Shannon’s Phone Number

As I was on my way to work, I passed a woman in a Chevy pickup truck. We smiled at each other and I thought nothing more of it.

Then as we were stopped at a traffic light, I looked in my rear view mirror, where I saw her behind me. She appeared to be fumbling around with something in the cab of the truck.

I thought maybe she was searching for something in her purse.

Suddenly she got out of her truck and rushed up to my truck window. She handed me a slip of paper and said, “Call me!”

I looked at the paper and saw a phone number, scribbled underneath the name Shannon.

The light turned from red to green as I tucked the piece of paper in my shirt pocket. I put the incident in the back of my mind to concentrate on driving.

Later at the station, I remembered the slip of paper and pulled it from my pocket. I looked it over and let my “teenaged brain” skip for joy at the idea of Shannon, a woman half my age, wanting me to call her.

Then I allowed my “old man” body to return me to reality. I smiled at Shannon’s flattery, then tossed her number in the trash can.

Creating the Dots

More than a few people have made comments about poor in-depth media coverage of Nevada’s midterm election cycle. Well, it’s not for a lack of trying on my part.

I broke a story that should have been on par with any national news item out there. I discovered that Senator Harry Reid held a political rally out side the polling place of the Joe Crowley Student Union on the University of Reno, Nevada.

It is illegal to hold political rallies in, near or around polling places in Nevada. But according to Nevada Secretary of State Ross Miller, there are no voting irregularities.

Furthermore, it appears all media outlets, local, regional and national, chose to ignore this news item.

That aside, I have created an in-depth list of items of interest in this year’s midterm election. While I’ll create the dots, I’ll let you connect them.

  • Service Employees International Union (SEIU) is closely aligned with the Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now (ACORN.)
  • ACORN leaders in Nevada have been linked to voter fraud, even going so far as to register the Dallas Cowboys as Nevada voters.
  • SEIU holds the contract in Clark County, Nevada to service the county’s electronic voting machines.
  • That contract was authorized by the Clark County Commission, which is chaired Rory Reid.
  • Rory Reid is the son of Senator Harry Reid.
  • Recent polling data shows Harry Reid is unable to carry rural Nevada, while he is expected to carry more populated Clark County.
  • Reid’s son Rory, is a gubernatorial candidate in Nevada and is behind in polls by 19-percent.

And before you beat me up over assailing the Reid’s, SEIU and ACORN, remember I was fired from a newspaper job after blasting a Republican judicial candidate for trying to silence the press over his failing campaign. Finally, if I got here, where are the rest of the media-types?

Hide-and-Hoe-Seek

Before I had to report for duty at Warren AFB, in Cheyenne, Wyoming, I had two weeks of leave. I was at home, doing my best to be a kid once more before I had to pick-up the mantle of adulthood on a permanent basis.

My day had been spent working in the yard with both Mom and Dad. I had mowed both the front and backyards and helped pull weeds from the flower beds as well.

It was late afternoon when we knocked off for the day in order to have dinner. Afterwards all the kids in the neighborhood had planned to gather for a large game of hide-and-go-seek and I was looking forward to the fun.

While I don’t recall who was it at the time, I do remember I took off running towards the northwest corner of the house. I had planned to crawl under the house in order to hide.

However, I never made it that far. Instead I found a nasty surprise laying in the yard jus’ a couple feet from the corner of the house.

It was a hoe, and I had stepped on its upright blade. The handle shot upward and slammed into the right-side of my face.

This caused a chain-reaction as I found myself angling at a full-sprint into the corner of the building with the left-side of my face. From there I careened headlong into one of the redwood fence posts that ran along the side of our home.

While I don’t fully remember hitting the post face first, I do recall waking up with a jolt after laying in the fresh-cut grass for about a minute. By this time, everyone was standing around me wondering if I was dead or a live.

Suddenly, I didn’t feel much like playing anymore. Instead, Mom spent the next hour and a half pulling redwood slivers from my forehead and by the next morning, both my eyes were blackened.

It’s what I get for leaving the hoe laying in the grass.

Interstate 15 Terror

Mary and I were on the outskirts of the Mojave National Preserve. It was after midnight and we were the only vehicle that we could see along the long, flat stretch of Interstate 15.

We were on our way back to Ramona, where the bride’s family lives. I was planning to stay the night and make the return trip to Las Vegas the following morning.

At the time I was driving my 1972 VW Beetle. While it didn’t look like much, it had proved to be a very trustworthy vehicle having made several road trips up and down the coast of California and then across the deserts into southern Nevada.

The moon wasn’t full, but full enough to show the outline of the desert as it stretched out before us. The bride was half-sleeping as I drove on into the early morning.

Without warning, a large object flew out of the darkness from our right and slammed into the car. The object seemed to engulf us in its thousands of tentacle like branches as I fought it for control of the wheel.

The bride screamed as I jammed on the brakes. Our car jerked to the left than shot back to the right and then off the roadway.

Jus’ as the vehicle slid to a stop in the loose dirt and sand, the object that had been clinging to it, slipped away into the night. We sat there for a couple of minutes asking each other, “What the hell was that?!”

That early morning we pulled into her parents driveway  jus’  as the sun was coming up. As she went inside, I stopped to inspect my car.

Trapped in the frame, on the mirrors, in the bonnet,and the hood were fragments of a dried brush-like material. After examining it for a minute, it dawned on me, we had been the victim of a huge random car-swallowing tumble weed.

Memories of Tsunami Landing

It was a regular overcast day when the one hundred or so scouts gathered on the newly constructed Tsunami Landing. Each scout, whether a Boy Scout or Cub Scout, was given an 3-foot by five-foot American flag on a standard to hold during the upcoming ceremony.

