Something New: Christmas Photos from Stewart and Twain Country

Since this year has a George R. Stewart connection (see photo of Ed Stewart near the end of the page), I’m posting the 2020 annual Christmas photos on the weblog.  Family and friends will enjoy seeing these online.  And  I believe that many of you who are faithful followers of the weblog will enjoy seeing some of the place where the posts are composed. 

The area around Carson City, Nevada, sits at the boundary of two of Earth’s great landform provinces – the Sierra Nevada and the Basin and Range Country.  It’s also George R. Stewart country.  Many of his better-known works are set nearby, including Ordeal By Hunger, Fire, Storm, and Sheep Rock. US 40 and The California Trail have large sections about the Northern Nevada and Sierra Nevada regions.  Some of the country in these photos was likely seen by George R. Stewart himself.

It’s also Mark Twain country.  Sam Clemens adopted the pen name “Mark Twain” while he was living in Carson City.  Roughing It is set partly in the area.   The photos may help readers of Twain visualize this area and its people.

The photos begin with images from the Pandemic Era – a much gentler pandemic so far than the Earth Abides pandemic; following those are images from the Basin-and-Range/sagebrush country in spring and summer images of a park set in a small eastern extension of the Sierra Nevada.  The album ends with photos of hiking friends (the Rocks),  Ed Stewart, (GRS’s grandson and Keeper of the Legacy), Ranger Phil of the Bureau of Land Management at beautiful 8100 feet (2470 meters) high Burnside Lake, and the first winter’s snow. 

Let me know what you think.  If this seems to be of interest, I can post the end-of-year/Christmas photos here next year. 


20200426_121641“Sheep May Safely Graze”

The annual ‘mowing’ of the cheat grass by Borda Ranch sheep


A Pandemic Gift From Paul Schats Bakery 


Reminder on the trail


20200215_145358Path into spring

20200515_133616Spring impressions – new life  along the trail

Red-headed thrush's spring songsThe Harbinger Sings


Wild mare and coltWild Horses – mare and her colt

P1080845The Local Outback

P1080953Washoe Lake Gazebo

Pelicans, Washoe Lake, Slide MtnWhite Pelicans, Washoe Lake, Slide Mountain

Davis pondDavis Creek Regional Park Pond

Cheeky cu
 Cheeky Steller Jay at Davis Creek

Davis Creek - Chinook - Slide MtnThe Good Chinook William Clark at Davis Creek Regional Park

P1090048Rockin’ friends on the Discovery Trail, Davis Creek Regional Park

P1090127Smokey Sun in a year of fire (Stewart’s Fire is set not far from here)

Monarch of our GlenThe Monarch of Our Glen has passed.  Requiescant in Pace, old fellow. And thanks.

with child actors Hollywood at the St. Charles:  Director Melissa Joan Harte with child actors and camera crew, working on “Feliz Navi-Dad” for Lifetime TV. (Premiere 11-21)

P1090134Birthday Balloon 9-26-2020

ed - church of mark twainEdward Stewart at the “Church of Mark Twain”  (The Orion Clemens House, Carson City)


The Chinook at Burnside Lake

Panorama liightRanger Phil at Burnside Lake

P1090199Sierra stream in Autumn

P1090209Washoe Valley ranch

P1090226First Snow 2020 (Earliest snow in 100 years.)    (Carson City is the only State Capitol with a deer crossing – and the deer use it.)


The More-or-Less Annual George R. Stewart Christmas Story

Here’s the annual re-post of a story of the close connections between George R. Stewart and Jimmy Stewart, and between the mythical town of Bedford Falls and the real  town of Indiana, Pennsylvania – the boyhood home of both Stewarts.  


  It’s A Wonderful Story

This is the time of year when most of us, regardless of our religious affiliations, watch classic Christmas movies.  A Christmas Carol with Alastair Sims, Miracle on 34th Street, A Child’s Christmas in Wales   (which is an almost unknown gem, produced in Canada, starring Denholm Elliot), and   It’s a Wonderful Life.    

The local theater in Arroyo Grande, California, owned by a man who loves movies, shows one of those classics each Christmas. The admission is a can of food or a toy, to be donated to those in need – in the spirit of the movie.To see such a film on the big screen, surrounded by friends and neighbors of all ages – to see how the children love the film – it is a reminder of what we’ve lost.  Today we watch movies on TV, often alone, and usually less intently than in a movie theater.  Yet at a showing of Miracle on Thirty-Fourth Street the audience clapped and cheered when the judge decided that, yes, Kris Kringle was indeed Santa Claus.  How long since you’ve experienced that?

