Bloom Where you are Planted

by Pasadena Adjacent

Episode Three: “Following the Tracks”

Mary Jean Macpherson has written about a brief period of her youth in a book she had self published entitled “The Magic Thread”. She and I were bunk mates, having  shared a cell in a gated housing complex somewhere in the high desert community of Murieta. Turns out that Mary Jean is the daughter of one of the many “lung impaired” whose family left Michigan and came west for a change in climate. Unfortunately, between the smog and the citrus smudge pots, her father’s health became even worse. They packed again and headed towards that “god forsaken” desert. But her mother did find work quickly, plus a shack to live in at Wallace Date Gardens. It was there that she ran the road side date shake stand during the early days of Thousand Palm’s development.

The following is a excerpt from The Magic Thread that “weaves” previous connections made in episode one and two of the Pasadena Adjacent series “Riding the Rails” keep your hands behind the railing and hover your mouse over the links. All aboard?

Harry Oliver as poser; Harry Oliver as master story teller audio link here

Chapter 14:  Mystic and Mumbo Jumbo

“Another local character, Harry Oliver, author of the Desert Rat Scrap Book, had been building a fort near the date shop since long before we moved into town. The fort looked a hundred years old. He made it that way on purpose. Harry Oliver had once worked in Hollywood building movie sets. He lived inside his fort made of adobe blocks that he first mixed in a trough then dried in little frames in the sun.

Wearing a goatee and a long moustache, with silvery hair around his shoulders, Harry Oliver looked like an old movie star. He wore a crunched up leather cowboy hat and drove a “Woody” station wagon with windows missing. Harry Oliver built an unusual stage for the Date Festival at the Indio Fair Grounds. With turrets and domes, it made me think of flying carpets and the Far East. Daddy said he was a very talented builder and definitely a local character.

Actress Jane Russel reading the “Desert Rat Scrap Book” also, the first person to pluck my mothers “Ramona” eye brows; true story

Most interesting of all, was our friend Paul Wilhelm who owned Thousand Palms Canyon where ancient palm trees fed by a natural spring lived over the top of the San Andreas Fault. Paul’s grandfather had traded a wagon with mules to the Indians for the beautiful piece of land.

When Paul invited us to hike in his canyon we followed a winding trail through dense palms, with shaggy whiskers hanging down their fat trunks, into the bottom land. Then we stepped onto wide planks to cross a small stream before winding our way up the other side. Paul had been away at war when we moved to Thousand Palms. Now he lived alone in a cabin built from palm tree trunks covered by a palm branch roof. An old trail for the Butterfield Stagecoach Line ran right through his property past the cabin. One day, Paul told me a strange story. “I was cleaning out dead branches in one of the coves when I heard horses’ hooves pounding down the old trail. I ran to look, and to my amazement, a Butterfield Coach drawn by massive horses, thundered by. As it passed, I heard a voice call out to the driver, ‘Billy’. Then it vanished before my eyes into the mists of time. I gasped in amazement. Paul Wilhelm, a columnist for the Indio News, researched the stage coach drivers that long ago stopped for water in his canyon. In old records Paul found the name “Billy,” a driver for the Butterfield Stage Coach Line. Billy had met with a fatal accident in the canyon.“How could the stagecoach reappear?” I asked looking down the old trail. “Truth is stranger then fiction,” Paul told me in his gentle voice. “There may be laws of physics we don’t know about yet that allow long ago energy waves to reassemble given the right conditions. 

Mary Jean Macpherson

The sun may be setting, but our journey into the coincidental isn’t over yet. Our very dear Mary Jean would find herself living her life in a different desert. If you recall gentle readers, one without a lake and named after a valley without antelope; and also, without a shortage of characters. But first she’d have to meet the man who led her there. Don Macpherson, the son of a local date farmer who like his grandfather before him, took up engineering; a helicopter engineer for Edwards Air Force Base.

and lest you think the image of Mount Lowe Railway is a reference to “a return ticket home” may we at Pasadena Adjacent inform you otherwise. Perhaps the name David J.Macpherson rings a bell? The Macpherson Trestle

MJ Macpherson signed my copy of The Magic Thread with the words “Happy reading – A time just before you remember”

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