The text and paintings on The Trowbridge Chronicles are taken from the illustrated journal of Violet Trowbridge, a shrew that once lived in a village deep in the Olympic Rain Forest. Each new post will represent a portion of Mrs. Trowbridge’s journal.

Friday, December 22, 2006


Happy Holidays from Bron Smith and Mrs. Trowbridge!

Thursday, December 21, 2006


The situation at the Giloh Fortress is growing desperate. Shrew Khan recognizes that for the first time in his career as a warrior his defense position could be overrun. Giloh could be lost to the desert marauder, the Phantom Mongol. Our story continues...

Wednesday, December 13, 2006


It has been fascinating researching the history behind Mrs. Trowbridge's Shrew Kahn stories. I recently had an amazing email exchange with Professor Wing Wang at Inner Mongolia University in Hohhot, Inner Mongolia. An expert in the archeology of Mongolia and China, Professor Wang told me about his most recent expedition to the Eastern Mongolian Steppes.

Just as I have found evidence of past small creature colonies in the Olympic Rain Forest, Professor Wang stated that he and his team have uncovered extensive archeological evidence of small animal colonization in the Mongolian Steppes. They have found actual artifacts, including: a tiny 1/2 inch axe and other tools, numerous pea-sized pot shards, even pebble mounds, presumably the remains of small creature dwellings. After having conversed with Professor Wang, I am all the more amazed as I study Mrs. T's intricate paintings and descriptions of past small animal civilizations in Asia.

When she refers to the Great Northern Steppes, she is undoubtedly referring to the Mongolian Steppes, so the Phantom Mongol would presumably be of Mongolian descent.

And now, Mrs. Trowbridge's story continues...

Tuesday, December 05, 2006


Mrs. Trowbridge referred to Shrew Kahn frequently when she wrote on historical topics. He was held in the highest esteem by Trowbridge shrews for his might in battle, his courage, and integrity.

Last week, Shrew Kahn and his warriors celebrated and feasted long into the night at the Giloh outpost. But sadly, all good things must come to an end. Mrs. Trowbridge's story resumes...

Sunday, November 26, 2006


Mrs. Trowbridge picks up her story as Shrew Kahn and his regiment recover from the battle at Giloh. The Giloh outpost is badly damaged, but Kahn and his regiment prepare for a grand celebration. Kahn couldn't know that this first feast of thanksgiving would be celebrated again and again by untold millions of shrews over the centuries, and acknowledged by shrew historians as the first Trowbridge shrew Thanksgiving. I know from her journal references that it was still being celebrated in her time, the early 19th Century.

It's most fortunate that you were not reading this journal page just before your Thanksgiving dinner. It may have adversely affected your appetite, as you can see from Mrs. Trowbridge's lovely watercolor rendition of that first Thanksgiving spread...

In another of her "primer pages", Mrs. Trowbridge discusses a new invention that will help bring Huckleberry Hollow into the modern age of the 19th Century.

Tuesday, November 14, 2006


Mrs. Trowbridge often wrote and painted subjects relating to her ancestors. She wanted her children and her descendants to understand and appreciate shrew family history. One of the most heroic and colorful characters in shrew legend was Shrew Khan. Here Mrs. T depicts a pivotal scene from Shrew Khan's career as a warrior shrew...the Last Stand at Giloh.

Tuesday, November 07, 2006


A clear winter sky was a welcome sight for the small creatures of the rain forest, who spent their winters beneath the snow. On her journal page Mrs. Trowbridge explains the peculiar plumes of smoke emanating from holes in the snow.

Wednesday, November 01, 2006


I've especially enjoyed reading Mrs. Trowbridge's journal pages that pertain to the history of her species, Sorex Trowbridgii. She wrote extensively about her Wind Rider ancestors and their amazing "wind ships" that sailed the skies of long ago. Their colorful silk sails, bearing bold clan symbols, strongly resemble our modern-day flexifoil kites, which also are capable of lifting a human aloft. I would know...I own such kites, and I have been lifted, and dragged many times. I was once dragged non-stop for 1 1/2 miles on the beach at Westport, Washington.

You'll note from Mrs. T's painting that the pitch of the sails is controlled from inside the basket. The baskets were carefully woven from sturdy dried grass, and sealed with pitch.

