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An Incredible Paragraph from Stanton Delaplane (Updated post)

This is San Francisco Chronicle reporter Stanton Delaplane (internal link) interviewing a rancher in 1941 about the poor roads in Siskiyou County, California.

Delaplane quotes the cattleman enough as needed for a newspaper article and then rephrases the farmer’s thoughts into wry poetry. (For reference, Sacramento is home to California’s state capitol and the slow moving legislature there which controls funding for all state projects.):

They were worn out, he said, from yammering at Sacramento for 30 years with no results. “It gets so bad here in the winter folks can’t hardly get out of the back country,” he said. In fairness, he added that there wasn’t any place to go particularly when you did get out but people being what they are, they want to get out anyway.

That is Mark Twain brought to life.

This paragraph is Kerouac’s Roman candles in On The Road, “[E]xploding like spiders across the stars and in the middle you see the blue center light pop and everybody goes ‘Awww!'”


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The Pulitzer Prize And The State of Jefferson

Winning the Pulitzer was traditionally a career making event for a newspaper reporter. And a real point of pride for the newspaper that employed the writer.

It used to be simple, you won the Pulitzer. There were four original awards in journalism: reporting, public service, editorial writing, and a once granted award for the best newspaper history writing.

As with so many prestigious awards, however, and in keeping with Joseph Pulitzer’s will and wishes, the categories were broadened, diluted, and made great in number.

It’s the same way with the Oscars. Everyone in the film trade must now get an Oscar or be eligible for one.

The 1941 film Citizen Kane deftly showed the tumultuous era of big city newspapers. Back when a Pulitzer Prize truly meant something to a beat reporter. There was just one category for them: reporting.

In 1941 Stanton Delaplane (internal link) won the Pulitzer Prize for reporting on the nascent State of Jefferson, a political movement and a state of mind that continues to be in the news to this day. (external link)

As in Citizen Kane, with the character Charles Foster Kane often making up a story to make up the news, Delaplane played a major role in creating the story of The State of Jefferson.

In late 1941, Delaplane was assigned by the San Francisco Chronicle to visit far northern California and southern Oregon. Word was that a group of rebel counties were planning to secede from California and Oregon to form the State of Jefferson. The chief proponent, Mayor Gilbert Gable of Port Orford, a former high-powered advertising man, was itching to stir the pot of separatism. And Delaplane was eager to help.

Delaplane filed stories of road blockades being set up, complete with photographs showing men with rifles handing out Jefferson State leaflets and proclamations. But some photos were staged. Delaplane’s fiancé Miriam Moore posed in two photographs as a San Francisco tourist, resplendent in her full length fur coat, with nary a mention of her relation to Delaplane.

Gilbert and Delaplane brainstormed ideas for stories, at least one session fueled by heavy drinking. Gilbert and his cronies stood to land governing jobs in this new state. Acting on these conversations and the true anger he found in ordinary citizens, Delaplane quickly spun a number of articles in the best tradition of Mark Twain or Hunter S. Thompson. The least factual story and yet the most accurate. And for that, he bagged the Pulitzer.

Where can you read those articles? You can’t. Not online. Not yet. The Chronicle hasn’t digitized much of their content from the late 1920s through the 1960s. The original newspapers have so deteriorated with age that it makes OCR work nearly impossible. When I looked into the Delaplane archives kept at the California State Library in Sacramento, it seemed that it would be faster to retype the articles than scan them and then correct the results.

Never-the-less, I did manage to make good three of his articles but I’d need to go back to the Library to complete the task. If any serious researcher wants to see what I’ve found, let me know. As the State of Jefferson continues to be in the news, I think it’s important to get its founding correct. Who knows? Maybe you’ll win a Pulitzer Prize.

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One Incredible Paragraph by Stanton Delaplane

How would you like to quote and rephrase like this? This is San Francisco Chronicle reporter Stanton Delaplane (internal link) in 1941, interviewing a rancher on the poor roads in Siskiyou County, California:

They were worn out, he said, from yammering at Sacramento for 30 years with no results. “It gets so bad here in the winter folks can’t hardly get out of the back country,” he said. In fairness, he added that there wasn’t any place to go particularly when you did get out but people being what they are, they want to get out anyway.

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The Trouble with Siamese: Postcards from Delaplane

As if I didn’t have enough problems, the Siamese cat has moved her kittens out of the garage. She favors my shirt drawer but has settled, a little grumpily, for a carton box in the bathroom.

