Category Archives: Linda

The Dirt Road

p1010704

 What’s that sound? I thought as I walked home one summer day after Little League practice.

It was faint, but as I stopped and listened I could hear a whimper coming from the cornfield next to the dirt road that led to our house.

Corn

Hopping the barbed wire fence, I made my way through the field toward the whimpering. As I approached the sound, several cornstalks began to rustle briskly. I stopped, reached out with both arms, cautiously parting the giant stalks, and discovered a young black Labrador dog. Its leash was tangled up in the field corn and it was sure glad to see me. As I tried to free it, the dog kept jumping around, wagging its tail and licking my face.  Finally, I was able to open the clasp on the leash and the puppy darted away down a narrow path between the high corn-rows, stopping briefly to look back at me and wag its tail a few more times. I took it as a “thank you”.

That dirt road has a signpost now: Tiptoe Lane. Although it had no name when I was growing up, some of the locals called it Gauper Lane because our family lived at the end. A former volunteer with the Linda Fire Department remembers that their map once listed it as Gauper Lane. Too bad the name didn’t stick; having a road named after our family would have been an honor, even if it was only dirt.

tip-toe-4

Tiptoe Lane is perpendicular to Griffith Ave., parallel to Hammonton and Beale Roads in Linda. It’s about a quarter of a mile long and, as dirt roads go, has never been in the best of shape.  During my childhood it was scarred with pot holes which filled with water during the rainy season.

About two-thirds of the way up, where the road made a ninety degree turn to the left, an especially large hole obstructed the entire bend.

When that hole was full of water it was nearly impossible, even for the most intrepid dirt road navigator, to continue down the lane on dry land.

For pedestrians there was some relatively dry ground next to the fence where a person could hold onto the fence, and carefully side-step to the corner post. Once you made it to the post, you could grab it with one hand then swing your body around the corner.

One frosty morning I was in a hurry to catch the school bus, so I quickly scuttled along the fence line, carefully grabbed the post (making sure my manhood didn’t smash against it), and swung my leg around; but when my foot hit the frozen grass, it slipped and I fell backwards. Plop! I landed in the large pot-hole, now a frigid mud puddle, while thin pieces of ice floated around me. I didn’t know if I should laugh or cry, but in any case, I missed the bus.

img010

There are good points about living at the end of a dirt road.

We always knew when someone was coming to visit. Our dogs would bark, and if the corn wasn’t too tall, you could look out across the field and decide which course of action to take. If we didn’t recognize the vehicle, it was usually the Jehovah’s Witnesses and we had time to run and hide. Likewise, if it was Mormon missionaries on their bicycles, sometimes I would climb out a back window to avoid them.

You also got a lot of exercise walking to the bus stop or visiting a friend’s house. Even if we got a ride home from someone, since most people didn’t want to get their cars dirty, they’d usually drop us off where the dirt road met the pavement. (Speaking of dirt meeting pavement, my wife says that could be a good metaphor for our marriage, but that’s another story.)

Attempts at keeping our own vehicles clean were futile. I found it especially challenging to maintain the shiny chrome of my chopped Triumph motorcycle. I should have stuck with the Volkswagen Beetle my sister sold me.

The Beetle was a faded red color that complemented its rust spots. The floorboards were especially rusty, and you could see the ground in some places.  Dust and water would creep through the floor and somehow a weed seed found its way into the passenger side, sprouted and started growing. I grew fond of that plant and would admonish passengers to take care around my unique vehicle accessory. Sadly, the car-plant started dying as summer approached and the mud puddles on the road dried up. I briefly contemplated prolonging its life with supplemental watering; but it was getting big and I didn’t want to risk having to explain to a police officer why I had something growing in my car. So I let my plant friend dry up and die a natural death, which didn’t take very long, since the summer sun made the inside of that Volkswagen like an oven.

vw

I decided to remove the caked dirt from the floorboards after that foray into mobile horticulture; in doing so, I noticed I could no longer see the ground. My Volkswagen Bug now had custom- made adobe flooring and I decided to keep it that way.  Bet you won’t find that in J.C. Whitney’s automotive accessory catalog.

There are so many more memories connected to that dirt road: the talking crow, Oinky our pet pig, and even a time when I feared for my life; but I won’t share them now. After all, I have to save some stories for my book.

 

 

 

Am I my Brother’s Keeper?

Am I my brother’s keeper? by Morgana Wilborn, on Flickr
Creative Commons Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 2.0 Generic License (1.)

(I also presented a longer version of this as a Toastmaster speech. Best when read aloud, in a hillbilly kind of voice.)

