Archive for April, 2014

Nancy Hemmingway and her husband Bruce Mitchell during a retirement party in her honor Saturday.

Inverness resident Nancy Hemmingway, who retired at the end of last month after 42 years as the town librarian, received a series of emotional tributes, some of them downright tearful, during a gala Saturday in Point Reyes Station’s Dance Palace.

A series of speakers commented on how well Nancy got along with library patrons and with colleagues in the Marin County Free Library System. Her concern for children drew particular praise.


So many people showed up to honor Nancy that the Dance Palace was almost as packed as it is each November for the Community Thanksgiving Dinner.

“Nancy Hemmingway has been the Inverness librarian longer than the Inverness library has been at its current location,” The Point Reyes Light reported on March 20.

“She’s devoted more than half her life to this community, in more ways than one,” The Light quoted Bonny White, the library’s West Marin branch manager, as saying. “Nancy is irreplaceable. She’s one of the most gracious people I’ve ever met in my life, either in library service or out of it. We have been so lucky.”

An ad hoc group calling themselves the West Marin Library Singers serenaded Nancy with “I’ve Been Working in the Library” sung to the tune of “I’ve Been Working on the Railroad.” Branch manager Bonny White (center) emceed the celebration.

Dance Palace Community Center founders (from left): Kate Adams, Carol Friedman, Michael Jayson, and Nancy Hemmingway in 1971. The photo appears in my new book, The Light on the Coast, courtesy of the Friedman-Jayson family collection. Saturday’s event ended, appropriately enough, with everyone being invited to dance. ____________________________________________________________________

Learn to Help! Have fun! Get dirty!

By West Marin Disaster Council Coordinator Anne Sands

What would you do in a disaster if no help were available?

Following a disaster event, such as a wildland fire, flood, tsunami or earthquake, West Marin’s first responders — firefighters, paramedics, and law enforcement — expect to be overwhelmed. We need to be prepared to take care of ourselves for at least three days and maybe longer.

Community Emergency Response Team (CERT) training is a national program that teaches you how to take care of yourself and help your community until first responders are able to assist.

Practicing extricating a victim from a damaged building during CERT training last January in Nicasio.

This 18-hour training, a two-day class taught on Saturdays by our local firefighters, teaches preparedness and survival skills that you can use to help you, your family, and your community survive after a disaster. Completion of the training qualifies you to be a volunteer Community Emergency Response Team (CERT)  member and makes you an official Disaster Service Worker (covered by worker’s compensation).

How you participate is completely up to you and your level of comfort. No special skills or experience are needed in order to be a CERT member. Don’t let age stop you. We’ve trained participants from teenagers to over-70 year olds. The important thing you bring to the class is a commitment to be ready for the next disaster.

Practicing transporting a victim during the training in Nicasio.

What will you learn?

• CERTs are trained to work in teams, organize a command post, set up a triage area, and perform basic first aid, such as identifying symptoms of shock, splinting limbs, and stopping bleeding.

• CERTs learn about when and how, to extinguish a small fire using a fire extinguisher.

• CERTs learn light search and rescue (SAR) techniques to find victims and safely transport them to the triage area.

• CERTs record activities and information to accurately report to the first responders when they arrive.

This isn’t just a lecture class. There are plenty of hand-on experiences and disaster simulations to practice your newly learned disaster preparedness skills.

Congratulations to the 23 graduates of the West Marin CERT class held in January. They are: Lynn Axelrod, Troy Clemons, Diane Doubleday, Walter Earle, Russ Faure-Brac, Gail Fechter, Jerry Feichert, Margaret Graham, Ann Griffin, Graham Hawkes, Oliver Hawkes, Peter Herbert, Don Holmlund, Shirley Holmlund, Paula Linton, Stella Petrakis-Rinne, Risto Rinne, Alison Romano, Anne Sands, Julie Siegel, Jacquie Waterman, Maureen Williams, and Luisa Young.

