Point Reyes Station


I’m often amazed by the variety of wildlife around Mitchell cabin, but even more amazing is the variety that shows up on the cabin’s deck.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

A possum, fox, and raccoon peacefully dine on kibble together just outside our kitchen door.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

These critters dine peacefully even when I’m there to encourage them. I don’t encourage petting possums in general, but I happened to know this fellow.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

My wife Lynn feeds a couple of slices of bread to a fox at the kitchen door.

And they bring their friends. Here are three foxes that showed up for kibble on our deck.

A raccoon and skunk share a handful of roasted peanuts.

Roof rats are unusually numerous in Point Reyes Station this year, each evening showing up for birdseed that birds left behind on our deck. 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

A squirrel surveys the world from our birdbath on the deck.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

One surprising visitor on our decks awhile back was this blacktail doe near the hot tub on our lower deck.

 

 

Most days I get a caffeine hit in the late morning at Toby’s Coffee Bar in Point Reyes Station. It’s a convivial place with good pastries as well as good tea and coffee. I was sitting at a picnic table inside the barn a week ago when an older gentleman came up to me and asked if I was “Dave Mitchell’s father.” Unsure whether he was joking or serious, I replied, “I’m Dave Mitchell himself.” In either case, I took his comment as reflecting how much older I look these days. My hair’s gray, I’m stoop shouldered, and I often shuffle when I walk. Old age is a bitch.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

On another day last week, I was again seated inside the barn when I heard a loud crash. Assuming two vehicles had collided on the main street out front, I went outside to look. Instead I found that a balcony on the front of the building had partially collapsed. A forklift raised too high had slammed into a lateral beam.

A different older gentleman had been sitting on the deck under the balcony, and he too had heard the crash but didn’t realize at first that the balcony overhead might come down on him. He wasn’t upset, but since then he’s taken to sitting inside the barn.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

With the deck encircled by a yellow warning ribbon, the feed store moved its flower display indoors too. Here Danny Holderman enjoys having lush bouquets beside his table.

 

 

 

 

 

Toby’s might as well be a community center so much goes on there. Beside the store and the coffee bar, a farmers’ market is held in the parking lot every Saturday each summer. Behind the store, art exhibitions are frequent, such as the current Marvelous Marin Landscape Show, featuring works by 14 artists.

 

As for events closer to Mitchell cabin, more rabbits than usual are around this summer. This jack rabbit, which is technically a hare, not a rabbit, frequently hops close to the cabin but never comes in.

Also seen around the house in early summer are baby cottontails, which are true rabbits.

 

 

Buoying Ukraine: West Marin residents’ opinion of Russia has fallen pretty low since its invasion of Ukraine. In a show of support, the blue and gold Ukrainian flags are being flown at the Peace Garden next to Toby’s, along Highway 1, and elsewhere around town.

As it happens, crab-pot buoys periodically break their harnesses and wash ashore in the National Seashore where I’ve found several. A couple of them have Ukraine’s colors, so a blue-and-yellow buoy now adorns our garden.

 

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National Night Out block parties and cookouts are held across the country, US territories, and in military bases in the beginning of August, to help develop neighborhood camaraderie and develop positive relations between communities and law enforcement.

Point Reyes Station holds one every year in front of the Arthur Disterheft Public Safety building, and this year’s celebration — complete with a barbecue, ice cream, and a band — was held Tuesday. Pictured center-left in sunglasses is Marin County Fire Dept. Battalion Chief Bret McTigue. In khaki (and a mustache) to the right is Marin Sheriff’s Sergeant and Public Information Officer Brenton Schneider.    

Several county fire department personnel, including Battalion Chief Bret McTigue, standing behind the Hog Island Oyster grill were on hand. The barbecues were set up in front of the public safety building, which houses the Point Reyes Station firehouse and the sheriff’s substation.

