Tuesday, August 22, 2017

Mission Eclipse--the Battle of Kansas City

It was about noon on Sunday, two days ago, that the plan suddenly hit me.  I knew that a total solar eclipse was going to happen across the country the next day. I had seen a couple of partial solar eclipses: one in Nucla, Colorado in 1979, and another in Fernley, Nevada, in 2012. 

Total solar eclipses are rare, awe inspiring things. Most people don’t get a chance to see one in their lifetime. This would have been just the thing to kick off a road trip with Carolyn and I in happier times. We were famous for deciding on the spur of the moment to run to Moab, UT, for root beer floats 85 miles away, or drive down to Cortez, CO, one hundred miles south for a pizza.

When we found out that there was going to be a short partial eclipse on the west coast just before sundown on May 20, 2012, we threw some things together in the car and drove 135 miles west to Fernley, Nevada, and parked in the Walmart parking lot. we made several different kinds of pinhole cameras. took along my welding helmet with #14 filters inside. and we also took a small refracting telescope we owned.

We had a ball showing people in the Walmart parking lot the images of the sun with a big piece gone on one side, and we had to shoo one employee back to his job who came out to gather carts and stopped to gaze at the image of the sun I had projected with the pinhole lens. The telescope was worse than useless, because without a strong filter over the objective lens, the focussed sunlight made the eyepiece lens hot, and I sure wasn’t going to put my eyeball up to it.

So here I am on August 20, 2017, and it’s too late to book a room anywhere near the eclipse, all airplane flights have been booked solid for months in advance, and gas stations have been running out of gas anywhere near where people are gathering to watch it. I know I will kick myself for the rest of my life if I miss this opportunity to see a total solar eclipse. 

That’s when the plan hit me: I don’t need to have a room under the eclipse, I just have to get near enough so I can dash in tomorrow and capture the event, then high tail it back out. I need a forward attack base just out of the battle area.

I grab the map and see that Muskogee, OK, is far enough away to possibly have rooms and gas available, but close enough to allow me to dash in for the victory. It’s only 268 miles from Kansas City, which is the closest area of totality to Durant, and I can easily drive there in the time I have left today.

I go to Expedia and look for rooms near Muskogee, and the one on top is just north of there in Wagoner. I’ve been through there and remember it as a nice, quiet little place. The Days Inn has lots of rooms available, so I quickly book a room, two queens, non-smoking, and I'm ready to go. 

I throw some socks and underwear, a pair of pants and a couple of shirts in a bag, put in my toiletries, my phone and my camera and zip it up. I have an empty box out in the car, so I make sure I have my pocket knife, and grab some clear packaging tape, some aluminum foil, and not finding any pins or needles handy, I throw in an ancient set of drafting tools with lots of sharp points to make a pinhole.

In my trunk are the essentials for a road trip; jumper cables, 12v air compressor and a spare tire, checked for inflation. I gas up as I leave town, and here I am on my way. I remember I left my electric tractor charging at my sister-in-law’s house, so I call Wilma and tell her she can unplug it if she wants—it stops charging when the batteries are up.

I got to Wagoner in less than three hours. Traffic was light, and the motel was nearly empty at five o'clock PM. Right across the parking lot was a Taco Bell, so I ate a cheap dinner of three tacos. I connected my computer to the TV in the room and started the Wifi service. 

The password worked fine, I got strong router signals, but there was no Internet. After several attempts I went to the nice girl at the front desk and told her my problem. She opined that it was probably something to do with the heat and sun on the satellite receiver on the roof, and it should come back after the sun gets lower.

I thought to myself, “Maybe it will work better tomorrow afternoon during the eclipse.”

She was right—it did come on that evening, and I got word out on Facebook of my adventure, which seemed to surprise a few people. I was kind of surprised myself.

I set the alarm clock for 6:30 and slept soundly through the night. I rose the next morning ready for battle, and after a couple of slices of toast with butter and jam, and a couple cups of coffee, I was on the road by 7:30. From Wagoner to Kansas City is 268 miles, which is 4 1/2 hours on Google Maps. That should get me there before noon, and the eclipse is at 1:09 Central Daylight Time. 

