I am shaking off the red dirt of Oklahoma. I am shrugging out of the clutches of religious extremism and the heavy gaze of God. I am trying to get a book out of my system. Perhaps I do not believe that it can leave me entirely, while it is still in the process of being “sold”. But I must get out from under it, if I am to move on. I must stop following polygamy trials quite so closely. I must stop reading the Oklahoma farm reports daily. But I cannot give up, entirely, on either of them. These polygamists and farmers matter to me now. It matters how these men of “privilege” will be sentenced, and it matters how the canola is doing this year, when wheat is down.
The map of Oklahoma has come down and pinned in its place is one of Port Erin, a village at the southern end of the Isle of Man. The images of the long lines of women in their prairie-period-costumes is replaced with the photos of internment, May 1940, when all B class and some C class “enemy aliens” were arrested, held in cells and public places, then shipped to the Isle of Man. They took whatever they could carry. And you cannot help but think of the journeys they had already made to come to Britain, for roughly 85% of these women were Jewish. Refugees. Some had come on the Kindertransport. And it makes me think of polygamous pioneers, trudging across plain land, not knowing what the west was, or how it would change them. There are always strange links between ideas, as each attempt at a new piece is still a scratch at an old, deep place we are trying to reach or to excavate.
It took me a long time to get the internees out of my system when I first researched their stories, but I did. I went on to write about oyster girls, aviatrixes, young offenders, evil carnivals, and, finally, polygamists and farmers. All of them are still with me. Never truly written out of my system. A story can haunt you like that. Like a ghost.