Tag Archives: Coarsegold

Timeline of events

I graduated from high school in the summer of 1994. My first year of college was fall of 1994. And spring of 1995.

I spent the summer of 1995 at college, living in the dorms. I worked at Subway.

My second year of college was from fall of 1995 to the summer of 1996. It was at the start of 1996 I became vegetarian. And I started my period on the streets in the summer of 1996.

For most of 1996 I was in Santa Cruz. But I spent time in San Francisco. In the winter months early in 1997 I met Amy. And I lived with her for a couple months. Until I met M.

Over the summer of 1997 M and I traveled. We went to my first Rainbow Gathering. Then we visited her father in Seattle. Afterwards we hitch-hiked our way across the country to Cambridge, Massachusetts. And we hitch-hiked back.

It was the winter of 1997 I went to visit M for Thanksgiving. We made plans for me to move and live together.

In the spring of 1998 I moved to Portland. Plans with M didn’t work out. After a few wet months I rented a room in a house. The first time I paid rent in my life, if you don’t count the college.

I lived in Portland until the spring of 1999. In the summer I went traveling with a friend across the country. We went to my second Rainbow Gathering.

After coming home to Portland, I moved to upstate New York. This is where I was for New Years 2000. But in the spring of 2000 I went back to California, and then to my third gathering. This one was in Montana.

After the gathering I went to Colorado. And then back to California. I moved to Portland again in the fall of 2000. I was in Portland for the election of George W. Bush. But I moved again early spring.

Once again plans were made with M. But once again things changed. So I moved back to California. I spent a month at Mother’s. But I got a job at a camp in the Sierra’s for the summer. It was 2001. And in the fall I went to New York City. Yeah, just one month after 9/11.

It was because a friend invited me to visit. After three months, she said no one ever visited for three months before. And I started back to California. It was 2002. Along the way I visited Alabama where a friend lived.

In the spring of 2002 I lived with Mother, and my sister for a short period. After a short trip to Portland to visit friends, I went traveling again. And I went to my fourth Rainbow Gathering. Before making a visit to Boulder. Then returning to California.

Back in California again. I worked at the summer camp. There I met someone who told me about Yosemite. After the summer I moved to Yosemite.

Yosemite was my home from winter of 2002, to early in 2005. A little over two years. Then I moved to Stockton. And I went back to school. After a year and six months I moved to Humboldt, and Humboldt State. The summer of 2006.

I lived in Arcata from the summer of 2006, until early 2009. Then I moved to Wyoming for my first real reporter job. And I lost my first real reporter job and moved back to Arcata.

This time I lived in Arcata from late spring 2009, until fall of 2010. When I moved to Colorado. After six months in the mountains I moved to Nebraska.

I arrived in Nebraska in January of 2011. And I moved away from Nebraska in the summer of 2012. Texas was the next place I lived.

And I lived in Texas from the summer of 2012, until the summer of 2013. For the last two years I have lived in Vancouver, Washington.

New Years Day Location:
1990-1994 Coarsegold
1994-1996 Scotts Valley
1997 Santa Cruz
1998 Santa Cruz
1999 Portland
2000 Glens Falls, New York
2001 Portland
2002 New York City
2003-2005 Yosemite
2006-2010 Arcata
2011-2102 North Platte, Nebraka
2013 Lubock, Texas
2014- Vancouver, Washington.

Okay, shows over time to go home. No, I just wanted to lay out the timeline for a confusing lifeline. It took me a good deal of thought to get it straight in my own head. And I was there, well mostly there. Now I can go back and tell the stories. If you get lost you can return to this chapter to guide you. I think I will have to come back myself.


So high school friends.

The first friend in my memory is Larry. I am not sure how or where I met him. But we were friends for a short period. Then he started hanging out with my sister. But before, I recall going to his house. He had a Ouija Board. And he told me about crystals. Rub your hands together and you can feel the power of a crystal. I think the transition from him being my friend, to her friend was gradual.

Maybe they were friends. Maybe they were not friends. But for a while the neighbors were friendly. I know their son Charles was the first person I drank with in my life. He said it would be good to put some salt in the beer. And we didn’t drink much of the beer. I think we may have split it, and I didn’t finish. This was the only time in my life I think I have ever drank beer. As opposed to other alcohols, but I haven’t drank in years.

Some of the younger children on the street were my friends. At least in the first years of high school. Eric had a younger brother also named Chris. We would ride our bikes up and down the street. On the shoulders of the streets we had paths and jumps. Sometimes I would go to his house. He had a hammock in the back yard. And when we played games our balls would sometimes get stuck in the tree. And we would have to throw something to get it down. And then something to get what we threw down. And then sometimes even more. We had some silly dance contests, which I always won. I wasn’t the judge, but I think Eric looked up to me. The prize was just a cracker anyway.

On the other side from where Charles lived, another family moved in after we had been there a while. I remember when the house was being built. We would take our skates and roll around on the foundation. And once we went to the house and it was locked, but a note on the door directed us to the key. The older boy, about my age was not a friend. The younger boy spent time with us riding bikes. There was one time the three of use built a dam, and small lake on the creek behind Eric’s house. It didn’t last long, but it was a fun adventure.