We were gathered for the dedication of the landing to the lives that were lost when a tsunami swept through the tiny seaside city. Before officials took to the podium, we were all given a brief lesson in how to maintain our ranks and how to hold the standards.

Our instructions were simple: when the American and California state flags were presented to the crowd, we were to come to attention. After the flags were placed in their respective holders on either side of the podium, we were to go to parade rest, meaning our feet shoulder width apart, our left hand behind our back and the flag we were each holding, dipped forward the full length of our arm.

While there were several speakers that day, the one who stands out the most was Congressman Don Clausen. Not only was he the event’s main speaker, he was also the catalyst behind getting federal funding to creat a high wave break to protect both the harbor and dock, but also the town.

Congressman Clausen was also the driving power to secure monies to help rebuild the nearly 70 city blocks affected by the tsunami. He was eventually voted out of office in the early 1980s.

Every time I return to the north coast, I try to visit Tsunami Landing. I also toss a couple of coins in the multi-concrete seagull festooned fountain that adorns the center of the plaza, thankful I was a part of that historical day so long ago.

The Special Glass

Where Mom found the special glass, I will never know. What I do know is that every time I had a friend over for dinner for the first, time she’d drag it from the cupboard for them to use.

The special glass was modified with four tiny slits about half an inch from the rim and set inside a recess that hid them from quick identification. The slightest tip of the glass inevitably caused whatever was being drank from the glass to dribble down the chin of the unsuspecting victim.

One such victim was Diana Webster.

She was given the glass one night, filled with milk and try as she might, she couldn’t keep from dripping milk all over her hand, her chin, her dinner plate and eventually her shirt. Mom finally offered to get her another glass, but Diana told her no as she continued to try to overcome her sudden “leak at the lips.”

We would all stop eating every time she picked up the glass, knowing the outcome would be the same. She’d dribble, and we’d all laugh, including her.

It continued like this until the glass was empty. That’s when Mom got her a new glass and let her in on the secret.

Diana laughed, and then responded, “Thank goodness, I thought I was gonna have to go back to a baby bottle and start over!”

Saying Good-bye to an American War Hero

It was standing room only at Summit Christian Church as family and friends came to remember U.S. Marine Corps Sergeant Frank Zaehringer, who died in Afghanistan on October 11th.  Zaehringer was killed by an improvised explosive device while leading a combat patrol in Helmand province.

“He was a soldier,” memorial speaker Rick Revigilo said, “an American war hero.”

Between those who spoke in Zaehringer’s memory, images from his life were played on three large screens at the front of the church. Mourners saw him grow in those pictures from a young boy on Santa’s lap, to his high school graduation, to wearing the uniform of a United States Marine.

During the service, those close to him spoke of his love for his family, his active lifestyle, and his sense of humor. Zaehringer grew up in Reno and graduated from Wooster High School in 2005, where he was on the baseball team.

“Frank showed himself to be a rare individual, endowed with intelligence, warmth, common sense, and an intense desire to give of himself for others,” Wooster High Baseball Coach Ron Malcolm said.

In his honor, the school has renamed the Wooster baseball team’s “Hustle Award” the “Frank Zaehringer Award.”

Sergeant Zaehringer was remembered as a dedicated family man, to his wife, Cassie, her two children, his parents, Frank Jr. and Sharon, and sister, Nicole Scott, her husband Jason, and his niece and nephew. His parents were presented with a Gold Star Banner, followed by the presentation of colors, a 21-gun salute, and the playing of “Taps.”

The Black Cow and Bag

It could be beating for sure and I knew it. I could just tell by the way the little black cow stood apart from the rest of the herd.

To try to explain it would be difficult, it’s just something that a former cow-hand could understand. I had seen the animal struggling as I was stopped at the traffic light.

It was instinctive for me to watch the cattle in what remained of the opened fields of the Kiley Ranch off of Sparks Blvd. And as I watched the cow and waited for the red light to change to green I saw the tiny van pull off the side of the road.

It did not look out-of-place at first as often people would do that to talk safely on their cell phones. However as I started to pull forward into traffic I watched as a young woman got out of the van and proceeded to climb through the barbed wire fence.

“She gonna get herself hurt or worse,” I muttered in disgust as I found myself pulling off the road too.

Slowly I started backing up towards the stationary van. I could see that the woman was having no luck wrangling the little black cow who in obvious distress.

And I could see why now. It had swallowed a black plastic bag and it had obviously become caught in the animal’s throat.

“Ma’am,” I said, “Let me get it.”

“Okay,” she replied.

Yet she stayed to see that the job was completed.

Walking beyond where the cow was standing, I wanted to separate it completely from the herd. My idea was to eventually tire it out enough to just yank the black material from its throat and be done with it.

Slowly I moved back and forth, driving it further and further from the other cows and closer to the fence line. I could see its ribs heaving in and out as it struggled to get air.

In the distance I could also see the woman had opened up her van and was sitting on the step talking to her two small children. They were both in-car seats.

Still I continued to circle back and forth using my cowboy hat to fan the little black cow away from the herd and up against the barbed wire fence. Within a matter of minutes I was within five feet of the critter.

Still I continued to work the animal. I worked the cow looking for the right moment.

It came when the brute turned from left to right, his nose within inches of my waist. That’s when I took advantage of the animal’s error.

Like an old cougar, I sprang at the cow clutching its ears. I tried my best to dig my heels into the earth but couldn’t get them set.

The young cow bellowed and spun around sure that he was being attacked by a vicious predator. He choked and coughed, gasped and gagged but it continued to put up a strong fight out of natural instinct.

On the other hand, I was hanging on for my dear life, hoping that the little black cow did not suddenly change directions and try to rub me off on the sharpened ends of the barbed wire fence. I knew if that were to happen I’d have to let go and start the whole process over.

