Silver Tailings: A Pig, a Dog and a Jumping Frog

“Plagiarism is the sincerest form of flattery,” wrote Samuel Langhorne Clemens.

Clemens, better known to the world as Mark Twain, was friends with a Comstock prospector named Jim Gillis.  The pair met when Clemens was still trying to strike it rich as a miner.

Both men were first-class story tellers. They often spent their evenings at Gillis’ shanty telling each other whoppers.

Gillis was a “pocket” miner — one who goes out looking for deposits of minerals. And though it sounds like a whopper in itself — Gillis bought and trained a pig he named, “John Henry,” to help him find these pockets of minerals.

To train the pig, Gillis buried biscuits up and down Sun Mountain (now known as Mt. Davidson.)  It wasn’t long before John Henry caught on and started rooting around the rocky slope for himself.

Now trained, all Gillis had to do is lift his pick and John Henry was off, digging for biscuits. Gillis would then follow behind, looking for mineral deposits in the upturned earth.

Along with the pig, Gillis also had a dog, “Towser.” The two animals had a habit of wrestling when not out with their Master searching for his wealth.

One evening after telling stories, lies and sipping whiskey, Clemens laid down to get some rest. That’s when Gillis, also a practical jokester, opened the shanty’s door and in rushed John Henry and Towser.

The two jumped up on their favorite bunk and proceeded to wrestle — the one Clemens was currently sleeping in. Needless to say, Clemens awoke angry.

After getting away from the animals, Clemens started out the door, calling Gillis every name in the book. In order to calm his friend down, a still laughing Gillis promised to tell him, “the most incredible story you’ve ever heard.”

That story turned out to be one of the yet-to-be-famous Clemens’ first great literary successes — the “Celebrated Jumping Frog of Calaveras County.”

Eel Gambles His Bones Away

The first Native American Folklore story I ever heard, was told to my Kindergarten class at Margaret Keating School. It was a simple tale of caution and morality.

It was read to us by Jon Larson’s mother, Juanita, who had jus’ written and illustrated a book on Yurok, Kurok and Hupa myths and Legends.  I was hooked from thereon.

“Eel and Salmon liked to gamble. The wager was their bones.  Eel began to lose — but he believed he could win, so he kept betting until he lost everything. That’s why Eel has so few bones and Salmon has so many.”

Nevada City’s National Hotel

Nevada City’s located roughly 90 minutes from Reno. Nestled among the firs and pines, at an elevation between 2500 and 3000 feet, it quickly became a prosperous town during California’s Gold Rush period.

I love to visit Nevada City because of its rich history and Victorian elegance.

The first miner to search for gold in the area was James Marshall, the same James Marshall from Sutter’s Mill, who in 1848 started the gold rush. In 1850, a man named Stamps was elected to the position municipal magistrate and named the city, Nevada.

The Native Americans who had inhabited the area for centuries were driven out and some even slaughtered.  For a time in the 1850’s there was a bounty placed upon the scalps of Indians.

The prospectors wanted all the land they could get, and they just came in and took it. It didn’t take long for the gold above ground to be mined, so in 1850 underground mining began.

Thirteen years later the State of Nevada was formed. As a compromise, the town was allowed to keep the name providing the word City was added. Hence — Nevada City.

With mining came the need for traditional amenities like saloons, livery stables, and living quarters. One of the first was the Bicknell Block, which opened in August 1856, which was also used as a stagecoach stop and telegraph, mail, and express center.

Later its name was changed to the National Exchange Hotel. In 1977, the old hotel was listed on the National Register of Historic Places and a California Historical Landmark as the National Hotel as one of the oldest continuously operated hotels west of the Rockies.

Nevada City businessman John J. Jackson, claims an 1898 meeting took place in Room 74, leading to the creation of the Pacific Gas and Electric Company. The hotel has also offered shelter to such notables as Black Bart,  Lola Montez, Mark Twain, Oscar Wilde, Lotta Crabtree, and Herbert Hoover.

Of course, with over 150-years of existence — there’s bound to be a ghost story or two connected to the place.

One story is that the woman’s bathroom in the bar section’s haunted by a woman as patrons have seen her apparition. Her spirit’s believed to be connected to Room 48.

As the story goes, the woman owed a man money, but she refused to pay. So the man she owed money to, hid in her room’s closet and when she entered the room, the man cut her throat.

Then there’s the little girl who died of either mumps or the plague in Room 78. The girl’s name is Elizabeth and people have felt her presence, heard knocking while spending the night and seen what’s described to be a child riding a tricycle on the same floor as the room.

Finally, a full body apparition of a man in black pants, white shirt, black vest, and trimmed hair is said to have been seen walking up the hotels interior steps. Folks have reported seeing his side profile and then as they watched, he vanished.

As for Nevada City itself, in the late 1960s ordinances were revised to eliminate historically inaccurate storefronts and signage. The city also buried the power lines in the downtown area.

Gas lights made from original 1800s molds were placed along Broad Street and the Nevada Theatre was restored. Following restoration of the town, in 1985 the downtown area became a registered National Historic Landmark.

Thousands of Acres Scorched In Nevada Wildfire

Fire season is picking up steam in Nevada.  A wildfire that destroyed two homes in the rural neighborhood of Topaz Ranch Estates may have been caused by an illegal burn.

The fast-moving brush fire in Douglas County forced the evacuation of residents and continues to send up huge plumes of black smoke. Sierra Front Wildfire spokeswoman Rita Ayers says more than seven-thousand acres have been blackened and two homes and 17 out-buildings have been destroyed in the area of Topaz Ranch Estates about 20 miles south of Gardnerville, but nobody’s been injured.

