Hearing is Believing

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This blog is dedicated to the memory of Stan Matlick of Bishop, California, who passed away in May 2013. A local hero to many for how he stood up to the City. Click on his photograph to read his obituary.

The Owens Valley has come alive through the voices of the very people who know it best – citizens. And they have artist Kim Stringfellow to thank. Stringfellow, with the support of  Cal Humanities, an independent non-profit state partner of the National Endowment for the Humanities, has produced a 90-minute downloadable audio driving tour of the Owens Valley, There It Is – Take It!  Stringfellow captures, in one place, the best reminiscences and viewpoints I’ve ever seen (or rather, heard) about the history of the Los Angeles Aqueduct (which turns 100 this year). She doesn’t take sides and gives equal time to academics, the Department of Water and Power,  members of the Big Pine and Bishop Paiute tribes and local environmental activists, among others.

Kim lives in the beautiful Mojave Desert town of Joshua Tree, California and teaches multimedia and photography courses at San Diego State University as an associate professor in the School of Art, Design, and Art History. Kim’s work focuses on ecology and history as it relates to land use and the built environment.

Thank you Kim for your masterpiece!

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Luckily, you don’t have to be in your car on Highway 395 to travel to the amazing Owens Valley. Listen to the 17 tracks from the comfort of your laptop. Burn the entire program on a CD or download it to your mobile device as a podcast.

Close your eyes and I guarantee you’ll see the incomparable Owens Valley in your mind’s eye.

A canal of the Owens River east of Bishop, California. So peaceful in this photo, but the source of much conflict, beautifully summarized in Kim Stringfellow's "There It Is, Take It!" work of audio art.

A canal of the Owens River east of Bishop, California. So peaceful in this photo, but the source of much conflict, beautifully summarized in Kim Stringfellow’s “There It Is, Take It!” work of audio art. Photo by the author.

Near the intersection of Highway 395 and Highway 6 in the Owens Valley. Fences like these are commonplace reminders of a rural past and present.

Near the intersection of Highway 395 and Highway 6 in the Owens Valley. Fences like these are commonplace reminders of a rural past and present. Photo by author.

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Owens Valley and the Los Angeles Aqueduct. Map courtesy of “There It Is – Take It!” website.

Titanic Project Turns 100

Siphons GraphicThis year marks the 100th anniversary of the completion of the Los Angeles Aqueduct, a miracle of tunnels, channels and engineering bravado and precision that delivers water from a high desert, the Owens Valley, to one of our nation’s most dynamic and important cities, Los Angeles. The headline of the Los Angeles Times on July 29, 1905 read “Titanic Project to Give City a River.” Eight years later the project was completed and opening day ceremonies took place at the Cascades on November 5-6, 1913.

The Alabama Gates appear in my story “The Walker Boys and the Alabama Gates.” The Alabama Gates wass the site of a citizens’ protest on November 16, 1924 where men “calmly took control of the gates and turned the entire flow of the Aqueduct down the spillway.”

The Alabama Gates appear in my story “The Walker Boys and the Alabama Gates.” The Alabama Gates were the site of a citizens’ protest on November 16, 1924 where men “calmly took control of the gates and turned the entire flow of the Aqueduct down the spillway.”

The Eastern California Museum has created an exhibit of exceptionally curated and interpreted photographs and maps from both the Museum’s collection as well as from the Library of Congress. The exhibit, “Building Bill’s Ditch: The Los Angeles Aqueduct, 1913 – 2013” is named for William “Bill” Mulholland, Los Angeles’ chief engineer. The captions are well-written and in some cases, really funny! The exhibit will run for about another 12 months and can be seen every day of the week from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. at the Museum, located at 155 North Grant Street in Independence, California, about 45 minutes south of Bishop.

My nephew Todd and me loved the shade and grass at the Eastern California Museum

My nephew Todd and I loved the shade and grass at the Eastern California Museum

Make a Day of It! Bring some sandwiches to eat at the Museum’s creek side picnic area. Then take a stroll through the ersatz Western village that the Museum built in the late 1960s and early 1970s; there you’ll find an assayer’s office, a blacksmith’s workshop, a brewery and some outhouses, among other buildings. The village is located right behind the Museum and is free. Let your imagination run wild and imagine walking into the Assay Office where you would bring your ore samples for testing; the man in charge could prove you had found something of value and would be made a rich miner or he would break your heart with the results from his analysis.

Independence is also where the Western writer Mary Austin (1868 – 1934), the inspiration for my character Mrs. Mary Parker, once lived (see my blog post about writing this story). Her home is still there at 253 Market Street. Between the Museum’s collection (more than 15,550 records and 27,000 historic photographs of the Eastern Sierra region) and Mary Austin’s house, the past is still vivid and intriguing in the Owens Valley town of Independence.