She is a history sleuth, a detective with pen in hand, searching remnants leftover from earlier times. She puts them together to tell long-lost stories from the back pages of our local towns.
Karen Dustman does not “live in the past,” rather she explores every nook and cranny, every artifact and document, then brings back the report of her findings to us.
The latest volume in her search for the wild and true sagas from days gone-by is “Forgotten Tales of Carson Valley.” It is Book 2 in the series, and she has many other titles that together paint a fascinating portrait of the people and places that have helped shape our viewpoints about living in this particular place.
Dustman is a widely published author who runs Claritage Press along with her husband Rick. It is named after Karen’s mother, who passed down a love of history to her daughter. Her books cover a wide variety of topics, but the majority of them are about what happened before any of us were here in Carson Valley. She is providing a valuable service to the residents, because it would be a real shame to lose these accounts that chronicle how people from long ago thought and lived. We are very fortunate she has undertaken a project of such a large scope, and chosen this area to focus her attention.
Dustman comments that, “I really wanted to preserve some of the fun stories we'd found, and this was a way to collect them all together in book form, so they're accessible. People said they really enjoyed Book 1. And before we knew it, we had enough for a second volume.”
Her favorite was tough for her to choose because she “loves them all.” Discovering that pet parrots were a "thing" in the Comstock days, with their value being determined, in part, to the bird's "expertise in profanity,” was the most surprising to her. Karen and Rick have a 42-year-old parrot at home themselves, so have a special connection to the species. Dustman says that she was also fascinated by the tragic-but-true chapter titled "Three Bullets, Two Julias, and One Philandering Husband.” It is about a “love triangle gone wrong” that ended badly for everyone (except the philandering husband). She thinks readers will probably like the tale of Baby Face Nelson hiding out at Walley's Hot Springs the best though.
Dustman says the person in this book she would most like to be if she came back in another life is the adventurous Agnes Train. Describing her, Dustman says, “Agnes tromped all over rural Nevada with her botanist/fossil-collecting husband, Percy, visiting old mining towns and helping collect native plant specimens and fossils. Together they owned the Pink House briefly, and Agnes was responsible for preserving many of the photos and artifacts from the Virgin family that were inside when they bought it. Agnes is now buried beside her beloved Percy at Genoa Cemetery.”
The best thing about researching and writing for Dustman is the chance to be inquisitive, ask questions, find out more about topics she is curious about. She reports that, “In this book, for instance, I got to figure out why the tall, skinny Wine Shop building on Main Street has such an odd, narrow shape.” She continues, “It’s also fun to make connections. I'd heard stories about midwife Frieda Pitts, for example, but never knew where she lived. So I was excited to learn from an old-timer that a house I drive by nearly every day was once Frieda's maternity hospital. It's fun to get the backstory on buildings that are so familiar.”
Originally these were short stories written for her history newsletter. You can subscribe by going to www.Clairitage.com. There is no charge for the monthly online missive, and you can order all of her books there as well.
The “Small Business Saturday” event in Gardnerville and Minden is Saturday. Come get your passport stamped and pick up her new volume Forgotten Tales of Carson Valley 2 and other titles penned by Dustman at the Carson Valley Museum and Cultural Center Bookstore from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. Members of DCHS receive 20 percent off, and non-members 10 percent. You can support local businesses along with filling out a ticket for a chance to win a prize in the drawing.