All content on this blog is copyright by Marci Andrews Wahlquist as of its date of publication.

Tuesday, June 30, 2015

The Family Silver

We recently thought we’d sell some old silverware and coins and have a little more cash to do some things this summer, and man! What an education it has been!

First of all, we checked the price of silver. It rockets up and down like a see-saw! A year ago the price was much better, but through all the intervening months it has been generally going down with a bunch of jumps like hiccups or something. So we had to decide, do we go ahead or wait and see what the price does? Well, when you want the cash to “do something,” you usually have already decided, haven’t you!

Second, where do you sell silver? Do you go to a pawn shop? One of those corner markets with a “Cash for gold and silver” sign out front? A jeweler who advertises buying options? We looked around in our area and came up with some ideas. We called and found which one “felt” like the best thing in terms of safety, price, reputation, and so on.

Then comes the experience of actually doing this thing. We found out that we didn’t actually have as much saleable silver as we thought! Did you already know that you can’t sell silver-plate for the value of the silver? It’s only as good as its wear-and-tear-and-appeal to a buyer of a collectible.

Sound the buzzer! We don’t have anything that appealing. It’s all very worn, and it’s nothing classic.

Now, what about sentimental value? Do you imagine your ancestors gathered around the table at dinnertime, using this or that piece or even a set you have inherited? Does it have a monogram on it that still matches your name? Start the wrenching process! You might not be able to sell the family silver if you are attached to objects that tie you to your kinfolk.

Well, it’s done. Now we can advertise to any would-be burglars—No Saleable Valuables Here. Not anymore.


Monday, June 29, 2015

The Struggle for a Green Thumb

We have been having late July weather this June: temperatures above 100º F. for two weeks. Normally those temperatures don’t come to us until the third week of July, and some summers we haven’t had a single day above 100º F. But yesterday it was 108º F. in the shade at our house, and I don’t know how much hotter it was in the direct sun on the garden. It has been that hot and hotter for a week. As you can imagine, the poor garden vegetables, planted a month late, are still young and weak enough that the heat is doing its best to kill them, if our infamous manure pile hadn’t caused its own trouble.
But look! A single new leaf!

Here are our plants today. The peppers, though my husband had declared them dead a week ago, are getting a jug of cool water apiece every day, and two of the four are bravely trying to grow new leaves.

The tomatoes are struggling. Two have given up completely and one more may be going that way, but it may possibly be saved if it can just hang on another week or so. If we could get a break in the weather, that would certainly help! I’m getting confident that the two plants on the near end will give us tomatoes come the cooler weather of August and September, unless this summer turns out to be a record-breaking scorcher with temperatures above 100º F. until autumn begins!

Here are the squashes. The pumpkin plant burnt up despite its daily dose of water. The acorn and crook-neck squashes are struggling. The zucchini plants, not in one of our garden boxes, are just as happy as can be and growing rapidly, even in this terrible heat.
Acorn squash

Finally, the watermelon plant apparently didn’t notice the strength of the manure and doesn’t mind the heat at all. It’s growing noticeably bigger every day and has a number of tiny blossoms. You can’t see it, but there is a bump there that I think is a growing watermelon already. Amazing!

Despite our fears that as gardeners we were failures this year, we are apparently going to be redeemed at least by a watermelon and the zucchini plants. If we get a tomato and a pepper, we’ll be giving ourselves Green Thumb awards.

For solace, I turn to look at some of the flowers blooming this morning in our gardens.
Lilies and miniature roses
Butterfly bush

Wednesday, June 24, 2015

Charles Dickens and Social Revolution

I just finished reading A Tale of Two Cities for the first time. I don’t know why I had never read it before—I have loved all the Charles Dickens books I’ve read: David Copperfield, The Old Curiosity Shop, Oliver Twist, Nicholas Nickleby, The Pickwick Papers, Great Expectations, The Mystery of Edwin Drood, The Uncommercial Traveler, The Cricket on the Hearth, and A Christmas Carol. One of these days I keep promising myself to read the rest of his books.

But reading a Dickens book these days is not like it was when I was a teenager or college student. Back then I had huge blocks of uninterrupted time in which to invest in a Dickens book. Dickens takes a serious amount of commitment and concentration. I don’t know why that should be, necessarily, because he originally wrote most of his works, if not all, for magazines and published serially, so they could be read in serial fashion and not in large, gulping chunks.

The Knock at the Door (Illustraton by Boz)
Anyway, I enjoyed A Tale of Two Cities very much, even as I was struck by the parallels to today’s racism and classism in the situations of the aristocrat who wants to escape the oppressions of his class as much as the oppressed French doctor and his daughter need to escape both that and their country in favor of becoming Britons.

The aristocratic Charles Evrémond realizes early in his life that his class is unfairly oppressing all classes beneath them, and unable to stand it, he renounces his title, his position, his family, and even his ethnic background in favor of becoming the relatively poor-but-gentleman-class British teacher, Charles Darnay. As such, he courts the doctor’s daughter whom he scarcely would have looked at were he still an aristocrat mindful of class and economic levels. Ironically though, she is as French as he is, though she is becoming a British woman with her ostentatiously British nurse/companion, Miss Pross, and her other British suitors beaten out by Charles Darnay, and her father, who is becoming as British as possible.

Lucie Manette’s father, Alexandre Manette, is the doctor imprisoned for no reason for nearly twenty years by the old, oppressive system of French pseudo-justice, and his suffering nearly costs him his reason permanently. As it is, he suffers from a species of what we would probably now call post-traumatic stress syndrome. He is subject to flashbacks and needs a lot of care to keep him out of danger, i.e, out of France. In essence, he needs to become British to heal.

[Spoiler alert!]
The motif continues in the contrasts between French revolutionary Madam Defarge and Lucie Manette Darnay, and also British companion/nurse Miss Pross. Madam Defarge is revealed to be the younger sister of the woman raped and killed by the father and uncle Evrémond, the daughter of the father who died of grief, the sister of the brother murdered for defending his sister, the sister-in-law of the husband murdered for defending his wife. Madam Defarge has every reason to seek revenge and to be a fervent revolutionary, but she is condemned for not being meek and forgiving of those who destroyed her family, like Lucie is of all responsible for her father’s imprisonment and torture. In addition, Madame Defarge is contrasted with her husband, who shows some pity for those whom Dr. Manette loves; his wife has no pity whatsoever. Madame Defarge is held up to ridicule against the staunchly British Miss Pross, although their actions are almost mirrored. Her major crime is a lack of pity, but another crime seems to be in her behaving autonomously, and of course she is French instead of British.
[End of Spoiler]

Well, all that was Dickens’ milieu. The French Revolution was of course of major concern to all British people—as easily as it seemed that France suddenly did away with its monarchy and class system, so too could Britain be overthrown. The American Revolution was still shockingly new, when actual British citizens threw off their monarchy and established a new order of things. Dickens was a product of thinking that these revolutions were ultimately huge mistakes. He was interested in showing that the ideal was to return to a settled, ordered society as it had existed for centuries. Not that he did not condemn the oppressions that the French people were throwing off; but he condemned the way they went about it.

