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Welcome to Riverswind notes

I hope you will join in my adventures here in Humboldt County and elsewhere as I explore nature & people.



I welcome your comments.



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Thursday, December 20, 2007

Looking back at the beginning of a career

By the time I got out of the Army my first wife and I had one child with another on the way. We moved from Monterey were I was stationed to San Francisco so I could attend S.F.State University and major in Biology. I got a job working in Walgreens Drugstore on Powell st. in downtown S.F.. After a year I was offered a job as Manager of the Golden Gate Riding Academy in Golden Gate park. It was a job that required dealing with many different personalities of people who rented a stall for their horse at the stables. I also had the opportunity to teach children and adults Western Equitation.
Although I had riden horses as a young man and was confident, I had never taught people how to ride previously. So I went to the library and studied books about Equitation and within a week became an "Expert". Not really but I think the majority of the folks that I taught didn't know the difference. After two years I left the Riding Academy and got my first job in the Biology department working in the stockroom handing out equipment as well as other duties. Since it was only a part time job I found other "moonlighting" jobs as well including working for a Caterer as a Bartender and in the U.C.Medical School Vivarium cleaning Rat cages. Some of my other moonlighting jobs included working for a Commericial photographer processing film in the darkroom; Worked the midnight shift at a large Bank as a Guard; For a brief time I was a Caretaker for Robert Bowman's captive Galoapagos Finches and on one occasion I was hired as a security person for a Rock Concert which was held at the Palace of Fine Arts in S.F. It was during these times that I met new friends who were also majoring in Biology. After graduating with a degree in Biology I took advanced studies. During this phase of my education I remember well getting a call one day from Dr. Hensil who was chairman of the department. He asked me if I would be interested in teaching for Joe Hall as Lab. instructor for a class in Natural History of Vertebrates. Frankly, I was blown away and scared at the same time. After all I had dropped out of a speech class one year because my first assignment was to give a speech. Go figure. In looking back I had always had a fear of getting up in front of people, but then I reminded myself that I did alright teaching Equitation because I had prepared myself. I had taken the class that I would be teaching and earned an A. I knew the subject so I said "yes of course I would be honored to be an Instructor in Biology Dr. Hensil". The experience definitely helped build my confidence and strengthen my knowledge of the subject. I taught another class the following year in Medical Entomology for Joel Gustafson. It was that class that led to my first real job as a Biologist working in the Parisitology section of the George Williams Hooper Foundation with Dr. Frank Radovsky.
It was interesting work which included field collections of parasites and their hosts as well as laboratory preparation of the specimens for identification under a microscope. I learned much about Mites, Ticks, Fleas and parasitic flys.
The job included two field excursions to Baja, Mexico collecting rodents and in search of the Tungid flea, (Tunga monositis). Eventually this job ran out of grant money and I was again looking for a job. A person named Joe Spinelli who I met while at the Riding Academy and later became the head of the UC Medical School Vivarium told me of a job opening.
While Joe was a Veterinary student at Davis he lived in the same neighborhood as Dr. Murray Fowler. He had received a notice that Fowler was looking for someone with my background to assist him in developing a new program in Zoological Medicine in the school's curriculum. I recall meeting with Dr.Fowler and immediately felt comfortable talking to him about the job and what he expected. He called me a couple days later in S.F. and offered me the job. I don't know for sure but I think the fact that I had Eagle Scout on my resume helped me get the job. Dr. Fowler was a Scoutmaster and very involved in the Scouting program in his church. I know that I was very fortunate and blessed with a career doing something I loved. More on that later.

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

River Reflections/Memories of the Past

Most days now I think more about the past than of the future. It's amazing to me that a person can store so many memories in their brain for such a long time. I remember well the year that my Dad worked for my Uncle Warne Lark in a small lumber mill north of Cazadero. We lived in a tent that summer by a small creek. I was 10 years old and was given a 22 rifle for Christmas. My Dad was a hunter and taught me well and I became very accurate with practice. I roamed the hills with my dog at my side and stalked my prey. I was very curious about birds and had been given my first Peterson Field guide. I wanted to see them up close so I shot many different birds and remember the excitement when I held them in my hand for close inspection. It was I now believe the catalyst for what later became my passion in life and led to a career as a Biologist. I now cringe at the fact that my first job was a "Bounty hunter" at age 10.
"Mamma June" my uncle Ed LaFranchi's mother lived on a Ranch a couple miles up the road from the lumber Mill at a place called Creighton Ridge. One day I hiked up there with my 22 rifle in hand to visit. She was a wonderfully warm and friendly lady always happy to have visitors. Mamma June hired me that day to kill the Stellar's Jays that were destroying her Figs. I don't recall exactly how many I shot but for a nickel per bird I remember that my pockets were full at the end of the day. It was a day I will always remember.
These days I greatly admire the vociferous and pugnacious Stellar's Jays that visit our home showing off their striking black "shaggy" crest and brilliant blue and black feathers. One of natures many marvels.

Sunday, December 16, 2007

Christmas on the River

This time of year the moss laden trunks and branches of the Big leaf Maples,Black Cotton Woods,Oregon Ash and Alder appear as brilliant green roots on plants standing upside down, reaching for nourishment in the cool damp air. Their leaves long gone decomposing in the soil below exposing the branches. In the past Christmas was about getting together with family, lights glistening on homes and Christmas trees laden with gifts. Hot mulled wine brewing on the stove, the scent of cinnamon and clove filling the air. The children had trouble sleeping with visions of Santa Claus arriving late at night.
These days my wife and I have Christmas alone but together, our families too far away. It's much quieter and peaceful and I can even hear the words of Bing Crosby singing White Christmas. It is time now to write Christmas cards to family and friends to let them know they are in our minds and hearts.
There was a time when shopping was fun albeit obligatory. These days I shop on the Internet to avoid the crowds of people who swarm the malls all seemingly in a trance as they trod from store to store in search of that "perfect" gift.
I am always amused by the fact that stores start putting out Christmas displays before Thanksgiving these days. It's all about the buck unfortunately and the reason for the season has been mostly lost over the years.
Each year my wife and I help the disadvantaged and homeless in a small way by working as volunteers with the Salvation Army or by collecting food for a food bank. It always feels good to help others and we appreciate more how fortunate we are. The Secret as Oprah pointed out "isn't what we need or must have, rather it's what we have to give". After all Christmas is about giving, it's about love. Merry Christmas to all and a hope for Peace one day throughout the world.