Monday, September 28, 2015

Keeping It Simple -- Rude Behavior

By Terry McGahey

I don't know about you, but I am sick and tired of people's rude behavior in public places.

How many times have you been in a restaurant trying to have a nice meal with your spouse or friends and some inconsiderate jerk at a table nearby is talking real loud on his or her cell phone as though everyone wants to hear what their conversation is all about.

How about that person who is talking loud trying to impress everyone with their intelligence, how important they are, or how much money they have.

Then you have the idiot in the movie theater who keeps talking through the movie or who keeps getting up and down going to the bathroom or snack bar while everyone else has to suffer with them squeezing through the aisle and even spilling a bit of their drink or popcorn while doing so, not to mention the person setting next to you who smells as though he or she hasn't had a bath in a week or so.

How about the grocery store? People letting their kids run wild or screaming because they didn't get something they wanted. What about the people who meet in the aisle to shoot the breeze while blocking the whole floor, and even though they see you coming they don't offer to move.

Next in this same category is the person who shoots out of the side aisles into the main aisle with their cart without taking the time to at least slow down and try to see if someone else is there. Then what about some of the employees themselves who will walk right out in front of you without so much as an excuse me.

Next, the inconsiderate drivers. When I began driving people, for the most part, showed consideration for each other. If someone was trying to get from a parking lot onto the road and others were sitting at a red light the person in line close to you would hold up when the light turned green and let you out.

No more! Most of the drivers today will hurry as not to let you out if you are in one of the larger towns or cities.

Then what about the people who come to a four way stop? It seems that many people don't even know how to use them anymore or just don't care. They will try to beat the guy who got there first or on the right if they reached the stop at the same time. There are many more circumstances of rude behavior while driving but too many to list here.

Many times I have wondered why, in our society, have people become so rude and lack what use to be commonplace manners?

I don't know the actual answer to this question but in my opinion, it has to do with the latter half of the twentieth century when both parents had to start working just to pay the bills which has left the kids, once old enough, to stay home by themselves with no supervision. Then to top it off the parents began to buy them whatever they wanted in many cases to try and make up for not having the time to spend with them.

This situation in my belief is what has become a big part of the me, me, me world along with these kids not having to work for anything. The saddest part of all is we see this rudeness today even in some of the people my age and older who I guess believe, I am older now so I can act however I want.

I don't get angry or upset with anyone who accidentally does something rude or makes a mistake while driving, but if I believe it to be intentional that's a whole different story. Sometimes it's the second person who becomes the rude one if the first person just made a mistake or didn't see the other person. We have all done that at one time or another in our life so don't get upset by a mistake being made by someone else because then you may very well become the rude person yourself.

In my opinion these things show just how much we as Americans have disconnected ourselves from each other, then we wonder why people don't stand together for a common cause that's good for our country.


Friday, September 25, 2015

Let's Talk About The Cowboy Code

The Cowboy Code Short Version
Tuesday, September 22nd, was the first day that the Rail Road Flat Elementary School resumed classes since the Butte Fire raged through Calaveras County. Since my wife is a Master Gardener and volunteers at the school, today was her first day back since we evacuated from Glencoe.

To say she was very eager to get there today to meet the returning children is an understatement. While I believe writing, working with our horses, researching history, target shooting, and volunteering at our local American Legion Post are all great methods of therapy to lessen stress and feel good about one's self, my wife feels the same about gardening, line dancing, her cats, and volunteering at the Rail Road Flat school.

She arrived expecting the kids to join her in the garden, but today they didn't. Fore as much as those kids love the garden, watering, planting, and watching the fruits of their labor take shape, today the garden took the back seat to some other visitors. Yes, today the school had something special for the children. Yes, Firefighters.

Since Rail Road Flat was evacuated like most of central Calaveras County, many of the children were evacuated as well. Of the approximately 50 children who attend the school, yes this is a small mountain community, it is believed that 5 of the children lost their homes.

The three Firefighters that were there were two men and a woman. All showed the children how to setup and use the fire-hoses, actually letting each child work the nozzle, pull back on the handle and spray water.

