The Great American Read

August 13, 2018

On Thursday, August 9, Heather Woolridge of WITF, the Central PA PBS affiliate, conducted interviews at Craighead House for a 5-minute segment they are producing in conjunction with the upcoming PBS series The Great American Read. She interviewed Johnson Coyle, President of Craighead House Committee, Sarah Fischer, Education Coordinator, Twig George, daughter of Jean Craighead George, and me.

The topic was Jean Craighead George’s My Side of the Mountain, a book that has changed many people’s lives. Why it didn’t make PBS’s top 100 list is a mystery to me. Perhaps its readers aren’t ardent PBS viewers. I have no idea. Even though it was overlooked by PBS, WITF is giving it a look.

I don’t know what John, Sarah and Twig said but I tried to emphasize the impact My Side of the Mountain has had on so many people. It has turned numerous nonreaders into readers, some of which have become voracious readers. Trish Carlucci’s story in the Summer 2016 edition of Craighead House Chronicles discusses one such example. Summer 2016 5.5 x. 8.5 cropped Trish

Men and women alike constantly tell me that My Side of the Mountain was their favorite book growing up and want their children to read it. It is even in several states’ curricula.

It is my understanding that each of the five one-hour theme episodes that follow the two-hour launch episode will be organized into 10-minute segments that PBS affiliates can choose to show or replace with pieces of their own. WITF’s segment will cover John Updike and Jean Craighead George. It’s not clear when this piece will run. We hope to find out before the series kicks off on September 11.

JCs MSOTM.png

 

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The Tebow Thorpe Intersection

July 30, 2018

Earlier this summer you read about my ill-fated attempt to see Tim Tebow play minor league baseball against the Harrisburg Senators at City Island. Since that time, I’ve thought about who else played at that island in the Susquehanna River over a century ago.

Called Hargest’s Island in 1902, a crude baseball field there was home turf for Harrisburg Athletic Club for whom Carlisle Indian School grad and Dickinson College student Charles Albert Bender pitched one summer. The future hall-of-famer even hurled a game against the visiting Chicago Cubs. Chief Bender lost but acquitted himself well. So well, that by season’s end he had been signed by Connie Mack to pitch for the Philadelphia Athletics. The rest, as they say, is history.

Baseball wasn’t the only sport in which Carlisle Indians competed on Hargest’s Island. In 1908, 8,000 people attended the first annual statewide track and field meet sponsored by the Pennsylvania Intercollegiate Athletic Association. The Carlisle Indians defeated ten colleges to take first place honors. Several Carlisle athletes performed well. Among them was Jim Thorpe, rounding out his first season of competition. He came in second in the 220-yard hurdles and 16-pound shotput, and first in the high jump. Not bad for someone new to the sport.

Jim Thorpe on Hargest's Island

Jim Thorpe runs the high hurdles in the Pennsylvania Intercollegiate Meet on Hargest’s Island

The 1912 event was the source of an often-heard legend about the Carlisle Indians. Their team did not run 20 miles to a game, defeat their opponents and run home. Lewis Tewanima and Jim Thorpe were training for the Olympic Games to be held in Stockholm that year and did not compete as members of the team. As part of his training regime, distance running Hopi Tewanima ran from Carlisle to Hargest’s Island, waved to his friends, circled the track, and ran back to Carlisle.

Jim Thorpe returned in 1915 to compete there as a member of the Harrisburg Islanders minor league baseball team. A parallel of Thorpe and Tebow is that that both competed on City Island in baseball, not either’s first sport. Both camein to prominence for their exploits in college football. Tebow was a Heisman Trophy winner and Thorpe would have been had that award existed in 1911 and 1912. His prominent position in the College Football Hall of Fame attests to that.

Always A Bridesmaid

July 25, 2018

Front Cover with sticker.pngWhat the Kennedys are to politics, the less-famous Craigheads are to nature—a prolific and accomplished clan. ~ Kirkus Reviews

The results are in from the 2018 Green Book Festival and Glorious Times: Adventures of the Craighead Naturalists won an award. It was named Runner-Up in the Biography/Autobiography category behind The Man Who Knew Everything by Marilee Peters. With Angel’s Wings by Stephanie Collins received Honorable Mention.

