Square-cut or Diagonal?

I was a brown-bagger for 35 or 40 years. I never was much interested in networking or hanging out with a bunch of people. I generally spent my lunch periods reading trade magazines or reading a book I had brought from home. Pat worked, too, so to help out, I often fixed my own lunch. Quick and easy was my style. Two slices of bread, mayo on one and mustard on the other, a slice of lunch meat completed the sandwich, a bag of carrot sticks or celery, some potato chips, and one of those little cans of juice. Off to work we go.

Pat and I frequently have sandwiches for lunch now. We both enjoy them. There are not that many calories in them, they are easy to prepare, it doesn’t mess up the kitchen too much, and you can prepare a lunch and set it up on the patio table in minutes.

Pat makes great sandwiches, much better than mine. She uses 1 or 2 kinds of lunch meat, 1 or 2 kinds of cheese, mayo, hot mustard, lettuce and tomato or avocado if she has them, and puts it all between slices of that whole grain bread that has the nuts in it. Oh, yeah!

The other day, we were having our lunch on the patio. The sky was blue and had those little white puffy clouds and the temperature was in the high 70’s. What a day! As I bit into my sandwich I thought, “Boy, this is even better than usual!” I asked Pat what she had put in the sandwich to make it so different. She told me she had used her normal ingredients and hadn’t added anything extra. I went ahead and ate my sandwich and enjoyed it immensely but I couldn’t help wondering why it tasted so special. It looked the same as always except rather than being square cut, she had cut it in half diagonally. Being 78 years old and retired and having more idle time than brains, I can contemplate these mysteries of life. I tried to come up with the answer but didn’t realize until the next day what made this sandwich so special.

I grew up in a little town of 5,000 people. Strangely enough, we had two drug stores on the main drag and they were only about 3 doors apart. Cooper Drugs, owned by John Cooper, was a Rexall affiliate. Drain’s Drugs, owned by Jack Drain, was affiliated with Walgreen. Both stores had soda fountains and a couple of booths in the back. Once in a while, when we were grade school kids, for a special treat our Mom would take us to one of the drug stores for lunch. I usually had a sandwich and a cherry Coke or a cherry phosphate. The sandwiches were always delicious. My favorites were egg salad and egg and olive. The sandwiches were toasted and another of the things that made them so memorable was that they were always cut in half diagonally! Mom never did that at home. Only those “special” sandwiches at the drug store were cut in half diagonally. All of these memories came to mind as I thought about the fantastic sandwich that Pat had put together for us.

What does it all mean? Who knows?

Dave Thomas
November 12, 2014


Ms. Rambo and the Fox


Pat and I were sitting in the swing and talking about Ms. Rambo, a cat we had for several years. We have a lot of stories about her that we tell and re-tell and never get tired of.

The street we lived on was just a block long. It was a very steep hill ending at the top with a regular cul de sac type turn-around. We lived at the bottom of the hill and up at the top lived a family that had a white cat. Being all white, the cat stood out and you could spot her wherever she was in the neighborhood. One day the family moved out and just left the cat to fend for herself. We would see her up and down the block looking for food and taking care of herself. We heard stories from the neighbors of what a hunter she was and how independent and tough she was. We all felt sorry that she had been abandoned but she seemed to be surviving and doing okay.

The cat soon had a route established to cover the block in search of hand-outs. She was checking our back door so Pat started putting out food and water. Our house became a regular stop on the cat’s route and Pat enjoyed seeing her and always talked to her. This went on for a few months until the cat decided to change the game. It was raining one evening which is unusual for San Diego. I had just gone to bed and Pat was finishing up before she, too, headed upstairs. All of a sudden, Pat heard a squalling noise at the front door. It was that loud, eerie noise a cat makes when it has made a kill. Pat opened the door and there stood this wet cat with a rat in its mouth. The cat steps in and drops the rat at Pat’s feet and walks on into the living room. The rat is wounded but it jumps up and waddles off. Pat is yelling for me to get up and help catch the rat and she is checking to see what the cat is doing. The cat is calmly sitting in the middle of the living room and watching Pat go nuts and then watching me go nuts as I try to catch the rat. Fortunately, the rat is lame and I’m able to catch it and get rid of it. Pat and I look at the cat and talk about her and figure that she must have gotten tired of living in the rain and scrounging for food and trying to survive as a homeless person and decided to adopt us. She was smart enough to offer up the rat to pay her way in. 

