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TMCNet:  The Modesto Bee Jeff Jardine column

[December 27, 2012]

The Modesto Bee Jeff Jardine column

MODESTO, Dec 27, 2012 (The Modesto Bee - McClatchy-Tribune Information Services via COMTEX) -- From the emails, voicemails and phone, holiday edition: BULLY, YOUNG LADY! -- It's not often a valley resident receives a birthday phone call from an American president, and especially one that's been, well, dead since 1919.

Yet that is what happened to Mary Chavez a week ago, the day after the Modesto Junior College student turned 22.

Chavez is a history buff, crediting Juan Vargas, her sixth-grade teacher several years ago at Our Lady of Fatima school in Modesto, for sparking her interest in the subject. She carried that interest along to Central Catholic High School and MJC, with hopes of someday teaching history.

Lately, she's focused on Theodore Roosevelt, the nation's 26th president.

"I've kind of been on a Teddy Roosevelt kick," Chavez said.

She'd mentioned this newfound fascination to her uncle, Lorenzo "Moose" Dutton, himself a history buff and a Civil War re-enactor.

On the 20th, Dutton arrived at Chavez's Modesto home and asked her, "Are you ready to see him " "Huh " Dutton used Skype to put her face-to-screen with Martinez resident Michael Cawelti, a Roosevelt re-enactor friend who lives in the East Bay.

Chavez spent several minutes chatting with -- grilling, actually -- the Rough Rider. She challenged his knowledge, including the vaunted ride up San Juan Hill in Puerto Rico during the Spanish-American War.

A true Teddy student would know that the Rough Riders actually rode up Kettle Hill, on San Juan Heights.

"He did," she said.

Cawelti also knew that Roosevelt once said of his precocious daughter Alice, "I can either run the country or I can attend to Alice, but I cannot possibly do both." Cawelti passed Chavez's test. Good show, old man! Unfortunately, Chavez couldn't record their Skype conversation. He did send her a photo via email, though.

"I was able to ask him if he was able to do any of the great things he did -- do them today -- what would he do " Chavez said. "He said he'd climb Mount Everest or the Alps or go to Nepal." And for certain, he'd "speak softly and carry a big stick." Needless to say, it was a very special birthday gift: a moment in time.

"The best ever," she said.

DOLLHOUSE DILEMMA -- I wrote Dec. 16 about the dollhouse Marian Pettygrove spent roughly three decades assembling, and the family's decision about what will become of it now that she's passed.

It's an issue every family faces at some point: What to do with a loved one's most treasured belongings when others in the family want them, or in the Pettygrove children's case, don't have the room for them Daughter Merri Goodman said the family has decided to offer the dollhouse to the McHenry Museum, and museum curator Wayne Mathes is definitely interested in having it.

Just in case, though, several local residents called to say they would love to have it, promising to give it the TLC it deserves. Among the callers was one of Pettygrove's former elementary school students.

The museum will give more people the opportunity to enjoy her masterpiece.

ANOTHER HOT TIP -- In 2010, I mentioned that an Elvis statue had been stolen from the O.K. Corral saloon and restaurant east of Jackson along Highway 88. Restaurant and rightful owner Bud Ford had bought the statue at an auction in Modesto.

Hot tips brought Ford back to Modesto, where a similar Elvis had been advertised in a Bee classified. Could it be ...

No, it wasn't. Ford's Elvis was life-size. The one in Modesto stood only 3 feet tall. Ford bought that one, too.

More than two years later, I'm still getting calls from people who come across Elvis statues, including a karaoke club owner in Las Vegas who bought one at a yard sale recently. Unfortunately for Ford, this one also is a 3-footer.

Oh, well. Keep 'em coming. Someday, one of these tips might lead to the thief singing "Jailhouse Rock." Jeff Jardine's column appears Sundays, Tuesdays and Thursdays in Local News. He can be reached at, @jeffjardine57 on Twitter or at (209) 578-2383.

___ (c)2012 The Modesto Bee (Modesto, Calif.) Visit The Modesto Bee (Modesto, Calif.) at Distributed by MCT Information Services

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