Thursday, August 31, 2017

Vacationing in the Land of Despair and finding Wiggins.

If you were going to take a vacation based entirely on Conan Doyle's description of a place in his tales of Sherlock Holmes, where would you go?

Norfolk, where Sherlock spent his long summer vacation, with sunshine, fishing, duck hunting, and a select library?

A little white-washed house on the grassy headlands overlooking "the whole sinister semicircle of Mounts Bay," as Holmes and Watson vacationed in "Devil's Foot?"

Or how about "a grim district" with the main characteristic of "barrenness, inhospitality, and misery," a veritable "land of despair?" Sound good? Just cross the western state line of Nebraska, stay south of the Yellowstone River, stay north of the Colorado River, and don't go so far as California. Hey, make it so far as Greeley, Colorado, if you don't want to work too hard at it.

It's the magical place Conan Doyle describes in the opening paragraphs to the non-Sherlock second half of A Study in Scarlet, and it's where I wind up spending a bit of vacation time due to family ties. So far, I've been able to avoid the skulking coyotes, heavy-winged buzzards, and clumsy grizzly bears Conan Doyle has populating the area.

This particular trip, as we entered this "land of despair," I used the spotty cell service to check Twitter and found that Rob Nunn had found a twin to Mycroft Holmes's "hand like the flipper of a seal" in Danny DeVito's portrayal of the grotesque Penguin of Batman Returns, using multiple photos of same to torment anyone following the discussion. As the roadside scenery turned to barren scrub, the misery Conan Doyle saw here began to coalesce like some dour gray spirit.

Follow the right road into this land Doyle painted so grimly, and you will actually come to a town called "Wiggins," named after 1840s guide and scout in these parts, Oliver Wiggins, who helped set the trails that John Ferrier and his Mormon rescuers would take a few years later.

This brings up the thought that "Wiggins" of Sherlock Holmes's Baker Street Irregulars might not have been named Wiggins from birth at all. Given the exploring Wiggins that came before, Sherlock could have nicknamed his favorite urban scout "Wiggins" after Oliver P. Wiggins.

This thought was much cheerier to me than Mycroft having freakish Tim-Burton-movie hands, and coming upon Wiggins did a little bit to lighten this land Conan Doyle (or his friend Watson) visualized as such a depressing country.

Now if I can just make it through tomorrow without Rob Nunn posting pictures of Danny DeVito playing someone named "Wiggins" with foul prosthetic make-up.

(On a BBC Sherlock note, as Wiggins is now in a state of dispensaries for a certain herb, the town could easily start using the BBC guy as their new mascot.)

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