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Headline in July 1 San Francisco Chronicle. I’ve been wondering in recent years whatever happened to Life magazine. Is this a clue?

Outside our kitchen, an appropriately named “wake” of eight buzzards (aka vultures) takes a rest while on a search for corpses.

As a 35-year newsman, I’ve covered a lot of grim news, such as the trailside killer in Marin County and combat in El Salvador. Nonetheless, I’ve been unsettled by the current combination of news from around the world: the Covid pandemic, Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, mass shootings (which have killed more than 300 Americans already this year), the US Supreme Court’s overturning Roe v. Wade abortion rights, the court’s also revealing plans to throw out a number of environmental protections.

For my own peace of mind, I’m turning my attention to goings on in the animal world around Mitchell cabin. Here’s a bit of what I’ve been seeing.

Two quail watching over nine of their chicks. (Photo by Lynn Axelrod Mitchell)

A raccoon appearing to be in prayer. She’s probably praying that the chaos in the human world doesn’t also devastate the animal world.

A great blue heron hunts in our field for gophers. (Photo by Lynn Axelrod Mitchell)

Mother raccoons have taught their kits to show up on our deck each evening in hopes of receiving handfuls of kibble. The kits are shy but curious and sometimes show up by themselves (as these four did on Sunday afternoon) hoping for food even though mom wasn’t there yet.

A raccoon mother climbs down out of a pine tree beside Mitchell cabin while her kit prepares to follow her.

It’s this sort of domesticity in nature that gives me relief from our human world.

 

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Deer neighbors

This week we’ll take a look at the deerest creatures around Mitchell cabin,

A blacktail buck outside Mitchell cabin.

California’s Department of Fish and Wildlife has estimated that well over half the roughly 560,000 deer in California are Columbian blacktails, the deer native to West Marin and the San Francisco Bay Area.

For years many people believed (and some websites still say) that blacktails are a subspecies of mule deer, a species found from the Northwest to the deserts of the Southwest and as far east as the Dakotas. DNA tests, however, have now found mule deer to be a hybrid of female whitetail deer and blacktail bucks.

Whitetails first appeared on the East Coast about 3.5 million years ago. DNA evidence suggests they spread south and then west, arriving in California about 1.5 million years ago.

In moving up the coast, whitetails evolved into blacktails, which resemble them in appearance and temperament. Blacktails eventually extended their range eastward, meeting up with more whitetails coming from the east. 

A buck shows up to die

A deer skull hangs on a wall behind our woodstove.

Guests seeing this skull often wrongly assume I must have shot the critter and hung up its head as a trophy. In fact, I am not a hunter and don’t like the idea of killing wild animals for pleasure.

In this case, I did not seek out the buck but rather he sought out our front steps to breathe his last.

 

 

 

 

 

One morning when I started down my front steps en route to get The San Francisco Chronicle, I found a three-year-old blacktail buck lying dead on the ground just outside my gate. There were no signs of trauma on the deer although there were small lesions in his mouth. It turned out the buck had died of a necrobacillosis infection.

I dragged the body to the edge of my field (at left), and buzzards (AKA vultures) lined up on fence posts to dine. Maggots too soon began devouring the corpse.

Road kill

Awhile back, I was driving on Highway 1 near home when I spotted a dead fawn beside the roadway.

An upset doe kept trying to cross the highway to check on her fawn. But every time she started down to the roadway, a vehicle (such as in the upper photo) forced her to retreat back up the shoulder. For more than half an hour, she tried unsuccessfully to reach her dead offspring.

Gentle creatures

A curious doe watches a cat cleaning itself outside our kitchen door.

Deer and wild turkeys intermingle while foraging in our field, both species obviously realizing the other is a gentle neighbor.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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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.

Landscape painter Thomas Wood is in the midst of a four-Saturday show at his small studio on the square in Nicasio. The show will wind up from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. Saturday, May 25, and anyone who hasn’t seen it yet really ought to take a ride to Nicasio.

“My paintings are meditations on nature,” Wood comments, and indeed all the works on display are landscapes (with a bit of the Petaluma River thrown in). Morning, the painting at the upper left, portrays the morning fog in the trees.

 

Wood <twoodart.com> has taken part in more than 150 exhibits. Works by Wood and Point Reyes Station photographer Art Rogers were shown together at West Marin galleries in 2008 and 2009. Last year he held a well-received show in Toby’s Feed Barn Gallery and sold a number of paintings.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 Petaluma River in downtown Petaluma.

Redwoods.

The marsh at Schooner Bay.

Nicasio Reservoir changing hues. On our way home from Wood’s exhibit, my wife Lynn Axelrod Mitchell, and I stopped beside Nicasio Reservoir to try to figure out what is making a cove look light blue. It couldn’t be art. Could it be chemistry? (Lynn, by the way, shot all the photos in this posting on her Iphone because the battery in my Nikon was dead.) The shoreline at left is lined with foam, so I called Marin Municipal Water District, which owns the reservoir, to find out if it knew of anything dangerous in the water.

Update: I got a call back Tuesday morning and was told what looks light blue is probably some form of algae, which also occurs at Bon Tempe Reservoir. District staff, however, took water samples to confirm that the reservoir was safe.

 

 

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In California’s Official Voter Information Guide, which came in the mail this past week, most of the 125 candidates listed make grand declarations of their political stands, as might be expected. A surprising number of candidates, however, seem off the wall, airing bigotry and conspiracy theories.

• “Abolish the insurance companies,” declares Nathalie Hrizi, the Peace and Freedom Party candidate for insurance commissioner, but gives no rationale.

