The Revenge of the Ex…

The old adage about ‘let sleeping dogs lie’ should also apply to ex girlfriends, boyfriends, wives and husbands. They have, one hopes, moved on. As should we. Still, these friends and lovers from our past played an important role in our lives, ‘for better or for worse.’  They helped mold us into who we are today.

I made it all the way to my senior year at El Dorado Union High School in Placerville, California before exploring a serious relationship.

Deanna sat next to me in speech class. She was cute, blond, bright, sexy and interested, an irresistible combination. D and I started dating, we agreed to ‘go steady,’ and I gave her my class ring. We became an item in the lexicon of today, a couple to be invited out together, a future with a question mark. We even had matching shirts, the ultimate in commitment.

But my question mark was bigger than D’s, or at least it came to fruition sooner. I was graduating from high school while she had another year. There was a big world waiting for me and I wasn’t ready to limit its horizons. So, with a degree of sadness, I ended the relationship.

D was not happy; she had our future planned. Eventually, she would pull off what can only be described as Machiavellian type revenge.

I stopped off at Sierra Community College for two years on my way to UC Berkeley. I’m glad I did. Berkeley is a big place. It’s easy for a country boy to get lost. Instead I ended up as Student Body President of Sierra. This is where D reentered the picture. She came to Sierra and was beginning her freshman year when I started my stint as Student Body President.

Our cross-town rival was American River College. Like most such rivalries, ours was consummated in an annual football game. The winner received undying glory and the coveted Pick Axe. Why a pick axe? I asked and was told it was because of our 49er heritage.

We had won the previous year’s game so we had the Axe. It was my sacred responsibility to carry it to the game. A special ceremony would be held during AR’s Homecoming Dance where we would formally give up or retain the Axe depending on who won.

One more thing: it was a tradition for the school that didn’t have the Axe to try and steal it. My job was to protect it, with my life if necessary.

With this in mind, I recruited my friend Hunt and several other large bodyguards. We arrived at our stands in full force and moved watchfully along the walkway in front of the stands. I was surrounded by muscle power and carried the Axe firmly in my hands. About half way down the stands, D was sitting in the front row. She gave me a big smile.

“Hi, Curt,” she greeted me in her kittenish way. I swear she was purring. Instant regrets of lost opportunities and more than a little guilt played tag among my memory cells. “Can I see the Pick Axe?” she asked.

“No, sorry D,” I responded. “I am supposed to protect it with my life.”

“Oh come on,” she urged, “what possible harm can it do?”

I gave in. What harm could it do?

I must admit the theft was neatly planned. The guy sitting next to her grabbed the Pick Axe, leapt over the railing, and handed it off to another guy who was waiting. That guy dashed across the field with a burst of speed that almost guaranteed he was the anchor on AR’s championship relay team.

My security team jumped the rail in hot pursuit, but they didn’t stand a chance. They were recruited for their size, not speed. By the time they reached the opposite bleachers the Axe had disappeared into an ocean of AR supporters. A roar of approval went up from the fans. Pursuing the Axe would have been suicidal.

Well, needless to say, I felt terrible. I had failed in my sacred duty and been done in by a pretty smile, by a woman scorned. I was down, but not quite out.

At half time the AR mascot, who happened to be a diminutive woman dressed up as a beaver, came prancing over to our side of the stands, taunting us with the fact AR had stolen the Axe. She strolled by and flapped her tail at me.

“Grab the Beaver!” I ordered my muscle men in a moment of sheer inspiration. And they did.

“Let go of me you son-of-a-bitching goons,” she screamed in unlady like beaver prose. The air turned blue.

“Gnaw on it Beaver,” I growled as I grabbed her papier-mâché head and yanked it off. The invective level increased 10 fold. The little Beaverette had an incredible vocabulary.

“Quick,” I urged Hunt, “make this beaver head disappear for the time being.”

We lost the game, I am not sorry to say. Had we won, my losing the Pick Axe would have been a much more serious crime, punishable by banishment from Sierra. As it was, AR had simply obtained its Pick Axe early.

And I had the beaver head. I made my way through the dispersing crowd to the dance. The floor was already packed with gyrating Beavers. The bandleader willingly turned over his microphone when I looked official and said that I had an important announcement to make.

“Hello everyone, my name is Curtis Mekemson and I am President of the Student Body of Sierra College,” I jumped in. There was immediate silence. “I came here to present you with your Axe but you already have it.” (Laughter) “But,” I went on with a pregnant pause, “I have your Beaver Head.” (More laughter)

The crowd was in a good mood. They had won the game and could afford to be generous to this enemy within their midst.

“Getting it was not easy. Do you have any idea of the extended vocabulary of your Beaverette?” (Extensive laughter) “I do, however, wish to apologize to her and note that the language was justified.  Having your head ripped off is never a pleasant experience. As for my defense, she flapped her tail at me one too many times. In wrapping this up, I have a proposition for you. Do you want your beaver head back?”

“YES,” was the resounding answer.

“OK,” I replied. “If you will send an appropriate delegation up to Sierra next Wednesday at noon, I will personally return the head.”

That was that. Arrangements were made for AR to appear at the Sierra College Campus Center the following week. The day came and the Center was packed. I had turned the head over to our cafeteria staff for a special presentation.

