Dozer, the bulldog

Dozer, the bulldog
Dozer: He was the best dog on the planet.

Obedience classes

Obedience classes
The author of Mark's Work with Ellie Mae

Sunrise surprise

Sunrise surprise
Another sunrise in Paradise

HappyDay Farms bees are happy bees.

HappyDay Farms bees are happy bees.
"Let us be happy in our work..."

Christmas Day walk on Bell Springs Road

Christmas Day walk on Bell Springs Road
Dancing Girl and SmallBoy with Margie, Emma and Ellie Mae

Tomatoes are us.

Tomatoes are us.
we take our tomatoes seriously, here at HappyDay Farms

Much love, Shane

Much love, Shane
Shane, as Sir Toby Belch in Shakespeare's "Twelfth Night"


Mother's Day at the coast

January 27, 2018 from Bell Springs Road

January 27, 2018 from Bell Springs Road
No business like snow business...

Mahlon Masling Blue

Mahlon Masling Blue
My friend and brother.

Mark's E-mail address

Thursday, February 22, 2018

Bottoms Up!

I won’t do it, no I won’t
I don’t want to-so I don’t.
Talk to any 45er’s,
‘Cause they’re blind, deaf and DUMB.

Of the hundreds of memes I examined, this one is tops.

Though I have always thought of myself as the great communicator, I will not engage in dialogue with 45er’s, or those folks who still support the “fraudulently elected President.” I was taken to task by a former friend of mine for referring to the jaboney in office as “fraudulently elected.” I did not read past the opening salvo of his post.

I am the kind of guy who unfriends another for posting pro-45 anything. You may support an orangutang for President, if you so choose, and I will not care one way or the other, as long as you do not do so, on my wall.
Those with no integrity, (L) and those by whom
the Standard is set. (R)
Therefore, when I refer to the current occupant of the White House as a fraudulently-elected President, if you do not like it, take it up with someone who is still willing to talk to you.

I won’t. I won’t talk to a person who still supports this abomination of a human being. Even as his family engorges itself on the misery of other human beings, illegally, unethically and immorally, this individual continues to spew hatred and indifference to those who deserve it least.

It is not sufficient that he has orchestrated a tax break that dooms millions of Americans, those who are old and sick, to an early, miserable death, he wants to torture them before he allows them to die.

Can we add compassion to the list? Lots of money-
no compassion.
45 has the oratory skills of a thug, unable to articulate his scrambled thoughts in any other manner than that of a petulant, narcissistic, self-centered fop. He lies, he scorns and he simmers in his own fetid stew.

45’s hypocrisy defies historical context, as does the behavior of the entire Republican Party. This bunch of liars and thieves make those who were associated with the previous standard for corruption, The Teapot Dome Scandal, or Watergate participant, Tricky Dick, seem like paragons of virtue.

No Sir, Bub, if you want to lecture me on why it’s not right to refer to the fraudulently elected President, as a fraudulently elected President, then you’re just going to have to face the fact that I do not have enough respect for you, to listen. 

You represent a small minority of people, people who are steadfastly determined to prove true what the majority of us believe to be false, that color of skin determines worth. You support a bigot, a racist, a misogynist, a repulsive, self-centered, worthless man, one who has a date with Karma, the Mistress of the Universe.

If you support 45, then your date with Karma, the Mistress of the Universe, also lies in wait for you. 

Bottoms up!
A racist President. Appalling...

Hypocrisy abounds!

Tuesday, February 20, 2018

The Skin of Our Teeth

Gluten-Free Mama was feeling reasonably chipper the other day, so she asked me to round her up some cold-pack tomatoes and marinara sauce, so she could whip up some pasta sauce. This would be the same tomatoes and sauce that I was posting photos of, and prattling about last September and October, when I set personal records for quantity of food put up for the upcoming winter.

