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“A bird in the hand,” wrote Cervantes, “is worth….

 

“two in the bush.” (Don Quixote, 1605)

 I had opportunities to enjoy both this past week, and at least for entertainment value, the bird in the hand is definitely more interesting. It was the third time recently that I’d had the opportunity to hold a live bird. Our cat Newy catches birds outdoors, brings them indoors as gifts for Lynn and me, and drops them on the floor where they are relatively easy to scoop up by hand.

As I noted last week, it appears that the experience of being carried around in the cat’s jaws is enough of a shock that it leaves them fairly dazed for brief period. But that doesn’t last, and the bird I’m holding above flew off after I took it outside.

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Environmental news

Of course, in West Marin even what animals belong outside is matter for debate. One of my favorite sections of The Point Reyes Light are its Sheriff’s Calls. On Sept.28, the column reported, a Woodacre man complained to deputies that “his caretaker fed the raccoons, and he was worried the animals would become dependent on people and turn into a larger issue. He said there were too many animals outside.”

That left me guessing: Was he only concerned with an abundance of raccoons? What other kinds of animals might he have on his mind? Just the name Woodacre would seem to refer to wooded acreage where wild animals might be expected.

And now for some more nutty national news

“A woman is accused of fatally shooting a man earlier this week,” The Chicago Sun Times reported Saturday, “when he refused to kiss her and instead asked his girlfriend for a kiss. The three were hanging out and drinking at their home….

“While they were drinking Thursday [Claudia] Resendiz-Flores asked 29-year-old James Jones for a kiss and became jealous when he refused and instead turned to his girlfriend and asked for a smooch,” prosecutors allege. “That’s when Resendiz-Flores’ demeanor changed and she again demanded he kiss her…

“When Jones said he wouldn’t kiss her, Resendiz-Flores took his gun, which was tucked between couch cushions at the home and aimed it at him,” prosecutors added, noting that Jones tried to push the gun down, but she “shot him once in the chest, killing him.” Resendiz-Flores has been charged with first-degree murder.

It’s as nutty as last week’s story about a man who shot his brother to death because his brother, a pharmacist, was administering Covid-19 vaccinations. The killer was convinced that the vaccinations are the government’s way of poisoning people. And while he was busy killing his brother, he took time out to also kill his sister-in-law and an 83-year-old woman who was a friend of hers.

It’s all tragically nutty.

 

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When I got home today, our cat Newy ran inside with a present for me in her mouth: a live sparrow. When she dropped it on the bedroom carpet, the sparrow took a few steps but didn’t try to fly. This allowed me to scoop it up with one hand and carry it outside where I released it seemingly unharmed under a bush.

 

The sparrow was Newy’s second surprise of the day. I had previously discovered she’d coughed up a series of hairballs on the staircase. They looked ickier than they proved to be when I cleaned them up, and they didn’t smell all that bad. Nonetheless, they were still a nuisance. (Note: After we took in this previously stray cat (above) a year ago, I named her “the Nuisance Cat,” but my wife Lynn changed the name to “Nui” and then to “Newy.”)

There’s a reason for the expression “what the cat dragged in.” Many cats, such as Newy, like to bring home presents for their masters. Along with several birds, numerous lizards have shown up in Mitchell cabin, thanks to Newy.

 

Here’s a blue belly lizard she dropped off on the living room couch.

 

Lizards, like the sparrow, often are in a dazed shock after spending time in the cat’s jaws, and this makes it possible to catch and pick them up as Lynn is doing here.

————

And now for some nutty national news.

 

 

Rightwing conspiracy theories have moved beyond being just goofy to being downright dangerous. Police in Maryland say Jeffrey Burnham, 46, (above) murdered his brother Brian Robinette, a pharmacist, because Robinette has been administering Covid-19 vaccinations. The vaccinations are part of a government plot to poison people, Burnham had claimed, adding that his brother “Brian knows something.”

But apparently Burnham wasn’t really all that concerned about protecting people’s lives, for while he was eliminating his brother, he also murdered his sister-in-law, Kelly Sue Robinette, 57, and an 83-year-old friend of hers, Rebecca Reynolds, police report.

If the government really wants to reduce the population, using nutty people to do the job would sound more certain than administering millions of vaccinations.

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Some international news

 

 

My youngest stepdaughter, Shaili Zappa, 28, flew back to Guatemala Tuesday after a nine-day visit.