Evacuees found shelter and assistance at the Topaz Ranch Estates Community Center, which was staffed by county social services and the Northern Nevada Chapter of the American Red Cross. Local animal control services were also at the evacuation center to care for pets.

As for large animals, the Douglas County’s Sheriff’s Posse evacuated several horses and other livestock to the Douglas County Fairgrounds in Gardnerville. They also handled small, unclaimed pets being delivered to the animal evacuation shelter in Gardnerville.

Steep, rocky slopes in the foothills of the Pine Nut Mountains kept fire engines and heavy equipment away from active flames as the fire burned to the east approaching the Upper Canyon Road neighborhood in the Smith Valley northwest of Wellington.The terrain forced firefighting crews to concentrate on an aerial attack to slow the flames.

Eight air tankers and six helicopters are assisting 560 firefighters on the ground. Firefighters also say flames are moving northeast, away from the neighborhood and is still burning in cheat grass, sagebrush and pinion and juniper trees.

“It’s difficult to get firefighting equipment up there so it is basically an air show at this point,”  Douglas County Sheriff’s Sgt. Jim Halsey said.

Meanwhile, investigators say the blaze may have been caused by an illegal ‘open burn’ that had been quietly smoldering at a private residence. Open burning of weeds and grass is allowed only with a permit when conditions are favorable.

Halsey says a preliminary investigation shows the residential burn exceeded the permit requirements, including the ignition of materials prohibited under county regulations. Halsey did not name the resident or provide other details about the burn, but said the Douglas County Sheriff’s office, Nevada State Fire Marshal and U.S. Bureau of Land Management were continuing to investigate.

One resident who lost everything said the fire department was called to his neighbor’s home two days earlier when an intentional burn got out of control. Fire officials would not comment, citing the ongoing investigation.

Jack Taylor said the fire broke out in the same place. He grabbed a garden hose to try to protect the home where he lived with an elderly, disabled man, but the fire was swift and furious.

“After it hit the chicken coop, we ran,” he said.

Resident Diana Richardson witnessed the movement of the blaze.

“It shot across the valley real fast,” she said. “It was scary.”

However not all the news is grim. Betty Hathaway said the fire started behind her home and that a house two doors down burned to the ground.

“It was just a wall of fire,” she said. “It is unbelievable my house did not burn down.”

Northern winds blew smoke from the fire more than 350 miles southeast to Las Vegas, where a sooty haze obscured surrounding mountains and Clark County officials issued an air quality advisory. Officials say ozone and particulates reached unhealthy and warned southern Nevada residents to limit their time outside, especially if they have a respiratory condition.

A $2 million grant from the Federal Emergency Management Agency will help pay for three-quarters of the costs of battling the blaze.  Eligible costs include expenses for field camps; equipment use, repair and replacement; tools, materials and supplies; and mobilization and demobilization activities.

“I am grateful that FEMA quickly granted Governor Sandoval’s request. FEMA’s assistance is a welcome contribution in the continued efforts to fight this blaze,” said Senator Dean Heller. “My staff and I are monitoring the situation and will assist in any way we can to help direct federal resources to the region. I am pleased this grant has been made available.”

Authorities remain concerned because weather forecasts call for dry conditions and strong winds, conditions that create extreme fire danger. Officials expect full containment by Saturday, May 26th.

“Even though this area is doing pretty good, we could have some flare-up,” said Sierra Front Wildfire spokesman Mark Regan. “We have a lot of open line right now and a lot of hot spots.”

Shaking Hands with History

Everyday you and I have a chance to meet history face-to-face. Often times though, we allow it to walk right on by without as much as a side-glance.

Perhaps we’re jus’ to busy – but I’ve tried to change this in myself. I have a real interest in northern California, Nevada, political and military history.

My major focus in military history comes down to the two branches of service I enlisted in: the U.S. Air Force and the U.S. Marine Corps. The best place to find stories and information about these subjects are to simply shake-hands with men and women I identify as previous military.

That’s how I came to meet 85-year-old Bill Walsh, who joined the U.S. Marine Corps at the tender age of 16 in 1943. Bill was in the Corps until 1946 when he was Honorably Discharged from active duty.

The reason I bring this up is that Bill fought on Guadalcanal and later on Iwo Jima. Both battles were literally ‘Hell on earth,’ as the Marines fought the Imperial Japanese Army for control of the two islands.

It’s estimated that 850 World War II veterans pass away everyday in the U.S. That’s a sad statistic to say the least – but a natural one nonetheless.

Furthermore, it’s estimated that the last World War II veteran is expected to pass away in the year in 2035. This is based on the fact that the last World War I veteran died 90 years after the last battle of the ‘War to end all wars.’

That’s not much time when you look at the ‘bigger picture.’

For me – it was a pleasure to shake Bill’s hand and thank him for his service. Furthermore, it was enjoyable to listen to his ‘salty’ tales of two of the most horrific battles in Marine Corps history – as lived first-hand and not from a documentary, book or movie.

Thank you again, Bill, and Semper Fidelis!

Real Talk

It’s something I’ve never felt real comfortable doing – talking to a stranger about my faith. But a while ago I decided to challenge myself to step out my comfort zone.

Hey, writing about something is completely different from talking about it.

When I heard Sparks Christian Fellowship was asking members to sitdown for a one-on-one interview, called “Real Talk,” I submitted my name.

