Beaker Adventures in Prunetucky



Adventures in Prunetuky

By Russ Bertlow


My husband and I were living in North Monterey county in a small town called Prundale CA but know affectionately as Prunetuky. We live on a nice country road called Paradise Canyon. Our home was a split level 3 bedroom 2 bathroom home that sat upon almost three acres. (most of which was side hill.) We had four very large oak trees that sat on the hillside of the property. We also had an upper Patio off the master and lower patio off the mud porch and dining room The front of the house had a large porch that extended the length of the front of the house. To the side of and behind the dinning room, in the back yard were chicken coups. My husband Steve and I were excited about the prospects of getting some chickens and having fresh eggs. I loved fresh eggs having grown up on a small farm where we had chickens I’d always enjoyed fresh eggs from the hen over store bought. I told my husband it was easy to raise chickens. His response was then we can get some and you can raise them. (his city boy was showing.) We decided that we would look into it over the weekend and go from there.

A few days had passed when our neighbor, who had a crush on Steve ( she flirted with shamelessly.) saw him in our yard. She walked through an Ivy covered arch way between the two properties that was missing it’s gate latch and as he looked up there she was. Oh hi Vicky he said a little surprised to see her there. She proceeded to let him know that she had a bunch of hens and a few rooster that her son had left behind and she wanted to get ride of most of them (she kept some hens and a roster for the eggs.) before he came back from Vegas because he was using them for Cock fights and that bothered her. She informed Steve that the were Araucanas and laid colored eggs. He told her he would discusses it with me but that it sounded good as we were thinking about buying some chickens. We talked it over and decided it would be a good and they where free. The next morning we got up and spoke with the neighbor and soon we had 6 hens and 3 rosters. One of the rosters looked nothing like the other two rosters and Vicky explained that it was because he was an exotic. We never did learn what type he was. My Husband adored him from the minute he saw him. This little white fluffy ball with his cotton top comb. He named him Beaker because he reminded him of the character Beaker on the Muppet show.

For about the first three weeks he and beaker got on well. One day I was unable to feed them and I asked Steve if he would. By then the other two rosters had been put in separate cages as any more then one rooster per coup and they will duke it out, so I took our large cage and turned it into three smaller cages. It also wasn’t uncommon to let them roam the side hill which they loved. After spreading the feed out in the first to cages he closed them up each respectively and went on to the last cage. The cage beaker was in his buddy his pal. He started spreading the chicken feed on the ground when beaker came up to him and pecked his right big to really hard. It didn’t help that Steve was wearing flip flops. Before he even realized what he was doing he had drop kicked beaker to the corner of the cage trying to get him off his big toe. Beaker got up and promptly chased him out of the cage.

The next morning Steve got up and shortly after breakfast Steve noticed that beaker was out of his cage and on the lower patio pacing. As Steve approached the slider beaker came over and started pecking at the bottom portion of the slider near where he could see Steve’s feet. The minute Steve tried to step outside Beaker went into attack mode. I managed to get beaker back into his cage but the next morning he was out again and once again the minute he saw Steve near the slider he started pecking the glass. Needless to say with in a week or so Steve had grown tired of this and Beaker had lost a bit of favor in Steve’s eyes. Beakers behavior was unrelenting for awhile but eventually he would settle down a bit and the fact that I had found his escape hatch had thwarted his escape attempts for the time being. As long as Steve didn’t go in or near the cage Steve was fine and Beaker left him alone.(I’m sure only because he could get at him.) For now the were coexisting peacefully and that made me happy.

One weekend we invited a friend of ours,big Mike who live not to far a way himself, to dinner after which we sat on the front porch enjoyed some after dinner drinks and tokes when we heard the distinctive Spanish voice of our neighbor Vicky say Es Steve your Rooster is over here can you come and get him. I leaned over to our friend big Mike and told him that Vicky was his country girlfriend. Steve didn’t find that amusing but Big mike thought it was . Steve got up and headed over to Vicky’s house. As he round the side of our house and headed through the Ivy covered arch way we lost site of him. Big Mike and I continued to talk until we hears Steve and Vicky talking and trying to get Beaker to come out from beneath a flatbed trailer she had on her property. “Get em get em”, Vicky said. “Watch out” came Steve’s voice. Then “Scare him that way” said Steve. ‘Watch out here he comes” said Vicky.

We heard what sounded like a Peacocks cry and turned to look in the the general direction. We didn’t see anything but then we heard it again. A few seconds later Steve came running through the arch way that separated the two properties flailing his arms in the air trying to run fast in flip flops and doing his best imitation of a peacock. As he ran towards the porch at the front of the house we wondered what he was running from. Was he coming to get back up to get Beaker back in his cage ? Was he injured? We didn’t know all we knew was that he was running as fast as he could to get to us. About 15 seconds after coming through the arch way what should we see appear but the little fluff ball him self, beaker hot on Steve’s tail chasing him as fast as his little rooster legs would carry his foot and a half tall by foot wide body pecking the air the whole time he was chasing Steve. Big Mike and I sat there watching things unfold laughing uncontrollably as tears streamed down our eyes. Our sides hurt but my husband was not amused as he ran up the stairs and into the front door where upon Beaker stood there for a few seconds pecking at the wood door. Before he exited back down the steps he turned to us and tossed a peck and the evil eye in our direction. For a split second it it started big Mike, then he looked down at the rooster and said don’t even think about I’ll drop kick you to the street so fast your head will spin . Beaker thought about it backed up and made his way back down the steps and off the porch. I got up chased beaker to the back yard and got him back into his cage where upon Steve came back out to join us on the front porch and enjoyed the rest of the evening. Beaker lived with us until we sold the property and bought the Inn in South Lake Tahoe at which point he the other roosters and hens were taken up to my parents small farm to live out the rest of their days.

