Rude Awakenings ~ Catherine Sevenau

Catherine Sevenau Catherine Sevenau is a local writer, humorist, and storyteller. Her newly completed third book, "Through Any Given Door," a Family Memoir, is available as a free web series at Catherine, also a longtime Realtor and Owner/Broker at CENTURY 21 Wine Country. [email protected]


Vacation postscript 

Posted on September 25, 2019 by Catherine Sevenau

My brother, his wife Marian, and I took our fifth road trip to gather family history, sifting through county records and newspaper archives – finding local articles, and deeds. We made Marian come as she has a sense of direction. 

In the past four years we’ve explored the Sacramento Valley, the gold country of Northern California, the cemeteries of Southern California, and our father’s family farm in Minnesota – visiting cousins and taking pictures of homesteads and headstones. Our latest three-week excursion covered 5,000 miles on a 4,500-mile foray. We drove through Nevada, a corner of Arizona, the Rockies of Colorado, the expanse of Wyoming, and the flatlands of Montana. The extra 500 miles we spent heading off into the wild blue yonder. Gordon won’t look at a map so he makes Marian, but when she tells him which way to go he doesn’t believe her. I can’t read a map and get carsick if I take my eyes off the horizon so I stay out of it.

Marian always makes us two dozen Tollhouse cookies. I eat my half and half of Gordon’s half. She eats almonds and prunes. Yakking away from too much sugar, a hell or a damn falls out of my mouth and my brother tells me to quit swearing. Again. I try really hard not to curse around him but I forget. Into the second week he says do you HAVE to swear ALL the time and I inform him that puke is NOT a swear word and that swearing MAYBE once a day is not ALL the time and I’ll make him a deal: if he uses his turn-signal, I’ll quit. My brother is unaware that turn signals are standard equipment on cars, and have been for years. He has this thing where he can’t decide if he’s turning left. The oncoming traffic also has no idea what he’s planning. He hesitates until they get close. Then he whips in front of them. I have this thing where I slide down my seat, throw my feet up to block the airbag, close my eyes, cross my heart, and mutter, “Oh, Sweet Jesus.”

He says, “I didn’t know you were religious.” I say, “Only when you’re driving.”

We returned home a day early, every empty space in their no longer new hybrid littered with crumbs and stuffed with stacks of information. Was our trip a success? You betcha! Did we find everything we were looking for? No, but enough to satisfy us until the next journey. We discovered pictures, a hundred newspaper articles, and books that others had written about the family. However, we also discovered the best legends WEREN’T EVEN TRUE!

Grandpa didn’t gamble away the ranch. They never owned a ranch. And if they had owned a ranch, it wouldn’t have been worth $150,000. Hell, in 1915, you could’ve bought the whole godforsaken state of Montana for $150,000. They were giving land to homesteaders – why would anyone pay for it? And not only was J.S. Hoy not castrated for sleeping with a med student’s wife (turns out he had mumps as a baby), Henrietta Wilcox didn’t poison him either. Truth – the downside of research. The most interesting legends turn out to be just that. Legends. That’s why I titled our history Lore, Libel, and Lies – so I could leave them in.

Catherine Sevenau is a local writer, humorist, and storyteller. Her third book, Through Any Given Door, a Family Memoir is available now as a free web series at Catherine, a longtime Realtor and Owner/Broker at CENTURY 21 Wine Country, can be reached at [email protected]


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