Who I Am… A Brief Bio for the Book

Peace Corps recruitment poster from 1967.

An early poster I used as a Peace Corps Recruiter after I returned from West Africa.

Since I am still receiving input on the title of the book about my Africa Peace Corps experience, I decided to put together a brief bio for the end of the book. Following recommendations from the book industry, the bio is written in the third person. It will be shortened somewhat.

Curt was raised in the small foothill town of Diamond Springs, California. He grew up wandering through the woods and communing with nature. It was a great life. But he also learned a lot about transparency. Everybody knew everything about everybody else, which was more than he wanted to know. So he escaped the confines of his small universe in the mid-60s and headed off to UC Berkeley where he learned that integration was good, war was bad, and that young people who held such views should be bashed on the head and thrown in jail.

He was waiting for his turn with the Oakland police while sitting on the floor of the UC administration building and singing protest songs with Joan Baez when he had an epiphany: he should make America a better place and leave the country; he would join the Peace Corps. Eight months later he was chopping off the head of a chicken in the Sierra Nevada Mountains of California as part of his training to teach African history to high school students in Liberia, West Africa.

Berkeley and the Peace Corps ruined Curt for living the American Dream. He decided that obtaining an 8-5 job, moving to the suburbs, buying a big house, and driving a fancy car were not for him. “If you would only make babies, become a good Christian boy, and take up photography,” his father had grumbled.  Instead, Curt became an environmentalist and a health advocate, happily making war on polluters and the tobacco industry.

Wanting to get back to nature, he created the American Lung Association’s long distance backpack and bike trek program. The Lung Association needed a new fundraiser; Curt needed an excuse to play in the woods. He added wilderness guide to his ever-growing resume and spent two decades leading wilderness adventures.

Every three to five years Curt quits whatever he is doing and goes on an extended break. Travelling through the South Pacific and Asia, backpacking throughout the western United States, and going on a six-month, 10,000-mile, solo bicycle trip around North America are among the highlights. This lifestyle came to a temporary halt when he climbed off his bike in Sacramento, met the lovely Peggy, and decided to get married– in about one minute. It took a while longer to persuade Peggy and her two teenage kids.

Today Curt and Peggy live on five wooded acres in Southern Oregon where he pursues yet another career, this time in writing. Visit him at his blog wandering-through-time-and-place.me. He’d love to hear from you. Or you can Email him at cvmekemson@gmail.com.

Born in Ashland, Oregon, I moved with my parents, sister Nancy, and brother Marshall to the Bay Area. I'm the little one.

Born in Ashland, Oregon, I moved with my parents, sister Nancy, and brother Marshall to the Bay Area. I’m the little one.

Photo of Curt Mekemson as a child with pets.

I grew up wandering in the woods of the Sierra Nevada foothills of California, usually with an assortment of pets. There may be a rabbit between the dogs.

Free Speech Movement protest at UC Berkeley in 1964.

A protest at UC Berkeley in 1964 when police occupied campus. I am in the middle of the photo looking up at the camera.

My first house in Liberia when I was teaching second graders. Later I would teach high school students and move to another house.

My first house in Liberia when I was teaching second graders. Later I would teach high school students and move to another house.

A photo of my dad.

A photo of my dad in his 80s– a good man who read the bible daily, wanted grandkids, and loved to take photographs.

 In 1996, I put together an effort to increase California's tobacco tax, which would eventually lead to one of the most extensive privation campaigns in history. Today it is estimated that the effort has saved over one million lives and one hundred billion dollars in health care costs.

My focus on health and environmental issues took me from California to Alaska and back. In 1996, I put together an effort to increase California’s tobacco tax, which eventually led to one of the most extensive prevention campaigns in history. Today it is estimated that the effort has saved over one million lives and one hundred billion dollars in health care costs.

Wanting to spend more time in the woods, I set up the American Lung Association's Trek Program. The photo is of me leading a group in the Sierra Nevada Mountains of California.

Wanting to spend more time in the woods, I created the American Lung Association’s Trek Program. The photo on the front of ALA’s National Bulletin is of me leading a group in the Sierras of California.

Ever wonder what it takes to bicycle 10,000 miles? One of my friends has suggested strong legs and a weak mind. I was half way through my trip bicycling up a very steep hill in Nova Scotia when this photo was taken.

Ever wonder what it takes to bicycle 10,000 miles? One of my friends has suggested strong legs and a weak mind. I was half way through my trip and bicycling up a very steep hill in Nova Scotia when this photo was taken.

It took me two years to persuade Peggy to put on a wedding dress.

It took me two years to persuade Peggy to put on a wedding dress.

The view from our sunroom, which is one of my writing locations.

The view from our sunroom in Southern Oregon, which is one of my writing locations.

 

 

32 comments on “Who I Am… A Brief Bio for the Book

  1. Great bio. So interesting to learn these things about you! What a well-lived life so far. Looking forward to seeing what you do next. The rest of us can live vicariously through you. 🙂

  2. Wonderful photos, and great captions. The only thing about the bio… Who are these experts? It doesn’t sound like you at all, and heaven knows your personality is as important to your tale as anything else.

    Let me take a deep breath here, and be honest about my response. The experiences you cite in the bio are interesting. But the third person tone doesn’t fit, in my opinion. I don’t know quite how I’d do it, but I think I’d do it more as a first person story, with any relevant details included.

    It’s sort of like… if I went third person, I’d keep it more a “just the facts, ma’am” sort of deal. You know. Graduation 1854. Married 1927. Degreed from School of Hard Knocks. That sort of thing. But the Oakland PD, Baez and such — that’s different.

    What do I know? Nothing, when it comes to publishing. But now you have my opinion. 😉

    • ThanksLinda, I always appreciate your insights. Interesting on first person vs third person. Just the facts establish credentials but not personality. And personality, it seems to me, is what pulls people in. I had originally written it in the first person. Maybe I’ll revisit it. Another approach, is to stick to the Peace Corps part of the bio. I am still thinking… –Curt

    • Thanks Cindy. I’ve always believed that memories are much more important than things… and that each day deserves a new challenge, a new adventure. Writing is simply another adventure. Who knows how it will turn out? But I’m having fun. 🙂 Curt

      • I am sure you have some idea where you want to go but for my money, the best backpacking trip in the Red Buttes would be the trip from the Forest Glen area to Figurehead Mountain and then drop down to Azalea Lake. The hike to Lily Pad Lake is nice but fairly short for an overnighter. The high route to Azalea has fantastic views and lots of rugged peaks and a decent length for night out in the mountains. Just my 2 cents.

  3. Such an interesting history you have.. I’m no editor but have worked in publishing a bit and do know the bio should offer just a glimpse into the author.. Save the good details for the inside pages. I support you no matter how or what you include!
    It’s going to be a great read!
    Lynne

    • Right you are. I normally let it all out and then cut, cut, cut. As I mentioned on another comment,I feel there in more flexibility in a digital book. Thanks for your comment.–Curt

  4. What a cool insight into you Curt! I had a sense of many of your endeavors, but this bio does a great job of filling in the gaps. What a fascinating life you are living – I definitely see why Peggy said “Yes” … eventually! 🙂 ~Terri

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