Shaili is the third daughter of Ana Carolina Monterroso of Guatemala City, my fourth wife. Her sisters are Kristeli and Anika.

A little over a decade ago, Shaili attended West Marin School while Anika and Kristeli attended San Marin High. Shaili plans to move back to the Bay Area beginning next year and already has a job lined up with a high tech firm.

An adventurous young lady, Shaili has traveled widely. Here she feeds a giraffe mouth to mouth in Kenya. Shaili said the creature was as friendly as it looks.

Lynn and I, along with a number of friends from her earlier days in West Marin, are certainly looking forward to her return.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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A family heirloom — In 1856, my great-grandfather Luke Parsons moved from Ohio to Kansas, where he went to work as a clerk at the Free State Hotel in Lawrence. Kansas at the time was still a territory, and Congress had decided to let Kansas residents vote on whether to allow slavery when it became a state.

Parsons arrived  in Lawrence just in time for two terrorist attacks by pro-slavery “Border Ruffians” from Missouri.

A report by the Kansas Historical Society notes, “The first attack took place on May 21, 1856, when approximately 800 pro-slavery advocates descended upon the Kansas town and proceeded to destroy anti-slavery forces. The second attack, led by William Clark Quantrill on Aug. 21, 1863, resulted in the death of nearly 200 people and the burning of many business and homes within the community.”

“Notably, only a few of the ordinary border ruffians actually owned slaves; most were too poor,” notes Wikipedia. “What motivated them was hatred of Yankees and abolitionists, and fear of free Blacks living nearby.”

The ruffians’ violent attempts to get free staters out of Kansas ahead of the vote was known as “bleeding Kansas.” Abolitionist leader John Brown formed his “army” to protect the abolitionists, and Parsons joined John Brown’s Army. As part of the “Army,” Parsons on Aug.30, 1856, took part in the Battle of Osawatomie, in which members of the opposing militias lost numerous men. Out of such battles, the Civil War (1861-65) erupted.

 

Parsons (above) did not take part when John Brown’s Army attacked the federal arsenal in Harper’s Ferry, hoping to get weapons to arm slaves for a revolt. It was fortunate Parsons didn’t take part because the attack failed; Brown and other followers were subsequently executed.

During the war itself Parsons led a company of Native American soldiers in the Oklahoma territory as they hunted for “bushwhackers,” who ambushed Union soldiers.

After the war, Parsons took up life on the prairie in Salina, Kansas, where he eventually mail-ordered the clock that inspired this posting.

My father was born in Salina and inherited his grandfather’s clock, which I in turn eventually inherited.

However, the clock long ago stopped working, so in April, I took it to Tim Eriksen, The Clockmaker, in Novato. Eriksen got it working, but within a month its chiming on the hour and half hour stopped. Soon afterward, the hands of the clock stopped turning, so this week I took it back to The Clockmaker.

I was worried how much further repairs would cost, but Eriksen quickly figured out why the bell wasn’t chiming. The spring that drives the striking mechanism needed to be wound more tightly, as did the spring that drives the hands of the clock. Somehow I missed that.

Inside the clock.

 

Within minutes, Eriksen had the clock working as well as it presumably did 125 years ago, and on the mantel behind our woodstove, it again seems worthy of great-grandfather Parsons.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

My father was a good photographer, and when he travelled, he was constantly shooting pictures of the landscape. I, in turn, got in the habit of photographing the signs I saw along the way since many of them represent different communities and values. I started doing this back in the 1970s and 80s. This posting is a representative sampling from that era.

The line is catchy, but ‘My shirt for a beer!’ didn’t seem to catch the attention of this housemaid lugging food to work in Paris, circa 1976.

‘All for the Country Defending Justice — the Junta, the People, & Armed Forces.’ A 1982 billboard in San Salvador, El Salvador, supported the government in its battle against an insurgency led by leftist guerrillas.

‘Death to the Ears.’ This threatening guerrilla graffiti in San Agustin, El Salvador, was a warning to any would-be government informants. (1982)

San Salvador’s election center with its large Coca Cola ads received military protection after it came under fire one morning in 1982.

‘With the murder of Ana Maria, the Salvadoran revolution will not stop.’ This declaration strung across a rural highway let travelers know they were entering guerrilla-held territory.

Paris, 1983.

