Archive for September, 2012

This story starts with Adrienne Baumann, whose family lives in the Chileno Valley. She was a reporter for The Point Reyes Light in 1994 and later moved to Albino, Italy. When the Kosovo War broke out, Adrienne accompanied a Catholic aid group, Caritas, to do relief work at Kosovar refugee camps in Albania where she heard stories from the victims of Serbia’s ethnic cleansing. When she returned to Italy in May 1999, she sent The Light an account of  the horrific events in Kosovo.

In one refugee camp, an 18-year-old girl, Albana Berisha, gave Adrienne a journal she had written in broken English about what had happened to her family as the Yugoslav government under Serbian President Slobodan Milošević tried to drive ethnic Albanians out of their formerly autonomous province of Kosovo.

NATO missiles on April 21, 1999, set fire to upper floors of Belgrade’s CK skyscraper, where Milošević’s Serbian Socialist Party was headquartered. Air strikes also destroyed numerous buildings elsewhere in the capital and ultimately knocked out the city’s power grid,  forcing Serbia to accept defeat.

In March 1999, NATO warplanes entered the fray to stop the ethnic cleansing, and in June, the Yugoslav government pulled its soldiers out of Kosovo. In September 2001, Milošević was turned over to NATO and put on trial at the UN Criminal Tribunal in the Hague, where he was charged with numerous war crimes. In 2006, he died of a heart attack before the trial concluded.

Albana and her family returned to Kosovo after the war to find much of their homeland devastated. The “International Red Cross listed 16,000 killed, 2,047 missing, and 20,000 cases of sexual assault,” she recently wrote me. “The territories of Kosova were filled with mines, and almost everything was burned.” (In Albanian, Kosovo is called Kosova, and its capital Pristina is called Prishtina.)

As for Adrienne, she married an Italian and returned to West Marin where she became executive director of Marin Organic. In May, Adrienne resigned from that post, and this summer she and her husband (who’s with Apple), along with their two children, moved back to Italy.

Here are: 1. Adrienne’s original account published in The Light on May 27, 1999; 2. Albana’s wartime diary published in the same issue; and 3. Albana’s post-war account, which is appearing here for the first time.

By Adrienne Baumann

At a refugee camp in Derven, Albania, I met Albana Berisha. She’s a bright, assertive young woman who had been an enthusiastic student, aspiring to become a teacher.

That was two months ago. Today, Albana’s plans have been shattered. Torn from her hometown Slattina, Kosovo, she has been robbed of her youth and hopes for the future. At 18 years old, the victim of a war she does not understand, she has witnessed atrocities that surpass imagination.

Adrienne Baumann at right.

I also met Albana’s brother Kushtrim Berisha (an overly thin, timid 12 year old with a quick, endearing smile that belies his haunted eyes) and Albana’s older sister Arta; she can speak nearly impeccable English but rarely utters a word. They all have seen their lives ripped apart.

Another family member, Bardha Berisha, is my age, 27. Two months ago she worked in her hometown as an art instructor and painter. If you inquire about her profession, Bardha’s usually stoic demeanor crumbles. “My paintings were a part of me,” she whispers, covering her face with her hands. “The Serbians burnt everything to ground. There is nothing left.”

Refugees helping refugees

Today the Berisha siblings volunteer their time teaching and providing aid to other refugees at a camp in Derven, close to where their family now stays. Thanks to an Italian humanitarian organization, Caritas, an abandoned elementary school now houses and feeds approximately 400 refugees. Donations help supply food, clothing and medicine while volunteers assist in running a newly built kitchen, infirmary, and makeshift classroom.

From afar, the refugee camp seems a pleasant enough place. Children play in the shade of the trees, adolescents engage in a game of soccer, women wash clothes and hang them up to dry.

But a close look reveals crowded rooms where people lie motionless in oppressive heat, where silence reigns except for flies buzzing. Sanitary conditions are poor; crabs and body lice infect children and adults, fumes from burning garbage choke the air, and no one knows how long the well will hold out or if it’s contaminated.

NATO & KLA the heroes

Paging through drawings done by the camp’s children, I counted 70 pictures, each identically gruesome: burning houses, decapitations, hangings, rape, bombs, blood, tears… Serbian militants appear as grotesque giants with machetes and guns; Kosovo Liberation Army (KLA) soldiers and NATO forces are portrayed as heroes.

Unfortunately, for the refugees who have escaped Kosovo, the suffering does not end here. Even the Berishas, who have found shelter in a building that was abandoned unfinished, live in poverty. Their “home” has no window panes, electricity, or water. Two rooms are shared by 25 family members from five to 70 years old. A patch of earth serves for a latrine.

