Friday, June 19, 2009

The Jury List

While here in MO, I'm trying to keep my CA hours--which means, with the two-hour time difference, I'm going to bed at 10:00p.m. and getting up at 6:00a.m. Like real people. It's interesting.

I spent some time in the Pacific Coin Laundry this morning, writing in my journal while my unmentionables sloshed, then tumbled. It was good to get caught up on the writing. Then Marc picked me up and it was back to playtime again.

He took me out to two more cemeteries today and again told me stories of how the victims met their demise. "Oh!" he said at one point, stopping abruptly near a remote, rural driveway, "Do you want to meet the granddaughter of the woman who chased your great-grandmother off her property with a broom? If she's home, that is...." Turned out to be the wrong driveway--but there's a chance the woman will be going along with us tomorrow on the Bertha Gifford Mystery Tour.

Marc bought me lunch again today (darn these Midwestern men and their chivalrous values!), and as we ate, we went slowly through his huge file on Bertha. He wanted to make sure that I had copies of everything he'd collected. I had most of it--except for the documents found at the courthouse in Union. Now, I've been to that courthouse twice; the first time was 15 years ago, the second time was six years ago just before I wrote Tainted Legacy. Both times I made a nuisance of myself asking folks for any and all documents. The second time I spoke to Bill Miller, the gentleman who is responsible for, among other duties at the courthouse, keeping the files of the court. Six years ago he insisted--despite my persistence--that nothing was available on Bertha Gifford. But though he acted like he knew of her crimes, it was evident that he was confusing her with someone else. At any rate, by the time Marc began sniffing around a couple years back, Bill had come up with page after page from the days of the trial, including expenses incurred by Bertha during her incarceration (for meals, etc.), various subpoenas, and a list of citizens called for jury duty, with names lined through of those who didn't make the cut. Marc also had the original comic books and detective magazines containing stories on Bertha, which he showed me. Now that was one great lunch.

We also went out to the House of Mystery in Catawissa today. I'd gotten permission from the owner, Bob Fiedler, to visit the farm, so I assured Marc we could get out and look around, which we did, boldly peeking in the windows. He mentioned something about expecting to see ghosts--my same reaction when I'd first walked through the house six years ago. A sad note here: the gorgeous steel span bridge over the Meramec River into Catawissa may be demolished soon. The county is considering replacing it, as it was erected in 1906. Wish I could post a photo here--and I will post one when I return. The bridge is close currently due to high water levels on the Meramec, so we got out and walked halfway out. It's a great piece of engineering, and I felt completely safe on it. But what do I know?

Another stop on today's guided tour: The funeral home where Bertha's funeral took place--with only one person in attendance, her husband Eugene. We didn't go inside, but it was amazing just to see the little place, formerly someone's home, gleaming white in the summer sun, just like it must have in 1951 when Gene said his final good-byes to the love of his life.

Tomorrow I will meet Marc in Washington, MO at the historical society's museum. Marc, myself, and a large (I hope!) group of individuals will climb onto a Greyhound bus for the Bertha Gifford Mystery Tour. Can't wait!


  1. i want to see the comic books! love you mom!

  2. p.s i've been blabbing about the book to co-workers, you'll have to come over for a celebrity spotlight bbq when you get back!

  3. p.p.s is Marc cute? married?....

  4. LOL... your p.p.s. beat me to the question.

    OK, ladies, here's the deal: Marc is adorable. And ten years my junior. But hey, who cares? Bertha was ten years older than Gene!! Ha! (Marc is married to Tina--happily--for many years.)

  6. How exciting for you! Loving the adventures of your MO explorations, girlfriend. So much more exciting than Little League All Star tournaments, the game that never ends up here. Can't wait for the next installment.