I breathed a sigh of relief. It was finally done, not perfect, but done. Amazon published The Road to LaReta in September 2016. Recently, while cleaning my office, I looked through the research papers I’d accumulated in the last 18 months. I was amused and a bit amazed at the rabbit holes I’d gone down to find details to make my historical fiction novel credible.
For example, I spent hours finding a source for an accurate account of the weather during a five-day period in March 1939. I used www.Weathersource.com.
Along with Weathersource, I used MapQuest to check elevations along the highways Webb travelled. It helped to determine when he would have to gear down and how fast he could go. The fact that one of the women in my writers’ group, Phebe Tademy, used to be a truck driver on those same roads, kept me attuned to details. I also used Google Earth to get an idea of topography.
I researched the national highway system to find highway numbers in the 1930’s and whether they were even paved! And, of course, I had to determine mileage between towns to gage time from one place to another. Webb had to make the 900-mile journey in two days from Ogallala, Nebraska to Dunn Center, North Dakota with a stopover in Billings, Montana. Maps became my best friend along with calendars for the 1920’s and 30’s.
Google Earth came in to play again when I wanted to see what Dunn Center looks like today. That led to the discovery of the Dunn Center Museum and Historical Society nestled in the northwest corner of town. One of the museum’s docents gave me information about Dorothy’s parents’ land claim, her aunt’s murder, and Dorothy’s burial site—all because I spotted the museum from a satellite.
I spent time at the Lemay Family Collection Foundation in Spanaway, Washington, photographing old cars and asking for details. Other information I hadn’t anticipated needing, but did, included: Official Rules of Pool; articles on the dust storms of the 30’s; information about truck and train circuses in the 1920’s; frontier slang, lingo, phrases and songs; rheumatic fever symptoms, causes and treatments; burial locations; prices in the 20’s and 30’s; and an overall view of what was happening in 1939 provided by www.Flickback.com.
Thanks to the Internet, my research into the details was made relatively easy. While some may not appreciate the minutiae, they did allow me to journey with my father, Webb Bateman, during his wild and crazy youth. They also enabled me to better understand the young man whose choices weren’t always the best.