Monday, January 17, 2011

Michael Landon Died Today

Monday July 1, 1991

Michael Landon died of cancer today. He was 54. He had it in his liver and pancreas. I feel terrible. Michael's cancer was announced 6 days before I knew I had cancer. I felt that day a bond with him. I somehow knew then I had it too.

We arose at 6 at Donna's to leave early to meet Gary and Maria at Don Pedro Lake at 11:30. We took Justin to Carl's Jr. for breakfast. The 2-1/2 hour drive took us through old gold rush towns on Highway 49. The day is beautiful.

It is hot at the lake. Probably 95-100 degrees. The water is very warm. Gary makes 3 trips in the boat to get Rosa, Brian, Joe and Jr. over. It's a hot job setting up camp. I help some, but I'm not supposed to be in the sun says Dr. Bix. We spend most of the day in the water.

We skiied late and ate in the dark. The water was good all day.

Keep in mind this is the first time I have read Mom's journal. It is 20 years later. It gives me chills when she says she knew she had cancer before she was diagnosed. I too remember the day that Michael Landon died, but not that he was so young. 54 is so very young, especially now that I am almost 58. As Mom is writing this entry in her journal she was 57. I was always a big fan of Little House on the Prairie, both when it was originally aired from 1974-1984 and later in reruns. It was filmed at Big Sky Ranch in Simi Valley just a few miles from where mom lived.

Lake Don Pedro was a family tradition for over 30 years, starting when I was about 10 years old. It is located 20 miles east of Modesto, California and is one of the few lakes in California that allows camping anywhere on the shore. Every Memorial Day weekend, July 4 weekend, and Labor Day weekend, large groups of family and friends met at the launch ramp at 6 am with all our camping gear. We usually had several boats, and it took 3-4 trips to get all our gear and friends to the campsite, which mom always picked out. It varied almost every time because the lake level would fluctuate, but once she picked out a nice flat area with a good beach (and hopefully some trees if the lake was full) the camp set-up would begin. We had a dining screen tent with folding tables, boxes of food and dishes, and the Coleman propane cooking stove. We usually ate inside the screen tent so as to avoid the flies and bees landing on our food. Each family had a sleeping tent as well, and we all shared a communal potty tent. It was often over 100 degrees so we would spend our day in the shade of an awning or sometimes just set up our beach chairs in the water to stay cool. The boats would take out the first skiers around 7 am every morning while the water was glassy calm, and by 9 am after everyone had a turn, we came back for breakfast. Later in the day the wind would come up and more boats would arrive so we would just visit on shore, go swimming, or take a boat ride up the river. In the evening, everyone got to ski again when the wind died down and the water became calm again. Often we would ski until it was dark. This family tradition continued after my brother Gary and I were grown and had our own children to bring along. His boys Junior and Joe were 10 and 12 in 1991, and my son Justin was 10. They have great memories of playing in the water and skiing or tubing behind the boat. On this trip my sister-in-law Maria brought her sister Rosa and Rosa's son Brian.


  1. Hey Chris...I love your blog....I remember when you took me to Lake Havasu and had my first and last water skiing lesson....LOL....It has always been a highlight in my childhood memorybook...I love the pics of you and your Mom too....She was a beautiful Lady, inside and out! We had some great time together as kids...I'm glad we are still able to keep in touch.....

  2. I do remember going to Lake Havasu over Easter break with you and the Van Nuys Baptist youth group. My parents came and brought their boat and my dad spent the entire day teaching the kids to ski in the hot sun. Yes, we did have a great childhood, much different than the one my kids have. Times are so much different today. Gee, do I sound old! Congratulations on your first grandbaby, by the way.