Serendipity to Soothe the Savage Beast

The day of our family reunion weekend begins two hours earlier than normal. By six o’clock, I’ve packed the car and herded my husband Gary and surrogate child Lucy-dog inside. We’re going to Tahoe for a family reunion. Gary has limited eyesight and mobility. He functions well around the house, but his issues become challenging whenever we take a trip. My mind whirls with logistics—buying supplies, packing the car, plotting stops that need to be made along the way, and helping him navigate unfamiliar territory. My efforts to make sure all goes well leave me exhausted and sometimes a bit cranky.

My goal is to cross the Central Valley before temperatures rise to the fires of hell and melt our delicate coastal bodies. Two hours later, Lucy starts whining. I stop at a gas station in Lake County. After several minutes of sniffing, she fails to go potty. As the temperature continues to rise, I give her water, silently scolding her for wasting our time.

An hour later, we stop in Williams where Lucy has a successful potty. She and Gary are enjoying the journey. I marvel (not in a good way) that it’s only nine o’clock and already 75 degrees. I get breakfast sandwiches and a call from our son Harrison. “Would you mind finding a CVS and picking up sunscreen and a hat for Kasi [our daughter-in-law]?”

Actually, I would mind. Very much. I’m fixated on getting my passengers to our destination with as few stops as possible. Running a spontaneous errand while they sit in a hot car is not on the schedule.

I sigh.

“I’ll text you the address of a CVS along the way.”

When it finally occurs to me to question why he can’t do this himself, I recall last year’s family reunion where the nearest shopping was 20 minutes away. I can possibly save him a 40-minute round trip.

This Mother Teresa moment is fleeting. Resentment reaches in and captures my mood.

As I push past the speed limit along Highway 20, my phone pings with a text. Moments later, Harrison calls. “I sent you the address of a CVS at the turn off you’ll take in Truckee. Could you also stop at the Save Mart there and pick up a red onion?”

“Sure,” I snap. The outside thermostat has climbed to 80 degrees.

“And some ketchup?”

I groan.

“Don’t be such a curmudgeon.”

“I’m worried about leaving Dad and Lucy in the car. It’s hot and going to be hotter by the time we get there.”

“We worked all day yesterday,” he says (having perfected the counter argument as a child), “went grocery shopping and didn’t get here until midnight.”

In the game of Who’s the Most Martyred, it’s a tie.

Three hours later, I pull off the freeway in Truckee, a town that, unlike me, is fond of roundabouts. May I make a recommendation to those who design GPS systems? Instead of programming the voice to say “Take the second exit at the roundabout,” have it say, “HERE! HERE! EXIT HERE, DAMMIT!!!”

After twirling through two traffic circles and failing to exit at the appropriate times, the GPS gives up and guides me through back streets into a small shopping center. It is now 90 degrees. I park in front of CVS and take Lucy for a potty around back among a patch of spindly fir trees near the loading bay. It irritates me that the only trees in the parking lot are where they’re not needed. I reposition the car under their skimpy shade.

Inside the store, sunscreen and cap in hand, I stand at the checkout counter while tourists in front of me engage in conversation with the cashier about how outsiders have driven up real estate prices, forcing most service workers to live in Reno. While I sympathize with cashier’s plight—my own tourist community suffers from the same socioeconomic discrepancies—I want to shout, “Hurry the hell up! A disabled man and dog are roasting to death in my car!”

I notice two additional texts sent by Harrison.

“Please pick up some mustard.”

“And some pickles.”

I want to hurt him.

I exit CVS and debate whether to dash into Save Mart which is only about 100-feet away. I worry a semi-truck might arrive to make a delivery and won’t be able to maneuver around my car. I picture a big rig trucker yelling at me.

I find Gary and Lucy quite content. I move the car to the blazing hot sun in front of Save Mart. My deodorant has failed. Sweat pastes my shirt to my back. I verbally review the shopping list.

“What kind of mustard?” Gary asks.

“I don’t know,” I moan.

“Get Guldens.” He smiles, happy to be helpful. “And Claussen pickles.”

Gary’s mom was an expert canner and made the best pickles around. As a result, he’s quite fussy about them. I, on the other hand, hate the things. I want to yell “What the hell difference does it make?”

I leave Gary and Lucy in the Easy Bake Honda. Entering the store, I recall the game show “Supermarket Sweep.” Filled with sweaty adrenalin, I’m certain I can record a personal best. I imagine emerging to find my car surrounded by an angry mob that has called the police to report elder and animal abuse.

I quickly locate all the items on the list except the pickles. I go to the dairy aisle (where they’re located in my local Safeway). No Claussen’s.