Our crockpot
I can’t imagine farming on a big scale; the issues I contend with on a small level defy comprehension. That being said, the rewards for the level at which I function, are tremendous. HeadSodBuster and BossLady took both cherry and Ace tomatoes to market(s) all season long, and we enjoyed freshly harvested tomatoes at table from July through November.

With the Heinz tomatoes, I processed vast unlimited quantities of catsup, sauces, hot sauce and salsas. I made sure that all farm-dwelling folks knew that those processed goods were available at any time, all the way up until the point they were gone. 

By that time we will be getting close to harvest time again.

Finally, now when the temperature outside will not crack forty all day long, even with the sun shining, it’s the perfect time to dice up some onions, mushroom, and peppers, and get a pasta sauce simmering on the kitchen wood-stove. We don’t need to add basil or garlic because I included those in the processed marinara sauce last summer.

We just think of the wood-stove as our go-to winter crock pot, since it goes around the clock when the temps drop down this low, and there is snow on the ground.

GF Mama had to ask me to rustle her up some of my concoctions, because they are scattered around the pantry and kitchen storage areas like Easter eggs hidden in the flower garden in the side yard. You have to hunt for the goodness in order to enjoy it.

Luckily, I have a photographic memory when it comes to my tomatoes; I know them and they know me.

They know I watched the gophers attack in the early going, last June, and that I got a little panicky there for a minute or two, when the two hundred-plus tomato plants just did not seem that interested in playing ball. I was slightly taken aback, having prepped the nine rows in the orchard, and Tomato Terrace, in the back yard, which housed 44 Ace tomato plants.

Originally, quite by accident I can assure you, I ended up with 45 Aces in Tomato Terrace, but I certainly could not abide with that, so I transplanted one out to the orchard, and felt much better. We all have to do that, which allows us to continue to hang on by the skin of our teeth, until our ship comes in this November, and we can breathe again.

My tomatoes began life in soil amended by my own home-prepared compost, gathered over the previous year from dead organic plant material, and heavily supplemented by both chicken and rabbit manure. Soaked and tarped throughout the summer, fall and winter, I turned the whole pile over by hand in late February, and distributed it in May.

Summer on simmer...
Still, those early weeks had me so nervous that I hit HeadSodBuster up for some technical advice.

“My little tomatoes are not happy. They should be going off like gangbusters, and they’re not. And the gophers are having a field day.”

“Why don’t you hit them up with some fertilizer?” he asked, “I’ll bring you a fifty pound sack of the pellets. They’re organic and what you do is put a little pile of the pellets next to each of the emitters, so that the  water dripping out every six inches along the line, will come into contact with the pellets.”

It all sounded so simple.

“How much is a little pile?” I inquired.

“Maybe a quarter of a cup?” 

“And I spend the pellets out every six inches along the emitter hose?”

“Yup. You’ll see. The pellets will slowly dissolve into the soil, spreading all of those necessary components to where they can do the most good.”

When all was said and done as Reggae on the River approached, towards the end of July, I was still uneasy. I asked HSBuster to walk out into the orchard yet once more, to assess the situation. 

“Why are my Heinz tomatoes looking like cherry tomatoes, instead of regular-sized tomatoes? I should have triple the size from what I’m seeing. I’m baffled. I mean, more so than usual.” 

“Why don’t we increase the water?” 

Magic words to my ears, I restrained myself admirably from doing a cartwheel, and leaped instead onto his suggestion. Immediately, the entire orchard came to life, to the point where I had to actually reduce the water because the ripening tomatoes had begun to crack.

With this formula firmly staple-gunned to the interior of my cottage cheese brain, I will be ready for next spring’s foray into the world of tomatoes. I am planting fewer Heinz tomato plants, but counting on getting an even greater yield out of them, now that I have ironed out a few of these minor details.

My compost pile is a third again bigger than last year’s, my ground-cover crop is flourishing and I am itching to get out and start pitch-forking. It’s good for the body and good for the soul, and results in the best dang salsa and hot sauce on the mountain.