SCF wanted feedback in a couple of different areas. The first was to see where church members were in their walk with Christ — and secondly they wanted to know each persons passion.

It sounded very simple from where I sat Sunday morning as I filled out my participation slip. It didn’t take very long for Jeff Greenblat to reach out to me and ask if we could meet.

Honestly, I had no idea what to expect with regard to the questions I was going to be answering or even if I’d feel comfortable with the person doing the interviewing. There were several questions that I was asked to answer, however I remember only five of them:

  1. What do I enjoy doing?
  2. Where do I see God at work right now?
  3. What would I like to see God do in my life over the next six to 12 months?
  4. How do I see myself serving other?
  5. How can the church help me?

What I figured would be half-an-hour to 45-minutes grew into nearly two-hours of conversation. Answering these questions wasn’t painful at all.

I’ve come away thinking everyone should spend a little time answering these questions for themselves.

The Loaming of Deputy Cari Tom Owens

She was sitting at the counter of “Dippin’ Donuts,” jus’ north of Adelanto proper, working on a cup of coffee when she noticed the tiny ripples forming in the dark liquid. Before Cari could think any further — the earth jumped forward, then backwards, splashing coffee all over the counter.

She’d been in earthquakes before, but this one was much harder than she’d ever experience. Cari held tight to the counter top to avoid being knocked to the floor.

The jolt lasted only a few seconds, but it was enough to cause the window to the little donut shop to shatter. Cari heard Joe in the back of the building cussing a blue streak as he picked up whatever pots or pans had fallen.

Evelyn stood feet and hands planted solidly in the doorway between the counter and the kitchen. She was obviously frightened, her eyes opened wide and wild staring at the female deputy hanging tight to the counter to her right.

“Is everyone okay?” Cari hollered loud enough for Joe to hear her.

“Yeah, son-of-a-bitchin’ quakes,” Joe responded.

Evelyn stepped out of the doorway, “Are you okay?”

“Yeah,” Cari answered. “Shit! I got coffee on my uniform!”

“Do they have earthquakes in Florida?” Evelyn asked, hoping to break the tension.

“Hell, I don’t know,” the deputy retorted sounding angrier than she’d wanted too. Then she added in a more friendly tone, “But I know they got alligators.”

Both women smiled at each other.

Cari’s cell phone rang and she fished it out of its leather holder on her equipment laden belt. It was the Kern County Sheriff’s dispatch.

“Yeah, I’m okay? She answered. “How about you guys?”

“Okay,” she added, “I’m on it.”

For the next 48-hours Deputy Cari Tom Owens remained busy taking reports of damaged property throughout the county. She recorded everything from broken windows and cracked walls to various outbuildings having fallen over to large upheavals that ran though residents property.

Meanwhile the earth continued to quake – though not as violently as it had that first day.

Jus’ as she was getting ready to go off shift the second day, she received a radio call about a possible 10-50 north and east of Wilson Ranch and Holly Road. A couple of ATV riders had found what they believed to be a dead body.

Cari swung her patrol truck around on Three Flags Highway, better known as U.S. 395 and headed north towards Seneca Road. Soon she was east bound looking for Wilson Ranch Road in order to get to Holly and the reporting parties.

It took her less than 20-minutes to find the ATV riders. The youngest of the pair looked shaken, “At first I thought it was a mannequin or something.”

The oldest pointed out the body.

“Yeah,” she spoke calmly over her radio, “I’m gonna need the M.E. out here.”

Soon more squad cars and fire trucks started arriving. Officers, deputies and firefighters worked to secure the scene while still others took statements from the riders and searched the area for possible evidence.

Meanwhile, Cari documented the body and the area in which it lay. She tried to photograph it from every angle possible, much like she’d been doing with property damage reports the last couple of days.

It took about five-hours for the Medical Examiner to load the body and clear the scene. Finally, Cari thought, “I can get home, shower, eat and get some sleep.”

The following morning she arrived early at the examiner’s office to find out what, if anything, the doctors had learned about the dead man. She found Dr. Michaels sitting at his desk, looking perplexed.

“I’m a little confused,” he admitted.

“Why?” Cari couldn’t help ask, knowing it wasn’t a necessary question.

She jus’ wanted see the smug S.O.B. sitting in front of her sweat a little. Time and again Michaels had set her up to be embarrassed — usually over something overtly sexual.

“You ought to file sexual harassment charges against the asshole,” her sister. Maggie Tom told her.

“That’ll cause more trouble than he’s worth,” Cari replied as they sat, sipping coffee on the porch of her sisters little home on the Walker Lake Reservation.

“Maybe,” Maggie responded, “but he shouldn’t be able to do that stuff to you.”

“I know,” Cari said, allowing the subject to fade.

“Well,” to begin with,” Michaels started, “His clothes are antiques – and he had a two 1902 half-dollar coins and four Indian-head pennies in his pocket along with a cloth billfold containing photo of a woman dressed in a Victorian-style gown and a letter from April 2nd, 1906  — but no I.D.”

Cari frowned slightly – “Could he be one of those re-enactor guys I’m always seeing on the History Channel?”

“Yeah,” Michaels returned, “But I don’t think so.”

“Of course you don’t,” Cari thought, adding, “You pompous mother-fucker.”

Sometimes she wished she didn’t think stuff like that – she feared one day she’d say it aloud by accident.

“So what are you thinking, Doc?” she asked.

“He’s got compression injuries, sand in his airway and mashed deep into his skin,” he said, pausing, “and if I didn’t know better, I’d say he was trapped in a mudslide or a cave-in.”

