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Tractors, Trains & Shipwrecks – Yesteryear Recollections of Sonoma County


Book Review:
Tractors, Trains & Shipwrecks – 
Yesteryear Recollections of Sonoma County

by Jeane Sloan

When I was recently given the opportunity to preview this forthcoming title (in stores locally mid-August), I was immediately intrigued – especially given Gaye LeBaron’s reference to these stories being “Tom Sawyer like” (her quote appears on the book’s back jacket) along with the book being described as “a unique keepsake from one of Sonoma County’s founding ranching families.”

Penned by the late Donald R. Richardson who lived his entire life here, he distinguished himself as a rancher, early environmentalist, and a man devoted to community service, having been Sonoma County Supervisor as well as president of the Farm Bureau, Wool Gatherer’s Assoc. as well as active in numerous other organizations both locally as well as statewide. 

But it’s these stories of his which will surely appeal to anyone who enjoys firsthand tales from a bygone era as life was decidedly different in the 1920s & 30s and the bulk of these are drawn from Mr. Richardson’s own experiences growing up in Stewarts Point, his grandfather having originally arrived in the area there in 1876. In addition to being entertaining, we’re also reminded that life was hard  “back in the day” – including the often-arduous efforts required to simply get the necessities of life from Point A to Point B; so there are many shipping-related incidents which stemmed from the need to transport items to/from San Francisco via ocean transport for example. So amidst the storytelling, there’s an underlying history lesson of sorts woven in amongst the pages too.

Along with being surprised by the mention of his dad’s interaction with a famous individual (I won’t spoil it for you!), collectively these anecdotes are truly one for the fellas as the title was well chosen given their masculine bent. Old black and white photos are sprinkled throughout the stories and add to the reader’s experience as does part two of the book which contains Mr. Richardson’s handwritten originals – to me, there’s always something so touching about seeing someone’s handwriting, so that’s a delightful bonus. The Introduction by his daughter, Donna Richardson Robbins (of Gualala), is sweetly written and also helps the reader better understand the nature of the book and how it came to fruition – obviously, a labor of love on her part and surely a tribute to her well-accomplished dad whom we get to know as the stories travel from the beginning of his life through to the end.

Overall, Tractors, Trains & Shipwrecks is an ideal gift for the next birthday or other occasion coming up for your hubby, brother, uncle, or golf buddy who has interests along those lines and does indeed provide a unique backward glimpse into another time right here in our coastal backyard -- so it’s also recommended for anyone who enjoys local history as they too will spend some enjoyable hours with the book as well…which is why it garnered Gaye’s impressive thumbs-up. 

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NOTE:   I’ll be distributing this book via my Local Author’s Program – for a list of retail locations please visit or in the Gazette: Buy Local Authors’ Books Here!