Then without warning the little black cow slowed down, then stopped. The animal did not move except for his sides which heaved heavier than before.

I knew this was the moment I had been waiting for.

Grabbing the exposed end of black bag, I tugged on it. It made an awful slurping noise as it slipped from the animal’s throat.

I held it up, shiny and slick.

It was more than the woman could bear. She discovered she could change a thousand messy diapers, but that black bag — it was more than her tummy could take.

Cattle Catcher

“Your want me to run to the store for you?” I asked Mom as I grabbed my truck keys.

Mom looked at me, “Sure, if you don’t mind.”

Looking out the door, I saw cousin Danny’s little ranch car was parked in the way. They called it the little ranch car because it rarely ever left the ranch.

It could usually be found over loaded with bales of hay and oats circling around the feeder lots. But every once in a while Danny would take it out on the road if it was convenient.

“Hey, Danny, your car’s in the way,” I shouted.

He stepped around the corner from the front room and tossed me the keys, “Take her instead,” Danny said.

Danny disappeared back towards the front room. I hung my keys back up and stepped out onto the porch.

It had been raining all day and the wet weather had just begun to let up. By this time though it was past sunset and would rapidly be dark before I got back from the market.

The market was only ten minutes away.  And all I needed to get was some milk and an extra dozen eggs for breakfast the next day. I hopped in Danny’s ranch wagon, adjusted the seat, turned on the ignition, fastened the seat belt, and away I went.

It was less than half a mile to Rohnerville Road from Mom’s home. I had traveled the dirt by-way several hundred times in the many years she had lived there.

Danny had been listening a sports-station. I looked down at the radio and reached for the tuning knob at the same time as my rear-view mirror reflected the lack of light as the day faded away.

Then I looked up.

In front of me was a large brown and white dappled object. I struck it almost as soon as my headlights shined on it and just a fraction of a second faster than I could process what the object was.

Thump! Smash!

The object came crashing through the windshield after the car’s front-end hit it. Then everything grew black.

My years of professional driving came back to me as if by instinct. I stepped solidly on the brake pedal, feeling the rear end swing wide to the right and then to the left, forcing the vehicle to a stop.

I could hardly breathe as the car’s seat was laid back and this object had poured itself into the cab of the car and was resting on top of him.

It was a cow!

My body felt wet and warm. It was blood.

I was bleeding, my hands were trapped and I started to panic, when I suddenly heard a voice say, “Good God, he’s still alive.”

“Hey, help me, get me out,” I tried to yell, but the cow’s weight was slowly crushing me and getting enough air to speak was a labor.

“Help’s on its way, cowboy,” I heard a female voice say.

At the same time I could feel somebody tugging at the lifeless and limp mass of animal flesh resting on my upper body.

After a few more pulls they gave up and someone said, “It no use, the damned things stuck and it’s stuck but good.”

I concentrated on trying to breathe as deeply as I could.

In the distance I heard the fire department siren sound. I knew that fire-rescue would be there within minutes.

I continued to concentrate on my deep breathing.

Anticipation made the minutes go by like hours. Finally the first fire truck pulled up and for the first time since I had hit the cow I could see fractures of light, which came from the headlights of a fire rig.

My head was pinned against the broken car seat. The cows’ backbone was holding it down and to the right.

The cows’ rear end was resting against the passenger seat. I could tell it was the rear end because I could see the tail and smell the fresh manure.

“Gees, this guys full of blood,” I heard a voice say, “But he’s got a pulse.”

Suddenly, I was aware at that moment that a hand had been touching my neck, checking for a heartbeat. And just as suddenly I became aware that I could not feel the rest of my body.

“Can you hear me?” the voice shouted.

“Yeah,” I managed to wheeze.

“We’re going to get you out just as soon as we figure out how to get the cow out of there,” he said, adding, “Okay?”

Again I wheezed out, “Yeah.”

Meanwhile another voice was trying to get information from me, asking  “What’s your name?”

I responded with more wheezing.

Within minutes they had a plan. First they would wrap a couple of chains around the dead carcass and attach it to an auto wrecker that had arrived at the scene.

Next their plan called for the wrecker to pull the animal up. Meanwhile the fire department would take the hydraulic extraction system, called the Jaws of Life, and cut away the posts and roll the roof back as if it were a convertible.

The chains rattled and clanked against the car as they were passed through the area that had been the windshield and were tightly secured around the body of the cow. I could hear the sound of the winch as the slack in the chain was taken up and within seconds the cow’s weight was off of me and I could breath freely again.

That’s when the hydraulic scissors kicked in. In one clean bite the first post above my head was cut away. The second post on the other side popped in two as the Jaws of Life made short work of it.

Then the cow rolled away and could be heard dropping to the earth with a dull thud.

Instantly my body started tingling. It was coming back to life and proving it with the sharp stabbing pain normally inflicted by resting on one’s knees or elbow for too long.

As my body came back to life, the fire fighters quickly strapped a neck brace on me and secured my blood soaked body to a long board. I was gently shoved into a running ambulance and rushed to the waiting emergency room.

For two hours, two nurses and a doctor went over me. I was covered in blood but did not have a scratch, walking out of the hospital with only a sore back.

Later it was discovered that the cow’s juggler vein had been cut upon impact with the ranch car. It bled all over me since he was lying right under the head.

That is probably what saved my life as it stopped the mortally wounded animal from thrashing around. The horns had only been a few inches from my neck and chest.

The other thing that saved my life that evening was the seat. It broke upon impact.

The doctor said if it had not, I would have been crushed to death by the eleven hundred pounds of bovine flesh, as it smashed through the window.

As it turned out, the cow belonged to Danny. Much of his property runs parallel to the road.

How she got out  of the pasture was never discovered.