“There’re no mudslides where he was found,” Cari tossed out, “and I didn’t see any place where there could’ve been a cave-in, either.”

“Yeah,” Michaels replied, “I didn’t see any either. If I didn’t know better I’d say our guy’s been dead a long time, but I don’t see any freezer burn to his organs and though I think he’s about 30-years old – desiccation says he’s a helluva lot older, so I don’t get it.”

“Well, I’ll go out there and look around to see if we missed anything,” Cari offered.

Michaels then invited her to have a closer look at the body. The dead man was about 5-foot, eight-inches, medium built with dark brown hair, eyes and rather large moustache.

Outwardly there didn’t appear to be anything outstanding about him. Then Michaels pulled the sheet covering the body all the way off.

“Good lord!” Cari exclaimed.

“Yeah,” Michaels relied, relishing the deputy’s reaction, adding, “Eleven-inches, limp. Maybe he works in the porn industry.”

Cari was wishing at that moment she’d done a better job at containing her surprise. She knew Michaels enjoyed this perverse sense of power.

“God Dammit,” she chided herself as she left the building, walking to her truck.

Within the hour she was back at the place where the body had been found. She spent the next three-hours walking through the tumble weeds, looking for anything that might prove useful to her investigation.

There was nothing but scrub brush, rocks and garbage on the trail-crossed land and no sign of a cave-in or mudslide. Cari did note the ground had shifted about two-inches, forming an opening that ran nearly a quarter of a mile in a northwest-by southeast direction.

She pulled out her note pad and penned a small map in it. It was then that a strange thought trickled into her brain, “What if…”

Before she finished, she felt the ground buck violently beneath her feet, emitting a sharp crack.  She sensed herself falling and a sudden inability to breathe or move.

It wasn’t until the next day her abandoned patrol vehicle was found and they realized Deputy Cari Tom Owens had vanished.

Chicken de Laranja

When I was a kid, this was a special treat Mom made on rare occasions. She usually served it with white rice, a tossed salad and a veggie.

This recipe is taken from the back an old envelope that’s so badly stained and in shambles that it took me a while to figure out what was actually written on it. I think ‘laranja‘ is Portuguese or perhaps Spanish for orange — a major ingredient. 

Ingredience:
6 whole chicken breasts boned
2 teaspoons salt 
4 tablespoons butter 
2 tablespoons minced onion 
2 tablespoons minced parsley  
2 tablespoons paprika
1 tablespoon orange rind zest 
1 cup orange juice
6 tablespoons currant jelly 
1 teaspoon dry mustard 
2 tablespoons cold water 
1 tablespoon cornstarch

Directions:
Sprinkle inside of chicken breasts with salt.
Cream together butter, onion, parsley, and paprika and spread on the inside of each breast.  
Sprinkle the outside with remaining salt and paprika. 
Melt remaining butter in a large skillet; add chicken and brown on all sides over moderate heat. 
Add orange rind and juice, jelly and mustard. 
Cover and simmer for 20 minutes. 
Remove chicken and keep warm. 
Stir together water and cornstarch until smooth add to skillet and cook stirring continually until thickened.
Pour sauce over chicken. 

Makes 6 servings.

Silver Tailings: Nevada State Prison Decommissioned

The last inmates left in January 2012, and now the 150-year-old Nevada State Prison is officially removed from operation. The decommissioning ceremony was held on the prison grounds in Carson City and was the first time the public had the opportunity to walk the grounds and see the cell blocks that at one time housed up to 800 inmates.

There’s little argument about the place the old prison holds in Nevada history and in the crowd were many who had strong connections with the place.  Denver Dickerson’s grandfather served twice as its warden, dying in 1925 on the grounds in what was the warden’s residence.

“I just felt since it played such an important part in our family’s history, I should be here,” Dickerson told KOLO-TV News.

The prison was established in 1862 by the Nevada Territorial Legislature at the site of the Warm Springs Hotel, located east of Carson City in Nevada Territory. The legislature had been leasing the hotel from Abraham Curry and using the prison quarry to provide stone material for the Nevada State Capitol.

The territorial legislature acquired the hotel along with 20 acres of land from Curry, in 1864, who was appointed the first warden of the prison. In October of that year, Nevada became a state and the newly written constitution established that the Lieutenant Governor of Nevada also functioned as the ex-officio warden of the prison.

A blaze destroyed the original building in 1867.  Four-years later, a major portion of the prison burned down and was rebuilt with inmate labor and stone from the on-site quarry.

Lieutenant Governor Frank Denver was seriously injured in 1871 during a prison break involving 27 inmates. A year later, Denver refused to concede the prison to Pressly C. Hyman, who had been appointed the new warden under legislation and Governor Lewis R. Bradley sent troops in 1873 to force Denver to surrender the post.

As odd as it might sound today — with the legalization of gaming in Nevada — the prison allowed inmates to gamble in what was called the Bull Pen. Officials set up the casino in 1932, closing it 25-years later in 1967.

The prison was expanded in 1964 and operated as a maximum security facility until 1989, when Ely State Prison was opened to fulfill that function. The prison still houses Nevada’s execution chamber, though no executions are imminent, and the state’s license plate factory will remain there for now.

Closing the prison was debated for years until the last inmates were transferred in January. Officials claimed bringing the aging building up to code would have cost $30 million, and moving inmates to newer, more efficient penitentiaries is expected to save half that amount over the two-year budget cycle.

No decision has been made on what will become of the building.

The Need and the Want to Belong

For years I’ve suffered from the need to belong. It started when I was a child in grade school and in some cases rears its ugly head today.