All of his books contain vivid pictures of the oppressions of class and economics, but consistently Dickens is an advocate for a different kind of reform than revolution.

I have to ask myself, why do I cheer for revolutions that are centuries in the past, and condemn the revolutionaries of today? I am a lot like Dickens, I perceive, in that I am afraid of the upheaval of war, the shattering of societal institutions, the terror of violence and bloodshed. Of course I believe that the revolutions at the end of the eighteenth century were justified, although I disagree with the French mass slaughter of relatively innocent people. I cheer for the U.S. revolution, even though I decry the incidences of slaughter of innocent people within it. Today I want change for the better, but I want it relatively peacefully. In Dickens I find the type of social criticism that I believe can lead to badly-needed reform even today.

Tuesday, June 23, 2015

Trouble in the Garden

When you start over a month late, and you nearly kill your vegetables by leaving them without water for two days on a hot patio, and then you put manure that is too fresh in your garden boxes, this is what happens. Oh well!!

This is one day after planting them.

Poor little peppers!

And then a week went by. A very hot week. A week in which the hottest temperatures were not supposed to happen for another month. And the plants were still young and weak.

Oh, the dead pumpkin and sad peppers and squash!

Two tomatoes bit the dust.

Maybe one or two of the tomato plants will be strong enough to survive.

But we still have pretty June roses to look at when we are not lamenting over our lost opportunities to have fresh peppers and pumpkins.

Next year the garden will be fantastic. We hope.

Monday, June 15, 2015

They Badly Needed a Drink!

We planted our garden today. I know! It’s over a month late!

First there were thunder showers and other obligations taking our time away from getting our garden going.

Next, I said I wanted our garden boxes to be twice as high as they were. My back doesn’t like me to bend down too much these days. My husband groaned and moaned and bought wood and started making the frames higher.

A couple weeks later, before I could weigh in on my next bright idea, he bought bags of soil and filled up the lower two boxes.

“But I wanted those two stacked one on the other to reduce the total number we have!” I said. He groaned more loudly than before—almost a growl, but not quite.

To the rescue came my sister, who offered to bring us a truckload of steer and rabbit manure, well aged. She arrived later in the week with the terrible-smelling truck, and we emptied it in a few hours. My husband wouldn’t stop working, even in the heat, and took it all back to the garden, one wheelbarrow-load at a time.

Meanwhile, he told me I had to dig the good new soil out of that last box so we could lift the frame up and put it on top of the next one. I shoveled. We moved the frame. He nailed it to the lower one. We spread the new soil on top of the manure in the other boxes. We filled up the last box.

There are strawberries in the first box. Won't change them!
Finally I decided I could go buy vegetables and put them in the ground. I bought tomatoes, peppers, pumpkin, and three kinds of squash. And a little watermelon. But then the watering system wasn’t connected, and I thought I needed to see where the drip-system tubes would “end” before I planted.

So we waited until today because more family obligations interfered. Today my husband called me to come out to the patio and look at the vegetables I had bought. They were very wet on Saturday, but on Monday they were dry and all wilted. He said they were dead and that I had just wasted all that money. But we decided to put them in the ground.

We hurried and hooked up all the drip-system hoses, and while my husband was finishing that, I was planting our poor, wilted vegetables. Maybe they would like the manure though! But what if the manure weren’t aged enough and burned them up? We are not farmers, we don’t know these things!

I put “root starter” on them as soon as they were in the ground and then added another pint of water around each plant. We cut the drip hoses to reach just to the base of each plant, tested the drip system, and were happy to see it working.

Yay! Our garden was started, even if it did look sad and wilted!

And then a thunderstorm came over and the rain came fiercely down. I stood at the back door watching and hoping it didn’t turn to hail. It didn’t. These pictures show how our plants were perking up under all the wetness. They just needed a good drink!

Now the big question is whether we will have any produce before the autumn frosts come.

Sunday, June 14, 2015

One Aspect of My Search for Truth

The first time I read the Book of Mormon I was not affiliated with the LDS Church, but I had a brother who had joined; he asked me to try to read the Book of Mormon. I had read the Bible all the way through and while it was hard in places, mostly I knew all its stories and could follow its twists and turns. The Book of Mormon started off in Jerusalem, so I felt I knew where I was with it. But then the family left Jerusalem and went somewhere south. I was only twelve years old and my knowledge of geography sketchy and my approach to books plot-based. I couldn’t follow the “story.” The Book of Mormon, I had been told, was about Jesus, but I missed any mention of Him in those first few chapters. I was lost. I put the book down, writing to my brother that I had tried but could not understand it. I promised to try again after a few years. I was sure I would be able to understand it when I was older.

A few years later I read the Book of Mormon again, completing it this time. I loved it. I knew it was true without even formally praying about it, but when I made myself formally pray and ask, immediately I felt a rush of happiness about it, a warmth of love and spirit and truth filling up my mind and heart. I had no doubts. My sister and I, having been baptized that year into The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, made a pact together to read the Book of Mormon every year of our lives from then on. I asked her a month or so ago (decades later) if she had continued to read the Book of Mormon every year. Yes, she said, but she had for some time been reading it twice a year, as she felt she needed more strength for the challenges of her life.

That extra gift of strength to me is the key to the power of the Book of Mormon. Its truth is transcendent—it clarifies concepts and principles that are obscure in the Bible, and it reveals truths that the Bible lacks—and the effect on a person reading for truth is that it provides a nourishing strength, a renewal to one’s spirit, a re-energizing and purifying effect that gives one happiness, conviction, commitment, and courage for all that life entails.

I have known since I was a very small child that Jesus Christ is the Savior of the world, and He is my Savior. I have always loved Him and have always been happiest learning more about Him. I had read the Bible, but I had not found Jesus Christ in the Old Testament until I read the Book of Mormon. I had not found the God of Love in the Old Testament until I read the Book of Mormon. I knew and loved the stories of Jesus in the New Testament but did not fully understand them until I had read the Book of Mormon a number of times. Understanding grew; the more times I read the Book of Mormon, the Bible grew clearer.

I continue to read the Book of Mormon to understand the Gospel of Jesus Christ—to understand His Atonement, His justice, mercy, forgiveness, knowledge, power, compassion, and commandments—and to understand the Bible better, which reinforces the truth of the Book of Mormon. I cannot imagine the one without the other now.

One of the many truths I have come to understand about the Bible through the Book of Mormon is that from the rise and fall of civilizations in the Bible and Book of Mormon, I see that God’s covenant is not just for one race of people, one extended family, but that one race, one extended family is His metaphor for His entire family—everyone who ever did or who will ever live—and all are welcome to join equally. Curiously then, my better understanding of the plot of both books of scripture enhanced my understanding of the character of God, of His love and commitment to extend the blessings of His way of life to every single person on earth who is willing to receive it.

My life long search for truth has presented me with many treasures; the Book of Mormon remains the one most treasured that I keep by giving away.

Wednesday, June 10, 2015

Return to Yellowstone: A Comedy of Misadventures


When Beatrice Boedefeld worked in Yellowstone Park’s Upper Geyser Basin during the summer of 1916, at the end of the summer season the Wylie Camping Company staff was supposed to get a trip around the entire Park. But a threatened national railroad worker’s strike caused the Wylie management to send all possible workers home early, and Bea was terribly disappointed not to get to see the entire Park. It didn’t help that the strike never actually materialized.