I was familiar with the back roads in the area, because we used to visit a timeshare unit we owned at Lake of the Cherokees. I wanted to avoid the turnpike because I didn’t have any change in my pocket, and I have objections to paying extra for a highway my taxes built, anyway. I’m a little socialist that way.

I headed for Pryor, OK, and then to Miami. I was following Hwy 69 north, which became the same as old Rte 66. I briefly got off the track in Miami by turning on the truck route, which was a bad idea, since I guess truckers know where they’re going and don’t need signs. I lost the track, but I stopped at a convenience store, topped off the gas and asked how to get to Joplin. I was quickly back on track, but I lost about fifteen minutes there in Miami. 

I still had plenty of time to spare, and then I couldn’t find I-49 in Joplin. My little map showed it on the east side of town, but I drove clear through the city, past the business I-49, and found myself out in the country east of town. I turned around and went back to the business route and turned north. I probably would have found the freeway if I had driven 1/2 mile further.

But, hey, the business route ought to hook up with the freeway again at some point, right? It did, but I had to stop at every stop light for about ten miles going north until it did. I’m sure I lost another fifteen minutes in Joplin.

I should still have plenty of time. 

As I charged north on I-49, somewhere between Nevada and Peculiar, I noticed enemy forces moving in from the west. Black rain clouds were ahead on the left, but I couldn’t tell if they covered the sky in the area of totality completely or not. I made a tactical decision to take the route east of Kansas City, I-435. If things got too cloudy, that gave me the option of turning east if I had to.

I seemed to be out in front of the worst clouds but I was running out of time now. Traffic wasn’t bad at all, and the freeway electronic warning signs were telling drivers not to take picture of the eclipse while driving. 

When I knew it was time to attack, I asked my GPS to take me to the nearest Walmart. There should be space there for capturing the pictures I wanted. There was one 2.2 miles east on Church Rd, so I cut off the freeway, quickly found the place, and set up in the parking lot. There were a lot of other people there with glasses to filter the sun, as well as a few pinhole cameras in evidence.

I grabbed the box from the back seat, taped some white paper to the inside, and cut a couple of holes in the opposite side with my pocketknife. I taped some aluminum foil over one hole and punched a pinhole in the foil. I got a good image on the inside of the box, so I trimmed the other hole to fit my camera. I focussed on the image and enlarged it with the zoom on the camera to produce a good picture on the screen on the camera back and spent several minutes trying different exposures to get a clear picture. 

The problem turned out to be that first the flash wanted to fire, so I turned that off. Then I got a lot of flare, which made the sun look round again, instead of crescent shaped. So I changed the setting to Macro, for close ups, and lowered the exposure to much darker. That helped, but the photos never did look as sharp as the image on the camera screen.

Totality caught me by surprise, as the picture in my pinhole camera disappeared, and the world around me went dark. A chill went through me, and I'm sure it wasn’t all temperature. 

I pulled the camera out of the box and began shooting directly at the sun. I was shaking some, and I zoomed in to 30x to fill the screen with the view of the eclipse. I put my elbows on the roof of the car and continued to shoot pictures, holding as steady as I could. Because it was so dark it took nearly a second of exposure time to capture each image. Too late to think about tripods now!

I decided to try for one video of the scene in the parking lot, so I switched to video mode, no zoom, and panned across all the people yelling and shouting. Then I just continued the video by aiming up at the sun and triggering the zoom to 30x. I consider the results of that the best picture I took of the whole bunch of pictures I shot.

Suddenly, after two minutes of totality, the sun just peeked around the edge of the moon, and the clouds exploded in light and color. I risked my camera for the last shot, shooting directly at the glorious scene. I captured a partial circle with a glob of light on one side, looking much like an earring. It was a quick shot, and my camera still works, I think.

Most of the crowd was staying to watch the moon move away from the sun, but after watching the total eclipse, that seemed to me to be the definition of anticlimactic. I wanted to beat the traffic through Kansas City and get on the road again.

I detoured off the freeway to see if I could find the Russell’s house on Blue Ridge Cutoff, but I could not remember the house number, and I didn’t recognize the house. I continued on down that road and did see the building where my Aunt Ora lived after she retired. I soon got back on the freeway, and the lady on my GPS sounded kind of put out at me because she was telling me how to go to Kansas and get on the turnpike, and I kept rejecting her advice and continuing on to I-49 south.

