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My Darling Matey

29 Jul
My Darling Matey(s) - Lloyd and Jean Mostrom
Lloyd and Jean

My Darling Matey – The Mostrom-Thompson Love Story… In Their Own Words was recently published on Amazon. This personal history was compiled by Susan Mostrom (Susan) and Bruce Summers (me).

This book holds a special place for me as it was my first professional Personal History project. Susan and I were sitting on the stands at the Wakefield Recreation Center watching our daughters play soccer. We were chatting and cheering. I was not coaching, though, at times I might have shouted a bit loudly to my daughter. In conversation, I started talking about my new Personal Historian business. Susan’s eyes lit up — she smiled and asked me if I would be interested in interviewing her parents. My smiled widened, and I said I would love to.

We discussed her goals — what questions and what stories would Susan and her five siblings want to have recorded. Susan shared some background. Her dad, Lloyd Mostrom (Lloyd), was 102 at the time. Her mum, Jean Thompson Mostrom (Jean), was 94. They still lived in the same home where they had raised Susan and her siblings since the 1950s.

Lloyd grew up speaking Norwegian on a farm in Minnesota. He was a second generation American. Jean grew up on the West Coast of Australia. Her family were early immigrants to Western Australia in the 1840’s. They met, fell in love, and married in Australia during World War II. Well, I was very intrigued.

Before I met them in-person, I began my research. What was it like to be the son of a first generation Norwegian-American farmer, born in 1908, before there were cars and tractors? What was it like to have a father who was University professor in Australian, a grandfather who was a gold-miner, and a great-grandfather who was a ship’s captain and died at sea?

Further questions flowed into my head and onto my note pad during our first meeting. And yes, I did turn my digital voice recorder on. Susan and I had her parents cover some biographical information, I have standard bio-background sheets for each clients. Jean disappeared for a bit and brought back a secret (to Susan) stash of vital records with births, deaths, and marriages of several generations of Australian family members and poster listing six or seven generations of “Tuckey’s,” her mum’s father’s side. Lloyd revealed that he had a whole file drawer of family history “records” in the file cabinet in the basement, third drawer down, to the left of his desk. I smiled as several light bulbs flashed in my head. This is going to be great fun, I thought.

I asked Jean if I could borrow and scan her records. “Yes, yes”, she responded with her lovely Australian accent. I asked Lloyd if I could walk down to his basement to take a quick look through his family history file drawer, “yes, yes”, he said. Susan reiterated that Daddy is not allowed to go down stairs into the basement. He said, “yes, yes,” I could go down and take a look, which I did. I had opened the file drawer and started looking through the treasures when I heard someone walking down the steps. Lloyd was coming down to join me, and I thought oh no! I am going to lose my first client on my first day!!!!!

Well, Lloyd survived, and we looked through the drawer together and I pulled a few resources to review. Lloyd had typed up an account of his first 50 years. There were a few genealogy worksheets, a reunion booklet call Mostrom Memories… And then, two real gems, a family history paper he wrote during college and his high school journal. I felt as if I had struck gold. This was before I even started looking though the half-dozen or so curated family albums. These included two volumes of a scrap book documenting Lloyd’s first 100 years in photos with captions. Most of these with Jean and family members from five different generations.

I learned later, that Lloyd and Jean each called each other “Matey” and started each letter to the other with “My Darling Matey.” By then, Susan and I knew their personal history was going to be a love story.

My Darling Matey includes mostly Lloyd and Jean’s own words from voice recordings of my interviews with Lloyd and Jean. It integrates a wealth of other source materials. Some of the key ones are listed above. I scanned and integrated hundreds of photographs into this love story. Susan and I added the context to tie these source materials and photos together.

My Darling Matey… is the story of a man and a woman, half a world apart, and the barn that brought them together. It includes four “books”. Book One is Lloyd’s story (before meeting Jean). Book Two is Jean’s story (before meeting Lloyd). Each is fascinating on its own. Book Three is Their Story, “The Meet,” etc. This is interesting since I alternated recording Lloyd, then Jean separately. That way I could get each story, of the other, and unique memories of events, and then I recorded them together getting “his”story followed by “her”story together. This was great fun to watch and record. Book Four includes their Reflections of two lives well-lived.

I have just re-read the first 110 pages of the printed book, mostly Lloyd’s story. I can hardly wait to get to Jean’s story and Their story. Though some time has passed since I listened to the original stories seven years ago, then transcribed them, and integrated Lloyd and Jean’s stories and memories into three different drafts of the narrative, My Darling Matey is very readable and still fresh for me just like I heard their stories the first time.

I highly recommend My Darling Matey. Susan and I hope you, too, will be entranced by their early fascinating early lives and their love story. Lloyd and Jean died in 2013 within a month of each other.

***********************************************************************

Bruce Summers is a Personal Historian and Life Story Professional. He is the Founder of Summoose Tales, summersbw@gmail.com

My Darling Matey is the third personal history book he has collaborated on. He also worked with Carl Coon and Sam A. Gaskill on Carl’s two volume Autobiography: People of Earth – the First 40 – Volume 1 and People of Earth – The Second Passage – Volume 2

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Great Hikes – Devil’s Bridge, Sedona, Arizona – March 1, 2018

4 Mar
Sunrise in Sedona

We love great hikes, actually we love walking and hiking in all types of weather. We like the exercise. We like to repeat hikes in our local area. It is always different. The same walk can be totally different each season, often different each month, and sometimes different each week. Hikes can be quite different before a rain, then after a big rain, or when it is cloudy vs. when there is a blue sky on a sunny day.

