Getting the Point

Mom had jus’ purchased six lugs of apples from the traveling fruits and vegetables salesman. They were neatly stacked up in what had been our garage, but renovated into a family rumpus room.

Both Mom and Dad were gone to Eureka as it was a few weeks before Christmas. They left Adam and me alone while they were gone.

It was a mistake. We were bored as it was raining and we weren’t allowed to go out in it—even though we had already.

So, looking for something fun to do, we decided to take a green tomato stake and some fishing line and make ourselves a bow. The remaining stakes became our arrows.

Next we needed to find ourselves a suitable target. It turned out to be easier than we thought it would be.

When our folks got home and saw how badly we had shot up the apple boxes, we got one butt-whipping each. Then we spent most of the night peeling apples for Mom to turn into pies and sauce.

Hard Head

The sun had dropped behind the Sages Riddles by the time I came to the last deliveries in my paper route. They were down a steep, gravel road, 100 yards south of Redwood Drive.

Once finished and knowing I had to climb back uphill, I shifted to the lowest gear on my 10-speed. Then I stood up on my pedals and pumped as hard as I could.

A few seconds after reaching 101 and turning up the hill, a speeding pickup truck came over the rise. Leaning from the truck’s bed was a large cream-colored dog.

The dog and I had jus’ enough time to make eye contact, before our heads clacked together. The dog yelped, my jaw clicked shut and over the side of the hill I rolled.

My eyes were black, nose bloodied, lips like hamburger and my ears ringing. It took me a while to retrieve my bike and limp home.

And after explaining what happened and why I was later than normal, Mom responded, “Good thing you have a hard head.”

Trading Up

Both of my sisters, first Deirdre in 1967 and then Marcy two-years later, were born at Seaside Hospital in Crescent City. In order to pay for their births and Mom’s hospital stay afterward, Dad paid Dr. Kasper with a whole cow for each child he traded for with my Grandpa and Uncle.

What did our dad trade? Child labor — in the form of my brother and me.

Blackwater

The building at Redwood Drive and Highway 101, next to the former Yurok Volunteer Fire Department was originally used by Judge Hopper. But the good Judge had retired a few years earlier so the building was left unused for a while.

After a couple of years it became the business office for Bob White Realty.

However in the interim it was the community center for the small neighborhood. The center had a pool table, two or three pinball machines and a juke-box with all the current music in it.

My friend, Robin Kohse and I used to cop a few coins from my Dad’s cuss-jar and go down the street to the center to play pool and listen to tunes. Robin had even figured out how to turn the juke-box up so we could really enjoy the sound.

One late afternoon, the two of us were shooting a few rounds of pool and playing 45s from the juke-box. One of those 45’s was “Black Water,” by The Doobie Brothers.

It was one of my favorite songs and the only time I was able to hear “rock music,” besides at school or on the school bus. My parents only allowed two-kinds of music in the house: country and western.

When the song came on, the game of pool stopped and Robin and I started using our pool cues as guitars. As we strummed and sang the song at the top of our lungs, we also started dancing around the pool table.

We were so caught up in the music that we didn’t notice the figure standing in the doorway of the center. However as the music started to fade, I looked over to see Deputy Walt Woodstock watching us.

He had his arms folded across his chest, trying real hard to look tough.

Walt couldn’t hold himself back from smiling though as he started laughing. Then without a word, he turned and walked back to his patrol car.

Robin and I stood there watching out the windows of the center as Walt drove away. Then we looked at each other and started laughing until we couldn’t laugh anymore.

Evidently we didn’t have sense enough to be embarrassed about getting caught dancing around, playing air guitar.

Scareborne

We were doing exactly what we were not supposed to be doing: playing on the roof of our home. But since mom and dad were at work, we figured we could get away with it.

Dad had already warned Adam and I about climbing around on the roof. He found out we were playing on the roof after I had jumped from the house top to the redwood picnic table below and it collapsed.

One would have thought the butt-blistering I got that day would have taught me a lesson. Nope.

As I walked back and forth along the ridge of the roof, I could hear Adam calling me. He was standing on one end of the teeter-totter Dad had built a couple years earlier.

Adam wanted me to jump on the end with the hope of landing on the roof. I told him it wouldn’t work but he insisted.

He was a very good insister.

Adam shot straight up 30 feet or more then in the blink of an eye, tumbled head-over-heels into the ground. The sound of his body hitting the earth was like a plastic basket of wet clothes.

He jus’ laid there unmoving.

