Second Story Man

Somewhere in the back of my mind I sensed I might be walking into an ambush. But I also knew I had to face the five men at some point so I decided the sooner, the better.

Normally I would have come up the back stairs of the barracks as the door to my room was almost directly across the hallway from the second floor landing as it led into the barracks.

“Why give them the edge,” I thought.

Instead I entered the barracks from the front door, making certain to say hello to the Airman on Charge of Quarters duty. Then I turned right and walked down the long hallway of the first floor and stepped inside the stair well.

Having reached the second floor, I was now positioned at the farthest point I could attain from my room. I wanted to be able to stand back in the shadow of the opposite hallway and watch for any unusual activity.

Within minutes I say three of the five I had been avoiding, come walking down the hallway towards me, and the direction of my room. The three were living off base now and had no business being in the barracks.

The trio stood, talking in front of another of the five’s door. One of them knocked on the door and disappeared into the room. The other two turned and walked back into the dark end of the hallway.

It was at that moment that I noticed only the first two lights were operating. Somehow they had disabled the remainder, leaving my end of the hallway virtually in the dark and ripe for an ambush.

It had been less than two months since I had confronted the five men as they rushed me at my house trailer off-base. They were a petty bunch in my mind and still out for revenge after I had gotten sick due to an allergic reaction from marijuana smoke.

I had been exposed to it one evening during a card game inside the barracks — but had no idea I was allergic to the stuff.

The night I was exposed, I was rushed to the hospital, swollen and gasping for air. Evidently the odor of marijuana was detected on  my clothing and this led to the Security Police being notified and I was labeled a “narc” from that point on.

The day the five stormed my small house-trailer off base, I surprised them when I fire a .45 caliber machine gun round into the floor of the house, near their feet. This scared them off — but it didn’t stop them from continually harassing me on a daily basis.

That event left me a bit shaken, so I decided it would be best if I moved back on base. At least it would afford me some sort of protection from the menace of the five men.

“Be careful,” Barney had warned over the telephone, “They’re planning to kick your ass.”

Barney and I had been separated by our commanding officer. The C.O. felt I was a negative influence in Barney’s life and would cause the Texan’s career to come to an end.

I figured our C.O. separated us knowing that there was strength in numbers and therefore by not having Barney around I was more vulnerable to whatever might happen.

The officer ordered us to not have anything to do with each other while on duty. After work though, the Captain had little to no control over our actions.

As I stepped out of the hallway and into the common area, I took a deep breath. I knew once I crossed over the common area and into the second half of the hallway, the overhead light would give me away and there would be no turning back.

Without hesitating, I walked passed the door the one man had entered. I was certain he and the man who occupied the room were watching the hall through the peep-hole in the door.

Walking a quietly as I could, I strained to listen for whatever awaited me in the ever enveloping darkness. I could detect voices but couldn’t tell what was being said.

As I made the corner, the light from a street lamp shining through a window at the end of the hall and behind me, cast some illumination down the darker end of the hall. There, I could jus’ make out three figures huddled near my doorway.

Having seen them first, I turned hoping to retreat to a better position, but the two men who had been hiding in the room, were walking down tha hallway towards me and each had a bat in their hands.

There was only one chance for escape and I knew it. I backed up against the window where the street lamp shined through, a quickly unlocked it. I popped it open a fully as it would go and by this time all five men were on me.

First I felt the blows of their fists and their kicks as I fought back. I positioned myself into one of the corners near the window, knowing that the walls might absorb the blow of a baseball bat better than my head.

As expected one of the men swung  his bat at me, but instead of trying to duck the incoming blow, I stepped in as close to my attacker as possible. The move caught the man off guard.

About the same time I saw a fist coming at my face. I yanked on the bat and the fist struck the wooden club, full force.

The blow knocked the bat from my attackers hand and I managed to hold on tight to it. Without hesitation I gripped it and started swinging away at the group causing them to back away, fearful that I might connect with one of them.

For a couple of seconds it appeared as if the fight would end in a stand-off. However I didn’t waste my time on that hope.

Instead I raised the bat over my head with both hands and swung it downward. I let the hard wood object fly as the group scattered to get out-of-the-way.

As the five sought cover by diving into the adjacent hallway, flattening against the wall or using a doorway for cover, I turned and dove head long out the still open window. It was a two-story fall that sent me crashing to the sidewalk below.

And though the wind was knocked out of me and I was certain I had broken something somewhere in my body, I wasted little time getting to my feet and dashing down the sidewalk towards the post office where I knew someone would be.

Though I reported the attack to my First Sergeant and his boss, a First Lieutenant, nothing was done. The two men told me there was no way to prove the attack had happened.

From that point on I started carrying a folding lock-blade knife in my back pocket. I didn’t want to be in a position like the one in the hallway and be left defenseless again.

“If it ever happens again,” I told Barney, “I’m going to leave my mark on at least three of them.”

After that night in the hallway, all five men fairly well stayed clear of me. They never physically confronted me again though they did, either singly or in pairs, threatened to “beat me to death when I was least expecting it.”

I expected it though — at all times.

As Goes Superman — So Goes the Nation

Superman has started a stink by declaring he intends to renounce his U.S. citizenship in a move aimed at giving him more global authority. He makes the decision in “Action Comics” No. 900.

Joe Shuster and Jerry Siegel, who created the comicbook hero, must be spinning in their graves.

It has caused anger among readers who liken the Man of Steel’s declaration to go before the United Nations and “inform them I am renouncing my citizenship” to abandoning the ideals of “truth, justice and the American way.” DC Comics says the  superhero isn’t abandoning the U.S. — he’s jus’ putting a global focus on his never-ending battle against evil.

And the way our elected officials are directing our national affairs — we’ll soon all fall under the auspices of the U.N. as well.

Buying Someone Else’s Diary

For 25 years now, I have searched to find “The Journals of Alfred Doten,” a three-volume set, weighing in at roughly forty-pounds. They were edited by Walter Van Tilburg Clark and published by the University of Nevada Press.

Each volume contains plates from engravings, photographs and maps and are bound in cloth with spines lettered in gilt. First edition sets also came with a heavy cardboard slipcase — a prize to anyone who really values Nevada history.

So who is Doten?

Born in 1829 in Plymouth, Massachusetts, Doten sailed to California in 1849 to make his fortune during the early days of the California gold rush. Unsuccessful, he headed east to Nevada in 1863 to get in on the silver boom, however — like Samuel Clemens and others — he went into the newspaper business.

Doten worked as a reporter for several Nevada newspapers including the Como Sentinel, the Virginia Daily Union, the Virginia City Territorial Enterprise and the Gold Hill Daily News. He eventually purchased the News in 1872 and made it one of the most important papers on the Comstock.

While a highly respected journalist, Doten’s life ended tragically.

He became an alcoholic, went into debt, lost ownership of the paper, became estranged from his wife and children, and died poor and alone in a rented room. However  Doten’s claim to fame isn’t in his journalistic work but rather on the private journal he started keeping while aboard that ship to California and continued until the very last day of his life in 1903.

Often I’ve looked on-line for the set, only to turn away because of the price (ranging between $175 and $325) or the condition in which the books were in at the time (mostly poor.) I also so took in book sales, visited antique shops and stopped at yard sales if I saw books on display.

