February 02, 2024

#08-833: The Silverado Squatters

At home in the bunkhouse (Gutenberg)

Note: Quick: What did Robert Louis Stevenson write? Would you be surprised to learn he wrote about his personal travels?

Get Ready: Have you ever visited an interesting place and then written about it--even a postcard? What sorts of things did you (or would) write about?

A writer writes.

When an author has produced a handful of outstanding novels or stories, it's easy to pigeonhole him or her. "Dickens wrote novels," we say, or "Poe wrote short stories."

But most authors wrote across genres. Poe wrote poems, essays, a play, and a novel; Dickens wrote short stories, poems, plays, and essays; and so on.

And virtually all of the great authors wrote diary entries, notebooks, or personal letters.

Case in point: When I say, "Robert Louis Stevenson," what comes to mind? Treasure Island? Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde? These are novels. But Stevenson also wrote well-received poetry, short stories, essays, history, plays, published letters, numerous travel accounts, and even an entry in the Encyclopaedia Britannica, about a French song-writer. All this, and he died of a stroke aged only 44!

In a mountainous area north of San Francisco, California, is Robert Louis Stevenson State Park. Stevenson was an inveterate traveler, often driven by a quest for improved health. In 1880, he was sick and broke, and his career was at a standstill. While he was recuperating in Monterey, California, with his new American wife, his friends mentioned Calistoga, an area of hot springs and clean mountain air, so with his wife and her 12-year-old son from a previous marriage, he headed for the hills.

They spent around two months living in an empty bunkhouse in an abandoned silver-mining camp called Silverado; he later wrote of the experience in a book called The Silverado Squatters.

They hung cloth over the building's empty windows, hauled their own water from a nearby stream, dodged rattlesnakes, and dreaded the fog from below on account of Stevenson's weak lungs. They also interacted with low-class neighbors, and worried about being evicted: technically, they were breaking the law by "squatting" on property that belonged to someone else!

They also visited nearby wineries--a new industry in the region--and a petrified forest that had recently been discovered accidently by an old Swedish farmer while clearing some land.

And all this time he was scribbling in a notebook, gathering material for the book, as well as descriptions that he would use later in Treasure Island.


Practice: Match the term to its definition:

Term Definition
  1. bunkhouse
  2. dodged
  3. evicted
  4. inveterate
  5. petrified
  6. pigeonhole
  7. recuperating
  8. scribbling
  9. squatting
  10. standstill
  1. kicked out
  2. writing quickly
  3. recovering from illness
  4. a place where workers sleep
  5. confine to one category
  6. habitual; confirmed
  7. turned into stone
  8. jumped away from
  9. living in a place illegally
  10. unmoving state

Answers are in the first comment below.

Submitted to the Shenzhen Daily for February 2, 2024

1 comment:

  1. Answers to the Practice: 1. d; 2. h; 3. a; 4. f; 5. g; 6. e; 7. c; 8. b; 9. i; 10. j