Passages Two

Do you save things? I do. When I’m walking along a creek bed or a forest path I find things. Odd things. Pretty things. Curious things. Sometimes I put them in my pocket. Momentos…

When I return home I put these things on the window sill in my cabin, or my bookshelves, or anyplace I can find to tuck them in. They remind me, sometimes decades later, of trips I took, vacations Kathy and I shared, people I’ve met or moments I am glad I can still recall.

The items are certainly meaningless and practically valueless to anyone beyond me. My descendants will be left scratching their cumulative heads wondering why on earth I kept this stuff. If they only knew the sacred memories they served up.

Below is one of Forrest’s interesting saves…

Loom of the Desert

Once in a while something like this happens to me and I am drawn to it like ink is to a page. To be different is pleasing, at least to me it is. We printed the bindings of my Secrets of San Lazaro book on linen because I wanted a beautiful cover and no dust jacket. They are used to hide an ugly cover. My printer said he couldn’t print on linen, and I walked. He tried it and it worked, so he called me back. I wanted other publishers to trend back to the old times when books were beautiful to look at, and covers were multi-colored, and were sometimes three dimensional. Dust jackets were not as yet to be. Unfortunately, my trend faded not unlike an echo in a distant canyon.

If I were younger I would still be trying to change a few ideas, but in that stead I’ll introduce you to my friend Idah, who, with her writings, has left a fingerprint on my heart. Her book, The Loom of the Desert, published in 1907, enjoys the mellow class that, wistfully, all of us would have. It was printed in 1,000 copies and in each, Idah tipped in seven photos and, with a wonderful calligraphic hand, ink lettered each caption. That’s 7,000 photos and 7,000 captions.

I found this little volume for $10, languishing and overlooked on a peel-painted wooden shelf in a forgettable bookstore somewhere. It was rebound with money from my pocket that I very much enjoyed spending, because it restored some of the class that this book deserves, and likewise, Idah, who I know is smiling at my concern.

This is Idah’s forward to The Loom

There, in that land set apart for Silence, and Space, and the Great Winds, Fate – a grim, still figure – sat at her loom weaving the destinies of desert men and women. The shuttles shot to and fro without ceasing, and into the strange web were woven the threads of Light, and Joy, and Love; but more often were they those of Sorrow, or Death, or Sin. From the wide Gray Waste the Weaver had drawn the color and design; and so the fabric’s warp and woof were of the desert’s tone. Keeping this always well in mind will help you the better to understand those people of the plains, whose lives must needs be often sombrehued. (How do you like that word? Please don’t say it isn’t correct, or isn’t used correctly.)

In Idah’s book, beginning on page eighteen, is a tale about Martha Scott. Lasting only twelve pages, it relates the story of a woman who perhaps epitomizes many rural women of her day. Let me read you one chapter.

Dear Fred:-

Now I’m going away, and I am going to stay a year. The money will last us two about that long. I asked Mr. Beard to go with me, so you needn’t blame him. I ain’t got nothing against you, only you wouldn’t never take me nowheres; and I just couldn’t stand it no longer. I’ve been a good wife, and worked hard, and earned money for you, but I ain’t never had none of it myself to spend. So I’m going to have it now; for some of it is mine anyway. It has been work-work all the time, and you wouldn’t take me nowheres. So I’m a going now myself. I don’t like Mr. Beard better than I do you-that ain’t it-and if you want me to come back to you in a year I will. And I’ll be a good wife to you again, like I was before. Only you needn’t expect me to say I’ll be sorry because I done it, for I won’t be. I won’t never be sorry I done it; never, never! So, good-by.

Your loving wife,

Martha J. Scott.

That is my book review for today. I recommend the book. You can get reprints on AbeBooks for under $9, and 1st editions for a little more money. f


114 thoughts on “Passages Two

    • ditto

      When I was in third grade I met my best friend and together we found 2 fist-sized pieces of obsidian under the porch of a haunted house in Missoula (long demolished now). We each kept one as a memento and I still have it today. As for my other items harvested over the years, My spouse occasionally makes me reduce my hoard so I have to make sure to keep only the most special items and hide the rest where she can’t find them.

