Stone Refuge

The brick building at the corner of Front and F Streets was one of the first permanent structures in the city. The two story building was built to house a store on the ground floor, but was never used for that purpose.

Instead it served as a Wells Fargo Express Office and the Darby and Saville Saloon. On the second floor was theater that could seat 200 people, with a number of performances held there, including those starring a young Lotta Crabtree in 1857 and 58.

In 1906 the building was sold to John Childs. While he owned it, the place became the headquarters for the local paper, known than as the Crescent City News.

Nearly 62 years later the old building was part of a redevelopment area. It was surrounded by water when the 1964 tsunami struck the city, however it remained mostly undamaged.

Three years later, in September 1967, the building was destroyed by fire. Authorities were certian it was arson, but were never able to find the culpret or culprets who started the blaze.

At one point prior to the fire, it had been proposed that the Darby building be used as the home of the Del Norte Historical Society.  Still preserved on the grounds of an apartment complex constructed after much of the building was demolished is a stone wall. Near it reads a plaque: “Stone Refuge. In the interior of this block stands a relic of a stone building, which was once used by women and children during some Indian trouble in 1857.”

The Sylmar Shaker

For some reason Dad allowed me to take the week off from school so I could go with him as he completed a temporary duty assignment. It would be a very exciting week.

We arrived at the base in the early evening of Sunday, having driven all day long from about the time the sun came up. He and I quickly ate and hit the hay for the night.

The following day, Dad went to work and I stayed closed by the barracks. I do recall going to the base exchange and having to leave the soda and comic book I was going to buy at the check-out stand because I didn’t have my dependent ID card on me.

I was bored to death to say the least.

My Tuesday morning and afternoon was pretty much a repeat of the day before. I was happy to see my old man as I knew we would be going to get something to eat and then to check out a movie at the base theater; we talked of seeing “Raid on Rommel.”

I fell asleep quickly after getting back to our barracks room while Dad watched the local news.

Jus’ after six the next morning a magnitude 6.6 earthquake rattled through the San Fernando Valley.  Dad and I were practically rattled right out of our racks.

For nearly 12-hours, I helped by bandaging and splinting the injured Dad and other Air Force personnel pulled from damaged buildings on base and later at a hospital in the near-by town of Sylmar. It was life-lesson I never forgot — as it helped put me on the road to becoming a survival and first aid instructor and finally securing my paramedics certificate.

Needless to say — I was a very happy kid when Dad was released early from TDY to head home by Wednesday evening.

Crescent City Tsunamis: A Brief History

Since the tidal gauge was installed in Crescent City’s harbor in 1934, the town has been hit by 34 tsunamis. This time, the waves raced into the boat basin, ripping up docks, sinking 11 boats, damaging 47 others, killing one man and causing millions of dollars in damage.

Tsunamis are different from stormy seas. A storm wave is generated by the wind, moving only the top of the water.

A tsunami, however, is generated by an upheaval on the ocean floor. To a ship at sea, it’s not even noticeable — three to four feet high — a bump in the ocean.

This tsunami was generated by one tectonic plate slipping violently underneath the other in a zone 350 miles long and 150 miles wide. The wave raced across the ocean at the speed of 500 to 600 mph.

A factor that saved the harbor from even more damage was the surge hit at low tide, keeping it within the breakwater. Plus a network of deep-sea warning sensors alerted the entire West Coast hours in advance of the surges from the magnitude 9.0 earthquake in Japan.

The town wasn’t forewarned on Good Friday, 1964, however when a magnitude 9.2 earthquake in Alaska’s Prince William Sound sent bigger surges down the coast. Crescent City bore the brunt, due to its offshore geography, position relative to the earthquake’s strike-line, underwater contours such as the Cobb Seamount, and the position of rivers near the city.

Within a two hours, four waves washed over Crescent City.

When finished, 289 buildings and businesses had been destroyed; 1000 cars and 25 large fishing vessels crushed; 11 people were confirmed dead, over 100 were injured, and numbers were missing; 60 blocks had been inundated with 30 city blocks destroyed in total.

Although most of the missing were later accounted for, not all were found. Authorities estimate the city received more damage from the tsunami on a block-by-block basis than did Anchorage from the initial earthquake.

It took the city years to recover from the 1964 Tsunami, with the help of Congressman Don Clausen, who secured federal aid for the ravaged town. There are also some who claim,Crescent City has never recovered and still others who say it never will.

This a matter of person opinion on those people’s part.

Another earthquake, measuring magnitude 8.2 rumbled in the Pacific Ocean, west of Eureka, November 8, 1980. A number of Del Norte residents report being able to walk out to Whaler’s Rock, jus’ off Pebble Beach in Crescent City, as the waters had receded that far, but they didn’t  report seeing surge waves.

This event was followed years later by a magnitude 6.5 and 6.6 aftershock April 25, 1992 off Cape Mendocino. Again the ocean recede into itself, and again there was lack of surge waves.

Then the city’s preparedness was tested June 14, 2005 when an earthquake measuring magnitude 7.0 occured 90 miles offshore. Reportedly, much of the city was evacuated in a matter of 20 minutes when a tsunami warning was issued, but no waves were reported.

Then on November 15, 2006, a magnitude 8.3 earthquake struck off Simushir Island in the Kuril Islands, in the western Pacific. A tsunami warning was issued but rescinded hours later. However, a surge from that quake did hit the harbor at Crescent City causing damage to three docks and several boats.

As this recent tsunami moved east, the wave’s energy bounced off a huge underwater ridge extending out from Mendocino, deflecting part of its energy toward Crescent City.

The deflection slowed the wave, but made it grow higher. And by moving into shallower water, its energy built even more. 

The first surges to hit the shore were small. But by bouncing back, they made the next surge bigger and so on.

When the biggest of the surges hit the tidal gauge, it measured 8.1 feet.

That bouncing amplification is what caught Dustin Weber at the mouth of the Klamath River. He and two friends thought the tsunami
was over after the first surge.

