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.

Monday, December 12, 2016

Northern California

Northern California

At the end of the summer of 1969 we packed up our little Toyota Corolla and traveled up to Clearlake Oaks, CA, where my Uncle Jim Rogers lived with his wife Mandy and her six kids. They lived on the south side of Clear Lake, with a small boat dock right on the property so they could go boating or fishing anytime they desired. The house was large and had enough room for our family to live there for a brief time as I looked for work in Northern California.

After checking around the north bay area in Santa Rosa and Ukiah, without much luck, I was beginning to think that machinists jobs were going to be hard to find. There were several machine shops, but mostly run by older machinists working for themselves, and not needing any help. After a few days of searching, I finally found a job in Woodland, CA, at Kimzey Welding. John Kimzey had just finished building a machine shop on the side of his large welding shop, and was looking for a good machinist.

After I described my experience as an auto mechanic and machinist, he was impressed enough to hire me on the spot. There was a slight hesitation when I told him I had finished an apprenticeship a month before and was a journeyman machinist, since his was a non union shop, but I guess he figured one union guy couldn’t hurt much by himself. 

As i started the new job, Carolyn came over to Woodland with me, and while I worked she scouted the town for a place to rent. She soon found a nice apartment in a fourplex, and we moved in with our meager belongings.

The first project I got was wiring the new machine shop. I had told him I had done some household wiring, but was not an electrician. He said he would help me as I needed it. He was no electrician, either, but he had confidence he could get the job done. He had one fat black extension cord he was dragging from machine to machine as he needed them, hooked to a three phase 220v. outlet in the welding shop.

So for the next several weeks in my spare time, when I wasn’t working on customer’s work, I bent conduit, attached boxes to the walls and pulled wire  to each machine in the shop. Rather than directly wire each machine to the boxes, John wanted receptacles in each position, to allow him to rearrange the shop in the future any time he wanted. Since each machine already had a plug attached for the extension cord, it worked out fine. 

When we were ready to tap into the electric service, John called an electrician over to inspect and approve the system that I had finished. It passed OK, with the one exception that I had run a ground wire in the conduit that wasn’t necessary, because it was all in metallic conduit and I could have just grounded to the conduit and saved the wire, but he approved the installation and I expected John Kimzey to schedule a time to shut down the incoming power so someone could hook up the new system.

I was amazed and alarmed when John told me we were going to hook up without shutting off the power to the incoming service line. He explained how we were going to do it by pulling the service phases out of the large gutter on the wall one at a time, and he would have thick rubber matting on the floor and walls so there would be no chance of touching a grounded surface while clamping the three leads to one of the cables in each bundle.

Theoretically, it looked safe, but there is always that unexpected factor that gets you. One of the real advantages of a union job is the contract, which prevents you from being fired if you refuse to do a job that you consider unsafe. Unfortunately, this was not a union job, and I could not afford to lose this job right then. So moving slowly and carefully, I untaped just enough of the major cables that I could clamp the leads to one of the cables, tape it back up, and push it back into the gutter. Then we tied a nylon rope to the next bundle and pulled it out where I could work on the next connection. I got it done without injury or death, needless to say, and I resolved to try harder to find a job with union protection in the future.

Although the boss wanted me to work six days a week, I told him I would prefer a five day week, since I had a family and wanted them to remember who I was. He was not happy, but I promised to work overtime on any evening that work needed to be finished. 

We spent many weekends camping way back in the woods on Cache Creek, which was between Clear Lake and Woodland. I had spotted the road leaving the highway near Guinda, and found it led far back into the woods where few people bothered to go. 

We took my mother up there for Easter in 1970, and when we tried to start the campfire, I found I had forgotten to bring matches. Rather than look around for flint, or rubbing sticks together, I took the paper sack we had brought the food in and twisted it up tightly so that I could dip it into the gas tank. I raised the hood, pulled a spark plug wire loose, and put the gasoline soaked paper between the wire and the engine while Carolyn started the engine. We soon had a roaring fire going and fried potatoes and hot dogs were on the menu. 

