My Near Death Adventures
On Monday mornings the Bangor Daily News carries a really
interesting and lively column by Wayne E. Reilly concerning items of
newspaper coverage a century ago. I was delighted to see that this
Monday's column was about the effect of a snow dearth on industries
including lumbering. Talk about serendipity! I'd just finished a
most excellent and amusing juvenile novel set in an over century ago
logging camp: Alison DeCamp's My Near Death Adventures.
In 1895, DeCamp's 11-year-old narrator, Stanley, a young man who
takes everything he hears amusingly litterally, is in for a few
surprises. First there is a mysterious envelope that has his mother
looking quite worried. Then his visiting "evil" grandmother informs
him that the father he has always assumed dead is indeed alive...God
only knows where. Finally one day his grandmother hands him a satchel
and tells him to pack his stuff. His uncle is coming the next morning
to take them to a lumber camp where his mother and grandmother can
cook, money having become quite scarce.
A long sleigh ride later Stanley is in a world unlike one he has
ever seen being greeted by his slightly older, much detested cousin,
Geri. She always gets him in trouble. And she aims on becoming a
doctor even though everyone knows that isn't girls' work.
For some reason Stanley's mother and grandmother are dead set
against him handling the tools of the trade like axes. In fact he has
to help in the kitchen wearing a flowered apron. Then there's the
matter of his mom. Some of the woman-deprived men are trying to court
her including one rumored to be a cold blooded killer. His
grandmother is ecstatic. What better place for Alice to find the good
man she needs? She and Stanley are not on the same page there. He
has hope that the father he has just learned is alive (who has grown
to heroic proportions in his mind) will join them. If this doesn't
happen, though, he, Stanley can grow up fast and take his place. No
other males need apply!
One element that adds to the authenticity and humor of the book
is the plethora of period ads and newspaper clippings scattered
through the pages. DeCamp's great grandmother Cora kept the scrapbook
of them that inspired her to write the book which is in fact a
dramatization of her family history.
I'm going to agree with Stanley. There is a picture of Cora, on
whom the grandmother is modeled, at the back. She is one scary lady!
On a personal note, in Penobscot County, Maine we have had anything
but a dearth of snow. Blizzard after blizzard after blizzard have
gifted us with more inches than I am tall. The next round is due
anytime now. YOWZA!
A great big shout out goes out all scrapbook keepers and diarists who
create, often without knowing they are doing so, the primary sources
that will inspire and enhance the work of future writers. I've been
keeping journals since 1979. My latest one has newspaper coverage of
our very snowy winter glued in with my words. I can see researchers
and writers of the future considering these volumes a real treasure
Julia Emily Hathaway
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