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Good Morning Nanty Glo!
Tuesday, June 5 2001

Visit to a small town

In my Memorial Day entry I reported that I was visiting my brother Bob in Willows, Calif., where we were planning on the first "traditional" Memorial Day observance, for me, in many years and, for him, apparently (despite being a member of the Vintondale VFW Post for many years) ever in his life. It's a tribute to the Internet and all the pieces of it connected to my computer that I was able to complete that visit without disrupting the Jonal entries in the least; a first instance of reporting without a hitch from a remote (as opposed to "home") location. The ceremonies in a large community cemetery called the Veterans' Cemetery (but not the military-type with endless rows of identical crosses over graves), were appropriately traditional and nostalgia-inducing, with stirring speeches and old-fashioned music by the high school band. Bob has developed a close friendship with a widow of a veteran and it was for her that we wanted to take part.

Willows is a large small town in the valley of the Sacramento River, California's principle river, located approximately halfway between the source of the river at Mount Shasta and the city of Sacramento. Though its population still tops 5000, Willows has all the earmarks of being a dying town. Being on Interstate 5, the state's major north-south highway, it has some tourist business like restaurants and motels, but its own heart is decaying. Though it's still considerably larger than Nanty Glo, in terms of commerce and seeming future orientation, it's farther gone. All the auto dealerships have left town, for example. Its most recent "new" store is a Wal-Mart, but it's far from a "super" one. The downtown mall that we enjoyed when we first visited Willows about 30 years ago is reduced to only a local foodstore (even Safeway, which has stores in "every" Northern California town, has deserted Willows). RiteAid, which as in Pennsylvania is the major drugstore chain in this area, has no Willows store. The center of commerce for a large farming area, its hard to pinpoint why Willows is in the doldrums when most places in California, including its neighboring towns, keep growing. Thirty years ago rice farming in the valley was relatively new and seemed to be highly successful, whereas now it's said there's "no money in it" ...possibly that's the key.

Bob first came here around 1970 where he took over the local steel yard and built a successful business that allowed him and his late wife to retire relatively early, moving back to her home area in Indiana state until her untimely death after a short illness in 1999. Bob moved back to Willows, where he has many friends, a year later.

For me, comparisons like the ones above between this small town and the one "in my mind" (Nanty Glo) are inevitable. I'm always impressed by the easier pace of life in Willows compared with home in San Jose, which is impossible to define but also impossible to miss experiencing. It's always a revelation to watch Bob and his friend greeting acquaintances everywhere they go, whereas in San Jose I virtually never see anyone I recognize outside work, church, and my fitness club. They routinely drop into other people's homes, like characters in a Russian short story or novel by Dostoyevesky; I'm almost never in anyone else's home.

My body is back in coldly impersonal San Jose, my mind is back at work after a week's vacation, but my heart is wondering why.

Webmaster Jon Kennedy

A farmer joke

After pulling a farmer over for speeding, a state trooper started to lecture him about his speed, pompously implying that the farmer didn't know any better and trying to make him feel as uncomfortable as possible. He finally started writing out the ticket, but had to keep swatting at some flies buzzing around his head. The farmer said, "Having some problems with circle flies there are ya?"

The trooper paused to take another swat and said, "Well, yes, if that's what they are. I've never heard of circle flies."

The farmer was pleased to enlighten the cop. "Circle flies are common on farms. They're called circle flies because you almost always find them circling the back end of a horse."

The trooper continues writing for a moment, then says, "Hey, are you trying to call me a horse's behind?"

"Oh no, officer." The farmer replies. "I have too much respect for law enforcement and police officers for that."

"That's a good thing," the officer says rudely, then goes back to writing the ticket.

After a long pause, the farmer added, "Hard to fool them flies, though."

Sent by Mike Harrison

Three more to grow on

"Stupidity fuses notoriety and celebrity." Suzanne Fields

"Nothing in the world is more dangerous than a sincere ignorance and conscientious stupidity." Martin Luther King, Jr.

"First get the facts. You can always distort them later." Mark Twain

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