After being thrilled with being able to feel how those great heroes feel when fighting a fire, they were shown different uniforms and learned how Firefighters train. The crew brought out a 40 to 50 pound backpack full of hose that they use for strength training to condition themselves to better take on steep hillsides and canyons as how they were tasked to do in the Butte Fire.

Each child went over to try to pickup the weighty backpack. All did lift it. Of course unbeknownst to them, a Firefighter reached over and gave a helping hand to the effort of each child. Yes, it's not surprising is it. After all, that is what they do. That is their nature.

And frankly, for those who feel the mammoth task of putting out this fire was easy and have some sort of angst with Firefighters and other emergency personnel. You should be absolutely ashamed of yourself.

Friends, while they were saving the homes of others, neighbors, family, friends, and strangers, the Butte Fire destroyed nearly a dozen homes that belonged to Volunteer Firefighters.

One such volunteer is Patty Raggio. She is a Volunteer Firefighter with Central Calaveras Fire and Rescue District. She lost her home in Mountain Ranch on September 11th. She and her husband called their place home for the past 17 years.

And where was she when her own home was going up? Well, she was seven miles away off of Jesus Maria Road fighting flames defending the homes of others. Yes, Volunteer Firefighters were so busy battling the Butte Fire that 11 Volunteer Firefights lost their own homes.

Friends, while the loss of your home is heartbreaking, even when those Firefighters found out that they themselves lost their homes, they did not stop doing what was needed because the fire wasn't over yet. They stayed out there and worked to protect those who had not lost homes yet.

My wife and I cannot thank them enough for their sacrifice. They made the difference and a lot of homes were saved. In fact, they saved our small community of Glencoe. So yes, when I hear some jerk complaining that they saw a Firefighter sleeping or that they saw a few standing around supposedly "doing nothing" -- I shake my head amazed at the lack of respect for those who weren't there to fight for their own home but was there for others.

And yes, let's not forget that Firefighters are still out there making sure flare-ups and hot spots don't again raise the head of this monster fire.

Thankfully, there is the vast majority out there that sees them for who they are and what they do. With that there is a push underway online to raise money to help all the local volunteer fire staff and personnel with Central Calaveras Fire who lost their homes. And yes, every bit helps.

Don't be shy to make any sort of small donation, the website is

Last night on the way home from having dinner with my Mom, my wife and I stopped to see how things have calmed down at the Laughton Ranch where at their peak they saved well over 300 horses and all sorts of livestock along with cats and dogs. The Butte Fire brought out over a hundred volunteers and now there were but a handful left.

And yes, while some people believe that they are not needed now, places like the Laughton Ranch can still use volunteers to help during cleanup efforts there. Friends, frankly, though the skies are clear and the major effort to fight the fire has more or less passed, there is still so much work to do.

My friend Michelle Wood, yes my friend who volunteers at the VA and holds a job all while her own son battles Leukemia. Michelle is a woman like Bobbi Laughton who jumped in to help others by turning the Laughton Ranch into a Rescue Facility. Michelle is a woman who is motivated by the belief that giving to others is what people should do.

Michelle told me that she "just lives from my heart and do my part with whatever my day holds. I think life is about kindness and helping others. One thing I truly love about the VA is everyone I've worked with treats people the same. It doesn't matter if someone is in a suit or homeless. It is beautiful to see. We are all people."

Since the Butte Fire started, Michelle and a few others have been working to compile a list of Veterans who have lost their homes in the fire or are in need as a result of the fire.

She said, "With the fire, I think it is great how people are coming together to help. I made a road trip to Valley Springs with a woman I met through Facebook to take donations. Ends up she is an incredible woman with a huge heart and is doing all she can to help. She woke up to her house burning down as a child so it really hits home for her. The beauty in life is connecting with others."

Michelle is right, in fact my Grandfather taught me the same thing years ago when I was just a youngster. It is all about connecting with others to do good. And yes, while not seeking reward or acclaim of any sort while making a difference.

Like my wife who volunteers over at Rail Road Flat School and gets teared-up when talking about a boy who thanked the Firefighters today for saving his home, I too always get a sense of feeling good about the world when doing what my Grandfather taught me.

