Archive for the ‘Good People’ Category

Late last year we recieved a letter from the Kindergarten Teacher where our great niece was attending school in Ohio. The letter explained that she had been reading many stories to the children about gingerbread men, boys, and girls from all over the world. Included in the letter was a blank gingerbread cutout with a note stating to be as creative as you wish. Those words, creative as you wish, was all I had to read. Following is the story I developed and returned to the teacher on behalf of our great niece Ava.   

 

THE STORY

Several weeks ago I heard some tapping at our front door. When I opened the door nothing was there. I thought the wind probably made the noise. Closing the door I looked down to see a gingerbread man standing at our front door. I picked the gingerbread man up before closing the door and placed it on our kitchen table. It was just a gingerbread man cookie with no features or identification from where it came. I went back to doing what I was doing before I answered the door.

It wasn’t long before my curiosity brought me back to the gingerbread man lying on the kitchen table. I thought this gingerbread man needs some work! I began to draw a mouth on the gingerbread man and as soon as I finished, the mouth began to move. The gingerbread man said, “I can’t SEE!” Surprised, I jumped back when I heard the voice, but then, quickly returned. I said, “just a minute,” and quickly drew two eyes on the gingerbread man. The eyes blinked, and then in a clear boyish voice, the gingerbread man said, “HELLO!” I immediately responded, “Well, hello yourself!” “Where am I,” he asked. I told him that he was in Wildomar, California which is in the Temecula Valley of Southern California, in southwestern Riverside County.”

I soon realized that our guest was not a gingerbread man at all, he was really a gingerbread boy. I asked him where he was from. He told me that he snuck out of his school in Ohio to seek adventure. He wanted to go to a place he had never been. He then wanted to return to his school to share his adventures with his kindergarten friends back in Ohio. I was impressed with his adventurous spirit and told him we were more than willing to help. We also promised to get him back to his school in time to tell his friends his adventure.

“So,” I said, “you’re the Ohio Gingerbread Boy?” “Well,” he said, “I am from Ohio and I am a Gingerbread Boy, so I guess I am the Ohio Gingerbread Boy!”  I asked the Ohio Gingerbread Boy if I may call him BUCKEYE for short and he excitedly agreed. “I am a BUCKEYE,” he shouted!

Our first day with BUCKEYE was coming to an end and we had to decide where best to put him to bed. Out cat VELCRO would love to have sniffed (he wouldn’t hurt him) BUCKEYE all night long but wouldn’t give BUCKEYE much rest for his upcoming adventure. I decided to put BUCKEYE in the computer where he could rest peacefully and be safe.

The next day we awoke and BUCKEYE was already up looking out our back window. He saw me come in and shouted, “WOW, I love those mountains!” I told BUCKEYE that those were the Santa Ana Mountains and that the Pacific Ocean was just on the other side of those mountains. BUCKEYE asked if he could go to the Pacific Ocean, but I told him there probably would not be enough time. I told him that we would go up the mountain to a very special place in a few days.

I asked BUCKEYE if he would like to help me feed the hummingbirds in our backyard, he immediately agreed and told me that he wasn’t sure he had ever seen a hummingbird before. I told BUCKEYE that in Ohio usually only one kind of hummingbird is seen, but, here we see five or more different kinds. We filled the feeders and BUCKEYE got to see both an Anna’s and Costa’s Hummingbird.

BUCKEYE mentioned that our weather was very dry and he didn’t see many trees. I explained to BUCKEYE that we live in a Mediterranean Climate area where there isn’t a lot of rain and the days are warm and the nights are cool. Since there isn’t a lot of rain the trees are few and smaller and only plants that don’t need a lot of water can survive.

After outfitting BUCKEYE with hiking shoes and a hat, I took BUCKEYE up to my special place on the Santa Ana Mountains. The Santa Rosa Plateau Ecological Reserve (SRP) which is less than ten minutes from our home.  I showed BUCKEYE how to recognize animal tracks, and introduced him to the Chaparral plant community. BUCKEYE enjoyed sitting in a Scrub Oak and patches of  Lichen. On our short hike back to the car we ran into Ranger Rob. I introduced Ranger Rob to BUCKEYE and they immediately became friends. Ranger Rob showed BUCKEYE around the SRP Visitor Center. As BUCKEYE and I were heading back to the car, Ranger Rob yelled out, “BUCKEYE, you’re invited to come with Jim on his nature hike with the 3rd-graders!”  BUCKEYE immediately shouted, “YES,” and raised a gingerbread fist! I must admit, I have never seen a gingerbread fist before, it was impressive.

