A Medium at Cassadega

(Click on photo to make it zoom)   A Medium at Cassadega When exposed to life-threatening experiences, some people turn in desperation to clairvoyants, mediums, and psychics to help them sort out the real from the supernatural. Reconnecting with a Mestizo model I had met at the beginning of aviation training for a wedding apparel show,  I confided my concerns about my future in the RA5C. She  knew about a place in Cassadega where a community of mediums resided for me to consider visiting. The nuptials store manager asked me to find eligible junior officers to join the models for a public display that would appear in the Orlando newspaper and I naturally chose my snake-ranch buddies. She reminded me of four famous females: the slender shape and grace of Audrey Hepburn, the face and brown eyes of a more modern actress, Minnie Driver, the spirituality and voice of Joan Baez, and the sensuality  of Sophia Loren. She referred to her background laughingly as cinnamon and sugar—I thought that was a good fit. She dwarfed the other models at five foot nine. I wanted to learn all about her from the moment my eyes rested on her. She was graceful as a deer. . In our first meeting she said, “My mother came from an Apalachicola tribe near the northern border of Florida and named me KIMANA, meaning 'Butterfly' in Native Lore. My mom told me about a legend that God searched the earth as a butterfly to find the perfect location to fashion the first human being, so I took the name as a spiritual blessing and never use it publically.” A graceful butterfly the way she flitted about in her bare feet, she fascinated me. The manager of the wedding show chose her as the lead bride, since she was the only professional model, and stood out over volunteers from Rollins College and Orlando. All shimmered like snowflakes in their bridal gowns, while we ensigns wore formal whites, caps with black visors, and black shoulder pads with one gold stripe. We had a short romance. She was dating a resident doctor in a local hospital she mentioned the day I met her. When that relationship soured near the end of my training, I asked her to join me for a swim date. Her vitality, freshness, smile, wit, and sumptuous figure attracted me like a powerful magnet. Afterwards, she invited me for dinner. I had finally found a woman in Sanford with brains and beauty. She fixed a chicken dinner with fresh vegetables in a salad, mango salsa, and margaritas. We danced after dinner, embraced, and melted together. When the music ended, I kissed her and carried her to a bedroom. She laughed as she took off her blouse revealing her shapely breasts. Wrestling off my clothes in an instant, I began a sensual massage of her neck and worked my hands down her spine. After kissing her neck and lips, we embraced, and crumpled onto the king-sized bed arousing deep physical passion. “You seem tense about something. Want to talk about it?” she said after spendingthe night and becoming intimate. I confided my concerns about the poor safety record of the RA5C, my near death experiences,  those of others in the jet, the second class status of the back-seater, and the maintenance nightmares due to its sophistication. “You should visit Cassadega and speak with a medium. They help people decide how to handle problems.” “What does a Medium do?” “I’ve had friends who have spoken with one and came back raving about how they were enlightened about conflicts in their past and present, and even learned how to avoid them in the future. They are a village of clairvoyants, mediums, and psychics. They contact dead ancestors, try to locate lost relatives, and discuss a customer’s future.” Just before Carrier Qualifications on an impulse, I drove to Cassadaga between Orlando and Daytona Beach. The town had a population of nearly one hundred mediums who lived in cottages. I had decided to employ a psychic fearing I would not survive the program.  