My first thought was that I had killed Adam — my second thought was Mom and Dad are going to kill me. In response, I ran from the backyard and into the field across from out house. I hid in the trees thinking Adam was dead.

Then I saw him in front to the house. Adam was drinking a soda as if nothing had ever happened.

Black Sock Confession

It was the afternoon of the Senior Prom. It was also the day I created a real nuisance of myself with one of my best high school friends.

It happened at Jeri’s home after I asked if I could use one of the back rooms to get dressed. Being the nice girl she was, she said yes.

This also included taking a shower.

Had Jeri known this was my idea of getting ready, I’m sure she’d have backed out of the request in a hot second.

As I recall, I was jus’ coming out of the bathroom, with puffs of steam floating over my head, when in the front door walks Jeri’s mother. The look on her face told me pretty much everything I needed to know about what sort of trouble I was in.

Jeri raced to my rescue though, explaining that I was simply there to get ready for the Prom. Her mother stopped, took a breath and relaxed.

Personally, I think Jeri saved my life that day.

Later on Jeri’s mom noted I was wearing white socks instead of the black ones, forgotten on end of my bed at home in Klamath.

She asked, “Are you trying to corrupt my two girls by wearing white socks with a formal suit?”

I didn’t have an answer and every sound that came from my mouth sounded like a stutter.

Jeri’s mother let me off the hook with a laugh. At the risk of embarrassing myself, Jeri let me borrow a pair of her black socks to resolve the problem.

So, yes, I wore a pair of girlie-socks to my Senior Prom.

Jeri was straightening the Slade-blue bow-tie I had on when she said, “You know, after all the trouble you’ve caused today, you should be taking me to the Prom.”

While I can’t do anything about not taking Jeri to the Prom that year, I do have a drawer full of black socks. And rarely have I put on a pair that I haven’t thought about that afternoon so long ago.

Never Saw It Coming

Grandpa Bill didn’t mean for it to happen. And I never saw it coming.

We were in his workshop, where he did minor horseshoe repair and other odds and ends. I was fascinated by the clanging of the hammer on the anvil and the heat and steam that poured off the furnace and water tank.

Grandpa Bill pointed out a rubber mallet that he said I could use to strike the anvil while he was heating a shoe in the fire. Happily, I picked it up and swung it as hard as I could.

The rubber hammer caught the edge of the anvil and rifled back at me. Like I said, I never saw it coming.

Simply Thank You

My job delivering the Eureka Times-Standard had me out everyday of the week. Five of my customers were within the National Park boundaries.

After my last delivery and on my way back towards Highway 101 I stopped to talk with Karlene Rose. As we stood there chatting, we watched her younger brother Kurt riding his skate board down the hill towards the highway.

Suddenly she noticed he was picking up speed and unable to stop. She yelled at him to jump off the skate board, however he appeared locked in fright.

Without really thinking about it, I tossed off my paper bag, dropped my bicycle and sprinted straight down the hill in order to intercept Kurt before he reached the highway. I reached him within 20 feet or so of the road.

In order to keep from running out into the road, I aimed my body at the bus stop near the roadside. I twisted slightly and slammed into the heavy plywood building.

Kurt’s skate board continued out into Highway 101. It was demolished by fully-loaded chip-truck as it slipped into the drive-lane.

Karlene came rushing to us as we lay heaped beside the bus stop. She was shaking and crying and she grabbed her brother and hugged him for dear life.

She hugged me and thanked me for keeping Kurt from going out into the highway. Nothing more was said about the incident, that is until my senior year of high school when I asked Karlene to sign my annual.

When I got it back, she had written, “Dear Tommy, Thank you for saving my brother. Love, Karlene.”

One Last Time

At first I didn’t recognize the feeble old man as he stumbled by the window of the school districts multimedia facility. He was nearly to El Dorado Drive when it dawned on who I had jus’ seen: my fourth grade teacher — Robert Kirby.

Mr. Kirby first made himself known to me when I was in kindergarten. He had seen me walking along U.S. 101 to the bus stop when he stopped and made me get in his car because, as he later explained to my folks, “he was walking on the white line at the side of the road like a tight-rope walker.”

I wasn’t, but that’s my take on the incident.

Anyway, I rushed out of the building and caught up with the now fragile and former grade school teacher. I said hello to him but he didn’t have a clue who I was.

When I told him my name, his demeanor changed and his body stiffened a little. I continued to walk along side of him.

