Welcome to the Chubby Chatterbox Newsletter, where I’ll be posting favorites from the Chubby Chatterbox archives. In addition, my complete thriller Return of the Mary Celeste will soon be serialized here for those who have asked for something beyond a regular post.

My novel is based on a true event, arguably the greatest maritime mystery of all time. In 1872 the crew and passengers of Boston brigantine Mary Celeste abandoned their seaworthy ship and its valuable cargo, vanishing in the middle of the Atlantic. Speculation over their fate has never abated. History records that after the Mary Celeste tragedy no one from that fateful voyage was ever seen again. History is about to be rewritten…

Return of the Mary Celeste


Tragedy struck the brigantine Mary Celeste on the morning of November 25, 1872. The hourly log was later recovered from the deserted vessel; At 8 a.m. the last notation was made. By 9 a.m. no one remained aboard to chalk the next entry.

Something had terrified Captain Benjamin Briggs and his crew, prompting the seasoned skipper to make a decision certain to affect not only himself, his ship and crew, but his family as well—his wife and two year old daughter were aboard Mary Celeste. Much ink has been spilled in fanciful and scientific attempts to explain the calamity that engulfed this perfectly seaworthy ship, yet all that is known for certain is this: in a matter of minutes Captain Briggs became convinced that the only way to save their lives was by ordering everyone into a hastily launched lifeboat. By giving the order to abandon ship, he also launched the greatest of all maritime mysteries.

On December 5, 1872, a month after leaving New York Harbor, Mary Celeste was found drifting on a calm and empty sea. The ship was in fine condition, perfectly intact with valuable cargo safely stored in her hold, but the crew and passengers had vanished. None were ever seen again.

Until now….

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Remembering Why We're Great

April 20, 2015




Saturday began National Park Week, prompting this post.


Everyone should know about this unassuming stone gate because it represents something remarkable, something never before seen in the history of mankind. Few people pass through this portal anymore because it is no longer the quickest way to enter Yellowstone National Park, but if you do, take a moment to look closely at the words engraved on it: For the Benefit and Enjoyment of the People.


Heralding trumpets should go off in your head when you read these words because this was the result of revolutionary thinking. I’ve been to Windsor, Versailles, Capri, and other playgrounds of the rich, powerful and famous, but never before had land been designated for the benefit of—everyone. This was an American idea. When this gate was constructed the sentiment expressed on it was unthinkable in most corners of the world.



Folks are just now beginning to shake off a hard winter that has malingered into spring. Many people will be enjoying their first fling of warm weather, and many will travel to national parks. Think about it when you’re there: how is it that these parks came into being, and why do you feel so much better when you go there? Why isn’t there a Starbucks at the base of Yosemite Falls, a KFC at the overlook to the Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone? 


Consider the life of Borax magnate Stephen Mather. Never heard of him? He laid the foundation for the National Park service, utilizing his own personal fortune to add giant redwoods to the park system, and reaching into his own pocket to pay for architects to design roads and bridges that flawlessly blended into the environment. His overriding goal was to preserve and protect samples of the American wilderness for future generations. When mental health issues plagued him, Mather found peace by escaping into the landscapes he’d fought so hard to preserve. His epitaph is on display in most of our national parks, containing what are arguably the best words ever dedicated to a mortal man:


There will never come an end to the goodness that he has done.



Our country has so many problems right now, but it’s reassuring to remember that there was a time when our leaders could come together in moments of greatness. And they can do so again. I was thinking about this the last time I was in a national park. Check out Ken Burns’ series The National Parks: America’s Best Idea and feel good again about being an American. 



