June-July, 2023


Thunderbear. Recently, it was noted that Great Britain is the only European country that does not have wolves.

France has wolves, Spain has wolves, Germany has wolves; even little Denmark has wolves. (We can excuse the Vatican.)

In addition to being outside the European Union, the United Kingdom is without wolves.

Now the Brits may be excused for believing that a wolf shortage is perhaps the least of their problems.

However, there is a small but vocal minority that would like to see the reintroduction of the United Kingdom's Ice Age Fauna; that is, Red Deer (Actually a subspecies of Elk.), Wild pig, (Be careful what you wish for!), the Brown Bear (Which we prefer to call the Grizzly.), and of course, the Grey Wolf.

Could it be done?

Don't see why not, neighbors: "Where there's a will, there's a way."

The Red Deer are already in place: No worries there, mate! Too much so! Overgrazing and all that!

In fact, that would be one of the benefits of wolf reintroduction; very much like wolf reintroduction in Yellowstone. As in Yellowstone, the lame, the halt and the blind among the Red Deer would be culled by the wolves. This would lead to a more natural herd reduction and consequently, less overgrazing by the Red Deer.

The question is, where, exactly, would you site the grey wolves in the UK? As you can imagine, wolf reintroduction would be a NIMBY problem of considerable proportions. One would need a hefty pro wolf public relations campaign to convince the rurals that little Morag was not going to be nabbed by a wolf pack on her way to school.

Although there are few documented cases of non-rabid attacks by wolves on humans there are a considerable number of tax payers who would prefer not to take the chance. In true NIMBY fashion, they might be all for wolf reintroduction, but not in their neighborhood.

So, where would you site the reintroduced wolf pack in the United Kingdom?

It would should be a place where wolf movement could be controlled; that is, an island.

The island should be far enough removed from other islands and the mainland that there would be no danger of the wolves (or bears) expanding their range without supervision.

The obvious choice would be the Isle of Lewis and Harris in the Outer Hebrides (Despite the name, it is all one island.) It has an adequate supply of prey; around 2,000 Red Deer.

The Isle of Lewis and Harris is large enough (841 square miles) so that wolf inbreeding should not be a problem, as was the case with Isle Royale National Park (206.7 square miles).

And then there are the sheep.

Thunderbear.Won't the wolves eat the sheep? They've been known to, yes. Definitely.

It is true that sheep are not native to the Isle of Lewis and Harris and therefore an argument can be made for getting rid of them. However, they are historic and endangered breeds and every effort should be made to preserve them.

In addition, the sheep provide the raw material (wool) for an historic craft that is unique to the Isle of Lewis and Harris; the weaving of the famed Harris Tweed. This is done in the dark of the long Scottish winter by the wives and daughters of the crofters (tenant farmers). The loss of Harris Tweed weaving would be a great cultural loss to Scotland and the entire United Kingdom.

To avoid this problem, the wolves could be subjected to "Directed Predation". That is, they must be conditioned to the idea that their natural and desirable prey is Red Deer (Which it actually is.) and not the sheep or highland cattle.

The conditioning would be done by Kangal dogs, who are rather expert in the field.

Native to Turkey, The Kangal weigh between 100 and 150 pounds and have a bite pressure of 741 pounds per square inch. They rarely have to use it, however as they have immense powers of persuasion.

The typical Kangal MO in a predator attack is to move the sheep or cattle to a shed or other sheltered area and then turn to face the predator, exercising a series of bluff charges. .

It is important that the Kangals not harm the predator as wolf reintroduction is the whole idea and a dead wolf sort of defeats the program.

The training is quite simple; the Kangal puppy is placed with the herd of sheep or cattle and grows to consider them as family and as something to be protected.

Does it work? Seems to.

The classic case is in Namibia over in Southern Africa. Namibia is heavily dependent on tourism. They claim to be "The Cheetah capitol of World" (7500 and growing) and they guarantee you will see one or more if you will just come visit beautiful Namibia.

The only problem is the Cheetahs themselves. As you know, they can dash 70 mph in pursuit of their normal quarry; several species of antelope. But why bother; if your human neighbors have provided you with a menu of slow moving goats, sheep, cows, donkeys and horses?