After parking my Corvette, I walked to the door of a small home that advertised a certified medium. An engraved wooden sign read: “If you are interested in spiritual advice from Themis, approach and knock.” A Medium at Cassadega Lightly rapping on the door three times, I waited for a respose. A lady in her forties, dressed in flowing colorful robes with a cascading purple scarf opened the door. She had enchanting eyes and long black hair. “Why did you come to my dwelling?”she asked in a seductive voice. “To discuss my life and future.” “Please enter my spiritual retreat. I charge $50 for an hour, will examine you, converse about your life, consult crystals, and contact the world of the spirit.” Drawn to this charming clairvoyant like a magnet, I handed her a fifty dollar bill. She waved her graceful arm, and with a sparkling blue sapphire ring-covered finger, pointed toward the interior. Pushing back a woven silk tapestry splashed with the colors of the rainbow, an exotic lavender incense greeted me. Curved, spiraled, tall, and wide candles cast dancing shadows upon the walls and ceiling amplified the ambience. Vague shapes in purple, green, red, and orange formed knobs, notches, hills, grooves, and crannies. Translucent forms circled. Images of an ogre, dwarf, giant, fawn, and witches appeared. The enchantress glided like a dancer to a gnarled table in a room with paintings of unicorns, wizards, sorcerers, and carved statues of dragons with claws and teeth threatening. Something about her made me recall my grandmother Ruthie, who consulted astrology, was a theosophist, believed in reincarnation, and explored the spiritual world. She was the most creative and loving human being I had ever known and had awakened my imagination with stories of fairies, magic, wizards, and the supernatural. The medium and the atmosphere made me suspend my scientific demand for facts and hope for enlightenment. In the darkest part of the room at a table covered in black silk cloth, Themis asked my name, date of birth, and age. Her long narrow fingernails manipulated a pentagonal quartz crystal. She gazed into the reflective gem and stroked it. Only the light of a flickering candle allowed me to see the crystal’s veil wisps and fracture lines. Clouds within the stone changed to light purple, blue, and pink. “I am looking into a mirror of the astral world through the crystal.” Spellbound by the beauty of the gem, the atmosphere, and the soothsayer, I looked into her eyes and saw the glint of the candle. “What kind of stone are we peering into?” “A Brazilian Blue Perfect Phantom Quartz. It produces visions that allow me to communicate with spirits.” A mist slowly spread outwards from the center of the crystal. “Hold out your non-dominant hand, ” she said. Reaching out my left hand, I felt her warm and gentle grasp. She turned over my hand palm up and studied it. Placing her index fingernail along a part of my palm, she moved it across the top half of my hand. “That’s your heart line.” Outlining my head line by moving her nail along a lower parallel line, she traced over my life and fate lines. Slowly the medium pulled her hand away and looked into my eyes. “What about your future do you want to know?” “Is my life in danger?” A Medium at CassadegaThe wizard-lady slowly closed her eyes and paused, “I see you working with maps.” Her remark astounded me. How could she know I did that as a navigator for every mission? “Is that right, Dan?” “Often I use maps.” She closed her eyes, paused, opened them, and rolled the crystal in her hands, “You move around the country.” Spellbound, my expression changed to one of shock, stunned at her words. “Is that true?” “Yes,” I gasped. Pausing again with eyes closed a moment, she raised her head, opened her eyes, and her expression quickly glowed with energy, “You will face grave danger. Prepare for the possibility of violent death. You will confront obstacles life throws at you with courage, intelligence, and integrity.” She reached out and took hold of my right hand with both of her hands. Her eyes sparkled. “Return to your world. Listen to your heart. There are no coincidences. Everything happens for a purpose.”