The trip back was mostly uneventful. I decided to stay in Arkansas on I-49 rather than wend my way back the way I came. I found some traffic just before I got out of Missouri, where the Interstate becomes a highway with traffic lights until Bentonville, Arkansas. I continued on to Ft. Smith, turned right and followed I-40 west to Checotah, OK, then turned south on 69 to Durant.

I wasn’t the least bit sleepy on the way back. I logged over one thousand miles in two days, just to watch two minutes of total solar eclipse. I wouldn’t have missed it for the world! Mission accomplished!

Saturday, July 29, 2017

Spousal Problems with Dementia

Spousal problems with dementia.

Today I went to visit Carolyn after missing three days being gone to Nevada to tie up the sale of the ranch. She smiled and hugged me, and then excused herself to use the bathroom. She was in there for at least ten minutes, so I went to the door and asked if she was OK. She said she was having trouble. I suspected as much and asked it I could come in and help. She said yes, please, so I opened the door and went in. 

She stood there with the waistband of the “adult diapers” wrapped around her pant legs and the wet bottom torn off and on the sink counter in pieces. She obviously had torn it off when she found it wet.

She did not object as I wiped her clean and scooped up the soggy remains and flushed them away, pulling the plastic part out and dropping it in the trash can.

Then she started to pull up her pants with the elastic waistband still around her knees.

“Hey! You can’t do that!” I smiled as I said it.

“If you wear the underwear on the outside, we’ll have to call them over wear!”

She giggled, and let me pull her pants off, pull on some dry under wear, “adult diapers”, and then put her pants back on.

For a while, she was too shy to let me in the room when she was undressed, acting like a shy teenager with a strange man in the house. She is past that now, and I am so grateful. I want to help her, and now she has become very willing for me to help her. 

Last week was much worse, as I found her locked in the bathroom. I asked if she was OK, and she said she was having trouble. I asked to help, and she said yes, but the door was locked. I told her to unlock the door, and she did.

I was hit with the strong odor, and as I scanned the situation it was obvious she had soiled her underwear earlier in the day and walked around and sat down with it in her underwear. It took about half an hour in the shower to get her clean, and rinse off her pant legs, socks and slippers. The “adult diapers” are only made for bladder incontinence and are totally inadequate for anything else. I think as she tried to remove her pants in the bathroom, stuff fell out of a leg opening and went down one pant leg. I’ll have to talk to the nurse about getting better underwear for incontinence.

Some people have expressed surprise that I would do this. I am baffled by that. When we had a baby boy decades ago, nobody expected us to hire somebody else to change the diapers. If you love a person, then you do what must be done to make them happy and content. 

Of course, I appreciate the help from the nurses and aides at Featherstone Assisted Living home for their around the clock help with taking care of Carolyn. I am not able to be there every minute of every day, and they are far more organized at making sure she takes her medications and eats at mealtime.

I don’t find much written advice for husbands dealing with wives descending into dementia. The problems are different than caring for parents or grandparents. Every day is a different problem to find a way to keep finding the “good times” and minimizing the bad ones.

She has gone through a stage recently of talking about babies in almost every discussion. Well, actually, she’s not through it yet—it is still a constant almost every day. I try to jolly her out of it by telling her we are too old for babies now. Babies are for young kids—not old codgers like us.

Now and then I wonder if some Freudian connections in her mind are really related to sexual needs, but I don’t know. I know the last time we tried that was a total freakout. Without going into details, I’ll just say it started out great, with loud appreciation and joy, but turned into terror when she forgot who I was halfway through and recoiled with shame that she was with a stranger. I’m loath to attempt any such activity again.

I am just feeling my way in the dark here. I know of no one going through the same experience as I am. So I write. I don’t know what else to do. I know I can’t just bottle up my thoughts and emotions. 

We will get through this, too. I just don’t know how yet!


Friday, July 7, 2017

Fifty Years a Student

My Beliefs after 50 years of study
Don Rogers
July 7, 2017

Since 1964, when I first went to Elder McPherson, the local SDA preacher in Merced, CA, and asked to have my name removed from the church roster, I have been searching for what is the real truth. At first, I studied other religions, such as Herbert W. Armstrong’s Worldwide Church of God, Jehovah’s Witnesses, Mormonism, and several others. I found problems with all of them, either Biblically or philosophically.