So when the Friends of the Washoe County Library held the first of their two yearly book sales, I decided to go have a look. Half an hour later and having already purchased two older books on the history of northern Nevada and eastern California, I was on my way out of the door.

A note of interest: those two books were written by Donald Garate — while I don’t know him — I think I may have worked for his son or perhaps nephew, Gene a few years back. I do love it when history and life fold back into one another. Anyway —

So imagine my surprise when I peered beneath a table and saw the end of a familiar looking slipcase.  I stopped to have a closer look and discovered right at my feet — a first edition set in exquisite condition.

The first time I saw such a set — they were priced at $200 — and they were in fair condition. Over the years I’ve checked the journals out, one volume at a time, from the library — but now I have my very own set and it cost only $125.

My bride’s going to shoot me when she see’s how much I spent at a “USED” book sale.

A Trial for a Hoodlum

Grandpa got me the job alright. However I didn’t know what to expect. All I really knew was that the money sounded good.

At 14 I was at that in between stage – I had a grand interest in the girls but I was too young to legally drive. So instead of wasted my time mowing lawns and delivering newspapers, Grandpa took me down and introduced me to the cook of a local ranch outfit.

The cook, or Coosie, as he was known was a rough old cob by the name of Pete. “Yeah, I’ll put him to work,” were his words as Grandpa shook his hand and headed for the door of the cookhouse.

“Go fetch me some water,” the Coosie shouted.

Standing in the doorway, I watched as Grandpa’s truck faded away down the dirt road in a bellow of cloudy dust.  About that time, I heard the pail come crashing down near me.

“I said get me some water, Hoody,” the gruff old man growled.

Snapping out of my trance-like-state, I grabbed the pail and rushed outside.

“No time to think about it,” I said to myself as I tried to figure out what Grandpa had jus’ done to me.

Standing at the hand pump, I placed the pail under the spout. I lifted the handle and lowered it again and again but nothing came out.

Again I pumped the handle up and down jus’ as I had seen my Aunt and grandmother do so many times. Still nothing happened.

So I pumped even harder. And still the pump refused to yield even a single drop of water.

“Where’s my water!” screamed Pete.

The tone of his voice sent chills down my spine.  I didn’t want to have to tell him that the water pump was broken.

Suddenly Pete was by my side. His cheeks were bright red under the snow white growth of beard.

He yanked the bucket out of my hand, “Don’t even know how to fetch water!” he complained.

The cook was angry at me – and I couldn’t understand what I had done wrong.

Pete reached down and picked up the old whiskey bottle resting at the base of the pump. It was filled with water, which he poured down the shaft of the pump and then started moving the handle up and down.

At first I was relieved that nothing happened.

“The pump is broken,” I told myself.

But no sooner had I said the words in my head, than I heard the gurgling noise deep down below the old iron pipe. Then it spit out a gush of water and the pail was filled. The Coosie dipped the bottle into the pail and withdrew it. Next he placed it against the pump and returned to the cook house.

I quickly picked up the now full pail of water and jus’ as quickly fell in behind the cook, who shook his head back and forth as we made our way to the kitchen.

The rest of the day went much better for me. I managed to chop enough wood for that evening and the next morning, which surprised the ornery old cuss as it was the first time he hadn’t yelled at me for something I not done to his liking.

That afternoon I washed and rinsed the cookware and supper plates until they sparkled. I fetched the flour and the sugar and made myself useful by turn the bear tracks, or donuts, as they browned in the hot fat cooker.

I even remembered to set the table properly – exactly as Mom had taught me.

At first I placed all the plates and cups upright, but the Coosie made me turn them upside down as he explained why it was to be done like that, “I don’t want no dust or vermin hair getting mixed up with the grub.”

It made sense to me as I had heard that they used to do that in lumber camps where supper was served. “It’s to keep the sawdust off the plates,” I recalled having been told.

Along about the evening meal, a stranger appeared at the backdoor. I recognized him and knew his name to be Ormande’.

Ormande’ spoke little to no English but was a hard worker. He had been employed as a day-laborer for Grandpa, stringing wire for week.

Grandpa had been impressed by the young man from Portugal as he had completed the task sooner than was expected. Ormande’ seemed to recognize me too.

Pete told him in poor Spanish that there wasn’t any work. He also told Ormande’ to stay and help himself to the evening chuck.

After the meal had been served and I finished washing the dishes, I carried the wash bucket out the back door. I had jus’ dumped the water onto the ground when I felt a presence behind me.

Jus’ as I turned, my world grew dark. Someone had pulled a burlap sack over my head.

I was roughly grabbed up and half-carried and half-dragged to a waiting wagon.

Hard, strong hands held me down even though I struggled against them. They pinned me face down to the wood-bottom of the buck-board.

“Hay-ya,” called out a voice and the wagon jumped to life. I remember fear welling up in me and I felt panic-stricken.

Minutes later the wagon rolled to a stop and I was dragged from it. I was hurriedly pushed forward then abruptly halted.

I could hear voices’ surrounding me as the sack was yanked from my head.

There were at least 20 men surrounding me. I sucked in my breath as I noted they were all wearing white-flour sacks over their heads to hide their faces.

The sacks had holes cut into them for their eyes. However each man’s nose and mouth remained covered and a strange panting came for them as they breathed in.

A bon-fire cast an eerie light on the group, throwing shadows in different directions.

“Is this the accused?” a deep voice rumbled from the crowd.

The question caused the hair on the back of my neck to stand up. I was suddenly aware that I felt queasy to my stomach and my knees were shaking.

“It is,” another voice answered.

“What are the charges?” the deep voice asked.

There was along pause, then came the second voice, “This here boys accused of impersonating a Hoodlum.”

I knew a Hoodlum was the Coosie’s helper – and that was me.

My knees nearly buckled. I wanted to run but I knew my legs wouldn’t carry me far enough to get away from this clandestine group.

Then the man with the deep voice spoke directly to me, “What do you have to say for yourself, boy?”

I couldn’t speak.

The words seemed to simply bounce around in my head but failed to exit through my mouth. All I could manage to get out was, “I – I –I,” in a stutter.

“The accused needs a cat-skinner,” the deep voice announced, “Anyone willing?”

There was no answer. I stood there trembling with fright.

Suddenly a voice rose up from the crowd, “Yeah, I got a lawyer for him.”

Jus’ a suddenly Ormande’ was carried into the circle. He turned the moment he was set on his feet, and tried to escape, but the group of hooded men held him back.

“Okay, we got the kid a lawyer,” came the deep voiced man, “Now whose a-prosecuting him?”

From the crowd stepped a man, and he loudly stated, “I am!”

I could see the whiteness of his chin-hairs as they poked out from beneath the flour-sack. I was certain it was the Coosie.

The deep voiced man nodded at him and the Coosie began, “I’m going to prove this here kid ain’t no help in the kitchen and that he ain’t even fit for mucking stalls.”

A large whoop went up from the gathering. Still I was too frightened to speak.

Once the crowd had settled down, the Coosie continued his opening statement, “I will bring on witness after witness who’ll testify on the bible to this very fact. Heck, he can’t even get water from the derned pump,” he said.

“There’ll be no cussing in this court,” commanded the deep voiced man.

“Sorry you’re Honor,” the prosecutor replied.

