MAJOR WEBSITE CHANGES

BLOG #48, SERIES #6
WEDNESDAYS WITH DR. JOE
MAJOR WEBSITE CHANGES
November 11, 2015

You will most likely have already noticed some of our electronic website changes. Here’s what is happening as I write these words:

Given that I am a dinosaur of the Print Age, it has taken a long time to bring our website into the Electronic Age. For a number of years now, we have unsuccessfully tried to make the transition; each time we made the attempt, something happened to derail us. Meanwhile, we dropped farther and farther behind the times.

The biggest problem by far was that would-be-buyers were forced to either write us checks for product, pay cash, or pay by PayPal. The process was getting undeniably archaic. Now, you’ll be able to shop electronically and fill your shopping carts and order by a click of a button!

But now our daughter Michelle has come to our rescue. With the invaluable assistance of an East Coast web-designer, they have now revamped everything. It will take us a while to get all the bugs out of the system—but bear with us: we are “getting there.”

At the same time that this has been happening, we have posted the biggest book sale by far in our history. Most everything has been discounted; some items represent deep discounts. It has been noticed: now the orders are pouring in.

We hope you’ll be pleased with what you see. Now it will be easy to contact us: just go to http://www.joewheelerbooks.com. And there you will find the Blog: Wednesdays with Dr. Joe, the Tweets, and Facebook icons. And you can reach us by email: mountainauthor@gmail.com.

Thank you ever so much for staying with us until we finally get up to date!

Published in: on November 11, 2015 at 5:00 am  Leave a Comment  

Bess Streeter Aldrich’s “A Lantern In Her Hand”

WEDNESDAYS WITH DR. JOE
DR. JOE’S BOOK OF THE MONTH CLUB #46
BESS STREETER ALDRICH’S A LANTERN IN HER HAND
November 4, 2015

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I take our book selection seriously, believing as I do that life offers us all too few opportunities to read books worth remembering. After all, if we read a book a week, starting at the age of five, at the age of 75, we’d only have read 3,600 books out of the millions one could choose from.

Thus I gave a lot of thought to our 46th book selection. During a recent fall colors trip we took with Bob and Lucy Earp in Tennessee, Kentucky, West Virginia, Virginia, and North Carolina, I took four potential candidates for the November book along. Aldrich’s book won out. It was my second reading of Aldrich’s masterpiece, and it impressed me even more the second time than it did the first (rarely is this true).

Would you like to become an authority of sorts on life on the Great Plains during the pivotal post Civil War years? Travel in a wagon train, live in a sod house (mostly underground), live with droughts, torrential rains, prairie fires, blizzards, grasshopper plagues, claim jumpers, primitive medical conditions, unrelenting winds, marauding Indians, financial depressions, isolation, wars, epidemics, early death, and ever so much more. Live through it as retold by one whose parents lived through it herself. The early events in the book were lived by Aldrich’s parents; the later events she experienced herself.

As a reader, you are there with the storyteller, Bess Streeter Aldrich. Once you board that covered wagon that is pulled west into Nebraska, vicariously you live as pioneers lived, enter into their minds, hearts, and souls.

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“All along, you will be amazed at the sheer number of insights into life back then that are relevant to life today. So what if overnight our power grid was hacked and we were forced to start all over again as pioneers? Just as Abbie and Will did. What if we had to put our own dreams on hold so that our children might live a better life than we had? What if we had nothing to pass on to our children but our dreams and a precious few bygone evidences that we weren’t always poor? The following excerpt movingly portrays this:

        “Abbie walked over to the small-paned half-window set in the sod, and looked out at the gray twilight coming across the prairie. The winds that were never still blew past the house in their unending flight.

“How queer people were. All the folks in the new country were hoarding things, hanging on to old heirlooms. They became symbols of refinement and culture. “Sarah Lutz had a painting that drew your eyes to it the minute you opened the door. Oscar Lutz’s wife had a pink quilted bedspread that she kept rolled up in newspapers. Even Christine Reinmueller had a bright blue vase with magenta-colored roses on it, standing up on top of the cupboard. They stood for something besides the land and the corn and the cattle. They must hang onto them, never lose them out of their lives, for if lost, everything was lost. She must hang onto the pearls and everything they stood for; Sarah must keep her painting; Martha Lutz, her bedspread; Christine, her blue vase. Else what was there in the future for the children?” (P. 108).

