Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Stories that Influenced East Garrison

Stories, so many stories. That's what makes us human, isn't it? We like to tell our stories. Many are pretty forgetable, but some stick someplace in your brain forever. It's those stories that influence our writing. For me, there were many tales, both fiction and non-fiction that made me want to write East Garrison. I'll begin with one and try to add another each day or so.

The first is a true story that happened to a group of American pioneers in 1846-47. The Donner Party story took place in the northern mountains of California called the Sierra Nevada, so maybe that's why I learned about it early in my life, but it’s also a classic story that would resonate with anyone who has ever been to the snow. The one time I've come remotely close to understanding the cold and fright of being lost in the snow was when I was about 15 years old. My older sister and I went skiing in Lake Tahoe, which is right next to where the Donner Party spent one very cold winter in the 1840s. My sister had taken acid and failed to inform me. She suggested that we go off the main trail, something that is strictly forbidden, for obvious reasons, but we were teenagers. Need I say more? I was never a very good skier and didn't have any ski gear. This day I was wearing what was then the fashion: elephant leg blue jeans. Of course, I fell in the powdered snow off the main trail, deep in the woods, and couldn't get up. My sister, tripping, laughed her ass off as I tried and failed to retrieve my runaway skis. I ended up walking through the snow, which was waist deep, and filled each pant leg up to my hips. Somehow I made it to the main runway and took a tram, or whatever they call it, back down. By that time my legs were frozen. I was so shaken up, I couldn't ski. To this day, I haven't gotten over my fear. I suppose that I thought I was going to freeze to death.

Essentially the Donner Party's story stemmed from two things: taking the wrong trail, one that wasn't proven, a kind of cut-off to get to their destination quicker, and two, bad luck. They missed getting over the mountain by one day. The epic tale is filled with tragedy followed by tragedy. There were 87 people who began the journey from Independence, Missouri; only 48 survived. Of course, all anyone seems to recall about the Donner story is that they had to resort to cannibalism to survive, but there is so much more to the tale than that. Check it out! And if you ever get the chance, go to the state park and take a tour. You won't forget it.

If you want to read the latest up to date information on the Donner Party, which is in the news again, go to

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