Sunday, December 19, 2010

I Heart Hand Bells

What the hell is that?   I am sure that if you are bothering to read this then you are asking yourself this question.  Well I shall tell you...

Once upon a time I was in high school and at my little high school with a student body of 200 students we all had to take a "Fine Art" course in order to graduate.  Well, since I don't sing and I don't play a band instrument and can't act to save my life (I was that kid who spent the entire Christmas pageant waving at her parents instead of pretending to be a watchful shepherd) when my senior year came around the doors to the chorale, band and drama club were all shut to me.  Luckily, there was one last refuge, one last bastion of hope for talentless students.  This last chance station was known as Bell Choir.

We met in the back room of the administration building during seventh period.  And in a crowded little room we donned gloves and prepared to meet The Clinician.  The Clinician is sort of like the Dude from the Big Lebowski, okay he's really nothing like the Dude...but that's what you call a director of a bell choir...a clinician.  His name was Dr. Chip Spier.  He was a renowned cardiothoracic surgeon with a fever...a fever that could only be cured with a prescription for hand bells.  He left the hospital in the afternoons to come to coach us and he was all business.

Now for the uninitiated, the first thing that one does when joining a bell choir, besides donning silk/cotton blend gloves, is to get a hand bell assignment.  After one look from the Clinician I was assigned the C4 and D4 bells.  What are C4 and D4 bells you ask?  In short...they are the obscenely large bells that could also hang in the cupolas of old Taco Bells (back when Taco Bells looked like replicas of the Alamo)...

Photographic evidence of serving time in Hand Bell Choir with Patrick C.
Yes I have since learned that black turtlenecks on albino skin and a large chest are a bad bad idea...thank you.

Now prior to joining the Bell Choir I didn't know how to read music so I was already at a deficit.  Not only could I not read music but I couldn't keep time...probably because I am a white person and its not in my DNA.  Further, I don't work well under pressure...and there are few situations in life more intense than playing "Carol of the Bells" at the school Christmas pageant with the Clinician giving you the evil eye...that evil eye that communicates to you, You better not f#*k up my masterpiece!  So with no musical training, no natural ability and no strength of character I was poised to become an utter failure in the field of hand bell ringing.  But luckily the Lord gave me one secret special gifts that made me superior to all other hand bell ringers of my day.  What was this weapon, you ask?...a large rack.

Oh yes, you read correctly.  My secret weapon in the war of hand bell ringing was a DDD cup size.  Now why is this an advantage?  Does cleavage distract from a performer's complete lack of musical ability?  Well maybe it does for Britney Spears but for Whitny Braun it made me the best damn dampener in all of the San Gabriel Academy Hand Bell Choir.

You see in order to play the hand bells you have to pick them up and hold them to your chest, then thrust your arms out in a motion similar to walloping a punching bag.  The mallet inside the bell strikes the side of the bell creating the rich smooth echoing sound of the C4 and D4 bells.  Of course you don't want the bell to continue echoing on at infinitum.  Thus you must dampen the bell.  How does one do this?  You do this by quickly cupping the bell to your chest in a manner similar to the chest beating motion Celine Dion makes on stage.  When you are playing the D7 for example, which is a teeny tiny bell similar in size to the little bells you would ring to summon a servant with your tea, you can silence those in an instant by holding them against pretty much any relatively soft, relatively flat surface.  But to dampen the that takes a majestic chest.  And luckily for me...a majestic chest I do indeed have.

So back to the button or pin or whatever you want to call it that reads "I [Heart] Hand Bells" that inspired this I in fact love hand bells?  Well, I guess I do...but mostly I just like the sound of silencing them.

Maxwell the Magnificent

It sort of looks like he has a handlebar mustache don't you think?

Friday, December 17, 2010

Learn the French language and all about stereotypes instantly!

Today I continue on my quest to go through all of the vinyl records in the crawlspace above my closet by sharing with all of you this classic French language instructional album which teaches the listener all about how to ask for directions to the library and how to recognize a French bellhop...instantly!

A Traveler's Guide to Istant French

Ling, Max & What Was My Clean Laundry

Ling, Max & What Was My Clean Laundry

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Let's All Sing Christmas Carols in STEREOPHONIC!

Merry Christmas to me!  I am just going to start calling my house Santa because it just keeps giving and giving!  I mean what says Christmas more than this 1961 vinyl classic aptly titled "Let's All Sing Christmas Carols"?