Naturally, the local farmers and ranchers didn't quite see it that way. And, as in Wyoming, every Namibian farmer and rancher has a gun.

Thus, Cheetah demographics were rapidly going down hill

Enter the Cheetah Conservation Fund. They sympathized with the farmers and ranchers and suggested a non-lethal solution: Kangal puppies.

Some 634 puppies were placed in the initial experiment with a 91% success rate There is now a two year waiting list for puppies in Namibia .

The Namibian farmers and ranchers got to keep their livestock and the Cheetah Conservation people got to keep their tourist attraction.

Would the Kangal dogs work on wolves?

Don't see why not.

How about bears?

This is more problematic There are now more Grizzly bears in Europe than in the lower 48 of the USA, thanks to recent reintroduction in the Pyrenees mountains between France and Spain. They get the usual bad publicity when they occasionally kill one of the taxpayers. This is what happened when Andrea Papi was taking a jog in the woods around the northern Italian town of Caldes on April 5th of this year. He ran into the unimaginable: A female adult Brown bear. It mauled the 26 year old runner to death. Understandably people were concerned.

Bears are powerful predators and difficult to deter. (You might like to view "Kangal dogs vs Bears" on the Internet.)

You will note that while the Kangal does not always win outright, it does "worry" the bear sufficiently to send him back to his vegetarian diet.

Now what happened to the bear that killed poor Signore Papi? It turned out that the bear, JJ4, was the same bear that terrorized two mountain climbers, climbing Monte Peller in the Dolomite range in 2020. It was decided to deport JJ4 to Romania where it could live out its life in peace in a huge bear reserve


Thunderbear. You will remember that Donald Trump committed the U.S. to building a wall along the 1,954 mile US/Mexican border.

The Trump wall proved to be even less effective than the famous Chinese version. If a clandestine tourist did not wish to be inconvenienced by the wall, he/she might stop by the Mexican version of HOME DEPOT and purchase a battery powered metal saw for around $180. (Presumably, there is a rental agency for such tools for the frugal. I am told that the saw will get you through the wall in 10 to 15 minutes.)

Traditionalists might prefer a ladder, which works on the teeter-totter principle: You lean your 60 foot ladder against wall and start climbing until your ladder tips you into the Promised Land.

For the non-claustrophobic, there are the tunnels which allow you to pop up like a prairie dog in some friendly American's basement or backyard in one of the border towns.

So it must be said that the border wall is more of an inconvenience than a deterrence.

However, Donald Trump, bless his heart, will not give up.

In one speech, he suggested that a dry moat be added.

According to Trump the dry moat would be filled with poisonous reptiles (I am not making this up, neighbors; if you doubt your kindly editor, consult THE WASHINGTON POST, June 27, 2023, page A6.)

Now the 45th President may be on to something. There is great psychological terror in poisonous snakes. I interviewed one young woman on her crossing the border at night at the Cabeza Prieta National Wildlife Refuge in the Sonoran Desert. According to her, one of the most frightening aspects was hearing the electric buzz of rattlesnakes. You could not see them, but they could sense you. Several members of her party panicked and ran back into Mexico. (Which, one assumes, is what Mr. Trump wants.)

The dry moat would have to be 12 feet wide, four feet deep and, of course, 1,954 miles long in order to contain the reptiles and provide the desired results.

A decision would have to be made on exactly what species of poisonous reptiles would be employed.

The Department of Interior, in the form of the National Park Service, The Bureau of Land Management and the Fish & Wildlife Service would probably insist that only native American poisonous snakes be used in the dry moat, lest foreign poisonous snakes become naturalized.

Trump would probably insist on the most poisonous. That would be Australia's Inland Taipan with the most deadly venom on earth. However, having the most deadly venom does not make you the most dangerous snake.

Fortunately for Australians, the Inland Taipan has a rather sunny disposition and a "Live and let live" attitude toward its human neighbors.

Not so the Carpet Viper.

The Carpet Viper (Echnis carinatus) also known as the Saw scaled viper, is regarded as the most dangerous and deadly snake on earth. It has a potent venom, but more importantly, it is a very irritable snake and "bites early and often" killing between 4 and 5 thousand people annually in its home turf of Africa and India. It is a prolific and enthusiastic breeder and very numerous.