• “Capitalism enables corporate masters to exacerbate crisis of health, poverty, oppression, climate change and war in allegiance to profit,” writes John Thompson Parker (left), Peace and Freedom Party candidate for the Senate. “Ownership of production and finance must be controlled by the people. This senate campaign is about building that socialist systematic change.”

• “I believe God wants to use me to help Him make America Righteous Again,” announces Chuck Smith (below), a Republican candidate for the Senate.

• “Those who enabled the Covid-19 pandemic and resulting crippling lockdowns must be held accountable,” says another Republican candidate for the Senate, Mark P Meuser.

• “Our leadership has used the COVID-19 pandemic to turn the state into a big pharma dictatorship,” insists gubernatorial candidate Serge Fiankan (below), who gives “no party preferance.”

• The wildest rant, however, comes from Don J. Grundmann, who also lists no party preference and did not submit a photo. “The poisonous fake vaccines don’t work, stop infection or transmission,” he claims…. “Masks are useless/joke against a virus. Vaxxing children is a crime. Covid is biological warfare against humanity. Vaccines kill you.” Grundmann’s declarations also include: there are “only two genders. Transgender does not exist, only psychotic broken people…. Climate change is a total lie.” He quotes a website that says Vice President Kamala Harris “is a house Negro” (i.e. “a black person who rejects cultural identity to please the white man,” to quote The Urban Dictionary).

• On the other hand, gubernatorial candidate Mariana B. Dawson, who lists no party preference, defines her beliefs with one short sentence: “F [uck] all politicians.”

More than a few voters may agree with her after perusing some of the candidates’ statements.

 

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.

 

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We’ll begin with a bunch of the jokes that are now circulating in West Marin:

• Wi-fi went down for five minutes, so I had to talk to my family. They seem like nice people.

• My doctor asked if anyone in my family suffers from mental illness. I said, “No, we all seem to enjoy it.”

• I told my wife I wanted to be cremated. She made me an appointment for Tuesday.

• I’ve reached the age where my train of thought often leaves the station without me

• Camping: where you spend a small fortune to live like a homeless person.

• I really don’t mind getting old, but my body is having a major fit.

• If you see me talking to myself, just move along. I’m self-employed; we’re having a staff meeting.

• Life is too short to waste time matching socks.

• A dog accepts you as the boss… a cat wants to see your resume.

• I thought growing old would take longer.

• At my funeral, take the bouquet off my coffin and throw it into the crowd to see who is next.

• The officer said, “You drinking?” I said, “You buying?” We just laughed and laughed…. I need bail money.

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The following sounds like a joke, but it’s really a news item from The New York Daily News and occurred in the State of Washington on April 19:

“Washington firefighters rescued a woman after she fell headfirst into an outhouse toilet last week.

“The incident occurred at Mount Walker as the woman attempted to grab her phone, which she dropped into the toilet during an outing last Tuesday, the Brinnon Fire Department said.

“The department’s chief says the woman took apart the toilet seat and tied dog leashes to herself as she went to reach for the phone.

“They didn’t work very well, and in she went,” said Chief Tim Manly…. “After falling in, the woman grabbed her phone and managed to contact authorities, who saved her.

“‘I imagine that she was probably very fortunate,’ Manly said. ‘I don’t have any experience with that kind of a rescue, except for now, but I know that is not a good place to be.’

“Mount Walker is in the Olympic National Forest, which is about 55 miles northwest of Seattle.”

 

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It’s an insider’s look at an unconventional town. Bolinas – 2 Miles, which was published less than a year ago, makes for a fascinating read. Author Alex Horvath provides a look at the town’s pot growing, its art, its street people, and its culture.

 “You know you grew up in Bolinas when:

“• You knew every dog in town by name, and would even engage in stories about which dog had been in a fight, was in heat, etc.

“•You think it’s normal that you’ve seen every adult you know naked, sunbathing, and playing guitar on the beach.

“•The morning after you lost your virginity, the parents of the girl congratulate both of you.

“•Your mom had pot brownies specially made for your sixteenth birthday party…..”

The book contains a fascinating section on some of the street people in Bolinas. For example, ‘Tree House John [Bonuski]’ received a prize for being the ‘Favorite Bolinas Street Person of all Time.’ He was honored for both his longevity on the streets and for his service to the Bolinas Volunteer Fire Department.

Tree House John, who has a full beard, explained to Horvath how he came to grow it. “It all started long ago when a former friend punched me in the jaw,” he said. How was that related? “$14,000 in plastic surgery,” John explained.

Bolinas — 2 Miles is available from <Amazon.com> in either book or kindle form. It’s also available as an ebook from Apple products. And it can be borrowed from the Bolinas library.

Author Alex Horvath (left) formerly reported for The Pacific Sun and The West Marin Citizen and from 2000 to 2008 was a frequent contributor to the San Francisco Chronicle’s Friday section, writing hundreds of feature articles. After The Chronicle, he worked for several national business trade publications, covering everything from commercial real estate to new prison construction.

From 2000 to 2008, Horvath maintained a website, <bolinas2miles.com> and a number of the book’s tales were originally published on the website.

He had been working for Apple computers until the Covid 19 pandemic two years ago caused him — like millions of other workers —  to get laid off. For the moment, he’s working for the state Economic Development Department.

Horvath now lives in Rohnert Park but misses Bolinas. “I want to come home,” is the last line of his book. “I want to come home.”

 

 

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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>.

 

 

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