View from the town of Sedona

We had just finished our first 3 day REI guided hike. We stopped to visit family overnight near Phoenix and then drove up to Sedona for another two days of hiking, and exploring, with perhaps a bit of photography thrown in.

Photo of Sedona Sunset our first night in town

We had lunch in Sedona many years ago, on our way to the Grand Canyon, but you can’t really count a half hour lunch break as “seeing” Sedona. This time, we had two days and two nights and March 1st was our main hiking day.

“So what’s a great hike?” we asked our trip suggester in the front lobby of our hotel. “So what’s a great hike?” we had asked our REI Tour Guides a few days earlier. We were meeting up with two friends in the morning to hike, so they also had done an independent “So what’s a great hike” survey.

The consensus, “Get started pretty early…, before it gets hot and crowded, and take the trail up to Devil’s Bridge!”

We chose the longer and more strenuous Route 3 to connect with Route 2 and then connected to the main trail up to Devil’s Bridge pictured in the upper right corner of the map.

Our friends picked us up about 9:15 a.m. and we drove out to the Devil’s Bridge Hike Trailhead off State Road 152, just a bit west of Sedona.

View from the trailhead parking lot

We decided to take the Dry Creek to Chuck Wagon trail, the “more strenuous route” (not really we decided). Not after hiking for a few days in the Sonora Desert.

I loved the colors of these shrubs and the century plant.

Not strenuous, but it sure was beautiful.

We had a delightful walk through scrub and trees.

It was a lovely walk

The red rocks, red soil and spectacular views were at every turn and on all sides of the trail.

Then there were the lovely views of the distant buttes and rock towers and mountains of red mixed with interesting contrasting stripes and layers.

Getting an early start was great advice. One, we were able to get a parking space at the trailhead. Two, the sun was lower so the light was perfect for picture taking. Three, it was pleasant walking with our hiking layers on.

It started to get a bit steeper here.

I volunteered to take “sweep” position in our four person crew. Sweep to me meant I could pause, or stop and take a few photographs, while my three companions kept up a steady pace.

The three routes were well marked by stone cairns or signs.

I could also take action photos of my companions as they were hiking. Then I would speed walk or take a lite trail jog to catch up, thus maintaining a semblance of trail discipline by not falling too far behind and by not causing them undue worry.

I found this a perfectly agreeable arrangement. Great hikes also usually mean great photos.

The trail was just rugged enough. The vistas continued to be spectacular.

Eventually we came to the steeper climb. The last 1/3 of a mile we had to clamber up stone steps and rocks, level 3 or 4 hiking, not too bad, really, just enough to get our hearts pumping a bit harder.

The bridge was about fifteen feet across at its narrowest point above the arch.

The highlight of the trip finally yawned before us. We looked across a chasm, maybe 50 feet to see pairs of fellow hikers sitting or standing on “Devil’s Bridge”.

The bridge itself is a natural arch rising up over about 200 feet of nothing.

Devil’s Bridge

We traded off who in our group would go stand on the natural bridge and pose, my wife and our companions went first while I took their photo and then they returned the favor.

Some people were a bit worried when they walked out on this high rock arch. Even I was worried when I saw a young woman sit down on the edge and dangled her feet over all that empty space.

And they there was the crazy man who decided he would jog across the bridge and then leap a narrow gap from the bridge to another rock outcrop; all the while hoping his buddy caught his successful leap on the first take.

We decided it was time to head back down the mountain, this versus watching the crazy guy perhaps making a second or third death defying leap over the long, long, long drop to the bottom of the gorge.

The sun beams were very bright as they filtered through the trees

I enjoyed the walk down. The sun was high, almost over head, so the views were much more muted and sun-washed, but still spectacular.

But the morning views with the muted sunlight were even better.

On our hike back to our car I examined rocks, looked for fossils, and observed how the weather and the wind had carved the rocks and the soil.

View from our Thai Restaurant where we ate lunch.

It was hard to leave, it had been a great hike, but our stomachs were calling out for lunch and we knew, that just maybe, there would be time for another great hike in the afternoon. But that’s a different story.


Bruce Summers is a Personal Historian, a Hiker and a Photographer from Summoose Tales, +1.703.503.8834, summersbw@gmail.com

See Also:

Cactus League – then Cactus Hiking

Sedona Arizona Sunset

Uluru Adventure

Travel

Photos


The Great Porcupine Canoe Trip

4 Feb

By Carl Coon

It was mostly Bill who arranged the Great Porcupine Canoe Trip. The idea grew out of a game of one-up-man-ship between the Millers and the Coons. Careful readers of this account, if there be any, will recall a certain canoe trip on the Allagash River in Maine that the Millers and the Coons took in the summer of 1977. Each side wrongly assumed the other knew what it was doing but we survived. Bill retaliated with the canoe trip down the Yukon River from Whitehorse to Dawson that we took in 1980. When Jane and I were elevated to our embassies in the subcontinent I one-upped Bill right back, with a trip through the Terai jungles on elephant back. That happened during our first Christmas season, and Bill took it as a major challenge. The Porcupine River trip in August of 1984 was his masterpiece, taking upwards of three years to prepare, and it ended the competition once and for all,  as it was clear we were never going to top it.