Liz Chaney once remarked that it was important that Donald Trump not be allowed near the Presidency.; it can also be said that he should not be allowed near a breeding group of Carpet vipers.

The San Diego Zoo has found a way to increase the natural birth rate for Gila Monsters (The zoo is unlikely to win the Nobel Prize for that achievement in bioscience), but this "poisonous reptile" certainly fills Mr. Trump bill for reptile deterrence as does the Mexican beaded lizard, which is also poisonous.

Thunderbear.Indonesia's famed Komodo Dragon also fits Donald Trump's needs to a terrifying "Tee".

Not only is it the world's largest lizard (8 to 10 feet), it has a fearsome set of dentures which permits the creature to tear off huge chunks of meat from your lower extremities causing you to die of shock and blood loss.

If that is not enough, since it does not brush after every meal, its saliva is deadly infectious to everything except a Komodo Dragon. If that is not scary enough, the creature is equipped with venom glands between each tooth.

So, is the Komodo Dragon the answer to Donald Trump's prayers?

Alas, no.

Most of US/Mexican border is desert country, unsuitable for a tropical species like the Komodo Dragon. Only a relatively short stretch in the semi-tropical lower Rio Grande Valley could support a Komodo Dragon population.

In addition to technical problems with various venomous species, Mr. Trump would likely face opposition from PETA (People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals). The PETA people may not object to the envenomation of migrants and asylum seekers, but they would strongly object to reptile mistreatment by Donald Trump.

For example, there would be the problem of feeding the reptiles along the dry moat, requiring rat breeding stations along the 1,954 course of the moat. There would be a small army of herpetologists to insure the happiness and well-being of the snakes. PETA would insist on that.

Trump might claim that the herpetologists could replace the Border Patrol and save money. Taxpayers might start to ask who was crazier than whom.


Thunderbear. You will recall that Governor Ron DeSantis of Florida got into a bit of trouble by postulating that perhaps slavery wasn't so bad after all.

The prospective enslaved person had his horizons broadened by a stimulating deep sea voyage to get his creative juices flowing, AND the opportunity to learn a trade in the agricultural arts PLUS the assurance of life time job security; He/she would never be out of work.

Slavery, if we are to accept the Governor's interpretation, was sort of an 18th or 19th century Job Corps program in which the eager trainee learned a trade.

There were, of course, other benefits to slavery.

One Director of the National Park Service suggested that we not forget the positive benefits of slavery: that the "Peculiar Institution" freed up great minds such as Thomas Jefferson, James Madison and others to think profound thoughts on the subject of Freedom and Liberty.

(We should forget the unkind remarks of Dr. Samuel Johnson on the irony of "Negro drivers like the Founding Fathers yelping about freedom.")

So, what is the truth about slavery?

Perhaps we should consult a relatively unbiased observer, one who was present.

Perhaps we should consult Mark Twain, someone who had personal experience with slavery in his youth.

Twain was in India; Bombay to be exact, giving a series of lectures, in his round the world trip. He was already world famous and like his contemporary, John Muir, a foe of cruelty to any person or creature.

Twain was describing an incident at his hotel in Bombay.

"Our rooms were high up on the front. A White man - He was a burly German - went up with us, and brought three natives along to see to arranging things. About 14 others followed in procession, with the hand baggage; each carried an article - and only one a bag, in, in some cases, less. One strong native carried my overcoat, another a parasol, another a box of cigars, another a novel, and the last man in the procession had no load but a fan. It was all done with earnestness and sincerity, there was not a smile in the procession from the head of it to the tail of it. Each man waited patiently, tranquilly, in no sort of a hurry, till one of us found time to give him a copper, then he bent his head reverently, touching his forehead with his fingers, and went his way. They seemed a soft and gentle race, and there was something both winning and touching about their demeanor.

There was a vast glazed door which opened upon the balcony. It needed closing, or cleaning or something, and a native got down on his knees and went to work at it. He seemed to be doing it well enough, but perhaps he wasn't, for the burly German put on a look that betrayed dissatisfaction, then without explaining what was wrong, gave the native a brisk cuff on the jaw and then told him where the defect was. It seemed a shame to do that before us all. The native took it with meekness, saying nothing, and not showing in his face or manner any resentment. I had not seen the like of this for fifty years. It carried me back to my boyhood and flashed upon me the forgotten fact that this was the usual way of explaining one desires to a slave.