The man with the deep voice looked at Ormande’ and asked, “What does the defense have to say?”

The Portuguese man must have thought the end of his world was close at hand. He threw himself on his knees at the feet of the deep voiced man and begged like a man, pleading for his life.

He spoke in rapid-fire Portuguese and sobbed with a passion that move those standing around him. Then, he was done, hanging his head to continue his crying.

There was long silence. Then the deep voiced man spoke, “Kid, I’m pronouncing sentence on you.”

He cleared his throat and continued, “Your cat-skinner here, has pleaded your case so eloquently that I’m going to let you off the hook this time.”

His eyes met mine as he said, “If you’re ever caught playing the Coosie’s help again, you’ll be dragged off this here ranch. You understand?”

I nodded my head and stammered out, “Y –Y – Yes, sir.”

Then the deep voiced man added, “And for failing to fetch water like the Coosie wanted, I’m ordering ten licks from the wagon-tongue.”

Another great cheer went up from the crowd as two or three masked men swept me from my feet and dragged me to the buckboard. They forced me over the end of the wagon as someone commenced to slap me across the butt with a pair of chaps.

The group of hooded men counted as each time the leather chaps stung my britches. Then like that, it was over and another cheer went up.

I looked around for Ormande’, but he was no where to be found in the fire light.

He had worked his way to the outside of the circle of men and disappeared into the darkness. I can’t blame him for making good his escape when he had the opportunity.

When it was all over and done, my head was covered with the burlap sack and I was manhandled into the wagon once again. Minutes later I was rolled unceremoniously from the buckboard, landing on the ground with a thud.

By the time I pulled the sack off my head, the wagon had vanished back into the night time. And I was left to nurse my tender behind and finish the chores.

The Stubborn Scot

There is never a good time for bad news. And that bad news came late Saturday night when I received a phone call from my friend Elizabeth — telling me her husband of 16 years had breathed his last.

But this ain’t no regular obituary…

Duncan had been ill for years, battling cancer in one form or an other. Yet he never lost his cheer — even when the chemo was kicking the cramp out of his guts — somehow he’d manage a joke or two.

It was simply Duncan’s nature.

But around the first of April, his health took a turn for the worst. And oddly — it came as result of a vehicle accident that left him with a broken nose and fractured ribs.

Eventually, Duncan was admitted to the hospital because he couldn’t breath very well. At first it looked as if he had fought and won another round with his body — but then came the night he either got up too fast, became dizzy and fell or simply mis-stepped and toppled to the floor.

Either way, he laid there for several hours unable to get up or unwilling to move because it hurt too much. In the end his wife, Elizabeth had to call for a helicopter airlift to get him to the hospital as they live so far out in the high desert.

From that point, it was apparent that Duncan wasn’t going to return home anytime soon — if ever. However the stubborn Scot that he had always been — remained strong and true to the end.

It appeared that his body was against him from the onset as a massive and aggressive tumor developed out of nowhere in his neck and it slowly started to strangle his windpipe. But somehow Duncan held on — he kept breathing, even if it was in gurgling gasps.

At one point — she nearly ran from his hospital room — unable to continue listening to his ragged breathing. But she managed to steel herself and stay, knowing it could be the last moments of his life.

Finally when the doctors came to Elizabeth and told her that Duncan’s brain activity had ceased — she made the agonizing decision — knowing her husbands wishes — to remove all care other than an IV line for pain management. Still the stubborn Scot battled onward.

When most bodies fail and die after four days without fluid, Duncan was still emptying his bladder. It would take another four day’s to expire — but not before “going” one last time in the morning.

She joked, “My honey was full of piss right up to the last.”

A sense of humor — no matter how morbid it may seem to some can be a saving grace in the face of adversity.

By that evening — 6:11 to be exact — Duncan breathed his last. I was a hard-fought battle and while others may say he lost the fight — I say he won the war.

Now it is for his bride, Elizabeth to pick up and carry on.  She tells me she’s filled with both grief and relief.

While nothing has been finalized, Elizabeth is planning a celebration of life memorial for Duncan this June.  Her husband may have said it best though: “I want to put the ‘fun’ back into funeral.”

Washoe Schools Need to Return to the Basics

Washoe County School District Superintendent Heath Morrison says making $35 million in budget cuts could mean laying off for as many as 200 teachers, administrators and support staff, and dipping again into school book funds and reserve accounts. During the same town-hall meeting one parent said if she had it to do over she wouldn’t have come to nevada because “the quality of education is not good.”

“I want businesses here. That’s the only way that we are going to help our economy,” says Tami Berg from Nevada PTA, told KOLO TV.

How will educating 6th, 7th and 8th graders today help our economy now? The answer is that it can’t and it won’t, but that is the general theory being pushed by teaching organizations and their support groups, including the Parent-Teachers Association and the media.

Furthermore, the complaints issued by school administrators like Morrison continue in the vain that our public school buildings are falling apart. Don’t believe this because if it were true and as dangerous as it’s often made out — local authorities such as the fire marshal would shutter that building until the needed repairs were made.

So lets look at a logical and simple solution to the budgeting problem as it affects the student. After all it is the students education that should remain the focus of any school system.

“Lets get back to basics,” has been a cry from school administrators, teacher and parents for years. But so far — no one has truly made such a renaissance move.

So lets dare to get rid of the round tables where young minds can find distraction after distraction to become involved in. Line students desks up in neat little rows — butt to knee — facing forward and help them focus on the chalkboard.

And speaking of the chalkboard — make it a REAL chalkboard. Let’s forgo the dry eraser and white board as they are far more expensive to maintain than the old style chalk and black board with its erasers and rags.

Then put that board to good use. Write out assignments and make certain students understand that the given-assignment is THEIR responsibility to complete.

The use of textbooks should be done sparingly. The teacher should be so well acquainted with the subject they are instructing that the need for a text-book by a student would only be required if the student is behind in their studies.

Return to paper and pencil. The need for computers, printers, software, etc., is unfounded. Besides as things are today — the student already has access to these items at home and besides — and they tend to understand their use better than most adults.

This also goes for the move to the electronic classroom. Who is this really for? The student, the teacher or other? These have only one purpose — to impress school district’s who have less to spend on these nifty, but very expensive toys.

And does a classroom really need to be wired for the internet? Not hardly as the use of the world-wide web would be reduced to perhaps the teacher’s lounge or maybe the school’s library.

Lastly, maintain a rigid discipline in the classroom; it is neither for fun or socializing. It’s a job — and besides — that is what recess and lunch period are for. So it’s time to quit pandering to the PC crowd — who cry that our children are over worked — and put the child’s nose to the schoolwork on the desk.

Yes, the basics are hard — but the basics will save money. Besides it was good enough for my grandparents, who could quote Shakespeare and multiply numbers faster in their heads than most people using a calculator — and both went only as far as the 8th grade.

Finally, Morrison says unknown factors include the final budget and possible union concessions during contract negotiations. The school district is currently in talks with its five employee associations.

Unknown factors! What is he trying to be — politically correct?

Pish-posh. Let’s be straight here!

If the union spent half the money they raise on students as they do on Democrat candidates for president, etc., much of the financial crisis the school district screams it is in trouble over would vanish. This isn’t an attack on membership — no — instead it’s worth noting how union leadership views the dues paid by members.

