Patty’s Most Excellent Adventure-Part II


Camille 1969

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I guess this segment should start with Hurricane Camille which hit the Mississippi coast in August 1969.  Camille was one of the few category 5 hurricanes to hit landfall in the twentieth century and was the second strongest in recorded history.  Wind speeds over 200 mph and unknown just how high because it destroyed all the wind measuring instruments.  It spawned hundreds of tornados and killed hundreds of people, many of whom had developed a blasé attitude toward hurricanes and were having macho hurricane parties.   We were living in Back Bay Biloxi in a mobile home so we went to the base when the hurricane struck.  We had five trees down on our home and were without water or power.  Jack sent Traci and me to stay with his sister Omie at Eglin AFB near Pensacola, Florida while he went out on patrol with the AF to search for bodies.  I had just graduated from Business College with a degree in bookkeeping and was continuing with computer classes learning COBOL and FORTRAN and using the IBM 360 and data punch cards. Later that year I went to work for Bal-Boa Construction Company as a bookkeeper.  Bal-Boa cashed in on the building and reconstruction boom on the Gulf Coast after Camille.  We sold our mobile homes, the one we lived in and one we used as a rental, and moved into base housing on Keesler AFB.   In 1970 we decided to buy a farm in California near our friends Emily and Fred as an investment.  It was a 20 acre vineyard with two rental houses on it.  We grew grapes to make raisins and Fred sharecropped the farm for us.  We never made any money on it but usually came close to covering expenses.

Jack’s next assignment was to Lowry AFB in Denver, CO.  We headed across country again in the spring of 1972 in our Chrysler convertible.  Well, halfway across country anyway.  I was so excited about the move because I read that Denver had over 315 days of sunshine a year; only they didn’t say that a lot of those days were also below freezing.  We bought our first house for about $20,000 and thought we had just signed our lives away.  We didn’t even spring for the extra $1500 it would have cost to get the basement finished.  We did that ourselves and it would have been a lot better to let the builder do it.

In Denver we did a lot of bike riding and went on frequent week end trips exploring Colorado and the Rocky Mountains.  We’d take off on the spur of the moment without a thought to maybe take a coat or prepare in some way and we’d end up at ‘The North Pole’, a Christmas village near Colorado Springs, or ‘The Flying W Ranch’ where they serve chuck-wagon dinners to 300 people in half an hour.  Traci began school and I had mostly part-time jobs and devoted most of my time to taking care of her.  Jack was teaching electronics at the base and most of our friends were fellow instructors and students.   I finally learned to drink coffee and play bridge.  Jack was now a Master Sergeant and an Instructor Supervisor at Lowery AFB.  We had great fun partying and dancing at clubs, usually at Fitzsimmons Army Base or Buckley AFB.  We met several life-long friends while there and are still in touch with them.

Our next assignment was to Sacramento, California.  We wanted to live in California, where we planned to retire, and the only way we could do that was for Jack to cross-train into Recruiting Service.   We bought a house in Crawford’s Barn, a development on the American River not far from Rancho Cordova and Jack became an Air Force recruiter working at the Post Office in downtown Sacramento. We were enjoying life and were getting pretty settled with things the way they were; we even had a garage sale to sell all of Traci’s baby things.  Then our neighbors next door; Bill and Donna, he was an Air Force pilot who was retraining to become a lawyer, and across the street;  Lou and Cheryl Vianni, an architect, invited us to go with them to ‘Poor Red and Rich Opal’s’ in Shingle Springs up in the Gold Country for barbecue ribs and drinks.   What a happening place.  It was a hangout for students from McGeorge Law School and had an enormous horseshoe bar that seated about a hundred and a couple of picnic tables in the back that served ribs.  By the time your name was called for a table, you were pretty well wasted on Gold Cadillacs.  I think the ribs were good but who knows.  Anyway, nine months later, Susan was born in April 1977 when Traci was ten years old.  What a change.  Susan more or less took over our lives.  She kinda grew up with three parents – Traci has a lot of parent in her.

Our last move for the Air Force was to Travis AFB, California where Jack was promoted to a job at Squadron Headquarters for the Recruiting Service, a small move but an important one.  We bought a house in Vallejo on “Ralph” street and I hated it.  When it came time to move in I couldn’t do it and just sat down and cried.  I couldn’t believe it when Jack said “f— it we don’t have to move in and turned around and sold it.  We moved into base housing at Travis instead.  We bought an Arabian horse which we kept at the base stables and the girls and I had a great time showing our horse in the local arena.  Traci won a lot of ribbons with “Nossirah”; he was a beautiful full-blood Arabian and was well trained.  Jack now had his ‘twenty’ in and decided to retire when another farm came up for sale in Fowler.   It was another vineyard and only about a half-mile from our friends, Emmy and Fred.

