Monday, December 24, 2012

My Funniest Christmas Present

I’m the oldest of five and there’s a 15-year difference between me and my younger brother, Bill.

One of our family Christmas traditions when we were young was that the siblings exchanged their gifts to each other on Christmas Eve.  One Christmas when I was in college, so I was probably 19 or 20, and Bill was four or five, he gave me a very interesting gift.

When it was Bill’s turn to give out his presents he gave me a thin package about 12 inches long.  I unwrapped it and found a clear, flat piece of plastic.  One side was a standard 12-inch ruler and the other edge was curved on one side and flat on the other.

I looked at it with curiosity, not immediately exactly sure what it was.

Bill beamed at me, “Do you like it?”

“Oh yeah,” I answered, hiding my confusion, “this is really great!  I can’t wait to use it.”

His smile got even brighter, “What is it?”

I, and all the rest of the family burst into laughter.  Fortunately, I had just set the item down on the wrapping paper and realized that it was a combination ruler/magnifier, something designed for older people to read small text. 

I explained to Bill how it worked and we examined a few books and other objects with it.  He found it fascinating and played with it a great deal that evening.  Of course, when he got his presents from Santa the next morning it was back in my possession.

I actually found this gift to be pretty useful.  As I recall, I kept it with my school supplies and used it to read equations in my textbooks.

Thursday, December 20, 2012

Dad, the Monte Carlo & the Highway Patrol

Sometime in the late 70’s or early 80’s Dad bought a Chevy Monte Carlo.  Lots of people liked the looks of the Monte Carlo, and thought Dad’s, with its green paint and green vinyl top, was very nice.

Dad’s Monte Carlo had a pretty powerful engine and Dad could sometimes be a in a bit of a hurry to get places which the engine’s power facilitated quite nicely.

One day while Dad was “hurrying” along.  He noticed a Highway Patrolman behind him.  Sure enough a few seconds later his lights came on.  Dad pulled over.  As the cop approached Dad noticed that he was really giving the Monte Carlo a good looking over.

Dad rolled his window down when he got closer.

“Man,” the cop said, “this is really a nice looking car!”

Dad looked at him, “Yeah, and it’s fast too.”

The cop started laughing, “Go on, get out of here.  And slow it down!”

Thursday, November 29, 2012

Sea Stories

Well, not exactly sea stories, but a few things about Dad, boats and the US Navy.

Growing up in Dayton doesn’t usually bring boating into a boy’s life, but Dad and some of his friends did use canoes on the nearby Mad River and rowboats fishing in lakes and water-filled gravel-pits.  Dad was fond of boating and, although he didn’t own a boat until after he retired, we often went boating with his friends.

After Dad got out of high school and began working at Delco Moraine the draft was still in effect.  He knew that he would soon have to make a decision about joining or waiting for his draft notice.

One day several of his friends approached him.  They had talked to an Army recruiter who’d promised them that if they all joined up at the same time they could go to boot camp together.  They all thought this would be a grand plan.  Dad did too, with one exception – he wanted to go into the Navy.

The others didn’t really care what branch they joined, so the next day they talked to a Navy recruiter and found that the Navy offered the same scheme.  A few weeks later the gang was off to the Great Lakes Naval Training Station near Chicago.


USS Lansdowne in Tokyo Bay for Treaty signing

After completing training everyone went off to their respective assignments.  Dad was sent to the Charleston Navy Yard, where he served as a Machinist Mate in the engine rooms and the damage control sections helping to prepare surplus WWII Destroyers for transfer to the Turkish Navy.  Among the ships Dad worked on were the USS Lardner - DD-487, the USS Lansdowne - DD-486, the USS McCalla - DD-488 & the USS Buchanan - DD-484.  Dad went on many day cruises out to sea a number of times, helping to train the Turkish sailors.  He once told me that they never got out of sight of the shore, which was a bit of a disappointment for him.

Dad had an adventure in boot camp that I wrote about before.  He also told me about an incident that he experienced in Charleston.  They were being taught to extinguish onboard fires.  The instructors lit a large amount of fuel.  Dad and two other sailors were to attack the flames with a large hose, probably a 2-1/2” line, and a high volume nozzle.  Dad was second in line. 

Something like this, but with less protective gear and a larger hose.
As they got close to the fire, suddenly the first sailor, the one holding the nozzle, panicked.  He let go of the nozzle and ran.  Dad had three or four feet of hose twisting and whipping around and, since the water curtain was no longer always between him and the fire, it suddenly got very hot.

