Thursday, May 31, 2007

Sacramento County Fair

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This is 4-H member Ashley Audycki, age 16, with her grand champion rabbit that auctioned for $420 in the junior division at the Sacramento County Fairground, Saturday.

Sacramento maybe the capital city of California, but it is surrounded by one of the greatest concentration of agricultural activity in the world. Though farmers no longer represent the high percentage of our population that they once did, in the central valleys of the Golden State, it is a big deal. An area of about 75 miles wide and 300 miles long grows most of the fruits and vegetables this country consumes.

Hundreds of youngsters are engaged in raising barnyard animals that they then show and auction as part of the county fair.

Two organizations are prominent in the community: 4-H and Future Farmers of America. 4-H club is open to kids as young as grade schoolers, while FFA is a high school aged group and includes an agricultural science class.

So what’s wrong with this picture?

This is my nephew Steven Weatherhead, center, with Taj Frommoetheldydo, left, and Wes Sears, right, all, age 15. They, along with Audycki, are all finishing their freshman year at Elk Grove High School, 15 miles south of Sacramento. Elk Grove is one of the fastest growing communities in the country. The three raised hogs.

The advice I had always heard was one should not name their barnyard animals because they may get attached, as this young woman did.

Weatherhead, left, with his mother, my sister Alison, named his pig. Not to worry though, he named him Mr. Jingelsworth even before he got him. He seems to have no attachment to the animal, just the outcome.

The students take classes and had the opportunity to obtain a bank loan from the Stockman’s or Farmers and Merchants’ Banks, for the purchase, insurance and feed for the animals. The pigs were penned at the school and students were responsible for sharing the duty of caring, feeding and cleaning up after all the animals on a rotating schedule.

Come County Fair time, the animals went to auction. Local merchants and individuals bid on the whole range of critters: market steers, hogs, lambs, goats, poultry, rabbits, turkeys and eggs.

Two rings auctioned off livestock at better than an animal per minute.

Though the day’s market rate was $1.31 a pound, Rayles/Bel Air groceries guaranteed a minimum bid of $2.25 for hogs.

Representatives of Les Schawb Tires also made guaranteed minimum bids.

Weatherhead showed his pig, weighing in at 249 lbs., that went for $3.00 a pound to his mentor, Jack McPhillips, below. McPhillips, left, shows the back side of his numbered bidding card, showing an "R" to indicate that the meat is to be resold, rather than a "C" for custom or keeping the meat. To McPhillips right is Weatherhead's mother and McPhillips' wife Billie.

Sears’ 240 lbs. animal sold for $2.50 a pound.

Frommoetheldydo’s 245 lbs. pig, above, sold to the Kiwanis club of Elk Grove for $7.00 a pound bid through his friend Leon Weston, seen below, seated with Frommoetheldydo’s mother, Deborah, while bidding.

The bidding was friendly, but spirited. Weston was authorized to make a bid of $5 on Frommoetheldydo’s pig and had a shadow bidder take the auctioneer to $4. However, another group realized that there was a particular interest in the animal and forced the price up. Weston prevailed and paid a couple dollars more for the pig.

Weather on the Pacific Coast Highway

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It’s been 40 years since I first traveled the 90 miles up California One, the Pacific Coast Highway. It was 1967, the summer of love.

No, I wasn’t off to San Francisco in the back of a VW ‘hippie’ bus. It was my first “guy road trip.“ It didn’t start that way. My family had moved to Albuquerque in 1966. My grandmother, mother, sister and a cousin took a cruise that started in Los Angeles. After delivering them, my father, younger brother and I then drove up the coast.

My sister was in the Army band stationed at the Presidio in the early ’80s, since then every time I travel to that area I drive the road.

From the town of San Simeon, at the south end of the mostly mountainous road, is dotted with wide spot, vistas, state parks and beaches. There are a few homes, restaurants, taverns, motels, spas, retreats and institutes before reaching the northern town of Carmel by the Sea.

Pacific weather smacks the coast with its wide variety and it’s not unusual to find sunny to foggy conditions in a single trip.