  1. Wow…awesome scrapbook about an awesome woman. Idah’s miiddle name was Meacham….hmmmm. Same spelling as my relatives several generations ago. Maybe we’re related. I wish I had her many gifts. Thanks for sharing this, Forrest and Dal.

  2. Wow,Great scrape book Forrest,, I will be ordering this book and it shall sit on the shelf beside the 10 books i have you set pin to ink and put your thoughts.Love the photos that Ida tipped in and her beautiful calligraphy,. Ida will be in good company with Your African Animals of WR Leigh, Beat of the Drum, The secrets of San Lazaro.
    Thank you for another wonderful Gem of a book. The loom of the desert,what a great name.
    Much love to you and yours Forrest,
    Ramona Fleming/sally2

  3. A window into an almost-forgotten world – love it! Martha’s no-nonsense words to Fred are so telling of a life filled with drudgery and yearning. And I know what you mean about the old embossed covers – I used to love those when i was a kid. Great stuff!

  4. When I find something left behind I like to think about the person who abandoned it. Idah is interesting but how many Idah’s have read that book and where are they? What about all the people in those photos and the things that they abandoned. What have I abandoned? What have I lost?


  5. nice post Dal, thanks – i wonder whether that stingy ol’ Fred regretted not ever taking Martha nowheres. she sounds like a good honest soul, so i bet he did.

    my new fav word for the week is definitely “sombrehued” 🙂

  6. Looks like a beautiful book, Mr. Fenn. I can understand why you had to have it. The personalized work she did, the photos, and the one story you read is amazing. Thank you for sharing your book with us.

    Mr. Fenn, I have an old “The Wizard of Oz” book, from1944. On the edge, the pages are rough. The best way I can describe it is to take a sheet of construction paper, make a fold, and tear it by hand. It’s the torn section that matches the edge of my book. Do you know what this edge is called?

  7. nice,mr. forrest.the pictures are awesome to look at.and if I told ralph ,I was going away for a year,he’d tell me don’t let the door kick in the a– on the way out.he says that when he gets mad,thru the years, i’ve wanted to leave way back when i was young.that sure sounds like an interesting book.I like the way martha said she’d never be sorry .those old books tells stories.I just recieved from a friend a composition book,starting date1900.some of his writing,I can read,and some I have to guess,because of the way he wrote,he has poems,quotes,etc.the loom weaves a design like our life weaves a design,we drift along in life not knowing one day to the next.yesterday is gone,tomorrow may never come,all we have is now,the present.bunch of people going here and fro.same routine,day in day a maze,you never can seem to find your way out,looking .who knows,only I know me,and only you know can’t read my mind,I can’t read yours.but there is only one,that knows all and hears all,and that is god.the all knowing master of creation,life,thats why the grass and trees know,they are alive and feel the sun,we can see,hear,taste,smell,and touch.with our brain ,mind ,we can do all these things,and without a heart you can do nothing.we are like 95% feet takes me if I’m somewhere,I am there.

  8. And so it continues;
    The weasel and the loom…..what a web you weave. 🙂
    Sounds like an enjoyable read,Forrest. I’ll be sure to look it up tomorrow after I work on my sombrehue. 🙂

  9. Books are our friends…handling old books is a privilege. Beats a movie any day…1000 copies of personalized work is a lot ! Thanks for sharing…

  10. Thank you Forrest, she sounds like she was a woman of great courage and strength.
    Another good book from around that time period is “Letters on an Elk Hunt” by Elinor Pruitt Stewart. In it she journals her travels by horse and wagon from Green River, Wyoming to North and East of Pinedale, Wyoming to get meat for the winter. A very interesting look at the time and the people that lived so differently just over a hundred years ago, seems like so much more than that to me.
    My wife and I followed the route she took off and on during our first trip to West Yellowstone and we were amazed at how fast we could drive over
    the same ground that it took them a week to cover.
    Thank you again for all of the Thrills of the Chase.

