Lynn and I took Amtrak halfway across the country and back three weeks ago on a frustrating trip that went nowhere but cost a fortune to get there.

Here’s what happened. I am a member of the International Society of Weekly Newspaper Editors, which this year held its annual conference in Columbia, Missouri. The conferences move around. Next year’s will be in Australia. Last year’s was in Durango, Colorado.

Lynn’s and my conference fees came to $1,250, but we considered it money well spent. Last year’s conference was the first we had attended, and both of us were impressed by the community-newspaper editors from around the world whom we met.

Organized discussions ranged from newspaper ethics to how to cover major disasters. Moreover, the group presented me with its Eugene Cervi Award for my years as an editor, and I returned to West Marin just glowing.

This year’s conference was scheduled for June 24 to 28 in Columbia. Lynn and I decided to travel by Amtrak as we had last year, for we had thoroughly enjoyed the ride. We would take the train to Ottumwa, Iowa, rent a car, and drive the rest of the way to Columbia, so we reserved a sleeper compartment for $1,329 roundtrip.

However, as I’ve noted here before, a year ago I came down with temporal arteritis (an inflammation of the artery in one’s temples that feeds blood to the eye). Left untreated temporal arteritis can cause blindness, so the doctor put me on a 10-month regimen of Prednisone (a steroid). As the months went by, he had me slowly taper off on the dosage until it got down to nothing just before we left for Columbia.

There are numerous problems with Prednisone, however, and in my case one side effect was being constantly weary. Another was frequently losing my sense of balance. Falling down on stairs became commonplace but caused no serious injuries. However, a fall while weed-whacking on Memorial Day and another fall at the end of May bruised my ribcage to where it became painful to walk.

Nonetheless, Lynn and I were determined to travel to Missouri for the newspaper conference. We already had a roundtrip ticket to Ottumwa on Amtrak, and we reserved a car from Enterprise in Ottumwa for $175 per day.

And so it was that on June 22 we drove to the Amtrak station in Emeryville where our train was more than an hour behind schedule, but Amtrak is notoriously late much of the time, so we thought nothing of the delay. Because Amtrak doesn’t own the tracks it travels on, its trains have to give way to any freight trains that come along.

Our engineer was trying to make up time, we were told, but the train was about four hours behind schedule by the time we reached Colorado. And in Colorado things really slowed down. Track maintenance caused more than a few delays, and when we finally reached Nebraska, these delays seemed nonstop.

Part of the problem resulted from a rainstorm in Illinois, Iowa, and Nebraska. In some places the tracks were flooded, and in others, springs gurgled up between the rails.

The view along the tracks in Nevada sometimes seemed a pretty good symbol of our Amtrak trip. (Photos by Lynn Axelrod)

We crept through western Nebraska, getting a good chance to inspect everyone’s back yard. They’re much tidier in Nebraska than in Utah, Nevada, and California where abandoned car parts and dilapidated buildings dominate the scenery in a some places.

I slept most of the way but got up three times a day for meals. After a couple of days, however, the lurching of the train was aggravating the pain in my ribs. Getting to the dining car or the restrooms required walking down narrow corridors in several cars, and despite trying to be careful, I was occasionally thrown against the walls of the corridor.

So I downed a bunch of Ibuprofen. Bad idea. With nothing such as yogurt available to buffer the painkiller, I was sick as a dog by the time we reached Ottumwa. That convinced us to spend the night in a hotel before traveling on. We rented a room near the train station for $90 per night, and I climbed into bed. Lynn meanwhile headed out to pick up the Enterprise rental car we had reserved. The agency, however, told her that because of the rainstorm, no vehicles were available or would be for several days .

Hertz was out of cars too, but Lynn finally found a family business that had a car for rent at $220 a week, and she took it. By the next morning, however, I was ready to go home. My stomach was still queasy, and my walking was reduced to shuffling because of my balance problem.

Amtrak told us the next train west would be that evening, and the only compartment available was a “family room,” which provided more space for stretching out but cost an additional $822. We bought a ticket and returned to the hotel to sleep all day for an additional $90.

Glenwood Springs along the Colorado River was one of the more attractive towns where the train stopped.

When we arrived at the Ottumwa train station that evening, Lynn and I encountered a new set of problems. Our train couldn’t get to Ottumwa because of the bad weather, so we would be put on a bus for a four-hour ride to Omaha where we would catch the train which would arrive from Chicago by a circuitous route. We had become resigned to our fate and agreed to the arrangement.

The bus was full of Amtrak passengers, and when we all got to Omaha about 11:30 p.m., we learned our train wouldn’t arrive until the next morning. Lynn and I were irritated. Several passengers who were heading to the airport in Denver were angry about missing their flights. Much of the throng spent the night in the train station. Lynn and I rented a hotel room nearby for $188.

The next morning Lynn and I arrived at the Amtrak station early only to have our train show up an hour and a half late. Our family room was relatively comfortable for resting. That was good because we kept falling further and further behind schedule. The delays were felt even in the dining car which began running out of various foods.

Amtrak serves good fare, but at the end of the trip all it could offer for our last meal was a bowl of rice with three spoonfuls of beef stew on top. The good part was that we were always seated with other passengers who inevitably were intelligent, friendly people.

Twelve hours behind schedule our train finally rolled into Emeryville, and just over an hour later we rolled back into Point Reyes Station. Unfortunately when we began unpacking, we discovered we’d left a $500 camera and a $40 pocket knife on the train. Lynn called Amtrak, but no one had turned them in. At least no one broke into our house while we were gone, we told each other, but then we discovered our stapler was missing. I just about became unstuck.

Our trip to the Midwest had cost more than $4,400, but I wouldn’t have minded had we actually reached the ISWNE conference. From what I’ve now read in ISWNE’s report on the event, those who did make it had a very good time and learned a lot.



Past postings are numbered in the order they went online, with the most recent postings located immediately below the Table of Contents.

To go directly to stories without scrolling, click on the highlighted phrases following the numbers.

Weekly postings are published by Thursday.