Whether Firefighters, Bobbi Laughton, Michelle Woods, or my wife really know it, they live the Cowboy Code.

Yes, they live the Cowboy Code that my Grandfather taught me so many years ago. It is a Cowboy Code that has been around for over 100 years and stretches to a time in the Old West when men and women lived by a moral code of honor.
There will always be people who are blind to the big picture in life, blind to the efforts being made by others doing the hard job, those who put out and work tirelessly to do good, those who achieve and maybe come short in the process.

But frankly, people who live the Cowboy Code believe that we should connect with others, watch out for the next person, try to make sure that people get a fair deal, and that we should all live by the Golden Rule to treat others as we would like to be treated.

Since first posting this article, a few readers have written to say that I didn't mention Cowboys once in the whole article. A few wrote to tell me that I should have mentioned gatherings, brandings, what it takes to keep a ranch going, fighting the elements and government regulation, that I should have mentioned the hard work involved in surviving in today's world.

Yes, all of that is true. Cowboys face all of the hard work of keeping their heads above water. And while I know this, I was writing about the Cowboy Code, the Cowboy Spirit, the things that keep the values and ethics of the American Cowboy alive in America.

While Bobbi Laughton is the only real Cowgirl of all mentioned in this article, she being a combination of Mother Teresa and Annie Oakley, the Firefighters who took on the Butte Fire, Michelle Wood's steadfast determination not to allow a disease to conquer her son, my wife's insight into the feelings of others and yet her being very strong, all demonstrate the Cowboy Values.

Yes, I wrote this to demonstrate how the Western ethos, the very American ideal of helping others and putting your all into it is the American Cowboy way of life, is the legacy of the American Cowboy.

It is "speaking soft but carrying a big stick". It is being honest and forthright, brave and true, loyal and loving. It is what is meant by the "Cowboy Way." It is what it means to "Cowboy Up," "Ride tall in the saddle," and "Take the bull by the horns."

It means walking the walk and not just be full of hot air. It means being thrown off but having the intestinal fortitude to get up, dust yourself off, and climb back in the saddle without anyone telling you that that's what you need to do. It is the resilient spirit that won the West and has made America great.

And yes, that's just the way I see the world as well.

Tom Correa

Tuesday, September 22, 2015

The Butte Fire -- We've Returned Home

Unlike having the giant plumes of smoke coming from up-country as in the picture above, last Saturday 9/19, the skies over Amador and Calaveras counties were blue and beautifully clear heading south on Highway 49 from Jackson. Yes, last Saturday our power came on and we returned home.

The great news for my wife and I is that because the Butte Fire's path made a horseshoe around our little community of Glencoe, we feel absolutely blessed that our home was spared. It was a feeling of happiness that I was almost ashamed to enjoy because others were not so fortunate.

Once home, we looked at how close the fire came to our home before turning to on getting our refrigerators and freezers cleaned of spoiled meat and food stuff. The power was off for 10 days. Everything was spoiled and needed to be thrown away. It truly breaks my heart to throw food away, but frankly we are very blessed compared to others who lost everything.

As for how we handled it?  Well I can say that my training in the Marine Corps sure comes in handy during times of crisis. As for my wife, while she had her moments here and there, she is a strong woman who knows the power of prayer and thinking positive. Yes, she is a Champ!

And frankly, even though the Butte Fire is our first time dealing with a forest fire -- all in all, I think we handled it well. That's not to say we didn't have days filled with worry and anxiety interrupted by moments of sadness. The sadness came when hearing the news that a friend's home had been burnt to the ground and all of their belongings were lost, or when hearing that friends homes had been looted within hours of the fire starting.

For years, like others, I've seen people on television talk about evacuating. But frankly, I've never asked "what happens now?" I've never asked where do they go, and what do they do if they have jobs or indeed lost everything?

In our case, we left when we were told and went to Ione to stay at my Mom's home. She is 81 years of age and has seen her share of trying times and hardship. From growing up during the Great Depression to being in Hawaii and watching the bombing of Pearl Harbor, to raising six children and having all of the worry that comes with being a Mom.

