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Before the invention of the Internet, “Yahoo” was the word used to describe a not very bright, brutish male totally without class.

Imagine a group of these “yahoos” on horseback, stumbling into the unexplored wilderness, camping at night, anxious to kill buffalo, hoping to marry an Indian Princess, and you will understand the undisciplined group of young men observed and written about by America’s first successful author, Washington Irving.

Washington Irving

Washington Irving wrote of a nutty trip he took in the then uncharted Louisiana Territory, west of St. Louis, in 1832. He called his book A TOUR ON THE PRAIRIES.

I was reminded of this book while visiting Washington Irving’s home, “Sunnyside.” It still stands, open to visitors after all these years, in Tarrytown, New York, close to Sleepy Hollow, where Irving’s famous headless horseman rode at night. It is a kind of shrine to his talent as the first successful United States author. The house overlooks the peaceful banks of the Hudson River in upstate New York. When Irving built his home it was in a quiet, bucolic area, just the place for meditation.


Washington Irving’s home, “Sunnyside” in Tarrytown, New York.

Unfortunately, after Irving moved into his new home, Cornelius Vanderbilt took command of the shoreline and built a smoke belching railroad line between Washington Irving’s home and the beautiful river.

Naturally, there is a gift shop for tourists like me and there I found a reprint of Washington Irving’s book A TOUR ON THE PRAIRIES, a book, I subsequently learned, that is so enjoyable and popular it has never been out of print.

I packed my copy of the book to read on the plane and by the time we touched down in Los Angeles, I knew it would be a wonderful addition to the American Adventure Library series for Listen 2 Read audiobook listeners.


Then came the usual investigative process of finding the oldest and most accurate version of the book, without any of the additions or changes that editors or publishers may have made over the years. Next, of course, was my interpretation and recording process, where I tried to capture the spirit of Irving’s wild adventure. Washington Irving was a humorist at heart, so A TOUR ON THE PRAIRIES is a lot of fun to listen to.


The audiobook of A TOUR ON THE PRAIRIES is available wherever audiobooks are downloaded throughout the English speaking world, including:,,,,,,,,, , and your local public library through Overdrive. Or you can download it here:

If you’d like an Mp3 CD copy, you can order it on Amazon or on my website, at this link:




Stay safe! Stay well!

Andre Stojka




© 2020


World War 1 Prisoners in a German prison camp

During the pandemic of World War 1 in 1918, the last place you would want to be was in Germany, in a German Prison Camp behind German lines, where the flu pandemic broke out. Yet, that was exactly where James Norman Hall was.

Nieuport Type 128 bi plane covered with fabric that ripped


James Norman Hall is the author of my Listen2Read Audiobook “High Adventure,” his memoir of his dangerous time as a pilot during World War 1.

He became a German prisoner because of a major defect in the Nieuport Type 128 bi-plane he was flying on a mission for the French Lafayette Flying Corp., the first Military Air Force in history, predating the US Air Force.

Hall was among the first pilots to engage in air-to-air dogfights, aerial battles, bombing runs and enemy surveillance. Hall volunteered before the United States became involved in World War 1.


James Norman Hall, author of “High Adventure” and later in life, co-author of “Mutiny on the Bounty”

The defect in Hall’s plane was that it was  completely made of fabric and, under the pressure of flight maneuvers, the fabric began to tear and come apart while the plane was high in the sky. Without the surfaces for airflow, there was nothing to keep the plane in the air!

Hall saw his plane tearing apart as he flew. He tried to maintain a course to safety, but the plane’s surface was rapidly disappearing and he was loosing altitude, flying lower and lower. Suddenly, an anti aircraft shell hit his plane and he crash-landed behind German enemy lines. The landing gear was sheered off, but the fuselage landed right side up.


Pulling himself out of the wreckage Hall was captured by German soldiers and taken to a German hospital. Weeks later, Hall and some other prisoners were sent to a German prison camp near Landshutt to attend the funeral of French infantrymen killed by the influenza epidemic infecting German camps. It was a dramatic reminder of how vulnerable to the flu he was.

Hospital beds set out at Fort Riley, Kansas in 1918 when the pandemic struck


The flu had reached the United States earlier in the year when an Army private reported symptoms at Fort Riley, Kansas. It was part of a world wide epidemic and back in Germany Hall was in the center of it.

But then, on November 11, the Armistice was signed and the war was suddenly over everywhere except inside the German prison camp. Hall and other captured Americans worried that the pandemic would kill them, after the war ended but before they were released. They tried to convince the Germans to release them since the war was over and peace had been declared. At first, they had little success.



