Behind Roff Way

We call it the Roff Building, mostly because we don’t know what else to call it and it sits on the corner of Roff Way and West 1st Street.  Roff Way gets its name from a prominent Reno family that helped settle the area in the 1860’s.

Built in 1936, my wife and her business partners opened their sandwich shop in the Roff Building. Very few records exist showing the buildings use before 1970. 

They closed the sandwich shop in early 2011 and opened a drinking establishment simply known as “Bar,” later that year. The new business is doing very well.

Nathan Roff came to Nevada in 1863, and found work the harness and saddlery business in Washoe city, at the period of that town’s high-tide of prosperity. He remained there until 1868, when, at the public auction sale of lots, he purchased four lots and thus became one of the earliest settlers and founders of the City of Reno, where he remained until his death, in 1897.

Nathan’s son, Nate Roff was born at St. Louis, Missouri, February 4, 1852, and was very young when he came out west. He graduated from the College of California in the class of 1870, after which he returned to Washoe City, and learned telegraphy.

For some time he worked for Western Union Telegraph Company, and later of the Virginia and Truckee Railroad Company. For five years he was deputy land register in Carson City.

Nate was also a clerk in the Nevada legislature at nearly every session for a twenty-five year period, was chief clerk of the assembly twice and clerk of the senate three times.  Eventually, he became a state senator representing Washoe county.

Roff was a Republican until the silver issue split that party into two, then he became one of the organizers of the Silver Party of Nevada. He was also Secretary of the State’s Central Committee for several years and  worked for U.S. Senator Francis Newlands.

Services For Two Aurora Shooting Victims

Praised for her boundless energy,  family and friends gathered in San Antonio to remember her.  Jessica Ghawi, who narrowly escaped a shooting in Toronto earlier this year, has been laid to rest.

“If this coward could have done this with this much hate, imagine what we can do with this much love,” her brother, Jordan told those gathered inside the Community Bible Church in San Antonio.

But most of the service focused on the life and energy of the aspiring sports journalist.

“What we will not do today is focus on how she left us,” read Peter Burns, a friend from Colorado, holding a note from Ghawi’s mother, Sandy. “Jess was a force to be reckoned with. She was a jolt of lightning. A whirlwind. A Labrador puppy running clumsily with innocent joy.”

Burns talked of the funny way Ghawi sneezed, her near-addiction to Nutella chocolate, how she was sloppy and always lovable. Ghawi’s boyfriend, however Jay Meloff, noted that while others described her as a tough, redheaded spitfire, he saw her as a “beautiful, warm-hearted and passionate woman with a capacity for love…as mushy as they come.”

Ghawi was a 24-year-old pretty, blue-eyed redhead who moved to Colorado about a year ago. She had survived a June 2 shooting at a Toronto mall that left two dead and several wounded.

Her blog post last month reads: “I saw the victims of a senseless crime. I saw lives change. I was reminded that we don’t know when or where our time on Earth will end. When or where we will breathe our last breath.”

She went by the name “Redfield,” a play on her red hair, because it was easy to say and remember, both professionally and on her social media accounts. She was a regular tweeter and her last post to the micro-blogging website stated in all capital letters, “movie doesn’t start for 20 minutes.”

Meanwhile, the body of a 26-year-old U.S. Navy veteran and Reno resident who also died in the shooting has been flown home for burial. Jonathan Blunk’s body arrived at the Reno-Tahoe International Airport, with the Patriot Guard escorting him to the Mountain View Mortuary.

Blunk had high hopes for the future, with plans to re-enlist in the Navy and the goal of becoming a Navy SEAL, having served three tours in the Persian Gulf and North Arabian Sea between 2004 and 2009. Blunk was also a certified firefighter and emergency medical technician.

He died in the shooting after throwing himself in front of friend Jansen Young and saving her life. Young told NBC’s “Today” show, that Blunk told her to stay down.

A 2004 graduate of Hug High School, Blunk most recently lived in Aurora and worked for a small flooring company. His estranged wife, Chantel, lives with their 4-year-old daughter and 2-year-old son in Reno.

A memorial service, open to the public will take place August 2nd at the Mountain View Mortuary with a private service the following day.

Reflections on a Needless Death

Odd how the national media grabs onto a particular person involved in a tragedy. In the 1999 Columbine High School shootings, in Littleton, Colorado, it was Rachael Scott, one of 15 people to die that April 20th.

At the time of her death, the 17-year old senior was an aspiring writer and actress. Shortly before her death, she wrote an essay for school stating, “I have this theory that if one person can go out of their way to show compassion then it will start a chain reaction of the same.”

I had the good fortune of having her half-sister in one of emergency medical technician classes at Truckee Meadows Community College. I remember her pain and grief at the loss of her younger sibling.

In “The Dark Knight Rises” Massacre of Aurora, Colorado, the person in the media spotlight is Jessica Ghawi, an aspiring sportscaster and blogger. She was one of 12 people killed when a man armed with several guns started randomly shooting into a crowd enjoying a midnight movie.

I knew Jessica via the Internet Ghawi but under her blogging nom de plume, Jessica Redfield. It’s because of her senseless death, that I feel compelled to write this down.

In her blog, she wrote about the June 2nd Eaton Centre shooting that she escaped, “It’s hard for me to wrap my mind around how a weird feeling saved me from being in the middle of a deadly shooting.”

Also since that time I’ve heard over and over, a call for tighter restriction on guns and ammunition. This makes me very angry!

First off, liberal-do-gooders and nanny-statist like New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg and actor Stephen Baldwin, need to shut their mouths. People are dead or wounded, family, friends and loved ones are hurting and should get chance to heal before you go off half-cocked about the horrors of gun-ownership.

“Soothing words are nice,” said Bloomberg, “But maybe it’s time the two people who want to be president of the United States stand up and tell us what they’re going to do about it, because this is obviously a problem across the country.”

Yeah, half-cocked is what I said, especially you Mr. Mayor, with your armed body guards and armored limo. Hypocrite!

Baldwin told CNN, a red flag should have gone up when James Holmes purchased 6,000 rounds and equipment in such a short period. He said the Patriot Act put certain rules in place such as monitoring, but as “technology advances, maybe there should be some new thinking.”

As for you Baldwin, adding more regulation, applying new laws, and creating more “Big Brother” is not what gun advocates aspire too. Obviously you are as good a constitutional scholar as you are an actor.

Not once have I ever bought into the belief that, “Guns kill.”  That’s like saying “Religion kills.”

Both premises are wrong. People kill, some misuse a gun, some misuse religion.

Is it the car that kills or the driver operating it?

The 2nd Amendment, ratified December 17, 1791 along with nine other amendments, make up the Bill of Rights. It reads:  A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed.

It’s time U.S. Citizen’s took back their God-given right to “keep and bear arms,” and then wear those “arms” openly and proudly. I’m sick and tired of the politicians and activists dictating to me and you what we can or cannot do.

Who made them a god? No one — as they’re either elected, or worse, self-appointed.

It’s time we gre a pair and followed in the foot steps of those who raised up this nation. You and I should be able to wear a pistol or revolver openly on our leg or around our waist anywhere we want to go in this supposed “Land of the Free and Home of the Brave.”

Forget old-west characters like Wyatt Earp and such, who stripped cowboys of their weapons upon entering a town. That’s tyranny and in the end only those with power will have what those not in power can’t have.

In this case that would be a gun!

It’s a shame that carrying a concealed weapon into a movie theater in Colorado is illegal. Had one person been armed besides the murderer, the odds are that killer wouldn’t be alive, sucking air while sitting in jail.

Furthermore, it’s a shame that I can’t carry a gun openly in my workplace as protection and a deterrent against violence. I have co-workers who have carry-conceal permits, but they cannot carry a firearm inside the building!

While it seems counter intuitive, having a known firearm, does cause those who would otherwise do another person harm, to stop and rethink their action as they realize they can get killed jus’ as easily as doing the killing.

Here in Nevada, it is legal to carry a weapon openly displayed on your person, but it’s also illegal to transport a loaded weapon on certain roadways. It’s a real catch-22, that been placed on you and I by lawmakers.

I’m left carrying a knife instead.

My son and I went to the movies in Sparks to see the latest Batman flick. Before going, my wife called, asking that we be careful, since by then the Aurora shooting were nearly nine-hours old news.

On our way, I said to him, “As your dad, if someone starts shooting, I want you to lay down on the floor and play dead. However, man-to-man, if you’re so compelled and see the chance to kill the son-of-a bitch with your knife, do it.”

Not all parents will agree with me, but Kyle is 20-years-old and knows right from wrong. I trust him to do what needs doing.

In the movie, while locked in an underground prison, Bruce Wayne must find a way to escape. The only way to do this is by climbing a circular wall, which is not only high, but also uneven.

Those who’ve attempt escape tie a rope around their waists to prevent a fall to the death. Wayne tries it this way then realizes the rope is holding him back from reaching his goal of freedom.

I found a simple but elegant truth in that scene: It’s time to untether ourselves from those who think they know whats best for us and risk the fall for the greater freedom.

As for Jessica, no one was in that theater to protect her right, or that of the other 11 people killed to continue in this life. And since people like Bloomberg, Baldwin and their ilk aren’t willing to act as human-sheilds and Wyatt Earp is already dead, we ought to start protecting ourselves like free-men and woman!

It’s time for some personal responsibility and that’s the beauty of an armed-citizenry.

“The Dark Knight Rises” Massacre

The suspect in the shooting at a Colorado theater is reportedly telling police he’s the Joker, Batman’s arch nemesis and is known for chaotic violence. This, according to New York Police Commissioner Ray Kelly. 

The suspect is 24-year-old James Holmes and is in the Arapahoe County Jail in Centennial, a suburb of Denver.  Aurora police chief Dan Oates is refusing to comment on a possible motive, saying it’s being investigated,but does confirm 12 people are dead and 58 more injured in the shooting during a screening of “The Dark Knight Rises.” 

Oates says evidence shows Holmes recently bought four guns and six-thousands of rounds of ammunition, having the ammo delivered to both his home and workplace.  He also mentions Holmes bought several magazines for an assault rifle, including a high-capacity drum magazine. 

He describes Holmes as a man who came ready for destruction.  Oates says Holmes had four guns, including firearms found in his car and was wearing special garments including a gas-mask,helmet, vest, leggings and a groin protector when taken into custody.

Oates is a former NYPD deputy chief. He’s also a lawyer and a senior fellow at Long Island University’s Homeland Security Management Institute.

Witness Paul Otermat says he was on the other side of the theater when Holmes began his shooting spree.  He says Holmes threw tear gas near where he was sitting and then opened fire with a shotgun.

Authorities found a maze of trip wires, liquid explosives, jars filled with ammunition and even things that resemble mortar rounds at Holmes’ apartment.  People that live in the apartment building and nearby buildings spent the night in an evacuation center.

The FBI says the apartment turned up multiple containers of flammable material set to explode.  FBI Special Agent Jim Yacone says the bomb squad disabled a series of potentially deadly devices including a tripwire near the front door.