It was late in my high school years when another boy moved in down the street. He wasn’t a close friend. But I did go to his house once. He told me how he melted his super-soaker by putting gasoline in it instead of water. He was kind of a bad boy, and he was friends with some girls who lived a street over. I remember hanging out at her house, she smoked in her room. She said her mother didn’t know because her mother also smoked. Her younger sister would float around too. They had a trampoline on which I recall jumping. She was younger, and the impression I got was she was easy. I thought she was sexy, but I was both too scared and respectful to try anything. But there was a short period where hanging out with these bad kids made me feel cool. I felt accepted in a way I had not felt before. But over time it faded and I got bored. It was trouble for the sake of trouble and I have never been into trouble.

There was a boy who was friends with Charles. I think they would go and smoke by the water tower after school. He would pick on my sometimes, and after one event he did so even more. But, somethings you learn to accept. There were no seats on the bus for me one day for the trip home. Well, except one and I tried not to sit there, but the driver yelled and told me to sit. It was next to Brandon. He made fun of my all the way home, and was a general pest. When we got to our stop, he got off with us. This wasn’t unusual, but he was walking in front of me, and he lived the other direction.

When the bus left, he turned around and walked back to me. Before I knew what was going on he hit me right in the throat. But, Charles and his friend anticipated the trouble. They ran across the street and gave Brandon a good beating. I recall hearing he had to get his front teeth wired straight. Then afterwards the boy who beat Brandon up would use it as an excuse to pick on me.

When I was in high school I knew almost everyone. This was in large part because I had gone to two of the three feeder schools. And I have always been a friendly person. Not the most popular, not the coolest, not the person everyone loves or hates. But generally accepted by most people. I stayed out of trouble.

There was a girl I had a crush on also. Once again I don’t recall her name. But I would walk home with her, and she lived on the opposite end of the subdivision. At her house, we would listen to Debbie Gibson. The other kids would sometimes make fun of us, saying we were dating. But we never were more than friends. I don’t think I knew what to do with girls when I was in high school. Maybe not even when I was in college. And even now.

In my youth group there was Jason and his brother. They were my friends. They came from a large family, invested in the church. The rest of the people in the church always felt like they placed themselves above me. I can’t say if this was just how I felt, or if it was also how they felt about me. But being young, and growing up isn’t easy for anyone.

Once I did some yard work for a man with A.I.D.S. He was dying, and you could tell. He would sit in his house, watch TV, and mute the commercials. I never knew much about him. But I did a terrible job at the yard work. When mowing I broke his irrigation. And when I mowed the front yard, I missed long lines where I didn’t overlap the mower right. In the end I don’t know how much he paid me. One time I used his car to go into town and get money. I think I pulled it out of his credit card instead of his checking account. Banking was not something I knew much about in high school. Add it to the list.

Then there was Jessie James. And like the name would suggest he should be a chapter to himself.

Thinking back, I knew a lot of people. There is something about me, I always know a lot of people. But none of them were close. In high school I wasn’t close to anyone. When my father once started drinking after having quit, I recall feeling I had no one to talk to about my problems. No one who understood me.

I have forgotten so many names. And writing this now I wonder where these people are now. I hope they are well, but I know many of them are not. Many of them were on the road to trouble when I knew them in high school. But I would hope friends like Eric and Little Chris (his brother) would be doing well. I believe Charles became a cop. And I hear Larry has been living in Berkeley. But I don’t talk to anyone from high school.

Almost Home

The next house was the last house of my youth. We moved during the sixth grade. We stayed until after I went to college.

The house was in a subdivision. It was about 7 miles south of Coarsegold. It was a good balance. There was plenty of space to roam. But also houses and friends close. There was a creek behind our house. I still remember the first time I went to the creek. I walked to the back of the property. There was a gate. I walked through the gate thinking about how nice it was to have a gate. Our yard was completely fenced in. Not all the properties on the street were.

The name of the subdivision was Indian Lakes. The streets named after various Indian tribes. The street we lived on was Navajo. Another street you drove on to get to our house was Modoc.

I spent a lot of time down at the creek. It was smaller than the river. But it was still an adventure. Upstream it crossed a road and there was a lake. Downstream it passed near a house of a family friend. Well, when we moved in the house wasn’t there. From there it left the park. I followed it a couple times. There was a dam, but no houses until the highway.

Near the highway was a strange area. Rumor said it was the former location of a zoo. I spent time wandering all over the area. I once also found an old cemetery.

There was an area to the south of the development. When we moved in it was undeveloped. They started to develop it as we lived there, and now it has houses. Once while riding my bike in this area I almost ran over a rattle snake.

I could tell a lot of stories about this time of my life. And of course most people I know now have no idea. But, the people I knew then had no idea either.

To the north of the development was a sporting clay course. It was the first job I ever had. But it wasn’t active when I found the course. I remember walking to work once. Along the dirt road there were two ant paths. I wondered how ants got along. I picked an ant from one path, and put it in the other. The ants attacked it.

Almost 400 words into this chapter and not a word about the house. From the time of moving there, until moving my memories are outside. Sure, I remember some things about the house. And we will get there soon. But most of my memories are outside, and alone. I lost my sister as a friend, and the few friends I made.

I don’t know how many times I walked around the “block” in the development. It was much longer than a common block.

The house was a two level home. On the second floor was mother’s room. A place I feared. Not with a fear of respect. It was more confusion, disgust and avoidance. Her bedroom took up half the second floor. It was an A frame, so it wasn’t as big as it sounds.

The bottom floor had a living room, and kitchen. Above these was open space to the ceiling. There was big windows. Great for light, but we never cleaned those windows. Many things weren’t cleaned.

