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Author opens door to his family's Oklahoma past
At the heart of Michael S. Malone's new nonfiction book is a tiny chamber clawed out of the earth more than 100 years ago, a cave that still exists in the riverbed near his great-grandfather's Oklahoma homestead.
That cave captivated Malone on his only visit to the farm as a child. The property already had passed out of his family's hands, and while the old house and towering barn held little interest for him, the cave was so outside his range of experiences that it shocked him, seared into him, held him fast.
“It impressed me not because of the extraordinary emotional resonance it carried for everyone else in the Hasbrook family — I knew little about that, other than the extraordinary fact that my grandmother had been a baby there — but for the sheer oddness of the place,” Malone wrote. “It was just a door, flanked by stacked river rocks, in the creek bank. I not only had never seen anything like it, I didn't even know such places existed. It was like something out of a musty old fairy tale — and when my father managed to yank the creaky door open, exposing the arched vault and boxes of root vegetables inside, it was as if I was looking into the center of the earth.”
In truth, he was looking into his family's past.
“Charlie's Place: The Saga of an American Frontier Homestead” gallops across America and through four or five generations, ranging from Oregon to Virginia to California. But its heart is that cave, dug by Malone's great-grandfather, Charlie Hasbrook, in the ground near Enid.
Malone's book is part adventure story, part true crime and part memoir — all told with Malone's usual skill. A lauded journalist, Malone has authored about 15 books. He was the first tech reporter for the San Jose Mercury News, putting him in an ideal position to cover Silicon Valley and the rise and inevitable bursting of the dot.com bubble. His work has appeared in The New York Times and The Wall Street Journal. He helped found “Fast Company” and “Wired” magazines and headed up the now defunct digital economy magazine, “Forbes ASAP.”
“Charlie's Place” tells about Hasbrook's journey to the territories and his participation in the Land Run. Hasbrook held onto his claim with tenacity, digging the cave out of the creek bed, lining it with muslin and eking out an existence with his family in conditions few of us could imagine today.