Wednesday, August 19

Mixing it up

“Stop it! I can’t stand that stuff!” complained one of our clients at our typography shop in Los Angeles oh so long ago. He was talking about Karla and my use of upside-down and backward language. “Kathy and two of my daughters do that all the time,” he continued, “and it drives me crazy.”

So what’s the complaint? This: Yow haroo? instead of how are you? Belly haybo instead of hello baby. Doog doof is for good food, Sometimes whole long phrases came along. Here’s one: “Who knows what ervil leaks in the mets of harn.” That was the opening line of an old radio show, The Shadow. Translated: Who knows what evil lurks in the hearts of men.

Variations on the theme include intentional mispronunciation. Or running words together and trying other ways to say them. One of our frequent shopping places is The Home Depot. We just as often pronounce it Ho-medda-put.


I could go on, but I hear neighing outside and we have to go hoard the feces.

Monday, August 17

Dead thud=full tank

Karla and I walked up to our water tanks a couple of days ago just to see how things are. I rapped on one of them, listening for the dead thud that indicates water level. Even though the solar-powered pump is controlled by a float switch in one of the tanks, it’s always good to see if things are working properly.

Yes, I'm wearing pants, however brief.

Depending on technology alone is a risky proposition. After all, things break all the time. If a wildfire happens to drop by in our little valley, it’s reassuring to hear the dead thud of a full water tank.

Even though we have only one 100-foot-long (30.5 m) firehose, it’s gratifying to shoot a stream of water almost that long when the tanks are full.

Of course the sheriff and firefighters could kick us out as the fire approaches. That’s why I keep a fresh pair of skivvies and my shaving kit in the car for that eventuality. Oh, and some slightly longer pants.

Visited by a hungry bear!

Karla headed for Fresno at about 6 this morning, so it was up to me to feed the two horses living at our place. I walked down to the place where we keep their feed, the fenced-in solar panels that run our water pump. One of the horses was munching something on the ground, and a grain container was nearby, lying on its side and empty! How did a horse get that thing out of the enclosure, dump its contents on the ground, and toss it aside?

The tarp that covers the bales of hay was torn asunder, two bags of grain were ripped into, and another grain container was missing its lid.

Then I found a clue to what caused this confusing mess: a tall pile of nearly undigested wild berries was right in front of our fenced enclosure. Bear potty aka feces du ursus americanus californiensis. What a mess!
Don't these guys even chew? The berries are whole!

I drove the car down with some buckets I could use to recover what was left and usable. Meanwhile, our neighbor Stan arrived in his pickup for a few hundred gallons of water so he can keep things alive at his place. Turns out his well went dry, and getting it deepened is almost impossible since all the well drillers are booked up months in advance due to California’s drought. He helped me load the containers of grain in the car, and I took them to (hopefully) safer storage in our garage.

We’re flyin’ high

Karla and I got up at 5AM so she could get to Fresno early. She’s picking up Hilary and her youngest, Elliot, and taking them to a doctor’s appointment for the young’n at 8:15. So what’s up? Why can’t Hilary drive to Fresno from Florence Lake and get to the appointment on her own?

Well, she’s a busy executive now, and time is very valuable to people like her. So she’s flying out of Blayney Meadow on a helicopter. Not only that, the same flying machine is taking our horse shoer and his wife from the ranch to Florence Lake, then returning for Hilary and Elliot. But wait—there’s more!

On the way from Fresno to the ranch, Estelle, our manager at the Florence Lake Store, is taking her first helicopter ride, something she’s dreamed about from her youngest days as she grew up in South Africa. She drove to Fresno Sunday and stayed overnight in a room at the University Inn, a place the Ranch uses for all our Fresno-bound people. (An aside; the Inn was built by Paul Fansler, who was one of the stockholders in Scope Productions, an educational film producer in Fresno, of which I was vice president and chief cinematographer way back in the 1960s.)

Photo: Wikimedia Commons

The helicopter's pilot/owner, Richard, once worked for Harry Rogers, a local legend whose dozens of helicopters dominated the flying market in the Fresno area for decades. Richard keeps his flying machine in such perfect condition you’d think he had just taken delivery of a new one.

It's a Bell JetRanger and it reminds me of the one Harry Rogers used to fly me and my best man, Stan Bitters, to my wedding in Blayney. As he landed at Stan's Harry told me, “I was going to use an older machine, but this new one was delivered to me only yesterday and it'll get you to the meadow much faster.” No way, I told him. We have to arrive at 10 on the dot. "Not a problem," Harry said. “We’ll just do a little sightseeing while I break this thing in.”

Richard has been our go-to helicopter guy for a long time. The last two times Karla’s mom, Adeline, went to the ranch she was taken by him from our foothill place.


