Dr. Joe’s Book Club – Laurence Bergreen’s “Over the Edge of the World”

May 28, 014



Recently, while we were visiting my sister Marjorie and her husband, Elmer Raymond in Red Bluff, California, Elmer asked if I’d yet read Bergreen’s landmark biography of Ferdinand Magellan. I had not so he loaned his copy to me. All the way back to Colorado, on Amtrak, I continued reading it. By the end, I knew it had to be my next Book of the Month selection.

The book is a biography, true; but much more than just a biography, it is the story of one of the greatest and most daring adventures in the history of this planet. If you’ve ever wished to cut your teeth on a book guaranteed to stretch your mind, this would be it.

Thirty years that doubled the size of the known world! It boggles the mind just to imagine such a thing. It is true that supposedly Scandinavian mariners had reached Labrador in 986 and 1000, but few people were aware of it. Many considered such a voyage to merely be a myth.

It was the fall of Constantinople in 1453 to the Turks that dramatically shifted the western world’s attention in a totally different direction. For now, the Turks controlled the land and sea routes to the East. There was then no consensus that the world was a sphere. The great land mass of Europe and Asia constituted, with Mediterranean Africa, the known world. But then, note what happened! Two nations: Portugal and Spain were to dominate the doubling of the known world in just a few short years, at the then fastest sea-speed known to man, sail-driven caravels and galleons.

Portugal’s Prince Henry the Navigator inaugurated the commercial revolution that was to transform the map of the globe. Spain came late to the game. Not until 1479, with the marriage of Ferdinand and Isabella did Spain even become a state. Even then, it took their conquest of the Moorish kingdom of Granada in 1492 to enable Isabella to send Christopher Columbus on his voyage, seeking a sea route to the Indies. Columbus landed on Watling Island in the Bahamas on October 12 of 1492; he discovered Cuba on October 18; on December 25, his flagship, the Santa Maria was sunk in Haitian waters [it has been in the news during the last couple of weeks–apparently its wreckage has finally been found]! During his four voyages to what he mistakenly assumed to be part of the Indies, Columbus also discovered Puerto Rico, Jamaica, Dominica, the Orinoco River, Honduras, and Panama. Had he only known it, when he was on the Panamanian east coast, he was only 40 miles from discovering the Pacific Ocean, the vastest ocean on earth, that Christmas of 1502. He died in 1506, still not knowing just what it was he had discovered.

In 1513, Nuñez de Balboa discovered a new ocean, which he called the “South Sea” (the Pacific).

In 1497, King Manuel of Portugal, jealous of the honors and wealth that Columbus was bringing to Spain, commissioned Vasco de Gama to find a sea route to India (at that time no one had any idea just how huge Africa was). Mariners for centuries had been too terrified of the unknown to venture south of Africa’s big hump. Forced by storms to take a circuitous route, the 28-year-old captain took 137 days, voyaging some 5,000 miles, to reach the Cape of Good Hope. It would take him 178 more days, and 4,500 more miles to reach Calicut on the Malabar Coast, where he anchored on May 20, 1498. Finally, the Portugese had found a route to India to replace the land routes through Arabia and Persia.

Proud of having finally reached the real India while the Spanish navigators were still stumbling around the Caribbean, Portugal hadn’t given a thought to the world west of them. But in 1500, Portugese navigator Pedro Cabral, driven far off the coast of Africa by a terrific storm, found himself on the coast of Brazil. Two years later, Amerigo Vespucci arrived at the conclusion that South America was actually a continent–not part of India.



Enter Ferdinand Magellan (1480 – 1521). In 1495, he entered the service of Manuel “the Fortunate,” King of Portugal. He spent his early years sailing under Portugese captains such as de Almeida, in the islands of the Indies. The object of their search was the legendary Spice Islands (the Moluccas), which they finally reached in 1511. In 1513, he was wounded in Morocco. Afterwards, having fallen out of favor with King Manuel, Magellan renounced his Portugese citizenship and offered his services to Charles V” of Spain. He announced his desire to seek out a western route to the Spice Islands by sailing around South America, hopefully discovering a strait through which his ships could traverse. On August 10, 1519, Magellan left Seville with a fleet of five vessels. Little did he know what lay ahead! Of those five ships, only one of them would return after circumnavigating the globe, for the first time in human history.

