Pull up a campfire, this ranger can tell a story: Book recalls pioneers and bygone days | TahoeDailyTribune.com

Pull up a campfire, this ranger can tell a story: Book recalls pioneers and bygone days

Gregory Crofton
Dan Thrift / Tahoe Daily Tribune file / Ranger, radio host and now author Don Lane looks over the area during the Showers fire in August 2002.

Of all the stories he knows about Lake Tahoe, the one that tugs most at Don Lane involves a girl named Eliza, a survivor of the Donner Party.

Snowed in at the foot of a summit northwest of Lake Tahoe in 1847, Eliza’s mother, Tamsen Donner, stayed to die with her starving husband while she sent 4-year-old Eliza and her other children off with a rescue party.

In his book, “Tahoe Tales of Bygone Days and Memorable Pioneers,” Lane, a U.S. Forest Service recreation supervisor at Tahoe, recounted how Tamsen said goodbye to her children. The book was published at the end of last year. It is a compilation of Lane’s radio broadcasts.

“Slowly rescue parties were beginning to arrive, and Tamsen made certain her children would be cared for, arranging to have them taken to safety. First lovingly combing their hair, and then dressing them in their finest clothes. Eliza in her quilted petticoat, woolen stocking and woolen coat with its red hood.”

Lane concludes the story by returning to Eliza’s life as she rides a train through the area where her parents died.

“Years later, little Eliza, now grown up with children of her own, was to ride the Central Pacific as it traveled so effortlessly past Donner Lake. She had a window seat, and as the train passed the lake she stared intensely at it. Lost in thoughts and memories of her mother and father.”

Lane has spoken those words and thousands of others for broadcasts on KTHO in the mid-1980s and today on KOWL, 1490 AM, at 6 a.m., 7 a.m. and 4 p.m. The book is 200 short stories selected by Lane from more than 2,000 radio broadcasts he has voluntarily researched and written over the years.

“I’m the old ranger around the campfire, but instead of being by a campfire I’m at a radio station,” Lane said. “There is so much wonderful stuff here, and I don’t want to see it lost.”

Lane has lived in a Forest Service cabin on South Shore at Nevada Beach for more than 30 years. He said it cost him several thousand dollars to self-publish the book. His goal is not to make money, but to salvage all the historical work he has done and share it with the public.

“Don calls them tales but they’re not tales, they’re true stories,” said David Alan, news director at KOWL. “You always learn something from his stuff.”

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