Friday, July 27th, 2018
On Wednesday, all five of us returned home from Redding, where Tomas’ All Stars team emerged fourth in northern California out of 378 teams. Their last game was an epic battle against Half Moon Bay. In brutal 110 degree heat, with a blood orange sunset against the smoky backdrop of the Carr fire raging just 14 miles away, our Redwood Empire boys fought their way back from a score of 1-11. In the last inning, the score was 11-15 and the bases were loaded. A good hit could have tied up the game, and a home run would have won it. Our batter smacked the ball hard, and all of us thought for a moment that we’d done it, but our hearts fell as the ball landed in the glove of one of the Half Moon Bay boys. It was a rough ending, but, boy, our kids were incredible. They are proud of their accomplishments and deserve to be so. They are only the fifth team from District 26 to play in States since 1970, only the third in the 12 year-old age bracket.
Tomas played terrifically (including hitting a triple that knocked in the runs that won the game against Madera), and he was so happy to be back on the field. During Sectionals, in Redding the week before, the poor kid couldn’t play. He had a badly sprained ankle, and, to add insult to injury, had just spent six days running a fever. But he went to cheer on his team from the dugout; I spent the early part of the week with him there, to be replaced by Gary during the second half.
Heat aside, we loved our Redding “vacation”. When we were all there together during States, we visited the Turtle Bay Exploration Park and the Sundial Bridge, ate pizza and chicken wings in bed at 11pm, and splashed in the pool, where Phoebe pretty much taught Tristan to swim.
But no regrets about leaving. Two trips to Redding in two weeks is quite enough. If the hellacious temperatures and blasts of hot winds aren’t enough to keep one away, the fire to the west will. On our second trip there, when I drove Tristan and Phoebe to join Gary and Tomas, we were about 25 miles from Redding on the 299 when the kids and I began to comment on the huge thunderstorm ahead. Funny time of year for a storm, I thought. By the time we were 20 miles from Redding, the thunderstorm was no longer that, but had transformed into a billowing cloud of smoke that glowed orange in its center…and why was that westward-bound truck flashing its brights? A few miles later it started to feel like maybe we shouldn’t go any further, and, clearly, others were feeling the same way; cars began to peel off the road to stop in a big turnout. We did the same. I chatted with a truckdriver and a nice woman driving a silver Jeep. Small fire burning in Whiskeytown, had just started a couple of hours before and was now about 250 acres. Firefighters just ahead starting to send cars back. A park ranger pulled up and said that, best scenario, we’d be able to get through in an hour and a half. The thought of sitting there for 1.5 hours, in 106 degree sunshine, with the kids in the car, and the wind blowing northwest, sort of in our direction, was not so inspiring. The silver Jeep woman said she had decided to double back to the 3, cut down to the 36, and take the 5 up to Redding – a 2.5 to 3 hour detour, and, where we sat in the turnout, we were only about 15 miles from our destination! I looked at the clock: if we left then, we would still make it to Tomas’ 7pm game. “Let’s do it!” I said, “We’re going with you,” and we followed the silver Jeep back past the blockade CHP had just set up (miles behind the turnout where we pulled out!) and all the way to the I5 through absolutely gorgeous forest in the Trinity Alps. We arrived just in time to drop our things at the hotel and head over to the game. Bomber planes and rescue choppers passed overhead back and forth, back and forth, throughout the game, flying from airport to fire. A strange scene. By the next morning, the hotel parking lot filled with dozens of firetrucks from Cal Fire, nearby counties, and volunteer departments. Exhausted firemen sat in groups with their red duffle bags, waiting for the hotel maids to clean rooms for them so that they could collapse into bed after overnight shifts. They were hopeful that they’d have the fire under control that day. Not so. The Carr fire jumped the 299, burned the spot where we had contemplated waiting 1.5 hours (ha!) for the road to clear, and now covers 45,000 acres and is 3% contained. West Redding is being evacuated, and last night’s championship game was postponed and moved to another city. Never a dull moment. I’m glad we’re home!
Between my two trips to Redding/Hades, I had the most wonderful visit from my good friend Tanya. Tanya was my officemate at the University of Michigan and was our family’s ultimate destination when Gary and I took the kids on an RV trip to Colorado the summer before last. She shares my love of horses; back in Ann Arbor she sometimes took me to ride her sweet Sapphire. Tanya now has four of her own horses, has begun riding 50-mile endurance events on one of them, and fosters other horses for an organization that rescues horses from slaughter lots. In addition, over the last few years she has taught herself the ins and outs of training horses through gentle, natural horsemanship. Not long ago, Tanya’s endurance horse, Mouse, was an untrained horse in a shoddy backyard horse-breeding op. Scars covering her hind end are a reminder of that past. With Tanya’s gentle guidance, she’s now finishing big races in the top ten.
Tanya drove her two-horse trailer from Colorado, accompanied by Mouse and Dahlia, one of her foster horses. Dolly, as we call her, is a yearling filling with cream-colored fur and blue eyes. Tanya brought Dolly to live with us – she is now Phoebe’s horse! – and she brought Mouse to ride with me and my mare, Bella. For four days, Tanya taught Phoebe and me how to work with Dolly, and she helped me with Bella, who is very inexperienced. (Bella, too, is a rescue horse, and spent many years living in a paddock with a bunch of mules before she came to me.) Together we worked on loading Bella in and out of a trailer (Bella was not overjoyed), successfully rode out across our mountaintop (Bella loved it), and did “liberty work” with her, using just our bodies and a flag – no lead rope or lounge line – to ask her to move her body in various ways (Bella was fabulous and attentive). We also took Mouse to Clam Beach and took turns riding in the wet sand, crossing “ride on the beach” off Tanya’s bucket list. Somehow, in additional to helping me with the horses, Tanya also cooked us several scrumptious meals, enticed Phoebe-the-picky-eater with healthy snacks, folded the laundry piled up on the dining table, and won over Phoebe’s nippy cattle dog pup. And then she loaded up her lovely Mouse and drove home to the high plains outside of Fort Collins. In a few years, maybe Phoebe and I will load Bella and Dolly into a trailer and drive to Colorado to ride there with Tanya…
Also between the Redding trips, we celebrated Gary’s 50th birthday. Lindsay, our good friend who recently turned 40, threw a HUGE Kneeland party to celebrate hers, her niece’s, Gary’s, and our friend Betsy’s birthdays. Together the four of them turned 172 (the “spring chickens” on the cake got smushed in transit). It was a fabulous mountain party, complete with family, good friends, live music, lots of food and drink, a ton of kids, and a trampoline. Everything needed for a good time!