417. Memorial set for Russ Faure-Brac of Dogtown

416. The zoo in my backyard

415. The Teddy Bear picnic and why to stay at home

414. Western Weekend this year proved to be especially colorful

413. Wake for Donna Sheehan of Marshall reflected her eccentric life

412. Memorial Day weekend chaos

411. MALT art show a testament to rural beauty

410. A trip to Tomales

409. Party for publisher who sells her newspaper

408. Birds, deer, a cat, a rat, a face in the flames, and another overturned truck

407. The adventures of Bigfoot

406. Art in Bolinas, hail in Point Reyes Station, and Emergency Response Team training in Nicasio

405. Wish get well at Toby’s; then Gather at Perry’s

404. The whole truth and a bit more

403. Caltrans meeting about replacing Green Bridge draws mixed responses

402. West Marin’s bridges to its past

401. Patrolling the CHP

400. A sparse serving of sagacity

399. Small town slumbering and cows stampeding

398. The highs and lows of St. Valentine’s Day weekends, past and long past

397. Presidents’ Day, Valentine’s Day; in Canada indigenous people to protest

396. Eastern Door newspaper exemplifies courage in a Mohawk community

395. Documentary by ex-resident of Bolinas tells story of Burundi-genocide survivor

394. Focusing on the birdlife around Mitchell cabin

393. Wandering around in early January

392. A gallery of critters around Mitchell cabin

391. Stunned to learn French, New Anus State Park, and other surprises in the world of news

390. Some Christmas surprises

389. In West Marin the drought symbolically comes to an end

388. Occasionally the most intriguing parts of newspapers are the miscues

387. Despite a series of downpours, Point Reyes Station steps out to celebrate the Yuletide

386. A visitor from New York

385. It was the best of times; it was the worst of times

384. The Comoros solution for undocumented residents

383. Finding refuge in my surroundings

382. Remembering the past in Point Reyes Station and Tomales

381. Point Reyes Station focuses on helping preschool and preparing for disaster

380. Little Nicasio was a happening place Saturday and Sunday

379. Mowgli taught me to love jungles

378. A Scottish journalist’s observations regarding the vote to remain part of Great Britain

377. Racoons waxing and Tricolored Blackbirds waning plus a mystery in the woods

376. The autumnal equinox is upon us

375. Grito de la Independencia in Point Reyes Station

374. Some Nicasio Reservoir history is seldom seen, and some is seldom recognized

373. Tomales Founders’ Day draws a goodly crowd despite a shorter-than-usual parade

372. It all happened between two vivid dreams

371. A photographic look at signs of life

370. All in one day: displays in Point Reyes Station & Inverness of arts, crafts, & public service

369. A word with you, if you please

368. Sorry I’m late, but here are a bobcat, albino robin, and five fox kits to make up for it

367. Nurturing nature

366. Riding an old narrow-gauge train and modern Amtrak plus driving the ‘Highway to Hell’

365. It was like winning a second Pulitzer Prize

365. Well, would you look at that?

364. Photography, drama, etchings, and paintings worth seeing this summer

363. Sunday’s Western Weekend Parade and Saturday’s 4-H Fair draw enthusiastic crowds

362. White House Pool enchanting despite vandalism and poison oak

361. Humor — including blonde and similar jokes — that’s gone through at least 3 countries

360. My deer friends

359. A few of my photos in war and peace from West Marin to Southeast Asia to Central America

358. Animals provide relief from an animalistic world

357. Gala for just-retired popular librarian; preparing for disasters; odd news reports

356. America owes a lot to its weekly newspapers

355. Pining for a couple of old friends

354. Creatures of spring at Mitchell cabin

353. Gallery Route One exhibiting whimsical art with messages from three women

352. Save a spaniel

351. When words fail us

350. With spring 10 days away, late-winter rains give a boost to West Marin flora and fauna

349. A gallery of photos from Point Reyes Light open house, staff reunion, and book readings

348. Misunderstandings and other ‘small’ news plus a big ‘ol party

347. ‘Picturing the Point Reyes Peninsula’ exhibition opens in Jack Mason Museum

346. Readings from ‘The Light on the Coast’ draw crowd to Tomales Regional History Center

345. Jon Langdon’s ‘Beyond Geometry’; Mr. Badger goes a-huntin’; Gypsy cobs cloppin’ downtown

344. Point Reyes Station innkeeper and former jeweler Ann Dick a prolific writer at 87

343. Oldtimer says dams, not homes and ranches, had hurt salmon runs; now it’s the drought

342. Legends of the Celtic harp wow enthusiastic crowd in the Dance Palace

341. A gallery of local-wildlife photos

340. The Ghosts of Christmas Presents

339. The holidays are the time for us in West Marin to start preparing for disasters

338. The last days of fall

337. The Light on the Coast due to gleam this week

336. Using words well and not so well

335. My 70th birthday

334. The Mitchell cabin perspective on protection and food for wildlife

333. Guatemalan murder suspect, who was hunted via social media, caught in Mexico via TV

332. Mulling a potential flap at the confab

331. My frantic flight from Latin

330. The Fall of Nicasio and Point Reyes Station

329. A dead buck, buzzards, flies…. and who else?

428. With federal parks here closed, art exhibits getting more attention

427. From Paris’ Montmartre to New Orleans’ Storyville to San Francisco’s Tenderloin

426. Masterful new book set in Alaskan wilderness is a story of conflicts that echo West Marin’s

425. The pressure on journalists as the NSA pushes US toward becoming George Orwell’s ’1984′

424. The US government’s love-hate relationship with Syrian brutality

423. Tomales Founder Day parade and party in park draw a huge crowd

422. A visit from Pepé Le Pew

421. A young leviathan dies at Stinson Beach

420. Images of many types of dogs at Inverness Fair

419. First the grim news, then the gay

418. Don’t believe everything you read; newspapers will survive

417. Don’t Bogart that smoke detector, you roach

416. Wildlife relish outdoor dining at Mitchell cabin

415. ‘The town that West Marin forgot’ celebrates its park with food, auctions, rock ‘n’ roll, and grand opera

414. Raccoon-noitering

413. Thoughts about our infatuation with animals

412. Fox News in Point Reyes Station

411. New Age detritus found to be littering roadside in Lagunitas

410. Western Weekend 2013: good weather, good fun; close call

409. The mysteries of words, birds, and the NRA

408. Remembering massacres under Guatemalan President Ríos Montt

407. My good buddy gets hit by a car and dies

406. Tormented by computers, comforted by spring

405. Way out west in West Marin

404. Enduring a week of terrible events

403. Bicyclist killed in Inverness Park

402. Of cats and bobcats, burros and burrows

401. Google boggles blogger

400. Exhibition of portraits of ‘Tomales Neighbors’, past and present, opens to kudos

399. Deus ex machina

398. Proposed law would end trapping of bobcats for their pelts

397. Postal Clerk Known for Feralhood Retires

396. Whatever Happened to Our Curiosity?

395. Filmmaker Ole Schell, formerly of Bolinas, with jookin’ dancer Lil’ Buck, actress Meryl Streep & cellist Yo-Yo Ma in China

