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Zane Grey Master Character Index





June 28, 2017

My first book on Zane Grey, the Vanderbilt doctoral dissertation, was published way back in 1975. At that time, I mistakenly assumed that was it: I could then go on to other things. Yes and no: I did go on to other things, but Zane Grey has never left me. Several years ago, something I’d long since assumed would never happen—DID.

It’s beautiful! The only time in Grey’s lifetime when one of his books (Canyon Walls) was positioned side by side with one of the greatest painters of the age, Maxfield Parrish. At the 35th Zane Grey’s West Society convention in Kanab, Utah (June 19-22, 2017) this book was seen and bought for the very first time. But we kept copies for you. It is perhaps my rarest book: the First Edition is limited to only 350 copies.

In order for you to fully understand how it happened, I am sharing the book’s introduction with you. Here it is:



Joseph Leininger Wheeler

As I look back through those pivotal years of 1971-1975, I stall out when I reach that life-changing moment when I first realized I was now the foremost authority on the life, times, and works of the man who, more than any other, was responsible for creating the Myth of the West: That once upon a time there existed a Camelot in America’s West.

Usually, in this all-too-short period we call “life,” we barrel through epiphanies, not recognizing life-changing days at the time—only years later, looking back through the halls of time, we say to ourselves, My goodness! If that day had never been—how different my life would have been!”

But, for some reason, a Higher Power stopped me in my tracks on that never-to-be-forgotten day. Stopped me with this seismic thought: After years of criss-crossing the nation, journeying from library to library, museum to museum, authority to authority, I am now the world’s foremost authority on Zane Grey.

This was followed by an unsettling conclusion: You know, I could quit right now: I already have researched and written far more than I need in order to earn the doctorate. In fact, my major professor, departmental chair, and doctoral advisor, Dr. Warren Titus had already told me, “Joe, you are overwhelming us; no one is going to question your right to the doctorate, but you’ve already written 1,200 pages—please, in mercy, cut your manuscript down to a humane level.”

This was perhaps the ultimate Robert Frostian moment of decision in my lifetime. For in Frost’s iconic poem, “The Road Not Taken, are these lines:

Two roads diverged in a yellow wood

And sorry I could not travel both.”

The big question that day was, “Why should I continue disrupting my family’s life? Why not call it quits right now? After all, most doctoral students quit once they’ve mastered and proved their thesis statements.

But another voice spoke out that day: That may very well be, but you have to realize that, as far as Zane and Dolly Grey are concerned, you’ve only just begun. There yet remains so much about Grey that you haven’t even touched yet.

And at that very moment, I recognized I was myself in the midst of an epiphany, and these lines came back to me from memory;

“Yet knowing how way leads on to way.

I doubted if I should ever come back.”

Ah that was the rub! My employer, Southwestern Adventist University, had promised to see me through to my doctorate; was paying for all my travels, for all my book-buying, for turning our large bedroom into an office, with a full-time secretary to help me in my journey from original and secondary sources to a persuasive, informative, and perhaps even eloquent doctoral dissertation. With that belief in me, why should I quit when I’d just begun?

Maxfield Parrish printing appeared in October 1930 Ladies’ Home Journal

So, recognizing that I would always regret taking the easy way out, I deliberately decided to follow the more daunting of the two diverging roads—and not quit until I reached the point where I felt I now knew all there was to know about Grey before I laid down my pen.

That, of course, was a naive conclusion: I now know that not even in a hundred years could I possibly know all there is to know about Zane and Dolly Grey.

But I did cut my dissertation down from 1,200 to 400 pages, thus bringing joy and relief to Dr. Titus.

What I didn’t then realize was that, by my decision to go beyond the requirements of the Vanderbilt University (Peabody campus) doctoral program, I’d thereby made it all but impossible to ever get Zane Grey out of my life. Case in point: When media interviewers have asked me what it feels like to be the world’s foremost authority on the life and times of Zane Grey, my standard response has been, “Well, it’s sort of like the old Russian proverb: “He that dances with a bear doesn’t quit just because he gets tired.”

Because I made that fateful decision, I went on to edit and publish Zane Grey’s West Magazine (1979-1991), co-found the Zane Grey’s West Society (with G. M. Farley) in 1983, serve as the Society’s Executive Director and deliver all the annual keynote addresses at all the 35 conventions since then—2017’s will represent my 35th, as well as other Zane Grey-related research and writing.