Albania holds no hope for Kosovo’s people. This desperate country, ravaged by unemployment, bankruptcy, communist sentiment, and Mafia control offers opportunity to no one. Here – where abandoned World War II bunkers dot every hillside – the unpaved, bumpy roads, piles of garbage, and omnipresent misery serve only to remind refugees of what they have lost.

“In Kosovo we led a normal life,” remembers Bardha. “We had a nice house. I had my own room. We had everything we needed.”

Milosevic’s wrath against Kosovars

Driven into exile by Serbian forces, Kosovars have lost their homes, their relatives, their friends, their very roots — that is, the identity that comes from having a place of one’s own. And while humanitarian missions aid in their survival, no one can erase the refugees’ memories of brutality, torture, and death inflicted by Slobon Milošević’s wrath against Kosovo’s Albanian population.

Albana’s diary gives one person’s account, and more than 800,000 other refugees, young or old, could tell similar stories of atrocities and fear. With vacant eyes, the victims look at the future with little hope. Perhaps an old woman huddled on a camp’s steps expresses the sentiment best. Beating her cane methodically on the ground, she repeats over and over again: “Better dead and under the ground, better dead and under the ground.”

Since the war, Albana Berisha, now 31, has earned a bachelor’s degree from the University of Prishtina and, thanks to a scholarship, pursued a master’s degree in Norway. Her English has significantly improved since she wrote the following journal entries as a teenager.

My Story During the War in Kosovo 1998-99

By Albana Berisha, 18 years old, born May 26, 1981, High School: Eqrem Çabej – Prishtine

March 22, 1999, Monday. It was monday when they stoped the whole city. They stopped everything. The cars, the buses. They stoped me and my friends to go to school, that was so [such a] lonly day for me. Since that day I never saw my friends again. Our lives was in danger, the time was come to say “to be or not to be”

I am 18 years old and I lived in one house with 8 members of my family. I started to study and I was happy about my profesion but sudenly something came up and I had to forget all that, and I had to fight, to run, to suffer, to cry!

I had to leave my best friend and go away. I had to leave my books. I had to leave my life behind and to start another one.

All day they shoot at people, people who has no guilt. The people who wants liberty and independent world. We had demostrade so many times but I guess it was no use.

One day as we were going to school a civilian Serb, a strong boy beat my best friend in front of my eyes. I was standing there. I haven’t done anything. In that moment I became a killer because it was the first time that I wanted to kill somebody. He ran away when he beat her, and she was laying by the ground.

A USAF F-15E takes off from Aviano Air Base in Italy to carry out air strikes in Serbia.

March 23, 1999, Tuesday. The tuesday came with bombs and airplanes, with police and dead peopel, it was unforgetable… We Albanians were so happy that day. NATO started the war with Serbs and we thought that the war will (would) finish for [in] 2 days, but that was not it.

We prayed to god that the police will run away, but they were getting closer and closer us.

We were so afraid, we stayed one week in the basemant, in there we didn’t sleep al night. Because NATO faught with Serbs all night and we just lisen to them in the cold and darkness room.

It’s hard to explain something like that, only Albanians knows those moments.

One day as we were staying in the basemant dirty, frighten, we heard that somebody was screaming. Yes, it was an old man who screamed. He and his grandson has been killed in the street.

His granson was already dead but he lay there screaming for 8 hours and no one helped him because it was dangerous to go in that street. So they stayed there lying in the blood all over the place.

Slobodan Milošević, president of Serbia (right). In 2010, the Life magazine website included him in its list of “The World’s Worst Dictators.”

The other day was so danger [dangerous], so we decided to go away. When we decided that, I was thinking about my life and I was willing to die, my hopes run away, out of my life, my body was aking [aching] all the time, everything was black and cold.

March 29, 1999 Monday. We made 1 week in basemant until we decided to run away because the situation was getting so dangeres. That night I said to my self, “I will sleep,” but I slept so little because I heard them calling my name. I woke up to see what’s up. I saw that everybody was getting ready to go away.

Sudenly… they started, the police started the war with Albanian peopel who is not guilty. They started the war with children and women, with peopel who has no guns, no force, who has nothing.

It was one a clock at night when they started to shoot. They didn’t stop al night so we had to leave our houses. When we get out and everything was burning, the houses, the school, the hole country.

That’s the night wich I was born again!

So we started to run in the midle of the night. It was raining and cold, but the most painful part was that we left my grandmother al alone because she refused to come with us. The raod was danger and hard. We were very tired and we just kept walking and walking until we knew that we have lost our way.

The other peopel stayed in the wood. Some alive, some dead. I cryed so much and I just kept walking and crying with my family. We have heen walking for 8 hours until we arrived in one house.

