Phil's Latest Interactions
Posted on: Jul 14, 2022 at 4:57 PM
Assignment: How I Spent my Career
Chapter 1: Thanksgiving with the Governor
It's Thanksgiving 1980 and I'm looking across at Governor Jerry Brown. This the second term of the first governorship for Brown in California. While running for president, his vision of government based on the concept of the United Federation of Planets had resulted in the press (in their ignorance) dubbing him "Governor Moonbeam". In any event, I notice he's not as tall as I thought and he didn't look good in a yellow fire shirt. For context, I was in dinner line at the Baldi Fire Camp and the governor was being served from a fantastic looking turkey, along with a mountain of mashed potatoes, steaming gravy, green beans, corn bread, along with other wonderful looking treats. Like Pavlov's dogs, myself and the 2000 plus fire fighters (probably another 200 personnel with the convict crews, but they don't eat with us....and don't look them in the eye, give them a cigarette, or your vehicle keys so they can mail a letter) approach the food as the press snaps pictures of the Governor having Thanksgiving with the firefighters. The Governor gives me a wave, well it was in my general direction, and through a loud speaker thanks us (me) for the great job we're (I'm) doing saving houses! The houses we (I) didn't save were rebuilt and burned again....and rebuilt and burned again over the years since. I digress...the Governor finished up his meal with a piece pumpkin pie, topped with whipped cream. Now with a presumably full stomach, Governor Brown was driven away and the remaining food was removed....probably to go to Fire Overhead. In its place were brought out turkey loaf, cold mashed potatoes, covered by steaming burned gravy for the fire crews. We did get pumpkin pie, but no whipped cream. Thus ended my first Thanksgiving in California, and my only one with the Governor. I give thanks at every Thanksgiving since, that it was better than the first.
My alternative version has Linda Ronstadt (Brown's significant other at the time) also there with him....and she does look good in the fire shirt, while she belts out "Heat wave" for the crews. She wasn't there, but it makes for better theater.
Had to be there moment. Several years ago while holding forth on the events of that day (sans Ronstadt) to those at our table at our wine club....the gentleman next to me indicated that he too had been at that Thanksgiving feast. We were likely with several feet of each other. Turns out we both had retired after careers with the Forest Service and knew a number of folks in common, although we never worked on a Forest at the same time.
Randy and I were in the same class for 5th and 6th grades at North Auburn. We were very close during those years. I remember playing lots of baseball (he would regularly strike me out if we were on opposing teams), going to Tacoma Giants games, trick-or-treating on Halloween, being cabin-mates at 6th grade spring camp, and playing down by the river. Our interests went in different directions after that period, although we were both avid anglers and regularly crossed paths on the river. One mid-December afternoon in 1971 we were fishing "the slabs". Randy hooked a large steelhead, which he deftly fought. I was able to beach the fish when he got it to the shallows and handed him a beautiful 16 pounder. I'm not sure about the last time I saw Randy. I think it was in the gym at GRCC in 1972 or 73. What I can vividly remember is his glee when he'd strike me out and the exhilaration when the fish was in his hands. RIP Randy.