When John Swisher died several years ago, the author passed the mantle of Hesperia's history to Gary "Griz" Drylie, a steel worker by day who maintains the Hesperia Old Town Museum at the Harrison Exhibit Center on Main Street in his spare time.


So when Arcadia Publishing decided to publish a book on Hesperia there was one person to fill the bill.


"They asked if this guy's crazy enough to do it," Drylie joked, "so I agreed to do it."


Over the next six months, Drylie will write about 128 pages-worth of text and select 200 or so photos for the book he tentatively calls "Hesperia: Water Ways, Trail Ways and Highways."


While the finished product will have Drylie's byline, he wants residents to lend a hand.


"It's the city of Hesperia's book," he said. "I want the townspeople to participate and help give it that hometown flavor."


Every Saturday from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m., Drylie will be at his museum office working on the book. But he wants those with old photos or interesting tidbits of Hesperia to drop by and share what they have. Drylie can scan photos within minutes, so whoever brings in a photo can take it home with them.


Drylie, who is married to popular Hesperia restaurateur Shelly Sullivan, believes the publication's graphics will help tell the story of Hesperia's century-old history.


"It becomes visual. It becomes more tangible. With something pictorial they might see the actual 12-mile trail of the flume."


The book also will contain numerous first-person accounts, which will bring the pertinence of Hesperia's former years to life.


"I don't want it just to be facts and figures."


He envisions abut 10 chapters covering a cross-section of Hesperia history topics.


After doing his part of the project, Drylie will hand everything over to the publisher. Then over the next half year, editors will refine the text, and graphic designers will create a page layout.


"I want it to be ready for next year's Hesperia Days. Hesperia Days is an integral part of our history."


Drylie became interested in Hesperia's history after his wife opened Shelly's Restaurant in the Old Town section of Hesperia on Orange Street several years ago.


"Something just clicked," he said. "I needed to learn a little more."


Today, Drylie is infatuated with Hesperia's history, which began when Joseph Widney formed the Hesperia Land and Water Company in 1885. Often, he dresses in his signature mountain man outfit, complete with fringed buckskin jacket, during local events.


"If you don't know where you came from you, don't know where you started," Drylie said.


Those interested in contributing content to Drylie's book can visit him on Saturdays from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. at 16367 Main St. through March.