Thursday, July 21, 2011

The Man Cave: Write It Down, Bro

For most people the word "diary" conjures up images of powder-pink, locket-bound notebooks, preciously guarded from the prying eyes of obnoxious little brothers by precocious teenage girls. Inside are myriad secrets - secret crushes, catty quibbles, personal revelations - important to no one but the author. I call BS. Diaries rock, and they aren't just for girls. Some of my manliest ancestors kept diaries in some form or another, and their stories live on today because of it....check it out:

It has been said that the shortest pencil remembers longer than the longest memory. It's amazing how quickly your time on this earth is forgotten once you are gone. Most people can't name their ancestry even four generations back, let alone recite personal stories and details....and that's a shame. Write stuff down. Without a diary I wouldn't know a thing about my Great Great Grandpa Little John Tolman, who was a real-life, rootin' tootin' cowboy. (He's the guy in the picture above.) He was one of the first to settle in Star Valley, Wyoming, and rode in a posse to chase down Butch Cassidy. He also once got into a gunfight while playing poker. Check out this passage, as written by his daughter:

"Playing Stud Poker with Jack Merrill and Jim Splawn, Dad had been winning consistently all evening and was doing OK, about 2 thousand dollars ahead of the game..... Merrill pulled a gun on Dad and told him if he didn't stay until he, Jack, won back all the money he had lost he would shoot Dad..... When Uncle Frank came in the door Merrell looked up to see who had came in and Dad took advantage of that and vaulted over the card table and hit Merrell in the neck just below the ear and knocked him out, in fact he was out for about 8 hrs"

I don't care who you are...that is freakin' awesome! I also wouldn't know about my Grandpa Paul's time in the South Pacific during World War II. This is the plane he flew:

Keeping a diary isn't as tedious as it may just have to think about it differently. Rule number one: don't write day-by-day entries. Approaching it that way is a guaranteed recipe for failure. I mean, let's face it - taken individually, most people's days are pretty boring. In addition, you will almost certainly run up against what I like to call the Law of Diminishing Ambition. The trajectory will go something like this: faithful entries for a week or two, sporadic entries for another month, and then years of silence.

Instead of simply logging days, tell stories. That's what most readers want from a journal anyway. Each time you write, pick an interesting topic and describe your experiences with it. The benefits of this technique are twofold: 1) your life will sound way more interesting that it really is, and 2) if your journal goes neglected for a year between entries no one will be the wiser! My journal includes such topics as: the first time a saw a dead person, my mysterious encounter with a mustache-shaped UFO, and the time I was targeted by the Secret Service as a threat to Vice President Al Gore. want to read it already, don't you?


  1. Little John Tolman was my great grandpa, My grandpa was Mondell
    Tolman.My mothers name is Melva Dawn Tolman. Daughter of Mondell &
    Bertha. All of Mondells Children are still alive. The majority of them living in oregon. We went to star valley once to see the beauty and have a family reunion. I and my sister have some family history that we collected so if your interested e-mail me & leave your address & I will send it to you. Tami

  2. Tami...AWESOME!! This is what the idea of "family strong" is all about! I believe Mondell Tolman is my great grandpa, but I don't remember a Melva, so that must be where our lines diverge. I would have to go look at my genealogy sheet to be sure.

    I would love to see what history you have...I'll email you later today!