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The Wonders of Ranch Days

by Jill Harcke

Exerpted from The View From John Muir's Window, December, 1999, Issue No. 96, Newsletter of the John Muir Memorial Association


Something happened in Pleasant Hill that has never happened before. On September 24th, 1999, people from all around the country and the world gathered together for a Dinner Dance and Auction to raise funds for the new Education Center at The John Muir National Historic Site.

Ross Hanna's Phirehouse Philharmonic Jazz Band from Dixon filled the air with festive music. The food was delicious and the atmosphere in the room was charged. The auction items were artistically displayed and people in the room began to have the sense that they were about to be a part of something very special. A first.

People started finding one another and connecting. Graham White, organizer of "An Infinite Storm of Beauty", the largest Exhibit of John Muir ever in Scotland, found Doc Heide, Wisconsin/San Francisco playwright of "The Mountains Call My Name." Garth Gilchrist, San Rafael storyteller found Gloria Trombley, producer of "John Muir, the Musical." Phyllis Shaw, Superintendent of the John Muir National Historic Site, looking lovely in her blue print dress was found by her son, and asked to dance. Ranger David Blackburn, looking very handsome in his civilian clothes had a welcoming smile on his face all evening. Dan McIlhenny and his wife, Valerie Crawford, producers of the John Muir Tribute CD, spoke to just about everyone there. The Muir/ Hanna family members started finding each other and personally thanking all the people who had come out to pay tribute to their descendent, John Muir. Michael Hanna, son of Bill and Claudia Hanna of Napa, and grandson of John Hanna, Wanda's son, began to discover how much he looked like his famous great great grandfather.

As the evening drew to an end, we found out not only did we raise some funds for our new Education Center, but we received the benefit of working together, as a team for a common cause, and that was a very satisfying feeling, the strength of working together.

"You can't pick anything out of the universe without finding it hitched to something else."

The next day, Ranch Days proved to be a continuation of the previous evening's celebration. As all of the rangers worked diligently to set up and prepare the grounds for visitors, the feeling of a large family gathering took over. The Hanna's actually did have a family reunion under the shady grove by the adobe, while Doug McConnell of Bay Area Backroads interviewed Maymie Kimes, Muir biographer and collector of a 50 year study of John Muir. Ike Livermore waited under the shade of a cool tree, enjoying The Alhambra Valley Bluegrass Band and watching the blacksmith do his work. Entertainment on the stage under the very Sequoia tree the John Muir brought back as a seedling in a handkerchief from Yosemite included Gerald Pelrine, an actor from Wisconsin who made the trip west solely to tell the moving story of Stickeen. The Lafayette Scottish Country Dancers exercised true Scottish grit and grace as they danced in the midday sun to Scottish Songs.

Authors sat under the grove of tress in front of the house, along with Harold Wood, Sierra Club amazing person and creator of The John Muir Exhibit on the web, along side Dan'l and Val and the John Muir Tribute CD which was released this weekend.

Doug McConnell came to film Ranch Days with cameraman, Brian Cardello to spend a few hours catching the spirit of the day. But he couldn't leave. There was too much going on. They kept making the long trek back to the truck to get even more film and talk with even more people. There were too many people devoted to and interested in John Muir to leave. Doug and Brian were, in fact, one of the last to leave. Artisans practicing crafts of yesteryear brought it home to us all.The Universal Muir Family had gathered under one sky to remember and celebrate and ponder what it might have been like for their hero, John Muir, when he lived at the Ranch. The chairs and tables have been put away, the displays taken down, and staff at The John Muir National Historic Site, in Martinez, California have gone on in their friendly manner, of greeting school children and visitors from all over the world who come to find out what this man, John Muir, is really about.

But something different did happen the weekend of September 24th, 1999................. people from all corners of the world were energized by each other and the spirit of John Muir.............

"I only went out for a walk, and finally concluded to stay out till sundown, for going out, I found, was really going in." John Muir

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