Explosive devices packed into the 800-square-foot apartment could have killed first responders and destroyed the three-story building. An inventory of items shows at least 30 aerial shells filled with gunpowder, two containers full of liquid accelerants and containers full of bullets that could have exploded in a fire.

Meanwhile one of Holmes’ neighbors say he may have tried to use loud music to trick police into entering his apartment. The woman who lives under his apartment unit says techno music started blaring in the middle of the night and she thinks Holmes rigged the stereo with a timer, since he wasn’t at home.

Another neighbor says it’s “insane” to think he was living near a mass murderer.  Jackie Mitchell says he woke up to  the noise of police as they descended on the home of the shooter.

Across town, doctors say it was an “all hands on deck” situation after a mass shooting at a movie theater in Aurora.  Dr. James Denton said victims admitted at the Medical Center of Aurora have a variety of injuries.

He says it’s the worst case of mass violence he’s seen since the 1999 Columbine High School massacre.  Denton says most of the injuries are bullet wounds, others are from shrapnel while a few are injuries suffered in the stampede to get out of the theater.

He says the victims have experienced shock, but they’re being cooperative with medical staff.  He says one victim  thought someone had set off fireworks in the theater and persisted in that belief even though he was at a hospital. 

Swedish Medical Center spokesman Nicole Williams says three people came into her center with serious injuries.  She says all three had bullet wounds to various parts of their bodies.

In San Diego, where Holmes’ family lives, a local police officer spoke on their behalf saying they are cooperating with authorities.  The statement continued to say that “we are still trying to process this information” and expressed sympathy for those killed and injured in the rampage, while asking for privacy.

Continuing in Southern California, Colorado Rockies manager Jim Tracy spoke before their game in San Diego about the shooting massacre in Aurora, Colorado.  Tracy says the team is thinking of the victims of the shooting.

Regarding sports, an aspiring sportswriter from Texas is one of the 12 people killed. Jessica Ghawi, who made her start covering the San Antonio Rampage and working as an intern at a local San Antonio radio station.

She moved from San Antonio to Denver and worked for the Colorado Avalanche radio and TV broadcasts.  Ghawi wrote under the name Jessica Redfield and was a writer for the sports website “Busted Coverage.”

She was at the movie with a friend, Brett Lowak, who survived the attack.  The 24-year-old Ghawi had recently escaped the Eaton Centre Mall shooting in Toronto, June of this year, that left one dead and seven injured.

As the latest Batman film climbs to record-breaking heights at the box office, Warner Brothers is choosing to postpone money talk related to the movie.  The studio says it’s keeping silent about the movie’s earnings out of respect for the victims. 

Rentrak, the media measurement company that releases box office data, also announced it would also suspend its reporting of Worldwide Weekend Estimates.  However it’s already known, “The Dark Knight Rises” made 30-point-six-million dollar from its midnight screenings.

The films publicity team also canceled première events for the film in Paris, Tokyo and Mexico City in the wake of the tragedy. And speaking of our neighbor’s to the south, former Mexican President Felipe Calderon is calling current gun laws in the U.S. “mistaken” and is asking for a review from Washington. 

Calderon posted his comments on Twitter, offering his condolences to the United States in the wake of the mass shooting.  He tweets “Because of the Aurora, Colorado tragedy, the American Congress must review its mistaken legislation on guns.” 

This isn’t a first for Calderon.  In February he unveiled a huge sign on the Mexico-U.S. border reading “No More Weapons!” creating the letters from recycled guns.

Continuing along the political front, Colorado Governor John Hickenlooper described the shooting as an “isolated event” by an “unspeakably troubled individual.”  After the  press conference, Hickenlooper took a ride to Wyoming on train to help celebrate Cheyenne Frontier and raise funds for those affected by the event.

President Obama says the aftermath of the shooting massacre should remind the nation that, quote, “We are united as one American family.”  At a campaign event in Fort Myers, Florida, Obama called the shooting tragedy a “heinous crime.”  He said, “Such violence, such evil, is senseless.”

Congressional leaders are also expressing shock and sadness about the shooting massacre.   GOP House Speaker John Boehner called the tragedy an act of “incomprehensible evil,” saying in such occurrences, “Americans will pull together and embrace our national family more tightly.”

And not one to wait for the dust to settle on a tragedy, New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg, in his weekly radio address, called on Obama and Mitt Romney to lay out their plans to combat gun violence.  Bloomberg has participated in many campaigns to strengthen gun laws and says there are so many murders with guns every day, that it has to stop.

As for the director of the movie, “The Dark Knight Rises,” Christopher Nolan is speaking out on the shooting tragedy that will forever be tied to his film.  Speaking on behalf of the cast and crew of the film, Nolan expressed “profound sorrow” for what he called a “senseless tragedy” and “an appalling crime.” 

He added, “I believe movies are one of the great American art forms and the shared experience of watching a story unfold on-screen is an important and joyful pastime.  The movie theater is my home and the idea that someone would violate that innocent and hopeful place in such an unbearably savage way is devastating to me.”

“Batman” star Christian Bale says he feels “horror” and that his heart goes out to the victims and their families. The actor released a statement saying, quote, “Words cannot express the horror that I feel.”

Actor Gary Oldman who also appears in the new Batman movie as “Commissioner James Gordon,” is expressing condolences. In a statement Oldman says, “My prayers and deepest sympathies are with the victims and their families of this horrific act.”

Holmes has an attorney and will have his first court appearance on Monday, July 23.

Reunion, Part 5 and Final

“Ugh!” I thought as I blinked awake, “My eye’s feel like two piss-holes in the snow!”

It felt as if I had jus’ fallen asleep when my alarm sounded. And as soon as I looked at the time it occurred to me that I had jus’ fallen asleep.

It took me only a few seconds to lie back down and drift off for another few hours. By the time I reawakened, I knew I was very late for the reunion picnic.

As quickly as possible, I showered and dressed, grabbed my camera and rushed out of my room. The sky was a high overcast, which burned off momentarily, only to come back full tilt.

This time I didn’t drive to a place that wasn’t part of the event. I hustled straight to Beachfront park where I found a small gathering of people hanging around some tables.

One of the first people I saw was my long ago neighbor from Klamath, Sharon Jones. We had not seen each other in over in 34-years.

Somehow, it seemed to me at that moment, as if all that time hadn’t really passed by us.  I also met her husband, James, a retired U.S. Army engineer, and their daughter and son.

But because I was so late, the event ended far too soon for me. Soon I was standing there alone watching everyone return to their lives.

Instead of heading straight back to my room, I decided to go do a little shopping. I spent an hour in the old McKay’s Market building, now home to a second-hand store called, “Sylvia’s Attic.”

Then I headed up H Street to the VFW Post to say “adios” to Stanlee Stanovich. I didn’t hang around long as she was busy with a bar full of patrons.

Besides I had to head back to the motel, as the light was fading and the sidewalks were rolling up. I also had a long trip home in front of me the next morning.

Sleep didn’t come to me as easily as it had the night before, so when I got up, I was moving slowly. I have since concluded that it was for the beast as I ran into an old school mate, Dan Smith.

I always remembered him because he shares the same name as my oldest cousin on Mom’s side of the family.

Dan and I stood around chatting about the old days of high school, and our time in the U.S. Marine Corps. Unfortunately, he hadn’t heard of the get together, missing out on the reunion and all the fun we had.

After saying our “see ya laters and Semper Fi’s,” I hopped in my truck and turned the hood southward. I stopped once more, this time in the old townsite of Klamath, where I have always felt my life’s journey began.

It was here I snapped a few more photograph’s, including where Grandpa Jack’s Three-Sevens Bar had been and the former site of Tony’s Market. I also got out and walked the land for a few minutes, wishing to make one more connection with the place, before leaving.

In minutes of returning to southbound 101,  I drove out of Del Norte County.  I grew sad, wondering, “Will I ever see this place again?”

One can never say.

Reunion, Part 4

Perhaps it was that I was in a rush — or maybe it is old age — but I knew as I drove north on US 101 I was heading to the Elks Club on H Street. But that didn’t prevent me from turning onto Front Street and then into the parking lot between Enderts Pool and the Crescent City Convention Center.

Fortunately, I returned to my sense and got back out on Front Street and turned at H Street. I pulled in and parked, waiting for Stanlee Stanovich to arrive as I told her the night before I’d meet her there and we’d walk in together.

While waiting, several couples arrived and went inside, then Bobby Adams came up the steps from the lower parking areas, calling out my name. We stood around and jawed for a bit — until Wendy Mendes arrived with her daughter and sister Dana.

I asked Wendy, “So why’s a good-looking woman like you here without her husband?”

“Oh, he passed away,” she answered.

Talk about embarrassing myself. I couldn’t apologize enough for being such a classless cad.

Then after a little more chit-chat, Wendy started for the door as did Bobby, who left me saying, “I’m going in with this beautiful woman.”

A couple of minutes later, Stanlee pulled into the drive and parked. The first thing she said to me laughingly was, “Some videographer you are!”

She then proceeded to tell me how none of the video I took the night before using her new-fangled video camera turned out. Then she kidded me more by holding up the camera and showing me the button that activates the recording.

The joke was on her though. By the time the night was over, her hand had cramped in place reminiscent of the video camera’s sleek shape.

Once inside, Dorothy Morgan and Lydia Brown made sure I knew who I was by giving me a name badge that included a picture of me from my sophomore year. Back then I had a head full of hair, so needless to say — if it weren’t for my name being included on the badge, no one who have had any idea who I was.

The first Klamath River Rat I saw was Nadine Redd. She was there not only to take part in the reunion but to act as the official photographer.

She had been my baby-sitter back when she was attending Del Norte. I hadn’t seen Nadine since 1973.

Upstairs, the hall was abuzz with activity. The band was jus’ getting warmed up, with announcements being  made by Darlene Clark and Connie Brooks.

There was plenty of finger-foods laid out for everyone to enjoy. My favorites were the rolled slices of turkey and the meatballs.

Being a social-moth, I moved from one room to the next taking pictures and chatting with people I hadn’t seen in ages. This included Marvin Bowers, Charlene Blackburn, Suzanne Stennett and Carrie and Abbie Crist.

Speaking of  Suzanne, it was her, at the urging of her beau, who made me turn bright red, when she grabbed my bald head and cradled it against her ample bosom. Meanwhile her boyfriend, using my camera, snapped off several shots — laughing all the way.

And as odd as it might sound, someone introduced me to a woman who not only graduated from Del Norte, but also lives in Reno. I even know her niece.

Rhonda Kitchen graduated early in November 1977 and was busy getting acquainted with old schoolmates she’d not seen in years. As for her niece, Rebecca Kitchen, she works for KOLO News 8, the news partner to the radio station where I’m employed.

I can hear the music, “It’s a small world after all, It’s a small world after, It’s a small world after all, it’s a small, small world…”

There was a real “ah shucks,” moment when I saw Julie Childre kissing people on the neck. I asked,” Where’s mine?” and she plied me with several, which left me grinning like an idiot from ear-to-ear.

It took three beers to calm the pain in my back so I could go out onto the dance floor and shake my hips a little, but I did it and I enjoyed myself. I hadn’t done any dancing in years for fear I’d end up flopping around on the floor with severe spasms.