394. The Point in Winter

393. When critters watch but don’t bother to bother each other

392. Quotes Worth Saving IV

391. Inverness museum exhibit on Swiss immigrant who came to be called ‘Mr. Point Reyes Station’

391. Our fascination with how words are used — some examples from across the pond

390. A collection of favorite wildlife photographs snapped around Mitchell cabin

389. Counting curves on Highway 1

388. The winter solstice of 2012

387. Shoreline School District blessed compared with a number of others

386. Pearl Harbor Day, Point Reyes Station’s Christmas tree lighting, and a new era at MALT

385. Quietly photographing all natural neighbors

384. The old codger connects Thanksgiving, turkeys, and NATO missiles

383. Feeding time

382. What a week for the press!

381. Our political D-Day

380. Marin agriculture as photographed between 1920 and 1950 by the county’s 1st farm advisor

379. Zen and the Art of Motor-mouth Maintenance

378. Tony’s Seafood Restaurant, a reminder of the Croatian immigration to Marshall

377. North Bend Ranch — rich in narrow-gauge railroad history — put up for sale

376. Young Kosovar refugee, whose diary West Marin read during war, sends an update

375. At the end of our line we found Cazadero

374. Typical-graphical errors and other journalistic confusion

373. Why Marin needs to approve Measure A

372. Tomales Founders Day parade bigger than ever

371. A convoluted look at language

370. Not quite what you’d expect

369. Jack Mason Museum opens exhibit on Inverness Yacht Club 100 years after it was first launched

368. Tomales High turns 100 years old as NASA’s Curiosity lands on Mars

367. Wild scene from my deck as photographed over two weeks

366. Far West Fest hot as a wildfire and lasts longer

365. The story of a ‘Deputy Sheriff in Wild and Wooly West Marin’

364. Drakes Bay Oyster Company struggles on against Park Service

363. Fighting a thorny intruder in West Marin

362. Unintentional double entendres in the press

361. Summer brings a new assortment of wildlife to Mitchell cabin

360. A short trip to exotic Gualala

359. Pictures from a fun-filled Western Weekend in Point Reyes Station

358. Marin County agriculture brought in $70 million last year

357. The agony and the ecstasy of Spring

356. History and merriment combine at Nicasio sesquicentennial celebration

355. Most 2nd District congressional candidates want US to legalize medical marijuana

354. Old Farmer’s Almanac still fresh after 220 years

353. A photographic history of Inverness Park

352. On eve of June 5 election, Supervisor Kinsey describes his grueling schedule

351. Glimpses of the narrow-gauge railroad

350. Senator Feinstein says Park Service employees ‘feel emboldened to once again fabricate science’

349. A drought for livestock but not for people

348. The origins of Point Reyes Station

347. More shenanigans by the Point Reyes National Seashore

346. Surviving another earthquake

345. Turkeys — both avian and human

344. Crowd at memorial honors beloved Realtor

343. Former National Seashore Supt. Neubacher & his boss Jon Jarvis becoming a political problem for the Obama administration

342. Grim times abroad and tranquil days at home

341. Using social media to hunt for Guatemalan murder suspect in US

340. The Great Storm of ’82 in pictures

339. Caught in the great storm of 1982

338. A roundup of wildlife at Mitchell cabin

337. Seasonal greetings can be confusing

336. Christmas Day visitors

335. How our Christmas turkeys got their name

334. A Christmas Carol

333. Who’s been naughty or nice

332. A gallery of visits from wildlife

331. The changing of the seasons

330. Artist Thomas Wood’s studio show captures nature’s beauty

329. Save America’s Postal Service

328. Symposium on National Seashore misdeeds; pancake fundraiser for firefighters & Disaster Council; barn dance — all in Pt. Reyes Station

327. Occupy Wall Street protest expands to Point Reyes Station

326. Joel Hack to retire as publisher of The West Marin Citizen

325. Women of West Marin

324. E Clampus Vitus gives further recognition to Duncans Mills’ trove of coastal history

323. Ungulates in the news

322. Incurring the raccoon gaze

321. Point Reyes Station’s Dance Palace celebrates 40th anniversary

320. Tomales Founders Day parade and picnic

319. Newswomen heroic in covering combat

318. Gopher it

317. Inverness Fair provided an antidote to Weltschmerz

316. Saturday’s opening reception for an exhibition of Elisabeth Ptak’s collages

315. Living among the wildlife

314. The threat from a runaway sand dune

313. Saturday’s Far West Fest

312. What’s in a name?

311. Tomales’ party in the park

310. The frustrations of home maintenance — a lesson learned from ‘The Arkansas Traveler’

309. The turtle

308. Hats off to Safeway

307. As expressions come and go, do you know what you’re saying?

306. We’re back following an unknown hacker’s vandalism to this blog

305. The sun shone on Sunday’s Western Weekend parade

304. The Western Weekend 4-H Fair and barn dance

303. Words, pictures, and the press

302. Memorial for Jonathan Rowe who led creation of the commons in Point Reyes Station

301. Goddamn winter’s back

300. This blog turns 300

299. Charge ahead! or pay cash

298. Daughter dies in Nevada County

297. What does the Easter Bunny have to do with Jesus’ resurrection?

296. West Marin update

295. Tales from West Marin’s forgotten past

294. When everything goes wrong

293. Writer Jonathan Rowe dies unexpectedly at 65

292. Some of the creatures that visited my cabin in a single day

291. Finding small absurdities in the midst of major crises

290. Bolinas exhibition takes an artistic look at the world

289. A fox at the table

288. The common people are revolting

287. How two resourceful women coped with crises

286. Have a happy and trippy Valentine’s Day

285. Quotes Worth Saving III

284. Facebook, the bizarre culmination of mass communications

283. A Great blue heron, mondagreens, and three cheers for Ghana

282. Video of two tributes to Missy Patterson during her memorial reception

281. Wishing a healthy, happy new year to West Marin’s critters — you included

280. ‘Tis the time of Janus, the god who looks forward and back

279. The death of a West Marin matriarch

278. Improbable politics in Wasilla, St. Petersburg and Point Reyes Station

277. Faces along the Path of Lights

276. Literary and civic news sponsored by the creatures of West Marin

275. Another round of inter-species peace negotiations at Mitchell cabin

274. Ramblin’ Jack Elliott takes turns performing with Corey Goodman and Maria Muldaur at amazing fundraiser in Marshall

273. Trailer Stash — a musical fundraiser to prepare Marshall for disasters

272. Day of the Dead celebration in Point Reyes Station

271. Point Reyes pedestrian home from hospital after being struck by deer

270. Have a happy (or scary) Halloween

269. Anastacio’s Famous BBQ Oyster Sauce — a part of West Marin’s Latino heritage — further refined

268. This fall’s wildlife census for my hill

267. Culvert project at White House Pool aims to reduce flooding along the levee road

266. Greetings from your governor

265. Bolinas boy makes good with documentary on fashion models

264. Scotland’s ill-fated colony in Panamaand why I read the Economist

263. Avoiding more victims by capping a sticky gusher

262. Crafting the Considerate House

261. West Marin remembers Duane Irving

260. The art of boating

259. Firefighters in action

258. Do you like coyotes and bobcats? How about rats?

257. Los mapaches con cacahuates; también fotos de los cuervos y venados

256. Proposal for ceasefire in West Marin ‘newspaper war’

255. The young creatures of summer

254. Eli’s coming — causing momentary dismay at The Point Reyes Light

253. Under the volcano and in the eye of the storm — a firsthand account

252. The duel between The Point Reyes Light and The West Marin Citizen

251. Santa Muerte and El Cadejo

250. Wildlife around my cars on the Serengeti Plain of West Marin

249. A big Western Weekend Parade in li’l old Point Reyes Station

248. 4-H Fair and Coronation Ball keep alive Western Weekend’s agricultural traditions