I told BUCKEYE that before we could go on the 3rd-graders hike that I would have to provide him with more equipment. A water bottle would be necessary since even when it is cool here the sun shines bright and you will need water. I also provided BUCKEYE with a backpack so he could keep extra water and snacks. BUCKEYE was now ready to go on his SRP hike.

BUCKEYE and I got up early so he could help me load up the car with the materials I needed for the nature hike. BUCKEYE was excited and kept asking when we were going to the SRP. I assured BUCKEYE it would be soon and explained that we should always have a good breakfast before we go on a hike. After breakfast we headed up to the SRP. We went into the SRP Visitor Center to await the school bus that would be carrying the students from the Lake Elsinore Elementary School to the SRP.

While waiting for the bus I introduced BUCKEYE to the other SRP docents who had arrived to help lead the 3rd-graders on their nature hike. One of the docents brought in two huge bags of a special fruit. BUCKEYE climbed up on the pile of fruit and said, “What are these?” I told BUCKEYE that they were California buckeyes, and everyone chuckled. BUCKEYE told us that they didn’t look like the Ohio buckeyes he knew. I confessed to BUCKEYE that I was just joking and that they were not buckeyes at all. I told BUCKEYE that they were Persimmons from a Persimmon tree, and mentioned that Persimmon trees grow very well in Mediterranean Climates. I mentioned that the fruit was delicious and people eat them before they are ripe, when they are ripe, and when they are dried out by the sun. Coyotes love them as well.

One of the docents shouted, “The bus is here,” and we all gathered up our equipment and headed out to greet the visiting students. I placed BUCKEYE on the top of my pack.

When the students were divided into smaller groups and the docents selected their group, the two hour nature hike began.

I still had BUCKEYE on the top of my pack when I took my group to a trailhead to start our hike. I introduced myself, talked about what we might see and where we would be going. I noticed that some of the students kept looking at the top of my pack and smiling and giving little waves. I knew that BUCKEYE must have been waving at the children. I finally told the students that we had a special guest for this hike and introduced them to BUCKEYE.

I told the students that BUCKEYE was from Ohio and was on an adventure, and that he had to return to Ohio soon. I asked the students if they would like to help me on the hike with BUCKEYE, and they all agreed.

I divided my group of students into four smaller groups; the Acorn Woodpeckers, Bobcats, Coyotes, and the Dangerous Deer.  This gave all the students a chance to be at front of the line as we switched groups during the hike. I then gave BUCKEYE to the Acorn Woodpeckers who would be the first group to lead the hike.

The nature hike went very well and the children enjoyed showing BUCKEYE all the things they were learning about as we passed through the Chaparral, Oak Woodland, Grassland, and Riparian plant communities.

The Bobcats, Coyotes, and Dangerous Deer also enjoyed passing BUCKEYE amongst themselves and making sure he got to see everything when their group was leading the hike. Several times when I was explaining what we were looking at I noticed that the students were holding BUCKEYE up high so he wouldn’t miss a thing.

Towards the end of our hike a little girl approached me and told me that BUCKEYE told her that he would like to stay with her. I smiled and told her that I am sure he would, but he had to return to Ohio soon so he could share his adventure with his school friends in Ohio.

The nature hike came to an end and I passed out mementos to the students to help them remember their SRP Nature Hike experience. Since BUCKEYE participated with all four of the smaller groups I gave BUCKEYE all four of the group cards.

I asked BUCKEYE if he had a good time and BUCKEYE started talking and smiling, and talking. BUCKEYE told me all the things he saw, and all the friends he made, and how he would have loved to stay with them all. BUCKEYE talked all the way to the car and during the drive down from the plateau. As we were pulling into our driveway, I wondered why the talking had stopped and I looked over at BUCKEYE who was in his seat belt, he was sound asleep. I gently carried BUCKEYE into the house and put him back in the computer for a nice long nap. I think BUCKEYE most certainly had a great time with the 3rd-graders on their nature hike.

