Commentary on "Footprints on Water"
This little story "Footprints on Water," like many other fictional works, is based on a personal experience. In this case, the narrator is LeGrande Roundy Allen as a young boy. LeGrande is my uncle, my father's brother. The news article adds the facts left unsaid. Two short news reports documented the incident. Here the reports were consolidated and a few words were changed to be consistent with the literary style of the story. (The event actually occurred in the morning.)
This is not a story about a historically significant event. It is merely a story, rich in the images of a region, about ordinary people trying to live real lives, yet having to deal with death. It is a story to be read twice, perhaps three times, to absorb its spirit and to feel its rhythm: first, for the story and its impact; second, for its vivid description of a place and time not far away; third, for its symbols which transcend culture and place, of conflict between the old and the new, rural and machine, life and death, and the central meaning of eternal family in the life of a young person with faith in Eternal Life.
I enjoyed deep discussions on the various levels of symbolism with environmentalists, English professors and Asian mystics. One reader said it reminded him of the writings of Thomas Wolfe, another reader of the works of Wallace Stegner. I aspire to be neither. An editor friend and a literary agent friend have encouraged me to explore this genre and capture these stories. This story, as told by my uncle, happened to have been videotaped quite by chance at the site of the telling, the setting of the tale. My uncle suffered a stroke the summer before I wrote it, which gave me the impetus to retell his story.
Stories are a way to pass on values. This story is a part of a tapestry of stories yet to be woven from journals, records and family traditions. The whole cloth will be held together by a backbone theme like the mountains forming the spine of the valleys of the Great Basin: Each pioneer, colonist, farmer, craftsman, Mormon convert, mother and child who tamed and populated this brutal region did so with an evangelical spirit. The people themselves were their own spiritual and temporal leaders. They viewed themselves as being the literal gathering the Elect of Israel into the Promised Land, a land that no one else wanted-for good reason. They were building the Kingdom of God on Earth and preparing the world for the Millenium. As the offspring of the only antebellum utopian movement to survive the Nineteen Century, their abiding faith was steeled by the refiner's fire of persecution and physical hardship. Faith permeates this land and its traditions. Yet today many of the youth and modern immigrants to this newly-discovered land of refuge do not know or appreciate the trials or the motivation that drove these ordinary people to stay and to succeed. In the face of the dilution and diaspora of the Great Basin Kingdon, there is a need to share the stories of the ordinary people, to consider how events affected lives, and to ponder implications for the rest of us.
March 28, 2000