247. A tail for West Marin to bear in mind this Western Weekend

246. Point Reyes Light sells and will incorporate as a nonprofit

245. Point Reyes Station area blackout rumored to have been sparked by bird

244. Planned Feralhood desperate for a new home

243. John Francis takes a walk down under

242. A day in a small town

241. Point Reyes Station’s notorious curve is scene of yet another vehicle crash

240. The Mother Goose method for getting rid of thistles

239. A benefit so that handicapped kids can go rafting

238. Where angels fear to tread

237. The Chronicle, hang gliders, and horses

236. Crowd celebrates 80th birthday of Marshall artist-political activist Donna Sheehan

235. A classic revisited

234. Nature celebrates spring

233. More on diplomatic news we’ve been following

232. Sportscar flies off embankment; no one hurt in miraculous landing

231. A chat with the Trailside Killer

230. Life and death on my hill

229. Valentine’s Fair raises money for Haiti relief

228. Historic irony as milk truck overturns in Marshall

227. Encouraging my bodhisattva possum on her path to enlightenment

226. Benefit for Haitian earthquake survivors filled with mixed emotions

225. What drought? Nicasio Reservoir overflows

224. Disconcerting standup reporting

223. The storms begin; schools close; a near miss at my cabin

222. Spare the rodent (or rabbit) & spoil the diet

221. Lookin’ out my backdoor: some of my favorite wildlife photos

220. Careening through the holidays

219. Chileno Valley journalist working in Abu Dhabi brings new wife home for visit

218. Just what would Mayberry be like on acid?

217. The foxes of downtown Point Reyes Station

216. Interpreting dreams

215. Let’s talk turkey

214. You’ll Never Walk Alone — an unlikely story

213. A wistful walk on the bottom of Nicasio Reservoir

212. Progress in the backyard peace process

211. John Francis leaving; 4 other artists turn pages but sticking around

210. What we inherit

209. Over 200 show up at fundraiser to help pay injured ad manager’s medical bills

208. A community helping one of its own

207. A country mouse in the Tenderloin

206. News of the week reported through pictures

205. Update on injured ad manager of West Marin Citizen; benefit planned; and will there be a race?

204. Startling weather; amazing stepdaughters

203. Talented-animal tales

2o2. Saga of The West Marin Citizen ad manager’s recovery spreads around the globe — not always accurately

201. And you were there

200. Hospitalized ad manager of West Marin Citizen coming home; friends volunteering to provide meals

199. Scenes from the Inverness Fair

198. Great progress for injured ad manager of The West Marin Citizen despite problems with convalescent hospital

197. Thieves use ruse to clean out till at Station House Gifts

196. Anastacio’s Famous BBQ Oyster Sauce goes on sale

195. A hillside of wildlife

194. Kaiser Permanente’s ‘Sicko’ machinations shock injured ad manager of The West Marin Citizen

193. Immobilized by multiple injuries, ad manager keeps selling from hospital bed

192. All creatures feathered and furry

191. The wildlife of summer around my cabin & an update on Linda Petersen’s condition

19o. West Marin Citizen advertising manager hurt in crash; her popular dog Sebastian dies

189. Sunday’s Western Weekend Parade

188. The Western Weekend Livestock Show

187. Western Weekend parade will be Sunday despite reports to the contrary

186. The purple couch beside the road

185. A funny thing happened at the car wash Friday & other odd events

184. My brush with a badger

183. Scientists find no evidence oyster farm harming Drakes Estero; more likely restoring it

182. Why bottom of Drakes Estero can never become part of a wilderness area

181. Badger, Ratty, and the sensual raccoon

180. ‘And how the wind doth ramm!/ Sing: Goddamm — Ezra Pound

179. A tailgate gallery of bumper-sticker humor; Point Reyes weather both Arctic & tropical

178. Crowd in Inverness Friday calls for reviving park’s Citizens Advisory Commission

177. Flying over Northwest Marin

176. Spring meditations in a Miwok cemetery concerning the news of West Marin.

175. Two warning signs of Spring

174. Tomales may be little but it’s lively

173. Doe stalks cat; raccoon emulates Scripture — for the rain it raineth every day

172. Three-year drought comes to a symbolic ending as Nicasio Reservoir overflows

171. Pot busts at my cabin — again

170. Happy Valentine’s Day (as it’s evolved)

169. Blogging about blogging

168. Thinking about words

167. Point Reyes Station celebrates President Barack Obama’s inauguration

166. A reader in Ghana

165. The bittersweet story of a hardy little tree

164. A parting look at 2008

163. Blackout hits Tomales Bay area

162. Nature’s Two Acres Part XXXVIII: Way Out West in West Marin

161. Chileno Valley Ranch as depicted by a rancher-artist who lives there

160. Nature’s Two Acres XXXVIII: This time it’s a tale of two bobbed cats

159. Thanksgiving in Point Reyes Station

158. Nature’s Two Acres Part XXXVII: a bobcat at my cabin

157. Quotes Worth Saving II

156. Nature’s Two Acres Part XXXVI: The migrating birds of fall; or ‘Swan Lake’ revisited

155. Election night euphoria

154. The fun and anxiety of preparing for a disaster

153. Porky Pig, Demosthenes, Joe Biden, and ‘K-K-K-Katy

152. The political zoo.

151. Nature’s Two Acres Part XXXV: Mr. Squirrel

150. A coyote at my cabin

149. Preparing for the fire season

148. Telling the Raccoon ‘Scat’

147. Faces from the weekly press

146. Tomales, Tomales, that toddling town

145. How park administration used deception & sometimes-unwitting environmentalists to harass oyster company with bad publicity

144. Nature’s Two Acres Part XXXIII: Photographing wildlife indoors and out

143. What government scientists elsewhere had to say about the park’s misrepresenting research to attack oyster company

142. Landscape photos & paintings in Stinson Beach

141. What’s in the Inspector General’s report on the park that newspapers here aren’t telling you

140. Point Reyes National Seashore Supt. Don Neubacher seen as ’scary’

139. A demonstration to save Point Reyes National Seashore deer; park administration dishonesty officially confirmed

138. The good, the bizarre, and the ugly

138. Alice in ‘Wilderness

137. Nature’s Two Acres Part XXXII: The first raccoon kits of summer

136. Nature’s Two Acres Part XXXI: The pink roses of Point Reyes Station

135. Nature’s Two Acres Part XXX: Baldfaced hornets

134. Scenes from my past week

133. Artist Bruce Lauritzen of Point Reyes Station draws a crowd for opening of exhibit

132. Kite day at Nicasio School

131. Sunday’s Western Weekend Parade in photos

130. Early projections hold: Obama, Woolsey & Kinsey win… Leno easily bests Migden & Nation

129. Western Weekend’s 4-H Livestock Show fun — but smaller than ever

128. Humane Society of the US says National Seashore claims about deer contraception are misleading

127. Lt. Governor John Garamendi joins battle to save fallow & axis deer in Point Reyes National Seashore

126. Nature’s Two Acres Part XXIX: Cold-blooded carnality… Or, why be warm blooded?

125. Nature’s Two Acres XXVIII: The first fawns of spring

124. The Beat Generation lives on at the No Name Bar

123. ‘Still Life with Raccoon

122. Nature’s Two Acres XXVII: Animals about town.

121. Newspaperman from Chileno Valley describes his life in the United Arab Emirates

120. Point Reyes Station and Inverness Park demonstrators call for a pedestrian bridge over Papermill Creek

119. Seeing history through newsmen’s eyes…. or the pen is mightier than the pigs

118. Five Faces of Spring

117. Supervisor Steve Kinsey defends further restrictions on woodstoves in West Marin

116. Prostitution in New York, Reno, and Point Reyes Station

115. A country without the decency to ban torture

114. National Seashore’s slaughter of deer traumatizes many residents here; ‘we demand a stop’

113. A tale of Kosovo, West Marin, and a bored battalion of Norwegian soldiers

112. Dillon Beach sewage spill update

111. ‘Drive-by journalism’

