned the famous names in school but so, so many individuals actually did the work that the famous names got credit for. I’m interested in those people.

I love research.

Internet, books, maps, brochures…I love all of it. I love to travel to the setting and smell the air, feel the sunlight or fog on my face, and listen to whatever is making a sound be it a waterfall, a bird’s song or the unceasing wind. All of those things influenced someone before me. I have been in the National Archives in Washington, DC on the hunt for a previously unresearched naval clerk and his documents. When I sent in my request, the research assistant said, “Wow, I don’t think anyone has ever wanted to look at this before.” He had no idea how awesome I thought that was…I was the first in over 100 years to touch this man’s personal documents? It was truly an amazing experience.

Three beehive-shaped charcoal kilns on the Wyoming plains. Piedmont charcoal kilns in Wyoming.
Piedmont Charcoal Kilns in Wyoming. By Tricia Simpson - Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0,

Early on, I drug my patiently, impatient husband to the setting of an important scene in Wyoming. After we exited I-80 onto an unmarked dirt road and tentatively followed it through the low, sagebrush-covered hills, excitement at the adventure built in my heart. My husband, on the other hand, just wanted to know what in the heck I was looking for out there. About then, the beehive-shaped, charcoal kilns of Piedmont protruded from the open range along with an official marker and a ghost town. Yay! We found it! This was the start to many, many trips of discovery and my husband has evolved into a willing co-discoverer.

Since then he has humored me while we visited sailing ship museums in the freezing Connecticut winter and ghost towns at 11,000-foot elevation. There are times when he passes on some of the museums I have to see but most of the time, he’s a good sport.

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