SEEING THE ELEPHANT
The 1920 Frank Reaugh Sketch Trip to the Grand Canyon
By Virginia Howard
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In 1920, my mother and my aunt, who were just thirteen and fourteen years old, went on an all-summer odyssey with a group of artists, led by their art teacher, renowned Texas artist Frank Reaugh, traveling in a vehicle called the “Cicada,” from Dallas, Texas, to the Grand Canyon, which had been designated a National Park in November 1919. My aunt’s lively diary of the trip is the basis for my account, which has been expanded into a longer narrative. The title Seeing the Elephant was chosen because the travelers’ experiences fit the old story of “seeing the elephant.” They had car engine problems, had flat tires, got stuck in mud, ran out of money, and were visited by tarantulas—but none of it mattered because of the thrilling wonders of the trip, the breathtaking scenery and the opportunity to try to capture it on paper. Toward the end of my writing process on this manuscript, I reflected on the two-month odyssey of the Cicada in 1920 and realized that it was a metaphor for life itself—the joys, challenges, sorrows, and people met along the journey—embraced by an overriding beauty. The story is told in first person, from my aunt’s point of view.
Virginia Howard has a BA and an MA in English from the University of Alabama. For many years she worked as a medical editor in the Office of Publications at Louisiana State University School of Medicine. She now works part-time from her home office for the LSU Medical Alumni Association in New Orleans, where she designs and edits the alumni magazine (LSU Medicinews) for publication and also does computer graphics, including holiday greeting cards. She is founder and editor of THEMA literary journal, now in its 32nd year of publication, and is a member of the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators. She has illustrated one picture book, Timothy Hubble and the King Cake Party, by Anita Prieto, and written another, The Wind Plays Tricks, illustrated by Charlene Chua. Under the pseudonym H. O. Ward, she and her sister-in-law co-authored two murder mysteries, Death by Unches and Death by the Reel. She also has published short stories as well as essays in various books and magazines.
6 x 9