This is a continuation of my previous blog.
I had a major task before the boys showed up: finish the hiking trails that cut back and forth across our five acres of forested property. It seriously resembled work. I ended up using my weed whacker, leaf blower, tree pruning shears, rake and a mattock. For those of you who don’t know what a mattock is, think really heavy hoe combined with a pick. The last time I had used one I was 18, fighting a forest fire in Northern California over terrain that was so steep that I had to hold on to brush with one hand while I chopped a fire trail with the other. Although I didn’t have a fiery inferno rushing down on me for inspiration, the hill I cut a trail across for the boys was equally steep. And, news flash, I am no longer 18. Peggy came out of the house frequently to look down the slope and make sure I was still alive.
Each boy ended up with his own unique trail with a special sign made by Peggy. There were Chris’s Mountain Trail, Ethan’s Hidden Springs Trail, Cody’s Bear Trail (it is the actual trail the bear uses when he comes in to check out our garbage can), and Connor’s Jungle Trail (chopped out through vines and blackberries). The two-year-old Cooper was too young for a trail, so I made him a secluded nook under some tall brush that could also accommodate his brothers and cousins: Cooper’s Hide-a-Way. When we took the boys down to check it out, a momma deer and her two fawns had adopted the hideout and were happily ensconced on the outdoor carpet I had put down.
The boys got a lecture before venturing out on their own. “This is what poison oak looks like. Watch out for rattlesnakes. If you go off the trails, your socks will be filled with burrs and the burrs will get in your underwear.” I added the latter for emphasis. And it is true; somehow doing the laundry automatically transfers burrs to places you definitely don’t want them— believe me. (Of course the boys went off of the trails.) As for rattlesnakes, I had to dispatch one with my mattock next to the water gun filling station at the side of our house the day before the boys showed up. It was a Diamond Back about three-feet long with ten rattles. Normally I would have just shooed it off, but I worried it might come back. “Look, Grandpa, a snake! Can we catch it?” (Our grandson Ethan is an expert at rounding up lizards. Why not snakes?)
There wasn’t a second of down time for the whole three weeks. There were games to play, swimming holes to explore, and must-see places to visit, such as the Railroad Park in Medford. In the middle of all of this, Peggy went paragliding and jumped off of a local mountain to celebrate her 65th birthday. Talk about a role model. Our daughter and son joined her. It was my responsibility to take photographs and survive. Can you imagine how warped the boys would be if I were put in charge of raising them?
Our house was even more crowded than our time. Each room had a designated use. The Library, for example, became Lego Central. Even the outdoor patio and porch were drafted to house carefully gathered sticks and rocks, not to mention water guns. Our bedrooms and bathrooms were crammed with kids, grandkids, clothes, first aid supplies for stubbed toes (they hurt), and all of the other paraphernalia of daily life. Peggy and I retreated to our small RV each night to sleep.
Eventually the last family was packed up and sent on its way. It was time to reclaim our house. While Peggy worked inside, I tackled the outside. Robota, our robot vacuum cleaner, joyfully scooted around on the floor and searched under couches, beds, chairs and tables for lost Legos, absent autos, and misplaced marbles.
Peggy and I had all of 12 days to reestablish our lives before heading off on our next adventures. Peggy went to England for a couple of weeks with her sister, Jane, on a garden tour that included, among other things, Downton Abby (Highclere Castle). She has offered to guest-write a few blogs on her experience and has been wrestling with how to pare down her thousand plus photos. (Welcome to my world, Sweetie.)
I packed up our pickup and drove over to the northern coast of California above San Francisco. It is one of my all-time favorite areas. I had enough adventures to fill a book, or at least several blogs. For example, I was taking photos of an old Nike Missile site by myself when I heard creaking doors and a Nike Missile came out of the ground. It was pointed directly at me. I raised my arms and surrendered.
In Fort Bragg I discovered the very interesting Triangle Tattoo Museum and Parlor. None other than the divine Madame Chinchilla, a 69-year-old tattooed woman who looks like a grandmother, gave me a two-hour personal tour. It was fascinating. Her husband/partner, Mr. G, was busy tattooing his pharmacist. They were discussing side effects. “Are you talking about prescription drugs or tattoos,” I asked. “Both” was their mutual response. I bought a book Chinchilla had written about their best friend, now diseased, a world-renowned sword swallower: Captain Don Leslie.
And, there was more, of course.
- I visited an old Grateful Dead hangout that morphed into a 60’s hippie commune
- Stopped off at the Marconi telegraph site at Point Reyes where Morse code signals are still sent out to the Titanic (no answers yet)
- Took photos of a church that Ansel Adams made famous
- Rubbed shoulders with an Alfred Hitchcock mannequin in the small town of Bodega, which was made famous by the Hitchcock film The Birds
- Wandered among the fascinating houseboats of Sausalito
- Roamed the streets of the quaint seaside town of Mendocino
Returning home, I managed to score a ticket to Burning Man with the help of friends two days before the event was to start. So I made my annual journey out to the remote desert in northern Nevada. This past weekend I attended a conference on writing for change in San Francisco. Today I did an interview for a book about the international effort to get tobacco out of the movies, an effort I helped initiate 20 years ago.
I’ll be blogging about all of these over the next few months. Stay tuned. 🙂