And as for the little ranch car, it can still be seen toting an over loaded trunk of hay and oats out to the feeder lots. It has also been used three or four times to pull at a birthing calf.

Danny hosed out the interior to get rid of the dried blood, then he set himself to working the roof down and into place. It took nearly an entire Saturday afternoon but he finally managed to weld the posts back into place.

To this day I’m constantly the source of family fun. Someone inevitably says something like, “Don’t send him to the store, he can’t tell the difference between a gallon of milk and a side of beef.”

From there, the laughing gets a little too loud for me.

Shot for a Knot

It was pleasant autumn day for a Civil War reenactment as I pulled my truck up under the “Hanging Tree.” The small town had once been called Mormon Station and was the oldest known settlement in northern Nevada.

My unit, consisting of both Confederate and Union forces, had established a small encampment in front of the towns museum. It had a beautiful sloping hill with a nice shade of trees and place ready-made for recruiting new members to the organization and that’s what I set about doing.

It wasn’t until after late afternoon that I was relieved by another member so that I might be able to take in some of the sights and sounds of the festival. I was tickled to discover that I also had the privilege of escorting Miss Kathrine Marie and her South Georgia friend Miss Christine Louise through the event grounds.

Together we headed along the rows of venders displaying the many crafts and arts of the day. Miss Katherine Marie shined in her purple evening gown, while Miss Christine Louise flashed wildly in her red satin dress. I stood out like a sore thumb between the two in my dark blue wool uniform.

It was me who saw trouble approaching in the form of a group of gunslingers. I recognized them as Southern sympathizers who would not let us pass due to the fact that I was wearing Union blue.

“I see we have ourselves a Blue Belly,” said the leader of the band as he stepped into my path, barring my ability to continue escorting the two women.

I paused, smiled and said, “Excuse me, sir you are in the way of these two ladies.”

The leader looked around and then said, “No, I’m in your way Billy Yank. Are you prepared to die or make music?”

I said nothing.

“Perhaps you don’t know who I am,” said the leader. He paused, and then proceeded to tell, though no one had inquired, “I’m Doc Holliday and I come from Georgia.”

With that he threw back the right bottom of his jacket, exposing an ivory-handled six-shooter.

“As you can see Doc Holliday of Georgia, I have come unarmed,” I calmly replied, “as being prepared to die or make music, I am a believer in Jesus Christ, so I am forever ready for death.”

Slowly I reached into his sack coat and with drew a silver harmonica, “I am also prepared to make music.”

Blowing into the little device I sounded out, “Dixie.” The group laughed and wished each other well then continued down the street in opposite directions.

Such are actors, actresses and acting.

The streets had long since closed up, the vendors packing away their goods, and the festivities had moved themselves to the dance. It was after nine when the three of us decided that fifteen hours was enough for one day.

We decided to head back to where our vehicles were parked. It was a large and mostly vacant field now, filled with fresh-cut hay, bordered by rows of cottonwood trees including the infamous “Hanging Tree.”

Once we got to the car Kay and Christy’s were driving, the two women decided they had enough of the hoops under their skirts. Kay’s came off without any problem.

However, Christy’s hoop had developed a knot and refused to be undone. It was decided that I needed to get a flashlight out of my truck so the situation could be better seen.

Minutes later, I found himself standing in the middle of an open field hold a flashlight on Christy’s hips as Kay worked to get the knot undone. The knot was proving to be more difficult to get out than it was to get in.

“I told you not to tie it in a knot,” Christy scolded Kay.

“I know,” she answered.

I added my two-cents worth, “We can always cut it.”

“No!” was the resounding reply from both ladies.

A few more minutes of picking at the knot produced no more success than when the two first started. Kay was getting annoyed and Christy was exasperated.

“Here, hold my hat,” I said to Kay.

I kneeled and grasped the knot between my teeth and rolled it over a couple of times.

Christy asked laughingly, “What in the world are you doing?”

Suddenly the knot loosened and the cotton sash that held the hoop skirt up slipped away. At that same moment there was a heavy sound from the right of the trio.

It was some one walking through the hay-field.

“Why you Yankee Bast…” it was Doc’s voice.

It was heavier and sounded sluggish. It occurred to me that the man I knew as Doc was perhaps intoxicated.

Doc never finished the sentence, or if he had, the sound of his voice was interrupted by the report of his black powder pistol discharging towards me. I had seen him as he walked towards us, fumbling with his six-shooter.

I found myself temporarily blinded by the muzzle flash of the pistol.

Quickly Kay and Christy raced to get into the awaiting car. They drove out of the field like old-time moonshiners with the revenue man hot on their heels.

I ran for my truck too, high tailing it out of the field right behind the women.

It wouldn’t be until I was half way through Carson City that I’d come to realize I had bloodied my knuckles. I then wondered aloud, “Will Doc remember shooting at me or that I broke his nose?”

So much for actors, actresses and acting.

In Charge

From an old joke Dad told me:

At one time the entire body was in complete chaos. It had no one or anything in charge of it’s activities. Recognizing this, the brain decided it should be boss.

“After all,” the brain said, “without me nothing would get done.”

The feet immediately disagreed, claiming “Without us, you couldn’t walk anywhere.”

Their argument was met with disagreement from the legs, who told the rest of the body the feet were useless with out them. Soon the arms and hands were vying for the position, as was the heart and lungs along with the stomach and eyes.

Suddenly, the butt chimed in saying it should be in charge of the body. It’s claim was met with laughter and ridicule.

The butt responded, saying, “I show you!”

And it stopped functioning. Soon the legs were weak, the stomach sick, the feet were swollen, the heart had palpitations, the lungs wheezed, the hands became stiff, the eyes were blurry and the brain grew foggy.