The AR delegation dutifully showed up at noon on the dot. I welcomed them to our campus, complimented them on their victory and encouraged them to enjoy the Pick Axe for the short year they would have it. I also urged they keep it well guarded.

“And now,” I announced, “it is time to bring out the Beaver Head.”

Out from the cafeteria came a formal procession, complete with the campus cook and her assistants. The Beaverhead had been carefully arranged on a huge platter that included all of the trimmings for a feast. The piece-de-resistance was an apple carefully inserted into the Beavers mouth. Needless to say, a great time was had by all, including the AR delegation.

D’s revenge and my debacle with the Pick Axe had been turned into a minor victory.

This blog is part of a series in celebration of the 50th High School Reunion of the Class of 1961 of El Dorado Union High School in Placerville California. Next up the concluding blog: Bob Bray Is Lost in a Snowstorm.

Diamond Springs, California: From Gold Rush to Sleepy… The 50th EUHS Reunion

The message arrived by mail. My 50th High School Reunion was coming up. Once again the mighty Cougars of Placerville, California’s El Dorado Union High School would roar.

Or at least meow.

Teenage angst, hormonal overload and dreams of glory had long since been dimmed by the realities of life and aging bones. My classmates and I have reached the point where looking back is easier than looking forward.

A Memory Book was being created. What had happened to us since that warm June day in 1961? It was time to sum up our lives in 400 words or less. Should I lie?

Naah. I dutifully begin to put the words down on paper. I found, however, that my mind kept wandering back to what had happened prior to our graduation, during the formative years of our lives. Always on the lookout for blog material, I decided to post a few stories from those years. First up:

Many things influence whom we become. DNA, parents, friends, teachers… it’s a long list. Where we are raised also has to be included. It doesn’t matter where we go in life; our hometown remains our hometown. And this takes me back to Diamond Springs, a small town outside of Placerville.

Sleepy is too lively a word for describing where I lived from 1945 to 1961.

In Old West terminology, Diamond was a two-horse town. There were two grocery stores, two gas stations, two restaurants, two bars, two graveyards and two major places of employment: the Diamond Lime Company and the Caldor Lumber Company.

On the one horse side of the equation there was one church, a barbershop, a hardware store and a grammar school. High school was in far off Placerville, three miles away.

It hadn’t always been quiet. Located in the foothills of the Sierra Nevada Mountain Range, Diamond was once a major gathering spot for the Maidu Indians and later became a bustling Gold Rush town.

To the Maidu it was Mo-lok’epakan, or, Morning Star’s Spring and a very holy place.  Indians came from miles around bearing their dead on litters for cremation. Souls were sent wafting on their way to where ever deceased Maidu went.

Apparently they had been living in the area for a thousand years. It is a sad commentary on both our education system and how we treated the Indians that I grew up in Diamond never hearing the name Morning Star’s Spring much less Mo-lok’epakan. Our only connection with the Maidu’s lost heritage was finding an occasional arrowhead or Indian bead.

Then, in 1848, John Marshall found some shiny yellow baubles in the American River at Sutter’s Mill, 13 miles away. The worlds of the Maidu, California, and Morning Star’s Spring were about to be shattered. “Gold!” went out the cry to Sacramento, across the nation and around the world. Instant wealth was to be had in California and the 49ers were on their way.

They came by boat, wagon, horse and foot… whatever it took. And they came in the thousands from Maine to Georgia, Yankee and Southerner alike. They came from England and Germany and France and China, pouring in from all points of the compass. They left behind their wives, children, mothers, fathers, and half-plowed fields. The chance of ‘striking it rich’ was not to be denied.

Soon the once quiet foothills were alive with the sound of the miners’ picks and shovels punctuated by an occasional gunshot. Towns grew up overnight: Hangtown (Placerville), Sonora, Volcano, Fiddletown, Angels Camp, Grass Valley, Rough and Ready and other legendary communities of the Motherlode.

In 1850 a party of 200 Missourians stopped off at Morning Star’s Spring and decided to stay. Timber was plentiful, the grazing good and a 25-pound nugget of gold was found nearby. Soon there were 18 hotels, stables, a school, churches, doctors, a newspaper, lawyers, vineyards, a blacksmith, some 8000 miners and undoubtedly several unrecorded whorehouses.

Morning’s Star Spring took on a new name, Diamond Springs. The Wells Fargo Stage Company opened an office and the Pony Express made it a stop on its two-year ride to glory.

The town burned down in 1856, 1859 and again in the 1870s. By this time most of the gold had been found and the residents were forced to find other means of gainful employment.

The timber industry came to the rescue in the early 1900s when the California Door Company out of Oakland set up shop in Diamond to handle the timber it was pulling out of the Sierra Nevada Mountains. Starting with oxen and then moving to steam tractors, the company finally settled on a narrow gauge railway for retrieving rough-cut lumber and logs from its forest operations. By the 50s, it had moved on to logging trucks.

A couple of decades after Caldor was established, Diamond Lime set up business by opening a quarry two miles east of Diamond and a processing plant on the edge of town. The lime was so pure that a block of it was used in the Washington Monument.

This was pretty much how things were when the Mekemsons arrived at the end of World War II. Next blog… the Mekemson/Bray gang terrorizes Diamond Springs.