There are all those now-mature olive trees mom and dad planted in the late Sixties. They planted them from the roadway back to the silver gate. Must be pretty things by now. They planted them in a rhythm of Olive-Oleander-Olive-Oleander, and so on, for privacy, I guess. When they bought the property, the chicken sheds were next door. Back then you needed more than just a privacy screen, in other words. There was no hope when the wind blew in the wrong direction. But the sheds are no more. And, I guess, the Oleanders wave in the breeze, they are so big and full.
I have many memories of visiting the property with my parents. But there was one in particular that was rather funny. Dad and I drove out in the Bug. This was before he retired and actually moved out there. I went along so I could log in some running time. I was a runner in those days (those were the days of Frank Shorter the marathoner, and Bill Rogers with the white gloves, the happy running days of the nineteen-seventies!). Dad had driven the drag around the front ten acres to make a walking and running track. And I'd go out sometimes and run on this rough dirt road. Dad would also unlock the silver gate between the two halves of the property and set the gate open for the period of the visit. And I would start my running clock 'n go clear back to the railroad tracks which form the natural back boundary to the place. All along this back portion I ran on turned-over dirt -- hardened clods -- and so had to be rather careful. Well, to get back to my original point. We had gone out there. But nearly as soon as I stepped out of the car my eyes swelled up. Boy did they swell up. I looked at myself in the rear view mirror. The Bug gave me a no-holds-barred picture of what I really looked like. I was only nineteen at the time. But I looked like a frog, the way the pollen from the olive trees -- all those happy little olive trees -- made my eyes swell. There was nothing to do but go back home. And that's what happened. Silly memory.
Dad made sure I could run out there. And I had my first driving lessons out there, too. I learned to drive right there on the property, in the bright orange Bug. There, and along Pleasant Grove Road which fronts the place, I was allowed to work on my skills. The clutch was really an awful concept to grasp. I liked running better. Guess that sounds immature. But I'm in my fifties now and I haven't had a heart attack yet, thanks to my passion for moving.
I wish my dad would have let me help out more. He treated me rather carefully. When he dug his well, I was not allowed to help. I was along plenty of times, though. Could have been a big help. I tried to be. But I did help out, in fact, pretty mightily, in the only real way I was allowed to: I spent my money earned as a State employee on a used yellow truck with a camper shell. This way my parents were able to truck barrels of water to the property to water the new plants and trees. Dad had no notion of buying the vehicle if I was offering. It's that Depression-era conservatism, you understand. They hadn't yet dug a well; there was no usable source of water on the place. Don't ask me why they put the trees in before the well. But, I'd like to say in retrospect I helped their plan for their piece of land. They were stalwart land-owners. They dug all their own post-holes with an old-time post-hole digger that they bought at a garage sale. I still remember mom out there on a blistering hot day trying to work that post-hold digger into the rock-hard, dry ground. They trucked in the big round posts in the old yellow truck which they allowed me to purchase for them. They put in the fence completely on their own, these two parents of mine. They planted peach and apricot trees. The eucalyptus must be purely gorgeous by now. The last time I saw the place, at least one of these grand trees had fallen. And Dad, in the way he tends to be, let the tree alone. And it rooted along its trunk so naturally. They bought some of the silver dollar variety. I still remember mom and dad going through their personal copy of the Western Garden Book to determine the right plantings. I think they did a good job. Anyone would want olive trees and eucalyptus on their property.
Dad comes from farmers. His father George's father Lewis raised his family in Michigan. Lewis was a builder. Built a log house in Michigan. Got rather grumpy in his old age, attests Dad. Dad said that none of the kids wanted to be around Lewis at the get-together's at his grandma's house in Chico. So before Lewis and wife Myrta came out here, to California, they were land-owners in Michigan. The census reports show that Lewis was a farmer by occupation and that he owned two, ninety-acre parcels. Dad is a natural builder not unlike his grandfather Lewis. Very meticulous. Full of patience, even if a lot of cussing comes with it. Dad held firm to a standard. But he never farmed. The only time he farmed the twenty-seven acres, he picked all his crops and gave them to the nearby supermarket to sell as "local" goods. The supermarket gladly accepted. He didn't ask for any of the proceeds.
Bravo to the solvent man. Bravo to the man who let pheasant and foxes and other animals roam freely, away from the eyes of the local hunting crowd. Dad was not a hunter. I'll never forget the way he let the crickets go free. He'd pick them up and place them outside on the porch and close the door. None of us kids liked bugs. We'd report on 'em. But he never squished anything. His old neighbors on Pleasant Grove Road always knew they could depend on him to let their horses graze on his land during floods, since Dad's property is on the high side of the road. He once let us stay out there awhile. He gets along quite well with very little. We had very short showers in those days. We were warned that the hot water supply amounted to a quick rinse of the head. The amount of refuse is small, not much waste. He used to take his Vitamin E and Vitamin C every day. I remember the two bottles, along with a few cans of white tuna, sitting on his front table just inside the door. This was his life. He could and did keep a rather spartan existence. Once I was grown, dad himself started running on the old dirt track. He told me once he ran six miles a day. No Nikes here. He wore good gosh-darned farmer's boots. They were better for the ankles, and weighed something. They worked just fine. Sometimes we think we have to BUY a life. It's not true at all.
Happy birthday to old dad. >< >< >< >< GEC.