History


Caveat lectorem: Some readers have asked to receive an email alert with a link to new postings on this blog. Thank you. The link is created the moment a posting goes online. Readers who find their way here through that link can see an updated version by simply clicking on the headline above the posting.

My appointment book says Sunday, Sept. 23, will be the “first day of fall.” My Humane Society calendar says it will be the day “autumn begins.” Which is it? Or both? And if so, why does the season have two names. Both originate in the British Isles, but “autumn” is the more-common term there while fall is preferred here in the US.

From what I read, “fall” came into use around the 1500s in such terms as “fall of the year” or “fall of the leaf.” Within a century it was contracted to simply “fall.” Autumn, which comes from the Latin autumnus by way of the French automne, means the same thing but didn’t become popular in the British Isles until the 1600s.

Every year in West Marin, leaves with fall colors — poison oak’s red leaves in particular — decorate the countryside. Which reminds me of my itchy youth in Berkeley. When I was learning to read and write at Hillside Elementary School, one teacher at the start of a school year told our class to write poems about autumn. Expressing my chagrin at the end of vacation, I wrote:

“Autumn, it comes in the fall./ Autumn should not come at all./ For when it’s fall, it is a rule/ All of us go back to school.” I can’t remember the teacher’s reaction to my rhyme, but I know she didn’t always understand what I wrote. When I once used “mise” in a paper, she drew a circle around it. “What’s that word?” she asked. I was astounded that she didn’t know. My parents were always saying, “We mise well do this” or, “We mise well do that.”

The summer was so dry that the horses grazing on the hill next to Mitchell cabin ate down all the grass and are now living off bales of hay distributed by their owners.

A hillside in the Murray Buttes region of Mars. (NASA photo)

Mars or mythology? Recently while looking into the origins of words, I became curious as to the origin of “Hesperian.” There’s a city called Hesperia in San Bernardino County and an Elementary School called Hesperian in San Lorenzo. Hesperian is also the name of a major boulevard which parallels the Nimitz freeway in Hayward.

But when I looked up Hesperian in Wikipedia, the first definition listed said, “The Hesperian is a geologic system and time period on the planet Mars characterized by widespread volcanic activity and catastrophic flooding that carved immense outflow channels across the surface.” The Hesperian probably began about 3700 million years ago. Why would anyone name a city, or a school, or a boulevard after that?

Apparently as it’s being used, however, Hesperian suggests “western” or “occidental.” In ancient Greek and Roman mythology, Hesperides referred to both a garden producing golden apples at the western edge of the world and to nymphs who guarded the garden with the aid of a dragon. Again I ask: why would anyone name a city, or a school, or a boulevard — even in the West — after nymphs with a dragon or their garden?

In keeping with the western garden myth of Hesperides, the Greeks called the Evening Star (which rises in the west) “Hesperus.” Even if this were the reference, I would similarly ask: why anyone would name a city, a school, or a boulevard after the evening star?

Caveat lectorem: Some readers have asked to receive an email alert with a link to new postings on this blog. Thank you. The link is created the moment a posting goes online. Readers who find their way here through that link can see an updated version by simply clicking on the headline above the posting.

A line of wild turkeys advances on Mitchell cabin.

This week’s posting mostly concerns the unrecognized origins of everyday words. But it will be pun-tuated by lines of animals. My authority is the Morris Dictionary of Word and Phrase Origins. Computer techie Keith Mathews gave me his copy when he moved from Point Reyes Station to Augusta 11 years ago.

Let’s start with “hobnob.” Although it sounds like slang, it’s actually “a word of impeccable ancestry,” according to the dictionary. It first showed up at the time of Chaucer as habnab, meaning “to have and have not.” The word originated in the 14th Century as a term for “the social practice of alternating in the buying of drinks.” Eventually it came to mean having social exchanges with someone.