Dad was tempted to “follow the leader” – drop the hose and run.  But he realized that if he did so the third sailor and others nearby might be hurt.  So he inched his grip forward on the hose until he got control of it.  He and the other sailor successfully extinguished the fire.

Sometime after Mom and Dad had gotten married, but before I was born, the Navy offered Dad a slot at Officer’s Candidate School.  Accepting would mean an additional four years in the Navy.  Dad considered it, but he really didn’t want a career in the Navy, he had a good job waiting for him in Dayton with Delco Moraine and they had me on the way, so he turned it down.

A few months later, not long after I was born, Dad was honorably discharged and they went to Dayton.  A few weeks after arriving home, the Korean War broke out.  Dad said, “I didn’t even have time to unpack my seabag.  Then I figured I might as well not unpack as I was sure I’d be called back up.”

He wasn't though.

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Win One For The Gipper?

I had a friend who played football at Notre Dame for Knute Rockne and who was in the locker room for the "Win one for the Gipper" speech.

Manny in 1929
Manny Vezie was the owner of Gold Arrow Camp, a children's summer camp, at Huntington Lake.

We used to go there pretty often to give fire prevention and nature talks and I got to know him pretty well.  He was an entertaining storyteller and loved to talk about his adventures in football and things that had happened at the camp in the past.

Friday, November 16, 2012

Snowdeath

One winter when I was teaching skiing at China Peak Ski Area I was car-pooling with a member of the ski patrol.  The patrolmen have to get to the resort a lot earlier than instructors, so I would almost always be the first instructor to arrive.  I’d have time for a cup of coffee and to chat with the lodge staff and other early arrivers, then I’d get into my ski clothes and be one of the first skiers up the lift, with time for several runs before lessons started.

One morning I was eager to get out on the hill.  It was a brilliant, cold morning.  It felt like you could see for miles, not a cloud anywhere and the sky was incredibly sharp blue, it seemed like you could touch it.  A fresh, light dusting of powder snow, probably less than an inch, had fallen over night - the first new snow in quite a while. 

When there isn’t any new snow for a long time all the snow in the ungroomed areas settles and compacts.  It can get relatively hard, but not icy.  The snow “off-piste” (the areas not normally skied) becomes firm and smooth, making for excellent “tree skiing.”  Those were the conditions we had and I knew that this dusting of snow would make for excellent skiing just about anywhere on the mountain.

As soon as the lift crew would let me, I got onto Chair 3, which was the closest to the instructors’ room.  I was by myself and eager with anticipation to make some turns.

The light dusting of snow allowed you to see the tracks animals had left overnight.  There were a lot of these tracks, mostly mice or other small rodents, rabbits, weasels, some bigger ones that I thought were left by a raccoon.

Chair 3 climbs pretty steeply until it tops Waterfall run, then it passes over a long, open flat before getting to Academy run.  From high up in the chair I could see the entire expanse of this flat.  I saw a rabbit’s track going upslope, but the tracks just ended out in the middle of this open area.  This looked odd to me, as I could not understand why the tracks ended there.  There were no nearby trees or bushes that the rabbit could have ducked under.

I wondered if maybe there was hole leading to a den, but that didn’t seem possible as I’d passed over this very spot hundreds of times and never seen anything like that.  Finally the chair took me close enough to see the end of the track.

As I looked down from my lofty perch, here’s what I saw:

What do you think happened here?















Saturday, November 10, 2012

Veterans' Day Tribute

On this Veteran's Day I think about the many people in my life who have served our country.  I am grateful for their sacrifice and willingness to serve.  For some of these people their military service was just a minor detour in life and maybe even a bit of an adventure.  Some found years of discomfort, fear and drudgery and others gave that “last full measure of devotion.”

My apologies to anyone I may miss.

Of course the first person I think of is my Dad, William Locker Jr., who served in the US Navy from 1947 to 1950.  This was very fortunate for me since he met Mom in Charleston, South Carolina where he was stationed.  It’s hard for me to imagine how they would have ever met if Dad hadn’t joined the Navy.

81st Division Emblem
Both my Grandfathers served.  Grandpa William Locker Sr. in the US Navy in the 1920’s and Daddy Con, Cornelius Callahan, with the 81st Division in WWI.