Before long they were pleading with the butt to start functioning once again.

The butt replied, “Only if I can be boss.”

All the other body parts agreed and made the butt the boss over them all, proving you only need be an ass to be in charge.

Numerical Dyslexia

Handling money has always terrified me because I have “dyscalculia.” It’s the numerical equivalent of dyslexia.

During high school, each sport or discipline had to take turns in the ticket-gate for home football and basketball games. It was during the basketball season that I was placed in the ticket window.

By the end of the night I had all the receipts screwed up and I would be suspected of stealing at least a hundred-bucks, if not more, from the lock-box. And while I hadn’t, I couldn’t prove I had not and that left room for a lot of suspicion.

It fell to Coach Brian Ferguson to ask me if I had taken the money. I can still remember him finding me as I sat in the bleachers next to Candy Lehto, watching the game.

I thought for sure that he was going to call the police and have me arrested.

Worse yet, I felt bad for Candy. Her only crime — guilt-by-association.

Gate Keeper

Perhaps I should have left the moment Deirdre called me, but instead I waited about six-hours and now, it was too late. I had already stopped at Eureka General and now I was pulling up into the driveway at Mom and Del’s home.

However it was no longer Del’s home either. He had passed away while I drove from Reno to the hospital.

Del Middleton and Mom had been married since 1989. It was a second marriage for both and I was happy to call him my step-dad.

Del was the only family member to express his sorrow for my real dad’s passing nearly two-years earlier. That meant an awful lot to me and I told him so, time and again.

The house was locked up tight and I couldn’t get Mom to answer the phone. I was certain that after the last 24-hours she was finally getting some much-needed sleep, so I decided to go to the local Chinese restaurant and get myself something to eat.

Later in the evening I called again and Mom answered. She apologized for not answering earlier, telling me that the door was unlocked and to come in and that she’d be back in bed.

Since I was staying with Mom, I became her gate-keeper, meaning no one saw her unless it was okay with her, this included the numerous telephone calls.  By the end of the second day, there must have been 30 plates of food and pies, several dozen balloons and nearly as many sympathy cards.

Also on the second day, Mom was able to will herself out of bed and have breakfast with me, though she didn’t eat much. She started talking about how Del’s death had transpired earlier in the week.

It began with Del taking their old dog Freckles to the vet and have the dog euthanized. Freckles was old and crippled up ever since she tangled with a bobcat a year or so earlier.

The next day, Del fell ill. He was having trouble breathing and was complaining of severe chest pains.

Mom said, “Freckles must have known something about Del that we didn’t.”

Delmar had multiple sclerosis, congestive heart failure, emphysema and was HIV positive. He had contracted the virus that causes AIDS through a blood transfusion during open heart surgery.

It took Del three days to succumb to heart failure. In that time, nearly a hundred people came to his bedside to say their goodbyes, including close family.

But like I already said, I was too late to say goodbye to Del. Therefore, since I was removed from the directness of his death, I was the one to handle Mom and his business that week.

“Your tardiness,” Mom told me, “is my blessing.”

The Hazards of Vector Control

The entire U.S. Air Force environmental health class was out in the field studying vector control. After a lengthy bus ride, we hiked into the area in which our instructors had pre-selected as our outdoor classroom for the day.

It was an area covered with rocks and small tree-like plants. It was obvious to me that the area was a flood-plain for the nearby river in the winter and during the spring run-off.

One of the warnings we were given was to watch for rattlesnakes, fire-ants, hornets, wasps, bees and scorpions. We were told to watch where we sat, leaned, placed a hand, and stepped.

No one reported seeing any of the things we were warned about. However that all changed when I found a fallen log in the shade to sit down on.

I felt a sharp pain in my right butt cheek and grew immediately ill to my stomach.

The pain was so sharp, that I jumped to my feet and pulled my fatigue pants down. A number of my classmates confirmed I had a large red, swollen welt on my backside.

After an hour or so I finally got over the nausea. It was decided that I had been stung by a Striped Bark Scorpion. Luckily, they aren’t deadly, jus’ painful.

And though I’ve encountered a Striped Bark Scorpion, I’ve never actually seen one.

Shenanigan

Shortly before Mom and Dad decided to convert the garage into a rumpus room; it was a plain old place to park the car. However, neither parent ever bothered to bring the car inside.

Instead it was simply a place for Adam and me to play, Dad to do whatever household repairs he was given by Mom, and for Mom to work on her crafts and such. It was also the starting place for at least one strange community-wide shenanigan.

One evening I recall standing around the garage watching Dad and “Uncle Ron” Benedict spray painting a piece of cardboard. I wasn’t old enough at the time to understand that they were making some sort of statement at the time.

I remember them laughing mischievously as they planned to put it up during the early morning hours of the next day.

To this day, I still don’t know what they pair were referencing at the time. But what I do know is that the sign they created, ended up posted somewhere very visible and it caused enough of a stir that a picture of was published in the Del Norte Triplicate.

The black spray paint outline was eventually covered by carpet as the rumpus room took shape. And that same outline was there when the carpet was pulled up during my parent’s divorce in 1980.

I still don’t get it and maybe I never will.

Parking Ticket

Our 1971 Opel Cadet was in the shop being repairs and Dad had to borrow Pa Sanders’ old Dodge for the day. We were there to shop for my high school graduation suit.

Mom and I got out of the car in front of Daly’s Department store and went inside to start looking. Dad stopped to drop a couple of dimes in the parking meter before joining us.

After finding and purchasing my suit, we headed back out to the car. We had been inside the store for so long that the parking meter had run out of time.

Once there, Dad saw the ticket under the passenger-side windshield wiper and he was mad about it. Later he admitted to Mom and me that saw the meter-maid filling out the ticket, but forgot we were using the car.