The Pacific Coast Highway is also know as the Cabrillo highway, the road was built in the 1930s and is best known for its arched bridges. The curved Bixby bridge, below, was constructed in 1932 while the multi-arched Big Creek bridge, above, was constructed in 1938; they are considered classic examples of concrete arch design.

This is one of my favored vistas.

California Car Culture

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California culture is clearly based on the car.

This is a street legal Honda camouflaged as a racecar, actually a demonstration sound machine, seen here in front of a Fry’s Electronic store in Oxnard.

Driving north out of the Los Angeles area on the five-lane, Ventura Freeway, it feels like a slow paced parking lot to Santa Barbara.

At 20 MPH, one ends up on the bumper of the vehicle ahead where two flashes from a turn signal, before a car squeezes into your lanes, must be considered a lot of notice. However, at that speed, an out of state driver begins to notice things that one doesn’t see at the posted 70 MPH speed.

There is a lot that can be done with seven digits. Personal plates give insight to the owners of vehicles.

Add a heart symbol to the alphabet and numbers and the dynamics expand.


What’s Wrong With This Picture?

This is Gus, left. He’s a rescued Bassett Hound that my friends, Mariette and Ken Coolidge, of Camarillo, Calif., picked up a couple of weeks ago. Seems they’re pushovers for big sad eyes. They have always owned cats and currently have two of their favorite breed the Maine Coon cat, Silver shown right.

Gus is a good dog with a fine disposition and he is learning how to get along with a couple of house cats.

So what’s wrong with this picture?

The vacation must be working if I’m relegated to reporting on cats and dogs fighting.

Wednesday, May 30, 2007

Road Trip

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May, 19 2007
Springerville, Ariz.

This is Albuquerque in the rear view mirror. It’s not the same thing as Lubbock, Texas in the rear view mirror!

It’s spring. School is over. I got an A+ in my Multi Media Journalism course, what used to be known as Advanced Reporting class. Yeah!

It’s time to get out of town for a bit.

There are several stories that I just couldn’t seem to muster much enthusiasm about to post.

I should have commented on the Rio Grande English student and his politically connected parents, but the public outrage has preceded my thoughts. Only a couple points come to mind that have not already been hashed to death: the communication problems that the County Commissioner mother is complaining about seemed to land mud on everyone except the ultimate culprit, her son. He has the obligation to be a good student. It is understandable that he was confronted by a tragic event disrupting his studies. However, it is his responsibility to communicate with his teacher, counselor, principal, if need be, and most importantly with his mother. He also has an obligation to get the work done within the time allotted. His mother comes off in the press as being surprised, she shouldn’t be, her son is right there. He knew he had missed 17 days of school. The communications breakdown is at the family level. So what does she do? She rewards him by going all out for him. She may not have asked for specific preferential treatment, but her political status, and her separated husband’s former political status as an Albuquerque Public Schools board member didn’t go unnoticed.

She further complained that her son’s privacy was violated. When she stepped out of the norm and APS chose to violate its own policies her son was thrust into the public light. She brought him forward.

The commissioner holds a Ph.D. from the University of California, Berkley and teaches at the University of New Mexico. The lesson she taught her son is that the social reward of crossing the stage during graduation ceremonies is more important than receiving a diploma for work accomplished. I think I want to take a class or two with her. With her required standards for completed schoolwork, that ought to be an easy A.

The use of cellular phones while driving is not working. However, the seat belt law seems to be working OK.

I passed up the bridge reopening ceremony for the newly replaced Washington Street at I-40 overpass on Thursday. I had the opportunity to view some public records that I had requested more than a month ago. That’s one request granted, two still outstanding.

I came upon this accident at San Pedro and Phoenix, above, Friday afternoon. The white SUV might be a SWAT vehicle. It seems that one of the people standing on the corner could be an officer. I had some shopping to do at the Walgreen’s. Fourteen minutes later, below, there were two marked police units present, but what surprised me was the arrival of the tow truck so quickly. Talk about efficient response time.

Those gas prices are out of sight. They’ve been up and down. The cost is about 10 to 15 cents higher than it was during last year’s road trip.

What the heck, join me and get some windshield time as I meander westward.