BUCKEYE awoke a little before sunset and I asked him how he was feeling. He smiled and said, “I feel so special, I made so many new friends today, and saw so much cool nature stuff, I had a great day!” I told BUCKEYE that I knew he would like the hike and meeting new friends. I was so happy that he had such a great time.

Looking over my shoulder, out the window, I said to BUCKYE, “I think you woke up just in time.” “It looks like you will get to experience a special Southern California sunset tonight. BUCKEYE looked out the window, and said, “WOW, it’s beautiful!”

After watching the sun go down and having a nice dinner, I told BUCKEYE that tomorrow we would have to get him on his way back to Ohio. He first looked shocked, then sad, and then a BIG GRIN filled his face.

BUCKEYE told us that he knew his adventure would have to come to an end and that he would have to get back to Ohio to share his adventure with his friends , but until he heard the words he had put the thought  out of his mind. He was sad at first but the realized that he had so much to tell his kindergarten friends back in Worthington, Ohio about his adventure and that made him very happy.

We told BUCKEYE that he was always welcome and the next time he came back we would make a trip to the Pacific Ocean. BUCKEYE smiled and  crawled back in the computer to go to bed.

The next day we packed up BUCKEYE with all his mementos and souvenirs and the gear we provided him for is hike on the SRP.

As BUCKEYE left I asked him if he was sure he knew his way back to Ohio. As he jumped off our front step and headed down the walk, he turned and with a smile said, “I knew how to get here didn’t I?” BUCKEYE continued on his way back to Ohio walking proudly with his head held up high.

As he faded into the distance, we thought we heard him whistling California Here I Come and wondered whether that meant he might be back some day.

 

END

BUCKEYE returned to his school with a PHOTO ALBUM and POSTCARDS of his adventure in Southern California and the Santa Rosa Plateau. His return was received with great interest and appreciation. We are looking forward to Buckeye’s return.

copyright 2012 jl-studio – All rights reserved.

Jim Lockyer

Travel is fatal to prejudice, bigotry, and narrow-mindedness, and many of our people need it sorely on these accounts. Broad, wholesome, charitable views of men and things cannot be acquired by vegetating in one little corner of the earth all one’s lifetime.  Mark Twain

 

SIX GOLDEN EGGS

We inherited a wishing well when we purchased our home in Wildomar, CA. It required a little work to stabilize its aging structure. I suggested that perhaps it would be a good idea to remove it and replace it with something more contemporary. Judy remarked that she had always wanted a wishing well and advised that it might be a better idea to let it remain.

After completing several structural stabilization projects and removing the artificial flowers from the wishing well bucket, the wishing well remains in place. It is top heavy and still leans a bit to the east despite the stabilization. More stabilization projects are warranted.

Accepting the decision to keep the wishing well prompted me to think that the wishing well might make a nice venue to decorate for holidays and special events. Last Halloween season I removed the wishing well bucket and replaced it with a plastic pumpkin. Christmas Bells and a red bow replaced the bucket for the Christmas season. Then came the approach of Easter this year and I started looking for a large egg or eggs to replace the wishing well bucket. Unable to find any suitable large eggs, I decided to get some smaller plastic eggs, glue them all together and place them in the wishing well bucket. The chore took more time than I anticipated but the project was finally completed and the decoration was presented to the neighborhood. I placed several left over plastic eggs from the project to fill the void spots. I must say it turned out to be an attractive and subtle decoration appropriate for the season.

I began noticing that neighborhood children were attracted to the decoration and the Easter eggs therein. Over time some of the single eggs were removed. On one occasion when I heard children’s voices at the wishing well and observed a little girl yelling at her brother who was chasing a plastic egg that was rolling down the street. His sister was in the wishing well quickly putting the pieces of the decoration back in the wishing well bucket continuing to yell at her brother who apparently caused the original problem.