Yes, my Mom is the greatest. She immediately asked if others needed a place to stay? Yes, that old fashion sense of reaching out to others in need is my Mom's generation. And during this disaster, I would find out that the younger generation has a handle on things more than I gave them credit for.

Family stayed with family, friends stayed with friends, some stayed in their cars and trucks for the first few nights. Yes, hotels and motels were filled and one was lucky to find a room. And thankfully here in our area no one raised rates to take advantage of the emergency, during the Valley Fire up North a hotel did just that and was caught doing it.

While one friend was fired from his job because he missed too many days of work during the fire, and there were stories floating around about bad people doing bad things like looting homes, stealing horses, and even stealing cars, on the overall the good outweighed the bad.

The Jackson Rancheria Casino & Hotel stepped up in a very huge way. And frankly, while some said it was just a PR (public relations) thing on the part of the tribe, I will never accept that. I simply don't believe it.

They took in evacuees, gave them 3 meals a day, rooms, and had all of the emergency services there at the Jackson Rancheria Casino & Hotel to help them put in claims.

I have no idea of the numbers of evacuees that they took it, but I can assure you that they took in as many as their hotel could hold. Yes, during this emergency, the hotel portion was shutdown to guest and was only available to evacuees. That's not PR, that's called family. I thank God they are part of our family. They are absolutely outstanding people.

In my other post The Butte Fire and Bobbi Laughton, I talked about the Laughton Ranch and the spirit of doing good that seemed to be in great abundance there. The wonderful work, the tireless effort to save horses. Yes, if there is any one person that Amador County should recognize for doing greatly in the face of adversity, that person should be Bobbi Laughton.

Kirk and Dianne Bennett, Dianna DeWees, and Kat Stiltz came out from the Laughton Ranch and rescued our horses on Friday 9/11. On Sunday morning, I had a moment of elation when we got a call from the Laughton Ranch telling us that they were going to pick up our horses and bring them home.

The same team that came in and caught them on the night of Friday 9/11 with the fire ragging nearby, now brought our horses back on Sunday after everything settled down. They made our day as special as can be. This crew is known as Princess Team #28 and again it is one of those situations where there simply aren't enough words to thank them.

They are special in so many ways, and their goodness shines through. They all came together to do good for others, and in some cases even came close to getting arrested doing it. They rescued our horses and many many others for many other families. All I can say is that they are simply wonderful folks.

Some of the unsung heroes are those who work for Calaveras County Water District (CCWD)

From putting out advisories on water purification to letting people know where water filling points are located, and yes to keeping essential pumps in service and available to get the water to Firefighters, the CCWD proved to be a very essential part of fighting this fire.

They got the water to the Firefighters so they have the wet stuff to put on the hot stuff. Without the CCWD, there would be no water at fire-hydrants to fight this monster of a fire. Without them putting family aside and working in extremely hard conditions, the fighting of this fire would be almost impossible.

We should salute the great work of the Calaveras County Sheriff's Department for maintaining order in an extremely tough situation in an area that is over 1,500 miles big. A mammoth task in normal conditions, but even more so in an emergency.

The Calaveras County Sheriff's Department never loss sight of the bigger picture of providing law enforcement to the entire county while fire areas needed their immediate attention. These officers are our neighbors and friends. Yes, we truly thank them.

And yes, while recognizing great works, we should praise the many PG&E crews who were hard at work around the clock replacing well over 800 downed power-poles.

While these things gave me moments of inspiration and admiration, there were definitely times of frustration during this disaster. And yes, most of the frustration was due to rumors.

During the Butte Fire, after my wife and I evacuated, we watched television and  listened to the radio trying to get any news that we could. We wanted to find out what was happening at home? Did our home burn down? Did our community get hit hard? How far is the fire spreading? How much progress is being made to stop it? Are they opening the roads and letting us and our neighbors back in? Is the power back on? For most folks in our area, the power back on means that our Well Pumps are working. And in our case, that means our horses will have water.

While the major television networks sent their anchors from New York City to stand by some smoldering pile of ash that was someone's home for the perfect television shot, the best place for information hands down was KVGC 1340 AM out of Jackson.

It was indeed the station to get the best and most accurate Amador and Calaveras County news and fire updates, along with the latest weather. They did just a great job for our communities.

