I spent part of the weekend at MaForbes' house in Azusa, but set off for my home in Escondido at 9 a.m. expecting to pull into my little mountaintop home by 11 a.m. I normally make the approx 100-mile drive on autopilot.But with the song Samba Pa Ti serving as a harbinger the Santa Ana winds were blowing at about 60 miles an hour. Looking out to my left at Mount Baldy in the San Gabriel mountains, I made the big swooping southbound turn onto I-15 for the final 65 mile reach to Escondido in my ever so efficient Prius.
With about 60 miles an hour of wind pushing the Prius down the freeway I was confident the remaining two dots representing "fuel remaining" was more than enough to see me down to Escondido and up the private road that serves as my path to civilization. As i punched th on/off button in front of my garage I noticed that I was down to one dot but t hat I had run 448 miles on about nine gallons of gas. I really do believe the Santa Ana winds helped a lot with my mileage for the trip home.
Opening the back door of the Prius to free Perro the road dog, I noticed his nose working overtime and watched him quarter the sir to get an firm bearing that something he could smell, but which I obviously missed. He gave two soft sighs and one whine. At first I thought he may have detected a coyote in the yard. But then what he was concerned about became quite obvious to me.
What got my attention was a big ass Lockheed P3C Orion converted into a borate bomber flying overhead at bout 2,000 feet. I put Perro down and watched the bomber make a climbing turn to its base about 60 miles to my east. I could heard the pilot change the propeller pitch on the four big turboprop engines as it climbed out.
For attack bombers and their lead aircraft to fly low over my house means the fire is nearby, either on the edge of the Cleveland National Forest or on the fringes of th two neighboring towns, Ramona and Valley Center.
Wild land fires are something that as a Southern California boy, I'm completely use to. It's been four years since the last big fire down here the air tonight is heavy with the smell of burning manzanita, scrub oak and tangy chaparral. I suppose, the smoke is what's made my buddy Perro nervous tonight. Before I adopted the dude, he was feral for several years, hanging out with other free running chihuahuas in an old avocado grove. Perro lost his home as a result of the last big fire down here, but he gained a really first class new home in the process where his dorky owner gives him one big beef rib bone once every two weeks and lets him snuggle in the covers at night.
As the fire surges and is turbocharged by Santa Ana winds tonight I think of my first week here in Escondido when the mountains that frame this little hidden valley were full involved and numerous avocado and old citrus groves went up in smoke. I remember the styrofoam packing boxes that floated down from the sky and littered the floor of my small stone fruit orchard the morning after the packing house went up. And I remember finding the two hose packs, fireman's nozzle and hydrant wrench sitting on my lawn near the fire hydrant. The same day i woke up to the message of self sufficiency i also volunteered as a dog walker at a local park to help exercise the 100-plus dogs that had been rounded up and captured by the local animal control department.
I took a sandwich to the park for my lunch. the second dog I walked was this little waif with huge fluffy ears and a studly walk. He was underfed, untrusting, and quite independent. i fed him most of my sandwich and shared some bottled water. I decided right there in the park that I had to have this homeless dog.
It took him 30 days to become available, but the minute the pound called, I raced down to adopt the little dude and when the clerk asked me what i wanted to name him I happened to look up at the sign in the hallway directing people to the dog kennels. the sign said "Perros adoptable" and I instinctively said "Perro."
The clerk laughed "good name" and added "someone named the last chihuahua cross we adopted out "Dee-Oh-GEE."
"Perro", what else would a southern California boy come home to retire from Silicon Valley name an 11-pound Chihuahua? The fire is about five miles away tonight but Perro isn't worried. he has his own pillow on my bed where he's safe and comfortable, but very alert --Jim Forbes 10/21/2007