I must be careful brushing my teeth or I drip water on the kittens. It makes the Siamese nervous. Nervous as a cat in fact. One drop of water and she has to go over these kittens from head to tail.

Fortunately, I was out of town when these kittens arrived. Both the Siamese and I were in a state of nervous exhaustion waiting for them. I had pictures of myself delivering these kittens personally. Something like the kindly police sergeants who are always delivering babies in taxicabs at the height of the rush hour.

I wouldn’t know anything about delivering kittens if they were gift-wrapped for Christmas. All I could think of was stimulants.

I kept a bottle of brandy handy. With an eyedropper for the Siamese. A glass for me. I thought we might need it.

Well, it turned out the Siamese attended to the whole matter herself.

For five days she was constantly up and around. Straightening their pillows and checking to see that they did not have two heads.

On the sixth day, she brought them up one by one and tried to put them in the shirt drawer.

“You sit with them, “she said. “I’m worn out.”

However, she is just like any mother. She sticks around trying to tell me what to do.

“Keep them warm. Keep them dry. Don’t do that! You’ll smother them!”

Pretty soon she is back in the box. Roughing them up with her tongue and complaining that it’s impossible to get decent help these days.

These kittens did not turn out Siamese. Not by any stretch of the imagination.

One is black. One is sort of striped. One is gray.

The gray one looks exactly like a swaggering tomcat who lives down the street. I think he makes his money cheating at cards.

Anyway, he was around the house all the time while the romance season was on. Since the kittens arrived, we haven’t seen hide nor hair of him.

I think I saw him hanging around a wharf saloon the other night. But I couldn’t be sure. I think he was passing out cigars.

The Siamese takes this bravely though. She is willing for me to go to work and support the kittens. “You know how it is,” she says scuffing a paw in the dirt.

The kittens are world travelers already. The Siamese moves them constantly.

She moves them so often she sometimes forgets where she puts them. “Let me see,” she says, “I put down my piece of string. Then I went out to look for lizards. Or was that yesterday? Now where did I put them?”

Anyway, it is soon mealtime. It is dinner time almost all the time with these kittens. They have shrill voices. When they start to yell, she locates them. After they are fed, she moves them again.

I have chopped up cashmere sweaters for this addlepated female. I have lined Christmas boxes with an imported English coat. Only a little worn at the elbows.

Nothing seems right. You would think there was a law that all kittens must be raised in a shirt drawer. When I haul them out, she spits at me. You would think I had declared war against motherhood.

I have been cat sitting for eight weeks now, ever since she showed up with some vague talk of finding the kittens underneath a cabbage leaf.

An excellent mother. But she does not intend to sit with these kittens when there is a built-in kitten sitter like me around.

When evening rolls around, I put out enough cat food to feed a tiger. This cat sits around watching while the kittens eat until they wobble. Then she puts on a terrific act.

She howls and staggers about as though she had just come out of Starvationville. “I’m dying, “she screams. “Dying of hunger.”

I then shoo the kittens out the door and give this cat a big dish of horse meat. Does she eat it? Ha! She fills her mouth with hamburger and takes it out and stuffs more in the kittens.

Well, it is like pouring pabulum into a baby. She feeds them until they are glassy-eyed. Then she brings them back in the house and leaves them with me.

“Keep an eye on them, “she says. “I’ll be back in a minute.”

She does not return until dawn. It is my opinion this cat spends her evenings sitting on a bar stool. Telling everybody how her husband deserted her and what a good cook she is and how she would love to settle down again with the Right Man.

There is something funny going on.

Postcards From Delaplane: October 29, 1956. Stanton Delaplane (internal link)

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Would The #MeToo Movement Find This Funny?

Stanton Delaplane loved his daughter and treated her accordingly. Still, that did not prevent him from enjoying a rich fantasy life when envisioning her future. Would the #MeToo movement find this writing from 1953 offensive? Or could they find that some things are simply funny and not part of today’s poisonous atmosphere?

“Small children do not attain age in jerks like a car meshing into higher gear. They grow up smoothly until they are eighteen and beautiful and talented. Then they go in the movies and their poor old work worn father manages their incomes, grows a sporty mustache, and flings cocktail parties for their beautiful starlet friends. . . . ”

Read the entire column here (internal link)

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More from Delaplane

Effortless writing. Notice how many times he contrasts the word soft with the word hard. It’s such an obvious and repeated gimmick that its like being hit with a sledgehammer. A velvet sledgehammer. For more from Delaplane, go here (internal link)

Postcards From Delaplane

September 11, 1956

This is National Soft Water Week. Sponsored by the Water Conditioning Research Council.