First, a word about the Millers. Jane had known Luree in Bombay back in the early ‘60’s, when Jane was assigned to our Bombay Consulate and Bill was too, as the press and information officer. The legendary Marilyn Silverstone was also there and the three women, Jane, Luree, and Marilyn formed an indissoluble bond, fastest of friends. Bill, as Luree’s spouse, was already attached to this triumvirate and I joined it when I married Jane.

The Alaska connection was mainly through Bill, born and raised in Fairbanks, but also through Luree’s uncle, who had been a legendary bush pilot in Alaska during the thirties. Also, Luree had spent a couple of years driving a truck around Alaska roads in the postwar period. Since marrying Bill, Luree had not only become a mother of three, but an accomplished writer, with several books to her credit. She frequently contributed travel articles to the Washington Post. She was one of the sharpest people I’ve known, as well as one of the most agreeable. They made a good couple; Bill was the more overtly adventurous, while Luree was more practical.

Valerie La Breche came along for the ride. She grew up with Luree in Seattle and had made a career out of travel, often hiring out as guide-counselor or such.

And then there was Bir, already well-known to readers of my essays and Autobiography. Cheerful, resourceful, Jane and I had reached the point we could hardly imagine undertaking a long camping trip without him. Plus, we were taking him home to Washington, DC anyway. His number had finally come up and my Embassy was able to give him a completely legal immigrant visa.

When we got to Anchorage Bir was there waiting for us, cheerful as ever and looking forward to a new adventure. It had occurred to us that he might have had a bit of trouble in Tokyo, given the fact the Japanese Red Army was shooting the place up at the time. No, he had sailed right through, big smile, no problem. He even had his kukri, the Nepali hillsman’s constant companion and the Gurkha soldier’s favorite weapon. What?? He says he never left the transit lounge but even so, you’d think somebody would have noticed before they let him bring his kukri on another flight. Anyway, we checked that up as one of the first serendipitous events of the trip. We were going to need a lot more good luck, as we shall see.

Bir and Jane and I flew from Anchorage to our rendezvous in Fairbanks where we joined the other three. Then we drove to our launching pad at Circle Hot Springs. That “pad”, the Circle Hot Springs Hotel, was one of the most unusual caravanserais I’ve ever seen, and I’ve seen ‘em in more places than most. Bar straight out of Hollywood except that some of the patrons were for real; there was still some prospecting, and I actually saw one grizzled prospector come in and buy a round for everybody there, paid for with a little sack of newly scratched up gold.

Bedrooms furnished in plush velvet like a fancy bordello. And then a crazy swimming pool fed by hot springs so you could actually swim in it when the air temperature was twenty below (as we did on a later trip). Outside, behind the hotel, were acres of second-hand refrigerators and washing machines and similar junk waiting for buyers that I gather never appeared. The owner, a brother of Bill’s, was a bit of a nut about such equipment. I gather that Bill, the youngest of a family of nine(?) children, was considered one of the least eccentric, which explained quite a bit about the hotel, not to mention Bill himself.

Bill had arranged our flight to Old Crow with a couple of his old bush pilot friends. The first flight carried most of our gear. Then we all piled into a small seaplane with our two canoes strapped to the landing floats and, grossly overloaded, wobbled northeast and finally splashed down next to the beach beside Old Crow.

Jane describes a certain sinking feeling when our plane left us on the river bank with a small mountain of stuff including two kayaks yet to be assembled. I agree with Jane about the sinking feeling; I had one of my own, a sense of my god what have we gone and done? But there was no time for reflection, we had a lot to do and the day wasn’t getting any younger. Our first task was to assemble the two kayaks which had come knocked down in the first flight. Bill and Bir and I did that, with some difficulty, while Luree visited Old Crow to say hello to an Athabaskan Indian named Steven Frost, who had been a friend of her father’s. Then we packed our gear and boarded, two each in the canoes, and Bill and Luree had a kayak apiece.

We were able to get a few miles down the river that same day, since it was still early August and the days were still very long. Setting up camp and preparing supper was a breeze with Bir along and the rest of us enjoyed our well-earned tot of scotch.

We had a couple of peaceful days on the river, and then entered a canyon where the bluffs rose directly from the shore, leaving a dearth of campsites. It was getting late so we picked the best spot we could find, a narrow strip of beach, and set up camp.

I woke up early the next morning, stuck my head out of the tent, and found myself eyeball to eyeball with a large and healthy looking caribou, horns and all, looking back at me with a curiosity very much like my own. I suppose if I had asked him what he was doing there he could have replied that this was his turf and what the hell was I doing on it? Anyway, after we had each recovered from our initial surprise he ambled toward the river and I looked around.


There were hundreds of the brutes, lined up nose to tail in a column stretching from the water’s edge up a very steep trail to a high ridge where the early light outlined them, still nose to tail, in a line that ran along the ridge for as far as the eye could see.