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Pledging a Fraternity

(click on images to expand) Sophomore year at Duke found me pledging Beta Theta Pi fraternity after my roommate and a few Betas convinced me it would enhance my social life. Switching from the pre-ministerial program to pre-medicine, I was faced with two demanding courses: Zoology and an advanced Chemistry course, Qualitative Analysis. The Zoo-textbook contained fascinating details about the development of animals and insects with an enormous scientific vocabulary. There was a two hour lecture in the science auditorium and lab experiments that explored genetics, evolution, and animal dissection for three hours each week. Qualitative Analysis emphasized lab work, had a one-hour a week lecture, and classroom problem solving. My fraternity brothers told me not to worry about this course because they had all the laboratory exams for past years even though each year’s questions were uniquely different. Assuming a minimum of study was required there I focused on my other courses and frat pledging. World history from World War I to II had a professor who arrived in tweed coat and tie and lectured from memory until the bell rang. He rattled off historical facts as if they had just occurred regarding philosophers, artists, authors, poets, musicians, architectural designers, military leaders, social movements, and connected the consequences of each to the past, present, and possible future. I had never encountered a more informed man. In each of his two classes a week my notes accumulated to more than a hundred pages. He assigned about fifty pages of the text a week, a research paper of 1500 words, and suggested outside reading. My weight-lifting during the summer had strengthened my shoulders, arms, and frame adding thirty pounds of muscle. However, missing the two-a-day practices in August while on a Merchant Marine Ship in Europe made me change my mind on joining varsity football when I thought how the other players might view me as a late comer. Winter varsity baseball interested me far more. My added strength improved my hitting, especially to the opposite field making me able to drive an outside pitch over the right fielder’s head and occasionally over the fence. The varsity coach mentioned my name in the college newspaper as one of his best prospects who would probably start on the varsity. As quarterback for the Beta flag football intramural team, my play helped us earn the respect of other fraternities and challenged the view that Beta only housed weak-minded party boys. Nevertheless, other pledges visited our dorm and routinely sang, “Let’s all go down and piss on the Beta House.” The Beta pledge master, an ex-marine, towered over us at 6’5” and his drill-sergeant mentality was intimidating. Of the many tedious pledge tasks, at least some were humorous. Required to carry a five-gallon jar under each arm to class during hell week and collect gum under the tables in one jar, and cigarette ashes in the other, I looked ridiculous emptying ashes and gum into awkward jars. Performing a ballet dance on Sunday morning in front of the Duke Chapel was timed by the Betas so my performance began as the crowd of dignitaries, faculty, students, and guests departed from the Church service. A Duke dance major gave me advice, lent me her pink tutu, and showed me how to spin, leap, and move as gracefully as I could. We choreographed a series of movements involving running to a spot, tossing a spiraling football high in the air, and leaping so the ball would land close enough for me to catch. Twirling in a circle, spinning the ball underhanded, and moving gracefully while smiling, the routine had a comical effect: I looked like a clown. When the crowd gathered, frat brothers directed them to my outlandish spectacle. Tossing a football in the air, catching it, doing ballet moves, twisting and turning, rolling in the grass, jumping up with the ball, and then starting over, attracted many gawkers with nothing better to do. Although laughing through the routine and trying to make it humorous, the stint humiliated me and made me look foolish. Finally, the chore ended, I dutifully curtsied, and the gathering responded with a loud ovation. Another duty was to procure a photograph of me with a nude woman. Not knowing anyone at Duke who could fulfill this task, I went to a clothing store and asked a salesperson if I could put a mannequin next to me on a bed for a pledge assignment. He laughingly agreed. Quickly removing the clothes from one, I reclined next to her in a bed for the photo. Later, my secret was disclosed as some impetuous brothers demanded her name.          Also required to enter a movie theater in Durham with a large fish in each hand during a kissing scene of a movie and yell, “Fresh fish for sale;” the manager laughed when he heard what I had to do. “Go ahead and make an idiot of yourself, but do it quickly, and leave,” he said. The audience responded with a rousing roll of cackling after my announcement when Rock Hudson kissed Doris Day in Pillow Talk. Bowing with two smelly sturgeons fresh from a seafood store tucked under my arms, I dashed out and gave the fish to the ticket-taker for his help. Obliged to paint the testicles of a reindeer statue in front of the Durham Police Station bright red, I feared this prank might get me arrested for the crime of malicious mischief. Why would the brothers require me to take such a foolish risk? Was becoming a Beta that important? Why not say, “I won’t expose myself to a crime for anybody.” After considering quitting, I rejected dropping out from peer pressure and decided to show them risk-taking didn’t bother me; my past was full of danger. Waiting until 3:00 A.M., I crawled on my belly under the reindeer, opened a can of red paint, brushed it on the hanging stone balls,  scurried silently to my feet, and disappeared in darkness. The final hazing incident occurred on Hell night. Our pledge master ordered all twelve of us to the darkness of a parking lot. He placed a steel bucket upside down, and poured undiluted tincture of wintergreen, extremely painful to the touch, on the top. There was a quarter of an inch of the furiously spicy fluid resting on top. Carefully placing a tiny green pimento-filled olive in the center of the mixture, he ordered: “Get in line, strip naked, bend down, crouch over the bucket, and pick up the olive with your sphincter muscle. Remove the olive from the bucket and drop it in the garbage can.” This allowed the irritating oil to inflame our entire underside. Each compliant pledge jumped up, and screamed from the pain as the offending liquid hit its intended target. Many dropped the olive and had to repeat the procedure. Once any pledge successfully finished the process, he hopped like a rabbit, and yelped like a wounded dog. As each naked pledge lowered his butt towards the olive, our pledge master watched from his chair next to the bucket to ensure the pledge grasped the green grape-sized olive. The voyeur smiled as each of us struggled with his torture. When we were finished, I walked back to my dorm and wondered what ever drove me to allow myself to waste so much time pledging a fraternity, despite the intelligent brothers and parties that we would soon enjoy in the future. But pledging left me disillusioned and disappointed that I wasn’t more deeply involved in academics.