On a more serious note, last reports were that the Marin County Fire Department sent crews running five fire engines and a bulldozer to help fight the McKinney Fire, northwest of Yreka in Siskiyou County. We wish all first responders a safe return. The wildfire started Friday, July 29, and has now grown to almost 59,000 acres with only 10 percent containment. There have been four deaths of residents.

Lineup of community members (L to R):  Ron Wagner, my wife Lynn Axelrod, Tom Quinn, Ken Levin, Jeri Quinn. Ron is perusing disaster readiness info at Lynn’s table. Lynn is coordinator of the Point Reyes Disaster Council. (Photo by Rhonda Kutter)

Cindy Morris of Point Reyes Station and Supervisor Dennis Rodoni hold up some disaster readiness information. More is available at pointreyesdisastercouncil.org.

The free barbecue drew a large crowd of West Marin residents and lasted until 8 p.m. If you missed it, be sure to attend the one next summer.

Doreen Miao and I were neighbors for at least a couple of decades, but I never got to really know her until her life’s difficulties were compounded by a freak traffic accident on Highway 1 north of the Point Reyes-Petaluma Road on Oct. 25, 2010.

I have only just now learned that she died peacefully at home this past April 26 with her caregiver Tina, her sister Amy from Mendocino County, and her sister Vida, from New Jersey, present. Here, as a memorial, is a synopsis of a posting I wrote about her 10 years ago.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Heroically cheerful despite bizarrely bad luck, Doreen Miao, then 57, and her dog Tully after her release from the hospital in 2010.

I first met Doreen after she was the human victim when a deer bolted in front of a passing car. The car hit the deer and threw it onto Doreen as she walked her dog Tully beside the road. Doreen later said that all she remembered was walking beside Highway 1 and then being in an ambulance.

Photographer Marty Knapp, who at the time lived on nearby Tank Road, told the Highway Patrol, as well as me, he saw the oncoming car, saw the buck and heard the crash but did not see it. Marty said he was not immediately aware that Doreen was lying on the ground, but two neighbors who could see her rushed over to help.

Marty added he felt certain the car hit the deer and didn’t hit Doreen. The sound of the impact was what one would expect if a car traveling 25 mph were to hit a 200-pound buck, he explained —  far louder than if a pedestrian were grazed. Despite the blow, the blacktailed deer managed to recross the highway and disappear. The driver stopped and told officers he’d hit a deer, but he was not aware of Doreen’s involvement. His car received only minor damage, the Highway Patrol noted.

Doreen, meanwhile, was knocked down and suffered a compound fracture to one leg, a broken clavicle, and rib damage. She then spent six days in Marin General Hospital, using a walker when she left. Doreen had already been dealing with an inability to straighten her fingers — a result of rheumatoid arthritis.

A native of Shanghai, Doreen lived most of her life in the United States. At the time of the accident she walked her dog Tully to the post office and back almost every day. Her three-mile round trip was mostly over steep hills.

After the accident, Tully, a miniature Australian Shepherd, returned to the post office where townspeople recognized him. Vicki Leeds of Cabaline tack shop took Tully and Doreen’s cat Maui to the Point Reyes Animal Hospital. After a week away, Tully and Maui joyfully returned home. And despite her injuries, Doreen was heroically joyful to also be back in Tomasini Canyon.

Caveat lectorem: When readers submit comments, they are asked if they want to receive an email alert with a link to new postings on this blog. A number of people have said they do. 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.

The past few days have been filled with unexpected events. Here are a few.

On Saturday evening, urban crime drove to Point Reyes Station. To quote West Marin Feed: “Apparently a truck was stolen in SF, pulled over in San Anselmo, then led CHP on a chase through West Marin. The front tire was blown out. [The thief] circled around Point Reyes Station a couple of times, ditched truck [near the gas station], tried to run and [was] arrested.”