After work the next evening we were trying to assess what we had. This cat was slim and wiry and built like a Siamese. When she vocalized a “kill”, it sounded like a Siamese. She was pure white but wasn’t an albino because her eyes were kind of a blue-green rather than pink. She’d been taking care of herself for months without the coyotes getting her so she was smart and tough. I tried to play with her and teased her and ended up with tooth and claw marks in my hand and arm so we understood that she would demand respect. Discussing what to name her, it was her fierce fighting ability and independence that caused us to think of the latest “tough guy” movie we had seen so we called her “Rambo”. Then, remembering she was a girl, we modified it to “Ms. Rambo”.

This little cat only weighed 7 or 8 pounds but she was extremely athletic. She liked to sleep on top of the refrigerator where nobody could bother her. Most of the time she would jump from the counter top but if there was anything in the way there she could jump from the floor! Pat had a big fruit bowl that she kept on top of the fridge and Rambo took it over for her naps. 

Ms. Rambo

One day we were afraid she might have a kidney infection. We couldn’t get in to see our regular Vet so we went to another. Once we were in the examining room we took her out of the carrier we had brought her in and placed her on the examining table. Pat and I were both petting her and talking to her so she was quiet. The Vet comes in and he’s a big dude, 6’3″ or 6’4″ tall. We explain the symptoms she’s displayed and the Vet says he will take her to the back and get a urine sample. Pat and I both volunteer to go with them. We tell him that she’s called Ms. Rambo for a reason and that other Vets put a muzzle and one of those straight jacket things on her when handling her. Well, the Vet draws himself up to his full height, looks down his nose at us and says “I think I can handle this little, tiny cat.” Pat and I look at each other and we’re both thinking “OK, Bud…we tried to warn you!” The Vet picked up Ms. Rambo and that’s when things got tough! She started screaming, biting, and clawing and the Vet looked like a man possessed. He and Rambo were everywhere. He finally got her tucked under one arm and went out the door with her. Pat and I about busted a gut, laughing, and were completely out of control for a while. Later, a technician brought Ms. Rambo back in and she was wearing a muzzle and one of those straight jackets and had a big towel wrapped around her, too. They finally got the message.

I had to tell you a little bit about Ms. Rambo so you could get the full flavor of this next incident.

I wasn’t home from work, yet. Pat was just getting there and as she rounded the corner, she saw several groups of neighbors standing out in front of their homes. They were looking up the hill, and talking excitedly to one another. We lived in the first house from the corner, at the bottom of the hill, so Pat pulled into our driveway and got out of the car. She yelled at our next door neighbors who were standing out on their drive and asked what was going on. They said that several neighbors had been out in their front yards doing yard work or doing things with their kids and they saw our cat, Ms. Rambo, coming down the hill. Apparently she had been hunting up at the top of the hill and was going from yard to yard as she returned to our house. A few minutes after seeing Rambo, they saw the  neighborhood fox coming down the hill and it seemed to be following Rambo’s scent. The neighbors all thought that would be the end of Ms. Rambo. Sure enough, all of a sudden there was a terrible commotion! There were cat screams, snarls, hisses, and growls. Then, it all changed to a kind of yelping noise and suddenly, here comes the fox up the middle of the street and he is running for his life! Now, everyone can see what is happening. Ms. Rambo is astride the fox’s back with claws dug in and is riding him like a jockey! Go, Rambo, go! The neighbors say it’s the funniest thing they have ever seen. That fox is running for his life and Ms. Rambo is raking him at every jump! This is how legends are born.

This was not Ms. Rambo’s only wild ride nor her last wild and crazy exploit! More later.

