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My 1991 Exiting Orange County California for Northwest Arkansas

My life in Anaheim started in November 1962 accepting a job with North American Aviation, Downey. I was advised not to delay reporting since NAA was hiring dozens daily. So I flew out alone the day after Thanksgiving. I recall sitting next to a sailor while we compared adventures. I got from LAX to Downey by bus I guess and stayed in a motel near the corner of Lakewood and Firestone. After reporting for work a few days I decided along with another new hire to rent an apartment on Lakewood Blvd., a few hundred steps from the motel. The Stonewood shopping center was adjacent with a nice restaurant on the corner. Our wives and children were expected after Christmas.

I answered some local auto ads and bought a '56 Ford two door, stick shift for maybe $500. The seller advised I have the front end checked at the famous Bill Stroppe's garage on the edge of Pico Rivera. The front springs had been pinched and proper pieces added so it had a lowered front end and very precise quick steering.

My bosses and several fellow workers were buying houses or already living in eastern Orange County. I got an apartment behind Disneyland for us, my three kids and wife. It didn't take long to find a house with a nominal down payment. But first I looked at houses in Downey, La Mirada and Fullerton hills. I don't recall my connecting with the new house in Anaheim, but I do recall the downpayment was only a few hundred. We put in a pool and lived there till 1969. Son Andy was born summer 1968 so we needed another bedroom and to get away from the pool.

We moved a few blocks away to a bigger house on Bethel Drive, Anaheim. One of my motivations was to buy a bigger house before I got laid off since North American was cutting back steadily. A bank had foreclosed on the property built in 1964. It was 2200 sq ft, with a master suite and bath on the second floor, 2 1/2 bath, 4 bedrooms.

In our 1981 divorce I paid my ex her share in the house. I rented rooms to help me carry the payment. The house had three baths, a master suite and a large upstairs. But it got tiresome and difficult to find the super compatible people I had rented to for 6 years. I had to quit ice hockey in 1987 due to a knee and overall prospects didn't look good. I had been studying many places to move to, Mexicao, Portugal, Ireland, the northeast, upstate New York and even Canada but settled on the lower midwest based mainly on the numerous VA medical facilities in the area and rural properties I could afford to buy.

In 1991 I sold my '63 Porsche and "66 Mustang to have cash, rented a 14 ft Ryder truck in late May, hitched up my '78 Honda Civic, loaded what I had in an Anaheim storage unit and took off, maps handy. Objective Northwest Arkansas. I had never been in Arkansas, only briefly in St. Louis in Missouri and never been in Oklahoma or Kansas. I also had no relatives nor friends in those states.

The truck started misfiring going down into Arizona so I made it off the highway to a recommended truck repair place in Williams. Turned out after discussing the issue with the Ryder maintenance dispatcher out of Vegas he decided he had a bad line of pumps in his Ford trucks. He had three or more similar reports and the Memorial Day weekend was coming up. The truck garage was ready to replace the pump and move my stuff to another truck. I said no that I'd hang around and wait for a new pump from Vegas.

So the trucker and I took a motel room and partied around William AZ using my '78 Civic. His dispatcher recommended some chintzy repairs to get him back on the road. We and the mechanics had a good time making fun of the silly advice. Turned out he was headed for Springdale Arkansas a few miles from my destination. The motel operator overcharged me but was forced to refund the overcharge by my credit card company.

I took my time on the road, detoured off I-40 to scenic Route 66 a few times. I couldn't see my Civic behind me on a tow dolly so would check on curves. I recall Gallup NM, nice restaurants along the way, one in Keeling TX. The weather was good. I got off I-40 at Sallisaw, OK before I hit the Arkansas border having been advised by truckers not to go up 71, the direct road to Fayetteville, too many curves and accidents. So went up 59 along the Oklahoma-Arkansas border. I asked in an Indian inhabited area if my truck would fit on the roads indicated on the Arkansas map as trustworthy for trucks. A gal in a supermarket, (I often ate on the road out of grocery store's delis) said it would fit but I wouldn't be able to see any spare road. Well she sure was correct. I wound my way along 59 approaching Fayetteville from the West and pulled into a motel going down 71 on the Springdale side of Faytetteville. The road was narrow, very busy and I barely made it between the raised curb lot opening. Next day I drove north to near Bella Vista and stopped in another motel, unhitched the Civic and went for a place to live.