At both Margaret Keating School and again at Del Norte High, I never felt like I belonged. In fact I often believed I was jus’ outside the circle even when it came to activities I was good at.

Worst of it is that I never out-and-out discussed these feeling – which I consider negative – with anyone. Therefore I don’t actually know if others have got through this or not, though I have my suspicions many have and still do.

Do you?

For me the need has been terrible and I’ve acted extremely superficially. For instance I joined the group ‘Vietnam Veterans of America’ as an associate member. The only personal connection I have to the Vietnam War is my father’s service.

I left the organization after only a few meetings having learned I didn’t belong.

Furthermore, I joined the ‘Civil Air Patrol.’ I was a member of the ‘Nevada Air Wing’ for nearly four-years and yet never truly felt I was a part of the organization.

It continued as I joined the ‘Cold Springs Volunteer Fire Department.’ That lasted about four years as I struggled to perfect my first aid and CPR teaching, followed by earning my instructorship in Emergency Medicine.

And speaking of that – I taught at ‘Truckee Meadows Community College’ for about a year only to discover — it was a fairly closed-society that I didn’t really belong in. Add to this — working as a paid instructor for the ‘American Red Cross’ for ten-years — which got me no further in my career.

Later — for fun — I joined the ranks of the ‘Comstock Civil War Re-enactors’ as the groups Chaplain. That lasted about three years before I grew tired of the politics and in-fighting among members and was eventually chased away by an angry Aunt.

That’s a touchy subject for another time.

It was about that time that it occurred to me – I don’t NEED to belong to anything – I was acting on my WANTS. Instead I realized I needed to finally be honest with myself and focus on my NEEDS.

And as I continue my life’s journey — I’m learning I still feel the WANT to belong — but instead I find I NEED only my family, friends, church and work. It’s all part of being a work in progress.

Silver Tailings: The Speech Never Given

A historic marker displayed on the front of Dayton’s Odeon Hall claims Ulysses S. Grant spoke from the balcony of the building.  And while the pages of Nevada newspapers were filled with reports on Grant’s visit — he never spoke in Dayton.

The Lyon County Times in its November 1st, 1879 issue noted, “General Grant…passed through Dayton…He did not stop or pause…but hastened to Sutro…and General Grant spoke a few words.”

The Lyon County Times continues that had Grant stopped in Dayton the residents “would have given him one of those receptions which have made the country famous, which in war times earned it the name of the banner Republican county of the state…”

The former president spent three days making speeches in Virginia City and taking photographs, touring the mines, and traveling the length of the recently completed Sutro Tunnel. He and his wife boarded the V&T train October 29th bound for Reno on their way home to Galena, Illinois, never to return to Nevada again.

Noise at the Door

Things got crazy-weird around the house this afternoon. I was taking a nap when the dogs suddenly went nuts.

Before I could respond to their barking, I heard our front doorknob jiggling back and forth – followed by someone messing with the dead bolt.

I concluded someone was trying to break into the house.

After trying to see who was at the door and having no luck, I pulled my rifle off the wall and cranked one into the chamber. Then I stood back a couple of feet – ready to shoot.

As a small back story to this situation – over the weekend two young males were recorded on surveillance footage kicking in doors and running away. This has happen three times that I’ve learned of in the last two days.

While standing there aiming my rifle – the noise stopped and I could hear voices as they spoke to one another. I looked outside and saw it was two kids about 12 or 13 years of age and they were talking with my next door neighbor.

Quickly, I opened the front door and shouted to the young boy closest to me. “Do I know you?”

He answered. “No.”

I then asked, “Do you know me?”

Again he answered, “No.”

“Then why are you trying to get into my house?” I asked.

“We found your key,” the boy answered as he stepped up onto the front porch, “And we wanted to see if you were home.”

It was at that moment he saw the rifle I had in my hand. He came to a sudden stop as he stared at it.

“Yeah, you could have gotten yourself killed,” I stated as flatly as I could.

I could hear my heart pounding as I realized what I had jus’ done.

Then I told him and his friend about what has been happening around the area. I also did my best to explain the fact that entering a person’s home — even if you have a key in hand – is illegal.

The thought of him gaining entry and the idea of how horrible the outcome could have been leaves me with a sickening feeling in the middle of my gut.

Snack Attack

Though it’s long after midnight — I’m up having a snack. Two egg sandwiches and a hot lemonade spiked with ‘Sailor Jerry’s Rum.” It’s a meal that can’t be beat considering how early or late one might believe it to be.

Much of my day was spent on my own. My wife was at work while our housemate was off helping a friend move.

I ended up in mid-town Reno taking pictures of murals — something I’ve been mistakenly calling graffiti.

It’s always amazes me that I cab find art where ever I go and in much of what I see. I’m even more amazed when I manage to capture a picture that I can call my own work.

More than taking photo’s occurred as well — and soon you’ll know why my lemonade’s laced.

For the third time in my life, I was hit by a moving vehicle. And for the third time — I walked away virtually unscathed.

It happened as I was crossing Virginia Street near Lulu’s Chic Boutique jus’ north of Arroyo. I looked both way and even waited for some cars traveling north ob Virginia to pass by.

After stepping out into the road I watched as two cars heading south failed to stop for me as I walked through the cross walk. I wasn’t sure if the third car was going to stop or not.

It did — but the truck I saw pull up to the stop sign across the street from me decided to go when the third car did stop. I saw the hood of the truck out of the left periphery of my eye and prepared for the worst.