Dave Thomas
October 26, 2014


Learning To Ride With Roy And Gene

Learning To Ride With Roy and Gene

I guess it was shame that made me realize I needed some riding lessons from the best. Back in the early 1940’s I was a grade school kid growing up in the small town of Augusta, Kansas. The problem was that I should have been out in the country where a kid can have a horse like a cowboy ought to. Still, I was doing my best to be a cowboy. Every Saturday afternoon I went to the picture show to see Roy Rogers, Gene Autry, Hopalong Cassidy, the Durango Kid, and all the rest of my heroes. Even though there was a war on, I spent more time playing “cowboy” than I did playing “army”.

Anyhow, I was always doing everything I could to get a ride on someone’s horse or pony by looking sad-eyed until they let me crawl up in the saddle for a while. I thought I was making real progress toward turning into a cowboy until I was rudely awakened one day. This is where the “shame” stuff comes in. A new kid moved in about a block from where we lived. That put him right on the edge of town and with a big enough place to bring his pinto pony with him. Naturally, I made friends with this kid real fast! It wasn’t long until I got offered a chance to get on that pony and try him out. The kid’s Dad must have sized me up pretty good because he kept asking if I could ride. Of course, I kept telling him that I was an old hand at this sort of stuff and there was nothing to worry about. Well, I climbed aboard and commenced to show everyone how a real cowboy did it. I was looking real good for about the first two steps that pony took but, by the third step, I was hanging on for dear life because he was already at a full gallop. He headed south for a block which got us to the highway and then turned east going flat out! It was only another block to State Street and the town’s only stoplight and it didn’t take us long to get there. I don’t know if the light was red or green, but I knew that if that pony tried to turn on to that brick paved street we could be in for a mighty big wreck. As we hit the intersection and those hooves started clicking on the bricks, I could see heads turn at the filling stations that occupied three of the four corners. The pony started turning north to go up the street and we rounded that corner with him slipping and sliding and me yelling “whoa” and trying to grab hold of anything I could find. He stayed on his feet and I stayed aboard and we finally lived through the turn and got lined out going straight up the hill. I’d already lost the stirrups and was grabbing leather and yelling at the top of my lungs. I looked up and saw my Great-aunt, Rachel Peebler, coming down the street in her big green Packard. I yelled something at her as she went past (probably “help”) and looking back saw her make a u-turn and start after us. We kept going up the street as fast as that pony would go. We passed friends, relatives, classmates, and everyone else I didn’t want to see.

Roy & Trigger 1

Well, to get to the end of this, the street ran for a mile from the stoplight and ended at a pasture. When we got to the pasture, the pony stopped running blew a little, and went to grazing. I found out later that he had been pastured there for the last couple of years so he thought he was just heading for home.

I hadn’t got over the wild ride yet and things got even worse. Here comes my Aunt Rachel , followed by the Chief of Police, the parents of the kid that owned the pony, cars carrying friends of my folks, and other townspeople that knew me, and a few strangers that just wanted to help a kid in trouble. By the time they got done asking after me and petting me on the head, I decided that it would have been a blessing to have gotten racked up on one of those telephone poles that we had flown by so fast. You can imagine how my cowboy image suffered from all of this. And, a few weeks later I managed to do it again!


Gene 1

My great Uncle, Dave Peebler, had bought this retired polo pony to save it from the glue factory and he put it to pasture on his place just east of town on Custer Lane. Now, in case you don’t know, the first lesson about polo ponies is that they aren’t “ponies”! They are large, aggressive horses that love to run and mix it up. And, to make it even worse, this particular pony went by the name of “Let’s Go”! To anyone with any brains, that would have been the first clue. Anyhow, to get into this story, I begged until Uncle Dave took me out to his place, cinched up an English saddle, and tossed me aboard. I settled into a good seat and was looking real good for about as long as it takes to say “Let’s Go”. The next thing I know, we’re burning up that country road about ten times faster than that little paint pony had done. Fortunately, after a few miles, the horse got bored and stopped to eat some hedge apples. I slid off and just stood there holding the reins and waiting for Uncle Dave to show up. Naturally, he was laughing his head off when he got there and couldn’t even wait until he got out of the car before he started cracking jokes about how good I looked going down the road. For the second time in just a few weeks, I figured I would have been better off to die along the way. The only satisfaction I got was when my Aunt Rachel (who tried to save me the first time) raked Uncle Dave up and down for putting me aboard that “fool” horse.