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Introduction to Civil Rights on a Train

(click on images to expand) During the summer of 1958, I left California for Florida to spend time with Mom, Ruthie, and Grampa. Most of my life I had lived away from them except from my first memory until five, a year when eight, and on some Xmas and summer vacations. My Dodger hat in hand, I took the Sunset Limited streamliner from LA to North Miami. After stowing my gear above my window seat, I explored the rattling train. The cars were silver with red letter boards and white lettering. The blunted rear end had a neon sign: Sunset Limited. After studying the mountains and desert streaming past, I went to the Coffee Shop lounge, Pride of Texas. College-aged passengers and single adults gathered there. Filling an empty seat, a group discussion that appeared interesting was taking place. A few were going to be college freshmen like me. The chatter seemed inconsequential until a bearded white middle-aged college professor in a green and black tweed coat addressed twenty-five eager faces in a booming voice: “Civil rights protests have sparked a change in history that has dramatically altered the American social fabric. When seamstress Rosa Parks refused to step to the back of an Alabama bus on the first of December 1955, she explained her refusal was ‘a matter of dignity; I could not have faced myself and my people if I had moved.’ She inspired the successful Montgomery bus boycott led by Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. January 1957, he invited a group of black ministers and leaders to Ebenezer Church in Atlanta to form an organization to battle for nonviolent direct action to desegregate bus systems across the South. King believed that the civil rights movement attacked ‘man's hostility to man.’” Stumbling upon a subject that intrigued me, I listened as it seemed relevant to help me decide what I might do with my life.“The Ku Klux Klan bombs churches, killing men, women, and children who support the movement. At night in white robes they lynch black men for an insult, an attempt to register to vote, unpopularity, self-defense, testifying against a white person, dating or looking at a white women, asking a white woman to marry, peeping in a window, or nothing at all. Half are carried out with white police officers participating. In nine tenths of the others, they condone or wink at the mob action. Each died from the torture of the noose. Although many go unreported, about one fourth of the victims were women. The Klan even brings eager bystanders including children to indoctrinate them against the Negro race and mixed-race marriages. They claim these unions weaken the white blood that runs through their veins. They use violence to try to discourage those of us who fight against discrimination. King travels where racists dwell and rallies his supporters against them.” His talk sent chills through my body. How could anyone bring children to such an event? Did I have the courage to join King’s protesters? At an all white high school, I hadn’t been presented with the opportunity. My interest grew as the speaker continued. “Encouraging boycotts, freedom rides, and sit‐ins to protest segregation, King taught that one who breaks an unjust law with a willingness to accept the penalty expresses ‘the very highest respect for the law.’ The bombing of Ralph David Abernathy’s home and church could not prevent the Atlanta meeting of sixty Black activists and civil rights leaders from founding the ‘Southern Christian Leadership Conference’ in January of 1957. The protest movement, which began in the Deep South and spread to the nation, had a dramatic impact upon American legal institutions. The role of the Supreme Court suddenly became that of an advocate for the civil rights struggle. Starting with Brown v. Board of Education (1954), The Supreme Court determined that in the field of ‘public education, the doctrine of separate‐but‐equal has no place.’ Chief Justice Earl Warren led the Court in a successful effort to overturn Plessy v. Ferguson. On June 7, 1892, Homer Plessy boarded a car of the East Louisiana Railroad in New Orleans, Louisiana, bound for Covington, Louisiana, that was designated for use by white patrons only, as mandated by state law. Although Plessy was born a free person and was one-eighth black and seven-eighths white, under the Louisiana law, he was classified as black, and required to sit in the ‘colored’ car. In an act civil disobedience, Plessy refused to leave the white car, was arrested, and jailed. Brown emphasized that separating school children ‘of similar age and qualifications in different schools solely because of their race generates a feeling of inferiority as to their status in the community that may affect their hearts and minds in a way unlikely ever to be undone.’ The Brown decision gave impetus to the demonstrations that began across the South in 1955. Robert L. Carter, former general counsel of the N A A C P, has written that the desegregation ruling altered the status of blacks, who were no longer supplicants ‘seeking, pleading, begging to be treated as full‐fledged members of the human race.’ They knew that they were entitled to equal treatment under the law; the constitution promised it. Most of the work lay ahead for the Court and civil rights activists. Brown's demand for an unbiased public school system presented enormous practical problems. The Court's remedial decision, Brown II (1955), ordered ‘all deliberate speed’ in the dismantling of segregated schools. Civil rights protestors refused to allow local school officials to move slowly. This year they urge us all to join them in direct non-violent protests for racial equality, which may expose you to trespass, contempt, and breach of the peace arrests from local police. This will challenge the Supreme Court to treat arrests for protesting discriminatory practices as violations of protected First Amendment rights. They seem committed to review all such cases to offer protection to a protest movement of tremendous historical significance. I hope you demand your dean of admissions to respect the Negroes' right to education. They are entitled to non-discriminatory public services at swimming pools, rest rooms, public transportation, and highway restaurants.  I urge you to join Joan Baez, Bob Dylan, Pete Seeger, and others against racism by songs and demonstrations.” A young man asked, “What can we do to get college administrators to honor Brown v. Board of Education in schools where no Negroes have gained admission?” “You can organize a group of concerned students to demand an end to segregation. Send letters to local newspapers, and congressional representatives. Who here plans to attend a segregated University?” An attractive coed raised her hand. Frightened to enter a public discussion, I raised mine slowly. Ten more hands went up.“You should have asked before you applied whether your university accepts Negroes? Yell out the University you’ll attend. I’ll tell you if they practice segregation.” “Duke University,” I shouted. He turned and looked at me, “Didn’t you ask whether they accepted Negroes?” “Their information said they favored a diverse group of students for admission, especially those out of state." “Duke has never had a Negro student. Any competent library shows student population for every college. Anyone can find that if they have the curiosity. Duke needs to change to become relevant. What do you feel?” “I believe in equal rights for all persons.” “Then I hope you’ll work to challenge Duke’s repugnant discriminatory practices.”His comments provoked me. When I sent my application to the Naval Academy and my three NROTC scholarship applications to Duke, Stanford, and Dartmouth, I hadn’t considered segregation assuming Annapolis would admit me. When they didn’t, the accolades Duke received from many sources did not alert me to anything negative. The professor’s stunning lecture made me understand I had chosen Duke thoughtlessly: it was located between my families in Maryland and Florida, won the baseball NCAA championship, and was referred to as the Harvard of the south. He forced me to consider a new perspective. It hadn’t occurred to me that many qualified students were unfairly denied their educational opportunity on account of race. The enlightening discussion presented a new challenge. Why accept the status quo in the South where I had selected my university? The Civil Rights Movement needed people of conscience who wanted to make a difference. Most political issues in the schools I had attended had adopted a conservative philosophy, as did my family that sheltered me from public protests on racial integration. Recalling a pep talk in our locker room before our football team played rival Poly High School, that had a large contingent of blacks who dominated sports in Long Beach, I heard a husky man who weighed two hundred and thirty pounds shout, “Smash the ‘spear-chuckers’ in the face as soon as you can, to make them afraid of you for the rest of the game.” His offensive remarks sparked wild cheers, clenched fists, and stoked an unmistakable racial edge. My experience with black Americans was different from those who supported segregation; I admired black athletes, actors, singers, and musicians, but my life hadn't meshed with any individual Blacks. Not until I read Ralph Ellison's The Invisible Man the next summer working on a Merchant Marine Ship with people of all races, under a Black boss, did my life intersect daily with African Americans. The professor had inspired me to challenge my conservative background, had no fear addressing strangers with passion on an essential subject, and planted a seed in my consciousness that would sprout.  How ironic that it happened in the Pride of Texas.

