Sunday, September 25, 2016


A group of Native American Women from the Northwest have made it a goal to protect a herd of albino buffalo. The picture makes them look golden, but in real life, they are white and much desired by hunters.
The Grandmothers of the White Buffalo Lodge came to Murphys to perform a ritual "Turning Of The Turtle" native ceremony to recognize and celebrate the Equinox on Sept. 22nd.
After the ceremony was completed, everyone gathered to a feast.
In recent years, interested people have joined the Grandmothers in their cause, and my neighbor, Jan Stewart became a Grandmother four or five years ago. She hosted this gathering, along with neighbors like myself.
Jan invited one Grandfather to this gathering, John Weaver, a naturalist who gave an eloquent presentation about his totem, the vulture. "I wanted my totem to be a raven, but the vulture spoke to me, raining down feathers in my path. He spoke of the bird as a cleansing creature. He repeated an ancient Indian legend about the vulture sacrificing its beauty by flying into the sun an getting burned when it moved the sun farther away from the earth to protect man. Then he invited each of us to pick a vulture feather to take home.
He gifted Jan with a little stuffed white buffalo.
Grandfather John also brought a selection of beautiful polished rocks for all of us to examine and touch and discuss.  Here is a small part of his collection.  But, I dally, on to the ceremony.
Each person is smudged before entering the ceremonial grounds.
Then anointed with essential oils, a mixture of favorites from all of the Grandmothers.
We gathered in a ring around the turtle.
Owl kept guard.dsc08678-copy
The ceremony of turning the turtle is sacred and no pictures are allowed. In essence, the turtle is made from earth untouched by human hands. Grandma Tanya stated she got her soil for turtle from Luli Ani, if my ear caught the name of gopher correctly. It is taken up with a trowel or basket and made into a turtle shape with rock legs, tail and head. In the ceremony, the head points West for fall.
During the ceremony, each person placed a small bouquet on the turtle's back and thanked the spirits for giving us the bounty of nature, or prayed for a loved one present or passed. We sang several songs, trying to follow along with the unknown Indian words. Then people got up and danced, shaking their gourd rattles, or drumming their animal skin drums. It was a fascinating ceremony and done with much reverence. Then four of us tied a bag of herbs on each pole representing North, South, East West, blessing the earth and praying for the harvest season  or "fall".
As we looked up from our fine dinner, a beautiful pink cloud sailed overhead.
Guests were invited to select a gourd from the table before we left.

Jan has painted a gourd for her coffee table and has much to display her dedication to being a Grandmother of the White Buffalo Lodge. Two years ago, she made a trip to visit the buffalo and meet with the Grandmothers in their territory.

Saturday, September 24, 2016



According to the latest New York Times poll, Gary Johnson is supported by 26 percent of young voters.
Here are, in my opinion, the questionable points of his platform:
  • He supports the TTP.
  • He supports fracking.
  • He likes Citizen's United.
  • He doesn't want to raise the minimum wage AT ALL.
  • He opposes any measure that  will make college more affordable or help student debt. He thinks student loans should be abolished completely.
  • He favors a balanced-budget amendment and has previously suggested that he would slash federal spending 43 percent in order to balance the budget. This would require massive cuts to Social Security, Medicare, and social welfare programs of all kinds.
  • He opposes net neutrality.
  • He wants to increase the Social Security retirement age to 75 and he's open to privatization.
  • He opposes any kind of national health care and wants to repeal Obamacare.
  • He opposes practically all forms of gun control.
  • He opposes any kind of paid maternity or medical leave.
  • He supported the Keystone XL pipeline.
  • He opposes any government action to address climate change.
  • He wants to cut the corporate tax rate to zero.
  • He appears to believe that we should reduce financial regulation. All we need to do is allow big banks to fail and everything will be OK.
  • He wants to remove the Fed's mandate to maximize employment and has spoken favorably of returning to the gold standard.
  • He wants to block-grant Medicare and turn it over to the states.
  • He wants to repeal the 16th Amendment and eliminate the income tax, the payroll tax, and the estate tax. He would replace it with a 28 percent FairTax that exempts the poor. This is equivalent to a 39 percent sales tax, and it would almost certainly represent a large tax cut for the rich.
  • Okay, so he supports legalizing marijuana.
  • He's good on civil liberties and wants to cut way back on overseas military interventions.
  • He's moderate on immigration.
  • He supports gay rights and a woman's right to choose.
It would disenfranchise young people in more ways than it would help improve their lives. Do they not realize that positions like his have a negative affect on their lives?  People often vote against their own best interests.

