Anyway.....the Sloppy Seconds referred to here is the Second......Amendment. The Right to Bear Arms......or, more Cachagua style.....the Rite of Baring Arms.
Weaponry and gunfire have a long and warm relationship with our little valley. Firearms are at once a working tool, a instrument of sport, objets d'art.......and a sometimes ugly extension of some of our darker internal passages.
I am not anti-gun nut by any stretch. My personal weaponry situation is the classical liberal dilemma: "I have more guns than I need......and not as many as I want."
We have a .22 Magnum pistol for killing sheep and lambs.....the Mini-14 for tame wild boar in pens....and for fucking ground squirrels. Somewhere on YouTube there is footage of Brendan at age 2, cutting loose with the Mini-14 at the old Howard Ranch at ground squirrels. I still mourn my old Winchester .243 with the Sako sniper barrel that Sheriff sponsored burglars ripped off back in the eighties. A machine as beautiful as any Lotus........
Then there is the .30-30 Winchester Model 1894, some random .22 target rifles and a Woodsman pistol, the old chopper, a Brazilian 12 gauge saddle gun we bought from Sears. And reloading equipment, and cases of rounds for all of them.....and for old friends we no longer have.
I once gave a Buddhist girlfriend a .308 sniper rifle for a Valentine's Day present....and it worked. There is something about the finely machined steel, the internal focus and concentration required for a good shot......at target or game....that is not foreign to Zen practice. In fact, the last .50 caliber sniper rifle I fired was owned by a monk at Tassajara. This little doozy can put a one ounce piece of lead through a cast iron plate from three quarters of a mile away. Right now it is resting, soaked in Cosmoline....waiting for whatever Buddha has in mind.
Our neighbors.....rich beyond measure due to a supposed Apple related relationship.....bought the "wine estate" ten meters from where I am now typing one fall.....when we were all away in Europe......The adults in Italy doing cultural things involving food and alcohol, and the younger folk in Prague doing cultural things involving alcohol and.........well, enough of that.
Imagine their shock, long after escrow had closed at around twenty-five times the purchase price for my snuggly 12 acres next door........to discover a normal Cachagua twenty-something party in full rage. There was wine.....this being Cachagua, and all the twenty-somethings being vineyard and winery workers. There was absinthe......the Prague connection. Oh, there was really loud music, with really good amplification done by professionals.
And......There was gunfire. Alcohol may not be mentioned in the Second Amendment in YOUR Constitution.....but we live in a different country.
Why else own 12 acres in the middle of nowhere if you can't cut it loose once in a while?
My nice, poor neighbor called me in Italy to tell me that the new rich neighbors wanted to buy our property......for whatever price we wanted.
The richies had missed it. They missed The Machine-gunning of Oak Ridge Ranch's Joseph and The Wise Guys.....and they missed The Great Rooster Hunt.
One of my more bizarre....in a quiet, hippy-ish way......workers once dropped off a passle of roosters and chickens at my house when she embarked on the whole Raw Foods thing. The chickens had a pen she built.......which, with her being a useless hippy and all.....lasted approximately until her VW Bug made it to the end of the driveway.
It turns out that my checkbook was also making the turn at the end of the driveway.....and I later got some interesting cancelled checks from various New Age culinary outposts in Idaho and Mendocino.....but that is a different story.
City people.....of whom I count myself numbered......have the impression that chickens are cute little guys who cruise around the yard eating bugs and corn that your cute granny scatters for them.
Wrong. The fucking things fly. They are noisy, rude and violent. The roosters don't just crow at dawn....they crow whenever the fuck they want, day or night. The hens do lay eggs, but not in the handy cute nest.....more often in the battery compartment of the '48 Packard rusting in the lower 40.
Our crew was particularly loud and violent. And dis-numeric, or whatever it is when you have no idea of the time of day.
The main rooster (Rootie for short) would cut loose nightly between 2:30 and 4am. The fucking guy was on Hawaiian time. And, he had chosen as his home the big oak tree right outside my bedroom.
In our world......2:00-5amam is sacred time. Very often it is the only time we get to sleep. After a couple of months of Rootie I was feeling like The Manchurian Candidate. Ask Khalid Sheik Mohammed.......sleep deprivation really works.
