Posted: January 19, 2014 in Uncategorized
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This appeared in the Farmerville, Louisiana, Gazette on Jan 15,2014

I love this country and I really love this state. During my time outside of our border I have tried to be an ambassador for the Pelican State and there have been times that my defense of our territory has almost led to blows. While growing up, every summer my parents would pack the car and we would leave the wooded hills of North Louisiana and head west.
I actually had two homes. Louisiana was my birth place and was where I was raised and educated but my mother was not from the area and it was mandatory that we visit her home and family. This gave me a perspective at an early age that America is quite diverse and these unique cultural blends and diversity are a major catalyst that built such a great nation.
We would travel along Route 66, the most scenic highway in America and the slowly meandering Bayou D’Arbonne at Forks Ferry was replaced by the rage of the Colorado River inside the Grand Canyon. Great stands of long leaf southern pine disappeared and prairie and desert took their place. As we neared our final destination the beautiful rolling hills we left behind were replaced by the majestic and rugged Sierra Nevadas. As diverse as the landscape was, so also was the cultural diversity.
In contrast to the town we started in, Farmerville, Louisiana, my mother was from Gardnerville, Nevada. Surprisingly both schools had the same colors, orange and black. As a child, Lake Tahoe did not have a high school and many children would be boarded in local residences so that they could attend Douglas County High School. Many were boarded at my grandmothers home. My grandmother emigrated from Germany in the early 1900s and many of the residents of Carson Valley were of German linage. My grandfather was an engineer who became a forest ranger and mapped much of the deep mountain areas around Bridgeport, California in the 1920s, 30s and 40s. He would pack his horses and disappear for a month at a time as he discovered un-named lakes deep in the Sierra. Since he was developing the maps he had the opportunity to name the lakes and thus Lake Ruth, Dorothy Lake, Anna Lake and others can be found today and identify my mother, aunt, grandmother and other ladies from Carson Valley.
Carson Valley, home to Gardnerville, was a melting pot for various factions of our country that were alien to my home in Louisiana. Basque’s from the mountains of Spain settled in the valley. Famous for their independence and their natural sheep shepherding abilities, Carson Valley and the sheep ranches was a draw for these Spanish. My Basque uncle was named Yappagarie, pronounced Paragaree. Restaurants in town featured Basque Dinners where everyone ate together at long picnic tables as large portions of lamb and vegetables were brought out. Glasses of red wine were served to everyone. The mild winters and plentiful water drew the Germans that would develop highly regarded dairy farms that raised high quality alfalfa which led to wonderful dairy products. A past president of the National Cattleman’s Association was from the valley and was half German and half Paiute Indian. The Indians lived in the valley long before Kit Carson named the valley.
Religious sects were primarily Lutheran from the German lineage and Mormon which originally settled the valley. The Mormon Fort at Genoa served as a horse change location for the Pony Express as the rider readied to make his ride over the mountain to Tahoe and on to Sacramento.
While visiting I would absorb the different cultures and realized at an early age how wonderfully different our country really was. I would listen to my mother and aunt tell about the time they hid as Indians swarmed through their yard on their yearly rabbit hunt. They told of how Tahoe was only a summer grazing grounds and very few lived there. The beauty was taken for granted. Stories of growing up in a ranger station in the high Sierras drew me to wanting to explore new and unique locals. I would spend every minute with my cousins and did not realize any difference between my family in Nevada and friends in Louisiana until Steve Post visited with me. He referred to the visit as the land of the giants. Not until I realized that five foot eleven inch and six foot females may be a little tall to most and then when a cousin visited and her six foot three inch height got her a scholarship to Kentucky did I realize that this was a unique family.
Even when I was out of the country I was linked to Carson Valley and the area. The Superintendent of the Dhahran, Saudi Arabia School came from the new school at Lake Tahoe and later retired to Genoa. He knew the family. A maintenance superintendent at Ras Tanura not only lived in Carson Valley but his wife worked for my uncle at the court house. Then one day I walked into a friend’s office in Abqaiq and saw a calendar with Jobe’s Peak on it. This was a view I had seen for years from the living room window of my aunt’s and uncle.
Slowly over time my visits diminished and my relatives made their final voyages in life. I went to my Aunt Dorothy’s 90th birthday. She still lived alone and was surrounded by a wonderful set of grand children and their children. I went back a few more times and enjoyed walking in on her and surprising her with my visits. At 94 she still lived in her home. I had the good fortune to reintroduce her to a beautiful and successful young lady, my daughter, that had last been seen 25 years earlier and introduce her to my 3 year old granddaughter, Ava, that was a clone of my own daughter. I smiled as my aunt played pitch with Ava and enjoyed the laughter as they played together and thought how fortunate I was to have had such different homes. Aunt Dorothy disclosed that all of her friends were gone and she had outlived everyone. The pioneers had been replaced with numerous homeowners from California looking for cheap property taxes. The High school had relocated and few ranches remained.
Last week I lost my Aunt Dorothy but can’t help but think what a rich legacy she left behind. I wanted to share my Aunt with the readers in my Louisiana home.

  1. Michelle Hebert says:

    Hi Tom-

    Loved this story….read them all. So sorry to hear about the loss of your wonderful Aunt Dorothy. But, what a beautiful life!

    The loss of a loved one is very difficult and personal. But your article made me think about how the loss of this generation has been a tragedy to our country – as many of our long-held values, principles and ideals seem to be passing away with them.

    May God Bless you and your family…


    Sent from my iPad


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