Elsie's Story: Chasing a Family Mystery

Elsie's Story: Chasing a Family Mystery

by Doris Green


Publisher HenschelHAUS

Published in Biographies & Memoirs/Memoirs, Parenting & Relationships, Nonfiction

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Book Description

Part memoir, part true detective tale, Elsie's Story traces the search for answers to the mysterious death of the author's aunt at a northern Wisconsin tavern in 1960. Was her death an accident? Suicide? Murder?

Sample Chapter

Eyes tracking the TV screen, I stuck an arm into a pajama sleeve. Hunkered cross-legged on the floor, back against an overstuffed chair, I followed the action while getting ready for bed.

A rifle poked from a bush halfway up the steep hill bordering the trail to the left. Marshal Wyatt Earp caught the movement and drew up his horse as a shot exploded overhead. The bullet struck the ground ahead of him. The marshal slipped from his horse in an instant, dodging right and sheltering behind a low rise. Wyatt Earp drew his gun.

I drew a breath, holding it close.

That summer I was twelve, still busy with 4-H baking and sewing projects (shorts and a sleeveless blouse) for the upcoming Racine County Fair. Television in our house was still black and white, though color was on the way. Also on the way were the first televised debates between presidential candidates and in a few months time people would be talking about John Kennedy’s youth and how bad Richard Nixon had looked and his refusal to wear unmanly makeup for the camera. But that July night I had eyes only for Marshal Earp and those ominous outlaws.

Suddenly a bell jangled from the hallway beyond the television. Jerked to the here and now, I watched Mom pick up the phone and turn away from the TV. She cupped her hand over her free ear. From my angle she appeared to be wearing half a set of ear muffs, a strange sight in the heat of summer. “Yeah, he’s here.” Mom dropped her hand and waved to Dad.

He rose from his swivel rocker, eyes fixed on Earp’s ambush all the way to the hallway.

Mom turned down the sound on the TV and plopped on the couch next to my younger sister Diane. We all strained to simultaneously hear the television and Dad.

“What? I can’t hear you.” The crease dividing Dad’s eyebrows deepened as if carved with my penknife. “You want me to do what? Now?”

Beyond the TV hum, Dad listened for a long minute.

“Who is it?” I whispered.

Mom shook her head, tuned to whatever Dad would say next.

Onscreen, Wyatt Earp stuck his hat above the low rise, and the desperado shot it out of the marshal’s hand. The shooter stood up to look for Earp. Big mistake. The marshal fired a perfect hit to the bad guy’s gun arm.

“Not tonight,” Dad was saying. “I’ve got to work in the morning.”

The bad guy screamed and staggered from behind the bush.

In our hallway there was another long silence from Dad.

Before my eyes, Wyatt Earp snapped handcuffs on the scowling crook.

“Look,” Dad finally said, “I can come on Saturday. Can’t you hold on until then? If you still want me to come, call me Friday night and I’ll drive up Saturday.”

Dad listened some more. “Okay, I’ll wait to hear.” With that, he replaced the receiver.

Sometimes polite words like “hello,” “goodbye,” and “you’re welcome” aren’t necessary when talking with a person you know well.

I looked at Dad, then at the television.

Wyatt Earp pushed the crook ahead of him toward his ever patient horse. Another murderous attempt thwarted.


Excerpted from "Elsie's Story: Chasing a Family Mystery" by Doris Green. Copyright © 2018 by Doris Green. Excerpted by permission. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher. Excerpts are provided solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.
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Author Profile

Doris Green

Doris Green

Doris Green was born in Mount Pleasant, Wisconsin, to parents who grew up on farms and carried their agrarian arts and skills into their 1950s suburban neighborhood. She grew up amongst a large cohort of mostly older cousins, as well as wise-cracking uncles, and laughing aunts who gathered regularly to play cards, exchange recipes, and swap stories. Known for his reminiscences, her father was a factory worker by day, and at other times, a gardener, tinkerer, and lover of old farm equipment. Her mother, a former Western Printing worker, was a provider of books—books saved from her days at the plant, books bought for a nickel at Goodwill, and books checked out of Racine’s west-side library branch.

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