My best childhood friend David Bryant served in the US Army in Vietnam in 1967 & 1968.  He died there on February 8, 1968.

My good friend George Youngerman was an artilleryman in the US Army in Vietnam.  He was killed on April 1, 1971.

My cousin Daniel Meade, a Corporal in the US Army in Vietnam was from New York.  I barely knew him as he was quite a bit older than me.  He was killed the same day as David, February 8, 1968.

My Uncle Johnny Cranford, husband of my Mom’s sister Jo, served as a rifleman in the 45th Division in Africa, Sicily, Italy, France and Germany from ‘42 to ‘45.  No US unit spent more time in combat than the 45th Division.


45th Division Emblem
My Uncle Bob Coehick, husband of my Dad’s sister Norma, served as an Army combat engineer in Korea in ‘52 and ‘53.

30th Division Emblem
My cousin Roland “Jack” Hale was fatally wounded fighting the Nazis in February of ‘45 while serving with the 30th Infantry Division.

Hawaiian Division Emblem
My cousin Vernon “Bud” Hale (Jack’s brother) served with the US Army’s Hawaiian Division.  He was at Schofield Barracks in Hawaii on December 7th, 1941.



James Tipton was the older brother of one of Dad’s best friends from his youth.  He was the older brother of one of Dad’s best friends from his youth.  Jim joined the US Armed Forces in the late 30’s while he was still in his teens.  After finishing his training, Jim had the misfortune to be assigned to the Philippines Division.
Philliipines Division Emblem
His unit fought in the Battle of Bataan.  He survived the battle and then endured the Bataan Death March.  When he was liberated after the war he weighed less than 80 pounds.




 My nephew Mason Maxwell served in the US Army in Korea and Indonesia.  He suffered a permanent disability from injuries suffered during rescue efforts in the aftermath of the 2004 Indonesian tsunami.

US Marine Corps Emblem


My Uncle Tom Callahan served in the US Army from 1946 to 1948 in the Aleutian Islands.

My cousins Bobby, Mark & Craig Cox all served.  Bobby & Mark in the US Marine Corps in California during and just after the Vietnam era.  Craig was in the US Army sometime later.

I also wanted to mention my Uncle Reggie Whitby.  He did not serve in the US Armed Forces, but he contributed to the cause of freedom as a member of the Royal Air Force.

To each and every one of these fine men I offer my sincerest gratitude.



Monday, October 1, 2012

Mammoth Reunion

Former and current employees and friends of the Mammoth Ranger District had a reunion the weekend of September 15-16, 2012.

Here is the "coming attractions" trailer for a video of some photo memories and reunion shots.  Most of these were posted on Facebook, but the video is a good presentation of them in a larger format.
video

If you'd like a copy of the full DVD, email me.


Here's the complete video.  Sorry - no music due to copyright issues!






Tuesday, September 11, 2012

September 11, 2001


The hijacking of passenger aircraft attacks on the Pentagon and the World Trade Towers occurred on Tuesday September 11, 2001.  In Bishop it was just before 6:00 o’clock am when the first attack occurred.

I was still a Fireman then, and that day I was the “Duty Officer” which meant that I would be responsible for managing any activities that the firefighting resources on the Inyo National Forest might be called on to perform.

At about 6:30am the phone rang.  I was already up, even though I didn’t go on duty until 8:00am.  It was your Grandma, Deborah.  She told me that there had been an accident in New York – a plane had flown into a building.

We did not have cable TV in Bishop, and there were are no broadcast stations there at that time, so I turned on the radio and also logged into the internet to find out was going on.  I wasn’t overly concerned as I knew that, sometimes, especially in bad weather, inexperienced and/or careless pilots sometimes did foolish things.

It didn’t take long listening to the radio and reading on the internet before I knew that there was much reason to be concerned.  I immediately called our Dispatch Office and they were freaked out.  The FAA had called them and wanted to know how many airliners we could park at the Bishop Airport.  The FAA was considering not letting any aircraft fly near big cities and direct them to land at smaller airfields where the were few, if any, tempting targets for the terrorists.

The Bishop Airport was built as a training base for WWII bomber crews, so the runways are long and wide, easily big enough for jet airliners.  I went to the Airport and consulted with the Airport Manager trying to determine where, how and how many aircraft the field could handle.  As you can imagine, the timeframe was very short.  Before we had made any determination the FAA canceled the request.