I will continue to occasionally slip in a page or two from what I call Mrs. T's Primer. These are pages, usually illustrated with her fir needle charcoal sticks, that discuss the creatures and culture of the rain forest. On this page she speaks of the beetles, and the segregated nature of their relationship with shrews.

Tuesday, October 17, 2006


Some of you may have seen the Trowbridge Chronicles featured on Drawn! last week. I was totally smitten by the response that it received. Mrs. Trowbridge would be delighted to know that she has lots of new fans resulting from the Drawn piece.

Some of Mrs. Trowbridge's journal pages were written to describe specific aspects of small creature culture. These pages were more instructional in nature, and were usually illustrated with her charcoal drawings. Here are two of those pages. The coast mole (Scapanus orarius) is one of two varieties of moles found in the Olympic rainforest. The other is the Townsend mole (Scapanus townsendii). I will share more with you from time to time.

Mrs. Trowbridge's charcoal sketch of the front entrance to the mole dwelling illustrates how carefully moles conceal their dwellings from potential predators. According to Mrs. T, they often choose steep grassy slopes near streams to build the entrance to their dwelling.

Of all the shops in Huckleberry Hollow that I would wish to visit, the ladybug home decor shop would be my first choice. The ladybug tattoo parlor would be a close second.

Wednesday, October 04, 2006


Even in Huckleberry Hollow life can be stressful at times, especially if you're a Trowbridge shrew. You'd be stressed, too, if you had to eat your weight in grubs and sowbugs everyday just to stay alive. That's what a Trowbridge shrew has to do. On this week's page, Mrs. Trowbridge writes about how she deals with her stress.

Monday, September 25, 2006


This week Mrs. Trowbridge takes us back to her earliest memories of life in the rain forest. I selected two pages from her journal. The first one focuses on her memories of childhood fears and phobias and how she overcame them. On the second page, she shares her memories of her younger days on the family sowbug farm.

Friday, September 01, 2006


I just returned from an exciting Trowbridge Trek, so this time I'm offering a "feature length" version of Trowbridge instead of the usual short subject. So sit back with a latte and some popcorn and enjoy the show...

Every summer I look forward to my junkets into the rain forest to explore Mrs. Trowbridge's wonderful world. This summer I decided to attempt to identify places that she, her family and friends had possibly visited on their summer safaris to the seashore. I made some delightful discoveries.

This was the first one. I'm writing this (in longhand) while sitting on the log in the foreground of the above picture. I just happened upon this delightful spot in the forest just off the beach. It is almost as though the Creator planted a little patch of grass in the middle of the rain forest for me to enjoy as I sit and write in my journal. The large leaf plants growing from the grass are devil's club. Sword ferns grow in lavish abundance in the upper portion of the picture.

This is the very base of a steep one hundred yard high, fern-covered bank. A root-infested switchback trail brings you down this bank to the's the only difficult part of the hike to Shi Shi Beach.

Like a scene from The Land Before Time, this is the first view that greets you from the top of the high bank as you approach remote and exotic Shi Shi Beach on the north Washington Coast. This beach is so spectacular that it has made some notable lists: the Insiders List (number four) of the Top Ten Most Unique Beaches in the World. It's also one of the Travel Channel's Top Ten Best American Beaches.

The crown jewel of sea stack formations on the West Coast, Point of Arches looms in the distance, just before a cloud-draped sunset.

This was the most startling discovery that I made on this trip. Compare this rough charcoal sketch that Mrs. Trowbridge made on one of her summer beach treks, to my photograph just above it. Do you see the striking similarity? She also painted this same scene in her sunset beach painting (four episodes below, "They Were Opposites"). This is enough evidence to convince me that she was here on this same stretch of beach about 175 years ago. I wanted to erect a monument: "Mrs. Trowbridge was here!"

Now we're down beach at Point of Arches for the 6:30 PM low tide. Veteran nature photographer Ross Hamilton and my sister, Brenda Williamson, were part of the exploration team. Brenda focuses in on a purple and an orange sea star (below). Is it just me, or do they appear to be doing a Sea Star Samba to the pounding sounds of the surf.

Sea stars are abundant and visible at low tide at Point of Arches. This is tide pool paradise. You can spend hours here, roaming from one tide pool to the next looking for the perfect shot.