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Sweeeet Sunday Sermon of Song











Sweeeet Sunday Sermon of Song




by. Russ Bertlow










The day has just begun. The choir is in fine form.




Before I even step out into the morning chapel,




the choir has begun to sing.




The sweeet gospel of Momma Nature.




Hummie, Harvey and Henry Hark buzzing and zipping around.




My little Hummingbirds doing there best to usher everyone into this mornings sunrise service.




That sweeeet Sunday sermon of song.




The moment comes when the days gift from God is reveled as bright light ascends


high to illuminate the day.




The crescendo of soulful songs of Gods nature choir is strong as the Son ascends into the sky,


brighter and brighter.




Ahhhhhh sweeeet Sunday morning gospel being sung.




Welcoming the day as the new Sunflower seedlings wave good morning


from the garden where the song is strong.




Sweeeet Sunday sermon of song coming down like sweeeet jazz unfettered .




A smooth, soulful, joyous song. 

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Now is the time of Day

Now is the time of Day.

By. R.E. bertlow


Now is the time of day when the Birds sing there final arias and odes to the day.

They dance the final dance and take one more curtain call as the sun fades behind the mountain to end the final scene.

One last burst of light reflecting off of silvery clouds that nestle like pillows amongst the mountains

Pillows directing the last bit of light upward pinkining the clouds higher still yet.

One last burst of color. One last surprise. The Grand Finally.

The beauty?, every show  different. Every show vibrant. Mother Nature as always in fine form.

Now is the time of day when quite settles in. When the scenic beauty fades to charcoal gray all blending in subtle hues to illusive to catch to tempting not to try.

The faintest pink whisper like a fading ostrich plume The subtle pale grays that fade and blend to soon leaving a muddled color that blends and twist into darkness. The final remnants of the dusk beauty erased.

The last aria and ode. The last pirouette, the last jazzed hand of the day has been performed and now makes way for the night timers and the subtle music of their world.

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Another Cool Crisp Morning



Another Cool Crisp Morning

By R.E. bertlow

Another cool crisp morning.

The birds sing the sounds of the day awakening and unfolding.


Another cool crisp morning.

The dew is not ice but it is Dewy a little thicker then water.


Another cool crisp morning.

The Palms wave good morning. All from my back yard.


The Sunrise on the mountain, turning them from brown to red

takes me back to.



Another cool crisp morning.

Autumn is here, Family is preparing to gather around a patched together set of tables.


Another cool crisp morning.

My husband and the girls leave to ski, as guest gather for breakfast in the lobby.


Another cold crisp morning.

the sun on the mountain reflecting rainbows if you get down and look.

Another cold crisp morning.

Wind whipping at my face. Bags of breakfast for the lobby in my hand.


My frozen hands remind me of where I want to be.


Another cool crisp morning.

Winter will soon be here. Soon, the town will fill with birds of snow and and weekend escapist. 

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Memories of being a Clayton Rd Clod Hopper

Growing up on Clayton Rd was good for me.  It allowed me to constantly get out my nervous energy( there was a lot of it.) Even on medication for Hyperactivity that I was on, ( it wasn’t called being ADD or ADHD back in the sixties and seventies.)  wasn’t enough to dissipate all the energy I had. Sure I was more focused in school but I was still very fidgety. Being able to Hike and explore and constantly having activities to do helped to keep me more focused. It wasn’t always the big things like hiking or working in the Apricot orchards that help to dissipate my nervous energy . Sometimes it was the every day mundane things like creating fire breaks around the property or mucking a stall. These type of task for what ever reason seem to help with the intense energy that my Hyper activeness created and still creates at times. For me it was and is having my muscles in my body in constant contraction at times. To this day If I am not consciously aware of what I am doing I will find myself nervously twisting a straw wrapper or napkin into oblivion. It is energy that needs to get out so I can stay better focused. It is just the way it has always been for me.

Memories of being a Clayton Rd Clod Hopper

By R.E. bertlow

I was just about to turn 7 years old when we moved to Clayton Rd. I was luckier then my brothers I already had one friend on Clayton Rd. That was why we were moving to Clayton Rd. They had found for us our future home just across the road from them

It was 1967 and my folks saw what our area of town was becoming. We were live in East San Jose at the time. Neighborhoods that had filled with new homes and war brides ready to start working on there 2.5 were ending now. The were changing fast. My parents want there kids to have a fair and honest start. When the chance to move to Clayton Rd presented itself my parents took it.

At the send of the school year after my first grade year in school we packed up all our belongings and moved from a three bedroom two bathroom house to a 3 room house with 1 bathroom and a walk in closet in the largest room of the house. The kitchen doubled as the living room or in our case a place to put the kitchen table my mother had gotten a year earlier an still has. A tall wood planter with fake plastic plants (it was never meant for real plants) divided the room between kitchen and dinning area. Beyond the kitchen dining area to the left were the walk in closet bathroom and two bedrooms. The smaller of the two was off the larger one. Off to the right was a partially built carport . There was a lot about this place that was partially built, but the coolest things about this place by far were the barn and mini barn.

We were soon settled in and my father had turned the partially built carport into a living room. As kids we loved our new surroundings. My best friend and classmate Brent was introducing me to the other kids on the road. It was great but it was different. In the old neighborhood we would get a group of kids together to play statue maker or Mother/Father may I lickety split, up here it took a bit more effort and the game of the day was usually kick the can.

We had settled in quite nicely on Clayton Road. We went from being part of Y Indian guides to being

4-H’ers before the new school year would start. My first project would be a cow. My job would be to take care of and raise the cow and bring it to exhibit at the county fair the next August.