Bella Vista was a development for retired people, many nice homes on short curved roads into the tree lined hill and dale landscape. There were also condos on the golf courses. The developer with the Corp of Engineers had created small lakes for fishing. It had a small commercial center straddling the main highway, 71 north into Missouri. I rented a house for $400 a month since the deposit was just one month's rent. An apartment house owner I had checked with told me she had to take 6 months rent in advance and it was not likely she would refund any without a month's notice. She was from also from Orange County CA and told me she had too many people skip on her and that the other apartments required the same. She recommended I rent a house.

I used hot plates and small countertop ovens till I figured out the wiring and bought a 240 volt stove from Sears. Turned out after cleaning out under the kitchen extension and putting in a pump to evacuate water I discovered a gas line to the stove area. But it was convoluted small diameter copper tubing so I took it out. Which brought an "exciting" incident. I cut the tubing where I figured it was not getting any gas and was wrong, so I had a guy come and find the proper place on the incoming gas line to undo the connection. I had the gas off but still was getting a dangerous accumulation from the line. I took out all the line which had been connected to a non existent gas storage tank outside. And sold the line for scrap since I often loaded my van with scrap metals and took them to Monett, weighed in and collected cash. I also took same to the Joplin yard where I could fill up buckets with loam for my garden. My fields and the barn yielded up a constant supply of metal scrap the whole time I was there. In fact in last few years I still had such a large pile on the slab out back and gave it to a scrap guy. Prices had gone down but he admitted the pile would bring him $200 so he gave me $20 but not to tell anyone. The thieves that were in the house a few years before losing it to foreclosure were too busy stealing and cutting things up to sell it for scrap.

Prior tenants were not strangers to the area and had started out with a trucking operation but only paid the holder of the second mortgage, ignoring the bank's first. I knew the holder of the second. He lived about five miles away on another farm. I sold him three sheds he had built and left on the property. He paid me $100 for each and removed them himself. He said they had been sold at least once before when he had auctions but buyers never picked them up. I had strengthened them so they could be lifted. And also cleaned them out. There were called "loafing sheds' about four feet high for cattle to loaf and sleep out of the wind.

My neighbors, Bob and his dad, Oscar Bremer agreed to rent about 3.5 acres in back and to the northside of the barn. So gradually between the three of us the pasture was thoroughly cleaned up, the fence fixed, three cross pasture fences were removed. The neighbors wondered how I removed the fences. Well, I disconnected the wire mesh, got down on all fours and rolled the fence up. The pasture was fed and cut each year by the Bremers. I believe Bob still rents the pasture area.

I had to learn from scratch about cattle. At first they were about 30 head of brown and white Herefords but after Oscar passed away, Bob got a black bull and the herd changed to black and whites, bringing higher prices at the stock yard. Bob worked in and lived in Monett, first at Jumping Jacks shoes, then in Mt. Vernon's Schreiber Foods cheese processing plant. He retained the family home and cattle raising farm. We shared the daily job of letting the cattle into my pasture and chasing them back to Bob's pastures for the night. Gradually I got more and more acclimated to being around them, even the young bulls. I always carried a long stick, eventually about six feet of steel reinforcing rod. I never had to hit any cattle to keep them away but I did use it to calm the bull down or drive the most recalcitrant back to their home pasture. Mainly by either tapping them on the rear or swishing it through the air. Mainly they were fun to be around. The young ones would stare at me and follow me across the pasture with a "who are you"? look. I witnessed several calves at birth since the cattle liked to get away from the others and be close to my fence line, under a tree. One day I was startled to see a second one come out. In fact Bob's herd had 2 or 3 sets of twins that year. The newborns will jump around crazy like for 20 minutes then usually collapse and sleep. Bob always carried them back to his barns, a distance of 800 feet. He disdained using a tractor or a carrying carriage or strap. He held them in his arms or prodded them along patiently with a stick. One got away one time and hid in the woods, a scary situation since we had coyotes at night. It hide so thoroughly it took Bob hours to find it and bring it out. Some newborns would fall asleep by the electric fence to my yard. Then wake up and get up on my side of the wire. I would nudge them along to the gate, knowing they sensed the electric wire so well they almost never bumped into it.

I miss watching the cattle graze and then meander in a single file "back home". They usually would start going "home" about 4 pm but occasionally the chewing was too good to leave and we would chase them home. Bob worked different shifts so somedays it was my turn to open the gate in the morning. That was often a challenge since a dozen cattle some weighing 300 lbs were anxious to get at the fresh fescue in my pasture. I would have to swing the gate open then walk in front of their path. That took some stick waving at times. Then as I walked back to my house, the little ones would follow me too closely.

