There’s nothing like a raised eyebrow and a hushed tone to capture our attention. Head bent, the bearer of bad news leans closer and asks , “Did you hear…?” Immediately, least we miss a word, we reach for our ear-trumpet.
We know better than to listen, but our evil twin twists our arm. Likewise, the town crier, but both parties partake in this guilty pleasure. What is it about gossip? What is it about infidelity, divorce, drunk driving, insolvency, illness, death, and others’ misfortunes that capture our interest? (I leave it to my readers to think about my questions. I have no answers.)
The higher they are, the farther they fall, and the gossip increases in currency. We like nothing better than to see someone fall off the pedestal. Woe be unto he or she of high birth or a prosperous family who falls far from the family tree. Such was the case of Velma Beckwith, daughter of Elton and Elsie Beckwith.
Formerly of Desert Island, Maine, Elton and his brother Edwin came to The Valley in 1847. Despite a modest beginning, the brothers joined Charles Goodnight in driving cattle north from Texas.
The road-weary cattle were then fattened on Valley grass before moving on to the mining towns or on to Denver for shipment east. With 7,000 head of cattle, Beckwith Ranch was the second largest cattle operation in the state of Colorado.
Needless to say, Velma’s parents had high expectations for their daughter. When Velma came of age, the family moved to their Denver home: there they could take advantage or the larger talent pool of eligible bachelors. Unfortunately, Velma thwarted her parents plans, chose unwisely, and married beneath her. Subsequently, Velma’s parents and Uncle Edwin disowned her.
Can you imagine the gossip!
If you are a reader living in the neighborhood of Custer County, you might like to flesh out this story with a visit to the Beckwith Ranch, five miles north of Westcliffe on Highway 69. Decorated for the holidays, Friends of Beckwith Ranch are hosting an Open House, 11:00 – 4:00 p.m., Saturday and Sunday, Dec. 8 and 9. The house will also be open the same hours Dec. 15 and 16.
Walk the grounds. Drink in the landscape. Walk from room to room. Marvel at the ranching history. Delight in the restoration and the seasonal decorations.
Imagine the family dynamics that led Velma to thwart her family’s ambition.
Reflect on the nature of gossip. What drives it?
Write a short piece in which gossip plays a part. Perhaps the gossip contains not a bit of truth.
Write a piece in which parental expectations play a part. You might begin by thinking about expectations your parents had for you.
Remember as a child… playing a game… I think it was called “Gossip”? You sat in a circle and one person whispered something in the ear of the person to his left. And so on around the circle. It was fun to see how much the message changed as it completed its round. Use this concept – the mutating message – in a short piece.