Jerry Lane, Esq.

Jerry Lane, Esq., passed away after a nearly two year-long battle with cancer. He’s Kyle’s and his sister Kaitlyn’s maternal-grandfather.

I feel badly for their mother, Charissa as she was unable say goodbye in person and I know how desperate that can be.

Jerry never really cottoned to me, after-all I got his only daughter pregnant. And worse yet I was a married man and her pregnancy was out of wedlock.

The first time I met him, rather than give me the third-degree, he stared me down. I can’t recall ever feeling like a pin-cushion for daggers before that night.

Then I really made him mad at me when I decided to take Charissa to court in order to assert my parental rights. I can’t remember how it happened, but somehow I got the blame for calling him an “old fart,” or something during like that, during the proceedings.

He was actually one helluva lawyer, having served as legal counsel to the Nevada State Legislature in Carson City. He also had his own law firm in Las Vegas, before going into semi-retirement and hiring on to represent the Reno-Sparks Indian Colony which includes the Paiute, the Shoshone, and the Washoe tribes.

After being diagnosed with terminal cancer, he and his wife moved to Texas, where he passed away October 10, 2010. Jerry was 83-years-old.

I’m so sorry for both Kyle, Kaitlyn and their mother’s loss.

Trouble in the Cabbage Patch

The Christmas before, there had been several fist-fights in stores across the nation over the toy “Cabbage Patch Kids.” Cathy Andre’s mother, Shirley, however found a way to creat her own “kid.”

It was made from old nylon panty-hose and cotton batting, with movable arms and legs. And best of all, Shirley’s were more life-like and bigger than the original toy.

However, it caused nearly as much trouble.

One afternoon, Cathy and her mother were at the post office when Shirley took the doll from the back seat of her car and placed it in the trunk of the vehicle. A woman saw this and mistook the stuffed-toy for a real child and called police.

It would have been fun to see the officer’s face when Shirley lifted the trunk lid.

Shattered Faith

“Ron Schmitt just called me, saying the police refused to go to his church and investigate some vandalism,” my editor, Angela Mann said, “I’d like you to go up and take a look around. I think there’s a good story in this.”

Ron was a Sparks’s city councilman and part of the lay-clergy at the Holy Cross Catholic church on Vista Blvd. I called him on his cell-phone and asked if he could meet me at the church.

Ron said he would.

About fifteen minutes later, I pulled into the nearly vacant parking lot. I gathered my camera and note pad and walked towards the front door of the building. I noticed right away that the glass doors were missing, having been replaced with plywood boards.

Carefully I pushed the door hand and found that the door frame was still in working order. I went inside the church.

Once inside I found I was walking on tiny shards of glass from the now-shattered doors. I continued through the front of the building towards the voices he heard in the back.

“Hello, I’m with the Tribune,” I said as I held out a hand to the two women in the back office.

One of the women shook it, saying, “We were told to expect you.”

“Is it okay if I have a look around?” I asked.

“Certainly,” the woman answered.

Turning, I went back out to the front of the building. I wanted to look over the damage and develop a few questions as I waited for Ron. As I was viewing the damage I noticed a small hole in the wall near a picture frame.

Jus’ as I was looking for something to climb or stand on, so I could get a better look at the hole, the church priest, Father Wolf came into the room.

He asked, “Did you get a look at the back office?”

“No,” I answered, following the priest to the back of the church.

A double pane window had been shattered in the business manager’s office. There were small bits of glass strewn all about the small room.

It was starting to look like the damage wasn’t jus’ simple an act of vandalism. However I needed more evidence before I could say anything.

Looking outside the back door, near the business manager’s office, I searched the gravel-covered ground until I found what I was looking for.  I then went back inside.

“Father, was there any other damage?” I asked.

“Yeah,” the priest responded, “They busted up a piece of stained glass.”

Asking if I could have a look at the stain glass, I was shown to a room off the main hallway, where a red and white stain glass series of crosses rested against the wall.

Father Wolf told me that the glass had been hanging on one of the busted out front windows. The damage to the glass was severe.

There were three holes about the size of silver dollars busted out of the wood framed stained glass. Father Wolf speculated that the vandals must have rammed a metal bar or pipe through the windows and the doors to bust them out like they had.

Walking back out into the front of the church I put all the pieces together. Then I called Angela, to report my findings.

“This church was shot up,” I told her.

She immediately decided to call Ron with my findings. The councilman arrived at the church in less than five minutes.

While I waited for the councilman, I poked around the front lobby. I stood in front of the busted out glass doors and looked around the room, where I happened to notice a small dimple in a free-standing wooden cross.

It was a dent, no deeper than a quarter of an inch and it looked fresh, judging from the newly exposed wood and chips of paint at the cross’ base. It was while looking at the paint flakes that I found the other half of what he was looking for; a piece of flattened metal no bigger than a dime.

Then I moved over to the wall and climbed up on a table top in front of the hole in the wall, I had started to look at before the priest had called me away. There I saw what I believed to be another piece of dull metal.

Ron walked through the front door just as I was climbing down from the table top. He had a look of anger on his face.

“I just got off the telephone with Chief Dotson,” he said.

“And what did he have to say?” I asked.

The councilman smiled wryly, “He didn’t have much to say because I read him the riot act.”

Ron explained how the police were called around eight that morning when the damage was first discovered. They had refused to come out and investigate because it was jus’ a case of vandalism.

“I told the chief that had they done their job like they’re supposed too, I wouldn’t have had to call the newspaper and that a reporter wouldn’t be doing their work for them,” Ron said.

Then he added, “By you finding bullets and casings — that make this situation even more damaging for the police.”

Ron also told me that Chief Dotson was on his way to the church.

