Tuesday, November 29, 2011

More Things You Didn't Know About Me

It wasn't as cool as this but you get the idea
1. In the 1950s, my father bought a kind of run-down cabin on a couple of lakefront acres at Lake Tahoe. It was a small, narrow two-story affair, with exterior walls of unfinished cedar logs. A wall-sized river rock fireplace heated the house. At first, you had to hand-pump water from the lake into the kitchen sink, but that got remedied later and we had real running water. The kitchen stove was a wood-burner, the kind you see in old movies, where you have to stick a little lever into a slot to pick up the plates on top. I don't know how my mother cooked on it for a family of eight, but she did.  My father sold the property a few years later for, I think, $45,000, when he needed the money for his business.

2. My first dog when I was six or so was named Edward. He wasn't really mine, but I thought of him that way. He was an English Shepherd mix, and I was so shocked when he bit me one day after I took away a chicken bone. A couple of years later, he bit a neighbor kid and had to move to a ranch, where he lives to this very day. That euphemism is in my permanent lexicon.

3. Local ranchers used to buy odd lots of lumber from my father's sawmill in Plumas County, CA, and they all paid cash for these small purchases. The cash accumulated over the years, and my father, the mill foreman and my cousin decided to split it three ways. Since it was unrecorded income, my father wrapped his share--a stack of $100 bills--into an aluminum foil packet and hid it in the freezer. The freezer malfunctioned one day and saturated the currency, so my mother put the bills on the kitchen table to dry. This was on the day my father's childhood friends from Lakeview, Willard Leonard, came to visit after maybe fifty years.  As Mr. Leonard came through the front door, someone turned on the swamp cooler in the kitchen, and the $100 bills floated all over the place. He gave my father a weird look and said he guessed Dad had hit the big time.

4. Okay, I know this was supposed to be about me and it's been about my father. He was named J.K. Metzker, and my nephew who just died was named after him. J.K (the younger) was outrageously funny.  He did things like call up my brother (his dad), and in a fake voice say there were problems with the credit card, totally fooling my brother no matter how many times he'd do something like that. He would also con the flight attendants on Southwest into letting him do the passenger announcements and announce they were heading for Mexico City instead of the true destination. Like that. In his 1918 Lakeview High School yearbook, my father wrote that his ambition was to become the next Charlie Chaplin.

5. My closest friend ever, not counting my wife, was named Bino. He was four and I was five when we first met. His family had just moved into the neighborhood and he was standing on the porch when I walked over. He threw a block of wood and it hit me in the forehead, but things went uphill from there. We were touring Europe in 1970 when I got my second military induction notice. I would later get a third. When the draft lottery was instituted, I drew 310, I think, and he drew a 305, which meant neither of us would be drafted.

6. My Uncle Fred owned a whorehouse. This was probably the biggest don't-ask, don't tell of our family lore. It was called the Triangle River Ranch and was located on the border of Washoe and Storey counties in Nevada. A local hood, Joe Conforte, operated the place. When Bob Moore, the D.A. from Storey County conducted a raid, the whores would all run to the Washoe County side, and when the Washoe County D.A., Bill Raggio, raided the place, the whores all ran to the Storey County side. This is a true story.

One day, the two D.A.'s got together. Bob Moore got the court order while Bill Raggio stood by with the torch and they burned the place down. Joe Conforte moved a few miles away and opened the infamous Mustang Ranch. Uncle Fred repaired to his home and lodge on the only privately-owned land on the Paiute Indian Reservation, where the family still lives and runs the Crosby House.

Bill Raggio became the most politically powerful man in Nevada.  Bobby Moore became a good friend many years later and used to go abalone diving with us in Little River, in Mendocino.

And that's enough for now, don't you think?

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