Roy & Trigger 2

You’re probably wondering what all this has to do with Roy and Gene and I’m coming to it. I still needed to be a cowboy and realized I wasn’t getting there very quick. I still didn’t have my own horse and at the rate I was going probably couldn’t have stood the humiliation anyhow, so I decided that the best thing to do was to keep going to those cowboy movies and keep studying everything that Roy and Gene and the rest of them did. From that time on, I paid attention to everything. I watched how they mounted, how they set the saddle at different gaits, what they did with their hands, and how they took their falls. Of course, I didn’t know it at the time, but I was also being taught by Canutt, Farnsworth, Mahoney, and all the other great stunt men.

Anyhow, time passed and I learned from my heroes. Riding my bicycle down a country road one day, I spotted some horses loafing in a pasture and knew that my time had come. I pulled some choice-looking grass out of the ditch, climbed up a fence post and got on the other side. Standing on the barbed wire, I held onto the fence post with one hand and offered the grass to the horses with the other. Sure enough, one of those horses came up to get a taste and when he took a bite, I grabbed a hold of his mane and swung aboard. The horse quickly headed for a grove of trees with low-hanging branches like he was probably going to try and scrape me off. I called on one of my new movie tricks to get me out of trouble. This is the one where the Indian slips over to the side with only a heel hooked over the horse’s back and can either shoot under the horse’s neck or just ride in the middle of a herd without being spotted. This proved to be a good way to duck under limbs. I survived this first attempt to brush me off and later used it to save my bacon a number of times.

Roy-Life Mag

My biggest problem was that I couldn’t always lure a horse to the fence or to a rock that I could mount from. I was still too short to just grab some mane and swing aboard. So, next came my real money trick which was the “Pony Express” mount. I believe I saw both Roy and Gene do this one. You grab the saddle horn (if you happen to have a saddle) with both hands and as the horse takes off you raise both of your feet up under you and just hang there. After the horse has run a few steps and has gotten some speed up, you hit the ground with both feet and pull hard with your arms and the bounce created by the horse’s momentum tosses you right into the saddle. This turned out to be the answer to my prayers. I’d just grab hold of the mane with both hands and as the horse took off I’d bang both feet on the ground and get bounced right onto his back. The first time I tried this though, I had to pay my dues by learning that a horse can “cow kick”. I was hanging onto this horse’s mane and as he gathered speed I was just about to make my move when he reached up and planted a rear hoof on my back pocket. I ended up sliding along nose down in the dirt. After that lesson, I stayed closer to the fore-leg when I was hanging there in mid-air and I didn’t get kicked again.

After I got a little bigger, I finally was able to handle a runaway using another movie trick I learned. It came in handy since I was riding these borrowed horses without saddle, bridle, or reins. If you can’t control a horse with your knees and he’s running away with you, just slip over his near shoulder with your right arm around his neck and reach up with your left hand and clamp his nostrils shut. Then, you can pull his nose down and stop him or pull to the side and start him in a circle. In desperation, I used this a couple of times and neither of us got hurt.

I got to feeling bad about riding people’s horses all the time without permission (but not bad enough to quit). So, I saved up and bought me a Scotch comb and took to cleaning the horses up whenever I rode. That relieved some of the guilt feelings. They were all worth it as there is nothing that can compare with being on a horse’s back.

Well, those are some of the things I learned from Roy and Gene and the other movie cowboys. It was fun growing up with them. Nearly fifty years later, it was a great treat to attend the Golden Boot Awards Banquet in Santa Monica with Roy and Gene, The Lone Ranger, Pat Buttram, and many others. It made me feel like a kid again. 

Roy and Gene-Seniors

All the cowboys…


And the wannabe cowboys…

Have turned into Senior Citizens!

Dave Thomas
May 27, 1992; revised November 6, 2013; added pictures February 15, 2015

Colder Than A…

I was 19 and it was Thanksgiving. My friends all had commitments of one kind or another so I had decided to go hunting by myself. I decided that rather than taking the car, I would walk all the way and probably cover 5 or 6 miles. My friend, Jack, and I had a regular track that we liked to take and we knew the spots where we were most likely to encounter a cottontail or two.

