Archive for October 2009

Breakfast with the Adairs

October 10, 2009

Our family spent the last four years of my military service in California.  We had always wanted to live there since we were stationed in Madera in 1964 and met the Adair’s, who had a walnut ranch and another family that had an almond ranch.  It looked like the good life to us.  When I was approaching the end of my military career I was Instructor Supervisor for the DSP program stationed at Lowry AFB in Denver.  The DSP program was a satellite surveillance system that fed info into the NORAD Headquarters better known as the ‘Mountain’ in Colorado Springs.  There was very little chance of my getting transferred to California as a Space and Missile Systems Operator/Technician so I cross-trained into recruiting.  I got California like I wanted out of Recruiting School and was assigned as the recruiter for Yolo County with an office in the Federal Building right across the park from the Capitol in Sacramento.  After a couple of years, I was tapped by Squadron HQ to move to Travis AFB as Operations Supervisor for Northern California and Western Nevada.  We moved from our home in Crawford’s Barn off Folsom Blvd. to base housing at Travis AFB.  

 After a couple more years as Operations Supervisor, I was getting tired of recruiting and the constant stress and pressure the job entailed and thinking about going back to Space and Missile Systems when I suddenly realized I could retire.  This was in 1979 and I was 38 years old.  I went ahead and put in my papers and then we had to think about what we were going to do after I got out.  We had bought a 20 acre vineyard on South Maple south of Fresno back in 1970 and our friend Fred Adair had been operating it for us for all that time.  We told Fred we were retiring and he told us about a neighbor with a 20 acre vineyard that was thinking about selling.   We visited the vineyard and met with the owner and bought another vineyard.  I wouldn’t be able to retire until August but we had the vineyard in January of 1979.

Patty and the kids moved down to Fowler to our new vineyard right away and I commuted from Travis AFB on weekends, about a 3 hour trip.   On the first weekend on the farm, Patty and I were extremely excited and could hardly sleep.   We were awake about 5:00 AM and pretty antsy.  We decided to get up and fix a big breakfast but that wasn’t enough, we wanted to share this momentous occasion- our first breakfast on the farm.  We decided we would go get the Adair’s and have them over for breakfast.  I went out and got the tractor and hooked up the vineyard wagon to it.  Patty and the kids got on the wagon and I went roaring between vineyards the half-mile to the Adair’s.  It was dark out and as we passed neighbor’s farmhouses we could see the lights come on.  As we pulled into the Adair’s walnut ranch we came up behind the house and my headlights raked Emmy and Fred’s bedroom window.  By the time we got to the front of the house, Fred was on the porch in his jockey shorts with his shotgun pointed at us.   He said, “Well, you damn fool!  I could have shot you!”  You haven’t lived until you’ve seen an irate Fred in jockey shorts pointing a shotgun at you.

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 We finally got Fred calmed down and he and Emmy and Billy got on the wagon and we went back to our farm for breakfast.  I’m sure that they and the other neighbors were thinking “What in the world has happened to out neighborhood?”  We lived there for four years making raisins and  I attended Fresno State and got a degree in Viticulture/Enology. 

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Sheep Lungs

October 9, 2009

Mill St. School Mrs. Basford's class

I attended Mill Street School for first and second grade and again for sixth through eighth grades. It was between D and E streets on Mill and I lived between I and J streets, so about 5 blocks away. Mill Street School was kinda neat in that the basement flooded just about every year and we’d get out of school because the cafeteria, the restrooms and some classrooms were in the basement. There were a row of about 4 or 5 quonset huts that were used for classrooms too.  There were two ‘mom & pop’ stores adjacent to the school, Miss Mike’s on the corner of D and Mill that sold home-made fudge and an even smaller store on E street whose only business was selling kids candy (I think).

One day in science class we had a bunch of sheep lungs to dissect. I don’t know why. I’d guess a local farmer wanted to get rid of them and gave them to our science teacher. Anyway, after class the teacher had to find a way to dispose of them and asked if anyone wanted them. I thought it would be a great idea if I took them home and cooked them up and fed them to the dogs we had in the back yard. We had two pens with about half a dozen dogs in addition to the menagerie of animals we kept in the house which included two or three dogs, a couple of cats, about a half-dozen screeching parakeets and maybe a few other animals from time to time. It was my job to care for all except the birds and sometimes I got stuck with them too. Anyway, we were getting by on dad’s workman’s compensation which was about $300/month so money was tight. Omie (5 years older) and I and mom and dad lived at 1007 Mill St. at that time but some of my other sisters lived with us from time to time. Ginny’s family lived on the same property and they spent a lot of time at our house too. I digress.

Anyway, I ran home and got a wagon and went back and loaded it up with sheep lungs and took it home. We cooked on a wood stove so I built up the fire and got one of mom’s big canning tubs and filled it part way with water and added the sheep lungs. It got pretty smelly and Omie was mad and yelling at me and finally mom made me stop. I don’t know if the lungs were at their peak but they were smelly and rubbery. I hauled the steaming mess out to the back yard and threw it in the dog pens.

The dogs wouldn’t have anything to do with it. I figured that I was doing too good of a job feeding them and they were just being picky. I knew where there were some dogs that would appreciate my culinary efforts. The City Barns were about two blocks away and that’s where they stored the road equipment like graders and tractors and steam rollers. It was protected by a cyclone fence with three strands of barb-wire angled out at the top but that hadn’t stopped me from getting in and driving the road grader a time or two. They also had the dog pound there and those dogs had given me away more than once when I’d gotten in before. But, I was willing to let bygones be bygones and so I climbed the fence and let all the dogs out. I remember there being at least six and maybe twice that. I found a place in the fence that they could squeeze through and led them back to my house.

When we got there, I gave them the sheep lungs and, though they were a sorry lot and must have been hungry, they turned up their noses at it too. I’ve seen dogs eat shit! Anyway, I ended up having to dig a hole and bury the sheep lungs. I don’t know what I learned from that…probably nothing.


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