Mr. Kirby was using a cane, so I moved to his left side, figuring was his weaker side and offered him my arm to lean on. I could tell he was leery of my offer since we had never gotten along from the time I was first enrolled until I graduated from Margaret Keating School.

After another offer from me, and another stumble on his part, he slipped his left arm in and over my right arm and we continued east on El Dorado.

About 20 minutes later he pointed out the house he now lived in and I walked up the steps to the door with him. He stepped inside and started to close the door, when he turned, looked at me and said, “Good to see you, Tommy. I think you’ve become a fine young man.”

It would be the last time I’d ever see him. Mr. Kirby passed away in March 1982.

Barnstorm

We were snooping through the two old barns my Grandpa Bill had on his property. In the second one, we found an old Jenny two-seater biplane.

My friend, Jimmy and I dragged it out from under the canvas tarp that covered it and rolled it out of the barn. It took us a while, but we finally got the Jenny’s engine to start.

Then we decided to try and get it off the ground. Several times I pulled back on the stick, hoping to clear the ground, but all we would get was a hop.

Then I saw the slight rise alongside the dirt road. We hit the rise at full speed and the biplane jumped into the air.

Much to our surprise we were sailing over Grandpa’s cornfield. As we whooped and shouted at our success, the nose of the plane dipped and we found ourselves mowing through the corn.

The plane finally came to a jarring-halt with its tail in the air. All that was left for us to do was walk back home and tell Grandpa what we had done.

We had trespassed, taken his property, crashed the plane and damaged his crops.

At the gate, Grandpa asked, “What have you two boys been up too?”

Jimmy looked at me and without a word, took off running for home, leaving me to suffer the coming wrath. But instead of trouble, Grandpa couldn’t wait to see where we’d crashed.

Evidently, it had been a long-time dream of his to get the Jenny air born. And while his dream never came true, he was pleased-as-punch to know his grandson had tried.

But for obvious reasons, I’m glad we never got the Jenny to fly.

Coffee and Blisters

Dad sent me into the kitchen to get him a cup of coffee. He would have done it himself, however he had my sister Deirdre sitting in his lap.

As I returned with the hot liquid, Dad twisted in his swivel easy-chair and the back of the seat struck the cup, knocking it out of my hand. The cup flipped over and it landed in Deirdre’s lap.

She screamed from the pain of the hot coffee. Furthermore, she was wearing tights and the coffee was trapped against her skin.

Within seconds, Dad had her tights stripped from her legs. But by that time the damage was already done.

He rushed Deirdre to the bathroom and placed her in the shower, where he turned on the water to cool off her blistered legs. Shortly thereafter, Dad and Mom decided to rush her to Seaside Hospital in Crescent City for emergency treatment.

I locked myself in my closet and cried until I was so exhausted I fell asleep.

Ambidextrous

As a child I had a problem that plagues most kids, who are first learning to write. I was ambidextrous.

My first grade teacher, Mrs. Helen Puls thought it was a problem and she set out to find out which hand I was more prone to use. Her plan was simple, but very effective.

Mrs. Puls had me slide, like a baseball player, into the corner behind her desk. The leg I led with would ultimately decide which hand I would learn to use when it came to writing.

Today, I’m right-handed and at times I still like to put my left hand behind my back when I’m writing, exactly like Mrs. Puls instructed me to do.

I’m also a better writer than I am a ball-player.

Tommy Garbage

Over the years I’ve been called by a number of nicknames: Tommy, Little Tee, T.J., etc. Two of the worst involved being tongue-tied and the other was about a television show called “Kung Fu.”

But it can all be traced back to one singular event.

It was the day I introduced myself to my next-door neighbor, a blond hair and blue-eyed girl, named Goldie Arnold. We were the same age and became immediate friends since we shared the same duplex near the end of Sander’s Court.

Unfortunately I was horrified when I discovered she was introducing me as Tommy Garbage.

 

Rabbit Hole

Adam and I were playing in the woods around a cluster of Redwood trees, we had named, “Darby’s Castle.” It was play off the old song, our last name and the fact that the trees created a natural fort, if you knew how to get inside.

It was situated on the right side of the old logging road that lead deep into the National Park’s “Experimental Forest.” While that’s what the sign read at the park’s entrance, we had no idea what it meant.

Anyway one late Sunday afternoon, the two of us were exploring the area, when I fell through a hole near a large fallen tree. I grabbed the end of a tree branch in order to keep from falling all the way to the bottom.