One of the funnier incidents happened when Kathy Chester came and said goodbye to me. She was leaving for the night because she wanted to get a head start on the picnic the next day as well as some rest.

I watched as she walked out the doors of the Elks Club.

In the meantime I continued wandering around from place to place, talking to fellow classmates and taking pictures. As I came back into the bar area, I saw Kathy standing there sipping on a glass of water.

“I thought you left?” I asked.

She smiled, a blushed lightly and replied, “I forgot I’m one of the hosts of this party.”

We both chuckled at that.

The bar finally closed at 1:30 am, Sunday morning. Once again, I was one of the last to leave having helped clean the dance hall up along with a number of others who had attended the festivities.

I knew it was going to rough getting up in time for the coming picnic.

Silver Tailings: Bombing Run Over Elko

Somebody shouted smoke was pouring from the old warehouse behind the Post Office, the one used to house roofing and construction materials along with electrical equipment. Immediately, a call went out to the fire department.

Elko only had a volunteer fire department, with five trained members and several dozen volunteers in August 1964. By the time the department arrived, the building was totally engulfed.

Men scrambled to haul the hoses from the trucks, only to find at least one of the fire rigs was too far from a hydrant. They wasted time getting the vehicle repositioned.

Another fireman couldn’t open the fire plug because he didn’t have the right wrench. A bystander loaned him the correct tool.

Firefighters next discovered the water pressure from the hydrant was to low. They had to search to find one that could support at least a minimal flow.

Then out of nowhere came a World War II “Twin Beech” AT-7 Navigator — flying low and slow over the burning warehouse. The pilot made a turn, lining up on the warehouse and dropping 300 gallons of fire-retardant.

When the retardant hit, the warehouse roof collapsed. Three volunteer firemen, including one visiting from Sparks, Nevada received injuries – though not seriously.

Unfortunately, the retardant didn’t put out the fire. Instead fire crews returned to the warehouse three times that night to prevent fires from rekindling.

Bye-Bye, Good Sam

Friday the 13th. Usually it’s a good day — no different from any other for me. However en route to work, things went bad about the time I saw what I thought was a man struck and knocked out of a cross walk at Vassar and Harvard Ways. I immediately turned around to go give aid if he needed it.

I watched the suspect car, a silver Dodge Intrepid,  continue speeding west on Vassar.

The man I’d seen rolling on to the sidewalk was squatting down behind a clump of bushes next to a community health center. I didn’t think it was weird as humans like animals will go hide when injured.

As soon as he saw me though, he came out from behind the brushes and walked across the street to me. That’s when I asked if he was okay, to which he relied he was fine, having jumped from the car because his “wife was pissing me off,” and not having being struck by it.

Then he asked if he could get a ride out of the area because he didn’t want her coming back and causing more problems for him. I said I would and he hopped in my truck.

Instead of pulling a u-turn on Harvard, I drove into a vacant parking lot to turn around. I was looking at the man riding in my passenger seat, asking him where I should drop him off, when his eyes grew big. I turned my head to look and found myself being rammed by the silver car.

She shoved the car up under my truck. The pre-teen boy sitting in the passenger side seat next to her had a terrified look on his face as I backed off of the hood of her vehicle.

Immediately, I put my truck in park and started to get out. That’s when the driver of the other vehicle, a Latino woman, about 5-foot-five inches and maybe 110 pounds, got out of her car and started rushing at me. I stepped back two or three times because she had something in her hand and it worried me that it might be a gun.

In response I pulled my folding lock-blade knife from my pocket and opened it up. As I did this, I saw the man coming around the front of my truck and I figured I had stepped into a domestic argument and I’d end up having to fend both of them off.

After a few seconds, I saw she was holding a shoe, not a pistol as I’d feared, so I put my knife back in my pocket. While I stood my ground, the woman continued screaming at me in English about having run into her car with her son in it, then in Spanish at the man, then back at me for trying to kidnap her husband.

By this time we were face-to-face, so close that our noses were touching. I didn’t smell alcohol, nor did she have the odor of burnt cannabis and I couldn’t detect a fruity scent to her breath — a sign of diabetic acidoketosis — so I concluded she was purely in a psychotic rage or suffering from a bi-polar disorder.

Without turning my back on her, I returned to the cab of my truck and retrieved by cell-phone, dialing 9-1-1. She kept screaming, “Go ahead and call the f*cking cops! I don’t care!”

As soon as she realized I was calling the police, she returned to her car and drove away in the direction she had first been travelling when her husband bailed from the car. Her husband took of northbound on Harvard Way, putting as much distance between himself and the scene as possible.

Meanwhile, I completed my conversation with the dispatcher, having told her all the pertinent information she asked for, including the fact the car had no license plates or even a registration tag in the window. I also never got the name of the man.

In the end, I continued towards work, where I concluded I will never stop to help another person out no matter  how badly injured they are or aren’t. I also decided to no longer carry any kind of self-protection again, as I have a very dark spot in me that is willing to injure, maim or kill with the slightest of provocation.

It took me nearly two-hours to complete the online police report and to talk with a Reno Police officer after beginning my shift.  All in all, I’m fortunate as interfering in a domestic dispute can result in death, and I walked away unscathed and my truck has only the slightest ding in the fender, not even worth talking to the insurance company about.

I will admit, I’ve nursed a very tender low-back — worse than usual — since the hit-and-run.

In the end, I’ve been given two pieces of advice.  My wife says, “You shouldn’t pick up strangers,” and my co-worker, Neil Tyler says, “Don’t give up on humanity.”

Reunion, Part 3

One of the things I like about staying in motels is the “in-room” coffee that many offer. There’s something refreshing about the strong aroma of brewing coffee in such a small space.

It’s the simple things with me.

After showering, getting dressed and polishing off three cups of java I was ready to take on the world or go take a few photographs – which ever was to happen first. My starting point was Beach Front Park.

There I discovered two things – they’ve named the street that divides the park in two from Beachfront Drive to the ocean after Bill Stamps. The other thing – the parks restrooms are modern and no longer the creepy-scary stranger-danger they had been all the years I lived in Del Norte.

For the first time in my life, I actually went inside the Surf Hotel, now called the Surf Apartments, legally. Before this, I had always sneaked in and made my way to the roof to sit and drink a beer and look out over the city at night.

Once inside, I went upstairs to the top floor. Inside the stair-well I discovered the man-hatch to the roof and since the sign didn’t say, “No Trespassing,” I decided to open it.

I’m still in awe of the view – especially since it was daylight.

After several photographs I returned to the ground floor and headed towards the center of town. I was on my way to Glenn’s for breakfast.

Unfortunately, I discovered my favorite restaurant shuttered, with for sale signs posted in the windows. Of course this isn’t the only business I noticed had gone away.

There is also Endert’s Rexall Drug Store, Johnson’s Store for Men, The Photo Boutique, The Escape Hatch, Daly’s, Bistren’s, Crescent City Printing the Crescent City Movie Theater and McKay’s Market, to name a few. I know some have been gone a long time – others not so long – but I thought they deserved listing anyway.

On the upside, the men’s department on Daly’s is now home to Johnston’s Gift-Garden-Home. I wandered inside to buy a couple of thank you cards and met the owner, Sheri Johnston.

We had only ever met though Facebook. In person is much nicer.

She filled me in on the shops history, which included a reference to the high water mark left by the 1964 Tsunami. While the original stain is no longer visible, Sheri showed me where the construction workers marked the line on the new wall.

From there, and as referred by Sheri, I went next door to Tomasini’s for lunch. I had one of the best bowls of clam chowder I’ve had in ages along with a hot pastrami sandwich on sourdough and an ice-cold beer.

Once seated, the waitress, who insisted on calling me ‘sir,’ though I work for a living, handed me a brief history on the restaurants namesake. Strange as it seems – I knew Mr. Tomasini when he owned the Fort Dick Tavern.

In fact – the original bar, which is more than 100-years old is in use at Tomasini’s. I was happy to see the restaurants owner, Sasha Tomasini and Mr. Tomasini’s grand daughter, has a heart for history.

After lunch, I wandered over to the Masonic Temple. It was recently gutted by fire, started by some children who broke in and were playing with a lighter or some matches in the attic.

While some damage can readily be seen to the front of the structure, it’s the backside that shows the most damage. Much of the roof caved in – creating an open maw that exposes the burned out interior.

“Bummer,” as we’d say back in the day.

Finally, I walked back to Tsunami Landing and visited at the Seagull Water Fountain, dedicated to the victims of the 1964 Tsunami. It saddened me to see the flower shop that had been in the Martinelli building was also gone along with the bar that was once a neighbor to the shop.

Further down, I walked by the former KPOD studios, where I first broke into the broadcasting business. I later learned their studio is north of town  and housed with KCRE, a one time direct rival to the older KPOD.

It was beginning to get late in the afternoon and I still wanted to visit the harbor and dock area before the day was out. For all the damaged reported from the 2011 tsunami which swept through the slips and fishing vessels, I saw nothing that said it had been there – a strong testament to those who rebuilt it.

This is where I also met a new friend, a Brown Pelican, who decided to follow me from one part of the dock to the other. It was kind of like a large feathery, big-beaked tour-guide.

The funny thing is that every time I aimed my camera in its direction, it would turn and waddle away.  I’ve never known a camera-shy pelican until now.

Somehow, I lost track of time, leaving myself only 45 minutes to get cleaned up and over to the Elks Lodge for the main event.

Reunion, Part 2

It was about 4:30 pm when I checked into my room. The first event, an icebreaker, wasn’t set to begin for another two-and-half-hours, so I figured I had enough time to relax before getting ready.

All went according to planning, that is until I got in my truck and started towards the Kings Valley Golf Course. What I was thinking I don’t know – as I drove right by Lesina Road and continued out towards Fort Dick.

For a guy who grew up in the area and had vowed to make it on time, I was 15-minutes late because I got “lost.” I literally ran out of dirty names to call myself as I turned around and headed back to the street I’d missed.

Once at the golf-course, I walked in and thought I was in the wrong place. In my head I asked, “Who the hell are all these old people?”

Then I looked in the mirror over the bar and concluded I was in the correct crowd. I sometimes forget that while my mind says I’m 16 years-old, by body a 50-years-plus old, including my face and lack of hair.

At the door, I met Darlene Clark and Kathy Chester, the evenings official hostesses.

My goofiness continued as a “new-fangled” video recorder placed in my hand. It was Connie Brooks who gave it to me with the admonition, “Here, take lots of video but don’t lose the camera.”

The camera belonged to Stanlee Stanovich, however she was still tending bar at the local VFW Hall in town, so she wasn’t around to give me instructions on its operation.  I did my best to film everyone as I took my set of still photographs.

More about the video camera later…

As the evening progressed I saw people from Klamath I’d not seen in nearly 35 years, including Drew Anaya, Rick Norbury, Lewis Nova and Debbie Wolcott. It was nice to shoot the bull, catching up on their lives.

I also got to visit with Marvin Bowers, Kelly Cross, Debbie Ricks and Gary Clark.

