History


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Like other wild birds, turkeys regularly show up on the deck of Mitchell cabin. We put out birdseed for smaller birds, and the turkeys try to horn in on the meal. The trouble is the turkeys will gobble it all up if they can, and they scare off the other birds. Perhaps worst of all, they leave behind huge droppings.

Benjamin Franklin disapproved of bald eagles being named our national bird, and there has long been a myth that he wanted the turkey to replace the bald eagle as our national bird. In fact, he merely compared the eagle to a turkey to denigrate the eagle. The myth grew out of a letter Franklin wrote his daughter in which he complained that the “bald eagle…is a bird of bad moral character. He does not get his living honestly…[He] is too lazy to fish for himself.”

Even the turkey, Franklin wrote, is “a much more respectable bird, and withal a true original native of America…He is besides — though a little vain and silly — a bird of courage.”

I’m glad that no one actually proposed making turkeys our national bird because Lynn and I are forever having to shoo them off our deck.

Despite our shooing, turkeys only momentarily stop showing up.

Wild turkeys are native to the Midwest and East Coast, as well as Canada and Mexico — but not to California. They got here in the 1950s when the state Department of Fish and Game, as it was then named, released some in the Napa Valley as prey for hunters.

In 1988, a few from the Napa Valley flock were transported to Loma Alta Ranch overlooking the San Geronimo Valley. Before long that small flock expanded to the valley floor and by the year 2000 had spread throughout West Marin.

The view from Mitchell cabin.

They can also be a nuisance in other ways. In an extreme case, a turkey in February 2005 blacked out the town of Tomales.

Turkeys are not great flyers, and turkeys in Tomales had taken to gliding off a steep slope to get across Highway 1.

On one occasion, a turkey misjudged the height of some powerlines and flew into them. Two 12,000-volt lines slapped together, causing an explosion with a bright flash.

The explosion surprisingly did not kill the turkey. It fell to the ground and started wandering around in dazed circles. Resident Walter Earle, who saw the flash, immediately called the county fire department to report, “Some turkey just took out the powerlines.” Fire Capt. Tom Nunes later said he at first assumed Earle was talking about a drunk driver. The blackout lasted four hours.

Awhile ago it began to feel like this country had lost its way, what with school shootings, political violence, and a former president’s describing as “genius” Vladimir Putin’s strategy for Russia to take over parts of Ukraine.  

In contrast, life in our northern neighbor appeared mostly calm and friendly. Maybe it would be a happier place to live. Helping create that impression was my late mother’s being an immigrant from Canada who’d become a naturalized US  citizen.

On a lark, I looked up what all I’d have to do to go back and become a Canadian citizen. As it turns out, not much. In fact, I may be one already. Here’s how a Canadian law firm specializing in immigration-law, Allen and Hodgman, explains the situation: “Was your mother or father born or naturalized in Canada? Under recent amendments to Canada’s Citizenship Act, nearly all persons whose parent was born or naturalized in Canada are now Canadian citizens.

“This is true even if your parent left Canada as a child; married an American citizen (or other non-Canadian); or became a U.S. citizen (or citizen of another country).

“These new laws apply to the first generation born abroad. So if your mother or father was born in Canada you are likely a citizen…. Canadian citizens are free to live anywhere in the world, so you can obtain your Certificate of Citizenship without having to leave the US.”

All that sounded like an invitation from extremely attractive neighbors until I read Friday’s news. David DePape, the man who tried to attack House Speaker Nancy Pelosi but instead injured her husband Paul, is a Canadian. Overstaying his visa, he has been in the US illegally for the past 14 years.

Apparently he was progressive and liberal 14 years ago, but ultraconservative  conspiracy propaganda turned him into a rightwing terrorist. (DePape’s now said he’d planned for the attack on Pelosi to be the first of several.)

Apparently not everybody is happy no matter where they’ve lived.

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At least life in Point Reyes Station has been relatively happy in the past week. Here is the highpoint of happiness — the Halloween celebration Monday:

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

It ranged from children in costumes celebrating….

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

to Davis, the town’s postmaster, doing the same. Evidently one doesn’t have to live in Canada to enjoy himself, so I guess I’ll stay put.

 

 

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.

On Oct. 10, 1978, attorney Paul Morantz reached into the mailbox of his Pacific Palisades home and was bitten by a 4.5-foot-long rattlesnake whose warning rattles had been cut off. The snake had been placed there by two men whose truck’s license plate was traced to Synanon headquarters.

Morantz a week earlier had won a $300,000 judgment for a woman who said she’d been abducted by Synanon and abused. Synanon founder Charles Dederich was offended by the judgment and was repeatedly heard asking his followers, “Why don’t you break his [Morantz’s] legs?” an ex-member told me.  A few days before the rattlesnake attack, Morantz himself called me to say he was aware a campaign against him had been launched in Synanon and that he was concerned about a possible attempt on his life.

Synanon attorney Phil Bourdette subsequently turned over to Los Angeles police two members of the cult suspected of the crime. They were Lance Kenton, 20, son of bandleader Stan Kenton, and Joe Musico, 28, a Vietnam veteran who had entered Synanon as a drug addict.

Paul Morantz in his younger days.

Morantz went on to litigate against brainwashing by a variety of cults, including Scientology, Peoples Temple, the Hare Krishnas, and the Rajneesh movement. He represented various clients pro bono and was frequently described as heroic.