Green.RU.2018.web

Other winners can be found at: http://bruceharing.brinkster.net/portal/content.asp?ContentId=615

 

Craigheads Are to Nature What Kennedys Are to Politics

June 27, 2018

A new review of Glorious Times is just in from Kirkus Reviews:

An encyclopedic, multigenerational chronicle examines a family’s extraordinary contributions to wildlife biology, conservation, and nature literature.

What the Kennedys are to politics, the less-famous Craigheads are to nature—a prolific and accomplished clan. Benjey (Doctors, Lawyers, Indian Chiefs, 2011, etc.) traces their ancestry to Scottish-Irish immigrants who settled in central Pennsylvania in 1733. In 1868, a railroad bisected the family farm. A great-great grandson built a depot, Craighead Station, and started grain, lumber, and coal businesses. A mansion, still standing by Yellow Breeches Creek, connected generations of Craighead children with flora and fauna. Five siblings, born between 1890 and 1903, graduated from college. Frank Craighead Sr. became a U.S. Department of Agriculture entomologist. His brother, Eugene, became a state entomologist for Pennsylvania. Frank’s twins, Frank Jr. and John, gained fame as self-taught teenage falconers. They later studied grizzlies, devised the first radio-tracking collars for large animals, and battled National Park Service bureaucrats over bear management. They wrote the 1968 Wild and Scenic Rivers Act, authored National Geographic articles, and produced lectures, photographs, books, films, and television programs. Their sister, Jean Craighead George, wrote more than 100 children’s books about animals and nature. Best known are Julie of the Wolves, a Newbery Medal winner, and My Side of the Mountain, a Newbery Honor work made into a movie. Five Craigheads achieved name recognition, but Benjey approaches the family as an ecosystem, deftly covering three dozen members over three centuries. He includes a family tree (indispensable) and a useful index and endnotes. Largely chronological, the book alternates between sections following entire generations through decades and chapters highlighting key individuals or topics. Benjey displays prodigious research skills and enthusiastic storytelling. With extensive family cooperation, he weaves interviews, letters, school yearbooks, family photos, and public records into such detailed scenes that he seems to have been present. He often sounds like a Craighead. Granular details about extended family members occasionally tread close to tedium, but overall, this comprehensive, impressive synthesis of the historical, familial, social, economic, and natural forces that created the famous Craigheads is well-told.

The author skillfully fills a scholarly, historical niche, producing an environmental and biographical work with broad popular appeal.

Don’t forget the Livestream of my interview/talk tomorrow. NCTC will broadcast it at 2:00 p.m. EDT on June 28.

Here is the link to the NCTC’s Livestream site: https://livestream.com/nctc

The broadcast interview will then be archived here for on-demand viewing: https://nctc.fws.gov/resources/knowledge-resources/video-gallery/conservation-action.html

Here’s the description they have posted on their broadcast webpage: https://nctc.fws.gov/broadcasts

 

A Chance to See Me Interviewed

June 24, 2018

On Thursday, I drove down to Shepherdstown, West Virginia to the National Conservation Training Center (NCTC) where, as part of the Craighead House contingent, I attended the Balancing Nature and Commerce workshop held by the Conservation Fund nearly a year and a half ago. Returning to this beautiful rustic campus that honors the Craigheads so prominently in their great hall was a delight.

One morning on the last trip, the Craighead group met for breakfast with Mark Madison, Fish and Wildlife Service Historian, to discuss ways in which they could support Craighead House. This meeting led to Mark having four window-size foamboards made to help tell the Craighead story, initially at the Craighead 80/85 Anniversary Celebration last September and permanently as static displays in windows easily viewed from the porch facing the parking lot.

This time I wasn’t coming as a student as on the first trip. Mark invited me to be interviewed in their television studio. Since I had already prepared a PowerPoint presentation that I use to accompany in-person talks, I brought that along. He liked the title page so well that he used it as the title screen for the broadcast.