I grabbed my camera and took a few snaps as the herd continued its stately pace into and across the river. The current was strong enough so they landed on the opposite shore well downstream from where they had started, but then I noticed an exception, a caribou swimming the wrong way, toward me. It struggled ashore near me and I noticed it was dripping blood. I looked across the river and saw the cause, a very large brown bear that was climbing back on the bank from the river, having evidently failed in an attack on the caribou standing in front of me. The bear looked at me, stood up on his hind legs, and barked. It sounded like a cannon, a staccato explosion that echoed up and down the canyon. People started piling out of their tents and the party was on.

Earlier on, Bill had assured Jane that grizzlies couldn’t swim, but that didn’t cut much ice when we saw the grizzly run downstream several hundred yards, then plow across the river like a motorboat. Bir, ever practical, started to build up a roaring fire. The ladies hit on the idea that noise could scare the brute off, and started banging pots and pans. I ducked back in my tent and readied my shotgun, a round of bird-shot up front with a round of double aught buckshot backing it up. I reflected that maybe I should have brought my .30 caliber hunting rifle, but then, I didn’t want to hurt the beast unless I had to, and this way I might scare him off.

That’s what happened. When the grizzly reached our bank he charged straight for us, growling and cussing at us and carrying on like a whole tribe of banshees. I never have been able to decide whether he intended to slaughter us or was just trying to scare us off, but if the latter he succeeded admirably. He may not have made his own mind up either, but when he heard my bird-shot whistling over his head he made a command decision, pivoted like a pro football quarterback, and beat it back to his point of entry on our bank, hardly slowing down at all. Without pausing he swam back to the other bank, and then tore up to the point where he’d started, across from me. After a few more barks he ran straight up the cliff-side behind him and disappeared. A few minutes later a slightly smaller grizzly with two half-grown cubs appeared on the opposite bank where he had been, and watched us in a fairly unfriendly way while we broke camp and hit the water.

I found the whole episode deeply satisfying. For the first and probably the only time I had won a protracted argument against Luree and Jane, not to mention Valerie. The subject was guns. From the beginning of our planning, I was determined to bring one along and they were determined I should not. Who did they think I thought I was, a poster boy for the gun lobby? Guns were immoral, hunting was immoral, just having a lethal weapon sullied the whole idea of pristine wilderness we sought. I persisted, they insisted, we were still arguing when we got on the river, and I still had my trusty old twelve gauge pump-action shotgun, barrel off so it would fit in my bag.

None of us joined the gun lobby but we all agreed that it was a good thing I had that infernal device with me. Furthermore I have the only photograph I ever took that Marilyn has considered up to her standards. I took it of the other five watching that big grizzly bug off back across the river. Marilyn likes pictures that show real people undergoing real emotions and when I took that snap my fellow travelers qualified

Jane had another notion about bears that Bill had encouraged, namely that they didn’t like the smell of mothballs, so if you wanted to protect your tent or campsite against their depredations the thing to do was put a ring of the smelly little objects around the protected area. After several more days of camping on the river that idea was discarded along with the bears can’t swim idea. We got up one morning to find very fresh grizzly tracks around our tent, within the magic mothball circle.

That morning also marked Valerie’s conversion on the subject of my snoring. I now use a respirator but in those days I allegedly made quite a racket at times when sleeping soundly. Valerie had her own little tent and for the first few days parked it as far from the one Jane and I used as possible, given the confines of the site. The morning new grizzly tracks appeared around our tent, similar ones appeared around hers, and from then on we clustered our tents in a tighter configuration, noise be damned.

About halfway down to Fort Yukon there’s an abandoned settlement called New Ramparts and we stopped there for a rest day. For the first (and only) time during our whole journey down the river, we met other humans. A large canoe with a small outboard put-putted around a bend and in it was Luree’s friend Steven Frost, with son, wife, and a freshly killed caribou.

It was a family outing and a kind of celebration, with son having made his first kill. Frost and son beached and with all of us watching, butchered the caribou. They did a beautiful job, quick and clean, and presented us with a sizable chunk of steaming fresh liver. To round out the menu they also gave us some bannock bread, a relatively imperishable local version of the staff of life that is very hard.

Bir, whose teeth leave much to be desired, pulled out his little metal skillet and some wheat flour and made some chappatis. Frost was fascinated and so was I. Here were individuals from very different cultures and places exchanging technological information about how you can make grain edible, with each technique probably dating back to the Neolithic. This kind of exchange must have occurred many times in the remote past, as one of the main ways culture gets diffused and civilization advanced. Remarkable, to see it happening here, under our eyes. And they each thought it was pretty remarkable too. It was a case of mutual admiration, as this picture suggests.

One of the advantages of canoeing down a big river is that usually you don’t have to worry about getting lost.  Just go with the flow. Tributaries sneak up behind you, and half the time you don’t even know they are there. This was true for us about 90% of the way down to Fort Yukon, but as we got close to our destination the Porcupine morphed into something like a delta, with a host of branches peeling off from the main stream, some of them big enough to pass as the main stream itself. It’s not too difficult if you are sitting at a desk looking at a map, but if you are facing a bunch of islands all looking alike, sitting in the front of a canoe with your wife the ambassador in the back, yelling at you to say which way do I go, dammit, right or left, and the current is rapidly taking you past the point of no return, it can get hairy.