As I screamed for Adam to come help me, my mind raced and pictured all sorts of horrible things that could be waiting for me if I couldn’t hold on. It could have been a bear den or held some other wild animal or have pointed sticks to fall on or worse, be bottomless.

Adam struggled to pull me out. But I was too heavy for him to lift.

So he ran all the way home to get help. It felt like forever, but soon Dad rumbled up in his old Studebaker truck, to rescue me.

He yanked me out of the hole and made sure I was okay. Then he grabbed the large flashlight he normally wore with his service uniform and peered down the hole.

He looked up at me in disgust. He also complained about being pulled away from the last couple minutes of a football game he was watching.

I figured I was in deep trouble. But then he laughed, letting me off the hook.

Looking down the hole, I could see it ended about half a foot from where my feet had been dangling.

Alcoa Can’t Wait

Perhaps it was to help curb the cost of heating or maybe Mom had been visited by aliens, either way she decided one afternoon to wallpaper our bathroom in aluminum foil. Yeah, I know — weird.

She didn’t take very much time in planning it out. She jus’ gathered together supplies on hand like some old contact cement used months before to put up paneling in the living room and hallway.

She also grabbed the several rolls of Alcoa aluminum foil she had stored under the sink. Alcoa Aluminum’s advertisement tagline was: Alcoa can’t wait.

By the end of the day, Mom had a real mess going. She had put up the foil and tried to flatten it out; however it tended to tear, leaving the wall behind it covered in the yellowish-brown glue.

It would take her three days to peal and reapply the aluminum foil to the wall. By that time she had discovered what she would later call her “technique.”

Once she was done, she proudly called everyone into the cramped little space to show-off her work. I’m sure we lauded her for her creative redecoration of our home’s only bathroom.

As she worked on this bathroom project the one comment that kept coming back to her time and again, and first uttered by my youngest sister

Marcy was: “Uh, Mom—-Alcoa can’t wait!”

It was potty-time.

Bad Things

As difficult as it is to admit…bad things of no fault of our own sometimes happened to us kids as we were growing up. One of those bad things was having been raped by a mentally ill man as I was delivering newspapers.

I will not name the family of this man, as I don’t want anyone to think I feel vindictiveness towards them.

What happened was beyond their control and how they dealt with it afterward came to be a point of grace in my life. It started one late afternoon when I missed the front porch of a residence.

I stepped into the brushes to retrieve the newspaper and was attacked, and forcefully raped from behind.

When I woke up, it was very late in the day and I realized I’d be in trouble if I didn’t hurry and complete my route. I pulled up my pants, jumped on my bicycle and rode for all I could to get the job done.

That night I decided to take a shower, something I normally did in the morning prior to school. I was a bloody mess in my skivvies and ended up using one of Mom’s sanitary napkins to stem the flow of blood.

Two days later, I was still bleeding and I needed to tell someone what had happened. As scared as I was of his reaction, I told Dad, fearful that what happened would be the gossip of Klamath.

He did neither. Instead he took me up to the base infirmary and had me checked out.

He kept the entire situation quiet. Furthermore, Dad quietly went to the family of the man and told them what had happened.

The family took immediate action and had their son placed in a mental health facility in Napa.

And while my physical injuries healed, I had some emotional wounds that no-one could see. And looking back, I know this caused me to act out in some very weird and embarrassing ways.

Like I said, it was no ones fault and I hold nobody responsible. I jus’ wish I could have talked about it back then.

Loop Hole

It was a conversation between Dad and Mom. They were angry at the fact that a neighborhood committee had given them a list of approved colors they could paint the house and that each color had a fee of some sort attached to it.

As I recall the main complaint was that this group had the audacity to tell my folks what color they could or couldn’t paint their home. Worse yet, it would cost them for selecting a color scheme from the chart they’d been given.

Then my parents found a loop-hole in the committee’s planning. There were two colors that weren’t regulated.

One was on the list, but considered so outlandish that it was believed no one would use it. The other was so common, it wasn’t given a price.

That’s how our home came to be painted white with black trim.

Bad Art

My guard was up as I had been ambushed once and locked in the display case along Del Norte High School’s Senior Hall. I didn’t want it to happen again.

However my vigilance didn’t pay off.

Without warning I was jumped and dragged out of the locker room where I had jus’ stripped down, preparing to take a shower. This time I found my eyes and mouth being covered with tape.

I could neither see who was doing this to me, nor could I yell for help.

Within seconds I was back out in the main hallway, but instead of taking me to the right, I was carried to the left. It occurred to me that I was about to get tossed in the girls locker room naked so I started to struggle for all I was worth.