The next CERT class in West Marin will be Saturdays May 17 and 31 at the Marin County Corporation Yard in Nicasio. Learn more about CERT and register for this or another CERT class at www.readymarin.org or call 415 485-3409. The class costs $45, but scholarships are available.

It’s fun! It’s challenging! It’s worth it! ___________________________________________________________________

And now for the odd news…

A “Blue Monday” for all concerned.

• As you may recall, shortly after takeoff, a JetBlue airliner struck a bird last March 28 and was forced to make an emergency landing. No one was injured except the bird, which ended up stuck in the nose of the plane. These things happen.

What was odd about this collision was the New York Daily News description of the mishap: “Flight 671 departing from Westchester County Airport for West Palm Beach smashed into the nose of the Airbus A320 at about 9:30 a.m., the Federal Aviation Administration said.” A bird with a flight number? Now that is weird.

• Apparently fewer Americans are turned off by other people’s smoking than we are sometimes led to believe. The Huffington Post three weeks ago summarized an industry survey of what people in 24 of this country’s large cities look for when they browse online for porn. As might be expected, videos featuring Asian, black, and lesbian actresses are popular throughout the US. In Anchorage, Alaska, however, the most popular videos of all feature actresses who are smoking. Folks in Jacksonville, Florida, likewise consider smoking women hot. Sounds like the Surgeon General’s warnings may not be doing the trick.

Americans’ right to publish free from government interference is contained in the Constitution’s First Amendment, which was adopted in 1791. In the past 50 years, all manner of publications have relied on it in major court cases, ranging from the New York Times — which has used it as a defense against claims of libel — to Hustler magazine — which has used it as a defense against charges of obscenity.

But what did the founding fathers have in mind back in 1791 when they made freedom of the press a centerpiece of the First Amendment? They certainly were not thinking of radio or television. Neither had been invented yet.

Nor were they thinking of big daily newspapers, such as The Times. They didn’t exist either. There was no way to produce large-circulation newspapers back when presses were hand-powered. Mass-circulation newspapers weren’t possible before the first half of the 19th Century when — in the wake of the Industrial Revolution — steam-powered and then rotary presses appeared.

Nor was Congress thinking about men’s magazines, such as Hustler. There’d be no reason to before cameras were invented, and the earliest form of photography, daguerreotype, debuted in 1839.

The “press” America’s founding fathers sought to protect in 1791 consisted of weekly newspapers, often with circulations under 500 because that was the most that could be produced in a week’s time. These tiny papers were considered so crucial to America’s emerging democracy that nine of the original 13 states independently passed freedom of the press laws before Congress passed the First Amendment.

A dramatic example of the value that American colonists placed on their outspoken, highly partisan little newspapers occurred in 1765 when the British Stamp Act imposed a tax on newspapers and business documents, thereby shutting down many colonial newspapers. The public was furious. John Holt, the owner of New York’s Weekly Gazette and Post-Boy, found a warning letter thrown through the door of his print shop. “We are encouraged to hope you will not be deterred from continuing your useful Paper by groundless Fear of the detestable Stamp-Act,” the letter said.

“However, should you at this critical Time shut up the Press and basely desert us, depend on it, your House, Person and Effects will be in imminent Danger. We shall therefore expect your Paper on Thursday as usual.” Needless to say, Holt continued publishing.

It’s worth noting that despite today’s widespread calumny that “newspapers are dying,” most are not, and weeklies in particular are holding up well. Because thousands of US communities are too small to get regular coverage of local news from television and daily newspapers, weekly newspapers have a total nationwide circulation far larger than many people realize.

There are approximately 1,400 daily newspapers in the US. Together they have a total circulation of about 42 million. In contrast, there are well over 6,000 community newspapers, mostly weeklies, and they have a total circulation of roughly 65 million. All this according to the National Newspaper Association (NNA).

