Wish we knew their story- “Remember That!!”

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Light breezes kept the mosquitoes at bay around the campfire. Stars sparkling in the vast black sky overhead gave a peaceful feel. Occasionally you’d hear a fish splash in their jump from the Klamath River nearby. Sitting around a cheery campfire with friendly camaraderie was the perfect end of a very busy day.

We were content from the 50’s style Sunday chicken dinner that Bonnie had made and was served by smiling young girls. Previous year Gloria had made delicious so ‘mores, but we’d enjoyed dinner and all the homemade pies! Pete had brought his guitar and sang a couple of songs, one about the silver-hair aging, and one he’d just written about new young life. How fast it goes from one to the other.
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A couple from the resort joined the circle and asked what brought us here. Liz explained we were celebrating the author, Stella Patterson, who wrote Dear Mad’m. Liz and Pete Lismer, grandnephew of Stella had written Dear Mad’m Who Was She? answering many questions about Stella’s life. They shared Stella’s life before and after she wrote Dear Mad’m.

Stella’s relatives wanted her to move back to San Francisco to “take care of her” in her declining years. Her independent streak and having been told she had “young legs” recently led to her plan. For one year she wanted to live on her mining claim on the Klamath River and it gave her the excuse, that it was for “business reasons.”. She’d try it for a year. Dear Mad’m was the book she wrote about living in a rustic cabin, the friends she met, a mule named Pete, goats invasion, learning mining and clean-up, storms wildlife, wood-stove, without indoor plumbing and other challenges, with only her faithful dog, Vickie.

Even with all the answers to questions about Stella’a life, more questions pop up. On that night around the campfire, as we so often wished that we could ask her questions and get to know her better. If only she had written more!

Rod Diradon said right then, “Remember That!”

Have you ever written down the stories of your life? I appreciate so much those who have told us what life was back in long ago days, or even what Happy Camp was like a few years ago, before mills closed which brought changes to our little town in the woods. We have different perspectives, and think we will not forget the little day to day things that made up our lives as the years pass. But we forget, and they will never be known to those who come after us and wish they knew more about that life. You can pass on to them your wisdom, experience, the happy times and the difficult times. Consider saving it all in a biography or memoir! Your family and maybe others as well, would enjoy getting to know what it was like if you record it now!

Children love to see the photo albums of pictures of them in the times before they remember…the times before Facebook too!! The story of their birth, how everyone looked forward to their arrival, when and where they were born and any other special things that are memorable. One memoir teacher that I had a class with suggested a mother write these things in a letter to each child, but that’s just the beginning of the important memories of their life.

Rather than outlining a whole life, Denis LeDoux’s method of listing each year you have lived down the left side of notebook paper. Next to each year, starting with your birth, or before to include heritage that directly affects you, write just a few words remembrances from that year. Once you start school, it is easy to list the teachers each grade, best friends. There later will bring to mind stories abut things that happened. Some years may have many things, siblings births, moving, pets, and hobbies while other years may be difficult to recall. Don’t worry, things will come to you later to add.

Pick out one topic from that list, sit down and write out the story. Don’t worry about perfection at the beginning! Later you can correct and add details and descriptions. Get it down on paper. Then each morning, or a couple of times a week, or weekly, whatever fits your schedule, write about another topic on your list. It may take a year but if you don’t start now, the time will still pass and you’ll still have not begun! You’ll be wishing you could get “around to it” someday.

It might end up being something you’d just want to share with your family and friends, but Stella W. Patterson’s one year story turned into a best seller! Seventy years later. People are still reading and enjoying her adventures. Adventures which are like those you have in your own life each day and could write about as well.

2 comments

  • I love this article. It would be great to read more memoirs about life in Happy Camp!

  • bob schout

    It was in 1962 that the sun rose in Happy Camp. I heard the river from the platform tent that I had slept in the night before in the stage ..an early form of a Chevy suburban from Yreka. I was going to be foreman at Oak Bottom for the Forest Service.
    The Drug Store was a run down building by the creek with a log bridge over it. George Coombs was the District Ranger. Power came from a diesel generator up the hill. The sawmills were all in operation.
    When I got to Oak Bottom east of Somes Bar i found out that Mr Martin ran the lookout and that Hoot Gibson a Kanaka Indian ran the packstring out of Camp 3 .
    Of course, in those days Floyd Long was the operator of the general store. That is the summer i met LD Blackie Walker who was always willing to be part of the crew whenever there was a fire. There was a sort of hotel over the bar in Happy Camp
    That summer there were several good fires on black mountain and a few other places. If the fires got big enough we would go in by helicopter and then walk out. One time we got lost on the upper reaches of the Wooley Creek and spent a few days finding ourselves..That year there were lots of salmon ..literally a row upon row of them situation . The tripp family lived down the road. Grandma Trip i remember refused to drink water out of a pipe connected to tank up the hill. She thought the water suspicious.
    About every week I would get a box of cookies in a shoebox from my mom in zeeland michigan Floyd long was also the postmaster and would always bring out the box and explain with a wry grin that it had been damaged in shipment …quite a few of the cookies..which he said were the best chocolate chip cookies in the world..were usually missing.
    It was the best summer of my life.

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