In August 1994, fearing my '78 Honda would die before I found another vehicle I did a lot of searching in Joplin, Springfield, Republic and places in between. Everyone buys a pickup so I bought an '89 Dodge Cargovan. More secure, could leave road emergency stuff and tools in the back, carry about anything. I drove it till August 2009 and a friend sold it for me after he moved me to Big Bear. I paid cash for it since my brother had sent me nearly the price since he had inherited quite a bit and I inherited $30. I joked that of course I went out a "blew it". It was ex telephone company, used in north central Arkansas for it's first 85k miles. I got it from a lot in Springfield that was a straight up. They had refurbished the brakes. It ran better and handled better than several others I tested. I loved it BUT it was squirrely on the narrow roads back there when there was ice, snow or both. For several years I retained the Honda while I fixed it up for sale. I finally sold it to a gal who had her brother drive her up from Texas. She paid $900 cash after being very impressed with a test drive. Their family were all in the car business. Her brother checked it over very thoroughly and loaded his pickup with the five extra mounted wheels and numerous parts. I had bought it new for my daughter for her first car while she paid for it. Then she sold it to my youngest son and along the way it got extensively redone mechanically. I paid him $1000, same as he paid his sister. It misfired occasionally so I took the head off, and with the advice of a Toyota area service manager who lived next door I detailed the engine parts, a bit of porting and relieving on the intake and exhaust flow. I put a kit in the carb and figured out how to get more 'oomph" out of it also via the distributor. Changing to 13 inch tires and rims, spray painted silver by me was a big enhancement.

One of my most satisfying fixups on the property was redoing a small brooder shed for chickens. It was insulated on a nice cement slab but neglected and filled with junk. It had a screened area next to it for the chickens. It was wired for heat and light and had a yard hydrant outlet near it. I couldn't get the yard hydrant working so took it out. Once cleaned out I next fixed the two doors so they opened and closed properly and could be locked. The roof on the west side was decayed badly so I set up a platform to work on and put in new 2x4 roof support beams and recovered it with plywood. All the material was found on the property. I almost never needed to buy from lumber yards. I reshingled it and used it to store flammables and yard tools. It was about 40 feet to the northwest of the back corner of the barn in which I kept no flammables.

I also disconnected super flaky 220 volt wiring into the barn. A prior long time owner had a welding shop in the barn. I built even higher and larger platforms and gradually replaced about 1/4 of the west side barn roof, including putting up sister beams. Of which I had several including of oak from taking down a shed like extension on the east side of the barn. I recall treating myself to a new serious pry/wrecking bar for my 70th birthday. The barn was high quality built but in a low spot. The central section with half a dozen stalls was on a 2 ft high cement foundation. The stalls were for tending cattle that needed veteraniarian attention since the original owner had been a vet. He lived there from about 1915 till about 1975. Affectionately known as Doc Kaiser. From neighbors and his family remaining in the area I learned some tales of his unique character. He clung to older farming methods, using mules and horses long after others had mechanized. He had a Maxwell parked in the barn which he only used to go to church, a half mile away. He farmed forty acres across the road which became Lions Club property. His own farm was at least 10 acres based on a purchase record in about 1976. I asked some who knew him if he had a hammer, since all the doors, woodwork, etc., were original. The answer was no, that in his spare time he played his fiddle. And he had a relative a professional carpenter. Normally on such an old house you will run into jiffy repairs. I saved door hardware as I replaced it and sold it in my booth at a flea market mall on I-44 or at my yard auction in 2009 along with much other stuff I found on the property, particularly in the barn.

POLITICAL ACTIVITY

I have all my life been interested in local politics. I had a column in the Belmont MA local paper and followed the Town Meetings closely there and in Sudbury MA. In Anaheim I had correspondence and conversations with some of old timers who voiced criticism of the City Council. I went to a few of their meetings and would have run for council but my job was 18 miles away and they met on Tuesday afternoons.

In Missouri I went to a forum of local candidates in the 1994 election primaries. I was impressed by a young guy running for state representative against the county clerk's wife. I had known the prior state representive quite well from meetings and correspondence.

The February 1993 holocaust at Waco Texas alarmed many of us and led to our getting involved in militia and politics.

To be continued


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