Popping open the seal on a quart of cold pack tomatoes, transports me back to summer more effectively than even the smell of barbecued chicken. Heck, anyone can fire up a barbecue and grill chicken, but not everyone can recapture summer with the smell of home-grown tomatoes.

You like catsup? Flavored with smoked paprika?
Come see us...

Monday, February 19, 2018

Drunk with Power

Patently, this conflict between [Sweet] Ellie Mae, the rescue dog and Mr. Crips, the cat, should have been handled by the mouthpieces, and not through the judicial process. As objectively as is humanely, felinely and caninely possible, let us proceed with the whole shabby affair.

As judge in the Ellie Mae versus Mr. Crips litigation, Sylvia the chicken did her best Judge Judy impression, sans the glasses. Though she was drunk with power, it was quite evident that she had not forgotten the little people who helped her to the top.

This reporter touched upon the fact in the first segment of this tawdry narrative, that Sylvia would have a hard time being impartial toward Ellie Mae, the defendant, due to past indiscretions. The nature of those indiscretions is such, that there is a gag order on any/all reference to the unfortunate incident in question.

In fairness it must be further noted, that similar issues existed between Sylvia the chicken and Mr. Crips, the plaintiff, a registered prowler. The only reason Ellie Mae was guilty of [AHEM!] anything, and Crips was not, is because Crips lacked the physical prowess of Ellie, and was therefore a spectator instead of a player.

Though impartial, of course, Sylvia had equal reason to avoid dark alleys, accompanied by either the plaintiff or the defendant.
Sylvia liked the motto so much,
she ordered a dozen tee-shirts.

Representing himself, Mr. Crips proceeded to call one witness after another, asking the same set of pointed questions. The questions pointed back at Crips as being a model citizen, one who was being unfairly persecuted for being nothing more than a cat.

Little purpose is served by presenting-word for word-the testimony of all those witnesses called forth. Besides, It turned out that though Crips had a prodigious list of those wishing to provide references, they were all, well, other cats. It might be suggested that cats are prone to overlooking what might be considered character flaws, especially in the eyes of a chicken.

Besides, how many times can you listen to a cat swear on “To Kill A Mockingbird,” that she had never seen Mr. Crips attack a creature smaller than him, without ample cause? “Ample cause” from the perspective of the rest of the spectators in the courthouse, meant simply that it moved. 

And those expert witnesses lined up by Mr. Crips? After listening to the testimony of one such “expert,” as he asserted that it WAS possible for a cat to leave behind a lifetime of destructive behavior, Sylvia had to call a ten minute recess to restore order in the courtroom. 

Thus was coined a new phrase to replace an old one: cat-shit crazy, you know, in place of bat-shit crazy.

Ellie Mae’s defense by Margie the dog, was diabolically simple: All Marge did was present one gif of Crips tormenting Ellie Mae, then a statement which included the phrase “taunting, ridiculing, insulting, jeering at, abusing, pestering, annoying, confronting, provoking, vexing, aggravating, browbeating, embarrassing, molesting and badgering the defendant…”
The plaintiff, so deceivingly innocent...

Naturally, when Margie got to the word “badgering,” Mr. Badger had a twonky attack and chaos ensued, after which Mr. Badger was excused from further civic duty in the courtroom. As it later turned out, the tactic by Margie was pre-planned, the resulting chaos fairly predictable.

You see, Mr B was the unknown here, and eliminating him from the picture just clarified matters.

With the jury reduced to Mr. Red-Tail and Mr. Mouse, a verdict was reached immediately. Both jurors agreed that from their personal observations, Ellie Mae was rambunctious and possibly a tad impetuous, but nonetheless, a victim of the devious Mr. Crips.

Furthermore, not only did the jury exonerate Ellie Mae, they imposed sanctions on Crips the cat. No, not the ooga horn that the defendant demanded, but rather a hat, one with a catchy slogan:

After Dogs, I Come First.