The water at my home is hard. If I write the council at 111 W. Washington street, Chicago 2, 111., they will send me “fundamental information on the benefits of softened or conditioned water.”

This is an attractive offer. I am conditioned to unconditioned water. I think what we need around here is a National Soft Life Week. I wonder if you could work that in? With the water?

Life, like our water, has been getting terribly hard lately.

Take a simple thing like warm weather. We had a spell of warm days recently. Like we get in the autumn. I mean the night stayed warm too.

Usually it chills up around here at night. But when it stays warm, we usually give the flowers a good watering. They don’t seem to care whether the water is hard or soft.

Water brings out yellow jackets in the early evening. Mosquitos in the late evening. I don’t intend to make things easier for either of them by softening the water. Let them take it the way it is. Hard.

Speaking of yellow jackets, I sat on one yesterday. It is still painful.

This is how hard life is around here. If you got stung ordinarily, it is a matter of sympathy.

But if you sit on one and get stung, it is comedy. Everybody in the neighborhood had a real good laugh out of this and the dog barked like crazy.

I resented it. I am a serious person, not a comedian, and object to being placed in a slapstick role. Also when everybody else is laughing, you are supposed to laugh too.

If you don’t, you have no sense of humor That is about the worst thing you can say about a person these days. “He has no sense of humor.”

I laughed. But I came within a whisper of braining a few of my fellow men.

It seems a fair extravagance to set up a council on conditioning water. When I am all out of condition myself. And could use a high-powered council to give me “fundamental information” on coping with everyday life.

Keeping one jump ahead of ruin is just about all I can do. And to ask me to think about softening my water when life is so brittle well, it seems frivolous.

“Much water goes by the mill that the miller knoweth not of,” says the proverb.

Kick that one around in a council meeting sometime. It is a sensible way of looking at it.

Whenever we do much watering around here, it brings the deer down from the hills.

You may think that is a rather lovely thing. But that is because you are softening water and not raising petunias. A medium-size doe can barber the flowers off a petunia bed in less than 15 minutes. And loves to do it.

There are a pair of does who come down almost every evening and stand around the yard waiting for a blossom to pop open. They have soft brown eyes and hard white teeth.

They drink out of the dog’s pan and I certainly do not incline to soften the water for them.

This is in no way to bum-rap your council. Or put a knock on soft water. I just wanted you to know what I am up against generally. So you could gear your program to my needs. Send the “fundamental information.” I am ready to be benefitted. Ready to be conditioned.

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Update on My Book Proposals

My Stanton Delaplane (internal link) book proposal has now been turned down twice. I think that’s just getting started for most writers; two proposals barely a beginning. I do think, though, that I am going to reorient my proposal. Instead of a book featuring his writing on all kinds of subjects, I am going to limit my anthology or reader to just his animal stories. A small title, no more that thirty or forty six-hundred word columns. I might even consider self publishing the book, as I think such a title would make a wonderful book and I don’t want to lose Delaplane to history. If I find the money I’d consider getting an illustrator. I did get a nice rejection letter from one publisher. Here it is:

Dear Mr. Farley:

Thank you for thinking of us for your proposed Stanton Delaplane reader. I’d never heard of Mr. Delaplane, and I was charmed by your inclusions. A lot of thought, care, and affection has gone into this proposal, and I appreciate that. It’s a lovely and nostalgic piece of SF history. I see the resonance with our mission, but I fear that this project would be challenging from a financial and business point of view for us. I see this being a tough sell in a fiercely competitive marketplace, and we need for our books to sell at certain levels to not only recoup expenses that go into their production but also help support our overall organization in a meaningful way. I’m sorry to disappoint you, and I hope you find a better home elsewhere. Self-publication might be an option if you’re committed to seeing this book in print (I suspect you could negotiate very low fees from the Chronicle) and able to do some marketing to get it in the hands of those readers who would treasure it. Depending on the production quality, I suspect a handful of SF bookstores would be happy to carry the book.

Kind regards,
The Publisher

My Nevada Agriculture book proposal (external link) isn’t going anywhere. Despite limited interest, the University of Nevada Press and the Nevada Farm Bureau have declined to help. Two private foundations are also unable to supply funding and I have exhausted the resources in Nevada that might assist. Self-publishing this book would be impossible due to the costs involved. A two hundred page book in color would be very expensive to print and the project would take me a year of full time work to do. The problem is that Nevada is a small state in population and the market for the title isn’t that big. I might consider publishing houses that cover the Great Basin in general but for right now I am leaving this book idea alone.

