Tuesday, February 25, 2014

By Jim and Shirley White

The little Chinese lady smiled and walked thru her flower filled front yard toward us with a little brown paper bag in her hands. “I thought you might enjoy some Chinese cookies I just made” she said. And thus we met Connie, in the quaint little river town called Locke, a few miles up-stream from Walnut Grove along the Sacramento River.
Connie had a collection of toilet bowls around her front yard, all brimming with colorful flowers. These toilet bowl flower vases are what attracted us to Connie’s home. As photographers, for Shirley and I it was like a honey bee attracted to a flower. An hour of chatting with Connie, those many years ago while munching on her cookies was an experience in Locke we will long remember.
Game Warden Gene Durney is a name still remembered by the “old timers” in Locke as the “the “Scourge of the Delta” Gene was one of those wardens who could arrest one of the local Italian poachers netting Stripped Bass illegally at night and still be loved as a brother by the culprits. One late stormy night in November 1955 Gene and I (a lowly recruit warden, just starting out) walked into “Al the Wops” in Locke where we were greeted by Al the Wop himself, behind the bar, a house full of heavy drinkers who all yelled out greetings to Gene. One guy said “he was going out to pull his nets right away since Gene was where they could keep an eye on him”. The house roared with laughter and one lady at the bar sallied up to Gene and gave him a wet kiss on the mouth. As we sat down for dinner in a back booth I asked Gene who the “painted lady” who gave him the kiss was? He had a hard time hearing me with all the noise in the bar and I repeated myself “does she…….” (I was trying to say “does she work here”, thinking she was a waitress) when he interrupted and said “yaa, she’ll go “. “There is a room up-stairs; do you want me to ask her for you?” I will never forget how cornered I felt as I tried to explain myself. I think I blushed down to my boots as I said “no, what’s the Peanut Butter for?” Each table had a large jar of Peanut Butter on it. Gene explained that you had to smear your steak with Peanut Butter or Al himself would throw us out. I smeared the steak heavy with Peanut Butter hoping not to attract any more attention.
Connie, Al the Wop, and the Painted Lady are all gone now. The little Chinese town that was filled with Italian fishermen that night is still there. The buildings are still pretty much intact. Many buildings have a new paint job now. My wife Shirley and I photographed for 2 hours the other day. I do really miss Gene, Al the Wop and even the Painted Lady. Large jars of Peanut Butter can still be found on every table at Al the Wops in Locke.     

Sunday, February 9, 2014

Escape is Sweet

A rainy dull light day. Not a day to write or read. Not a good day to photograph. We had to get out in the storm. To feel the cool wet freshness of the air. Equipment to test and learn to use. A new camera body used with new to us lenses. Are we ever going to learn how to make magic with them. Let's give it a try? We are looking for waterfowl west of Lincoln where few have been seen this year that is so dry. But there are a few. Our new camera gear should make sharper, crisper wildlife images. That is if we ever learn to use them. A lot of driving and very little shooting so lets go to Lincoln for a Chinese lunch.

We had seen a bi-winged crop duster off in the distance over the Feather river and beyond.We had almost forgotten about him when up ahead he flies across our road to land on a paved farm strip to re-load. Shirley loves to photograph airplanes. The road we are on is deadly. Little traffic on the road but what there is is high speed, with few places to park. I zoom into a spot in front of a gate. The gate is where the air-strip comes to the road we are on. The only place to park. The airplane is loaded and ready to take off within two minutes. There is a steel gate between us and the runway. We should be safe? The aircraft is at full throttle and moving toward us when I think he looks overloaded. His wheels are still on the ground when within 100 yards of us. Pull up! I almost can feel the stick in my hand and my feet on the rudder. Pull up!! Shirley says "my god" is he going to make it?

As the airplane roars over us I have taken my last photograph of him and turn and ask Shirley " did he go below the telephone wires just above our Jeep? The roar of the huge radial engine and the prop wash as he went over buffeted the Jeep and we both hung on. Maybe it was a good day to read and write?