The driver of the truck managed to stop in time and not run me over. However the bumper smacked into me and I banged up my left arm pretty good on the hood of his truck.

He apologized for not seeing me and nearly running me over. I let him off the hook with, “It’s okay, accidents happen,” because I thought the dude was going to burst out in tears.

I’m jus’ now beginning to feel the pain.

PC or Not To PC

Question: When is it “racist” to call a group of African-American females, “Black?”

Answer: When they’re being excessively noisy.

In a recent tweet, Associated Students Union of Nevada Senator Spenser Blank wrote, “These girls are being so loud in the library…oh wait, they’re Black.” The electronic message was disclosed in a University of Nevada, Reno campus newsletter published by the secret society, “Keys and Coffins.”

The disclosure led to Blanks resignation from the school’s governmental body. Furthermore it’s opened him up to criticism by members of the student body, the Associated Students Union, and UNR’s President Marc Johnson not to mention the local press.

Since political correctness means minimizing social and institutional offense in occupational, gender, racial, cultural, sexual orientation, religion, beliefs or ideologies, disability, and age-related contexts  — why is no one’s upset he pointed out they were females?

President Obama Visits Reno Couple

It was quick visit from President Obama as he sat down at the dining room table with a Reno couple. He came to town after an overnight visit at actor George Clooney’s home where he raked in nearly $15 million, a record for a single fundraiser.

Guests paid $40,000 to attend and included Robert Downey Jr., Barbra Streisand and her husband James Brolin, Jack Black, Salma Hayek, Tobey Maguire and Stacy Keibler. It’s a stark contrast with Obama’s visit to highlight the plight of struggling homeowners in Nevada.

During the scheduled visit he had a private conversation with Valerie and Paul Keller to discuss their refinancing situation as they had been ‘upside down,’ on their mortgage. Then after talking with the Kellers, Obama took the opportunity to blasted the GOP — saying Republicans had no new ideas and weren’t willing to work with him.

“They think that all we can do are try the things that have been done in the past — things that they’ve tried in the past. So they want to cut more taxes, especially for the wealthiest Americans,” the President said. “They want to cut back on the rules that we put in place for banks and financial institutions. They’ve said that they want to let the housing market hit bottom, and just hope for the best.”

Meanwhile Nevada’s Lt. Governor Brian Krowlicki pointed out that discussing home refinancing is not addressing the real issue — which are jobs.

“I appreciate the fact the president is coming to town and sitting the living room with the Kellers but it’s not going to solve our problems,” Krolicki said during a brief conference call ahead of Obama’s visit.

Congressman Mark Amodei  was also part of the same conference call, adding, “There are several projects that are no brainers.  It’s like the Yerington Mine Bill Project, 800 hundred jobs on the ground at no cost to the government with no cultural or environmental issues.”

But for me — the most telling thing to come out of President Obama’s visit with the Kellers is that when asked, Valerie Keller says she’s still undecided about who she’s voting for in the upcoming Presidential election this November.

“I’m leaning, but undecided,” she says tells KOLO-TV’s Ed Pearce, “I’m still watching the economy.”

Talk about kicked in the crotch! I mean what’s a popular President gotta do to earn the vote of a commoner?

Lessons in Leaves

Time and again I’m reminded we don’t always get what we want, but we always get what we need. This lesson was re-enforced once more – this time by the sound the leaves make as they flitter-flit in the breeze.

The gentle rustling noises came to me as I sat outback of my home, soaking up sun and recuperating from over-exercising my worn-out body. I heard amid the light snapping of those leaves the realization that I am and never will be anything more than what I am.

This caused me to look about and see how everything I’ve worked to develop such as my house, with its worn and weathered siding, needing a fresh coat of paint and nails pounded back in to the weeds that manage to grow strong in my otherwise manicured lawn. All that I saw has deteriorated and needs the human touch to stay in usable order as an organized society desires.

Then it dawned on me that the tree I sat under – with a little water and a change of season – has again transformed itself into something bright and friendly. It needs no intervention from me – or from anyone for that matter.

These things I’ve observed tell me that I am insignificant – that all men are insignificant — especially in the face of nature, which is God’s expression on earth. It’s the kind of reminder I needed.

Whistle While You Work

Whistling – someone was whistling and as far as I knew – I was the only person in the radio station. I set my coffee down and continued from the newsroom down the long hallway towards the front office.

Whoever was whistling stayed ahead of me – as if they knew what direction I’d be walking. By the time I passed by the reception area and into the inner offices, the whistling seemed to be coming from the kitchen.

I stopped and listened – realizing the whistling had gone silent.

And even though it was now quiet, I continued through the building hoping to find whomever was making the noise. I found no-one.

About two-hours later, jus’ as I was heading for the backdoor and the parking lot where my truck was parked, I heard my name. It sounded like a male voice.

This caused me to stop in my tracks. I listened for further sound – but nothing came.

So I went back to the newsroom and asked my co-worker, Matt, if he’d shouted my name. I could tell by the look on his face that he hadn’t even before he told me, “No.”

Instead of returning to the inner office area, I decided to go out the side door and around to where my truck sat. I’d had enough of what or whoever it was playing tricks on me.

Fort Bliss Medic Wounded

It’s always tough news to hear when a friend’s child is injured in combat. Ron Worrel’s 22-year-old son Travis is Combat Medic with the 3rd Brigade, 1st Armored Division, 1-41 Infantry Battalion, Fort Bliss, Texas.