When shopping before Easter at the local grocery store I passed the stores seasonal decoration area. A package of three plastic golden eggs caught my eye. I purchased two packages. Late on Easter eve I placed Six Golden Eggs (each containing one dollar), three on each side, at the base of the wishing well in plain sight. Each egg contained a taped note on the outside stating, “Take Only One, Please.”

Late on Easter Day the Six Golden Eggs remained in place. It appears that most of our neighbors were elsewhere today and few children were seen.

A second day passed and there has been no activity on or around the Six Golden Eggs.

The only activity on the third day was wind related as the wind moved one of the eggs. There has still been no sign of children activity in the general area. It is afterall spring break so perhaps many of the neighborhood children may be elsewhere. I repositioned the Six Golden Eggs closer together to make them a little more obvious.

Perhaps tomorrow I will place the eggs in the wishing well basket to make them even more obvious.

ONE WEEK LATER – May 1, 2011

One week later the Six Golden Eggs remain undiscovered.

After not being discovered, the Six Golden Eggs were first placed in the wishing well bucket. On several occasions I thought that several had been taken only to learn that the wind had blown them out of the bucket. All six eggs were accounted for lying in the bottom of the wishing well. I have since placed the Six Golden Eggs at the base of the wishing well in plain sight. Despite children traffic in the area no one has yet found the eggs or have chosen not to take one.

ONE DAY LATER – May 2, 2011

Mid-day I noticed that two of the eggs were missing. I checked the area out soon after noticing the  missing eggs – they were nowhere in sight. I then checked out one of the remaining eggs that appeared to still be taped up. The egg still had the label stating, “TAKE ONLY ONE EGG PLEASE” still attached. On opening the egg, the one dollar bill was missing. I then checked out another egg and it was also lacking a one dollar bill. The individual(s) that claimed the two eggs apparently also claimed the contents of the remaing eggs.

I suspect the recipients of the eggs were two teenaged girls that I noticed in the area late on May 1, 2011. This suspicion is based on the fact that two eggs with the attached note stating, “TAKE ONLY ONE EGG PLEASE,” were taken suggesting that two individuals took one egg each. Since the note said nothing about, “the contents of the remaining eggs not taken”, would suggest, that the recipients reading the “egg note” rationalized that they were in compliance by removing the contents of the remaining eggs and leaving the egg shells behind. Sounds like a couple of teenagers thinking a problem through that would provide them the greatest reward.

This was a fun little experiment, but will need some refinements for next year.  Stay tuned!

Jim Lockyer

“Travel is fatal to bigotry, prejudice, and narrow-mindedness.” Mark Twain

 

In late May I headed to the extended backyard (X-BY) for a hike. When reaching the X-BY from the path behind our home several crows were giving warning calls from a nearby tree. I thought there must be a predator nearby. I slowly moved in their direction hoping to catch a view of their concern. As I got closer the volume and repetition of the calls increased. That’s when I noticed one of their own was lying dead below a power pole. The calling crows left as soon as they realized I had located their concern.

Looking at the top pole, directly above the location of the dead crow, I noticed a matrix of uninsulated wires and concluded that the crow probably met its demise by electrocution. I felt bad, but then it was just a crow I thought, and I continued on my hike in the X-BY. On subsequent X-BY hikes I made it a routine to check the area below the pole . . . . . just in case. As the weeks went by no more bird electrocutions were noted and I began to feel that he crows electrocution was probably just an isolated incidence.

Just before sunrise on July 20, 2010 we lost power to the house for about 45 minutes. I didn’t think much of it at the time. Two days later I headed to the X-BY for a hike. My pole checking routine was now ingrain and I headed first towards the power pole . . . . . . just in case. As I came closer to the power pole I noticed something lying beneath the pole that blended into the ground. The closer I got to the pole the features of the bird lying below the pole became apparent. This bird was lying on some of the remaining crow’s feathers where it fell several months earlier. I was devastated to see this beautiful expired Barn Owl at the base of the pole. The Barn Owl had been electrocuted. I concluded that the power outage two days earlier was probably the result of the Barn Owl’s demise.

The crows had already warned me two months early to do something about the pole, but I didn’t heed their advice then. It took the Barn Owl to motivate me to see if something could be done.