I then went back home for a while as we were worried about your Aunt Doris who was living in Brooklyn at the time.  She could see the towers from her apartment.  She was never in any danger.  Our cousin John Meade, a FDNY Fireman, was off-duty that day.  He did lose his Father-in-law and a Brother-in-law.

Saturday, July 14, 2012

Sailing With James

“Believe me, my young friend, there is nothingabsolute nothing — half so much worth doing as simply messing about in boats. Simply messing about in boats — or with boats. In or out of 'em, it doesn't matter. Nothing seems really to matter, that's the charm of it. Whether you get away, or whether you don't; whether you arrive at your destination or whether you reach somewhere else, or whether you never get anywhere at all, you're always busy, and you never do anything in particular; and when you've done it there's always something else to do, and you can do it if you like, but you'd much better not”
                         - Water Rat in The Wind in the Willows


My posts on this website are usually stories from the past, but this one is more of a diary entry.  Today (July 14, 2012) James and I went out to the Lake Washington Sailing Club.  It was a workday when the members spruce up the clubhouse and grounds.  As soon as we got there James ran into one of the sailing instructors he knows who asked him if he wanted to go out in one of the Sabots that he has been sailing in his lessons.

Although we were supposed to be there to get some work done, I agreed to let him sail instead (how many chances does one get?).

He puttered around in the Sabot while some other students were getting instruction.  He also got a chance to try a Minifish sailboat, which he thought was a little too “wobbly.”

When I finished my work, we went out together, him in the Sabot and me in the Minifish.  This was the first time that we have ever done this and I’m not a good enough writer to express how much joy this gave me.

I know that using this song with sailing footage is corny and sentimental, but I love this video I’ve made from footage I took today.


video



Here's a higher resolution version on YouTube:

Monday, July 9, 2012

Daddy Con & the Midwesterner

Here is a story about Daddy Con that your Aunt Christine passed on.

Mom once told Christine that Daddy Con often spoke about the time when he was working at Maverick Mills (a textile factory) in East Boston (near where Maverick subway station is now) and an engineer came from someplace inland, somewhere in the Midwest.

Mom thought that he might have said the man came from Oklahoma.  But in any case this was the first time that the man had ever been near the ocean.


Maverick Square - near where Daddy Con worked.

One day as they were working together the engineer happened to look out into the distance.  He said to Daddy Con, "What is the name of that water I see over there?  Is there a pond or a small lake or river over there?"

 Daddy Con was tickled as he replied to the man, "A pond! That's the Atlantic Ocean there, me laddie!"

They were looking straight into Boston Harbor.

Sunday, July 1, 2012

Bobby, the Mama Sow & Me


When I was about nine or ten, my Aunt Shirley and her family lived on a farm in Lytle, Ohio.  I think that my Mom was going to Beauty School during some of the time they lived there and we spent a lot of time there one summer.

My cousin Bobby (Aunt Shirley’s oldest son) is about a year and a half younger than me and we were always great friends.  That summer we did all kinds of fun things, swimming, climbing trees, riding bikes, making bows and arrows, catching turtles, crawdads and fish in the nearby stream, just about everything that a couple of all-American boys did in the 50’s.

A constant theme of our talks was how much we wanted a horse.  We’d spend many happy times up in a tree or along the creek describing our ideal horse, what we’d name it, what it would look like, what tricks we’d teach it, etc.

Well, the chances of getting a horse were pretty low, so we looked for alternatives.  One day we thought we had struck gold.  The farm had one pig – a huge old sow with about 8 or 10 piglets. 

She was probably about this big --
we probably weighed about 60 pounds each.
As we were wandering around the farm we noticed her come out of the shelter in her pen.  We realized that if we got up on the top of the shelter, when she cam near by we could jump down onto her and get a “horsy ride!”

That’s right – we two geniuses were planning on jumping onto the back of a 300-400 pound Mama sow.

Well, the reason that you are reading this now is because, during the time that we two incredibly patient boys waited for her to come near, she never did.  If she had done so, I’m sure she would have stomped us both to death and eaten our silly butts.

Some time after this, not exactly sure how long afterwards, we mentioned our plan to Bobby’s Dad, Uncle Junior.  His face went white and he told us that if he ever saw either of us anywhere near that sow’s pen he’d “tan our hides!”

By the way - neither of us ever got a horse.