Weber was caught in the bigger surge that hit a couple of hours later. His body has not yet been found.

Prank

This is the second part of a two-part series which began with the story, “Karma.”

A friend, who shall remain nameless, and I were up to no good. It wasn’t all that unusual as we were always looking for new ways to get into trouble.

We were in a group of tree situated near the entrance to the Baptist church, jus’ south of the Trees of Mystery. It was in these trees that we decided to set up our little prank.

Together, we had climbed out into the branches of the trees as they overhung Highway 101. We tethered a scarecrow in among the branches and designed a release line using fishing string.

We didn’t have time to test to see if the scarecrow would work as we wanted. Instead we decided to climb down from the trees and hide and wait in some bushes at the base of one those trees.

Our wait wasn’t long, as heading northbound come a set of headlights. We had to guess when to yank on the fish line.

Too early and it wouldn’t be a surprise; to late and the driver of the car wouldn’t see the scarecrow at all. Our estimate, it turned out was perfect.

The scarecrow dropped in front of the car, sending the vehicle off the side of the road underneath where we were hidden. That’s when we saw it wasn’t some ordinary passenger car – but rather a sheriff’s cruiser.

Me and my nameless friend disappeared into the woods behind the church and used a little known trail to find our way back to Redwood Drive and my home.

Karma

This is part one of a two-part series. The second part is called, “Prank.”

At first it left me angry, but about a minute or so later I started laughing. That’s because I realized as a kid I had done pretty much the same thing.

It was jus’ after 11 at night and I was on my way to the radio station, heading east on Eagle Canyon, towards Pyramid Highway. And while it doesn’t happen very often, I am usually on the look out for that random coyote which might dash across the roadway in front of me.

I glanced down to turn on my truck’s radio – than looked back at the road – and there it was.

Reacting as quick as possible, I stepped on my brakes and down shifted, hoping to slow myself enough to not hit it. Unfortunately, it wasn’t enough.

Fwap!

I drove right over it.

Immediately, I knew something wasn’t right about what I had struck. It didn’t sound like any other animal I’ve ever accidentally run over.

Driving slower than what I can walk at a normal pace, I allowed my truck to roll forward. That’s when I saw the cardboard cut out of a cat, with it’s back hunched upward as if in fright.

It was taped to the roadway with duct-tape and it popped right back onto place. I heard myself swearing at whoever had set thing little surprise up.

Then like I said, a minute or so later I start laughing as I thought, “Karma.”

Following the Long Wave’s Wake

It’s very difficult to sit at the news desk, hundreds of mile away and witness at a distance, events that effect friends and former neighbors in a place that is all too familiar to me. I don’t keep my love for all things Del Norte County, California, a secret — preferring instead to wear my upbringing like a heart on my sleeve.

To that end, and wishing to somehow emulate the late George Merriman, who spent much of his journalistic life writing of the county on a first-hand basis, I’ve pulled together as much information as I could on the recent tsunami to strike the coast of Del Norte. All I can do is imagine — for I’m feeling disconnected from the land and sea that I love as much as I do the high desert in which I now live.

Fishermen who had purposely put-out to sea before a tsunami hit Crescent City’s harbor, landed small loads of crab as the curious came to survey the damage and cleanup crews readied their gear.  And while those cleanup crews assembled, divers could not go into the water and work boats could not maneuver until the  surges were completely done.

The damage came as a series of powerful surges pounded the harbor throughout the day and into the night.  Those waves funneled into the harbor, creating fast-moving currents that shattered docks, wrested boats from their moorings and brought possible ruin to an already struggling economy. 

And as gawker’s looked on and fishermen plied their trade, California’s Governor Jerry Brown issued a state of emergency for Del Norte, Humboldt, San Mateo and Santa Cruz counties due to the tsunami. State officials conferring with the U.S. Coast Guard say the damage is estimated to be at least $50 million along the entire coast of California.

About 80 percent of  Crescent City’s docks once sheltering 140 boats, are gone. At least eight vessels sunk, and one damaged while an unmanned sailboat sucked out of the harbor ran aground, first on the north jetty, then later further down the coast.

University of Nevada-Reno seismologists say the swells that swept into Crescent City were the highest to hit the U.S., at jus’ over eight-feet. Furthermore experts with the U.S. Geological Survey say the huge shake, caused by a shift in the tectonic plates deep underwater, has thrown the earth off its axis point by at least 10 centimeters, or 4 inches, shortening our days by about 1.26 millionths of a second.

Japan’s Meteorological Agency says it has upgraded the magnitude of the catastrophic earthquake to 9.0, up from an 8.8. However the U.S.G.S. measures the quake at magnitude 8.9, a number that has remained unchanged.

In 1964, a massive tsunami with waves estimated to be more than 20 feet in height, swept over Crescent City, taking with it 11 lives, the only people reported to have ever died directly due to a tsunami in the 48 continuous states. Unfortunately, history has a sad way of repeating itself.

Three people were swept out to sea while trying to take photos of the tsunami at the mouth of the Klamath River. Two were able to swim back to shore, however  25-year-old Dustin Weber, formerly of Bend, Oregon, remains missing and is presumed drown. Weber had jus’ moved to Klamath.

Meanwhile across the sea in Japan, the government has doubled the number of soldiers deployed in that country’s earthquake aid effort to 100,000 as it tries to help millions of survivors left without drinking water and electricity. One official says the death toll will likely exceed 10,000 in one state alone along the pulverized northeastern coast.

Finally, the threat of multiple meltdowns fuels a growing nuclear crisis in the earthquake and tsunami-devastated region in northeast Japan. A top official says one partial meltdown is probably already happening and operators are frantically trying to keep temperatures down at the power plant’s other units and prevent the disaster from growing even worse.