In 1966, while stationed on the island of Okinawa, I first studied Buddhism and found some of what I had been looking for—a religion that believed that life was about making the world a better place, one person at a time, starting (and ending) with yourself. They were not about spreading the “Truth”. In 2500 years, no Buddhist has invaded another country to convert them, threatened anybody with death or damnation if they don’t accept the message, or insisted that they are the only ones with the “Truth”. However, if you ask nicely, they might share ideas that seem to work for them. We never quit looking for better ideas!

I never quit studying early Christianity, though. I was intrigued by how the Christian religion came to worship on Sunday, and not Saturday, the Jewish Sabbath. This obsession came naturally, having been raised Seventh-day Adventist. 

I had been taught that the Catholic Church changed the day to Sunday at the Council of Nicea in 325 AD. It didn’t take a lot of study to show this was wrong by at least 200 years. Eventually some SDA theologians saw the error of that scenario, including Samuele Bacchiocchi, who wrote an informative book on the history, using his access to original Vatican documents.

I have since wondered why, if was so wrong for the Catholic Church to change the day of worship, why does the SDA church only accept the 27 books that the Catholic Church chose for them as the official canon of the New Testament at Hippo Regius in 398 AD? Makes no sense to me! 

Since the Books of the New Testament are almost completely silent on any change of days of worship, my research extended to the other books that didn’t get put into the official list of 27 books approved by the Catholic church 360 years after Jesus died on the cross. There are many more books by different writers espousing all the other variants of Christian thought in the first four hundred years of the making of the Christian Church. 

After years of comparing the original writings, I had to conclude that our present New Testament tries to hide the perception that there were actually two main church bodies almost from the start. Acts 15 kind of alludes to the problem, but does not conclude with any resolution to the fundamental differences between the church of James, based in Jerusalem, and the churches founded by Paul in Asia Minor and Greece, based in Antioch.

First, I’ll attempt to convey my understanding of the major beliefs of both churches, and then I’ll go into my sources for coming to my understanding.

The Church of James

As evident in Galations, Romans, and the book of James, the southern church in Jerusalem, led by James the brother of Jesus, was Jewish in every respect that I can find. They believed that all men are required to be circumcised, that the dietary laws of Leviticus were still in effect, that they were not to eat with Gentiles, or partake of any food offered to other gods, including the Roman Emperor. They were only Christian in that they believed that Jesus had come to bring new truth to the old laws in the Torah, and that keeping those laws was still vital for salvation. They believed that Jesus was a prophet of God, but I can find nothing that makes me believe they considered Jesus the Son of God, or divine himself. That would have been anathema to any observant Jew, which they obviously still were. 

Yes, they believed he was the Messiah, but that is not a recognition of divinity. The word means “Anointed One” and refers to a person anointed by God. (The word Christ is the same word in Greek, and means the same thing). They were looking for the coming Anointed One who would restore the throne of David, drive out the Romans and make Israel great again!

Disappointingly, I cannot find proof that James’ church kept the Jewish Sabbath, although that would seem to be self evident. 

However, it occurs to me that they were avid students of Jesus’ teachings, considering him a great rabbi, and if anyone had a lot to say about the Sabbath, it was Jesus. Several times he took the Jewish leaders to task for their zealous enforcement of the burdensome rules concerning the Sabbath. He told them the Sabbath was made for man, not man for the Sabbath. It was not to be a test of your righteousness, or your faithfulness to the details of Jewish law. Of course you can pick up and carry your bedroll, if you have been healed and can do it. Of course you can help your bull get out of the ditch where he got stuck, no matter how much work that might entail. (I’ve done that…It’s a lot of work!) Of course you can rub the husks off the wheat before you eat it. That’s not the same as harvesting or threshing grain.

I think Jesus might might actually have gotten his point across on the Sabbath to all his followers. If you read the original commandment in Exodus, with your eyes open to the meaning of the words, it is a command to the people in charge (ranchers, business owners, heads of households, etc.) to let their employees, slaves, family and even the animals have a day off once a week. It is a day to take a break, relax if you can, do something you can’t do during the workweek. It’s all about the weekend. In other words, TGIF, right there in the Bible.