And, I have a blue sky book proposal floating that I haven’t written about before. I call it blue sky because I am proposing not just a single new book, but a raft of new books, a new title series for a large publisher. I put together a heavily illustrated 14 page .pdf file to show what a book in the new series might look like. Preparing this file put my new camera to good use and I have just sent the proposal off. I can’t discuss it until something comes about; with all companies that means weeks and perhaps months of waiting. But I am enthused about the project because it would mean a number of titles I could publish myself with little expense save for travel. I would much prefer a large publishing house pick the idea up, of course, but at least I have a way to go if no one is interested. This proposal got me out to different places around Las Vegas and that made me happy. Here’s what Spring Mountain Ranch looks like right now.





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Nothing Means No at Chronicle Books

“We are not able to personally respond to unsolicited submissions unless we’re interested in publishing them.”

Despite this warning, I sent four polite inquiries to Chronicle Books after waiting four months for them to consider my Stanton Delaplane anthology book proposal. Obviously, they are not interested in my book.

Besides that setback, the Chronicle organization still holds valuable information about the copyright releases I’d need before soliciting another publisher. But without the Chronicle communicating I am at a loss to directly proceed. (I’ve written about this before (internal link))

My book would rely on 30 to 40 newspaper columns that are now 40 to 50 years old. Any future publisher would be vitally interested in what copyright releases would cost before considering my anthology.

I have now written to the Copyright Clearance Center. They’re representatives, apparently, of the Chronicle and a slew of other media companies, charging fees for releases. Perhaps they can give me a rough estimate. I’ll report on what I find.

A very sad thought to end this post. It could be that Delaplane’s works will  go unknown to generations because permissions are too expensive. Going through the Clearance Center introduces a middleman, another layer of expense. Only the Chronicle could inexpensively see this project through. And they are not interested — in a man that wrote for them for fifty years.

Update: The CCC has responded. It looks like good news.:

“If you were going to only print books with a not-for-profit publisher or self publish, 30 columns (excerpts up to 400 words) for up to 999 books, the cost is $603.50 for the permission. If it was 40 columns, the price would be $803.50 for the permission for up to 999 books.”

I am indeed considering a non-profit publisher. Another account representative, however, did give me another response, saying I should use their on-line tool. That’s impossible to do, though, because the tool seems limited to processing one article request at a time.

Anyway, I am off to putting another book proposal together, this time a different, more specific angle on Delaplane’s writing career.


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More From Stanton Delaplane

Dog walking in New York City. Stanton Deplane’s (internal link) spritely writing brings it alive. This gentle humorist won the Pulitzer Prize for reporting and worked for the San Francisco Chronicle for over fifty years. I think his writing on animals were his best work. The late 1950’s was a time when in much of America, dogs roamed without a leash.


February 26, 1959

These are the in-between days in New York. Not quite the end of winter, not quite the beginning of spring.

“I don’t really know what to do with Stonehenge,” said the lady in front of my hotel. “He simply can’t stand Florida.”

Stonehenge, it turned out, is a bored-looking poodle. Like other dogs in the Elegant Eighties East, he wears a simple silver collar and a short Jacket. He looks at the passing traffic through half-closed eyes. A good deal like a banker surveying the usual menu at the University club.

His Jacket is plaid. Authentic Stuart Hunting tartan. He is a dog with money.

We are staying at the posh Stanhope Hotel. Fifth avenue at 81st street. The doorman knew me by name within half an hour after I registered.

He wears a plum-colored topcoat with a flash of red waistcoat beneath. This is not a gaudy neighborhood. But between the plaid jacketed dogs and the red-breasted doormen, we have our moments of color.

This is an aristocratic neighborhood. Across from the gray, bare, wintered trees of Central Park. Across from the imposing Metropolitan Museum of Art. If we wish to refresh our culture, we can walk across the street and look at the high class mummies in the Egyptian section.

“Stonehenge,” said the lady, “really prefers New York.” Stonehenge sat quietly at the end of his morocco leash. He nodded briefly to a passing pair of dachshunds and snubbed a young cocker.

Down at 493 First avenue, we have a guest house for dogs who prefer New York. Who cannot stand Florida.

It is called the Courtyard. It is run by Mr. Henry J. Lindner Jr. of New Orleans — possibly the first man to come to New York and realize a smart dog’s feelings in such matters.

