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  • Writer's pictureLinda Borromeo

Catch Your Family's Stories on Thanksgiving: A Mutiny, a Shipwreck, and a Wheel of Cheese

Catch Your Family and Friend's Stories This Thanksgiving

I'm trying to remember the name of a Star Trek episode. The plot features a civilization desperate to hear new stories. Then the unsuspecting Star Trek crew arrives on the planet.

The planet's inhabitants have a storytelling culture. All well and good, until they begin to tire of the same stories told over and over again. The newcomers bring exciting and original tales, and at first, everything is fine. But when the crew plans to move on, their hosts use extreme measures to keep them from leaving with their stories.

Stories have always fascinated people. Fortunately, we don't have to resort to desperate measures to hear new tales. All it takes is asking a question or two when families get together for the holidays.

Family Stories Month

November is family stories month. When families meet on Thanksgiving, it's a great time to catch more stories, especially from older generations.

Activity Idea: At your holiday get-together, challenge everyone in your family to catch two new stories from grandparents, aunts, uncles, and friends. Pass around a camera or smart phone to take pictures. Once you return home, put together an album with the stories and pictures you discovered. Add new ones each year.

A Great-Grandfather's Adventures

Here's a story I caught as a child when I listened, fascinated, to family stories about my great-grandfather.

His first adventure? Riding on horseback from Maine to California while he followed a wagon train. He had no money left to join the group, but he was always innovative. He braved wind and sun without protection and finally realized his dream of looking for new opportunities in the west.

Once in California, Amasa Saunders understood there was something better than a gold pan to make money. He eyed the forests, and a new idea was born. He returned to Maine to get married to his sweetheart and put together his plan. He never suspected what would happen next:

The Mutiny

The clipper ship carrying young Amasa and his sawmill equipment embarked on a dangerous voyage, including around Cape Horn.

Thinking it would be safer, he asked his bride, Flavia Jane, to cross at Panama instead of taking the voyage around the Cape. They agreed to meet in San Francisco on their way to Oregon.

Amasa had expected many challenges on the voyage, but not what happened when the ship neared San Francisco. The captain began holding back more and more of the provisions—food the passengers paid for at the beginning of the trip. The captain planned to sell, at exorbitant prices, all the food and supplies he'd hoarded once they reached San Francisco.

Amasa Saunders

A bold and restless entrepreneur, my great-grandfather decided not to let the captain get away with it. He led a mutiny, and the passengers raided the food supplies held by the captain (who seemed to be quite an entrepreneur himself!).

Each passenger took custody of some of their rightful provisions. What did my great-grandfather liberate from the captain's stash? He took a wheel of cheese back to his quarters.

My dad told me many of the details about Amasa, but it was my aunt who added the story about the cheese. I found myself laughing, since everyone in my family has had a particular fondness for this wonderful food throughout the generations.

I like to think how much Great-Grandfather savored that cheese, made even more delicious by the actions he took to set it free.

Sharing the Stories

I would have missed knowing about my great-grandparent's adventures if I hadn't caught the stories.

Activity Idea: To give a child the gift of family stories, encourage them to tell back, in their own words, the stories they've caught. The words will become a treasure they'll remember, and tell others, all their lives.

What Happened After: The Shipwreck

My great-grandparents never made it to Oregon. They were shipwrecked off the California coast near Point Arena. In fact, Amasa's name is still part of the story there, since Saunders Reef is named for him near Point Arena.

Amasa and Flavia Jane decided to stay and establish the sawmill in Point Arena. Years later, my family and I had the chance to tour the house where they'd lived. I still remember the old wind-up telephone on the wall, complete with adjustable mouthpiece,

Amasa's restless feet caused the family to move on again. They traveled down to southern California where Amasa built another sawmill in the Idyllwild area. He also established a ranch in Mexico and led a cattle drive back to the United States.

It was an active and colorful life for a man who saw all the possibilities of the old-growth forests at the start of his career. Perhaps it is fitting that Saunders Reef is now a State Marine Conservation Area. Unlike his grandfather, my dad was a long-time conservationist and led many hikes for the Sierra Club.

Dad always loved cheese, though!

This Thanksgiving, take time to catch the stories.


In my story set in 1893, a dangerous secret forces Christie and Melina to escape to a remote lighthouse island. As they search for answers in Mystery Shores, the two friends must use ingenuity and courage to solve the mysteries that threaten their future.

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