It's nice to be in the right place at the right time. I just happened upon these mussels...they were gathered for their annual Mussel Beach Convention. I wanted to hang around and listen to a couple speeches, but there were other tide pools to explore.

Did you know that the word "anemone" is one of the ten most beautiful words in the English language? It's also one of the most mispronounced. These anemones, not anenomes, don't look so beautiful when they're not immersed in water. When the tide comes in they will bloom out again.

We nervously ventured from Point of Arches into the next cove, knowing that many have been trapped by the incoming tide and drowned.

Like a mossy montage, the huge rock wall in the second cove was elegantly draped with wet hanging grasses and delicate little deer ferns.

Filled with a spirit of adventure, we decided to risk it all and make a run for the third cove. With our packs on, we jogged through the soft sand, sometimes jumping over boulders or huge piles of seaweed. We were rewarded by the above view of the rugged third cove. I felt like we had suddenly slipped back in time to some primeval paradise in a prehistoric epoch.

To get to the third beach we had to pass through this large crevice (below) in the rock. My sister's size reveals the enormity of the rock. We were grateful after we had returned back to Shi Shi Beach. We felt SAFE once again.

We're still planning a trip to Huckleberry Hollow before summer fades away. I'll keep you posted.

Friday, August 18, 2006


"Phinneas is the most fastidious mole I've ever met!" Mrs. Trowbridge has said more than once in her journal pages. Even to soak in the rays he wears his dapper thistledown shorts, by Fungus and Pitch. "His fireweed tweed trousers are always a perfect color match with his fresh- pressed saxifrage shirts," Mrs. T once commented. Who knew that moles could have taste.

Phinneas and his Townsend Mole friends are commonly seen in the rain forest...and coming to a yard near you if you live in Washington or Oregon. He's America's largest mole.

If you haven't ever stroked a mole's fur, you've really missed something. It's slate black and softer than velvet. I know from whence I speak...we have an heirloom mole pelt in our elegantly appointed living room. A hundred years ago mole fur coats were all the rage. Now they're as scarce as toads' teeth.

Thursday, August 10, 2006


Look for pictures of Huckleberry Hollow soon. I'll be trekking into Trowbridge Country in about two weeks. I can't wait to get back to explore this magical place in the rain forest.

This week Mrs. Trowbridge is all atwitter because another trend is sweeping through the forest, and, as you know by now, she doesn't take to new trends. She likes the old ways. With her brilliant colors and deft brushstrokes she captures the butterfly tattoos beautifully in her journal.

Wednesday, August 02, 2006


The sorrow of last week's tragic death turns to joy this week as we find Mrs. Trowbridge and Woodrow celebrating their first litter of grandchildren. How would you like your first grandchild to turn into, not twins, but sextuplets? Six is an average number for a litter of shrews, and litters can number up to a dozen. That's a lot of hungry mouths to feed.

A word about shrews: After they're born, they have busy, demanding lives ahead of them, for a shrew must eat his weight everyday, or die. That's why, if you were to study shrews, you would observe them frantically scurrying about the forest floor, desperately seeking the next meal. Shrews give new meaning to the term "fast food".

Wednesday, July 26, 2006


Up to this point I have chosen pages from Mrs. Trowbridge's journal that reflect the fun and adventurous side of life in Huckleberry Hollow. But, like anyone who journals, she wrote pages that were filled with fear and sorrow too. This is one of her saddest pages.

Thursday, July 13, 2006


Mrs. Trowbridge always looks forward to summer holidays in the high meadows with her family and friends. This year things were different. Mrs. T wasn't happy about Woodrow's new rock climbing pursuits, but she followed him with her sketch pad nevertheless. The majestic Olympic skyline looms in the distance.

Woodrow was having the time of his life swinging from boulders. Here Mrs. T captures him practicing his rappelling techniques. Some of the best times for residents of Huckleberry Hollow are their summer treks to the high meadows.

Friday, June 30, 2006


This was my introduction to the Monkey flower, the first one that I ever saw. I found it growing beside a stream in Grand Valley, north of Huckleberry Hollow, where Mrs. Trowbridge lived.

Mrs. Trowbridge is in high spirits because summer has come to Huckleberry Hollow. Today she shares the family's first summer outing with us. Whenever I hike up Wild Rose Creek, I wonder which one of the boulders I've hopped onto or jumped over was the one that Mrs. T referred to as the family's "special boulder", where they had so many memorable family outings. I sure wish I could have been there to join them for beetle burgers.