I learned what mucking out stalls was and a variety of other things a city kids knows nothing of. I was quickly becoming a country boy. My dad was back were he wanted to be. Having grown up working in the family prune orchards he felt right at home living on a country road. It really was Idyllic in many ways.

The kids on our road were known as the “Clayton Road Clod Hoppers. We’d chosen the moniker because we usually had clods of dirt on the bottom of our shoes and boots. We participated in 4-H together, Road the school bus together and socialized together. When your 4 and a half miles from town your not apt to hang out at the corner quick stop. My parents liked that fact.

When we did get together for a game of kick the can it was usually on a weekend after chores were done and later in the day before dinner and in the summer just after. It was always fun to play kick the can on a summers evening. We would usually meet over between the Powell and Poindexter property Sharon, Becky, Randy, Mike, Michelle, Brent Kurt Mark My older brother and I would play kick the can until it was to dark to see.

In the summers we would work in the Apricot orchards. Some of us kids would pick and some of us would cut the apricots along with the adults. We usually worked in the same orchard every summer but there were times when we would work at other orchards on the road. We were always paid per box, bucket or tray (being paid by tray meant the orchard had an automated cutter so all you had to do was lay out the Apricots and you didn’t have to worry about cutting your fingers with your paring knife.(anybody who was anybody had their own paring knife. To use the ones the drying sheds provided meant you were a visitor or newbie.) Every summer I would work at the Duarte Orchard and as I got older when things had finished up for the season at the Duarte Orchard I would work at the Balcom orchard which was bigger and sometimes the Souza Orchard which my cousins ran.

One morning I set off on my bike ( I was never real stable back then for various reasons.) I was almost to the Balcom orchard when a car came around a corner and I lost my balance and took a header into a telephone pole. As I carried my bike with it’s bent in half front tire down the Balcom”s drive way Joan looked at me with great concern and in her sweet motherly voice she asked what happened and then handed me the Phone they had in the cutting shed and said you better call your Mother and let her know. I did as told and Joan checked me to make sure nothing was broken then we got on with the business of the day drying Apricots. My mom came and got me when we were done for the day My scraped knee covered with a bandage. No worse for the wear.

My classmates love to come up and visit. It was different to them, foreign, unique. Some of these kids had now Idea what a cow truly looked like or sounded like. They were fascinated by the sounds sites and smells of our little farmett. It may have only been five acres but to my classmates it was huge.

My classmates would come to visit and get to do things they would not get to do in town. I had one particular friend Troy would come up on a more regular bases and we always had a blast together. Whether it was sliding down our side hill on refrigerator box or riding bikes on the road. He was also a friend of my neighbor and best friend Brent. We had all been in the first and second grade together so it was nice to be able to hang out together as well.

Troy had come to spend the weekend with my family and we decided that it would be fun to take our bikes up to the Grand View restaurant on Mt Hamilton the road above us that eventually lead further and further back into the hills where my Dad’s brother ran the Three Springs Cattle ranch that we would sometimes help out on during round up and branding.

On this day we thought it would be a great ride down and not so bad up since we both had 5 speed with banana seats and sissy bars. (There were no BMX bikes back then.) We headed down to the end of Clayton road where it Mt Mt Hamilton and then started the climb. Our five speeds were not doing us any more good then our 11 year old legs and the energy we put behind them were. Steep was steep but we managed to make it to the Grand View and the Old Grand View Across the road from it. Our front forks and tires wavering side to side in unsteadiness as we used every last bit of strength we had to make the last few yard to the top. My cousin Mickey ( my dad’s cousin actually.) who live in the house next door to the Old Grand View. was in his front yard and waves at us and said hello. We waved back saying hi as we rested for a moment before getting ready to go back down. Cousin Mickey went back to what he was doing and we positioned our bikes for the ride down.

As we positioned our bikes for our ride down the windy portion of road. We acted as if we were in some big race to the finish. We got on our 5 speeds and my friend Troy said On your Mark, Get Set, Go, and we were off racing down the steep and winding grade that was Mt Hamilton road. Flying around corners. Zooming at speeds of a roller coaster run a muck, or at least it seemed that way to us at 11. We were both going at a fast clip taking each turn and curve. I was proud of myself, I had never been real stable on a bike but now I was flying down this hill not thinking about what would happen if we met up with oncoming traffic. Oncoming traffic should have been the least of my worries. As we made our way down Mt Hamilton we could see that we were getting near to Clayton Rd. We were still traveling at a fast clip but it would soon be time to start applying the breaks so we could make the turn onto Clayton rd. I was thrilled I had pulled out a head of my friend Troy who was still behind me a few lengths. We had rounded the last corner and curve and I was heading into the last straight away when I hit a pot hole with my front tire and sailed over my handle bars kissing the pavement and what ever speed I was going at and then tumbled partially into Tony Duartes Apricot orchard Thank God for fresh tilled dirt. That day my face did the clod hoping. My Friend sailed right past me as I got back up on my bike scrapped cut and bruised but nothing broken. We road home walking our bikes up the driveway and heading into the house asking when dinner would be ready.

My mother looked at me as if I were an alien. What happen to you she said? Troy jumping in giving my mom the full color commentary of how I had flown over my handle bars hit the pavement and tumbled into Duartes orchard. My mom sat there shaking her head as Troy finished his color commentary with it was cool she looked at me and then at Troy and Then at me again just shaking her head, She asked if I was okay. When I answered yes . She told me to get cleaned up and dinner wouldn’t be for a while so go out and play. By now my mother had stopped being phased by our accidents they were usually miner and we seem to heal fine. The only one that ever broke anything as a child in our home was our older brother how cracked his skull three times and broke an arm once

Growing up on Clayton rd was not boring, quit the contrary there was always something to do. Whether it was 4-H projects, kick the can, climbing hills or riding refrigerator cardboard down a hill we always managed to keep busy when we weren’t mucking out stalls hoeing fire breaks or slopping pigs.