Which brings us to this book—


Throughout the 35 years of the Society’s existence, we officers have fielded a surprisingly large number of unsolicited questions. Interestingly enough, one type of question has been asked more often than all the others put together. Here is a typical one:

My grandparents loved the books of Zane Grey. Read them so many times the books were all but loved to death. Well, I’ve been wondering for a long time about whether or not my mom was named for a Zane Grey heroine. So, a question: Was there ever a Zane Grey heroine named _________. If there was, what book was she in? Because, if she was in one, I’d want to pick up a copy of that book and see if there are any similarities between that character and my mother.As such questions have continued to be asked decade after decade, and our officers discovered that almost invariably I was the only person who could come up with the answers, they got suspicious. Once they became aware of the existence of this treasure in our home, dialogue began to take place regarding whether or not I’d ever had plans to publish it.

As it turns out, this Master Character Index would never have been created had I not decided to learn everything there was to learn about Zane Grey. Finally, I realized it would be selfish for me to hog the Index any longer when it was possible to publish it so that the Society and the world might have access to it.

Finally, I agreed. And it has taken us several years to get the manuscript retyped onto computer (the original was typed on an old IBM Electric typewriter). Thanks to the untiring efforts of Terry Bolinger (President), Rosanne Vrugtman (Vice-President), Ed Meyer (Marketing Coordinator), and members Tim Abner, Jan Gautreaux, and David Ross, we have been able to take my long-ago Character Index and shake it by the scruff of its neck, seeking to catch any errors, duplications, misspellings, mislabelings, etc., and thus make all these needed edits before we finalized the manuscript.

Periodically, here would come another long communique from Terry Bolinger; in it would be a long list of character-related questions. Fortuitously, when I sold my Zane Grey collection to Brigham Young University a number of years ago, they graciously permitted me to retain enough key artifacts to enable me to continue cranking out my annual keynote addresses and other Zane Grey-related research. Consequently, even in the case of this Master Character Index, I was able to satisfactorily answer every one of these queries. Reason being: I still have in my remaining archives the hand-written cards containing all the characters in all of Zane Grey’s canon of writings! These are more precious than gold—irreplaceable. For never again in my lifetime would I ever take the years it would take to go through such an exhausting process again. Thanks to it, we were able to catch a significant number of errors before publication.


I’ve often thought back to that incredible once-in-a-lifetime opportunity I had back in 1971-1975: Romer Grey (Grey’s oldest son) was then President of Zane Grey, Inc., and lived in Altadena, California; Betty Zane Grosso (Grey’s only daughter) was still alive, and raised Arabian horses in California’s Napa Valley; and Dr. Loren Grey (the youngest child) was then teaching at one of the University of California campuses, and lived in Woodland Hills; furthermore, G. M. Farley was still alive, but in weakening health.

Romer Grey made available to me the entire family archives, and made it possible for me to acquire the rarest of Zane Grey books and photocopies of journals, stories, and unpublished manuscripts; Betty Zane Grosso made it possible for me to photocopy the Fort Knox of family correspondence (a huge steamer trunk brimming full of several thousand personal letters, telegrams, etc., mostly written by either Zane or Dolly Grey).

I did not then realize how short my window of opportunity really was: Romer Grey died only a few weeks after I sent hin a personally inscribed copy of my doctoral dissertation (one of only nine in the world of that initial edition). A lot of priceless archival material got destroyed after his passing. Then began the dismantling of the priceless correspondence collection—the letters were gradually, in auctions, sold to the four winds. Some with hundreds of other letters and original journals.

Since that time, both Betty Zane Grosso and Loren Grey have passed away as well. Today, it would be impossible, for any amount of money, to reconstruct what I was able to accomplish during those golden four years when all the proverbial stars were perfectly aligned. In retrospect, I can’t help but feel convicted that a Higher Power willed that research to take place.

And, not coincidentally, all those years ago, we went to all that trouble to put together this definitive index of all the real life people, fictional characters, and both real life and fictional animals from Grey’s entire canon of writing—do all this for no reason at all. And then sit on it for 42 long years before a consensus developed within our Society leadership that the time had come at last for the index to be made available to the world.