It was an ugly day. There was already snow on the ground and it was supposed to snow all day. I put on warm clothes, including boots, a sock cap and a parka and grabbed my .22 and a box of shells and took off. By the time I was a half mile south of town the temperature had changed and what had been a light snow became a freezing rain. The rain would hit the barrel of my rifle and then freeze and soon the whole barrel was covered with ice. I was warm enough in my parka but I hadn’t shaved yet that morning and I started getting ice crystals in my whiskers. I was wearing a scarf so I arranged it better to cover my cheeks and tightened the drawstring on my parka hood.

When I got to the Walnut River there was some wind and it was causing the snowflakes to really swirl around me. I was nice and warm so I didn’t much care but just kept moving. I knew that the odds of me jumping a rabbit weren’t worth betting on. The rabbits would be hunkered down in those little nesting places in the tall grass and unless I was about to step on one it wouldn’t run.

I kept moving and checked out the areas where we usually found a cottontail or two. I covered a couple more miles and didn’t see anything so I headed for home. It was still a yucky-looking day with snow falling in a pretty steady manner. I hadn’t seen a rabbit all day but that was okay because I didn’t really want to shoot anything. I just wanted to get out of the house and burn off some energy. Now it was time to go home and clean up and get ready for dinner.

Dave Thomas
December 10, 2014


AVS Honey

I had a brief career in the honey industry. It was the end of the school year in 1950 and I was 13 and would be 14 in August. As I recall, back then school let out around May 20th to the 25th. I was scheduled to spend the summer in Arizona with my Grand-dad but wouldn’t be leaving until the middle of June. I wanted to find a job so I could have some pocket money while on vacation. I mentioned this to my great Aunt, Rachel Peebler, and she suggested that Mr. Small might be able to use me in his honey business. She said he hired a few kids every summer to help him.

Arthur V. Small and his wife, Jesse, were good friends of my Aunt Rachel and Uncle Dave. Mr. Small was a retired chemical engineer or petroleum engineer at our local Socony-Vacuum (later Mobil) refinery. Mrs. Small was a member of Eastern Star and other clubs with Aunt Rachel. Over the years, Aunt Rachel had taken me with her a number of times to their home at the corner of Harrington and Henry Streets.

Aunt Rachel drove me up to the Small’s house and I told Mrs. Small I needed a job for about 3 weeks and wondered if they could use me. She said Mr. Small had just recently brought in a bunch of hives and there was a lot of work to do. She told me to show up the next morning at 8:00 AM and there would be plenty of work for me.

When I reported for work I was surprised to find 6 or 8 kids there that I knew. Some of them said it was their second or third year on the job. They loved it and I soon found out why. Mr. Small spent a few minutes telling about the job and the work that was being done. He had organized the work crew as a full-fledged organization with a chain of command, job titles, and job descriptions. It’s been so long ago I don’t remember any titles except Expeditor, Chief Expeditor, and Inspector. Everyone had an important sounding title and a job description telling them exactly what their job entailed. I remember a kid named Bob Hamilton was Chief Expeditor. He was two years older than me and had worked there for a couple of summers. I was the lowliest of the low and my job was to scrape the wax residue of the honeycombs out of the hives and then give them a fresh coat of white paint. I don’t remember my title but it wouldn’t have been anything as common and mundane as “Beehive Scraper” or “Laborer”. It would surely have been something like “Habitat Renovator”.

The Small’s house was built on the side of a hill and around in back there was a door and you could walk straight into the basement. That’s where the people worked that handled the jars and labels and honey. I have no idea what the output of the shop was but I imagine that the Smalls did all right with their business. You could go into every neighborhood grocery store in town and find jars of AVS Honey on the shelf.

I really enjoyed the three weeks or so that I worked there. Having an opportunity to learn about the workplace from a wise, older couple like Mr. and Mrs. Small was good for every kid they trained.

Dave Thomas
April 12, 2015


Another Story: H.H. Robinson

Another of the people I liked when I was growing up was H.H. Robinson. I believe Mr. Robinson started teaching at Augusta High School in 1929 when my Dad was a senior and Mom was a sophomore. At that time he announced that he intended to live to be 100 years old.