110. Sewage spills into ocean at Dillon Beach

109. Nature’s Two Acres XXVI: Which came first, blacktail or mule deer? Hint — their venison is oedipal

108. Nature’s Two Acres XXV: Talking turkey

107. Here’s hoping ‘the goose hangs high this Thursday for Valentine’s Day

106. Signs of bureaucratic contamination

105. A final thought about the Caltrans worker who just did his job — and saved the day

104. Statewide campaign to legalize hemp and marijuana comes to Point Reyes Station

103. Heavy news media presence briefly halts axis-deer slaughterin the Point Reyes National Seashore

102. Storm damage bad but could have been tragic

101. Nature’s Two Acres XXIV: Buffleheads, Greater Scaups, and the 16.6 million wild ducks shot annually

100. Lawsuits against and by Robert Plotkin settled out of court

99. Nature’s Two Acres XXIII: Bambi, Thumper, and Garfield

98. Governor Schwarzenegger’s proposal to close Tomales Bay State Park to save money could prove expensive

97. Old Christmas trees, wild turkeys, and the famous cat-and-rat scheme

96. Blackouts, newspapers in the news, and poetic frustration on the prairie

95. Hurricane-force wind & heavy rain take heavy toll on West Marin

94. Marin County gets a bum rap from itself

93. ‘Eco-fascism in the Point Reyes National Seashore

92. Guess who came to Christmas dinner

91. Yuletide greetings from Santa Claws

90. Assemblyman Jared Huffman’s ominous mailer

89. Nature’s Two Acres XXII: They’re hundreds of times more deadly than cynanide… and headed this way

88. Non-native species stops traffic in Point Reyes Station

87. Blackouts bedevil Point Reyes Station area

86. Urban legends

85. Nature’s Two Acres XXI: Coyote influx benefits some birds around Point Reyes Station

84. Winter Moon Fireside Tales — an undiscovered gem draws only four ticketholders opening night (but more for second show)

83. Striptease in Point Reyes Station… well, sorta

82. Our Lady of the Chutzpah — the many faces of State Senator Carole Migden

81. Stefanie Pisarczyk (AKA Stefanie Keys): a woman of two worlds

80. Point Reyes Station’s ‘Path of Lights’

79. Lessons to be learned from the oil spill

78. Nature’s Two Acres Part XX: Where coyotes howl and raccoons roam free

77. West Marin Community Thanksgiving Dinner celebrated in Point Reyes Station’s Dance Palace

76. Giving thanks for an abundant harvest

75. Being a Gypsy isn’t enough; KPFA fires host criticized for not being a ‘person of color’

74. Nature’s Two Acres Part IXX: ‘Things that go bump in the night’

73. Point Reyes Station pharmacist decries health-insurance practices

72. Farm Bureau president quits; defends independence of wife who disagrees with his political position

71. Ship hits Bay Bridge; spilled oil drifts out Golden Gate and mires birds on West Marin coast

70. California photo book’s release celebrated with gala on Inverness Ridge

69. Coastal Post’s December issue to be its last, assistant editor says; publisher contradicts her

68. West Marin’s ‘Mac Guru’ leaving town — a friend with a knack for surviving

67. One last warm weekend before the season of darkness

66. Ranching matriarch Hazel Martinelli dies at 101

65. Nature’s Two Acres Part XVIII: Seasonal sightings

64. White House Pool: a public park where management listens to the public

63. Tuesday’s Marin County Farm Bureau luncheon for politicos

62. Hawks on the move

61. Point Reyes Station’s Hazel Martinelli celebrates 101st birthday with party at son’s deer camp

60. Vandals dump sewage at West Marin School

59. Paving Point Reyes Station’s main street at night

58. Bolinas firehouse and clinic opening party Sunday

57. Nature’s Two Acres XVII: As seen by an old, almost-blind dog

56. Despite public-be-damned management, it’s still a beautiful park.

55. Language, politics & wildlife

54. Truth becomes an endangered species at the Point Reyes National Seashore.

53. ‘Possums,’ a sequel to the musical ‘Cats’

52. The KWMR/Love Field ‘Far West Fest’

51. Quotes Worth Saving & the Inverness Fair

50. Watching the Point Reyes National Seashore obliterate cultural history

49. Congress sees through Point Reyes National Seashore claims

48. Music, wildlife, and the cosmos

42. Garbage in, garbage out

41. 76-year-old Nick’s Cove reopens

40. What we didn’t celebrate on the Fourth of July

39. Ship’s flare or meteor

38. The death of a salesman: Andrew Schultz

37. Preventing fires at home while The Point Reyes Light feels the heat

36. Monday’s demonstration against The Point Reyes Light

35. Inverness Park fire Friday razes art studio

34. Western Weekend retrospective; anonymous satire of Point Reyes Light distributed at parade; Light’s use of unpaid interns may run afoul of labor laws.

33. Sunday’s Western Weekend parade and barbecue

32. Many fail to find Western Weekend livestock show; a new newpaper debuts in West Marin; The Point Reyes Light reports a former bookkeeper is in jail on embezzlement charges.

31. Nature’s Two Acres Part XVI: A gopher snake & other neighbors

30. New newspaper to be published in West Marin

29. Mermaids, cows, Horizon Cable, and Russia’s Internet war on Estonia

28. Nature’s Two Acres Part XV: ‘Among animals…one finds natural caricatures.’

27. Nature’s Two Acres Part XIV: ‘The world, dear Agnes, is a strange affair.’

26. Sheriff Bob Doyle stays the course despite blunder

25. Nature’s Two Acres Part XIII: ‘Who’s the Head Bull-Goose Loony Around Here?’

24. Nature’s Two Acres Part XII: April showers ‘cruel’ with ‘no regrets’

23. Nature’s Two Acres Part XI: The perky possum

22. Former Point Reyes Light columnist John Grissim, the late pornographer Artie Mitchell, Brazilian President Lula and the advent of orgasmic diplomacy

21. Nature’s Two Acres Part X: ‘Nature Red in Tooth and Claw’

20. Nature’s Two Acres Part IX: Point Reyes Station’s blackbirds

19. Nature’s Two Acres Part VIII: ‘Mice & rats, and such small deer’

18. The Gossip Columnist

17. Saying Yes to Change: A former Point Reyes Station innkeeper finds true joy by moving in with a working-class family in a poor neighborhood of San Miguel de Allende, Mexico.

16. The Bush Administration at Point Reyes Part II: Whatever happened to the Citizens Advisory Commission to the GGNRA & Point Reyes National Seashore?

15. The Bush Administration at Point Reyes: Part I

14. Marin supervisors refuse to tilt at McEvoy windmill

13. Nature’s Two Acres Part VII: Rats v. dishwashers

12. Nature’s Two Acres Part VI: How Flashing Affects Wildlife

11. Nature’s Two Acres Part V: By Means of Water

10. Bankruptcy court trustee lets Robert Plotkin hold onto some of his Ponzi-scheme ‘profits’

9. Big Pot Busts at My Cabin

8. Storm-caused fire razes Manka’s Lodge and Restaurant in Inverness

7. Nature’s Two Acres Part IV: Christmas turkeys & where the buck stopped

6. Nature’s Two Acres Part III: Insectivores and Not

5. My background: Biographical information on newspaperman Dave Mitchell

4. Nature’s Two Acres Part II: Living dinosaurs actually found around my cabin

3. Nature’s Two Acres: A Point Reyes Station Photo Exhibit

2. Robert I. Plokin

1. Introduction to this site plus an account of orphaned fawns being released in Chileno Valley.

There will be a celebration of Russell Faure-Brac’s life on Saturday, July 11, at the Bolinas Community center from 1 to 4 p.m. Guests have been asked to bring their favorite desserts and memories of Russ to share.

