Stumbling Block Blues

Finding one bluesman was easy. Doing it again is a lot tougher.

All week, I’ve been thinking about this line from the HBO miniseries “Band of Brothers,” which follows the paratroopers of Easy Company in World War II. It’s a moment at the end of episode 4. Operation Market Garden, a massive attempt to invade Germany through Holland, has gone spectacularly badly. The troopers that managed to survive are in a weary retreat, defeated and beaten down. As they leave, Lewis Nixon tells his friend, Capt. Dick Winters, ruefully: “I think we’re gonna have to find another way into Germany.”

Some weeks ago, I had a really meaningful research success. Following it up has brought almost no reward and almost entirely frustration. Nothing is working as I’d hoped. My expectations and anticipations aren’t being met. My standard research techniques are no use.

I don’t like trying to find another way into Germany. Having to spend my time devising alternative research strategies offends my desire for efficiency. Why can’t it all work the way it did before?

It’s not working because… well, for a lot of reasons.

Continue reading “Stumbling Block Blues”

Cora: Anastasis (15)

Anastasis: Noun, from Greek. 1. A recovery from a debilitating condition. 2. Rebirth. 3. Resurrection.

I wish I could tell you that Cora Stallman’s inquest led to a dramatic court case, full of more characters, searing accusations, and great and deep revelations about the people around her.

I don’t have a good ending to recount because, frankly, there wasn’t one. That’s not what Cora got in the end.

Continue reading “Cora: Anastasis (15)”

Cora: The Many Secret Things (14)

Aug. 31, 1925. Humboldt, IL.

“…[I]t further developed that neither Mrs. Anna Seaman nor Tom Seaman, her husband, knew of the many secret things of Miss Stallman’s life.” — Mattoon Daily Journal-Gazette, Sept. 1, 1925

Late in the last hot afternoon of August 1925, Thomas Seaman stood up from the witness chair and signaled the end of testimony in Cora Stallman’s inquest. Thomas had provided his contradictory, flawed account. His wife Anna, Cora’s sister, had revealed as little as possible. Neighbors and friends told their own stories about the ex-teacher who amused their children and gave gifts unasked. This version of Cora, true and untrue, had all been committed to paper. And now it was done.

A crowd of 300 people waited anxiously for the verdict, peeking in the town hall windows and adjusting their chairs impatiently. But before Coroner Frank Schilling could hand the case to the inquest jury, he had one last matter to discuss…

The rest of this article is available at Medium.com.

© 2019 Tori Brovet/All rights reserved

Cora: The Dark Hours (13)

I have had a long time to think about Cora Stallman.

Over years, whether during the periods of all-consuming research, or the lapses when I put her away, I’ve been turning this case over in my head. I’ve asked myself every what-if imaginable — even the unimaginable ones. I’ve considered the people, the town, and the fields that stretched around them.

Mostly, I’ve treated this story like a kaleidoscope, twisting it this way and that, watching all its many elements fall into new patterns and form new theories….

The rest of this article is available at Medium.com.

© 2019 Tori Brovet/All rights reserved

Cora: Thomas (12)

Aug. 31, 1925. Humboldt, IL.

“A crowd that filled the town hall here to overflowing endured stifling heat of the stuffy wooden building to hear the proceedings.” — Decatur Herald

It was late-summer hot and the flies were relentless, but the spectators at Cora Stallman’s inquest stayed in their chairs. They were waiting to hear the last witness, maybe the most anticipated of all: Cora’s brother-in-law Thomas Seaman.

For all of August he had been a cipher. While his wife Anna (and probably her friends) promoted the Seamans’ side to the newspapers, he was quiet. Thomas had stayed mum even as the gossip ran loose with speculation about him, and about his relationship with Cora.

Now he could have his say…

The rest of this article is available at Medium.com.

© 2019 Tori Brovet/All rights reserved

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