I always enjoyed the 4-H Annual Stampede. It was the Annual gathering of our 4-H troops members and there families. We were the Glen mar troop. We would all gather at one home Mary Jo Horn and her husband Virgil usually hosted it as They had a riding arena for some of the days events. There would be egg tosses, sack races, the dollar bill ride ( last rider with there dollar bill under them, after going through a course designed to make them lose it, would win.) Later I believe there was a dance where we danced to the hit tune of the day Popcorn.

We learned a lot by being in the 4-H club. Heck I learned to cook and bake. More then our individual projects we were taught how to be better people. I carry the lessons I learned as a part of the 4-H to this day, I even have one of my project books and maybe even a ribbon or two from the county fair. I believe my mother still has our 4-H hats tucked away somewhere.

There were times that for me it felt like Clayton Rd was a world unto it’s own. Living on Clayton road was something to be proud of. We embarrassed our inner hickness with abandon.

There were times when we also came together as a community in sadness as well. It I guess had been a good day, the weather was nice enough. We played that day like any other day. I would Imagine some of us even had a 4-H meeting with Penny Kelly that day. I could say for sure. What would happen that day would touch us all to the core and bring us together in a new way.

The Kelly’s where know as Horse men and women but also as pilots. Penny Kelly and her family were a big part of our 4-H club. Almost everyone in the family had a pilots license. I don’t know if Penny had a pilots license.. Penny and one of her brothers stayed behind as the rest headed to Morgan Hill to go flying. Later that day the shocking news would make it up and down the road. There plane had gone down and no one had survived. Penny and her brother became instant orphan’s. We Clayton roaders came together as a family and did what we did best pitched in any way we could to help the Kelly’s out. That’s just what a clod hopper does so we did. We were all touched deeply by this tragedy. For me it was a bit surreal. I remember asking my parents if it really happened. It just didn’t seem real.

As kids we road the school bus every day to school. (We were to far out of town to walk.). We reveled in sharing stories on the school bus in the mornings.

There was always some story to tell on the school bus. One of us had either had some sort of adventure before school like the day Monica , my cousin had hit the tail end of a cat hoping over a fence with her pellet gun because it had been trying to get her dove. Just as she hit it Sharon arrived to see the cat tail end go limp from the sting. There was the day Lisa had just gotten on the bus and just before they pulled away a BB entered the school bus window and chipped her tooth. It is were we shared our mornings events and discussed this and that. Commiserated over blown test and celebrated of good news. One of the older kids Mike Powell had written a song about our bus driver Denise we would learn and sing on the bus. There were days when the bus would broke down and we had to walk the rest of the way home. We would walk in groups each kid trailing off as they reached their driveways. We spent a lot of time on the school bus. Some of us spent almost an hour or more everyday except for weekends on the school bus. It was no wonder that it was a place that drew us closer as neighbors.

One day we had just left the school and we were making our first few stops before heading up the Hill. I think we had dropped off the Maiwald Kids and were headed up a side street. I was a beautiful spring day. We came to the next stop and Denise the bus driver got out to walk the kids across the street as was the rule of those days. My Cousin Monica, Sharon Balcom and Rod Taylor decided it would be fun if I closed the door on the bus driver. They assured me they could get it back open ( the doors were push button) They knew exactly which button to push…To close it that is. The chorus of voice grew and in quick fashion the entire bus was egging me on. Push the button, Push it, We can get it back open, Go on push it. My finger depressed the button as the kids cheered at seeing the door close. Denise pounding on the drivers side window demanding we open the door now. All of us kids hooting and hollering. Cheering and yelling as Denise stood outside not pleased trying to tell me what button to push while my cousins and others also shouted out buttons to press. It was all to fast. My nervous little mind couldn’t process the information quick enough to be able to hit the right button. Pretty soon Denise the bus driver was trying to tell me which button to push. To many instructions at once were coming my way. I finally managed to get the door open but not before it started to rain a bit. By the time I got home mother knew all about it. It cost me two weeks restriction but it was worth it.

There was nothing else like growing up on Clayton road. I consider myself lucky to have done so. I think a great many of us did. Most of us that grew up on this road dreaded the thought of moving away. Some of us still live on Clayton road starting the next generation of clod hoppers. That’s a good thing the world could use more clod hoppers.

The Bus Driver Song

There was a bus driver name Denise and he was always so cruel!

He’d wake us up in the morning and then he would drive us to school. 

Then one day poor old Denise he just up and he died.

No one came to his funeral and no one came to his wake

And when they put him in the ground, we had a big earthquake 




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Pots , pans and spoons for everyone.

I loved and still love to go camping. All the things I could do on a camping trip were left to my imagination. Camping had a way of helping me get rid of a lot of nervous energy. The nervous energy that kept me awake the night before a camping trip or wouldn’t allow me to fall asleep on the drive to the campsite. As much as I loved to fish it wouldn’t be until I was grown up that I would be able to sit still while fishing. Even at that to be still while fishing can either be meditative or end up with me just being my fidgety self. For me there is nothing like the smell of a morning campfire or the fresh cent of pine. The fact that there is so much to explore was a real help with the nervous energy that I seem to always have plenty of. I remember a great many of our camping trips. This one was particularly memorable to me not only because my Grandparents went with us but also because my parents did what the do best Welcome those around them even when they didn’t know them.

Pots pans and spoons for everyone

By R.E. Bertlow

I tell my memories as I remember and have experienced them. I was ten (10) years old at the time and had no idea what an indelible memory this would become. This camping trip would only serve to show me how lucky I was to have been. adopted by the two people I call mom and dad.

