Dear Friends-and-Relations,

I can picture it now. In years to come my granddaughter (did I tell you I had a granddaughter? I may have mentioned her last year when she was a cute little nearly-one year old. Well, she’ll be two next month, and words fail me when I try to tell you how sweet and pretty and adorable and precocious and intelligent and talkative she is. It’s a good thing that I, as her grandfather, can view her in an unbiased fashion), April will climb upon my knee and ask, in her childish voice, “Grampa, what did you do to save the Wilderness?” (Actually, at the rate she is learning to talk and listen and understand I expect her to ask such questions any day now. But enough of these asides.)

I will respond, “April, my dear, in the summer of seventy-eight I volunteered for a Sierra Club Wilderness Outing Service Trip. On June 30 we entered the Kaiser Wilderness Area, near Fresno, California. For the next eight days I and fifteen other men and women ranging from 16 to 60-plus wandered through the wilderness with cans of brown paint, painting the tree trunks brown. And because we sacrificed our free time in this selfless endeavor, when you grow up to be a big girl, you can go into this wilderness and see nothing but real honest-to-goodness brown tree trunks.”

“But Grampa, I thought that tree trunks were brown to start with.” (See, I told you the kid was smart.)

“They were, love, but in the bad old days when Kaiser was just a National Forest, some big, bad, nasty lumbermen in black hardhats came into the forest and said, ‘We will cut down the biggest and best of these trees to make houses and furniture and firewood and newspaper. But right now we will mark these trees with garish rings of red and blue paint so that we’ll remember which ones to cut.’ However, before they could bring their noisy, smelly chainsaws in the forest to cut down the trees they had marked, some good Congressmen (in white hats) passed a bill which made Kaiser a Wilderness Area where lumbermen with chainsaws are not allowed. So actually, April, we didn’t paint the whole tree trunk brown; we only painted brown over the lumbermen’s red and blue rings.”

“I understand, Grampa, and I’m proud of you. Now sing me a song before I go to bed.”

“All right, April. Do you know ‘The Happy Wanderer’? Good. Then you can hum along while I sing you, ‘The Happy Wilderness Conservor’:

I love to go a wandering
Along the mountain trail,
And in my right hand is a brush,
My left hand has a pail.

Pail of paint.
Paint the trees.
Paint them brown,
With a very, very dark brown

Paint the trees.
Paint them brown.
We’ll paint the tree trunks brown.

Meanwhile, back at the homestead in Minneapolis, reports of distant peripatetic family keep coming in – mostly by long distance telephone. Sue and David, now Dr. Sue and Dr. David have left St. Louis for Los Angeles where Sue has a post-doc at UCLA, David has one at USC, and they live half way between and bring up April (April’s my granddaughter, in case you forgot). They’re not exactly enamoured of LA, but neither did they want jobs a thousand miles apart. Needless to say, we visit whenever we have a chance.

Lisa is in the throes of decision making involving career, religion, lifestyle, and life partner. (And what to do with a house.) We visit and listen and sympathize and hesitantly offer our all-wise observations – and tell each other how much easier it is to be in one’s fifties than one’s twenties. She took a leave from Control Data to spend 3 months in Israel and is still digesting the experience.

Philip has left the small engineering company he was with. His plan to start his own company fell through when his proposed partner, who had all the capital, chickened out. But Phil decided that he liked designing and didn’t like sales and now has a position with the CECO Corp. as Project Engineer in the rebar and joist division. No sales, lots of design, and he’s even doing a bit of research. He’s now a Registered Professional Engineer, so at least one member of our family makes an honest living.

A sad note was the death of his ex-wife, Ann from an overdose. Poor Ann never had pulled herself together before, during, or after marriage. We’d kept only the most casual touch, but it still hurts when a young girl with the name Hodge is no more.

When not visiting our far-flung family, Thea and I are still settled in comfortably cool (22 below to welcome in the New Year) Minneapolis. The calendar says we grow older, but I don’t believe it.

With best wishes to all,