Knocking at Deaths Door

Clark County prosecutors are seeking the death penalty for Min Chang and Keon Park, indicted in January on one count each of murder with use of a deadly weapon, armed robbery, first-degree kidnapping with use of a deadly weapon and two counts of conspiracy in the death of Young Park. Keon Park is not related to the victim.

Young Park’s body was discovered by hikers December 23 near Kingman Wash, about a mile from the O’Callaghan-Tillman Memorial Bridge. Authorities say the two men strangled and beat her with a wrench and then burned her body on the Arizona side of the Hoover Dam.

Young Park ran an escort business and brothel out of a home near Rainbow Boulevard and Desert Inn Road in Las Vegas. She reportedly owed Chang about $6,000 and Keon Park around $3,000.

Chang and Keon Park have confessed to their roles in the slaying.

Seperated by Glass

We were attending the high school graduation of one of my cousins when I saw a person I knew – but never expected to see again. The ceremony had jus’ concluded and people were milling about both inside and outside the gym.

My folks were standing on the grass in front of the building talking with my aunt and uncle. I was standing, looking into the building through the large window of the gym’s foyer, people watching.

Suddenly, a girl steps up to other side of the window and smiles at me. I recognized her immediately as Barbara Billy, somebody I had gone to Margaret Keating School with earlier in the year. She had suddenly moved and no one was certain where too.

I smiled back as I placed my right hand on the window in front of me.

Barbara placed her right hand directly where my hand was located. I said, “Hi,” even though I knew she couldn’t hear me and I saw her lips move saying “Hi,” back.

Then her mom appeared from the crowd of people, took her by the hand and pulled her back into the gym. She waved at me as she vanished from sight.

Barbara would return to Margaret Keating School when we were both in 7th grade. And while we never spoke of seeing one another that evening, I never forgot how touching that moment felt to me.

Treasures in Time

Colonel Robert “Bud” Laux and Dad served in France together while in the U.S. Air Force. My parents liked and trusted Bud so much that they asked him to be one of my God-parents.

Bud, as I knew him, flew a number of bombing missions in Europe during World War II. He was shot down by the Luftwaffe and survived with the help of the French Résistance.

He also served with famed Air Force General, Curtis LeMay, who would eventually also be asked to act as god-father to me. This happen shortly after we returned from France in 1962.

As things went, I never had a relationship with General LeMay. And other than a couple of photographs of me sitting on his knee while living at Mather AFB, I didn’t have contact with the man as I grew into adulthood.

However I had a lot of contact with Bud. We wrote each other yearly, sent Christmas cards and he’d send me a birthday card each July.

One year I asked him to tell me about being shot down over occupied France. He wrote back, sending me an autographed 8 x 10 glossy black and white picture of the type of aircraft he was flying at the time.

After I joined the Air Force, Bud dropped in for a visit at Brooks AFB, where I was stationed for tech-school. He had jus’ flown in, helping piggy-back the space shuttle Columbia to Kelly AFB. Later he would surprise my commanding officer at Warren AFB, by asking for me and taking me to lunch at the Officers Club, a treat for most any enlisted man or woman.

Unfortunately, only one letter remains from the notes and cards he sent me over the years. But as fortune would have it – that’s the one letter I’ve managed to keep safe, that and the picture he sent.

Bud died in December 1980.

Rider of the Storm

“You’d best take a look at the obituary,” my bride said as she held out the section of the Reno Gazette-Journal for me to read.

I looked up from sharpening my knife with a half smirk on my face and asked, “Why is my name in it?”

The look in my brides face told me she was serious. I reached up and took the extended newspaper in hand and quickly scanned each name on the page.

Suddenly my eyes stopped searching. I had discovered the recognizable name of my friend.

“Well, I’ll be a son of a ..,” my voice trailed off as I read the obituary.

“When’s the last time you spoke with Sam?” my bride asked.

I fumbled with the paper for a moment in an attempt to buy time to regain my composure.

“It’s been a couple of years,” I answered, adding, “Jus’ before he headed for Europe. I didn’t think he’d follow through with it though.”

*******

Again my voice trailed off as I re-read the obituary and faded into a memory of  KOZZ’s receptionist’s voice coming over the intercom to the always busy promotions office, “You have a call on-line seven.”

I pushed back from my computer dreading another interruption as the deadline for the proposal I was working on loomed closer and picked up the receiver and pushed the button next to the red flashing light.

“Hey, hey,” came a voice over the line.

I respond as I had hundreds of times before, “Hey.”

It was my friend Sam.

“How’re you doing?” I asked Sam.

“I’m fine,” he answered, “I’m going to go to Europe to bum around.”

“Say what?” I asked with surprise.

“Yeah,” he said, “I’m going to Europe,”

There was momentary pause.

“Are you still there?” Sam asked.

“Yeah,” I responded, “I’m jus’ surprised is all.”

Then I thought to ask, “How are you going to get there?”

Sam laughed, answering “I’m going fly.”

I knew that I had asked a dumb question or had at the very least phrased it incorrectly.

“No,” I shot back, “I mean how are you going to pay for it?”

I knew Sam always had money difficulties.

Sam answered, “I’ve got my income tax check and I’ll buy myself a one way ticket.”

“A one way ticket?” I asked.

“Yeah, I don’t plan on coming back,” Sam continued.

I thought this over for a few seconds before asking “How’ll you live?”

Sam had a smile in his voice as he replied, “I’ll be a day laborer.”

There was a long pause between the two of us.

Then Sam added; “Besides I still have a problem with junk,” he paused, “I can’t quit fixing.”

I just sat there and listened as Sam laid out his plans for his two-year European vacation as he was calling it.

“And finally,” Sam concluded, “when I’ve seen and done it all — I’ll pull a Jim Morrison.”

I recalled how Jim Morrison had died.

He was the lead singer of the group, “The Doors.” He had money and plenty of women, yet he died from a heroin overdose.

I sighed heavily as I said, “I’m sorry to hear that.”