  11. I really like Idah’s strong fluid signature…nice bold penmanship. She spells her first name….Iduh.

  12. Thank you Dal and Mr. Fenn,
    We save memories in many different ways. The Loom of the Desert was a memory shared from years ago. Times were different then, the writing, pictures and character of people. Life may have been hard but a handshake was firm, a persons word meant something. The personalized detail Idah put into writing her book speaks volumns about the kind of spirited person she was. I understand why this book was worth the effort of writing, reading and restoring. Once again, thanks for sharing, great story.

  13. Thanks Dal and Forrest. I just bought an old book about how to do chores. It’s a woman’s book. Unfortunately it’s not in great shape. It’s missing the cover and a page or two. I was thinking of looking for another one and using that cover to fix it. I love old books that tells you how to do things in the 1800s or early 1900s. I find them interesting. I’m going to look into buying this desert loom book too. Thanks for the tip.

  14. Thank you Dal and Forrest;
    How wonderful to look into the hearts of two special women – Idah and Martha.

    Thanks for sharing.

    • Jake your so funny, I wonder if Fred would even consider that!
      I think Fred was too selfish of a man to take Martha back.
      Martha left that hard life and probably never looked back!
      I can’t even imagine how difficult life was in West back then especially for a woman!
      I do wonder what happened to Martha,?
      Thanks Dal and Mr

      • Martha was a smart person to make that decision.
        I can only imagine how it was then by clips & books like this.

        F may be talking about you again.

  15. Maybe Martha simply got lost on her way back to a life with Fred; maybe she had truly found herself and turned around with the sun in her eyes.


    • i’d venture a brave guess that she never returned SL – maybe she found herself before she even left Fred (?)

      once that sun finally shines into the dark gloomy corners of life, it never truly sets 🙂

      • Spoiler ALERT!

        She returned to “Ferd” (pun intended).

        Whether, at the last, she wrote to her husband, or
        if he came to her when the year came to its end, no
        one knows. But one day the people of the desert
        saw her back at the adobes on the bluff. She returned as suddenly as she had disappeared.

      • Blex – i worry about you sometimes 🙂

        btw, what does “off topic” mean?

        • Haha! I think on this site “off topic” typically means “par for the course”! 😉

    • When faced with the option, I prefer happier endings…I choose to believe that within her first week Martha found out that Mr. Beard actually belched a little louder than Fred, farted a bit hardier and cared a whole lot less, left even more clothes laying around and did not find time to thank her or the Lord for putting a plate of food on the table.

      She left Mr. Beard quickly and also left him with the entire bill at the inn and returned to a red-eyed Fred, who did not quit smiling for the rest of his life. Fred found his equal in his soul-mate and Martha, now treated as a respected soul-mate and she found many reasons to retire each evening and look forward to each day ahead…till death they did part.

      Thanks for sharing these lives with us Forrest and Dal.

    • or maybe…
      Fred didn`t wait. Maybe he wanted a woman making money for him and was not going to wait a year.

      • What am I Thinking…

        there is a subliminal message here…someone was at the right spot last year and should go back this year…!

    • “- maybe she found herself before she even left Fred (?)”

      ~ curious hobbit ~

      My good humored friend is also a wise one.


      • Yes, maybe that is what you were saying and I was in too much of a hurry to fully comprehend your version.


    • Me too! 😉 I love those classic Scottish words! Reminds me a bit of John Muir, whose writings are absolutely beautiful. Highly recommend!

  16. What a great scrapbook! Isn’t it amazing. The more things change the more they stay the same!
    Way to go Martha!
    Thanks Forrest and Dal for sharing.


  17. In a primarily digital world, it’s nice to see an analog story once in a while. Maybe the local library has a copy? Worth a try.

    • 23kachinas,

      Thanks for the link. Reading the book now! 🙂

      Thanks also to Dal and Forrest for sharing this.

    • Very nice find, 23. Thanks for sharing. I was curious what became of Martha so I was going to look for a copy as well.

      The letter is on page 18. Interestingly, in the book, it’s a “Mr. Baird” she runs off with. Here, Forrest spelled it “Mr. Beard”, twice.

      Just somethin’ I noticed.

      • Well, I was going to try and read a bit of it this weekend, but now I’m lost down the rabbit hole of details… this electronic version is an autographed edition too! … (minus the photos and handwritten notes).