We thought this would be our last move ever.  We bought the farm and the girls and I moved in January and Jack continued to work until August 1979.  He joined us on weekends until he retired and then he attended Fresno State College and made raisins that we sold to Sun-Maid.  He graduated with a degree in Viticulture and everything was going great.  1982 was going to be the year that we would make enough money to pay the farm expense loan and have enough left over for the next crop year.  Well, when everything is going great look out.  A freak storm came up the coast and rained on the raisins in the field.  We managed to save most of the crop but the added expense ate up our reserve.  On top of that Jack started having chest pains that he didn’t tell me about and decided to sell the farms so that I wouldn’t be burdened with that when he died.  It turned out, he had angina, an infection in the lining around his heart, and didn’t die, which is a good thing, but we were kind of disillusioned with raisins by then and Jack was anxious to start a vineyard to make wine and we weren’t happy with the school environment for Susan and Traci.

We wanted to transition easily so we bought a 50 acre hazelnut (filbert) orchard in Estacada, Oregon until we could find the perfect southern exposure to plant those vines.  The girls thrived at the schools in Estacada and the orchard was beautiful with a view of Mount Hood from our deck and plenty to keep Jack busy year round.  Then a couple of more setbacks came along; first, the filbert crop had the worst set in over 50 years and the crop was so small it hardly paid to harvest it.  Then, the next year, it never stopped raining and we were unable to mechanically harvest our nuts and, at the same time, the guy who bought one of our vineyards, an Indian who lived in London, England and worked for BOAC,  decided he didn’t really want to farm.  To make a long sad story short we lost the farm in Estacada since we didn’t have the payment from California and didn’t want to move back there.  Jack decided to go back to work for Uncle Sam and took a job with USDA, which required an Aggie degree, and we accepted an opening in the Farmers Home Administration office in Medford, Oregon.  Best move ever.

I was very adamant about wanting to live in Ashland so we decided to rent for a while until we could sell the farm in California again.  Jack convinced me to attend college since I had never had the opportunity before so in the fall of 1985 I matriculated to SOSC (now SOU).  One of the toughest things I’ve ever done was to walk on that campus and sit for the SAT.  I managed to survive and began a 2 year degree.  I found that I loved college and stayed on through 1990.  Traci started college a year later and we had fun attending classes together.  I graduated in ’88 with my 2-yr degree, in ‘89 with my bachelor’s degree and in ’90 with my Master of Science degree in Business Adm. with an Emphasis in Accounting.  I’ve got to mention my favorite classes which turned out to be field trips in the Natural History department.  In the summer of my junior year I enrolled in a field-trip where we camped our way up the coast, over to Bend and hiked up the South Sister.  This was an eye-opening experience for me.  I loved the adventure and the outdoors and the camaraderie and it was thrilling.  I was the only accounting student in the Natural History classes and the only Natural History student in the accounting classes but it worked for me.

In January of 1991 I started my career with the IRS in Medford.  All employees with the IRS have to undergo an audit and remember when Jack thought he could get the best of the IRS; well, a mistake was made when we sold the farm and we owed a huge tax bill.  Jack said, “just quit” and I said, “that won’t make the tax bill go away.”  So I went to work for the IRS and Jack worked for USDA and we suffered through the bureaucratic nightmare that working for the government turned out to be.  Two years after I graduated I attended another summer session; this time we went to the Steens Mountains.   I couldn’t quite get the love of adventure out of my system.   We were both successful in our new careers and I got a bonus from my college career.  When I was a grad assistant I introduced Traci to a young Assistant Professor that I worked with and he is now my son-in-law.  Traci and Rene were married in 1995.  At this time Susan was struggling with medical problems and dropped out of high school.  That was a very trying time for us and for Susan too.  She left home and struck out on her own.  She eventually overcame her problems by changing to a vegan diet, who knew?  She got her GED and started college at Edmond’s Community College in Washington.  While working in the computer lab there she often helped people from Microsoft who convinced her to send in an application and she was hired.    Before long, she was in a fantastic job that was tailor made for her; she had cut her eye-teeth on computers since we bought our first computer in 1984, when she was seven, and Susan took to it like a fish to water.  Apparently, Bill Gates saw her value.

Traci became pregnant in 1996 and we were able to buy the property adjoining our property and we built a new home on the combined lot.  Traci and Rene bought our old home and gave us our first grandson in 1997and our second grandson in 1999.  What is better than having a daughter and her family living right next door and being a part of their lives and having grandsons playing in your yard?  Our other joy is watching Susan develop into such a great person and sharing her life with Kai Strandskov, an Ashland kid that we knew back when he was in college and now works with Sue at Microsoft.  Susan took a break from Microsoft and returned to college and completed a BA in Linguistics from UW.  They don’t live next door but we do get great gifts from the Microsoft Store and as an added bonus, Kai is a drummer in several ‘Heavy Metal’ bands and we’ve been exposed to a whole new world of ‘music’.  In fact, he will be playing with “Smidgen” at the Britt Festival next week as an opening act to “Primus” and I have tickets.

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