Time is ticking, the temperature rising. The angry mob is growing. I hate everyone and everything. I’ll go back to the condiment aisle and grab the first damned pickle jar I see.

Moving swiftly toward the back of the store, I nearly collide with a teenage employee. Mustering my last ounce of humanity, I politely ask if they carry Claussen pickles. He directs me to the meat department at the opposite end of the store. I turn and encounter the back of a generous head of black curly hair. I take two steps forward to see her profile.

“Elizabeth?” I say.

She looks at me without recognition. If my outside resembles my inside, I look like a thorny hag.

Elizabeth is the daughter of Sue, one of my most beloved clients who, three months shy of her eightieth birthday, died as a result of a tiny hole in her lung. When told she could survive by staying on oxygen and having caregivers, she chose to call her family to her hospital bedside. After an evening of visiting around wine and cheese, she said goodbye. By the next afternoon, she was dead. When we settled her estate, Elizabeth and I spent hours sharing stories of her mother.

I remember Sue’s smile—how it lit her face and made her eyes squint with delight. I felt comforted in her presence. Her life hadn’t been easy, but she graciously accepted whatever came her way.  I remember how much I appreciated her, and how glad I was to spend time with her equally gracious daughter.

“Kate,” I say.

I’m engulfed in a hug. We talk about how bizarre it is that we should encounter one another almost exactly two years after her mother’s death in a place Elizabeth resides but I have never been. I tell her how I think of Sue each time I walk or run the Glass Beach trail where her memorial bench overlooks the ocean.

My mood shifts. Sue would have accepted the flow of this trip, would not have tried to control every minute. Somehow she managed to lead me to this place despite my childish protests. It wasn’t easy, but did what it was intended to do—cause me to calm the hell down.

I leave Elizabeth with another hug and smile as I saunter to the meat department to find the pickles. It’s a joy to fulfill Gary’s gastronomic desire. I breeze through the express checkout line and out the door to the car where Gary and Lucy are panting, but not too uncomfortable. I start the engine, blast the air conditioning, and continue to our destination as I relate my encounter with Elizabeth. My burdens have been lifted. The desire to incite violence has evaporated. I can finally allow myself to feel the blessing of being able to spend three days with our wonderful family.

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Amberly Reynolds Caccamo

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Reynolds’ Men’s Wear on Franklin Street has been a fixture in this town since Amberly’s grandparents opened it in 1966. Before that, it had been a menswear store for nearly forty years, outfitting the workmen of our community. Her parents James and Ilah bought the store in 1971.

When her father decided to retire in 2007, Amberly, then 28, convinced him to sell her half interest, and let her run it. “It’s the only exclusively men’s store on the coast. In fact, men’s only clothing stores are rare throughout the world.” He tried to dissuade her. “He knew how hard it is to run a business. He wanted me to get a government job with a regular paycheck and pension,” she said with a laugh. “But the store had been in our family for 41 years. I’d worked with him since 2003. It was my love and I wanted to keep it going.”

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The timing of her takeover wasn’t ideal. In 2008, the economic crash began and accelerated in 2009. The Franklin Street renovation project happened in the summer of 2009, virtually closing down the street. “I was able to hang on because my dad owned the building and charged cheap rent.”

I suspect it was more than just cheap rent that allowed Amberly to hang on and thrive. Her quiet, soft-spoken demeanor belies an inner strength that is awe-inspiring.

***

Amberly graduated from Fort Bragg High School in 1997 and went to Sacramento Community College. She thought she might become a teacher. “I also worked at a Christian elementary school as an office lady. It was there I learned that I didn’t want to become a teacher.” She laughed. “It’s a really hard job.”

In 2001, she moved to Mount Tremper, New York. “My sister Karen lived there with her baby daughter. I took care of the baby during the day while she worked. I also worked the overnight shift at a 24-hour K-Mart. That was the coolest job I ever had. Not many people shop in the middle of the night, so I got a chance to visit with my co-workers and make lasting friendships.”

amberly&vinceA year later, she returned to her previous job in Sacramento. “In January 2003, I moved back to Fort Bragg. For a boy,” she added with a laugh. This boy was Vince Caccamo who she’d known from kindergarten, but lost touch with after high school. He’d graduated from UC Berkeley and returned to work in his dad’s construction business. “I was home for a visit in 2002 and ran into him at the Caspar Inn. I remember I was wearing jeans sprinkled with pink glitter.” She smiled at the memory.

amberlyreynoldsinteriorAfter she moved to Fort Bragg, she worked with her dad and found she really liked it. “My favorite time of year is prom when guys get fitted for tuxedos. There are so few chances for them to get dressed up, which makes this time of year so special.” While dating Vince, she took classes at the local College of the Redwoods campus. In 2005, she enrolled in Humboldt State. “I went to school during the week and came home on weekends to work. I finished my BA in Cultural Anthropology in three semesters.”