Albana today (at right)

In that house we stayed 9 day. These was happy times for me because my grandmother was alive and she returned to us. 9 days, and then we had to run again from that place, because the Serbian police was all over the place in Kosovo.

Where would we go? That was an easy question but difficult answer. The time was running fast and the police was getting closer and we were there standing thinking what should we do? The only way was to go in woods to live there.

Yes, we ran away from that place and we went in the woods, we lived there, in one plastic house we slept 15 members of our family. It was hard for us, we didn’t have nothing to eat. So bad place to sleep, we eate one time a day. NATO fought with Serbs every day and night. Everything was like a dream. A bad dream…

So we made 7 days in woods. 7 days I never washed my hair and my body. I never eate enough and I never slept. I started to lose my mind.

The police came again, but this time I was not afraid and I said if they want to kill us let them do it. I just can’t run any more. Those times reminds me of a song of Soul Asylum, “Run Away Train.” Like these words:

I think that this song is for Albanians cause it has the same meaning and the same touch.

The Serbian police came again like always with the most teror way. Killing people and shooting people and all that…

They didn’t want us even in the woods. They considered us like animals, peopel who works hard and get nothing.

When they came, they started to shoot. One man took the white flag and saved us all. They said that we have to go in Albania or they will kill us all.

In the 1990s, the former Republic of Yugoslavia began unraveling and by 2006 had become seven countries: Slovenia, Croatia, Bosnia-Herzegovina, Kosovo, Serbia, Macedonia, and Montenegro. Serbia, which considered itself the successor to Yugoslavia, at first tried unsuccessfully to thwart the breakup with wars in Slovenia, Croatia, Bosnia, and Kosovo.

We started to travel in the most dangeres road of our lives because during the way police tortured people in the most terrible way. They still [steal] money, cars, gold. They do what ever they want. Kill, rape, beat and all that.

So the way to Albania started that day. I saw them. I will never forget them as long as I live. I saw their faces with black hats [on their heads], red eyes, skin heads, guns, bombs. I had my little sister near me. I close her eyes, she was afraid to look at them. They [took] all our dokuments.

In the start our truck passed by but some other trucks didn’t. Only god knows what has happen with them.

During the way a boy 12 years old was killed by them. I knew that boy. He was so smart, every day he drove a bicycle around and around. He was a friend of my brother.

When I heard about his death I couldn’t stoped myself thinkin about him, one minute he exist, in another he don’t.

In one truck we were 25 members and as we were traveling we heard an explosive that was from NATO and so the Serbs got mad and they started to shoot at us. They got so mad that they through bombs in the trucks. We were more than hundred trucks the [column] was so long.

Minute by minute we were getting closer. But when we arrived in a placed called “Gy” they turned us back. But the [column] found another way through the place called “P.” [For reasons not clear, but perhaps to avoid revealing their escape route, the writer uses the initial “P” to refer to a town.]

The way through “P” was with dead horses and with bags who peopel left. Running away we saw blood all over the streets but I don’t know that it was a blood of animals or somebody else.

I’ve asked my father, he said that it’s nothing, but I didn’t believe him.

During the way among [through] “P” was killed two women. They were in the truck. We at that time lost our way and 10 more other trucks [or, “at that time we and 10 other trucks lost our way”]. It was something like 12 o clock at night.

We have been traveling 2 days trying to find the way to Albania. Our truck was so old and one of the gears was broke so we had to drive three gears.

God wanted to show us the way and he did, the hope came. When we saw an old woman. She told us the way and when I saw her I thought about god. God send her and she showed us a way. She was like a saint to us that night.

God wanted that we should arrived in Albania so we did.

April 12, 1999. I don’t know what exactly day it was but it was a big day. A day that me and my family finished the most dangerous road of our lives. I was happy…

But now I am sad because I would like to return. I would like to go back to my friends, to my books, to my place where I belong.

May 15, 1999. Now, I’m fine. Everything is okay. I live in one house with two rooms and no bathroom. In this house we live 25 members of my family but still, we are fine. We are lonely but fine. We are living a strange life but still its peace and we don’t have no more dangeres road. We don’t see dead peopel and Serbian police.

We hope that one day we will return.

Back home in Kosova. Albana lives near Prishtina at her parents’ house, which is in the village of Sllatina e Madhe within Fushe Kosova Municipality. After the war, the name Sllatina was changed to Albana, “so the village has my name, but it hasn’t anything to do with me. It’s just a name,” she notes. “We still call it Sllatina, though. It sounds a bit strange to call it Albana.”