Then I saw someone I thought I knew, so I went up and asked him if he’d ever been a Del Norte County Sheriff Deputy. Pat Young told me ‘no’ and I proceeded to tell him why I thought he had been a deputy.

It was a late night and my ex-girlfriend and I were coming home to Lake Earl from a homecoming football game in 1982 when I saw someone sneaking around the house. I got out of the car and raced towards the shadow and got conked on the head with a rock.

When the sheriff’s unit arrived, the deputy I mistook Pat for asked my name and was so surprised that he and his partner looked at each other in astonishment. I remember thinking, “Oh, Gawd, what did I do?”

Turns out that was the same night the water treatment facility in Crescent City burned down. I now suspect my brother Adam had something to do with it as he joined the U.S. Army shortly afterwards.

All story-telling aside — Brian Bieber, Bobby Adams, Marty Suva, Tim Haban, Stanlee and Mike Stanovich and I closed the bar down, being the last to leave at around 1:45 am.

Hangman

A neighbor, who lives down the street,  brought over an object he’d purchased at a flea market. He gave it to me, saying, “I thought of you when I heard what it was.”

Instantly I was in love with the contraption – which was a hangman harness – used by stunt performers in movies and TV shows.  No sooner had he left than I went to work figuring out how to use the harness with its straps, buckles and hangman’s noose.

Once I strapped on, I went to our garage and slowly tested it by suspending myself from one of the beams in the garage.  But as soon as I stepped off the stool, I knew I’d made a mistake.

Swinging back and forth and accidentally kicked the stool. It slid across the garage floor far enough away that I couldn’t reach the damn thing.

Clawing at the buckles and straps, I tried to free myself, but it was too late. It would be several hours and long after dark before my wife came home, opening the garage door to drive her car inside.

“Oh, my God, Tom,” Mary screamed. “What have you done?!”

She quickly dug through her purse, found her cell phone and dialed 9-1-1.

“Do you really have to do that?” I asked.

“Yeah,” Mary answered. “I want everybody to know what a dumb-ass you are!”

Reunion, Part 1

It had been nearly five-years since I last visited the North Coast. I was a little nervous and excited at the same time and wasn’t sure what to expect.

My trip began on a rather rocky note as I had worked the night before and didn’t make it home until after midnight. Then because of nerves or what have you, I found it hard to fall asleep, so I was dragging by the time the alarm rang at six that morning.

My plan was to get on the road by 7 a.m., but an hour and a half later I found myself pumping gas into my truck, still in town. I’ve learned over the years that when a trip begins this way – that’s the pattern it’ll maintain.

By the time I rolled into Susanville, my bladder was kicking at me to let it out of the barn. I had drunk three cups of coffee and it was obvious I needed relief.

My wife used to manage the Port of Subs sandwich shop in S’ville.  So I knew right where to go – the gas station that shares the same parking lot as her old business.

Not only do they have bathrooms – they have coffee. It was the perfect choice.

Unfortunately, a team of Cal-State Hotshots were at the station and they were busy with the bathroom. I waited about three-minutes before I decided to us the women’s restroom, which was not marked as being exclusive to the fairer sex.

Minutes later, I bought another cup of coffee and found myself back on the road, turning from U.S. 395 to State Route 44. Fortunately the only time I had to slow down between S’ville and Redding was when I made the stop sign connecting 44 with route 36.

As usual, I stopped in Redding to fuel up. The gas station that I frequent had been a service station, then gas and food mart and is finally a coffee kiosk and fueling station, today.

The first bit of slow traffic I met was shortly after I hopped on Highway 299 from Interstate 5. I found myself tucked behind a couple of travel trailers that made the corners very slowly, but managed to speed up and pull away from everyone in the straight stretches.

Eventually, I made it around them and was able to go jus’ slightly faster than the speed limit from there until I run into highway construction. This brought everyone heading towards the coast to a complete stand still for about 20-minutes.

I was actually thankful for the opportunity to get out and stretch a bit, so it wasn’t bad.

It took me another four-and-a-half hours to cross over the Del Norte County line and race across the Bear Bridge. Too bad I couldn’t stop at the time and walk around my old stomping grounds.

I had a an appointment to keep.

Mitt’s Mexican Background

While researching the historical background on the book written by Walter Van Tilburg Clark and later the movie, “The Ox bow Incident,” directed by William Wellman, I happened on the name of William Flake. He found the three innocent men hanged by a vigilantes near Heber, Arizona — and played a roll in the life of Mitt Romney’s family.

At the time, 1880s Arizona was the center of Mormon religious persecution, culminating with the sentencing of several prominent Mormon leaders to the federal prison in Detroit, the city where Mitt Romney was born.  Romney’s great-grandfather Miles Park Romney was among those arrested — however he was held in a Prescott, Arizona jail.

Deciding he couldn’t get a fair trial, the moment he was able to post bail, Romney skipped and fled to Mexico with his then four wives and their children. Flake was the one who posted Romney’s $2,000 bond.

Flake lived to the age of 93, passing away on August 10, 1932 in Snowflake, Arizona, a town he founded.  Arizona Congressman Jeff Flake as well as Speaker of the Arizona House and later State Senator Jake Flake are his descendants

Miles died in Mexico in 1904 before his family returned to the United States.  Mitt’s father George, was born in Mexico in 1907 and immigrated to the U.S. with his father, Gaskell, and the rest of his family when Mexican revolutionaries drove the Mormons out in 1912.

Later, as Governor of Michigan, George, a moderate Republican, instituted a state income tax. Then in 1964, he ran against Barry Goldwater in the Republican presidential primary, refusing to endorse Goldwater after he won the nomination.

Mitt, whose real first name is ‘Willard,” was born March 12, 1947 and according to Wikipedia is an “American businessman and the presumptive nominee of the Republican Party for President of the United States in the 2012 election.”  He was also the Governor of Massachusetts from 2003 to 2007.

Incidentally — Miles never did pay back that $2,000 in bail he owed William.

Saying Goodbye to Educational Freedom in Nevada

July 6, 2012
When I first heard the State of Nevada had opted to combine No Child Left Behind with Common Core, in late 2007 – I knew it was a plan to ‘take over and remake our local school system.’ By the time the Nevada State Board of Education adopted the Common Core State Standards (CCSS) in October 2010, I knew I was correct.

Since then I’ve done my best to update this article with new information.

Common Core is an Agenda 21 (U.N.) based curriculum that teaches sustainable development, zero-population philosophies and the dangers of humans impacting the environment. It is designed to teach children what kind of action should be taken globally, nationally and locally by organizations of the United Nations System, Governments, and Major Groups. The CCSS are sold as a set of academic standards, or learning goals, for kindergarten through 12th grade in English language arts and mathematics that states voluntarily adopt.

In order to adopt a global-type-thinking, an individual must be trained to give up their personal sovereignty and adopt phrases like “for the good of the whole.” A key step is to disregard the whole importance of basic human rights held in the Bill of Rights.

They were supposedly developed by governors and chief state school officers, in consultation with higher education faculty and other stakeholders. CCSS, however is really federally mandated.

The standards outline what students should master in each grade and shape curriculum development at each grade level. The standards establish a clear roadmap of academic expectations, so that students, parents, and teachers can work together toward shared goals.

The standards are ‘clear, concise, and relevant’ to the real world, focusing on the knowledge and skills students will need to succeed in life after high school, in both postsecondary education and a globally competitive workforce. Unfortunately, they aren’t.
The push from the federal government for access to your child’s private information all started long before the stimulus and Common Core, but it is all connected in the same tangled web. The assessments, which will be used to collect the data, are aligned to Common Core.

The Educational Technical Assistance Act of 2002, Title II, created the Institute of Education Sciences (IES). The IES manages the State Longitudinal Data Systems (SLDS) grants — one source of federal taxpayer dollars. Even before that, the America Competes Act 2000 mandated that several elements of data be collected by all the states.

When researched the ‘Birth and Beyond’ grant applications were actually submitted and processed through the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES) whose purpose, per the website, is to:”…fulfill a Congressional mandate to collect, collate, analyze, and report complete statistics on the condition of American education; conduct and publish reports; and review and report on education activities internationally.”

The NCES site also contains a link to something called Common Core of Data (CCD): “…(CCD) is a program of the U.S. Department of Education’s National Center for Education Statistics that annually collects fiscal and non-fiscal data about all public schools, public school districts and state education agencies in the United States. The data are supplied by state education agency officials and include information that describes schools and school districts, including name, address, and phone number; descriptive information about students and staff, including demographics; and fiscal data, including revenues and current expenditures.”

Furthermore the Common Education Data Standards (CEDS) project states this: “…a national collaborative effort to develop voluntary, common data standards for a key set of education data elements to streamline the exchange, comparison, and understanding of data within and across institutions and sectors.”

Under CEDS Frequently Asked Questions is “How is CEDS different from the Common Core State Standards?

“… (CEDS) is a set of commonly agreed upon names, definitions, option sets, and technical specifications for a given selection of data elements. CEDS focuses on the meaning of data stored in longitudinal data systems, and is being developed by a stakeholder group facilitated by (National Center for Education Statistics.) CEDS will support systemic education reform efforts by making it possible for states to collect the data they need to fully understand their progress on successfully adopting the Common Core State Standards or any other standards.”

The NCES, adds: “…the consolidated hub of a comprehensive statewide longitudinal data system—comprising individual student, faculty and other relevant data from birth to high school, college, and career – that interfaces with an integrated statewide online portal …”

This started back in 2005 when the organization, ‘Achieve’ launched the American Diploma Project (ADP) Network. Through the ADP Network governors, state education officials, postsecondary leaders and business executives work together to improve postsecondary preparation by aligning high school standards, graduation requirements and assessment and accountability systems with the demands of college and careers.

To close the expectations gap, ADP Network says states have committed to the following four actions: align high school standards and assessments with the knowledge and skills required for the demands of college and careers; establish graduation requirements that require all high school graduates to complete a college- and career-ready curriculum so that earning a diploma assures a student is prepared for postsecondary education; develop statewide high school assessment systems anchored to college — and career- ready expectations; and create comprehensive accountability and reporting systems that promote college and career readiness for all students.

From Achieves 2006 report ‘Closing the Expectations Gap’: “To help states put stronger educational data systems in place, 10 national organizations including Achieve, NGA, the Council of Chief State School Officers, State Higher Education Executives Organization and the National Center for Educational Accountability teamed up to launch the Data Quality Campaign. The campaign is a collaborative effort to encourage state policy-makers to improve the collection, availability and use of high-quality education data from prekindergarten through the postsecondary level and to provide tools and resources that will assist them.”
As for the Data Quality Campaign, it aims is to implement state longitudinal data systems, which has been described as a “womb-to-workplace” data collection system . This creates and collects information in these 12 areas:

1. An unique identifier for every student that does not permit a student to be individually identified (except as permitted by federal and state law);

2. The school enrollment history, demographic characteristics, and program participation record of every student;

3. Information on when a student enrolls, transfers, drops out, or graduates from a school;

4. Students scores on tests required by the Elementary and Secondary Education Act;

5. Information on students who are not tested, by grade and subject;

6. Students scores on tests measuring whether they’re ready for college;

7. A way to identify teachers and to match teachers to their students;

8. Information from students’ transcripts, specifically courses taken and grades earned;

9. Data on students’ success in college, including whether they enrolled in remedial courses;

10. Data on whether K-12 students are prepared to succeed in college;

11. A system of auditing data for quality, validity, and reliability; and

12. The ability to share data from preschool through postsecondary education data systems.

In 2010, Nevada joined the Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium (SBAC), a state-led consortium working to develop next-generation assessments that accurately measure student progress toward college- and career-readiness. Smarter Balanced is one of two multistate consortia awarded funding from the U.S. Department of Education in 2010 to develop an assessment system aligned to the CCSS by the 2014-15 school years.

