Another View: Tales from an old house and election suggestions

By: Robin Enos & John Downs
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Time Traveler:  The Pirate and I were absent for last week’s column, he having gone to Yosemite while I spent time traveling a week or so playing poker with James “Wild Bill” Hickok at the Number 10 in Deadwood, South Dakota. Poor Bill, he should have pushed away from the table sooner. For you doubters, take note, I have pictures.

I thought I’d continue the column that appeared in The Auburn Journal Friday, September 30. In that column I described my childhood in an old house that started out as a miner’s shack sometime in the early 1860’s and hadn’t improved a whole lot when we moved in ninety some years later. It wasn’t much but to me it was more than a house or even a home: it was a fort, a sailing ship, an Indian village, anything my child’s imagination wanted it to be. Just as importantly it was my protector from things that go bump in the night, and believe me as far out in the woods as we lived a lot of things go bump in the night. The old house has remained abandoned since we move away some sixty years ago but every year or so I make a pilgrimage to the old place to recapture my childhood. I’ve always managed to fulfill my adult responsibilities but I maintain a death-grip on my childhood because that’s what made me. Every time I go out there that old place is leaning further south—as I am—always kind of figured we would fall over about the same time. Alas, that old shack refuses to give up. 

Recently I walked down the old road expecting the worst and miracle of miracles someone has started to build a house on the hill above and is straightening out the old girl for use as a workshop. Who would of thought? Walking through it memories came flooding back. My bed was the main room where the roof slopped down so that I doubt an adult could stand upright, the rough hewn walls where someone with an eye for finer things had tacked cheesecloth and then glued wallpaper over the cloth. They’re gone now but I remember it well. I’m going to keep the location of the old place to myself because the next thing you know the owners would have to deal with tour busses and reporters! 

As I write this the first storm of the rainy season is raising hell outside. I enjoy the rain but not like I did as a kid. Now that I’m all grown up, living in double glazed, triple insulated isolation my awareness of the weather is proved by Katie Cutie, the local weather-babe who, with all the gravity of Edward R. Murrow is standing knee-deep in rubble reporting like it’s the Blitz of London just to tell me it’s raining. The nighttime winter storms I enjoyed as a kid at the old house were a different ball of wax.  Then, I knew nothing of storm fronts, high or low pressure and such. The movement of the trees was my barometer in real time. First, the trees would start to whisper nervously to each other, then in stops-and-starts began to wave their branches back and forth anxiously in anticipation of what they knew was coming—we all knew. When the first real gust of wind struck the bard and batt siding the loose wallpaper next to my bed would puff away from the wall then settle comfortably back, almost as if the old place was as startled as I was by the blast. I knew it was time to blow out the lamp, grab my two monkey dolls and crawl under the covers. Hey! I was on five. Next the rain arrived to deliver a warning rattle on the tin roof. The tree branches, heavy with water, drooped and began to drag themselves across the roof making a faint screeek and then a moment later a scraaawk. I would stiffen, listening carefully. Everyone knows if you stiffen up and hold your breath you can hear better. I figured it was the storm creature trying to get in. I was pretty sure the house would keep it out. But a little extra attention never hurts. 

From time to time the storm eased up a little trying to act innocent. Finally it returned with a vengeance. Fain thundered on the roof, wind buffeted the old house causing it to tremble slightly and making the windows rattle in their slide-bolt fasteners. A piece of loose tin would lift slightly then slam back in place. An occasional flurry of soft pats told me that some of the rain had found its way in. Eventually the storm wore itself out and wandered up the draw to go pick on someone else I had no doubt. The creek was still running high and furious but other than that all I could hear was the gentle ting-ting-tatting of water dripping off the eaves, landing on an upturned coffee can outside my window. To that lullaby I went to sleep knowing that as long as my head and feet were covered whatever lurked under my bed couldn’t get me.  Besides, if things got dicey I could always sacrifice Chester and throw him off the side of the bed. He was never my favorite anyway. 

Portuguese Pirate: For a guy with such a great memory why couldn’t he remember to send me a birthday card? But first let me send out blessings to all the Native American Tribes at Standing Rock Sioux nations and the “Water Protectors Camp,”  


Well it’s been almost a month since our last Newcastle Fire Protection District (NFPD) board meeting (3rd Wednesday of every month) and many things are pending approval from the board. By the time this column is read by many in the Newcastle Fire Protection District the NFPD board will have decided on: 1. A New Fire Chief; Ian Gow, 2. A new architect; Ron Lichau as our first one passed away. 3. The return of the 1941 Van Pelt fire truck back to the community. Thank You Wayne, Greg and the rest of the Newcastle Firefighters Volunteers Association for making this possible. The citizens are ecstatic about it. The Firehouse update is good news as we have appointed, in August, retired South Placer Fire Chief Lawrence Bettencourt as a NFPD interim (re-elect him on November 8th) board member. As a board member others and I couldn’t be more confident that finally we have someone with prior knowledge in building a firehouse. Lawrence Bettencourt has been directly involved with the county, state and federal agencies. He was project manager on one and a key element for other South Placers fire stations being built. I am on the facilities “ad hoc” committee with him, I have to tell you, only one board member, previous chairman Dave Ward, over the last 20 years has had the know-how like Lawrence Bettencourt. He volunteered his time for this project back in January this year to get the project back on line and believe me we’re on the fast track now! Now being a board member who needs to be re-elected, he can continue on to the finish. With elections looming on November 8, Lawrence Bettencourt has the skills to work with the County, reading blueprints, change orders, Cal trans, Project Manager, architect, EPA, state, federal etc. I know Lawrence has already worked with these agencies… impressive! With his help Newcastle will have a new firehouse within 12 months. What’s really cool is the fact that our new Chief Ian Gow works well with Lawrence and has seen his firehouse accomplishments. So I think Chief Gow is very happy to have Lawrence on the board.  This is just another affirmation that we appointed the right person to the board in August. So on November 8th cast one vote and that vote would be for retired fire chief Lawrence Bettencourt for Newcastle Fire Protection District Board Member.