Or how about “boondocks?” After all, don’t we West Mariners live in them? “Boondocks” comes from the Tagalog word bandok, meaning “mountains.” During their occupation of the Philippines in World War II, US servicemen picked up the word and used it as a general term for “rough back country.” In time, “the boondocks” came to mean “the sticks.”

Deer tend to approximate a line when crossing fields while grazing. If one of them is alarmed by something, it inevitably alerts the rest.

Most Americans who use the word “ramshackle” know nothing of its origin. As the dictionary notes, it comes to us straight from Iceland, where the word is ramskakkr, meaning “badly twisted.” In English that term came to mean “about to fall to pieces.”

Horses in the field seem to line up only when walking on a trail in rough terrain.

Canada. My mother was a Canadian immigrant, but I never knew the origin of the name Canada until I read the Morris Dictionary: “According to the best authority, canada was originally a word in the Huron-Iroquois language meaning ‘a collection of lodges.'” The French explorer Jacques Cartier coined Canada when he wrote in 1535 that he had talked with an Indian chief who waved his arms about when he said kanata, apparently referring to all the land in the region. In fact, the chief was merely referring to a nearby village. But mistakes happen.

Corduroy is an especially sturdy fabric, which is one reason I usually wear cords. But despite its workhorse connotation in English, the word originated in French as corde du roi, meaning “cord fit for the king.” In fact, corde du roi was once used exclusively by kings as part of their hunting regalia. Quant à moi, je suis ce que je suis, as Popeye says when in Paris.

Caveat lectorem: Some readers have asked to receive an email alert with a link to new postings on this blog. Thank you. The link is created the moment a posting goes online. Readers who find their way here through that link can see an updated version by simply clicking on the headline above the posting.

Tomales celebrated its annual Founders’ Day Sunday with its traditional parade down the main street and festival in the town park. Tomales artist and cartoonist Kathryn LeMieux incorporated her California Mermaids characters into this scene, which she painted for the festival poster.

The parade was more spread out than in years past. Fewer floats took part. Tomales High did not send cheerleaders as it often does. Nor was there the usual contingent of antique cars, farm tractors, etc. but the crowd was still enthusuastic.

As is common at parades in West Marin, more than a few participants threw wrapped candies to kids along their route. Meanwhile the festival, which included a variety of food booths, art offerings, and music, was packed and convivial.

The Boy Scouts provided their own color guard. Tomales’ main street is Highway 1, which had to be closed through town during the parade.

The parade marshals turned out to be sisters, Mary Zimmerman and Kathleen Sartori.

Tomales rancher Al Poncia and his wife Cathie rode a three-wheeled motorcycle that was pulling a trailer with a keg labeled “Papa’s Grappa.”

The Hubbub Club from the Graton-Sebastopol area of Sonoma County.

Tomales sheepman Dan Erickson drove a truck marked “ZOOMALES,” which was loaded with plants and scary-looking creatures.

A “Tomales Baby Boom” entry celebrated the “future” Future Farmers of America.

E Clampus Vitus is annually a colorful participant in the parade. The Clampers are a boisterous club which pulls pranks but also puts up memorials for events in local history considered too small for the State Historical Society to commemorate. The Los Angeles Times once mused whether the group should be considered an “historical drinking society or a drinking historical society.”

The 1877 William Tell House bar and restaurant, the oldest saloon in the county (the building on the left), reopened last month under new ownership.

Mexican dancers, who pull their own drums with them, add excitement to many parades around here.

Not so excited was this participant who appeared to doze off while riding in a parade entry.

Far more excited was this canine passenger, Rylo, riding with Karen Lawson in Curtis McBurney’s parade entry.

Providing music for the festival in Tomales Town Park was a group called Foxes in the Henhouse.

Along with all the food, music, and crafts  in the park, townspeople could sign up to become volunteer firefighters or to take Community Emergency Response Team (CERT) training. Kids could climb, swing, and take slides in the park’s small playground. In short, there was something for everyone.