“Sam won’t go through with it,” I remembered thinking. After a few more minutes of conversation we said good-bye to each other and I hung up the telephone and returned to the proposal waiting for me on my computer.

*******

“That was two years ago,” I said as I continued to reflect.

“What was?” my bride asked.

“It was two years ago that he said he was going to pull a Jim Morrison,” I answered.

She frowned, “So?”

“The obituary says Sam died in his sleep while on vacation in Paris, France,” I replied as I picked up the paper again.

She shook her head, “I still don’t get it.”

“That’s how Jim Morrison of the Doors died — in Paris — in his sleep,” I said.

“I didn’t know that, “she replied.

As I got up from the table as I picked up my coffee mug and stepped outside through the sliding glass door. I looked southward towards the remnants of Wedekind City and felt the hot tears start to flow.

The Budget and the Battleborn Bonus

There’s nothing worse than having a good message, but garbling it up due to poor wording and bad facts. Case in point: the ongoing federal budget battle and the war of words between Senator Harry Reid and conservative commentators.

It started with Reid, who bragged, “The National Endowment for the Humanities is the reason we in Northern Nevada have, every January, the cowboy poetry festival. Had that program not been around, the tens of thousands of people who come there every year, would not exist.”

Huh? They must have evaporated into thin air according to Harry.

Of course, that isn’t really what Reid meant when he was defending the Democrat’s funding of NEH. He was attempting to say — he made Elko’s National Cowboy Festival possible by getting organizers the needed money.

Reid failed to take into consideration those tens of thousands of people would have attended the festival, regardless of federal funding. Cowboy poetry is a very big deal to Nevadans, and I’ve had the pleasure of rubbing elbows with Nevada cowboy poet’s and the people who attend gatherings from all over the state.

The situation would probably gone unnoticed in Nevada — as much of what Harry says goes unnoticed — had it not been for the bombastic voicing of ridicule Mark Levin laid on the subject. His comments during his nightly radio rantings ticked a good many Northern Nevadan’s off and quickly.

“Is there a Broke Mountain up there?” Levin asked. “What kind of mountain range do they have up there, Mr. Producer? Brokeback Mountain — is that the name of the mountain in Northern Nevada there, where they have the cowboy poetry festival?”

Brokeback Mountain? Mark was referring to the 2005 movie and assuming everyone in Northern Nevada who enjoys the tradition of cowboy poetry is homosexual.

Not really — Levin was trying to make the point that the federal government shouldn’t be paying for the Elko festival. He later did manage to say exactly that, but the damage was already done.

From my point of view, they both screwed up. And while I’m used to the Senator’s mouthful of goofy words, I cannot condone Mr. Levin’s generalization of cowboy poets and the life-style that is springs from.

Besides it’s worth noting — the movie, “Brokeback Mountain,” is set in Wyoming — not Nevada.

Death in a Pit and a PR Nightmare

It is one of the worse PR nightmares I’ve ever seen. The U.S. Bureau of Land Management and Pershing County authorities released a statement making no mention of a rescue attempt having ever been made.

It started after Devin Westenskow, out with friends and co-workers, exploring the Nevada back county, stepped into the vent-shaft of an abandoned mine and fell nearly 200 feet. Westenskow survived the fall, suffering severe head injuries before dying a few hours later.

I am not criticizing rescuers or the decision to halt any further attempts at rescue — what I am critical of is how the information regarding the incident was handled by authorities.

Initially, authorities made it sound as if the decision to not rescue Westenskow was the only thing anyone had done. Authorities failed to let the public know rescuers had been lowered into the shaft, but falling rocks and debris made any further descent  unsafe.

Instead, what hit the news wires and eventually the world’s new organizations was the blood-curdling account of a man left to die without a finger being raised to help him. Suddenly, Nevada looked like the land of heartless SOB’s.

Nothing is farther from the truth and that’s the shame of it.

Authorities  also dragged their feet notifying the media Westenskow had already passed away before the first story ran on the newswire. Instead the press was left passing on sensational details of a man, believed to still be alive at the bottom of a mine shaft and that he was beyond saving.

The only decent bit of news to come out of this tragedy is how the family handled the loss of their loved one — “The family feels that if Jesus Christ was buried in a tomb, its good enough for Devin,” his grandmother, Lois Westenskow said.

Maybe the authorities with both Pershing County and the BLM will use this tragic situation to learn from their mistakes.

Coming Home

As I recall, I was playing in the large field across the street from our home. That’s when I saw the dark blue sedan with the yellow print on its doors pull in to the drive way.

At first I simply stood still, watching the car back out of the drive and alongside the curb. I knew in an instant why the car was there.

Without hesitation, I took off running as fast as I could towards the house. I hit the sidewalk still sprinting, but somehow managed to lose my footing.

I slammed into the asphalt on my knees and elbows, rolling head-over-heel and back up onto my feet to continue running.

Though I was suffering from road rash now, I didn’t let my pain stop me. I wasn’t going to allow a few little scratches keep me from meeting that car.

In my excitement I leaped up and wrapped my gangly legs around Dad’s waist, who was finally returning home from another tour in Vietnam. Seconds later, Adam, Deirdre and Marcy raced from the house, followed by Mom.

“Okay,” Mom said loudly, “Let your dad go and let him get in the door before you hug and kiss him to death,” as she pried us kid’s off our father and led him towards the front door.

Tire Pressure Bill Passes Nevada Legislature

A bill requiring garages to check the tire pressures on vehicles that come into the shop for repair has cleared the Nevada Senate. SB144 was approved along mostly party lines, with Republican Senator Joe Hardy of Boulder City voting with Democrats for passage.

Under the bill, repair shops would need to fill tires according to manufacturer guidelines. Failure to comply would be a misdemeanor. The bill now goes to the Assembly.

And I thought Nevada lawmakers vowed to create more jobs — instead they find ways to add more fees to small businesses.

Longing

The passing of my old man fairly well wrecked me for half-a-year. At the time I felt as if I were the only one in my immediate family that cared about his death.