Friday, June 29, 2012

Dorabelle Dawn Attack

In about 1979, when I was a Patrol Ranger in Shaver Lake, early one morning I got a radio request to report to Dorabelle Campground to assist the Rangers there.

When I arrived at the Campground HQ I found the Head Ranger on the porch with a 30ish man. The man’s nose was heavily bandaged and, even with all the bandaging, it was obvious that his nose was quite swollen.

Shaver Lake at Dorabelle Campground
My first thought was that the man had gotten into a fight and would ask me to arrest someone.

That was not to be the case.

“I was sleeping in my tent,” the man began, “when I felt something grab my nose. I woke up and there were a pair of red eyes staring at me! Some sort of animal was biting me right on the bridge of my nose!”

I must have looked at him somewhat dubiously, because he quickly continued, “Swear to God, man! I’m telling the truth! I’m not drunk or anything. I was just asleep and something came into my tent and attacked me!”

He told us that he jumped up and when he stood the creature let go and dropped to the ground. It quickly scurried off into the brush.

“I didn’t get a great look at it ‘cause it was still pretty dark and it moved fast. It was about the size of a large cat and had light fur, tan or gray or maybe even white. But two things I know for sure, it had red eyes and sharp teeth!”

The man, somewhat understandably disenchanted with camping, told us he was heading home. “I want to see my doctor and get this fixed up. I hope it doesn’t leave a scar. That son-of-a-bitch took a lot of skin with him.”

I took the gentleman’s contact info and then shocked him by explaining that he would probably need rabies shots. Usually, I explained to him, when an animal attacks without provocation, it’s because it is rabid.

“Couldn’t you trap it and test it?” he asked – no one looks forward to rabies shots, they have a notorious reputation.

“There are so many wild animals up here we’d never be able to be sure that anything we catch would be the one that bit you.”

“It’ll be the one with red eyes!” he said and stomped away.

“We’ll set out some traps,” I said, to his back, “but I’m not optimistic.”

Frankly, I was a bit dubious of the red eye detail, lots of animals’ eyes look red at night, due to reflections. I thought it was probably a squirrel that got into the tent and panicked when it thought it was trapped. We’d had a kid bitten by a squirrel (not rabid) earlier that same year, and it had happened before, usually when someone was trying to feed them.

Still, the rabies shots would be necessary, there’s no cure if it is allowed to begin. It’s nothing to mess with.

A few days later, I got another call from the Dorabelle Rangers.

When I arrived there were two children (10-12 year old) with the Rangers.

The children told us that they had gotten up early to fish.  On their way back from the lake the saw a squirrel-sized animal with white fur run through their campsite – which happened to be the same site where the man had been bitten.

“It looked sort of like a squirrel and sort of like a cat.”  One of the youngsters told us.  “We saw it go into this pipe.”

They pointed to a drainage pipe that went under one of the campground roads just across from the Campground Ranger Station.

The younger of the two then piped in, “It had red eyes!”

Now they had my attention.  Red eyes again.  What was going on here?

Getting my flashlight I looked into the culvert.  I couldn’t see anything, but the children said that they’d been watching both end of the pipe since it went inside and it hadn’t come out.  The Dorabelle Rangers confirmed that nothing had come out since they started watching it after the children contacted them.

So we took two traps and set them on either end of the pipe.  Wrapping chicken wire around both the mouths of the pipe and the traps, we were positive that whatever was in there couldn’t escape.

Nothing had shown up when I went off duty that afternoon.  First thing the next morning I went straight to Dorabelle.  The Head Campground Ranger arrived just as I pulled in.  We walked over to the traps.  There it was!  It had red eyes!  I realized that it was some sort of albino.

But what, exactly, was it?  I’d never seen anything quite like it and I’d been a Ranger for four or five years then, and an outdoorsman all my life.  It looked like a large weasel.  It was much too big to be a weasel, although it did have that general shape.  It wasn’t a badger, wolverine or any sort of cat.

Fish & Game came and collected the beast.  They didn't know what it was either. They took it to the County Health offices in Fresno.  It was euthanized and examined for rabies -- negative.  I contacted the victim and he was greatly relieved to know he wouldn’t need the shots.

A few days later I was in Ivie’s Market.  There on the bulletin board was a notice

Lost Albino Ferret   and a blurry picture of our "Red Eyed Creature."