Let's All Sing Christmas Carols

Now I am a little concerned about the children on this album cover though.  My first concern is that they are really bad actors.  I mean c'mon are they supposed to look surprised, fearful, joyous?  Frankly my first thought when I saw this was that kids were looking down into a grave but then I thought, nah that doesn't make sense.  So then I reasoned from the bricks they are shown leaning on that they must be looking down a chimney.  So if they are looking down a chimney and one kid appears to have a look of fear on his face, while the little girl appears to be surprised and the boy on the right seems to about to laugh I can only surmise that they have stumbles across Santa delivering presents down their chimney in the nude.  Clearly, its the only logical conclusion.  Wouldn't you agree?

An Evening With Tupper Saussy

Who the hell is Tupper Saussy?  Perhaps this is a question you have asked yourself.  No?  Okay, maybe it's just me.  I found myself asking this question this week as I was cleaning out the crawl space above my closet and came across a pile of probably eighty vinyl albums and right on the top of the pile was this gem...

Tupper Saussy:  "Said I To Shostakovitch"
Okay, so who the hell is Tupper Saussy?  My dear friend Ryan did a little research and the first thing he found was a quote from the UK newspaper The Guardian which said, "Tupper Saussy is not a man to be taken lightly."  Well one can clearly tell just by looking at him that this is not a man to be taken lightly.  This is a man who would throw a 20 year Scotch in your face and then dab off any backsplash that landed on him with that elegantly folded pocket square.  He would probably challenge you to a dual...only instead of pistols at dawn it would probably be a bass viola-off and then he'd hand you your ass on a platter.  He's sort of like the Dos Equis/Most Interesting Man in the know, except that I don't think that anyone has the overwhelming urge to punch the Dos Equis man.  (What?  Is it just me?)

After spending an evening with Tupper Saussy I must say that this album has inspired me to change my use of idioms.  In the future whenever anyone says something that would necessitate me saying, "That's what she said..." or "Your mom goes to college..." I will instead interject..."Said I to Shostakovich".  I imagine it would go something like this:

Other Person:  You forgot to buy orange juice at the grocery store?

Me:  Yes.  Sorry.  It's really not that big of a deal.

Other Person:  Argh!  That's what you always say!


Other Person:  Huh?

Okay, so maybe it won't make complete sense at first but give it time and you can condition the other person so that they understand and respond appropriately.  Patience and persistence are virtues people.

Well, I suppose that is all I have to say for tonight.  There is a turntable in the other room with some Tupper Saussy waiting to be played.  Ciao people...I have a date with Tupper Saussy and he is not a man to be taken lightly or kept waiting.

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Brief Encounters with Nancy Brophy

For today's post I thought I should post a conversation I had with a guest staying at the B&B...I had committed the conversation to paper several months ago and came across it as I was cleaning up my hard drive this afternoon.  


When I am not in grad school, doing research in Spain, teaching courses in bioethics to thoroughly bored nursing and medical students or searching for lost cats stuck in trees I work at my family's bed and breakfast near Yosemite National Park.  This last summer I had a series of conversations with a guest.  Her name was Nancy Brophy (of course this is not actually her name as names have been changed to protect the innocent.)  Anyway, It's guests like Nancy Brophy that make me really wonder if I am cut out for the service industry.  If I wasn't so gosh darn skilled at getting the lime scale off of shower doors and removing bodily fluid staining from sheets I think I would throw in the towel and tell my parent's they are on their own up in Coulterville.  But alas, since I am really and truly gifted at scrubbing toilets I keep on keeping on and enjoying the company of true originals like one Nancy Brophy.   Now as for this guest Nancy Brophy...think of my encounters with her as a play told in three acts...I call it "Brief Encounters with Nancy Brophy".  

The First Encounter
 (Experienced in the form of Phone Conversation with me using my professional phone voice):

Her: "Hi...this is Nancy, I am staying with you tonight."

Me: "Yes, hello, we are looking forward to your stay."

Her: "Now how do I find you?"

Me: "Okay, for the first leg you are going to want to take Hwy 120 to Smith Station Road, it'll be 10 miles from the park gate to the Smith Station turn off".

Her: "So is that a long 10 miles?"

Me: "Hmm, well its a straight 10 miles on Hwy 120."

Her: "So its a long 10 miles then?"

Me: "Well its 10 miles at 65 miles per hour, or 16 kilometers at like 105 km/h...on a relatively straight flat road."

Her: "Oh okay, so its a short 10 miles then?"

Me:  "I don't know that I would call it long or short...I would maybe just say that it is a universally accepted 10 miles."

Her:  "Got's a long 10 miles then?"

Me: "Umm, I'm not really sure how else I can qualify or describe a quantitative measurement of linear distance other than to say its 10 miles in a straight line."

Her: "So you're saying its a pretty easy 10 miles then?"