The Church of Paul

Paul’s churches, on the other hand, have a completely different theology. Jesus is the Son of God, come to earth to offer himself for the sins of the world. He is the divine redeemer of the debt that every human owes because of sin. And most importantly for the believers, his sacrifice released man from the bondage of the law. The old Jewish law is gone, replaced by Jesus’ new law, love. 

If you love your brother, who needs a law to tell you not to kill him? And if you restrain yourself from killing him according to the law, and you just call him an idiot, why is that no different than killing him, according to Jesus? Because you did not have love in your heart, which is all that matters now.

Paul did not believe keeping the law, or doing good deeds will lead to salvation. For him, it’s not what you do that saves you, it’s who you are. You must be a person who has accepted God’s love into your heart. Love will lead you to act with compassion and mercy. And if you are not perfect, God’s grace will make up the difference. 

Paul wrote, “Owe no man anything, but to love one another: for he that loveth another hath fulfilled the law.”  Romans 13:8  He also wrote, after listing some of the Ten Commandments that are superseded by Jesus’ command to “Love your neighbor as yourself”, “Love worketh no ill to his neighbors: therefore, love is the fulfilling of the law.”

You do not need to submit to circumcision, you do not need to worry about the dietary laws, and you may associate with non Jews now as equals—because we are not Jews anymore—we are Christians. There is a good reason the believers were first called Christians at Antioch, Paul’s church. They were distinctly and adamantly not Jewish, as the followers of James in Jerusalem were.

For sure, the followers of Paul did not keep the Jewish Sabbath. There is no record that they kept holy any day. The first instance I can find where Paul’s church recognizes any day is in the Letter of Barnabas, written around 100-130 A.D. “Therefore also we celebrate the eighth day with gladness, for on it Jesus rose from the dead, and appeared, and ascended into heaven.”  Letter of Barnabas 15:9. It’s the eighth day, the one after the old Jewish Sabbath, because in the chapter previously he is comparing the world before their time as days of the week, and they are starting a new week. I especially love how the language changes from “keeping holy” and “observing” the day to “celebrate” and “gladness”. I think they understood Jesus’ message on the Sabbath commandment also.

Paul also said, “Some people keep one day holy, some don’t keep any day holy at all. It doesn’t matter—God doesn’t care.” Romans 14:5,6 (Rogers 2017 paraphrase).  He dismisses the Jewish dietary laws by writing, “Some people eat anything, and some people are vegetarian, It doesn’t matter—God doesn’t care.” Romans 14:2,3 (Rogers 2017 paraphrase)

Paul writes, “I live by the faith of the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me. I do not frustrate the grace of God: for if righteousness come by the Law, then Christ is dead in vain.” 

I think Paul understood Jesus’ message better than the original Apostles. Much of Jesus’ ministry consisted of him castigating the Jewish priests and leaders for obsessively keeping every little nuance of the Law perfectly, but for naught, because they didn’t have love in their hearts. Paul’s fundamental belief is that God is love, and we must believe and accept him into our hearts for salvation. God’s love in us will change us to become a new person, with love and compassion for everyone.

Contrast that with James: “For whosoever shall keep the whole law, and yet offend in one point, he is guilty of all. - - So speak ye, and so do, as they that shall be judged by the law of liberty. - - But wilt thou know, Oh vain man, that faith without works is dead?”  I have little doubt that the appellation “Vain Man” refers to Paul. As Acts 15:2 makes clear, Paul and Barnabas had “no small disputation with them” (referring to James and Peter).

The Islam Connection.

Several books by Muslims have been published recently which offer the intriguing possibility that the religion Mohammed founded in Arabia in the seventh century AD may have been heavily influenced by, or be an extension of the remnants of James’ church in Jerusalem, which was scattered by the invasion of Titus in 70 AD. What few survivors left alive would have been driven out of the country, possibly into Arabia.

Consider this passage from the introduction to The Gospel of Barnabas,
“the great and wonderful God hath during these past days visited us by his prophet Jesus Christ in great mercy of teaching and miracles, by reason whereof many, being deceived of Satan, under presence of piety, are preaching most impious doctrine, calling Jesus son of God, repudiating the circumcision ordained of God for ever, and permitting every unclean meat: among whom also Paul hath been deceived, whereof I speak not without grief;

Even though this was written by a Muslim in the early centuries of the
founding of Islam, it perfectly describes the doctrines and beliefs of James’ church in Jerusalem, and characterizes Paul as “deceived”, which matches James’ opinion of Paul.