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Lost in Yosemite

For eons the receding ice age of rivers and glaciers carved 3,000 feet into solid granite and created majestic Yosemite Valley. When Dad was transferred to Vallejo in 1946, our cousins visited us and Dad took us all to Yosemite National Park for camping. Gigantic redwoods, a pine forest, golden poppies, and blue lupine spread along the hillsides and highway. The Yosemite River ran through the floor of the valley and waterfalls cascaded from perches in the spiked mountains. The wind sprayed the icy liquid down over the mountainsides of ancient rock, majestic half-dome loomed, its rugged face crusted with years of nature’s strongest forces.

Just before dark we arrived at Curry Village, where every night the rangers performed the spectacular “Yosemite Firefall.” They created a bon-fire on a mountain top, and dropped the embers into a cavern at eight o’clock. We watched the yellow, red-orange glowing fire “waterfall” descend to the Yosemite floor sending showers of sparks and chunks of burning wood streaking continuously for ten minutes in a visual echo of water columns.

Cousin Lew asked to sleep in the only hammock tent we had so Dad and Uncle Lewis hung it between two rugged pines in our campsite for him. After we all went to sleep a hungry black bear came lumbering into camp. He walked below Lew and scared him so much he told us, “I couldn’t speak. If he heard me he might have attacked.” Chip said, “What did he look like?” “He had a light brown nose and shiny black fur, with a white chest patch and smelled awful.” He weighed over three hundred pounds. After he looked around he trudged away.

Dad said, “If the bear had stood up he could easily have reached the hammock.”

“Yeah, that’s what I thought. You all slept through the danger!”I had a hard time falling asleep thinking he’d return.” Dad took us on hikes around Yosemite where the Yosemite River swiftly flowed over rocks and fallen trees, created a reflected image of the surrounding forest, mountains, and boulders, and carried trout. It was so enchanting I wanted to stay near the river and throw rocks and pebbles into the rushing water.

“Are you sure you know the way back to the campsite?”

”Yeah, I’m sure.”

“Okay, Danny. Don’t miss dinner.”

I walked to the river and wandered down the path looking at the swirling mass of water with many colored rocks of different size and shape deposited there over the years. I could skip the flat ones out in the center of the flow and then drop big ones to make a splash by walking out on the larger rocks along the shore. The sycamores, tall pines, and redwoods provided shade and their leaves rustled with the breeze. The reflection of the trees on the river distorted their shapes making them quiver. Sandpipers and swallows enjoyed the river landscape, followed by blue jays that swooped down, cawed, dipped briefly into the river, and flew away chattering.

.                                                               Before long, streaks of sunset filtered through the towering trees. My hike took me past tall brush where I heard voices.  Walking to an open space, I met a couple who smiled as they enjoyed each other’s company at the end of a peaceful day in nature. They seemed so happy together, laughing, and even singing. She had a wide infectious smile as she frolicked, laughed, and hugged the muscular man with curly blond hair. He returned her advances with a peck on the cheek, swung her around like she was a ballerina in a purple and white stripped swim suit, and they fell happily into the stream with a splash. In his Khaki trunks and a green sports shirt dripping with water, he retrieved her straw hat cackling like a hyena. They held a long embrace and then he carried her to the shore and carefully set her down. Mesmerized, but not wanting to disturb them in their rapture, my lips were sealed until they moved to the river bank to rest when I finally said, “I’m lost. Can you help me find Curry Village?”

“Yes, our tent is there,” said the happy woman with dark hair and freckles.“You can come with us when we leave in a little while,” said the tall man with mustache. They swished their hands in the water, pointed out birds and deer along the river’s bank,chuckled, and amused each other and me. When they started to get out of the water the lady jumped into his arms near the edge of the river and they embraced. They turned towards me smiling and escorted me back to camp.

Reunited with my family after a three hour absence, I wondered how different life would have been if my parents loved each other as they did. Dad walked to me with pursed lips, narrowed eyes, and rage on his face, “You said you knew the way to our camp. Where have you been?”

“I couldn’t find the path back. This man and woman brought me here.” Twirling around to thank them, I realized they had left happy to retreat from my angry Dad in nature.

“Come Danny and join us for hamburger and fries.”

While we lived in Vallejo, California, the Navy assigned Dad to a light cruiser, the USS Vicksburg (Cl-86), which had been overhauled at Mare Island Naval Shipyard after an active World War II tour in the Pacific.

On some weekends, Dad took us camping. He set up our tent and stowed our food and sleeping bags with our help. We took hikes to see rivers, lakes, mountains, and explored forests and wildlife. When we became tired and hungry, we returned to the campsite. He made a fire, and barbecued chicken, fish or steak on the coals. The campfire blazed and sent sparks flying as it crackled. The aroma of basted meat over a campfire enhanced our appetite. After the meal he gathered us around the glowing coals, played his ukulele, and sang folk songs. We’d join in once we knew the melodies. Val occasionally brought friends from Girl Scouts.

