• Jeffrey Barrett

Wonder Valley - An Unpublished Story

Updated: Aug 12, 2021

My wife Dina Torrans and I had the good fortune to meet the previous owners of the home we purchased in Wonder Valley in 2018. Although one normally doesn't get to interact with the selling party of a property our accidental meeting allowed us to make a connection with William Hillyard and his partner Ann Fenner Hillyard. Both had been citizens of the Desert for almost 10 years at that point and deeply connected to the place and the people.

Through their kind introductions to the members of the community, Wonder Valley has become more than just a place we visit - it has become a second home to us. As it happened, Bill had just finished his book, "Welcome To Wonder Valley - Ruin and Redemption in an American Galapagos" which tells the story of his time in both Wonder Valley and in his life, the characters of this particular part of the desert, its history and his own. He was kind enough to share with me an unpublished essay to post on this site and it is with gratitude and love that it is shared here.

Read beautifully and with deep feeling by local Wonder Valley artist David Greene and mood music contributed by the Mojave Improv Collective I think this captures both the past and some of the present of this special place. Enjoy!

About William Hillyard

Prior to embarking on this project, Bill worked as a day laborer, a handyman, and in a guitar factory. He ran an environmental consulting firm, a restaurant, huge call centers, and hired, trained, and mentored hundreds of employees. He also made and lost a fortune in real estate, casting him into the downward spiral that sparked [his] Wonder Valley odyssey.

An avid traveler, he has visited more than forty countries on five continents. He has crossed the equator by plane, boat, bus, and on foot. He has battled forty-foot seas in a thirty-five-foot sailboat, been chased by a wild orangutan in a Sumatran jungle, stared into the black pupil of a rebel Kalashnikov in the rainforest of Guatemala.

He received an M.F.A. in Creative Nonfiction and Screenwriting from UC Riverside where he was mentored by L.A. Times Book Critic and notable author David Ulin. His work has appeared in magazines and anthologies including the Denver Voice and Best American Nonrequired Reading.


Click Here to Purchase Welcome To Wonder Valley

About David Greene

David Greene is a self-taught artist. He made his artistic debut as a caricature artist at Ameriflora 92, an international floral show held in Columbus, Ohio. [He] had his first public show of paintings in the summer of that same year. In January of 1993 he joined Acme Art Co., a non-profit alternative art space in Columbus' Short North arts district. He worked as a regular volunteer for seven years, serving on the board of trustees for three years, including one year as president.

David's artwork has shown in numerous central Ohio galleries and museums, and is included in the Ohio Arts Council permanent collection, as well as private and corporate collections in the U.S., Canada and Europe. Before moving to California in 2006 he spent three years as Artistic Director, Designer and Production Manager of the "Signature Series" line of hand-painted ceramic bath ware for Mansfield Plumbing Products.

Since moving to Twentynine Palms, his work has appeared in various group and solo shows. In 2008 [he] was commissioned to paint six 4 ft x 8 ft murals for the Holiday Inn Express in Twentynine Palms. After receiving private commissions to paint murals on local water tanks, in 2012 David was commissioned by The Glass Outhouse Art Gallery to paint their 12 foot tall, 5000 gallon water tank to look like a vintage Pepsi can.

David's work is as about as regional as it gets. Localism taken to the point where he doesn't even leave his yard to look for subject matter. Not that it was planned that way, it’s just a function of living in a wilderness area with unobstructed views of the surrounding mountains and clear skies most nights.

Wonder Valley is in the eastern part of the Morongo Basin, which runs along the north border of Joshua Tree National Park. Starting at the east slope of Mt San Gorgonio, the basin stretches about 40 miles east to the Cockscomb Mountains. It’s the only mountain basin on the continental U.S. that runs east-west. The site of an ancient sea bed, and skirting the edge of the San Andrea’s Fault, the area has always been considered a locus of natural energy. All the raw forces of nature are at work on a grand scale. Standing [his] yard [he has] a clear view from one end of the basin to the other. All of his paintings are inspired by what he sees every night when he take the dog out for his walk.

Click Here for Information About David Greene's Work

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