One weekend when Darlene was away visiting, Carolyn and I drove up into one of the more remote areas of Cache Creek and found a deep pool of cool water for skinny dipping. Of course, one thing led to another and we were soon passionately enjoying ourselves together in the creek. We were standing there holding each other as we cooled down, and I looked up above us on the bank and saw a bobcat crouching there watching us. It was not more than twenty feet away. I quietly told Carolyn to move real slowly, since we had an audience. The bobcat was not moving. It just seemed curious to see what all the racket was all about. We slowly started backing away to the other bank to get our clothes and get back to the car. I guess the bobcat decided the show was over, and he turned around and walked away into the forest.

The pay at John Kimzey Welding was very low, but he had promised me if it all worked out I could eventually get a raise. There were no benefits at all, with the exception of a few national holidays, which he kicked off by passing around bottles of whiskey and other drinks starting about noon on the day before. He liked to drink a little too much, but he was the kind of drunk who got happy that way. 

He delighted in finding ways to get around any regulation by the local bureaucracy, since he hated government. Sometime before I started the state had passed a regulation that all air tanks larger that 4” in diameter had to be inspected and certified every year, for a small fee, of course. So when he built the machine shop wing on the welding shop, he fabricated the roof rafters from 4” heavy pipes, doubled up vertically with plates welded on the ends and pipe couplings welded near the ends. When the shop was complete the whole roof became a compressed air storage area with no part larger than 4”. All the rafters tied together, and hoses could be attached to the rafters at any point in the shop, and he never had to pay for an inspection.

One evening my cousin Rick Cardoza rode into the yard on a tiny little Honda Fifty motor bike. He was Uncle Jim’s stepson, and we got to know him well when we stayed at Uncle Jim’s house. I asked what brought him down to Woodland, and he told me that he and his mother had gotten into an argument and he was leaving home to see his sister Shirley in Florida. He wanted to know which highway would get him from California to Florida. He was only about sixteen and obviously had no idea of the distance to Florida. 

So I talked to Carolyn, and after she agreed, I suggested he stay overnight and think about it. We had him for the next two years, I think. He was a pretty good kid, and found a job for a while in a service station. He at least paid his way—he was raised in a large Hispanic family where the children were taught to get out and support the family or leave the house. He and Darlene became friends and our family just grew larger. 

Then we got word that Carolyn’s brother Tommy was causing his parents a lot of grief. He was near the same age as Rick and Darlene, so we paid for an airplane ticket and he came to live with us from Oklahoma. Tommy was a  handful, as he had had almost no discipline his whole life. His father was having trouble with alcohol binges, his mother had no time to spend on him, and he was already into serious trouble with whatever drugs he could find. He was sniffing glue and gasoline, and I even caught him sniffing a bag of Pam, kitchen aerosol shortening. I tried to work with him, but I had to spend time at work, and he needed 24 hour supervision. 

When Darlene told us he had stolen a knife from the kitchen and hid it under the mattress I decided we could not risk having him anymore. When I went in to take the knife back, he rushed me, which was a mistake. It had not been too many years since I took hand-to-hand combat training in the Army. I grabbed his shirt by the front, lifted him off the ground using his forward motion against him and slammed him to the wall behind him with his feet dangling several inches off the floor. His eyes grew big with amazement and fear, and the fight was over before it started. We bought him another airplane ticket back to Oklahoma the next day.

Late in the summer, after I had worked for Kimzey Welding for a year, working on everything that came in the door, from airplane parts to tractor parts, I went into the office and asked John Kimzey for a raise. He told me he couldn’t do it. I asked if my work was satisfactory, and he told me he liked my work, but couldn't afford to pay me more. I told him I would be leaving in two weeks, then. He smiled and told me I didn’t need to give notice, that winter was approaching and if I wanted to leave to look for work immediately, that would be OK. He also said if I couldn’t find any thing, I would be welcome back anytime. I didn’t know whether to be glad or mad.

I said goodbye and went back home to tell Carolyn I had just  quit my job. She took it well, although she was worried about it. We had saved a little money ahead, and I had one more paycheck coming to me.

Once again, we were free and looking for another home somewhere in the world. 