Price for Limited First Edition copies is $20 plus shipping, $4.85 per book.

Email me at: with your request.


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The Curse of Marijuana




June 21, 2017

We ought to know here in Colorado. Now that it is legal to sell it, grow it, and smoke it, things have not been pretty. Recently, pot-lovers put on a big pot event in downtown Denver. When it was over that part of the city was left in a shambles, with garbage everywhere. The mayor banned them from putting on another for three years.

I know landlords whose renters have so degraded their homes that they never again want to rent to anyone who smokes marijuana.

Another friend of mine, who has known pot-users for decades, declares that marijuana-use over time often takes away all that individual’s highs and lows, leaving them in a “mellow” zombyish state of suspended animation. It takes away the user’s ambition and desire to make a success or career—leaving behind unproductive zeros.

On May 17, syndicated columnist Amy Dickinson ran a letter from a woman who signed herself as “disappointed.” She began with these words:

Dear Amy: My husband and I have been married for more than two years. When we first started dating, I knew he smoked marijuana daily. I slowly grew frustrated being with someone who is out of it and unresponsive.I decided to break it off. . . . He decided that he would stop smoking.

There were many times where I was suspicious that he was smoking again. He had bloodshot eyes, smelled of it, would run errands that would take hours to complete.

But she married him in spite of it. She forgave him in spite of relapses. Continuing on, she wrote:

Amy, I don’t care if people want to smoke weed, but it is something I didn’t want in a husband or the future father of my children.Last night, I was cleaning his car when I found weed hidden underneath the floor mat. I also found eye drops and a lighter.

We talked about it and he told me that he feels like weed helps him. He believes it has healing powers (he has no medical issues). He doesn’t want to stop. I was very clear about my views from the start of our relationship. It isn’t fair that he lied to me for so long.

I told hin I wanted a divorce because I could no longer trust him. He said I was crazy for being willing to throw everything away over a little weed.

Am I crazy?

Dickinson’s response was not hopeful:

People who use weed and get baked will deny how obnoxious and boring they can be, and how big an impact it has on their lives and relationships. It is no fun to try and have a life with someone who is unavailable, unreliable, impaired, and zoned out.                      *Italics mine

* * * * *

In recent months and years, marijuana use has reached epidemic proportions among the young. They justify themselves by saying “Everybody’s doing it – can’t see how it can hurt me.”

Of course, substance abuse is substance abuse, whatever form it takes—be it hard drugs like heroin or meth, alcohol, porn, etc. But all of them are generally considered to be dangerous at best. But marijuana has been promoted by so many as being benign. Though it can be in many cases, depending on the dosage and frequency, anything that impairs our ability to function at our highest level, either in the job world or in the personal world . . . is just plain terrifying. When a stroke takes away part of someone’s mind, that is irreversible. Marijuana’s effects may be just as irreversible. And the mind can be a terrible thing to lose.

A key concern I have with drugs such as marijuana is that it clouds the mind. Anything that does that also degrades our ability to communicate with God. As Americans become increasingly secular and sideline the spiritual dimension of their lives, turning to mind-clouding escapist substance abuse increases exponentially.

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June 14, 2017


89 East Center

Kanab, Utah

(435) 644-2601

For the first time in 35 years, we are borrowing an approach that is being used with great success by cruise ship companies to fill their ships with people who are geared to short-notice excitement and growth. Since so many millions of people today are self-employed, working at home, retired, or just plain have a permanent case of wanderlust, here is your personal invitation to join us next Monday through Thursday in Kanab, Utah, the Hollywood of the Southwest. Over a hundred western movies were filmed here.

Zane Grey (1872-1939) is the writer who, more than any other, (in his 70 western books, over a hundred movies, and television series) created the concept that once upon a time there existed a Romantic West, a Western Camelot, in America’s Southwest.

Thirty-five years ago, in Texas, the international Zane Grey’s West Society was born. A laid-back, down-home, informal organization of young-at-heart individuals who like to gather every year in fun places to visit and travel to. Where prices and dues are kept low, where officers all serve pro-bono, where annual conventions are run at cost so that even those who are on fixed incomes can afford to attend. Numbers of attendees are kept down to 75-150 so that smaller towns can serve as venues and so that everything can be run informally. There is no hierarchy: all meet and interact on the same level. Friendships have proven to be lasting and rewarding.