We always got and early start when going camping. My father and his best friend Bob would get everything packed up the night before and both families the Ford and Bertlow would be on the road to which ever camp site we were going to by 4:30 a.m. . As kids we were always raring and ready to go. It was difficult to get to sleep the night before a camping trip. It was like trying to fall asleep on Christmas eve for us. My brothers and I loved to fish and hike and be out doors. Usually by the time we were half way there my brothers had fallen sound asleep Me I was wide awake. Afraid I would miss something or maybe it was just being hyper active. I would crash pretty hard though the first night of camping. As we got older we managed to get to sleep easier and stay awake during the trip there. We were also expected to help pack as we got older. I remember one trip were I got to ride in the camper of my Uncle Franks truck with his daughters. I remember them putting eyeliner on me and thinking it was interesting. ( they never would have gotten away with this with my brothers. My parents should have figured it out then.) Our trips were always two weeks long. I sure my mom was ready to get back home and take a hot bath after being in the woods for two weeks.

I must have been about nine or ten years of age. It was the summer of 69 or 70 and this was the first time my grandparents went with us. I was excited as I had a very close relationship with my grand parents, after all they were the ones who hid me and my brother out when our biological mother tried to get custody (our legal guardians the ones we called mom and dad hid us at their home while they sorted it out.).

We were headed to Gerle creek. Despite it’s name it actually had a lake. I remember riding in my grandparents car. I was excited to be going and even more excited that my grandparents were joining us. It took a while to get there but thankfully my grandparents listened to the same music as I did at the time pop music. After a few hundred “are we there yet’s” and “How much longer’s”

we arrived at the campground, after we checked in and got camp set up, we kids headed down to the lake following behind my Dad, Granddad and Bob Ford. Six kid all in tow, our dads taking us off our mom’s hands so they could get a little more set up and prepared for the two weeks ahead of no breaks from six kids.

I remember that there was this rock Island in the lake. It wasn’t very big but as a kid it seemed huge to me as far as rock islands go. I also remember how crystal clear the lake was. You could see almost all the way to the bottom which was great for catching fish. As we stood by the water I remember thinking I want to go for a swim. We kids raced down to the edge of the water and stuck our toes in the water only to find the water very, very cold. We retracted our toes almost in unison from the frigid water. How is the water my father called out to us, cold we said, it will get warmer as a little later, Bob assured us.

We headed back to to the camp sites where our dads sat down and had there first beers of the trip as we kids had Grape, Orange, Cherry, Ginger Ale and other assorted varieties of Shasta soda.(we were only allowed Sodas on camping trips. Once we were done our parents sent us out to collect wood for the campfire while my dad, grandad and Bob collected some larger pieces that they would chop up. We scattered out looking. We usually paired off. An older kid with a younger kid. Jenny and my brother Rob, my brother Cliff and Mike. Becky and I were both the middle kids and good friends. My mother, grandmother and Bev had started making lunch. My dad had also given us further instruction to find our marsh mellow sticks. Finding the right marsh mellow was very important. The wrong stick and the marsh mellows won’t fit or worse yet you could end up with a stick that just breaks. Either way you are left trying to find a new stick in the dark. Not something I was particular fond of doing. I learned in pretty short order how to pick the right stick.

We had finished collecting kindling and were told lunch was ready so we sat down and had lunch and we all had sandwiches and each of us kids was a lot to have a soda. We finished as fast as we could so we could go play. We were not indoor kids, we loved to be outside. Once lunch was done my dad asked ,”Who wants to go fishing. I loved to fish the problem was I couldn’t sit still long enough to catch one. My hyperactive little brain would start my feet to thumping against what ever rock or log I might be sitting on. My father did his best to try and Quell my movement and get me to sit still. He was no more successful then my teachers most times. He had a nick name for me Nervous Norvis. I don’t know where he got it from but my dad had nick names for almost every one. Some of us had more then one nick name as well. My brothers and I headed out to go fishing with my granddad, dad, Bob and Bobs son Mike. We got down to the lake and got our fishing poles bated and cast. The clunkety clunk of my tennies banging against the rock I was sitting on. My father trying to keep his feet still. By the time my grandma, mom, Bev and her daughters got down to the lake we had already caught a few fish. As much as we loved to catch fish we really as kids didn’t care to eat them much. We much preferred fish sticks. As soon as I saw my grandmother arrive I was done with fishing. I am sure my dad felt a little relief. With enough fish caught he poles were taken out of the water and we got in instead. We waded and same in the water that had warmed up enough for us kids. The grown ups sat on the shore keeping an eye on us making sure we were safe and didn’t go out to far. My mother occasionally having to call my older brother back closer to shore. We eventually headed back to camp as it was time for my older brother and I to take our Medications ( for Hyper Activity) Ritalin and Mellaril. After we took our pills we went right back to hiking and playing. We were told not to wonder to far off as dinner would be soon. Soon enough it was dinner time and then our favorite time of night. Marsh mellow roasting time. We got our sticks out that we had so carefully picked and my dad got out his guitar. Our moms doled out the marsh mellows as my dad played the guitar and we all sang songs and roasted marsh mellows. Every once in a while my dad would stop and request that one of us kids would roast him a marsh mellow. At the close of the evening the campfire would be doused so that any wood unburned could be used for the next nights fire. We always slept well when we went camping.

We were having a blast camping. For me it was one of my favorite things to do. I loved being out in nature. I was the flower child of the family who would much rather be outdoors in indoors. I looked forward to the annual camping trip every summers. Even though I had a hard time sitting still to fish, I would always try to, my hyper active self was just a very fidgety kid so it made it hard to sit still, even at that I managed to catch fish (As I got older I would become less fidgety.). I loved to fish Years later it would become somewhat meditative for me. My two favorite things to do on a camping trip where fishing and hiking.