I was to remember that the method seemed right and natural to me in those days, I being born to it and unaware that elsewhere there were other methods; but I was also able to remember that those unresented cuffings made me sorry for the victim and ashamed for the punisher.

My father was a refined and kindly gentleman, very grave, rather austere, of rigid probity, a sternly just and upright man, albeit he attended no church and never spoke of religious matters, and had no part nor lot in the pious joys of his presbyterian family, not ever seemed to suffer from this deprivation. He laid his hand upon me in punishment only twice in his life, and then not heavily, once for telling him a lie, which surprised me and showed me how unsuspicious he was for that was not my maiden effort. He punished me these two times only, and never any other members of the family at all: Yet every now and then he cuffed our harmless slave-boy Lewis, for trifling little blunders and awkwardness. My father had passed his life among the slaves from his cradle up, and his cuffings proceeded from the customs of the times, not from his nature.

When I was ten years old, I saw a man fling a lump of iron ore at a slave-man in anger for doing something awkwardly; as if that were a crime. It bounded from the man's skull, and the man fell and never spoke again. He was dead within an hour. I knew the man had the right to kill his slave if he wanted to and yet it seemed a pitiful thing and somehow wrong, though why wrong I was not deep enough to explain if I had been asked to do it. Nobody in the village approved of that murder, but of course no one said much about it."


Thunderbear. Cats are lone, secretive creatures, always noncommittal, always playing their cards close to the vest. What are their opinions? No one seems to know...and cats are not talking. Do they favor Biden's tax policy? Do they stand with Trump on big government?

No one knows.

The cat mask is forever a poker face; the great predatory eyes gaze ahead without emotion. The mouth never turns up in a smile or downward in a frown. Emotion comes not from the face but from within the cat in the form of a purr. The purr is discreet, barely audible. Cats prefer it this way. Cats are the Episcopalians of the animal world: They do not like to make a fuss.

This reticence and formality extends even to growing old and dying. Cats prefer not to show age. It is not dignified, not feline. The cat's coat does not fade to gray. The teeth remain. Eyes are bright, sharp, and watchful. Arthritis is not immediately apparent; instead, the cat's failure to leap to the top of the refrigerator as per usual, may be attributed by the cat's domestic staff (Cats do not have owners) as simple change of habit.

Facing death (or as cats prefer to call it, reassignment), the cat remains stoic and imperturbable to the end. They simply stop eating and fade away.

If a dying cat would ever demean itself by communicating with a mere human, particularly an alleged "owner", the cat's last words would be as follows

"I am going now. My assignment on your rat bag of a planet is almost over. I have been seconded to the Andromeda galaxy, a richly deserved promotion and one long awaited.

You have noticed that I have stopped eating and wish to resume the pure spirit necessary for inter-galactic travel. You have decided to expedite my departure by "putting me to sleep" as your self-serving euphemism would have it.

Excellent!! My wish is your command.

You have been a reasonably good servant: Stupid and careless at times, but, compared to servants in other galaxies, not without merit. Therefore, a recommendation and endorsement will be placed in your Celestial personnel folder.

Should there be some doubt as to your admission into heaven, a recommendation from me should swing things in your favor. Goodbye and good luck."

Old dogs are much different, however.

Unlike cats who are alien and are really starship troopers, dogs are down to earth and are quite human.

Dogs are the back-slapping, gregarious Rotarians of the animal world. They just can't get enough of human contact.

One of the proofs of the humanity of dogs is the extravagant manner in which they mirror the human aging process. In less than two decades they run through carefree childhood, inexhaustible adolescence, dependable maturity and helpless old age.

As a tribute to ourselves, dogs age spectacularly, developing rheumatism, arthritis, cataracts, and various forms of cancers and growths, replicating all the decrepitudes that eventually befall their masters.

Throughout it all the dog continues to eat and to gaze worshipfully at us in the fond hope of making us happy. We are in turn are compelled to make our dogs as comfortable as possible.

This truth was brought home to me during a walk on the tow path of the C & O Canal, one of the gems of the National Park System.