Bea had had such an enchanted time that summer that she longed to go back and re-create some of the magic. She had fallen in love with the West, its mountains and wild scenery. She took a job in 1919 as society editor for the Casper Tribune in Wyoming and was assigned to interview a veteran of the Great War, Lt. Frederick B. Andrews of the Army Air Service. When she and Fred Andrews became engaged in the spring of 1920, she invited her mother to come to Casper, Wyoming from Elkhart, Indiana and act as their chaperone on a car trip to Yellowstone.

Bea’s mother, Laura Boedefeld, was 57 years old. Laura left her husband, Ferdinand, at home with Bea’s younger sister Ruth, who at 27 was a registered nurse by this time. Bea was 32; Fred had turned 33 just a month before. He was working in Casper for the Prudential Insurance Company. In the Park, Bea met various people she knew in 1916. Chief among these is Rae Wylie, her former bunk mate with whom she had kept up a frequent correspondence.

The National Park Service had been formed in the summer of 1916, so after that season, the private camping companies’ camps were reformed into the Yellowstone Park Camping Company. Things were different in the Park from what Beatrice knew in 1916.

During the 1920 trip, she wrote diary notes in pencil on a very small notepad that was held together with a straight pin. She rewrote some of the notes, then she started to type up notes into a story, but she didn’t finish. This transcription begins with her typed story and continues with the notes. I have added prepositions, articles, and helping verbs to the notes section for clarity, using as a guiding principle the idea that she wanted this to be a story that would be easy and fun to read. When I could not decipher her notes, I have inserted dashed lines to indicate words that couldn’t be read. Maybe in time we can decipher all of them. Anything in square brackets is what I added by way of explanation.
—Marci Andrews Wahlquist
August 2008

Yellowstone Park Trip, 1920

Day One
July 11, 1920 —

Bea, Fred, and Laura's route in Nancy Ford

Fred B. Andrews bot a Ford
One fine March day
Vintage 1914, didn’t matter so they say.
For her engine was the finest
Henry Ford had e’er turned out
And the way that Ford could travel!—
Reg’lar whirlwind 'thout a doubt.
Fred’s girl she named it Nancy
One balmy day in May
Lizer Jane she didn’t fancy
Why I couldn’t say—
Round Casper oft they travelled
Day times and after dark
One day they loaded up
And went to Yellowstone Park.

That should make a fair introduction for the adventures of Fred, Mother, and I and Nancy Ford.

We left Casper at 6:30 a.m. July 11 bound for Yellowstone. “Wonder what adventures will be ours before we see this spot again,” I said as we sped over the bridge out of town and turned into the Yellowstone Highway which has been cleverly marked its entire length with stones painted yellow and lettered with a black H. Our first stop was Powder River, and we yelled, “Let her buck!” in approved fashion as we sailed across the bridge.

Poor Fred wasn’t feeling quite in holiday mood, unfortunately having been persuaded to work the night before, and was sleepy and sick too.

Just out of Powder River we came to the first point of interest on the trip—“Hell’s Half Acre”—which with its great mass of queer formations, its lovely colors, and its general weirdness proved intensely fascinating. Then, while the day grew hotter and hotter, we sped on and on across the most desolate part of the state with only glimpses of the snow-capped Wind River Mountains in the distance and the Big Horns to the north to hold promise of what the country really has in store for him who seeks.

After passing Waltman and Wolton, we had our first trouble with Nancy, finally discovering that it was the generator post of the magneto. A short way farther, a sandy hill presented a problem, but the cooperation of two other tourist parties sent us thru the sand and them too, a case of everybody shove.

[Editor’s note: The Model T Ford did not have a magneto. Instead it introduced a trembler coil, a type of electromagnetic device that lit the spark plugs. Fred Andrews would have been familiar with magnetos from his maintenance work on First World War airplanes. He likely applied the names of the parts he was familiar with to the parts of the car until he knew better.]

We had lunch at Moneta and left there at 3 o’clock for Shoshone. A thunderstorm seemed imminent and we stopped to put on the side curtains. We had only gone a wee bit further when the real adventure happened. Mother discovered a fire in the back seat.

She said in a calm voice, “The curtains are on fire back here.”

We stopped and for a while it seemed as though our adventure would end right there. Blazing side curtains threatened a can of gas which exploded after being thrown off. Fortunately Fred had a 5 gallon can of water which he got at in time to save the car.

I remember thinking the gas would explode and dragging out some coats, carefully rescuing Mother’s glasses, and seeing Fred tenderly lay Mother’s cape on a pile of coats. He was the only person hurt—one hand was badly burned and the skin was torn off the little finger. I performed first aid with mentholatum and a bandage but not efficiently.

Taking stock we decided that some how a short had been formed in the electric storage battery which Fred said “Would save our lives” but which nearly cost them instead. My coat and suitcase were scorched and burned, so were a pair of old shoes, one of Fred’s blankets, three side curtains, a sack containing cooking things, etc.

Finally we started on and then a wind storm struck us. Heaven be praised that it didn’t come ten minutes sooner or it certainly would have been farewell Nancy—

Fred was suffering horribly with the hand— The drive into Shoshone wasn’t bad. We had ice cream in a drug store and the druggist gave the hand first aid. Couldn’t get a doctor.

Then we made our mistake in deciding to cross Bird’s Eye Pass and make Thermopolis that night. We crossed the pass splendidly but the long drop down was terrible on the brakes and finally burned out the front brake altogether. We found ourselves in the dark on a strange road with only the hand brake. On one cut with a drop on one side and a hill on the other, Fred suddenly told me to jump and block the wheels. Fell as I jumped and the car went over one foot and my knees were skinned, but I managed finally, tho the first rock didn’t hold. We tried two more hills and then, after the car had nearly run off with me due to my not grabbing the brake clutch strongly enough, we begged Fred to give up and camp out for the night.

We had just decided to do that when a car came along, and the men said we were almost down the hill. They offered to take us in and helped Fred back on the road. We thought our troubles were over then. Fred simply flew ahead of us and one of the men said, “Ever turn that fellow loose before and take after him?” But two miles from town we overtook him waiting to see if he was on the right road. Said he’d follow us in. We had just started and then we heard Fred holler, “I’m off the bank!” —last straw. He had run off the edge into a city dump which was partly on fire. The other car couldn’t get him out so one of the men said he’d send out a truck.

We came on to the Center Hotel which was full to the doors. We had to sleep on cots in the restroom off the baths. We got Fred a room over the garage. Had just fallen asleep when he called me. It would take until 3 or 4 o’clock to get out he said, 36 hours and no sleep, a burned hand—poor man.

Second Day
July 12, 1920

We spent the entire day at Thermopolis. Mother and I enjoyed the hot baths but did not greatly appreciate the other advantages of our quarters—particularly the smell of the water and the running fountain. I dreamed of Klinger Lake and the Spring boxes.

