By Lynn Moncus: QCS Columnist
By living in a rural area and knowing a little of the history, I am sometimes privileged to meet total strangers in search of information about their forebears. Just this week, for instance, two cousins, J.G. and T.H. Lancaster, called to ask if I could meet them somewhere to talk about their grandfather, Dr. William Lancaster.
Of course, we met at the coffee table at Del’s and spent an action packed hour visiting about the past. Dr. Lancaster ushered many of us into this world in his clinic in Clovis and was well-known throughout our area. Many stories have been told and written about him, and his grandsons were eager to add more to their collection. I’m not really sure how they came across my name, but I’m glad they did because I was able to learn far more from them than they did from me.
Although we were total stranger, we began talking as if we had know each other forever and had one exciting visit. We were later joined by Mrs. Dorothy Randals, who fell right into the session much as I had, and she had never even heard of their grandfather. I think she picked up almost as much history as I and seemed to enjoy the camaraderie.
The men recalled some of the time they spent with Dr. Lancaster and were obviously very fond of their grandfather. From what they said about him, I gathered that they had inherited their lively senses of humor from him and maybe just a bit of the blarney they were passing around. They were eager to hear about his practice and life in Eastern New Mexico, but I was little help because I merely heard Mother talk about him and our trip to Clovis for me to be born. I did see him a time of two in Quay County Courthouse when he was involved in the Health Office here but never had a chance really to know him.
The grandsons began to recount some of the stories they had picked up on the plains during the last few days and had great fun talking about the old-timers they had met along the way. They were delighted that so many people remembered Dr. Lancaster and were willing to share their memories. They were learning that people in our area enjoy talking about the past and are eager to share their stories with anyone who has the time to listen. They were also learning that hearing about relatives from people who really knew them is far more rewarding than reading books or even doing a lot of research on the Internet. I had a feeling they could see their grandfather clearly as they listened to those who knew him in the early days and by watching their expressions as they recounted their experiences with him.
Although gathering oral history is time-consuming, it is rewarding because it is very personal. It also opens many avenues for further research and gives varied pictures of the subject as each individual adds a new dimension. I was able to add the little Mother had told me and to give the men a few more names of people who could give even more.
Such visits are most special and make this woman from Ima proud to be a part of the history of our area. I can surely learn more than mere gossip while sitting at the coffee table and can collect information to provide much food for thought. Aren’t we fortunate to live where we do?