Thursday, January 28, 2010

Goofing Off

SAN DIEGO – The Southwest corner is normally great goofing off, but when growing up back home, I found there to be just as suitable.

I should get a lifetime reward for goofing off, both indoor and outside.

Right now, the Southwest corner is suitable only for indoor goofing off. The storms raged last week leaving floods and mudslides in their wake. Many trees are down from the 60-knot winds – the predominant eucalypti have shallow roots, grow tall and majestic, and are prone to falling over in stiff winds.

Streets are flooded. Worse, outdoor goofing off is off. Golf courses have bunkers, fairways, and even some greens under water.

* * *

An aside: an unpleasant aspect of the Southwest corner is folks either never learned or have forgotten how to drive in rain. Visitors are not aware of the second worst driving hazard out here during rain. After local drivers, the worst driving hazard is oil.

We normally see very little rain. Last week, some areas received more than five inches, more than half of the annual total. Consequently, roads are soaked with oil, which goes below the top surface. Then with rain, the oil rises to the surface, the roads are slicker than ice, and spinouts are frequent.

If you are out this here and driving in a rainstorm, first watch out for the crazy California drivers (rain or no rain), and then be wary of oil-slick roads.

* * *

I am not sure where I got the talent of goofing off. I don’t recall any of my relatives, especially my parents, goofing off. My father went fishing, but he was not goofing off.

He fished at every opportunity. He particularly enjoyed fishing for striped bass on Center Hill Lake. After supper, he would drive up to Sligo Boat Dock with a fishing buddy, sometimes allowing his son to come along. There they would find a good fishing spot – I always wondered how they knew it was a good place – hang a Coleman lantern over the side and fish just below the shad which were attracted by the light.

He caught an amazing number of stripes this way, sometimes more than 60, with at least two or three lines over the side simultaneously. He could be catching many while his son, a.k.a. me, would sit on the bow and catch…nothing.

The darkest nights were the best. So when the full moon came up or dawn approached, he would come home, arriving for maybe an hour or less of sleep. Then he would go to work for the day. Sometimes, to take advantage of the moon’s phases of darker nights, he would go two or three evenings in a row, getting by with what sleep he could get before work and a 45-minute nap at lunch.

My father is not a big fish-eater. When he came home, regardless of the size of the haul, he would clean and dress his catch in the back yard then give to friends.

That is work. That is not goofing off.

* * *

I developed my goofing off trait early. Sometime around nine, I started mowing J. Bill Frame’s and Fred Cowan’s yard across the street. I used our old rotary blade power mower. I would mow for an hour and then take a break, going back to our home. The break could turn into an hour itself.

I don’t know what I did. Television was either not on during the day or the single program was for women (although I did like to watch “Queen for a Day,” hosted by Jack Bailey). I believe this was the origination of goofing off.

The old mower was balky, requiring a deft touch with the choke and a strong, swift pull on the starter cord. Frequently, I would flood the carburetor, and try as I might, I could not start that stubborn mower. Eventually, sore armed and frustrated,

I would call my father at Hankins and Smith, informing him the mower was “broke.”

My father would stop work, drive across town, and pull into the driveway where I usually “worked” on the mower. He would step up to the mower, make one flick on the choke, pull the cord once, and the mower would start.

I believe he thought I had been goofing off.

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