Me: "Yes Ma'am...that is exactly what I am saying."

The Second Encounter
(Experienced as I took her breakfast order)

Me: "How would you like your eggs?"

Her: "Well, I am watching what I eat...will I still get the same protein from a hard boiled as a scrambled you get what I'm saying?"

Me: "Uh-huh, I totally see where you are going with this and I believe this is exactly what French chemist Antoine Lavoisier was talking about when he wrote his treatise on
 the law of conservation of mass and matter."

Her: "Oh is he the guy who designed NutriSystem?"

Me:  "Uh-huh, and would you believe he's actually fathered children by both Marie Osmond and Valerie Bertinelli?"

The Third Encounter
(Experienced as I drew her a map to the Diana Pools)

Me:  The Diana Pools are our natural swimming pools on the property.  They're where the north fork of the Merced meets Smith Creek and cascades over this huge granite face into a series of little pools.

Her:  "Are they heated?"

Me:  "Well..heated by solar energy..."

Her:  "Oh great, so they're warm."

Me:  "Well, no the water isn't warm because the Merced River is glacier fed...(visualize blank stare from her)...So the water is cold but the granite rock absorbs the heat all day and conducts the heat to the water which keeps it around 60 degrees."

Her:  "Oh so the water is frozen then? Is that safe?"

Me:  "No the water isn't frozen, its flowing water and is it safe?...well it really only takes six inches to drown so really who am I to say whether or not something is safe?"

Her:  "So its warm then, do you pump the water into the pools yourself then?"

Me:  "No, because I'm 28 so they put the glaciers in here back before I was born...which makes it, you know, pretty easy for me now.  I can just kind of let it do its thing."

Her: "Oh that is great, you're so lucky that was all done for you."

Me:  "Yeah, my family has always been into installing glaciers."

Her:  "Well, I just think it is so wonderful when families can pass a business down generation after generation."

Me:  "Yeah, the only thing that is hard is that whole federal inheritance tax on glaciers and, ya know, of course global warming."


The Saga of Harriett in the Big Bad Golf Course

Last month I posted a story about the three month ordeal I endured in the summer of 2009 when my beloved cat Buddy Lee got lost in the woods of Yosemite.  I have since received comments from a reader named Nathalie who is currently trying to recover her own cat who is lost in the crowded busy neighborhood near her house.

In an effort to give Nathalie hope and also to preserve for posterity the saga of my little bitty kitty Harriett I give you the saga of Harriett in the big bad golf course...

This is Harriett

My Dad and I found Harriett in the summer of 2002.  We were on a routine run to Home Depot and waiting at an intersection when my Dad looked down and saw two little eyes peering up from the storm drain below.  Dad jumped out of the car and reached down into the gutter and pulled what honestly looked like a 1 lb version of Gollum from the "Lord of the Rings" out of the muck.  We blew off Home Depot and took the little naked mole rat masquerading as a cat home and then to the vet and over the course of several days nursed it...her...back to health.  My Dad cleaned the mites out of her ears every day and my mom fed her with a bottle.  

In time she turned into the furry fruit bat looking creature pictured above.  She had some special needs, which included a tick and a propensity to walk sideways, thus solidifying her nicknames of "Gollum" and "Smeagol".  Our giant Great Dane/Bull Mastiff mix named Snuggles adored her and they became the best of friends and all was right with the least in the Braun family home.  

Then in December of 2005 all was suddenly not right with the world.  My friend Alise, who was about to leave for Cambodia for research was spending the weekend at my house.  We decided to put up a Christmas Tree.  Well, in the process of bringing in the Christmas tree I left the back door open...

A day later my mom asked if anyone had seen Harriett.  As Harriett is prone to hiding anyway, none of us had really thought much of the fact that we hadn't seen her.  A little while later my mom thought she saw a fight between a portly orange cat and our little Harriett on the fence behind the house through her bedroom window.  We immediately searched the Harriett.

My mom was distraught.  I felt sick with guilt.  My Grandma turned to prayer.  My Dad turned to a million candlepower flashlight.  Alise was in Cambodia and had bigger problems.  

Our first lead was the fact that my mom had seen Harriett dart off into the golf course behind our house after the altercation with the fat Garfield cat.  So we set up base camp.  We took blankets and sleeping bags and set up a base of operations on the back porch so that should Harriett want to just come wandering back to us she would know where to find us.

Suffice it to say that sleeping outside in December on your back porch is miserable and move on...