“I speculate that he’s looking to do some damage control,” Ron finished.

While we waited for the chief to arrive, I walked the councilman through the building and to each piece of the puzzle. I even walked the councilman outside the back door and pointed out the spent shell casing and shoe prints.

That’s where I decided to try a minor experiment. I told Ron to watch as I picked up the spent shell casing between my thumb and pointer finger with my left hand, then setting the casing back down where I had found it.

“What the hell did you do that for?” Ron asked incredulously.

“It’s a little test to see if they test it for prints,” I said as I looked up, smiling at the taller man.

“Well, what if they do? Your prints will come back and you could be accused of being the person who shot the church up,” Ron replied.

“That’s why I had you watch me do it,” I replied, “and you saw what I did and I’ve told you why. So you’re my witness.”

The councilman’s face grew into a broad smile.

Chief Dotson arrived within minutes. The councilman escorted him to the back of the building.

I tried to walk back with the pair but I was waved off by Chief Dotson.

Angela arrived a few minutes after that to look at the damage. That’s when one of the two women said that she had found a strange piece of metal on her desk when she first opened her door.

“Really?” asked in astonishment, adding, “Where’s it now?”

She said that she had thrown it out because she didn’t think it was worth anything. I dug through the garbage can near the woman’s desk and found the slug of metal.

Angela took a photograph of it as I held it in the palm of my hand. Then I handed it to Chief Dotson.

Outside on the front lawn was another police officer. He was bent over looking in the grass, searching for more bullet casings.

He had already picked up the casing in the back of the building. And it didn’t take him long to find two more identical casings in the grass.

“We probably won’t find any finger prints on these,” he said.

“Does that mean you’re not going to send them to the lab?” I asked.

But he didn’t answer me. I suspected he had been instructed to say as little as possible to me as I was an investigative reporter and his words could end up in the next morning’s newspaper.

The case was never solved and nothing was ever said about my finger prints being on evidence.

At the Back Door

Steve and I were in the middle of a shift change at KEKA. Our sister-station, KFMI, was on an automated reel-to-reel system with pre-recorded voice drops, so we we’re the only two in the building or scheduled to be there at that time.

A sudden rapping at the back door alerted us that someone else was at the station. Steve walked to the door and reached for the knob.

For me, time appeared to slow down at that moment. I had the thought: don’t open the door — but I was too late to say anything.

As soon as the door moved away from the frame, a man pushed his way into the building. He was swinging a large butcher-knife wildly through the air.

In a matter of seconds he had cut Steve in the arm at least twice. As he continued to press into the station he yelled something about getting Satan off the radio.

Steve in the meantime, slipped past the attacker and rushed out side into the parking lot. The intruder turned as if to give chase but instead he jus’ stood in the doorway.

That gave me time enough to pick up one of our three tele-type machines and slam him in the head with it. He dropped like a bag of wet cement and rolled down the ramp that led up to the backdoor.

Grabbing the knife, which he had dropped, I turned and walked back inside to the control room. There was nothing but dead-air coming from the speakers as I pushed the microphone button to calmly say, “If you’re listening right now, I need the police at the station on the end of G Street. One man has been stabbed and another man has a serious head injury.”

From there I went outside to find the assailant trying to pick himself off the ground. I gave him a swift, vicious kick in the ribcage, which dropped him to the asphalt once again.

In the distance I could hear sirens, so I knew help was on the way. I located Steve, who was hunkered down behind his truck, and started first-aid on him.

Both the knife-welding man and Steve were taken to the hospital, while I filled out an endless stream of police reports. I did this while I returned the station back to its normal music-intensive format.

A couple of days later, Steve returned to the station with a few hundred stitches in his arm to show-off to co-workers.  As for me, I got a $350 bill for the repairs needed to the tele-type machine I had used as a bludgeoning device.

A Child’s Wisdom

Kyle was sitting on the couch in the living room. His legs were crossed and  hands were folded behind his head.

He was watching “Barney and Friends. ” It’s a show about a big purple T-rex that befriends a group of kids, sings, dances and tells stories.

I was in the kitchen washing up the remainder of our breakfast dishes.

Suddenly in the very serious voice of a five-year-old, Kyle says, “This show’s stupid, but  I like it.”

Relief

We were jus’ sitting down to dinner when Adam recited a then-popular commercial tag line. Only he changed the ending to something less than proper.

“How do you spell relief,” he said, “F-A-R-T.”

Everyone but Deirdre and Marcy laughed. Marcy was too young to really understand what we were laughing about at the time.

Deirdre on the other hand, had a puzzled look on her face. She was thinking about what Adam had jus’ said.

Suddenly, she exclaimed, “Huh-uh! That’s not how you spell relief!”

“Oh, yeah,” Mom challenged her, “Then how DO you spell relief?”

Deirdre answered, “R-O-L-A-I-D-S.”

It took ten minutes for our laughter to subside.

A Lunchtime Surprise

The three of us were on our way to Tulsa to drop Tim Robbins off with his mom and step-dad. Tim is Kyle’s step-brother and had been in Reno, visiting for the summer.

We were starting to feel the need for food as we hit the city limits. And so the search began to find ourselves a restaurant, where we could go in and sit down and enjoy the air conditioning and lunch.

Then, I saw it; a Hooter’s. It was a place that I had only been to a couple of times in Reno before the establishment was run out-of-town on a rail by a bunch of well-meaning prudes.

I knew neither Kyle nor Tim had ever been to such a revealing food-monger before and since it was the three of us boys, it would be a fun time. 

The moment we stepped inside, both Tim and Kyle stopped dead in their tracks. Kyle was as red a radish, while Tim simply stood motionless, his mouth agape.

I jus’ laughed at them and followed our waitress to our table.