Under the stairs was a closet. And it later was my brothers bedroom. He was young at the time. It was the only space he would have gotten. My sister’s bed room was on one side, and mine the other. There was a short hall, laundry opposite our rooms. At the end was a bathroom. Upstairs mother had her own bathroom. I don’t think I ever used her bathroom.

When we were young we used to surf down the stairs. There was a long set, a landing and a short set. We used a crib mattress to slide down the stairs. At the landing was a stained glass window.

The house was set back from the road. A gravel driveway came down along the side. It ended behind the house. There was a satellite dish in the yard. But it was never used by us. The gravel in most of the driveway was small. In the back was some bigger rounder rocks. I remember using them like baseballs. (Not in a game with other people, just hitting them.)

In the back of the house was an area of woods. When we first moved to the house my sister wanted to make the back corner away from the gate our secret land. Like in Bridge to Terabithia.

I played with small cars in the backyard. And got pointlessly upset with my brother for disturbing them. And my sister got pointlessly disturbed when I made a “road” to the secret kingdom.

The first hole I dug was in Ahwahnee. It is a bit of an odd thing to do I guess. But I dug a hole in the back yard. Maybe two foot deep. I got bored quick I guess.

One of the first memories of the backyard was a tree. We thought we would build a tree fort. As younger children me and my sister both climbed a lot of trees. As we got older at the house, some ideas changed. We didn’t want a tree fort, or a secret kingdom.

I don’t remember if mother built the compost. But there was one in the backyard. And I know we added materials like leaves and grass and food. And mother may have used some of the soil in a garden she planted at least once.

There were two big pine trees in front of the house. Like us my brother was a climber. He climbed those trees a number of times. There was a small flat area with pea gravel. There was a wooden patio, porch. And a sliding glass door. It opened to the kitchen. A border of rocks lined the flat area. With one small step, where a path led to the street.

On my bike I would ride down the path, and around the trees. When we moved in there were flowers.

This is the house referred to as “the dump” to a new neighbor. Workers in the school office told her this when she enrolled her kids. And it was a dump. I don’t know why, but it was almost always a mess. Though I tried to keep my room clean.

At one point we had the classic two TVs. The one which works sitting on top the one which did not work.

My room was interesting. I covered my walls with posters. When I moved you couldn’t see wall. On my wall were the faces of young female actresses and singers. Like Candace Cameron, yes I had a big crush on her. And a number of others.

We lived her for so long because mother was buying the house. But it was always too much for her. Little things just never got taken care of like they should have been. Woodpeckers would hammer on our roof for months of the year. And she would yell, “get out of here.”

Which made us think she was yelling fire. But when she was yelling fire, we thought she was yelling “get out of here.”

Oh yeah, my brother set her mattress on fire. No, she wasn’t in it at the time. She called the fire department but I put it out with a bucket of water. The fire department did come. They threw the bed out the window. It stayed in the yard for months.

This might be the longest chapter so far. But it covers a long period. Almost six years. I have never lived in the same place six years since. I don’t know if I ever will.

But I did have some friends at this house.


The Last Transition

From Ahawhnee we moved back to our great-aunt’s for the last time. It was just me and my sister.

What I remember most we had some friends. Where they came from and where they went I am unsure. But they would come to the property and play a game of hide and seek. We played it at night. It started off simple enough. But soon we learned how easy it was to hide in simple shadows. And to move in shadows.

Eventually we didn’t really hide so much as move around and try to avoid being caught. And we played it on much of the 13 acres. I have a clear memory of going down near the river. And my sister once encountered a pack of coyotes, which ran away.

But I still spent a good deal of time alone. This is when I took the long trip up the river and found the canyon. Maybe it wasn’t a canyon, but to us it was grand. On either side of the river was some high rocks. The river was narrow. And in some parts much deeper than near where we lived.

It was a period of transition. When I started school in Coarsegold I was popular. I hadn’t been back at the school since before my brother was born, in the second grade. Most of the students were new to me. Except the girl who broke my arm was still at the school.

Maybe I wasn’t popular. What does the word even mean? But I was the center of attention. At the time there was no difference in my mind. But looking back as an older and wiser person, there is a difference.

The other kids at school started talking me into doing embarrassing things for attention. Things I would rather no discuss in detail. But, I had no self-esteem. And I would do anything for the vague idea of acceptance or approval. Or just for attention good or bad. I wasn’t a very strong person. And I didn’t have much of a sense of myself, or my own self worth.

It was also the transition of puberty. Which created some touchy changes in my life.

Another memory from this time was of myself talking back to my great-aunt. She had told me something, I don’t even remember what she had said. But I wanted to feel like I had some power, and it was easy to be mean to her because I knew she wouldn’t respond.

At the time a TV show was popular. The show was Bosom Buddies. The theme song was defiant, and I wanted to be defiant so I told her:

“I don’t care what you say anymore, this is my life”

This is when I discovered Madonna and became a fan. I would sometimes find a Walkman and listen to the radio. It was pop music. Music which my great-aunt felt was evil. She told a story of the devil going to church. Someone asked the devil, why are you here where we worship God. His reply was they were worshiping him with their music.

And I walked away. She never mentioned it, and she probably understood me more than I did myself at the time. But, it was immature to say the least.

But it is a hard time isn’t it, becoming a non-child. But you still have years before you become an adult. You aren’t even a teenager.

It is during this time I think I first really started to feel alone the most. Not just alone in the singular sense of the word. But alone in the sense of not being understood. Alone in the feeling of people not being aware of me. My struggles, my general being.

