On the "Run of the Mill: A True Life, Napa Valley Adventure"
edited: Monday, October 04, 2004
By J. W. Murphy
Rated "G" by the Author.
Posted: Friday, September 24, 2004
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*An edited version of this article was published in the Napa Valley Register on October 4th, 2004.
Imagine you are eight years old, your dad and the only mother you have ever known (as your real mother passed away, before your cognizance, at only two) are divorcing, your half-brother is no longer in your life as he goes away with your supposed mother, and your dad drops you and your older brother off at his parents house, and leaves, stating he needs to "work on his life."
Of course, and now you and your older brother are stuck living with "old people"—you are merely eight—and the reality of your parentless situation is now dawning on you.
How would these life changes affect you; how would you feel?
Oh, and by the way, your grandparents live at a famous Napa Valley Landmark—the Old Bale Mill in St. Helena, California.
This is exactly the situation in which the author, Dona (Stanley) Bakker, found herself during the summer of 1959 and is the backdrop for . . . "Run of the Mill." However, this is only the starting point of this tale, "A True Life, Napa Valley Adventure."
Along the way there is joy and sorrow, happiness and lost tomorrows, but, through it all, Dona tells it all with a grain of ironic humor that is both admirable and engaging. So engaging and humorous is her tale, that, the reader is apt to both laugh out loud in parts and to feel like they’re right there, part of the family.
In fact, Dona decided to write about her childhood at the Old Bale Mill for her family—especially for her children to learn about the great-grandparents they never had the opportunity to know.
After she began writing in July of 2003, she came across dates and places in her mind which had faded over time, as memories do. So, she went to the Napa Historical Society to sort them out. Margaret Hoover, a retired school teacher, docent of the Historical Society, helped Dona and suggested she contact Mr. Tony Kilgallin, host of The Tony Kilgallin Show on Channel 28 and author of "Napa Valley Picture Perfect" and "Napa, An Architectural Walking Tour," as he knows much about the history of the valley and could assist in the writing process.
Unfortunately, Mrs. Hoover couldn’t find Mr. Kilgallin’s number. Dona had hit a wall. She was on her own. Until one day last fall, as she scanned over the Napa Adult School class schedule that had come in the mail, she saw a class she thought she might want to take: "How to Write Your Life Story."
Ironically, she then noticed the class would be taught by Mr. Tony Kilgallin himself! "Aha," she thought. "This is a sign. Now he has to talk to me."
She showed up to the first class with about thirty typewritten pages; Tony was impressed and began spurring Dona on with suggestions and lessons in what he calls, "emotional archeology." She ran with Tony’s suggestions and he continued "stinging her with ideas," effectively as a relentless gadfly.
Somewhere along the way Dona’s reason for writing turned more towards personal healing, than simply writing for her family.
Not only did Tony, her self-appointed gadfly, spur her on to complete her book, but Mr. Ralph Ingols spurred her on to see her book to publication.
Mr. Ingols, gentle man of ninety-three, who still goes about life unassisted, has himself written a book—"Our Garden," out soon—for publication. Seeing Ralph write his first book at ninety-two, Dona is inspired by him, stating: "If Mr. Ingols can do it [write a book] at his age, there is no excuse for me."
In fact, Ralph has been an inspiration to Dona most of her life, as Mr. Ingols was not only her counselor in High School and his student secretary, but also taught her parents at St. Helena High School. She admires and respects him greatly and Ralph reciprocates her sentiments, stating she is "an enthusiastic person" who has a "wonderful outlook on life."
Dona certainly has a "wonderful outlook on life" and it shines throughout her book. Her optimism and perspective, even in trying reflections, are refreshing and demonstrate how gracious she is and why she has successfully run her own business for twenty-eight years and raised two children with her husband of 30 years, Bob.
In her own secretarial service, Dona has typed numerous books, including "Our Garden" by Ralph Ingols and the recent publication of "Good Guys Finish First," by C. Paul Johnson. "Run of the Mill" is being self-published through Pastime Publications (www.napavalleypastime.com), an adjunct to her secretarial service. Having typed so many books for others over the years, Dona was up for the challenge of writing her own book.
And, while seeing your book all the way, from concept to print, would surely be hard at times, she insists the hardest part of the process was having her brother, Dane, read what she wrote, as he is the only main family member in her book who is still living. She was duly surprised when Dane turned out a wonderful Foreword for "Run of the Mill."
In the Foreword, Dane tells the reader: "I am confident that regardless of your background, experience or age, you will find a unique ‘sweetness’ in this book that you will cherish for a long time to come. And, oh, . . . you’ll learn a bit of California history and laugh a lot, too."
Certainly, if you love history, you will love this book; if you had three sets of grandparents growing up and found out later, as Dona did, why, you will definitely relate to Dona’s experience; if you are interested in the psychological impact of divorce on children, this book will be of interest to you; if you like to laugh, you will; if you wish to learn about the Old Bale Mill during an oft neglected period in its history, you will enjoy "Run of the Mill"—regardless, Dona’s book appeals to anyone and everyone from preteens to grandparents (especially those who remember the 1960’s in the Napa Valley, including the prune orchards).
In fact, Dona would love to see more people do what she has done. After all, "truth is very often stranger and funnier than fiction" (Dane’s Foreword)—this certainly holds true for Dona’s story about when she and her brother had the "run of the mill."
Copies of "Run of The Mill: A True Life, Napa Valley Adventure" may be ordered by contacting Dona (Stanley) Bakker herself through www.napavalleypastime.com, by phone at 252-4062, or purchased at the Old Bale Mill. Additionally, Dona will be present at Old Mill Days at the Old Bale Mill on Saturday, the 16th of October, from 10am to 5pm and at the Napa Valley Museum, at the California Veterans Home in Yountville, on Saturday, the 23rd of October, from 2 to 4pm.