After the War

When we got back from Albania, we  found our house in a terrible state, and our dog was lying dead in the garden. We checked carefully the surroundings before we entered in case there might be any mines around. The grass had enormously grown everywhere. We weren’t surprised. It’s not like we have been expecting something good.

I only thank God for being alive together with my family. Shortly after our return in Kosova, the priest of Italian Caritas came and visited our family. He thanked us for all the help we provided in the refugee camp in Albania, and he wished us a new beginning in the land of Kosova.

Every time that I stepped on the streets, I saw plenty of peacekeeper patrols around. My sister Arta was working as a translator/interpreter for them [and for awhile supported the family].

I have always loved languages and especially English, so I enrolled at the University of Prishtina where I earned a Bachelor degree in English Language and Literature.

Albana’s view of a cold Norwegian winter.

After graduation I pursued a Master’s degree in Norway, where I also learned the Norwegian language. I enjoyed being in Norway, learning Norwegian, and meeting new people there, but I don’t miss the cold weather and rainy summers in Norway. They have extremely cold winters; however, Norwegian people are nice and warm. I do miss my friends there.”

I am a language lover, traveling the world and communicating with other foreign cultures is my passion. In the future I want to learn how to play a piano, travel the world and write poetry and literary criticism.

I like to write poetry — sometimes because I think that poetry is the language of our soul. “The apple doesn’t fall far from the tree,” they say. I have become pretty much what my parents have done with their lives.

Today we find Kosova in crisis and critical situations, always suffering from something whether it involves politics, corruption, the weak economy or high unemployment. The government has turned into business. This country does not belong to its people.

How life functions in Kosova today is not normal. We need our government to think and work for people, not against them! I personally despise corruption; it bothers me profoundly, and living in such society makes me unhappy.

There have been plenty of [foreign] missions, supervisions and [political] transitions; we’ve had them all. Obviously the critical situation in this country suits the government as well as Serbia, who is not recognizing us [as independent]. Kosova has been independent since 2008, with a new flag and 91 countries recognizing us. There is no turning back, and Serbia is only wasting time.

Visa liberalization is more than necessary. It annoys me that this process is not being approved and practiced yet. We shouldn’t be considered a non-integrated part of Europe any longer. We are the young Europeans, and the world should view Kosova as a partner.

— Albana Berisha

In 1886, West Marin became linked to the tiny town of Cazadero north of the Russian River by the North Pacific Coast Railway’s narrow-gauge line.

The first North Pacific Coast train from Sausalito had on Jan. 7, 1875, arrived in Tomales by way of the San Geronimo Valley and a depot in a cow pasture that would become Point Reyes Station; not surprisingly, the advent of train service set off construction of homes and businesses around the small depot.

By the following year, another long stretch of tracks — from Tomales through Occidental (then called Howard’s) to Monte Rio — had been completed.

A train of picnickers prepares to head home after partying in Cazadero in the 1890s. Photo from Narrow Gauge to the Redwoods by Bray Dickinson.

In 1876, the North Pacific Coast Railway tracks were extended west along the south bank of the Russian River from Monte Rio to Duncans Mills. There the tracks for a logging train crossed the river and doubled back upstream.

In 1886, the logging-train tracks became the first section of an extended line that ran up Austin Creek to its terminus, which the Postal Service had named Austin after the creek. The town had previously been known as Ingram’s after a hunting resort there, and resort owner Silas Ingram, who was also the postmaster, was annoyed by the feds changing the name, which had helped promote his resort.

To quote Dickinson’s book: “A United States Post Office had been established here on April 1, 1881, with Silas D. Ingram as postmaster. The name of the post office was changed [back] to Ingram’s on June 25, 1886 and on April 24, 1889 [was changed] to Cazadero.” The word is Spanish for hunting ground.

Dickinson adds, “The first regular passenger train from San Francisco arrived at Ingram’s on April 1, 1886.” The trip had begun with travelers crossing the Golden Gate on a North Pacific Coast ferry. The ferry docked in Sausalito, and the engine house for the railway was in Point Reyes Station.

The CazSonoma Inn.

In the early 1970s when I lived in Monte Rio while editing The Sebastopol Times, I frequently heard good things about the Cazanoma Lodge in nearby Cazadero but somehow never found time to check it out.

A couple of weeks ago after Lynn and I finished some maintenance on a cottage she owns in Forestville near the Russian River, she and I on a lark decided to visit Cazadero, which neither of us had seen in years.

I was still curious about the Cazanoma Lodge, so we agreed to make that part of the trip. From Highway 116, we drove up the Cazadero “Highway” in the shadow of giant redwoods until we spotted a sign beside Kidd Creek, a tributary of Austin Creek. As the sign revealed, the lodge has been renamed the CazSonoma Inn, and we drove three miles up a dirt road to reach it.