Thunderbear.Now the 184 mile long towpath is a national treasure where people go to walk and bicycle. It is also a doggy treasure in that it is one of the few areas in the Washington, DC area where a dog can walk for miles and (for the dog at least) sample the smells of quasi-wild river side and woodland.

A dog's nose is to him what the internet is to us; a veritable Wikipedia of fascinating information; the more smells, the happier the dog.

I encountered a young couple in their early 20's near Angler's Inn. They were insuring that their old dog was having a pleasant Park Experience.

They had a child's little red wagon. They had lined the bed with a blanket and were towing their elderly Black Labrador (Who was now a Grey Labrador.) in the red wagon, giving him the opportunity of sniffing rural Maryland.

The dog was obviously the childhood pet of one of the couple (though it was difficult to tell which one, as they both looked at the animal with equal affection) and he responded diplomatically with equal opportunity doggy grins.

One could imagine the serious discussion that must have taken place early in the couple's relationship. "I cannot, will not, be separated from my dog! To love me is to love my dog!"

That certainly seemed to be the case.

The couple and their old dog were at the foot of a stair way that led to the parking lot.

The young woman lovingly assisted the dog out of the red wagon. The old Lab gamely insisted upon a few tottering steps up the stairway before the young man swept the dog over his shoulder, to be rewarded with a wash of tongue across the face. The young man carried him up the stairs with the young woman bumping the red wagon along.

They put dog and wagon in the back of their hatchback, solemnly inquiring of their dog if he had a good olfactory experience.

The old Lab seemed to nod in agreement.

Without doubt he will leave a favorable recommendation in their Celestial personnel files.


Thunderbear. The obligation of every American penal institution is to prevent recidivism.
(Or at least reduce recidivism to a manageable level.)

That is, after passing through the prison gates, the former inmate has either found Jesus or learned a trade that will support the former inmate so that he/she is no longer interested in his/her former life of crime.

This is what we fondly hope of Donald Trump, whom the government alleges tried to overthrow the government. (The government prefers to remain standing.)

At this time, it is not known how long a sentence Mr. Trump would get for his various alleged activities should he be convicted,

Mr. Trump, always a drama queen, claimed that the Biden Administration plans to put him away in a Federal Stoney Lonesome for a period of no less that 400 years!

This is unlikely, even if Trump throws rocks at the Judge.

Mr. Trump is, after all, a first time offender and judges are famously lenient in dealing with first time offenders, particularly in dealing with White Collar crime and criminals (Admittedly, it is difficult to assign collar color to "Overthrowing the government")

Secondly, most judges allow sentences to be served concurrently, rather than "stacked".

Then there is the matter of personal history. Did the convict have bad role models or none at all? Was the convict's environment stable or unstable? Were there traumatic events that might have influenced the convict as a child? The Judge has leeway to take all of the above in consideration, even though, the convict is guilty.

Donald's father Fred, was not exactly a model of parental probity: In educating his son, the emphasis was more on what you can get away with rather than what was right.

On the other hand, the Judge has the right to reflect on the life of privilege and opportunity enjoyed by Mr. Trump during every waking moment of his long and eventful life. Could he have avoided some of the alleged crimes had he listened to his conscience? Did he have a conscience?

It is extremely unlikely that Mr. Trump will see the wrong side of prison bars.

The reasons are both legal, technical, and sentimental (The Secret Service might insist the Federal Bureau of Prisons build Trump his very own exclusive prison.) Sentimental in the sense that that Trump rivals the Pope in popularity if not holiness, and it is considered bad joss to throw a former President into the pokey, particularly one with the following of Mr. Trump.

HOWEVER, with Trump there is the problem of recidivism; he may slide back into his old habit of attempting the overthrow of the government after the 2024 elections, particularly if he is associating with "Bad Companions".

THEREFORE, in the event of conviction for the myriad offences in his present legal difficulties, we recommend Probation for all charges with the promise never, ever to do it again.

If he did "do it again", then he should be prepared to have the book thrown at him.


Thunderbear. One of our readers asked what do the initials "PJ" stand for in "PJ Ryan"?

As you might have guessed, they stand for "Patrick James."

So how did I get nicknamed "PJ"?

That dates back to my Army days.