Like Lee Mellon, the iconic hero in "Confederate General from Big Sur" who fought an epic battle with bullfrogs.....I tried different tactics to silence Rootie.
I placed a high powered hose right outside my room. When Rootie would cut loose....so would I. It put him off his game for an hour or so.....and he would be right back at it.
I then went, in traditional Irish fashion......directly to violence.
After any given catering function, I would bring home the larger, heavier recycle. Champagne bottles, Ketl One bottles. I would come in at midnight, line the bottles up on the deck railing nearest Rootie's oak roost. When Rootie cut loose, I would run outside, stark naked and screaming like any good Gael, and fling heavy glass in the direction of the infernal noise.
The chickens would squack and complain and fuss.....but I never hit any of them. Archaeologists are going to have a field day with the canyon next to my house someday, though. Some midden!
My partner at the time was a mild mannered university lecturer.....albeit a university lecturer with several black belts, some of which involved swords and knives. One day she snapped under sleep deprivation. She dressed all in black, and pulled the Ruger Mini-14 out of the guncase. She popped in two duct-taped back-to-back 14 round clips, turned to me and said: "Rootie is going down......."
She ran outside with the rifle and proceeded to spray the mountain with semi-automatic weapon fire for 45 full minutes. The Ruger was sighted in for varmint hunting at 200m, so it is no surprise to gun people that she never came close to any of the bandit chickens. She felt so much better for the effort though. Sort of like us in Iraq.
In the middle of the fussilade, my cool neighbor.....a long-time Cachaguan, and one not blessed with an Apple cash-flow.....rang my cell phone.
"Michael, is everything OK? We thought we heard automatic weapon fire from your place......"
"Oh, no. No worries. Carolynn is just trying to kill the rooster........Sorry about the noise."
"Oh, all right then. Have a nice day!"
This is a normal Cachagua response to gunfire.
This weekend we had a bunch of gun-related drama.....
All my workers showed up for work on Friday loaded for bear. They wanted to go up to the top of Kincannon and do some target shooting. Luckily, wiser heads pointed out that the recent Yosemite wildfire was started by target shooters.....and a 104 degree day with 15% humidity was not a good call for bang bang sport.
Later that evening, one of my workers went to collect an $800 debt from his dad. Dad is a whack job.....most recently seen stumbling around Cachagua and The Village openly packing a large handgun. This clown has lost his family....wife, son and daughter......pretty much lost his house up the street from The Store......and certainly has lost his mind.
The long and short of it is that Dad decided to punch out Son, and pull out his pistol.....with the declared intent of shooting Son. Son then jumped on Dad, beat the fuck out of him, and was deterred by Roommate of Dad with loaded 12 gauge.
We called the Sheriff.
Yup......I called the Sheriff for assistance. Irony is truly not yet dead.
And they responded. Three units and a helicopter with a sharpshooting team.
Turns out that nothing that went down at Dad's house was not technically illegal.....and perhaps my worker was in trouble for defending himself. According to the Sheriff. And when the Sheriff attempted to interview Dad.....he sprinted out the back door and up into the woods, pistol in hand. The helicopter tracked him for a while, causing the entire community of Cachagua to freak out and run for their own weaponry....which is not to be sneezed at.
When I finally got home, I was greeted with five or six rifle shots coming from over the mountain. Probably Mike Hildebrand....the scumbag poacher we have been trying to catch......or not.
Great. I slept with the Chopper at close hand with a full clip, just in case. Whackjob Dad knows where I live, you see.
End result? Nada.
Whack job Dad called in death threats to my worker.....even threatening to come to our Sunday beach party and shoot everyone involved. The Sheriff was unimpressed....and did nothing.
Meanwhile, we were torn....ethically. We obviously hid our worker and hustled him out of town. Do you tell the client that there may be gunfire at her rehearsal dinner?
Nah. Instead we called the Carmel cops about everything we found wrong on the Beach at 13th. Sick bird. Turned over Porta-Potties. Illegal campfires. Lots of active, interested, smart Carmel cops all afternoon.
All we got was sunburn.
Meanwhile, this story intersects with our dog stories.
