Monday, July 25, 2011

Past, Present, Future: The facts cometh

Have you heard about the concept that people are divided into three camps according to their relationship to time? The theory is that there are Past, Present and Future people, and this, much like your Chinese zodiac sign, reveals much about the way you live your life.

There are folks who (regardless of their religion) are obsessed with genealogy. They have thick binders in the den with photos and birth certificates of distant half cousins twice removed. They found these after searching for hours in obscure, dusty Halls of Records in podunk county seats. They enjoy spending hours walking around in cemeteries.

My father is a Past. He might not remember what he had for breakfast, but he can tell you detailed accounts of a conversation he had at Ralphs Lounge in North Fork (CA, not WY) in 1958, who was there with him, and at least two generations of information on THEIR family trees. It's amazing.

Much ado is made about the virtues of living in the present, but I've known very few adults who actually do.

I imagine you can draw a line tracking Present-focus descending from birth to adulthood. As I’ve seen my children grow I see evidence of the trend. Babies are pure Presents (in so many ways) but then comes the relationship between birthdays and holidays and loot. Then it’s strapping on the school rocket, where finger-painting leads quickly to AP classes. The Present has a hard time not getting wrung out.

Folks in Seattle who enjoy sunshine become Presents by default. You see a ray of natural vitamin D and you charge outside.

“All his life has he looked away…to the future, to the horizon. Never his mind on where he was! Hmm? What he was doing! Hmph! Adventure. Heh! Excitement. Heh! A Jedi craves not these things!”

People who know me know that I am a hard-core Future. Highschool begat College, College begat Job…etc. It has propelled me to something approaching adventure and excitement, but in dark moments I wonder how much I have missed chasing the next big thing.

Olive Fell has provided me with step twelve in a program that I suppose began when I saw my son first open his eyes. Perhaps I am a recovering Future. I have this strange woman looking up at me from a grainy black and white photo and I want to know her. I see her handwriting and I want to transport back in time and walk into her little shop in Cody and hang out while she chats up tourists and applies glaze to flower-shaped clay ashtrays.

I want to learn from her.

The only way to do this is to pull the handbrake and concentrate on methodically building this woman’s past. I started out with a wonky excel document with a line beginning with her reported birth year, and ending in 1980 when she passed. On the line below I tracked 0-84…her corresponding age. Then I started dropping in little thumbnail images of her work (though precious few so far have dates inscribed). Then I started dropping in major events in Cody—when it was founded by Buffalo Bill (the year before Olive was born), when the Irma was built (she was 6), when the dam was built and the road to Yellowstone was opened up, etc. Then I overlaid world events, such as World Wars (she was 18 and 43) and women getting the right to vote (24…).

What I’m discovering is how long one’s life actually is—between the bookends of birth and death—and how much blessed time transpires. I’m a visual person, so clinically looking at it laid out in front of me—her life literally passing before my eyes—is so revealing, so daunting. It prompts introspection.

Word has it Olive was a pistol, so I can imagine this little red haired lady in buckskin reading this and giving me a solid kick in the rear. "Get to the point!"

OK Olive, so the first confirmations have arrived from official sources. I will insert images from the censuses for those Past folks out there. Something gratifying to see the names sing out in elegant early-1900’s everyman longhand.

1900 Census (June): Bridger Village, Clarks Fork, Carbon County, Montana

William W Fell, head, b. jun 1867, age 33, barber

Florence O Fell (Sarah Florence Taylor), wife, b. feb 1877, age 23

Florence O Fell, daughter, b. june 1896, age 3

William W Fell, son, brother, b. june 1897, age 2

1910 Census (April): Cody, Park County, Wyoming

Everett W Oskins, head, age 38, salesman in lumber yard

Sarah F Oskins, wife, age 33, second marriage (m. to Oskins 1 year)

Olive F Fell, step daughter, age 13, attending school

William Fell, step son, age 12, attending school

Confirmation from School of the Art Institute of Chicago:

Olive Fell attended 1916-1918 (age 20-22)

1920 Census (January): “North Cody”, Park County, Wyoming

Walter E Oskins, head, age 48, laborer/electric light co.

Florence S Oskins, wife, age 37, manager/greenhouse

Olive F Fell, step daughter, age 21(23?), attending school

Wm W Fell, step son, age 20, attending school

1930 Census (April): Cody, Park County, Wyoming

Florence Oskins, head, widow, age 52, florist/greenhouse,

William Oskins, son, single, age 26, lawyer/general practice, veteran

Olive Kensil, daughter, married (at 23), age 27, artist/print & oil

Sidney Kensil, son-in-law, married, age 30, operator/lumberyard, veteran

We have numerous leads and calls out there, and more information coming each day. I’ll keep the project informed with what facts I can find. I’ll try pretty-up that timeline and post that as well.

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