Friday, June 30, 2017

Background on the Novel, Universal Man: II. The Leadbetter Estate

When I was a sophomore in high school back in 1970 or so, I had often heard of the Leadbetter Estate, a large tract of wooded land with derelict buildings on the south side of LaCamas Lake.  Part of the legend was the caretaker who would shoot at trespassers with a shotgun loaded with rock salt.  It was a place that adventuresome, party-minded high schoolers would sneak into on a Friday night.  

One such night I was part of such a group.  Maybe it was after a football game and a dance.  It could have been a dozen people.  I only remember one thing: climbing the stairs of an abandoned, three story log mansion in the dark without flashlights and grabbing the foot of one of the most beautiful girls in the school.  She was on the steps directly above me and I reached up though the gaps between the treads.  She screamed.  We never saw a caretaker.  The girl became a girlfriend for a while later on.

That was the first time I visited the Leadbetter Estate.  There were numerous subsequent times.  Usually I would ride my bike to the property with a girlfriend (not the one on the steps).  Once or twice we would row a canoe across the lake, land at the dock, and walk up the trail.  Once I slept overnight in a field, waking up in the morning to see the unconcerned caretaker mowing the grass.  A few times I’d sit for hours on a sunny balcony and read.  Not all of the buildings were abandoned.  Once a friend and I crawled through an unlocked window into a long, one story cabin and rummaged through the drawers to find some letters, which told about the owners, people who traveled the world and owned orange plantations in Florida.  The story about those people was that they would land their plane on LaCamas Lake and spend weekends there,

All the buildings of the Leadbetter Estate are gone now.  All the giant Douglas Fir trees are gone.  In their place are hundreds of what surely are million dollar homes, belonging to what surely are people who commute to Portland.  I’ve driven through the neighborhood of all those houses.  I think my parents once said an NBA Trailblazer player owned a house there.  One of the important supporting characters in the novel lives there.  (I won’t say who in this blog. You’ll have to read the book.)  The only remaining vestige of the old Estate, if it is related to the Estate at all, is a house on Leadbetter Road on the opposite side of the lake, a house that somewhat resembles the Pittock Mansion in Portland, though much smaller.

Another vestige, a fictional one, is that I re-created the entire Estate in the novel, gave the place a new, yet historically significant name, and located it somewhere else.  I’ve even included a photo of the log mansion in my book.  My photo above is of a walkway on the Estate. I’ll say more about all this in a later post.

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