And worse still, I had not yet learned how to talk about what it was I was feeling. Many nights and early mornings I found myself awake thinking about Dad.

Writing was my only outlet.

Jolted awake, I laid there in the stillness of the moon glow soaked room and listened to my bride breath. As I listened and she breathed, I reflected on the dream that caused me wake up.

It left me bewildered at the very least. Why had Dad had returned to me?

 I could see his shadow and then the outline of his body as he stood partly hidden from sight.

“Damn it,” I had said in my dream.

The storage shed was a mess and it had caused me anger. And I knew I would have to clean it up.

Then I looked up from the mess.

At first I didn’t notice the old man standing some twenty feet from me. I was too busy reacting in disgust to the precarious and disorderly stacking of filing boxes that seemed haphazardly strewn about the floor and along the wall.

At first he was just a silhouette, looming in back of the shed, saying nothing — doing nothing.  Dad jus’ stood there and I couldn’t speak; the surprise was so over whelming.

Mary rolled over onto her right side facing away from me. And continued to I lay there — quietly listening to her breathing as it grew ever increasingly rhythmic.

I reflected back on the dream and how it’s reality work me from a sound sleep, all the while wondering, “What does it mean?”

Laying there, a tear silently traced a salty line from the corner of my eye to the pillow that cradled my head. I realized Dad was still dead and it was only a dream.

I closed my eyes and slowly drifted back into sleep all the while thinking, “I sure do miss you, Dad.”

Crazy Out there

“That song ‘Crazy Out There’ really reminds me about myself,” I said to my bride. Then I added, “I thought I had really lost it there for a while.”

She looked at me and smiled, “Do you want to talk about it?” she asked.

I nodded, “Yeah, but I’m not al too sure where to start.”

After pausing to think for a minute, “What I remember right off-hand,” I started, “was working, drinking after work, not eating, working out excessively, weighing less than 150 pounds, religion and sex.”

That started the memories flowing. I recalled my bride and I had been separated about eight months and I had already developed a relationship with another woman. That relationship – I can only describe as one based on sex, mistrust and alcohol.

In April, the girlfriend had stolen my cell phone, truck keys, a journal and left me alone with her two sleeping children. She went to a bar, but I decided to go find her and get my things back.

I discovered however after an hours walk the bar had been closed for nearly three hours and she was nowhere to be found.

Once I was able to get a hold of her and she came to get him the argument that ensued turned into a near fist fight. Then she tried to jump out of a moving vehicle.

“From that point on,” I continued, “I knew that situation was doomed.”

“She kept showing up at my job too,” I added, “and I’d get in trouble for her going into places that only employees are supposed to go.”

I recounted how one time the girlfriend marched into the employee cafeteria and accused me and a female employee, who was innocently sitting next to me, of having an affair.

“This woman and I were sitting across from each other talking and eating,” I sighed, “It was so damned embarrassing and I felt bad for her, ‘cause she didn’t do anything to deserve the rough treatment she got. But I really slipped a gear when I got the call from you that Mom was dying,” I stated to my bride.

I looked out the window trying to show the tears as they welled up in my eyes.

“Yeah,” she replied, “she seemed real pissy every time I called there for you no matter how important.”

“You know she demanded to come along,” I said flatly, “but I put my foot down and said no.”

My bride smiled, “But still she ragged you 10 or 15 times every day about it while you were there.”

I recounted how, after I had laid Mom to rest and had returned back home, my relationship with the girlfriend grew more and more twisted.

She kept stealing my journal to read what I had written, then she took my cell phone so she could see who had been calling me and when he confronted her, I ended up pushing her to the ground in order to get my property back. She called the police and I spent a couple of weeks camping — out of touch with everyone.

“The best thing you did,” my bride commented, “was take the month of July off from work,” then she pointed out, “It would have been better had you stayed with me, but oh well.”

I chuckled, “Yeah, it would have been for certain.”

“I know you did a lot of camping in July but what’s a mystery to me,” she began, “is the time around your birthday. You up and vanished.”

She paused then finally asked, “What happened?”

I looked down at my feet and then leaned back in the chair in which I was sitting, letting my memory slide back into what I felt was a brutal time.

“I think I went crazy,” I finally answered, “But you have to understand that I don’t recall very much of what happened to me during that time, only bits and pieces. I have images. I have little elements of what happened.”

I paused, “I also didn’t do a lot of writing because I couldn’t – the girlfriend wouldn’t let me and I didn’t want her to read what I wrote even if I did write something.”

*******

I went on to say how I recalled I had decided to run away from the girlfriend again because she was so destructive.

She had tossed my cell phone across the street and broke it and ripped pages from my journal. I had decided to head back over to Fortuna and spend sometime at my sister’s home.

I reflected back to how my bride and I had spent the night at a hotel along I-80 before I left.

My bride still had most of my clothes, so I had to call her. That’s when she offered to get me a room because she knew I was exhausted and needed to get cleaned up.

The following day after breakfast we hugged each other. She headed off to her job and I put my truck in gear and headed for the climes of Northern California.

In less than eight hours I surprised my sister at her front door and she welcomed me in with open arms. It was only a few minutes after arriving that she took me by the arm and walked me half a block down the side-walk and across the street, into their family church. It was a bible study night and I felt welcomed after such a long drive.

After the study I lagged behind with his sister to pray. Next thing I realized I was laying face down in the center aisle praying and my sister was practicing the laying of hands on me, to cure me of my emotional problems.

That night I had difficulty sleeping.

The following day I put myself to work white washing my sister’s barn. It was covered with cob webs and old flaking paint that needed to be cleaned away and I concluded that I would work myself into fatigue.

I spent the entire day working on the barn and by the time supper was on the table it was completely prepared for its first coat of paint.

Once I excused myself from the table I want up stairs to the loft. I checked my cell phone discovering five messages, all from the girlfriend, and all berating me for not coming home and eleven more missed call all from her number.