I can see many pleasant hours of research and study as I continue to learn of the fascinating interplay between the three Abrahamic religions that have come to dominate the world.


“Zealot” - the life and times of Jesus of Nazareth, by Reza Aslan

“The Islamic Jesus” - How the King of the Jews became a Prophet of the Muslims, by Mustafa Akyol

“Paul Among the People” The Apostle Reinterpreted and Reimagined in His Own Time, by Sarah Ruden

“Gospel of Barnabas” by Anonymous (Muslim)

“Letter of Barnabas” by Anonymous (follower of Barnabas)

“New Testament” by various writers (Paul predominating)

“Lost Christianities” by Bart Ehrman

“From Sabbath to Sunday” by Samuel Bacchiocchi

“The Church History” by Eusebius, Trans. by Paul L. Maier

“Unearthing the Lost Words of Jesus” the Discovery and Text of the “Gospel of Thomas” by John Dart & Ray Riegert

“From Jesus to Christianity” by L. Michael White

Saturday, July 1, 2017

I am Don

Today, as I always do, I went to visit Carolyn at Featherstone Assisted Living. It was about 2:00 in the afternoon. When I went to her room, she was not there, and the bed was not made. I left her room and went to the dining room, where I found her, sitting at a table by herself, elbows on the table and her face in her hands. Her lunch was still on the table, uneaten and cold.

I sat down next to her in another chair. I put my hand on her shoulder, and she looked up at me.

I asked, “Are you sad? Are you feeling bad?”

She was silent for a long time, trying to find the words, which don’t come easily any more. A tear slowly slid down my cheek. She saw it and wiped it with her finger.

“I told Don……he’s……where…..I don’t like her.”

Now what? I don’t understand what she is trying to tell me, but I can feel the anger in her voice. That scares me. Before she came here she was in a paranoid rage, convinced that I had raped her when she was a young girl. That was many years before I knew her

I can live with being just the nice man that brings her candy and visits her every day, but I want her happy and content, not angry. 

I read all the information I can find on dealing with Alzheimer’s, but most of the advice seems too generic. I know you can’t force them to remember what they have forgotten. It just isn’t in there anymore. But today, I am going to try a new tack. 

“I know you don't remember me, but I need you to trust me, OK?”

I take both of her hands, and look into her eyes. She nods yes.

“I am Don. I still love you. Today I want you to know just that.”

She squeezes my hands. A tear rolls down her cheek, and I wipe it off.

“…..Love you.” she says.

Sometimes I am sure she feels the loss as I do, and we both share the grief together.

“Let’s go back to your room and sit on the couch, OK?”

I gently lead her back to her room, and we sit together on the couch. She nestles against my shoulder and we just enjoy the time together for over half an hour. She soon is sleeping, and I’m just hoping I’ve done the right thing.

I’m just playing this by ear. Living in the moment, not worrying about the past, or dreading the future. Right now all is fine with the world.

There comes a loud knocking at the door. It is the nurse with Carolyn’s afternoon pill. I holler at her to come on in, and I wake Carolyn up to take her pill. She slowly takes the pill in her mouth, and I have to prompt her to wash it down with the glass of water. 

I thank the nurse as she leaves, and I tell Carolyn I have to be going, because I’ve got clothes in the washer at home. 

I go across the room and pull up her covers to make the bed look sorta made, and then come back and kiss her, and tell her I love her, and I’ll be back tomorrow. She smiles happily, and I close the door behind me.

This day….this moment….I feel the sunshine as I walk outside.

Monday, March 20, 2017

Silver Springs, 1971

Silver Springs 1971

I had no trouble finding the little cinder block building two miles west of the four corners intersection in Silver Springs. I parked my red Honda CL450 motorcycle next to the open door of the shop and walked inside. When my eyes adjusted to the darkness I saw a man sitting at a table studying blueprints.

 He saw me and asked if he could help. I told him I was a machinist looking for work and the guy at the service station told me there might be work here. He stood up  and introduced himself as Bill Turner, the owner, and yes, he had work for a real machinist, if that’s what I was. I quickly recounted my years of experience as a mechanic and also my apprenticeship at Olympic Screw and Rivet in Downy, CA. I went on to tell of my experience working for Kimzey Welding in Woodland, CA. 