Like most males of my generation, I was called up for military service. (Unless of course, you suffered from galloping bone spurs.)

I dutifully boarded a train in Sioux Falls, South Dakota, bound for Colorado Springs, Colorado, and Fort Carson for basic training.

Less the Field First Sergeant forget who we were, our last names were stamped on our fatigues and field jackets.

As luck would have it, there were two "Patrick Ryans" in my training company. To tell us apart (All Irishmen look alike.), our initials were also stamped. The other Ryan became "Ryan PA (Or "Pop" to friends and Associates for the next two years of his life.

I, of course, became "PJ".

I must say I rather enjoyed my new handle. Previously, when someone yelled "Pat!!", two guys and a gal would jump up.

After basic and specialty training (cryptography) at Fort Monmouth, NJ, I was assigned to Arlington Hall, Virginia, just outside Washington DC. We furnished cryptological support to the 82d Airborne Division.


Thunderbear. The Great Bear shifted in his lawn chair,

"You know that the Red Oak in your back yard is dying?" He said, solemnly.

"That's what my arborist tells me." I said, sadly. "Apparently it has some kind of incurable fungus."

"What do you plan to do?" Thunderbear inquired.

"Take it down of course. It's a safety hazard, it's a big tree, nearly a hundred feet tall. It's admirably positioned to take out our bedroom and ourselves. We try to avoid Acts of God and not embarrass The Almighty." I said piously.

"Good Safety Thinking! and God will appreciate the sentiment," said the Bear, craftily. "However, there is a small favor I would like to ask."

"Yes?" I inquired suspiciously, as Thunderbear's "small favors" had a way of turning into large, expensive problems.

"Would you tell your arborist to leave an 8 foot stump when he removes the tree?"

"Good Lord! Whatever for?" I inquired indignantly .

"A monument to the mammals and marsupials of this planet." The Great Bear said solemnly.

"As far as I know, no such monument exists; it's about time!" Thunderbear continued.

"But an 8 foot stump! I mean, what's the point! Where is the symbolism?" I interjected .

"There is none" The Great Bear said simply. "The 8 foot stump is just the substrate; the raw material for the monument I wish to see carved. Oak is a durable, long lasting wood. It will make a wonderful monument." Thunderbear said wistfully. "It's rooted firmly in the ground! It should last for decades! The mammals and marsupials will be so honored!"

I was beginning to get the drift. The Great Bear's plans were not entirely altruistic: "Now let me guess" I inquired suspiciously, "What species have you selected to represent the mammals?

"Why, a bear!" Thunderbear replied innocently.

"I rather thought so!" I responded.

"We can eliminate the wings, if it's too much bother for the carver." He said, rising to his full 10 foot height and spreading his wings to their 28 foot span.

"Look it's really not about me; I just think it would be nice if the mammals and marsupials were honored! You humans have given them such a hard time even though your species is one of them.

I had to admit that the Great Bear had a point.

"Who do you wish to represent the marsupials?" I asked wearily.

Thunderbear clapped his paws with ursine enthusiasm. "I knew you would understand and see the light! Humans like small, roundish, furry creatures; very much like a Koala, so that is the logical choice to represent the marsupials!"

"And." the Great Bear said brightly, "You will never be lonely! All your readers will want to be photographed with the Bear and Koala statue!" "That will be a mixed blessing' I said "They will also want their beer; you will remember they were promised a beer if they showed up." I reminded the Great Bear.

"Beer is a sacrament" said Thunderbear earnestly "Surely, you remember what your Holy Man, Benjamin Franklin said about beer?" (I had not considered Ben Franklin a ‘Holy man', but I was willing to listen to his opinions on beer.)

"According to Dr. Franklin, "Beer is proof that God loves us and wants us to be happy."

"And, I might aid," said the Great Bear, the purveyors of beer are especially blessed of God's children; in short, you will gain merit by providing your readers with a free beer."

I was impressed with Thunderbear's logic.

"Then do you plan to do the carving?" I inquired.

""Mercy, No!" He laughed "I have neither small paw or large paw skills! I suggest you contact the bright young man who sculpted the defunct sycamore in Brookside Garden. He loves nature and animals and will do you a good job."

And so it went.