By the time I got to high school Mr. Robinson was the Superintendent of Schools. He still taught, keeping his hand in by teaching drafting in the first two classes in the morning. My first four semesters in high school, I took Mechanical Drawing and the last four semesters I took Architectural Drawing. I enjoyed both forms and Mr. Robinson made them interesting and challenging. One of the things that he believed in strongly was that it does no good to create a beautiful drawing if no one can read the notes you have inscribed at the bottom. So, to remedy that situation, he gave a lettering test every Friday morning at the beginning of class. If you didn’t show constant improvement or at least seem to be holding your own, you heard about it.

The Robinson family lived across the street from the high school and from the time I was five until I was twenty, I lived half a block down the street from them. The Robinsons had 3 kids, all of them several years older than me. The oldest was Virginia and if I remember correctly she married a local guy named Jack Frost. Some name, huh? Next was Buell and he was away in college or the service. I just saw him a few times. The youngest was Stanley, 4 or 5 years older than me. I saw him regularly. He built his own kayak or canoe down in the basement. It had a wood frame with a canvas skin. He used it a lot.

H.H. was serious about living to be 100 and worked out all the time. He made regular visits to the schools and all the classes. Every time he showed up at gym class we learned something. He taught us how to jump rope but none of us ever got good enough to beat him. We learned to jump forward and backward and to do those neat skipping tricks you now see boxers doing. I practiced at home all the time but could never beat him. I came in second a couple of times when some of us in the gym class challenged him.

Mr. Robinson taught me and the other kids how to ice skate, too. We lived on the west edge of town and there was a pond less than a quarter mile away. It was called “Money’s Pond” because it belonged to a man named I.M. Money. It used to be a stock pond but Mr. Money no longer pastured cattle there. Anyhow, we usually skated at Money’s but sometimes went to Elm Creek which was about 1 ¼ miles west. Frequently we went at night and would build bonfires on the creek bank. Mr. Robinson hiked to the creek also rather than driving his car. The creek was more fun than the pond. There were some long stretches between curves where we could hold races. One time, H.H. had us drag the trunk of a dead tree out on the ice and taught us how to jump over it. We had a few crashes but eventually all learned to pull our feet up so we could clear the thing. Mr. Robinson was a very patient man who taught by example. H e only corrected someone if their bad habits might injure them.

The Robinsons could park their car under the house. The driveway was more of a ramp that started at the curb and went down at a steep angle and joined the floor of the basement. There was a pattern in the concrete of the driveway to improve traction. I’d swear the angle on that thing was greater than 45 degrees. A couple of us kids were walking past the house one day and we heard some noise coming from the open garage door. We looked down there and could see Mr. Robinson punching a speed bag. He was really making the thing sing.

Several of the teachers had cabins up in Estes Park, Colorado and took their families up to spend the summers.

As I mentioned earlier, I took all the drafting classes I could in high school. As a senior, my last semester was pretty relaxed. Mr. Robinson and I knew each other pretty well by this time. He trusted me and if he had a meeting or some business to attend to he left me in charge of the class. As we got to the middle of my last semester of Architectural Drafting Mr. Robinson announced that we would be starting our final project which would be the design of a house of the style of our choice. He had his clipboard in hand and said he would stop by our drafting tables that morning and we could tell him what we wanted our project to be. He would discuss it with us and if he agreed that it would be the right thing for us he would give us the okay and would note it on his clipboard. He went around the room and when he got to me he asked what I would like my project to be. I said “I’ve heard a lot women being compared to brick outhouses so I thought I’d like to design one and see just what it looks like”. Well, Mr. Robinson raised his eyes from his clipboard and fixed them on me like he was going to stare a hole in me. I stared right back at him and didn’t back down or say anything. After a bit, he said “OK” and without cracking a smile or showing any emotion at all, wrote “Brick Outhouse” beside my name. As Mr. Robinson made his rounds in class each day he would critique my drawing and give me helpful suggestions. I ended up with a very nice brick outhouse complete with a wood-paneled interior, space heater, television set and a curving concrete walkway to get there on. We didn’t have a blueprint machine but did have a frame that used sunlight to expose the image. We made tracings of our finished drawings and then cut a piece of treated blueprint paper from a giant roll and then locked the tracing and blueprint paper into the frame and went out in front of the building and let the sun shine on it for a few minutes. The end result was a piece of blue paper with white lines on it like any other blueprint. I got an “A” on the project. Mr. Robinson remained dignified throughout the job and treated it like any other without as much as a smile.