The second multistate consortia (a fancy word for a partnership) are the Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers (PARCC).

In 2012, Nevada received the National Governors Association (NGA) CCSS Postsecondary Collaborative Grant to identify steps necessary for a seamless transition from K-12 into college and careers. Areas of examination under the grant include transition courses and options to help high school seniors who do not meet college-readiness benchmarks under the new assessments based on the CCSS; communication strategies to explain to students, parents, policymakers, and other stakeholders the anticipated impact of the more rigorous CCSS and related assessments; and NSHE faculty preparation to understand the value and positive, tangible impact of the CCSS in educating future Nevada System of Higher Education students.

In March 2013, the Board of Regents adopted a new K-12 Alignment policy under Title 4, Chapter 16, Section 2 of the Handbook authorizing institutions to enter into agreements with school districts to provide college readiness programs, including remedial and 100-level courses at a registration fee appropriate to cover at least the costs of the program, including but not limited to the instructor’s salary, supplies and equipment needed, and appropriate overhead costs. The registration fee must be approved by the President.

Institutions must report annually to the Board on the programs offered, the number of high school students served, and the approved registration fees charged.

At the end of May 2013, the Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium released sets of example test questions for grades 3–8 and 11 in both English language arts/literacy and mathematics. The Practice Tests are freely available on the SBAC website.

In June 2013, Governor Brian Sandoval created the Common Core State Standards Steering Committee co-chaired by the Chancellor of NSHE and the Nevada Superintendent for Public Instruction, through Executive Order #2013-06.

In July 2013, the Board of Regents adopted a resolution expressing support for and encouraging long-term commitment by the State of Nevada in the adoption and implementation of the CCSS.

The CCSS are supposedly anchored in expectations for college readiness. Higher Education will benefit as students graduate from high school better prepared for college and need less remediation.

College students who do not need remediation are also more likely to earn a degree or finish a certification program and at lower costs to themselves and their institutions, which will mean resources for other areas. Higher education faculty will also be able to spend more time going deeper in to complex material with their students.

NSHE is a key partner in the successful implementation of the CCSS in Nevada and is actively participating in many related efforts:

Over the years, individual NSHE institutions have often worked with local school districts in their service areas on various educational issues important to K-12 and postsecondary students. The partnership between UNR, TMCC, and the WCSD to offer college-prep courses in local high schools was highlighted at the June 2013, Board of Regents meeting.

According to Corestandards.org, the CCSS are:

1) Research and evidence based

2) Clear, understandable, and consistent

3) Aligned with college and career expectations

4) Based on rigorous content and the application of knowledge through higher-order thinking skills

5) Built upon the strengths and lessons of current state standards

6) Informed by other top-performing countries to prepare all students for success in our global economy and society

Standards shouldn’t be attached to school subjects, but to the qualities of mind it’s hoped the study of school subjects promotes. Subjects are mere tools, just as scalpels, acetylene torches, and transits are tools. Surgeons, welders, surveyors — and teachers — should be held accountable for the quality of what they produce, not how they produce it.

The world is changing and the future is indiscernible. Clinging to a static strategy in a dynamic world may be comfortable, even comforting, but it’s a Titanic-deck-chair

The Common Core Standards assume that what kids need to know is covered by one or another of the traditional core subjects. In fact, the unexplored intellectual terrain lying between and beyond those familiar fields of study is vast, expands by the hour, and will go in directions no one can predict.

So much orchestrated attention is being showered on the Common Core Standards, the main reason for poor student performance is being ignored—a level of childhood poverty the consequences of which no amount of schooling can effectively counter.

Common Core kills innovation. When it’s the only game in town, it’s the only game in town.

The CCSS are a set-up for national standardized tests, tests that can’t evaluate complex thought, can’t avoid cultural bias, can’t measure non-verbal learning, and can’t predict anything of consequence (and wastes money).

The word “standards” gets an approving nod from the public and from most educators because it means “performance that meets a standard.” However, the word also means “like everybody else,” and standardizing minds is what the Standards try to do.

CCSS fans sell the first meaning; the Standards deliver the second meaning. Standardized minds are about as far out of sync with deep-seated American values as it’s possible to get. The standards stated aim — “success in college and careers”— is at best pedestrian, at worst an affront. The young should be exploring the potentials of humanness.

Education Secretary Arne Duncan has been defending the Common Core, which has been adopted by 45 states and the District of Columbia and is reportedly designed to raise student achievement.

He got himself in trouble in 2013 for remarks made about “white suburban moms” becoming critics because the new, harder exams have shown suddenly that “their child isn’t as brilliant as they thought they were.” But the opposition has grown, from the left, the right and the middle, expressing different concerns about the Core and its implementation.

And though Duncan has said repeatedly that Common Core is a state-led, voluntary initiative, the Obama administration has supported the standards, and critics on the right charge that the federal government has used it to develop a national curriculum. Critics on the left and the middle have argued that the standards are not based on substantive research, which they ignore what is known about early childhood development and/or that reformers have rushed implementation before teachers have had time to absorb them and create materials to teach them.

One prominent Core supporter, American Federation of Teachers President Randi Weingarten, blasted the implementation, saying, “You think the Obamacare implementation is bad? The implementation of the Common Core is far worse.”

They arrived at a time when American public education and its teachers were and remain under attack. Never have public schools been as subject to upheaval, assault, and chaos as they are today.

Unlike modern corporations, which extol creative disruption, schools need stability, not constant turnover and change. Yet for the past dozen years, ill-advised federal and state policies have rained down on students, teachers, principals, and schools.

George W. Bush’s No Child Left Behind (NCLB) and Barack Obama’s Race to the Top (R2T) have combined to impose a punitive regime of standardized testing on the schools. NCLB was passed by Congress in 2001 and signed into law in 2002.

NCLB law required schools to test every child in grades 3-8 every year; by 2014, said the law, every child must be “proficient” or schools would face escalating sanctions.

The ultimate sanction for failure to raise test scores was firing the staff and closing the school.

Because the stakes were so high, NCLB encouraged teachers to teach to the test. In many schools, the curriculum was narrowed; the only subjects that mattered were reading and mathematics.

What was not tested—the arts, history, civics, literature, geography, science, physical education—didn’t count. Some states, like New York, side-stepped the system by dropping the passing mark each year, giving the impression that its students were making phenomenal progress when they were not.

Some districts, like Atlanta, El Paso, and the District of Columbia, were caught up in cheating scandals. In response to this relentless pressure, test scores rose, but not as much as they had before the adoption of NCLB.

Then along came the Obama administration, with its signature program called R2T. In response to the economic crisis of 2008, Congress gave the U.S. Department of Education $5 billion to promote “reform.”

If states wanted any part of that money, they had to agree to certain conditions. They had to agree to evaluate teachers to a significant degree by the rise or fall of their students’ test scores; they had to agree to increase the number of privately managed charter schools; they had to agree to adopt “college and career ready standards,” which were understood to be the not-yet-finished Common Core standards; they had to agree to “turnaround” low-performing schools by such tactics as firing the principal and part or all of the school staff; and they had to agree to collect unprecedented amounts of personally identifiable information about every student and store it in a data warehouse.

It became an article of faith in Washington and in state capitols, with the help of propagandistic films like “Waiting for Superman,” that if students had low scores, it must be the fault of bad teachers. Poverty, we heard again and again from people like Bill Gates, Joel Klein, and Michelle Rhee, was just an excuse for bad teachers, who should be fired without delay or due process.

These two federal programs, which both rely heavily on standardized testing, has produced a massive demoralization of educators; an unprecedented exodus of experienced educators, who were replaced in many districts by young, inexperienced, low-wage teachers; the closure of many public schools, especially in poor and minority districts; the opening of thousands of privately managed charters; an increase in low-quality for-profit charter schools and low-quality online charter schools; a widespread attack on teachers’ due process rights and collective bargaining rights; the near-collapse of public education in urban districts like Detroit and Philadelphia, as public schools are replaced by privately managed charter schools; a burgeoning educational-industrial complex of testing corporations, charter chains, and technology companies that view public education as an emerging market. Hedge funds, entrepreneurs, and real estate investment corporations invest enthusiastically in this emerging market, encouraged by federal tax credits, lavish fees, and the prospect of huge profits from taxpayer dollars.

Celebrities, tennis stars, basketball stars, and football stars are opening their own name-brand schools with public dollars, even though they know nothing about education.

No other nation in the world has inflicted so many changes or imposed so many mandates on its teachers and public schools as we have in the past dozen years. No other nation tests every student every year as we do.

Our students are the most over-tested in the world. No other nation—at least no high-performing nation—judges the quality of teachers by the test scores of their students.

Most researchers agree that this methodology is fundamentally flawed, that it is inaccurate, unreliable, and unstable, that the highest ratings will go to teachers with the most affluent students and the lowest ratings will go to teachers of English learners, teachers of students with disabilities, and teachers in high-poverty schools. Nonetheless, the U.S. Department of Education wants every state and every district to do it.

Because of these federal programs, our schools have become obsessed with standardized testing, and have turned over to the testing corporations the responsibility for rating, ranking, and labeling our students, our teachers, and our schools.

The Pearson Corporation has become the ultimate arbiter of the fate of students, teachers, and schools. This is the policy context in which the CCSS were developed.

Five years ago, when they were written, major corporations, major foundations, and the key policymakers at the Department of Education agreed that public education was a disaster and that the only salvation for it was a combination of school choice—including privately managed charters and vouchers– national standards, and a weakening or elimination of such protections as collective bargaining, tenure, and seniority. At the same time, the political and philanthropic leaders maintained a passionate faith in the value of standardized tests and the data that they produced as measures of quality and as ultimate, definitive judgments on people and on schools.

The agenda of both Republicans and Democrats converged around the traditional Republican agenda of standards, choice, and accountability. This convergence has nothing to do with improving education or creating equality of opportunity but everything to do with cutting costs, standardizing education, shifting the delivery of education from high-cost teachers to low-cost technology, reducing the number of teachers, and eliminating unions and pensions.

The CCSS were written in 2009 under the aegis of several D.C.-based organizations: the National Governors Association, the Council of Chief State School Officers, and Achieve. The development process was led behind closed doors by a small organization called Student Achievement Partners, headed by David Coleman.

The writing group of 27 contained few educators, but a significant number of representatives of the testing industry. From the outset, the Common Core standards were marked by the absence of public participation, transparency, or educator participation.