Unlike daily newspapers, weekly newspapers are not discarded after a day. Most weeklies sit around the house for several days with various household members picking them up multiple times. As a result, weekly newspapers are read by an average of 2.3 people per household, and they typically spend 38.95 minutes a week with each copy, meaning that 150 million people read a community newspaper almost 40 minutes a week, NNA reports.

Local news is the most-frequently read topic, and 73 percent of community-newspaper readers report reading all or most of each issue.

To be certain there are an increasing number of web-news sites, many of them maintained by newspapers, but their readers average only 4.4 minutes per visit, according to NNA. It’s also worth noting that 30 percent of adults who live where community newspapers circulate have no Internet access at home.

At 4 p.m. this Sunday, April 27, I’ll have more to say about the weekly press at Book Passage in Corte Madera.

I’ll also read from my new book, The Light on the Coast: 65 Years of News Big and Small as Reported in The Point Reyes Light.

As the cover notes, the book is “the history of West Marin’s Lively Little Towns and their Pulitzer Prize-Winning Weekly Newspaper.”

It consists of news reports published at the time events were occurring plus a background narrative.

The Book Passage store where I’ll be speaking is located at 51 Tamal Vista Boulevard just north of Century Cinema theaters.

For years, this was my view of Mitchell cabin as I drove up my driveway.

The cabin was framed by a large Monterey pine on the right and two others on the left.

It was an ideal setting for a cabin, I’d always thought.

My former wife Cathy and I built the cabin in the winter of 1976-77, and we planted the pines soon after moving in.

 

 

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The pines on the west side of the house have long been perches for all manner of birds and have provided refugee for many four-footed creatures, as well.

They’ve also been people-friendly. A year ago they inspired my stepdaughter Shaili (left), who was visiting from Minnesota, to try her hand at climbing.

 

 

 

 

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The only chipmunk I’ve ever seen around Mitchell cabin showed up one summer morning at the base of one of the pines.  _________________________________________________________________

Wild turkeys have become accustomed to using the pines for lookout posts.  ________________________________________________________________

Here a bashful possum peeks around one of the pines. _________________________________________________________________

And here a coyote prowls underneath the same  trees. ________________________________________________________________

Tragically, this stand of pines became doomed. The nearer tree died in the drought, and the further tree had begun to lean precipitously over the cabin. With great reluctance, I called Nick Whitney’s Pacific Slope tree service to cut the pines down and haul away any sad reminders of them. ________________________________________________________________

The pines had become so much a part of my home that I remembered how I felt when I had to take a sick, old dog to the vet to be put down. But there was no avoiding it, and Monday morning, the Pacific Slope crew showed up and got right to work. Here climber Ignacio Franco (left) listens to my lament. (Photo by Lynn Axelrod) ______________________________________________________________

Despite the sadness of the occasion, Lynn and I were fascinated by the almost-gymnastic feats of Ignacio (seen here) and his brother José as they climbed the trees. (Photo by Lynn Axelrod)

 

 

 

 

 

 

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A large limb comes floating down after Ignacio cuts it loose with a chainsaw. (Photo by Lynn Axelrod) ________________________________________________________________

The limbs, pine needles, and cones were ground up in the orange chipper at right and then hauled away.

Here José Luis Franco, better known as Pepe, (in light-colored shirt) feeds the chipper while David Antonio Lopez (in yellow shirt) drags limbs over.

Ignacio, meanwhile, prepares to cut the top off the dead tree. (Photo by Lynn Axelrod)

 

 

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Pepe cuts a large limb off the top of the leaning pine. (Photo by Lynn Axelrod)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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A man can work up a thirst climbing to the top of a tree and then sawing off heavy limbs, so Pepe took a moment for a drink of water.