I joined the Navy a couple of years after high school graduation and didn’t get back to Augusta much after that. The first class reunion I attended was our 40th. One of the guys told me that Mr. Robinson had eventually retired to Estes Park and that he had indeed made it to his 100th birthday. Good for him!

Dave Thomas
February 3, 2014


Love At The Beach

It was back in the mid-1980’s and the kids were raised and out of the house. Pat was working at Sears and worked weekends except for the one weekend a month she had off. Her days off during the week were a nice time to go to the beach in that there wouldn’t be any school kids there to make it too crowded. Pat enjoyed roller-blading and bike riding and usually headed for Mission Beach with Liz or one of her other friends to spend the day. She also kept after me to get a bike and join her. It sounded like a pastime that would be fun to share so I went to a swap meet one weekend and found a cheap bike.

At the first opportunity, we loaded the bikes in the back of my little blue Nissan pickup and headed for the beach. We parked in the lot by the roller coaster and got our bikes out of the back of the truck. We crossed the street and took off on the sidewalk through Mission Bay Park. At the end of the park, we took the sidewalk that went under the bridge and ran alongside the bay. We got to the point where the walkway is named “Bayside Walk” and continued north. Riding on Bayside Walk is always a treat with its beautiful homes with their lush landscapes. There are beautiful rose gardens, bougainvillea, and plumeria in abundance. We enjoyed the ride up Bayside and got almost to the Catamaran Hotel when we turned west to cross over to the beach. You go about a half block on the street, then cross Mission Boulevard and then go another half block to the boardwalk, the beach, and the Pacific Ocean. Once on the boardwalk, it’s about 3 miles south to where the truck is parked.

Of course, the boardwalk is made of concrete and is probably 18 or 20 feet wide. There is about a 36″ high sea wall on the west side and the east is lined with residences and beach rentals. The beach sand extends from the wall, some 40 or 50 yards to the ocean, depending what the tide situation is.

The beach was crowded and the boardwalk was packed with people walking, jogging, roller blading, and riding bicycles. We started down the boardwalk in single file with me riding behind Pat. You had to stay alert to keep from running over someone. Pat wanted to make sure I enjoyed the experience so she kept an eye on the beach and whenever she spotted a good-looking girl in a bikini she would point her out. Thanks to Pat, I didn’t miss a thing.

We enjoyed our ride down the boardwalk, watching the people and seeing the beautiful blue Pacific. As we got down toward the end of the beach, there in south Mission, we noticed a teenage kid trot across the sand and climb over the sea wall. He stopped right there on the boardwalk and Pat had to stop to keep from hitting him. I put my brakes on and coasted up behind her. The kid faced her and grabbed hold of her handlebars with both hands and straddled her front wheel. He looked at her and ardently proclaims, “You are so beautiful! I’m going to hold onto you and never let you go!” We both realized the kid was stoned out of his gourd and we started laughing. As the kid goes on, professing his undying love and promising to take care of Pat forever, I’m sitting there and laughing my head off. As the kid continues, Pat begins to become embarrassed and starts squirming a little. The kid doesn’t quit so I finally have to tell him that I’m her husband and he should get lost. He had enough brain power left to take the hint and left.

We sat there on our bikes, laughing and talking about the experience. I told Pat that I was surprised to see her boyfriend act so brazenly in front of me and all among teenage boys at the beach. As we laughed about that she told me again that watching people at the beach is more fun than a barrel of monkeys.

Dave Thomas
November 2, 2015


Izzie-5: Communicating

Izzie-5 Communicating

Communicating with a cat is much like communicating with a toddler. You have to keep it simple and say things they can understand based on what they have learned to this point. Short, simple words should be used and you should use the same word each time to describe an item or action in order to aid retention. The cat (or kid) will respond by doing something or doing nothing.