Major frustration was caused by all of the Facebook pages that spread all sorts of rumors about the mass destruction and complete ruination of our community -- all not true. And yes, one report on a Facebook page actually had our community of Glencoe, population 189, "gone"! Yes, it said Glencoe was "completely wiped out."

Another Facebook page said that our home and a neighbor's home was burnt to the ground. And yes, our American Legion Post and Post Office were both ashes. Rumors also had our horses running up State Route 26 and people running for their lives with only the clothes on their backs because the fire was so near.

I found it interesting that one rumor stated that the Glencoe Post Office and Service Station next door both burned down. This must have been the same reliable source that said our horses were running up State Route 26, because friends --  Glenoce doesn't have a Service Station at all, nevertheless one by our Post Office.

Were there rumors that turned out to be true? Yes, but very few. For example, while all of the rumors about Glencoe being engulfed in flames and "gone" were not true, there were some looters in the Butte Fire. The good news is that some did not get away and were caught.

So now, now that comes to the end of this story.

On Saturday, after seeing that our place was indeed OK other than the stench of smoke and spoiled food in two refrigerators and our freezer, we went over to our American Legion Post to check on it. When we arrived, a Cal Fire Strike Team from Tulare was there checking out the inside of our post.

Immediately I started telling them about the pictures of some of the great people we have here, the old and the young. And yes, those who have passed. I tried to relate the sacrifice of those in the service in the pictures to their own sacrifice.

I have a respect and admiration for First Responders. It is a respect that was taught to me when I was a youngster, and it has been with me all my life. And frankly, I wouldn't have it any other way.

The Cal Fire crew from Tulare, like the Firefighters from other towns and cities and counties, all face fires that threaten others hundreds of miles away. They face time away from their families to come to places like Glencoe to save us as only they know how.

One of the Firefighters from Tulare is Capt. Matthew Guerrero. He is a perfect example of a man who has been doing this for a long time and knows the rewards involved with giving back to others. He has been fighting fires for Cal Fire for 28 years.

His Christian values won't let him stop even though like the others he faces a great deal of time away from his family. When I told Capt. Guerrero that I wanted to mention him in my blog, he said that I shouldn't because he is "not special" and "that he is just like any of the others."

We talked about family and how much his wife and children mean to him, how proud he is of them, how much he loves his wife. And while missing them all, he especially misses his wife. He showed my wife and me a few pictures of his wonderful family and some of the things they do together. From Christian worship services to hunting to farming together, they live a life built on a strong foundation of love and respect and God's word.

While Capt. Guerrero might not think he is special, I do. He is very special. He is a good man. He is as good as they come. And if you ask me if he is more special than the others on his crew? My answer is no. But, like others on his crew, he is certainly special. To me, they are all very special because of what they do and who they are.

Yesterday, Monday, our American Legion Post put on a Free Spaghetti Feed for our community and the Firefighters who are still here. Our hope was that we could get a hot meal out to those, like my wife and I, who had to throw away all of their food from their refrigerators and freezers. And yes, of course, it was a way of trying to say "thanks" to the Firefighters. They are inspirational.

After making sure that everything was in great hands and folks were coming in, my wife and I had to leave. We both felt pretty good about the feeling of closeness in the community.

As we were driving to town, we got down the road a ways when the horrible sight of blackened earth and ash came into view. We both feel silent seeing the homes burnt to the ground. Along with the homes, there were trucks and cars and RVs here and there that didn't make it.

There was a home not much more than a pile of ash. There was a man picking through it. I suspect that he was looking for something to salvage. Before we had driven completely out of sight, I watched him sit down and put his hands to his face. He dropped his head, and I believe it was his time to cry.

My wife and I truly thank God for sparing our home, as well as sparing the rest of our community.

May God Bless those who have lost so much. May God give them strength to rebuild.

Tom Correa

Thursday, September 17, 2015

We Shoot Looters

During the Butte Fire, my wife and I have seen fire-trucks from all over California. From as far away as San Diego, Beverly Hills, Tulare, and Culver City, to nearby Tracy and Sacramento, we have had all sorts of wonderful assistance from all over during this emergency.