The morning of the fifth day arrived and my dad and Bob started the morning campfire as my mom and Bev started breakfast. There is nothing like the smell of a campfire and frying eggs and bacon on the camp stove. Bob , my dad and granddad had cups off coffee sat around the campfire stoking it. We kids sat around the campfire waiting for breakfast. When it was ready we were called to the picnic table and served on paper plates that would become part of the mornings campfire. After breakfast we were sent off to play for a bit. My dad told us that we would go fishing a little later but to stay close by, as he and the rest of the grown ups cleaned up after breakfast and enjoyed a little more coffee.

We finally headed down to the lakes and started to fish There was a small fishing boat out on the lake in it were a man and two boys about 14 and 15 years of age. They like us were fishing . We didn’t think to much about as I recall we just kept fishing. What are they doing over there ? I heard my dad say, his attention becoming more focused on the people in the boat then fishing. Pretty soon Bob Ford was distracted as well. What the hell’s going on over there Bob asked my dad. My dad said it look like the guy was jumping in and of out of the water . My father wasn’t big on horse play around boats. He felt that it was unsafe. I got a bit my brother yelled out my father instructing him on what to do to real it in. Pretty soon another one of us had caught a fish and what ever had been going on in the boat seem to quite down, I heard my mother grandparents and Bev approaching us from behind with Becky and Jenny in tow. Whats going on over there my mother said as the came up on us, She pointed towards the boat. That guy has been horse’n around, jumping in the water. The boy in the boat was getting a bit loader asking his dad to stop. Finally we gave up fishing as the activity on the boat had not only consumed our attention but captured the attention of many others on shore. Even though they were a ways away the boy could be clearly heard asking his dad to stop. The boys friend was not saying much. The boy was now yelling at his father to stop messing around followed By Dad! Dad!! Dad!! and Help!!. People on the shore closer to them started to swim out to them as they were out that far. Before we knew it there was an ambulance and medics going out on a boat to where the boys where. There was no sign of the boys father either. We all headed over to check out was going on. Only to discover that the man had drown. My mother, Bev and grandmother and grandfather quickly ushered us away from the scene. We would later learn from my dad and Bob the the man was easily visible at 20 feet down as the water was so much clearer at that distance from shore. It took a few hours to bring him up from the bottom of the lake where he lay upon some underwater boulders. We were already safely back at the camp site were we didn’t have to witness anymore than we already had.

We sat back at the camp site shocked by what had happened. The grown up felling sorry for the two boys who had to witness this tragedy. Shaking there heads I’m sure it brought back memories for my dad of his dad locking himself in the living room of the home he grew up in and pulling the trigger on his 22 ending it all. My dad was a grown man just out of the army when his own dad took his life. My dad felt for this young boy who had just witnessed his own fathers death. I think it angered my dad a bit as well because he saw this as a needless death. It didn’t have to happen. If he hadn’t been horsing around it wouldn’t have happened.

Later that day after the Ambulance and coroner had come and gone and I’m sure the boys returned home to family my folks and Bev and Bob Ford put out the word that that we would be having a big campfire and all were welcome to join in. Many of the campsites had emptied out but there were still a great many camp sites that were occupied. We had our dinner with the days events hanging heavy on our parents and grandparents minds. We as kids took our lead from our parents who felt they should shield us as much as possible which, wasn’t much as we had seen most of went on and had heard the rest right down to the siren of the Ambulance

After dinner my father asked us go go out and find some extra marsh mellow sticks so that everyone of the kids had one. We gathered as many sturdy sticks as we could fined and brought them back to the camp site. Then headed back out to get some more kindling. After we brought back the kindling Bob and my dad started the campfire. With the campfire started my dad pulled out his guitar and tuned it up so that he would be ready to play when it was time to sing campfire songs. Our mothers and Grandmother got the marsh mellows ready for roasting. A bag had been bought for every night so there were 3 bags left. They hoped this would be enough and warned us kids that we should go easy on them and let the other kids have some.

It was starting to get dark and the campfire was going pretty good so my father pulled out his guitar and started playing. My father new all the great camp songs and never cared if he had to sing them twice or even three times. As my father played his guitar campers from other camp sites started showing up. They would thank us for hosting the campfire as they arrived at our camp site and the kids where told where the marsh mellow sticks where at. Before we knew it the circle around the campfire had grown to three times it size. My mother Grandmother and Bev gathered up every pot, pan and spoon and made sure that every kid had something to make noise and music with as they sang the camp songs my dad was leading everyone in. Campers came to our camp site that night shell shocked from the days events. The tragedy that had occurred not only left campers feeling angry as it was completely preventable but also a bit numb. As more and more families arrived my mother and Bev found what every the could that was left for kids to make music with. We ran out of marsh mellow sticks so we took turns with them. We sang and Sang. “Mrs O’Leary”, “Frog on a Log”, “Sipping Cider through a straw” and many other songs. As the night went on we ended up with about sixty people in our site including some of the park rangers. For a little while we had managed to forget about the days horrible events as we roasted marsh mellows and sang camp songs. It was way past our bed time but my father kept singing and playing late into the evening. The evening finally came to an end and everyone was grateful for the temporary distraction of music and marsh mellows.. The campfire was put out and we all headed to our tents to try and sleep as best we could. In the morning our folks would decide whether we would leave or stay. We had paid for one more night so I was hoping we would stay.