In 1982 guerrillas blocked a Salvadoran highway by felling trees across it. Because the government had previously barred local residents from cutting timber in the area, the locals put up a sarcastic sign of appreciation: ‘Thanks for the firewood, guerrillas, mules and sons of a whore.’    

 

Guatemala — The country’s military strongman, Gen. Lucas Garcia, in 1981 took advantage of his position to have a large sign put up along a new highway, giving him credit for it: ‘Another public work by the government of General Lucas.’                                                                                  

‘I was his home for nine months. Now it’s provided by Clayeux [diapers.]’ A billboard in Paris, 1983.

 

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The Panjshir Valley had been the one province of Afghanistan the Taliban had not conquered until last week. When it was conquered, provincial commanders blamed their loss on Pakistani aid to the Taliban. Many residents of the valley are Tajiks, as are many residents of neighboring Iran. As a result, the loss upset Iran, along with Pakistan’s traditional adversary, India.

Craziness. But that seems typical of warfare. As a reporter for The San Francisco Examiner, I first observed combat craziness during El Salvador’s civil war 38 years ago. I was startled by it. As it happened, I told my story to a reporter from The Des Moines Register, which soon put it in print:

Harrowing experiences in war-torn El Salvador

By Jerry Perkins, Register Staff Writer

(Photos by Dave Mitchell added)

SAN SALVADOR, EL SALVADOR — We went looking for guerrillas; instead we found the war. Photographer Rich Rickman and I left the capital city early one morning by taxi and headed east on the Littoral Highway. Our taxi driver, Jose Alvorado, carefully instructed us that we were not to tell the army where we were headed — a small village named San Augustin (45 minutes southeast of the capital) where the guerrillas often come to buy supplies….

——— ——— ———

A Salvadoran peasant family in whose front yard guerrillas bombed a utility pole. The railroad sign says, “Stop, Look, and Listen.”

——— ——— ———

As we drove up the highway, Salvadoran troops were walking toward the river and came up to the taxi to beg for water. One was carrying a limp iguana, a bullet hole in its head. ‘There’s a war going on, and these guys are wasting ammunition on iguanas,’ I said to Rickman.

Up ahead , we could see the taxicab hired by David Mitchell of the San Francisco Examiner and Cynthia Clark, his translator. Mitchell and Clark, standing beside a tree, were taking pictures of a Salvadoran soldier, his shirt unbuttoned to the waist, his M-16 blazing away. I thought the guy was just showing off for Clark. Another waste of ammo.

But as we drove closer, the leaves in the tree above the group started to disintegrate. Then Mitchell and Clark jumped behind the tree and crouched for cover.

Salvadoran soldiers take cover in the firefight with guerrillas from the Popular Liberation Front.

The reporter in me took over. I was frozen in the front seat, my eyes glued to the tree and the people behind it. ‘Oh my God,’ I remember thinking. ‘I’m watching those people get shot!’ Then Rickman called my name, ‘Jerry,’ he said, ‘get out of the *$@# cab.’ I looked around. Rickman was lying in the ditch. Alvarado, the taxi driver, was beside him. I scrambled out and crouched beside the cab. Mitchell and Clark, who weren’t touched by the shooting, ran to their cab and headed back to the village by the river. We got back in our cab and prepared to return with them….

A Salvadoran guerrilla stops a Toyota jeep belonging to the government-owned phone company. And then lets it pass.

Mitchell, a lanky, gregarious Californian, came up with the best story of the trip. He was taking pictures of guerrillas checking cars at a roadblock when a Toyota jeep was stopped. Mitchell thought the jeep looked like it belonged to ANTEL, the Salvadoran national phone company.

Cynthia Clark, serving as my translator, interviews Combatiente William of the Popular Liberation Front at the roadblock. He’s carrying a raw-pineapple snack.

Mitchell learned that the guerrillas let telephone company employees clear the roadblocks so they can keep the phone lines open in guerrilla-held territory. In return the company lets the guerrillas use the jeep at night for road patrols. The guerrillas return the jeep every morning. It’s that kind of war. — Friday, July 1, 1983 • The Des Moines Register

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For government employees in time of war to loan vehicles to the enemy would seem to epitomize craziness. But so do the Taliban’s hostile relations with India and Iran. If my country were going to war in that part of the world, I’d want those two on my side.

 

A month-long exhibit of paintings by Nicasio artist Thomas Wood opened Saturday at Toby’s Feed Barn Gallery in Point Reyes Station and drew an enthusiastic throng of art lovers.

