Near my study is a tiny half-bath (why call it that when there's no bath at all!?!?): toilet, sink. On the walls I have put some pictures of various sorts--and, now and then, I think I'll show you one and write about it a little bit. (As close as I usually get to bathroom humor.)
The first--just inside the door, left side--is a photo I think I've posted here before. Tough. Look at it again at the top of the page.
It's a picture I got from my dad--and copied--and enlarged--and framed. It's circa 1887 in Centerville, WV (see red flag on map).
It shows my great-grandfather Addison Clark Dyer (bearded--like all other handsome Dyers) with his family. My grandfather Charles Morgan Dyer (whom I never met--he died long before I was born) is at the far right in the picture, just to A. C. Dyer's left. I don't know the names of all my great aunts and uncles. On the back of the photograph is this: Minnie is his wife; then Charles Morgan, Mary, Laura, Harry ... and I'm not at all sure who is who.
A. C. Dyer had been sheriff of Braxton County, WV. From what I can gather from an old history of the county, he was the sixth sheriff, following George H. Morrison, James W. Morrison, Henry Bender, Able M. Lough, and John Byrne. (Here's a link to an online copy of the history.) The Dyers had a long history in Va. and W. Va., a history I'll not get into now, but, oddly, my mother was born in Martinsburg, WV, in 1919 but has no memories of the place. Her family moved away when she was tiny. Years later, Joyce and I went there and took a bunch of pictures and gave them to Mom, who was ... unmoved, let's say.
I've always been interested in family history, but A. C. Dyer's story grabbed me especially in the early 1980s when, after a four-year absence that saw me on the faculties of Lake Forest College and Western Reserve Academy, I returned to teaching at Harmon School in Aurora. In my absence the school had adopted a new anthology, Exploring Literature (Ginn & Co.), which included Jack London's The Call of the Wild.
I had never read Wild (just in Classics Illustrated form when I was a kid), didn't know anything about Alaska, the Yukon, the Klondike (they were all cold--that I knew), and I didn't know Jack about London. But I got interested (to say the least) and began what would become a ten-year obsession with the novel, the settings, the author.
Early on, my dad told me that A. C. Dyer had gone on the Klondike Gold Rush--and had kept a diary, still in the family. (That diary now sits on my shelf; I will soon pass it on to our son.) Dad--as part of a sabbatical project--had transcribed that diary, and he sent me a copy. Which I devoured. A. C. had gone there later than London himself, who'd zoomed up there almost as soon as the news of a strike arrived in the summer 1897. But their tenures did overlap a bit; I prefer to think that they met and shared a few. And maybe A. C. gave him an idea for a story about a dog--a stolen dog ... Yes, I'm sure that's what happened.
Anyway, in the summer of 1986, our son (who had just turned 14) and I flew to Skagway, Alaska, rented a car, and drove to Dawson City, Yukon, following the route described by my great-grandfather. We actually found the site of his old gold claim (still active, now posted with dire (!) threats about trespassing); we photographed the site, grabbed a rock from the tailing piles, and skedaddled.
I'd show you the rock--but we gave it to our son not too long ago. But here we are, holding the rock, standing at the site. A selfie the old-fashioned way: tripod and timer.