Running the inn these days are Rich Mitchell (no relation) and his wife Renée. Rich, who is seen here in the inn’s charming dining room, is a genial host. A poet and author, the innkeeper relishes literary discussions.

Lynn enjoying a snooze in our room called the Creekside.

After making reservations earlier in the week, Lynn and I drove to Cazadero Friday and checked in at the CazSonoma Inn. Our room, which included two queen-sized beds and a large bathroom, overlooked a mill pond along Kidd Creek. Including breakfast the next morning, the tab came to $150 for the night.

The mill at the bottom of a small tributary to Kidd Creek was built in 1941 but hasn’t turned for two years, Rich told us.

The innkeeper gave us some fish food, which looked a bit like dog kibble, to throw into the mill pond near a pair of old duck decoys. Each time we did, we set off a feeding frenzy of trout.

I wanted to take a photo of Rich in the inn’s pub, which overlooks the mill pond, but he insisted we trade places. (Photo by Rich Mitchell)

Raymond’s Bakery beside Cazadero Highway has become well known for excellent pastries since opening 10 years ago. By now it is a popular meeting spot for local residents. Here Lynn chooses one of the bakery’s “award-winning” oatmeal cookies.

As it happened, Lynn and I were drawn to Cazadero Friday by the bakery as well as our inn. On Friday evenings, Raymond’s sponsors music outdoors under a stand of redwoods, and we heard a fine bluegrass band called Out of the Blue. Pizza, beer, and wine were served at picnic tables. There was no cover charge. A pizza large enough for two of us cost $18.

In the center of town is the Cazadero Store, which was built in 1882. The North Pacific Coast trains used to stop out front. To the right is the town post office.

On the north end of the small downtown is the non-denominational Cazadero Community Church. Over the door hangs a sign reading: “Heavenbound Express.”

Immediately north of the Community Church is St. Colman’s Catholic Church built in 1920.

Berry’s Mill when it dominated the downtown. (Russian River Historical Society photo)

My home in Monte Rio had been built with redwood from Berry’s Mill, so I stopped a couple of times to take a look at the mill back in the 1970s when it was still sawing logs into timber in downtown Cazadero.

“The story of Berry’s Mill and Lumberyard began in 1941,” notes the mill’s website. “Twenty-year-old Loren Berry was working as a logger in the small town of Cazadero. His family had been living there since 1886 when Loren’s grandfather bought the town of Ingrams and renamed it Cazadero.

“In those days, logging was done in and near Cazadero to convert forests to grazing land. Sawmills were needed to process the logs. In 1941, with the financial backing of his father, Loren built and began operating Berry’s Mill and Lumberyard. Most of the lumber was sold to farmers.”

During World War II, “Loren left Cazadero, joined the Army, and continued building and operating sawmills in the United States, Europe, and the Pacific. At the end of the war, Loren returned to Cazadero with a new philosophy of forest preservation and management. Rather than clear-cutting and burning forests to create grazing land, Loren promoted sustained-yield cutting and replanting.”

The old mill was destroyed by fire in 1989. With the help of townspeople, the Berry family rebuilt the mill but later relocated their operation to the Russian River end of Cazadero Highway.

A turnaround for locomotives was on the north end of Cazadero, the same as in Point Reyes Station. When the railway east of Point Reyes Station was  converted to standard gauge in 1920, the narrow-gauge line ran only between the two towns. Photo from Narrow Gauge to the Redwoods.

The Austin Creek disaster. Drawing by a San Francisco Examiner staff artistfrom Narrow Gauge to the Redwoods.

On Jan. 14, 1894, heavy rains swelled Austin Creek to where a trestle collapsed with a train from Cazadero on it. Seven men died, including the engineer, fireman, station agent, and town postmaster. The corpse of station agent Joseph Sabine was not found for 10 days.

Writes Dickinson: “By the 10th day, everyone was ready to abandon the search as hopeless just as an elderly Spanish woodchopper asked if they would let him help. He fastened a lighted candle to a piece of board and then chanted ‘mystic’ words as he set the candle adrift.

“Some distance downstream the board circled about in an eddy, then floated up to some tangled brush. The candle went out. ‘There you will find the dead man,’ said the old Spaniard. And so it was.” Dickinson adds, “It is difficult to determine how much of this story is true. However, those who were there for years repeated the story as true.”

The Cazadero depot in 1903. Photo from Narrow Gauge to the Redwoods.

On July 31, 1933, the 7.2-mile section of narrow-gauge line that connected Cazadero and Duncans Mill closed because traffic along it had mostly disappeared. The last narrow-gauge run from Camp Meeker south to Point Reyes Station had already occurred on March 29, 1930.