Amberly and Vince were married in June 2007. They had their first son Matteo in 2009. Two years later, George was born.

Her dad passed away in June 2009. “The building needed a foundation and the store needed freshening up. It hadn’t changed in years.” In November, she leased a building a few doors down, moved the store, and added women’s clothing. “I took out a three-year lease. The plan was to renovate the old building and move back. Instead, I started having babies and that plan was delayed four more years.”

amberlywrensIn February 2015, she decided to take Reynolds’ Men’s Wear back to its roots and spin off the women’s section into its own store across the street—Wren’s (a play on Women’s Reynolds). Then came the shock of her life—a diagnosis of non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma. The new store opened in April. A week later, she discovered she was pregnant.

“I’d always wanted a girl and thought this could be our chance. But I had cancer and didn’t know what that meant for the pregnancy.” Chemotherapy treatments began during her second trimester. When asked how she coped with the rigors of cancer treatment combined with being pregnant, having two small children and running two businesses, she said, “I just got up each day and did the best I could.” It helped that both of her sisters work for her—Karen at Reynolds’ and Michelle at Wren’s.

Admitting she had cancer is not easy for Amberly who describes herself as an introvert and private person. “But it’s part of who I am, part of my story.” Baby Raphael was born on Thanksgiving Day 2016. “Even though we’re not very religious, we gave him a name that means ‘God’s Healer.’”

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Raphael

Eighteen months later, Amberly has recovered from cancer and learned how to live again. “I have a new outlook on work—why I do what I do. I do it for my family—they mean everything to me.”

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Matteo

Amberly notes many changes in Fort Bragg, mostly surrounding the economic shift from logging and fishing to tourism. “We carried the Ben Davis line of work clothes forever, but I recently closed my account with them. My customers no longer need those types of clothes. There are new people moving here with different ideas mixing with the good ol’ boys. As a fifth generation native, I understand and respect the good ol’ boys—those who never left the area. But I think it’s important to go away, gather new information and ideas, and bring them back home.”

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George

As with all change, she notes the good and the bad. “I like seeing downtown stores filling up. I’m part of the Downtown Watch group of business owners who meet once a month to talk about our businesses and promotion. Tourism is great, but hospitality and retail jobs don’t pay much. A lot of our future hinges on what happens to the G-P property. I’d like to see some type of industry that capitalizes on the ocean—like a research facility, aquarium, and marine life rescue center.”

The future is something she thinks about each day. “I plan on running these stores forever and making enough money to support my employees. I’m also working on a blog, the theme of which will be a play on the words Mom and Entrepreneur—Mom-preneur. It will focus on lifestyle or clothing.”

There’s no doubt that whatever challenges Amberly faces, she will conquer them and thrive.

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Gus Saldana

gus2At the age of 27, Gus is like a man from another era. He is extraordinarily polite, respectful, quietly self-confident, and a hard worker. In high school, he entertained the idea of going to college and majoring in marine biology. By his senior year, he realized this wasn’t his passion, and he didn’t want to waste money on an education he might never use. At the age of 18, he went to work for a building contractor. After two months, he was recruited by Williams Electric in Mendocino where he remained for nine years. “I learned to wire anything from a small shed to a smart home that can be controlled with a cell phone.” Through this experience, he discovered his true passion—electricity.

Late last year, his boss Rick Williams encouraged Gus to get his electrical contractor’s license. Rick was scaling back his business and wanted to refer his overflow to someone he could trust. Gus got his license and opened Saldana Power in January 2017.

gus3Gus’s work ethic is inherited from his parents. When he was a year old, they moved to Fort Bragg from Mexico to work in the fish processing industry. “This was in 1990 when fishing was booming,” he said. “My parents made minimum wage, but sometimes worked 40 to 50 hours of overtime a week. For a number of years, we lived in an apartment with another family while my parents saved enough money to buy a house.”

His father also spent weekends painting houses. “When I was in seventh grade, he hired me to help. I earned $400 that summer, and spent half of it on a drum set. My mom was furious with me.”

As I mother, I don’t blame her—a kid banging on drums is not a pleasant sound.

“It wasn’t that,” he laughed. “I played in the garage so it wouldn’t bother her. She was mad because she felt it was a waste of money.” He added with a grin, “I still have that drum set.”