Speaking of beetle burgers, I've noticed that whenever Mrs. T talked about meals, she usually referred to meat. After researching the shrew's diet I understood why. I learned that 80% of the shrew diet is from animal protein. The rest comes from berries, seeds and nuts. I would never know by Mrs. T's gentle demeanor that shrews are ferocious carnivors.

I plan to make another trek this summer into Huckleberry Hollow, the area in the rain forest where Mrs. Trowbridge lived. I hope to go in a few weeks, when the wildflowers are in full bloom. I wish some of you could join me. If I find time to make the trip, I'll post some photos for you. It's truly a magical place.

Sidebar Info: I recently learned that there was once ANOTHER Trowbridge Chronicles. Between 1861 and 1906 the Trowbridge Chronicles newspaper was published in a rural county in Southwest England.

Tuesday, June 13, 2006


It has been suggested that Mrs. Trowbridge's portrait of Mrs. Fernwick was too small, and much of the detail was impossible to see in such a small image. I know in last week's journal page it was impossible to see her expensive ruby ring, and other accoutrements of her lavish gown. So I digitally removed the parchment background that Mrs. T worked on and enlarged the image so that you could see her fine detailing better on a white background. I'll bring Mrs. T back as often as I can. I'm out of town for the next two weeks so I'm temporarily out of commission. Enjoy.

Saturday, June 03, 2006


Mrs. Trowbridge returns to show us her portrait skills. She devoted many pages in her journal to sketching her ladybug friends with tattooed shells. I might add that my Trowbridge unique visits went through the roof when I posted her page on "ladybug tattoos". I'm still getting tons of hits on that one.

Mrs. Fernwick, the subject of the portrait, was one of Mrs. T's best friends. She, too, was an artist, and they spent many happy days together sketching along Wild Rose Creek and in the high meadows. They often walked together into the village to do their weekly shopping and to attend social events. The rose in her portrait, is a Nootka rose, which grows in abundance in the Olympic Rain Forest.

Monday, May 22, 2006


Since this past New Years Day, when The Trowbridge Chronicles made its debut, it has been a true joy to bring you a new webisode each week from Mrs. Trowbridge's journal. As a typically busy writer and illustrator, I would be remiss to say that it hasn't been a strain on my schedule. If fact, it's been seven days a week since Trowbridge was launched.

But I've looked forward to each Friday, when I have had the pleasure of letting my imagination sweep me back into the rain forest, where I am lost until Monday or Tuesday. But each week I ask myself: "How long can I keep up this pace?" Trowbridge has put a real strain on my regular projects.

My novel, Star Dude, is 99% completed, but it's been sidelined for several months, because Mrs. Trowbridge is such a cruel taskmistress. And my new picture book, The Booger Book, has been languishing as well.

So now I feel that it's time to make some priority adjustments, which will, undoubtedly affect the regularity of future Trowbridge webisodes. I'm not saying there will be no more Trowbridges, but they will be more sporatic in the future as I focus on other necessary projects.

I might add that if anyone has any bright ideas about how I can realize some income from Trowbridge, that would definitely play a role in the future of the feature. If some book editor stepped forward and said, "Let's turn your blog into a book", then I would have more reason to continue full steam with the weekly commitment. But until that time, I'll have to take things a week at a time. Thank you all so much for making my experience in the blogosphere such a rewarding one. I've appreciated your encouraging comments and loyal support.

Monday, May 15, 2006


Mrs. Trowbridge titled this night painting "Lost on a Limb". I've observed from reading Mrs. T's journal in its entirety that the small creatures of the rain forest were highly superstitious. Like the early Greeks and Romans, they took their mythical creatures very seriously. Did you notice that the ladybug in the sketch had been to Madam Lucy's Ladybug Tattoo Parlor? The "heart" design on the back center of the shell became the most popular design to be worn by the ladybugs at that time.

Sunday, May 07, 2006


This week's journal page finds Mrs. Trowbridge in the middle of her most terrifying undersea encounter ever. This was definitely her last foray into the undersea world.