My next step was to hop the fence into the golf course the next day and look for Harriett.  Seeting how heartbroken my mom was and knowing how terrified Harriett must be (wherever she was) I began frantically searching the area of the golf course along the property line with our house.  Now in theory this search was a good idea...except that the manner in which I chose to do it was perhaps less than well thought out.  I got a machete from the garage and began walking along the hedges and frantically slashing at the brush trying to reveal where Harriett might be hiding.  In hindsight I realize that this could have very easily resulted in me injuring myself or the cat...but desperation makes you do crazy things...obviously.  After hours of slashing through hedges and bushes and small tree branches I stepped back and surveyed the damage.  I had made the area around the 9th hole look like it had been carpet bombed by a C-130 cargo plane in Vietnam.  Then I ran.

The next night as we were camped out on the back porch once more my mom began calling Harriett's name.  After about thirty minutes we heard something.  It was her meow.  It was her distinctive little chirp of a meow.  My mom called out her name again but we didn't hear anything.  Maybe it was another cat.  Maybe it was out imaginations.  We waited a bit and then my mom called out her name again and again and alternated between saying her name, her best cat friend's name Buddy Lee and her best doggy pal's name Snuggles.  We waited a second and then heard her little chirp again.

This went on for three days and we couldn't pinpoint where it was coming from.  The acoustics in the golf course behind our house made it impossible to know where she was.  For three more nights we camped out on the freezing porch calling her name and then climbing over into the golf course with the flashlights to look at her and thoroughly irritating our neighbors.

I can't speak for my parents or my grandmother but I suspect they felt like me.  I could not give up.  I had to find Harriett.  We couldn't lose her right before Christmas.  Well, we couldn't lose her period.  I had not slept in five days.  I had not eaten in five days.  I had leaves in my hair and I had vandalized a public golf course...I was going to find that cat.  As I was having a Scarlet O'Hara moment on my porch, shaking my fist at the moon my Dad came running back from the golf course yelling that he had found her!

He had found her!  Where was she?  Of course...she was at the top of a seventy foot pine tree about 100 yards from our back porch.  A seventy foot pine tree with no branch lower than ten fee off of the ground.  Fabulous.

So I did what any rational, sane person would do.  I called the fire department.  Well, I learned very quickly that contrary to popular belief the fire department does not actually get cats out of trees.  Apparently, it is considered a waste of tax payers dollars and it would be too dangerous to risk driving the fire engine across the golf course and getting it stuck in one of the sand traps.  My Dad had an alternate plan...he was going to climb the tree.  He went and got a ladder.  Remember this tree is seventy feet tall.  All I heard in my internal monologue were the words..."Sweet Jesus"

I of course did the next best thing a sane, rational person would do after being rejected by the fire department.  I pitched a the golf the base of the tree, so that just in case Harriett managed to come down we would be there for you.

Sometime around four or five in the morning a golf cart with it's headlights on cruised up along side of our campsite and then sped away.  A few minutes later two gold carts came back...apparently the driver of the first decided he needed back-up.

"Excuse'am, ma'am...why are you sleeping in the gold course?" called the man from the first cart.

"My cat is in the tree!"  I yelled back.

"Are you homeless?" the hollered at me.

"Me?  No...I live right there in that house.  I motioned over to my 6,000 square foot house."

"Are you the doctor's daughter?"


There was a pause.

"Well, you can't sleep in the golf course."

This hollering back and forth was getting tiresome.  I got out of my sleeping bag and walked over to the golf carts.  I explained that I had been searching for my cat for five days and that I was so close that I couldn't walk away now.  I then think I might have fallen to my knees and begged for help from the golf course manager.

He looked at me with pity and then said that he would need me off the golf course by the time the first golfers got to the ninth hole.  At this point I said, "You wouldn't happen to have a cherry picker or anything that we could use to get up there and get my cat do you?"

"No we don't but we have the tree trimmers coming today to clean up that area over there..." he motioned to the hedgerow I had absolutely obliterated four days earlier.  "It's the weirdest thing...must have been the wind."

"Yeah that is weird..." I said trying to look as perplexed about it as he was.

An hour later the tree trimmers with their cherry picker rolled in.  The cavalry had arrived.  The manager had explained my plight to the tree trimmers already but as they cruised in like the SWAT team I fell to my knees once more pleading, "Seniors, gatito es arriba en el arbol...por favor...necessito su ayuda!"

They obliged me.  And with my mom, my dad, the golf course manager, the head of security for the golf course and me watching they planted the legs of the cherry picker and began raising the bucket up to the highest branch in the tree.  The intrepid tree trimmer Javier had leather gloves and a cat carrier and was ready for business.  Just as Javier was within arm's reach of Harriett she panicked.  She ran to the end of the branch and fell...falling almost seventy feet to the ground below.  I almost couldn't look.  My mom screamed.  The golf course manager yelled "Aye dios mio!".  It couldn't end like this!