Gus loves the freedom of owning a business. “Each day is different. I engage with clients, find out what they want, and give it to them. Some need a simple electrical repair, others need their entire house wired. I strive to do the best job I can. My reputation is all I have. From 2008, I’ve seen guys move here from cities and start businesses. One painting contractor managed to stay a couple of years before his poor reputation caught up with him and he had to leave. Word of shoddy work gets around in a small town and eventually nobody will hire you.”

Gus doesn’t regret not going to college. He’s managed to make a good living and buy a house. In addition, he’s been exposed to a wide variety of people that he would never otherwise have met.

“I’ve wired multi-million dollar homes. Some of them are peoples’ second or third homes. Over the last couple of years, one couple has invited my wife and me to dinner in San Francisco. Whenever they’re in Fort Bragg, they take us out to dinner. I’m grateful to be able to know these kinds of people.”

gusGus’s wife Sierra works for Harvest Market. They’ve been married five years. “I met her in 2011 when our local Jehovah’s Witness Kingdom Hall needed a major renovation. Three hundred volunteers from throughout the state showed up and over the course of two weekends, we gutted the place and rebuilt it.” Sierra, who lived in Chico at the time, was one of those volunteers.

Gus was immediately attracted to her, but courting her presented a logistical problem—Chico is nearly four hours from Fort Bragg. “Shortly after we finished the Kingdom Hall, a couple of friends asked if I wanted to visit the Sierra Nevada Brewing Company in Chico. I called Sierra and asked her to lunch.” They started meeting once a month in Chico. “A couple months later, I told my dad I was going to marry this girl.” Almost exactly a year after meeting her—on September 15, 2012—they were married.

In 2015, they bought a house. Two years after that, he started his business. “I had to quickly learn of the financial aspects about owning a business.” He’s also trying to figure out how to hire employees. He’s considering his 20-year-old brother. “Before I do that, I have to learn how to treat him as an employee, not a sibling.”

Gus laments, “I’m looking for good employees and can’t find them. We’re living in an age where nobody wants to work.” While it may seem that Gus has a pretty sweet deal—owning a successful electrical contracting business at such a young age—he’s paid his dues over the past nine years. “I’ve crawled through mud under many houses. I used to be afraid of spiders, but I’ve had so many on my face that they don’t bother me anymore. I’ve run into skunks and raccoons, even found dead animals.” He was often the one called upon to go out in the middle of the night to fix a problem.

Helping customers design lighting for their homes is Gus’s favorite part of his job. “Lighting can affect someone’s mood. Sometimes an architect will design a house, but the lighting plans are vague. I love when that happens because I can sit down with a client and ask about their habits, what styles they like. When I shop for fixtures, I try to find the best deals.”

Gus notes both negative and positive changes in Fort Bragg over the years. “It used to be safer—more people lock their doors now. It’s also louder—there are more tourists. I don’t drive on Main Street during the summer. I try to shop local as much as possible, but there are fewer shops now.” On the positive side, “There are people moving here who want to build or remodel a home. I have clients who work for large companies that allow them to work remotely. They can live anywhere in the world and choose to live here.”

Gus is grateful to have found a career he enjoys. Given his work ethic and passion for what he does, there is no doubt his business will continue to grow and prosper. He is a true asset to our local community.

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Sarena Breed

sarena8When Sarena unlocked the doors to the Frame Mill Artworks on the morning of March 22, 2017, she excited and nervous. The previous owner Robyn Koski had helped make the transition as smooth as possible, but there was so much Sarena didn’t know, like the flow of the business or the nuances of her employees. Her nerves were further rattled when a supply truck pulled up to make a big delivery.

Up to now, Sarena had shied away from taking risks. For 10 years she worked nights at the Stanford Inn while her husband Sean Barrett worked days at Family Tree Service. This schedule made one of them available to care for their daughter Holiday. A few years ago, Sarena began to yearn for more. “I needed to create a different idea for how to do life, to find a career that feeds my soul. A friend asked what kind of role model I wanted to be for my daughter. I realized I want her to see me as a business owner.”

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Patricia Breed

Sarena channeled the courage of her foremothers to fulfill this vision. Her great-grandmother divorced her husband when such a thing was unthinkable and supported her family by running boardinghouses. Her paternal grandmother emigrated from the Philippines, worked at the post office, lived frugally, and put her money into San Francisco rental properties. Her maternal grandmother was a professional photographer and actress who also invested in real estate. Sarena’s mother Patricia Breed managed to become an artist and poet while raising six children over a span of 42 years.