The U.S. Department of Education is legally prohibited from exercising any influence or control over curriculum or instruction in the schools, so it could not contribute any funding to the expensive task of creating national standards. The Gates Foundation stepped in and assumed that responsibility.

It gave millions to the National Governors Association, to the Council of Chief School Officers, to Achieve and to Student Achievement Partners.

Once the standards were written, Gates gave millions more to almost every think tank and education advocacy group in Washington to evaluate the standards—even to some that had no experience evaluating standards—and to promote and help to implement the standards. Even the two major teachers’ unions accepted millions of dollars to help advance the Common Core standards.

Altogether, the Gates Foundation has expended nearly $200 million to pay for the development, evaluation, implementation, and promotion of the Common Core standards. And the money tap is still open, with millions more awarded this past fall to promote the Common Core standards.

Some states—like Kentucky–adopted the CCSS sight unseen. Some—like Texas—refused to adopt them sight unseen.

Some—like Massachusetts—adopted them even though their own standards were demonstrably better and had been proven over time.

The advocates of the standards saw them as a way to raise test scores by making sure that students everywhere in every grade were taught using the same standards. They believed that common standards would automatically guarantee equity.

Some spoke of the CCSS as a civil rights issue. They emphasized that the standards would be far more rigorous than most state standards and they predicted that students would improve their academic performance in response to raising the bar.

Integral to the Common Core was the expectation that they would be tested on computers using online standardized exams. As Secretary Duncan’s chief of staff wrote at the time, the Common Core was intended to create a national market for book publishers, technology companies, testing corporations, and other vendors.

What the advocates ignored is that test scores are heavily influenced by socioeconomic status. Standardized tests are normed on a bell curve.

To expect tougher standards and a renewed emphasis on standardized testing to reduce poverty and inequality is to expect what never was and never will be.

The upper half of the curve has an abundance of those who grew up in favorable circumstances, with educated parents, books in the home, regular medical care, and well-resourced schools. Those who dominate the bottom half of the bell curve are the kids who lack those advantages, whose parents lack basic economic security, whose schools are overcrowded and under-resourced.

Who supported the standards?

Secretary Duncan has been their loudest cheerleader. Governor Jeb Bush of Florida and former DC Chancellor Michelle Rhee urged their rapid adoption. Joel Klein and Condoleeza Rice chaired a commission for the Council on Foreign Relations, which concluded that the Common Core standards were needed to protect national security.

Major corporations purchased full-page ads in the New York Times and other newspapers to promote the Common Core. ExxonMobil is especially vociferous in advocating for Common Core, taking out advertisements on television and other news media saying that the standards are needed to prepare our workforce for global competition.

The U.S. Chamber of Commerce endorsed the standards, saying they were necessary to prepare workers for the global marketplace. The Business Roundtable stated that its number one priority is the full adoption and implementation of the Common Core standards.

All of this excitement was generated despite the fact that no one knows whether the Common Core will fulfill any of these promises. It will take 12 years whether we know what its effects are.

The Obama administration awarded $350 million to two groups to create tests for the Common Core standards. The testing consortia jointly decided to use a very high passing mark, which is known as a “cut score.”

The Common Core testing consortia decided that the passing mark on their tests would be aligned with the proficient level on the federal tests called NAEP. This is a level typically reached by about 35-40% of students.

Massachusetts is the only state in which as many as 50% ever reached the NAEP proficient level. The testing consortia set the bar so high that most students were sure to fail, and they did.

In New York state, which gave the Common Core tests last spring, only 30% of students across the state passed the tests.

Only 3% of English language learners passed. Only 5% of students with disabilities passed. Fewer than 20% of African American and Hispanic students passed.

By the time the results were reported in August, the students did not have the same teachers; the teachers saw the scores, but did not get any item analysis. They could not use the test results for diagnostic purposes, to help students.

Their only value was to rank students.

When New York state education officials held public hearings — parents showed up en masse to complain about the testing. Secretary Duncan dismissed them as “white suburban moms” who were disappointed to learn that their child was not as brilliant as they thought and their public school was not as good as they thought.

But he was wrong: the parents were outraged not because they thought their children were brilliant but because they did not believe that their children were failures. What, exactly, is the point of crushing the hearts and minds of young children by setting a standard so high that 70% are certain to fail?

The financial cost of implementing Common Core has barely been mentioned in the national debates. All Common Core testing will be done online.

This is a bonanza for the tech industry and other vendors.

Every school district must buy new computers, new teaching materials, and new bandwidth for the testing. At a time when school budgets have been cut in most states and many thousands of teachers have been laid off, school districts across the nation will spend billions to pay for Common Core testing.

Los Angeles alone committed to spend $1 billion on iPads for the tests; the money is being taken from a bond issue approved by voters for construction and repair of school facilities. Meanwhile, the district has cut teachers of the arts, class size has increased, and necessary repairs are deferred because the money will be spent on iPads.

The iPads will be obsolete in a year or two, and the Pearson content loaded onto the iPads has only a three-year license. The cost of implementing the Common Core and the new tests is likely to run into the billions at a time of deep budget cuts.

Other controversies involve the standards themselves.

Early childhood educators are nearly unanimous in saying that no one who wrote the standards had any expertise in the education of very young children. More than 500 early childhood educators signed a joint statement complaining that the standards were developmentally inappropriate for children in the early grades.

The standards, they said, emphasize academic skills and leave inadequate time for imaginative play. They also objected to the likelihood that young children would be subjected to standardized testing.

And yet proponents of the Common Core insist that children as young as 5 or 6 or 7 should be on track to be college-and-career ready, even though children this age are not likely to think about college, and most think of careers as cowboys, astronauts, or firefighters.

There has also been heated argument about the standards’ insistence that reading must be divided equally in the elementary grades between fiction and informational text, and divided 70-30 in favor of informational text in high school.

Where did the writers of the standards get these percentages?

They relied on the federal the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) –which uses these percentages as instructions to test developers. NAEP never intended that these numbers would be converted into instructional mandates for teachers.

This idea that informational text should take up half the students’ reading time in the early grades and 70% in high school led to outlandish claims that teachers would no longer be allowed to teach whole novels. Somewhat hysterical articles asserted that the classics would be banned while students were required to read government documents.

The standards contain no such demands.

Defenders of the Common Core standards said that the percentages were misunderstood. They said they referred to the entire curriculum—math, science, and history, not just English.

But since teachers in math, science, and history are not known for assigning fiction, why was this even mentioned in the standards? Which administrator will be responsible for policing whether precisely 70% of the reading in senior year is devoted to informational text and who will keep track?

The fact is that the CCSS should never have set forth any percentages at all. If they really did not mean to impose numerical mandates on English teachers, they set off a firestorm of criticism for no good reason.

Other nations have national standards, and I don’t know of any that tell teachers how much time to devote to fiction and how much time to devote to informational text.

Another problem presented by the CCSS is that there is no one in charge of fixing them. If teachers find legitimate problems and seek remedies, there is no one to turn to.

If the demands for students in kindergarten and first grade are developmentally inappropriate, no one can make changes. The original writing committee no longer exists.

No organization or agency has the authority to revise the standards. The standards might as well be written in stone.

This makes no sense.

Furthermore, what happens to the children who fail? Will they be held back a grade?
Will they be held back again and again? If most children fail, as they did in New York, what will happen to them and how will they catch up?

The advocates of the standards insist that low-scoring students will become high-scoring students if the tests are rigorous, but what if they are wrong? What if the failure rate remains staggeringly high as it is now?

What if it improves marginally as students become accustomed to the material, and the failure rate drops from 70% to 50%? What will we do with the 50% who can’t jump over the bar?

Teachers across the country will be fired if the scores of their pupils do not go up. This is nuts.

We have a national policy that is a theory based on an assumption grounded in hope. And it might be wrong, with disastrous consequences for real children and real teachers.

In some states, teachers say that the lessons are scripted and deprive them of their professional autonomy, the autonomy they need to tailor their lessons to the needs of the students in front of them. Behind the standards lies a blind faith in standardization of tests and curriculum, and perhaps, of children as well.

Yet we know that even in states with strong standards, like Massachusetts and California, there are wide variations in test scores.

Tom Loveless of the Brookings Institution predicted that the Common Core standards were likely to make little, if any, difference. No matter how high and uniform their standards, there are variations in academic achievement within states, there are variations within districts, there are variations within every school.

Teachers must have the flexibility to tailor standards to meet the students in their classrooms, the students who can’t read English, the students who are two grade levels behind, the students who are homeless, the students who just don’t get it and just don’t care, the students who frequently miss class. Standards alone cannot produce a miraculous transformation.

The numerical demands for 50-50 or 70-30 literature vs. informational text should be eliminated. They serve no useful purpose and they have no justification.

In every state, teachers should work together to figure out how the standards can be improved. Professional associations like the National Council for the Teaching of English and the National Council for the Teaching of Mathematics should participate in a process by which the standards are regularly reviewed, revised, and updated by classroom teachers and scholars to respond to genuine problems in the field.

The standards should be decoupled from standardized testing, especially online standardized testing. Most objections to the standards are caused by the testing.

The tests are too long, and many students give up; the passing marks on the tests were set so high as to create failure. Yet the test scores will be used to rate students, teachers, and schools.

The standardized testing should become optional, include authentic writing assignments that are judged by humans, not by computers and it needs oversight by professional scholars and teachers. In the present climate, the standards and testing will become the driving force behind the creation of a test-based meritocracy.

With David Coleman in charge of the College Board, the SAT will be aligned with the Common Core; so will the ACT. Both testing organizations were well represented in the writing of the standards; representatives of these two organizations comprised 12 of the 27 members of the original writing committee.

The tests are a linchpin of the federal effort to commit K-12 education to the new world of Big Data. The tests are the necessary ingredient to standardize teaching, curriculum, instruction, and schooling.

Only those who pass these rigorous tests will get a high school diploma. Only those with high scores on these rigorous tests will be able to go to college and no one has come up with a plan for the 50% or more who never get a high school diploma.

In 1958 Michael Young’s book The Rise of the Meritocracy, was published and it has gone through many editions since. A decade ago, Young added a new introduction in which he warned that a meritocracy could be sad and fragile.

He wrote: “If the rich and powerful were encouraged by the general culture to believe that they fully deserved all they had, how arrogant they could become, and if they were convinced it was all for the common good, how ruthless in pursuing their own advantage. Power corrupts, and therefore one of the secrets of a good society is that power should always be open to criticism. A good society should provide sinew for revolt as well as for power.

But authority cannot be humbled unless ordinary people, however much they have been rejected by the educational system, have the confidence to assert themselves against the mighty. If they think themselves inferior, if they think they deserve on merit to have less worldly goods and less worldly power than a select minority, they can be damaged in their own self-esteem, and generally demoralized.

Even if it could be demonstrated that ordinary people had less native ability than those selected for high position, that would not mean that they deserved to get less. Being a member of the “lucky sperm club” confers no moral right or advantage. What one is born with, or without, is not of one’s own doing.”

We must then curb the misuse of the Common Core standards: Those who like them should use them, but they should be revised continually to adjust to reality. Stop the testing. Stop the rating and ranking. Do not use them to give privilege to those who pass them or to deny the diploma necessary for a decent life. Remove the high-stakes that policymakers intend to attach to them. Use them to enrich instruction, but not to standardize it.