It didn't.  Harriett somehow managed to land on all fours and then what did she do next?  She bolted up the next tree over, a sixty-five foot Ponderosa Pine.  She scaled that thing like Spiderman climbing up the face of the Empire State Building.  

Javier was undaunted.  His partner Marco repositioned the cherry picker and Javier ascended to the heavens once again to attempt to get Harriett for a second time.  It was inspiring to watch.  This time if Javier failed and Harriett fell out of the tree again there was no way she would live...she had to have used up all of her nine lives by now.

As Javier approached Harriett in the bucket attached to the massive mechanical arm the second time Harriett froze.  Javier reached for her and started to guide her into the cat carrier.  We were almost there.  Just another inch or close...but just when it looked like it was going to be okay Harriett freaked out and fought and then fell sixty-five feet to ground below landing on her side.  We all cringed, assuming the worst but no sooner did Harriett hit the ground with a thud than she popped back and up and started running at full speed toward our backyard.

I was standing the farthest from our backyard and stood there slightly dumbfounded as I saw my dad take off running after Harriett, followed by my mom, followed by the manager of the golf course, followed by the director of security for the golf course, followed by the man who had been operating the cherry picker.  Javier was still up in the bucket.  It was surreal.  I then shook my head and followed in pursuit.

I saw Harriett jump over the fence to our backyard and then with the agility and swiftness of a cat my Dad somehow leaped over the fence and landed on top of Harriett with his full weight.  Okay, now the cat was definitely dead.  But as soon as the dust cleared Harriett wriggled out from underneath my Dad's weight and shot like a bullet towards the back porch.  At this point I thought we had lost her for good.  She was so traumatized there was no way we were getting her back now.

But no sooner had I said that then I saw that Snuggles the Great Dane/Bull Mastiff and Ling our Chow had cornered her under a bunch.  My mom swooped in and grabbed Harriett in a towel and rushed her inside the house.

A few minutes later she was curled up in my mom's arms next to the Christmas tree telling her all about her ordeal.  That night I was able to sleep, with Judy Garland crooning "Have Yourself A Merry Little Christmas" from my iPod, and safe in the knowledge that once again...all was right with the world.  

Monday, December 13, 2010

Christmas Really Does Come Twice A Year!

Okay I am back at it with my blog.  I took a little hiatus to recover from an ear infection and while I was convalescing I found a stash of hidden gems in the cupboards above my closet...about 70 vinyl albums with original covers stacked neatly behind an off brand Thigh-Master.  Finding this cache of recording gems made me realize that Christmas really does come twice a year!

The album on the top of the stack that I pulled down first was this retro gem:

Christmas With The King Family
The back of the album cover features this scintillating description of just what lies in store for you when you put this album down on the old turntable:

"Christmas with The King Family has always been a time of music, a time of singing.  One of the first Christmases the Kings can remember was the eve papa King Driggs pulled up to the family house with a car load of oddly wrapped packages, a violin, a clarinet, drums, the makings of the Driggs Family of Entertainers.  Each year since, the growing King Family has spent musically:  exchanging presents together on Christmas eve, and singing.  Singing as a whole family, with its eight branches presenting their own show of Christmas songs.

This album is such a Christmas, with the traditional songs the Kings all love...the Al Burt carols, Bill Drigg's own composition, "Holiday of Love," their own traditional song "Hear the Sledges with the Bells," and many, many others.  It is an album of warmth, of sincerity.  It is a family Christmas album in every sense."

I'm going to go out on a limb and guess by the condition of the vinyl that this bad boy has never been taken for a spin.

Who knew Diane Sawyer was a member of the singing King Family?

So if anyone is planning on coming by my house this Christmas you can be sure that there will be lots of sparkling cider and Special K loaf and of course "Christmas With The King Family".

Saturday, November 20, 2010

Edgar A. Guest Poem Clipping, "Wishes"

My Grandma Dorothy passed away in 2007 and ever since then I have been finding little things of her's around my house...well I guess it is more appropriate to say that I have been finding little things of her's in her house.  In her top desk drawer I found this little newspaper clipping, next to a letter from her dad (my great-grandpa) from 1957 and a copy of his death certificate from 1958.  The little clipping is of a poem written by Edward A. Guest entitled, "Wishes".  I think it was from a Los Angeles area paper in the 1950s but I can't be sure.  The backside of the clipping just has an address for Rivara Supply Company located at 120 N. 9th Street near McKinley School.  I tried to google map the address and I found a corresponding address in San Pedro, California near the port of Los Angeles and then other addresses that matched in Huntington Beach, Newport Beach and Manhattan Beach...but none are located near a McKinley School.  So I am pretty much at square one as to where this little poem was originally published.  However, it doesn't matter much.  I just like the fact that I have something of her's that she thought was profound enough or touched her enough that she took the time to cut it out.  