Then something remarkable happened. The German officer in charge, Herr Pastor, gathered the Americans together and told them they were free to leave. It was theoretically an “escape,” but they would not be pursued. The men were given instructions on how to reach the Swiss border. And just like that James Norman Hall, Prisoner of War, was a free man.

James Norman Hall wrote of his World War 1 flying experiences in his book, “High Adventure,” which I have published as an audio book, narrated by  Andre Devin.

“High Adventure” by James Norman Hall is available for download throughout the English speaking world. Here’s a link:

It is also available from,,,,,

Several download services are offering special low fees during the Coronavirus crisis.

“High Adventure” and my other audiobooks are available for free from public libraries subscribing to the Overdrive and Hoopla systems.

I pleased that teachers are using my promotional videos as teaching aids. Since the videos are all posted on YouTube they are easily available for home study.

There is a video for every audiobook in the American Adventure Library with historical pictures and excerpts from the audiobook students can listen to. Teachers can find them all at and are free to use them as home teaching aids.

I feel very close to our Listen 2 Read audiobook community and hope everyone follows all the rules suggested by the CDC in these difficult times. Please keep yourself very safe.

Andre Stojka
Listen to Read Audiobooks
© 2020























Flora Wellman, Jack London’s mother

In 1874, an unmarried woman, Flora Wellman, was abandoned in San Francisco, where a newspaper described her as a “Discarded Wife”. Wellman made her living as a spiritualist, claiming to commune with the spirits of the late departed, who spoke to her from the other world. At 31, the poor lady was pregnant and left by the man she considered her husband and who she claimed to be the baby’s father, William Chaney.

Desperate, Flora attempted to shoot herself after Cheney insisted she “destroy her unborn babe.” Cheney, an astrologer reading the future from the stars, claimed he was not the father. He insisted her child must be from another man and totally and completely left her life.

Alone, Flora Wellman gave birth to the child on January 12, 1875. She named him John Cheney after the man she claimed to be the father.

John London

John London – Jack London’s Stepfather.

A year and a half later, Flora Wellman met and married John London, a widower with two young daughters. London became her son’s stepfather. As the boy grew, he began using as his first name, Jack. When he became a writer, Jack took his stepfather’s last name, London.

And that is how Jack London got his name.

While Flora taught him to read at the age of 4, Jack London grew up with no idea of becoming a writer. He was a rough and tumble adventurer, a hard worker, sometimes a tramp. He left school at the age of 14 to escape poverty and try to make his way in the rough world, including becoming a crewmember on a ship sailing to Japan.

At the age of 17, Jack was back in Oakland, attending Oakland High School. According to his second wife, Charmian London:

Jack London- the young writer

Jack London, the young writer.

“Typhoon Off the Coast of Japan, is the first story ever written by Jack London for publication. The San Francisco Call offered a prize of twenty-five dollars for the best-written descriptive article. Jack’s mother, Flora London, remembering that he had excelled in his school “compositions,” urged him to enter the contest. He commanded first prize. It is notable that the second and third awards went to students at California and Stanford universities.”

When Gold was found in Alaska in 1897, it was another call to adventure for Jack London, who sailed north to Dyea, Alaska and struggled inland over the Chilkoot Pass. He stayed in Alaska for nearly a year. The hard life and cold made Jack ill, but he returned to California with a wealth of adventures and stories to tell. He sold one of these stories, “The Call of the Wild,” to the Saturday Evening Post magazine and then to McMillan book publishers in 1903. It was Jack London’s first major success and established him as a writer.

Harrison Ford and Buck in 20th Century Fox’s motion picture “The Call of the Wild”.


“The Call of the Wild” has been made into several movies; the latest one just released starring Harrison Ford. The book has never been out of publication.


“The Snark” being outfitted in 1906 at the Alameda Boatyard.

Three years after this success, London decided to build a 45-foot yacht for the purpose of sailing the world and writing about his adventures. He named his boat “The Snark.” Delayed by the 1906 San Francisco earthquake, Jack, his second wife, Charmian and a small crew left San Francisco Bay on April 23, 1907, bound for the Hawaiian Islands and high adventure. It was more of an adventure than they realized when they discovered no one on board knew navigation. Jack had to learn navigation while on the high seas.