But the true measure of a book is whether or not it has the power to change you, inspire you, elevate you, broaden you, make you think deep thoughts—so that when you reluctantly read that last page, you are a different person from what you were when you read that first page—This is just such a book.

Bess Streeter Aldrich (1881 – 1954) was one of Nebraska’s most widely read and loved authors. Her writing career spanned forty-some years, during which she published over 160 short stories and articles, nine novels, one novella, two books of short stories, and one omnibus. In her work, she emphasized family values and recorded accurately Midwest pioneering history. She became one of the highest-paid authors of her time.

Her work appeared regularly in such magazines as The American, Saturday Evening Post, Ladies’ Home Journal, Collier’s, Cosmopolitan, and McCall’s.

Following is a listing of her best-known works:

1924 – Mother Mason
1925 – The Rim of the Prairie
1926 – The Cutters
1928 – A Lantern in Her Hand
1931 – A White Bird Flying
1933 – Miss Bishop
1935 – Spring Came on Forever
1936 – The Man Who Caught the Weather
1939 – Song of Years
1941 – The Drum Goes Dead
1942 – The Lieutenant’s Lady
1949 – Journey into Christmas
1950 – The Bess Streeter Aldrich Reader

And so Abbie Deal went happily about her work, one baby in her arms and the other at her skirts, courage her lode-star and love her guide,—a song upon her lips and a lantern in her hand. (P. 70)

* * * * *

Aldrich was originally published by D. Appleton & Company. If at all possible, secure a first edition hardback with dust jacket. She has also been published by Dutton Signet and Appleton Century Crofts.

Lassen Volcanic National Park

BLOG #47, SERIES #6
WEDNESDAYS WITH DR. JOE
LASSEN VOLCANIC NATIONAL PARK
November 10, 2015

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It was on August 8 of 2015 that our family caravanned into the foothills of California’s Lassen Volcanic National Park. Not surprisingly, never before had Connie and I and Greg and Michelle explored the park together. “Not surprisingly,” given that Lassen is outside the loop of normal national park visitation. Yosemite, Sequoia, Kings Canyon, Death Valley, and Joshua National Parks are integral parts of such a loop; Lassen is alone, and consequently its visitations are much less.

So, for starters, let’s see how Lassen became a national park in the first place. Chances are that if it had kept its cool by remaining merely just another dormant volcano, it would have remained unknown. But at 9:43 a.m., on June 14, 1914, Lassen erupted. It erupted 389 times more between 1914 and 1921, when it finally settled down again. To preserve this living volcanic laboratory, Congress created the Lassen Volcanic National Park on August 9, 1916.

The result today is the 106 ,372 acre park. It is especially interesting because it includes four different types of volcanoes. First of all, Lassen Peak may be the largest plug-dome volcano in the world; and older, layered stratovokano (also called composite volcano); shield volcanoes, where basalt forms low, smooth domes; and cinder cones. In addition, every hydrothermal (hot water) feature found on Earth, except for geysers, appears here.” (White, p. 391).

Lassen Park (10,457 feet) is the highest point in the park. It receives lots of snow, often forty feet a year.

Bumpass Hell Thermal Area

Bumpass Hell Thermal Area

Our extended family drove up high into the park then hiked to the volcanic area known as Bumpass Hell, named for K. V. Bumpass, a local guide who in the 1860s fell through the thin crust covering a sizzling mud pot, badly burning his leg. We were able to explore this large area via the extensive network of elevated boardwalks. It is the only place in the Cascade Range where such thermal activity takes place.

Later, we explored the new multimillion dollar visitor center and took full advantage of the fascinating exhibits and film on the many dimensions of the park. We have discovered that these films created for each national park visitor center are well worth the time it takes to see them; and they greatly enhance the park visitation itself.

* * * * *

Not until the 1980 eruption of St. Helens in Washington did another volcano erupt in the lower 48 states.

References:

Richard Ellis, Lassen Volcanic: The Story Behind the Scenery (Wickenburg, AZ: KC Publications, 2011). Illustrations taken from it as well.