Dad gave Chip and me a “Whoopa” when he returned from a cruise on his ship. He would grab one of us by the waist and toss us into the air extending his arms. When we reached our apex, he yelled, “Whoopa!” He caught us as we came down. I loved that. He also played softball and taught us to box at a vacant field across the street from our house .

A neighbor’s disabled son enjoyed making models and arts and crafts. His mother arranged with Gammie a time for Chip and me to join him, which gave us an appreciation for those afflicted with a disability, and introduced us to crafts. We had a record player and a radio in the living room where we listened to popular music and sang songs. Dad had a pleasant voice and encouraged us to sing.

On some Saturdays Dad took us on fishing trips where he could cast a fishing line out beyond the waves. The sinker attached to the line caused the bait on the hook to drop at his favorite locations and dropped with a splash leaving a circle on the surface. Often he brought Uncle Eddie, Gammie’s brother, and Fred Fletcher, who owned a department store near Pittsburgh, California. They helped us learn how to fish. At Dillon Beach, an hour from Vallejo, we caught perch and halibut.

Occasionally, we drove further north to a place called Jenner-by-the-Sea, where we caught capizone and rock cod off rocks near the coastline. On a farmer’s land, we paid a few dollars, entered a gate, and took a dusty road to a cliff above the rocky Pacific Ocean shore to our secret fishing spot. We climbed down rocks to a beach at low tide. Otters scrounged for seafood in splotches of orange kelp. Sea lions, seals, and fish washed up on the shore mixed in the sand with twisted driftwood. A wonderland of adventure awaited us every time we visited.

We learned not to slip on the rocks that populated the coastline at high tide, as moss, barnacles, and ocean water covered their slippery surface. Once I managed to struggle out on one, I threw my fishing line out with bait and light sinkers and watched them drop toward the bottom. Fish congregated under water around a maze of orange kelp with gray tops obscuring their shape. I was fascinated by the tidal habitat. We caught as many as sixty fish among three kids, three men, and Aunt Jane. A gunnysack of many small knots prevented the fish from escaping. Left in the water close to shore weighed down with rocks, it kept the fish fresh. Gammie and Poppy helped Dad and Uncle Eddie clean the fish and cook them. There was always enough for Uncle Eddie and Fred to take home wrapped in paper.

As a first grader, I attended Highland Elementary School with Chip. Both of us drove bicycles to school a mile away. Miss Minnehan, a tall, dark-haired, and skinny dynamic teacher, taught my class and owned a ranch nearby. One day I went to her ranch with Chip and some friends. We explored the old rickety red barn and walked to the pasture where six healthy horses roamed. We sat on a weatherworn wooden fence that surrounded the pasture as they romped, swished away flies with their tails, and nibbled grass. I remembered enjoying riding a horse at the dude ranch in Wyoming the last summer and wasn’t afraid of horses. One of them with a shiny brown coat moved close. After patting its head and stroking his dark brown mane,  a crazy thought struck me. I jumped on his back. He bolted across the field as I held on to his mane. He wheeled around, snorted, bucked with his rear end high, and wiggled me off. Falling in a heap to the ground and rolling over, I laughed oblivious to the danger I had escaped.

Chip dished out an enormous amount of teasing from verbal belittling to punching on the arm. The hitting hurt, but left no mark. He pointed out the weakest actors in movies and said, “That’s you.” He escalated the hazing by dunking me in Mare Island Navy Base pool. He held me under so long I thought I would drown. Finally, after kicking, and struggling, my head broke the surface and air rushed into my lungs as I screamed, “Get away from me.” He laughed at his power to intimidate me.

One evening Chip and I started laughing about a joke he told after bedtime. Dad said, “Knock off the noise and go to sleep.” We continued to snicker. He charged into our room, scowl on his angry red face, and leather belt in hand. He yanked us out of bed, smacked us hard four times, and said, “There’s something you can laugh about.”

I cried hard, yelled, and screamed as did Chip. No one had ever hurt me like that.  Trembling and hugging my pillow, I buried my face  to hide my wailing and a deep pain inside. Chip and I learned to never  annoy Dad because of his anger.