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The Sirens of Suspense

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR:

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Loretta Ross is a writer and historian who lives and works in rural Missouri. She is an alumna of Cottey College and holds a BA in archaeology from the University of Missouri - Columbia. She has loved mysteries since she first learned to read. Death and the Redheaded Woman will be her first published novel.

 

Find Loretta on Facebook, Goodreads and Twitter.

http://lorettasueross.com/

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Writing runs in my family. So far as I know, I'm the third writer on the family tree. The first lived and worked in the nineteenth century and you may have heard of him. His name was Ralph Waldo Emerson. My mother was an Emerson and there's still a slight physical resemblance between some of my male relatives and the "father of transcendentalism". We grew up thinking that he was a great-great-uncle, but one of my sisters is a genealogist and she tracked down the relationship. Emerson was my great-great-grandfather's cousin.

The second writer was my grandfather. He was born two years after Emerson died and, thus, never met his famous relative. His name was Hiram Oris Emerson.

In many ways, he led a tragic life. His first marriage ended in divorce (almost unheard of in the early 1900s) after the accidental death of a toddler son. He later married my grandmother and they had three children, but when the oldest (my mother) was only four, Grandmother died suddenly from puerperal fever.

In spite of his sorrows, he had a reputation as a man of wit and good humor. He was a terrible practical joker, his hobby was trying to invent a perpetual motion machine, and he once got into a fistfight because he said that man would someday walk on the moon.

A single father, he raised three children during the Great Depression. Though a carpenter by profession, he took any job he could get. He also supplemented his income by writing songs and selling them to musicians who frequented Kansas City's jazz scene.

Tracking his work has proven nearly impossible, because usually he sold all rights and the musicians released his songs as their own. Years later, when a musician he worked with passed away, my mother heard the man's widow giving a radio interview. The woman spoke of how touched she was that her husband had written a certain song in her honor. "Your husband didn't write that song," Mom said to the radio. "My dad wrote that song!"

I did find one entry for him in a 1942 catalog of copyrighted musical compositions. He's listed as holding the copyright to the lyrics for a song called "I Came Away And Left My Heart", melody by Frank Ambrose. I tried tracing it further, but have come up with nothing.

There's an anonymous poem that Mom always suspected Grandfather wrote. It sounds like his work, and she remembered him reading it aloud to her and her sister one evening, as he often did with pieces he'd just finished. It's called Three Monkeys or, sometimes, Charles Darwin's Mistake. It's been made into songs at least twice, once by Elvis Costello. If it was my grandfather's poem, it was easily the most successful thing he ever wrote. We'll probably never know.

There are two songs he wrote that he never sold and that remain as part of our family lore. The first is a novelty song called Willie Green:

Young Willie Green from Oshkosh saw an aeroplane one day.

Said Willie Green, "Now, by gosh! I'd like to fly that way!"

So he hiked out to the flying field and put ten dollars down,

and they took him up in an aeroplane, to have a look around.

 

Well, first they did the tailspin, then they started to loop the loop,

but the strap that held poor Willie broke and he had to come down in a parachute!

 

Oh, the drop before it opened nearly took poor Willie's breath.

By the time he finally touched the ground he was almost scared to death.

The last was seen of Willie Green, for Oshkosh he was bound,

and he said, "I'll do my flying now with one foot on the ground!"

 

'Cause first they did the tailspin, then they started to loop the loop,

but the strap that held poor Willie broke and he had to shoot the 'chute!

 

The other song is sweet and sad. I've never been able to sing it without getting teary-eyed and my aunt quoted the lyrics on her husband's tombstone. I've never heard it given a name. It goes like this.

I can hear the sleigh bells ring

and the young folk gaily sing

the same old songs they sang in days of yore,

and I would make the welkin ring

if some miracle could bring

back to me those happy, happy days once more.

 

Now I'm growing old and grey

and I've wandered far away

from my boyhood sweetheart's home upon the hill.

She gave me her promise there

with the snowflakes in her hair

as we skated o'er the millpond by the mill.

 

Now the world is sad and dreary

and I'm growing old and weary

thinking only of the past, but this I know:

She has climbed the golden stair

and she waits for me up there.

I'm just waiting 'til it's time for me to go.

 

Oh, I can hear the sleigh bells ring

and the young folk gaily sing

the same old songs they sang in days of yore

and I would make the welkin ring

if some miracle could bring

back to me those happy, happy days once more.

 

I never met my grandfather. He passed away before I was born. When he died, Mom realized she didn't even have a picture of him. He looked like Ralph Waldo Emerson, though. So much so that she cut a picture out of an old encyclopedia and carried it with her, pretending it was her dad.

I have no children, but that doesn't worry me. My family is huge. I have nieces and nephews by the dozens, and greats and even great-greats. I wonder if one of them will be the next to carry on the tradition?

 

 

WHAT RUNS IN YOUR FAMILY? Tell us by commenting on the blog below or on our Facebook page and you’ll be entered to win a copy of DEATH & THE REDHEADED WOMAN! (U.S. only please.)

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