Enough said.

Grandma Agnes

Tucked away in a small bible Dad owned, I found the death notice and obituary for my Grandma Agnes Arne-Darby. I was only 4-years-old at the time, but recall a great many details about the days before and after she passed away.

I was later told that she died from a cancer — believed to have been cause by a piece of medical gauze left behind after a previous surgery.

Of course, I have had no way of confirming either the surgery event or the gauze story. I think she is buried in Fort Dodge, Iowa — but I could also be mistaken on this point too.

Ensigns Resigns; Heller Expected to be Appointed

Reno 2011 — The Senate Ethics Committee says it will complete its investigation into Nevada Senator John Ensign despite his resignation.  However the committee cannot take disciplinary action against Ensign once he is no longer a senator, but could issue a statement on Ensign’s behavior and even recommend a criminal investigation.

As recently as last month, Ensign said he would stay in office because he had not violated ethics rules, saying he has done nothing wrong. Ensign has been the target of a two-year ethics probe stemming from his extramarital affair with a former staffer and allegations he helped the woman’s husband find lobbying work.

An ethics committee official claims that neither a vote nor a public hearing had been scheduled in the Ensign investigation prior to his announcement.  Ensign, however, cited “wear and tear” on himself and his family during his resignation announcement.

Now, Governor Brian Sandoval says he’ll name Ensign’s successor within two weeks — before Ensign’s May 3 departure from the U.S. Senate.  Nevada law allows the governor to name a successor at any time.  Sandoval isn’t commenting on his selection process.  

He’s widely expected to name Congressman Dean Heller, who he already endorsed in the 2012 contest to replace Ensign. Heller also has the support of both the national and state GOP. This merely speculation on the part of the media.

What should be looked into is — who has what else on Ensign and when and where will it be exposed — and why?

Great-Grandpa Will

Great-grandpa Will was a very old man in my eyes. Of course I was only four when I met him in Muskogee — where he came to be with the family when my Grandma Agnes passed away.

While I don’t recall much about him — I do remember the smell of pipe smoke — and I am told this was his particular habit. 

With Black Bart’s Help

When I was in the eighth grade at Margaret Keating School, I wrote this story and have since added information and material and re-edited it a time or five. I left it in the original third-person form rather than edit it into the first-person format like I generally do for most of my stories. I hope the remainder of my family doesn’t ex-communicate me for revealing this conversation I had with my Grandma Leola — one of G.W.’s daughters.

“Those years must have been pretty hard on your father,” the 13-year old boy said as he helped his Grandma dry the dinner plates. She was telling him about difficulties her father had before they moved to what was now known as Fortuna.

“Yes, it was Tommy,” she answered. Then she added, “I’m surprised he even lived through some of that stuff.”

Her father, G.W. had taken on a job as a teamster. He was not quite 30 years old but could handle a line of six horses better than most men in the Humboldt County area.

Though he wasn’t a drinking man or a gambler, G.W. did on one occasion bet brothers Andrew and Jacob Starar, who were the proprietors of the Star Hotel in Rohnerville that he could drive a jerk-line of horses all the way around the block that their business sat on.

Their wager was one drink.

Soon horses from all over southern Humboldt were being lined up tail-to-nose to see if it could be done. G.W. lined out the horses with the lead horse right behind his wagon.

With a flick of his wrist, the wagon jumped forward and minutes later G.W. was circling the block. For show, he drove the wagon around twice more without a tangle or foul in the leathers.

G.W. mostly worked alone as he drove the large wagons back and forth from Bridgeville to the town of Springville or Slide. There he would stop by his brother’s home and his sister-in-law would fix him something to eat, then he’d retire to the barn for a few hours of sleep.

Before the U.S. Postal service established itself in rural Northern California, locals called the Fortuna area, Slide. This was on the account of a large slide south of Eureka always hindering travelers to the town.

Later it was renamed Springville but the post office said the town couldn’t have the name because a Springville was already established in California.  So the town-fathers chose to stick with the name “Slide.”

It would be years later that Slide or Springville, would be changed to Fortuna, meaning ‘Fortune.’ No one knows how the name Fortuna was come-upon in the first place, but for years there after mail to the town had to be addressed “Slide” in order for it to arrive.

If G.W. wasn’t at his brother’s home in Springville, he would stay at the home of Salmon Brown in Rohnerville, just south-east of Springville. Brown was one of the sons of Abolitionist John Brown. He was only 22 when his father was hanged for his attack on Harper’s Ferry.

He lived next door to his step-mother Anne Brown on Church and Brown streets as did his two sisters. Brown also had 3 thousand acres of land in Bridgeville, where he raised sheep. It would be years later that one of Brown’s nephews would marry one of G.W. daughters.

Most often though G.W. could be found walking beside a wagon, jerk-line in hand, hauling supplies over the hillside through Springville, Newburg, Rohnerville, Hydesville and onto Bridgeville, or dragging massive loads of split redwood planks back into the town. He was known as a hard work man.

“It was early morning in late September as I recall,” Tommy’s Grandma said, “One of the worst rainy season people could remember and the land was saturated and very muddy.”

G.W. was loaded down with over 15-thousand feet of cut redwood as he came to the northern side of Bridgeville. It was there that the road started up a steep grade that few men would want to walk let alone take a team of horse up. These included places like Goat Rock, Petty Flat, Swains Flat, Woenne Flat and the infamous Devil’s Elbow.

But G.W. had made the journey several time and thought nothing of the potential hazards as he commanded the draught horses forward and onto the southern slope. It took them about four-hours to complete the climb through the mud and rocks washed up by the rain.

He decided to rest the team for half an hour at the little village of Hydesville and eat his dinner before heading down the north face of the rutted hill. As he sat on the heavy stack of redwood planks he thought about the decent into Springville.

“I think it would be best to go to the west of the roadway,” he said to himself as he chewed the remainder of his beef steak sandwich. G.W. knew that the trail west of the main road to the settlement of Alton was not often used. He figured that it wouldn’t be as rutted and muddied either.

G.W. turned the team just south of Wolverton Gulch. He slapped the lead horse with the left rein and the large draft animal pulled the team to that side. G.W. stepped off to the left and remained in back of the wagon while the horses worked the wagon onto the trail.

As he stood there watching and directing, the lead’s harness line failed. The leather made a small popping noise that startled the horse, causing it to rear slightly then step backwards.

When it stepped backwards it faltered and fell onto its left side, then was stepped on by the off-side lead horse. G.W. realized at that moment he was in for a wreck and there was no way to control the oncoming accident.

The load shifted to the right side as the wagon rolled backward and over a large rock that protruded from the ground on the left side. Without warning the timber’s strappings gave way and the redwood planks tumbled off the wagon in a thunderous roar.

G.W. was helpless to stop what was happening and he did his best to get out-of-the-way. However one of the planks slid downward at him and slammed him to the wet earth. The blow was just above the right knee and he felt the bone of that leg shatter under the weight of the wood.

“As Papa used to tell it,” Grandma said, “He was blessed to have gone unconscious from the pain.”

By the time G.W. awakened it was nearly dark. He felt sick to his stomach and his head throbbed. The broken leg was still trapped under the planking and the pain was enough to drive him wild.

He saw that one of the horse’s had been killed when the lumber fell on it and the other five animals had wandered away. The rain was still falling when he lost consciousness again.