A onetime Defense Department engineer, Mr. Faure-Brac became a peace activist during the Vietnam War. He died May 20 at the age of 71 in the Dogtown home he and his wife Anne Sands shared. She is the coordinator of the West Marin Disaster Council.

Russ with a MaiTai in Maui a few weeks before he died.

“After receiving a master’s degree in Engineering Economics from Stanford University, he worked for SRI as a weapons systems analyst, applying statistical models to death tolls from the Vietnam War,” The Point Reyes Light reported. “In 1968, when he saw the disparate valuing of U.S. lives ($50k) vs Vietnamese lives ($0), he underwent a crisis of conscience and resigned in protest.

“The film But, What Do We Do? (click here to see) documented Russ’ decision to leave the defense industry, to pursue the teachings of Gandhi & Martin Luther King at Joan Baez’ Institute for the Study of Nonviolence, and to participate in the Peace Games, an immersive event that explored nonviolent approaches to a hypothetical Soviet invasion of Northern California.

Members of Russ Faure-Brac’s family (from left): Gabe Faure-Brac and wife Megan Fromer of Stamford, NY; Anne Sands and Russ Faure-Brac; Josh Faure-Brac and “main squeeze” Catherine Wood of Los Angeles.

“After spending two years as a VISTA volunteer in rural Missouri, Russ joined friend Hugh Cregg (later known as Huey Lewis) at Neil Smith’s Whole Systems in Mill Valley, CA.  With a truckload of color-coded burlap sacks, they began one of the nation’s first curbside recycling programs.”

The main focus of his post-defense industry work was the founding of an environmental consulting firm. However, after the “9-11″ attack on the World Trade Center in New York, Mr. Faure-Brac returned to his peace activism, developing a project he called Transition to Peace (

He wrote a book of the same name, gave talks on the subject, and hosted a program on KWMR, the West Marin community radio station. Many residents along coastal Marin knew him for his “defense engineer’s search for an alternative to war,” as he described his later-in-life journey.

A year ago I was hit with a medical problem called temporal arteritis, which sent me to the emergency room at Kaiser Hospital in Terra Linda. As I wrote here at that time, it was a big headache, but left untreated it could have led to blindness.

Temporal arteritis amounts to inflammation of an artery that goes through the temples (hence the name “temporal”) and feeds blood to the eyes. The problem is common enough that rheumatologists have developed a standard treatment using the steroid Prednisone. The cause of temporal arteritis is unknown, but it mostly hits us older folks.

Well, the Prednisone worked in that it took away the headache, but I had to consume it every day, and that itself produced temporary problems ranging from less-focused thinking to a loss of balance. I began taking increasingly serious falls. The worst was on Memorial Day when I fell to the ground from a standing position. I landed on stainless-steel metal and badly bruised the right side of my ribcage.

I had just about recovered from that fall when today I stumbled on my deck and landed on the left side of my rib cage. What a pain! As a result, I’m taking it easy on myself, which is why my posting this week consists of photos from my collection— not ruminations. Most of them have appeared here previously.

Gray squirrel at my birdbath.

The raccoons around Mitchell cabin are amazingly adventurous. These walked right in when I left the kitchen door open.

Three animals who seldom hang out together in nature — a possum, fox, and raccoon — were convinced to eat peaceably together when I scattered honey-roasted peanuts on my deck. Animal populations, however, go up and down, and I haven’t seen many foxes or possums around Mitchell cabin recently.

A blacktail doe takes a rest behind my woodshed.

Two does and a flock of wild turkeys forage side by side uphill from Mitchell cabin, both species seeming oblivious of the other.

Two years ago, a lone peacock began keeping company with the turkeys. It’s pretty but its calls sound like a woman in distress.

Coyotes can often be heard at night howling around Mitchell cabin. Getting a chance to see one is far less common.

It’s far more common to see bobcats. Here one takes a rest while hunting downhill from the cabin.

A mother badger with her kit. The most ferocious predators near the cabin are badgers. Even a bear would be no match. Badgers live in burrows up to 30 feet long and 10 feet deep, for they are remarkably efficient diggers thanks to long claws and short, strong legs.  Although they can run up to 17 or 18 mph for short distances, they generally hunt by digging fast enough to pursue rodents into their burrows.

Lost in thought, a gray fix sits on my picnic table.

Jackrabbits, of course, are always around. Jackrabbits, which are also known as black-tailed hares, avoid predators by using “an element of surprise and escape that works well,” Point Reyes Station naturalist Jules Evens notes in his Natural History of the Point Reyes Peninsula.

“When a potential predator is detected, the hare will usually take shelter in the shade of a convenient clump of vegetation or behind a rock and freeze motionless. If the predator approaches very closely, the hare leaps into stride, zigzagging across open country until it finds shelter.”

Two young does graze beside Mitchell cabin. To me all this is my home on a hill, but it could just as easily be a zoological garden.




If you go out in the woods today
You’re sure of a big surprise.
If you go out in the woods today
You’d better go in disguise.

For ev’ry bear that ever there was
Will gather there for certain, because
Today’s the day the teddy bears have their picnic.

Ev’ry teddy bear who’s been good
Is sure of a treat today.
There’s lots of marvelous things to eat
And wonderful games to play.

Beneath the trees where nobody sees
They’ll hide and seek as long as they please
Cause that’s the way the teddy bears have their picnic.

If you go down to the woods today
You’d better not go alone.
It’s lovely down in the woods today
But safer to stay at home.

Written by the Irish composer Jimmy Kennedy (1902-84), who also wrote Red Sails in the Sunset.

A Western fence lizard basking in the sun on my front steps last week. (Photo by Lynn Axelrod)

Male Western fence lizards do pushups to intimidate other males. In the process they reveal their blue undersides, which is why they’re sometimes called Blue-bellies.

A pair of Cliff swallows tried for three weeks to build a mud nest under the second-floor eaves of Mitchell cabin only to have the mud come loose from the wall and the nests come crashing down. Each collapse was disheartening for me and no doubt worse for the swallows. (Photo by Lynn Axelrod)

Finally a couple of swallows got a nest going, building it with pellets of mud from the nearby stockpond. A typical nest is made up of approximately 1,000 pellets, which represents 1,000 roundtrips to the stockpond. (Photo by Lynn Axelrod)

A week ago the swallows completed their nest. Stain on the bottom of the eaves shows where previous nests had been attempted. (Photo by Lynn Axelrod)

The female lays three to five eggs, and both parents take turns incubating them. The eggs typically hatch in 12 to 17 days. The young begin to fly when they’re 20 to 25 days old. The young live in or near the nest for a few days for their parents to feed them, and they remain in the area for several weeks. (Photo by Lynn Axelrod)

Rounding out this tour of nature around Mitchell cabin, a covey of quail hunt for birdseed that has blown off my deck and landed in the grass below. (Photo by Lynn Axelrod)

We’ll end this week’s program with a faux-Irish lullaby sung by Bing Crosby. Click here, then sit back, feel nostalgic, fall asleep, and we’ll see you here next week.