This week’s  journey started out when Sausalito poet Paul LeClerc and I got to talking during a break in the jazz one Friday evening at the No Name Bar. As noted in my July 8 posting, he recommended I read Joseph Mitchell’s 1938 book Joe Gould’s Secret, so I did. Not surprisingly, the author’s style turned out to be extremely engaging, for Mitchell was a longtime writer for The New Yorker. Much of the book had already appeared in that magazine. Whenever that had happened, Gould received some much-desired publicity.

— Poet Paul LeClerc (in white hat) at the No Name Bar

As I wrote last time, Gould was an unemployable eccentric who frequented the dive bars of New York City. Sometimes he called himself Professor Seagull. He claimed he’d learned the language of seagulls and had translated various poems into “seagull language.” He survived on donations of money, food, and clothing.

To justify his having no job and no money, Gould told people he was busy writing “the longest book in the history of the world.” He called it An Oral History of Our Time and was constantly recording in composition books conversations he was overhearing. The “secret” was that there was no such book, only a bunch of his notebooks, as Mitchell (below right) would discover. Gould was eventually hospitalized with a variety of physical and mental problems and died with people still looking for a copy of his Oral History.

— Los Angeles Times illustration

The story fascinated a college student named Jill Lepore (left), and one semester she joined the hunt for Gould’s missing Oral History as part of a thesis. Her paper became the genesis of her 2015 book titled Joe Gould’s Teeth. With its 77 pages of footnotes, it’s probably better researched then any other book I’ve read. Appropriately, Lepore, now 52, has become a professor of American History at Harvard as well as a staff writer for The New Yorker.

Lepore depicts Gould in far less flattering terms than Mitchell did. “Joe Gould was a toothless mad man who slept in the street,” Lepore writes, also noting that he sometimes “bunked in flophouses.” She also describes Gould’s obsession with sculptor Augusta Savage and his behavior toward her after she rejected his marriage proposal. Gould became so distraught he had to be hospitalized, and upon his release, he began stalking her.

This gets us to a stunning revelation that explains the title Joe Gould’s Teeth. Gould over time was admitted to several psychiatric hospitals, and “it was likely at Central Islip [hospital in New York] that Gould (above) lost his teeth,” Lepore concludes. “‘The first thing they did with all patients was take out all their teeth,’ wrote the psychiatrist Muriel Gardiner recalling her residency at a mental hospital in New Jersey at the time. This was on the theory, she explained, ‘that mental illness of any sort was always the result of a physical infection.'”

Lepore subsequently notes: “In New Jersey, Gardiner found the care of patients in the state mental hospital appalling. What most distressed her was the removal of their teeth. ‘I read their charts,’ she later said, ‘and some of them literally had had teeth, tonsils, appendix, uterus, every organ that you can live without removed for no apparent reason except they were schizophrenic…. None of them had ever got better.'”

That medical quackery explains the title Joe Gould’s Teeth. Oddly enough, Lepore merely refers to it only twice briefly and well before the conclusion. It’s almost as if that cruelty were incidental to her account and not the focus of the book’s title. But since Lepore writes for The New Yorker, I won’t second-guess her style.

There were no coyotes in West Marin for 40 years because of poisoning by sheep ranchers in northwest Marin and southern Sonoma counties. However, coyotes never disappeared from northern Sonoma County, and after the Nixon Administration banned the poison 10-80, they started spreading south and showed up here again in 1983.

A lean coyote on my driveway last week. (Photo by my neighbor Dan Huntsman)

In the years since then, coyotes put an end to more than half of the sheep ranching around Marshall, Tomales, Dillon Beach, and Valley Ford.

A coyote eyes my car as I park at Mitchell cabin.

Ranchers initially proposed outfitting their sheep with poison collars since coyotes typically go for the throat. The collars would not save the sheep that was bitten but would prevent the attacker from killing more sheep. The collars were not allowed, however, on grounds that a coyote which died from poisoning could, in turn, poison buzzards and other carrion eaters that came upon it.