Trying to get out of town around 6:00 p.m., I was confronted by five police motorcycle officers who were engaged in a low speed escort at the I-40 Frontage Road and Fourth Street. One of the current three police academy classes was out for a run. A class nearing the end of courses traditionally makes a long distance run fro the academy at Second Street near Monatno Boulevard to the downtown headquarters and back. The soon to graduate class, should be in peak physical shape and a unified body. Carrying the academy flag they trudged down Fourth Street singing a cadence.

First traffic jamb was from about 12th Street. The cause was a car stopped on the shoulder of the Rio Grande river bridge; an APD officer accompanied the driver. No lanes were blocked, a little rubber-necking and then traffic cleared for about a half mile where at Coors continuing construction reduced the speed.

Blown off the road

On the road west of Albuquerque there is a stretch of reconstruction where the both directions narrow to one lane and share what is normally the eastbound lanes separated by a Jersey bumper. The speed limit reduces to 45 mph and the speeding fines double.

I slowed to about 50 mph and traffic backed up behind me. After about three to four miles the road construction ended and returned to the two-lane divided freeway, 75 mph status. Traffic resumed normal speed and cars passed me at about plus 10 miles an hour.

A semi car hauler, transporting European used cars, pulled up next to me and gave me a couple of second’s blast of its air horn. Near drove me off the road. I took it as a statement of his displeasure at having had to slow down behind me in the construction zone. He then pulled in front of me and accelerated away.

On his bumper he had a number of decals: on the left was a white in blue checkmark indicating, OK to pass. Then, on either side of his license plate, he had the international traffic symbol of a red circle with a white field inside it and black lettering of 100, indicating a maximum speed limit of 100 Km or about 62 mph. On the right side was the international traffic symbol for “Do Not Enter,” a white horizontal bar on a red circular field, indicating “Do Not Pass.” He also had an international country sticker, PL, for Poland.

I soon got off the interstate and took a more leisurely back road through the El Malpais National Monument. On the south side of the park, off towards the plains of San Augustine and Pie Town, was a large thunderstorm.

Sunday, May 27, 2007

Capitol Report New Mexico

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This is Leah Fernandez-Johnson of Albuquerque Printing Corporation with Harold Morgan as he and I visited the printer to make a final press check on Capitol Report New Mexico last week. The new magazine will analyze the legislature in three issues a year.

The magazine is online at

Morgan, left, is the editor, seen here, with his partner Jack Swickard, right, they are the co-publishers.

I first met Morgan in 1968 when he was writing and photographing for the Albuquerque News. He was a journalism student at University of New Mexico when Tony Hillerman was still a professor. Morgan went off to Santa Fe to complete his education at St. John’s College. I was in touch with him off and on over the years. He ran for city council and was defeated by Tim Kline.

Morgan was involved in banking and currently is a communications and political consultant, a syndicated columnist and publisher.

He was one of the first readers of this blogspot and contacted me when I wrote about a mobile radar unit that was in my neighborhood. It turns out we live within a couple of blocks of each other.

Swickard is a name I knew. He has been a New Mexico journalist for years, having worked at the Tribune, Farmington Daily Times and the Roswell Daily Record in a variety of jobs from reporter, to a wide range of editor positions, to general manager. He is now president of The Triton Group in Roswell. The Swickard name has a more familiar ring. Jim Swickard, Jack’s younger brother was my younger brother’s classmate at Highland high school, graduating in 1970. They both entered the service after college; my brother went into the Army and Jim Swickard went into the Air Force. They consider each other best friends. They still communicate daily by e-mail.

Based on some political work I did with Morgan, during the last election campaign, he asked if I was interested in photographing for the magazine. He tempted me with the promise of lots of space and maybe a picture page. I accepted and quickly realized I had my work cut out for myself. I produced the cover; a double page and single page photo essay on the 60-day legislative session, consisting of 15 pictures. An additional 13 photos of mine were used throughout the 28-page magazine.

The printing industry has changed drastically since the early ’70s when Ed Lewis, owner of Newspaper Printing Corporationand publisher of the Albuquerque News, installed the first web press in New Mexico.

Albuquerque Printing Corporation is using state of the art technology in most of the preparation and printing process. Computers control almost every aspect of the machinery, though there is a fair amount of handwork is still necessary. APC has about 90 employees working at its north Albuquerque facility.