Addicted to Reading

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Being a person with almost no self-discipline, I have many pleasant addictions, but none as satisfying, or perhaps I should say insatiable, as reading. When I finish one good book, I immediately look for the next one and consequently, don’t always remember more than the gist of a book. I can happily read two or thee James Lee Burke novels, what I call TV reading, and forget the previous one as soon as I start the second. Then there are the books that mark you for life. Almost anything written by Barbara Kingsolver is indelibly etched into my memory.

In the last twenty years or so, my taste for historical fiction has evolved into historical non-fiction. No doubt, the recently popular form of narrative non-fiction gently lured me away from the Gone With the Wind of my youth to the stark realities of The Other Slavery – the Uncovered Story of Indian Enslavement in America. The trouble with reading books that chronical the past is that one’s view of the present is altered.

Most of the baby boomer generation, have never known anything but peace and prosperity in this country. Even the poor people, though horribly marginalized by comparison to my lower-middle-class life, are generally not poor by the standards of third world countries.  The wars this country has embarked upon in my lifetime have not noticeably impacted my idyllic routine. But, through the lens of  unflinching writers, my vision has been re-focused. My ideology is constantly being reshaped, refined, and questioned.

I was raised in a staunchly conservative, strictly religious family. The foundation of all of my ideas are based on the teachings of the church and my mid-western upbringing. My knee-jerk reactions are still reflective of that. Nobody was more surprised than I to discover that as my taste in reading became more eclectic, my views broadened and my alt-right ideas were turned upside down.

I believe I have an idea for bringing Americans together, to make America great, so to speak. Every voter, every teacher, every politician, and every blogger should read really good books every day. (Yeah, too many everys in that sentence, I know) Reading an article in a magazine or online is okay for reinforcing what you already believe; but reading a real book, written by someone who has no agenda other than to INFORM you of what has happened before you came into being, is enlightening in ways you can not fathom unless you do it.

I’m not suggesting that you suspend critical thinking when you read a book anymore than you should when reading online or watching news on TV. I’m just saying that when an author goes to the trouble to research a topic carefully, annotates his findings diligently, and presents them factually, without pandering to sentimentality, you can learn a great deal about the world. Even if the only thing you learn is how the people who voted for Donald Trump came to that decision, you have learned something valuable. Chances are, if they had read the same books I have, they might have still followed their deeply ingrained biases about gender and the status of this country. But they would have elected him with eyes wide open instead of voting on hope that he would make them safe from the nasty people who look and speak differently than we do.

Dog Days of Summer

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When you wake up to seventy degree weather at 6:00 in the morning, there’s only one thing to do: head for the hills. I loaded the dogs into the SUV (you know dogs, it’s their favorite thing, right up there with walks, meals, naps, digging holes, and chasing wildlife) and drove up to walk a section of the Santa Ana River Trail.

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A view of Slide Peak from the SART

 

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Lupine (I think)

 

The gnats were there waiting for us and quickly alerted their friends, the deer flies, that breakfast was ready. Although it was in the low seventies, the combination of humidity and bugs took the fun out of our hike.

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Sadie expresses her lack of enthusiasm.

We arrived back home just in time to save the garden.

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Tomato plant and wilted squash plants

 

Mike installed an air conditioner in the dog house.

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And unlike mad dogs and Englishmen, we all stayed out of the mid-day sun and took a nap. Molly and Sadie thought the air conditioner was almost as good as a ride in the car.

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Molly, the cutest & smartest dog in the world

 

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Sadie, the most beautiful, well-behaved dog in the world

Yeah, you kind of are…

So, I spent another $48 to renew my Xanga page but still can’t access it more than two weeks later. I’m having serious doubts about how important clinging to the past really is. This site, while foreign to me, is free and works consistently. I’ve found some really nice blogs to follow here, thanks to those who have commented on Michel’s page; so maybe I’ll just consider Xanga a thing of the past.

It occurs to me that my life is so uneventful that blogging at all is a waste of time. And yet, I find my days, while routine and comfortable, are still worth describing, even if only for my own edification.

Yesterday, Sally and I rode the wash trails and climbed one of the Conservancy trails we call Escalator. The wash trails have been created over decades by local hikers, equestrians, and mountain bikers. They are too rocky and twisty to be of much interest to people on motorized vehicles, but too often, some clueless motorcyclist or quad rider decides to try them out, which results in damage to the trail that takes years to heal.