We cannot have a decent democracy unless we begin with the supposition that every human life is of equal value. Our society already has far too much inequality of wealth and income. We should do nothing to stigmatize those who already get the least of society’s advantages. We should bend our efforts to change our society so that each and every one of us has the opportunity to learn, the resources needed to learn, and the chance to have a good and decent life, regardless of one’s test scores.

Federal Common Core standards are already being tested in Washoe and Clark counties. But a state-wide implementation plan set for next school year is already raising plenty of questions.

“Are these the right standards? There’s some issues with that, they aren’t tested,” said Assemblyman Randy Kirner.

Advocates of the new education system said it is a transition for the next generation of students.

“Standards that are now asking students to now reach a deeper level of knowledge than they may have in the past,” said Nevada Department of Education Board Member Steve Canavero.

Proficiency exams for grades 10-12 are being phased out in favor of end of course exams. New career and college readiness assessments are also set to enter the classroom, all by the 2014-2015 school year.

“Many other states are stopping or slowing this and were not doing anything except moving full steam ahead,” said John Appolito from Stop Common Core Nevada.

Opponents of the change said the system is moving into Nevada at a rapid rate.

“I’d like to see them slow things down, look at the data collection, look at the SBAC testing and lok at Common Core all together,” added Appolito.

Assemblyman Kirner said Common Core tests inside the Washoe County School District are a prime example of successful implementation. These meetings come a year before the 2015 legislative session, where lawmakers have the ability to opt out of the federal program.

“I’m not quite sure where we’ll end up going on the standards and curriculum and that kind of stuff,” said Kirner. “I suspect there will be conversations about it, but it’s hard to say where that would go.”

“I certainly know there may need to be some clean up that we would like to do to ensure that we get it right and that were thoughtful in our approach,” added Canavero.

It is going to be a big change for thousands of teachers and students in Washoe County and across the state.

“What we are trying to impress upon teachers right now is what will have to shift instructionally in order to meet these new outcomes,” WCSD Common Core teacher Aaron Grossman said.

Grossman is one of the teachers assigned to train other teachers to accommodate the new standards. The new method requires teachers to boost the level of difficulty, ask their students to do closer readings of the text, and come up with their own answers and theories through discussion with their peers.

If that sounds familiar, that’s because it is the same basic method that instructors use– in college.

“If you think about your own college experience,” Grossman said, “no college professor ever said to you, ‘I am going to give you a lot of background, let’s preview it, define a purpose, and give you some skills.’ Instead, they said, ‘Take this home and read it.'”

The idea is to encourage more independent thinking among students and give them more ownership over the material.

It is a result that Brown Elementary School teacher Corinn Cathcart has seen first-hand with her fourth graders. Common Core was implemented for K-8 in 2011.

So, she gave it a try last school year. She gave her fourth graders a poem called “The New Colossus,” by Emma Lazarus. Before Common Core, this level of material was given to eighth graders.

“Once they start getting into it,” Cathcart said, “They really start to feed off of each other and they discover for themselves what’s going on in the text as opposed to me telling them.”

“Common Core will increase the rigor, and therefore the expectations,” WCSD Chief Academic Officer Scott Bailey said. “What we’ve found, history would dictate, is that when you raise that bar, the students will rise to the occasion.”

Cathcart added that for the students, it is not just about learning the material. It is about learning how to learn, so that when they graduate, they can problem-solve in any situation.

“[It’s about] being able to be given something, any type of text, whether it’s directions, whether it’s anything, and being able to take it apart and figure it out,” Cathcart said. “They need to be held to a higher expectation in order to be successful.”

On the state level, boosting our education system is something Nevada needs to be successful. The Nevada Department of Education said that implementing the Common Core Standards will make the Silver State more appealing to parents and businesses.

“I think it’s really exciting,” NDOE Assistant Director Cindy Sharp said. “I think it’s going to be really good for Nevada.”

Common Core will have its own method of testing for progress, but it isn’t replacing No Child Left Behind. Sharp said both systems will be in place together, but adding Common Core will allow the state to monitor student growth, instead of just proficiency.

NDOE plans to have Common Core fully implemented at all levels by 2015.

Silver Tailings: Mina is for Ferminia

Mina was founded as a railroad town in 1905 and was named for Ferminia Sarras, also  known as the “Copper Queen.”  Sarras came to Nevada sometime around 1881, which was the date she was first listed on Esmeralda County tax records, described as “Spanish Lady, Belleville.”

Writing in the September/October 2011 edition of “Nevada Magazine,” Jeffery Richardson imagines Sarras, “Her gaze is steady and frank. Her hands are sure at their task, as she has done this many times before. Her gear has been stacked and is being wrapped expertly in canvas into a pack she will soon hoist on her back.”

She began prospecting in the Candelaria area in 1883 and went on to file a number of claims on copper mines in the Sante Fe district. Sarras spent a few years prospecting in Silver Peak, but didn’t have much luck during the 1890s, a time when Nevada was in an economic depression.

She returned to the Sante Fe district in 1899, and it was there that she eventually made her fortune. Sarras prospected alone wearing pants, boots and a back pack.

Sarras described herself as “a Spanish lady of royal blood.” She was a descendant of Roderigo de Contreras, governed during the 16th century.

In her native country, Sarras was married to Pablo Flores and gave birth to four daughters, Conchetta, Conceptión, Juanita and Emma. When she arrived in Nevada, she placed the two youngest girls in the Nevada Orphans Asylum in Virginia City.

Noted author and Nevada historian Sally Zanjani, speculates Sarras may have thought her “daughters would be safer…than at the mining camps of Belleville and Candelaria.”

It appears she may have been married as many as five times, often to men who were younger than she. One newspaper article claims all of her husbands died violent deaths.

One of those was Archie McCormack, a man described as a Canadian-born gunman was killed in 1906 in a gunfight while defending one of her claims.

Each time she made a profitable sale, Ferminia would travel to San Francisco, stay in the finest hotels, shop for elegant clothes and enjoy fine dining and young men until her money ran out.  Then she would return to Nevada and resume prospecting for another fortune.

By the time she died February 1, 1915, Sarras had made several fortunes on her copper mines. She’s buried in the town of Luning’s cemetery with a massive monument places over the grave, however in the years since vandals have destroyed the headstone.

Grass Valley author Chris Enss writes of Sarras in her 2008 book, “A Beautiful Mine: Women Prospectors of the Old West,” that the “claims she owned in Giroux Canyon, Nevada, are still being mined today and Ferminia’s descendants continue to benefit from her findings there.”

Andy Griffith Remembered in Northern Nevada

Andy Griffith, who played Sheriff Andy Taylor in the fictional town of Mayberry, died at the age of 86. Born in Mount Airy, North Carolina, in 1926, Griffith graduated from University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill in 1949 with a degree in music.

He originally planned on being a preacher, but instead became a teacher. After teaching high school music for a few years, he began his entertainment career with regular appearances on “The Ed Sullivan Show,” and Broadway.

Griffith received a Tony nomination for “No Time for Sergeants,” and later “Destry Rides Again.”  He made his film début in “A Face in the Crowd,” but it was the 1960 début of “The Andy Griffith Show” that brought his greatest fame and ran for eight-years.

Twice during the late-1970s, Andy Griffith unsuccessfully attempted to launch a TV detective series as  Abel Marsh, Jasper Lake’s police chief whose back-woods demeanor hides a sharp analytical mind and gift for deduction.  The first pilot film was “The Girl in the Empty Grave;” the second was “The Deadly Game.”

“Girl in the Empty Grave” gets under way when a girl shows up in town, whose  believed dead, leading town-folk to wonder whose buried in her grave. First broadcast September 20, 1977, “Girl in the Empty Grave” was followed a couple of months later by “The Deadly Game.”

Once again Griffith stars as resort-town Jasper Lake’s sheriff Abel Marsh, this time wrestling with a military conspiracy involving a dangerous chemical spill. “Deadly Game” first aired December 3, 1977.

I recall watching both made for TV movies when they first aired.

It was in the mid-90s when I first saw a rerun of “The Deadly Game,” and suddenly recognized much of the landscape in the movie. While the Internet Movie Database (IMDb) lists both of these movies as being filmed at Big Bear Lake, California, Washoe County old-timers have confirmed what I’ve suspected all along — filming of “The Deadly Game,” took place around Lake Tahoe and the Washoe Valley.

From Trinidad to Klamath

The major mining districts of northern California from 1850-1853, were the Trinity River mines, of which Weaverville was the center, and the Klamath and Salmon River diggings, of which Orleans Bar was the focal point. It was from the diggings on the Trinity that the Gregg party started on the expedition resulting in the rediscovery of Trinidad and Humboldt Bays.

Had the towns of the Humboldt Coast been dependent solely upon the trade with the Trinity River mines, they would have been far less prosperous in the 1850s. Fortunately adventurers in June 1850 discovered gold on Salmon River and two months later made a strike on the Klamath.

Within weeks after the establishment of the towns on the along the coast, trails were cut through the redwoods and across the mountains to the mining regions. Trinidad and Uniontown, now known as Arcata, took the lead, as both were well situated by geography to act as supply stations for the diggings of the Klamath and Salmon River Districts.

The first town established was Trinidad, and was for a few years the leader in the packing trade, because it was located closer to the Klamath diggings than the others. During the summer of 1850, packers, utilizing old Indian trails, opened a route from Trinidad up the coast to Big Lagoon, then across the divide to Redwood Creek.

Redwood Creek was forded at “Tall Trees,” and the trail ascended the Bald Hills to Elk Camp. It then passed along the crest of Bald Hills to French Camp, where the trail forked, one branch leading to the Klamath at Martins Ferry and the other into Hoopa Valley.

The Trinidad trail followed a route dictated by the topography, and intersected the route leading up the Klamath from Klamath City to Martins Ferry. From Uniontown another trail led to Orleans Bar via the Bald Hills intersecting the Trinidad trail near the mouth of the Trinity.

A large number of mules had been driven from Sonoma in May 1850, but the demands of the packing trade made it necessary that more be shipped by sea during the winter. High prices were asked and paid for transporting freight.

Two dollars a pound was asked and received for the trip from Trinidad to the Salmon mines. This raised the price of all imported items to an all-but-prohibitive figure, but such were the times that the miners were prepared to pay the price asked.

John Daggett was one of the adventurers who reached the Klamath diggings, in 1852, via the Trinidad trail. He wrote that they had to “furnish our own transportation, carrying blankets on our own backs, as there were few if any inns on this route to the mining district. We passed first through the grand belt of old redwood trees, a sight long to be remembered, thence over the bald-hill country, abounding at that time in elk.”

During the Red Cap War of 1855, pack trains were attacked and traffic over the trail was cut. Supplies at the Klamath and Salmon River diggings ran short. With the return of peace, traffic improved.

To guard the Trinidad trail and to protect the ranches that had been established on the Bald Hills, troops were posted at Elk Camp in 1862 and 63. These soldiers were supplied by pack trains from Trinidad.