After almost 45 years of contributing to each other’s well being, Point Reyes Station and Cazadero were forced to go their separate ways. Their histories, however, are forever linked. Both towns are still small, but Cazadero today bears more of a quaint resemblance to its 19th century roots.

In the old days, typographical errors usually occurred when a Linotype operator retyped (in lead) a reporter’s typewriter copy. Even today when Linotypes have all but disappeared, most newspapers and magazines contain typos every time they’re published.

Omissions have always been the bugaboo of editors. Although lawyers chafe when reporters write that a defendant pleaded “innocent,” the usage is long-standing. The chance for a writer to accidentally libel someone by dropping the “not” in “not guilty” is too great a risk to take.

The first newspaper I worked for was a daily in Iowa about the size of The Independent Journal. It was called The Council Bluffs Nonpareil, and the name was a bit of an insiders’ pun. Although in French “nonpareil” means unequaled, it is also the name for a small (8-point) font of type. In any case, we reporters were under strict orders from Nonpareil management to never use the word “shift” in a story. Editors were genuinely afraid of how readers would react if a typographical error led to the “f” being dropped.

Be Prepared. That’s the motto of the Boy Scouts. “Be prepared for what?” someone once asked Robert Baden-Powell, the founder of Scouting. “Why, for any old thing,” answered Baden-Powell. Of course, there is a difference between the Boy Scout organization and the scouts themselves.

In the days before Marin County sheriff’s dispatchers got spell-checking programs on their computers, it was common for dispatchers to inadvertently split words oddly while typing at the incredible speeds necessary when taking down a concerned citizen’s call. Most of the time, the splits were easily recognizable, but occasionally they could be startling. One surprise that occurred occasionally would involve a dispatcher’s garbling the everyday words “does not.” Imagine a deputy’s wonderment upon reading in the dispatcher’s log that “the RP [reporting party] says the subject uses cocaine at her boyfriend’s house but does snot at home.”

Almost all US reporters these days write on a computer, in effect typesetting their own stories. They write looking at a computer screen, not a piece of paper in the typewriter. The editors make changes on their computer screens, punch a couple of buttons, and the story is automatically typeset in its final form.

It took at least three times as long to typewrite stories, edit them on paper, and then have a Linotype operator type the stories in lines of lead (hence the name Linotype). But while “word processing” on a computer is at least three times as fast, mistakes can be at least three times as big. A headline in The Providence (Rhode Island) Journal a decade ago announced Secretary of Defense Donald “Rumsfeld’s Pubic Role is Shrinking.”

Prince William and the Duchess of Cambridge are outraged that a paparazzo with a telephoto lens photographed her sunbathing topless on the balcony of a private estate in France, so it’s a bit surprising she’d go rowing topless for photos in the Solomon Islands.

Each issue of The Columbia Journalism Review carries a section called The Lower Case, which is where I read the Rumsfeld screwup, as well as many other flubs by headline writers. These have included: “DPW Workers Ordered to Anger Management” – The Providence Journal again. Or: “Teen Sex Not as Bad as It Might Seem” – Orange County’s Inland Valley Daily Bulletin. Or: “Cellphone Message Leads Belgian Police to Murder Suspects” – The Vancouver Sun.

Sometimes the flubs aren’t a matter of what was omitted but rather what wasn’t. Take this paragraph from The Sacramento Bee: “The victim, 27-year-old Byron T. Wall of Sacramento, was unconscious when firefighters discovered him. He was transported to Mercy San Juan Hospital, where he was pronounced dead. His name is being withheld pending notification of his family.”

Some flubs seem almost Freudian slips: “Material in Diapers Could Help Make the Deserts Bloom” –The San Diego Union Tribune. Or: “Democrat Promises All Americans Access to Health Care while in State” – Morgantown, West Virginia’s Daily Athenaeum.

The July-August issue of CJR includes this April 13 headline from BBCNews.com, “Escaped wallaby caught using huge fishing net,” as well as this from The (Athens, Ohio) Messenger of April 3, “Police: Dismembered woman lived with killer.”

On May 19, a headline in The (Cedar Rapids, Iowa) Gazette seemed to belabor the obvious: “Man who stopped breathing in police car dies.”

But it would be hard to beat this headline from the May 9 Seattle Times: “With Dicks in, all 6 WA congressional Democrats favor repeal of gay-marriage ban.” That would be Washington Congressman Norm Dicks. As they say, “It’s not what you say. It’s how you say it.”