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The nature of a mountain bike trail is to gently meander between the shrubs and rocks, always taking the way of least resistance and having the least amount of impact on the environment. The power of a motorized vehicle allows the rider to exclaim, “Damn the rocks; full speed ahead!” You can well imagine how heart wrenching it is to find a trail, that has been ridden for decades by hundreds of bicyclists, desecrated by one thoughtless motorist who decided to widen it.

Apart from the mayhem shown above, we were able to keep to paths less traveled and enjoyed the season’s meager wild flower offerings. Years of protracted drought have changed the texture of the foliage. Flowers are smaller and more sparse, and opportunistic species are appearing. We spent a couple of hours digging out Jerusalem Artichoke plants, in a probably vain attempt to keep them out of our area. Their prickly leaves and stiff stalks can quickly render a path un-rideable. I’ve ridden trails in the coastal hills that are under constant attack by this invasive species.

Sally was test riding a new Intense Spider as she’s in the market for a new ride. This year bike manufacturers are touting 27.5″ wheels (last year it was 29″) and we are still riding our tried and true 26″, so she wanted to see how the longer wheel-based bike would handle the switchbacks of Escalator. The difference in handling was primarily in her imagination and by the time we had navigated about half of the switchbacks, she was sold on the new bike. Unfortunately, she has only saved about $3,500 and the demo bike sells for $5,000. Those bike shop sales people are devious! They will probably end up convincing her that a 10% discount makes it affordable. Seriously, is it really that important that her kids go to college?

A day of no crashes, no rattlesnakes, and no flirtatious encounters with young, fit, cyclists…sounds pretty boring but it was actually quite fun. And BTW, the lunch at the Naan Café afterwards was fabulous. There’s nothing like a well-earned mango lassi.

 

 

More Doggie News

Sally, my regular riding companion, was feeling drained from a long and difficult hike she had done yesterday; so we went for a short, easy bike ride.

When I got home, I still had plenty of energy to work in the garden. I trimmed back the bougainvillea vines that had frozen a couple of months ago, and weeded, fertilized and watered the fruit trees that are in bloom. We planted an apple tree last summer and the poor little thing is so confused by the warm weather that it never dropped its leaves. I had never heard of evergreen fruit trees but both the apple and one of the nectarine trees never lost their leaves.

Then it was time to take the girls out for their daily walk.

Today I taught them to run along with the bike on a leash and off leash. They took to it like ducks to water. They were better on the leash because they kept stopping in front of me when they were loose.

We went down the abandoned, overgrown portion of Opal that’s almost invisible because of all the bushes growing up through the pavement. At the end of the pavement, I stashed the bike in the bushes and we walked in the wash bottom down below the bank that used to be the old dump back in the “olden days”. I discovered that Universal Rundle, the old toilet factory (long closed and probably moved to China) must have dumped their defectives there. The bank was maybe twenty feet high and several hundred feet long made up of layer upon layer of broken toilets. I also spied a couple of rusty cots that may have come from the old Cone Camp barracks. Back when the road was still intact, it was a mere half a mile or so away. Today one would have to drive about 15 miles to cross the wash on one of the bridges. It’s kind of fun to piece together the local history.

We won’t be able to walk down in the wash with careless abandon much longer as the days and nights are getting warm enough for the snakes to be active. I had both dogs vaccinated for snake bite but the vaccine only lessens the effect of a bite so snakes are still to be avoided. That coupled with the fact that I haven’t been vaccinated.

My sister took this picture of us yesterday.

Me & my girls

 

A Little Local History

I never tire of exploring the Santa Ana River bed which passes just little over a mile from my house. Most of the time, it’s dry or at most damp. During protracted rain storms, which happen with less frequency with every passing year, there will be some surface water; but usually the river flows underground.

I’m old enough to remember the floods of ’68 when a month of steady rain turned my playground into a raging torrent of muddy water that swept bridges away and stripped a mile-wide swath of every bit of vegetation. One could hear boulders being rolled towards the sea from a half mile away.

Today it was warm and clear, a perfect day for an exploratory walk. IMG_8441

We followed the denuded strip where the water district buried their pipeline a few years ago, looking for the old Cone Camp trail which had been bisected by it. The trail wasn’t obvious anymore but there were numerous wildlife paths that meandered in the general direction we wanted to go.

IMG_8444We came to an unusually verdant drainage which appeared to have been designated a habitat conservation area though I never found any other boundary markers.

Eventually, we came to a remnant the old Cone Camp Road which was washed out in the aforementioned floods of 1968. Following the road we came to what had been the gate and the foundation of the administration building.