Photo from a video by Marc Matheson

Update as of July 22: The Point Reyes Light has now reported the truck is owned by Cathy Schoop of Fairfax. When it was stolen, one of her employees followed it to the Red Hill Shopping Center in San Anselmo and summoned the Highway Patrol as well as Ms. Schoop. The Light reported that Ms. Schoop “just bought the 2022 Isuzu for her business, Annie’s Hot Dogs, which operates several food carts in San Francisco. A coffee cart, an ice cream cart and the day’s cash were in the back when it was stolen, she said. [All this was] worth about $40,000 in total.”

Ms Shoop told The Light, “she pleaded with officers to seize the empty truck, but because they couldn’t confirm it was stolen, they waited until the driver returned and sped away from the parking lot, headed toward West Marin. They could have gotten my truck back undamaged.” Instead of doing that, she told the newspaper, the officers asked her, “How do we know it’s really your truck?” To this she added, “They completely screwed me over with their lackadaisical attitude.”

One way the truck was damaged was in being driven around Point Reyes Station after losing its right front tire (see photo) and riding on the rim until it ran off the road. Scrapes from that episode are still evident on several streets in town.

The driver, a construction worker, Dylan Kane Wilson, 21, was charged with two vehicle-theft felonies and two misdemeanors — for evading a police officer and driving without a license. In addition, he faces outstanding warrants for a probation violation, failure to appear in court, and two drug misdemeanors, The Light reported.

A skunk that got away. Sunday morning my drive into Point Reyes Station was unpleasantly smelly. Downhill from West Marin School  I spotted the problem. Across Highway 1 from the “Maddy’s Jammin'” sign, I passed a large dead skunk lying at the edge of the pavement. The better part of the day passed before someone moved it to a roadside ditch where it continued to stink.

These days, Marin Humane Society (415 883-4621, ext. 1) picks up dead skunks for $75. Back in the 1970s, county government paid a man with a pickup truck to gather the corpses of skunks, most killed by motor vehicles.

As editor and publisher of The Point Reyes Light in those days, one of my responsibilities was to deliver bundles of papers to stores as soon as copies arrived from the printer. One day, I was dropping off a bundle at the Olema Store when the skunk gatherer parked his truck out front and went inside, leaving a number of roadkill in the pickup bed. Unfortunately, their stench immediately started drifting into the market, and the grocer had to somewhat awkwardly ask the skunk gatherer to park elsewhere.

Death of an old horse. A 33-year-old horse belonging to the Point Reyes Arabian Adventures stable along Highway 1 died of a heart attack Sunday afternoon. Thirty-three horse years are equivalent to 93 human years, and it had enjoyed a good life.

The Arabian Adventures pasture stretches to within 25 feet of Mitchell cabin, and my wife Lynn soon noticed the dead animal lying on the ground and covered with blankets.

The deceased, which was named Chainsaw, had a brother in the stable’s herd, and they frequently hung out together (note the two black horses at left). Owner Susie Rowsell later told me she had seen the two running up the hill together and Chainsaw collapse when they stopped. His sibling was obviously disturbed, she noted.                                                                                                                 

Four raccoon kits dining on handfuls of kibble outside our kitchen door. These raccoons are becoming surprisingly at home at Mitchell cabin. Not only do they show up for kibble, they often head for our birdbath, from which they drink and in which they bathe. They take naps on our deck and hide quietly behind our wine barrel planters when a friend’s dog shows up.

Caveat lectorem: When readers submit comments, they are asked if they want to receive an email alert with a link to new postings on this blog. A number of people have said they do. 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 family of raccoons enters the kitchen of Mitchell cabin in search of food. They were given some bread, but not in the kitchen.

Living in West Marin means living with nature. The surprise is how often nature manages to live with itself.

A blacktail buck and a bobcat foraging near each other on the hillside above Mitchell cabin. Each was aware of the other but didn’t seem to care.                                                                                                                                                                                                                     

A possum, fox, and raccoon eat kibble nose to nose just outside our kitchen door.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Likewise dining side by side are this towhee and roof rat nibbling birdseed off our picnic table.