Wood has been represented in dozens of exhibits, and a review of a show 10 years ago can be seen by clicking here. That review also describes the artist’s impressive background, including the surprising fact that his painting California Hills was on display in the US embassy in Belize from 2005 to 2008.

Thomas Wood with his 36-by-50-inch painting Point Reyes National Seashore, which during the exhibit sold for $3,600.

Audubon Marsh.

Masked (except while sipping wine) a number of folks were particularly fond of this group of paintings.

Inverness’ Chicken Ranch Beach.

Redwoods, Morning. (While the fog is still clearing.)

Black Mountain from Inverness Ridge sold for $1,600. Sales in general were good, and the artist was pleased with the results.

To get away from the present grim realities of human society, as were discussed here last week, this week we’ll take a few looks at the fascinating realities of the non-human society that’s seen around Mitchell cabin.

This past week, my wife Lynn spotted a bobcat in a persimmon tree next to our front steps. It’s not that we live in a literal zoo. Bobcats are fairly common here and elsewhere in Point Reyes Station.

Pouncing. A bobcat pounces on a gopher not far from our deck.

Coyotes. Predators even more noticeable are the coyotes. This one is looking at my parked car. Most nights the coyotes on this hill howl to establish territory. Contrary to widespread opinion, coyotes do not howl to announce a kill, for that would invite other coyotes to steal the prey. 

Grey foxes are another set of predators we see fairly often. These are just outside the kitchen door scouring up the last of the kibble I had earlier given to some raccoons.

Badgers. Where did they go? When I first moved to this hill 45 years ago, there were a number of badger burrows. I spotted this pair one morning when I looked up from the breakfast table. They were easily visible on a nearby hillside. From their burrow’s entrance, the sow and cub were keeping an eye on the world. New badger holes used to be annual events here, but I haven’t seen a new one in five years or more.

Chipmunks are totally absent from our hill. This one apparently wandered over from Inverness Ridge a decade ago, but it didn’t stick around.

Gray squirrels can be a nuisance, and controlling them is an annual topic for discussion around here. The squirrels like to eat the cambium layer just under the bark on pines, often killing the ends of the limbs they munch on.

The possums we see around here are Virginia Opossums, which are native to North America. Their lifespan is typically around four years. Possums are marsupials with counterparts found in Central and South America, New Zealand, and Australia.

To quote Wikipedia: “A marsupial is a mammal that raises its newborn offspring inside an external pouch at the front or underside of their bodies. In contrast, a placental is a mammal that completes embryo development inside the mother, nourished by an organ called the placenta.”

A jack rabbit in our backyard. As noted here before: “Jackrabbits were named for their ears, which initially caused some people to refer to them as ‘jackass rabbits.’ The writer Mark Twain brought this name to fame by using it in his book of western adventure, Roughing It. The name was later shortened to jackrabbit.”

Raccoons and skunks end up eating together so often they get along with each other fairly well.

A blacktail buck makes his daily appearance grazing beside Mitchell cabin. Of all the creatures I see, the bucks seem to have the most regal bearing.

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Here are some thoughts about the world and a few portraits of some local critters. This cute couple is a stray cat, Newy, we’ve adopted, and a curious blacktail fawn. (Photo by Lynn Axelrod Mitchell)

Where do our world views come from? My outlook has been grim enough of late to start me wondering. In large part, our views are shaped by news reports, and the media out of necessity draw attention to matters going awry. I’ve certainly been troubled by the past couple of months’ series of unrelated disasters around the globe — ranging from the Taliban takeover of far-off Afghanistan (with 1,700 civilian deaths) to a 7.2 earthquake in neighboring Haiti (which killed more than 2,200 people).

Likewise a quick scan of headlines reveals that wildfires are burning everywhere around our drought-stricken planet, from Russia to Greece, from Alaska to California. In this state, wildfires have burned more than 1.5 million acres so far this year.

 

A weary raccoon snoozing on our deck. (Photo by Lynn Axelrod Mitchell)

The Covid pandemic keeps spreading too. In the past seven months, 209 million cases around the globe have been reported, including 4.39 million deaths. Marin County accounted for approximately 1,600 of those cases, including 240 deaths.

