Chapter One


My name is Tony and in 1970 I live in Redding, California.


I was raised by a community. No, I wasn't adopted, I have a mother and a father but our family life was more like that of a community than of a family. Everyone in the community, or rather family, knew their place and what they were expected to do. I had seven brothers and sisters growing up, it was a rather big community.


I don't know if our family was any different than the others on our block. It seems to me that during the 1950’s and 1960’s families were different. They are not like they are now, you didn't touch and feel and hug each other then, at least not the people I knew.


About the only time that we acted like a family was when we were playing cards around the kitchen table. But even that was like a group of friends getting together rather than a family gathering. I'm not saying that it was bad. I'm just saying that's the way it was.


Redding is always hot in the summertime. This summer, the summer of 1970, it was ludicrous.  Even with the two swamp coolers in my parents’ home turned on by 8am. it doesn’t help.  It no longer mattered to me though; I am leaving in two days, just as soon as I am an official graduate of Enterprise High School, Class of '70.


I would have left home earlier had it not been for a "Catch “22" my Dad imposed on me. He wanted me out of the house and he made it very clear back in January that he wanted me gone. Apparently I was a bad influence on my brothers and sisters.  That was okay with me, I wanted to go, however, my dad had imposed a caveat..."As long as you live in this house, you’ll do as I say!" He said I couldn’t leave until I graduated. So he wanted me “out of the house” but not until I graduated.


Weird, huh?


I walk out the side door, the one that leads to the garage and walk out to my truck, my 1952 corn-binder that was once red. (International Harvester made pickup trucks for quite a while and were sold primarily to farmers, hence the name ‘corn binders’). The heat comes off that old metal in layers you can see, looking like it was a mirage. It is always parked at the side of the house, in the empty lot between our house and the Anderson's house. I’m not sure my wearing these Levi cut-offs is a good idea considering the vinyl seat in my truck.  But it is too hot for anything else and besides, cut-offs and t-shirts with Converse tennis shoes are my uniform of summer.


The chrome door handle is hot. I release it as quickly as I can after opening the door. I climb on the running board and get into the 'easy-bake' oven that is the cab, glad the windows are open.


The engine turns over methodically, with an audible protest, but starts, nonetheless. I put the 30” floor mounted stick shift in reverse to the protest of the transmission and crank hard left, letting the clutch out slowly making a wide turn until I am facing the opposite direction from where I started, facing the road and rolling out across the red clay that we call soil.


Our subdivision is one of ranch-style homes sitting on one to one-half acre lots and each house is up to ten years old.  Most of the six or so streets in the subdivision are empty of homes with a lot of space between the ones that are there.  Our house sits one lot away from the corner, next to the lot where we built a baseball diamond that we used a lot growing up.  It takes two seconds to the corner before I am on Churn Creek Road, the main artery of our subdivision, and heading the three miles or so to my school where I will finish cleaning out my locker and to then go to the new Shasta Junior College for our final grad rehearsal.


It is so hot. I probably should have taken my motorcycle and would have had it not been things to be taken out of my locker. Pulling up in the school dirt and gravel parking lot I see that Don's'59 Chevy Impala isn’t here yet, but, that's not unusual, I'm a little early yet.


Don is my best friend. I spent the summers before this working with him and his older brother Dan at his dad’s lumber mill. His dad’s mill made wooden containers for the army. The army used these containers to hold the aluminum caskets that held the bodies of the soldiers who were killed in ‘Nam. Mostly I did cleanup.  Some weeks were busier than others. 1969 was a busy year. They were in a rush to fulfill the orders that summer and were behind, everyone at the mill built wooden containers. I became pretty adept at using an air gun to nail them together and to then paint them gray.


Straight as an arrow, a football and track star whose hair never exceeds two inches in length, Don is a stark contrast to my dope smoking/taking antics. Don would never smoke pot but he never got on me about it, maybe because I, too, have short hair and am somewhat of a track star. “You pot-smoking, acid-head freak, how ya doin?" is a common greeting from him to me.  I enjoy it.


With Don, I am always ‘cool’, nothing gets to me and it pisses him off. He goes out of his way to try to make me react any and every way he can think of. One day he succeeds, we are in his ’59 Chevy and he takes a 90 degree turn at 40 mph putting us into a ditch and me up against a telephone pole.


I moved.


Don was ecstatic.