A coyote runs past my kitchen door.

In 1995, Tomales sheep rancher Roy Erickson told The Point Reyes Light he had lost six ewes — most of them pregnant — to coyotes in the previous two weeks. Back then, each ewe sold for $85, and the unborn lambs would have been worth the same amount the following year. Financially, “it’s like someone slashing a pair of new tires every few days,” Erickson said.

Unless the state loosened its ban on toxic collars, the sheep rancher sarcastically remarked, “they’ll have to rename our place Fat Buzzard Ranch.” Fortunately, the ranch was able to survive.

Coyotes can walk at more than 20 mph and run considerably faster than 30 mph.

Tomales sheepman Dan Erickson today told me that thanks to special fencing, guard dogs, and hunting, there are still 10 or more sheep ranches in the Marshall, Tomales, Dillon Beach, and Valley Ford region. Coyotes continue to kill a few sheep, but they haven’t won yet. I’m happy to report we’re not hearing the ranchers howling, as the coyotes do almost every evening.

A sad afterward: Friday evening, July 20, Lynn and I were on Lucas Valley Road when we saw a young coyote walking in the grass beside the road. This was on the flats about a mile and a half east of Big Rock, and since there are no sheep ranches in the area, seeing it was a treat. Alas, later that evening when we passed the same spot while driving home to Point Reyes Station, we came upon a flattened coyote in the roadway. What a shock! Dammit, we all need to slow down at night.

 

A bohemian resident of Sausalito, poet Paul LeClerc, 71, is a regular customer of the town’s No Name Bar, which I visit every Friday night with Lynn or a friend to listen to the Michael Aragon Quartet perform stunningly good jazz.

After I got to know LeClerc (above), he began encouraging me to read Joseph Mitchell’s 716-page book Up in the Old Hotel, a combination of factual stories and fiction (each identified as such). I rather suspected the coincidence of our names is what inspired him to recommend the book, but in any case, I took his advice and read it.

For almost 60 years, Mitchell (at left) wrote for The New Yorker, and several sections of the book first appeared in that magazine. All are set in the 1930s and 40s. Here Mitchell chats with restaurateur Louis Morino outside Marino’s Sloppy Louie’s restaurant near the Fulton Fish docks in New York City. (Photo by Therese Mitchell)

In ‘McSorley’s Wonderful Saloon,’ the opening section of the book, habitués of this saloon and other joints in lower Manhattan, provide characters for Mitchell’s story. In Shannon’s Irish Saloon, for example, he encounters Arthur Samuel Colborne, who describes himself as “the founder and head of the Anti-Profanity League.” A street preacher, he claims his league has passed out six million cards urging people not to swear.

Colborne chastises people on streets and in bars for using not only obscenities but also words such as hell. “It might not be one-hundred-percent profanity, but it’s a leader-on,” he tells Mitchell. “You start out with ‘hell,’ ‘devil take it,’ ‘Dad burn it,’ ‘Gee whiz,’ and the like of that, and by and by you won’t be able to open your trap without letting loose an awful, awful blasphemous oath.”

When Mitchell offers to buy Colborne another beer, the old man declines, saying, “I seldom have more than two, and I’ve had that. Nothing wrong in beer. Good for your nerves. I’d have another but I want to get home in time for a radio program.” Colborne later acknowledges having drunk beer heavily on at least one occasion, and Mitchell writes, “He was the first beer-drinking reformer I had ever encountered.”

‘Joe Gould’s Secret’ is probably the best-known section of Up in the Old Hotel. Gould (above) was an unemployable eccentric who sometimes called himself Professor Seagull. He claimed he’d learned the language of seagulls and had translated various poems into “seagull language.”

He survived on donations of money, food, and clothing. To justify his having no job and no money, Gould told people he was busy writing “the longest book in the history of the world.” He called it An Oral History of Our Time and was constantly recording in composition books conversations he was overhearing.