Sunday, February 18, 2018

Yes, No or Maybe So

One man’s trash is another man’s treasure. 
Part of the mystique of country living, is that we never throw anything away that can be used again. Out in the south-forty, we have an area known as the bone yard, where unused chunks of plywood, lengths of irrigation line, left over 2 x 4’s, the odd 4 x 4 redwood post, discarded doors and windows, winterized T-posts, abandoned stock troughs and various lengths of fencing, go to await their next assignment.
One man's horse trough is another man's bathtub.

Not to be confused with hoarding, because there is an excellent chance that the stored items will once again fill a role in the greater scheme of things, the bone yard is the first place I head when I am making a materials list for a project.

Ultimately I credit-or blame-this penchant for pragmatism on my dear departed mother, Pauline, who instilled in all of her children (I suspect) a set of Depression Era values that have flourished almost eighty years after the fact.

When Gluten-Free Mama and I first moved up to the land, we repurposed a little wood stove for our cabin, including used and somewhat dilapidated stove pipes. We obtained a serviceable kitchen sink that was practical if not particularly attractive, and we scored an antique bathtub from a neighbor, even if it had not been used as a bathtub for a few decades.

I wasn’t skeered ‘cause I had a ready supply of elbow grease handy for the cleanup.

Take the current remodeling job I am working on, and let’s see how this concept plays out. The original impetus was the need to outfit our bathroom with more elderly-friendly access to such basic needs as bathing. Climbing over the side of a clawfoot bathtub to access the shower is an accident waiting to happen.

The original
Five years ago it was determined that the farm needed to build a bathroom within the confines of our drying/trim-shed. It goes without saying, that all permits, all paperwork, and all signatures were in place before construction actually started. 


I undertook this task which included a run down to Friedman Brothers in Ukiah to pick up a shower unit. HeadSodBuster ordered the necessary fir, drywall and accoutrements for success, and that bathroom had been up and running ever since.

Recently, with medicinal cannabis regulation dictating matters, we found out the bathroom out in the drying room had to go. Rather than weeping, wailing and gnashing of teeth, we leaped through this hoop and landed with both feet square on a plan of action: I would dissemble the bath out in the trim-shed, and make use of what I could for the current project inside our home.
Out of chaos, allegedly, comes order.
Could be yes, could be no, could be just, maybe so.

My remodel included having to borrow a little alcove from the kitchen, in order that the shower unit would fit into the prescribed spot. I was forced to extend a one-foot by three-foot chunk of the shower unit into the kitchen, right where the doorway used to be.

Now, in order to get into the bathroom, one has to walk into the laundry room first, and then hang an immediate right, entering the bathroom from the west, instead of the south. You walk right past the newly installed shower unit on your way in.

So I had to frame in the shower unit using the 2 x 4 fir, and I had to frame both a tiny hallway and a second doorway, so that the laundry room could also be used simultaneously with the bathroom. In this establishment the laundry room is the go-to spot in the house because it doubles as the designated smoking room. 

We’re not talking tobacco here.
Door to hallway and a storage nook
The minor inconvenience of having to restore the used lumber to its original state, was more than balanced by the resulting satisfaction out of a job well done. It’s not about saving money so much as it is about getting over, a twofer if ever there were one. 

I reused the lumber and that shower unit, and moved it into the bathroom through a window that was being replaced (the doors were too small). And the second door that I now needed also came from the dissembled bathroom, saving a couple of hundred bones right there. 

Since the labor was done by me and HeadSodBuster, there were no labor costs incurred. Furthermore, the fortune I would have had to pay to have the detritus from both destroyed bathrooms (dead sheet-rock and questionable insulation) hauled away, was deferred because SmallBoy backed his truck and the utility trailer up to the pile, and hauled it away as efficiently as Mr. Peabody’s coal train.