Morning came and camp site after camp site emptied out. For many the events of the previous day were just to much. As much as they had appreciated what my folks, the Fords and My grandparents tried to do to light the mood and get there minds off the horrible event, there vacation were not salvageable. I was keeping my fingers crossed that ours was, as were my brothers and the Fords kids. At breakfast they informed us that we would be staying our last night and leave the next day as planned. We finished breakfast and I asked if I could go for a walk. I was told I could but I had to stay on the road and not to be gone to long. I headed out for a walk and saw camp site after camp site either empty or preparing to be emptied as camper after camper headed home the previous days events just to much. By night fall we were one of the few sites that still had campers in it. We sang songs once again and roasted marsh mellows then it was off to bed at a more reasonable hour. The next morning we packed everything up and policed the area to make sure we left no garbage behind then headed out and home.

I will always remember this camping trip not because of the terrible tragedy that occurred but because my parents showed me once again their incredible ability to put others before them. There ultimate need to be care givers. What they did that night around the campfire was to care for everyone else and to try and give everyone a happy memory to take home with them, hopefully one that would ultimately replace the tragic one they were taking home as well. That’s just who my parents were.



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Helpful Hank, Remembering when the world stopped turning My personal memories of September 11, 2001


Where were you when the world stop turning that September Day



Howdy all, Helpful Hank here. I want to share my remembrance of September 11, 2001 as we come up on the 10 year anniversary of this event


On September 11, 2001 Americans became a country of Walking wounded. Who came together to show their metal in the face of great tragedy. These are my memories and thoughts of that day and the days that would come.

I can still remember where I was on September 11, 2001. There are somethings that just get etched into memory where the stay and reside for ever.

I had just finished getting the coffee started and I turned on my TV in the kitchen, I headed back to the bedroom to wake my husband. I told him I was starting breakfast and then headed back down to the kitchen and put some bacon in the skillet then poured myself a cup of coffee and sat down at the banket and turned the sound up on my TV. It didn’t register at first, I thought maybe I had it on TNT or TBS and it was watching a disaster movie. I changed the channel one to another to another to yet another and it was all the same image. This was no movie this was real life unfolding in front of me . I yelled up to my husband to turn on the TV, and then turned up the volume on the T.V. In the kitchen.

As I sat at the banket and watch the first tower burning I couldn’t take my eyes off the images flashing before me. The announcer was giving a re-cap on how a plane had crashed into one of the towers at the world trade center and that they didn’t have much more information then that. As he spoke he trailed off as a second plane struck the second tower. Chills still go up and down my spine when I conjure up the image in my head. The images from that day always do give me chills.

I watched in disbelief as the second plane hit the second tower. I thought to myself this can’t be real?What was going on. Why was this happening? This has got to be a movie, I had to be mistaken this couldn’t be real. I reasoned maybe this was like the Orson Well’s radio broadcast of “War of the worlds”? It wasn’t though, as much as I wanted it to be it just wasn’t. This was really happening. The second thought came into my head was, Oh my God! There are people I know and have spent time with in those offices on the 41st and 42nd floors of the tower that had just been hit. I prayed they had called in sick or had meetings outside the office that day. I would be doing a lot of praying over the next few months.

I was glued to my TV, I remember calling my mom in shock asking if she was watching? Indeed she was. My husband who had spent a lot of time in New York for work came down to the kitchen shaking his head in disbelief. Neither one of us had an appetite anymore so I turned off the now burning bacon and we continued to watch it all unfold.

We sat there watching as the top of first tower collapsed, watching people leaning out broken windows screaming for help, people jumping and taking their chances see none coming. With each jumper our hearts would skip a beat and shed tears.

I had to pull away from this. I need to get ready for work. I finally pulled away from the TV and got myself ready for the day. I came back down to the kitchen and caught a few more minutes as my husband sit there watching in disbelief. I left for work, wishing I could have stayed glued to the TV Set. I wanted to call in sick.

I got in my truck making sure that my radio was turned on so I wouldn’t miss any breaking news. I got to work and there were my co-workers there radios and search engines giving them the latest news. No one was able to focus much on work our lunch hours filled with acquiring the latest information. We would not see a lot of new images until we arrive home that night (streaming video was something very new as I recall).

On my way home from work the only thing on the radio seemed to be news and more news. By this time I knew that both towers had collapsed and that another plane had crashed into the Pentagon while yet another had crashed in a field in Pennsylvania. I arrived home and turned on the T.V. And watched as they replayed the days events. From the first crash to the sight of business men and women, vendors, retail employees, residents and on lookers running for their lives as the towers eventually and completely collapsed. The gray smoke soot and ash rising in the air. It was surreal, I half expected to see Bruce Willis leading the running crowd to safety as if it were just a movie and not real. Billowing clouds rising and funneling down the streets of the financial district like the giant Stay Puft Marsh mellow man from Ghost Busters. It was over taking the runners like covering them in thick coats of gray ash , no one was escaping, it was all happening much to fast They couldn’t escape. The best that they could hope for was to keep running until they found some sort of refuge.

After the towers collapsed the smoke billows created an eclipse of the sun diminishing it’s light making new york look like a giant fog bank. The images coming across the screen were those of people covered head to toe in soot peering out at the world through raccoon eyes. To those of us watching them run for their lives tears were hard to contain and for many they would not be enough to express what we were feeling inside.

The days to come would bring new images and existing images from different angles. I watched as new details unfolded. I felt Sad, angered and enraged all at once. I wanted to cry, go back to bed and wake up and find I had dreamt it all in a very bad dream but that wasn’t going to happen.

A few weeks later as we watched the same footage for the umpteenth time still trying to make some sense of it all, I was headed into work when a song came on the radio and I had to pull off to the side of the road. It was Alan Jackson singing where were you when the world stopped turning. All I could do was silently sob in my truck as I listen to Alan Jackson sing and unfold September 11th in a very different way. To this day just hearing “where were you when the world stopped turning” or Lone Stars “I’m already there” (the song came to represent flight 93,) in my head, can evoke those same tears.