If you’ve been looking for an opportunity to learn more about our great West, you’ll want to drop everything and show up in Kanab next week. If Parry Lodge should prove full, no problem: there are lots of other motels to choose from in Kanab. And you’ll soon see why so many members tie their annual convention attendance to travel destinations they’ve long wished to visit. For instance, Kanab is a jumping-off point to the Grand Canyon, Canyonlands, Great Basin, Bryce, Zion, Arches, and Capital Reef, national parks, as well as Moab, Lake Powell, Rainbow Bridge, Monument Valley, and so much more.

It would be helpful to contact Sheryle Hodapp (15 Deer Oaks Drive, Pleasanton, CA 94588-8236) email:; cell: 925-899-8698) for further information. Hodapp is Secretary-Treasurer of the Society. But even if you should do a last-minute showing up, we’ll find a way to squeeze you in. Believe me, the Society will change the course of your life, enrich it in ways you probably never thought possible.

Do give Hodapp a call, or email her, this very minute!

Just think: if you’d joined the Society 35 years ago, here are places you could have seen and explored (in reverse order of dates):


  • Islamorada [Florida Keys]
  • Mormon Lake, AZ
  • Durango, CO
  • Provo, UT
  • Spearfish, SD
  • Williamsburg, VA
  • Gold Beach, OR
  • Glacier National Park, MT
  • Payson, AZ
  • Lackawaxen, PA
  • Catalina Island, CA
  • Ogden, UT
  • Prescott, AZ
  • Oklahoma City, OK
  • Zanesville, OH
  • Cody, WY
  • Grants Pass, OR
  • Grand Junction, CO
  • Washington, PA
  • Kerrville, TX
  • Taos, NM
  • Great Falls, MT
  • Matamoras, PA
  • Kanab, UT
  • Fort Davis, TX
  • Page, AZ
  • Flagstaff, AZ – and
  • Keene, TX

Next year, we’ll be meeting in Jackson Hole, Wyoming.

See all you’ve missed?

I hope to see you in Kanab.


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Elizabeth Goudge’s “Pilgrim’s Inn”





June 7, 2017

Popular Library paperback

Those of you who have been with our club for quite a while may remember our eighth selection, Elizabeth Goudge’s City of Bells, back on September 26, 2012

Now, 58 books later, I’m returning to another Goudge book I’ve loved for many years, Pilgrim’s Inn.

For those unfamiliar with Elizabeth Goudge, prepare for an incredible read. Generally speaking, each of her books is a masterpiece. She was a perfectionist who refused to sign off on a chapter, a page, a paragraph, or even a sentence, until it would ring like a piece of the finest china.

The older I get, the more picky I get about the books I read. When I was young, I’d often read just to be reading, but now, as the sand in the upper portion of my life’s hourglass continues to diminish, increasingly I return to authors I’ve loved more than all the rest. Of these, leading the pack is Elizabeth Goudge. Her books more than stand the test of time.

Pilgrim’s Inn is the first of Goudge’s books I read—and it hooked me for life. First of all, her characters. As is true with the greatest writers, she respects her readers so much that she refuses to pontificate in her books. But rather, she sets her characters free to talk, and thereby the readers can each watch her characters come to life out of abstract print.

Howard-McCann hardback

In Goudge, rarely do we come across cameo characters: reason being, unless each one contributes to the power of the plot, that person is not even introduced.

The cast of characters in the book includes:

Nadine, the beautiful wife of one man, haunted by the love of another.

Lucille, wise and great-hearted, the matriarch of an extended family, who tries her best to keep each one from going on the rocks.

David, handsome renowned actor, shell-shocked and disillusioned by the terrible war, and tormented by loving two very different women.

George, the faithful husband who is deeply wounded by a wife who devalues him.

John, a widowed famous painter who is ever on the search for people he considers worthy of being painted.

Sally, the effervescent daughter of John who falls in love with a man in love with another.

Annie-Laurie, a beautiful young woman who carries a toxic secret with her wherever she goes.

Jim, who yearns for the one love of his life to once again love and value him.

Hillary, the vicar who tries his utmost to minister to and counsel his volatile family.