Turns out I was wrong. It never occurred to me that I’d be hoisted off the ground and duct taped in place against the wall, leading out of the girls gymnasium.

I had tape covering my arms from my bicep to my wrist and my legs, thigh to ankle.

There were also several straps of tape across my stomach and even more holding my head in place. I was trussed up with no possible way of escaping.

The bell rang and I heard girls streaming passed me. Some gasped, some giggle, others touched and still others, I’m certain, though I couldn’t see them, averted their eyes.

As I hung there, I remember thinking that I felt like a bad piece of art, left unattended.

One person later told me that when she saw me, she thought I was some sort of screwed up representation of the Crucifixion. Great!

Before the next bell rang I was being cut from the wall. I was quickly covered and hustled into the boy’s locker room, where Mr. Dowling worked for nearly two classroom periods removing the tape from my body.

I recall screaming more than “Ouch!” and Mr. Dowling allowing me to get away with it.

 

Display Cased

Senior Hall of Del Norte High School ran from the main entrance to the doorways leading outside, jus’ pass the girl’s locker rooms and gymnasium. Midway down the hall and in between the entrances into the boy’s gym was a large glass trophy case, mounted to the wall. P.E. for me was my very first period.

I had jus’ entered the locker room when I was grabbed up by several “jocks,” stripped down to my bare essentials and carried out into Senior Hall.

Without fanfare I was shoved inside the glass display case and it was locked. Minutes later the bell rang and the hallway filled up with kids going from one class to another.

While I did my best to hide my face, several people stopped to look at me. Some laughed, some, mostly the girls, were completely horrified at the sight of me locked in the case.

Then the second bell rang and the hallway emptied out. It wasn’t too soon afterward when the schools assistant vice-principle Mr. Raleigh and our custodian, Mr. Cassidy came rushing down the corridor with keys to the case.

The words “humiliation,” and “humility,” are so close in nature.

Out Fishing Cousin Billy

It would be three weeks before my cousin Billy would arrive from Washington State. He had already told me that he planned to out-fish me while he was visiting.

To keep that from happening, I decided to rig our fishing spot. Everyday until he arrived I took a can of corn with me to the old saw mill-pond and generously sprinkled handfuls of the yellow kernels into the brackish water.

Billy could hardly wait to get to the pond edge the day he arrived. We packed our bag lunches, dug up a few worms and hurried to our spot on the west side of the lagoon.

When we got there, I told him I wanted to try something a little different that I had heard worked. Instead of putting a worm on my hook, I balled up a tiny piece of Velveeta cheese, pushing it onto my hook.

“Worms have always worked for me, so I’ll stick with them.”

Within minutes I had a trout on the line. Billy was amazed, but he called it dumb-luck as he was six years old than me and felt he had the better fishing skills.

This continued for the next few hours and I eventually ended up with 12 trout in my basket. Billy had a total of three.

Billy mumbled all the way home. He was mad that he’d been out fished.

He was so mad in fact that I didn’t have the guts to tell him that I had “seeded” the old mill-pond. I knew that he’d hold me down and give me “purple-nerples” until I begged “uncle.”

The price of cunning in this case was silence.

One Big Step

When we went to visit our Aunt and Uncle, we also stopped at Don and Evelyn Chisum’s home. It was a post-Victorian building with three bedrooms and a full bathroom upstairs and a master bedroom, another full bathroom, kitchen, dining and living room on the bottom floor.

During one visit, Dad went upstairs to use the bathroom as the one down stairs was occupied. He reappeared a couple minutes later. He came to the top of the stairs and stepped out into nothingness.

Dad spilled out of the bottom of the staircase with an awful thud and jus’ laid where he had fallen. I couldn’t believe what I had jus’ witnessed.

Within seconds everyone in the house was in the living room to see if he was okay. It took Dad a minute but he finally rolled over onto his back and worked his way to he feet.

He said he wanted to take a moment to make sure nothing was broken on his body, then he got up and brushed himself off. As soon as it was apparent he was going to be okay, the question, “What happened?” was asked.

Without hesitating, Dad yanked his two-day old and first set of bifocal glasses off his face, answering, “These g-d damned glasses are going to be the death of me!”

Red Dress

Mom and dad were going to a function at the airbase. For the event mom went out and purchased a bright red dress.

They left the house at around six that evening and returned before jus’ 11 o’clock that night. Both looked nice as they left for the evening.

Dad was first through the door. He headed for his favorite chair, picking up the local news paper to start reading.