Had breakfast at 8:30 and the manager’s wife informed mother that “her husband” got in at 4 o’clock. Mother thanked her for the information but explained that he wasn’t her husband. After breakfast we went out and I showed Mother the sights. Then we came back and wrote cards in the sun room. I was drumming out some music and a young fellow came in and offered to play if I’d sing. So I did. Quite a pleasant time. A woman who played also came in and I sang one of the songs over while she played. Had lunch. The meals were nothing extra.

After lunch we went to lie down and Fred appeared. He had had an awful time but finally got the car out. He had also worried half to death over his bag which we had brought in. He had left my music and camera at the office but I didn’t know it. Also a note for me which they didn’t deliver. He and I went down town where he had lunch and went to the garage. Then we came back and sat in the sun parlor while Fred had the blisters on his hand opened and dressed.

Then I went for a swim which wasn’t as much fun as I thought for neither Mother nor Fred went in. They watched awhile and then viewed the formation. We had a good dinner at the log cabin downtown, but when Fred tried to start Nancy only two cylinders would work. He tried to fix it and finally took us home, coaxing the car along by constantly changing gears.

I dressed Fred’s hand. The manager tried to make him my brother.

Then he decided not to work the night away so he and I went to the dance and afterward sat awhile on the bank of the river under a nice friendly tree.

When I got in Mother was sick. There was a noisy party on and we couldn’t sleep till that was over.

Third Day
Tuesday July 13

Basin, Wyoming. Mother and I both had ptomaine poisoning last nite and felt pretty bum this morning. We didn’t get started until 10 o’clock. Everything lovely up to 2 o’clock. The road wound in and out through the Big Horn Basin which is irrigated and under cultivation, so green and lovely. We had dinner at Worland but couldn’t eat much. I enjoyed some ginger ale that Fred bought for me.

Some of the high peaks of the Big Horn range are visible just before you get to Worland and at intervals as you go on down the Basin. The road was wonderful as we left Worland, and we were sailing along when all at once Nancy developed a bad case of the heaves, a painful knock in the engine, and finally we had to stop. Mother and I sought shade by an irrigation ditch as he said it would be a 2 hour job at least, but we couldn’t sleep—mosquitoes refused to allow it.

Finally Fred called me—said he couldn’t remedy the trouble and we’d have to get a tow into Manderson 4 miles ahead. We hailed several cars but they were afraid and finally got a Highway Truck man to take us. We had asked people to tell the garage man to come too, which he did. So we arrived at the large and flourishing village of Manderson. Mother and I rested at the James Hotel and Fred went to work with the garage man. The number 1 bearing was burned out and a new one had to be made.

We read, slept, had a good home cooked supper, went for Fred, and he ate a regular working man’s meal. Finally at 9 o’clock Nancy was ready and we made the 12 miles to Basin, arrived at 10 o’clock. We went to the Markham House and assigned ourselves to rooms as there was no clerk. Had a lot of fun over it. A note on the register said Room 15 off the Dining Room and Room 21 in the Cottage were vacant. Fred scratched out vacant and wrote taken and then acted as clerk and porter, showing us to our room, hoisting baggage, etc.

Day Four
Wednesday July 14, 1920

Mother and I slept beautifully. We woke early, waited around quite awhile for Fred. Finally we had breakfast and then as Fred still didn’t appear, I went to look for him. He was all right but had had a terrible nightmare, dreaming that he was over a bank and that he couldn’t find us anywhere. He woke to find himself on the floor under the bed trying to fix up the springs. Certainly must have been a frightful experience. He couldn’t think where he was, he said, for quite a while.

Leaving Basin we intended to go by Greybull but got the wrong turn and went the old and shorter route by Otto and Burlington. After Burlington we crossed a desert and out in the middle of it the front right tire picked up a tack. So, while Fred fixed it I got sage brush, built a fire, and we had lunch out there. Got into Cody at 4:30 and got rooms at Hotel Irma, owned by Mrs. W.F. Cody and named for the daughter of Buffalo Bill. The lobby and halls are filled with pictures of Buffalo Bill and his Indians. The fireplace is made of fossil stones and is wonderfully interesting.

After dinner we walked about some and had some ice cream. Then Mother went to bed. Fred and I danced in what was the bar of the hotel, now a soft drink parlor [Prohibition was in effect]. Then we sought out Nancy and spooned a bit.

Day Five
July 15, Thursday

Got started on the trip thru Shoshone Canyon at 10:30 and surely had some thrills as we wound in and out and up and down on the rocky road for the first six miles. When we got to the foot of the hill leading to the dam, Mother and I got out and walked up as Fred was going to change the water in the radiator. The views were lovely though it was a long hot climb, and we were hot and tired long before we got up. Then we waited and waited and waited.

Finally a car came up but not Fred. We learned though that he’d had a blowout. Before he came up we thought sure that he’d had a sun stroke too. When he did come, we had lunch on the porch of a log cabin at the top of the dam, which certainly is perfectly marvelous.

Went on after lunch but had hardly gone ten miles before we had to stop and fix the same tire which had gone flat. Stopped just at the M’s Dude Ranch which is a very ordinary place. After that we stopped twice to cool off the radiator. Made Holm Lodge at 6:30.

The scenery on the last part of the Cody Road to Pahaska was perfectly marvelous, especially after entering the Shoshone National Forest. All the points of interest are marked and we saw the Laughing Pig, Garden of the Gods, goose, wooden shoe, Holy City, Thor’s Anvil, and all the rest. There are great brown cliffs, glimpses of snow capped mountains, etc., and the evergreen trees and wild roses were just perfect. It rained a little and Mother and I kept drawing long, long breaths of the pine scented air and woodsy smell we love so much.

We got gas and water there [Holm Lodge] but decided to go on to Pahaska Tepee for supper and the night, and we were glad we did indeed. Pahaska was Buffalo Bill’s hunting lodge. It’s all of logs. It’s an unusual place surrounded by tents and cabins. It’s decorated with deer and elk horns and Buffalo skulls, has Navajo rugs in it, etc. We had a wonderful supper. Mother went to bed at 9:30. Fred and I stayed out an hour and as it was so near the Park we “called it rotten logging.” I get more and more in love with every minute.

1922 Map of Yellowstone

Day Six
July 16, Friday

The first day in the Park! After four years of longing I am back at last.

We had a good sleep in our log walled room at Pahaska and woke to the soothing sound of a gentle shower. I called Fred at quarter of seven and he protested it was too early but it wasn’t. Had a grand breakfast: oranges, cream of wheat, sugar cured ham, two eggs, pancakes, doughnuts, and then some.

It was raining when we started at 9:30 and kept right on until we had almost reached Lake. The road was fine but muddy, and of course we didn’t enjoy it as much as we would had it been clear. Crossing Sylvan Pass, Mother and I had to push twice, but we went over pretty easy take it all in all.

Arrived at Lake at 12:30 and intended to stay all night but couldn’t get accommodations as the Reedy party from Texas was expected. The manager is the woman who was hostess at Canyon last year. She knew Vess and Ruth of course and was much interested to know I was an ex-Savage and knew them. She knew some other people whom I met in ‘16. After lunch we walked from the Camp to the hotel. Had lots of fun teasing Fred because he asked so many questions. As we came to a sign he said it would answer him anyway and when we got to it, there was nothing on it at all. We laughed and laughed and laughed over that.