Ron reports Travis was severely injured when a rocket-propelled grenade exploded next to him during a dismounted patrol in a village, near Kabul, Afghanistan. Travis was then airlifted via helicopter to FOB Shank for initial treatment, and then sent to a hospital in Germany for surgery.

“He is stable, did not lose any limbs or (his) eyesight,” writes Ron through Facebook.

Travis was flown to Walter Reed Medical Center, where he’s undergone surgery to remove shrapnel from near his spinal cord. Doctors say there was no fluid leakage and that he remains in stable condition, though still on a ventilator.

Ron is currently In Bethesda, Maryland at Travis’ bedside. Prayers are needed for both the family and for the wounded soldier.

Gone Jogging

I decided to do what I’m not really supposed to do anymore – I went for a short jog. Today, as expected, I’m stoved up and in so much pain.

No — I’m not complaining – I’m jus’ sharing with you.

Time and again I dream of running through the Redwood’s behind my childhood home like I used to do. My wife’s constantly waking me up because I thrash so much while in bed.

The only other dreams I have are more or less nightmares, brought on by bad and rough memories. This however is a different subject all together.

My plan is to recuperate from the soreness in my calves and the ache in my lower back only to do it to myself once again as soon as the hurt subsides. I want to work myself back into shape and I need to do it slowly.

Like the Chinese proverb says, “A journey of a thousand miles begin with a single step.”

The Surf Hotel

As the tallest building in Del Norte County, the 5-story Surf Hotel towers at corner of Front and H Streets across from Beachfront Park. Although the foyer suffered extensive damage from the tsunami of 1964, the Surf was one of the few buildings in downtown Crescent City to structurally survive.

But it remained empty until mid-1988.

As a kid, I used to daydream of owning the Surf. I thought it a fairly romantic building, full of history and adventure.

When I was in my very early 20’s I used to sneak into the hotel, usually with a six-pack of beer and head straight for the roof. From there I could look out over the mostly sleeping town.

That all came to an end when someone introduced guard-dogs to patrol the building, keeping trespassers like me outside. I used to listen those dogs howl all night long while working at KPOD as it was located only a few hundred feet from the hotel.

It was a terrible, lonely sound, seeming a perfect fit for the abandoned building.

Former owner, Walt Miller had planned to create condominiums in the building, along with a lounge and restaurant. He later decided private development was not a good idea — so he opted towards governmental development.

With Pelican Bay State Prison under construction, space needs at the courthouse were changing. It was believed the Surf Hotel could accommodate a number of county offices.

Some people opposed taking the building off the tax rolls while others said parking would be a problem. One thing everyone could agree on was that the hotel had to be renovated.

In its hay-day the Surf was the most elegant stop between Portland and San Francisco, playing host to movie stars like Clark Gable, Carol Lombard, and William Boyd, better known as Hop-Along Cassidy.

Even film star Lloyd Bridges along with his father, were co-owners of the hotel at one time.

Construction on the building was completed January 7, 1854. Known as the Crescent City Hotel, M.G. Tucker was the owner until August 19, 1857, when Gottlieb Myer took control.

Francis Burtschell bought the hotel from Myer the same year, when Myer decided to go to Jacksonville, Oregon. Burtschell then leased it to Jacob Richert.

The Richert family eventually moved to Arcata in 1870, leasing the Union Hotel. When they moved, Burtschell took the hotel again.

Burtschell built new addition to the front side of the hotel. Once completed, the name changed to Bay Hotel.

W.H. Woodbury purchased the hotel in 1894, but he died a year later. His wife continued to manage the business until she sold the hotel to Oscar Lauff in 1926.

Lauff, using money he’d made selling stock, that same year had the rear of the hotel torn down. In its place would rise the Lauff Hotel.

In 1943, the Lauff was sold to Clifton Richmond who then sold to Sam Wilson. In 1946, Wilson sold the hotel to the Surrey brothers from Montana — friends with one time guest Hop-a-Long Cassidy.

The Surrey’s owned and operated the hotel until the 1964 tsunami. They shuttered the building after it was discovered a large crack in the foundation had been caused by the earthquake that preceded the tidal wave.

As of 2011, records from the California Secretary of State office shows the registered agent of the Surf to be James McCoy, having filed April 24th, 1987.  At present the former hotel serves as affordable housing with 55 units for low-income, elderly, and disabled residents.

Boom Box

It was a laughable moment – a woman I know exclaimed, “Let Tom pay for it, he’s in radio and famous. He make’s lotsa money.”

Laughable because anyone who has ever been in radio broadcasting, whether it’s behind the microphone, sales, engineering, support or management, knows making LOTSA money is something that happens few and far between in the business. As for famous – not so much either — though people do ask my wife from time to time if she related to “Tom Darby on the radio.”

I can only imagine what some of her responses have been.

Radio was something I wanted to do when I was not yet a teenager. In fact I pioneered the carrying of a “boom box,” on my shoulder nearly a decade before it became popular with urban kids. I had Dad’s Emerson, AM/FM radio, dual cassette recorder/player with a two-meter band with me almost every summer from the time I was ten.

I had it with me the day I first met Kelly Spruce — whom I immediately ‘crushed on.’ Not even then would I let that stupid radio go.

In fact, I used to get teased about packing it around with me by the neighborhood kids and I managed to get into a couple of fist-fights after someone took the thing and started playing keep away with it. If I recall I lost both fights but because they were afraid of what my old man might do – they returned it after having their fun time.

Honestly – I sometimes question my desire for working in radio. After all, the truth be told here, I don’t even like the sound of my own voice.

The Junk Man Cameth

Crap! I’m sitting here looking at all the stuff I’ve managed to accrue and I don’t like what I’m seeing.