One surprising relationship went on for years around this part of town. This peacock was often seen in the company of a flock of wild turkeys. Unfortunately, I haven’t seen the peacock in recent months. I hope it’s okay. (Sad update: Obviously, not all species of wildlife are friendly toward each other, and the day after this posting went online, a neighbor told me a bobcat had killed the peacock.)

Just how close different species can live to each other was epitomized Tuesday evening. I had been lying on a couch in the living room listening to music when I got up and spotted a raccoon a few feet away eating kibble put out for our cat. The raccoon had managed to get inside because our kitchen door had been left open a few inches. It soon departed by the same route.

Sunday’s Western Weekend parade in Point Reyes Station as always included a lively bunch of dancers, such as the group Esforco seen here, which won the Adult Drill Team entry award and took the Grand Prize trophy.

Western Weekend had a good crowd for a joyous return after a two-year hiatus due to the Covid-19 pandemic. This posting is just a superficial look at events. My wife Lynn and I shot numerous photos, but for unknown reasons, my blog’s computer program is refusing to load most of them.

 

The group of political progressives, Indivisible West Marin, was well represented in the parade, joining with Mainstreet Moms, a group of female activists, made up of both real moms and honorary moms. Sitting in the vehicle driven by Charles Gay are (left to right) Kathy Hunting, Wileen Sweet, Pam Ross, urging everyone to vote.  

 

Founded as Mainstreet Moms Opposed to Bush, aka the MMOB, the group carried signs that recalled key victories in the struggle for equality, such as: “1920, WOMEN CAN VOTE,”  plus “1952, ALL ASIANS CAN VOTE,” and “1971, EIGHTEEN YEAR OLDS CAN VOTE.”

Indivisible West Marin is a chapter of the nationwide grassroots movement that began as a response to the Trump election and continues to engage in “bite-sized” actions for democracy, especially electoral work, via telephone calls, texts and/or postcards. Local activists do as much as they feel comfortable with and support each other’s level of involvement.  A parade sign to “Join Us” means just that; they are always looking for more local participation. IWM produces weekly action suggestions and has a publicly accessible Facebook page.    

This weekend’s celebration began in 1949 when a women’s group, Companions of the Forest, Circle 1018, held a festival, fashion show, and cake walk in their hall, the Foresters Hall on Mesa Road. The following year, members of the local Lions Club, many of whom were married to Circle 1018 members, added a parade and a junior livestock show. The event was called a “junior” livestock show because all those showing animals were 4-H and FFA members.

Rabbit showmanship — Junior Livestock, so to speak. As usual, Chris Giacomini made Toby’s Feed Barn available for Saturday’s contests and showmanship events. Here are the awards given out at the rabbit show: •Novice 1st Place: Hannah Slocum, •Intermediate 1st Place: Ricky Kelley, •Intermediate 2nd Place: Danielle Breeden, •Intermediate 3rd Place: Nick Kelley, •Senior 1st Place: Grace Perkins, • Senior 2nd Place: Tammy Kelley,          • Best of Show Rabbit: Tammy Kelley for her Mini Rex Senior Buck, •Reserve Best of Show Rabbit: Grace Perkins for her White Mini Senior Buck. Pictured are Trixie, a nine-month-old French Lop held by Danielle of Petaluma with her friend Hannah.

Caveat lectorem: When readers submit comments, they are asked if they want to receive an email alert with a link to new postings on this blog. A number of people have said they do. 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.

The saloon keeper who had owned the Old Western in Point Reyes Station since 1977, Judy Borello, died two days ago. 

The saloon is now on the market, but Ms. Borello continues to have a loud voice (or moo) in the town. Here’s the story as SparselySageAndTimely originally told it in 1986.

Judy Borello at left.

This story really begins in the 1970s with the late historian Jack Mason of Inverness. Back then before the new county Public Safety building was built in Point Reyes Station, there was a lifeless town clock on the old firehouse. Mason, who then wrote Funny Old World for The Point Reyes Light, periodically used the column to decry the sad condition of the clock.