This was the last school I attended, aside from going to high school. So my school memories of the time probably over lap with the next chapter. The last move we made was the next house.

There was a girl named Pepper. Yeah, who names their kid Pepper. But I thought she was hot. I wanted to get to know Pepper better, and I wrote her a note and I put pepper in the note. She never responded. Once I picked her some wild flowers. Other kids laughed, and one later pulled some weeds out of the ground and gave them to her. These things feel bad at the time. I don’t know how she felt about me. But we never even became friends. There were no friends in school.

This was also the time period when I was not chosen for a team sport. In PE the two popular kids would be the team captains. They would then choose players one at a time until everyone was on a team. But this time the count was odd. Neither team wanted me. Then they both said I should be on the other team. So I left. These things feel really bad a the time.

Of course it is just school. And the paid goes away over time. We grow up and we learn to value ourselves. We learn to understand the kids are wrong.

There was a girl who gave me a flower one day. I don’t recall her name. It stayed in a vase by my bed for a long time. Then someone else threw it away one day.

This was a short transition. We moved to Hilda’s at the start of summer and moved to our own house during my sixth grade year. The exciting factor was it was a house we owned. Well Mother was making payments to the bank.


The Next House

The next house was in Ahwahnee. It was the fourth grade for me. And part of the fifth grade.

We were all in the house though, my sister, brother and Mother. This is the last time Grandpa ever visited us. Though I did see him a few more times before he died.

We rented the house from the neighbors. Mother said the woman was a foster parent just to get the money. One of the boys there was Johnny. He was about the same age as me and my sister. The three of us were friends.

This is the last house I saw Smokey. A cat I loved as a child. I have no memory of where or when I got him. On at least a couple moves I spent time upset and scared he wouldn’t make it home for the move. Moving from the house on Road 415 for example. I sat in the yard and called him and called him. If I didn’t cry, I felt like crying.

We don’t know what happened to Smokey.

The house was next to a field. We used to walk across the field and along a trail to the main road. There in the small town we would buy candy. There was a special place along the path. Just some rocks and trees. But for me and my sister it was a magical spot. Someplace cool, quiet and it felt hidden. It felt safe.

It was living in this house I was the closest to my sister. A lot of the time I felt so angry. I’m not sure why now. And to be honest I don’t know if at the time I knew. One time my sister said she hated it when me and Mother yelled. Said you couldn’t understand anything we said. I really thought about what she said and started working to control my temper.

Once I went to throw water at my sister in her room. A drop hit the bulb and it broke. My sister was mad and I felt bad. Of all the people in my life, my sister was the one I cared for more than any.

I did a lot of walking at this house. Like other places I spent a lot of time alone. Walking down dirt roads and ATV paths and thinking. Once I took my bike along a path, I thought it was a path. It went into the woods, and I had to leave my bike for a moment. My plan was to pick it up on the way back. However, I hit a road and didn’t go back the same way. I had mother help me find it later.

This is the house where she learned how to drive. My fourth grade teacher taught her how. Then sold her the car she learned to drive. For the first time we didn’t have to hitch-hike.

After she learned how to drive we took some trips. Once we tried to explore some dirt back roads. Another time we drove to a gate on Deadwood. Then got out and climbed to the top. It was just me and Mother. On the way back we missed a turn, made a wrong turn. We ended up in Coarsegold. A couple of miles away. we stopped at a man’s trailer. He cooked us popcorn with lard.

There are family moments I remember from this house. We played Monopoly. And some kind of game about picking up the most things from the living room floor. It was a mess.

Mother fell in love with the movie Flight of the Navigator. Woke us up in the middle of the night so we could watch it with her. This is a bit of a crazy memory. But it is also the kind of crazy memory I image more people have about their childhood and families. Crazy in an endearing way.

But this is the last time I remember Mother doing something social without us kids. Something adults need. Grandpa was our baby sitter. And not a good one. He sat outside my door and threaten to hit me with his cane if I came out. My bedroom had a door to the bathroom. And then into my sister’s room. We often used her window to leave the house. Silly grandpa.

One time we were discussing something. He told me to go argue with a post. My reply was, “I already am.”

Thinking about what a bitter and emotionless man he was makes me wonder about Mother’s own childhood.  I know he loved us. Sometimes he would talk about what he would do if he had a million dollars. But, even as a child it seemed pointless to talk about such things. My great-aunt though much more caring shared in some ways the lack of emotion. There are few memories of her being affectionate with us children.

She may have mothered us, but I don’t recall many hugs. There is a practice in Buddhism where you picture your parents as children. I go from thinking about my mother as a child. Living with her father and sisters. To thinking about her father, and my great-aunt as a children. Living in a large family, in a new land. They had recently moved from Russia. The Hoff family left Russia as communists took power. Family legend says on the last boat.

Wait, aren’t we German? Yes, German who moved to farm on the Volga river.

We are all wounded people. We give birth and raise wounded people. Though we try our best to heal.

This is the house were we met another family like ours. There will be more to say about them later.

The fourth grade in school was a hard time. Kids at school made fun of me. I never stood up for myself. In the fifth grade the name calling and hazing continued. At one point a teacher asked me to leave and then scolded the whole class. Kids were nicer to me afterwards.

But I was an awkward child. The only time I think I felt cool was once the boy next door tripped me during a game. This was after the teacher’s talk. Many of the boys from the class started to call him names. They were rather mean to him as he left school. And I felt bad, because I knew it was an accident. A part of myself wanted to say something. More of me wanted to savor the acceptance.

