Just Shoot Me!

The last two months of my life have been consumed by moving my mother-in-law (MiL) from her 3,200 square foot home into the 1,200 square foot house we had purchased next door. We had finally finished renovating it and it proved to be the perfect way for MiL to downsize. Her decision to move happened just when the restrictions of Covid-19 were put in place, which meant that moving companies were not available. As luck would have it, the church where I work shut down too, so I had time to move her 6,254 containers filled with a lifetime accumulation of memorabilia, plant food, bank statements, and the ordinary contents of the American home.

The moving took weeks as she sorted and re-sorted the stuff she wanted to take with her and the stuff she was going to leave behind. Her aging brain grew increasingly confused as she lost track of the thread of organization and I grew more and more frustrated as she repeated stories about the origin of each item.

At one point MiL asked me what she should do with her gun. I was nonplussed to think that an 86 year-old, deaf woman would HAVE a gun!

She explained that she kept it in case a burglar broke in. So, when Mike came to pick up a load of furniture, he asked her to show it to him. She went to the freezer in the hall at the garage end of the house, where she pulled out a yogurt container which contained the combination to the safe. She then tottered down the hall to the pantry, where she got down on her knees and laboriously dialed the combination. Without too much difficulty, she found the KEY to the drawer in the display case, at the end of the hall, at the opposite end of the 3200 square foot house, which held the gun.

About this time, the visual image of the poor burglar, who had somehow managed to get her attention over the sound of the TV blaring at top volume, and was now making himself a peanut butter sandwich (no jelly, because she doesn’t like jelly, which she no doubt told him because she has never liked jelly, even as a child, and her kids never ate jelly either) while he waited for her to retrieve the gun, which, terrifyingly was LOADED, so that he could take it away from her because, it was perhaps the ONLY thing in the house that had any resale value…unless he was into selling happy crap Christmas ornaments on EBay.

Of course a story ensued about the origin of the little pistol, which was still in its original box indicating it had been purchased at Western Auto for the price of $56, a tidy sum in 1965. Every indication was that it had never been fired THANK GOD! Back in the days when Mike’s dad (FiL) had been active in the union at Kaiser, things had gotten ugly, as union affairs sometimes do; and he felt threatened enough to feel he needed a gun for protection. MiL explained that FiL was not able to purchase a gun in his own name as he had a CRIMINAL RECORD, so he bought it in her name. I tried to sound casual when I asked what his crime had been and she answered mildly, “Domestic violence.”

“Do you know how to use it?” I squeaked.

“No, but how hard can it be?”, she replied. “You just point and pull the trigger.”

~sigh~ of relief. If she didn’t know how to manually cock it, she probably couldn’t pull the trigger hard enough to cock it, and if she did, would just blow a hole in the ceiling…before the burglar put down his peanut butter sandwich and took it away from her.

An Ironic Cycling Event

I’ve written several times about a trail near my house called Mountain Home Creek Trail. Decades ago it had been the road from the valley floor to Camp Angelus, and Big Bear Lake in the San Bernardino National Forest. But it was abandoned when a new road was carved into the side of the precipitous canyon to accommodate modern vehicles. Over time, the old road succumbed to rock slides, winter rains washed out bridges, and now, most of it is little more than a singletrack trail, kept marginally passable by dedicated mountain bikers. (The trail has been unofficially named the John Elliot Trail, a nod to its most dedicated trail maintainer, a retired physics professor.)

Recently, Frontier Communications decided that the 72 1/2 residents of Camp Angelus (now called Angelus Oaks) were in need of fiber optic cable and proceeded to run a bulldozer down the trail to allow the trucks needed for cable installation to access the poles that run the length of the rugged canyon. In doing so, they smashed the manzanita, Scotch Broom, flowering yuccas, and whatever else happened to line the trail. They pushed huge rocks that had provided interest to the mountain bike trail aside, creating a monotonous road where once a trail had been. The blade filled in ruts with loose sand, removed the water bars built to divert water from the trail, and turned one of the stream crossings into a muddy quagmire. We who have been riding, hiking, and maintaining the trail were heartsick at the desecration of one of the most scenic trails in California.

Having heard of the despoliation of our trail, Sally and I decided to see for ourselves, hoping against hope that reports had been exaggerated. The ruin had been halted about two miles from the bottom of the trail by a washed-out bridge, so the first two miles were still pristine. Rounding a turn we found two of our friends standing an appropriate social distance from a third, Greg, who was lying comfortably at the side of the trail. We soon learned that he was not resting comfortably. Descending the trail, Greg, a young sixtyish man, had caught his front wheel in one of the ruts, now invisible because of being filled with loose sand, and was thrown over the bars. He was hurled onto his hip by way of knee and followed by elbow and shoulder, onto a section of remaining asphalt. It soon became evident that the damage was not minor and he would not be able to ride, or even hobble down the trail. Being about three miles from the nearest motorized vehicle access point, we realized that he would have been in a real pickle but for the fact that the trail was now navigable for a rescue vehicle.

So, while we cursed the powers that had sabotaged our trail, we couldn’t help but feel a tiny bit grateful that their wanton destruction had facilitated a rescue.

Greg suffered a fractured hip and other bruises and scrapes. He is expected to be able to walk without the aid of crutches in about a month.

Sally and I rode downhill with all due caution.