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Max in the Wee Small Hours of the Morning

Maxwell J. Peanut & Robbie Monster looking fierce for the camera...

Really, what more can I say about these two magnificent beasts than that they are, well...magnificent.

Maxwell J. Peanut Naps

Has there ever been a cat more magnificent than this slumbering beast known as Maxwell J. Peanut?  He really belongs in a cartoon world and not reality.  I am actually convinced he is a figment of my imagination.  

Maxwell J. Peanut takes a snooze...

Vintage Eyeglass Holster

If you looked up the word "badass" in the dictionary, or maybe googled the phrase "frickin' awesome" then this is what you should find...

Eyeglass Holster

There are few things in life that I like more than cat eye glasses and the greatest compliment one can have to a pair of rockin' cat eye glasses is a little rhinestoned label pin that looks like a miniature pair of cat eye glasses for you to insert said awesome cat eye glasses in.  Like I said, badass...

Oh yeah, and I just happen to have a frickin' awesome pair of vintage cat eyed/horn rimmed glasses that belonged to my great-grandma back in the 1950s and 1960s.  Sadly, I had lasik eye surgery to correct my once awful vision and thus have no use for glasses...but someday when the peepers go these are definitely going to be my old lady glasses.


Sunday, November 14, 2010

The Mitt a.k.a. The Snoog

This weekend was a milestone for first garage sale.  And to assist me in my first garage sale were reinforcements in the form of the my aunt Jan, cousin Matt and of course...The Mitt!

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Military Dog Tags

This Veterans Day I thought I would share with you a collection that is very dear to me.  Since I was a young girl I have collected military dog tags...though not intentionally.  I mean to say that I don't search them out on Ebay or put classified ads in the paper soliciting them.  But when I come across them in I always pick them up because these little scraps of metal represent something profoundly emotional.  They represent the life of a soldier and if only they could talk and tell us where they have been and what they have seen and who the man was who wore them.

I found my first dog tag when I was twelve.  I was perusing the displays at an antique store and was intrigued by the silver necklace in the jewelry case.

The US Army dog tags of Roger E. Constant

The dog tags of Tommy J. Decker

I found my next dog tag as a thirteen year old in an antique shop in Bisbee, Arizona.  I was on a road trip with my parents and we were on our way back to California from the Copper Canyon in Mexico and stopped off in Tombstone, Arizona for my to get my fix of a Sasparilla at the Longhorn Saloon.  We made a quick stop off at a junk shop in nearby Bisbee and I found this dog tag in a case right by the cash register.  My dad bought it for me for $19.

Years later I did some research and I was able to find an army record for a Tommy J. Decker that was born in Oklahoma and enlisted in World War II...this is

Name:Tommy J Decker
Birth Year:1926
Race:White, Citizen (White)
Nativity State or Country:Oklahoma
State of Residence:Alabama
County or City:Mobile
Enlistment Date:20 Feb 1945
Enlistment State:Alabama
Enlistment City:Fort McClellan
Branch:No branch assignment
Branch Code:No branch assignment
Grade Code:Private
Term of Enlistment:Enlistment for the duration of the War or other emergency, plus six months, subject to the discretion of the President or otherwise according to law

I am not certain if this is the same soldier but this dog tag is definitely a World War II era one and I have not been able to find any other Tommy J. Deckers with World War II service records.

The dog tags of Wilmar O. Anderson

The dog tags of Robert I. Goff

The dog tags of Eugene J. Loots

I found the battered dog tag of William H. Taylor as a seventeen year old, walking around the Pomona Fairplex at the Crossroads of the West Gun Show.  It was at the bottom of a bin of military antiques that I was digging through and I saw the light from the flourescent lights overhead reflect off it surface.  I reached for the source of the light and clasped the cold little strip of metal and ran my finger across the lettering.  I held it up close to my face to get a better look at it and read the name on the tag..." William H. Taylor."
The dog tags of William H. Taylor

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

The Saga of Buddy Lee in the Big Bad Woods

In preparation for my big yard sale I am going through every cabinet and looking under every rug for stuff to sell or throw away or burn (hey, my house is old and it is cold and we are in a recession...I'm also looking for things to turn into soup.)  Anyway, in a laundry basket (don't ask me why) in the corner of my room I found this stack of "Lost Cat" flyers I had made the summer before last in an effort to find my little lost kitty Buddy Lee.  