There was a big fire in the area once. Ashes hung like large snowflakes in the air. There was a student who was my friend. We would take our play cars to school and throw them at the wall. Of course they broke.  But it looked like real cars after a wreck. It was cool. I was angry.

The school had two main buildings. A gap between them was where we played dodgeball. In the fifth grade I started to feel more accepted than at any other school. Either before or after.

Then there was the girls. One girl, I don’t remember her name. It was my dream to go to her house. Or to take her on a walk and discover a mattress. But nothing ever happened between us. I never tried.

I could almost say I was happy at this house. Another memory is listening to the radio count down the hits. I was bouncing on my bed and singing along. These are the memories other people have of childhood right? I called the station once to request a song. Of course the song was playing at the time and I missed half of it.

“Give me a ticket for an aeroplane
Ain’t got time to take a fast train
Lonely days are gone, I’ma goin’ home
My baby just wrote me a letter”

In the fourth grade the Challenger exploded. We were watching it on the news. I went home and watched CNN on a little black and white TV for hours. The local station must have re-broadcasted the news network. I was picking it up from the antennae. It was the first time I felt like I was a part of a bigger world. And the first time I remember the thrill of following a news story as it unfolded.

Then we moved back to my great-aunt’s.

Time Out!

There is a place I forgot. A house I misplaced in time.

I am pretty sure we lived there after my great-aunt’s and before the house on 415. The house where Ben was born.

The three of us lived in the misplaced house. It was on the same dirt road we lived on when I was in the first grade. The road starts north of Ahwahnee. It runs east and ends north of Oakhurst. The first time we lived closer to Ahwahnee. This time we lived closer to Oakhurst.

If my memory of the timing is right. We didn’t live there long. The drive way had a steep hill. And at least once we had trouble because it got muddy.

What I remember most is the heat. We had to walk several miles to the closest paved road. I got sun burns on my shoulders, a second degree burn. My shoulder developed huge blisters.

It got so hot my sister and Mother took an ice bath to stay cool.

I also remember the house was a mess. One of Hilda’s friends came over and tried to help Mother clean. But it was no use. LaVonne would throw things in the trash. But Mother would take them out when she left.

Our houses were never clean. Or rather they were never neat. For some reason this place sticks out as being worse. Mother was pregnant with my brother for much of the time we lived in this house.

Another reason I am sure it was short stay was my lack of memories. As I got older I retained more and more memories. One of the ones from this place is a discussion about space. Someone said a new planet had been discovered. It was out past Pluto and called Planet X. This of course isn’t true. And I don’t recall believing it at the time.

The house had a porch. And one time me and my sister made a ramp. We said if someone had a wheel chair they could use it to get inside. Of course no one with a wheel chair ever visited us. No one ever visited us.

Ok, let me think about the timeline: Berkeley, Hilda’s, Yellow House, Hilda’s, Red House, Ahwahnee House, Hilda’s; 415 House; Fresno…

Yes, the place behind the pizza place is in there sometime. I am not sure when. The Oakhurst House felt like it wasn’t so close in time to the Ahwahnee house. Which makes me think it was after Fresno. But there was another house, which I thought was right after Fresno. The more I think about it. The more I believe we lived here after Fresno.

Second grade was in Coarsegold. Third Grade was in Fresno. I actually remember starting in Coarsegold, feeling nervous. If my memory is correct it was the beginning of the school year. So we had to have moved almost right from the Ahwahnee House to the Oakhurst House. Or we moved to the second house after Fresno.

Where was my brother during much of this. He must have been there, and just young enough for me not to remember.

Even in the next house. I don’t have many memories of him. But I know he was there.

Why put this all in here. Are you bored. Well, I am confused and there is a point about pieces of our lives and how we track them. Like I said before, it is a puzzle. You have to fit the pieces together and see if they work. Our memories are far from perfect. This may be more true for myself.

At any rate. It is getting to be time to reflect a little. I need to discuss who I was a little more. And who I was becoming. Tie some of the narrative together. Then we can move along.

Move to Fresno

When Ben was born, he had health problems. Not the least of which was his eyes. He was born with glaucoma. More common in older adults. He had a congenital version.

We moved to Fresno. Me, mother and Ben. It was a short move. But my sister only lived with us part of the time.

Fresno was the big city. I was still a country boy. In the five months we lived in Fresno, at five different time someone robbed our house. I lost several bikes. One off the front porch. Mother knew someone was stealing it because she saw the orange flag move through the window.

Someone even robbed the elderly lady who lived next door. Outside of my family she is the only person I remember. Her and Mother were friends.

She smoked a lot. Stayed up late watching television. Mother said being older she needed less sleep.

When not at home I wandered. Just like in the country. I took long walks, for miles. Alone on city streets, at least a couple times after dark.

But in Fresno is when my memories become clearer. At school I was one of the few white children. And had no friends. I spent my recess walking a line in the playground. A line painted in a spiral. When you got to the middle it led back out again. There was a round one and a square one. I walked these for hours. The other kids played marbles.

Two blocks from our house was a small market. We would buy candy there sometimes. Our favorite show was The Dukes of Hazard. I recall watching the show, and wanting to get candy from the store. Once I ran the two blocks and back during a commercial break.

When my sister was there we explored together. For a short period we had skateboards. Someone had given them to us for Christmas. Much to Mother’s dismay. We never rode them standing up. But until they disappeared we did have fun.