Magellan himself would be killed, after unbelievable hardships, complete with mutinies, desertions, loss of ships, and epidemics of scurvy that decimated his mariners. In those days, no one knew what caused scurvy or how to cure it. As fate would have it, he’d be killed in the Moluccas, the Spice Islands he’d already explored back in 1511. He’d also escaped being murdered by the express directive of the King of Portugal who was willing to kill the explorer rather than have him complete the first circumnavigation of the globe. Even after Magellan’s death, the Portugese did the utmost within their power to keep any of Magellan’s mariners from making it back to Spain alive. On September 8, 1522, three and a half years after leaving Seville, only eighteen of the original 280 mariners arrived back in Spain, more dead than alive, in a crippled ship that barely made it into port. They had traveled over 60,000 miles (the equivalent of over two and a half times around the world!).

Fortunately for Magellan’s memory, aboard that one battered little ship was Antonio Pigatetta, the indefatigable chronicler of the expedition; it would be his incredibly detailed chronicles of the epic voyage, published in Venice twenty years later, that would set the record straight, for Charles V cared only for the vast treasure in spices that came home with the eighteen survivors–didn’t even give a passing thought to Magellan’s giving his life on behalf of him and his realm.

By making it into the harbor, by that act, Spain displaced Portugal as the world’s premier maritime power, Magellan proved that the world was a sphere and much much larger than anyone had ever dreamed of, that it was possible to circumnavigate the entire globe, and that the known world had in that moment – doubled.

According to the Encyclopedia Britannica, “Magellan’s name has never received its due recognition in general history. It ranks with those of Columbus, Marco Polo, and Henry the Navigator. The circumnavigation of the globe is as great an event as the discovery of America. Magellan achieved what Columbus planned–the linking of west Europe with Asia by direct transit over the western ocean.”

* * * * *

With all this as a preamble, you ought to be ready to pounce on a copy of the book, sit down, and get ready for one of the greatest reads of your lifetime.

Over the Edge of the World by Laurence Bergreen (New York: William Morrow/Harper Collins, 2003). It has now been published in trade paper; in fact it is already in its 13th trade paper printing.


May 21, 2014


Yes, trains, long considered antiquated and a quaint holdover from the past, have quietly and unobtrusively in recent years become the “in” thing with thousands of travelers. Hadn’t realized it until Connie and I boarded The California Zephyr at Denver’s rapidly changing Union Station on April 20. Actually, “rapidly changing” is a major understatement, for it is a stunning transformation. Even though the construction is still going on, it is the talk of the plains: A new upscale hotel is going in, buses from all over the region have been rerouted so they disgorge and pick up passengers in a large state of the art underground terminal directly below the train waiting room. Same for light rail. As a result, already over a billion dollars of new construction is changing the city skyline of what locals call “LO-DO” [lower downtown].

The initial news that Sunday morning was not good: the train would be two and a half hours late. We later discovered that a big fire had broken out near the tracks in the vicinity of Omaha. But not to worry, the train would make up a lot of the time later on. And it did: an hour and a half of it before we reached Sacramento. But the delay didn’t appear to bother anyone very much. Just accepted it as another example of what regulars label “AMTRAK time,” the result of freight train corporations owning the tracks, and consequently having priority over passenger trains. But, in reality, as everyone knows all too well, air travelers face jammed skies and weather-based delays and cancellations virtually every day, not counting mechanical problems—so, delay-wise, it can be a Hobson’s choice.


Since it had been some years since we had last traveled by train, we wondered what it would be like in the Year of our Lord 2014. It was enough that finally here around the bend, the long silver city on steel wheels backed into the still-under-construction station. We were surprised to see how excited we were–it had been a long time since we’d experienced anything but dread and distaste over the prospect of boarding yet another flying cattle-car. So this was different. How different we didn’t yet realize.