***

In 1985, Sarena’s family moved to Fort Bragg where she entered her senior year of high school. “It was uncommon for new families to come to the area, and I felt like an outsider. Before me, the newest kid in my class arrived in sixth grade. All the other kids had long established friendships. I couldn’t wait to finish high school and get out of here.” She left for college in 1986, and never dreamed she’d move back.

Sarena majored in studio art with a specialty in metal casting. After graduation, she stayed in Chico and spent 10 years working for a custom picture framing business and making her own art.

In 2002, she met future husband Sean at a party in Chico and reconnected with him a few weeks later. “He had no idea I was from Fort Bragg and out of the blue started talking about hosarena3w much he loved the area. I liked him, but wasn’t interested in a serious relationship. I was considering an MFA program at Mills College. Instead, I moved back to Fort Bragg in 2003 to live with my parents. I needed time to think about what I wanted to do with my life. Within six months, Sean also moved here and was hired by Western ACI as an arborist.”

One thing led to another—they got married and had daughter Holiday in 2006. “We lived in a cabin on my parents’ property. Holiday was able to run back and forth between the two houses. It was a very special time for her.” They eventually moved into their own home, but her parents remain a tremendous help with caring for their daughter.

***

sarena4The Frame Mill had been on the market for a few years. Sarena’s background in framing allowed her to imagine buying it. She spoke to friends who own businesses and they assured her becoming a business owner was one of the best things they’d ever done. She looks back on this now and chuckles. “It’s like talking to parents when you’re considering having a child. They tell you how wonderful it is, but leave out the part about sleepless nights.”

In September 2016, she contacted the realtor. Six months later, she was the owner. “I’ve realized it’s not as easy as it looks from the outside. There’s the bookkeeping, ordering, making employee schedules, banking—I’d underestimated how much time all of this takes. I’m working seven days a week and thinking about it all the time, but slowly finding my rhythm.”

SarenaSarena is pleased to discover her business is part of a little neighborhood hub. “People bring in family photos and art projects. It’s fun to help design a way to display them. I’ve been warmly welcomed by the downtown business community.” She plans to evolve the Frame Mill Artworks into a maker’s space. “So few places make what they sell. I want to eventually create affordable art that people can buy to furnish their walls.” In the meantime, she’s learning how to merchandise the store with items that appeal to locals and tourists. “It’s hard because people have a variety of tastes, some very different from mine.”

***

sarena10Returning to the town where she once felt like an outsider has been a positive experience for Sarena. “It used to be ‘What family are you from?’ Now many people live here who don’t have roots going back generations. New people are moving in and young ones are moving back, some bringing families with them. The more our town can do to be a place people are attracted to—like the opening of the coastline via the coastal trails—the more it will encourage young people to move here.”

Sarena is grateful to be able to use her creative energy to make a living. “In so many ways, this feels like a gift. Robyn spent decades building a great business that I could buy to fulfill the next logical step in my life.

”I’ve been evaluating what kind of business owner I want to be. The word that continues to come up is kindness. There’s a whole ripple effect to the smallest act of kindness. I strive to be the person who starts that ripple.”

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Myles Anderson

myles1Myles is a fourth generation logger who has loved being in the woods for as far back as he can remember. However, a decision made the year before he was born might have sent his life on a different course.

myles5“In 1975, my grandpa was a silent partner with Bud Eastman and they decided to liquidate part of their logging business and put some equipment up for auction. Grandpa wanted to invest in a hotel and bar, but my dad [Mike] had just graduated from Humboldt State and wanted to start a logging business with him. Dad convinced him to buy a truck and some equipment from that auction.” Thus, Anderson Logging was born.

“I learned how to drive a pickup on logging roads as soon as I was big enough to see over the steering wheel,” Myles said. “When I was about ten years old, my dad picked me up after school and took me to a job site. I got to ride into town in a logging truck. I thought that was the coolest thing.” His face lights up at the memory.

myles6While he was in high school, the guys in the shop taught Myles how to grease and maintain trucks. He did this after school and during summers. When he turned 18, he got to fulfill his dream of working in the woods. “I set a lot of chokers,” he said with a smile. A choker is a small piece of cable used to attach logs to cable systems, allowing trees to be harvested without dragging them along the ground. “I really liked it and would have kept at it, but Dad had me work all the jobs so I could learn what the business entailed.”

Anderson Logging September 2006Mike didn’t want Myles to jump right into the business. “It would have been easy for me to head straight into it after high school,” Myles said, “but Dad wanted me to see other places and learn other things before deciding how to spend my life. He knew how much work is involved in this and hoped I would find something easier, but every time I was away all I wanted was to get back to logging. I really enjoy being out in the woods working with the guys. However, I’ve learned there’s a lot more behind the scenes to keep the business going, and that part is not as much fun.”

