My mind has been taken up recently by a book idea that’s been building since I first became a reporter more than four decades ago.
I’ve always questioned whether or not I could turn out a non-fiction book on this specific subject and without realizing it, I’ve come to the decision that it’s time to start in earnest. I’m not going to give the title away in my blog, but this topic is something most of my friends and family have watched me immerse myself in since childhood.
Sitting to my left are three mid-sized boxes of research material including a lot of quantitative data on the subject. Pouring over the data I’ve come to realize that the topic for this book may be as viable today as it was over 150 years ago. Making sense of the numbers behind this subject hasn’t been easy, but watching the totals accumulate reinforces my growing belief that there’s a good book in this topic.
Crunching numbers has never been one of my strengths, but now I’ve reached the point where it’s time to connect faces and stories and tales of explorations succeeded and failed to the numbers. It’s this part of the project that’s exciting to me. The next phase is field research and proof of my preparation for this phase sits in a corner of my garage.
To wit: out in a corner of my garage sit several boxes loaded with an insulated sleeping bag, an inflatable mattress, portable battery operated air pump, a new Sherpa stove, several old blackened by years of camping pots and pans, a small tent,, tarps and collapsible table chairs and my aged Coleman lantern. In a much sturdier wooden box are a mini CD recorder, cameras, a portable printer, and sundry electronic paraphernalia needed to use my computers, cell phones and GPS systems for days on end away from an electrical outlet. Oh and in an old briefcase that’s part of my pile I have an annotated collection of quarter sectional maps for drainages and geographic features that feed the mineral rich districts of northern California.
I’m not packing for a six week hump through the wilds of California, but I recognize the need to be prepared for things that might pop up unexpectedly—such as the need to pull a couple of big trout from Fuller Lake or to punch holes in a tin can from 100 feet away or so with my ancient Ruger .22 or the even older Tokarev semi-automatic pistol I brought home from Vietnam as a war trophy. I also have four volumes of Kevin Starr’s California historical works to keep my engaged while I do my field research.
I have my route all laid out on a Auto Club map of California, and my notepads, pens and pencils are packed in my briefcase with my annotated maps.
I’m using technology to reduce the amount of paper I need to take into the field. High on this list is ClickFree’s back up appliance, which contains much of my text-based research and contact info, then comes my beloved Lenovo X60 ultra-portable with its integrated Verizon data networking card. And just in case there’s I’ve forgotten a file, I’m using a second backup solution that I can access from anywhere I have an Internet connection. I’ve been using Seagate technology’s Free Agent USB-based Free Agent backup device for several months in addition to ClickFree’s device. I love them both but it’s the addition of the networkable FreeAgent DockStar networking adapter that’s let me focus more on research and forget worrying that I left something behind when I start my research up in the northern part of the state on both sides of highway 49/
There are two things that are foregone conclusions as I move my research away from academic and commercial sources and into the field: The first is that my needing to access something back on my home network is a given; Secondly, that piece of information invariably will be in the one folder I didn’t copy to the backup device I take into the field. That’s where Seagate’s DockStar networking adapter saves my bacon.
I’m trying to keep the amount of stuff I haul up to Northern California on this trip manageable.
But what really excites me is meeting 21st Century Argonauts tramping California’s riverbeds, mountains and hills in search of presumed fortunes.
I’ve waited all my life to research and write this. At last, the boy from Azusa now in the autumn of his years has come full circle but has the skills and material to put the story to paper.
And the story has been there in plain sight all these years, just waiting for me to begin tromping the Hills of Placerville, where the winds and the tales of hopeful fortunes waft free. At long last I’m almost ready to write my first book. Jim Forbes on 2/23/2010.