When London didn’t arrive at the Marquesas Islands on time, there was great concern that The Snark had been lost at sea. Happily, London was safe but

Jack and Charmian London aboard The Snark.

off schedule, because he had sailed into the Doldrums, where no wind was available to fill The Snark’s sails. Being caught in the Doldrums without wind could spell doom for a sailing ship, not moving, remaining still, until the food and water ran out. London’s description of sailing through the Doldrums is a memorable chapter of “The Cruise of the Snark,” the book he wrote about
the adventure. London could have avoided the Doldrums altogether if he had just read an important book on the passage. Somehow he just never got around to it.

In “The Cruise of the Snark” London introduced the world to surfing, after he mastered the technique on Waikiki Beach. He rode horseback into the Hawaiian Crater of the Sun. He was one of the few outsiders to visit the leper colony on Molokai. London was almost killed during a native uprising and he met and socialized with the fascinating colonizers and natives of the wild South Pacific, before World Wars changed everything.

Along with millions of others, I am a Jack London fan and I’m delighted that my audiobook of the “The Cruise of the Snark” remains popular with other Jack London fans, who, like me, are glad he made it back alive.
You can watch a preview here:

Andre Stojka
Listen to Read Audiobooks


The first White House Christmas Tree, installed by President Franklin Pierce in either 1853 or 1856.


Sometimes at Christmas, a special Santa Claus would visit the children of the Cove Neck school on Oyster Bay, New York, giving out presents and then joining them to sing. This was no ordinary Santa; it was Theodore Roosevelt, President of the United States. A family man, Roosevelt loved everything about Christmas–except one thing.

President Theodore Roosevelt, Edith Roosevelt and their children.


When the Roosevelt family occupied the White House in 1901, a new Christmas tradition was growing in the United States – the German tradition of cutting down a living pine tree, bringing it inside and hanging Christmas gifts on the branches. As a dedicated conservationist, Roosevelt was horrified by the idea of millions of Americans going into the American forests and cutting down millions of trees, (Christmas trees were not then commercially grown).

Roosevelt liked to use his position as President as a bully pulpit to influence people and set an example.

Cartoon of Roosevelt protecting forests.

Beginning with Christmas 1901, Roosevelt made a major decision: he refused to have a White House Christmas tree. He hoped that other Americans, seeing his example, would also choose not to cut down a living tree for Christmas and protect the forests.


Roosevelt’s position was reasonable to adults, but not to his children. His 8-year-old son, Archie, was particularly disappointed and did something about it. The next year, Archie secretly cut down a tree on the White House grounds, smuggled it into his closet and decorated it himself with gifts for family members. Then, at the appropriate moment, he opened the closet door and surprised his parents – Archie wanted a Christmas tree and he got one.

Roosevelt family discovers Archie’s Christmas Tree in his closet, depicted in a magazine illustration.

Worried about how the public would feel about Archie’s tree, Roosevelt consulted with his Chief Forester, Gifford Pinchot. Pinchot advised the President that while it would be wrong for people to cut down very small trees, carefully cutting down some taller ones might actually be a good thing. This would thin the forest so that too many trees wouldn’t steal nutrients in the ground from larger trees. Pinchot liked thinning out the dense forests, which provide fuel for forest fires.
Gifford Pinchot also thought that commercially growing trees for Christmas might be a good  idea.  It is believed that because of Pinchot’s influence, the average Christmas tree size is around 6 feet.

All of this did not convince the President. During Roosevelt’s Presidency there never was a White House Christmas tree – except a for a secret Christmas tree in Archie’s closet. The President tried to keep the story of Archie’s tree out of the newspapers with little success.


Theodore Roosevelt in a canoe as he begins his journey down the “River of Doubt,” when he was away during Christmas 1913.

Roosevelt loved being with his family at Christmas and yet he was away from his family for Christmas in 1913, when he embarked on an adventure through Brazil and spent Christmas on the Paraguay River, beginning an adventure that turned out to be a disaster.

The head of an unexplored Brazilian river had been discovered, and temporarily named “The River of Doubt.” Roosevelt teamed up with Brazilian Colonel Candido Rondon to discover where the river ended. To do this they would cut down trees, create dugout canoes and float down the river to its end.

Only too late, past the point of no return, did Roosevelt and Rondon realize the river could not be navigated because of continuous dangerous rapids surrounded by a deadly jungle. The injuries from this trip shortened Roosevelt’s life.