Yep, it was a domesticated pet ferret.  Before this I’d never heard of them, but that’s what it was, an escaped pet.



Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Famous Relatives?


Babe Ruth
Two famous people we might be related to: Babe Ruth was of German heritage.  So are we on my Dad’s side.  And the maiden name of one of my Great-great-grandmothers was Ruth.  Ruth is not a common surname, so there is some chance that we might be related, but to the best of my knowledge, none of our older relatives ever claimed a relationship.

Daniel Boone
Anna Duncan (Grandma Stubbs, my Dad's maternal Grandmother) and her brother Jim often told us that they were related to Daniel Boone.  And they were from Maysville, Kentucky, which isn't far from Boonesborough (Kentucky's first town - founded by Boone).  Boone often visited Maysville during his life and he had several children who also lived in the area.

I don't know what to make of these stories. I looked into it, but genealogy records in Kentucky are scarce due to floods and fires. I spent some time in Maysville and was unable to obtain any information about Anna Duncan's parents. On the other hand, in general, these oral history stories tend to have many elements of truth to them.

Monday, June 4, 2012

Grandma & Jim O’Toole

I’ve mentioned that my Mom’s Father, Daddy Con was a big baseball fan.  So was my Dad’s Mother.  Grandma’s team was the Cincinnati Reds and if they were playing you could be sure that either her radio or TV would be tuned to their station.

Four generations of Reds Fans!
Dad, Grandma, Great-Grandma & me
Grandma was more than just a casual fan.  She knew the game.  Here is a short story that illustrates the depth of her understanding.

In 1964 she and I were at her house listening to a Reds’ game (I was 14).  Jim O’Toole was pitching for the Reds and doing a great job.  I don’t remember the actual numbers, but it was a low-scoring game which the Reds were winning.  Late in the game the score was 1-0 or 2-1, something like that.  O’Toole’s batting position came up.  A lot of times, late in a close game the manager, (Fred Hutchinson in this case), would pinch-hit for the pitcher and bring in a reliever to finish up.

In this case, O’Toole was doing such a masterful job against the opposing team, Fred let him hit so that he could stay on the mound.

Before I tell you what happened next, let me tell you a little about Jim O’Toole.  For a few years there in the early 1960’s O’Toole was one of baseball’s premier pitchers.  He’d started an All-Star game, had pitched well in a Pennant Race and a World Series and had received MVP votes.  He was one of my favorite pitchers and he was Irish.

So O’Toole came up to bat in the 8th or 9th inning.  After this at bat he would only need three more outs to wrap up a stellar performance.  He hits a triple!  I was ecstatic!  Triples are exciting!  Lots of running, throwing, sliding, close plays.  This is cool!  Maybe we’ll get another run.

Grandma did not share my excitement.

“Grandma, don’t you think that’s great?  A triple!”

“Well,” she said, “it was a good hit, but he’s already pitched almost a whole game and now he’s just had to run hard around the bases.  I hope he doesn’t run out of gas next inning.”

So, what do you think happened?

The Reds were not able to get O’Toole home, so he stood at third base for the rest of the inning.  When he took the mound again, he quickly found himself in trouble with a walk and a base hit. Suddenly the game was tied.  Hutchinson relieved him and O’Toole was off to the showers with, at best, a no-decision.

I don’t remember how the game ended, but that I learned that when it came to baseball, Grandma knew exactly what she was talking about.

Friday, June 1, 2012

Letter to the New York Times

John's school, Birch Lane Elementary, had a letter printed in the New York Times on April 11, 2011.  John's signature is prominent within the text between and above the words "the" and "development."

The signatures continue on for some distance.  I think every child in the school signed.

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Mom, Auntie Jo & the Coal Chute

Truck dropping coal down coal chute.
That is not Aunti Jo!
When my parents were young a lot of homes were heated with coal.  Usually there would be furnace in the basement with a coal storage bin nearby.  The coal bin was filled periodically from a passing truck which would open the access door and drop coal down a chute into the bin.


Auntie Jo, Aunt Eileen, Uncle
Tom & Mom
 Once when Auntie Jo was very young the truckers apparently forgot to re-secure the access door to the chute.  Auntie Jo noticed this strange little opening in the front yard and decided to investigate.

Well, she got a little too curious and the next thing she knew, she was sliding down the chute right into the piled coal.  The chute was too steep to climb back up and the bin door latch was too high for her to reach.  Struggling to escape she soon found herself coated with coal dust.