Finally I turned my phone off, lay down and fell asleep. It was about quarter to ten at night.

At around three the following morning I was awaken by someone talking. It stopped when I sat up and looked around the darkened room.

Curling up, I fell back to sleep until it was time to get up. The family was all assembled for breakfast when I came down the stairs. I sat down and bowed my head as grace was said and the flat jacks were passed around.

The telephone rang. It was for me, “Hello,” I said very wary.

“Hello?” It was my bride on the other end. She suddenly started crying hysterically, “I’ve been in a head on accident and the car has been totaled.”

“Are you okay?” I asked as calmly as I could.

An awful lump swelled in the pit of my stomach and threatened to force its way up my throat.

“I broke my glasses and can’t see and my nose is bleeding,” she answered.

“Do you want me to come get you?” I asked with more urgency.

She continued to cry more softly now then answered, “No, I’m fine.” She paused, “I just wanted to hear your voice.”

We talked for a couple more minutes until she said she was okay and that she had to go. She promised to call later.

I set the telephone down, my hand trembling wildly.

For the remainder of the day I felt angry. I was angry at myself for all of the problems I had caused my bride, angry at the girlfriend because she would not leave me alone and angry at God for nearly taking my bride.

That evening I didn’t eat, instead I called my bride to see how she was doing. She said she was sore but otherwise okay.

I lay down afterwards and fell asleep.

Again I was awaken by the sound of voices talking in my room and I called out, “Whose there?”

No one answered. I concluded that they were inside my head and it gripped me with terror.

I listened to the loudest voice,” You’re a piece of trash,” it repeated over and over, while another shouted, “You’re like your old man.”

Then I heard the word, “Prophet.” It was what my sister’s minister said I was when he had joined her in the laying on of the hands as they worked to heal what they believed was my broken spirit.

“I’m losing my mind,” I thought above the other voices.

Lying in bed, I tossed and turned, trying to quiet the voices or at least ignore them. It did not work and I hardly slept that night.

Come the following morning, I spent the day laboring on white washing the barn. I wanted to keep busy so that the voices that seemed to follow me continually now would remain silenced for a while.

I also went over to Mom’s old home and recovered a few things that I wanted.

Walking through her home-made me sad and I longed for the days when I was growing up and it seemed like life would last forever. I found myself standing in her bedroom crying, missing her when I was interrupted by a fast chanting sound, “She never loved you.”

I rushed from the house in a foul-mouth rage, quickly returned to my sisters home, to find her in the kitchen.

She smiled and asked,” So what do you want for your birthday tomorrow?”

I looked at her puzzled – I had forgotten it was my birthday.

I answered, “Nothing, I don’t even want a cake, okay?”

Hurrying past her and up the stairs to the loft, I failed to come down for dinner that evening. I laid on the bed or paced the floor wrestling with the five voices that were creating chaos within my mind.

I was arguing with my tormentors and quickly becoming psychotic.

Finally, I dozed off in the early hours of morning. However when the light of day broke through the jagged ruffles of lace curtains, I was exhausted.

Down stairs I could hear the family moving about. I could smell the brewing coffee and the bacon on the grill.

It took all the nerve I could muster to steel myself to walk down the stairs. When I did I was met with a loud, “Surprise,” by his sister and her family, who were intent on celebrating my birthday anyway.

I did my best to act as if I was enjoying the moment, knowing that soon it would be all over.

“We’re going up town to watch the parade,” my sister announced as it was also rodeo weekend, “See you later,” she called out as they closed the door.

“They don’t ever listen to you,” I heard a voice say.

They were back. I realized he had to do something.

I needed to leave before my sister and her family found out I had gone insane.

It took me less than 15 minutes to pack my truck and start south on Highway 101. I drove through Richardson Grove and into Garberville where I stopped to pen a note to both my bride and the girlfriend.

In each I outlined how I thought I was going crazy and how I would soon abandon my truck and set off on foot. I mailed them and headed farther south.

I stopped again in Marin County, where I argued with myself about what I should do.

Each voice seemed to have a different idea about my fate. I decided to stop and watch the rush hour traffic going by.

“I wonder if anyone realizes I’m gone, yet.” I asked myself as I sat in the parking lot watching the people who had other people to go flying by.

I suddenly felt terribly alone.

Once the traffic subsided I continued to travel southward. However I had developed a plan: would head for the Indian Territories as my old man used to call them; better known as Oklahoma.

I had a sudden and desperate urge to go visit Dad’s graveside.

So I cut across onto Interstate 80, somehow making it to US 99 south. I drove head long into the setting sun on this straight stretch of road, all the while continuing to hear the voices in my head.

I talked and argued with them, tried to become their friend by making jokes, “At last they’re keeping me awake.”

Just after midnight I decided to stop for a couple of hours of sleep. I pulled into a rest stop, parked and leaned my seat back, closed his eyes and listened to the voices. They seemed to have a hypnotic affect on me and I allowed them to lull me into an hour or two of rest.

I was awakened by the sound of thunder as it roared by his truck.

The thunder turned out to be a diesel train speeding along the tracks. I decided I would use the restrooms before hitting the road once more.

As I was coming out of the restrooms I was stopped by a woman who wanted to know the time. I told her it was 2:13 in the morning, and then realized that she was a he.

I hurried to my truck and continued my drive south.

Continuing to drive as the sun rose up behind me, I knew I was just a few minute from crossing the border into Arizona. I also noticed that the voices also seemed fatigued now as well.

The temperature continued to climb as the sun climb into the sky. I rolled the windows down on the truck, cranked the radio up as loud as it would go and raced along route 66 and I found myself on the main highway, State Route 40.

I drove fast through the Arizona desert towards Flagstaff.

Each time I stopped to gas up, I got another cup of coffee. I also found myself wrestling with the five voices in my head.