Jill, who comes out of nowhere to bring structure to the family.

And I haven’t even mentioned the five children: Ben, Caroline, Tommy, and the irrepressible twins who are a law unto themselves. Even the dogs, Poo-bah and the Bastard, have their unique roles.

* * * * *

Goudge is unique not only for her unforgettable characters, but also for her memorable lines—one of the most quotable of all the writers I have ever read. And unlike 99.9% of writers (like most adults, they’ve lost the ability to recreate in characters the life, dreams, and actions of children), Goudge can. Consequently, her children are more often than not the driving force in her novels.

Goudge is also one of the most spiritual of novelists. Spiritual in the joyful sense. Life, in all its multidimensionality, shines through Goudge’s every page, making each re-reading all the more poignant and meaningful. My third reading of the book was just as entrancing and moving as the first (over half a lifetime earlier).

Nor can I forget the role of the two old houses: the Herb of Grace ancient inn and Damerosehay—both essential to the development of the characters and personalities in Goudge’s fictional world of Pilgrim’s Inn.


Elizabeth de Beauchamp Goudge (1890 – 1984) was born in the English cathedral city of Wells. Her father was a professor and administrator in theological colleges, so his daughter grew up in that environment. Her first novel, Island Magic (1934), set in her beloved Channel Islands, was an immediate success. World-wide fame came as she continued to write.

In 2002, J. K. Rowling identified Goudge’s child classic, The Little White Horse, British Carnegie Medal (1946) as one of her favorite books and one of the few books with direct influence on the Harry Potter series. The TV mini-series, Moonacre, was based on this book as well.

* * * * *

I predict that once you have internalized—you must never attempt to read her books fast!—Pilgrim’s Inn, you will be hooked on Goudge for the rest of your life. Since Goudge was so popular during the second half of the twentieth century, you shouldn’t have much trouble tracking down on the Web a nice copy for your home library


Island Magic (1934)

The Middle Window (1935)

A City of Bells (1936)

Towers in the Mist (1938)

Sister of the Angels (1939)

The Bird in the Tree (1940)

The Castle on the Hill (1941)

Henrietta’s House (or The Blue Hills) (1942)

Green Dolphin Street (1944) – Academy Award movie in 1948

Gentian Hill (1949)

The Rosemary Tree (1956)

The White Witch (1958)

The Scent of Water (1963)

The Child from the Sea (1970)

Goudge also wrote many short stores, children’s books, and inspirational nonfiction.


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May 31, 2017

For the last six months, a little dog has ruled our mountain chalet. Not since the passing of Pandora, our beloved Himalayan cat, has an animal ruled over our home. A week ago, our son Greg, who has been relocating, flew out from Florida to reclaim his Boston Terrier, Bailey.

Now we have our house back and we can once again settle into our own routines. But before memories of Bailey grow dim, I decided to write this blog.

Albert Payson Terhune, whose dog novels warmed my childhood, famously postulated that puppies’ mental state stalls out at two-years of age, and dogs inwardly rarely get any older than that. How true!

Like a two-year-old child, Bailey had only two speeds: on and off–or, perhaps more accurately, Burning Rubber in the Red Zone, and Comatose Dead-Out. With total disregard for our plans for a given day, Bailey demanded breakfast immediately—not even one minute later. After relieving herself, it was Play Time. Time for us to throw her tennis ball. If we ignored her soulful eyes, she would whimper; if that didn’t work, she’d wail. She’d never bark. Impossible to ignore her! So we’d throw her ball until it was too slimy to touch. Not even in the bathroom were we out of range: we’d have to toss the ball down the stairs over and over until she’d finally give up in exhaustion.

And she had no life outside of us. She’d follow us from room to room—especially to the kitchen. No matter how softly I might slip into the pantry, she somehow knew I was attempting to sneak a bite of food into my mouth without giving her any—and she was appalled at my selfishness. If even a crumb dropped from a cracker, it would be devoured before it hit the floor.

She was never a lap-dog; any cuddling had to be on her terms (much as was true with cats that have owned us). But she loved to flop down against us, and was always indignant when we robbed her of our body warmth.

When we took her for a ride, she’d jump up or climb as high as she could so that she’d be able to see everything that came into view. Rarely would she stay still during the ride.