At the hotel we took some pictures on the dock. We also went to the hotel where we met the Patton family. I introduced them to Mother and Fred, and later Fred got Mr. Patton to cash a check for him.

We left Lake at 4 o’clock and got to Canyon at 5:30 after stopping to see the mud volcanoes and the Dragon’s Mouth Spring. I had to get after Fred, who was worrying about the engine, for fear he’d go through Yellowstone and see nothing but a Ford. At the Canyon Camp, which is really very nicely located below the Upper Falls, I liked the office, and they have the recreation hall separate. Saw Lady Mac first in the dining room. As I left the dining room, I saw a boy who looked like Mac Smith and heard someone call him Mac but didn’t get to make sure. Lady Mac was at the desk when I came out, so I went up and shook hands.

“Who is it?” she said and answered herself, “Oh, Beatrice.” I got a letter there from Perla and she admitted that that made her think I was coming, but even so she proved again that marvelous memory of hers.

After supper we walked along the river’s edge. We saw the Upper Falls and finally walked down to a place where we could see the Canyon but not the lower falls. We sat out on a point of rock and gazed and gazed at that wonderful array of color which no one can ever describe quite accurately. Fred climbed way down out of sight which gave me the willies. I went part way after him, but he came back. Said he wouldn’t go farther because he knew I’d worry, and some nice things about how he’d feel if anything happened to me.

We went to the program and Fred and I were going to dance but it began to rain, so I changed my mind. Fred was disappointed, but it was the best thing to do as we were tired.

Day Seven
Saturday July 17

I slept wonderfully. A nice pack rat built the fire and it all seemed so good, the smell of the smoke, etc. During the morning we walked to Artist Point and saw the canyon more fully in all its glory of shades from white to black, from pale pink to rose, from pale yellow to deep orange, and all the tones of brick red there are beside the greens of the river and the trees. Fred was really enthusiastic. Mother and I had a ride home on the wood wagon but Fred walked. Fred and I went out to take pictures of the Upper Falls. I told him Mother said we might have been married eight months he has such a possessive air with me. (Which I love.)

It was Mac Smith in the dining room. I saw him right after breakfast and later saw him at the store when Fred wanted some Fanta. We also went to the laundry and there was Mrs. Mueller as large as life.

“I know you,” she said.
“Sure you do,” I said.
“I can’t recall your name though—”
“Remember the Deaux Drops at Upper Basin in ‘16?”
“Sure, sure! You’re fatter than you were, that’s why I didn’t know you at first,” etc.

I told her Rae was here and she said she’d have Katie see her when she goes through. Kate was in an accident last year so didn’t come in this year. Mrs. M. agreed to do some laundry for us. [Katie was Mrs. Mueller’s daughter.]

After lunch who should come to my door but Linnie Bartmess who got in this year and is doing tent work. She asked me to go swimming with a bunch, but we had planned for a drive to Inspiration Point and the other points of interest and so I couldn’t.

The first unpleasant incident of our trip occurred after lunch. They tried to put us out of our tents because we hadn’t registered before lunch. It was my fault, for I misunderstood the girl at the counter. I had it about straightened out when Fred came up, butted in, tried to make a big fuss about it and embarrassed me dreadfully. I had to beg him to be still and he just boiled. I was angry too, for I hate a scene worse than anything. I found out later that he went back and expressed his mind when I wasn’t there. It was our first difference and I hated it.

The view from Inspiration Point and the rest of the Canyon was beyond words. We stopped at all the places, and then we went to the Canyon Hotel and sat in the lounge there while Fred had Nancy’s lungs tested and her heart stethoscoped. They couldn’t tend to her there, so after we had inspected the hotel awhile, we drove back to camp after having ice cream cones at the store.

Mother began to feel bad and after supper was quite miserable. Fred and I went to the program which was by the Reedy party—we also saw the trick horse and Kally the cowboy guide—then dancing to 10:15. We went part way down Uncle Tom’s Trail and rotten logging out near Upper Falls. Fred was over ardent and I was out of sorts from the noon scene, so we weren’t very happy. He gave me his promise though. Mother was still sick and was cross because I was out, but she hadn’t told me she wanted me.

Day Eight.
Sunday July 18.

Mother was cross and made me cry before we went to breakfast. Fred noticed it and of course wanted to know why I had cried. We went to breakfast but I wouldn’t eat.

Fred took the car over. I visited with Linnie, took pictures, and got my laundry. I saw Ray Askey who was at Geysers. I saw George Boles at the dance and ------ was learning to dance.

I found out the pretty girl at the desk was Allie Bortman of whom the Beaver Falls girls talk so much, so I went and talked to her again and apologized for Fred’s bad temper.

We left Canyon at 10 bound for Dunraven Pass. We got off on the cutoff road and had to go back. The road over the pass was full of scenic interest. We had to refill the radiator twice and Mother felt pretty punk but it was a gorgeous day and the views were perfect. We passed snow fields several places and could look down on great vistas of the filled valley with mountains in the distances. Tower Falls was very pretty, but we couldn’t take long to see it because a thunder storm was coming up.

I liked Roosevelt Camp ever so much. It is smaller than the others. People go there for a week or two sometimes to fish. They had a tame elk in the front yard named Billy. We had a fine lunch but Mother couldn’t eat. Our waitress was a Phi Kappa from Spencer, Indiana, and I had quite a talk with her. She was certainly sweet. They are building a new office at Roosevelt and expect to have log cabins instead of tents. The fishing is fine and the points of interest are the buffalo farms, Garnet Ridge, petrified trees, hikes, etc. I was sorry we couldn’t stay longer. We had lunch with a party from Tulsa, Oklahoma, who expected to stay. Saw the Aglos whom we also saw at Canyon.

We left at about 2 o’clock for Mammoth and didn’t stop for the petrified trees. We had a long grade to climb and had to “water“ Nancy frequently. The distant Velios Electric Peak and other mountains and the Canyon of the Gardiner River were particularly interesting. Mammoth Camp is very bare with no trees at all, but it’s close to the springs and the mountain view is fine. They are just completing a plunge and we had a fine swim. The water was too hot, though.

In the evening after a good supper we took the trek over the formation with the guide. It was strenuous but we never would have seen it without him I am sure. As it was, we got desperately out of breath more than once, but we saw everything—the marvelous Pulpit Terrace, the Liberty Cap and Hymen Terrace, the Narrow Gauge terrace, the Orange Geyser, the Bath Lake, the Devil’s Kitchen, and most beautiful of all, the Angel Terrace with its delicate pink and rose tints as well as the pure white and brilliant yellow of some of its flowing springs. We came back by the twin lakes of Jupiter Terrace and so back to camp.

We were all housed in the same tent—K-7—but it was a big four compartment, and we were very comfortable.

Fred and I went to see the campfire and stayed out together for quite a while. He was so contrite because he had gone too far the night before—oh, he’s sweet when he’s that way and I love him, love him, love him.

Day Nine
Monday, July 19

We were up for breakfast early as that was the only way to get it. Fred found one of his burned fingers giving him trouble so made a date with the nurse after breakfast. She opened the blister and found a lot of pus. Lucky that it hadn’t become really infected.