*  *  *  *  *

 I was feeling rather proud of myself. I was finishing up my second year at Yuba Community College and I had just been invited to a party in Marysville …..Marysville, California. Now Marysville has definitely seen some better times, and if you know the area, you might be thinking: what’s so special about that?

You see, I grew up on, well, what some people might say (and I’m not going to argue) was the wrong side of the Yuba River, in a place called Linda, California. Some of the people I occasionally hung out with would make fun of me because I had never been in Juvenile Hall. Imagine that.

But there I was, in the back yard of a really nice place in Marysville. And this place was nice! In fact, they had beautiful cut green grass, not only in the front yard, but in the back yard too! That grass looked nicer than anybody’s carpet I’d ever seen.

I was holding a bottle of imported beer I had brought for the occasion. Well, the bottle was imported. I had snagged some empties from a nice restaurant I used to work at, and I had filled some of those bottles with some cheap beer I bought at the grocery store. But no one else knew that.

Green Glass Bottles by John_X, on Flickr
Creative Commons Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 2.0 Generic License                                                                   (2.)

I was holding that bottle so that everyone could see the label and know that I was sophisticated!

All of a sudden someone yelled, “Fight!” and I jogged over with the other looky-loos to see what was going on. That so-called fight consisted of the host of the party yelling at some teenager that was so drunk he could barely stand up, let alone hold up his fists.

Trouble was, I knew that kid, and I knew his family. He was from my side of the river.

Now if that kid hadn’t been so drunk, my moral obligation might have been simply to warn the other guy, since I knew what that kid was capable of. However, my conscience drove me to do something to save the kid from himself.

So , putting my hopes and aspirations of upward social mobility to the side, I ran up to the kid and pretended I was going to punch him. He flinched, and I dropped to my knee and lifted him up onto my shoulder, all the while feeling thankful that I used to be a wrestler in high school.

I carried him down the street and around the corner to where I had hidden my beat-up old pickup truck and threw him in the bed. Then I ran around to the cab and jumped in. I had always left the keys in the ignition, and if you’d seen that truck, you’d know why I never had to worry about anyone stealing it. Besides, you had to use your foot to engage the starter and I figured most people wouldn’t know that.

Homestead
Pa, sisters, and truck

I took off out of Marysville across the Yuba River on that moonlit night and headed down Simpson Lane. I could hear some commotion in the bed of the truck and I looked in my rear-view mirror and could see that kid was trying to climb out of the bed while I was driving down the road! I jerked the steering wheel and he fell back into the bed. I had to keeping doing that as I drove down Simpson Lane and onto Hammonton Road in Linda; and then I thought, man, if the cops see me driving like this, they’re going to think I’m drunk! Then I realized I had spilled beer all over myself and I had a bunch of those imported  empties sitting on the floorboard. So, if I did get stopped for a suspected DUI, I could get cited for dangerous driving and having open containers.

But luckily, I made it to the end of a dirt road where I knew that kid’s parents lived. I stopped the truck, jumped out, ran around and opened the tailgate, then ran back into the cab. When that kid crawled out, and his feet hit the ground, I took off. As I was heading away, I looked into my mirror and saw the front porch light turn on, and that kid’s daddy stepping outside.

That was many years ago.

Am I my brother’s keeper? I’ve read different viewpoints. Yes. No. Maybe. Sometimes. Many arguments for and against being our brother’s keeper.

However, one thing I do know is this: if I hadn’t done anything to help that kid, I’d have felt pretty bad about myself. Maybe it’s a selfish reason, but it’s a reason just the same. That said, I do believe that, yes indeed, we are our brothers’ keepers.

Oh, by the way, that kid I threw over my shoulder in Marysville? That was my brother.

Baby Brother

 

 (1.) Am I my Brother’s Keeper?  by    Morgana Wilborn 

(2.) Green glass bottles:
Creative Commons Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 2.0 Generic License by John_X

I want Jesus on my team

Alicia 2
Alicia no more

I stood where Alicia Avenue ends at Pasado Rd. in Linda and leaned against the chain-link fence, staring out into the open field where Alicia Intermediate School used to stand. The school was demolished in 2013 because of its proximity to the airport and a natural gas line, so there were no classrooms left to jog my memories of when I was a student there; but still they came.

I remembered what it was like to attend classes with a deep pain in my heart because I thought my dad had left the family. His in-laws were visiting and he was tired of their nagging, so he left. Thankfully, once they departed, he returned. But I knew that wasn’t the case for many of my fellow classmates. Maybe that’s why Billy was a bully. He couldn’t get over the pain of his dad leaving and never coming back.