The section of the Trinidad trail leading from Big Lagoon, crossing Redwood Creek at “Tall Trees,” and ascending the Bald Hills to Elk Camp was abandoned after the construction — in the final decade of the 19th century — of the Bald Hills road, connecting Orick with the Bald Hills.

The Victorian Secret

The heat beating down on the sidewalk seemed to exhaust everything including my good mood. It had been a difficult day at the radio station and the walk seemed like a nice idea at the time.

Yet the temperature was another factor I had not counted on as I trudged up the long hill. It seemed as if it had taken me forever to make it to the driveway of Rancho San Rafael.

The white arch across the park entrance gleamed and beckoned me to march the last few uphill steps and through it to its cool shaded trees and flower garden. I heard its call and responded without a word.

Inside the garden I found not a soul accept myself. I could hear the chirping and singing and whistling of the birds.

And a time or two I spotted a rabbit dash for cover surprised by my presence. I thought, “This could be Eden.”

Within minutes I found myself relaxing and able to enjoy the sight of the many different flowers. I heard a rushing sound of falling water and a few seconds later discovered myself standing in front of a pond with cascading ripples running down hill to places unseen.

Here I also found a spot to sit, a park bench in the shade in which to take in the leisurely sounds of the waterfall. I sat there and unwound, realizing the troubles at work were worthless matters to be dealt with later.

As I sat and listened, staring into the pool I caught sight of movement in the corner of my eye. It came from the right.

I turned to look, finding a woman standing not less than twenty feet from where I sat.

She was outfitted in a Victorian style dress. Its satin texture reflecting the sunbeams that slipped through the leaves above and hair was pulled back, weaved with curls in the back.

I couldn’t help notice how dark her hair was; nearly black as midnight.

Yet her eyes sparkled bluer than robin’s eggs. Her skin was a creamy tan with full red lips.

I was speechless.

“Hello,” she said, “My names Rosa.”

She stuck her hand out. I stood up, grasped it and we shook..

Suddenly remembering my manners I responded, “I’m Tom, pleasure to meet you.”

“Are you handy with a camera?” she asked.

I looked at her left hand and saw the “point and shoot” camera for the first time.

“Yes I am,” I answered.

Rosa smiled widely revealing her white teeth, “Could I bother you to take some pictures of me?”

“It would be my pleasure,” I answered a little too quickly.

She handed me the camera.

“It’s all ready to go, jus’ push the little red button on top,” Rosa instructed.

The woman turned and skipped over the rocks in the pond and came to rest in the clearing near the water fall.

Rosa posed and I snapped a picture.

She smiled and said, “Isn’t this fun!”

I had to admit it was and secretly I was thanking my lucky star to be finding myself in the company of such a beautiful woman.

“Do you mind if I do a little cheesecake?” she asked.

“Do whatever you’re planning and I’ll take the picture,” I declared.

Rosa pulled off her top revealing that she was wearing a corset. She posed and I took her picture.

She smiled brightly.

Next she slipped out of her skirt. Under it was a hoop and again she posed.

And again I clicked away.

A few seconds later the hoop dropped straight to the ground and like the blouse and the skirt it was piled up on the bench. She struggled to unfasten the corset but got it just as I offered her my assistance.

“A day late and a dollar short,” I said to myself as she stacked it on top of the growing mound of discarded clothing.

Rosa was in a set of all white pantaloons. She flexed her body that way, then this way, and I flashed each pose, enjoying the antiquated erotic idea of her undies.

Without notice Rosa slowly started unbuttoning the long row of buttons that held the single piece outfit together. She stopped just below her navel.

I  felt my heart pounding wildly as I tried to hold the camera steady for the shot.

From my hip pocket, I pulled a handkerchief and dabbed my forehead. The afternoon’s heat had returned along with my libido, so I found myself sweating without mercy.

When I looked up, my face flushed red as the blood that coursed through his all-American veins. Rosa was standing before me in the clearing in all her wonderful glory wearing only button up high-heel boots and ankle socks with fringe.

I could not help but stare as I felt as if I had entered a dream world or fallen down the rabbits hold.

Slowly, I raised the camera to my eye to take the picture. This gave the beautiful Rosa time to pick a large white daisy with its butter like yellow button, and use it as a prop.

It was something to hold in her hands and to look at.

I placed the tiny dot midway between a spot under her breasts and above her hands, then breathed out and as if firing a rifle, squeezed the button downward, snapping the picture.

Rosa smiled brightly at me as she skipped back across the rocks and towards her clothes.

“Thank you so much,” she chirped as she pulled on the blouse and shirt.

She gathered up the corset and hoop, not wishing to be tortured by them any further. I handed her the camera and she kissed me on the cheek.

“Thank you again,” she said.

Then she turned and disappeared down the trail from which she came.

I sat down on the bench after splashing myself with some water from the pool. I chuckled lightly, as I thought, “Maybe I should have told her there was no film in the camera.”

Grace

Running ten minutes late as usual, I pulled up to the sidewalk.  I set the brake and turned off the motor.

No one else was on board but I did not want to take chances, especially since a company vehicle had been stolen in Las Vegas three days before. I opened the side door and stepped out on to the sidewalk.

I could hear voices from jus’ beyond the hedge bush. One of them sounded like Harold’s.

It sounded as if Harold was defending himself. So I walked around the hedgerow and discovered three teenage boys picking on the much old and mentally retarded Harold.

“Get out of here,” I shouted.

And bullies being what they are, they turned and ran away down the street.

“You okay?” I asked Harold.

“Yes, I’m okay Mr. Bus driver,” Harold answered.

He wiped his tear-stained face. As he did I helped him to his feet.

Together we walked back to the vehicle and climbed on board. I made a note of the incident so I could report it later, then we were on our way to High Sierra and Harold’s job.

As we drove across town, I looking in my overhead mirror thought, “What if that was me?”

I was looking at Harold, who kept glancing up into the mirror and smiling at me.

Fifteen minutes later, we turned into the Longley Drive address driveway. I stopped the van, set the brake and turned off the engine.

I stepped down from the last step and assisted Harold down as well.

That’s when Harold reached up and gently patted me on the shoulder and said, “It’s okay Mr. Bus driver, there but for the grace of God go I.”

With that Harold disappeared behind his employer’s door.

The Glass Eye

“Roger that,” the engine operator said as he slipped the gear into drive. The large fire-rescue truck moved forward, slowly building up speed.

Reaching over, I flipped on the lights and sounded the siren. I then pulled out the map book and started thumbing through the index for the street name.

“You don’t have to bother with that,” said the operator, “I know where were going, I drink there all the time.”

We entered onto the highway then exited at the next off ramp. The fire-rescue truck made a left hand turn and proceeded straight.

I sounded the siren again as the operator slowed for the upcoming intersection. The light was red as we approached.

Leaning forwarded in the cab and looking to the left I could see that no vehicles were approaching. The lane was clear.

Looking to my right, I saw that there were no cars or trucks coming from that direction either.

I double checked to the left again and said, “Clear left, clear right, clear left.”

The engine operator stepped down on the gas pedal and the truck picked up speed again. We completed this ritual three more times before we made a right hand turn.

“Quarter of a mile—on the left,” the operator stated.

There was a sheriff’s vehicle already in the parking lot.

“He must have called it in,” I thought.

The dispatcher said it was a possible heart attack and that CPR was already in progress.

A second rig pulled up right behind us. I opened the cab of the truck and climbed down.

I put on my white helmet and walked towards the lounge, pausing to look around to take note of how many crew people I had on hand.

A third crew truck pulled into the gravel driveway and parked. All total there were firefighters and other emergency personnel.

I stepped inside. Two firefighters were right behind me.

The scene appeared surrealistic. The jukebox was playing an upbeat county-western song while two patrons sat at the bar drinking as two sheriff’s deputies did CPR on a man lying at the foot of the bar.

“You two take over for the deputies,” I directed.

A third firefighter came in carrying oxygen and a defibrillator. I looked at the firefighter with the equipment and said, “Set up the bag valve mask at 15 liters.”

The firefighter did as instructed.

Once relieved from doing CPR the two deputies walked over to me, “How’s it going?” one of them asked.

I smiled, “Great. How long were you at it?”

“About five  or six minutes,” the bigger of the two answered.

“How long was he down before you got here?” I continued.

They looked at each other, then back at me and the bigger one answered again, “A couple of minute’s maybe. We were across the street at the diner.”

“Thanks guys, good job,” I told them, “One last thing, can you clear out the two lumps sitting at the end of the bar?”

Both deputies nodded and said, “Yeah.”

They immediately walked to the end of the bar and asked the two drinkers to leave. Both of them started to put up an argument, but then thought better of it.

I walked over and unplugged the jukebox as it started into its second song. By this time the defibrillator was set up and ready to go. With the ambulance still 5 minutes away this was the victim’s only chance.

I nodded a go-ahead to the rescuers as they prepared to deliver the first shock. The man jerked slightly as the energy coursed through him.

Nothing changed.

The firefighters went back to doing CPR. They did this three more times and each time they had the same end result.

The man’s heart beat did not return. Yet the rescuers continued.

Seeing an opportunity for an on the job lesson, I looked around the room and pointed to the two newest members of the volunteer fire company.

“Come here, you two need to take over for these two,” I said as I directed their attention to the two rescuers at the man’s side.

One of the firefighter’s said, “But I can’t remember how…”

I cut him off mid-sentence, “I know, but I’ll talk you through it.”

They both moved in and took over the breaths and chest compressions. I continued to direct of them.

The radio crackled and the dispatcher said, “Your ambulance is less than two minute away.”

Lifting the the microphone to my lips I calmly answered, “Ten-four.”

Then I returned my attention to the new firefighters doing CPR.

“I want you to stay right where you are, but switch roles,” I directed.

They did as they were instructed.

Upon the third compression there was a strange sound. Something popped loudly.

I was standing next to the bar at the victims head when it happened.

The two rookies jumped up and away from the body, as did another firefighter across from me.  I jumped too, but emabarrassingly it was onto the bar.

The room was silent, except for the sound of a marble rolling across a linoleum tiled floor.

Then I noticed the man’s face.  His left eye socket was slightly sunken and a chest compression was just enough pressure to cause a man’s glass eye to pop out.

“Get that eye over there,” I directed one of the firefighters.

“Not me! I ain’t touching that thing!” he exclaimed as he quickly exited the barroom. His hand was covering his mouth as he pushed his way passed other crewmembers, who stood transfixed on the little white object with the light blue dot.

The two rookies moved back to their positions and continued CPR as I hopped down from the bar top and over to the glass eye, scooping it up jus’ as the ambulance crew came in the front door.

Chased Down

1997

The wind howled hard
An’ carried my father’s voice.
I did not want to listen
Though I had no other choice.

The winter blow comes bitter
An’ chills me to my bone.
I hear my father’s voice
With his unmistakable tone.

My horse paws the ground
As the wind bites an’ howls.
I push him to the ‘ole trail
With scratchin’ from my rowels.

He hears him too, like me, or
Does he sense my tension ’cause I fear it?
Bein’ chased down by a winter wind,
Or is it my father’s haunting spirit?