Yesterday, in the middle of the insanity of trying to pull Monday Night together a sweet young man came to the door of The Store....obviously wrecked. Something terrible had happened. The kid was about 19 or 20......had the de rigeur unfortunate tattoos we give our children instead of a proper education. He looked exactly like the 4,000 plus young men we have buried in Iraq.....sweet, kind, hardworking....trusting.
He stopped because he saw Xabi....a German Wirehaired Pointer...running around the parking lot of The Store. He had just lost his dog....a Shorthaired Pointer. These dogs are just alike, and he was stricken by the way Xabi moves....and mostly by the look these dogs give you.
"I lost my dog. His name is Dakota. He looks just like him. He has never run off before. I don't know what I am gonna do.........that dog is my whole world!"
The kid was so wrecked over the loss of his friend Dakota that we instantly shut down Monday Night at The Store.
We immediatley mobilized the Cachagua Dog People. In ten minutes we had called every neighbor and even had a girl on a horse cruising the country, moving from the Earth Station towards Summerhill......
My girls at The Store....and all of us, really...were wrecked at the thought of this guy losing his dog.
Well, we found him. All is good. We have been through this before........We have skills.
Zim the Criminal is my sous-chef's Border Collie. Zim is cute as hell, but a sociopath who has to run, run, run. He has eight times in a row taken my grandpuppy on three hour runs through the woods in Cachagua. I have closed The Store twice to search for them, once cancelling Monday Night......Zim has cost me more money than Mike Kanalakis.....well, not really...but close.
This Monday, we even named a pizza after Zim......."Run, Zimmy, Run!" Saracena olives, feta, fennel and onions and creme fraiche.
Zim lives with his master over by Laguna Seca. Zim has hitch-hiked to Del Monte Beach and other distant places. This morning there was an embarrassing incident when my sous-chef had to go to the nearby SPCA and retrieve Zim with his balls duct-taped to his dick. Don't ask. Twenty dollar fine.
Anyway, when Zim visits my house and can get loose he takes Xabi, the Grand-Puppy, up on a run through the neighbors above and their properties. This is fine except for my crazy old fool of a neighbor who is to deer what insane old Prunedale grannies are to deer. This gentleman is a Valley icon....and apparently therefore gets to make his own rules. Well, you see.....his ancestors have a claim on having fucked the first goat in Carmel Valley, don't you know. Royalty.
Old Don shoots any loose dog he can see from his mountaintop eyrie. His cabin walls are covered with the skins and skulls of lesser beasts.....
Old Don does have a point....and Western tradition. Dogs who run cattle are dead in minutes. Chicken killing dogs have a slighty longer lifespan, but only because the ranch wives can be more sentimental and forgiving.....and perhaps slower on the draw, and with less firepower. Deer-running dogs are regarded as silly and useless and annoying.
So.....Saturday morning after the helicopter drama and the midnight gunfire, I forgot that Zim was sleeping outside on my deck. In the time it took me to walk down to my van and gather some leaves and twigs for smoking salmon.....the dogs were gone.
It was 6am and barely light. Zim is mostly black, but Xabi is almost pure white and glows in the dawn and dusk.
I had to let go....
I had to go to work....a $15,000 wedding on the line, and no one to prep but me. I made the internal calculation that the light was not good, Don Prince is old and maybe shaky.....and Xabi is swift as a ghost when he moves through the woods........
I love the dog like a human.....but he is a dog, after all. And, like children....sometimes you have to let go and let God.
I called and called, and whistled and whistled. Finally I got in the van and drove to work with a heavy heart. I pulled up 200 meters up the road by my cool Cachagua veteran neighbor's mailbox and called and whistled again.
It was 6:15 and it was getting pretty light. I said a little prayer that the dogs had made it out of the pasture and into the woods.
There were two big gunshots: "Blam, blam!"
Probably a 30-30....what I would have chosen: iron sights, quick to follow a target through brush.....and a big, heavy 9 gram bullet that will crash through the twigs and brush and still find the target. A fat trajectory like whacking a tennis ball.....but Don Prince is a tennis pro, after all.
I held my breath....and whistled again.
Sure enough....here they came....charging out of Marilynn's woods like the devil was on their tails.....safe and sound.
Life in the country.......