By late afternoon my stomach was grumbling and I realized that it had been nearly forty-eight hours since I last had anything to eat. So I pulled off in a little town called Winslow and found the only market around.

It was owned by a Korean couple who hardly spoke a word of English, but gladly sold me a loaf of bread a jar of peanut butter for three dollars. And as I was making a couple of sandwiches I realized I was standing in the town in which a popular rock band had sung about.

I chuckled aloud.

Soon it was back on the road. I pushed the accelerator down and faced the truck eastward hoping to reach Albuquerque before nightfall.

I listened to the radio as I drove — God radio I called it.

It was radio where one preacher after another spoke on the message of salvation. It seemed to drown out the voices as I listened so I kept the radio tuned to the message of God.

As I passed through the time zones, the landscape seemed to change as did my mood. My veil of depression slowly lifted and I started looking at the scenery.

It appeared to be both beautiful and mysterious. I found myself transported into another world – as I could see Hogan’s and other ruins along the highway.

I knew Albuquerque laid jus’ ahead.

And as I made the outskirts of the city, a large thunderhead had started to form. I didn’t pay much attention to it other than to take note that it was there.

I was listening to a preacher talking about Jesus, inviting listeners to accept the Savior into their hearts and I shouted, “Yes!”

As I did this, a lighting bolt crashed into the roadway not more than a few feet from my truck. It caused the radio to become fuzzy and it temporarily blinded me, forcing me to pull off the road.

I sat there dazed, wondering if the bolt was a sign from God or Satan.

When I could see again I put the truck in gear and continued out of the city. Jus’ outside of town I decided to stop for the night and rest.

I pulled off the side of the road and parked.

Pulling my tent and sleeping bag out of my truck, I walked down the hillside to the base of some ruins. There I pitched my tent. I could also see my truck and the highway as I laid down and fell asleep.

It was dark when the rain first started. That didn’t worry me as my tent was water proof, however I did not expect the flash flood.

Barely escaping the tent and sleeping bag as it rushed down the v-shaped canyon wash, I trotted up the hill and into the ruin. After sitting in the doorway of the old adobe building I decided to make a dash for my truck.

After making it across the muddy wash, I looked back at the ruins. I felt a chill fall over me as I witnessed a shadow standing in the doorway I had jus’ been occupying.

When I awoke the next morning, the ground appeared to be dry, yet I could see foot prints in the ruins that were not made by my boots. I felt as if eyes that I could not see were watching him.

Quickly I found my sleeping bag and rolled the soggy mess up as best I could. I looked down the arroyo and saw my bright red tent hung up on a snag, retrieved it, broke it down and put it into the back of my truck.

Once on the road again, I continued to listen to God radio and to think about the lighting bolt and the figure I thought he saw and all the voices.

“I must be crazy!” I screamed out loud.

Driving all day, I stopped only long enough to get gas in the truck, to use the restroom and to buy a cup of coffee and eat a peanut butter sandwich. I thought about how his sister had just blown off his request about not having a birthday cake or anything.

Suddenly I felt enraged at her for not listening and jus’ as sudden the voices were back.

Rolling into Amarillo at around five the next morning, I had to laugh as the words to “Amarillo by Morning,” popped into my head. It seemed appropriate that I would find at least one radio station playing the song.

Three hours later I crossed over into Oklahoma. Soon I would have a chance to sit next to Dad’s smooth white marble headstone and talk to the old man about my going insane.

I knew at least Dad would be listening without trying to reason me out of it.

Once I crossed over the Arkansas River I knew Muskogee and Fort Gibson were jus’ a few miles ahead. I realized then that even though I was going insane I had made it out to see my father.

After an hour and a half talk with Dad at his headstone I directed my attention on visiting with my step mother. I drove over to the hospital and discovered she was not in, however my half-sister was at work in the pharmacy and she gave me a key to her mother’s house.

I went inside and lay down on the floor where I fell dead asleep until I was gently awakened by my step mom.

She smiled and said, “There’s someone on the phone for you.”

She handed me the receiver and I said, “Hello.”

I listened, and then hung up the phone after saying, “Okay I will — love you too. Bye.”

I handed the telephone back to my step mother.

She sat down beside me and wrapped her arms around me as I softly cried. She said nothing, jus’ letting me cry as I knew I had gone crazy out there.

*******

My bride looked at me and smiled “I’m so glad you came home to me after all that time.”

“Me, too,” I smiled back.

Dunce

“Come on, Dad,” Kyle called to me as he trotted ahead and up the Fourth Ward Schools front steps.

I was one of his class field trip chaperones to the Comstock, site of Nevada’s first silver rush.

Once inside we were met by the three young high school girls who would be conducting the tour of the now defunct school. The class was led inside a room jus’ to the right of the gift shop.

It was an old style classroom, with the hard wooden fold down benches. The walls were adorned with black chalk boards and various maps of the states including a territorial map of the United States.

In the center of the room set a pot-bellied stove on three-legs. As the tour guides pointed each feature out within the room, the children patiently and quietly took notice.

There was also a three-legged stool and on it set a pointed white hat on which the word “dunce” was written. The children laughed at the sight, as one of the guides talked about what the stool and hat were for.

I glanced at the stool and thought about going over and sitting down on it and placing the “dunce” cap on my head, but then I recalled a long ago and nearly forgotten memory from my childhood. 

*******

“Tommy, why don’t you have a seat?” Mom asked.

She was pointing at the black leather barber chair with gold trim that was nearly one hundred years old. We were on a field trip to the county museum which used to be the old Del Norte County Jail and Mom was one of the chaperons for my fourth grade class.

I climbed up into the chair and leaned back.

Mom took her right hand and pretended to give me a buzz cut. The other children laughed at our mother-and-son antics.

About that time Mr. Robert Kirby, the fourth grade teacher stepped around the corner. He wanted to see what all the laughing was about.

Mr. Kirby looked at me sitting in the antique barbers chair, frowned deeply and then spoke in a thundering voice.