At night, once she was deprived of the tennis ball, she reminded us of a punctured balloon: all the air rushing out of her, leaving her lifelessly limp.

She had an extremely strong sense of “home.” When I took her for a walk, once I turned back toward home, she’d rush me back, in race-mode even before we reached our driveway. When in a car, she’d get more and more excited the closer we got to the house. No chance in the world she could miss our driveway.

But then, Greg flew back from his new place in Florida to get her. Once he came in the door, I was no longer pack leader. Then came the day Greg started packing up. Bailey now became more and more disturbed–whimpering, crying, unable to relax. After he left to get his rental truck, she became more and more frantic: Was he going to leave her again?

So we took her to Pine where Greg was loading the truck from the storage unit. She calmed down, but only a tad. Finally, there came the moment when Greg opened the truck door and heaved her up on the high pillow where she’d be “navigating” all the way across the country. And, finally, we could see her beginning to visibly relax. She was home at last.

After “they” drove off, Bailey without even looking back, I thought of so many things: about Pandora, whenever we’d take a trip and then return, Pandora would often have no voice left: she’d cried her voice out to the extent that not even a vestige of a meow was left. It was after her passing that we’d agreed never again to inflict that tragic separation-anxiety on another pet. Perhaps someday when our wandering days are gone, we might reconsider.

But as for now, we are just left with memories, and marvel at how God is able to pack so much life, so much fidelity, so much intensity, so total a commitment, so strong a sense of “home,” into such a small 14-pound body.

Au revoir, Bailey—until we see you again!

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Who Can You Trust Today?




May 24, 2017

This is no idle question. In this week’s news is a recent study having to do with American citizenry’s search for truth: Conclusion being there is no longer any one source the majority of Americans trust as offering objective truth they can bank on. Can believe.

I have found this to be an accurate summation in terms of my own search for truth. Time and New York Times are center-left; Newsweek (sadly no more) and Wall Street Journal are center-right; on television, MSNBC is extreme left; CNN is center-left; and Fox is extreme right. If I determine to track down truth, I’m forced to consult all of them—which I do. But since the average person is not a historian of ideas, taking time only to consider one or two sources, truth will be out of reach for him/her.

Politicians have long been known for speaking out of both sides of their mouths at once—but never to the extent that we are experiencing today!

This disastrous-for-democracy reality has been a long time coming. For several generations now, print has been an endangered species. Once great libraries dumping primary sources (think books and magazines) in favor of digitizing everything; encyclopedias, dictionaries, and thesauruses also being digitized; even paper maps becoming passé; home libraries—what are they?

Dystopian writers and thought-leaders have long feared dictators who would (a la 1984, Brave New World, or Fahrenheit 451) destroy democracies by getting rid of all printed records. Once that is accomplished, the people cannot disprove the dictator’s version of the truth. But it isn’t just malevolence we’ll need to fear. For instance, just during the last week, hundreds of millions of people across the globe have been hacked into, held hostage, and forced to pay up in order to ransom their computerized records. So now, what-if?

What if the next global catastrophe has to do with the destruction of the grid? For some time now, governmental leaders have feared such a thing—but not enough to take serious steps to prevent it. Thus it remains today more of a “when” rather than an “if.” It is said by those in the know that it might take generations to recover from such a cataclysm.

Let’s take the U.S. for instance. With clerks unable to add, subtract, multiply, or divide without electronic calculators (today’s reality for millions), how could businesses function? Just imagine life without refrigeration or air-conditioning, lights at night, heating during winters, gas pumps when traveling, stop lights on streets, air-flights, ability to fix mechanical things—oh one could go on and on.

But more to our point, we have now reached the place where Siri has the answer to everything. Consequently, why have a paper back-up to anything? No longer any need for libraries or printed records of anything. Result: When that grid goes out, with it would go civilization and life as we know it. We’d be back to the frontier, with no one to protect you or your family.

* * * * *

So, before it’s too late, let’s rethink our race to computerize all knowledge and destroy all printed records, books, magazines, newspapers, etc. Let’s each, as a committee of one, begin building our own family libraries, subscribing to our own magazines and newspapers, and purchasing our own books. By so doing, each of us would be able to find truth on our own, and thereby help preserve our fragile democracy so that our descendants may have lives worth living.