I grew up in a small town named Jackson (population about 2,000) in the foothills of the Sierra Nevada mountain range in Northern California. My father was a car salesman and my mother was what used to be called a ‘homemaker.’ The town was in the middle of ‘Gold Rush country.’ The two gold mines on the outskirts of town, the Kennedy and the Argonaut, yielded some of the most impressive amounts of gold in the country, until they were shut down during World War II. My maternal great-grandparents arrived in Jackson in the early 1850s from Italy. The next two generations of grandfathers worked in the mines.

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