I was the designated navigator. I would cheerfully have turned the job over to Bill but he was solo in a kayak. And we were supposed to rendezvous with Mary and Barry Morris, local representatives of the Alaska Commercial Company (successor to the Hudson Bay Company) at a very specific time at a very specific point in this delta or archipelago of little inlets and islets that our mighty Porcupine had morphed into. One false turn and we would have been up a creek, literally, or, even worse, downstream from our target. But we hit it without a false turn, and at just about the agreed hour. I felt as lucky as if I had won a national lottery. Serendipity squared. Jane sent an ardent prayer of thanks to Lord Ganesh. Our new hosts were almost as surprised as we were, as they had fully expected a long and quite possibly fruitless wait. They fit us and our gear into a large pickup and drove us back to civilization, or at least to one of its more remote outposts.

Our new hosts at Alaska Commercial were congenial and took good care of us. They had the travel bug themselves and after we went home they took their jeep and drove it around much of the world. We rested up for a day or two and flew home. End of an era.

And what an era it was! For three years Jane and I had been caught up in a social whirl in two overpopulated countries, especially Bangladesh, one of the most overpopulated of all. We were suffering from a surfeit of people. And then, like hardy Swedes rolling in the snow after steaming themselves in a sauna, we went cold turkey into wilderness, seeing nobody at all except for the one day we met Stephen Frost. It was shock treatment and it worked. On the ride back from our rendezvous to ACC headquarters we rode like Okies in the back of a pickup truck. The rest of the way home we were ordinary tourists like everyone else. Sic transit gloria mundi.

But we did have our memories, and Luree had a hell of a good travel story to write-up, which she did, and the Washington Post published it, which was a help later on persuading skeptical friends that it all really happened.

********************************************

Carl Coon recently died at age 91. He was a retired United States Ambassador, a composer, an author and essayist. This is an account of one of his life adventures. Carl lived with his wife Jane in Rappahannock County, Virginia overlooking a bend in a river.

Bruce’s Notes: Carl Coon was a good friend and one of my Personal History clients. We worked together on his Autobiography. The first volume – People of Earth: The First Forty, was published in October. We hope to have the second volume ready to publish later this year.

Bruce Summers is Personal Historian and Life Story Coach for Summoose Tales, +1.703.503.8834, summersbw@gmail.com. Bruce is a former direactor of the Association of Personal Historians. He is a founding member of the Life Story Professionals of the Greater Washington Area.

See also:

Digging into my Family Roots

21 Jan

A little over a year ago I was digging into my Family Roots, into my Dutch Heritage at the New York Public Library. 

There were several files there on the Van Zandt Family, and one particularly intriguing file on my 3rd Great Grandfather – Wynant Van Zandt III.  It said he founded a church in Little Neck, New York, (later renamed Douglaston, New York).

At the time my son was living in Ridgewood, Queens not too far as the crow flies from Little Neck, but a long way, over an hour, if you did not have a car. I as intrigued, but doubted that I would ever get over that way.  The only times I risked driving into Queens was to do a quick pick up to drive my son’s possessions to or from Ridgewood from our home in Virginia.

Roll forward  about eight months.

My wife and I were sitting in a bakery/cafe in Ridgewood, drinking coffee and eating lunch before heading out to visit my son in the hospital. There was a well loved (used copy) of Walking Queens, by Adrienne Onofri sitting on our table.  I thumbed through it and turned to the chapter – walking tours of Douglaston/Little Neck. In the first paragraph or two it talked about Zion Episcopal Church – founded by Wynant Van Zandt III (my third great grandfather).  I continued reading and learned that he had built a home in Little Neck, and then there was third mention.

Well, we had a car, I drove it up to Queens so we could visit my son in a hospital that was near Little Neck Parkway just a couple of miles from Douglaston. I checked the maps on my cell phone and ascertained, that yes, it was very close to the Zion Episcopal Church. We also knew there would be a gap of a few hours between visiting hours, and we like to walk and hike.  This seemed like an opportunity to explore family roots and also get some walking in.

We had a nice visit with our son, then my wife and I jumped onto the Little Neck Parkway following our Google maps instructions. As we drove down the hill into Douglaston, we saw a Van Zandt Street. I was intrigued, to say the least.

Digging into family roots

We went first to the Zion Episcopal Church, it was after hours so we thought it was closed. I took a chance, I call their phone number and the minister answered and told me she was just inside the door in the office, so she opened it and gave us a warm greeting since we were “Van Zandts”. She of course knew, everyone in the church knew, that Wynant Van Zandt III, my 3rd great grandfather, had donated the land and helped raise the money to build the church. He is the acknowledge founder of Zion.

Digging into family roots - Zion Episcopal Church

There was a plaque commemorating his founding the church in 1829, there is a Van Zandt Service Award given out annually, and Wynant Van Zandt III and 8 of his family members are buried in a crypt in the basement of the church.  There is a plaque commemorating Wynant and his family members.  The church had a fire a number of years ago. It was rebuilt and it is lovely. It is on a beautiful large piece of property right off one of the main streets of the town.

Digging into Family roots - Zion Episcopal Church, Little Neck/Douglaston, NY

Wynant III had been a successful merchant, and an Alderman for New York City. He lived in the area near Wall Street, and he had headed the building committee that built the current New York City Hall. Later in life, perhaps in his late 40’s, he retired to the country for his health.

