The multi-dimensional life of Kim Harris
R-C Alpine Bureau
The magic began under a snowball hydrangea bush in the front yard of her grandparent’s house on Donner Lake. She would spend hours playing there as a child. The historic earth provided fertile ground for her imagination to blossom. Kim Harris reaped all the benefits that growing up in a tiny, isolated Sierra Nevada town had to offer.
Harris enjoyed the advantages of living in a heavy winter area where there were only 100 people year round. She learned how to exist in a fundamental and empathic way.
“Somehow everything unfolds perfectly,” Harris said.
Jobs have opened up for her, and she has gotten everything she has ever wanted. She has a remarkable life, and she is deeply grateful that she has been so very “happy and lucky.”
She is a well-known local Chautauquan and character actress. The Chautauqua Movement flourished in the late 19th and early 20th centuries, bringing intellectual study, culture, and entertainment to the small towns and villages of rural America. Today it has grown to mean the portrayal of historical characters in a performance setting.
Harris came into this part of her life in an intrinsic fashion. After grade school in Donner, she moved with her parents to South San Francisco where she graduated from high school. She married a man who played hockey, and this opened up a quite unexpected pathway for her.
On the lake in front of her grandparent’s house, she had watched the boys play hockey, but as the lone girl, they never let her join in. Once in a while, she would collect up an errant puck, but that was all. As she began to devote more hours at rinks she found she loved it. She had never been interested in anything athletic prior to this. As a very responsible person, she was always too busy working, usually as a administrative assistant or manager in an office setting.
When she lived near the Redwood City Ice Arena, Harris started spending more and more time on the ice. The goalie didn’t show up one day, and she was asked to fill in on the men’s team. She had found her niche, and it was an extremely unusual one for a woman. She was hired at the rink to manage the facilities and to drive the large ice-resurfacing machine known as a Zamboni.
She continued to use these skills after moving to Oakland, Roseville, and then Lake Tahoe in 2003. Being a goalie was tough on her body though, and eventually she had to give it up. She has always been an animal lover and raised rabbits. She even started a program to educate people about “pocket pets” and small animal care when she lived in Roseville. But it was in Tahoe that she discovered she was living right on the old route of the Pony Express.
Her father had always emphasized the importance of history. Suddenly, she found herself immersed in it. She became a member of the Board of the Lake Tahoe Historical Society. It was here that she was introduced to McAvoy Lane, who portrays Mark Twain in a wide variety of settings. “It was magic!” Harris reports.
Nearly a year later, she was asked to talk about the Pony Express by the Historical Society for the 150th Celebration of the Pony Express. Her only background in this area was being part of the Masonic Family of Rainbow for Girls.
She came up with the idea of portraying Warren Boston Upson, one of the long-gone Pony Express riders. Her natural shyness was overcome by realizing that she was “being someone else” when she was in front of the audience. Her solitude in her growing up years had given her the uncanny ability to fully take on another person’s character, and here was the perfect place to put that gift to use.
She had met her husband Doyle Harris, a mortgage broker, in 2006 through Rotary.
When they moved to Genoa in 2011, Harris says she started to see “a much bigger picture”. She went from being self-focused to having a passionate love affair with the places and people of history here in
Nevada. She served on the board of the Douglas County Historical Society, and on the advisory board of the Nevada Division of the National Pony Express Association. She currently serves as president of the Friends of Snowshoe Thompson Committee.
She is an outstanding researcher, who dove into studies of the Western Expansion, Gold Rush, and the Comstock Lode. Over the years, she has put together Chautauqua performances for eight different people. This requires a huge commitment of time, because events always include a question and answer period. Her knowledge base has to be extensive. She has represented Julia Bulette, Charley Parkhurst, Laura D. Fair, Lillian Virgin Finnegan, Lizzie Borden, Calamity Jane, and Mrs. C.M. Stowe. She is currently working on Libbie Custer, wife of General George A. Custer.
The thread of commonality in all these historical figures is that they were very much themselves. Even when they were ridiculed publicly they remained steadfast. Harris feels fortunate to have not had that challenge.
She wants these stories told accurately. In addition to her investigation, she has often been guided in a somewhat psychic fashion. She “puts out a request” welcoming any and all authentic information to be revealed to her. “I don’t know how it comes together, but it always does.” she said.
She is events manager at Dangberg Home Ranch Historic Park. Harris is owner and tour guide of Genoa Historic Ghost Tours. Her primary business is “Western History ALIVE!” It promotes Northern California and Nevada history via historical and entertaining venues. She can be reached at (775) 220-0605 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Visit her Facebook page Western History ALIVE.
She has learned to trust herself and to know who she really is. Harris said she feels blessed, and that although the universe is constantly rearranging itself, every single thing seems just right. She takes what she does as an enormous responsibility, and appreciates the honor of being part of “bringing things from the past back into the now.”