The NCTC doesn’t normally broadcast live, probably because a little editing is often needed to fit the taped sessions into their timeslots. Mine is no different. It will be broadcast at 2:00 p.m. EDT on June 28—this coming Thursday. It will remain on their site for some time, after which it will be available from their archive.

Here is the link to the NCTC’s Livestream site: https://livestream.com/nctc

The broadcast interview will then be archived here for on-demand viewing: https://nctc.fws.gov/resources/knowledge-resources/video-gallery/conservation-action.html

Here’s the description they have posted on their broadcast webpage: https://nctc.fws.gov/broadcasts

 

Title page

 

 

My Evening with Tim Tebow

June 7, 2018

Upon hearing that Tim Tebow had been assigned to play for the Binghamton Rumble Ponies AA minor league team, I thought there was a chance he would come to Harrisburg to play against the Senators. Looking up the Senators’ schedule told me they would be coming to town June 5-7. Wanting to attend the game, I contacted a friend, the local undertaker and lifelong Phillies fan who frequently goes to Senators’ games to see if he would want to see Tebow. He was most definitely up for it, but which game should we go see?

I ruled out June 7 because it was a day game and I didn’t want to fry in the hot sun in the bleachers. We picked the evening of the 6th for reasons lost to memory. When thunderstorms were forecast—and experienced—we patted ourselves on the back for having made a wise decision.

However, the game was played and Tebow went one for four with an RBI single, a run scored and a put out at third base with a good throw from his position in left field. Not a record day by any means but a respectable performance. Word has it that he happily signed autographs before the game.

Wednesday the 6th started overcast, with a spritz of rain in the morning, but cleared in the afternoon suggesting a clear coolish evening, a great night to watch a baseball game. We started early to have time to eat at the ballpark before the start of the 6:30 game. On the way to pick up our friends, we saw that traffic on I-81 North (the direction to Harrisburg) was backed up for miles. Seeing that taking an alternate route was necessary, we took back roads and found that a tractor-trailer accident (an all-too-frequent occurrence on I-81) blocked traffic just before the Miracle Mile interchange. We zipped over to the Miracle Mile and got on the interstate, finally making good time with the light traffic. Things went well until the last mile.

The Senators play on an island in the middle of the Susquehanna, with bridges bringing in traffic from both sides of the river. Traffic was backed up for a good half mile before the bridge and another half mile on it. We watched clock as we inched forward to the parking lot entrance. We arrived there with just enough time to park and walk to our seats before the game started.

We were shocked to see an attendant holding a parking lot full sign. He handed us a map to a parking garage a good mile away off the island in the city of Harrisburg. My friend was unable to walk such a distance, so I drove around city streets seeking a close enough place to park but found none. His wife spotted a good restaurant and suggested that we eat there. We did.

After a leisurely meal—kitchen staff appeared to take a break while preparing our orders—we got back in the car to head home. My friend suggested we try to find the broadcast of the game on the radio. A not long search across the AM band landed on what was clearly a baseball game and the announcer was certainly not ready for the big leagues. Eventually, he mentioned the Senators, so we knew we had the right game.

As we drove, we heard the last part of the home half of the 7th inning. Binghamton led 1-0. In the top of the 8th, with Rumble Ponies on 2nd and 3rd, the Binghamton pitcher came up the bat. Tim Tebow was announced as a pinch hitter. We felt a lot better because we had missed little of what we wanted to see because he wasn’t in the game until that point. With 1st base open, the pitcher probably didn’t risk giving him anything good to hit. After three fouls on a 3-2 count the pitcher walked him. The next batter up hit an RBI single, moving Tebow to 2nd base. A later play moved him to 3rd. When the Binghamton left fielder hit a fly ball to the warning track, Tebow raced home.

We waited to see if he was part of a double switch and would remain in the game. He wasn’t.

So, instead of sitting in our seats grumbling for 8 innings because Tebow wasn’t in the game, we enjoyed a nice meal and a happier drive home.