The next time G.W. awoke, he was engulfed in complete darkness. He could not see much but he could feel the tremendous pain from his injured leg. All he could do was hope and pray someone would come to look for him.

As he lay, broken and hurting, G.W. thought about the last time he had wrecked. In that one he was fortunate enough to have escaped with a bruised shoulder and broken hand.

He had just come to Humboldt County, settling first in the Orick area near his older brother, David. When he came to the region he was said to be wearing an old beat-up beaver-felt hat and carried a large pistol in his waist band.

Upon seeing this, many of the residents thought he was a wild one. It had been rumored that he was a gunfighter and had even been on the lam from the law. None of it was true, but it didn’t hurt G.W.’s reputation any.

“The only gun play I was involved in,” he told his children, “was the time I used a plank to try to stop a fellow from shooting someone up.”

According to his memory, G.W. and a friend rode to a ranch near Blue Creek where a man who had reportedly slandered the friend’s wife was working. The friend was intent on confronting the man and ending the gossip. He took G.W. along as a witness.

When they arrived, the friend and the other man started out just talking. The two men were civil to each other for a few minutes, then the yelling and shouting commenced.

Without warning the man shouted, “You want to end this, well let’s end it.” He pulled out a large pistol he had stuffed behind him in his waistband. There was a thunderous roar and all the ranch hands and residents came to see what the commotion was all about.

G.W.’s friend was sitting on the ground with a bloodied thigh and the man who fired the shot was laying facedown in the yard. It was G.W. who had ended the gunfight. He was standing behind the man with the pistol, holding a large stick of wood.

“I clubbed him as soon as I saw him going for that old hog leg,” G.W. told the gathering onlookers. He knew his friend was unarmed.

Soon G.W. found himself a job as a butcher. It was solid work and it didn’t pay as much as the young man had hoped. He wanted to be in business for himself.

“That’s how a man makes a name for himself,” he told his daughter, Leola. She knew he was right because that is just how he had done it. G.W. was a well-known man in southern Humboldt in his later years.

G.W. learned the way of business quickly. He was young but had an eye for studying how things were done. Soon he found himself the owner of a barrel-making factory and employer to his two brothers.

Between the packing house and the barrel making venture, G.W. was able to start buying cattle and stocking his 160-acres in Ferndale, which was just east of Springville. Before long he was butchering his own beef and started his own packing plant.

G.W. had seen how to corner a market. He owned barrels in which to pack meat that he was butchering. By the time he was 23, G.W. was fairly wealthy according to the standards of the times. He was nearly as well-to-do as William Carson of Eureka, some said.

Carson was a lumber magnate, who had jumped into the timber business long before anyone else realized the importance of wood for a growing nation. They lived in style and even built a mansion near Humboldt Bay so the old man could watch his profits go to sea.

It was during these years that G.W. decided to get into the teamster business. He was not one for sitting around.

“Hard work is what builds character,” he was often heard telling his children.

His desire to work and add to this wealth was a driving force when he signed on to drive the Bridgeville to Springville Overland Express. It was simply an open air wagon with a six-horse team that raced over the hill from Bridgeville to Springville twice a day.

G.W had been employed for four-months when tragedy occurred. The wagon was filled with six passengers. Some were regular riders, who had business in both towns and some where fresh to the Humboldt County area.

“I pushed the team around the bend, near Devil’s Elbow when for some reason the second horse at my on-side fell dead,” he recalled as he sat in his favorite rocker puffing on a pipe.

The horse had dropped so quickly and without any warning. The horse behind it tripped and that started the string of misfortune. Suddenly all the horses were down and the wagon was pitching skyward.

It rolled over to the left then tumbled down the hillside into a raven filled with deadfall trees and rock outcropping. G.W. was able to jump to his right and get clear of the accident before it dropped into the ravine.

So were most of the other passengers. Only one, a young woman up from Sacramento, remained with the doomed wagon.

“She fell to her death or was crushed,” G.W. told his listeners. He said he couldn’t remember what exactly killed her.

The five remaining passengers and G.W. gathered themselves up and with G.W. appointing one man to stay with the dead woman; they walked back down the hill to Bridgeville. The town gathered to see the survivors of the first ever accident of an express in the area. They were horrified to learn an innocent woman had died as a result of the accident.

He tried to get the image of that day out of his head and focus on the situation he found himself in. Still his mind drifted back and forth as he struggled against the pain, the cold and the rain.

“It seemed like hours had come and gone,” G.W. had told his children, “Before I heard someone calling my name.”

He had been trapped for so long and was in so much pain that G.W. thought he was dreaming. But he wasn’t a small rescue party had set out just after dark to look for him when he didn’t arrive at his brother’s house that afternoon.

It took an hour for the party to lift the slab off him, load G.W. up in a small buckboard wagon and head down the hill to Bridgeville.  And even though it was a rough and bumpy ride, his broken leg being jostled back and forth, G.W. refused to complain.

Someone had thought to send a rider ahead to notify the doctor that they were bringing an injured man into town. They were met on the road near Rohnerville by Doctor Delamere, who undoubtedly doubled asFerndale’s dentist and barber.

“Doctor Delamere was able to save your great-grandpa’s leg,” Grandma said, “but he always walked with a slight limp from then on.”

She paused for a few seconds then said, “It’s kind of ironic to know that your great-grandpa ended up buying that express line a couple of years later, running it successfully for over a decade and he never had an accident on that road again in all those years.”

Tommy looked at her and asked, “So what became of the stage-line?”

She smiled and answered, “I think Papa sold it to theU.S.government after he blazed a roadway to Crescent City, besides the car was becoming popular.”

According to Tommy’s Grandma, G.W.’s health took a turn for the worse shortly after his wife, Jenny Mae Babcock died. They had met just after the turn of the century. She came from Redding and had been a seamstress in Springville when they got married.

Jenny Mae died as a result of a blow to her head, though the official word from Doctor Beckwell was that she passed away from a brain tumor. She had been sick for many months because of the tumor and was not expected to live long.

The doctor said that she had fallen from the top of the stairs and struck her head, which killed her. But G.W. was suspicious of the circumstances. He couldn’t find the leather satchel that Jenny Mae usually wore around her neck.

“I can still remember the large black stain in the wood,” Grandma said. “Papa tried everything to get it out, but he finally had to tacked down a piece of rug to hide it.”

She looked out the window above the sink at the old two-story house across the field. It was the home she grew up in and where that terrible memory still haunted the old woman.

G.W. had the house built just before he sold the express line. He had decided that it would be better to raise his family in town rather than deny them of the luxury of a gentler life. Even Jenny Mae appreciated moving into the large, new home along Rhonerville Road.

Jenny Mae had grown up in the rough and wild town of Shasta. She was the product of a father who, though he worked very hard, didn’t have a head for business. Her father had lost a number of enterprises over the years.

She eventually saved up enough money to move to Redding, which was less than five miles south of her current home. It was while living in Redding that she purchased a small coin purse, which she called her satchel, which she wore around her neck.

It was also in Redding where she met G.W. for the first time. She would move to Eureka shortly thereafter and the couple would happen upon one another again, though nobody know exactly how that meeting occurred.

The satchel contained several pieces of gold and now it was missing. It would be weeks before G.W. found it. The gold was missing.