Realizing the hopelessness of her plight, Auntie Jo began to cry.  Her parents hearing the faint cries and noticing her absence began a search and soon located her. Daddy Con opened the coal bin door and found a “little black baby” inside.  Pretty quickly Auntie Jo was in the tub and her clothes in the laundry.


This became an oft-told tale in the family.  By the time all four children (Uncle Tom, Mom & Aunt Eileen also) were teenagers they had all shared many a good laugh over it.  Once when the story came up in conversation between Mom and Daddy Con, Mom happened to say that she remembered when it happened.


Auntie Jo, Uncle Tom, Mom & Aunt Eileen

Daddy Con looked at her strangely, “How could you remember that?”

“I don’t know, I just do.”  Mom replied.

“It’s not possible, Dolly,” he said, “you weren’t born yet.”

These are the tricks our memories play.  Mom had heard this story so many times, in her mind she thought that she had been there and actually experienced the event.

Friday, May 18, 2012

Jacob, the Serpent & the Dead Porcupine

I wrote about Jacob a while ago, and that story reminded me of a couple other adventures he participated in.

One day when we lived in Meadow Lakes Jacob and I went for a walk.  Towards the end of the walk, he seemed to be slowing down and just trudging along.  This was a bit unusual, even though he wandered all over as we walked through the fields and forests nearby, he usually seemed to be just as eager and excited at the end of a walk as at the start.


Shortly after we got back to the cabin dinner time rolled around.  I poured some food into his bowl and he got up from where he was laying in the living room.  He sniffed at the food, took a quick drink of water from his bowl and went back to lie down.

This was really odd.  Wondering what was wrong with him I took a close look at his face.  One of his upper lips was quite swollen.  Looking closer, I saw two little holes on the fleshy part of his lip. Wanting to see the inside of his lip, I touched it intending to pull it out so that I could see.  Jacob whined and I let go.  He was obviously very uncomfortable.

I turned on a couple more lights and got down very close to him.  What could have made these little holes, a thorn bush or barbed-wire fence?  Then I noticed there were actually four of these little marks, two sets, exactly the same distance from each other.

They were puncture wounds from a rattlesnake bite! Good old curious Jacob – one bite wasn’t enough for him.  He had to go back for seconds!

Fortunately for him, the snake bit the thin flap of his lip and passed clear through – most to the poison was injected in the space between the lip and gum.  I was sure that he wasn’t in any serious danger and a few days later he was back to normal.


Quite a few years later, when living in Truckee, I came home from work to find Jacob with a snoutful of porcupine quills.  I wasn’t terrible surprised, even though this happened during the day (porcupines are generally nocturnal).  This was the first time I’d seen Jacob tangle with a porcupine, but they were pretty common and lots of other dogs in the neighborhood had come home with quills.  He did not enjoy it when I got the pliers and pulled them out, but there were only about a half dozen and none were really stuck in deeply.

But the next day – same thing – Jacob had a good half dozen quills around his mouth.  Strange, that there’d been a porcupine around, during the day, again.  Well this repeated itself every day for quite a few more days – I’d come home to pull six to ten quills from his snout.  No one else in the neighborhood was having this problem, and no one had seen any porcupines for weeks.  The last time anyone had seen one it had been fatal for the porcupine – she killed it because it was chewing up the side of her house.

On the morning of my next day off, I took Jacob for a walk.  I let him lead thinking if I just followed him he might show me where he was finding this porcupine.  There was a creek about 20 or 30 yards from the house and he headed that way.  We walked along upstream for about a half-mile until we got to a point where a dirt road came near.  Jacob walked up to the road and started home.

Just as we got to the edge of the little group of houses where we lived he stopped and was sniffing near a bush.  I walked on past towards the cabin.  A few minutes later he followed and as he approached I saw that he had a couple more quills on his nose.  I walked back to the bush and there were the remains of a dead porcupine.

He had to sniff it every time he passed!

I got a snow shovel and tossed the carcass in the dumpster.  End of problem!

Thursday, May 17, 2012

Pearl Harbor, JFK Assassination & 9/11

In “modern” American History three events have happened which left vivid memories of “where were you when….”  for most people living at the time.

Those events are the attack on Pearl Harbor, the assassination of President Kennedy and 9/11 – the destruction of the World Trade Towers.