I contacted the sculptor, Colin Vale, as Thunderbear recommended, and he did the carving of the Great Bear and the Koala.

If you would like to see it. Give me a call at 301-933-6931 or e mail me at and we'll set up an appointment.

Is it worth a journey?

Probably not, but if you're passing by en route to see the President, it's definitely worth a stop (And yes, you'll get your beer!)


Thunderbear. One of the most pleasant things about working at Candlestick State Recreation Area was Ranger Foo.

Or more properly, California State Park Ranger Fusako Yokitobi; just saying her name was fun, like a string of firecrackers.

Candlestick State Recreation Area was one of the newer additions to the California State Park System. The California State Park System, like the National Park System tended to be a collection of woodsy glades designed to appeal to the sensibilities of California's dominant White middle class population.

As demographics began to change, it was thought that it would be nice if the state park idea could be shared with folks in the Inner City. Now friends, Candlestick State Recreation Area is about as far into the Inner City as you can get and still be on this continent.

Candlestick State Recreation Area is located in the Bayview-Hunter's Point district of San Francisco. It is arguably the most dangerous ghetto in America. It is the only time I have eaten at an armored Kentucky Fried Chicken; that is, the help was behind bullet proof glass, and the money and chicken were exchanged by a lazy Susan arrangement.

The idea of Candlestick State Recreation Area was to provide the people of Bayview-Hunters Point with a normal green grass park experience. A 350 acre garbage dump that extended into San Francisco Bay was sealed, covered with earth, landscaped, and provided with a fishing pier (sport fishing is the one universal cultural bridge; it works in all cultures except in the unlikely event that your dominant ethnic clientele are Tuareg tribesmen from the central Sahara.)

The neighborhood was a warren of old warehouses and buildings, often used for nefarious purposes. One day an illegal fireworks factory exploded, touching off a fire that led to an explosion in an entirely unrelated clandestine methamphetamine laboratory. The resulting explosion leveled an entire city block and nearly knocked the ranger trailer off its bloc. It was that kind of neighborhood.

But it was also a neighborhood of children and decent families, and the park did provide an oasis in a sea of violence where one could picnic with the family without being shot at. (Users of Candlestick State Recreation Area had more modest recreational goals than the users of say, Yellowstone National Park.)

Aside from providing greenery, open space, and fishing, Candlestick was to showcase the California Department of parks and recreation to the locals; the idea being to show the neighbors that the rangers were people even if they did carry guns, chemical mace and handcuffs suspiciously similar to the city police.

Due to the ethnic mix of the community (More Samoans than Samoa.) we had a strong ethnic mix of rangers, Black, White and in the case of Ranger Fusako Yakitobi, Golden.

Foo, as she was universally called, was a compact young woman, short and sturdy as a bollard, with flashing black eyes and a nonstop smile.

To say she had a way with children was to invite comparison with the Pied Piper; they followed her everywhere. (I was working maintenance at the time, and in the eyes of the kids, not nearly as much fun or as interesting as Ranger Foo) She taught the kids how to make an Armstrong fishing reel out of a # 10 can, a piece of wood, leader, hook, weight, and a length of monofilament line. Above all, the children could talk to her and tell her their problems. They worshipped her.

Not the least of her attraction was her horse. Horses generally soften the police image, and the horse and ranger combination was a sure hit with the children and adults of Bayview-Hunters point.

Foo came by her equestrian skills growing up as a cow girl in one of the dusty counties of California. She had great stories of being the only Buddhist teenager in a Mormon town (It was her job to buy the beer.).

She also did a hilarious impression of a Caucasian martial arts instructor trying to impress others with his knowledge of Japanese philosophy ("Those White guys really get off on that Oriental mumbo-Jumbo!"), the result of her training at The William Penn Mott Academy.

In short, she was a total joy to be around, the kind of person that a park should hire for staff morale purposes if for no other reason.

There was one day with Foo that will always stick in my memory. I had pretty well cleaned up the restrooms and most every task in sight and it struck me that it would be amusing to keep Foo company while she cleaned the stables.

As only the rangers rode horses, it was considered somewhat unfair to ask the maintenance staff to do the job. Today was Foo's turn, and I thought I might coach and critique her efforts to shovel out the horse exhaust. Foo was present and accounted for at the stable, with shovel, broom, and wheelbarrow. I took a seat on the top rail, better to direct her efforts.