One day we went out and found a grape fruit. We were watching traffic drive by and thought it was a good idea to throw it at a car. We hit a car. Which stopped. The angry lady asked us where we lived. We were blocks from our house. We pointed the wrong direction. But her question was useless. She seemed to understand, and left with a huff.

We lived off Tulare. It was one of the streets we walked on a great deal. Once I walked downtown and found a fountain with its bottom covered in change. I fished some of it out. But in the end I didn’t keep any.

I followed Tulare the other way all to where it ended at Clovis Ave. Mother knew I spent much of my time wandering town. When I got a bike I would ride my bike around. I liked to ride in alleyways. A practice Mother tried to discourage. And I did once hit a car because I was riding in an alley and didn’t see it until too late. I fell of my bike, but the driver wasn’t upset. I wasn’t hurt.

I guess Mother had other concerns. My brother’s health was no doubt a stressful issue. Lost in my own world. There isn’t much in my memory of what happened to my brother, to Mother or even my sister.

In almost all my memories I am alone. The one I have with Mother was riding bikes. We went for a ride. I remember actually riding in traffic and it was so fun. A touch empowering. If not dangerous because it was getting dark.

I lived in Fresno for 5 months. It was more of a long visit. The city didn’t change who I was or who I was becoming. Growing up not far from Fresno, I had been there before. We used to hitch-hike with Mother from Coarsegold to Fresno. There was a gas station where we would buy frozen drinks and push-up ice creams in Fresno. We would stop before walking out to the highway to hitch-hike.

Fresno was much smaller in those days.

Even when I lived there it was bigger. The state put in a new freeway. It used to stress Hilda out to drive on. One of her brothers lived south of Fresno. Where he had a farm, I believe his name was David. We visited a couple times. Once we helped him pick grapes. Well as much as small children can.

David would not sell grapes to the wine companies. He also had a walnut tree in his yard. There is little I recall about him and his house. He and his wife were friendly. They had small yappy dogs.

Fresno wasn’t a place I enjoyed. Saying I didn’t like it would be strong. I simply didn’t care enough not to like the place. At this point in my life I had learned how to accept what was in my world. I felt alone when school started. But I adjusted, and didn’t have friends but was social.

For a short while grandpa lived with us. Again my memories of him are his being bitter. Locking a door and I didn’t even know it could lock. Maybe he had a rough life to be so hard. But I never knew him. I know Mother tried to be loving to him.

My grandfather and great-aunt were German. Family came over on the boat from Russia. They fit the emotionless image many of have Germans.

Mother has sisters. But I never saw them as a child. My first memory of them isn’t until I was an adult.

The crime and the city grew to be too much for Mother, and we moved after five months back to the mountains. Not Coarsegold, but the same area. To this day I still don’t feel comfortable in Fresno. Even much larger cities like New York seem friendlier. But it is just my impression.

Thinking back I don’t know how we made all these moves. We had no car. Mother didn’t learn how to drive until I was in the Fourth grade. Someone must of helped us. But who and why?


In the next chapter I need to take a step back.

Welcome Ben

The next house we lived in was on Road 415. It was a long road. Starting in Coarsegold, running south-east. This is the same road my great-aunt lived on.

In the house next to ours was a boy who became our friend. We did the things children do. Smoked, well we didn’t know how to really smoke.

There was a path between the houses. We would walk back and forth. We had a secret place in the woods. Where we smoked. Or did the closest thing kids can do. Until we got caught. He blamed it all on us. Then we weren’t friends.

There was a small orchard. I don’t know if we ever ate the fruit. A barn in the back was a fun place to play. Though it seems like a place we shouldn’t have been in. When not spending time with my sister and our friend. I walked along the back road. It was a dirt road and it ran for miles.

One of our neighbors would give us candy when we visited them. After we got caught smoking. We used to pull out dry grass and pretend they were cigarettes. As an adult I have thought smoking is gross, and I have never done it.

One time my sister, our friend and I came up with a strange idea. We would ride our bikes down the road. Then jump into the grass and roll. It was fun. We would roll with the speed from riding. And as amazing as it seems to me now. We didn’t get hurt. Well, our friend did get a rash from the grass. He was kind of a dork.

But he was first one to tell me the joke most people hear every year. At the end of December. You tell someone. “See you next year.”

Yeah, it was funny at the time. I remember he had a sister. She was older than we were, maybe 12 or 13.

King was with us at this house. We always thought he was so sweet. So clueless. But it turns out when we were not at home, he chased a meter reader off the property.

I was in the second grade. And I wanted to acceptance. One of the cool kids told me to colour my nails with a marker. So I did it. Then people started calling me gay. Because only gay people would wear nail polish. It was the second grade.

But I remember thinking about what they were saying. I never thought they were right. I never thought I should feel shame. I never thought of changing my behavior. What I did think was I would try to fool them. Let them call me names for whatever they wanted to call me. But, all the time they would never know me. I could play like I was gay. And I would know I wasn’t. They would some day have to admit they were wrong, and look like fools. It sounded so logical.

There was a friend I had around this time. His name was Jeremiah. The song is how I recall it so well. “Jeremiah was a bull frog,” my friend hated the song. I can’t blame him. Where did he come from? Where did he go. Because after this house I only saw him ounce. He must have been a relative of one of Mother’s friends. Maybe my brother’s father.

There is a memory. We are at a house in another part of Coarsgegold. There is a building. With two floors and Jeremiah is trying to talk me into jumping off the second floor. He does it, and rolls. He said it was fun. But it doesn’t look fun. It doesn’t look safe. So I don’t jump.

