Robert Chase Harris
Step back in time with Bob.
Divorce divided his life at the age of five, & he was thrust into two worlds. An incorrigible entrepreneur, school months were in big city, California, where he & his brother were boarded out or lived with their Mom, constantly moving from place to place. Bob often stayed with his Grandma, who was the only constant in that world.
Summers became an escape to Bob's idea of heaven. He was welcomed into the lives of Aunt Mable & her significant other, "Uncle" Henry, a Tolowa Indian descendant in the inaccessible wilderness area of Del Norte County, CA.
At the end of each school year, from seven to seventeen, Bob walked in eight miles on a trail along the South Fork of the Smith River to a place in the mountains called Big Flat. Roaming free, taught the ways of the Indians, he fished & hunted, traversed streams & river, & followed deer trails up & down the mountains, one with nature.
At Big Flat everything was done by the sun. As Bob was night-blind this suited him perfectly.
Close to the extinct gold town of Hurdy Gurdy, Bob was the only child among those there -- sixteen people; native Tolowa Indians, homesteading pioneers, & miners. They were a true microcosm of America, working & living close together, instilling basic values in a young boy that still hold true.
During WW2 in 1942, when Bob turned 17 his Dad signed for him to enter the Navy. By a miracle he survived. At 27, with already compromised sight, the shock of divorce, with the loss of his two children, his home, & his job, brought on complete frontal vision blindness. One day he could see. The next day he couldn't. Desperate depression followed. Alone, his Grandmother loved him back to believing in himself again.
Some months later, he walked into an Arthur Murray dance studio when he heard music & was encouraged to learn to teach. It wasn't easy, but Bob was never short on determination. Some years later Bob was personally hired as Arthur Murray's International Dance Director.
At the age of 27, when he lost all his frontal vision from what doctors said was severe "macular degeneration", it was discovered Bob also had "retinitis pigmentosis". He was told it was very unusual to have both diseases, & that he would also lose all his peripheral vision. By 50, he was almost completely blind. This forced him to resign from his job with Arthur Murray, where he now had his own studio.
One of Bob's favorite expressions is: "There's nothing wrong with my eyes. I just don't look good." Hunting wasn't safe, but gold mining, fishing, gardening, and dancing were all still do-able. Plus he was and still is, an amazing chef, a product of his Grandma's love. He continued to pass on his passion for ballroom dance, teaching hundreds on a volunteer basis in the ensuing years.
Bob began writing at the age of 78. Surviving a stroke at 83, he decided his "stories" were too important to not preserve for posterity.
Bob and I, (his wife) believe you will think so too.
Where to find Robert Chase Harris online
The Red Flyer
by Robert Chase Harris
Memoir of a boy, his dog, a red Flyer wagon, & a shotgun. A short story of a young boy in the late 1920s who sneaks out with his dog to go hunting. A taste of Bob's style & a glimpse into who he is. Entertaining for young and old.
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