It was rumored that the old man had found the satchel stuffed under William’s cotton batten mattress. He had also reportedly discovered blood on the bed stead in Jenny Mae and his room.

“He never spoke to Billy again after that October night,” Grandma Leola said. “He kicked my brother out of the house and that was that.”

This led family members to speculate that William may have hit his mother in the head, stole the gold and left her dying in the front parlor of their home. After the boy left home, he moved back east and ended up dying in a Ohio prison, so nobody ever really knew all the facts.

Then there was the strange story that G.W. had taken an Indian bride when he first arrived in Humboldt County. It had been a common practice for single men living out on the edges of the frontier to take a wife from the local Native American tribes.

And family members recalled a teenaged native girl by the name of Catherine being spoken of a couple of times by G.W. in his later years. And though her last name was the same as G.W.’s, nobody could remember where she had come from, only that she had died before the century at 16 years old.

The rumor could never be founded. But oddly enough, some of G.W. and Jenny Mae’s children appeared on the official registry for the Hupa Tribe before Jenny Mae’s death at the age of 47.

“But you have to know, your great-grandpa was full of tales,” Grandma said, changing the subject. “He used to talk about being held up by Black Bart near Horseshoe Rock.”

Tommy smiled, having heard the story before. But he listened anyway, hoping to find some detail he had never heard before.

According to G.W., the express was carrying a shipment of cash headed for San Francisco. Only three people knew that it was supposed to be on the wagon that day and G.W. was one of them.

All was going well that sunny day, until the empty stage started around the bend at Horseshoe Rock. G.W. saw the man step out into the roadway with a shotgun in hand. He wore a white bag over his head and was well dress.

“Toss down the box,” the man shouted.

G.W. looked around and saw three rifles leveled at him. They were high in the crags of Horseshoe Rock. He pulled the box out from under his seat and dropped it to the ground.

“Get out of here,” the gun-toting bandit ordered.

G.W. shook the reins and the wagon lurched forward and down the hillside towards town. He didn’t even bother to look back.

When he arrived in Bridgeville, the sheriff mounted a posse to go search for the stage robbers. At the sight of hold-up, Horseshoe Rock, they found the empty strong box and three tree branches poking out of the rocky hillside.

An alarm went out to the neighboring communities to look for strangers as the posse searched for signs of the robbers. They never found their trail and it is said that they made off with over $100 thousand dollars in cash.

“Later, “Grandma added, “we would find out that Black Bart couldn’t have been the bandit as he was in prison when Papa was born.” She chuckled a tiny bit, and then said, “I never understood how we lived so well off.”

Suddenly Tommy realized that his image of his great-grandpa wasn’t as perfect as he had originally been lead to believe. He could see what his grandma was saying and it was just the kind of detail he had never heard or would have thought of himself.

Tommy’s great-grandfather had come to the Humboldt County area as a young man. He had been a drifting cowboy then and with hard work and imagination became a respected business man.

He looked at the old and faded photograph of his great-grandparents, as it hung in the hallway and thought out loud, “You even had help from Black Bart.” The irony wasn’t lost on Tommy that the old man in the picture even resembled the famed highwayman.

Greasing Online Gambling in Nevada

Reno 2011 — Last week a top Nevada state Legislature lawyer said it was okay for three state lawmakers to take overseas trips last year at the expense of an Internet poker company.   Legislative Counsel Brenda Erdoes says she told state Senate Democratic Majority Leader Steven Horsford and Assembly members Kelvin Atkinson of North Las Vegas and William Horne of Las Vegas that the trips paid for by PokerStars were permissible.

Erdoes says that’s because online poker is becoming a legislative issue. Horne chairs the Assembly Judiciary Committee and introduced Assembly Bill 258 to let the Nevada Gaming Commission adopt online poker regulations.

Shortly thereafter, a Nevada legislative panel amended and approved the bill that paving the way for Internet gambling. An amended version of AB258 directs the Nevada Gaming Commission to begin drafting rules to regulate online poker, but stipulates that Internet gambling would not be implemented until sanctioned by Congress or the Justice Department.

Then three days later it’s learned that the owners of three Internet poker companies are facing federal charges.  Federal prosecutors filed charges against the owners of Full Tilt Poker, Absolute Poker and PokerStars for allegedly violating U.S. anti-Internet gambling laws.

Now State Senator Greg Brower has called for an investigation into the political activities of one of three Internet gambling companies. He is questioning overseas-based PokerStars’ presence in Nevada because of its political action committee’s giving out of $272,000 in campaign contributions to state official’s last year.
According to PokerStar’s records — the following elected officials and candidates received PAC money:

Gov. Brian Sandoval $10,000
Lt. Gov. Brian Krolicki $3,000  
Secretary of State Ross Miller $5,000  
Treasurer Kate Marshall   $2,000 
Assembly Speaker John Oceguera $30,000
Senate Majority Leader Steven Horsford $37,500 and a trip to Nassau, Bahamas
Assemblyman William Horne $7,500 and a trip to London, England.
Assemblyman Kelvin Atkinson  $5,000 and a trip to London, England.
Pete Goicoechea $14,000
Debbie Smith $12,500
Marcus Conklin $12,500
Marilyn Kirkpatrick $7,500
Joe Hardy $5,000
Ben Kieckhefer $5,000
James Settelmeyer $5,000
Mike McGinness $5,000
David Bobzien $4,000
Tick Segerblom $3,000
April Mastroluca $3,000
Lynn Stewart $3,000
Barbara Cegavske $3,000
Mark Manendo $2,500
Mo Denis $2,500
Ruben Kihuen $2,500
Tom Grady $2,500
John Hambrick $2,000
Olivia Diaz $2,000
Peggy Pierce $2,000
Marilyn Dondero Loop $2,000
Jason Frierson $2,000
Maggie Carlton $2,000
Richard Carillo $2,000
Steven Brooks $2,000
Lucy Flores $2,000
Irene Bustamante-Adams $2,000
Skip Daly $2,000
Cresent Hardy $2,000
Melissa Woodbury $2,000
Pat Hickey $2,000
Joe Hogan $1,500
Teresa Benitez-Thompson $1,500
Randy Kirner $1,500
John Ellison $1,500
Richard McArthur $1,000
Harvey Munford $1,000
Dina Neal $1,000
James Ohrenschall $1,000
Elliot Anderson $1,000
Paul Aizley $1,000
Pete Livermore $1,000
Don Gustavson $1,000
Ed Goedhart $500
Former Nevada gubernatorial candidate Rory Reid $10,000

Only Nevada Attorney General Catherine Cortez Masto and Nevada State Controller Kim Wallin are the state’s two constitutional officers who did not receive campaign contributions. Of current lawmakers — 16 did not receive money from the PAC:  Scott Hammond, Ira Hansen, Kelly Kite, Mark Sherwood, Shirley Breeden, Bill Raggio, Greg Brower, Allison Copening, Elizabeth Halseth, John Lee, Sheila Leslie, David Parks, Dean Rhoads, Michael Roberson, Mike Schneider and Valerie Wiener.

(As of April 20, 2011 — all candidates and elected officials in the state of Nevada, have stated they shall return the contibutions given to them.)