We quickly discovered that, as through-travelers to California, we were assigned a through-car. Not so for shorter-distance travelers who had to settle for potluck car-wise. But not to worry: they could later change seats if they so desired.

Downstairs (adjacent to the restrooms) were storage facilities for large suitcases. No charge for them such as is true with most airlines today. The smaller case we could stow in the overhead above our seat upstairs. After picking just the right seats for the anticipated view, and then positioning our smaller suitcase or bag overhead, with a giant sigh of relief we took our seats and watched the scurrying around, including the boarding of the last passengers and train attendants–and the journey began.

Unlike air travel, where only the person sitting next to a window can see out, here everyone can see. Furthermore, passenger jets fly so high today that rarely can even those sitting next to the windows see what is passing below; whereas in trains, the continually unrolling of the travel scroll reveals a world that’s only feet away–and not 40,000 feet away such as in airplanes.

After a while, an attendant came through, checked to see if we were through-passengers, then wrote our destination down on a card and attached it to the overhead rack. Later on, we learned the reason for that: late at night, unless aroused by an attendant, some people sleep through their destinations. One young woman in our car, who was supposed to get off in Elko, Nevada, dropped off to sleep after being awakened, and didn’t get off until Reno; there she had to wait for the next eastbound train the following day.

After we had been checked in, we were free to wander. What a difference from air travel where, most of the time, you remain strapped to your seat, and only get up for potty breaks. Even then, in the forward compartment, no one is allowed to wait in line. No such restrictions on the train. The most popular place to be is the observation car, for there you can look up as well as out. In our case, since passengers see two of the most beautiful mountain ranges in America (The Rockies and the Sierra Nevadas), in consecutive days, almost everyone jockeys for a seat in the observation car during those stretches. Especially was this true when traversing Colorado’s iconic Glenwood Canyon.

The snack car too was almost always in use by someone. And then there was the Dining Car, where three meals a day are served. Reservations are easy to secure. Only when your number is called do you enter the Dining Car. Then you are seated. Unless you specifically ask to be seated alone, generally you join others already seated. We always prefer to thus get acquainted with our fellow travelers, for that’s what makes train travel so fascinating. Reminded me of the long-ago days when air-dining was such a pleasure; today, you’re lucky if you get pretzels, peanuts, or crackers. On the train, it is a leisurely affair–no one hurries you. Though you don’t dine on fine china, at least you have clean white tablecloths, and can order from a surprisingly large array of options. Even for vegetarians such as us. And the food was certainly good, and those who served us most gracious and interesting to talk to. And it was clear that they–and all the other train attendants we chatted with–loved their job. Many had worked for AMTRAK for much of their entire careers!

So what a different world! No reason to be struck with deep-vein thrombosis that happens on long air flights, because everyone is free to wander. Children love it, for it’s like the entire train is just one long fascinating moving playground. In fact, a good friend of ours, who when he heard we were traveling by train to California, asked what we thought of train travel. After listening to my answers, he booked The California Zephyr west to Emeryville [San Francisco], and the coastal AMTRAK south. He and his family of four got off at Santa Barbara and drove up to President Reagan’s mountain hideaway; then drove on to Disneyland, after which they headed home by the same route. Later I asked him what he thought of train travel. He had booked a family sleeper [though AMTRAK travel is generally cheaper than air travel, sleeper compartments cost considerably more – sort of like traveling business class by air]. He said his kids loved train travel! In fact he said, they’d asked if they might always travel by train from here on!

But our journey had just begun. Part two of “Trains – The New Way to Travel” will resume on Wednesday, June 4; as next week we’ll break for Dr. Joe’s Book of the Month Club June book selection. By the way, there’s always lots of time to read on trains.

I have so much more to share with you about why so many people – including young people (college age and young adults) – are gravitating to train travel today. See you June 4.