He narrowed his eyes and asked if I could make anything he could draw. I wasn’t sure I knew where he was going with that question, as I looked over the pile of blueprints on his table, but I went with my first thought—

“No, I can’t, because I can draw things on paper that nobody can make from metal with any tool known.”

He smiled and said, “Good answer! I sent somebody else down the road yesterday for claiming he could make anything.”

“When can you start?” he asked. 

“Immediately,” I answered. “How is the pay?”

“$3.50 an hour, eight hours a day, five days a week. We pay every week.”

I knew I was going to like the work, and the pay was $0.25 more than I was making in Woodland before I quit, so there was that raise I didn’t get at Kimzey Welding.

Bill Turner spent an hour or so going over the prints on the table, which were of experimental engines that he had patented over the years. He had patents on 29 different engines, he said, and some looked like they might work to me. He had a rotary scissor piston engine that I thought would be good, but he wanted to start on a rotary steam engine, which looked to me like a simple vane pump with an offset shaft to impart an acceleration motion from one side to the other, which he claimed gave him more torque and power. I was skeptical, but I didn’t argue. No use making the boss mad the first day. Besides, I was already liking this guy.

I came to realize that Nevada attracts loners, iconoclasts, reprobates, and curmudgeons. He was a classic, and an alcoholic to boot. He went through a fifth of Black Velvet every day, and still continued to function fairly well, although slower as the day went on.

Nevada was a unique state in 1971. No speed limits outside of town, no laws against gambling or prostitution, and no state income tax, either. A real Libertarian heaven. 

Evening was coming on, and Bill Turner asked, 

“Do you have a family?”

“Yes, I have a wife and two kids back in California.”

“It’s too late to do any work today, and tomorrow is Saturday. Why not go back to California and bring your family here, and we can start work Monday.”

“Great” I said. “I will have to find a place to move to, first.”

Bill said there was a room off the shop where we could stay temporarily, until we could find a house to live in. He showed me the room, which was very small, with one cot there and a small desk with a phone. 

On the desk was a large snake, around six feet long, I would guess, maybe three inches in diameter in the middle, wrapped around the phone, dozing in the desert heat. Bill explained that this was Oscar, the shop pet, and he made sure there were no rodents of any kind around the shop. He was impressive, but harmless—a big Bull Snake—just watch your step, and be careful answering the phone.

Sierra Rotary Engine Corporation was going to be an exciting place to work!

It was getting late in the after noon, so I rode back over Donner Summit back to Woodland, where I arrived late that night. I told Carolyn the good news about the job I’d found and the temporary living arrangements until we could find a house to rent in Silver Springs. 

The next day we packed the car with essentials for a week in Nevada. We had to pack very light, because we had a small Toyota Corolla station wagon, and we had four people to carry there also.

On Sunday we traveled back over the Sierras and moved into the small rooms at the shop. Bill told us the house about 300 yards behind the shop was empty and might be available for rent. He thought he could find out who owned it and find out the details.

I spent the first week working on Bill Turner’s rotary steam engine, the one that was basically a vane pump. His machine shop was sorely lacking in some of the basic tools, such as a boring bar. To make the precise holes in the part we had to use an end mill cutter on the part, centered on a rotary table in the milling machine. That led to tapered holes and bad fitting parts, so eventually Bill had to part with some scarce cash and buy a few more tools.

I soon found the company was financed by shares of stock from several small investors, the largest of which was a real estate company in Carson City. A couple of times when money was low in the bank, Bill would call them and send me over to the real estate company to get my paycheck. 

While I was at work in the shop, Carolyn called around to find a place to rent. Bill eventually found the phone number for the house behind the shop, and when Carolyn called, they agreed to let us rent it for a while, as they were living in Reno, but hoping to move into that house later. 

On Friday evening the owner came over, showed us the house, which included a stove that he swore cost $700, although I thought to myself he got took badly if he paid that much. It was well used, and when Carolyn baked the first cake, we had to prop up the rack on some empty Dr. Pepper cans because the racks didn’t fit the oven. We paid the rent, which was very low compared to California rents, so we were going to have a little more money to spend, I thought.