We all know that cats say “meow”. That’s the simplest thing they can do that we dumb humans can understand. Beyond that, it gets complicated and we have to really pay attention. I remember being told as a child that cats and other animals won’t look you in the eye because they think that if anything locks eyeballs with them it plans to eat them. I’ve found that it’s not true. Izzie looks me right in the eye to tell me stuff. For instance, if we are in the living room watching TV and Izzie is curled up on the floor she may decide to do something. She’ll get up and start walking across the floor. When she gets past the coffee table and there is a direct line of sight between us, she will stop and turn her head and stare me right in the eye. If I don’t notice her (or pretend not to notice her) she will face forward and resume walking to wherever she was going. However, if I get up and walk toward her there are two possibilities. If she stands still and continues to look up at me then I’m supposed to pick her up and give her a hug. But, if she resumes walking then I am supposed to follow her (see Izzie-7, Escort Service).

No response can actually be a response. A cat’s ears are always moving as it’s their nature to follow every sound. So, for instance, if Izzie and I are outside, and I say “Okay, Izzie, it’s time to go inside” and she just sits there, staring in the other direction, and her ears are perfectly still, I know she is making a conscious effort to make no response to my wish. If she wants to comply she gets up and heads for the door. I guess you could call this a binary response…she either jumps up or not.

Pat and Izzie play two games that Pat refers to as “Chase” and “Hide and Seek” and they can happen at any time during the day or evening. If Pat wants to play, she’ll signal Izzie by walking up to her and “growling” and stomping her feet and yelling “where’s that cat?” Izzie will jump to her feet and race across the room and down the hall with Pat running after her (see Izzie-6 and Izzie-6a, Chase and Hide and Seek and Games.) If Izzie wants to start a game she has several ways of signaling. To make noise, Izzie extends her claws and hooks them in the carpet. Then, she jerks her paw back and causes a popping noise. When she races down the hall, popping her claws at every step, it sounds like a herd of wild horses. Another way she’ll get your attention is to stand in one spot and pop her claws and then, all of a sudden, jump straight up in the air, do a 180 degree turn, and come down ready to be chased. If none of that stuff works, she’ll go pop her claws in the end of the couch because that’s forbidden and she knows that will gain some attention.

Of course purring is a major cat trait. Isabella purrs most of the time though if you manage to aggravate her, her ears go back until the color of them blends into the color of her head and then she is not only mad but looks weird too.

So far, we’ve got the meow, the look, no response, popping her claws, the run, the jump, purring, and ears back. Izzie and I are both still learning this communication thing. In a few months she may be reading at a 3rd grade level. I don’t know where I’ll be.

Dave Thomas
May 18, 2012


Another Story: Hal


When I was a kid growing up, one of my favorite characters was the kid who had moved in across the street. His name was Hal Ellis and he was a year younger than me, which at the time I’m thinking of makes him about eleven. Most of the time, Hal just looked like a regular kid. He was kind of middle—sized, muscular, had curly hair, and the girls said he was cute. The thing that makes me remember him though, was his ability to imitate an old country bumpkin. Here’s the way it worked. If you saw Hal and walked up and greeted him with “what do you know, Hal?”, he would go right into his act. First, he would hook his thumbs into his belt and then rock back on his heels like he was going to speak. But, then he would kind of look around and a far away look would come into his eyes and he would end up looking down at the ground. After a couple of seconds, he would start to drag his toe in the dirt and you could just see that there was a lot of serious activity taking place under that curly hair. After a few more seconds, you could see that some kind of revelation had taken place and he slowly raised his head until he was looking you right in the eye and then, out it comes “It takes a big dog to weigh 200 pounds!”

I laughed every time I heard it. He had other words that he used sometimes, too. Like,”it takes a long rope to reach a mile” but I liked the dog best. That stuff took place 45 years ago and it still makes me laugh.

Dave Thomas
August 24, 1993



Our three year old great grand-daughter, Quetzal, has already learned to deal with authority and I’m going to start using what I have learned from her. Quetzal was doing something she wasn’t supposed to. Her mother, Michelle, frowns and asks “Why do you continue to do these things after I tell you not to?” Quetzal looks up at her and says “Because it makes me happy!” You can’t argue with that.

Dave Thomas
July 24, 2014