In reality, there was no such book, only a bunch of his notebooks, as Mitchell would discover. Gould was eventually hospitalized with a variety of physical and mental problems and died with people still looking for a copy of his Oral History.

Paul LeClerc, who brought Mitchell’s remarkable book to my attention, lived and worked in and around New York City for about four years, driving taxicabs and working in bookstores. He’s familiar with McSorley’s Saloon and the Fulton Fish Docks area where most of the book’s tales take place. When he moved to the San Francisco Bay Area, he continued to work in bookstores.

In this 2015 photo by Peter Fimrite of The San Francisco Chronicle, LeClerc is filling his tank at Bridgeway Gas in Sausalito, the most expensive station in Marin County. “I live in town and I don’t drive that much so the price isn’t as big of a deal,” LeClerc explained.

At the time, the station had temporarily raised its prices to almost $8 per gallon. David Mann, the owner, “provided an unusual reason for the surge,” The Chronicle reported. “He doesn’t like complainers.” The newspaper quoted Mann as saying, “Yesterday, some guy asked me, ‘How high are you going to go?’ I said, ‘As high as I need to go to get you to stop complaining.’”

Mann, like LeClerc, is a bit eccentric (as am I), but certainly not on the scale of the Up in the Old Hotel’s eccentrics.

The book is available through Point Reyes Books and, of course, via Amazon: Up in the Old Hotel by Joseph Mitchell, Vintage Books, 2008

San Francisco Chronicle columnist Leah Garchik on Monday wrote about designer Christina Kim interviewing famed restaurateur, author, and sustainable-farming-advocate Alice Waters. The interview took a somewhat surprising turn, Garchik noted, when “at one point, the conversation turned to tablecloths in Switzerland.” Now there’s one hell of an obscure digression.

But the culinary world is full of surprises. On Tuesday when I dropped by Toby’s Coffee Bar for my daily mocha, the blind Italian tenor Andrea Bocelli could be heard on the bar’s radio singing Time to Say Goodbye (click). It was a haunting duet with Sarah Brightman, but what impressed me was how skillfully barista Diciderio “DC” Hernandez could whistle along with it. Wow! I can’t even carry a tune whistling.

Rounded stingrays, the most common rays on California’s coast. National Geographic photo by Norbert Wu.

Odder but grimmer: Did you read where 156 people in Orange County were attacked by stingrays in just three days last month, 73 of them on Dec. 29 at Huntington Beach? Stings from the rays’ tails are painful and can get infected but are seldom fatal. Lifeguards said there are far more stingrays around than usual, apparently because of low tides and because unusually warm water this winter is drawing them back to shore .

Victims are usually stung while wading in shallow water, and the easiest way to avoid them, lifeguards note, is to shuffle one’s feet, which stirs up muck and scares them away.

Another odd story: Chronicle columnist Willie Brown, former mayor of San Francisco and speaker of the California Assembly, is well remembered for championing civil rights, economic reform and other liberal causes. However, his brief nod to burlesque and porno filmmaking seems to be mostly forgotten.

So let me remind you that Brown (center) as mayor deemed July 13, 1999, the official day of Tempest Storm, the “queen of burlesque,” (at left). He then went on to deem July 28, 1999, the official day of porno actress Marilyn Chambers (at right). Chambers starred in Behind the Green Door and other pornographic movies while Storm was known as a striptease dancer.

Perhaps President Trump will someday name a holiday after his former porno inamorata Stormy Daniels.

The bank in Point Reyes Station has been an unpredictable place for a century while operating under a series of ownerships. On Monday, it surpised the town yet again.

Here’s how it all began. The Bank of Tomales in 1910 bought land on the main street for a branch, which opened in 1913 in a wooden building where Flower Power is now located. In 1923, Dairymen’s Coast Bank took over the bank and built the brick building occupied by the florist today.