White, Mel, Complete National Parks, (Washington, D.C.: National Geographic, 2009)

A WORLD ADRIFT

BLOG #43, SERIES #6
WEDNESDAYS WITH DR. JOE
A WORLD ADRIFT
October 28, 2015

Once, very long ago, we had Pax Romana, which lasted for a very long time. If you include the Eastern Byzantine Roman Empire, it lasted well over a thousand years. Then came Pax Britannica that lasted over a hundred years. It was followed by Pax Americana—it has lasted about a hundred years. But now that America has all but abdicated its role of global peace-keeper, the proverbial Pandora’s Box has been opened with a vengeance.

Up until recently, a system of global alliances, anchored by the authority and credibility of America, has helped keep the world from ripping apart. Not so today: Hardly any nation seriously believes America cares much about anyone other than itself any more. Result: Russia has stormed into Ukraine—and now Syria; America is retreating from Iraq and Afghanistan; and is permitting China to challenge it across the Pacific. The Middle East is in shambles and millions of displaced people are overrunning the nations of Europe. Europeans assumed national boundaries meant something—but when people are starving, nothing short of wholesale slaughter will stop them from their desperate search for a better life.

In history, democracies have rarely lasted longer than two centuries. Now many are wondering whether or not the same will hold true for America.

In economics, if global trust breaks down, nothing will be able to save the global economy.

If we ever needed God before, we certainly need Him now.

CHRISTMAS IN MY HEART® 24

BLOG #42, SERIES #6
WEDNESDAYS WITH DR. JOE
CHRISTMAS IN MY HEART® 24
October 21, 2015

NEWS RELEASE

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Joe L. Wheeler, Ph.D. has a new book out: the 24th consecutive yearly collection of Christmas in My Heart® stories. This is his 91st book and 76th story anthology. It was released in mid-October by Pacific Press Publishing Association in Nampa, Idaho, and is part of what has become the longest-running Christmas story series in America.

Like its predecessors, this new collection stays true to what has helped it to survive for so many years: horizontal trade paper format, Currier and Ives covers, old-time woodcut type illustrations, spiritually compatible stories that deeply move the reader, and stories for all age groups.

If this will be your first Christmas in My Heart® book, you will quickly discover that there is no connection between books: each is a stand-alone. Nevertheless, once you immerse yourself in this book, in all likelihood you’ll want to pick up earlier collections. Untold thousands have them all—unthinkable to face another Christmas season without the newest collection!

In this particular collection, you will find the following:

● Catherine Parmenter’s poem, “Holy Night.”
● Wheeler’s Introduction: “Our Top Twenty Christmas Stories.”

Over several years now, completists (those who own the entire series) have been mailing in their candidates for inclusion in a definitive list of the Top 20 Christmas stories ever written. In this introduction, you’ll find the results. There are actually two lists: One voted for by our readers, and the second consisting of Wheeler’s personal favorite 20 stories.

● “A Wood Crowns the Waters,” by Eric Philbrook Kelly
● “Little Cherry’s Star,” by G. M. Farley
● “The Christmas Kink,” by Lucille Adams
● “Flight Before Christmas,” by John Scott Douglas
● “Denny’s Christmas Revelation,” by Faith Freeborn Turner
● “The Belated Christmas Train,” by William McGinnies
● “Joy to the World,” by Mary Russell
● “The Lighted Path,” by Temple Bailey
● “Let Nothing You Dismay,” by Goldie Down
● “The Lost Child,” retold by Mabel Lee Cooper
● “Celestial Roots,” by Thomas Vallance
● “A Story for Christmas,” by Jody Shields
● “The Baby Camel That Walked to Jesus,” by Walter A. Dyer
● “Choices,” by Isobel Stewart
● “The Dream Catcher,” by Joseph Leininger Wheeler

You may order the book from us. After many years at $13.99, the publisher has raised the price to $14.99. But you may get it from us at a discounted cost of $13.99, plus $4.90 shipping. Inscribing, when specifically requested, at no extra cost.

Mailing address: P.O. Box 1246, Conifer, CO 80433

Dr. Joe’s Book of the Month – James Hilton’s “Lost Horizon”

BLOG #40, SERIES #6
WEDNESDAYS WITH DR. JO
DR. JOE’S BOOK OF THE MONTH CLUB #45
JAMES HILTON’S LOST HORIZON
October 7, 2015

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Since the advent of this novel in 1933, Shangri-La, the setting for this utopian novel, has come to mean a place of peace and contentment to people all around the world.