While others were angry and wanting retaliation swiftly, I could not wrap my head around any of this. As Angry as I was, I was in mourning. I could hear other peoples anger and even feel it but it was inside the fog of anguish, unknowing, sadness and bewilderment. As far as I was concerned at that point the only thing that was of concern was the Human tole ( A tole that is still felt today.). Children growing up without their parents, parents living with the loss of their children, spouses losing spouses. How do you move on from that? Can you? Do you? I don’t have those answers everyone’s journey is different, but at that point everyone’s pain was palpable. New York was now full of walking wounded

Like many Americans I live with the images of that day and those events firmly etched in my brain. I also have the images of the Phoenix that ground zero has become, rising out of the ashes. The twin towers may no longer be there but the spirit of those who lost their lives the goodness that came from peoples hearts and the willingness to help, told the world we are stronger then any structure.

I can still vividly remember the detail of the inside of the second twin tower I was in when I went to visit my colleagues that day while in New York. I remember where the elevator banks were and the security I had to go through to see my colleagues and I remember my long elevator ride up to their offices. I remember it all as if I had just been there last week. It’s a funny thing to remember 12 years later but for me it is a better image to remember then that of the collapse. It is a sweeter image, an image from an unsuspecting time.

Years later my pastor would tell me that there isn’t always a reason why things happen but we can bring reason to whatever has happened.. September 11 2001 just didn’t seem to have a valid reason to me. I can honestly say that in my mind hatred is the only reason that I can bring to this. An for me hatred is a hard reason to validate.

I will always remember those who lost their lives on that day even if I never knew there names. Everyone who was in one of those planes or towers, every rescue worker that came to the scene, every civilian that pitched in these are the people who gave the ultimate gift while having it taken away from them. They gave their lives Some went silently, some prayerfully, some fought with all they had. Some made goodbye phone call and some made sure others had a chance at safety. But each and everyone of them gave the last of what they had to offer . I will also always remember those who pulled and save the living from the wreckage of the towers, Pentagon and planes. The home town heroes who risked and sometimes lost their lives saving other. For me the memory of September 11. 2001 is not about the war that in sued after the tragedy but rather about humans, and coming together. Pitching in, helping out, making a difference, easing the pain of those suffering. For me keeping remembering how it brought out the good in New Yorkers and how they just did what they had to do may be the only way that I might have a chance at putting any reason to September 11, 2001, I’ll never be able to shake those images or feelings I saw and felt that morning, some images and feelings are just to profound to shake. I never found out if my colleagues (at that time) where there and in tower two that day. I had looked at the many list of missing at the time that were being posted online but never found their names. I pray and hope they are safe. Ten years may have past but it feels like yesterday.

You can contact Helpful Hank with Questions, Comments, Tips and, Deals at

Helpful Hank is written by Russell E. Bertlow © 2009 All rights reserved. No portion of this blog may be reprinted in part or whole without the express written permission from Russell E. Bertlow

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Quick Draw McGraw and Baba Looey in The Mark of El Kabong



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Puns for the Educated Mind

Many of my friends will attest to the fact that I like a good Play on words, Pun, Double entendre. I like to play on words a lot. There are friends where whole conversations are communicated using puns, making it a challenging mind exercise. After all who says you can’t use humor to mentally spar?

Here are some Puns for Educated Minds. Enjoy.

1. The fattest knight at King Arthur’s round table was Sir Cumference. He acquired his size from too much pi.

2. I thought I saw an eye doctor on an Alaskan island, but it turned out to be an optical Aleutian.

3. She was only a whiskey maker, but he loved her still.

4. A rubber band pistol was confiscated from algebra class, because it was a weapon of math disruption.

5. No matter how much you push the envelope, it’ll still be stationery.

6. A dog gave birth to puppies near the road and was cited for littering.

7. A grenade thrown into a kitchen in France would result in Linoleum Blownapart.

8. Two silk worms had a race. They ended up in a tie.

9. A hole has been found in the nudist camp wall. The police are looking into it.

10. Time flies like an arrow. Fruit flies like a banana.

11. Atheism is a non-prophet organization.

12. Two hats were hanging on a hat rack in the hallway. One hat said to the other: ‘You stay here; I’ll go on a head.

13. I wondered why the baseball kept getting bigger. Then it hit me.

14. A sign on the lawn at a drug rehab center said: ‘Keep off the Grass.’

15. The midget fortune-teller who escaped from prison was a small medium at large.

16. The soldier who survived mustard gas and pepper spray is now a seasoned veteran.

17. A backward poet writes inverse.

18. In a democracy it’s your vote that counts. In feudalism it’s your count that votes.

19. When cannibals ate a missionary, they got a taste of religion.

20. If you jumped off the bridge in Paris, you’d be in Seine.

21. A vulture boards an airplane, carrying two dead raccoons. The stewardess looks at him and says, ‘I’m sorry, sir, only one carrion allowed per passenger.’

22. Two fish swim into a concrete wall. One turns to the other and says ‘Dam!’

23. Two Eskimos sitting in a kayak were chilly, so they lit a fire in the craft. Unsurprisingly it sank, proving once again that you can’t have your kayak and heat it too.

24. Two hydrogen atoms meet. One says, ‘I’ve lost my electron.’ The other says ‘Are you sure?’ The first replies, ‘Yes, I’m positive.’

25. Did you hear about the Buddhist who refused Novocain during a root canal? His goal: transcend dental medication.

26. There was the person who sent ten puns to friends, with the hope that at least one of the puns would make them laugh. No pun in ten did.



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The Jetsons

The Intro

Las Venus Part 1

Las Venus Part 2

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