For many people It’s a Wonderful Life   is the Christmas movie.  So those who are George R. Stewart fans will be interested in the connection between that classic film and GRS.


George R. Stewart spent his boyhood in Indiana, Pennsylvania, where his mother’s family lived.  His maternal grandfather, Andrew Wilson,  planned to be a teacher and even helped found a school nearby (it would become the prestigious Kiski School).  But he couldn’t earn enough to support his family so he went into the mercantile business.  He  had a hand in a hardware store there, owned by another Stewart.  That Stewart’s son was James Stewart, also born and raised in Indiana.

George and Jimmy looked alike.  With all the similarities in family history, geography, and physiology, you’d expect they were related.  But they  shared only one possible distant relative.  And they lived in different worlds.  The George Stewarts went to the middle-class Presbyterian church on the flats; Jimmy Stewart and his parents to the upper-class Presbyterian church on the hill.  GRS went to a public high school out west, Jimmy to a prestigious private school in the east.  Their paths apparently never crossed.  12-year-old GRS and his family left Indiana for California in 1905,  the year James Stewart was born. Out west, nothing in their interests or their work brought them together.

Still, the lives paralleled in remarkable ways.  GRS and his family moved to Pasadena; he went to Princeton; and after marriage moved his family to Berkeley, California.  Jimmy went to Princeton, then moved to Pasadena; and spent his life in Southern California.  GRS wrote books, two of which were filmed.  Jimmy made films, like that grand Christmas classic we all love.   GRS worked at the Disney studios for a time, an advisor to Walt himself.  Jimmy worked at many studios, creating characters and stories that touched the hearts of millions.  Ironically, GRS did not like the media, and apparently did not attend movies often, if at all.

Even though their paths never crossed, during the Christmas season we should remember there is one thing they shared:   The experience of life in a small American town in the early 20th century.  Like a trip to Disneyland, a viewing of It’s a Wonderful Life enfolds us in such a place.  For a time, we walk the streets and meet the people of the town and the time where both boys grew up.

Here’s a passage from the biography of Stewart,  about Indiana, Pennsylvania as Bedford Falls:

George R. Stewart’s boyhood town was so archetypically American that it could pass for George Bailey’s “Bedford Falls” in Frank Capra’s It’s A Wonderful Life. In fact, the town was “Bedford Falls” – at least for the movie’s male star. Indiana, Pennsylvania, was also the boyhood home of James Stewart,  “George Bailey” in Capra’s film.   Although the movie’s “Bedford Falls” was built on a studio backlot in the San Fernando Valley, Jimmy Stewart said that when he walked onto the set for the first time he almost expected to hear the bells of his home church in Indiana.

Although the film’s Producer/Director, Frank Capra, is said to have modeled his mythical town on the upstate New York town of Seneca Falls,  for Jimmy Stewart Indiana, Pennsylvania, where he and George R. Stewart grew up, was the place he had in his heart as he brought George Bailey to life.

Each year, Indiana holds an It’s a Wonderful Life Festival, with a parade, hot chocolate,  tree lighting, and continuous showings of the film at the Jimmy Stewart Museum.  It’s a winter festival so the people lining the streets in their warm clothing bring life to a snow-bound town, like the movie brings life to the streets of the movie set town.

As you watch Capra’s great film this Christmas, keep in mind that GRS celebrated his Christmases in a town which for another Stewart,  Jimmy, was the model for iconic,  Bedford Falls.

Merry Christmas to all.

  1. A Christmas gift, for 2019 readers – a link to the radio interview with “Tommy Bailey,” one of the Bailey children growing up in Bedford Falls, setting for It’s a Wonderful Life. 
  1. A Christmas gift  – a link to the radio interview with “Tommy Bailey,” one of the Bailey children  in It’s a Wonderful Life. 

Of Rattlesnakes and Pandemics: Once Again, George R. Stewart is a Prophet

Those who’ve read Earth Abides, by George R. Stewart, know of the connection between a rattler’s bite and protection against a pandemic’s effects.  Now, medical science reveals that there may indeed be such a connection.

A recent article in the Los Angeles Times reports that a medical scientist is close to the development of a small-dose vaccine that will be an antidote to many types of venomous snakes bites.  As he tested the vaccine, Dr. Matthew Lewin discovered it seems to have the potential to be a COVID treatment as well, since it reduces the dangerous acute respiratory distress syndrome inflation associated with the disease.

Once again, it seems,George R. Stewart is a prophet. How he knew or guessed this is not clear.  But since he worked at UC Berkeley and had friends in the medical sciences, he may have conceived of the idea by talking with one of them.  Be that as it may, it is another interesting example of how carefully he thought about his novel and how thoroughly he researched it — 71 years ago.