James Hilton (1900 – 1954) was, like most of his contemporaries, deeply impacted by what contemporaries called “The Great War” (World War I). A war so horrific, many wondered if it would doom civilization. Hilton, born in England, wrote several books exploring aspects of the war. This one, however, set in 1931, conceptualized a mythical utopia set high in one of the remotest parts of the Himalayas. Here, if the world self-destructed, civilized life could be given a chance for a rebirth in Shangri-La, where the High Lama has discovered the secret of extending life beyond even 200 years.

The vehicle bringing five passengers (four British, one American) is a high altitude plane that somehow made it to the mountains of the Blue Moon.

It is a riveting romance that has fascinated readers and movie-goers ever since it was printed. Its original publisher: William Morrow & Co., Inc. It was widely reprinted in hardback by Grosset & Dunlap and in trade paper by Pocket Books.

Questions readers will ask themselves are these: How much of this book could be true? What lessons about life can be learned by reading it? Is it a true happier-ever-after utopia—or might it have elements of a dystopia in it?

When you purchase your own copy, be sure it is unabridged. It’s not a very long book anyway.

M O V I E S

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(1983Twyman Catalogue)

Two movies have been made from this book:

1937 – B&W – 138 minutes –
Frank Capra (Producer and Director)
Robert Riskin (Writer)
Dimitri Tiompkin (Musical Score)
Actors: Ronald Colman, Jane Wyatt, Sam Jaffe, H. B. Warner, Thomas Mitchell, Edward Everett Horton, Isabelle Jewell, Margo – Academy Awards (2).
Nominated for 5 Academy Awards, including Best Picture, Best Supporting Actor.

It is a rare movie masterpiece that touches the heart of all who experience its dream—that some little plot of earth exists to which one can retreat, safe from the ravages of time and the world—one’s own little Shangri-La.

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(1980 Clem Williams Film Catalogue)

1973 – Color – 150 min. – Columbia

Charles Jarrott (Director)
Ross Hunter (Producer)
Larry Kramer (Screenwriter)
Burt Bacharach (Music)
Hal David (Lyrics)
Actors: Peter Finch, Liv Ullmann, Sally Kellerman, Charles Boyer, George Kennedy, Michael York, Olivia Hussey, Sir John Gielgud

Colorado’s Annual Gold Rush

BLOG #39, SERIES #6
WEDNESDAYS WITH DR. JOE
COLORADO ANNUAL GOLD RUSH
September 30, 2015

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Once again it’s Autumn in the Colorado Rockies. In recent days it sometimes seems like half of Colorado is on high country roads tracking down leaf-gold. For weeks now the media has been trumpeting the annual aspen gold-rush and guessing when it would happen—and where.

Where fall-colors are concerned, there are so many things that can go wrong: an early frost or snow, fierce winds, too much summer moisture, or too little summer moisture. That’s why Coloradans never take autumn splendor for granted

We always enjoy it when we get fall visitors as that gives us a good excuse to take full advantage of the season. This year, for some time now, our dear friends, Bob and Bev Mendenhall from Texas, have been calling, or e-mailing us asking when they ought to drop everything and head north so as to be at Maroon Bells on a peak day. Last year, we missed peak so they didn’t want a repeat of that! Problem is that peak color comes in Eastern Colorado at a different time than it does in Western Colorado. Not only that but colors turn at different times depending on elevation.

At any rate, we finally suggested they drop everything, jump in their SUV, and head north. The day after they arrived, we hit the road. We had plenty of company. Whenever we’d see a long line of cars stopped along the road, we stopped too. Usually, it would be spectacular vistas of autumn leaves, but sometimes people stop for animal life (usually elk, moose, big horn sheep, rocky mountain goats, marmots, pica, etc.). One lady told us, “Every year it’s the same: when the colors change I get so excited we just have to go see it before they’re gone!”

Colors varied: from Minturn to Leadville to Copper, colors were at peak. Coal Creek Canyon was disappointing as too much summer rain had resulted in a fungus that shriveled the leaves. Peak to Peak Highway was sub-par but had patches of great beauty. Rocky Mountain National Park was about average, as was the Lake Granby/Winter Park area. Squaw Pass was average as was Mount Evans—but the wildlife was more than worth the trip: especially the rocky mountain goats grandstanding near the very top of the highest paved road in America. And there was the almost surreal sight of a 1926 Rolls Royce Silver Ghost racing up to the top.