Pearl Harbor was attacked on Sunday December 7, 1941, well before I was born, but both my Mom & Dad remembered it.

Mom & Dad were both 12 at the time.  It was about 1:00 o’clock pm in the eastern US where both Mom & Dad were, when the attack occurred.

Dad was at the farm of a family friend between Gibson & Kellenburger roads in Phoneton, Ohio.  He and the son of the family who owned the farm had been riding horses that morning.  They’d put the horses away and were walking back towards the house when the boy’s Father came out and told them.  Sometime since then the farm became a nine-hole par-3 golf course (now defunct) called Willow Pond.  So the area has changed a lot, but the buildings were still there in late 2009.  Dad used to comment that, “Right there at the corner of that barn was where I heard about Pearl Harbor.”

Mom was at home at 151 Clark Avenue in Chelsea, Massachusetts.  After Mass they came home and she and Aunt Eileen were playing.  Daddy Con went down to the local Pub for an ale and talk.  He wasn’t gone long when he came back and told them about the attack.


It was on Friday November 22, 1963 at about 1:30 o’clock pm (in Ohio where I was) when President John F. Kennedy was assassinated.  I was in the 8th grade in Sister Stella’s class at St. Christopher’s School when we heard the phone ring.  In addition to being our classroom teacher, Sister Stella was also the Principal.  Since there was usually no one in the Principal's Office, Dick Meyers, who sat by the door, was assigned to go answer the phone when it rang (which wasn’t often).

We were in Art Class at the time and we were creating mosaics by cutting up colored construction paper into “confetti” and then pasting them onto a background to form an image.  I was attempting to create a Thanksgiving turkey (ready to be served, not strutting around the barnyard).

Dick returned from the office a few minutes later and said, “I don’t know, it was some crazy lady.  I couldn’t understand what she was saying.”

Moments later the phone rang again.  Dick trudged off to the office again.  When he returned he looked a little pale and while he briefly glanced at us sitting in the room, he directed his comments to Sister Stella saying, “This lady says the President has been shot.  I think you better talk to her.”

Sister Stella left the room.  After she found out what happened she notified the other classrooms and staff and then put the radio on over the PA.

I was a member of the “Safety Patrol” who worked as crossing guards.  When school let out at about 2:30pm I remember so many of the girls crying as they walked home.

Kennedy was sort of “our President” since he was the first (and so far only) Catholic President and of course he was also Irish, like lots of the students, so his death hit many of the children very hard.


The hijacking of passenger aircraft attacks on the Pentagon and the World Trade Towers occurred on Tuesday September 11, 2001.  In Bishop it was just before 6:00 o’clock am when the first attack occurred.

I was still a Fireman then, and that day I was the “Duty Officer” which meant that I would be responsible for managing any activities that the firefighting resources on the Inyo National Forest might be called on to perform.

At about 6:30am the phone rang.  I was already up, even though I didn’t go on duty until 8:00am.  It was your Grandma, Deborah.  She told me that there had been an accident in New York – a plane had flown into a building.

We did not have cable TV in Bishop, and there were are no broadcast stations there at that time, so I turned on the radio and also logged into the internet to find out was going on.  I wasn’t overly concerned as I knew that, sometimes, especially in bad weather, inexperienced and/or careless pilots sometimes did foolish things.

It didn’t take long listening to the radio and reading on the internet before I knew that there was much reason to be concerned.  I immediately called our Dispatch Office and they were freaked out.  The FAA had called them and wanted to know how many airliners we could park at the Bishop Airport.  The FAA was considering not letting any aircraft fly near big cities and direct them to land at smaller airfields where the were few, if any, tempting targets for the terrorists.

The Bishop Airport was built as a training base for WWII bomber crews, so the runways are long and wide, easily big enough for jet airliners.  I went to the Airport and consulted with the Airport Manager trying to determine where, how and how many aircraft the field could handle.  As you can imagine, the timeframe was very short.  Before we had made any determination the FAA canceled the request.

I then went back home for a while as we were worried about your Aunt Doris who was living in Brooklyn at the time.  She could see the towers from her apartment.  She was never in any danger.  Our cousin John Meade, a FDNY Fireman, was off-duty that day.  He did lose his Father-in-law and a Brother-in-law.

Dear Readers – thanks for visiting.  I would really appreciate it if you would please leave your own stories (if you have them) about these events in the comments.