But he never completely recovered from the snake’s bite. “To this day,” Oxygen Crime News reported two years ago, “Morantz suffers from a lifelong illness related to the rattlesnake venom, which requires him to receive blood transfusions every other week.” The music magazine Shindig noted that Morantz said he got blood disease from the venom. 

On Monday I received a sad email from Morantz’s son Chaz, saying that his father “passed away yesterday at the Santa Monica hospital. I was with him when he let go peacefully after far too much pain and suffering these last couple of years.”

 

Chaz wrote that this photo “was taken just a couple of months ago when we took him out for his 77th birthday, for sushi in the Palisades.”

 

The Czech composer Antonin Dvorak (right) in 1894 wrote his eight light-hearted humoresques, the best known of which is Humoresque G flat No. 7. You’ll recognize it the minute you hear it. The short composition, in turn, led to some unlikely associations six decades later.

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As it happens, toilets on most trains traditionally emptied onto the tracks below or onto their shoulder.  Some trains in the British Isles, in fact, still do. In the US, however, this unesthetic arrangement has been largely eliminated, so to speak.

Amtrak phased out its use of such toilets in the 1980s after waste from a Silver Meteor train on a bridge crossing the St. Johns River in Florida landed on a fisherman who filed a lawsuit.

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 Before then, railroad companies were more concerned with toilet waste landing in train stations during stops. In the 1950s, all this inspired a Canadian-American folksinger/songwriter, Oscar Brand (1920-2016), to write a comic song (click to hear) that relates romantic love with the need to use a toilet while on a train, as well as with the Union army’s Gen. William Techumseh Sherman. Brand (left) took the tune from Dvorak’s Humoresque No. 7.

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Passengers will please refrain

From flushing toilets while the train

Is in the station. Darling, I love you!

We encourage constipation

While the train is in the station

Moonlight always makes me think of you.

 

If you wish to pass some water,

kindly call the pullman porter,

He’ll place a vessel in the vestibule.

If the porter isn’t here,

Try the platform in the rear —

The one in front is likely to be full.

 

If the woman’s room be taken,

Never feel the least forsaken,

Never show a sign of sad defeat.

Try the men’s room in the hall,

And if some man has had the call,

He’ll courteously relinquish you his seat.

 

If these efforts all are vain,

Then simply break a window pane —

This novel method used by very few.

We go strolling through the park

Goosing statues in the dark,

If Sherman’s horse can take it, why can’t you?

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Amen, but can you safely goose a horse, let alone a statue of one?

 A 90-year-old man smoking pot on Mount Tamalpais this past July 3 sparked a blaze that set his clothes and the hillside around him on fire, according to the August edition of Tamalpais Guardian published by the Tamalpais Conservation Club. 

Mount Tamalpais

Were it not for a north wind that blew it toward the shore of Lake Bon Tempe, the two-acre fire could easily have spread through the watershed and the Cascade Canyon area of Fairfax, The Marin Independent Journal reported at the time.

 Of the various criticisms aimed at pot, its potential to start wildfires is not usually among them. But not all dangers are obvious. I just read about the danger of eating too much melon. Pope Paul II in 1471 died in the Vatican from a fit of apolexy after indulging his appetite for melons, writes historian Ross King in The Bookseller of Florence.

On the other hand, “some — mainly the pontiff’s critics — said that he had died [of a stroke] whilst being sodomized by a page boy,” according to Wikipedia. Another unrecognized danger, I suppose.

Pope Paul II

Once upon a time, I taught this possum proper table manners.  🙂

Getting him to eat with a knife and fork instead of his fingers was the biggest challenge. 

More oddities. Last February,  this blog reported: “The oddest West Marin news in the past fortnight came in the Feb. 3 Point Reyes Light. Here it is word for word. ‘Sheriff’s Call — Sunday, Jan.10: NICASIO: At 7:42 p.m. a woman who said she was moving to town from Southern California reported that someone who works at the post office was shooting metaphorical arrows, meaning witchcraft and sorcery, and that God had told her she needed to eradicate witchcraft and sorcery. She said the man was going to make her have demonic serpent offspring and she could not report him to his supervisor because the supervisor was likely in the same region of warlocks, and she wanted to assure deputies that she had not been struck by the arrows because she was protected by the blood of Jesus — she had an X-ray to prove it.'”

Postal sorcery seems to have now spread west. A sheriff’s call in the Aug. 11 Light reported: POINT REYES STATION: “A woman moving back to the area from Los Angeles said a former postal worker was tracking her with witchcraft and sending arrows to her head.” If it is the same woman, I hope the blood of Jesus is still protecting her.

 

Three roof rats scamper around our deck eating some of the seeds we’ve put out for wild birds. A professional gardener in town this week said the local roof-rat population “exploded” this year.

 

Roof rats take advantage of our bird ‘sanctuary’  in more than one way. Here a roof rat drinks from our birdbath. The roof rat’s pale underside helps distinguish it from brownish-gray Norway rats. Despite their name, Norway rats are believed to have originated in Asia and spread westward through Russia. Once in Europe, Norway rats in the 18th century were inadvertantly introduced worldwide when they hid on trading ships, often in the cargo.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Norway rats are sometimes referred to as sewer rats because they are often found in big city sewers. Here a sewer rat pokes its head out its front door. Norway rats can damage homes with their gnawing and can spread diseases. MPHonLine photo

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.

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