But then there was the piece de resistance: the two-day trip to Glenwood Springs, Aspen, and Maroon Bells. If we’d miscalculated its peak we’d have had some mightily disgruntled visitors! Not to worry: even though the colors along Maroon Creek were generally poor, past their prime, up ahead the ramparts encircling Maroon Lake (9,580′ elevation) were spectacular! Combine still-green, gold, umber, and orange aspens; the iridescent blue-green lake, the reddish maroon mountain walls; the deep blue high country Colorado sky; and the three iconic mountain bells: Pyramid Peak (14,018′), North Maroon Peak (14,014′), and South Maroon Peak (14,156′), lightly dusted by a recent early fall snow, and you’ll have the most photographed spot in all Colorado. Indeed, it adds up to being one of the most breathtaking natural spectacles in the world, on the bucket lists of untold thousands of travelers.

Like most of the enthralled visitors being bussed in, in a steady stream, we just didn’t want to leave; so we walked around the lake, took pictures, sat down on wooden benches, and dreamed in a sort of trance. Altogether: one of those extremely rare almost perfect days humans are granted so few of.

Big Barnes & Noble Surprise! It Celebrates Lincoln

BLOG #38, SERIES #6
WEDNESDAYS WITH DR. JOE
BIG BARNES & NOBLE SURPRISE!
IT CELEBRATES LINCOLN
September 23, 2015

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Some months ago, my editors at Howard/Simon & Schuster alerted me that a big serendipity would be coming our way on August 8. And sure enough, it happened.

My Abraham Lincoln biography, Abraham Lincoln: A Man of Faith and Courage, was first published in 2008, and has done very well; it is still in print. Since that time many thank-you letters have come our way, a number coming from adolescents, tweens, and teens. The common denominator: Thank you for bringing back the spiritual dimension of Lincoln’s life. I prayed daily that this would be so during the research and writing of the book. Readers also point out how readable it is—hard to put down (unlike most ponderous biographies).

Something most interesting has been gradually taking place during the last two years: Barnes & Noble managers tell me that more and more browsers are searching for spiritual books (young readers as well as old). Apparently, under the radar of the secular hedonistic media leaders of our time, a spiritual awakening is beginning to make itself felt.

So much so that key leaders of Barnes & Noble’s Sterling Division singled out this seven-year-old biography as one worthy of re-emphasis. Worthy of a special proprietary printing that they have now made available at a bargain price. Not only that, but since August 8, they have sent—not single copies, which is the norm—but 8 – 10 copies of each to their 500 plus stores across the nation!

My Howard editors are thrilled with the honor implied by this unexpected event. I am merely humbled and view it as an answer to prayer. For some time now I have asked God each day that, if it be His will, the Lincoln biography will sweep the nation—but only if it be to His honor and glory—not mine! For if ever the values represented by Lincoln’s selfless life should come back, it certainly ought to be now!

So here’s the big opportunity for each of you. The regular Howard/Simon & Schuster printings are still available at $22.99. They will continue to be sold at this price. However the Barnes & Noble limited edition of 5,000 will be available at about a 65% reduction (lower by far than regular wholesale): $7.98 each [Barnes & Noble members will be able to take an additional 10% discount, picking them up at $7.18 each]. Should the first-print-run sell through, they will either leave it at that or ask for another printing. If they do not reprint, the regular edition will still be available at $22.99.

I just heard from someone who bought nearly all the copies available at his closest Barnes & Noble outlet; he plans to give them all away. If each of you should take advantage of this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to get these inspirational biographies into the hands of friends and young people, what a blessing that might be! Since the Barnes & Noble edition looks almost the same (hardback with dust jacket) as the First Edition, and since I certainly can’t afford to sell them at that price, I would encourage our readers to buy these from Barnes & Noble rather than from me. What wonderful Christmas presents they’d make! To schools public as well as private. Both as Corporate or personal gifts.

Now here’s how you can tell them apart:

Barnes & Noble Edition: Copyright Page

Copyright © 2008 by Howard Books
This Howard Books proprietary edition August 2015
Howard and Colophon are trademarks of Simon & Schuster, Inc.
The Simon & Schuster Speakers Bureau paragraph
10 9 8 7 6 5 4 3 2 1 [Howard’s regular printing currently indicates 4th printing]
Instead of the regular ISBN numbers, this Barnes & Noble printing has three:
ISBN 978-1-4165-5096-9
ISBN 978-1-5011-2271-2 (prop)
ISBN 978-1-4165-6431-5 (ebook)

Will be interested in hearing back from you as to responses you get by availing yourself of this printing.