When I think back Mother must have been pregnant most of the time. But I don’t recall the pregnancy in my mind. Also, when we smoked we stole them from her. So, she was smoking while pregnant. In fact there is little I do remember about her during this time.

One of my memories is of a coat. I loved this coat. I wore it all the time. But one time I got paint on it. I felt so sad. It upset me so much I washed it by hand. Trying to remove the paint. The paint came out of the coat. But I don’t have any memory of what happened to it afterwards.

The school we went to was Coarsegold Elementary. A school I attended again starting in the sixth grade.

Aside from the time living with my great-aunt. This was one of my favorite places we lived. It was still country. But closer to people. The kind of place I could see myself living in now. Being happy for the solitude of country life. But knowing neighbors aren’t far. Knowing a drive to town won’t take too long.

I remember waking up. Not feeling sure where I was. The sun filtering through a window. The dust floating. Dancing in the rays of morning light. It felt idyllic. There was a warmth, a comfort. But it was fleeting.

We had a black and white television. It was small. We would watch shows on it. One time Mother’s father came to visit. He thought we may kick the TV stand by accident. And the TV would fall over and kill us. When I offered to let him barrow my radio to listen to music in the shower. He thought it was electrocute him. Which seemed silly to me. It still does.

I have no fond memories of my grand father. And Mother seemed to have no great love for him as a parent. Though I think she tried. He was twins with my great-aunt. And we didn’t have any other family which stayed in touch with us. Mother said it was because we were so poor. And because of problems her father had caused. I don’t know any of them to know if this is true or not.

Other people have cousins. I never had cousins. The first cousin I met was when I went with my dad to see his family in New York. Well, we did have a family reunion. But the two memories of the event for me are eating and getting lost. No, I didn’t get lost. But I did take off and start exploring the rather large church hosting the event.

I grew up alone. In many ways I raised myself. I wonder how I would be different if I had felt like I was a part of a family. If there had been a network of people. A community of caring around us to support us. Who would I be?

I guess I have to accept everything in my past. Because it has made me who I am.  On most days I like myself. For the most part. A different life would have created a different me. And I don’t know I would be happier being another person.

This is the house where my brother Ben was born. Well, not in the house itself. We lived here, when he was born.

After he was born we moved to Fresno. The first and only time I lived in a city until I went to college. Also this is a bit of a watershed period of my life. I felt older. No, I never felt like a child. Maybe it was because I brother. Maybe because I was older. Maybe living in the city made me feel more experienced.


Chapter 4

So Chapter 4 and I still am not in school. Is this going the be the slowest book ever?

We got some education in the years living with my great-aunt. First grade is when I started school. We had moved to Ahwahnee. Two miles down a dirt road. We lived with a rooster. And across from a nudist.

All day he sat and watched traffic on the road. He was friends with mother. Don’t ask, I don’t want to know. Sometimes he would give us a ride to the main road, or into town. But, I have memories of walking the two miles. At least once alone. There was a berry patch along the road. We would stop and pick berries.

The rooster attacked my sister once. Maybe this is why she didn’t want to live with us. Or maybe there were other reasons.

I remember more of what people told me about first grade. Other kids said I used to pee my pants in class. The school was a couple small buildings. I went to the Fourth grade and part of the fifth grade at the same school.

Math is something I remember. Not because it was hard. It was boring. Why go over and over the same numbers. But I did my homework. I cared about my education still.

Naturally there weren’t friends so far away from people. But I had my sister. One time we got in a dirt clog war. They burst like bombs when you throw them. Sometimes the dust is like smoke. We got pink eye.

We may not have lived at this house long. My memory of the time is so sparse. Memories of mother are even more so. The house was a mess. Life couldn’t have been easy for a single woman, alone, two kids. Not to mention living two miles from civilization with no car. We didn’t have a car until I was in the fourth grade.

Growing up mother would say she couldn’t afford new clothes because of us kids.

I know the next year, I was in the second grade at a new school. Living back in Coarsegold. Also we lived at my great aunt’s for a short time. This is when mother knew my little brother’s father.

Ahwahnee is a small town. Just a few buildings, a school, a bar and a post office. The town itself was about two miles down the paved road. Then two miles on the dirt road was our place. Why would someone think to live in such a place? With two kids? No car?

Whatever length of time we lived there, the next stop was my great aunt’s. We lived down in the trailer. My sister and I spent our time going to the river, often alone. There was a tractor on the property and small road to the river. Sometimes my great aunt’s friends gave us a tractor ride.

My sister once tried to get me to eat a puffball. Not something which seemed like a good idea at the time. The property now had a small eucalyptus grove. After the rain I would shake the trees. The scent in the air, the moisture as it fell from the leaves was wonderful.

This was the last time we lived in the trailer. To mother’s credit our housing improved as we grew. We started the second grade in a new house. But it will be a new chapter.

The area I grew up in is south of Yosemite. The core town is Oakhurst. North of which on highway 49 six miles was Ahwahnee. South of Oakhurst 11 miles on Highway 41 was Coarsegold. Students from all these towns went to the same high school.

The whole area was rural. Slightly racist. Conservative and religious country. The big event in Coarsegold was the rodeo. There was a lot of ranch land. Also many people worked in Fresno, an hour south on 41.

Taco Bell came to town while I was in high school. Soon after the first traffic signal. It was at the corner with the Talking Bear. A large plastic figure. When you pushed a button it spoke about bears. Of course all the real bears were gone.

