In a recent interview I was asked why my books and writings focus so deeply on obscure moments in history, historical unknowns, and forgotten places. At the risk of sounding overly smug, my answer was simple – why.
That little word is the catalyst for most everything I write. Why did the National Old Trails Highway, and the first alignment of Route 66 follow the twisted and torturous course through the Black Mountains of Arizona when there was a “valley bypass” that followed what is now the course for I-40?
Why did Benjamin Briscoe feel that offering a V8 engine in a car manufactured with laminated paper mache body panels over wood framing was a good idea? Why did he feel that one headlight mounted in the center of the radiator shell was sufficient?
In the grand scheme of things the answer to these and similar questions may seem irrelevant. However, there is the curiosity factor, the one that led people to stop at Two Guns even though they new in their heart it was a rip off and the one that leads people to seek obscure alignments of Route 66 or the runs of the Painted Desert Trading Post. 
And there are those historical questions that contain the answers to our modern problems or that at least can prevent us from duplicating mistakes. Case in point, to big to fail, a concept conceived to justify the federal governments role in subsidizing the auto industry with tax payers monies. 
Surprise! This very term was drummed up during the Hoover administration, and expanded upon in the Roosevelt administration, to keep banks afloat in Michigan which in turn kept the auto industry limping along. 
Then, as now, the devil was in the details. Consider Roy Chapin, Commerce Secretary under Hoover, President of Hudson, an automobile manufacturer, and a board member of the Guardian Group, an investment corporation tied to the banks that were bailed out. See any similarities here? 
Contrary to how history is often portrayed, it is not a dry, dusty, dead subject. It is the thread that links the past with the present and the present to the future. It is a road map, guide book, and inspiration. 
Even when history is presented in a proper context and is made exciting, as in the fabulous book, David Crockett by Michael Wallis, we often end up with a thick delicious soup that has yet to be stirred. The best ingredients are hidden at the bottom of the pot. 
In this book by Mr. Wallis, we are transported into the very world of David Crockett, a period so artistically woven from word pictures you can smell, touch, taste, and feel this long lost era. And yet we are left wondering about the lives of his obscure contemporaries. 
And so my focus is often on those obscure people, their lives, and the obscurity of their colorful lives. That is why I feel compelled to write about men like Ralph Teetor, the blind inventor of cruise control, or the Ghost Towns of Route 66. 
And so the answer is simply, why. 




  

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