Making Family Memories – Part Two

BLOG #37, SERIES #6
WEDNESDAYS WITH DR. JOE
MAKING FAMILY MEMORIES
AROUND A MILL CREEK CAMPFIRE
Part Two
September 16, 2015

There were still only three of us, Marji, Connie and me that first evening. After checking into our cabin, Connie and I joined Marji around the campfire. It was good to relax, gaze into the flames, and catch up on family matters.

Next day was quiet so we joined Marji in a food-buying expedition in nearby Chester, adjacent to beautiful Lake Almanor. By evening, our numbers ballooned, each contingent making a dramatic entrance into the fireside area: brother-in-law Elmer; daughter Michelle, son-in-law Duane, grandsons Taylor and Seth; our son Greg; my cousin Steve and wife Roxann; nephew Shane, wife Lisa, and daughter Chloe. With fourteen now sitting around the campfire, it seemed that everyone was simultaneously talking to someone! Our kids had been backpacking in the coastal Redwoods for most of a week and thus had lots of hike-related experiences to share. It was fascinating to watch perhaps nature’s largest pine cones (sugarpine) contorting and writhing after they’d burst into flames in the fire-pit.

By Thursday, horseshoe-tossing had become a marathon. Except for meals, the action there never stopped. In time we were joined by our beloved Charlotte (long ago adopted into our family), nephew Jessie, and grandniece Lexi—bringing us up to near full-strength. In the evening, Steve (the storyteller of our family) regaled the campfire audience with story after story, many of them involving members of our family who are no longer with us. Few of us had ever heard them before. Steve has a wonderful gift: he can step back in time a half-century or more and remember every action, every word said, on a given day. Even vividly remembering things that took place when he was only two or three! Finally, reluctantly, we said our good nights and wended our way to cabins, trailer houses, or tents for the night. Some slept on the bank just above Mill Creek which, being spring-fed, was immune to California’s four-year drought, and thundered down the canyon.

Friday, it was time to caravan over to Lake Almanor where cousin Avenelle and Jim hosted us for the afternoon, ferrying most of us across the lake to a lakeside restaurant on the other side; the rest of our family circled around the lake by car. It proved to be a never-to-be-forgotten afternoon. Virtually the moment we returned to Mill Creek, clanging horseshoes were heard again. Others of us took walks into the towering evergreens that make the Mill Creek area so unforgettable. All around us, other family reunions were taking place. When the Central Valley’s heat gets to near furnace temperatures, everyone who can, flees to the mountains for blessed relief. That’s a key reason why the resort is booked up a year ahead of time. Later on, after a light snack, it was campfire time again. One of the stories Steve told us had to do with a mountain lion that stalked him in the Sierras—only by a miracle did Steve escape alive. And Elmer’s large stock of sugar pine cones continued to be raided one by one—after each performance, Elmer would be begged to “please burn one more!”

On Saturday, the family caravanned into the heart of Lassen Volcanic National Park, a place a number of us were unfamiliar with. The hike up to Bumpass Hell Hot Springs was most memorable, reminding us of Yellowstone National Park’s much more extensive stretch of performing sulphuric hot springs and geysers. Afterwards, we watched the informative film in the new Visitor’s Center. Shawn, who’d been involved in fighting the big Willow Creek fire in the Trinity Alps, had driven all the way to Mill Creek to be with us for the evening. After supper, Elmer and Seth teamed up to show us a family film most of us had never even heard about: the 1935 Golden Wedding Anniversary of my great grandparents, Dr. Ira and Emma Bond Wheeler in Healdsburg, California. What was funny was seeing the arrival of a long stream of family members in what to us were antique cars. Clearly, they’d packed in as many family members as could be shoe-horned in, for each disgorged an astonishingly large number of people before the car moved on and the next one arrived. This film had to have been one of the earlier family films ever made.

Afterwards, Shawn, a stand-up comedian if there ever was one, stood up and kept us in proverbial stitches for well over an hour. Especially did the cousins revel in his inimitable family-related humor. Much later, when the last sugarpine cone had writhed into embers, we bid farewell to everyone, for some left that evening and others very early next morning.

