Sunday, September 20, 2009


I really didn't fall in but had to keep reminding myself where I was which was on a beautiful stretch of beach at Mad River. Others who had been there were enjoying the beach by the warmth of a bonfire. Many of the bonfires were built from pallets. Pallets have nails...LOTS of nails.
Along with other members of the Surfrider Foundation - Humboldt County Chapter, I spent my bit of the annual Coastal Cleanup with a rake, a magnet and a bucket. There were plenty of others out and about, bags in hand, picking up after those who don't. Like them, we collected plenty of cigarette butts and beverage containers but our focus was in and around the fire pits. From one fire to the next we'd carry our tools then plop down to rake out the coals, drag the magnet through, clear off the magnet and do it again. And again. And again. Five buckets of nails were removed and we didn't make a dent. Personally, I consider this a bit of a penance since I know our girls have been involved in many a beach bonfire fueled by pallets and, truthfully, until a Ranger brought it to their attention, I never even thought about it. After that, we sent them with proper wood to start the fire. Mad River is a party beach, fueled by awesome sunsets and a "ya gotta know where you're going" location. Ironically, partiers enjoy the ambiance without even thinking of what they were leaving behind. We all knew we had been guilty of the same in our youth but we're hoping the kids out there now will be more aware of the environment. As someone who has stepped on my share of nails and has 28 stitches in one foot, courtesy of a beer bottle that cut through to my tendon, I really hate to think of the children running on these beaches , their tender little feet encountering sharp shards of beach trash. So, here's hoping everyone will reconsider using pallets as beach fire fuel. Pack your trash and mark your calender to join us next September on the third Saturday for another Coastal Cleanup either by yourself or with a group. Remember where you live. Listen to your Mother.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Reelin' in the Years

Did you love middle school? Wouldn't you love to go back and relive those years? Yeah, me too. I'd sooner slide buckass nekkid down a splintered board into a pit of pythons....OK, too graphic but you get my point. Middle school sucked for me. If it didn't for you, you were likely slim and or pretty. I was neither. In sixth grade, I was not the looker I am today. Several of the girls I thought were friends, turned out to be not. By eighth grade, though, I was growing into my weight. I tossed away the spectacles and started getting some notice from the boys. Often not the boys I wanted to notice me but boys nonetheless. I did have (not in the Biblical sense) a rather famous surfer that had several girls in the know very frustrated. I had mad crushes on several boys that most of the girls hadn't even noticed. Maybe I had a thing for freckles. Or maybe it was the quiet silliness that the pubescent boys have at that age. Not the jocks (their girlfriends were bullies) or the screw-ups (although I'd love to know where John Prieto is....he was smart but spent a lot of time sitting outside the classroom) but Mike Watson had my attention. As I recall, Walter Wilson had my friend, Jeri's eye. There was no dating. No "hookin' up". Not even any makin out. I recall sitting on the sidewalk in front of someone's house, the four of us just talking. Good times.
Reunions of any sort are exciting but, for most of us, also very scary. Probably those of you that hung with a big group in school look forward to them. Out of a large social pool, odds are you have retained something in common with at least a few. When you hang with just one or two people, however, moving apart leaves you without those links to the past. A few of my friends really weren't. The lives of the others moved in totally different directions. from mine. In my case, I got married right out of high school and Mark has been my "friend" for 35 years and I haven't been more than "Christmas Card" friends with much of anyone.
The one advantage to the oft disparaged social networks is finding some of those people. But once you find them, what do you do with them? Through the miracle that is facebook (FB to the cool kids), I "ran into" Jeri, a friend from middle school. Through the comments and "likes" on our FB walls, we realized we had much in common and began asking why we had lost touch. Since she now lives in Seattle and was planning a trip to Brookings, we made plans to meet.We would meet over coffee. Would we have fun? Would we have philosophical differences that we can't get past? I couldn't wait to find out. We spent a few hours over a sandwich and beer then headed to the beach - a place she doesn't see enough and I can't get enough. For another hour or more, we walked along Harris Beach talking our way through the years, about family and how we've spent the past 35 .... wait, it's close to 40....years. as well as the verboten subjects - religion, politics, gay marriage - amazed how similar we really are. No deal-breakers.
Eventually, I had to head south, to avoid driving in the dark. She headed back to the B & B weekend she was spending with her man. We still have so much to talk about. We never had a chance to talk about Mr. Shagren's class. The boys. The girls. The drawing she did for our Donner Party report....quite gruesome and cool. We didn't talk about music....but there's time. We're making plans to visit again so we can talk about the past. In the meantime will stay FB "friends" in the present.

Friday, September 4, 2009


Like the wild icons of the west they were, the mustangs would appear in our neighborhood in Nevada and most of us were moved by the romance of it all... "The herd is over on Vickie".... "Hey, did you see? We have two foals this year". After a day or two of grazing and nibbling the forbidden fruit of the non-native species planted by city-folk, they would disappear back into the foothills of the Pinenuts to our east.

In the eleven years we spent in the high desert, we saw four or five herds come and go, the victim of civilization. In general, they were not unattractive horses, almost entirely sorrels, with white blazes and/or socks. We did have one severely sway-backed mare at one point but we also had a gorgeous buckskin (picture Ben Cartwright's steed-tan with black mane, tail and stripe up the back). The buckskin was rumored to have been a renegade domestic with stories varying from a voluntary release by an owner unable to care for it to a 'hot-to-trot' party girl that jumped the fence when the gypsy herd passed by like a teenager climbing out the window to meet her leather-clad boyfriend.

We lived in Johnson Lane, an area seven miles south of Carson City, an unobstructed view of the Sierra Nevadas from our front window. Roughly fifteen hundred homes, mostly on one-acre plots though a few ten and fifteen acre parcels remained. Most of us had livestock of some sort. I had my chickens and we would raise a couple pigs each year. Neighbors had horses, mules, turkeys....Then came the developers, make that Developers, capital 'D'....They wanted to tweak the general plan that required one house per acre so that they could build, say, five hundred houses on five hundred acres but on quarter-acre plots with a golf-course. And we shall name our development "Wild Horse Meadows" or some such. Lets just say that the people moving in to these homes didn't have horses, chickens or turkeys. In fact, they didn't like the smell or horses or the sound of chickens, never mind the peacock. And those mustangs walked all over their pretty lawns and nibbled their petunias. The nerve!

Eventually, the copters would come - the BLM called to duty by a complaint that demanded they "manage" the herd. Those helicopters had the same affect on our neighborhood as CAMP does in SoHum....we knew what was coming and we all hoped the quarry would evade capture. They wouldn't because the helicopter cowboys have big scary machines to chase the frightened creatures. Soon, the trailers filled with nervous mustangs experiencing their first taste of captivity would drive out of our neighborhood. They would head north on Highway 395 to Palomino Valley where they would be stored and fed at taxpayer expense. A few would be adopted, the others euthanized.
Months would pass and, sure enough, another herd would be spotted wandering through an open parcel, nibbling on sagebrush shoots and spring wildflowers. Likely led by a young stud, having lured a few fillies away from another stallion, they would settle into the void left by the previous herd. And, like their predecessors, they would venture into civilization looking for food, babies in tow. Then, neighbors in another pristine little corner of our dusty chunk of sand would forget why they moved to the "country"and place a call to BLM....and bring back the helicowboys.

BLM is in the news this week, rounding up similar herds on the Montana/Wyoming border in the name of 'management'. There are protesters but not the "save the horsies" kind of animal lovers. These people want the horses left alone to survive (or not), on their own. Instead, dozens of horses will be stored and miserable, and fed (on our dime).