While this was happening, the wooden structure was jacked up and moved to Mesa Road where it became a two-woman brothel. The late Lefty Arndt, who noted he never patronized the place, once told me it was the only brothel that ever operated in Point Reyes Station — despite what people say about the Western Saloon building and the Grandi Building. In 1928, Bank of America acquired Dairymen’s Coast Bank.

The bank went through its first crisis in August 1959 when a 31-year-old tree trimmer armed with a pistol and sawed-off shotgun robbed it of more than $14,000. Tellers and the one customer in the bank were forced into the vault. The robber kidnapped bank manager Al Cencio but released him in Samuel P. Taylor State Park.

A week later the robber, who was named William Jerry “Dugie” Williams, turned himself in, but the money was never recovered. Williams said he had buried most of it near a tree in Lagunitas but couldn’t remember which tree.

During the previous 15 years, Williams had been arrested for draft evasion, burglary, contributing to the delinquency of a minor, and passing bad checks; he was on parole at the time of the robbery.  That September, a federal judge in San Francisco sentenced Williams to 15 years on Alcatraz.

The present bank building was erected in 1976 at a cost of $215,000 but not without a major setback. During its construction, an arsonist on May 20 set the structure on fire, causing $100,000 worth of damage. A $1,000 reward was offered for information leading to the arrest and conviction of the arsonist, but he was never identified.

Nonetheless, the new Bank of America was able to open that Oct. 19. In 1994, BofA sold the branch to the Bank of Petaluma, which in 2008 sold it to Wells Fargo.

The trees around the bank were always a major part of its site’s appearance. Over time, a small sapling on the Palace Market side of the bank’s parking lot grew tall enough to become the town Christmas tree and a site for caroling.

That made yesterday’s tree cutting a shock to many people. This blog on Dec. 18 noted that the pine was scheduled to be cut down because it was considered sick and might drop limbs on people. Nonetheless, I was stunned to see actual logging. 

As seen from the bank’s rear parking lot, a Pacific Slope tree-trimming crew also cut down a pine on the north side of the bank.

And they trimmed a third pine at the back of the bank’s parking lot. I understand the bank’s concern about “widow makers,” as they’re called. I was around one. As a reporter in Sonora during the early 1970s, I covered the death of a man who was picnicking in a park on a windless day when without a sound a dead limb fell on top of him.

As of Wednesday, the “stump” of the former town Christmas tree had been lightly decorated with prayer flags. Until the stump is removed, other decorations can be expected, one of the Wells Fargo staff told me.

 

Halloween, which will be celebrated Tuesday, is our second Irish holiday of the year. The celebration is believed to have originated 2,000 years ago with a Celtic harvest festival called Samhain (pronounced sow-in). During the eighth century, the Catholic Church Christianized the celebration as “All Hallows’ Eve,” hallows being a word for saints. The name “Halloween” is a contraction of “all hallows eve” because it falls on the night before All Saints’ Day.

Halloween is the night that the dead supposedly return, which accounts for all the ghosts and goblins on the street. 

My fiancée Lynn buying a pumpkin this week at Nicasio’s popular pumpkin patch.

The Celts inhabited Ireland, England, Scotland, and Wales, along with Brittany in France. This helps explain why many Halloween traditions are basically Irish: the costumes (to scare off and confuse ghosts of the dead), the games (e.g. bobbing for apples), and especially the jack-o’-lanterns. When it came to carving jack-o’-lanterns, however, the Irish used large turnips, not pumpkins.

Immigrants to the US brought the jack-o’-lantern tradition with them and found that American pumpkins were far better than turnips when carving jack-o’-lanterns. Thus the Halloween tradition took another interesting turn.

Because Halloween falls during the harvest season, a traditional cornucopia (horn of plenty) is assembled annually at Mitchell cabin.