But on Sunday morning, after another delicious breakfast served on Mill Creek Restaurant’s outside deck, one after another, many with moist eyes, bid each other good-bye, each wondering if ever, on this earth, they’d be able to see the same family members assemble.

AFTERWARDS

Many have been the heartfelt responses since then. Especially having to do with the cousins who were together long enough to really get to know each other. Thanks to the serenity of Mill Creek and the scarcity of electronic media, everyone had a unique opportunity to really get to know each other in a deep way. But more than that, the young people were able to perceive parents, uncles and aunts, and grandparents, as flesh-and-blood people who not only once were so much like them but, seen with their contemporaries, shed their authority-figure-selves and were young-at-heart just like their descendants. And the numbers were just right: any more and they wouldn’t have been able to really get to know, appreciate, and love each one to the extent they did. Some of them have already, only a month later, said, “Oh, when can we do this again!”

Our personal conclusion: For each one of us, it was a life-changing experience!

Making Family Memories Around a Mill Creek Campfire

BLOG #36, SERIES #6
WEDNESDAYS WITH DR. JOE
MAKING FAMILY MEMORIES
AROUND A MILL CREEK CAMPFIRE
Part One
September 9, 2015

It took close to two years to make the family reunion happen; after all, Mill Creek, California, is relatively unknown to most people. One member of our family came from Idaho, one from Florida, four from Maryland, two from Nevada, two from Colorado, and eight from various places in California–eighteen of us in all.

Miracle of miracles, eventually all eighteen arrived at Mill Creek—in spite of fierce forest fires burning all across Northern California. Especially in the San Joaquin Valley, smoke was thick, and most roads leading to the coast were closed due to the fires—at times it seemed like the entire Golden State was on fire!

The focal center of this gathering of the clan was Marji and Elmer Raymond’s trailer house and fire-pit. My sister Marji had been the main choreographer of the reunion. As we watched one contingent after another make their appearance, I couldn’t help but step backwards in time more than half a century when annual Thanksgiving reunions of the Wheeler and Bond clans were a given. High on Napa Valley’s Howell Mountain at Grandpa Rollo and Grandma Ruby’s Angwin ranch, it was unthinkable to miss Thanksgiving with extended family. The pattern was unvarying: car door after car door being slammed, Grandma Ruby’s singing out her unvarying, “Why you dear souls!” and “Why Papa!,” as each new arrival was hugged—all this while dogs barked excitedly and cats scurried for cover. The women gathered in the kitchen, each bringing food. The crescendo of family gossip and laughter made it a wonderful place to be—and the smaller children played with the well-over-a-hundred-year-old blocks by the fireplace (some of the blocks had crossed the plains in wagon trains a century before). Grandma Ruby (who was deaf, could read lips) ruled over this segment of the reunion. Outside, a little distance off, Grandpa Rollo ruled over the men in their marathon horseshoe tournaments that stopped only for dinner, or darkness. The continuous clinks as horseshoes reached the stake was etched in the soundtracks of my memory forever. The older boys watched in fascination as ringer after ringer rang out. Grandpa’s usually rang out most because rarely did his tosses miss the stake. There was much laughter and bantering and shouts when ringers were capped by other ringers. Since the usual Thanksgiving head-count averaged over eighty, the cumulative hubbub never stopped except to eat. And what meals those were! Only for the blessing was there momentary silence. At night, Grandpa challenged all comers at caroms. Eventually, the carom boards were put away and all gathered around the upright piano to sing. Grandma Ruby “listened” by putting her hand on the piano top and seraphically “feeling” the music. Eventually, the kids were put to bed but the adult socializing continued far into the night. And next day, the slammed car-doors and “you dear souls!” and “Why Papa’s” were heard once more, as the yearly ritual came to an end.

Except for an occasional funeral, once Grandpa and Grandma were moved to Oregon, the Napa Valley reunions stopped, and family members never again gathered together in mass as they had before. So you can imagine the memories that were brought back to Marji, my cousin Steve, and me as once more we heard the continuing ring of horseshoes—with one big difference—the marksmanship being generally so poor that it was a serendipity when a horseshoe actually touched a stake!

But this time, Marji made sure the women weren’t prisoners of the kitchen: breakfast and lunch could be eaten at the Mill Creek Restaurant or in the cabins; only the dinner would be picked up under the tent adjacent to the fire-pit and eaten around it.

Next week, we’ll take you through “the rest of the story.”

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