Friday, June 29, 2012

Dorabelle Dawn Attack

In about 1979, I was a Patrol Ranger on the Sierra NF 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 Rangers 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. Often, 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.