The Man Under the Hat

UNR President Milton Glick was having dinner at a restaurant with his wife Peggy when he suffered a massive stroke, later dying at a Reno-area hospital. Glick, a one-time chemistry professor and former executive vice-president and provost at the University of Arizona, became UNR’s 15th president.

The news article was typical, run-of-the-mill stuff. It’s what I couldn’t report — that I believe was the real story concerning Milt Glick.

I was looking around trying to figure out “who this Glick character was,” expecting to see folks fawning over a particular person — while next to me stood a slight man, who was also wearing a nice felt topper.

“Nice hat,” he said to me.

I responded, “Thanks, you’re wearing a nice cover yourself — though I think it’s a bit warm for felt today.”

He smiled, “I was jus’ thinking — it’s nice, cool day.”

The comment gave me pause, “So where are you from that it might be warmer than this?”

“Arizona,” he answered.

“You’ve come a long way jus’ to attend an installation ceremony at a university,” I responded.

“Yeah,” he replied, “But I sort of felt I had to.”

Wrinkling my forehead slightly, I asked, “Why?”

“Well, because I’m the guy they’re installing,” he answered, perfectly straight-faced.

I almost swallowed my tongue as he held out his hand and said, “I’m Milt Glick,” with a chuckle.

This is how I’ll always remember Milt:  a quiet demeanor, a sense of humor, and a solid handshake.

The Spot

The photograph I have was taken sometime prior to 1922. I know that because the woman in it, my Great-grandmother Jennie Mae Babcock, died that year.

The man with her is my Great-father George Washington Hufford. He died in 1950 and  is considered a pioneer having been one of the first white-men to settle in Humboldt County.

His story — much of the early Hufford family story can be found in the book: The History of Humboldt County. I’ve only seen this tome once and that was a Humboldt County Fair held in Ferndale back in 1980.

And while much covers Great-grandpa’s history — very little is known about Great-grandma Jennie Mae. What is know is that she was born in the Redding area and that her folks came for Missouri and Arkansas.

She died “officially” from a brain-tumor as it is stated on her death certificate. However there is another version of her death that still circulates through the family.

Great-grandma Jennie was murdered. Family members — including my Grandma Leola told me that it is believed she was struck in the head with a bed-stead by one of her own children — and later found unconscious at the bottom of the stairs inside their home.

George Hufford, Jr. was around 13-years old at the time and is supposed to be the one who bashed her in the head. He is also reported to have turned up with a gold coin or two that his mother wore in a small purse around her neck.

Grandma Leola told how he ended up going to prison in Ohio later in life. And that is where he is supposed to have died — Great-grandpa George having paid to have his body shipped home for burial in the family plot.

I’ve only seen a picture of my Great-uncle George and that was in class photo that currently resides at the Fortuna Depot Museum in Rohner Park.

However, when I was 9-years-old, I was playing with some kids who lived in Great-grandpa’s old home — one of the girls invited inside to have a look at the blood stain that was hidden under a throw-rug at the base of the steps. She was pretty proud to announce — in the way kid’s will sometimes do — that “an old woman died on the spot.”

I put two-and-two together.

The Cowboy and the Dinosaur

Rancho San Rafael Park is located to the northwest of the university in Reno. Kyle and I used to go there every once in a while and visit the water and animal park.

One of the highlights for Kyle, I do believe, was going to the playground — where he’d play for hours.  He especially liked the dinosaurs and the sand-covered fossils that are available to play on.

At the time, he wore his black cowboy hat and boots everywhere he went. And when he climbed up on the back of ol’ T-Rex — I knew that big lizard was gonna to be plum’ gentled to the touch — once Kyle was done with him.

Grand Marshals

The rodeo had come to town and I was working for KIIQ radio — pronounced KICK. We were the new country music station in town and had landed much of the coverage rights to the big show.

For my part, I played station co-host to the VIP party and then the meet-and-greet held with the rodeo’s Grand Marshall’s Mel Tillis and Roy Clark. Prior to the meet-and-greet, my co-host Cody Travis and I posed for our official photograph of the event.

The flash from the camera startled the horse Mr. Clark was seated on and it jumped sideways. When it landed — its left hind hoof came down on my right foot.

Not a happy moment in my life.

Shadow on the Ground

There is a 19-story Cross located next to Interstate 40 (formerly U.S. Route 66.)  This free-standing Cross can be seen from about twenty miles away on the Texas plain and surrounding its base are life-sized statues of the Stations of the Cross.

Kyle and I were driving across Texas, en route to Tulsa to drop off his step-brother Tim, when it appeared in the distance. The three of us — knowing it might be a long while before we had a chance to see this road-side attraction again — decided to stop.

As I recall, there are 13 bronze castings of Christ as He makes His way to His crucifixion — including one when he’s removed. It is a remarkable visual story being told — all without words.

But for me — the most powerful — and perhaps the most frightening statue is of the Roman guard driving home a nail through the palm and wrist of  Jesus. While the sculpture as a whole caught my eye at first glance– it was the shadow on the ground which drew my attention.

It —  for me — underscores John 3:16 : “For God so loved the world, that gave his only begotten Son.”

The Big Lighthouse

It was breezy and a bit chilly when we started down the path to the second, and larger of the two lighthouses along the Mendocino Coastline. I was feeling somewhat disappointed that the weather was not cooperating with the three of us and our little weekend vacation.

We trooped on anyway — making it out to the Point Arena Lighthouse. At 115 feet, it’s the tallest lighthouse on the West coast. It’s also the closest location on the mainland to Honolulu, Hawaii.

The first European mention Point Arena was Spaniard Bartolomé Ferrelo in 1543. He named it Cabo de Fortunas, which is Spanish for “cape of fortunes.”

The cape was renamed to Punta Delgado or narrow point in 1775 by lieutenant Juan Francisco de la Bodega y Quadra, commander of the schooner Sonora. He and his ship were  part of a royal expedition chartered by the government of Mexico to map the north coast of Alta California. 

Later the point was called Barra de Arena (i.e. sandbar) and finally Point Arena, which literally translates to “sand point.”  The first post office opened in 1858, originally called Punta Arenas — it was renamed Point Arena in 1889 and by 1908, a town by the same name had incorporated itself.

Even Kyle — who generally doesn’t like heights — climbed up and enjoyed the view from the “gallery.”

Devil’s Footsteps

They are jus’ a mile or so north of DeMartins Beach, along Highway 101. They are known locally as “The Devil’s Footsteps.”

I have no idea where the name came from or why, unfortunately — but vaguely suspect it is from the area’s Native Americans — who used to reside along the rocky coastline — and somehow screwed up by later settlers.

As a kid, I used to climb all over these rocks. There are several areas in and around them in which natural caves occur and that’s what drew me to them when I was younger.

Kyle and I stopped to walk up and down that section of the beach and so I could talk some pictures and tell him about some of my childhood experience. Little did I know — we were about to have an experience of our own.

I was walking ahead of Kyle — leading the way — when he says, “You simply disappeared.”

Kyle was right — I had jus’ taken a photo of the group of rocks when I lost my balance, then my footing and dropped over six feet to the jagged rocks below. While I managed to protect my camera — I failed to protect myself — breaking several ribs on the left side of my chest wall.

Unable to pick myself up — and had Kyle not been there — I’m pretty sure I would have washed out to sea with the next high tide.  Thanks, Kyle!