After graduating from Fort Bragg High School in 1994, it was hard for Myles to leave for Cal Poly San Luis Obispo. “I was not only leaving my family, but a larger logging family who had worked for Grandpa and Dad for 20 to 40 years. These were guys who taught me a lot, guys I looked up to.”

myles4Myles enjoyed college where he majored in Ag Engineering. When he was a senior, he and two friends wanted to build a tractor—from the ground up. “Each year, students in the department would build a sled to be used in tractor pulls. All prize money goes to student scholarships. The dean approved the tractor as long as we found sponsors to cover the cost.” Myles and his buddies were often in the machine shop until two or three in the morning. “We got to know all the campus cops. A woman cop sometimes brought us pizza.” Over the past 18 years, the tractor has been driven by 70 different people in 300 pulls.

After graduating from Cal Poly in 1999, Myles attended UC Davis where he earned a Master’s degree in Biological and Agricultural Engineering with an emphasis in Forestry Engineering. He returned to his logging family and went back to the woods.

“Dad let me do the jobs I wanted, but he also had me learn how to run the business. Much of our work is done through competitive bids, but sometimes we negotiate a job. Negotiations are when we work with a company to agree on a price. This is a lot harder than submitting a bid, but my education helped me understand our cost structure and how to do this successfully.”

myles2During the logging season, Myles routinely works 13-hour days. “The season used to be about seven months, but now it’s often eleven. Since the recession, logging capacity has shrunk. In order to fulfill the needs of the mills, our seasons have gotten longer. The ability to work during the winter has always been there, however regulation requires rocked roads. In the past, landowners haven’t wanted the additional cost that brings to the process.”

Road work is done alongside logging in the summer. Yarding (where logs are picked up and stacked) and loading (onto logging trucks) are done in the winter when rocked roads are available.

With 100 employees, Anderson Logging is one of the largest employers in our area. “In the past, we could count on our guys coming back each spring. Sometimes I’d pull up to the office to find strangers suited up in hard hats and boots ready to go to work.” This is no longer the case. “We’ve been shorthanded for the past five years. These are good jobs with benefits. I don’t understand why people don’t want to work.”

myles7Myles isn’t the only one in his family who works hard. He’s married to Stacey, a dynamic young woman who he knew in high school. They reconnected in 2003 when her son Wyatt (by a previous relationship) was two years old. Their son Lane was born in November 2006.

Four years ago, Stacey bought Makela’s Bootworks, a western outfitting store. She changed the name to Haywire and added apparel and accessories. “She loves people, clothing and horse stuff,” Myles said. “It’s worked out well for her.”

Having grown up a 4-H kid, animals are important to Stacey, and she’s passing this passion onto her sons. She’s been the community leader for 4-H over the past 10 years.

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Wyatt

“We call our place the Funny Farm,” Myles said with a chuckle. Stacey has two horses (she’s an accomplished horsewoman) and Lane has a miniature horse named

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Lane

Tinker (short for tinker toy); Wyatt and Lane are raising heifers and a steer for 4-H.; there are ducks, chickens, and lambs. Lane raises pigeons and call ducks that he takes to poultry shows. In addition to their school and sports activities (football, track, basketball and baseball), the boys feed the animals and muck out stalls daily.

 

In addition to his long work days and farm duties, Myles is on the board of the American Logger’s Council (he was president last year). “We’re a trade association made up of logging company owners from 32 states. Once a year, we go to Washington DC and spend three days meeting with members of congress to educate them on our sustainable logging practices. We’ve grown to the point where people call us to get information on the state of the logging industry.”

Educating people, especially lawmakers, is the one aspect of being in the logging business that Myles doesn’t enjoy. “We have to fight so hard politically. There are many misconceptions about logging practices. People think we’re ruining the environment. If they could see a logging operation and the rules under which we operate, it would change their minds.”

Myles loves his job, especially when he’s out in the woods. “I’m helping manage a renewable resource and it’s the right thing to do. This job, if managed correctly, can be sustained forever.”

***

Shell Rotella did a short documentary on Myles for its” Unsung: Hardworking Series.” You can watch it here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xUOZankXvoc

Josh Morsell

Josh3When Josh’s girlfriend Lia Wilson told me what he does for a living, I simply had to meet him.

He happens to be . . . are you ready . . . ?

A private investigator!

As in Magnum PI—only in his case it’s Morsell PI.