The repurposing of the shower unit is only fitting when it comes to this particular bathroom, because the bathtub I was telling you about.  When I got it from neighbor Rex back in 1982, for nothing, it was because he didn't need it anymore, so he was happy to get rid of it.

Rex didn’t need the bathtub anymore because he had sold his horse and therefore, no longer had any use for a horse trough.
I'm going to repaint the tub,
black, and the clawfeet, orange.

Friday, February 16, 2018

The Constructo Jungle

Prior to my sixteen-year career as an educator, in the Laytonville Unified School district, I spent exactly half that length of time toiling in the trades. I worked first with a couple of my brothers, and then later with either my brother-in-law, Rob, or Davy, who had migrated to Laytonville in the eighties.

During this period of time, I learned how to frame structures, up to and including sealing them for winter conditions. I was a good carpenter but not a good businessman. That’s why I stuck to a time and materials formula, and eschewed the idea of making a profit on my endeavors. 

This was then...
I considered grub on the table to be my profit.

Though I could frame a house, work with concrete, including cinder block and river rock, and I could do so comfortably, I spent little time doing interior finish work. First, most folks up on the mountain are pretty down-to-earth, so most figured they were up to finishing the inside of their new homes, on their own. 

Second, It’s challenging to say the least, to do quality work where imperfections are unacceptable, and do it at a cost that does not bankrupt the customer. Compared to framing houses, where every day the march of progress can clearly be seen, finish work is a slow crawl, with each step proceeding incrementally slower.

Finally, the need to provide the customer with a reasonable time-frame, is a tricky business, particularly when you are dealing with a remodel. There is no way to predict the kind of time-consuming issues that may arise, so to a certain extent, you always go in blind.
One coat of mud, with two to go...

Now in the late autumn of my wood-working days, I have seen the light! I have discovered the sheer joy of taking chaos, and converting it into order, the classic Virgoan task. I am making improvements to my own home, that resonate with the old axiom, “The shoemaker’s kids always go barefoot.”

When I built my home originally, I was doing so simultaneously with my day job, which was building homes for others. Not only did I have little extra time available, I had even less money. 

And then I became an educator, where my first year as a full-time language arts teacher, I made just over $18,000.00. 

As long as our home was weather-tight and comfortable, we went without the frills that accompany a “Better Homes and Garbage” palace. The best I could do, metaphorically speaking, was put out fires as they cropped up. Only the loudest of the squeaky wheels received my attention, and at that, the supply of axel grease was depressingly low.
Is there a problem?

For starters the laundry room door has been a curtain for thirty-five years; ask me if I care. In fact ask me if I care about any of the following:

Having no light switch for either the laundry room or the downstairs bathroom. Pull-chains were preferable because who knew how to install light switches?

Light switches? We haven’t even had a light in the laundry room, the past ten years, give or take. When the pull-chain light gave out after a decade or so, I replaced it. When it gave out the second time, I never got around to replacing that fixture. Electrical was something I never messed with, except for pulling Romax through the holes I had drilled in the studs, so that the electrician could do his thing.

Having a washing machine that only functions when a hose is stuck through the window from outside, an electrical cord is strung out from the generator to the laundry room window, and then inside, and the drain is in place for the gray water to flow out that same window, onto the side of a hill. Anything beats the heck out of going to town to wash clothes.

No pain, no gain.
Not having a clothes dryer. We still don’t, both Gluten-Free Mama and I agreeing that we will continue to dry our laundry either on the clothesline out front, or the drying racks inside. This is relevant because with the current remodel, I could easily have outfitted my renovated laundry room with a dryer.

Not having a dishwasher. I have never lived in a home with a dishwasher, and at 65, have no plans to alter this. I am floored by the social media meme which inquires, incredulously enough, “Does anyone still wash dishes by hand?” I do. That awkward moment when I think negative thoughts towards an obvious twit.