With the quality of county parks, open space, ranchlands, and water on the line, Marin voters on Nov. 6 need to approve a quarter-cent increase in the county sales tax. A two-thirds majority is required for passage.

County Open Space and Parks Director Linda Dahl spent months preparing the tax proposal, Measure A, which the Board of Supervisors on Aug. 7 agreed to place on the November ballot. If approved, the tax is expected to bring in $10 million annually over its nine-year lifetime.

Dahl’s department would get 65 percent of the revenue, which would be used for maintenance and repairs at parks, as well as buying land easements and trail connections in natural areas, as my partner Lynn Axelrod reported in The West Marin Citizen. Cities, towns, and special districts that oversee parks and recreation would receive 15 percent, which they could use to maintain and expand parks, as well as reduce the risks of wildfires.

The remaining 20 percent would be allocated to a Farmlands Protection program for — among other things — buying conservation easements on farms and ranches. Here is how revenue from the tax measure would be allocated, according to the measure.

Additional maintenance at White House Pool, a county park along Papermill Creek, would be eligible for funding under Measure A.

Parks and Open Space Program: Eighty percent of this program’s annual amount will be used to protect and restore wetlands along the coastline and bay shoreline to protect wildlife habitat; to protect water quality and fish habitat by reducing erosion and sedimentation; to reduce the risk of wildfire, enhance biodiversity, and control invasive, non-native weeds; to repair, maintain, and/or replace deteriorating facilities in open-space preserves and parks; to prevent slope instability and flooding; to build new or modify existing trails, entering into arrangements with private landowners for trail connections; to augment visitor services.

Preserving natural lands would include purchasing land or conservation easements from willing sellers. To the extent possible, tax revenues would be used to leverage matching funds from public and private ‘partners.’

These might be considered “sacred cows” because ranching is what keeps much of West Marin in open space. If ranching gets too tough here, subdividing might replace much of it; Measure A, however, would help buy  from ranchers easements that lock their land into agricultural uses in perpetuity.

Farmland Preservation Program: The purpose of this program is to protect county farmland at risk of subdivision and development and to preserve working farms and ranches. Money could be used to buy perpetual agricultural-conservation easements and to buy additional real-property interests on lands now covered by such easements.

Marin Agricultural Land Trust (MALT) already buys and holds such easements, and the program’s 20 percent of tax revenues could be used to provide matching grants to ‘qualified organizations’ (e.g. MALT) to buy and support purchase of more easements. Up to 5 percent of the Farmland Preservation Program’s allocation would be used for monitoring and enforcing easements. And up to 5 percent of the allocation would be shared with the Marin Resource Conservation District to assist ranchers on easement-protected properties.

City, Town, and Applicable Special-district Program: This program would provide  local governments with funds to maintain and restore existing parks and recreational facilities; to acquire new parks; to carry out vegetation management. This program is expected to be allocated more than $13.5 million over the life of the measure.

The county Parks and Open Space Commission will conduct an annual meeting to  gather public opinions as to what projects should be funded. No more than 5 percent of the Parks and Open Space allocation can be used for administrative expenses by the county. The same is true for the Farmland Preservation Program.

MALT, which helped Parks and Open Space director Dahl prepare the ballot measure, is expected to be put in charge of acquiring agricultural easements. Bolinas resident Cela O’Conner, who bitterly opposed Supervisor Steve Kinsey’s reelection, criticized the board’s allocating money through MALT since it is a private nonprofit; however, the organization’s executive director Bob Berner told county supervisors, none of the tax money would “stick” to MALT or be used for salaries.

It would all go to acquiring and maintaining easements. Berner said MALT has already spent $54 million acquiring easements that protect 44,000 acres. Half of the money has come from public funds, he noted, but money from those sources — especially the California Coastal Conservancy — is “about exhausted.”

Affordable-housing advocate Dave Coury told the supervisors the ballot measure is “a pig in a poke” because the county has not yet decided what additional land might be purchased for open space.

The Marin County League of Women Voters, while not taking a stand on Measure A, pointedly asked Supervisor Kinsey in writing: “Is it wise to put the proposal on this November’s ballot when the governor’s tax plan will also appear?  We’re concerned that Marin’s competing proposal may serve to generate stronger opposition to that plan in Marin.”

Kinsey responded, “We understand the dire needs in our community that the state measure would address. We support the state measure, and would not be proposing our local measure unless we were confident that it would not affect the statewide one.”

The league also asked, “What are the thoughts of the supervisors on other potential revenue sources that may be less regressive and fairer?  In particular, have fees or parcel taxes been considered?  These more closely tie those paying for the services to the benefits.”