The slug that Mrs. T painted above is a banana slug (Ariolmax columbianus), a common sight in the rain forest. They come in a variety of decorator colors, ranging from yellow with black spots (hence the name), to solid greenish, olive brown, and even white.
You might think that Mrs. T embellished the undersea terrain just a bit with her bright colors. Actually, her depiction of marine life in Northwest waters is very accurate. As a skin diver, I have explored the colorful reefs of Puget Sound many times. Much of the color in Northwestern underseascapes comes from multi-hued lichen (pronouned "liken") that grows in abundance on the rocks.

The flower-like Sea Anemones are also frequently seen in Washington waters...they add another splash of color to the reef. I have found the white anemones (Metridium giganteum) to be the most common. Did you know that the word "anemone" is one of the top ten most beautiful words in the English language?
Mrs. Trowbridge's "monster" is actually a Wolf eel. They are certainly one of nature's most grotesque looking creatures, easily recognizable by their hideous appearance, and blubbery jowls. In my more "trigger happy" days I speared a wolf eel on a reef in the Straits of Juan de Fuca. He measured in at a whopping six feet! My amazing trophy fish landed me on the cover of the Port Angeles Evening News. Today I would shoot the eel with a camera, not a spear.

Sea slug is the nickname for the beautiful Nudibranch (Dirona albolineata). The Nudibranch that towed Mrs. T is one of a number of species that are found in Puget Sound and Washington coast waters. Their iridescent golden plumes are actually gills.

The little innocent bystander hiding behind the reef is a red rock crab (Cancer productus). They are identified by their dark red spots. A few seconds later, he turned around and discovered what was lurking behind him. Before you could say "crab louie", he beat it for the nearest hole.

Sunday, April 23, 2006


Because the word "robot" doesn't appear anywhere in the Trowbridge Chronicles, I thought I would seize the opportunity, and share a most amazing story with you...

It all started last summer. I was on safari in Morocco, exploring a cave in the cliffs above the Wad Dra River, when I stumbled upon something most amazing. There, buried under skull fragments and pottery shards was what appeared to be an ancient manuscript! I brushed the dust from it and carefully unrolled it. Yes! It was a manuscript! My light revealed beautifully scribed text, and even illustrations! The title read: The Legend of Shrew Khan. The art style was distinctly humorous. I didn't know they had cartoonists in ancient times...did you?

I rolled the manuscript into a sheet of burlap, placed it in the boot of my Land Rover, then drove into Marakech to have carbon dated. To my utter amazement, it dated back to the Third Century!

Fast forward to three weeks ago. My phone rings unusually early one morning. I try not to sound's the famous producer, Jerry Bruckheimer. My mind is racing as he expains that he wants to pay me a ton of money to option my Shrew Khan manuscript for a movie! Hollywood has caught wind of my discovery. Perhaps Bruckheimer read about it in USA Today, or in one of the supermarket rags.

He calls me again yesterday to inform me that none other than TOM CRUISE has signed on to play the title role of Shrew Khan. Katie Holmes will play Shrew Kahn's mistress. I was delighted, of course, but I thought they were terrible casting choices. I was thinking more along the lines of Jack Black or Paulie Shore to play Shrew Kahn, and maybe Bette Midler or Whoopie Goldberg to play the mistress. Whatever...I'm just thrilled that Shrew Kahn is going to make it to the big screen.

I got special permission from Mr. Bruckheimer to let you have a sneak peek at a page from the manuscript. He will only allow ONE page to be revealed to the public. I chose YOU, the Illustration Friday audience, to be the first to see it. This is the special page that I selected, because it's a good close-up depiction of Kahn and his robot steed. So look for The Legend of Shrew Kahn, coming soon to a multiplex near you!

Monday, April 17, 2006


The Pipers Bell Flower is the rarest of the rare. Endemic to the Olympic Mountains, only a few dozen specimens are known to exist. This flower, undoubtedly, is one of the rarest wild flowers on the planet. Only a few people know where to find it. I am privileged to be counted among them. Mrs. Trowbridge saw it and sketched it on only one occasion, but even she couldn't fully appreciate its rarity.
This is very likely the actual rock where Mrs. T encountered the Albino Pipers Bell Flower so many years ago, for there is only one other known population of this precious wild flower. She wrote that she found it "on a distant mountain in the North Forest". I photographed the flowers pictured above near the summit of Lillian Ridge in the north Olympics. There were less than two dozen Bell Flowers growing on this boulder. The photos that I took of this flower are among my most prized photographs.