So when the new county building opened in 1984, directors of the Point Reyes Business Association agreed the structure should be adorned with a town clock that worked. A question then arose as to whether the clock should set off a noon whistle like those in Inverness, Bolinas, and Stinson Beach. Photographer Art Rogers jokingly suggested a moo would be even more appropriate for this cow town. A few months later, however, the association sent away for a town clock sans whistle or moo.

By the time the mechanism arrived, the business association had a new president, saloonkeeper Borello, and she agreed to resurrect the once-proposed moo. Ms. Borello told her plan to Nicasio artist George Sumner, and he offered to get help from filmmaker George Lucas.

Lucasfilm vice president Eric Westin is a friend of Sumner, and he lined up a Lucas technician, Rick Brown, to provide a moo recording, which Brown did. Ms. Borello then prevailed upon Gene Haley, a town electrician, to wire a loudspeaker system to the town clock.

Now the firehouse is a couple of blocks off the main street, sharing its neighborhood with a number of residences, and fireman Pete Valconesi suggested these neighbors might find the daily moo unsettling. President Borello said that was no problem; the loudspeaker could instead be mounted on top of her saloon. 

The moo debut

She then set about informing news media throughout the Bay Area that the noon moo would soon debut. The response surprised even the saloonkeeper. Within a couple of days, newspapers far and wide began reporting that the noon moos were already underway. A paper in London reported the moos were every hour on the hour.

When it finally did come time for the mooing to commence at noon, five television crews and several newspapers were on hand to record the event.

Unfortunately, some problems had developed. The move from the firehouse to the roof of the Old Western Saloon meant the mooing could no longer be connected to the new town clock. Instead, the sound system was given a clock of its own, which Ms. Borello said was “synchronized” with the town clock.

The fact that the mooing would not be in the vicinity of the town clock was a particular problem for the TV cameramen, who were left with only a loudspeaker to film. Saloonkeeper Borello solved the problem by having artist Sumner display in the Old Western his painting for the official Statue of Liberty poster.

“Why are you doing all this?” a television reporter asked Ms. Borello. “The moo is the soul and flavor of our town,” the saloonkeeper replied. But the media wanted more, so Ms. Borello decided to use the occasion to take a stand in a current town debate over whether the Martinelli ranch should be subdivided or bought for parkland. “We’ve lost a lot of ranches to the park,” the saloonkeeper declared. “We don’t want to lose any more.”

‘Moo power’

The pronouncement set the reporters off in a new direction. Several news reports said the noon moo symbolized ranchers organizing to fight parks; they dubbed the supposed movement “moo power.” The next morning, I received a call from a cattle rancher in Contra Costa County who wanted West Marin’s ranchers to join in a fight against the East Bay Regional Park System. I gave her the phone numbers of the Farm Bureau and the Old Western Saloon.

The publicity continued to build on itself although soon it was no longer clear just what was being publicized. Ms. Borello’s anti-government remarks received particular interest in the Midwest, where the Reagan Administration was being blamed for thousands of farm foreclosures.

Radio stations calling from Ohio, New York, Alaska all wanted to record the moo, and for awhile, the saloon complied, setting off the sound system and holding a phone receiver out the door to catch the moos blaring from the roof. Eventually, Ms. Borello began worrying about her neighbors’ reaction to all the unscheduled mooing and had a recording made that could be played on a tape deck in the bar.

To be available to satisfy late-night moo requests, Ms. Borello took a copy of the recording home with her at night and played it for the press when it called. When an overseas journalist called to record it one evening, Ms. Borello set the phone down on the bed and went to get her tape deck. Her husband Bob meanwhile went back to sleep and was soon snoring next to the phone.

When Ms. Borello came back on the line, the journalist commented, “That was the worst mooing I’ve ever heard.”