Alicia
My old school

Billy was my friend for a short while, but something changed. Maybe he was jealous of me for having a dad that was still around; but for whatever reason, he started picking on me in wood shop, by making fun of things I was making, or by throwing small pieces of wood at me when the teacher wasn’t looking. There wasn’t much to Billy; he was short and skinny, so I wasn’t really afraid of him, but he was so annoying. I thought about punching it out with him, but I was worried I might accidentally punch him in the mouth and hit his teeth that stuck out so much and were spaced so far apart he could have flossed with shoelaces. I also didn’t want to get in trouble for fighting. But still, going to wood shop, a class I really enjoyed, was taxing. I had to do something, but what? I needed a miracle. That miracle came when I met……Jesus.

There it was, written on the blackboard amongst all the other names…… Jesus. I looked around the room of my seventh-grade physical education class but I didn’t see anyone that looked like Jesus. The teacher had written the names on the chalkboard so that he could organize soccer teams. I want Jesus on my team, I thought as the teacher wrote numbers next to the names. I got the number three, and so did Jesus. He was on my team! But when his name was called, the teacher pronounced it “Hey-Zeus”. Jesus wasn’t what I expected, he was a stocky Mexican kid that struggled with English, but he sure knew how to play soccer! It was on the soccer field where the accident happened.

Ouch!
Ouch!

Billy the bully, who was on the opposing team, ran toward the soccer ball as Jesus and I hurried toward him from opposite sides. He was aiming towards the goal! The three of us kicked toward the ball but Billy kicked it a split-second before us. Goal! Billy didn’t get to see it, though; he was writhing in pain on the ground. Jesus and I had missed the ball and kicked Billy’s leg, both of us at the same time. The school nurse was called and Billy was put onto a stretcher. His leg was broken. I took no pleasure in Billy’s pain and was sincerely sorry; however, he never did bother me again.

Someone else of Mexican descent had helped me a year before, in sixth grade. It was in the boys’ bathroom, where middle-school conflicts often take place. I had walked in to use the urinal and when I had finished my business, an older student asked me if he could borrow my comb. Yuck! I thought as I looked at his greasy hair. But I wasn’t about to tell him no. I handed him my comb and cringed as he combed his hair. The Fonzi wannabe then took my comb and threw it in the unflushed urinal. Luckily, it was right then that Peter, a fellow sixth-grade classmate of mine, walked in. Now Peter was no ordinary sixth-grader; he was feared by many and had older brothers that were feared even more. He even had a girlfriend who was an eighth-grader.

Peter saw what was going on in the bathroom and grabbed the soon-trembling eighth-grader by the front of his shirt collar and held him against a bathroom stall.

“When I let go of you, I want you to grab that comb, comb your hair, wash it off, and then give it back to my friend Bobby. You got that?”

The pinned eighth-grader nodded silently, and when he was let go, walked over to the urinal and grabbed the comb, shook off some of my pee and combed his hair. He then rinsed off the comb at the sink, wiped it with a towel and then handed it to me.

Punk
Mi Salvador

The school bell rang and the three of us walked out of the bathroom and into our classrooms. After sitting at my desk for a short while, I glanced behind me and across the room to where Peter was sitting. As usual, he was talking to a girl. He noticed I was looking at him and he smiled a quick smile and nodded slightly. I then turned back around and stared wide-eyed at the front of the classroom. Peter called me his friend! I was amazed and found it hard to believe. But word must have got around that I was Peter Garcia’s friend, because no upper class-man ever bothered me again at Alicia Intermediate.

I started to recall more memories of my time at Alicia as I stood at the fence that early Sunday morning, but the near-silence was soon disturbed by the familiar rumble of Harley motorcycles stopping nearby. I watched as the riders parked their bikes, and with Bibles in hand, walked across the street and into the building marked “Christ Has Risen Ministries”.

That’s enough memories for now,” I told myself. “It must be time for worship.” I took a few photos of the open field, locked my car, and then walked across the street and into the church.

SAM_0118
Getting ready for church

Linda Elementary

Blog - Linda Elementary

Linda Elementary

The open field at Linda Elementary School in Linda, California is almost gone, filled with portable classrooms, which never seem to go anywhere. I tried to remember how the field used to look with all the wild flowers that attracted bees, butterflies and lady bugs. It was the lady bugs that got me and my “girlfriend” in trouble.

One day we decided to study lady bugs instead of going to our kindergarten class. Mrs. Shaw, unimpressed, stormed out of her classroom and walked briskly to where we were enthralled in our study of nature.

“Get to class right now!” she shouted. “You’re late again. I’m going to talk to your parents!”

I’m not sure if she ever followed through with that threat, but after her scolding, our lady bug gathering days were over.

I was standing beside the field trying to bring back memories, because my sisters and I had come to our alma mater for the school’s sesquicentennial celebration. While my sisters went off to the multi-purpose room, I remained outside and re-visited the days of my youth.