Mom however went into the kitchen to see if all of the chores were completed as instructed. From there she walked into the hallway.

And at the end of the hallway hung a large mirror.

Mom suddenly screamed, rushing towards her bedroom. She slammed and locked the door behind herself.

She must have seen what we all saw. Her bright red dress was turned inside out.

Almost Skated

Mom and Dad were gone for the day. They left Adam and I with Ma and Pa Sanders.

We were forbidden to return to our home for any reason. However we disobeyed because we wanted to play with our new roller skates.

The two of us roller skated up and down Redwood Drive and in the huge parking lot of the old Bizzards building, now owned by Simpson Timber Company all day long. We were pretty worn out by the time day light started to fade.

Having to get back to Ma and Pa’s before the street lamps came on, we pulled the skates from our feet. Adam picked them up and went inside our home.

A few seconds later he came back and we rushed over to Ma and Pa’s home a couple of fence-lines away.

When Dad came to pick us up, I could tell we were in trouble. Once inside the truck I found out why.

Adam didn’t put the skates back in our closet like he was supposed too. Instead, frightened of being in our house, alone, he set them inside the front door.

That’s where Mom tripped over them.

Zane Grey Slept Here

For three months, I worked at the Requa Inn. I was filling in for my brother, Adam after he broke his arm in a bicycle accident.

At first Adam tried to blame Dad for breaking his arm. That’s because Dad grabbed it after Adam attempted to stab me with a dinner fork.

Dr. Kasper said it was already broken by the time Dad stopped Adam. Unfortunately Dad helped the fracture along and he felt bad about it for a long time afterwards.

Because I was jus’ filling-in, I busted my hump trying to do a better job than my kid-brother had ever thought of doing. Not only did I wash dishes, I bused tables, took out the trash, and even found time to do a little fooling around.

A waitresses and I slipped up stairs one evening, to spend several minutes in the room, legendary western novel and sports writer Zane Grey always slept in. However I had no idea about this piece of trivia at the time.

As we were leaving the room, the woman said in a matter of fact whisper, “You know, Zane Grey slept here.”

I remember thinking, “I wonder if he’ll mind?”

Got It

Mom and Dad had spent three months paneling the living room and hallway. They also put squares of gold-veined mirror up in the front room hoping to make the area look bigger.

One of the extra things they did was to mount into the wall an old piece of ship’s timber that acted as a resting place for our telephone. It was about five-feet long, two-and-half feet wide, three-inches thick and about four-feet off the ground.

One of the things that occurred every time the phone rang was a mad-dash for the hallway.  It was during one of these mad-dashes, we discovered how much Marcy had grown.

She flew out of the bedroom she shared with our sister Deirdre, yelling, “I got it!”

However we soon realized she didn’t “got it.” Instead we heard a large thump followed by an even louder thud.

Marcy had made the corner, but failed to duck out-of-the-way of the ship’s timber. She caught the massive piece of wood with her forehead.

Kid’s being kids — we failed to offer her any help as we were all laughing too hard.

First Photo

One of the first photographs I ever took was of the stop-sign and telephone pole where Redwood Drive intersects with U.S. 101 in Klamath. I grew up in a home on Redwood Drive and anytime we went anywhere, we had to use that singular intersection to leave our neighborhood.

My parents bought me a Kodak 126 Instamatic, the cheapest camera available at the time and instead of regular film, they got slide-film by accident. I used it anyway.

The class was taught by Mr. Siegel. He was the new 8th grade teacher at Margaret Keating, replacing Mr. Wofford, who had retired the year before.

I liked Mr. Siegel because he was the first teacher who taught something I was truly interested in: photography.

Mr. Siegel was younger than most teachers at MKS.  The girls thought he was cute, the boy thought he was cool and Mr. Fizer thought he was a hippy.

He gave us a basic course on composition, lighting, color and subject. There was no singing, penmanship, math or memorization in his class. Instead he allowed us — he allowed me — to express myself through picture-taking. I had never experienced such freedom before and I enjoyed it so much that I’ve yet to stop taking pictures.

Unfortunately, he taught at MKS only one year.

Like a Sailor, Like a Logger

One of my part-time jobs was working as a summer-school teacher. The position turned out to require more interpersonal skill than I had at the time.

One afternoon I watched as a kid on a motorcycle raced around the playground while students were outside playing. I stopped him and told him he couldn’t be on the school grounds while other children were there. The next day, he returned and I confiscated the motorcycle.

