Sun 17 Mar 2013
In the 1970s and earlier, the West Marin Lions Club owned the Red Barn on Mesa Road in Point Reyes Station and used it for a community center large enough to hold huge gatherings. All that changed when Rip Goelet of Inverness Park bought the building, painted it green, and began hosting smaller events.
One of the large events which used to be held there was the annual St. Patrick’s Day barbecue, a benefit for Sacred Heart Church in Olema. These days, of course, the barbecue is held at the Dance Palace as it was on Sunday.
On St. Paddy’s Day in 1979, one of the fundraising events at the barbecue gave youngsters a chance to win a goldfish — such as Louis Ptak of Inverness (center) has just won — by throwing a ping pong ball into a bottle. — Point Reyes Light photo
This story is also set in 1979 although it began a year earlier. As it happened, young Michael Leighton of Inverness Park won a baby chick at the St. Patrick’s Day barbecue in 1978.
His parents, John and Darlene, were not altogether delighted, but John found an old chicken coop at the dump and fixed it up for Michael’s new pet. (This was back before the county closed the West Marin Sanitary Landfill in Point Reyes Station.)
The chick grew into a chicken, and the chicken, alas, turned out to be a rooster. As a pet, it couldn’t be eaten, but by itself in a cage, it was worthless. It required care and feeding and because of its enforced celibacy developed into an irascible pet.
In September 1979, matters got even worse. The rooster was outgrowing its cage. The Leightons, who were building a house on top of tall, wooden poles rather than on a cement foundation, were living in a trailer on the property during construction. They didn’t have time to build a new cage for the rooster, which only their son liked anyhow.
Before long, the rooster took to crowing every sunrise for an hour, beginning shortly after 5 a.m. “That’s it,” said John one morning. “That rooster has got to go.” Darlene agreed but worried how her son would react.
Later that day, John and Darlene were working on their new house when a family of tourists from Reno dropped by to admire the pole construction. The tourists also had a son, and he wandered over to the rooster’s cage. Impressed by the surly bird, he called his parents over to look.
“Would you be interested in selling that rooster?” the father asked Darlene. “We have a flock of 40 hens in Reno, and our one rooster has gotten too old to take care of them.”
The ancient Greeks and Romans called such turns of events “deus ex machina.” When a playwright had written his actors into such a tangle that only the intervention of the gods could straighten things out, a god (deus) would be lowered onto the stage by a machine.
From the bird’s eye view, this drama in Inverness Park must have seemed to have a deus ex Reno. Instead of ending up in a stew pot while his young owner wept, the randy rooster found himself en route to Reno where a harem of 40 hens awaited him.
As for John and Darlene, the tourists gave them $5 for the rooster and cage. Michael, who was off playing while this miracle on Sir Francis Drake Boulevard occurred, was left an invitation to visit his former pet the next time he got to Reno.
This world may have been going to hell in a handbasket, but for one September afternoon in Inverness Park, all was well.