Consider this… You are casually reading a book, engrossed in the content. It’s one that was recommended to you because of your background. It’s a true story and about something you or a loved one may have experienced. Suddenly you see your name or the name of a close relative in print. Yes! It’s right there in that book you are reading and the setting is something you know or have been told of. Wow!
How would you feel? I guess it would depend on how you or that said relative or friend was depicted. If the subject is highly spoken of or praised in passing, that would be a great service to you. If not, your emotions may overflow to the negative side.
As my journey continues with the Alaska book, (I must decide on a name for this book soon or The Alaska Book will stick and I know I can do better than that!) proper names come to mind. Should I or shouldn’t I?
My mother was usually very blunt when it came to her letter writing from Alaska. In other words, she wasn’t always nice. She was honest though and she named names. After all, these were letters she wrote to people back home who worried about our family homesteading in the wilderness, our family of six and then suddenly seven. She never dreamed they would be published one day.
Now believe me, there were no murders or bank robberies or child neglect that she talked about. Nothing to put anyone behind bars. It was more often human nature, bad attitudes, and politics of the day.
The names of these friends and neighbors have been embedded in my mind and to have to change the names to protect the innocent would also mean changing the tone of the letters somewhat. I don’t think I could come up with names better fitting to the characters than the ones they had been given at birth or through marriage.
Take Clarence Finch for example. He was a bachelor friend of my Dad’s. They played numerous games of chess together before the fire on cold winter nights. His name itself leads you to a picture in your mind – a tough grisly looking bearded mountain man. I really can’t remember what he looked like and bachelor to me says ‘old’. In reality, the bachelors she spoke of were probably in their late 20’s and 30’s. From what I’ve read while researching this book, the Alaska wilderness was sparse with eligible young womankind at that time.
Then there was Junior Alexander, the airplane pilot who would fly over to check on us when Daddy was off working for weeks. What do you think when you hear the name Junior?
There were Mary and George Cartright, Floyd Hatsfield, Mrs. DuFour, Dr. Fenger, Chuck and Sylvia Van Keuren and Chuck’s brother Chet. Another bachelor, Swede Carlson, and the Voss’s, and Ben Greer were also close neighbors – as in miles-away because it was homesteading after all.
The majority of these people are probably long gone or in their late 80’s and 90’s at the youngest. Mother and Daddy aren’t with us anymore, so suing either of them for slander or just because won’t happen, I don’t believe. But what about me? Is that an option?
I love these names from my childhood. They have stuck with me like glue. Replacing them would be hard and time-consuming. I couldn’t replace Junior with Ralph. It just doesn’t fit. And Mrs. DuFour doesn’t seem like a Mrs. Smith to me. Dr.Fenger is well…What name would fit the bill any better? What would you do in this position and what is politically correct?
The names she quoted as family members and close friends from Louisiana, I have no problem with. I just hope they are all spelled correctly!