An Arresting Situation

“Click” was the sound that the handcuff made as it dropped across Dad’s wrist.  He didn’t appear to mind as he wasn’t paying attention to me and was in the middle of a telephone conversation.

I had found the handcuffs on Dad’s nightstand.

They were in the little black pouch made of leather webbing.  To me, at three-years-old, they must have looked like a bright, shiny toy.

Having tried them on my own hands, I found they were too big.  They fell off and landed on the floor. 

So I wondered outside and onto the car port, where I made the cuffs click some more as I pushed the movable part through the locking part. I eventually locked one of the cuff’s to the frame of my tricycle. 

I rode my three-wheeler into the house and locked the remaining cuff to Dad’s wrist. 

Dad’s telephone conversation ended suddenly ended and the search was on to find the key. Eventually, the handcuffs had to be removed by another Air Policeman who came by the house.

And that after all the searching was over, the key was found in Dad’s watch pocket of the jeans he was wearing, but no one had thought to look there.

Mrs. Wright’s Trees

Across the street, on Azalea Drive, from the Wright’s home was a small cluster of pine trees. We kids loved to play in those trees much to the outrage of Mrs. Evelyn Wright.

She and her husband Custer, had lived across from the pines for years and she had watched them grow from saplings into tall, full branched trees. They were also the main subject for many of her paintings.

That she painted, was something none of us kids knew, or at least I didn’t know it at the time. And she worried that with us kids playing around and climb on the trees, we’d damage their natural beauty as she saw it.

What I was aware of was what I thought to be her over-protective attitude towards the trees and to this end I did my best to irritate her at least once or twice a week by climbing as high as I could into the tallest of them. Yes,  it was a rotten thing to do, but then for the most part I was a rotten kid.

Whether those trees exist now or not, I don’t know. I also don’t know whatever became of Mrs. Wright’s many paintings of them.

I’d sure like to find one.

Fire Up the Street

The smell of smoke was in the air, so I stepped outside the house to have a quick look. I saw a large plume rising in the south and it appeared to be getting bigger.

I walked down the street a few steps in order to see if I could tell where it was coming from; it was the Wolcott’s home.

The moment I saw it, I raced to the Yurok Volunteer Fire Department at the end of the street, pushed the siren button, opened both station doors and wrote the fire’s location on the chalkboard. Then I raced on foot, up Azalea Drive towards the home I saw burning.

Without slowing down other than to check the door for heat, I stepped inside the smoke-filled house and called out for anyone who might be inside. At first there was no answer.

However I heard somebody coughing in the front room area. So I headed in that direction, crawling along the floor.

It was Hugh Wolcott, who had asthma and had been in attic trying to fight the fire. He was having difficulty breathing.

I helped him outside to the front lawn, where he told me his missus was still inside the house.

Back inside I went to see if I could locate Mrs. Wolcott. I called out for her, but there was no answer.

So I continued deeper into the house, towards the bed rooms. That’s where I found her.

She was standing in front of her dresser, putting on a blouse. She saw me standing in her doorway through the reflection of her mirror.

“You’re house is on fire,” I said, adding “I got Mr. Wolcott out and he’s waiting for you in the front yard.”

She turned and growled, “I know it’s on fire! Now get out of my house!”

By this time fire trucks were pulling up in front of the home, so without arguing, I went back out the front door. I decided to leave it to someone else to get her out of the house.

Fortunately, Debbie wasn’t home at the time and the house sustained more damage from the smoke than the flames. But it didn’t stop her from thanking me with a kiss on the cheek for having done what was needed.

As for Hugh Wolcott, he died in December of 1982

Searching for a Falling Star

There some mysteries that seem to simply linger; one of those for me is the strange disappearance of Star Polumbo. I was on the air at KOZZ when she was reported missing.

Star grew up in the Tucson, Arizona area. She had a job and was living with her grandmother here, when she simply vanished.

Star had called her mother, Gail Polumbo, April 25, 2000 saying she was being followed and that her phone was being tapped. She also talked about moving back to Arizona in order to start over.

Jus’ after midnight on April 26, Star was discovered wondering a restricted area of the Reno-Tahoe International Airport. She claimed that she was looking for her sister, who had run out on the airport’s tarmac.

The officer who picked her up told investigators he believed she was hallucinating at the time. I guess with nothing to hold her on, the decision was made to drop her at the Reno Hilton.

She was seen in and around the front entrance at valet parking. But she never checked in to the hotel.

Her disappearance was the topic of conversation a couple times around the break room at the Reno Hilton. I was working there as a security officer at the time.

During one of these conversations, it was mentioned she had been a clerk at the Palace Jewelry and Loan, a local pawn shop, something I’ve been unable to verify. The Palace also happens to be the pawn shop once owned by convicted murderer, Darren Mack.

Meanwhile on April 27, her car was discovered illegally parked at the airport. The car held many of her personal items including her purse and cell phone.

Reno Police Detective Dave Jenkins said also found in her car were three emails, all addressed to the White House. In them, she claimed the federal government was trying to kill her.

Investigators also found the drawing of a woman, bound and gagged. She also had two books on how to change one’s identity.

Eight-months later, in December, Linda Fields, owner of the Silver Dollar Casino in Elko reported Star had been in her casino. Fields says Star became nervous after seeing a man looking through a window of the business.

Fields says Star left her casino with another woman. However the woman’s identity has never been confirmed by investigators.

Star vanished from that point onward. And I’m sure her family would like to know what happened to her.

Beyond being a missing person’s case and the possibility Star met with foul play is the ugly discovery that Star had fallen into prostitution and using methamphetamine. While at the casino she told Fields she was running from her pimp and it’s now suspected her possible hallucination and paranoia were brought on by her alleged drug abuse.

Like I said some mysteries simply linger.