Point Reyes Station’s 66th Western Weekend this past Saturday and Sunday continued a colorful tradition that began in 1949 when a women’s group, Companions of the Forest: Circle 1018, held a festival, fashion show, and cake walk in their hall. (The Foresters’ Hall on Mesa Road still survives under private ownership. It’s immediately north of the Old Creamery Building.)

The following year, members of the local Lions Club, many of whom were married to Circle 1018 members, added a parade and a livestock show for 4-H and Future Farmers of America members. The event was called a “junior” livestock show because all those showing animals were 4-H and FFA members.

When I came to town in 1975 and my newspaper called the event Western Weekend, as many people by then did, more than a few oldtimers told me the proper name was the West Marin Junior Livestock Show. “Western Weekend,” they grumbled, was the name of the livestock show in Novato.

Western Weekend queen Graciela Avalos in Sunday’s parade.

Nigel, left, and his cousin Annabelle make contact during the West Marin 4-H Fair on Saturday at Toby’s Feed Barn. Sisters Olivia and Phoebe Blantz of Nicasio brought them as they have in past years, so they are all regulars.


Eva Taylor, 6, holds an eight-week old Champagne D’Argent rabbit. The breed was brought to the U.S. from France in the early 1900s. They are known to have been bred since the 17th century, according to Dorothy Drady of Nicasio, who oversaw their care at the fair.

Megan Binford, 14, of Tri-Valley 4-H, shows a four-month old Broken Black Mini-Rex doe named Ribbons, or, as a local rancher quipped, “a Holstein rabbit.”

A float in memory of Dorothy Rocca, who died this past year. She was the longtime owner of the Palace Market. The entry took first place in adult floats.

The exciting music and dance of Ballet Folklorico of Petaluma Paquiyollotzin wowed the crowds all along the parade route.

KWMR Community Radio and The Point Reyes Light marched together in a media section of the parade. The entry took 2nd place among adult floats.

Lynn Axelrod was among the MainStreet Moms calling for people to drink tap water rather than bottled water, which clutters the environment with plastic bottles. Mom Kathryn Callaway created the signs for her sisters.

The Coastal Health Alliance on the march.

Alex’s Lemonade Stand Foundation is dedicated to eradicating childhood cancer. The organization is named after a child who sold lemonade to raise funds for other kids, leading to a global effort that totaled more than $1 million. Ezequiel  (Ez) Powell and the Porrata-Powell family will hold their own lemonade fundraiser Sunday, June 14, from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. at the Town Commons.

Two young ladies took turns singing to the crowd as the Dance Palace Kids Musical Theater proceeded down the main street.

Towtruck driver Tim Bunce (right), who entered a 1953 Farmall Tractor in the parade, photo-bombs Sheriff’s Lt. Doug Pittman’s picture. Bunce took first in the Farm Vehicle division and first in the best-vehicle division.

More of the vibrant Mexican dancing in stunning costumes.

The littlest ones waved and snoozed from their float in the mid-day sun.

The Aztec Dancers took the first-place award for best street show.

Richard Kirschman and Doris Ober promoted the West Marin Fund, which encourages people to spend West Marin currency in West Marin.

Point Reyes-Olema 4-H Club took first place in the kids’ street show awards.

Mexican food was offered and mariachi dancing after the parade continued until about 8 p.m. in the West Marin Commons on the north end of the main street.

A woman draped in the colors of the Mexican flag dances at the Town Commons.

I’m still a bit gimpy as a result of a fall I took three weeks ago (and wrote about here), so my partner Lynn was good enough to fill in, shooting most of the photos for this posting and writing about half the text.

Hundreds of people gathered in and around the Dance Palace Sunday to celebrate the life of Marshall artist and political activist Donna Sheehan, who died April 17 at the age of 85.

Paul Reffell, Donna’s partner for the past 21 years, took the microphone to start Sunday’s memorial, during which more than a dozen friends and relatives of Donna told about their often-amusing experiences with the multi-faceted artist/activist.

The memorial was a potluck, and a large amount of food (such as these oysters) and drink was consumed.

Paul and Donna at her 80th birthday party, which was celebrated in Toby’s Feed Barn five years ago.

Paul was 21 years Donna’s junior, but they often collaborated on newspaper columns and books. Together they wrote a book titled Brainlines and another titled Seduction Redefined, which advanced Donna’s belief that women, not men, are the natural pursuers. Seduction and orgasms were central to Donna’s world view, and she never had a problem talking or writing about either. One of Sunday’s speakers, Toni Littlejohn of Point Reyes Station, told of the time Donna called her to report with hesitant pride that she’d had 25 orgasms that morning.

Donna’s nephews Erik Oehm (right) and Jacob Day told of the joy of having her as an aunt. Local musicians performed after the speakers were done.

Photo by Lynn Axelrod

An altar adorned with photographs of Donna and with her art was set up in the Dance Palace’s “church space.” Also part of the display was the hat she often wore.

Photo by Lynn Axelrod

Donna’s art, as usual, drew numerous compliments during the wake. She had little art training but had studied design and printmaking.

Photo copyright Art Rogers 2002

But it was political activism for which Donna was best known. During a chilly rain on Nov. 12, 2002, Donna gained worldwide attention when she assembled 50 “unreasonable women” at Point Reyes Station’s Love Field. Lying naked on the wet grass, the women spelled out PEACE with their bodies while Point Reyes Station photographer Art Rogers recorded the event.

Donna at the time explained she got the idea from a similar protest in Nigeria earlier in the year. Women fighting corporate exploitation stood nude in a vigil that lasted several days outside of Nigeria’s parliament, she noted. “[The Nigerian women] shamed the men and won their cause,” she said. This photo of the demonstration, which was published in The Point Reyes Light, was immediately republished throughout the world and inspired many similar demonstrations.

Donna had previously garnered widespread attention in West Marin when in 1983 she organized a group called MOW (Mow Our Weeds) to pressure Caltrans to start mowing weeds along Highway 1 and stop using herbicides.

Photo by Lynn Axelrod

The crowd for Donna’s wake was so large it spilled out onto the Dance Palace’s front deck and lawn. In a testament to how many people were in Donna’s world, more than a few people remarked that they kept running into old acquaintances they seldom get to see.

A movie with and about Donna and her lifelong pursuits was shown in the church space. Photo by Lynn Axelrod

Donna died of “an overdose while I was away for an hour, shopping in Point Reyes Station,” Paul explained at the time. Her suicide was not unexpected. “We had talked many times, including [with other people] about her finding a way out as her health deteriorated and her pain increased,” Paul wrote the next day.

Sunday’s wake was organized by Robin Carpenter in accordance with Donna’s wishes.

This posting is a short one because I’m still recovering from a fall on Saturday while doing yard work at home. Argh!

My Memorial Day weekend started out chaotically and soon got worse. Friday night Lynn and I went to the No Name bar in Sausalito, as we always do, to listen to jazz. I brought along a small roll of $2 bills so I could add a few to my tips, as I always do. Usually, the servers are happily surprised to get them.

Midway through the evening, however, I reached into my coat pocket for the roll of bills, and it wasn’t there. I took off the coat, and Lynn and I searched all the pockets. Nothing. We were sitting in the garden area of the No Name, and people around us then joined in searching the ground. Nothing. One customer had an iPhone with a flashlight, and he let us use that to look under tables and chairs. Nothing.

Chess players in the garden of Sausalito’s No Name bar.