I left the car for Carolyn and the kids, and I spent the next few days on the motorcycle searching for machinist jobs from Sacramento to Reno, Nevada. I knew there was a large copper mine in Yerington, NV, but they had no machinist openings, and neither did the town of Fallon, where there was a large Navy base. 

On the way back from Fallon I stopped In Silver Springs, NV, for gas. As I filled the tank, the proprietor came out to talk and ask me where I was going. I told him I was searching for a machinist job and having no luck. He said my luck might change if I rode west about two miles to a shop on the north side of the road. There was an inventor there who was trying to build an experimental engine and was looking for a machinist or two.

Thus began my adventure with Sierra Rotary Engine Corporation. 

Thursday, November 24, 2016

The New Year 1969

The new year of 1969 dawned with lots of promise for our love. We had a new family, a new car, we both had jobs, and money was not a problem. My employer had to remind me to cash those paychecks, because the folks in payroll needed to resolve the holes in their accounting.

But I came home to find Carolyn crying sometimes, and when I asked what was the problem, she told me that Aunt Laverna Satterfield was calling her up and pushing her to demand that I marry her legally. To me, it was more confirmation that she had pushed us together from the start. I liked her, and I could not fault her for making the match, but I didn’t like to be pushed around by anybody. 

Laverna would by any definition be a “controlling” personality. She liked to be in charge, and enjoyed telling people how they should be living their lives. I asked Carolyn if she trusted me to keep my word and never leave her, and she said yes. But she was caught in the middle between her lover and an aunt whom she also looked up to and loved. I didn’t like the resulting bind she was being put in.

So I called Laverna and told her to stop pushing Carolyn, that our relationship was not her concern now. We were two adults who were making our own decisions, and didn’t need someone else butting in and creating dissension in our marriage.

She got very mad at me, told me how wrong I was and how much Carolyn wanted to be married “for real.” I told her I wanted to hear that from Carolyn herself, and not from her. It was not her role to interpret to me what Carolyn wanted. I also told her that if I came home from work again to find Carolyn crying, I would ban her from calling again ever, even if I had to take out the phone. Then I hung up.

Thus began a couple of months of no contact with her. But she was still in contact with J. T. Morse, Carolyn’s now ex-husband, who was living in Texas now. I don’t know whose idea it was, but she “let us know” that he was considering filing for custody of Darlene, because of our “illicit” relationship. She had no trouble with our relationship as long as it was secret, but the idea of us living together openly offended her sense of decency, I guess.

Carolyn and I discussed what we should do, and I suggested that we should quietly go get the license, just to make sure that Darlene would stay with us. The license wasn’t for us, but for Darlene, whom we didn’t want to lose.

The only people we told were John and Rhonda Rogers, my brother and his wife. We knew he could keep a secret, and we explained why we had decided to get the license. I didn’t want Laverna to have the satisfaction of still being in control of our lives.

After going downtown to the courthouse, medical test results in hand, we got the legal license, and asked if they knew of someone who could perform the ceremony for us. They gave us the name of a retired judge in the town of Orange, California, and I called him and made the arrangements. I think his fee was $50, but it’s been a long time.

We showed up at his ornate Victorian style house on the evening of March 15 with license in hand, and with my brother and his wife and our daughter as witnesses, we participated in a brief ceremony, exchanged our vows, and afterwards we took a few pictures for keepsakes. Then it was handshakes all around, and we left in our cars to go home. 

On the way we saw a Baskin Robbins ice cream store, so on the spur of the moment we turned in and all of us bought banana splits. Carolyn wasn’t sure that Darlene could eat a whole banana split, but I assured her she could eat as much as she wanted and toss the rest, but this was our wedding reception, and it was for her benefit, anyway. She had no trouble eating the whole thing, and was delighted to have her first banana split.

That’s how we came to celebrate two anniversaries, one on November 18 and the other on March 15. Carolyn and I always liked the November date for celebrations, and that’s the one we told everybody else about. But many years later I got into family genealogy and learned that the paper trail is important, too. I can imagine somebody researching our family and running into trouble trying to find our marriage record in the wrong year. But we both know when we first vowed to love each other forever!

The following months went by smoothly, as we settled into our home, and grew closer and closer together. 