    May 14, 2014


     Joe L. Wheeler, Ph.D., author/editor/compiler of 86 books, has a new book out: Only God Can Make a Dad (eChristian/Mission Books, 2014). Actually, this book was published before A Mother’s Face Is Her Child’s First Heaven, but we reversed the order to get the book out before Mother’s Day.

Included in this collection are twelve timeless stories of fatherhood that ought to stand the test of time. If you are looking for the perfect Father’s Day gift for someone, this might just be it.


In its 142 pages, the following are included:

Introduction: “Why Only God Can Make a Dad” –Joseph Leininger Wheeler
“Tenderly and Forever,” –Author Unknown
“The Bridge of Ice” –Mitchell V. Charnley
“As a Grain of Mustard Seed” –Hattie H. Carpenter
“Father” –Stella Parker Peterson
“The Best Policy” –Christine Whiting Parmenter
“The Return” –Margaret E. Sangster, Jr.
“There Is a Way Which Seemeth Right” –Gwendolyn Lampshire Hayden
“The Church with an Overshot-Wheel” –Author Unknown
“Jim’s Experiment” –Beth Bradford Gilchrist
“In Quest of beauty” –Maud Mary Brown
“Roddy’s Second Nature” –T. Morris Longstreth
“Life in the Fast Lane” –Joseph Leininger Wheeler

    Joseph Leininger Wheeler

      Fatherhood is a mighty tough profession—one none of us get any training for.  Just as is true for motherhood, each newly-minted father stumbles blindly into it without a learning manual or introduction book.
There is no greater epiphany than that first glimpse of God’s greatest miracle in our lives: that first baby, flesh of our flesh, conceived in love by a man and woman united by God in holy matrimony.  It is no hyperbole to maintain that no male ever really experiences selfless love until he looks for the first time into the eyes of his helpless child.  Even marriage can be approached selfishly.  But not fatherhood—for the baby is so helpless that, without parents or parental surrogates, it will die in only days.
One of the greatest tragedies of our time is the wholesale depreciation of marriage by a secular society.  Marriage—who needs it?  Men and women everywhere (close to half of all Americans) merely move in with each other—without commitment, without swearing, before God, family, and witnesses, that each will be there for the other as long as life lasts.  These solemn marital vows represent the very foundational structure of a child’s life; when they do not exist, the child’s heart is broken by that absence.
The media tells us not to worry: the child will do fine without a mother and a father.  One will do as well as two.  Not true!  It cannot possibly be the same.  And let me tell you why.
For a number of years, I directed an Adult Degree Program.  During those years, and in a similar program in another state, I sat at the head of long tables with 20 to 30 adults (from those in their twenties to those in their eighties).  Crucial to the success of the awarding of experiential college credit for knowledge and skills gained outside the formal classroom is the autobiography.  Only when each Adult Degree student writes such a summation of his/her life story, chronologically, do all the little things each has accomplished in life come to mind, and hence contribute to a case for specific course credit.
But something else happens when life stories are written.  I ought to know, for over the years I’ve listened to five hundred to a thousand, each lasting an average of one to two hours (some longer, a very few shorter).  Without exception (that I can remember), whenever the reader approached a section dealing with abandonment (by father, mother, spouse), the voice would slow, become ragged, break—many’s the time the reader was literally incapable of going on, so overcome with emotion and tears I’d have to declare a recess before the life story could be completed.  Some were incapable of going on even after that.  The only explanation to this that makes sense to me is that such cases of perceived abandonment leave life-long wounds in the psyche, wounds that never completely heal.  All it takes—months, years, or decades later—is to revisit them and the wound bleeds as copiously as though the act had just happened!
Why am I sharing this now?  Because, without the daily sustaining power of a divine God in our lives, marriage is extremely difficult to sustain and preserve.  Without God to turn to when trials, tribulations, disasters, deaths, incapacitating, etc., come to us, we crumble.
On a deeper level, without a God who can serve as a catalyst for values to internalize, character traits do not put down roots.  We see the results of life without God in every courtroom in America: if an individual witness does not believe in God, how can s/he swear to “tell the truth, so help me God”?  The epidemic of cheating sweeping the nation is the result of our children growing up without any concept of Good and Evil, Right and Wrong.
This is why “Only God Can Make a Dad.”  A “father” can happen on a biological level in a procreational sense, but a “Dad” implies something far deeper, far dearer.  That truth came home to me—vividly—some years ago when my book, Heart to Heart Stories for Dads (Focus on the Family/Tyndale House, 1997) came out.  When I inscribed them, “As we perceive our earthly father, thus we perceive God,” it scared people.  So much so that I finally had to quit using that inscription.  After much prayer, I stumbled on “Only God Can Make a Dad,” and voila!  Smiling acceptance.  Reason being that each book-purchaser perceives fatherhood as very different from being a “Dad.”  To be a “Dad,” is to be a work-in-progress, to be in a fluid process of internalizing character traits that mirror the ultimate template of divine fatherhood but are qualified by our sinful tendencies and all too frequent mistakes and lapses of good judgment.  But when such mistakes are made by a God-fearing father, and the father confesses his mistakes to his children, and assures them that, with God’s help, he’ll do his best not to repeat them, the tenderness and empathy that results creates such a bond that eventually such a father, with God’s day-to-day assistance and blessing, has the potential to be worthy of being called “Dad.”


