CAMP VERDE – During the second World War, John Jenkins was the man of the farm.
Young Jenkins milked the cows and fed the animals at his family’s Michigan home. One year, he learned how to run a trapline and was able to catch both mink and muskrat.
Perhaps it was then when Jenkins discovered that he wanted to visit other places. And to tell stories about them.
“I wanted to be a trapper and live in a log cabin,” Jenkins recalled recently. “In Canada, in a remote area. I just had that idea.”
Jenkins was used to the quiet. His family didn’t have a television, didn’t even have indoor plumbing.
Lots of time for thinking when it’s quiet. Lots of time for writing.
His favorite author isn’t known primarily for his writing. Which is fine, because neither is Jenkins.
Most folks know Jenkins from the many years he was pastor at the First Baptist Church in Camp Verde. But Jenkins is a complex man, if you ask his friend and his agent Amber Polo.
“He’s very intellectual, a well-read thinker,” Polo said recently of her 88-year-old friend. “But he’s also a very dedicated, spiritual man.”
Come Sit With Me
Jenkins dedicates his new book “Come Sit With Me” to “the memory of my dear wife and faithful friend Doris Jenkins, and her 60 years of faithful love and support.”
Funny how life turns out. You could say that bowling brought them together.
John and Doris both worked at the same business, and the company had a bowling team.
“She ran a gutter ball. I laughed. Our eyes met. We fell in love,” he said.
John and Doris married in 1951 and were together until she passed away in 2011.
“Come Sit With Me” includes passages written as far back as the ‘80s. Some of the stories came from his travels, others from his journals. Some were previously published in a column called “A Voice in the Wilderness” that Jenkins wrote for Camp Verde’s Verde View newspaper many years ago.
“I had always been putting my ideas down,” he said.
But most are happy times, such as “a visit to a Las Vegas casino where Doris lost nickels in a slot machine.”
“I write because I must write,” Jenkins said in the book’s introduction. “I followed my yellow brick road and found my home again. It’s in the heart. Now come and sit with me and I will share my stories.”
Catching a Dream
In the early-1980s, Jenkins took a couple of creative writing courses at Yavapai College. Which came in handy, when the couple embarked on a cross-country bicycle trip.
The result of the trip was “Catching a Dream,” the story of their journey in 1985 across America. As Jenkins bicycled, Doris drove the family’s Datsun camper. When they were finished each day, they would journal. The book would not exist without those entries.
As they traveled by way of the TransAmerica Bicycle Trail from Oregon to Virginia, “Catching a Dream” is as much Doris’ story as it is John’s.
“Her backup support … was essential,” Jenkins said in the book’s introduction. “Her companionship, emotional and spiritual support, and her journal entries and photos were vital to our success … we were a team and we succeeded as a team.”
Jenkins wrote “Catching a Dream,” in 2004, but this year he released a revised version that made the book “more his story,” Polo said.
“It’s a smoother book now,” Polo said. “We took out a lot of extra history of towns he went through, things not as personal.”
Though a story, Polo said the book is “definitely a journal.”
“He knows what makes a good story,” Polo said. “He has a way of taking subjects and finding a way to write about them in an uplifting way. It’s like writing a good sermon.”
From 10 a.m. until 1 p.m. Saturday, Aug. 18, Camp Verde resident John Jenkins will sign copies of his latest book, “Come Sit with Me,” at Verde Valley Resale, located at 348 S. Main St. in Camp Verde. Both “Come Sit with Me” and “Catching a Dream” will be available, and Jenkins will sign either book.
-- Follow Bill Helm on Twitter @BillHelm42