For the past five years, Josh has done his PI work through the San Francisco office of the Mintz Group, a New York-based firm with offices around the world. In April 2016, he chose to return to the Mendocino Coast and work for the Mintz Group remotely. “I feel like I’m part of a group of people who grew up here and seem tied to this area by a rubber band. We go far away into the world and come back to bring energy to the place we love.”

Josh graduated from Mendocino Community High School in 1994 and went to Brown University in Rhode Island where he majored in Art and Semiotics (I had to ask him how to spell this). “Semiotics is the study of signs and symbols, and is really a combination of critical theory, art history, media studies and philosophy, directed toward understanding how meaning is produced in a society. Half my major was making art—experimental video and film—and the other half was exploring how art functions in cultures.” He grew up without a television and wanted to explore a medium he was unfamiliar with in a part of the country he was unfamiliar with. “I wanted a challenge.”

After college ended in 1998, he and longtime friend John Bacon took to the road to find a place to live. “We drove up the coast to Seattle and then to Montana. We turned around and settled in Seattle. It was during the summer and the weather was gorgeous and beguiling. Then, our first winter, it rained 93 straight days.” They established a collective, a house where residents not only shared the rent and utilities, but also the domestic chores. “People took turns cooking dinner and we’d all sit down and share the meal.”

Josh1Josh worked three part-time internships. He monitored the news and developed press kits for Environmental Media Services, a non-profit environmental public relations firm. He worked for filmmaker John de Graaf in coordinating the first Equinox Environmental Film Festival (later named for Hazel Wolf), soliciting in-kind donations and arranging other details. At Grist Magazine, which was just launching for the first time, he recruited cartoonists. Then he took a full-time job as an environmental organizer with Save Our Wild Salmon, advocating for the removal of the Snake River dams.

The dismal Seattle weather took its toll and he left in January 2000 to travel with friends for three months through Guatemala and Chiapas, Mexico. He returned to Mendocino in the spring. He planned to stay a short time and work to save money to travel. He ended up staying three years.

“It was really lively in Mendocino. A lot of my friends were living here at that time. It was boisterous and fun.”

Josh learned web design from Tai Leventhal and helped people design websites. He also worked for the filmmaker Oleg Harencar, who had formerly run the Regional Occupational Program (ROP) video program. He helped Harencar make the feature film Bloodlines.

“I had a good time in Mendocino, but by 2004 I needed to expand my horizons.” He moved to the Bay Area where he worked as a researcher and paralegal for Dennis Cunningham, a civil rights attorney who specialized in police misconduct cases. “Dennis was like a superhero—he could bring these righteous cases against very long odds and win.”

Josh loved this job. “It was exciting and interesting. I felt I was helping a vulnerable population. We brought pressure to help the law enforcement system to function better, to be more humane.”

Josh also assisted Cunningham with the case of Judi Bari—an environmental activist from Mendocino County whose car was blown up by a pipe bomb (with her in it). She was accused by the FBI of transporting explosives. Bari hired Cunningham to file a federal civil rights suit claiming the FBI and police officers falsely arrested her and partner Darryl Cherney and attempted to frame them as terrorists. “By the time this went to trial,” he said, “I was writing a book about the case.” He has worked hard on the book ever since, and today has an agent who is shopping the book for publication.

In 2008, Josh enrolled in an MFA Creative Non-Fiction program at the University of Minneapolis Twin Cities. He chose the program because of the quality of the instructors, the length (three years as opposed to two), and receipt of full funding. He loved the writing community he found there, and he enjoyed Minneapolis despite the extreme winter weather. “It’s a very livable city, but I always knew I’d come back to Northern California.”

Josh2In August 2011, he moved to Berkeley and became a private investigator with the Mintz Group, a multinational firm. A friend referred him, but he got the job because of his law office and writing experience. “We conduct a variety of investigations, none having to do with cheating spouses.” He laughs. “We focus mainly on three areas: due diligence, including extensive background checks on candidates for high level corporate jobs, and background checks prior to business deals; disputes, which means uncovering whatever it is lawyers need to know for a given lawsuit; and anticorruption. Under the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act, it is illegal for American companies to pay bribes to win job bids in foreign countries. Sometimes companies will contact us to investigate the practices of their employees abroad. We have offices in Asia, Latin America and Africa, as well as the U.S., Canada and London.”

Josh says, “I like that my job allows me to learn about the world each day.” He feels fortunate to be able to do the job from Fort Bragg. “There’s so much pressure in the Bay Area. I started to feel discontented—like a frog in a pot of water that was slowly rising to a boiling point. Living here is much more affordable. I’m close to family and friends. Instead of spending an hour on BART after work, I can go to the beach or plant a garden.”

