Readers, I wish it were that simple with Emmett.
I’d love just to pick up the phone, dial the Great Beyond, and ask Emmett about his life, directly.
As much as I love the research process, it is frustrating at times, because while I believe a lot of Emmett’s information is out there, it must be dug up. To me, persistence has never been the problem; it’s the patience with the process that is more difficult.
I am certain other biographers have felt the same way, especially when their subject (like mine) is obscure, personal papers are lacking, and the guy, frankly, was an enigma, even when he was alive.
Re dialing the Great Beyond: There’s no chance he was buried with a phone. At the time of his death, Emmett was a mess. Very few people knew he was in the hospital that last week of his life, and his family members (some right there in his own town) were notified only after he had died that, well, he had died in the hospital. I am convinced no one was talking to him at the end.
However, if I were given five minutes to talk with him in person, trust me, I would be ready for that interview. I do have a list of questions to ask him. Even though I can’t dial up the Great Beyond, I keep that list handy, because as I dig around for facts about Emmett’s life, he does speak to me. I have to listen closely, read closely, and be patient, as all of these details have long been buried.
Persistence and patience is key in research. To paraphrase Ida Tarbell , if something has been printed and published somewhere, it eventually shows up. You do have to look for it. And she was the ultimate investigative journalist of Emmett’s day, in my view. She got her questions answered; she did it the old fashioned way, by hands-on digging in archives and poring through dusty old files. (Just what I’m going to be doing next week in Pensacola!)
I am going to get that enigma to answer my questions, somehow. I just feel like it is going to happen. I just have to have the persistence — and patience — of Ida Tarbell.