Staring at bare dry-wall and joint compound tracks on the wall of the laundry room, because I never squeezed in the time to finish the interior. Heck, the laundry room has served as the designated smoking room for this past decade; the walls may be ugly but they are friendly and welcoming.

I work as many hours daily on this current project, as I possibly can. I have the unwavering support of Gluten-Free Mama, despite the fact that the arena is a constructo jungle. I do clear the floors of dust and debris each day, but the place is still a wreck.

The shower unit lying on its side before
That being said, all good things must come to an end, and the wreck shall be rocked. It will be rocked, mudded, painted, trimmed and decked out with such modern conveniences as towel racks and light switches. 

Oh, and did I mention? For the first time in 35 years, GF Mama will no longer have to drag an extension cord into the bathroom, from another part of the house, to dry her hair. 

We have an electrical outlet in the bathroom!

The metamorphosis Part I-ceiling of the shower unit
The metamorphosis Part II

The metamorphosis Part III

The metamorphosis Part IV

Thursday, February 15, 2018

"Order in the Court!"

Within the following sordid court documents, resides the tawdry details of a dispute between two residents of HappyDay Farms, sweet Ellie Mae, the Rescue Dog (in the white hat) and [deleted] Crips the Cat, heretofore NOT to be referred to as Prince of Darkness, Demon from Hell, or any other pejorative term that might sound prejudicial to the jury, (in the black hat).

“Order in the court!” Sylvia the chicken banged her gavel imperiously-though fruitlessly-her precarious perch on a shovel handle, belying the seriousness of the situation. The directive was being aimed at the plaintiff, Mr. Crips the Cat, and the defendant, Ellie Mae, who were bickering from across the courtroom like two siblings.
Mr. Crips, on a good day
The order was also directed at Hildegard, whose egg song battered away at everyone’s patience, like a jackhammer in July.

Though perhaps not the most astute of farm denizens, I’ll grant you, Sylvia achieved her judgeship on the basis of her longevity here on-farm: nine years come April. Not only that, but from her vantage point, centrally located out in the farmyard, she is in an excellent position to evaluate whether the lawsuit, brought on by Crips, had any merit whatsoever.

I mean, let’s face it, Crips is a cat, a Siamese Cat at that, but the jury will be instructed that this is emphatically NOT to be held against him, which should tell you something right there. I’m not suggesting that cats are devious or evil, especially not Siamese cats, despite what some evidence seems to indicate, but I am suggesting that since the shoe apparently fits, lacing it up ought to be a slam-dunk.
Boorish behavior? Hummmmph. The very idea.

This court case will be used as a measuring device, to see if the shoe does, indeed, fit. In his complaint, Crips maintains that Ellie Mae, our perky rescue dog from the Inland Mendocino County Humane Society, has behaved inappropriately, unacceptably and even downright boorishly, since her arrival last November.

Mr. Crips has filed a restraining order against Ellie Mae for “habitual harassment, including but not limited to: accosting, assaulting, lunging at, blindsiding of, jumping at, bushwhacking, chasing, invading [of personal space], storming toward, assailing, and in general of being/behaving like an uncivilized and frequently savage lout.”
Mr. Badger

Crips is seeking a permanent restraining order, and damages amounting to a lifetime supply of catnip, and has agreed to allow Sylvia to be the judge. Between you and me, I think Crips’s plan relies heavily on the fact that Sylvia, an avowed chicken, has also been accosted, assaulted, lunged at, blindsided, jumped at, bushwhacked, chased, had her space invaded, stormed, assailed, and been subjected to boorish behavior by the defendant. 