     Most of these stories (nine of the twelve) I’ve never anthologized before.  The three that I brought back I did so because I felt this collection needed them in order to make God-given fatherhood three-dimensional and possible in our daily lives.  Many many fatherhood stories were rejected because they lacked the power I sought.  In fact, I have scanned through thousands of stories in our archives and recent book purchases seeking out those few—so few they are rare—I consider pure gold.  Also-rans are being returned to the archives, as not quite good enough.
What I sought were stories that emphasized God-like character traits; that portrayed fathers earnestly seeking to become “Dads”; fathers as fallible but seeking to profit by their mistakes; fathers evolving from authority figures into friends; fathers being willing to make great sacrifices so that the child can grow into his/her full potential; fathers who become not only worthy of respect but—far more significantly—worthy of love.

This collection includes some of the greatest family writers of the last hundred years., Writers such as Chriwstine Whiting Parmenter, Margaret E. Sangster, Jr., Gwendolyn Lampshire Hayden, Beth Bradford Gilchrist, and T. Morris Longstreth.


Binding: Trade Paper
Pages: 142
Price: $12.98
Packing and Mailing: $4.50

Personally signed or inscribed by Joe Wheeler, if requested, at no extra cost.

Mail your request to: Dr. Joe L. Wheeler, P.O. Box 1246, Conifer, CO 80433.
Or Phone: 303-838-2333
Or send an email: mountainauthor@gmail.com

“A Mother’s Face Is Her Child’s First Heaven”

May 7, 2014


Joe L. Wheeler, Ph.D., author/editor/compiler of 85 books, has a new book out: A Mother’s Face Is Her Child’s First Heaven (eChristian/Mission Books, 2014).

Included in this collection are twelve timeless stories of motherhood that bid well to stand the test of time. If you are looking for the perfect Mother’s Day gift for someone, this might just be it.


In its 120 pages, the following are included:

Introduction: “Our First Heaven” –Joseph Leininger Wheeler
“The Masterpiece,” –Joseph DeFord Terrill
“Yellow on White” –Hattie H. Carpenter
“The Littlest Orphan and the Christ Baby” –Margaret E. Sangster, Jr.
“The Greatest Victory in the World” –Helen Adair
“Vacation–for Mother!” –Beth Bradford Gilchrist
“Finger Bowls and Accomplishments” –Katherine M. Harbaugh
“Bobby Unwelcome” –Annie Hamilton Donnell
“Polly Ann” –Harriet H. Clark
“Wanted–A Real Mother” –Author Unknown
“An Old Mother” –Jessie Frank Stallings
“Red Roses” –John Scott Douglas
“Lucky Girl” –Temple Bailey