Information came from Kevin Drum, who is a political writer for Mother Jones, a non-profit magazine. You can catch him on-line on FB and other venues.

Friday, September 23, 2016


I met Paul Moeller when he came to my writer's workshop in 1979. I talked him into taking one of my daughter's baby cats home. Then later, in 1980, I joined his classes in video taping. He was determined to get public access programing into Calaveras County. He was so dedicated and so hardworking, you couldn't say "no" to Paul. He's had some tough years, with two broken femurs, strokes and other injuries. Here he is with his caretaker, Pam. He seems to be kind of wondering why everyone is making such a fuss over his birthday.
After his wife died, Marilyn Pyle has taken care of his bookkeeping and his mail and most of the things Martha took care of. Indispensable to him and he feels bereft when she is missing. She quickly organized his birthday party. Just some balloons, friends and cheesecake.
Paul certainly has aging issues; he speaks very slowly but he said of his good friend and neighbor, Bill with his wife Linda, "If you want trouble, you call Bill. Then you get more trouble."  It tickled me he could make a joke.
Paul is like family and Marilyn's husband Vern, and his son, Mitch came by. They do the heavy hauling, moving furniture, dump runs-you name it, they show up.
Marilyn thought it would be nice to take a group picture, which includes Karen Phillips, his long time driver after his first accident, and on the right Audry, Marilyn's mother. I'm in the middle.
Then about that time, Sue showed up. But, we took a lot of pictures anyway.
Karen has a lot of memories of Paul and faithfully visits him every week.
Marilyn decided to put a candle on his favorite cake. Cheesecake at his request.
After we sang Happy Birthday...
He blew out the candle and we spent an hour or more just visiting. He has difficulty hearing on the phone. He rarely has his hearing aids in. But he had calls from friends and relatives in Germany. He has good days and bad days and this one was a good day. He could remember stories and bring up names from the past.
He asked me to take a picture of him with all of his cards. Many of them have cats on them. He lost his cat recently and a stray was hanging around Bill and Linda's house. They suggested he feed the cat. It is feral and now hangs around Paul's big sliding glass window. And though he can't pet it, he enjoys seeing the cat come and eat. He named her/him Roosevelt or Rosie. "I go both ways," he joshed.
I worked on 85 shows with Paul, as his anchor. It amazed me how he could remember names of past friends while I struggled. Paul is a legend in our county. The Board of Supervisor's named the studio after him as an honor. And his legacy of over 4,000 productions

Monday, September 19, 2016


My friend? No, a friend to everybody, Carol Flemming, held a bash at her house for her 75th birthday party. "My kids insisted on this party," she told me. I totally understand that. The "kids" think you are on your last legs and counting when you reach 75.
I met Carol when I wrote features for the Calaveras Enterprise. It was 1982 and I featured her costume business, a unique and wonderfully creative business that is still going. Marti Oaks, right, with her son, worked for Carol and at one time lived in my Murphys house.
Pat Patterson, right, also worked costume design. It was fun catching up with old friends.
I also got to meet Carol's daughter, Liz, whom I'd never met before, along with her daughter, whose name I didn't get.
Carol's son Beau barbecued chicken and tri-tip. He, like his mom is a good cook. I'd met him when Carol had a restaurant in Arnold, the Froggy Diner. There is always cooking or a side business in Carol's life.dsc08583-copy

There were her friends and neighbors of all ages. Names seem to float out of my brain. This woman, like me, is finding acreage hard to keep up and looking to downsize. I hear that more and more from people I know.

Dale said she didn't take good pictures, but I do. I thought her laugh made her beautiful. It turned out, she knows my brother Clark.

