I love books with a personal connection. Here is my latest favorite.
The Boys in the Boat is a book of epic proportions. It not only tells of the real life struggle of the poor boys that trained for the Olympic crew, but it itself was a work of huge effort.
I have some connections with some of the characters in the story, in that I lived in my Dad’s house in Sequim in the late 1970’s and knew about the irrigation channel from the Dungeness River.
This little ditch ran besides my Dad’s property, under the road and out to open pasture.
One of the characters’ family in this book tapped into this water illegally to water his farmland.
In 1935 or 1936 this was not as much of an infraction as it would be today with the struggle over water rights.
The hero of the story is buried there in Sequim, and if ever I get to visit, I will drop by to pay my respects.
These young men who wanted to crew for Washington State had to scrounge around for their very existence.
The main character went foraging in the woods for mushrooms to eat, tried his hand at poaching salmon, and did just about any job that paid and was available.
I was raised on Depression rules, and they had a much harder time than our family or even my parents who lived in the same era.
I think that the thing that impressed me the most was the sheer mountain of material that the author had to wade through to bring us this exciting saga. Pages of footnotes and citations in the back of the book show that this was an important and watershed event for the American public.
Since it was to show our superiority in the Berlin Games, even though Germany held the most gold medals, it was the sheer guts of overcoming so many obstacles in the path that moved me.
Imagine in a foot race, where you don’t hear the starting gun, you are running in the far outside lane through mud, and you are running a fever. That is similar to the conditions that the Americans found themselves in through the machinations of the Nazis, who wanted to dominate every high profile game and show their superiority.
I wonder how the German rowing team fared after losing the Gold Medal by 6/10th of a second.
Hitler and Goebbels were understandably irritated, but could not change history right then.