Firefighters from all over the state have spent days on the fire line. They have been tireless in their dedication to the task of protecting our homes and ensuring the minimum loss of life in the process. They are wonderful, and frankly I can't thank them enough.

Today was the first day that we were allowed up State Route 26 to Glencoe. Today was the first day, since last week when we were evacuated, that we would get pass the rumors to truly find out if our home was OK or not.

Our friend Tony Atnip, who works for the local Water District, called to let us know that our home was still standing. What we didn't know was if there was any damage to our home or our barn and sheds. And after 8 days being away from home, we were very eager to go check it out for ourselves.

On the way up from Mokelumne Hill to Glencoe on State Route 26, we soon found ourselves driving by burned out properties void of all undergrowth. And yes, homes that once stood were gone -- burned down to ash and not much more.

Steve and Janet Duman's home, Kevin and Bret Haight's home and barn, our next door neighbors the Fischer's homes were all still standing and what looked like untouched by the fire. And yes, our home was like we left it. Thank God.

Once we were in and checked out every room for any sign of a problem or an intruder, we called others to let them know that their homes were fine -- and that we were OK as well. Before leaving, we locked up our place and checked on our BLM mustang, Dancer, who looked fat and happy and unphased.

We then went over to our American Legion Post, Calaveras Post 376, and from there to our friends the Atnips to check on them. And yes, once there, that's when we found out that others in Glencoe who were not burned out had their homes looted.

The Butte Fire has meant that many of us in Glencoe have had to evacuate. And yes, soon after we left, there had been reports of looters. While some had been rumors, others reports confirm that looters had entered homes of evacuees like us.

Signs in some areas told looters that they will be shot if caught. While we didn't see any such signs in Glencoe, at the driveway of one property in Pine Grove there was a sign that read "YOU LOOT, WE SHOOT!"

And that brings us to the point of this article, why don't more people shoot looters? I know many folks who would certainly shoot looters if they tried looting their property. I would to save my property. Most of my friends would do the same.

Looters have no compunction at all about breaking into the home of someone who has fled to safety. Looters feel nothing at all when it comes to their stealing what evacuees couldn't get out with them. They are vermin, a pestilence, no different than ISIS or Muslim refugees who wave the ISIS flag, or the thugs who burned down businesses and home in Ferguson and Baltimore.

Back in 1992, when the Los Angeles Riots took place after the Rodney King verdict, there were a great number of scumbags who decided to burn down parts of Los Angeles after looting stores there.

What folks forget is that Korean-American business owners armed themselves and prevented their businesses from being looted and burned to the to ground. They stood guard with rifles and shotguns in hand and stopped the punks there from wiping out their property, their livelihood, their future.

Why shouldn't looters be shot on sight? One homeowner versus two or three looters with intent to rob and possibly burn down someone's home? Maybe with the intent of hurting the homeowner if caught in the act? Wouldn't that be self-defense? Isn't defense of one's property, one's home, self-defense? I think it is.

And frankly, shouldn't looters understand that there are consequences to their actions, to their criminal behavior, to ruining someone else's life? Shouldn't looters know that "YOU LOOT, WE SHOOT" means exactly what it says in that they will be dealt with swiftly, and it will be final?

Let's be frank here, if we do not shoot to kill and they live, then they may end up owning our home and everything that we ever hope to own. Because of the way the screwed-up Justice System works today, looters, criminals, those who break the law and survive, may get rewarded with everything that we own.

So shouldn't looters know that they will not make it to a court date where some sympathetic lawyer can get them off from having to pay for their illegal actions? Shouldn't they know that they will be shot dead on sight?

And yes, time after time, "Shoot On Sight" orders have lessened the number of looters and arsonists willing to try something stupid. Don't think so? Well just look at what took place during Hurricane Hugo and Katrina when looters were told that the police and the National Guard would in fact shoot looters on sight. Looting stopped once the order went into effect.

Friends, if they take my life so cheap as to loot my home and all that I have worked for, all the things that I probably could not get out when I left at a moment's notice, why should they get away with it? Why should they loot home after home after home while the owners are sleeping in shelters, in parking lots in their cars, or were taken in by others?