I recorded and published Roosevelt’s “Through the Brazilian Wilderness” .  You can see pictures of the adventure and preview it here:
It is available for download wherever you download audiobooks, including, I-Tunes, Apple Books, Google Play, NOOK Audiobooks, Scribed, Tune-in, Bibliotheca,
Playstar, Folliett, and your local public library through Overdrive.

Speaking of the holidays, this is a good time of year for me to express my appreciation for your continuing interest and support. Thanks to everyone who has downloaded one of my audiobooks or purchased a CD copy during the past year and those who have recommended Listen 2 Read audiobooks to their friends.
Thanks also to our community of blog  readers, who have been interested enough to subscribe for free. And finally, thanks to our growing number of digital download retailers, all over the English speaking world. Best wishes for the Holiday Season and best wishes for a Happy New Year!

Andre Stojka



Presidential campaign poster for McKinley for President and Roosevelt for Vice President, 1900

Theodore Roosevelt Is At The Wrong Place At The Wrong Time

The trap was set for Theodore Roosevelt the instant his nine-car train arrived in Victor, Colorado, September 1900. Roosevelt was on the campaign trail as vice presidential candidate to current Republican President William McKinley and, just as in our audiobook by Theodore Roosevelt, “Through the Brazilian Wilderness,” he was in the wrong place at the wrong time.

Theodore Roosevelt on the campaign trail in 1900

Republicans for Gold Standard Democrats for Silver

There was a great presidential debate on whether the US should be on the gold standard or the silver standard. The gold standard meant that every American dollar was backed by a dollar’s worth of gold, at the current fluctuating market price.


The Democrats had a different idea, supporting a free silver policy, where silver would be used to back paper money, just as gold, but with the government, not the market, determining the value of silver.


A major industry in Victor, Colorado in 1900 was the mining of both silver and gold, but with the free silver policy of the Democrats, the citizens of Victor stood to make a lot of money. William Jennings Bryan was the Democratic candidate supporting silver.

Roosevelt Faces Angry Crowd

Theodore Roosevelt tries to speak to an angry crowd in Victor Colorado

So, when Roosevelt appeared as a proponent of McKinley’s gold standard, there was a lot of anger- McKinley and Roosevelt would cost them money.

You could feel the anger in the crowd the instant Roosevelt stepped off his train at 3PM. The moment Roosevelt shook the Mayor’s hand, the crowd began booing and jeering.


William Jennings Bryan campaign poster

The day’s plan called for Roosevelt to walk to the Victor Armory and give a speech, but here another trick played out. Since Roosevelt’s train was delayed and he was late, Bryan’s democrat supporters announced to the crowd that they should meet the vice presidential candidate at his train. When the crowd left the armory empty, Free Silver proponents took their place, so that when Roosevelt entered the armory, it was essentially filled with people who hated him. There was talk of tar and feathering Roosevelt.

Saving Roosevelt from an Angry Crowd

It was an explosive situation, and the local postmaster, Danny Sullivan, rushed Roosevelt back to the train as crowds began throwing rocks, sticks and cans. Sullivan grabbed a wooden 2 x 4 and swung it around over his head, protecting the future President of the United States. Roosevelt himself was swinging and fighting as the crowd around him was pushing and trying to knock him around. Although Roosevelt was a good fighter, Sullivan got him on the train and out of town.

President William McKinley and Vice President Theodore Roosevelt

McKinley and Roosevelt Win

Despite the Victor setback, Roosevelt was a great campaigner with McKinley. They won by a landslide with the campaign themes of “Peace, Prosperity and Conservation.”

One year later, President McKinley was assassinated. Suddenly, at the age of 43, Theodore Roosevelt became the youngest President of the United States.



You can see pictures and listen to free sound clips of Theodore Roosevelt’s “Through the Brazilian Wilderness” by clicking here:

This wild, dangerous adventure to unexplored, tropical Brazil  nearly killed Roosevelt only a few years after he became the 26th President of the United States.


Andre Stojka


Listen2Read audiobooks


PS: “Through the Brazilian Wilderness” is the full and complete 11 hour 43 minute dramatic reading of Roosevelt‘s adventure, augmented with sound effects and music. It is one of our most popular audiobooks.








The real North Pole, all water and ice.

Before 1908, other than Santa Claus, no human being had reached the North Pole, although many had tried and failed. Some had unfortunately died for their efforts.

Robert E. Peary in Polar clothes.

In the year 1908, two serious contenders were preparing for victory over nature. One was a respected medical Doctor and explorer with very little financial support and no friends in Government: Dr. Frederick Albert Cook, author of our Listen To Read audiobook “My Attainment of the North Pole.”