Summoose Tales - Wynant Van Zandt III - my third great grandfather

He retired to Little Neck with view of a beautiful bay with wild geese and ducks. The bay was also famous for the “Little Neck clams” it produced.  In 1819 Wynant III bought a 100 acre farm and an 18th century Dutch farm house, the Cornelius Van Wyck House, was built in 1735.

Summoose Tales - Wynant Van Zandt III bought the Cornelius Van Wyck House in 1819

Wynant III and his family lived her for several years while he built a new home on his farm.

20180723_173114.jpg

Wynant III’s new home was started in 1819. It later was bought by the Douglas family and called the Douglas Manor. Little Neck was renamed Douglaston. The Manor later become the home of the Douglaston Yacht Club.

Summoose Tales - Wynant Van Zandt III built this home in 1819 in Little Neck, NY. It later become the Douglas Mansion and the Douglaston Yacht Club

I am proudly standing on the steps of the family house Wynant III built for his retiring years. I have vague memories of my mom talking about Douglaston. I asked my Dad, but he does not remember her ever talking about the town and they never visited there. I suspect my grandfather knew a lot about Douglaston and Little Neck since Wynant III would have been their great grandfather.

I went back to “Little Neck” a second time to walk around. The marshes around the town are beautiful.

When my son got out of the hospital, he and I also drove over to Little Neck for  a quick look around. We were very fortunate to find the new owner of the Cornelius Van Wyck House visiting and he was kind enough to spend about an hour with us, sharing stories about Little Neck, Douglaston, and allowed us to see the inside of the house that he was renovating.

It felt to me that the nearly 300 year old walls could talk. I sensed a family connection.

The house has a lovely view up and down the Little Neck Bay. 

It was a real treat to walk around the home and yard, to “dig” into and explore some of my family roots. For me it was a bit of family history coming alive. I hope you also have an opportunity to dig into your family roots.

**************************************

Bruce Summers, Founder, Summoose Tales, Personal History Consultant and Life Story Coach, +1.703.503.8834, summersbw@gmail.com

See Also: Family History, My Stories, Personal Historian


Can we be kids again?

14 Jan


My son and I decided yes, we can be kids again.

Well, after we finished shoveling out the driveway and the walkways, and clearing the snow off the cars for the third time in two days.

This was the first snow of 2019. It started on Saturday and finished up sometime dot early on Monday morning.

I have to confess, I jump-started – can we be kids again by sneakily packing and then throwing the first snowball at my son Bryce before we were done clearing off the first car the first time. Then, the broom he was using, to clean snow off the roof, just happened to brush about a hood full of snow over my way.

So far we were just being a bit playful, while doing our work. Surreptitiously, I packed a small snowball and lightly lobbed it over towards Bryce’s general direction. Well the snow ball lightly grazed his head, but then left about a quarter of its mass lodged inside and outside of his glasses.

Oops, I instantly apologized. Bryce disappeared inside. I knew I was in trouble when he came back with his glasses off. I realized I had made a few tactically mistakes, since Bryce had been the baseball catcher, pitcher and outfielder, while I had been the left out. Also, at age 25, his arm was still in its prime, while mine was good for short distances at best.

Bryce smiled, picked up his broom again and started to work on clearing snow off the hood of the car. I turned around a few moments later and – whack. He hit me in the back, luckily, with a well formed snowball. Why did I ever teach him how to pack snowballs when he was young?

I realized, that my best course was not to retaliate, and thus only got hit by one or two more snow balls, until after we finished our snow clearing.

Bryce then asked me, “do you want to go for a walk?” Since time had passed, and I thought we had in place an unspoken truce, I said yes. Bryce had already brought out the bag with the Truro Trails, our local neighborhood newsletter. Ever since Bryce was a young teenager, I have been delivering, often with his help, batches of Truro Trail to four neighbors, who then each deliver copies to several neighbors. It was great having one of my “kids” again walking with me and chatting up our neighbors.

It was still snowing, most of the streets had not been plowed, many of the sidewalks had not been cleared, but we decided it was a beautiful day. So, we continued our walk through our Truro neighborhood.

As we approached the stream crossing, we decided to amble through our neighborhood park. The stream flowing through the snowy banks, though the snowy trees, and under the snow covered bridges was spectacular.

It was a great day for a walk, and we did have our hiking boots and warm clothes on. What can be better than a walk through a snow filled park and neighborhood.

At a certain point, the kid in me took over my brain, and I thought… we could pull on the branches and create snow showers. And so we did, the rules of engagement were – we both had to be under snow covered branches, and we would alternate who picked the spot and who got to shake the tree branch.

Well, this worked out surprisingly well, and, as the snow piled up on our hats and hoods and shoulders, we each smiled and laughed. Sometimes, it really felt like heavy shower as snow cascaded in large clumps from 5 to 20 feet up. Sometimes, more fell on Bryce. Sometimes, more fell on me.

However, about half way through our neighborhood, I realized that I had again, missed a key strategic point. Bryce had his sweatshirt hood up and over his head and neck. I on the other hand, had a knit cap on my head and my hood was down, This made it all to possible for snow to shower down my neck and sometimes, even down my back.

Yet we continued, like the kids we were again, to alternate pulling branches to snow shower each other at least a dozen times each as we completed our long loop through our neighborhood. It definitely was the most fun I had had for a long time.