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Considering how quickly we've grown and how fast we've expanded, it's a blessing people thought to start preserving our wilderness back then. There would be so much less to preserve now.
By: Alex J. Cavanaugh on April 20, 2015
loved that epitaph. wow.
By: TexWisGirl on April 20, 2015
Huh. I learned something today. I thought Teddy Roosevelt hogged all the credit.
By: Al Penwasser on April 20, 2015
Amen, Stephen! You hit on two things we love: National Parks and anything by Ken Burns. We live near the Great Smoky Mountain National Park. :-)
By: Cherdo on April 20, 2015
To think he could have spent that money on million dollar champagne and $1850/bottle of bullshit beer. Great post.
By: cranky on April 20, 2015
It's nice to know that some people REALLY care about others!!
By: fishducky on April 20, 2015
I'm not a big "park" person, but it disturbs me that states are trying as hard as they can to get their hands on federal land so that they can develop it and suck all the money out of it. These are supposed to be set aside for everyone to use. I live in one of these states that is trying to do this and it pisses me off.
By: Michael Offutt on April 20, 2015
thanks Stephen for reminding us how great our country has been and could be again.!
By: Kathe W. on April 20, 2015
Thank you for the reminder of how blessed we are in these parks! You are right, we need to join together again to get difficult work done, and i hope we rise to the occasion.
By: mimi on April 20, 2015
No I had never heard of Stephen Mather but I won't be guilty of that in the future. Thank God for his ilk that really cared for this country and its people. We owe him and those like him big time.
By: Akansas Patti on April 20, 2015
You picked up and important statement about park systems. It's also about saving eco systems and native habitat. As for politicians it's the same here. they have no vision for the goodness of the country and it's people. they have one thing in mind and that is to be reelected.
By: red on April 20, 2015
I've been to several of our National Parks, and I agree; we are fortunate that Stephen Mather cared so much.
By: Eva Gallant on April 20, 2015
You're right - I'd never heard of Stephen Mather. I, too, thought it was just the Roosevelts that were behind the idea. Learned something new again!
By: Pixel Peeper on April 20, 2015
This land is your land, this land is my land...
By: Val on April 20, 2015
And here I always gave credit to Teddy Roosevelt and John Muir, so thanks for bringing Mather to our attention. Meanwhile, I've got my America the Beautiful senior pass to the National Parks, and I will think of him every time I use it.
By: Tom Sightings on April 20, 2015
I do not think I closed my mouth one time during the 2-3 days I was able to be in Yellowstone the summer of '86. The mouth being flopped wide-open thing might have started when I saw my first live moose on the side of the road. I had no idea just how tall they are.
By: Jerry E. Beuterbaugh on April 21, 2015
Great and timely post. I recently read that there's a proposal being pushed to put the fate of the "national" parks in the complete control of their respective "state" governments.
By: Mitchell is Moving on April 21, 2015
Fantastic capture of the life of a fantastic man. not known to me from across the bond but I entered into the spirit of what he represented and what you said. Hope to be back to blogland consistently after my stay in hosptal . . :)
By: Eddie Bluelights on April 21, 2015
You make a great point here. Must share this info with my grandkids, who love visiting Yellowstone each summer.
By: Nancy/BLissed-Out Grandma on April 21, 2015
Oh yes! We love going to national parks (I even have a "passport" around here somewhere)...
By: The Bug on April 21, 2015
I loved this one Stephen. I went to Yellowstone the year befor last and it was an incredible experience. I miss the days when the middle had a voice in government.
By: Rick Watson on April 21, 2015
I wonder at the master of 20 Mule Team Borax being a progenitor of our national parks. It makes me think of the inventor of dynamite creating the Nobel Prizes. Or the yellow journalist Pulitzer creating the Pulitzers. Are they all trying to make up for their sins?
By: Catalyst on April 21, 2015
He's inspiring, and so are your words. Thanks, Stephen.
By: Robyn Engel on April 21, 2015
We all need gentle reminders of the good deeds that have been done and why we need to continue doing so.
By: Daniel LaFrance on April 22, 2015
A wise and great man indeed. I too love to escape to up to our mountains and forest!
By: John on April 22, 2015

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