The other was a Naval officer, with political support from the United States Government and financial backing by the National Geographic Society: Admiral Robert E. Peary.


Dr. Frederick Albert Cook, dressed for the Pole.

Peary had made two previous attempts to reach the North Pole, in 1899-1902 and 1905-1906, each time reaching farther and farther North.

Peary and Cook knew each other, as Cook had been Robert Peary’s surgeon during Peary’s Arctic expedition of 1891-1892. In fact, Cook helped save the crew’s lives when their ship, the “Belgica,” became unexpectedly ice bound. Cook treated the men and hunted for fresh meat to feed them to help prevent starvation and scurvy.

In 1908, Peary was 53 years old. It was thought that a 1908 attempt would be Peary’s last because of his age. Cook, twenty-two years younger than Peary, might possibly make another attempt if his 1908 attempt failed.


The steamer “USS Theodore Roosevelt” took Peary to Greenland.


Peary and Cook took radically different approaches to reach the Pole. Extremely well funded, Peary spent whatever he needed to outfit the expedition.

Without funding, Cook thought that a small group, composed of him and several Inuit natives, accustomed to the punishing cold, might make it to the North Pole, traveling light.

When Peary began his final trip to the North Pole, it was on the comfortable US Navy Ship “Theodore Roosevelt.” When Cook launched his trip, he was lucky enough to catch a ride on a private ship owned by John R. Bradley, a sportsman and hunter, that happened to be going North, taking Bradley to hunting grounds.



Inuit mother and baby.

Cook’s Christmas celebration was in 1907, six months before Peary set out for the Pole in August 1908. Cook was in Greenland, preparing for the long journey by foot and dog sled. When Christmas arrived, he was among Inuit people. Although Cook knew the Inuit people had no concept of Christmas, they did celebrate a Winter Feast, which coincided with Christmas.

Cook wrote, “ Early Christmas morning, men and women began working overtime on the festive meals which were to begin that day and continue daily. About this time our working force had begun to uncover piles of frozen meat and blubber.

The Inuits churned this into something that looked like ice cream, but had the taste of cod liver oil.”
Cook ate a western meal.

E-tuk-i-shook and Ah-we-lah -Cook’s Inuit companions to the Pole and back, alive.

Cook wrote, “Wandering from igloo to igloo to extend greetings and thanks for their faithful work, I was often touched by the sounds of their voices in the darkness.”

On one special day, Cook reported that a “Boreal stork” had arrived in the community. One of the Inuit women had just given birth.

“One day during Christmas week there was a knock at our door. The proud Ac-po-di-soa walked in followed by his smiling wife with the sleeping ‘stork gift’ on her back. The child had been born less than 5 days before. We walked over and admired the little one. It suddenly opened its brown eyes, screwed up its little blubber nose, and wrinkled its chin for a cry.”

Cook was very much involved with the Native People. His choose two of these people as his companions from Greenland to the North Pole, E-tuk-i-shook and Ah-we-lah. He would trust his life to these Inuit men.


December 1908, a year after Cook left Greenland, Admiral Peary arrived in Greenland.
Instead of living in the nearby igloo village, as Cook had done, Peary and his exploration party were comfortable aboard the “USS Roosevelt,” keeping separate from the Inuit people.

Peary wrote, “in the morning we greeted each other with the “Merry Christmas” of civilization. At Breakfast we all had letters from home and Christmas presents which had been kept to be opened that morning.”

Peary aboard the “USS Theodore Roosevelt.”

The Peary party sponsored foot races for the Inuit people during the day. Later he handed out prizes to the various winners in a manner that demonstrated a condescending attitude toward the native people.

Peary wrote, “In order to afford a study in Eskimo psychology, there was in each case a choice among three prizes. Tookoomah, for instance who won in the women’s race, had a choice among three prizes; a box of three cakes of scented soap; a sewing outfit, containing a paper and needles, two or three thimbles and several spools of different size thread; and a round cake covered with sugar and candy.

The young woman did not hesitate. She had one eye, perhaps, on the sewing outfit but both hands and the other eye were directed toward the soap. She knew what it was meant for. The meaning of cleanliness had dawned on her and a sudden ambition to be attractive.”

A week later, Peary, like Cook a year before him, left Greenland for the journey to the North Pole. For both men, Christmas marked the end of preparation and the beginning of the long ordeal toward the North Pole. Although they didn’t know it at the time, this was also the end of any friendship they might have forged. After this, they became bitter enemies.