The server came out with her own iPhone flashlight, but still nothing was found. By now we had most of the customers who were sitting in the garden involved in the search, so I called it off and paid the tip from the usual cash in my wallet.

The amount of money missing was relatively small, only $30, but it represented repeatedly dropping in at banks to see if they had any twos on hand. Usually they didn’t. In any case, I soon forgot about the loss, but when I got home and took off my coat, there were the bills in an obscure inside pocket. The coat as it turns out has 10 pockets, which is supposedly quite handy but is also enough to disrupt the back-garden customers at the No Name.

A doe and her two fawns help clear grass downhill from Mitchell cabin.

Saturday, I took advantage of sunny weather to weed-whack grass around the house. All was going well as I worked my way up a slope until I tripped and fell backward onto the ground. My rib-cage came down on top of the weed-whacker’s handlebar. Goddamn gravity!

Lynn helped me get up, but when I went inside and tried to lie down, the pain became excruciating. Because it was a weekend, none of the clinics in town was open, and bouncing over the Coast Range to Kaiser Hospital in Terra Linda was not an option. The next day was Sunday, so there still were no clinics open. The day after that was Memorial Day, and the clinics were still closed.

Finally today, Tuesday, Lynn drove me, sightly sedated, to Kaiser in San Rafael where a doctor concluded I had bruised a few ribs but not broken any. So now I’m back home again, getting a jab in my side every time I cough or roll over in bed. Getting in and out of bed is pure torture. However, I’m expected to recover.

Marin Agricultural Land Trust held its annual art show in Nicasio’s Druid Hall this past weekend. What a crowd! The landscapes on display were reminders of the beauty and tranquility now being protected forever by MALT conservation easements.

The popular art show is one of MALT’s sources of income, and local artists share part of the selling price to take part. For MALT’s explanation of what it does, click here.

Shep and Bugeyes, Barinaga Ranch — By Christin Coy

Hidden Tomales — By Jeanette LaGrue

Nicasio Druid Hall was packed with folks checking out the 18th annual Ranches and Rolling Hills Landscape Art Show and Sale.

Wood sculptor Bruce Mitchell with three of his impressive works made from eucalyptus: Fossil Fish No. 1 (middle), No. 3 (on top), and No. 4 (on the bottom). Fossil Fish No. 2 was across the room on a different wall.

Nicasio artist Thomas Wood lives on the town square only a few doors from the Druid Hall where these paintings by him were on display.

A guest talks with artist Robert Steele. This was his second year to be admitted in the selective show.

This was artist Ane Carla Rovetta’s 17th MALT show. She lived in Point Reyes Station for 27 years, she said, until the cost of housing convinced her to get a small home in Petaluma.

Miriam and Mark Pasternak of Devil’s Gulch Ranch in Nicasio sold packages of ground coffee.

Barns Above Drakes Beach — Michael Drury

Entertaining guests on a deck outside the main hall was William Mitchell, one of the artists in the show. _________________________________________________________________

California Vineyard, HillsMillicent Tompkins








The Light on the Coast: 65 Years of News Big and Small as Reported in The Point Reyes Light, has now sold out virtually all of its third printing. When I wrote the book a year and a half ago with Jacoba Charles as coauthor, I had no idea it would sell so well. Aside from a very few copies at Point Reyes Books, Toby’s Feed Barn, and Tomales Regional History Center, it’s no longer available in West Marin.

The History Center published it, and on Sunday Lynn and I drove to Tomales to drop off the last few copies still on hand. It would have been an easy jaunt were it not for all the bicyclists on Highway 1. Riding four abreast on a two-lane state highway would seem to be the height of either ignorance or arrogance, but at least on this trip we didn’t see any spandex-covered legs sticking out of the ditch.

While in Tomales, Lynn and I stopped at Mostly Natives Nursery to check out the posies, and Lynn found a giant verbena to add to the foliage on our deck. For those of you who aren’t familiar with it, Mostly Natives is a great little nursery right beside Highway 1 downtown. And as it happens, it’s also the setting of one of my favorite stories in The Light on the Coast.

In a March 3, 2005, news article headlined “Wild turkey blacks out Tomales,” Point Reyes Light reporter Peter Jamison wrote: “A surprisingly resilient wild turkey downed power lines in Tomales last week, causing a four-hour blackout. The turkey, by all indications, is still alive and at large.

“Tomales residents Margaret Graham and Walter Earle, owners of Mostly  Natives, were drinking tea and reading the paper shortly before 6:45 a.m. last Friday in their home when they were startled by a loud explosion and brilliant flash of light from outside their window.

“Running outside, they discovered three downed power lines and a dazed-looking turkey walking in circles on Highway 1. The couple watched as the turkey ambled into the field across the road from their house, disappearing into the brush.

“‘He could have had a heart attack later on in that field,’ Graham said. ‘But I don’t know. There were some feathers in the road, but they didn’t look burnt.’”

“Earle immediately reported the downed power lines to the Tomales firehouse. ‘Some turkey just took out the power lines,’ he recalled saying. Fire Captain Tom Nunes told The Light that he assumed at the time that Earle was referring to a drunk driver rather than a bird.

“Arriving on the scene, Nunes and a crew of volunteer firefighters were baffled to find a mysterious scattering of feathers, but no turkey. After a search of the area yielded no dead or dying birds, Nunes could only confirm that the turkey had somehow survived a head-on collision with a 12,000-volt power line.

“‘You’d think where the power line broke there’d be a fried bird or something,” Nunes said, ‘but we couldn’t find remnants or anything.’

“The jolt of electricity administered to other birds — such as turkey vultures — that more commonly touch live power lines is so strong that the birds typically burst into flames, Nunes said. Typically this occurs when a vulture sitting on a line starts to take off, and its long wings touch two lines simultaneously. In one such accident in the summer of 1998, a flaming buzzard fell to the ground and ignited a 2.5-acre grass fire along Old Rancheria Road in Nicasio.

“Some 825 households and businesses in Tomales initially lost power when the blackout began at 6:45 a.m. Of these, 622 had their power back on by 8 a.m. All customers had their lights back on by 10:15 a.m., spokesman Lloyd Coker of PG&E said.

“Coker noted that he’s never heard of a bird surviving a brush with power lines, and he could recall only one instance when a wild turkey had flown into a power line, which happened about eight years ago in Sebastopol.

“‘I certainly wouldn’t say it’s a common occurrence,’ he added. The scarcity of such incidents is no surprise since wild turkeys can fly only short distances when they fly at all. ‘They don’t fly all that well, so we’ve had no [previous] cases of turkeys hitting the power lines,’ Nunes said.

“At the site of last week’s mishap, however, a steep hillside serves as a launching pad for the birds, which — frantically flapping their wings — can travel to the field across the road.

“Graham said she and her husband had often witnessed the birds in their short bursts of flight across the highway….”

This excerpt from Jamison’s news story is one example of why I as editor of The Light appreciated his craftsmanship. Nor was I the only editor who did. After he left The Light, Jamison went on to write for SF Weekly, The Tampa Bay Times, and now The Los Angeles Times, where he is the metro reporter.

Meanwhile, back in Tomales, nurseryman Walter Earle today shared his amused memories of that winter day 10 years ago when a wild turkey blacked out the town. In particular, he remembered firefighters preparing for a medical emergency when they thought the “turkey” he was talking about was a drunk driver.

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