The decision, however, will be rendered by a panel of three impartial critters, those not a part of the daily fabric of HappyDay Farms. We have a red-tailed hawk, who sees everything that goes on in the great outdoors; we have a mouse because mice go everywhere (unfortunately) and see everything; finally, we have a badger, guaranteeing impartiality. The badger hates everyone, but he hates them in a nonjudgmental way, equally.
The red-tailed hawk: sees all
Though there is not an aggressive bone in her body, Ellie Mae has determined that an aggressive judicial stance might serve her better than her pointer stance. The judge is, after all, a chicken and might not find the pointer stance amusing, in light of certain recent events, which shall heretofore go unmentioned, but which might have dire implications if you…

[Editor’s Note: Move along, please…]

Fine. Ellie Mae has therefore filed a countersuit, alleging that Crips is a manipulative [deleted], whose behavior includes, but is not limited to: fraud, deception, subterfuge, duplicity, underhandedness, deceit and even chicanery, at times, with some hoodwinking tossed in for good measure. 

For damages Ellie Mae is seeking to have Crips outfitted with an ooga. horn.

Surprisingly, Crips was unable to retain counsel, due to a reputation which apparently preceded him. Toby the cat was more than happy to perform the job, but was unwilling to either remove his horns or leave his pitchfork at home, and even Crips could see that might pose a problem to his image. Crips will represent himself by default. 

Ellie Mae will be represented by Large Marge, to be addressed as simply Margie, so as not to appear prejudicial in the courtroom. You could fit three Margies into one Emma, any day of the week, but no one refers to Emma as Large Emma.
Margie and Ellie Mae

Opening statements will conclude today’s post, with the trial scheduled to follow immediately, or as the remodeling of my bathroom/laundry room allows…


Crips: “As a law-abiding, sensitive, concerned, contributing member of HappyDay Farms, I am appalled and shocked that management has allowed this sorry excuse of a bowser, Ellie Mae, to invade our home. She hounds us, and she dogs our existence, not to mention being a slobbering, panting, lazy, exasperatingly ignorant mutt.”

Pausing long enough to expectorate a prodigious hair-ball, Crips continued,

“This destructive force bestows no known benefits upon the farm, choosing instead to manufacture a web of destructive harm. I will prove that the defendant is a reprehensible slime ball, with no redeeming qualities. Thank you”

Margie: “The defense maintains that Crips is no cat-he is the-oh, sorry, I forgot I couldn’t say that Crips is the Devil-my bad. Nevertheless, we will establish that my client, Sweet Ellie Mae, a paragon of on-farm virtue and loyalty, not only is innocent of the charges, but that it is actually she who is the victim here, in this tawdry affair. Thank you.”
Will the real Mr. Crips please sit down?

It was well-documented that Crips had filed 666 pages of notarized documents, whereas Margie had filed no court documents, whatsoever. Crips had seventeen pages of willing witnesses lined up; Margie had one page with a handful of witnesses. Crips had subpoenas served to seven credible experts; Margie had zero. Testimony was set to begin immediately, but was apt to take some time, due to the convoluted relationship coexisting within the courtroom.

The logistics for having Mr. Badger on hand, alone, would fill a volume of this nature, not to mention a mouse in the same venue as Mr. Crips…

Next: The Trial

Monday, February 12, 2018

"Them Thar Wheels"

My youngest brother Kevin celebrated his birthday the other day; I did not need face/book to inform me thusly because I can still remember the day he made his Fellowship Street debut. Papa brought Mama and him home from the hospital in the ’64 Rambler Classic Station Wagon,which served-gulp- 
Kevin's grand entrance, captured live on film, by the
author of Mark's Work.
 as the family car.

I know the birthdays of all eight my siblings. I know the dates because as a family we celebrated each and every birthday, with the birthday child dictating the menu of choice on the big day.

Oh, you did that too? Did you also eat meals together as a family? We did, at a picnic table made by Papa, including the fiber-glassing of the table to preserve it. I sat on Papa’s left side my entire life, growing up on Fellowship Street. He liked to have me within easy reach; it did tend to tone my act down just a bit.

We all filled our plates before grace, “to give the little kids an even chance at competing for seconds,” as the old family saying went. Papa would grill us on what we learned in school of an evening, and every Sunday night I would squirm when the subject of what was said during the sermon at mass that morning.