The following weekend we went back to Woodland, CA, rented a truck, cleaned out the house and got the rent settled with the owner of the house we had been renting. We got a little money back on the rent that we had paid that we weren’t going to be using, since we were moving out well before the end of the month. The truck was full, the little red Toyota was full, Rick’s ’54 Ford pickup was loaded with my CL450 Honda motorcycle, our daughter Darlene, and boxes of household stuff, and we were ready to roll. The Toyota was hitched behind the truck with a tow bar, which didn’t fit the bumper very well, but I thought it would be OK if I were careful.

The return trip over the Sierras was not easy. Just as we started up the foothills and I downshifted the truck I was driving, I saw Rick passing me. I wondered if he was just in a hurry, before I noticed that his right rear wheel was coming out from under the truck. His rear axle bearing had sheared off, and he had no brakes. He skillfully steered the skidding pickup over to the side of the road next to the guardrail, with sparks spraying from the axle parts dragging on the pavement. At the same moment the rental truck motor quit running, so I was forced to pull over next to the guardrail, too.

Carolyn was about to come unglued, screaming that Rick’s truck was on fire. It really wasn’t, since the burnable part, the tire, had left the pickup and rolled off the road. The smoke was coming from the brake fluid on the hot metal of the backing plate. I reached down and found the fire extinguisher in the rental truck and told her to run up and give it to Rick just in case. His truck stopped about a hundred yards ahead of ours. In a minute it was clear that there was no fire hazard under the pickup truck and Rick and Darlene were OK, but a little shook up. They all soon came back to where I was down with the rental truck.

I raised the hood and had Carolyn crank the starter while I looked to find out what the trouble was. Very quickly it became apparent that there was no spark to the plugs, and a little searching found the primary wire from the coil, mounted on the firewall, to the distributor was broken. The terminal was missing on the distributor end, meaning some mechanic had “fixed” the wire when it had broken before by wrapping the end of the wire around the post and tightening the nut, leaving the wire too short. When I downshifted, the motor rocked in the mounts and yanked the wire loose. I went back in the household stuff and found a wire on a desk lamp to sacrifice, and soon had the rental truck running again.

I pulled the truck up to Rick’s pickup, and we transferred everything over to the rental truck, since it was obvious that we were going to have to leave Rick’s truck where it was. We unloaded the motorcycle and tied it to the front of the truck, with the wheels sitting on the front bumper. Rick wasn’t happy about leaving his pickup, but neither of us had the money for a tow truck then.

All four of us squeezed into the rental truck and continued east toward Nevada. We hoped that nothing else bad would happen on the rest of the trip, but no such luck was in store.

In the little town of Newcastle, CA, we pulled into a gas station for fuel. It was on a hill, and I had to turn a large circle to line up with a gas pump. As I turned, I saw the Toyota come loose and roll backward, snapping the safety chain as it went. I rolled back down the hill and crashed into a large Pontiac parked by the bathrooms, just as the owner of the Pontiac stepped out of the bathroom. Nobody was in either car, and nobody was hurt. 

After I got the truck safely parked, I came back and apologized to the lady and we looked at the damage to both cars. The Toyota had almost no damage at all, just a little dent on the back bumper and a broken tail light. The Pontiac bumper was badly bent, and both of her parking/turn signal lights were broken. That made no sense, since her Pontiac was much wider than the Toyota, and the Toyota could not have caused that much damage. I also noticed that the medallion which originally was in the middle of the Pontiac grille was missing and nowhere around on the ground.

I asked her if there was prior damage to her Pontiac, and she gave some noncommittal answer. I offered to pay half her damages if she got an estimate of the cost of repairs, and I gave her my Silver Springs address, which was a P.O. Box, since there was no rural delivery there. I got her address, also. Neither of us had insurance then, as the states had not made it illegal to be poor and own a car yet.

Her car started and ran just fine, and I got the Toyota hooked back up to the rental truck, and reinforced the bumper clamps with some wire I found somewhere to prevent it from detaching again. I tied the safety chain back with some of the same wire, even though I knew now that the chain was inadequate to the task. 

We continued over Donner Pass on Interstate 80 and arrived in Silver Springs late in the night. I just parked in the yard of the house, and we all went in and fell asleep until morning, when I had to return to work.