        But the autograph is there, slightly different (ie. not printed, it’s hand signed!) and it’s it’s numbered 351. It’s a mere 162 copies removed from Forrest’s own. They’re sisters!

        The checkout card towards the end caught my attention as well. Checked out in 1932, 1933, 1935, 1953, 1973! I love checkout cards. They represent shared experiences with random strangers, and here we have over four decades worth!

        Imagine, a thing like that.

  18. Thank you very much for the recommendation, Forrest! This post in particular made me gasp in delight! 🙂 I love looking through beautiful old books, and of course reading them as well. Just ordered a hardcover copy for myself!

    I can give you a recommendation in turn for a newer book that I think you may very well like (as well as any other people reading this). It’s called “The Man Who Loved Books Too Much” by Allison Hoover Bartlett published in 2009. It is all about the rare book market and the people obsessed with collecting first editions and centers around a notorious thief of these books. I found it very interesting and it opened my eyes to a whole culture of collection that I had not noticed before.

    And dal, I am very similar to you with your compulsion of collecting oddities along my wilderness trails. Mostly interesting rocks that no one would appreciate but me. Sometimes I write on the least attractive side with a Sharpie marker what mountain or area they came from so that I will remember and at least someone else would also know its significance.

  19. Forrest, Dal—

    Thanks for the post. What a beautiful book. And “loom” is a very interesting word too. 🙂

  20. A wonderful book. I read it many years ago when I was nothing but scrub oak to an unknown future as a 14 year old high school freshman. I was spending my last pre-societal summer hiking and exploring and hunting for lost mines and old forgotten gold and copper and silver and turquoise and whatever else I came across in the White Mountains and Superstitions that struck my wonderlust and had an old, dirty canvas backpack full of Western Lore to keep me company under shady ponderosas or rocky overhangs in the High Desert Sun when the boiling afternoons got too hot to do much but laze about for cooler purposes and respect to the Mediterranean Way of passing for a snooze-fest on the Gran Siesta .. Lamour, Bower, Zane Grey , Frank Dobie, others I’ve since forgotten ..


  21. Such a beautifully written forward. All the education in the world won’t produce such a gifted author. She writes from her soul. Love this Dal and Mr. Fenn.

  22. I wonder if JJ Abrams got his idea for his Book Ship of Theseus from Idah?

    Have you heard of this book Forrest?

    I bought a bunch of the first copies when it came out but I still have not read the book! (I think I got distracted by the Chase 🙂 ) It’s really cool with lots of writing inside and a bunch of things inserted into the pages.


  23. “In Idah’s book, beginning on page eighteen, is a tale about Martha Scott. Lasting only twelve pages, it relates the story of a woman who perhaps epitomizes many rural women of her day. Let me read you one chapter”

    Uhh of her day?
    In the Low South, that day aint done and gone an we still dont get taken no where!

    Yep, you should travel to the other side of the US more or maybe not. Maybe thats why you didn’t plant no gold in the Appalachians after all, you knew youd be coming back with a martha

  24. Ohhhhh marti is short for Martha lol even tho I am not a Martha And I agree sweet tea I been draggin scrap metal out of the woods all day. Trying to make a buck or two We all are ida s in the south Some are ida hoeing in the garden,,,,,, day light to dark hahaha

    • Your Martha .. not ida..
      we all Marthas in the long run,
      We gotra run Martha.. run like the wind

    • DG in another thread you mentioned collecting railroad spikes. Scrap yards around here will turn anyone in to the Sheriff if they try to sell items related to railroads. Be careful! ☺

      • Hahahah to funny not where we come from I pick them up by the bucket loads Go where old tracks aren’t used no more and water flumes were built

  25. The ole coot loves strong hard working productive tell it like it is independent woman Like Martha. The chase is coming to a finish I feeeeeeeeel
    It in my achey bones aka MARTHA I mean MARTI lol

  26. Martha’s letter makes me think of The Bachelor TV program. All is well as long as they are in Paradise ( Hawaii for Martha) but when they all return to the real world all is not as it seems.

  27. If you liked reading “The Loom of the Desert”, also recommends:

    “It’s All Good: My Tale of a Rockin’ Road Trip” by Mr. Cornelius Q. Beard, Esq.