Notice the snow-berg on Bryce’s right shoulder

We completed our walk, changed clothes, dried off, had a steaming bowl of chili for lunch, and thought about possibilities. Maybe tomorrow, we could go sledding…

Summoose Tales - Can we be kids again?
Postscript – yes we did get in a bit of sledding the next day, since we had learned the day before that we can be kids again:)


Bruce Summers is the Founder of Summoose Tales, a Personal History Consultancy

Contact Information: +1.703.503.8834, summersbw@gmail.com

Counting blessings and saying Thank you.

18 Nov

It snowed Thursday. I needed to be at work downtown in Washington, D.C. early, but not too early.  I was co-facilitating a training class at 9:30 am.

Blessing # 1: As promised it had snowed overnight and it was still snowing. But it wasn’t too bad, the World Bank Group was open and cars were moving on the roads.

Blessing # 2: My driveway is built on a hill, so it was pretty easy to push 3/4 inch of snow down and away off the driveway. Though, it was a bit disconcerting that the snow was replacing itself almost as fast as I was scraping it off.

Blessing # 3: When I started sliding in my work-shoes, I could quickly transition into the snow boots I had already placed in the car for just such an eventuality.  “Be Prepared” I had learned as a Boy Scout.

Blessing # 4: I could quickly clear the snow off of my car with a broom. I think I learned this trick from a story about Chinese workers in Beijing being able to clear the sidewalks and roads with brooms, vs. snow plows.

Blessing # 5: I got on the roads and they were not too bad, people were driving a bit slower and cautiously, just right for travel in light snow. I turned right, then right again, and then left onto Prosperity.

Mixed Blessing 1: Traffic was starting to stack up at the first big hill down on Prosperity.  I saw a half-dozen cars turn around, some took an alternate route but it also had steep downs and steep ups. I decided to try my chances on Prosperity’s hills.

Blessing # 6: We slowly approached the congested section of the big down hill. After pauses and appropriate waiting, and timing when each up hill bound car would start its ascent,  we each slowly worked our way cautiously downhill. So far so good.

Mixed Blessing 2: The somewhat level part worked fine, then we started to stack up by the park. A couple of cars pulled into the park to wait it out. Ahead of us, up the hill, we could see two or three cars turned a bit askew.  They had tried unsuccessful tactics in climbing the big hill and were stuck slightly sideways blocking both the cars going down, and the cars like mine, that needed to go up. I duly queued up to wait my chance about 5 cars back.

Blessing # 7: I saw a woman from the second car, she was wearing a red coat, she got out and started walking up the hill to help.

Blessing # 8: I saw a second woman from the first car get out. She started walking up the hill to help the first.

Blessing # 9 and 10: Another man and I came to our senses and got out of our cars to walk up the hill to help the two woman push the stuck car.

Blessing # 11: A third man join us. The hill was steep, but with five of us pushing we gradually eased the upper most stuck car up about 75 to 100 feet and it had enough traction to keep going over the summit.

Blessing # 12 and 13: We walked down to stuck car # 2 and repeated the random act of kindness (RaOK), pushing the car up the hill until it could get traction. We walked down and repeated the RaOK with stuck car # 3. Then we all hurried back down to our cars since the hill was now clear.

Blessing # 14: the first car in the queue, with one of the pushers. Calmly and successfully scaled the hill no problem. The second car in the queue was also successful.

Mixed Blessing # 3: The third car got about half way up and got stuck. the fourth car in the queue, the one just in front of mine had to stop 1/4th of the way up. Then the man got out to push the third car.

Blessing # 15: Knowing one pusher likely would not work. I got out and ran up the hill, acknowledging blessing # 3 again and the two of us got the third car moving again.

Blessing # 16 and 17: The man in the fourth queued got a good start in his SUV and cleared the hill. So now it was my turn. I remembered to drive a snowy hill in lower gear.  I think I learned this from my Dad about 45 years prior. I started moving and kept moving at a slow but steady pace and easily cleared the hill, hopefully opening the path for 30 or more other cars that were queued up to go up or down the Prosperity hill.

Blessing # 18: I had no problems the rest of the way. The Metro (Subway) worked fine.  I realized that even with the hour lost pushing the cars up the hill, I would only arrive five minutes late for the start of the class.

Blessing # 19: I emailed my co-facilitator. She had negotiated her way into the World Bank Group by bicycle; a minor miracle I thought, this so she would not have to depend on the Metro buses, which are notoriously slow in snowy weather. I estimated I would be 5 minutes late for the start of the class.

Blessing # 20: The session started on time, with a recap quiz from last week’s session. My colleague was well prepared to carry on.  I was only four minutes late and we had a great session.

Final score: 20 Blessings, 3 Mixed Blessings, 4 cars pushed up the hill, a few RaOKs, I showed that I was prepared for life’s eventualities and I had done my good turn for the day. I was not the first to get out of my car to help, but I was one of only five that did get out to help our neighbors.

For all these blessings and for the lessons I learned in Scouting and from my father and my mother, I am truly thankful. I also remembered afterwards, that I had watched my son and three Boy Scout friends push 3 or 4 cars up a snowy hill in West Virginia about ten years ago, that was also a blessed memory.

