A. C. Dyer's diary is mostly a record of what he did each day--nothing that Virgina Woolf, for example, would have written. Saw this. Did that. Rode so many miles. That sort of thing. He did get in a fight one day, regretted it later. (No indication of who won, but surely he did: He was, after all, a Dyer, and, well, we kick butt.)
My uncle had the diary and passed it along to me. And, one day, it will go to our son.
My students in Aurora, uh, "benefited" from all of this obsessive behavior. They read Wild, ate sourdough biscuits I'd baked, watched Chaplin's film The Gold Rush, learned about the history of the Gold Rush, saw about 1000 35mm slides I'd prepared.
When I retired in 1997 (the year my YA biography appeared), I was about done with it and had fallen in love with Mary Shelley. And off I went on another ten-year adventure ...
|from WANDERLUST at Stratford|
I still know "Sam" and run it through my head a few times a week. We recently gave a children's book version of the poem to our grandson Logan. Who probably wondered what was wrong with his grandfather.
In Wanderlust, which, sadly, I did not care for--at all--the Robert Service character does recite/enact "Sam" in one scene. (I nudged Joyce in the middle of it and whispered to her that they'd dropped a couple of verses! Sacrilege!)
In the summer of 1986--the summer after my son was in my 8th grade English class (he'd had to endure my madness both in and out of class)--we flew to Skagway, where we rented a car (Avis had two available, one of which worked) and drove to Dawson City in the Yukon, found the site of his great-great-grandfather's gold claim. On the way, we stopped to honor Sam McGee at the shores of Lake Laberge (official spelling nowadays; Service used a different one) :
By the men who moil for gold.
The Arctic trails have their secret tales
That would make your blood run cold.
The Northern Lights have seen queer sights,
But the queerest they ever did see
Was the night on the marge of Lake Lebarge
I cremated Sam McGee.
A few years later I hiked over the Chilkoot Pass, kept my own diary, which is somewhat different from my great-grandfather's: I took Vanity Fair with me and read it in my tent at night, taking notes on Thackeray in the soft light that remained at 10 p.m. (I am a multi-tasking nerd.)
And in 2001 when I returned to teaching at Western Reserve Academy, I kept The Call of the Wild in my English III (juniors) curriculum. It was not a book we "studied" but one the students read for "outside reading"; we spent a single day on it at the end of the first marking period. Sometimes I didn't even have time to show them more than a handful of the gazillion pictures I have. I don't think they had any idea of the vast dimensions of my obsession. But most of them liked the book. Few had read it before. Quiz scores were high. I also recited "Sam" one day at an all-school meeting on a cold, blustery, snowy day. Just for fun.