Also marking the fall are ants. As nature dries out, battalions of ants annually invade our kitchen in search of water. We place saucers under our houseplants to catch any seepage, and the ants head straight for the saucers. I often wipe them away with a damp sponge; if they’re on plants, I spray them with Windex, which doesn’t seem to bother the plants.

“The evening rabbit show,” as we call it, provides predictable entertainment daily at Mitchell cabin.

It’s in the same tradition as our “evening bird show.” Here a couple of sparrows take their daily shower in our birdbath.

So as we head into Halloween night, let’s be sure to remember Ireland’s role in shaping it. “Halloween” may not sound like a Celtic rite, but it’s as Irish as St. Patrick’s Day and even more Irish than the constellation O’Ryan over our heads.

 

 

 

Rabbit redux — As was reported here a couple of weeks ago, there are more jackrabbits in the fields around Mitchell cabin this summer than in past years. I quoted one neighbor who pointed out there are fewer foxes this summer and suspected that might explain the increase in rabbits. However, a few foxes remain, and other predators, such as coyotes, are also around.

Not a housecat — Still another predator, which shows up from time to time, is a bobcat. I spotted one last week in the field below  Mitchell cabin. From a distance, a person might mistake a bobcat for a large housecoat since they’re roughly similar in general appearance. There is, however, a key difference that allows us to quickly tell them apart; bobcats don’t wear pet collars.

A Turkish convoy — No doubt a bobcat would also enjoy a turkey dinner if it could get one. This flock of wild turkeys has been showing up in my fields for months. The turkeys are not native to West Marin. For the benefit of hunters, state Fish and Game biologists in 1988 released a small flock on Loma Alta Ridge just north of Woodacre.

The flock quickly grew, and before long wild turkeys were gobbling throughout West Marin. Some birds spread as far north as Tomales, where they were known to chase school children. In fact, the turkeys’ most-impressive bit of mischief also occurred in Tomales. Here’s what happened back in February 2005.

 A turkey gliding down off a hill on the west side of the main street (Highway 1) clipped a 12,000-volt power line, causing a “loud explosion and bright flash of light,” residents Walter Earle and Margaret Graham told Point Reyes Light reporter Peter Jamison at the time. The couple said the turkey, which was not set on fire, landed on Highway 1 and in a daze walked around in circles before ambling off across a field and disappearing into the brush.

Earle immediately called the Tomales firehouse and reported, “Some turkey just took out the power lines.” Fire Capt. Tom Nunes later said he thought Earle was talking about a drunk driver, not a bird.

As it turned out, the turkey had sparked a four-hour blackout in town.

Hiding in the grass — Among the most common wildlife around Mitchell cabin are blacktail deer. Their fawns are typically born in early summer, and as of this week, still had their spots. The spots provide excellent camouflage from predators, as can be seen here.

Raccoonoitering Raccoons show up around Mitchell cabin virtually every evening. Raccoon kits are born in the spring and raised by their mothers until late fall. No doubt the biggest killer of raccoons around here is the motor vehicle, but once they’re in my fields, the main threat they face is each other. Unrelated raccoons frequently fight among themselves. We’ve seen raccoons that had lost part of an ear — or even a foot — in these skirmishes.

Chinook, like the salmon — An unfamiliar animal I encountered in the past week was this parrot named Chinook (seen perched on my wrist inside Sausalito’s No Name bar). Chinook wasn’t at all skittish around people although all the noise eventually irritated the 25-year-old bird and it nipped my finger — but not hard enough to draw blood.

More wild life — The Michael Aragon Quartet performs at the No Name every Friday night. The band plays jazz in the genre of John Coltrane and Cannonball Adderly, and they do it so well that drummer Aragon, the bandleader, has had the Friday gig for more than 30 years. On a couple of Fridays recently Nicasio-based Miwanza Furaha (above) sat in for a few songs. She’s a dynamic blues singer, whose passionate style reminds me of an intense Billie Holliday, and every time she sang, the crowd went wild.

 

Next Page »