There I stood at the flag pole, while my buddy Joey hoisted up the American flag. It was a Norman Rockwell moment: me with my bright red hair, dressed in my Cub Scout uniform, saluting as Joey hoisted Old Glory.

The Flagpole
The Flagpole

Across the schoolyard sat my second-grade classroom. In my imagination I could see Debbie, the prettiest and smartest girl in school, sitting on the front step and there I was standing next to her, giving her something– a ring. A ring so precious in my eyes that I had stuck about thirty staples around the edge of an envelope to protect it.

“What’s this?” Debbie asked as if I was annoying her.

“It’s ..uh..uh.. ..a present,” I stammered.

“For what?”

“Uh….jjjjust……a…..present.”

“What are all these staples for?”

I could no longer speak, and simply stood there staring.

She opened the envelope with great difficulty, removed the ring, looked at it, put it into her pocket and didn’t say a word. I turned and walked away sheepishly. Oh, the troubles of a love-struck second-grader.

One of the steps where Debbie broke my heart.
One of the steps where Debbie broke my heart.

It’s probably a good thing nothing came of my advances to Debbie. About fifteen years later I saw her at a bar in Yuba City where she appeared to be doing something illegal with a white powder. Debbie had become a heroin addict. She spent most of her adult life in a wheelchair and died in her early fifties.

I turned away from the classroom steps and walked down a corridor. As I walked past some steel pillars that were used to support the corridor roof, I wondered which one I had held onto while Mr. West, my fourth-grade teacher, gave me some swift and powerful swats to my backside with his paddle.

I continued down the corridor and walked into the multi-purpose room. The room appeared to be a lot smaller than I remember, but it was still the same.

For the sesquicentennial celebration, the multi-purpose room had been decorated with streamers, balloons and pictures from the past hanging on the walls. A video of memorable school activities played on a monitor while current and former teachers chatted at a table. As each visitor walked into the room, you could see the teachers looking them over as they tried to remember if he or she was a former student. I didn’t recognize any of the teachers, they looked too young to have been around in my time.

On a table sat some yearbooks. I walked over to the table and looked for the years when l attended Linda Elementary, but couldn’t find anything.

“Your yearbooks are probably over there where all the black-and-white ones are,” a young Asian-looking woman commented.

“Do I look that old?” I chuckled.

“Ah. Sorry.”

“That’s okay…. just teasing”, I replied.

I went over to the table and found a yearbook for the year I was in Fourth Grade, and opened it. I found my class and looked at the black-and-white images of my former classmates. I then turned the pages, and looked for other people in other grades. I recognized Peter, Terry, Stephen, Debbie, Sherrie, Joey, Jimmy, Greg and many others.

I knew very little of what happened to most of the children pictured in that yearbook. I do know that some have raised families, are working hard and volunteering in the community and in their churches – salt of the earth.

As I continued to gaze at the photos, all of a sudden I was overcome with immense sadness. There was Joey, such a bright and capable kid, shot while robbing a liquor store. There was Jimmy, the class clown that faced a life-long battle with alcohol; Stephen, the star athlete that died of a drug overdose; Susan who fell into the wrong crowd and Debbie, who had so much potential. I felt like the survivor of a major tragedy. It was as if someone punched me and took my breath away. Why me? What makes me so special? I took a deep breath, closed the yearbook, and laid it back onto the table. I then told my sisters I was going outside.

I went outside, walked over to the concession stand set up for the celebration, and bought a hot dog. I then went over to a small bench, sat down and looked out into the courtyard of my former school. There were adults and children laughing and smiling as they visited classrooms. Most of them appeared to be of Hmong descent. I thought about the parents and their difficulties in leaving the hill country of Laos to come to America to a safer life, not too unlike the parents of many of my former classmates, who had been economic refugees from America’s dust bowl, all in search of a better life.

I also thought about the children. I wanted to grab them and show them my old yearbook.

“Look what happened to him! To her! Don’t be like that!” I wanted to shout, but knew I couldn’t.

My sisters walked by and said they were getting ready to leave. I got up and followed them to the car and got in and my sister drove away. I sat there in silence thinking about the people in that yearbook. I also thought of how I would like to get to know more about people.

“You’re awfully quiet,” my sister commented to break the silence.

“Yeah, I was just thinking how little we really know about others,” I replied.

“I’ll bet you don’t even know I’ve been thrown in jail over fifty times, do you?”

“No, I don’t. How’d that happen?”

“I’ll tell you someday,” I sighed.

Store across from Linda Elementary. Metal pillars placed after my mother smashed into the store with our pickup truck.
Store across from Linda Elementary. Metal pillars placed after my mother smashed into the store with our pickup truck.