The infamous "Lost Cat" flyer that papered the community of Greeley Hill.

It brought back all of the memories that simultaneously tragic, comical and endless summer looking for him and so I thought I would share the story...

In the summer of 2009 my family opened a bed & breakfast outside of Yosemite National Park.  I moved up there (six hours from where I live the rest of the year) and brought my cat with me.  On the first day we were there my 9-year-old Los Angeles living indoor only kitty, confused by the car ride and the commotion of the people of the bed and breakfast got out.  We are not sure how it happened but we believe that the screen door did not get tightly shut and out Buddy went in the night.  So my 3 lb pampered city kitty disappeared into the big bad unknown of Yosemite.

I was frantic.  I combed the woods, calling his name.  Actually he is a she...its complicated.  Nine years earlier my dad and I found him in an intersection seconds after he had been run over by a car.  He was about a month old, fit in the palm of my hand and had a tire mark and fur missing where the car had run over him.  But, after an immediate trip to the vet he was pronounced to be a boy and his injuries were classified as merely flesh wounds.  I took him home and nursed him back to health, he immediately took to my mom and grandma and snuggled up with them while I was away at school and settled into his cushy little life.  A few months later he went into heat and began rubbing himself up against my dogs who were very confused.  Thus, we knew it was actually a girl.  But by then the name Buddy Lee had stuck and we figured it really didn't matter if we called her "he" and the legend was born.

My Mom wrote on all of the flyers that Buddy was the victim of a gender identity crisis...

So anyway, Buddy is precious and he sleeps wrapped around your neck like a stole.  He is just the best and we all love him and the idea of him being lost in the woods was too much to bare.  I immediately drove to the ranch and feed supply store in town and bought humane traps for catching raccoons, foxes and coyotes.  Then I began baiting the traps with sardines and salmon and every night before dusk going out into the woods and setting the traps.  In a week I caught seven foxes, one squirrel and pissed off one bear who was too big to get in and snatch the salmon.  Luckily our nearest neighbor up here, Tom Jenkins, the man, the legend, a seventh generation cattle rancher and descendent of the founder of our town of 115 people, father of the first soldier killed in the Iraq War, and owner of the most valuable Angus bull in the United States (apparently it has the largest testicles and most virile sperm in the Western United States), likes the foxes to keep the gopher population down so I was able to do him a solid and take the foxes over to his ranch and release them.  So I very quickly became a valued member of local ranching community and was asked to be the queen of the La Grange rodeo the following April. (I declined the offer but was flattered all the same).

Anyway, after my trapping failed to produce Buddy Lee and two weeks had passed, I got desperate I hired a pet detective.  Yes, they exist and yes I know, you are laughing and cringing at the same time.  I first contacted Carl Washington, Pet Detective, who is basically a backwoods tracker in rural Georgia who when not searching out corpses in the bayous for the police uses his hounds to track the scent of your lost pet.  He is a giant African American man, in a booney hat who I am convinced was the inspiration for Robert Downey Jr. when he was creating his character Sgt. Lincoln Osiris in "Tropic Thunder."  Unfortunately Mr. Washington could not get out from Georgia to our place to track Buddy Lee so he suggested that I try another pet detective in California.  I was next put in touch with Annalisa Berns, owner, operator and founder of Pet Search and Rescue based out of LA. She told me that she could find my Buddy Lee and would be up the next day with her highly skilled search and rescue dogs for $2,500.  "Two and a half grand?!?" I blurted out.  "Yes, but typically when we search out an animal after three weeks, the animal is deceased, so time is of the essence," she replied.  I got sick at the thought of that and seeing how devastated my mom was by Buddy's disappearance I said "Okay...get up here as soon as you can."