I finally got this little girl to smile for my picture. But she kept a protective closeness to her parents.
My brother Clark was once a neighbor of Carol's in Burson. This man remembered he and Clark fixing a bridge that went out, before CalTrans was even called.
This woman too, talked to me at length of all the favors that Clark does for the neighbors. He helped with projects after her husband died, making her ever grateful.
This couple also know Clark and talked about him and the neighborhood, and things they've done together. He talked about Clarks 17 years of sobriety.
Another daughter, Mona and another grand daughter, I'd never met.
And, Carol's daughter China Rose with her two girls. She also has two sons. I hadn't seen China in over 17 years.
The baby was determined to sleep, but China wanted her to stay awake for the long ride back to Santa Cruz. I remember those days.
Carol joined the kids in the pool for a cooling dunk. I love it when you get to enjoy your own party.
This smart woman is a former daughter-in-law-still friends of the family. She gave me good advice about AirBnB...ideas have been floating through my brain all day.
dsc08602-copyThe woman in red, Cindy, I think is her name. She is an artist. I always complain I never have time to paint or create.  Her very good advice, "Make it your priority, first thing in the morning. Everything else can wait."
dsc08612-copyA birthday surprise for Carol, her brother Willie flew in from Hawaii.
dsc08626-copyI tried to get a picture of everyone. And, I missed Phil, her husband, who was busy, busy, busy, tending the bar and keeping people happy. There is a pattern, here.
dsc08593-copyKids, babies, teens, middle agers, old folks...
You know what was different about this party?  I saw no one with their head down, texting and playing with their phone or messages or...whatever they do. That, my friends, is what was special about this birthday party. A rarity. And great fun.

Sunday, September 18, 2016



Betty Yee, California State Controller, came to Murphys to speak to a crowd of interested people. One man traveled all the way from Fresno to hear her speak.  She was invited by the Calaveras County Democratic Central Committee. She mingled with those present discussing  issues and answering questions before giving her speech.
Tom Pratt is the President of the Central Committee and he has managed to organize and inspire political action that has been lacking here for some time-no easy feat. Member Sally Kaplan was one of the chief organizers of this event.
This lovely lady, Martha Gamez is a regional organizer for California Democrats, and she gives vital advice and assistance in getting out the vote and registering voters in various districts. She is dedicated to engaging Democracy and making it work.
Tom Garamendi, left, Calaveras County Supervisor Elect, attended and visited with the crowd while waiting for Betty Yee to speak. She is the Chief Financial Officer in the sixth largest economy in the world. Does she report to the Governor? No. Her roll is deliberately independent. Thus her decisions are not beholden to any whim of the Governor.
Elisa Garrin and Karen Kaua were tablemates and we talked a good bit about how un-engaged young people seem to be about voting and elections as though elections don't affect them. Many people no longer read a newspaper. Sound bites and Twitter, and other social media don't cover issues like a good editorial magazine and especially a newspaper. Even television news is often skewed by divisions over party unless you stick predominantly to PBS. dsc08556-copy
Holly Mines and Bertha Underhill, deep in conversation. I took a lot of random pictures of people I do not know. But, Bertha presented Betty Yee with a frog from our county and I missed the shot. The only picture I got of Betty Yee  is while she was mingling with the crowd.
While I post pictures of those attending the brunch we shared at the Historic Murphys Hotel, I'd like to talk about what the office of the State Controller does for us. She reports on the financial state of the State and administers various taxes. Her office writes 28 million warrants (checks) per year. She audits spending to make sure our tax dollars are spent as the law intended.
Another part of her duties is the State Personnel/Payroll for all state employees and the California State University system.
And, she manages two of the largest public pension funds in the nation. To keep her finger on the pulse of the state, she serves on 78 state commissions and boards. (Ross Alford, right, was the only member of the press at the meeting.)
This couple from Copperopolis are well informed. But, I was stunned to hear Betty say:  "Everyone likes to point out how much money tourism, the wine industry, agriculture and ranching bring into the county. But pension spending is the highest revenue generator in the county. Fifty-four million dollars comes from retiree pensions.
One question applicable to rural Calaveras and surrounding counties, is how can the state engage in helping people who have 20 dead beetle infested trees on their property and cannot afford 20 thousand dollars to have them removed? Her answer was a state tax credit to mitigate that unusual cost. She described a couple of ways it could be handled dependent upon situation or means.
Betty Yee was born and raised in San Franciso. Her parents were immigrants and raised 6 children. They struggled to provide for and educate their children. Betty, by the way, is the second highest ranking elected official to come to Murphys, since 1830 when Ulysses S. Grant came as President of the United States.  Interestingly, she ranks higher than the Governor of the State, or any senator or representative.
I thought that Betty Yee's  rank was an interesting observation, especially since I barely knew what the "controller" did.  I had to look it up.  (Kimberly Pratt-above.)
It is never too late to learn and I learned a lot from Betty Yee's visit. And, I'm inspired to become a bit more active in my community. As everyone knows, my major role in life seems to be "activist". So, I'd best act like it.
I love taking pictures of people, too.  (Rick Mines.)