I hope each of you has an opportunity to count your blessing, to do a good turn, and perhaps and RaOK this week.  Have a great Thanksgiving Holiday. To my four fellow pushers,  thank you for being good neighbors and for inspiring me to do my part.

**********************************************

Bruce Summers is a Personal Historian with Summoose Tales. He is a member of the Life Story Professionals of the Greater Washington Area, and a former global board member and director of regions and chapters of the Association of Personal Historians. Everyone has Life Stories to share. Learn how – summersbw@gmail.com 

See also:

What does Thanksgiving mean?

Thanksgiving – Show and Tell

Thanksgiving checklist: cranberry salsa, bread, and the Voice Recorder App.

Skills to “Actively Listen” and Record Family Stories during the Holidays?

National Bison Range – Montana

30 Oct

Bison are huge…

We recently visited the National Bison Range in Montana with some very good friends

It is in a beautiful setting with jagged mountains as a back drop and rolling tall grassy hills

I was excited by the prospect of seeing Bison in the wild for the first time

I was also looking forward to seeing the many other animals who live on the Range.

I was very impressed by the display of hundreds of shed antlers on display near the Range’s Visitor Center

Living on the East Coast most of my life, I have seen white tail deer but seldom anything as large as a mule deer, much less an elk or Bison.

We were only a few hundred yards into the Range when we spotted our first wildlife

“Oh those are pronghorn (antelope)” shared out hosts.

Pronghorn were new to my life list of mammals! They were colorful, muscular and near the road.

In about a mile we spotted out first Bison downhill in the grasslands. My thinking… Wow!!

They were grazing in an amazingly beautiful setting.

This side of the range neighbors a lake and some beautiful ranch land.

Next we saw two or three pairs of mule deer (they grow about twice the size of white-tail deer).  I had seen then several times  before on trips to the western U.S. Each pair appeared to have a mother (doe) and fawn (perhaps 6 months to a year old).

We turned away from the lake and farm land and turned towards the rolling hills of grass and sometimes woods.

We saw a young mule deer (Buck)

We went around a few more bends and then saw two bull Bison very close to the road. We stopped the van, opened the windows and the sliding door to take a few shots, but they were only about 10 or 15 yards away. “Don’t startle them,” my host advised quietly. Bison are huge up close and could do significant damage to a car. One of the bulls, pawed up dust from its wallow and gave us the evil eye to ensure we were not getting any closer.  We respectfully kept our distance.

A few more long looping turns around high hills and we were looking through a bit of fence, we saw two more bull Bison grazing in the woods, but what really got our attention was the Black Bear, walking past them… very respectfully, perhaps they are old friends and neighbors. We got out, stayed on our side of the fence and snapped pictures of the black bear as he ambled up the hill and away from us. Wow!!!

We turned away from the woods and angled around a high hill so we had a view of the lake and farms again, now well below us.  We had climbed up several hundred feet in altitude.

We stopped for several minutes to watch another mule deer doe and likely a yearling grazing on the ridge above us.

But then, we were pleasantly surprised to see a huge mule deer buck with massive antlers rise out of the grass.

We heard him call, and then he trotted quickly up hill chasing the doe and yearling. My hosts, “Wow, that is the biggest mule deer we have ever seen!!”

We took one last look as he galloped over the ridge, we hoped to catch a glimpse of him again on the other side of the ridges, he was that impressive.

We did see another young mule deer buck with a small rack, but by this time we were not impressed, not after seeing the magnificent buck on the ridge.

We continued along spotting solitary or small groups of Bison and mule deer in the distance.

We came over the top of the ridge and started down. Turning to the north and a bit east.

We continued to see bison and another young mule deer buck.

We turned into a side lane and parked to observe two more Bison.

As we walked a few feet towards them though, we discovered a small herd of older mule deer bucks.

Many of these also had impressive racks, but none quite as impressive as the one we saw climb the ridge following his family.

By now we were about halfway through the Range and realized, looking at our map that we had a long way to go to reach the exit gate before it closed at sundown. So, we speeded up our traverse for the second half of our loop through the Range.

We stopped only briefly to take a few snaps of near-in deer, and hurried along, the sun was heading down. But suddenly, we look across the meadow and saw a good-sized herd of elk!!!!

Elk are impressive, large even from a distance and they are about twice the size of the mule deer, often over 700 pounds.  Elk were also a new addition to my life list of mammals seen in the wild:)

Equally impressive, in the distance, way beyond the elk, was a large herd of Bison, grazing at the base of the high hills to the south.  Up until now we had only see single or pairs of Bison, mostly males.  This must be the main herd with the females and the younger Bison.

We really needed to hurry now, the sun was behind the ridge. We spotted a lone mule deer up on the ridge enjoying the early evening moon glow.

We spotted our first white tail deer sipping water by a stream as we continued west towards the exit. We stopped briefly behind a line of cars and heard an elk bellowing in the distance.

We were definitely in the “gloaming” as we made the last turn before the road to the exit gate.

We had one last treat, a good-sized group of pronghorn crossed the road in front of us, then they looked back to wish us a safe journey home. What an amazing afternoon!!!


Bruce Summers is a blogger and Personal Historian, Summoose Tales, summersbw@gmail.com, also former Regions and Chapters Chair of the Association of Personal Historians.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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