Hoisting the bottle from ground level was his brother Ignacio, who used a block and tackle already in place for lowering cut limbs. (Photo by Lynn Axelrod)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Ignacio (left) uses a pulley to lower part of a limb that Pepe has cut while David drags off another. The limbs were too close to the house to be simply dropped. (Photo by Lynn Axelrod) ________________________________________________________________

As Pepe descends at the end of the day, these skeletons were all that remained of what had once been a familiar stand of Monterey pines. Tomorrow morning, the Pacific Slope crew will be back, and these too will disappear. (Photo by Lynn Axelrod) _______________________________________________________________

Late-breaking news: Pepe, Ignacio, and David returned Tuesday as scheduled and finished their logging.

Here Pepe appears to be dropping a section of trunk on David’s head, but David is tough, and the impact didn’t faze him. Perhaps because he was actually standing a safe distance away. (Photo by Lynn Axelrod) ________________________________________________________________

Mitchell cabin has survived, but to my eye, its west side now looks starkly naked. For the sake of decency, Lynn and I will soon adorn it with something floral, but for the moment we’re just pining for a couple of old friends.

As I drove down my driveway Sunday afternoon, a jackrabbit was sitting at the edge of the gravel eating grass. I didn’t have my camera with me, but I stopped and waited awhile for it to hop along. When it didn’t, I restarted my car and approached the rabbit slowly. The rabbit hopped away from the driveway 10 feet or so and watched me drive past.

Twenty minutes later when I returned, there were two jackrabbits beside the driveway, so I parked and walked up through a field to the cabin and got my camera. By the time I returned to my car, one rabbit had disappeared, but this one had stuck around.

I got back in my car and again drove toward the rabbit very slowly. Once I got close enough to snap a photo, I stopped, leaned out the car window, and shot several. Then I started slowly driving toward it again.

When I had almost reached the jackrabbit, it hopped behind a coyote bush, and I watched to see it if would continue on across the field. It didn’t. And as I drove past the bush, I spotted the rabbit hunkered down only a few feet from my car. Again I stopped and shot some pictures before driving on.

Unfortunately for the rabbits, this bobcat has taken to hunting around Mitchell cabin. I’ve seen it catch a gopher or two, but so far there’s been no evidence of its catching a jackrabbit.

The bobcat casually walks across Mitchell cabin’s parking area between my car and the barrier we call “Woodhenge.” (Photo by Lynn Axelrod)

Birds, of course, are not the only creatures with pecking orders. Here a raccoon at the top of the pecking order grabs a slice of bread off my kitchen floor Sunday night while a subordinate raccoon (barely visible at left) waits its turn.

Once the dominant raccoon has taken a slice, the subordinate raccoon reaches inside for its own bread.

It was raining cats and dogs last week, so when the sky finally cleared, these horses in a pasture next to Mitchell cabin lay down for a sunbath. (Photo by Lynn Axelrod)

As for the origin of the phrase “raining cats and dogs,” it’s nothing like the malarkey that has been circulating on the Internet for the past 15 years. Repeatedly forwarded emails claim the phrase dates back to the thatch roofs on the huts of medieval peasants. The thick straw supposedly was the only place for little animals to get warm, so all the pets — dogs, cats and other small animals — lived in the roof. When it rained, the roof would become slippery and the animals would sometimes slip off. This is said to account for the saying, “It’s raining cats and dogs.”

The phrase does indeed date to the Middle Ages, the venerable Morris Dictionary of Word and Phrase Origins agrees, but only because of the superstition of an era when people believed in witches, ghosts and goblins. “The cat was thought by sailors to have a lot to do with storms, and the witches that were believed to ride in the storms were often pictured as black cats,” the dictionary explains.

“Dogs and wolves were symbols of the winds, and the Norse storm god Odin was frequently shown surrounded by dogs and wolves. So when a particularly violent rainstorm came along, people would say it was ‘raining cats and dogs’ — with cats symbolizing the rain and the dogs representing the wind and storm.”

In light of that, I’d say West Marin could use a few more cats this spring — but no more dogs.