Friday, March 30, 2018

Faraway? Nearby? Places

When I started the Lottie Albright series I fully intended to use fictitious names for places. Because we Kansans are a bit touchy and quick to see an insult where none is intended.

In fact, there's an old joke that someone asked where a man was from. He joked, "Kansas. Now laugh damn you."

Fully half of the counties in Kansas had vicious county seat fights during the organizational stage of development. Of course I couldn't use a real county name. That would just be asking for trouble. So my series is set in Carlton County Kansas. Smart choice. No county in Kansas was ever named Carlton. Some county names disappeared when districts merged.

The town in the series is Gateway City. I don't believe there was ever a Gateway City in Kansas. I was charmed by the headline in a newspaper in Sherman County that declared Goodland was the Gateway to everything important in the West. Sojourners were especially encouraged to stop in Goodland on their way to Denver.

I steered away from existing city names because of the ancient animosity between some of the towns. For instance, in the early 1900s, Goodland hired a rainmaker. But lo and behold, it rained on Colby. Goodland sued it's neighbor for stealing its rain.

Then I messed up. I thoughtlessly said the Fiene family's housekeeper came from Studley, Kansas. I needed that town because it was settled by Englishmen in the 1800s and I wanted Zola Hodson to have been trained in estate management by an English grandfather.

Studley was a lively community. Many of the men were "remittance men." This term was given to English second or third sons who would never inherit under the laws of primogeniture. Only the first sons were blessed with the land and property. Remittance men were paid an allowance and politely urged to get lost. The population of Studley did its best to recreate jolly old England. They rode to the hounds--substituting jack rabbits--and partook of high tea.

Other names crept into other various books. My last mystery, Fractured Families, begins in the strangest place in all Kansas--the Garden of Eden. It is a marvel of grass roots art. The joined sculptures surround a block and endorse a passionate populist political philosophy. No place in the United States can be substituted for the Garden of Eden.

My next book, Silent Sacrifices, contains a lot of information about the Kansas Salt Mines. As with the Garden of Eden, there simply can't be another name used for this powerful geological marvel. Plus, it's creepy. The ideal place for "strange things afoot."

I started out with pure intentions and kept places fictional, but in this state, facts are always stranger than fiction.


Irene Bennett Brown said...

Charlotte, this is so funny and so true about Kansas. Love it, love you.

Charlotte Hinger said...

Irene, oh the stories I could tell. Dare I mention the largest ball of twine?

Irene Bennett Brown said...

Well, if Oregon can have beautiful Mt.Hood, we can at least allow Kansas the world's largest ball of twine, darn it!