I locked it up in the school’s office and called my supervisor Paul Rosenthal and the Del Norte County Sheriff’s Office.

Minutes after hanging up, I found myself confronted by a very angry mother. Mrs. Teri Fisher was demanding that I give her son’s motor bike back, which I did.

She was mad as all get-out at me and cussed me up one side and down the other as if she were a sailor. I returned the favor.

Later that evening her husband came to our home and confronted me. He read me the riot act in a language one usually only heard out in the woods where the loggers worked.

In essence he let me know it was not polite to use foul language in the presence of a woman. Being a smart-aleck, I asked, “What woman?”

I was certain he was going to kick my butt right there on our porch.

Hot Ashes

Mary and Russ Thompson had been visiting the area for years. They came to spend their summertime fishing for salmon and they always parked their travel trailer in space right behind our home at Camp Marigold.

We came to know them a few years earlier and when they were in town, we often invited them over for dinner. And though they were elderly, they climbed over out backyard fence jus’ like we kids would do.

After dinner one night, we were standing on the front porch chatting, when Mrs. Thompson asked, “Is there supposed to be a fire burning out there?”

She was looking through our rumpus room window and out the back door window. We all looked in the direction she was looking and we could see flames dancing up through the pane of glass.

Mom answered, “No.”

A sudden panic swept through all of us. We scattered, rushing to get to the fire before it caught the side of the house ablaze.

It was a plastic garbage can that Mom had placed a bag of ashes from the fireplace in. The bag of ashes had been setting out on the porch in a metal bucket for the passed two days so she believed them to be safe to throw away.

While Dad grabbed the garden hose, I got the fire extinguisher from the tool bench. He was already spraying the fire down when I aimed the extinguisher at the flame.

The garbage can melted down and some of the paint near the backdoor blistered, but nothing else was damaged. It was our good fortune that the Thompson’s had come over for a visit that evening.

Unfortunately, the fire extinguisher failed to work, when I squeezed the trigger. That’s because years before Adam and I had been playing with it when we should not have been.

Yeah, we got in trouble for it, too.

Attending Governor Gibbon’s Inauguration

The weather was wonderful for a winter-day in Northern Nevada, as last year at this time the region was covered in a blanket of snow. It was also made wonderful by the fact that the state’s constitution was in full swing and anyone who wanted to watch it operate was allowed to do so.

For the first time in 22-years of living in Northern Nevada, I attended the inauguration of Nevada’s Governor. I wanted to be there for the ceremony because he is a friend and I am very happy for him and his success.

Jim Gibbons was elected as these state’s 29th Governor after a hotly and sometimes intensely bitter campaign. Prior to this he was the 2nd District representative to the U.S. Congress. His resume includes having been a Nevada State Assemblyman and a combat pilot in both Vietnam and Desert Storm .

What I also enjoyed was seeing the number of dignitaries who came to the inauguration. There was Richard Bryan, Barbara Vucanovich, Bob Miller, Sharron Angle and Bill Raggio, to name a few. Even former gubernatorial candidate Bob Beers was there to congratulate Jim Gibbons.

Absent from the crowds was Nevada’s 28th Governor, Kenny Guinn. He said he didn’t want to be there because it was Gibbon’s day and he didn’t want to be the focus. But he did manage yesterday to announce the availability of his new book, documenting his 8 years in office .

All this aside, I enjoyed watching our state government work like it should. It is one of the pleasures of being a U .S. citizen and everybody should attend an event like the one held yesterday.

This is also why the United States is entrusted to defend those countries that do not have a system as great as ours system, as imperfect as it may SEEM. There isn’t a system as free as ours anywhere in the world.

Hometown

My junior year civic’s class teacher was a Jules Legier.  One guy, two unusual names in a school full of Bob’s, Bill’s and Tom’s.

One day Mr. Legier chastised the entire class for not being able to spell “Crescent City.”  Evidently some of the students were having difficulty with the proper name of the town.

He scratched out the words “CRESCENT CITY” on the chalk board behind his desk. Mr. Legier then scribbled out the words”CRESENT CITY” The word “Crescent” was misspelled.

As soon as the class was seated, he launched into his talk about how they lived in Crescent City and that they should know how to spell it correctly and how he couldn’t understand why we couldn’t get it right. It didn’t make any sense to me either, because I knew how spell the name of my hometown.

Suddenly, Mr. Legier ordered me to the chalkboard, assigning me the task of spelling the name of my hometown correctly.  He erased the correct and incorrect spellings then handed me the chalk.