She required payment up front and then drove up so I wired her the money and within eight hours she was at my door with her five dogs.  I heard the knock and when I opened the door...I knew I had made a mistake.  She was standing in front of me in a day-glow orange jumpsuit with reflective stripes and the words "Pet Search and Rescue" emblazoned on the back.  If that wasn't ridiculous enough her high trained scent search dog was a pug with an eye patch.  A pirate pug?  They can't even breath let alone sniff out another animal.  But I decided I had paid her and I was going to stay open minded.  I put her and her "driver" and the five search dogs up in the downstairs suite of the B&B and fed them.  The next morning she said she was going to go out and do her area search.  Basically it looked just like a Cal-Trans worker taking their fat little dog for a walk.  After 20 minutes she came back and got me and said she had found Buddy's remains.  I followed her down this little trail about 75 feet from the house and there in the middle of the hiking trail were two organs...a kidney and a liver. There was no blood and there was no ant activity and the organs were moist in 107 degree weather.  I stopped and said out loud, "A cat kidney and a liver?  That's odd isn't it?"  She assured me it was completely normal and that she finds organs all the time, that is how she identifies people's pets.  I was suspicious but she was insistent that it was completely normal and was pretty certain it was my cat which meant that it must have just happened hours before .  She suggested I take the organs to a vet to have them identified as feline.  If I had not been so emotional I would have questioned her but I knew they were cat organs because they were just like the ones we dissected back in high school.  She decided to take the rest of the day off to let me grieve and went into Yosemite.  While she was gone and I was crying in my soup feeling guilt and anguish over Buddy it occurred to me...wait a second...those organs did look just like specimens and there is no way a wild animal would leave a perfectly intact pair of organs in the middle of the road.  So then I started investigating.  I found a place on the internet that sells cat organs for research and then I looked up the website of her "search and rescue partner" and her website had testimonial of person after person who were so thankful that Annalisa had brought them closure and identified their lost pet by internal organ remains. I ran back to the place where she had found the organs and collected I suspected they smelled of formalin.  Long story short...I was getting furious at this point and I was on to her con.  I spent the rest of the day pacing waiting for her to get back so I could give her a piece of my mind.

When she walked in the door I confronted her and with righteous indignation she said, "You are insulting me with your questioning of my integrity as a pet detective!" At that moment it occurred to me that never before in the history of the English language has more ridiculous words been spoken.  "Get Out!" I replied, and she was packed up and gone in under fifteen minutes.  I thought my Dad was going to kill her and frankly I think she thought that too. :-)

Another month and a half passed and still there was no sign of my precious Buddy.  I was losing hope every day.  Luckily I had the constant influx of guests to distract me.  One guest who was a 600 lb man with the Chinese mail order bride who ate 7 1/2 lbs of bacon at one breakfast service was the best distraction of all.  

Then one day I got a call from Gretchen the mail lady who thought that she and her husband had found Buddy living under their barn.  She said she would call me when her husband got back and we could come over and pick him up.  I was ecstatic but then when 12 hours passed and we received no word from them I decided to drive over there and look under their barn.  Their house is about two miles away and set way back into the woods.  I took my flashlight, nobody seemed to be home, so I decided to start poking around under their barn.  I did find a cat, that sort of looked like Buddy but it was a big tomcat with large testicles...apparently drinking the same water as Tom Jenkin's prize bull.  Sweet Gretchen had erroneously assumed that the cat I named Buddy Lee and referred to as a male was indeed a male and not a neutered little girl cat.

For two months solid I trapped in the forest hoping to find Buddy and I basically trapped every single fox in the area save for this one big old one with a split ear and a broken tail shaped like a lightening rod.  He really looked like a cartoon villain and no matter how many traps I set out or how many different fox delicacies I baited them with I couldn't catch him.  He was so smart he even started walking up to the security cameras around the property and looking in the if to taunt me.  He would also stroll around the driveway in broad daylight looking at me through the window as if to say, "Yeah, I'm something about!"  I really grew to hate this fox...especially for the fact that in my isolated world up here I was being driven to the point of believing a fox was my arch nemesis.  But the final straw came when I opened my curtains one morning to find a fox poop on the wall right outside my window.  It was his calling card...and I was shaking my fist in the air at him.

I realized that I was losing my mind.  I was living in a town of 115 people, talking animal tracking with the cattle ranchers at the saloon in town, paying money to a pet detective and getting riled up over a sly old fox.  Oh and get this...I had stopped wearing nail polish and begun looking forward to trips to Wal-Mart to buy new shirts.  I decided it was time to mourn the loss of my cat, and reclaim my old self...when there on the security cameras was a live feed of my cat Buddy chasing a butterfly down by the creek.  He was alive after 63 days in the woods!  I immediately pitched a tent in the little area where I had seen him hunting bugs and began hanging out down there a few minutes every day.  Then, armed with new knowledge of animal trapping I baited a large trap with a whole rotisserie chicken.  A week later I had him back.  He was skin and bones and covered in blackberry thorns but no worse for the wear.  Now he is back safe and sound and the local paper even came out and did a story on "Buddy Lee the Wonder Cat of Yosemite" The byline read, "City slicker cat survives two months in the wilds of the Stanislaus, becoming a living legend in Mariposa County."  I personally felt they should have given Buddy Lee the keys to city.

Now, a year a half later, I have my little Buddy Lee back and the distinct pleasure of burning all of those awful "Lost Cat" posters.  So today, I officially close the book on the saga of Buddy Lee the lost kitty...

The flyers are committed to the fire...


Buddy Lee sunning himself in the window this afternoon...