The Joaquin Miller Conference at Shasta College in Redding, California. Who is Joaquin Miller? This from the conference web page:

"Poet of the Sierras", the founder of California's Arbor Day, prose stylist extraordinaire, horse thief, judge, Pony Express rider, newspaper editor, critic, gold miner, successful playwright, champion of Native American rights, Indian fighter, rogue and hero.

Why am I attending this conference? Because the people putting it on found out my brother and I wrote a radio play quite a few years ago that is based on a novel by Joaquin Miller.

I dug out the script and the reel to reel tapes of the radio play and son Simon transferred it onto a CD. I've been tweaking the CD, so I can take it there and play sections from the CD and also read portions of the script and ad lib the transitions between the scenes.

By Marc Beauchamp, Record Searchlight
June 1, 2005

A two-day conference on the life and literary legacy of poet and adventurer Joaquin Miller, who spent his formative years prospecting for gold and living among American Indians of the north state, will be Oct. 14-15 at Shasta College.

The free event, underwritten by the Redding Rancheria, will feature panels, poetry readings, academic papers and dramatizations of the work of the writer known as "the poet of the Sierras."

Speakers will include Pit River Indian author Darryl "Babe" Wilson, historian Margaret Guilford-Kardell and writer Ken Babbs, a longtime friend and collaborator of Ken Kesey, author of "One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest." Babbs was one of the fabled Merry Pranksters on Kesey's psychedelic bus and in the late '70s wrote a radio dramatization of Miller's life.

Miller is perhaps best known for his poem "Columbus." With its famous refrain "Sail on! sail on! and on!," it was a staple of grade school English texts.

Born Cincinnatus Hiner Miller, he adopted the name Joaquin after the legendary California bandit Joaquin Murietta.

As a youth, Miller left his Quaker parents in Oregon and came to the north state, where he mined for gold and was briefly jailed in Shasta for stealing a horse.

Wounded in the Battle of Castle Crags between settlers and Indians, Miller claimed to have been taken to an Indian camp and nursed back to health by an elderly Indian woman.

He later married the daughter of a Wintu chief and fathered a daughter they named Calle Shasta.

He wrote of these and other adventures in his second book, "Life Among the Modocs," published in 1973.

"Salinas has (John) Steinbeck. We have Joaquin Miller," said amateur historian Jay Thompson of Redding, a conference organizer along with Dottie Smith, Shasta College Museum curator.

Miller's poetry initially was panned by American critics, but he found fame in Europe, where he paraded about in Buffalo Bill-style regalia and read his poems in London drawing rooms while standing on a bearskin rug.

He spent his later years -- he died in 1913 -- on a 75-acre spread in the Oakland Hills known as the Hights, which attracted literary figures of the day such as Ambrose Bierce.

Thompson hopes the event will attract Miller fans from around the West.

"As a Western literary figure, he's up there with Mark Twain, Jack London and Bret Harte," said Thompson.

On a wall in the office of his downtown clothing store, Thompson has a favorite Joaquin Miller poem. It reads:

"In men whom men pronounce divine/

I see so much of sin and blot/

In men who men denounce as ill/

I see so much of goodness still/

I hesitate to draw the line between the two/

When God has not."

Reporter Marc Beauchamp can be reached at 225-8221 or at

To read more about the conference and who is attending and the schedule of events go to:



Mitten zee Unwritten History CD in one hand and a bundle of scripts in the other, the ol' Capn hies out at an early hour, heading over the pass down to the head of the Sacramento Valley for the conference at Shasta College.


the Report

The Joaquin Miller Conference at Shasta College in Redding, California over the weekend was a rip roaring water success with scholars and students and aficianadoes from all over come to revel in the exploits and works of the famous poet of the Sierras, no not John Muir, you duncee, Joaquin hisself. Then there was me, or I, or the eyes had it, checking out a skypilot/prankster pop sorta character with artistic and literary pretensions come to lay a so-called radio play on the audience. Turned out to be okay. I was nervous as a virgin at a harlot's house party but overcame my shyness and quit stuttering and stammering and shuffling my papers long enough to wow 'em with clear diction and two syllable words, qualifying myself for the speakers okay and an 8.2 rating from the judges at the rear.

Mt. Shasta

Wanting to avoid the trucks passing trucks on the long winding hills of I-5 between Oregon and Clifornia I decided to go over the Willamette Pass and down hwy 97, a straight shot to Weed, California, but I didn't know about the construction that held me up for half hour stretches and then the left front tire that was pulling and then wobbling didn't help my mental state either until I spotted the Les Schwab Tire Store in Weed and forked out fifty bucks for a new tire, got on I-5 and drove straight and true and fast to Redding to get there at seven PM right on the dot for the opening of the conference only to find I didn't have the map or directions to either Shasta College or my motel and if it werern't for the unerring solar guidance system hardwird into every skypilot soul I would have missed the turnoff I took in desperation and never have seen the motel sitting there beckoning with red neon, my home away from home, and here I would find out how to get to the conference were it not for the hostess without the mostest telling me my room wasn't paid for as per my instructions so what the hell I'd straighten it out at the conference itself, can you give me directions to the place?