The only really exciting event that comes to mind was one Sunday morning we drove down to San Juan Capistrano and turned up toward the mountains, riding on my motorcycle, enjoying the curves on Hwy 74, called the Ortega Highway. There is nothing better than motorcycle riding on twisting mountain roads, and we got too complacent cresting a ridge following a Triumph sports car with the top down, also enjoying the road. When I saw his brake lights come on, I applied my brakes, too, but not hard enough. Then I saw the problem.

Both sides of the road were covered by hundreds of bicycles, riding single file in two lines, and the sports car had hit his brakes hard. As we came over the hill too fast, and light because of the hill, I locked up the brakes, fishtailed wildly first right and then left, and I was picking out a place on the Triumph trunk lid to “pop a wheelie” and crash into. All escape routes were blocked by bicycles. Luckily for us, the guy in the Triumph heard the tires screaming, got off the brakes, and accelerated away, giving me enough extra space to get slowed down.

Carolyn had hung on tight and ducked down, so I'm not sure she saw everything I saw, but she knew that what happened was not cool. I resolved to be more careful in the future, and try to be more responsible, and maybe a little less exuberant. 

Very early in the year, on a weekend when the weather was clear over the Grapevine, Carolyn and I and Darlene drove up to Merced in the car to introduce our family to my mother. My mother liked Carolyn immediately, and Darlene, too. I offered to sleep in a separate bed, since I told her we had vowed to love each other forever, but did not have a license. She told me to sleep where I wanted, and it would be OK with her, even though she had her own preferences. She belonged to the same church as Laverna, but wasn’t nearly as eager to force her beliefs on others.

While we were in Mom’s house on the second day, there was a knock on the door, and standing there was Cathy, my ex-girlfriend. She was smiling, and said she was curious and wanted to meet my new wife. So I called Carolyn and Darlene out to the front room, and introduced them as my wife Carolyn and our daughter, Darlene. After a few brief pleasantries, she thanked me, wished us well, and left. 

Carolyn was mystified at her boldness, and I explained that we had been very close and intimate for over four years, and she knew me well enough to know she would be welcome at my mother’s house. Later, I found out that when I introduced eight year old Darlene as “our daughter” she knew it was permanent, and that I was really gone.

We went over to my grandmother’s house, too. Of course, she also liked Carolyn and Darlene, and assumed we had eloped as she had many years earlier, when, at 25 she eloped into the next county to marry a divorced man she had just met two weeks earlier, and who was nearly twice her age.
As we left her house, Carolyn said we would be seeing her again soon. She calmly said no, she would not be here when we returned, and that the next time we came it would be for her funeral.

Carolyn was very surprised, but she didn’t argue or show her surprise until later, when we were alone. My grandmother was a very plain spoken person, a Jehovah’s Witness, and I wasn’t too surprised.

On April 14th we got word that she had died and we came back up for her funeral. She had been exactly right. 

Now that we had the marriage license my mother seemed a little happier, which was OK with me. (I think John had visited earlier and showed her the pictures he had of our wedding at the judges house.) We stayed overnight at her house again.

We saw Cathy, my former girlfriend, at the funeral for my grandmother, since her great aunt, who had raised her, had rented a house from my grandmother for many years. That circumstance is how we had met years before. At the graveside service, she came over and hugged my mother and then me. She lingered a little too long for Darlene’s comfort, but Carolyn understood and didn’t mind. She knew she was the winner, and she chose to be gracious, not jealous. 

In June, shortly after reaching the top journeyman machinist level, we decided that we both would prefer to live away from the big city. I was sure that the only way out would be to quit my job and get out of town to search for a job in the country. We were both raised in a rural environment, and we sorely missed the peaceful ambience of rural living.

My Uncle Jim Rogers had invited us to come up and visit him sometime at Clearlake Oaks. He had a big house on Clear Lake with its own boat dock, and had several bedrooms and extra room, even with his wife and six children. So I called him and he was happy to invite us in as I looked around northern California for a machinist job. 

We moved out of our house in Midway City, California, in July, leaving what few household possessions we owned behind, to start a new life far away in the north. 

This was to become a pattern in the coming years. We were young, and not ready to settle down yet. There was a big world out there, and we wanted to see it all!