“Tommy, get out of that chair now!” He hardly paused for a breath as he continued, “I told you not to touch a thing!”

Without warning Mom stepped in front of  Mr. Kirby, cutting him off as I continued scrambling out of the old barber chair.

“Robert,” she said, using his first name, “I told him he could get up there so if you’re going to yell at anyone, you’d better start by yelling at me first.”

She stood nearly toe to toe with the nearly foot taller man as she continued to lay into him verbally.

“But I warn you Mister, I yell back!” she added.

Mr. Kirby grew red in the face.  I wasn’t be sure if it was because he was growing angrier, getting flustered or felt embarrassed, but the next ext thing I knew, Mr. Kirby stepped back, turned and went into the room he had just left.

By that time though, I was out of the chair and thinking, “I’ll never make that mistake again.”

I kept my hands in my pockets for the rest of the trip.

*******

“Let’s all go up stairs,” said one of the school guides.

It snapped me back into reality. I looked at the dunce cap and stool one more time as I filed passed it and out the door with Kyle by my side.

I remember thinking, “I almost made the same mistake, luckily Mr. Kirby isn’t around to have caught me.”

Then it occurred to me — Mom isn’t around to protect me either.

The Conspiritor

“Barry turned you in even though he gave it to you.” Holly said to me.

“Don’t you think I know that,” I returned.

We both knew that, as well as the reason why. Now I had to save myself from being arrested.

“This isn’t supposed to be how it was to go down,” I said aloud.

Holly reached over and placed her left hand on my knee, “I know,” she replied sympathetically.

I thought back to the evening that Holly and I had first noticed the inventory missing from the electronic supply store.

We were assistant managers trying to rise up to the position of manager. That night we were working together to complete a sample store inventory.

“The idea is to get a brief idea of what we might need in the future,” Barry had explained during a training session.

Holly worked on the electronically monitored store inventory. That was based on sales for the week.

I walked through the aisle doing a manual count of items — things were not adding up.

“What in the world are we not doing right?” I asked Holly.

“Nothing — nothing at all,” she said.

Still the inventory count was off. Items that once were counted into stock were gone and completely unaccounted for in either purchases or transfers.

And Holly and I were not scheduled to work the sample inventory again for another month. The company preferred to rotate assistant managers through the chore to prevent possible theft as the same people doing the theft could cover their tracks and not get caught.

The month’s time passed quickly. By this time I had grown suspicious and I told Holly what I thought.

“I think they’re stealing merchandise,” I told her.

“No way!” exclaimed Holly.

“I think someone is stealing stuff and I plan to catch them,” I continued.

I proceeded to run through the details of my plan which included watching the store after hours and calling headquarters to inform corporate security.

So night after night I sat in my car in the shopping centers parking lot and observed the comings and goings of the store. Eventually it paid off.

“I’ve got you now,” I said as I watched a Chris walk out the back door, carrying a large box to his panel van.

I returned to work after having two days off.

The store was quiet and I spent his work hours dusting and reorganizing the merchandise on the shelf. I let the last sales person go home fifteen minutes early and I finished vacuuming the carpets after closing the door and locking myself in.

I had jus finished up the day’s paperwork when there came the familiar sound of keys at the back door — it was Barry.

”Hello — anyone here?” he called out.

I promptly answered him with a “yes” and he appeared in the door way of the little office.

“You’ve been putting in some hours,” he said.

“Not really,” I replied back, “In fact I jus had two days off.”

“Yeah, but you’re here late again,” he shot back.

I thought to myself, “I’m not late,” but responded instead with, “jus’ finishing up some paperwork.”

There was a brief period of silence between the two of us.

Then Barry said,”I noticed you eyeballing that new camcorder we got in.”

I smiled,”Yeah, it’s a real sweetheart.”

“You wanna borrow it on your next days off?” Barry asked.

“Sure,” I quickly responded.

This was not against company policy. All I had to do was sign a slip of paper saying he had been loaned the piece of equipment. It happened all the time.

Five days later Barry brought the video camera and paperwork over to me. Smiling, I signed for the equipment and continued with my work.

The following day Holly called me at home.

“I want to give you a heads up,” she said, “Corporate Security just closed the store down for inventory.”

I suddenly felt sick to my stomach as I was in possession of an expensive piece of merchandise and I had no receipt to show I had been loaned the camcorder.

“Meet me,” I said to Holly.

She agreed and half an hour later she was sitting in the front seat of my car. The camcorder was resting in its case on the floor board.

We discussed how to get the thing back into the store. She had her hand on my knee.

“I think I’ll turn it in to the Reno Police Department,” I finally said.

Holly nodded her head up and down in agreement, then said, “That’s a great idea.”

After she got out of the truck, I drove directly to the station on East Second Street. I carried the camera as I walked in the front door.

“I want to turn in this video camera,” I said to the desk sergeant.

“Jus’ a second,” responded the officer.

He stepped through the doorway behind his desk then reappeared just as quickly.

 The gate buzzed and he said, “Come on through.”

I did as he was instructed and was led down a short hallway and into a small room.

It had a table and four chairs in it. Minutes later a short man dressed in a dark blue suit stepped into the room.

He introduced himself as a detective.

After shaking hands with me, he got down to business, “I understand you’re looking to turn in a camcorder?” he asked.

“Yes,” I answered.

“Well,” the detective started, “I have a report of one being stolen and your name as the one who stole it.”

It was at that moment that I knew that I had been taken for a fool.

No matter how much I tried to explain, the detective refused to believe me about the massive store thefts I had found. And he refused to believe I had the camera on loan from the store manager.

“He’s the one that signed the complaint,” the detective stated.

Later that evening, I was booked into the Washoe County Jail on grand theft charges. Five months later I would plead guilty to conspiracy to commit grand theft for receiving stolen property even though no other conspirators were named, arrested or charged.

Barry would resign from the company a year later, Holly became engaged and married Chris and I would go down for something I didn’t do.