I expect to see lots of pictures of today’s flight. Hilary is getting her first helicopter flight, too. She and Estelle will have beaucoup wonderful memories of this day!

Saturday, August 8

What a difference a breeze makes

Today we had our breakfast on the deck outside. We always have a candle at every meal, not just for din-din, and we normally eat inside the house. The green candles we buy in bulk at the West Sacramento IKEA store are very tidy, never dripping melted wax down their sides. Outdoors, however, is an unruly place when it comes to air movement, and even a slight breeze can make a candle go crazy.

As I figure it, our candles’ two colors of wax have different melt temperatures; the outer (colored) wax melts at a higher temperature. So the inner wax has two things going for its melting first—it’s closer to the wick, and it’s softer. The outer wax, being further from the wick, stays cool and finally melts because it’s in contact with the inner wax’s transmitted heat.

Is this getting too fussy and probably boring to you? If so, you can stop reading right here.

Monday, August 3

My shoe…broke?

I can’t recall ever breaking a shoe. Once I kinda messed up the toe on a canvas-and-rubber sport shoe with a chainsaw, and I knocked the heel off a leather boot when I snagged it in the slot of an airplane catapult when I served as a radar fixer on the USS Enterprise. But this was a whole new experience. I had just left the dental office in Mariposa, got in my car, and felt something funny as I buckled up. I looked down and saw the entire sole hanging on by the toe of my right shoe. Now that’s really weird.

I hadn’t encountered anything that would have ripped the sole off, so it must have been caused by just plain getting old (the shoe, not me). This was a good pair of shoes, something I bought online from L.L. Bean where I get lots of clothing and stuff. The brand, Clarks, has never failed me this way before. And these shoes were worn only when I shouldn’t look like a bum, or near-naked, my normal around-the-house look.

Oh well. I’ll send a picture to L.L. Bean and ask if they have a solution. Or I could use some KrazyGlue and hope for the best.

Sunday, July 26

Not-so-nearby wildfire

There is a wildfire a few miles from our place, over between Bass Lake and North Fork. We get only two things from a fire that far away: smoke and overflying water-dropping planes. This morning we were alerted to the relatively new sound of a Boeing 727* jet aircraft with a red belly. It made a turn right near our house to line up with its drop zone, and I tried to get a picture of it. Having only my iPhone as a camera, I was thwarted from getting the aircraft’s tail number and couldn’t even see if the pilot was wearing his Foster Grants.

So, since the plane was so tiny in the overall picture, I am substituting another iPhone picture I took a little later. It’s Karla walking down the hill from the water tank at our old place. She was checking to see how full it was so we could figure how long to run the pump to fill it.

I’ll take looking at a picture of Karla over some ol’ airplane picture any day.


*My dentist corrected me today. He says it's a DC-10.

Saturday, July 25

Just sayin'

There was a wreck on Highway 41 south of Oakhurst Friday morning. We heard about it on the radio pretty early, and figured it would be cleared up by the time we got to that area on our way to Fresno. An hour and a half later we arrived at the tail end of stopped traffic just up the hill from Oakhurst. The wreck was still there and hadn’t been cleared even a little bit. So we were parked for about 20 minutes till we were allowed to creep up the hill and pass the mess.

While stopped, I studied a traffic sign and wondered about two things: why is the word BY in a smaller size than the rest, and the word RADAR is spelled backward.

Go figure.

Saturday, July 18

Wow. Eleven whole days…

I just realized that I haven't posted anything for almost a week and a half. Sorry. I know some of you expect to see new stuff every couple of days or so. It's not that I've been especially busy, although I did have a raging toothache a couple of Fridays ago. Doesn't that always happen? The dentist goes home Friday afternoon so that's my cue to get a toothache. But after almost seventeen years of dealing with the same dentist and his great staff, I'm not likely to shop around for someone else.

I have done so much business with this one dentist in Mariposa that he actually gave me a free tooth. It was a central incisor the color of which he didn't agree since he had installed a cap on an adjacent tooth. "Please let me replace that one, Tom," he almost pleaded. Also, he and I were students in Merced learning how to fly an airplane several years ago. I was actually doing it for Hilary since she was being home schooled and I couldn't seem to get her interested in science. Learning to fly makes you use lots of math and a pretty good smidgen of science, and it worked for her really well. Out of a class of, what—fifteen students?—she got the top grade on the FAA exam. (Better than my grade for what that's worth.)

Today Karla and I will be hanging an outdoor shade for an east-facing window in "my" office/den. The morning sun comes blasting into the room now, and it's almost unoccupyable (is that a word?) for at least a couple of hours every morning. We will then be re-potting a bunch of plants we have on our covered deck on the south of the house, and sticking a bunch of drought-resistant agaves in the ground to the south. And more.

I promise to write more often. (Yeah, right!)