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Saga of the Reep Rope (long)

Now that I've finished the last of the limited edition (25) of The Saga of
the Reep Rope, I can tell you the story of the project that has occupied me
and Sam Lanham for the past 3 1/2 years.

It all began in June of 1998, shortly after I subscribed to the Book Arts
List. I jumped in on a thread about paper grain. Sam Lanham responded,
disagreeing with me as I remember. Other exchanges followed offlist,
notably about sailor's knots and where to get a sailor's palm like the one
I remember seeing at my grandfather's house after he died. He had been a
sailor on the Great Lakes and used the palm thimble in mending sails. With
Sam's help, I found one in a marine catalog. It helps to push the needle
through in overcasting.

When Sam mentioned that he had just finished - after 20 years of working
off and on - braiding a bell rope for his former church, I  picked up my
ears. I wrote: "You should see the rope that rings the bell in our 130 year
old church. When we need a new one we go down to the local hardware store
and buy it." Sam wanted to hear more about my church, Mendocino
Presbyterian, of which I am the head docent. It was then that I learned Sam
is a retired Presbyterian minister living in Texas who makes bell ropes as
a hobby, is a member of the International Guild of Knot Tyers - and a

Sam became so interested in the church that he offered to make a rope for
our bell. When I wrote that I didn't think we could wait twenty years for
it, he said maybe he could finish it posthumously. I sent all the material
I could find about the fascinating history of Mendocino Presbyterian from
the beginning of the congregation in 1859 and the building of the present
sanctuary in 1868, through the Civil War, Gay Nineties, Roaring Twenties,
and all the eras up to the present. Much has been written about the church,
including Stephen Warner's "New Wine for Old Wineskins, a sociology study.
"Johnny Belinda" starring Ronald Reagan's first wife, Jane Wyman, who won
an Oscar for the role, was filmed in the church. Sam read and studied all
of the material I sent, spending ten months planning the rope.

It took another eight months to tie the knots, doing more detailed planning
as he went along. This was a project requiring the input of many people,
the weighing of many ideas and concepts, of mutual respect, of cooperation
and a sharing of love for a memorial symbol. Even list members,
unknowingly, played a part. I remember when we needed to find out what
metal or stone symbolized the hundredth anniversary, we used the BookArts
List. Some of you may remember responding to that thread. Finally a
librarian working at the Chicago Public Library looked in an almanac in
their collection and reported that the stone commemorating the 100th
anniversary is a 10K diamond. Not having one of those handy, Sam used two
gold knots (50 + 50) to symbolize the 100th Anniversary of MPC.

The rope is 55 feet long from the bell in the tower to the floor. Sam used
only the last 14 feet that show below the ceiling to knot the history of
the church into a complex and beautiful rope like no other in existence.
Reading the explanation of the symbolism in the knottings is like taking a
mini-course in U.S. history.

Sam saw Mendocino and the church - and we met - for the first time when he
and his wife, Missie, came from Texas to install the bell rope last year on
March 3.

I saved the almost 400 e-mail letters generated by the project  and last
spring used them to make a book for the final exam in my Desktop Publishing
class. I used PageMaker, learning the program as I went along. The book I
produced for the class needed editing so I spent all summer working on it,
adding color photos of the rope sections. It was the first time I had
edited, typeset, printed, published and bound a 192-page book, not without
trauma. I first made 5 complimentary copies. Then I made the limited
edition of 25 which is being sold as a fundraiser for the church.

See the book in a following message.

Thanks for staying with me,

Betty Storz   storz@mcn.org
Mendocino, CA
Book repair and restoration

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