Ironically the pandemic has simultaneously reduced the number of newspapers headlining all this. According to a report published by the International Society of Weekly Newspaper Editors, the pandemic so far has closed more than 70 local newsrooms throughout America. As a retired newspaperman, I consider these losses another disaster.

 

While the raccoon prefers a nap on our deck, Newy catnaps in a nearby tree, both seeming a little gloomy. Perhaps fire weather is also getting to them. (Photo by Lynn Axelrod Mitchell)

Falls are in the air.  Moreover, we all must deal with close-at-hand disasters of varying magnitude. Charlie Morgan, handyman and popular KWMR emcee, tragically died from a fall downtown July 31. My friends Jon Fernandez, Andy Baker, and Gary Blevins also suffered bad falls in the past month. As for me, I fell headfirst down our indoor stairs on July 30. For the next three weeks, I frequently experienced jolts of pain when I tried to do much with my right hand, such as type.

Finally on Wednesday, Kaiser Hospital determined I’d fractured a bone in my right shoulder. Sounds like I’ll be wearing my arm in a sling when I go out for the next couple of months. It’s not a major disaster — especially compared with death and with violence — but only now with the help of multiple painkillers am I again able to focus more on the rest of the world.

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I’m taking a week off from writing a posting and will let my wife, Lynn, fill in. Just typing this brief explanation is a bit painful. Friday afternoon I bought a new pair of shoes and put them on in Mitchell cabin when we got home.  Unfortunately, the heel on the shoes is thicker than what I’m used to, and coming down from our loft, I tripped and fell head first down several stairs.

Luckily, my head wasn’t hurt although my glasses were broken. Along with scapes and bruises, the ligament joining my right arm and shoulder blade was badly pulled, so my right arm is momentarily in a sling. The wound is painful, irritating, but not much of a disaster. So without further adieu, here’s Lynn (at far left):

By Lynn Axelrod Mitchell

On Saturday, July 17, CERT trainees and volunteer trainers met at the Coast Guard property in Point Reyes Station for the final training requirements for the Community Emergency Response Team.

Because of the pandemic’s shelter-in-place issues, CERT officials worked out a hybrid of online training preceding the in-person day of activities. Ordinarily all of the training would be in-person. 

This also was the first year that current CERTs ran the in-person activities. Those of us participating as trainers had received all our training from active Fire Department personnel. We arrived from our various West Marin communities. A few active-duty Fire personnel slipped in to help. We were guided by Bolinas Assistant Fire Chief Steve Marcotte (far right, group photo) and Maggie Lang, Acting Marin County CERT Coordinator. We dropped our masks for this photo but otherwise wore them all day.

CERTs are activated to help ‘hold the line’ during disasters and emergencies until the professionals arrive. Training in-person included fire extinguisher use, basic search and rescue, triage/bandaging, cribbing (ie, how to lift heavy items off victims without relying on muscular strength alone), radio communications, incident-command system, disaster simulation. CERT certification allows for workers’ compensation coverage during an official activation. 

If you think you will want to help during a community emergency, you may as well get some training. Volunteer CERTs are asked to help when they can. More information can be found here: https://readymarin.org/cert-hybrid-training/

 

Yours truly trying to look reasonably competent using a hand-held radio. (My left hand, flipper positioned, is possibly a holdover from childhood ballet school days but, in any case, is not required.)

 

 

 

 

 

 

Wishing everyone good health & safety,

Lynn, Coordinator, pointreyesdisastercouncil.org 

 

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These days it’s hard to predict what I’ll find when I go out the front door of Mitchell cabin.

 

Eight to 10 raccoons hang around Mitchell cabin most evenings begging for food, so finding a raccoon asleep just outside the door isn’t unusual or worrisome.

 

Finding a skunk, however, puts me on alert. Years ago, a friend gave me a grinding stone found in the hills near Gilroy, and we keep it on the deck with water in the bowl for birds and other wildlife. Nowadays, among the other wildlife that’s taken to dropping by for a drink are a couple of skunks.

 

Skunks and raccoons get along surprisingly well. The raccoons are deferential, and the most aggressive the skunks ever get is to shoulder one aside.

 

When I put out a few handfuls of kibble for the raccoons, two and occasionally three skunks sometimes show up to peaceably partake in the repast.

A mother raccoon with four kits. The mating season for raccoons is March through June.

Stuck at a border crossing between two pastures, horses belonging to Point Reyes Arabian Adventures (as seen from our deck) provide us with an especially orderly view of animal life.

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