10 May 2010

This is a Mother's Day Story that is sort of about dead whales, because that's what you expect from Team Small Dog, righty-o?

We took the dogs down to the beach after breakfast yesterday morning, which was Mother's Day. It's the beach where you have to run as fast as you can across a major highway if you are parked at the diner where the tour buses dump off tourists for a muffin and a pee. Motorcycle groups and lycra-y bike riding groups stop there sometimes. Probably Mothers do not want their kids running across this highway. Actually, I know this for a fact. There was once a horrible tragedy in front of the diner involving a young child from Iowa or Illinois. They need the business up there now, the cement plant has closed and there's not enough houses in town to keep a diner and a taqueria and a fancy wood paneled roadhouse in business. We eat a plate of huevos rancheros, then run across the highway, over the train tracks and down the hill.

In the 1800's, Captain John Davenport hunted whales in the waters off that beach. Slew them with giant harpoons, and then what? What do you do with a giant whale carcass, down on the beach? 150 tons of ready to rot. The flensers must have processed the whales right there on the sand. The cliff is too steep to drag up a carcass. Boiled blubber chunks in giant boiling pots, and what did they do with the bones? The old wooden pilings are still out there, from the Captain's pier, history says that he gave whaling up to send redwood up the coast by train when the whale oil market crashed. People started burning kerosene to light their lamps, didn't need to burn whales any longer.

I always wonder, did the whalers even flinch at killing whales? It's odd for a mammal to breathe out of a hole in the top of their head, and they look up with that rolling side eye as if they can read straight into your brain. Rolls around, that eyeball, like a googly bobble head doll, spinning in a circle until it lands, plop, in your thoughts. Did anyone ever think that, ladies in bustles and cowhide chaps, at night when they turned on their lamps? And where was the whaling station, down there on the beach? It's a rocky, craggy stretch of shore, favored by dog stick throwers and day time alcoholics and bonfire burners at night. The dogs know to run to the cold fire stones and did in the dirt for rotten hot dogs. They usually find some. I would probably be kicked out of agility, if genuine dog trainers saw me running after my dogs, hollering at them to Step Away From the Sausages. I slouch when I run, and when I am screaming about sausage and slouching and running through gritty sticky sand, possibly even the alcoholics sit up and take notice.

There's a cave down there, maybe some kind of channel that runs from town to the sea, can't tell if it's made by natural causes or was blasted out long ago with dynamite. It feels older there than at my regular beach, sometimes feels like ghosts down there on a cloudy day. Not sure if from dead whales, or because it's a good place to dump bodies down the tall cliff, or just because of those old pilings and foundations, from long ago when there was no such things as cars and iphones and facebook and gum. Was there gum in the time of Victorian parasols and lacy bonnets? Maybe it's the wind. Have never been there once, in all my life, when the wind wasn't whipping hard in my ears and wishing I was already home.

No one was on the beach yesterday morning except for some guys out digging in a hole for sea glass. The 2 kids with them came running all the way down the beach to see the dogs. Running and toddling, they were little kids. There was a lot of surf. Various times we hollered at the brother, who was probably about 3, and he'd step out of the surf and I guess the guys figured we'd pull him out if he went under? I dunno. They were far off, digging deep in the sand hole, looking for glass, drinking beer.

The little girl was one of those mouthy kids, and loved dogs very much, except for Otterpop who barked in her face to get the stick. The girl would drop the stick to plug her ears up tight with her fingers, and Otterpop would grab it and run away. She'd screw up her little face, with frazzled little braids, and scream out some kind of version of "Bad Dog!" I think the feeling was mutual. Otterpop would just look at her, and the fingers went straight in to plug ears. I kept looking over where the tiny brother was, out on the slippery rocks, just a few feet away from pretty good surf. He kept count of the dogs on his fingers, he didn't seem really old enough to talk. The girl kept picking Gustavo up by his arms and later threw a stick squarely at Otterpop's head. I'm pretty sure it was just crummy aim. She never did give Ruby her stick, just kept it up in the air out of her reach.

When it was time for us to go, the kids followed us back towards where their grownups were digging and drinking in their hole. I don't think they even noticed the kids were gone. I liked the little girl, she had a bossy way of talking and an odd face and probably wouldn't have trouble making friends when she got older. Who knows. There's a lot of time for her. I like meeting kids who like dogs. Even if they try to pick them up by their arms.

When we were hiking back up, a gray haired man was standing on the train tracks, painting a seascape on an easel. He wore a crocheted hat, with a little bear face and floppy bear ears. His seascape wasn't something I would hang on my wall, but then I don't wear crocheted bear face caps. A lady rushed across the train tracks towards us, heading down to the beach. She had a bag that was made of the exact same fabric as mine, that was sitting up top in my car. Big red dots, and a black jaguar stepping across the front. Handmade by someone we both must know, although hers was much bigger. And, the exact same long sweatshirt coat, handmade by hipsters in Seattle, no 2 exactly alike. She had on cutoffs and doc martens underneath, I was wearing a brown skirt and a plaid shirt. It was like I was running into a mirror, one that was just a little bit off.

I stopped and turned around and stared in a jaw droppy way, but she was in a hurry and didn't notice, maybe those were her kids down on the beach not being watched by the diggers. Her hair was long and messy like mine, blowing every which way in the wind. No way could I not stop and stare. Her coat sort of fluttered behind her in the wind, then she disappeared right down the hill.


GooseMaverick said...

I asked my better half who worked at the cement plant about the cave. He said there is a tunnel about 30' up that was made by pick and shovel in the shale by Chinese laborers, that tunnel goes to the plant, they used to bring in oil by ship and pump out cement. There is a whole maze of tunnels under the cement plant.

There used to be a lot of injuries at the plant, so they built a hospital across the highway (that building on the ocean side)

My father in law worked there a long time ago, there were a lot of Italians and they would drink their wine at lunch. Wish I could drink wine at lunch at work.

Thanks for your story - loved the kids and your doppelganger.

team small dog said...

This is awesome-now I understand the cave tunnel! And yes, the old hospital!

Elf said...

Great story. At least the other person didn't have TSD members with her; I'm guessing that means it wasn't really you.