As I was standing in the door of the office I was surprised to have a man come up to me and ask if I wasn’t Miss Boedefeld from Elkhart. I admitted it. He was Harry Bickel and was going through with his wife. He asked me to tell Mrs. Baumgartner I had seen him. I told him Mother would as I wasn’t going home [to Elkhart, Indiana].

We went up to take some pictures of the formation and then it was time to go. Mother and I bought some food at the store while Fred went to the garage. The road leads up a long hill out of Mammoth past the terraces so that we stopped and got some pictures of the Angel Terrace. Then it winds along past Bunsen Peak and thru the Silver Gate into the HooDoos. This weird formation looks like giants had been having a battle with rocks. It is probably an ancient spring formation broken to pieces in the glacial epoch, so the guide book says.

After the HooDoos comes the Golden Gate, and then the quiet stretch of the Swan Lake Valley. We picked out the site of the old Wylie Camp at Swan Lake and I most surely am thankful that I wasn’t stationed there in ‘16. After leaving the valley, we came to a spring of real Apollinaris water [an effervescent type of mineral water]. Fred hadn’t been feeling well, but that bucked him up considerably. The Obsidian cliff was next. It’s wonderful but not quite what I expected. It is all black glass, however, which sparkles where the sun strikes a broken edge. The Roaring Mountain was also not quite as I thought it would be, but maybe we happened to strike it in a hissing rather than a roaring mood.

We saw the old Shaw-Powell camp at Willow Park. We made the Norris Basin at about noon, so we stopped and had our lunch there. We built a fire, cooked beans, had bread and butter and also cheese sandwiches and lemonade made with the Apollinaris water, which was certainly good. We also had coffee and pickles. Fred felt somewhat better after being fed. We saw the Constant Geyser from a distance but did not stop to explore very much as a ranger who came up while we were eating said there wasn’t much of real interest to be seen.

The road followed the Gibbon River for miles after that and it was lovely. After we passed Gibbon Meadows, we stopped and washed the dishes in a hot spring at the edge of the river. I think Mother had rather disbelieved in the hotness until she tried to put her hands in that hot water. We found one spring coming up right on the edge of the river so that the water was just right for washing our hands.

Shortly after that we had the one thrill of the day, when a road drag forced us off the road in a narrow place. The car would have overturned had it not been for two trees. Some other cars coming the other way were in the same fix, so with the good comradeship of the road, they helped each other and us, and we all got out.

We passed the Chocolate Spring by the side of the river, and the Beryl Spring, which is the hottest in the Park. It looks it—I didn’t try to find out how hot. The Gibbon Falls looked just like their pictures and were very pretty indeed.

Then it was but a short time until we were passing the deserted buildings and frame work of the Gibbon lunch camp. Oh! memories of days gone by. After that we were on familiar soil [to Bea], but such a difference compared to the roads we once had to travel. Nancy may be a tough looking old girl, but she doesn’t kick up the dust at any rate, and Oh, that Old Park Dust that we had to eat in ‘16.

We didn’t stop at Firehole Cascades. After the Canyon they are very tame, and everybody was anxious to get to the Geysers—for they call the camp that again, Linnie Bartmess said. We saw the formation and a small spouter but didn’t get to see the Fountain itself as I hoped we might. It didn’t seem worth while to go the three miles to Great Fountain with no certainty that it would play either, and streams to cross, so after viewing the paint pots, which were somewhat dried up and not as pretty as in ‘16, we went on. It threatened rain and Fred put up the curtains, but it only sprinkled and Mother soon took them down again.

At Excelsior the old landing stage and steps are gone, so we had farther to walk to see the pool. We were fortunate in that the wind blew the steam off the great pool so that we could see it distinctly and get real thrills in imagining that huge volume of water suddenly lifted and thrown out into the river as the picture in the guide book shows. Fred got very enthusiastic over that. Turquoise pool was not as pretty as it would have been with the sun shining, but still it was lovely. There was too much steam to see Prismatic Lake distinctly, but we could get glimpses of the colors around the edges.

After leaving Excelsior, it was just like repeating ‘16 as we drove on past the post hole and all the rest until there was dear old Biscuit Basin as large as life. We didn’t stop then, as I knew how much more lovely it would be in the sunlight. We drove on past Artemesia, which had just played. I am fated never to see it too. I even saw the rock on its edge which was Ivan’s and my destination one long ago night. It seemed so far away somehow, with Fred there beside me.

Fan and Mortar were both playing as we drove up, but they don’t amount to much of course. Mother and I went to see Morning Glory. Fred didn’t come until I went back and dragged him down. He must have been feeling pretty punk, for he wouldn’t enthuse over anything, and he is generally so enthusiastic. I scolded him, for Morning Glory is one of the sights of Upper Basin. He explained that I said a pool back at Fountain looked like it, so he thought it wasn’t anything new—but while others resemble it, they aren’t Morning Glory.

Made my heart ache to see the old tent frames on the hill—the search light tower all tumbled down, the dance floor and the office and stile just ghosts of their former selves. There were two or three bungalow frames still up there that they hadn’t moved, and there were people camping in the ruins.

And then very shortly we were passing the Curio Store and the Inn and had arrived!

We were at camp—not our camp, however, but its distant cousin tho’ they call it Geysers too. We got tents where we could run the car down, rather round about but not bad. Then we changed clothes and went back to the office, and there was Rae large as life and twice as natural in the newsstand. I slipped behind her, leaned over and kissed her and she was so surprised. I introduced her to Mother and Fred. I learned she could be off the next morning and evening and so planned to see her later.

Then we went to supper. After supper the bears—we went to the old dump and sat around listening to cowbells on horses, being eaten by gnats and skeeters—no bears. We learned later they weren’t using the old dump any more.

We got back and went to the hotel porch. I suddenly saw lots of steam and thought it might be Giant, so I got Fred and went to see. We found it was Grotto. But Riverside was playing so our little trip was not in vain. We walked back and had ice cream at the Curio store. Then Mother went to bed and Fred and I went to the bonfire and then decided to go “rotten logging” in Nancy’s back seat. We were just having a nice time when Rae came over and began calling me. We saw her turn her light in the tent window and I was just getting ready to speak when she came over and turned the light right on us. Talk about most embarrassing moments. She apologized of course, but I don’t know what she thought. We talked to her quite a while and I told her I’d see her in the morning early. She wasn’t going to breakfast she said, but “slept in” almost all the time. Finally she went. But our fun was spoiled so we said goodnight.

Day Ten
Tuesday July 20, 1920

After breakfast we decided on a trip to Biscuit Basin with Rae in Nancy. She was willing. She apologized again, but I told her it was my fault which it was. Then the little monkey had to tell Mother what she’d done, and that was embarrassing.

[Editor’s note: they couldn’t have been doing more than kissing since Rae was evidently comfortable enough telling Bea’s mother about the incident. Anything more and the scandal would have caused Mrs. Boedefeld to insist on an immediate marriage despite the ages of her daughter and fiance.]