Hell, I never understood much of anything that Father McNamara said my entire life, and I’m not sure my oral-processing ineptitude had anything to do with it. I just think he aimed so much higher than I was capable of reaching. Oh, and by the way, to help me stay focused and to curb my habit of kicking the pew, Papa had me sitting on his immediate left…

I do remember that Father Mac’s Christmas sermon began each year, “Let us take ourselves back in time, to a scene in Bethlehem, and a little child lying in a manger…” and something about “them thar wheels going round and round….”

Did you attend church services as a unit? Our family had a two-pronged approach to church: Papa and the four oldest of us boys went to the eight o’clock mass, while Mama, the girls and the little boys went to a later mass, probably the 10:00 or the 11:15 high mass. After church Mama just might stop by the parish hall to pick up some bonbons for Sunday morning breakfast.
Playing football in Baja, California

Did you go camping in the summertime together? Every summer without fail we went camping at the beach, except for the summer of 1963, when we went up to Shady Oaks in the San Gabriel Mountains. I remember it being ‘63 because it was so crowded in the campground, that after three days, Papa convinced us to come home. 

Mama had stayed home on this excursion and one carrot Papa had dangled in front of us, was that he promised to take us to the movies when we got home. Sure enough we went to the Star Theater in downtown La Puente and saw PT-109, the story of JFK’s WWII South Pacific adventures.

Only three months later we were stunned when John Fitzgerald Kennedy was blown away in Dallas, Texas.

Did your family tackle do-it-yourself projects, as a force with which to be reckoned? Saturdays were always fraught with the possibility that Papa would line us up after breakfast for some day-long chore, hard times for kids on Fellowship Street. 
Mama, aka Pauline, in Baja, 1972

I remember one Fourth of July when we attacked our two apricot trees as a family unit, with the oldest boys stripping the trees of the fat apricots, while the rest of us washed, cut them in half and removed the seeds. Mama froze a bunch, preserved some, and made jam with still more of the same.

“Apricots! Morning, noon and night!” became our lament.

Finally, did you play baseball as a family, especially a family with a total of nine siblings? I exaggerate slightly, because by the time the ninth sibling joined us, Kevin, our baseball-playing days as a family were close to being over. They would resume briefly up on Bell Springs Road, where one year around 1983, our family played the best of the rest of the community, and murdered them, right up at Rex’s home-grown ball-yard, the one we all helped shape in the early part of 1982.

Epic times, those, as the denizens of Bell Springs joined many of those from Cow Mountain, and combined forces for a decade of community baseball.

Families did things together back in the day, and united to show support for anyone in need of it. No better example of this exists than the year my family postponed Christmas for twelve days, leaving the tree and all decorations in place, along with the stacks of yuletide gifts, waiting for none other than me, to come home from overseas.

I was due home on January 8th, for the only leave I would take in the sixteen months I spent in the Republic of South Korea. I took advantage of all the army had taught me, working in Personnel, to forge a new set of orders, ones which stated that my leave actually began on January 5th. 

Imagine that!

I then put on my dress greens and hitched a ride for free from Korea, to Japan, to Travis Air Force Base in California, traveling via stand-by on military aircraft. I waited a total of six hours in Korea and less than an hour in Japan, as I timed my arrival for 45 minutes prior to a Red-Tail leaving for Cali.

This was back in the day when a red-tail did not refer to a hawk.

Are all of my siblings and I as well-connected as we were back in the day? No, of course not, but I never worry because I just remember the words my brother Tom said to me, prior to moving to Hawaii in 1985. “We may go long periods of time without communicating, but that will never change the fact that we are brothers.”

I was in Hawaii once, on my way to Korea, for about an hour-and-a-half, but that was in January of 1973. I wonder. Maybe after 45 years, it’s time for a return visit.

I could even stay longer than ninety minutes this time.