Like a good student, I obeyed Mr. Legier and promptly wrote down the correct spelling. The class snickered in unison as the teacher turned red.

Mr. Legier had forgotten where I lived.  On the chalkboard in white-yellow letters was the name “KLAMATH’ and it was spelled correctly.

Trying to Go National

It was an April morning when Tommy spoke with Roberta. Her husband had been killed in Iraq in October of the previous year. He wanted to find out why the Sergeant didn’t have plaque at the Fernley Veterans Cemetery near the couples home.

“The veteran’s administration is refusing to allow the Wiccan symbol to be placed on his plaque,” Roberta said.

Tommy was appalled by this news and immediately set about investigating the refusal. In his way of thinking and being a military veteran himself, the U.S. Constitution should have protected the rights of Roberta’s husband who had died for his country. It appeared it hadn’t worked in the case of his family

Tommy wanted to know why. Not only did he interview Roberta but he spoke with several people who had been fighting the same injustice for nearly ten-years. “What do you mean “nearly ten-years?” Tommy asked the Sergeant’s widow.

“The Department of Veteran Affairs has refused the Wiccan Symbol of faith for nearly ten-years because they claim that there isn’t a centralized church to represent the religion,” Roberta replied.

Tommy was on the telephone to former commanding officer Colonel Jim Gibbons, who retired after Desert Storm and ran for the U.S. Congress and won. He was now a candidate for Nevada’s Governorship.

“How can a soldier die for his country and then be refused the symbol of his religious preference,” Tommy asked Gibbons.

“I don’t have any idea, but I’m gonna find out right away,” the Congressman told Tommy.

Meanwhile, Tommy worked for three days researching and writing the news story. He also realized that even though he would “break” the story, it would only appear in the Sparks Tribune.

“There’s got to be a way to make a bigger splash with this story,” he said to himself as he continued to write the article.

The following morning Tommy called a his friend in Las Vegas, whom he’d met while covering another news story. Tommy explained to him how he felt it was more important to get the story out to all the media outlets, rather than allowing it to run in a small town paper and go nowhere.

“Here’s how we’ll do it,” he told Tommy. “You collect and write the information. I’ll use my name on the byline here and give you credit at the bottom and you do the same up there. We’ll run the story on the same day.”

The two conspirators agreed that their article would run on a Friday, however because someone didn’t like the size of Tommy’s article, they chopped it into three parts. The story didn’t run on Friday as planned, coming out on Saturday, Sunday and Tuesday.

Tommy realized that he was in a bad position. It would look as if he had plagiarized the story and that he could find himself fired from his job.

He had Monday’s off, but that didn’t prevent Angela from calling him on his cell-phone and instructing him to meet with her at 9 a.m. on Tuesday, the day the third installment was published.

When he arrived at the office, Angela was already there. He went directly to publisher office where he knew she’d be since he was out of town most of the time.

“This is crap,” she said. “You took this story almost line for line from this article.”

Angela held up a copy she had printed from the internet. It was written slightly different from Tommy’s but contained most of the material and quotes from his various sources. Then she added, “I have half a mind to fire you for this.”

Tommy sat there quietly. He didn’t say anything because he was certain that she would not listen or hear what he was saying. Tommy figured that Angela had her mind made up already and that there was no sense in attempting to explain what happened.

“Care to tell me how this happened?” she demanded.

Slowly Tommy laid out the details about how he had called his friend and together they planned to get the news story out in a bigger way than the Tribune could. Angela surprised Tommy by quietly listening.

“We had planned to run it on the same day, but it got split into three installments and was a day behind,” Tommy said. “That screwed everything up.”

“What you two did is wrong,” Angela said after Tommy finished talking. “This looks exactly like plagiarism on your part.”

She also said that once an article is published in a paper, that article was property of that newspaper. Angela told Tommy that she would discuss the matter with publisher and together they’d decide what to do about it.

Tommy worked for the next day and a half with what he felt was a gray cloud hanging over his head. He had succeeded in helping Roberta get her story out about her dead husband’s denial of a religious symbol, but now he believed that he would be getting fired for having done it the way he did.

“Look,” he said once the publisher arrived in the office later that week, “All I wanted to do was get it up onto the newswire. That’s something we don’t have the pleasure of doing around here like they do in Las Vegas.”

The publisher politely listened and then replied, “I’m just going to call it a mistake that you’ve learned from. Don’t do it again though.”

Tommy said, “Thanks, I won’t make that mistake again.”