Our family was never accepted in the community. Later a school secretary told our neighbors, “oh you live by the dump.” This isn’t the place to explore white flight. But the shoe fits. People didn’t understand us.

Maybe they felt like we children needed help. Sometimes they called CPS. Or Child Protective Services. Mother had a big job, with two and then three kids. Were we in danger? Not physic danger. We ate. We weren’t hit.

We did have friends. They were few. I can’t remember most names and faces. With one exception, they were not lasting.

We can view our lives through so many lenses. The people we know and knew. The places we are and were. The things we did and do. My life has been full of places and people and things. It feels a little like a drawer of mis-matched socks.

The Land

I have said I live with my great-aunt. And her friends. It was a cult in some ways, but we will discuss more later.

The property was big. It wasn’t just one house on the land but many. Driving in from the road, the first two buildings are on the left and right. They are close to the main road, right after the ravine with the leaning tree.

We lived in the trailer on the right for a while. This is where mother dug the phone trench. I recall sleeping in this trailer. A storm brewing outside. The sound of thunder. And the light flashing in the window. We slept on bunk beds. One night the thunder was so loud it broke a transformer. We lost power.

Close to the trailer was an outhouse. Not a bathroom. Well a couple out houses. One was for storage. My aunt had the idea the other would be a school. There was a leak once near this building. Abner, one of my aunts friends on the property fixed it.

This is where we got King. The Doberman. This may be the oldest memory I have of mother’s father. He was a grumpy old man. But he was the one who gave us King as a puppy.

We lived in this trailer on and off for years. One time when we were young mother was opening a can of pasta sauce. She cut her finger and screamed. She was making such a to-do I thought. And, what was blood and what was pasta sauce?

Years later a Hispanic family lived in this trailer, until burned in a fire. This is the place me and my sister tried to run away from. Between the trailer and the main road was a field.

There are a lot of memories. We plugged up the toilet with a toothbrush. Though I don’t know why we even had a toothbrush. Mother told us about water being blue because it reflects the colour of the sky.

I learned to ride a bike while living in the trailer. There was a tire swing in the front yard. A family lived across the street. Their children would come and play.

On the left was a trailer/house where relatives of Abner lived. Lavonne and Abner owned the property. My great-aunt lived there for years. As well as another woman, Elsie. They were religious, Christian. But they had their own path. They beat pillows as a form of prayer.

When I had intestinal issues they said it was a demon of lust. When they read, “the first Noel,” it upset them. They called god, El. By the traditional Hebrew name. “no-el” meant no god to them. So they changed it to the first Ya-El. Ya being another name they accepted for god. But, there was only one. So they changed it again to “the only Ya-El.” Noël means Christmas.

But I digress. I was taking you on a tour. Up the road we see barns on the right. A gate leads to the neighbors on the left. This is where the skeleton hung. There was a water tank near the fence. Once we wrote a welcome to our great-aunt on the tank.

To the right is another trailer. I don’t recall who owned or lived in this trailer. Next to it was a pile of sheet rock. Most likely made of gypsum. We used pieces of it for chalk. To write on water tanks. Going past here, the road turns and goes up a hill. Passing over a cattle guard, the main house sits before you. It was a big house. When I was a child they added a room. This is where Lavonne’s mother lived. Where later she lived, and died. There was a yard, a green house and a small garden. Next to it was a giant water tank. We had two sources of water. One had green faucets and the other red. The red water was from the river and not to be drank. I am sure I did anyway. The green was well water for drinking and house use.

Between the house and the water tank was the path to the river. The road goes on to the right. Passed a couple of trees me and my sister used to love climbing. Further off to the left was an orchard. The upper house was where the women lived when we were children. This is the place I once cried and tried to not leave.

I was also a big house. Well in my memory. But if you’ve ever returned to your childhood home, you will wonder when it shrunk. The house had two small detached rooms, and a small shed. It also had some fruit trees. On one of those trees I got a small apple once. I tossed it at some baby chickens in folly. And killed one. Me and my sister buried it without telling anyone. But I felt terrible.

We will come back to many of these people and places again. Except for Elsie who died of cancer while I was still young.

If I had grown up any other place, I wouldn’t be me. If I hadn’t had the space to explore. It was a lot of space. And the people who helped raise me. I know they cared about me, each in their own way. But none of them could contain me and didn’t try to keep a leash on me.

The only people I ever remember respecting as a child were those adults. One time other children came down the river. They threw things at us and called us names. We went back and talked to the adults about the incident. It felt good to believe they could do something about those kids.

Those are the only adults who I ever trusted to protect me. And after I left at a young age, I stopped trusting them too. Not because I felt they didn’t care anymore, but I felt they couldn’t.

Behind the upper house was a small chicken hutch. And a fenced in area for goats, with a lower barn for the coats. And sometimes cows. There was a clothesline I once almost killed myself running into. You know the wrestling move, “the clothesline.” Well, I did it in real life. A path from the upper house went to the lower barn. But another path went into the neighboring property. It followed the fence and crossed back, to go to the lower trailer.

One thing we enjoyed as children was feeding the goats. We would gather acorns. And I don’t know why it was acorns. I remember being young and helping load hay into the barn. I thought I was so strong. They used to milk the cows in the barn, and the goats. This is what I grew up on, meat from cows raised on the land. Eggs from the backyard. Milk from our own goats.

Sounds magical doesn’t it?