The American Flag flies over an igloo at the North Pole, placed there by Dr. Frederick Albert Cook.

On Wednesday, February 19, 1908, Dr. Frederick Albert Cook left Greenland on his quest for the North Pole with two companions, and some sled dogs. He claimed to reach the North Pole on April 22, 1908 in about 2 months. But it took him almost a year to return to civilization. He reported his accomplishments in March, 1909, to the sportsman, Harry Whitney, who was hunting in Greenland.

Robert Peary’s party reaches the North Pole in 1909 and takes a picture to prove it.



On Monday, February 22, 1908, Robert E. Peary left Greenland, following many scouting parties with much equipment, to move on his quest for the North Pole. He claimed to reach the Pole on April 6, 1909 – a little over a year later. He was able to report his accomplishment to the New York Times on September 6, 1909.




Each of these men claimed to have reached the North Pole. Cook claimed that he was the first. Peary disputed Cook’s claim and set out to destroy Cook’s reputation.

Dr. Frederick Albert Cook spent the rest of his life defending his attainment of the North Pole.

Until this time, an explorer’s claim was accepted as fact. As Peary disputed Cook’s claim, he applied a new level of scrutiny – so severe that his own evidence of reaching the North Pole was placed in doubt. It is possible that neither of these explorers actually reached the North Pole.

There was a lot of money at stake. The first person to reach the North Pole would have lucrative speaking tours, publications and other financial opportunities.
Both of these men wrote books of their claimed accomplishments. The most interesting book to me is Cook’s “My Attainment of the Pole.”

Because no one had been to the Pole before, no one knew what to expect. What Cook discovered was that the North Pole and much of the Northern country is actually ice over a western flowing Ocean. There is no solid land at the North Pole.


Capturing a Polar Bear for food and survival

Cook’s return to civilization was a long, dangerous and fascinating life or death journey. All the food Cook had cached for his return to civilization had moved West with the ocean, away from their return route to civilization.

None of the food could be reached. Cook and his two Inuit companions had to determine a new route back to civilization, hunting, as they traveled. Their hunting rivals were the Polar Bears. They discovered that man is only superior to wild animals as long as he has a bullet for his rifle.


Frederick Albert Cook’s tale of his “Attainment of the North Pole” is both high adventure, a man’s fight for survival against the wild and dangerous elements of the extreme North and an angry rant against his mistreatment by Peary when he returned to civilization. It is a tale worthy of a major motion picture. That’s why I recorded it for my Listen 2 Read American Adventure Library. Download it and listen and I’m sure you will agree.  Preview  it here:

“My Attainment of the North Pole” is available for download into your computer, or smart phone  here at, or at,,  Applebooks, the Barnes and Noble Audiobook App,,and in Canada at Some people are giving it as a Holiday gift. You can purchase a regular or Mp3 CD version right here on our Listen2Read website or on

Andre Stojka
Listen To Read audiobooks

PS: This Holiday Season, I’d like to thank you for your interest and support in downloading or buying a CD of our American Adventure Library audiobooks. It is exciting to experience history, where through acting performances, sound effects and music, we can bring the past to life.

Happy New Year!



The Great Ohio flood of 1884.

Two major storms in different parts of the United States changed the mindset of Writer and Activist for Native Americans Charles Fletcher Lummis.

The First Storm

On February 4, 1884, a heavy rain began to fall on Chillicothe, Ohio, where Charles Fletcher Lummis lived and worked as an editor of the weekly newspaper, the Chillicothe Leader. After thirty hours of continuous rain, the Scioto River, which runs through the city, began overflowing its banks, creating the worst flooding the city had ever known.

Flooded riverfront of Portsmith, Ohio in 1884.

It had been an unusually cold winter, without a customary January thaw. The snow and ice on the ground held much water back from the surging river, but when the rain ended, the ice and snow melted and released a second flooding. Normally a mosquito filled area, mosquitoes now swarmed after the flood, bringing malaria throughout the region.



In his book A TRAMP ACROSS THE CONTINENT, Lummis jokes that the train conductor would call out “Chillicothe! 15 minutes wait for quinine”! Chillicothe, Ohio in 1884 was not a healthy place to live. Lummis had lived in Ohio for two years, and was now wondering if he would have a long life in this unhealthy atmosphere.

Charles Fletcher Lummis.


Fortunately, Lummis was saved by a fellow Ohioan, who had traveled West to make his life in Los Angeles, California.