We saw the dear Sapphire and Jewel pools and I renewed some happy memories to myself. I told them the story about Doc and Nellie, the German and the log [see Aug. 17 in “Diary of a Wylie Savage” for the story]. How I wanted to try it again and find the old cow trail. But there wasn’t time for all that. I found out Fred is not much at walking, a disappointment, as I love it so.

We got back in time to see Riverside playing at its best. We missed Daisy, so we went on to Black Sand Basin and saw Emerald, Rainbow, etc. Fred was really enthusiastic over Emerald, I think, but I kept feeling that we weren’t in sympathy somehow there in Upper Basin. Was he jealous of Allen’s memory? I wonder. After Black Sand we took Rae back and then went to Keppler’s Cascades. I insisted on going down in the canyon. Fred protested but was glad I guess when there was an opportunity for kisses in the dearest little cave in the rocks all lined with moss and ferns. I do so love the forests around Keppler’s.

After that, we went back for lunch. And after lunch we rested and then went to the hotel. We saw Old Faithful finally. Fred had missed it every time it played up until this time. We also saw Grand play at a distance, and Lion. We saw Beehive play just as we got back from Keppler’s. I explained geysers to some California dudes. Then we went to the Plunge, but I didn’t enjoy it as I got hurt as I was getting out and Fred had a fit. He must get over these tempers or they’ll cause us trouble. We rested until supper.

We met Rae again after supper, and afterward we saw a real bear at the real dump. Mother had been scared out by the mosquitoes, but Fred and I saw it. We also found wild strawberries. We saw the bonfire and then danced after the program. Fred asked Mother, which pleased her I know. He also danced with Rae.

After the dance, I was sleeping with Rae, and she and Blossom (her work partner) walked down with us, so there was opportunity only for a simple goodnite with Fred. Then I didn’t get a chance for a gossip with Rae that I wanted, as her tent mates stayed up with company and then talked to Rae so long that I got sleepy. There will be no chance in the morning either, which made it a real disappointment.

Day Eleven
Wednesday July 21, 1920

Fred was in a temper again at breakfast because the waitress wouldn’t bring more eggs and the supply gave out before he got any. He wouldn’t drink his coffee. When I got him outside he said he wasn’t going to eat any more meals at camp. I whispered that the eggs were storages and very old and told him he was very silly, which he acknowledged. I told him we were going to Lone Star for lunch and would have dinner at the Inn as I had planned all along. Then we took a walk and had a little spoon out behind camp, and I got him straightened out. But these games make me wonder.

We had a really lovely day at Lone Star. We spread our blankets under the pines and read or dreamed. We had a fine lunch. We saw the geyser play five times. It plays to a much greater size and length than in ‘16. We got home about 4 o’clock. Rae was having to work.

After dinner at the Inn we started for a walk over the formation. Fred complained bitterly at having to walk but was really interested, especially when we got to Giant and it looked like it might play. I insisted that they wait and see Daisy play. It was longer than I thought, but the same old girl nevertheless. We got back and had ice cream.

Then I found Rae and it was bedtime. I took my things to her tent, got my coat, and came back, and then Fred and I had our first real misunderstanding. I whispered that if he’d come with me, we’d have a goodnight kiss. He thought I meant only one kiss and declared he didn’t want just one and wouldn’t come. I told him I could stay out quite a little while without putting Rae out, but he was stubborn, and I got peevish too and walked off and left him without a word. When he said “You’d better go on to her,” I knew he was jealous. But he had kept wasting the precious time trying to fix a light on the car, and even if I only was offering one kiss, he ought to want that. I came near going back afterward but pride interfered.

It hurt me terribly. First time he’d ever treated me that way and I found out what he means to me, for though I didn’t cry, I couldn’t sleep for hours. Then I had cruel dreams about him and stayed awake the rest of the night.

Day Twelve
Thursday July 22, 1920

By morning I was feeling really abused. Mother guessed something was wrong with us. I could hardly keep from crying at breakfast, and when after breakfast he asked me how I felt, my eyes brimmed over for sure. I went into the tent; he followed and took me in his arms and let me cry on his shoulder. I knew I could make him feel worse that way than by reproaches. Mother came in and asked what the matter was. “I’ve been mean to her,” Fred said. He was tender and gentle and kissed me so I felt better. But I paid for the sleepless night all day and was nearly dead when we reached Cody that night, with nerve pains in my neck and shoulders.

We had left Old Faithful at 9 o’clock after saying goodbye to Rae. The drive over the Continental Divide is superb. I loved the Isa Lake and Craig Pass; it reminded me of the old Yellowstone game Ruth and I used to have. I never thought then I’d really see all those places. We had a view of the Tetons, the Knarled Hill Forest, and a bear in the woods.

We stopped at Lake for lunch. Fred seemed to think --------- was in the neighborhood. Kept away anyhow.

We had no trouble crossing Sylvan Pass, but shortly after passing Pahaska we had a puncture. I got a nap on the river bank and it was awfully hard to wake up. We stopped at one place and Fred took me in his arms so sweetly for a minute. Finally had to get Mother to change with me and let me lie in the back seat.

We got through Shoshone Canyon without trouble except that Nancy’s high gear was stripped. But going down the last hill, we slid at a rough place and crashed the frame and that broke the radiator connection. That finished Mother’s nerves. We got out. A truck came along and took us and our bags to town. We tried to send garage men out to Fred but I wasn’t sure they’d go. We got the last room at the Irma Hotel. I had just got washed when Fred knocked at the door. He had patched her up and driven in. He got the nite clerk to let him have his room. We have an annex between us. We went to supper and had cream. We agreed that Mother and I better take the train home in the morning. I went with him to get the stuff out of the car.

“Why did you spoil last night?” I said. And when he understood I really wanted to go out with him, he was so contrite. Begged me to forgive him a little, or at least to forget how he’d hurt me if I didn’t forgive him, and he promised over and over that he’d never refuse to listen to me again. He wanted to know why I didn’t come to him and said he knew he’d hurt me and was sorry 15 minutes after I left him. He’d have come to me on his hands and knees if he’d known where to find me, and more dear foolishness like that.

Of course I realize that the peril to our happiness lies right there—that there will be other scenes like that. If I can ever keep from getting proud myself—keep my sense of humor when he’s cross—. But we were both tired and I can’t give in always—I know it.

Day Thirteen
July 23, 1920 Friday

So Mother and I took the train home from Cody to Casper. It was a long, hot trip. We played cards with some school teachers. I got pictures of Wind River Canyon. And we got home safe and sound.

Saturday, July 24, 1920

We spent Saturday resting and getting stuff Ruth wanted. I found heaps of mail waiting for us.

Sunday, July 25, 1920

We woke early and got up and ready, finding we are the only people here [at Bea’s boarding house-hotel]. Just as we were leaving for breakfast I met Fred—unshaven and looking like a tramp—on the steps of the hotel as I came out. He’d gotten to the place that comes out of Casper Saturday night by taking short cuts by Meeteetze and Lost Cabin and then got stuck in the mud near where they are improving the road and had to leave Nancy and come in with someone else. He was going back for the car. We went to Sunday school and church and then stayed in the house and lunched on cookies and lemonade instead of going out to dinner. At 4 o’clock Fred called with stuff and wanted to take us to dinner at the hotel.

