A Tribute to Mark Gary

by: E. Breck Parkman
Senior State Archaeologist
Department of Parks and Recreation
August, 2001

CDF Editorial Note: This piece first appeared in the September 2001 issue of the Society for California Archaeology (SCA) Newsletter, written by one of Mark's good friends - Breck Parkman.  Breck captured the essence of what made Mark so special to so many people.  Breck gave CDF permission to post it on our web site to make it available to those Foresters, CDF folks, and other web site visitors that knew Mark.  It was edited only slightly, to make it fit better here. I also added a few pictures- DF.

Archaeologist Mark Allen Gary died suddenly of natural causes at his home on Memorial Day 2001. He was 50 years old. He is survived by his wife, Deborah McLear-Gary of Ukiah, and his brothers, Louis and Ben Gary of San Francisco. With Mark's death, CDF, Registered Professional Foresters, and Archaeologists have lost a good friend.

I first met Mark in 1984, the same year that he published his book of poetry entitled, "Lighthouse for Nightbirds." Mark wrote under the name of Night Eagle, and continues to be known by that name by many of his friends today. In "Lighthouse for Nightbirds," there is a poem called "Reserve Your Right." It opens with the words, "Reserve your right to be different, in this world of flash and cement." (p. 20). Mark reserved the right to be different in a world of increasing uniformity and materialism. He was a unique individual and I can honestly say that he was unlike anyone else that I have ever known.
I was fortunate enough to be part of Mark's sacred geography along with Daniel Foster of CDF and Francis Berg of BLM. Prior to joining our profession, Mark enjoyed volunteering on field projects, and he often assisted Francis when he was stationed in Ukiah, Dan in Sacramento, and me when I was stationed in Santa Rosa. If you draw a line connecting these three cities, you get a triangle which Mark named the "Midden Triangle." When he ventured into that space, he felt the mysterious pull of archaeology. It eventually pulled him into our profession.

Mark was born on September 1, 1950, in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. While a child, he lived in Tokyo, and also in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, Lompoc, California, and at the San Francisco Presidio. He attended Lowell High School in San Francisco, and following his graduation, enrolled at the University of California, Berkeley. While at Berkeley, Mark served as President of his housing co-op, a time in his life that he always remembered fondly.

Mark moved to the Greenfield Ranch in the early 1970s. He purchased 60 acres of land beneath Eagles Peak. He called his property the "Wilderness," and old growth redwoods, wild streams, and a cabin he built himself characterized it. Mark's land was his "queen" in the chess game of life. Earlier this year, while playing a game of chess, I suggested to Mark that he consider selling the land and moving back to town. He picked up his queen from the board, clutched it tightly, and told me that he had to protect the land at all costs.

He said that it was his queen. Throughout his time in the "Wilderness," Mark did protect his land. He refused to cut his old growth trees, and he encouraged his neighbors to protect their trees as well. He maintained his streams so that they were healthy places for steelhead to spawn, and he protected the archaeological sites found on the property. 

In 1995, Mark became an Associate State Archaeologist with CDF in Santa Rosa. Prior to that time, he worked for the Department on a contract basis. When I first met Mark he did not drive, but rode a horse instead. When he joined CDF as a permanent employee in 1995, part of the requirement was that he learn to drive. He learned, but it would be years before I felt safe riding with him.

One of my most memorable SCA experiences was riding along with Mark to and from the 1996 conference in Bakersfield, just a few months after he got his driver's license. It was an experience that I will never forget!

Mark earned a B.A. degree in Anthropology from Sonoma State University in the mid-1990s, and had been working toward an M.A. degree in Anthropology at San Jose State University. He planned to write a thesis on the archaeology of the Masut Pomo, and had already conducted excavations as part of his research.

According to his wife, Deborah, Mark wrote more than 1000 stories, poems, and songs. According to Daniel Foster, he recorded over 500 archaeological sites during his career. Mark was especially interested in the relationship between midden development and fishing activities (which he called the "Fish & Chips Hypothesis"), as well as electro-magnetic properties in prehistory (including fish migrations and fishing magic). Mark rarely missed an SCA conference, and created an impressive video archive of many of the sessions. A lot of SCA members will probably remember him as the big guy in the back of the room with the video camera. Mark was an equally avid fan of both the San Francisco Giants and the Grateful Dead. He was a Renaissance Man in many ways.

Mark's career as an archaeologist was relatively brief, and it was not characterized by a long list of publications and presented papers [one important exception is: Mark A. Gary and Deborah L. McLear-Gary, The Caballo Blanco Biface Cache, Mendocino County, California (CA-MEN-1608), 1990, Journal of California and Great Basin Anthropology 12(1):19-27]. Mark's contributions lay elsewhere. He was a tremendous Public Archaeologist, who dedicated much of his life toward educating those around him to the values of archaeology. This was one of the things that most impressed me about Mark.

Prior to joining CDF, Mark, with Deborah's assistance, took on the task of sensitizing many in Mendocino County to the need for identifying and protecting archaeological sites. Mark served on the Mendocino County Archaeological Commission, and he and Deborah gave numerous slide-shows on archaeology to their neighbors throughout the Greenfield Ranch, at the Hopland Field Station, and elsewhere.  It was through Mark and Deborah's public outreach that numerous privately owned sites became known to archaeologists, including the Keystone Petroglyph Boulder (CA-MEN-2200). They were also responsible for producing the exhibit, "Three Chop Village Archaeology: The Frolic Project is Launched," at the Grace Carpenter Hudson Museum in Ukiah, in 1994.

When Mark joined CDF, he used his passion for archaeology to help educate foresters and landowners alike to the values of protecting cultural resources. He was very successful in this effort, a fact that did not go unnoticed by CDF. On April 30, 2001, CDF Director Andrea Tuttle presented Mark CDF's Superior Accomplishment Award. Mark was proud to be associated with CDF, and his association with the Department became a defining force in his life.

In the last few years of his life, Mark and I would occasionally meet at my home for dinner and a game of chess. He was last there

just three weeks before his death. He brought a portable rock art boulder to show me, and we spent the evening debating its merits. I will miss our conversations. They were always stimulating, lively, and informative.

Mark had a tremendous thirst for knowledge, and an agile and clever mind that examined data from unique perspectives. He could see relationships between data that many of us could not see. He often colored outside the lines. Sometimes this created a picture that was difficult to see, and confounded those around him, but sometimes, it revealed a new picture hidden among the colors.

On June 25, 2001, a memorial service was held for Mark at Harrison Grove, Low Gap Park, in Ukiah. Approximately 150 friends, family, colleagues, co-workers, and neighbors were there to send him on his way. CDF sent an Honor Guard, a bagpiper, and a large number of employees. There was live music, and many, many tearful stories. Archaeologists Daniel Foster, Thomas Layton, Francis Berg, and the author were among the speakers who spoke about Mark. At the conclusion of the service, the bagpiper (CDF Forester Charlie Martin) began playing "Amazing Grace," and then slowly walked away. An eerie silence fell across all those present as we listened to the music slowly fading away. Such is life.

I will miss Mark, and I know that many others will as well. He will not be forgotten.

"There is a road
no simple highway
Between the dawn
and the dark of night
And if you go
no one may follow
That path is for
your steps alone
Ripple is still water
When there is no pebble tossed
Nor wind to blow
You who choose
To lead must follow
But if you fall
You fall alone
If you should stand
then who's to guide you
If I knew the way
I would take you home."

From the song, "Ripple," by R. Hunter and J. Garcia