Harrison Gray Otis had purchased a quarter interest in a fledgling 4-page newspaper serving the small town of Los Angeles, then with a population of around 12,000 persons.

After 2 years, Otis found himself overworked, doing everything himself, from writing to typesetting. He needed help. Otis offered Lummis the job of Editor of the Los Angeles Times and Lummis decided to head West.


Lummis Begins His Famous Walk

Railroad transportation in 1884 was fairly advanced. Lummis could have taken the Cleveland, Columbus, Cincinnati and Indianapolis Railway from Chillicothe, Ohio to Chicago, Illinois.

Los Angeles train depot in 1869. Lummis could have taken the train to Los Angeles in 1884.

From Chicago he could take the Atchison, Topeka & Santa Fe Railroad through Kansas City directly to Los Angeles.

But instead of taking the train, Charles Fletcher Lummis decided to walk across the whole country to California!

It was more than 3,500 miles to Los Angeles. Lummis thought that walking would allow him to see America, and, along the way, write stories of his adventures for both the Los Angeles Times and the Chillicothe Leader.

Lummis did cleverly use the railroads in one way: He mailed his dispatches by rail to the Times, which would publish his stories as he traveled West.

Lummis’ first story appeared in the LOS ANGELES TIMES on September 15, 1884:

“LUMMIS LEGSSixty three miles already traversed and only Three Thousand One Hundred and Thirty Seven  yet to walk”.          


New Mexico Native American Pueblo Isleta in this photograph taken in 1884 by Charles Fletcher Lummis.

Lummis’ descriptions of America during this transitional time are amazing and filled with adventures and humor.

He walked West to Colorado and then Southwest across The Great American Desert to the totally different world of New Mexican pueblos, giving him a new understanding and respect for Native Americans that totally changed his life.


Becoming A Native American Activist

Several years after this momentous trip, Lummis suffered a stroke from overwork and became partially paralyzed. In desperate need of a quiet place to recuperate, he chose Isleta, one of the New Mexican Native American pueblos.

Tiwa family in Isleta.

There, he was slowly nursed back to health by a friendly Tiwa family, with whom he had made friends. As he recuperated, Lummis became aware of the Federal Government’s treatment of Native Americans, forcing children to give up their Native American customs.

Lummis became an activist for Native American rights. When he returned to Los Angeles, Lummis founded the Southwest Museum, devoted to an appreciation of Native American arts, basketry and culture. All of this, however, was in the future.


The Second Storm

First Street Bridge over the flooded Los Angeles River is washed out in 1884 storm.

As Lummis walked through the heat of the desert in 1884, he had no idea that a disastrous winter rainstorm had inundated Los Angeles and Southern California, almost at the same time as the storm in Ohio.

The Los Angeles River overflowed its banks, just like the Scioto River in Ohio, but there was no ice or snow to hold anything back. Alameda Street, in what is now downtown Los Angeles, was covered with six feet of water. The Los Angeles River washed away barns, houses, railroad cars and livestock. Even caskets floated downstream.the 

According to Los Angeles Times records, the El Rancho Hacienda, the estate of the last governor of Mexican California, Pio Pico, in Whittier, was destroyed. Pico had to mortgage his other properties to rebuild it.

Lummis Arrives in Southern California

Examining Lummis’ book, I was able to trace his route in California on a current map of California, starting at the town of Dagget in the Mojave Desert. Lummis’ path leads up the mountains, through the Cajon Pass in the San Bernardino Mountains. When he finally reached the seaward side of the mountains, Lummis was astonished at what he saw.


“It was the last day of January,” Lummis wrote, “the ground was carpeted with myriads wild flowers, birds filled the air with song, and clouds of butterflies fluttered past me.”



For Californians like me, Lummis could be describing our wildflower-covered hillsides after super heavy rainstorms like El Nino. Plant life, dormant during Southern California’s lengthy droughts, springs to life after our infrequent rainstorms. Lummis thought all this was normal. He thought this is the way California always is.



Mission San Gabriel late 1800’s.

Lummis walked to Mission San Gabriel and met his new employer, the hard working Harrison Grey Otis, who came out the eight miles from Los Angeles to meet him. Lummis looked a wreck, but the two men got on just fine and Lummis began editing the Los Angeles Times the very next morning, February 1, 1885.



After crossing the country, Lummis wound up in what seemed to him a rain nurtured land, beautiful and fruitful. He had met Native Americans, whose culture would nurture his body and spirit in his time of need. He had discovered a vision of the American West and decided to stay.