Joseph Leininger Wheeler

Each of us spends nine months inside our mothers, flesh of her flesh, an integral part of her—hence our incredibly strong bond with our mothers.
But after that, at our mother’s breast, hers is the face we see every time we nurse, every time we are held. Thus it is that that face becomes our first heaven. Quite simply the dearest face on earth to us. Those mothers who nurse longer than a year—as many do—only deepen that bond. Yet even those mothers who feed by bottle almost invariably hold the baby in essentially the same position, thus her face is also the focal center of her child’s world.
It is because of all this that Mother’s Day is such a deeply sentimental day for the American people. Especially is this true for mothers who retain that closeness all during the child’s growing-up years.
Second only to the nursing-related bond is the one created by mothers who every day and/or evening of the child’s early years read to the child on her lap, or later on, side-by-side, with her arm around the child as she is reading to them. Or listening to the child read to her. Growing up listening to the sound of her voice, that voice ends up becoming part of the adult child’s psyche.
One of the tragedies of our time has to do with mothers who fail to realize how short a time they have before their child bridges to someone else or something else than her. If she is invariably too busy to spend time with her child, farming out son or daughter to babysitters, daycare, or electronic imagery, the end-result is to erode the initial babyhood bonds. For the television set can steal her child away just as surely as a person could. This is a key reason why wise parents who desire to create life-long bonds with their children today, strongly limit electronic exposure and substitute the interactive daily story hour and parental (both parents) activities both inside the house and outside. All too soon the electronic tentacles created by our society will woo our children away from us—but we can delay that separation by our willingness to spend time with our children while they are young.
For our children do not spell love L-O-V-E—, but rather they spell it T-I-M-E.


This is a new collection of motherhood stories. In fact, eleven of the twelve are new; only Margaret Sangster’s “The Littlest Orphan” is brought forward from earlier collections—mainly because it is quintessentially the greatest mother’s face story every written!
Even so, I feel you’ll fall in love with the others as well. In almost all cases, the mother’s face plays a key role in the story. Most of them I have retrieved from that time period I call “The Golden Age of Judeo Christian Stories in America” (1880s through the 1950s). During this period, print ruled supreme, thus our greatest writers wrote for the family, for the children, for the teens. Then, directly after World War I, television came in and began displacing print—and not coincidentally parents as well. The Norman Rockwell years were the era’s swan song.
By the 1960s, stories, novels, and films turned darker; and since so many family magazines died, authors turned to whoever else might hire their services.
Contemporary Authors labels me an archeologist of the old-timey stories, maintaining that I’m almost obsessive about trying to save as many of this period’s great family stories as I possibly can before they crumble out of existence. Since I have spent a lifetime doing so (building on the legacy of my storytelling elocutionist mother, Barbara Leininger Wheeler), I have collected vast holdings of stories that so richly deserve to live on. Back then, authors and editors cherished the values our nation was built on: honesty, kindness, helpfulness, empathy, industriousness, patriotism, spirituality, respect for elders, clean living, avoidance of substance-abuse, friendship, tenderness, constancy, marriage for life, selfless service for others, sacrifice, sportsmanship, homemaking, parenting, thankfulness—and so much more.
Now, think about it: How long do you have to search today (in print or in electronic media) to find stories internalizing such values? Their absence adds up to a national tragedy. But by assisting us to preserve these stories by using them yourselves and giving copies away, you can help us preserve these values for tomorrow’s families.

This collection includes some of the greatest family writers of the last hundred years. The “great ones,” I call them: authors such as Temple Bailey,\; Margaret E. Sangster, Jr.; Beth Bradford Gilchrist; Annie Hamilton Donnell; John Scott Douglas; and Josephine DeFord Terrill.


Binding: Trade Paper
Pages: 200
Price: $12.98
Packing and Mailing: $4.50

Personally signed or inscribed by Joe Wheeler, if requested, at no extra cost.

Mail your request to: Dr. Joe L. Wheeler, P.O. Box 1246, Conifer, CO 80433.
Or Phone: 303-838-2333
Or send an email: mountainauthor@gmail.com

Published in: on May 7, 2014 at 5:00 am  Comments (1)