      • So why do you all think that was funny? Here I sit cry’n and wondering ’bout sweet Martha; going through klenax like there’s no tomorrow.

        So, up yur nose with a rubber hose friends of Fred!! Noooo chicken dinner for you.

        Where’s the sensativitay.. I say?


      • haha, i hate to be the bearer of bad news SL but ‘sensativitay’ disappeared in the 80’s ..along with his & her matching track suits and those many cheesy Steve Seagal action movies

        ..thanks goodness for SOME small mercies though huh? 🙂

    • That’s a classic, Seeker.

      And that’s quite the Marthamellowdrama going on. Bittersweet.

      That harkens back to the days before soaps…perhaps before radio even. That’s before my time.

      The following is not Fred and Martha…but close enough…I reckon…

      I like LMN’s re-write above of how the story “really went”. 🙂

      Nobody really likes sad endings.

    • A store that sells new husbands has opened in Melbourne where a woman may go to choose a husband.
      Among the instructions at the entrance is a description of how the store operates:

      You may visit this store ONLY ONCE! There are six floors and the value of the products increases as the shopper ascends the flights. The shopper may choose any item from a particular floor or may choose to go up to the next floor but you cannot go back down except to exit the building!

      So, a woman goes to the Husband Store to find a husband.

      On the first floor the sign on the door reads:

      Floor 1 – These men Have Jobs
      She is intrigued, but continues to the second floor, where the sign reads:

      Floor 2 – These men Have Jobs and Love Kids.
      ‘That’s nice,’ she thinks, ‘but I want more.’

      So she continues upward. The third floor sign reads:

      Floor 3 – These men Have Jobs, Love Kids, and are Extremely Good Looking.

      ‘Wow,’ she thinks, but feels compelled to keep going.

      She goes to the fourth floor and the sign reads:

      Floor 4 – These men Have Jobs, Love Kids, are Drop-dead Good Looking and Help With Housework.

      ‘Oh, mercy me!’ she exclaims, ‘I can hardly stand it!’

      Still, she goes to the fifth floor and the sign reads:

      Floor 5 – These men Have Jobs, Love Kids, are Drop-dead Gorgeous, Help with Housework, and Have a Strong Romantic Streak.

      She is so tempted to stay, but she goes to the sixth floor, where the sign reads:

      Floor 6 – You are visitor 31,456,012 to this floor. There are no men on this floor. This floor exists solely as proof that women are impossible to please.
      Thank you for shopping at the Husband Store.


      To avoid gender bias charges, the store’s owner opened a New Wives store just across the street.

      The first floor has wives that love sex.

      The second floor has wives that love sex, have money and like beer.

      The third, fourth, fifth and sixth floors have never been visited.

  28. That woman created that bindery in her ATTIC back while writing books under a male pen name. IN HER ATTIC. Isn’t it amazing that after all these years it was the binding that winked at such a keeper as F? I am sure Ms. Idah is smiling and proud….and have no doubt that F takes his calling very seriously.

    • In case anybody cares about this sort of thing as much as me….its not the initial flavor, but the notes that linger….

      an aromatic or bitter-tasting plant of a genus that includes wormwood, mugwort, and sagebrush. Several kinds of artemisia are used in herbal medicine and many are cultivated for their feathery gray foliage.

      Time to break out the Absinthe and watch the fire flicker….

      • I once lived with a girl called Artemisia in Derry NH.
        We lived on a small farm with hens & a couple of roosters & fresh eggs every morning.
        I called her Arty for short.

        She would drive 60+ miles from her home to Cambridge MA almost every day to go to school.

        I am not sure if her parents named her but is a nice organic name.
        True statement & I do miss her naturalistic woodsy style.
        I know she read the book.

        • There’s a nice mansion with really cool ceilings off canyon road on the same grounds as its pump house. It has the same name as your girl. Built by Frank A. Brown. Cool history to that place. It was featured last year in an article for The Real Deal. If you match its clues to the poem you can find a cool answer. Only its not related to the treasure hunt, still a parallel story in the telling. F’s probably never heard of it though.