"I've always hated this." said Foo, grimly.

I could readily see why. Even the best of stables have little to recommend them aesthetically. Had there been room at the Bethlehem Motel 6 Mary and Joseph would not have opted for the stable.

"You can never really get it clean," mused Foo. "There is always dust somewhere. I could see why my mother hated it! She was aways so neat and tidy. She cleaned and swept and dusted, but she said she could never get the stall clean."

"Your mother was into horses?" I asked, surprised.

"No" she said slowly "My mother and father were into the Tanforan stables in 1942".

Thunderbear.Tanforan, 1942.

February 19,1942; Day of Infamy. On that date President Franklin Roosevelt signed executive order #9096 effectively taking away the constitutional rights of Japanese Americans, and imprisoning them in concentration camps without trial, based on the fact that they were of Japanese ancestry and thus might be disloyal.

Before they could be "relocated" they had to be assembled and there was no place to put them on such short notice. Someone thought of the Tanforan race track. Could not the stalls be used?

Yes they could; one family to a stall and so they came: Puzzled middle class families; teachers, shopkeepers, accountants, dentists, doctors, lawyers; a cross section of an upwardly mobile group.

"There must be some mistake" they thought. There was no mistake.

The guards were not cruel, and many were as embarrassed as the Japanese Americans, but still, a stall was a stall and they were Americans.

All this was 12 years before Foo.

"I had a brother, though" She mused. "Just a baby at the time. I guess the medical care in those camps wasn't the best and he... well, he died. Growing up, I sort of wondered what it would be like to have an older brother. I guess girls fantasize about that sort of thing." She smiled sadly, and her eyes glistened as she shrugged her shoulders.

I didn't know what to say. What could I say, with that family's Day of Infamy flooding back with the dust and straw of a stable stall.

I muttered something about needing to check one of the restrooms and left, my eyes glistening.

The Japanese Americans, of course, rose like a phoenix from the fire. Their young men formed our finest regiment; The 442nd combat team which fought in Italy and France, and became the most decorated American unit of the Second World War. The 442nd members acquired one Congressional Medal of honor, 52 distinguished Service, one Distinguished Service Medal, 360 Silver Stars, 28 Oak-leaf clusters to the Silver Star, 22 Legions of Merit, 15 Soldiers Medals, 4,000 Bronze Stars, 1200 Oak-leaf clusters to the Bronze Star, 12 French Croix de Guerres, 2 Italia crosses for military merit and two crosses for military valor.

The Purple Heart, awarded for a war injury, was so numerous that there is not an accurate count. They suffered a casualty rate of 314% of the original strength of the regiment.

They averaged 5' 4" tall and 125 pounds and they were our finest.

And what happened to Ranger Foo? Well, I don't rightly know. She and her husband had a truly remarkable baby and I am relying on Armando Quintero, Director of the California State Parks and good friend of mine to tell us what happened to the remarkable Ranger Foo.


(Ah, this and only this, is what you were using the government computer to search for: the monthly safety message!)

Summer brings on long, hot glorious days, particularly in the East and Midwest, where you really need to be floating down a river. Summer also brings on big thunderstorms by late afternoon. Keep an eye and an ear open. If you can hear the thunder, the lightning will very soon be close enough to hurt you and we are all smart enough to get off the river. However, getting off the river means WAY off the river. Your kindly editor was tubing the James in Virginia, heard thunder and dutifully got himself and party off the river, but not far enough. Sitting on the bank is still a mite too close.

A strike on the river traveled through the water and to the band and through your editor. My right hand clinched closer than Dick Cheney's mind. I was not sure it would open again (it did with no harm.) So take my word for it, taking a lightning strike is an unforgettable experience, but not one you want anyone to share. So when the thunder starts, get WELL off the river and away from big trees, if your life jackets are dry, sit on them for additional insulation. Happy paddling!

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Image credits:
Candlestick Recreation Area - Gregory Varnum, CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons
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Kangal Dog - Kangalshepherddog, CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons
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Moat -
PJ -
SafetyBear - P. J. Ryan and WebHarmony LLC composite
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