Handle or Brush

It was a “boy’s weekend,” meaning Kyle and I were on the road enjoying ourselves. We decided to stop so I could talk a few pictures of a herd of elk resting in a pasture area jus’ of Highway 101.

That’s where Kyle made friends with a juvenile horse. I had jus’ snapped their picture and turned my attention to the pasture, when I heard Kyle say, “Dad.”

I continued focusing on the elk, when I heard him — a little more insistent this time say, “Dad!” 

Looking over at him and I saw the horse had a hold of his pants in the front area. Poor Kyle had one hand on the fence post and the other on the barbed wire fence — bracing himself from being pulled onto the barbs.

Quickly, I rushed over a slapped the animal across his snout –whereupon he let go of Kyle. It was perhaps the first time I had ever really heard Kyle drop the “f-bomb” as he took off around a nearby out-building to see if the beast had grabbed him by “the brush or his handle.”

He came back less than a minute later, “Damn horse…now I have a bald spot!”

The Mendocino Coast Botanical Gardens

The Mendocino Coast Botanical Gardens are located on 47 acres and offers everything from colorful floral displays to crashing waves. The weather makes it a garden worth visiting year-round. It includes formal gardens, a coastal pine forest, native flora and habitats, fern-covered canyons, camellias, rhododendrons, magnolias and conifers, heaths and heathers, and coastal bluffs overlooking the ocean.

In fact one travel brochure I read called the gardens “a jewel on the Pacific Coast.”

The gardens were created in 1961 by retired nurseryman named Ernest Schoefer.  The Grand Opening of the Gardens was in 1966. By 1992, the Gardens had been purchased with grants from the California Coastal Conservancy and transferred to the Mendocino Coast Recreation and Park District.

Inside the gardens are trails and vistas, unlike any I had hiked on or to, and well worth the cost of admission. They also come with convient places to sit and rest a spell if you need to do so — which is how I happened upon this seat in the middle of a conifer forest and surrounded by ferns.


First off, I’m not a ghost-hunter, a paranormal investigator, a medium or a sensitive — but I have seen a few unusual things from time-to-time. Call it imagination or call it supernatural — I’m not in the business of explaining these thing — I’m jus’ telling of what I observed and how I responded.

To preface what I’m about to impart — after working a particularly long weekend shift and being exhausted — I walked by the men’s room in the radio station and saw a what I thought was somebody going inside. I knew where my on-air relief was at the time and also knew no one was supposed to be in the building, but us two.

So I poked my head in the restroom and found there was nobody there. I continued on my way out the door and never thought about it again — chalking it up to fatigue.


It was jus’ after three on Sunday morning and I had jus’ completed my newscast, when I started for the restroom. I got as far as the sales area — a place lovingly call the “pit” — when I observed a shadow pass along the far wall of the office.

This shadow shouldn’t have been there as no one was walking along the wall. Besides the shadow seemed to be cast in the wrong direction — straight up — instead of slightly backwards as it moved closer to the light that is positioned above the exit.

Quickly, I returned to my work area and grabbed my digital camera — switching it from normal setting to infrared and returning to the pit.

As I walked towards the area where I had seen the shadow — I popped off three photos. That when my camera died, even though I had jus’ replaced the batteries in it the evening before.

So went to the restroom — hoping that whatever it was didn’t follow me in there — as being frightened and peeing on oneself  is unpleasant. And once finished, I retreated to the news desk where all the lights were on.

I remained there for the duration of my shift.

The Strange Case of Key Pittman, U.S. Senator

The rumor started with the senator’s aide telling a newspaper reporter they were “keeping him on ice.” And like many rumors, it became more interesting than the truth.

Key Pittman was playing cards with friends the night before elections when he fell ill. A doctor was brought to his room at the Riverside Hotel and it was learned the five-time Nevada senator had suffered a massive heart attack.

Quietly, he was transferred to a local hospital. It is here that he remained until his death  five days later.

His condition was kept very hush-hush, even though he had won reelection to the U.S. Senate for a sixth term. It seems the powers that be at the time, Governor Edward Carville and others within the Democrat party didn’t want to tip their hand that he was near death.

Once he did pass away, Carville made a move for the seat, but Carville’s wife balked at the idea. Instead the governor appointed Berkley Bunker to fill out the late senators term.

Somehow the idea that Pittman was in the hospital during election day and never left his death-bed without being seen by anyone outside the Democrat party, his family and doctors and nurses led to speculation that he had been placed in a bath tub, filled with ice to keep him “fresh,” until after the appointment could be made.

There are several odd foot notes to this already strange tale — including news reports that he died at the Mizpah Hotel in Tonopah, where he is reported to have been “put on ice,” according to the hotels restaurant menu. This is followed by the fact that his younger brother Vail was reportedly promised the appointment to fill the senate seat, by Carville, who instead appointed Bunker. 

As it turns out the appointment may have been a case of cronyism as Bunker was also a Mormon bishop. It’s believed Carville felt he owed the bishop a favor as the bishop supposedly delivered on a promise to “bring in the Mormon vote,” for Carville. 

Then in 1945, Carville did resign as governor in order to be appointed to the once again vacant senate seat. Carville’s  lieutenant governor immediately became acting governor — and that was none other than Key’s brother, Vail.

Lastly there was a two-year delay in Key Pittman’s interment.  The now deceased senator had wanted a mountaintop memorial or one at the University of Nevada, Reno — however his friends and widow were unable to raise the needed funds.

Instead he was laid to rest in a mausoleum in the Mountain View Cemetery in Reno. Nearly 24 years later, Vail join his older brother and is now buried nearby.

Mary’s Monster Cookies

1 cup butter
1 cup brown sugar
1 cup white sugar
3 eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 ½ cup peanut butter
4 ½ cup oatmeal
6 ounce package of chocolate chips
6 ounce M&Ms

Cream butter and sugar, then add eggs, vanilla and peanut butter.
Mix well.
Add oatmeal, chips and M&Ms.
Put on a baking sheet and bake 10-12 minute at 350 F.
You can customize by adding coconut, walnut, butterscotch chips, etc.
Makes four dozen.

Mary’s Peach Cobbler

Prep: 40 minutes Bake: 20 minutes Cool: 1 hour Oven: 400°F 6 servings

1 cup all-purpose flour
2 tablespoons sugar
11/2 teaspoons baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon (optional)
¼ cup butter or margarine
6 cups peach slices
1 cup sugar
2 tablespoons cornstarch
1 egg
1/4 cup milk

1. Preheat oven to 400°F. For topping, in a medium bowl stir together flour, the 2 table spoons sugar, the baking powder, salt, and, if desired, cinnamon. Cut in butter until mixture resembles coarse crumbs; set aside.

2. For filling, in a saucepan combine 1/3 to 2/3 cup sugar, 1/4 cup water, and 1 tablespoon cornstarch. Stir in 5 cups peach slices. Cook and stir until slightly thickened and bubbly.

3. In a small bowl stir together egg and milk. Add to flour mixture, stirring just until moistened. Transfer hot filling to a 2-quart square baking dish. Using a spoon, immediately drop topping into six mounds on top of filling.

4. Bake for 20 to 25 minutes or until topping is golden brown. Let cool in pan on a wire rack about 1 hour.