What happened to my life-time motto, “Keep it simple?”

I need to back a dump truck up to the house to get rid of most of this junk.  I’m very disappointed in me.

Perhaps I should move everything I don’t want or need out onto the driveway and hang a great, big “FREE” sign on it. After all it is said, “One man’s junk is another man’s treasure.”

Something About a Painting

Sometimes I forget how politically divided people can be. When I do forget – I tend to open my mouth and insert my foot – even when it comes to people I think of as friends.

At issue is a painting of Che Guevara that’s on display at the Reno-Tahoe International Airport. Seems 71-year-old Jose Paz, a Cuban native now living in Reno, saw it and took offense.

I can’t say that I blame the old man.

Personally, I think of Guevara as a thug and murderer. I’ve never really unstood his appeal — especially by the younger crowds.

Anyway the airport’s refusing to take the piece of artwork down until the display ends May 9th. Personally, I think this is wrong and I said so when the subject came up between my co-worker, Neil and me.

He says it’s stupid to condemn a piece of artwork because the subject happens to be of a Communist Revolutionary. I can’t fault him on this because art like this as in most cases is protected speech.

My stand is thought — the airport receives funding from the U.S. Government and is therefore a federal facility. Because of this – there should be no place on the wall for Che Guevara, Boris Yeltsin or Helen Keller for that matter — since she too was a Communist.

“After all,” I insisted, “They wouldn’t allow a religious painting to hang on their walls, would they?”

“I can see your point,” Neil admitted

Eventually I apologized for getting so heated during our conversation. That’s when Neil let me in on the fact that he came to work in a bad mood and the entire story struck him wrong.

Well, I told him my little secret – I’m in a bad mood, too. We both had a laugh at our silliness.

The Russians Are Coming

Russian “Airborne Assault Forces” will be arriving in Colorado this May for joint terror-war exercises with U.S. soldiers, according to U.S. officials and Russian military personnel cited in media reports. The Kremlin’s Defense Ministry and the U.S. Department of Defense both said it would be the first time in history that American and Russian airborne special operations troops would be training together on U.S. soil.

While U.S. officials remained largely silent on the operation, the Russian government has been touting the unprecedented terror drills through official announcements and news reports in state-controlled media for over a week. In fact, virtually all of the details about the exercise that have emerged came from Kremlin sources.

Before the official drills begin on May 24, the Russian government’s forces will reportedly be training to use a wide array of American military equipment at the U.S. Army’s Fort Carson base. Parachuting, operations planning, reconnaissance, assaults, raids, and evacuations will all be on the agenda.

The training is expected to last until May 31, though U.S. officials said it would go until early June.

The U.S. government is simultaneously engaged in war games in the Asia-Pacific region with the Communist regime ruling Vietnam and the government of the Philippines. And in August of 2010, U.S., Russian, and Canadian air forces worked together on terror drills involving hijacked airplanes.

Silver Tailings: The Golden Hotel Blaze

Early on the morning of April 3, 1962, workers were welding in the basement of Reno’s Golden Hotel. The oxyacetylene tank exploded, erupting into flame.

The workers tried in vain to put it out, but before they could,  it was burning upward to the ground floor. New car, parked as a jackpot prize, caught fire and soon the flames were racing through the entire hotel.

There was no sprinkler systems and no central alarm. Many guests learned about the fire only when they called the front desk to check on the time.

When they tried to escape they found the hallways choked with smoke and flames. Some of the guests were trapped.

Police and firefighters led a number of people to safety. An elevator operator made repeated trips saving as many as 40 guests.

Hoses poured water on the blaze from the nearby seven-story Harolds Club. A forest service plane dropped several 250 gallon loads of water trying to extinguish the flames.

Originally built-in 1905, the Golden had several  make-overs through the years, including a facade with blinds or shutters containing horizontal slats over the upper floor windows. These blinds blocked escape and efforts to get water on the flames.

Finally a near-by construction crane was brought in to bust holes in the slats. But even those efforts couldn’t save the building.

The Golden eventually collapsed leaving six people dead.

The hotel was rebuilt, but the owners ran short on money and it was leased to its neighbor, eventually becoming the foundation for Harrah’s. Today there’s nothing marking the tragedy.

However a block away there’s a memorial to the victims of a more recent and even deadlier fire. The Mizpah Hotel literally stood in the shadow of the Golden as it burned.

Over 44-years later, on Halloween night 2006, the Mizpah went up in flames due to arson, killing 12 people.

Heading Down

Bipolar being what it is makes today a bad time to suddenly find myself cycling down. The last week I’ve been a riding a wave of ‘high,’ that’s been incredible — but now comes the inevitable crash.

Dammit!!!

My sudden onset of depression is tempered by the fact I completed the cover art for my forthcoming sophomore project, “Redwood Drive.” I was so happy earlier today to have finished it — but now the emptiness has caught up to me.

This ‘feeling’ hit me jus’ after wrapping up the final touch-up to the picture. It’s of the stop sign at the end of the road leading to Highway 101 in Klamath.

As I sat looking at the cover art I suddenly saw something in the photo that I hadn’t, even though I’ve had it since I took it in 1972.  Like I said before — it’s at the “end of the road.”

Think about it now, I realize it’s a metaphor for my childhood — as one day I’d find myself out there on life’s ‘highway.’ I had a choice — left or right –and I turned left — and am still wondering if I made the correct decision.

Despite my sudden down-turn in mood, the cover art does look pretty effing good, I think.