City Island parking

Glorious Times is Bridesmaid

May 26, 2018

Every now and then one of my books gets a minor award. Last June, Midwest Book Review named Glorious Times: Adventures of the Craighead Naturalists a Reviewer’s Choice. Now, The Green Book Festival has picked it for the Runner-Up in the Biography/Autobiography category. The Man Who knew Everything by Marilee Peters was the winner and With Angel’s Wings by Stephanie Collins was Honorable Mention. Several categories only had Winners, no Runner-Ups or Honorable Mentions. The Biography/Autobiography category must have been more crowded than most.

http://www.greenbookfestival.com/

 

 

Jim Thorpe Movie

May 8, 2018

For years—decades actually—film makers and wannabe film makers have flowed through Cumberland County Historical Society on an almost monthly basis to learn more about Jim Thorpe and the Carlisle Indians. They leave convinced more than ample material exists for a feature film, surely enough for a TV movie. But little tangible has resulted. Many of them visit Wardecker’s Menswear, formerly Blumenthal’s, where Freddie Wardecker gives them a tour through the artifacts in his store, regales them with stories about the Carlisle players and teams, and shows them the log in which each player’s name is recorded, under which a list of his purchases follows. Invariably, he suggests they contact Robert W. Wheeler, author of the definitive Jim Thorpe biography.

I sometimes get contacted by these folks, often wanting answers to questions they have on the teams and players. Often, they require some research on my part to answer. Recently, I’ve received questions about Thorpe’s time with the New York football Giants. (He played for them in 1925.) The reason why those questions were coming now was answered last night, when a press release announced that a biopic about Jim Thorpe was to be made and one of the backers was the Giants’ owner.

Variety reported that Angelina Jolie, in partnership with Escape Artists Productions’ Todd Black and Steve Tisch, would be producing Bright Path: The Jim Thorpe Story. This production will break new ground by having a Native American actor play a Native American title character in a major motion picture. Martin Sensmeier, whose parents are Tlingit and Koyukon-Athabascan, is perhaps best known for his role in The Magnificent Seven remake alongside Denzel Washington, Chris Pratt, Ethan Hawke, and Vincent D’Onofrio.

With backing this film has, it seems certain, as certain as anything is in Hollywood, this film will actually be produced.

Variety article: http://variety.com/2018/film/news/angelina-jolie-escape-artists-producing-native-american-athlete-jim-thorpe-1202801404/

Fields of Friendly Strife

January 30, 2018

Fields of Friendly StrifeAnother book arrived in the mail this month: Fields of Friendly Strife: The Doughboys and Sailors of the WWI Rose Bowls by Timothy P. Brown. It wasn’t a book I had ordered but I was expecting it, but not necessarily in hardback. The author had a copy sent to me in appreciation of the little bit of assistance I gave him:

I also spent an enjoyable afternoon and evening with Tom Benjey, author of Keep A-goin’: The Life of Lone Star Dietz. Tom provided additional perspective on the publishing process and, since Lone Star Ditz coached the 1918 Mare Island Marines, he acted as a sounding board for some of my interpretations of the football world of 100 years ago.

That Dietz also coached the Washington State College teams of 1915-17, including the 1916 Washington State Rose Bowl team, and that many of his WSC players later played on the Mare Island teams perhaps provided me a little different perspective than some others would have. It seems that other writers are more interested in my books these days than are readers. Oh well.

Tim shared with me his preference for ebooks. I shared that my books don’t generally adapt well into ebooks because of the number of photos and illustrations they usually contain. Another, equally important, factor is that ebooks have plateaued at about 25% of the market. That means that three-quarters of books sold are printed on paper. Likely is that more than three-quarters of books of the type Tim and I write are print books because the bulk of ebooks are novels and other books having few illustrations. Books that people keep on their bookshelves for later reference are almost always of the paper variety.

A side effect of the leveling out of ebook sales is the resurgence (probably too strong a word) of independent book stores.

https://www.amazon.com/Fields-Friendly-Strife-Doughboys-Sailors-ebook/dp/B077T2RBL9

 

Trailer for Glorious times

January 22, 2018

preorder-cover-tinyAt long last, I’ve put together a short trailer for Glorious Times: Adventures of the Craighead Naturalists. I’d appreciate hearing comments about it. The trailer can be found at: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8ROqbDlxs9g