Kinsey’s response: “Sales tax is a broad-based tax, so it doesn’t create a burden for one segment of our community.  Our parks are used by all residents of our community, not just property owners, so there is a nexus between who pays and who uses our parks and open space. Sales tax may actually be fairer since it includes all residents (park and open space users) not just homeowners, and especially since visitors from out of the county who use our regional, state and national parks also pay a portion of the sales tax collected in this county.”

Speaking in favor of the tax proposal during the supervisors’ hearings were ranchers Dominic Grossi, Rick and Scott Lafranchi, Sam Dolcini, and Loren Poncia. Another supporter, rancher Ralph Grossi, former head of the American Farmland Trust headquartered in Washington, DC, told the supervisors he expects federal matching grants will be available from the current Farm Bill.

Also testifying in favor of Measure A, The West Marin Citizen reported, were the Marin Conservation League, Marin Audubon Society, the Marin Bicycle Coalition, Access 4 Bikes, and Conservation Corps North Bay.

Measure A’s benefits for Marin County are substantial, and I urge readers to wholeheartedly support it.

Tomales held its annual Founders Day celebration Sunday with a parade up the main street, which is Highway 1 and which was closed to traffic for the duration. The parade, which keeps getting bigger each year, was followed by a picnic in the Tomales town park.

Firetrucks were a major part of the parade. Most were from the Marin County Fire Department although two were from as far away, so to speak, as Bloomfield in Sonoma County. In a booth at the picnic, Marin County firefighters encouraged Tomales-area residents to join the town’s volunteer fire department. The banner refers to the Marin County Household Disaster Preparedness website.

Steve Kinsey, the Marin County supervisor who represents West Marin, rode in a Lamborghini. He had been originally scheduled to ride on a tractor, but it broke down. Bruce Bramson of Tomales got on the phone for three hours and eventually found Kinsey the elite sportscar for his chariot.

Jeff Etamad of Tunnel Hill Ranch in Tomales led his llama in the parade.

Members of the Redwood Empire Harley Owners Group (HOGS) followed a convoy of firetrucks at the beginning of the parade. The group says that by raffling off a Harley Davidson motorcycle each year, it has raised nearly $1.8 million over the past 10 years for the Meals on Wheels program.

Parading in a truck festooned with sunflowers was the Valley Ford Young Farmers Association. Its president, Anna Erickson, described the association as “a group of us in our late twenties-early thirties. We are made of three farms, Hands Full Farm (being mine), True Grass Farms run by Guidio Frosini, and Swallow Valley Farms run by John Gorman. We grow beef, lamb, pork, chicken, eggs, some produce, cheese, preserves — farmy stuff like that.”

Standing on a balcony above the Continental Hotel, Dru Fallon O’Neill (left) and Bert Crews, both of Tomales, were the parade announcers this year as they have been in the past.

A 1931 Ford Model A roadster pickup owned by the Simoni family of Sebastopol, Sonoma County.

Another Norman Rockwell moment in West Marin: two youngsters and two goats were passengers in the bed of a beat-up, old, farm pickup truck with a KWMR community-radio bumper sticker.

The Tomales High cheerleaders stopped along the route to perform as they marched in the parade.

A shack on a trailer promoted Valley Ford bird houses.

Cameraman at work: Kenzmyth Productions is beginning to film a documentary on Loren Poncia of Tomales. Loren’s parents Al and Cathie Poncia for years operated a dairy ranch, which they eventually converted to a beef ranch, beside Stemple Creek. The ranch was established in 1902 by Al’s grandfather, who immigrated to Marin from Garzeno, Italy, in the 1890s. Loren is the fourth generation to operate the ranch.

Dan Norwood of Dan’s Automotive Repair in Tomales again this year entered a car that fell apart during the parade. Clowns jumped out of the vehicle and put it back together, so it could continue. The entry’s motto was: “If we can’t fix it, we won’t!”

A breakdown in literacy: The Marin County Mobile Library, which was helping bring up the rear of the parade, broke down for real along the route and — after some delays and jokes from the parade announcers — had to be towed most of the way.

The Hubbub Club Marching Band from the Graton-Sebastopol area of Sonoma County was a hit of the parade. At the end of the parade they gave a brief performance at Highway 1 and Dillon Beach Road and then moved on to the beer garden at the William Tell House for a full set.

The Ancient and Honorable Order of E Clampus Vitus marches past the food and crafts booths set up for the picnic in Tomales Town Park. The Clampers, a fraternal organization dedicated to the study and preservation of Western heritage, has memorialized events in Tomales history.

Many picnickers in the park took advantage of a dining tent to escape the heat of the sun.

The band Wagon, whose members hail from Tomales, San Rafael, and Oakland put on a good show for picnickers in the park.