She sent me to a gambling casino, saying the conference was upstairs in the banquet room. I parked in the motorcycle slot since every space was full in three enormous lots, walked through bell clanging whistle blowing cigarette smoking machine clanging hell to the stairs and went up to the banquet room where people were crowded drinking and talking and a man asked me what team I played on and I said, basketball and we went to two NCAA tournaments and he said, where was that, and I said, Miami University in Ohio and he said, what are you doing here, this is the Shasta College Hall of Fame gathering and I said, my mistake, I thought it was the hall of shame for my face is as read as, well you talk about crimson . . .

Got directions to Shasta College and found the real conference and got the room business straightened out with an official stamped and certified and notarized piece of paper authenticating my room at the motel so off I went, tired and exhilerated, looking forward to a good night's sleep and what's this, a luggage cart for all my stuff and I packed it full and trundled it to the elevator and up to the third floor, took it into my room, whew, hot in here, stripped down to my boxers, unloaded the cart, pushed it out the door and wham the door hit me in the ass and slammed shut and I was locked out. Ah, what the hell, boxers are like shorts are like bathing suits, I pushed the cart down the hall to the elevator figuring I'd go to the lobby and get another key but there by the elevator was a phone so I called down and they said they'd send someone up with a key. I left the cart by the evevator and went back to my room and stood by my door and a young lady came ankling along swinging a key in her hand. "Got locked out, did you?" Well my face was a red as, you talk about crimson . . .

Once inside I took a shower to cool off, opened the sliding windown three inches before it hit a metal bar, can't have anyone jumping out the three stories now can we, whew, this is as long as three stories. What's that roar? I thought we were on the Sacramento River not the ocean. Oh I see, the freeway. Never shuts down. Pillow under the head. Pillow over the head, sweet sleep where'st thou?



I was up at dawn and outside in the wet morning, rain having broken the long hot dry spell in Northern California. I decided to go down to the Sacramento River and dip my toe in the water and see if a salmon would nibble, but after a sliding scrabble down the hill behind the motel I discovered all of the riverbank was occupied by houses and lawns and I dasn't stroll across someone's yard lest they think an interloper was treading on their privates; little did they know it was an Oregonian!

I settled for a constitutional on the roads and walkways and, after cofee and pastries and showers and shaves and lamenting I didn't bring my laptop for there was an ethernet connection in the motel room and I could have been writing this three days ago when I was fresh but enough of the lamenting, I had to get over to the college and partake of the knowledge.

reading a Joaquin Miller poem

I was a fish outta water, a duck outta his element, a lumbering jack braying amongst the thoroughbreds. These people were scholars. Joaquin Miller was their life's work. Well, maybe not totally, but as historians they knew how to mine their claims and they were more than happy to share the wealth. Understandably, I was a bit nervous, having just learned more about Joaquin Miller in a few hours than I knew in 70 years. What I had to offer was not more information never before discovered, but a piece of entertainment, a nice respite for the participants before they got back to the serious stuff.

I guess I was a bit harsh on myself, for my reading from the script along with sections of the CD played over the sound system went over real well and all those people with their eyes closed weren't sleeping (well, maybe a couple), they were digging the tale, envisioning the haps from behind their eyelids.

Aferwards I went out in the hall and set my scripts and CDs on the table and had a good time talking to everyone and enjoying the lunch that was provided. We broke up at four thirty and I tooled around Redding looking for the fabled riverbank where I could dangle my toes and finally, following the flow downstream, found a spot on a side road where I could pull off and hike a ways to a rocky embankment, watch the sun set on the other side and long for a canoe to ride downstream, all the way to the ocean, past Sacremento, into the San Francisco Bay and under the Golden Gate Bridge.

I settled instead for a great Thai hot rice dinner alongside a Laos market where I bought some green tea and dry noodles to take home for one must always bring a gift when returning from a trip.

l to r: Jay Thompson, Jim Copeland, Ken Babbs, Rex Thompson, Scott Thompson, the Thompson Gang, local bandidos.

That evening we had a farewell get-together in the same room where I attempted to crash the Hall of Fame gathering, only this time I was definitely a member of the team.

Mt. Shasta and Castle Crags, Joaquin Miller hangouts

Adios and goodnight to all and early to bed for an early getup and getout and hit the road home, I-5 all the way with a rest stop in Canyonville where I had sandwiches on a gravel bank next to the North Umpqua River, stuck my toes in the water, and watched a salmon come fighting through the rapids and splash into the deep water and continue its way home.

-- Capn Skyp