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Book tour restored faith in America

Book tour restored faith in America

I’m back!

You might be a new Mail Tribune reader, or perhaps you just don’t remember, but for nearly eight years I wrote a weekly history column right here within these pages.

After a long vacation of sorts, I’ve dusted off the old computer just so you and I can start doing it all over again.

The last few years have been exciting. It started when my Eugene Ely book was picked up by an honest to goodness publisher. Ely, you may remember, was a 1910 and 1911 Rogue Valley visitor, and the first to land and then take off in an airplane from a ship. That publishing event led to a cross-country drive that took my wife and me all the way to a presentation at the Naval War College in Newport, Rhode Island.

Talk about four days of history. Besides almost losing my favorite hat in the Atlantic Ocean, we walked around houses more than 300 years old and visited historic cemeteries, something we always do when we travel. What a surprise to come across the grave of Oliver Hazard Perry, hero in the War of 1812.

For me, the highlights of the trip include a visit with Mark Twain in Elmira, New York. Sam Clemens has always been my favorite writer, and standing there amongst his family and remembering all the sadness he weathered in his life, it was quite an emotional moment.

One other highlight of this two-month journey was Williamsburg, Iowa, hometown of Eugene Ely. We met the kindest and most genuine human beings we’re ever likely to know. They took us into their homes, insisted that we ride with them through what remains of the great prairie that once covered America, and then they took us to Gene Ely’s boyhood home and his final resting place.

If you ever are discouraged about the world we live in, drive across the country and find out who we Americans really can be.

So, after writing two more books and giving dozens of presentations, it was about time to do what many of you readers have been asking for — “publish a book of your history columns.”

Happy to say, it’s done, and it’s called “History Snoopin’, True Tales of Oregon and Northern California.”

One of my teachers — sadly, I can’t remember who — dubbed me a “history snoop,” saying it was someone fascinated by the past, yet never quite satisfied with what they were told. I’d like to think it was dear Opal Joseph, my third- and fourth-grade teacher in a two-room schoolhouse in the Willamette Valley community of North Albany. She told us we were pioneers, and because we lived in Oregon, we should always be independent and relish our heritage of Lewis and Clark, Sacagawea, and our Oregon Trail mothers and fathers. I hope she knew how much she meant to me, because I never got a chance to tell her.

If you’re interested in the book, “History Snoopin’” is available from Amazon and may be ordered from any book store.

So, hope to see you here next week, when I’ll be weaving some true tales right out of our little neck of the woods.

Writer Bill Miller lives in Shady Cove. Reach him at newsmiller@live.com.

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