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The camp had been built to house migrant works from Mexico who came to this country under the Las Braceros program. The program was established in 1942 when World War II created a labor shortage and immigrants were welcomed into this part of the country to tend the orange groves and other farming concerns.

By the time  I started exploring the remains of the camp (in the early seventies), there were only a few dilapidated buildings left standing. Today, there are only foundations, nails, and some remnants of plumbing which suggest the use of each pad.

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This one, I believe, may have been a barracks. There are slabs that have drains and what were probably showers and others that appear to have been kitchen facilities and dining halls. Most interesting to me, are the little personal touches the builders added, like decorative stones set in the mortar of the steps. It makes me think that the camp may have been built by the laborers who ultimately lived in them.

The U.S. government withheld pension money from the paychecks of the laborers and dutifully remitted it to the Mexican government. When the workers applied for benefits some forty years later, their earnings had evaporated. More information about the camp can be found at http://www.highlandnews.net/news/article_538a31a6-44aa-540b-aa77-0f1befe28ec3.html

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Building materials appear to have been local river rock.

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A short stretch of the old pavement remains but ends where the flood ripped through.IMG_8477

Beyond the road, nature has reclaimed the wash. With every rain storm it recovers its pristine beauty.

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A Family Affair

I often wonder how people actually select a pet for adoption. Except for my horses, I don’t think I’ve ever actively sought a new pet. Thank goodness people don’t let their horses run loose like they do their cats and dogs!

In order of age (to the best of my recollection):

Blackie aka Tank aka Meathead aka The Henchman – Came to us an intact tom, probably two or three years old. Now in his dotage, he can still snatch a gopher out of its hole and dispatch it with only one tooth.Lots & Cats 015*

The gray kitties, found dumped by the side of the highway as little guys – In keeping with our policy of not naming strays that we intend to give away, remain Gray Kitty and Other Gray Kitty (Other for short) fifteen years later.

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Shola aka Peeps migrated from the neighbor’s house already in heat. A quick trip to the vet fixed the problem and she remains the queen of the realm.

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Garfield was left behind when the next-door neighbors moved away. He had some behavior problems that made it impossible to re-home him. He has been restored to good mental health though he’s a quirky boy.

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Eva Braun’s staff died and the heirs were going to have her put down. She found refuge with us.

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And the most recent additions – two strays found on Christmas Eve. Thanks a lot, Santa. Perhaps the last thing we would have wished for and certainly the last thing our cats would have wanted.

Molly

B&W Dog

and Sadie

Shepherd

 

*Since I wrote this Blackie has gone on to the happy gopher hunting grounds, where (I hope) he has a full set of teeth.

Santa’s Dirty Trick

On Christmas Eve morning my husband and I noticed two dogs, a Border Collie and a shepherd, hanging around the neighborhood. They spent the entire day in the field across the street looking expectantly at every passing car. By dusk, we decided it was time to make a concerted effort to coax them into the safety of our fenced yard.

They were leery of us but hunger overcame their caution; and they followed us through the gate. “Clang”, the gate banged shut behind them and they were in protective custody.

A little background: We have historically rescued cats. “Rescued” may be too strong a word. Let’s put it this way: they move in and we spay/neuter and feed them. Soon, despite our best resolutions, they have names and are hogging the bed. We have six at present and have had as many as nine. A disclaimer: this does not make me the crazy cat lady in my neighborhood as my friend two houses down the street has SEVENTEEN!

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Mike has built a lovely cat run on the back of the house that allows the indoor cats to go outside at their leisure without facing the inherent dangers that cats face; but it also means that they can’t do gopher patrol in my garden. So, we compromise and let them go out in the daytime to earn their keep.

Back to the “dog rescue”: The first night, they had me up every twenty minutes to hush their barking. (My pet peeve is people who allow their dogs to bark incessantly) Directly after breakfast, Christmas morning, one of my fearless cats hopped over the fence to see what we were up to.

I should explain that we recently bought the house next door to ours, a small fixer upper, with the intention of renovating it and using it as a guest house for relatives. It is there we are housing the canine guests.

When the cat showed them how easy it was to leap the four-foot fence, they became a menace to my cats; so…we moved them into the house. A week later we still had had no response to our numerous ads seeking their staff. So…

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Mike built a large dog run next to the house and we have taken to walking them two to five miles a day. And worst of all, we’ve named them. Looks like we have dogs