And even now the mooing goes on. Yestereday Lynn and I were sitting across the street at Toby’s Coffee Bar when a moo began blaring. A startled group of tourists at another table looked up to see where the noise was coming from, amused but not alarmed. I’m glad we still have the noon moo to remind us of Ms. Borello.

 

Caveat lectorem: When readers submit comments, they are asked if they want to receive an email alert with a link to new postings on this blog. A number of people have said they do. 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.

Russia’s attempt to annex parts of Ukraine upsets many US citizens; we’re horrified by Russian massacres of Ukrainians; many of us wish we could counter Russian President Vladimir Putin’s cruel policies. Well, one Point Reyes Station resident has been moved to try.

Betty Grinshtein, an assistant cheesemaker at the Cowgirl Creamery, this summer will fly off to Lviv, Ukraine, which is at the Polish border and is the city where she was born.

Betty Grinshtein (left) at the Rotary Club’s Peace Garden. The garden on the main street of Point Reyes Station these days is frequently adorned with Ukrainian flags.

Grinshtein, 44, hopes “to volunteer with the International Rescue Committee and help them with translation work,” as well as “any projects they may have for me.” Her ability to translate should prove invaluable, for besides English she speaks Ukrainian, Polish, Russian, French and some Spanish.

She holds a BA in modern history with a minor in linguistics from UC Santa Cruz plus a master’s degree from San Jose State in teaching English to speakers of other languages. She has already spent six years teaching English to non-native speakers.

One of her goals for traveling to the war zone is to help some of the millions of Ukrainian refugees “navigate their stay in Poland.”

This summer she plans to fly to the Polish side of the border first for “safety…. I feel the Russians may still bomb Western Ukraine, and I’d like to come back alive.”

For those who would like to contribute to Grinshtein’s endeavor, a GoFundMe page has been set up at <https://www.gofundme.com/f/going-to-poland-to-help-ukrainian-refugees>.

 

 

Caveat lectorem: When readers submit comments, they are asked if they want to receive an email alert with a link to new postings on this blog. A number of people have said they do. 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.

 

Billy Hobbs holds a croton houseplant my wife Lynn gave him Wednesday as a house-warming present.

A NEW DAY has dawned for a long-time-homeless resident of Point Reyes Station, Billy Hobbs. Billy, who was homeless for seven years following the breakup of a 25-year marriage, is now housed.

Thanks to the California Section 8 Housing Program, Billy two weeks ago moved into a pleasant, one-bedroom apartment in San Rafael. The second-floor apartment comes with a fireplace and the deck on which he is standing above.

In his younger days, Billy, now 63, worked in construction, house painting, agriculture, and more. In recent years, however, he’s occupied himself with art.

 

Here he is seen drawing outside the Point Reyes Station postoffice two years ago.

Billy Hobbs was sleeping outdoors in Point Reyes Station when the rain and cold winds hit two winters ago, so Lynn and I offered to let him wait out the bad weather in Mitchell cabin. Once he did, Billy was able to resume showering and getting his clothes cleaned regularly. Add to that a haircut and a beard trim, and he had dramatically cleaned up his act.

This past winter, I parked my second car (since donated to KQED) on Mesa Road downtown for him to sleep in; the car had to be moved every 72 hours to comply with the law. Earlier this year, he stayed briefly in a San Rafael motel at county expense. His Section 8 housing is funded by the US Department of Housing and Urban Development.

By now, Billy’s situation is known to editors around the world. A posting I wrote about Billy two years ago was reprinted by the International Society of Weekly Newspaper Editors and distributed among members in the United States, Canada, the United Kingdom, Ireland, France, Australia, South Africa, Nepal, and China. And these reprints do get read. A reprint of my Aug. 20 posting, in which I mentioned breaking my shoulder falling on the stairs, drew a get-well message from France.

I know of folks who have been on the waiting list for Section 8 housing 20 years, so Billy would probably appreciate it if readers who know a bit about his story wrote to congratulate him on his new home: 100 Laurel Place, Apt. 17, San Rafael, CA 94901.

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