A TRAMP ACROSS THE CONTINENT by Charles Fletcher Lummis has become world famous.

I have narrated it as an audiobook for Listen2Read audiobooks.
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When you have downloaded and listened to his tale, I think you will agree with his many fans that Lummis is a fascinating American writer.

A TRAMP ACROSS THE CONTINENT is available for download into your smartphone or computer here at, or at,,, the Barnes and Noble Audiobook app,, and in Canada at You can purchase a regular or Mp3 CD version right here on our Listen2Read website or on



Andre Stojka


Offshore oil drilling platform

Gasoline is costing you and me more and more each day. It is possible that a tiny country in South America might eventually help lower our gasoline price, and, at the same time, eliminate much of it’s terrible poverty. The country is Guyana and I’ve become interested in it because it is where my audiobook “Jungle Peace” takes place.

Because the world uses more and more oil, discovering more oil keeps the price stable.

William Beebe collecting plant and animal specimens in what was then British Guiana

A new Discovery in an old Country

Silently bubbling off the shore of a land, where author William Beebe was busy observing Jaguars, capturing huge snakes, avoiding army ants, watching for rare birds and exploring a fascinating and dangerous jungle that could take his life at any moment, was oil.

This black gold,  wouldn’t be discovered until a hundred years later. Drilling the seventh well in Guyana began last January 2018. It is a big deal for Guyana and, maybe for us!

Steve Greenlee, President of ExxonMobil, expects eventual Guyana production to exceed 500,000 barrels per day. One analyst expects pumping to last for nearly 43 years.

Sudden riches for a poor country

When the actual pumping begins in 2020, the Guyana government expects to be collecting $300 million in petroleum funds yearly. Some people estimate this figure could go up to $5 billion a year by the end of the decade. That’s a lot of oil and a lot of money. No wonder there’s a new Hard Rock Café in the Guyana capitol city of Georgetown.

Stabroek Marketplace, Georgetown, Guyana, where a new Hard Rock Cafe is opening.

Everybody speaks English in Guyana. The laws and basic culture of Guyana are British, descending from the days of British colonization. Guyana broke away and became a republic relatively recently, in 1970.

The population of Guyana is composed mostly of Africans brought to the country as slaves and set free in 1824, and people from North India, hired as indentured servants, under 5 year contracts to work in the sugar industry, rice fields, and the Bauxite and Gold mines. Culturally, it is an uncomfortable mix filled with tension. Each ethnic group is wooed and catered to by politicians who make, as politicians do, a lot of promises.

Who will benefit from oil money

Kaieteur Falls on the Potaro River in central Guyana

The discovery of oil will bring jobs to Guyana where the unemployment rate hovers around 11%. It is one of the South America’s poorest countries. 60% of the educated Guyneans simply leave the country for better futures overseas.

It is exciting that a new, prosperous oil industry about to take hold could make it possible for Guyana to become a reasonably prosperous country.


Oil exploration is a very costly business. In addition to the high cost of discovering and drilling, ExxonMobil gave Guyana an $18 million signing bonus.

The only problem might be that small countries with sudden oil discoveries do not have very good track records of handling sudden wealth- Venezuela and Nigeria comes to mind.

Government largess

William Beebe was a world famous orenthologist and adventurer. His fans included President Theodore Roosevelt

It is up to the government of Guyana to provide structural support – pipelines, distribution points, processing facilities, shipping docks. Who will get these contracts? What is a fair price? There are a lot of hands stretched out waiting to help. Let’s hope the Guyanese navigate the troubled seas of graft and corruption.

An daring and adventurous scientist

Plant and animal life float on the Sargosso Sea

In 1918, the passengers on board the ocean liner “Yamaro” gathered on the deck to see an amazing sight described by Beebe in “Jungle Peace”.  Beebe, was strapped into a harness, attached to a cable. He was slowly being precariously lowered beyond the anchor locker to just above the water line. He was studying, first hand, the Sargasso Sea through which the liner cut at a rapid pace. As he dangled there, the water spray in his face, he was collecting pieces of the plant life plant growth floating on top of the waters. It was just another days work for Beebe.


A hundred years later, what is important is not what is on the sea, but what is under it.

Andre Stojka

PS: I loved “Jungle Peace” the moment I read it. I have become a William Beebe fan. He will transport you to another world, in another time, with a lite, colorful writing style that made him famous. In fact, President Theodore Roosevelt was also a fan and wrote the Afterward of this book.