“City dogs,” said Mr. Lindner, “prefer to walk on a leash. They prefer to have someone walk with them. Some like to walk on grass, whereas others would rather walk on a terrace.

“We try to determine their desires and provide what they wish.”

For rich animals like Stonehenge, Lindner provides a city home while the rest of the family goes to Miami.

Reservations are required, naturally. (Just as they are at my hotel. We must keep up the barriers.)

A dog lodging with Lindner— “we don’t like to call it a boarding house”—are assured of quality company.

Elizabeth Arden’s German Shepherd, King, is a regular visitor.

So is Dorothy Parker’s miniature poodle, Cliche. The register has names of most of the elite of New York City dogs. And a dog can simply drop in—with proper credentials. Just drop in, have a steam bath and freshen up for the evening. Or simply lunch on a low-calorie lean beef dish, so popular that Lindner is thinking of packing it for the retail market.

The upper East Side dog, being an apartment hotel animal, is generally small. Just big enough to fit under the TV set.

They are walked in the brisk mornings by uniformed hotel help. The more citified dogs walk the sidewalks along the apartment houses. A few venturesome beasts heel-and-toe it across the street in Central Park.

They all wear Jackets in this chill weather. But they are rather plain in the way of collars.

“I never let Stonehenge wear his ruby collar until after six in the evening,” said the lady. “Only a thin silver chain during the day.”

Stonehenge lifted one eyelid and looked at me. When he saw I had neither a plum-colored topcoat nor red waistcoat, he dropped it again and his lip came up in a genteel sneer.

Unknown artist. Not a part of the original column.


Stanton Delaplane

More Delaplane

image08STAN DELAPLANE’ S POST CARD: October 23, 1959

The carpenters have arrived to put a guest room on the family scatter. It is not my idea. It is the banker’s idea. “It will increase the resale value 20 per cent,” said the banker, twirling the rubies on his gold watch chain, “Maybe 25 per cent.”

This is nervous talk; it makes me nervous, anyway. What is all this talk of resale? My banker has about 50 per cent of my house action. I look on a house as a home. A place to live.

My banker looks on it like a bag of groceries that he would unload if the price was right.

I see no reason for guest rooms. Because the minute you put in a guest room, you are likely to draw guests.

I will say that the house gets polished up when guests are on the way. But it is a wearing thing.

Rooms have to be swept. Floors must be mopped. Windows polished and drawers emptied. A new washer must be placed in the faucet that drips.

In fact, when guests are coming you would not recognize the old place.

Well, by and by the guests arrive (our guests usually arrive by car). There is then a great struggle who shall tote the suitcases upstairs.

I am a polite cat in such cases. Polite and insincere.

“You go right ahead. I’ll bring up the bags.” “No, I should say not. I guess I can carry my own bags up, ha, ha.”

We then go into a struggle who should carry the bags. “Let me have them.” “No, let ME have them.”

We both wrench our backs and bark the skin from our hands.

A state of strong distaste is firmly established on both sides.

That is just a good beginning. And it gets worse.

A guest room is not for guests. It is a second-best room and therefore is for the family. The guests get the good room.

This involves transfer of a good deal of clothing. And you always forget the right pair of pants.

You then stand around in your shirt tails until the guests rise and come down. Then you can sneak in and get your clothes. Guests rise very slowly and you can freeze while you are waiting for them.

After dinner is the jolliest time. It is the time when the women battle over who will do the dishes.

“Why, I wouldn’t THINK of having you do them. Now just sit down and relax.”

“I really INSIST on helping. Now you must be all tired fixing that LOVELY dinner. Joe and I will do those dishes in a jiffy. Won’t we, Joe?”

“Uh huh,” says Joe. And he says it without enthusiasm.

We have a spirited little struggle for the soap and the towel.

Meanwhile, their child has got your child’s toys. He has taken the toy fire engine and belted a welt on your child’s noggin.

Both moppets are screaming. You must face this with a smile. “Now it really is nothing. I’m sure he’ll be all right in the morning. It’s nothing but a bruise.” (It is a lump the size of a cantaloupe.)

“He should learn to let other children play with his toys —PUT DOWN THAT AXE! Oh, I really didn’t mean to yell at your boy. But we do have a firm rule here that they are not allowed to play with sharp things. LET GO OF THAT CAT’S TAIL!”

This is what comes of putting guest rooms on a house.

It is very good for the banker. But very bad for the householder. It adds 20 per cent to the resale value but takes a big percentage off your life.

The best way to handle visitors is to let the hotel put on an extra room. You like that idea? Be my guest.