          • It was built by Fred Engstrum….f may have heard of him…only a guess from what I read into this “passages two”

          • Thanks Jonsey1,
            “If you match its clues to the poem you can find a cool answer.”
            I am not looking for any answers, that is Seeker who is.
            Nice place to visit though if i have time off.

  29. Didmt mean to be confusing. Brown was the Architect. Fred was the marketing/ad genius that had it built to celebrate his success before selling to Microsoft.

    • That still doesn’t explain what any of this has to do with sugar beets, grapette and Tarzan though….F? Any rationalization?

  30. This chase has provided motivation for me in so many ways, including books that otherwise I would have never owned or read. My first “search” book bought 4 years ago when my searching started was The Peopling of Bandelier. I have added several books each year, and agree with others that electronic nor audio books compare to the relationship of a printed hard-bound book. I think the experience of reading each word on paper, and holding all of those words in your hands allows the time required for the story to unfold in ways requiring more than just your brain.

    I enjoy all stories from a simpler life, not easier, but simple. I enjoyed the Foxfire series years ago. I enjoyed The Education of Little Tree years ago.
    I have the complete collection of James Fenimore Cooper, and of Jack London. And I have no doubt many of you like the same type of book.

    And I feel so inadequate comparing my pitiful language skills with writers from 100 years ago who took such pride in penmanship, and who used an English language beautiful and foreign comparing to that spoken now. I see this woman’s talent and skill with the words and can only wish and admire.

  31. Well I liked it all the way up to the dear john letter .It makes me remember something my Mom told me once she said son there is more than on fish in the sea the next one might be a better catch and you can’t judge a book by its cover . feeling sombrehued for Fred tonight

  32. Thanks Flyer. Reminds me of Amelia Earhart’s letter in TFTW. It’s woven from the same fabric.

  33. Books give the surprisiest adventures!
    A good book can be the key to our imagination-door 🙂

  34. Why is a beautiful book like this make you feel truth?
    Because it’s an alternative in a world of #sameness.

    • Hi Jonsey. If I had to take a wild guess, I would think this bookstore in Old Town Santa Fe might be a good candidate:

      It’s a neat place to browse through the next time you find yourself in Santa Fe. Lots of vintage prints. My wife found some great old editions of “Wizard of Oz” books when we were there last. Definitely a different vintage stock of books compared to Collected Works, which features primarily new books (though lots of local author books unique to the area (like TOTC)).

  35. Quite interesting. I’ve not seen many books lately – well, other than leaves dedicated to the King. Linen wow – I had to recheck my Dewey book – yup it is linen with a 3-D texture feel. Society or a people and values create the fabric. Certain fabrics are most desirable; the modest ones. I am too tired of English grammar rules and usage schooling to mind your spellings. I wish I had more opportunity to share my dramatic arts education (which was counted for my qualifications for English training). I’ve been so busy taking my husband to places I’ve been and those I’m seeing for the first time — unlike Martha who left Fred behind. I did indulge in some home-woven silk 🙂 If finances were not an issue, I would take him to England where at only 18, I studied theatre – to ride the Britrail to wonderful country side, busy squares, theatres old and new and replicas, indoor pubs. The train here really does have a WWII appearance inside and out! But for now, my ears endure ‘s’ sounding ‘z’ and ‘l’ rolling over ‘r’ and my name pronounced void of the ‘h’ as part of a cultural weave of ‘altered English sounds’ and I reminisce about my past travels with use of 3-D linen paper puzzles and rhythm-metric stories. Marti could share some of that 2-year green. We would also like to visit Venice and the Sydney Opera House. Hopefully, April showers will bring snow melts as winter passes away and May will promise to marry a fabric of dainty yellows and purples with robust greene in natures chambers and halls. The baptism of spring brings joy and excitement to birds – even a crow like I. Looking forward to water that is blue and trails that are brown. 🙂

  36. I like this thread and your comments Dal. It reminds me of 3 or 4 stories I was given. Some from a long time ago. I guess at my age I find myself acting the part. I had also found a few things but over time some went missing through my travels. All that is left is an outline of where they use to be. Perhaps I need to dust off the spots and start with another old thing or not. My burros are packed.

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