During my X-BY hike that day I was not able to get the Barn Owl out of my mind or the crow’s earlier warning for that matter. I returned to the pole before heading home to view the tragedy again. I wondered if there was anything I could do.

Arriving home at mid-morning I looked for some place to report the problem. I entered the Southern California Edison (SCE) website and was impressed by its content and ease of use.  There, at the top of the website was an ENVIRONMENT tab. A power utility company with an ENVIRONMENT tab on its website was unbelievable to me having lived in the east coast power gird for the last 30 years.

I pushed the ENVIRONMENT tab! Listed there was a list of SCE’s environmental programs, including one for AVIAN PROTECTION. The contact list for the SCE Environmental Staff listed Archaeologists and Biologists, I sent an email to the Senior Biologists explaining my find and asking whether anything could be done.

That afternoon I received an email from the SCE Senior Biologist advising me that my report was a valid concern and that she was directing my email to Kara, the biologist in charge of the Avian Protection program. The following day I received an email from Kara asking for more information regarding the pole location and pole ID number. I provided the information to Kara and she responded informing me that an inspector would check to pole.

I received a message from Kara several days later advising me that the pole would be retrofitted to prevent anymore bird electrocutions and said a work order had been initiated. She would notify me when the work would be scheduled.

A couple days later I noticed a SCE vehicle parked on our cul-de-sac which overlooks the power pole. When I went out to talk to the individual he had already left. While hiking in the X-BY, later in the week, I encountered Kevin who was walking down one of the roads in the X-BY. Kevin was the SCE trouble-shooter who was parked briefly on our cul-de-sac earlier in the week. I introduced myself and he explained he was surveying ways to get the SCE trucks into the area to do the work. With two locked gates along the road he explained the possible difficulties of getting to the pole. He told me one way or another they would get the work done. He advised me that the work would be completed within 30 days.

The power pole in question is the last overland pole before the power is directed underground into our development. We were heading into the hottest time of year when we received a POWER OUTAGE NOTIFICATION mailer from SCE on August 3, 2010. It announced that a power outage would occur on Tuesday, August 17, 2010. The notice included SCE preparation tips for the long outage and stated that the power to our neighborhood would be shut-off between 9:00 AM and 3:30 PM . . . . . . Oops!  

The SCE Power Outage Notification listed the reason for the shut-off as:  Upgrading aging infrastructure or completing other repairs to make needed improvements.” Fortunately SCE didn’t reveal the real reason by stating:  Your new neighbor at 23045 Sweetbay Circle found a couple of : dead birds below a power pole and we are interrupting you creature comforts for 6.5 hours during one of the hottest days of the year!”

It was already HOT at 9:00 AM on Tuesday, August 17, 2010, when the SCE trucks rolled towards Pole Number 4061682E. I told Kara, the SCE biologist, that I would take some photos of the retrofitting operation. I went to the X-BY as the trucks began setting up. I introduced myself and mentioned to the crew to please don’t tell the neighbors that I was responsible for the power shutdown. I stated that I wasn’t sure all the neighbors would understand the reason for the inconvenience. Fortunately for me, the crew indicated that they were unable to get the power shutoff. They were going to complete the job by working around the live wires. The SCE crew was great and after 2.5 hours had retrofitted the pole working around live wires with temperatures in the mid-90’s.

  
  
Click on photos for a larger image

The next day I received a call from Kevin at SCE who wanted to let me know that the job had been completed. He said they almost canceled the work because of the heat but decided to get the work done.

Pole # 4061682E is now hopefully bird safe as of August 17, 2010.

Will I still maintain my routine of checking the pole when starting my X-BY hikes?  Yes, I will, . . . . . . . just in case!

I have been totally overwhelmed and impressed with the rapid response and timely action of  SCE to address and correct a seemingly small problem in the context of their entire responsibilities. Everyone I came in contact with at SCE, from my initial contact regardng the problem to the crew who retrofitted the pole, were highly professional, courteous, and friendly. They are a dedicated and passionate group of people. Many thanks to all! 

Jim, Judy, and VELCRO

Travel is fatal to bigotry, narrow-mindedness, and prejudice. Mark Twain