Josh sees himself and Lia as the start of a movement of people who, given the opportunity to work remotely, will leave big cities in favor of living in our coastal area. “As high-speed internet becomes more accessible in Mendocino County, people will bring big city incomes with them. Remote workers can be one piece of an experiment to bring prosperity to our entire community in the new economy. We need to plan for smart growth. We have wonderful potential here—the combination of wild remoteness with the ability to build the infrastructure of the future.”

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Kerry Hagan

kerryAs a teenager, Kerry devoured Vogue magazine. “Fashion is an art form—not just something to cover your body with,” she said. “From runway couture to black yoga pants, it gives you an opportunity to express your inner self in ways large and small, obvious and subtle.”

Growing up, she loved to dress in quirky outfits and experiment with outrageous hairdos. Her parents were tolerant. “My mom’s only rule was that my hair be dyed a single color for school photos and whenever we visited grandma,” Kerry said with a hearty laugh. “I was labeled a weirdo in high school because of the way I dressed. I hated it here and couldn’t wait to get out.”

kerry2Because of her deep love of fashion, it makes sense that Kerry would eventually own a clothing store. But first she would graduate from high school and tear out of town to travel the country before returning to hold two to three jobs at the same time in order to make a living.

After graduating in 1995, she moved to Seattle and attended an art institute for a couple of years before deciding to take several months off to go “road tripping” with a friend. They traveled through the Southwest and Texas to land in their ultimate destination: New Orleans. “We stayed for a month in a kind of flophouse over a dive bar. The plan was to stay longer, but the living conditions were pretty bleak. It was very tragic, dirty and old-timey—and I suppose very romantic to a 21 year old.” She laughs at the memory.

They moved on to Florida, then headed back west via the upper Midwest and Montana. “We stopped again in Seattle and I really wanted to stay, but I was broke and decided to return to Fort Bragg where I’d work for a while, save some money and move away for good.”

In 1999, Kerry moved to Marin where she worked for a florist. A couple of months later, her grandmother’s health deteriorated and she returned to Fort Bragg to take care of her for the next two years. Since that time, she has been an assistant for two business professionals, a clerk and manager of Tangents, a short order breakfast cook at Dolphin Isle, a wait person at Piaci Pizza, and a clerk at Mendocino Vintage. She also scoured yard sales and sold some of her bounty on eBay. She often did two or more of these jobs at the same time.

“As the manager of Tangents, I learned how buy for the store. I went to trade shows and the garment industry in Los Angeles. It was a very busy store and I loved working there.”

kerry5In 2011, Hilary White asked her to work one day a week at If the Shoe Fits—a consignment clothing shop on Franklin Street. “A year later, Hilary took me to dinner and said she was buying Understuff. She added, ‘I want you to buy If the Shoe Fits.’

“It made perfect sense. Hilary didn’t want to see the store close and I didn’t want to go back to restaurant work.” In October 2012, she bought the store. “I really like clothes. I find the rotations and cycles of fashion interesting and fun. I call myself a clothing hunter-gatherer.” She lets out a hearty laugh. “The back room is filled with vintage clothing I’ve collected over the years.”

The store has evolved into a balance of new and consignment clothing. Her customers are fairly evenly divided between locals and tourists. “Even though the store has been here 10 years, I get at least one person every week or two who walks in and says she didn’t know I was here.” She laughs and rolls her eyes.

Kerry has a demonstrated ability to work hard and be successful. She and her partner Dave Simons have joined forces with others to develop Overtime Brewing, a brewery kerry3and taproom with food currently under construction on Elm Street (north of town near the old bowling alley). They hope to open in early summer 2017. When that happens, she’ll work three to four evenings a week in addition to running her store. When I marvel at her ambition, she says, “I’ve never been afraid of having multiple jobs.”

Kerry acknowledges that Fort Bragg has changed in many ways over the years. “One thing that remains the same is that it’s still economically depressed. I’ve attended City Council and Planning Commission meetings over the past year. I’ve learned that I’m woefully uninformed, as are most people. I want to stay involved and help our city. City officials are doing all they can to improve things. It’s not as fast as some people would like, but change takes time.

“I’d like to see us embrace our quirkiness, our small town-ness. It would be great to have more music and art festivals. I’d love to organize a fashion show on First Fridays and help someone put on a Mermaid Parade like the one they do in Brooklyn.”

In the meantime, Kerry will continue to add to our local economy by bringing affordable fashion to the people of Fort Bragg and adding a hip new place for them to enjoy a brewski, good food, live music, and her generous good humor.

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