Monday, July 26, 1920

Mother went away [on the train back home to Indiana]. We went to a show in the afternoon and in the evening to dinner, then humming out with Nancy to City Road. There was a lovely moon. Home.

[The written story ends here. Fred and Bea married in Casper the week after Christmas. They did not go back to Yellowstone for their honeymoon. They went to Thermopolis instead!]

Thursday, June 4, 2015

The Fanatical Fan and Her Fantasy

My favorite author came to town this week and I went to hear her talk. This was my test. In my last post, I talked about Donna Leon’s quote about fans and how they want to say something that will turn their object of adoration into their instant friend. I disparaged such people, as surely Ms. Leon meant her readers to do, and yet, when face-to-face with my favorite author (not Donna Leon, sorry!), how did I meet the test? Was I dignified and pleasant and quick about asking for her autograph in my copy of her latest book?

No! Of course not!

I quoted Donna Leon! Which forced her to produce an instant deprecating laugh and something to mean she would naturally not think of her fans as a necessary nuisance! Can you believe how clumsy I was?

But then she looked a second time at me and said, “But I’ve met you before.” Anne Perry has a good memory for faces and is gifted with one of the most gracious natures of any reluctant celebrity I can think of. Of celebrities I have met, probably only Angela Lansbury can be said to be as gracious. I have not actually met all that many celebrities. Meeting them is not one of my needs or even wants. Except Anne Perry. I went to meet her because I wanted to know if the person behind her writing was as amazing as I thought.

I met her first about 27 years ago when she spoke on my college campus. I went to hear her with my sister-in-law, who was on the faculty. She came in, this tall, elegant woman in a wine-colored silk shirt-dress and handmade shoes. Her hands were beautiful, with tapering fingers and manicured nails in an understated clear gloss. Her voice was cultured and low, her diction perfect and her accent the British of an educated Londoner.

Yes. Her physical elegance mirrored the elegance of her prose style and the incisive logic of her plot lines. Her speech was interesting, and more interesting were her answers to the many questions put to her by the college students and professors in the audience. She was a match for them in terms of being ready for any question with an intelligent, cohesive, coherent answer.

Fast forward twenty-seven years. I had been to many talks and book signings since that first one. During the times I fancied myself a sonnet-writer, I even wrote a series of murder-mystery sonnets about the themes of several of her books and gave them to her. She wrote a gracious reply. I felt encouraged by her kind words every time she met me again to ask more questions. I met her at a speaking event and luncheon and she asked me if I would contribute a story to an anthology that she and a friend of hers were putting together. I accepted and wrote and sent her the story. The next time she was in my state I saw her again and she thanked me for the story. The anthology idea came to nothing though; it wasn’t published. I mentioned one year that my family and I were going to Scotland, to see the castle where my mother’s clan calls home. It is located near where she lived at the time, and she said she owned a guest house not a mile from the castle, and she gave me the number to book a reservation there. So we ended up staying at her guest-house, and one of the workers there offered to show us the way to find the rented hall where the LDS Church was held on Sunday. When we appeared there, Anne Perry introduced us in Sunday School as her friends. It was all very nice, but it did not feel real.

I wanted to draw back and look at her and ask, “Friends?” I did not feel like one of her friends. She did not invite us to come to her home for a visit, and we did not drop in on her. Nor did I feel she was my friend. I would never ask her to visit my home or to do anything more than sign my books. I was a fan, and maybe a little bit more; maybe an acquaintance. I would have liked to have been more, but I drew back, knowing that it was only in my fantasy world that that would be true.

That was the last time I saw her until the other day. She did not remember my name nor the occasions when we met; it had been about fifteen years in the meantime. But she knew that she knew me somehow. I did not spend time telling her all the details! Thinking of Donna Leon’s quote, I made a quick remark about it being a long time ago and let the next person take my place at her table.

I went home, deciding that dignity demands distance and concentration on the real relationships in my life, which I hasten to say are very satisfying! I have a wonderful family and great friends.

The fantasy will persist, however much I resist. I wonder if she spent any time thinking and remembering later.

Monday, June 1, 2015

Considering Other Points of View

Two quotes stood out for me in a book I read recently, one on the nature of fans, and the other on the nature of motherhood. Here is the fan quote by the opera singer character:

“Flavia shook her head repeatedly. ‘You don’t know what it’s like, Guido, to have all those people crowding around, all of them wanting something, to tell you something about themselves. They think they want to tell you how much they liked your performance, but what they really want is to make you remember them. Or like them.’ ” [Falling in Love by Donna Leon, page 192]

This makes me feel very self-conscious, since it is exactly what I was doing when my favorite author came to town and I went to hear her give a reading and sign books after. I wanted to say something so remarkable that she would instantly want to be my friend. Can you believe the arrogance!

I never stopped to think of the situation from her point of view. I am sure that all she really wanted was to get through with the line of fans as soon as possible so that she could go home or back to her hotel or wherever to get some real rest, or meet up with her real friends and have real conversation, do whatever to restore her energy for writing the next book I will love. This is not the same as a person who craves celebrity for its own sake. This is the case of someone who loves to create, and whose creation turns out to be a big hit with the public. That can be a sort of curse to the creative spirit, don’t you think? On the other hand, my author was graciousness itself. Either she was really, really good at acting, or it was genuine: she enjoyed hearing all the odd things her fans said. As a writer, perhaps that’s part of her stock in trade—observing and “collecting” people types for possible use somewhere, sometime. I will never know, because I obviously cannot think of anything so remarkable to say that the future finds my favorite author confiding any such secrets to me!

Here is the second quote from Donna Leon’s book, a little longer, but it is one that almost all women with families will identify with:

Chiara, the teenage daughter, asks what is so great about her mother getting to be home alone one evening [page 211]:

“Paola, who was facing her at the table, gave her a level, adult look. She tasted a thin wheel of zucchini, approved her own cooking, and took another bite. She set her elbow on the table and cupped her chin in her palm. ‘It means I do not have to prepare dinner, or serve, or wash the dishes after it, Chiara. It means I can have bread and cheese and a salad, or no salad, or no bread and cheese, and make myself whatever I want to eat. But more importantly, it means I can eat when I want to, and I can read while I’m eating, and then I can go back to my study and lie on the sofa and read all evening.’ When she saw Chiara get ready to speak, Paola held up her hand and continued. ‘And it means I can come in here and get myself a glass of wine or a glass of grappa or make myself a coffee or a cup of tea or just have a glass of water, and I don’t have to talk to anyone or do anything for anyone. And then I can go back to my book, and when I’m tired, I’ll go to bed and read there.’
“ ‘And that’s what you want to do?’ Chiara asked in a voice so small she could have been an ant standing under a leaf.
“In a much warmer voice, Paola said, ‘Yes, Chiara. Once in a while, that’s what I want to do.’
“With the back of her fork, Chiara mashed at a piece of carrot until it was an indistinguishable blob on her plate. Finally, in a voice that had grown a bit stronger, she asked, ‘But not always?’
“ ‘No, not always.’ ”

Is that spot on or what?! I love my family dearly, but oh! how dearly I would love one day all to myself.