Why shouldn't we shoot looters when they prey on us, especially when they know full well that the people that they are stealing from are down on their luck? Why allow looters to get away with preying on those who are worried and waiting to see if they indeed have to rebuild their lives?

In Amador County, they shoot looters. In Calaveras County, we shoot looters. They shoot looters in Amador County for all of the same reasons that we shoot looters in Calaveras County. We shoot looters because they deserve it. Frankly, that's the bottom line -- they deserve it.

And yes, that's just the way I see it.

Tom Correa


Monday, September 14, 2015

The Butte Fire & Bobbi Laughton

With the clean mountain air, the lack of traffic and congestion, the cool temperatures even when heat is bearing down on the valley below, the ponderosa pine, the cedar, the redwoods, the variety of oak, and of course the manzanita among the other flora and fauna, all make living in the Sierra's simply a beautiful place to live.

With the drought, the years of ground growth, the lack of harvesting the forest, one knows that along with the beauty of the Sierra's is the threat of forest fires. Last Wednesday that threat became more than a threat. A blown PG&E transformer sparked the Butte Fire that afternoon around 2pm. That fire is now one of the largest in California history.

My wife called from Jackson a little after the power went out to say that she was bringing home chicken for dinner, and wanted to know if there was something else that I might need from town. This is common courtesy, but it's also a pretty essential way of life when one lives up-country and the town of Jackson, our hub for grocery stores and other conveniences, is located 18 miles away. I told her not to rush as the power was out. She said part of Jackson was without power as well.

Since we always keep an "old fashion" land-line phone, a rotary phone, connected for just these sorts of emergencies because unlike a cordless phone, the old phone doesn't need to be plugged into power to work. Immediately, neighbors started calling our home.

Friends wanted to know everything from if I had heard what caused the outage to whether or not I was opening the American Legion Post that night. After my wife arrived at home, I finished a few chores while we still had light. It was then that we got a call about the fire starting in Amador County on their side of the Mokelumne River.

I let my wife know that I was running over to the Legion to find out if they were alright without power. Our small community of Glencoe only has an emergency fire station that is hardly ever manned, a post office, and our American Legion Post which also acts as our Community Hall for our 189 population. As a Vice Commander, I'm tasked with running most aspects of the post. So yes, it wasn't out of the ordinary for me to jump in my truck to run over there to see if they were out of power and find out if my on-duty bartender was staying open as long as he could. It is Glencoe's gathering place.

An earlier phone call advised me that a fire was started on the Amador County side of the Mokelumne River when a PG&E transformer gave out. By the time I arrived at the Legion, all of two minutes away from my home, I was told that they got the information that the fire was spreading fast and that it had already jumped the river to this county, Calaveras County. It was apparent that the fire was not contained as another call had told me. When the fire jumped the river, that was a big deal because no one thought it would. Now it was apparent that the winds were now driving it up the side of the dry canyon of the Mokelumne River. The question now became what direction would it take?

I tried getting in touch with my friend Steve Duman, who is also an officer of our post, to find out what he knew since he lives closer to that area. Then phone calls came in saying that Steve and his wife lost their home. After that, my wife and I got the word that the fire was racing up toward Glencoe faster than most of us expected. The first report was that the fire consumed 400 acres, then reports said 1,200 acres were lost along with 6 homes.

About 7pm, my wife and I left to check on Steve and his wife Janet. We were stopped about a mile from his home. The California Highway Patrolman who stopped us said that their home was lost.

My wife and I could see the glow coming from down Highway 26 in his direction. Across the canyon, we were both shocked by the sight of the fire coming up the canyon. The fire was definitely headed toward Glencoe.

Before heading home to pack, we stopped and checked on a few friends to make sure they grabbed their home owner's insurance papers and other documents before they leave. We didn't wait for someone to give us 10 minutes to pack. We stopped off at a friend's house to check on them and their children, then as soon as we got back -- my wife and I started to pack for an evacuation right there and then.

The friend's we checked on, Kevin and Bret Haight, joined up with us after they were loaded up and we monitored the phone and the radio for any changes. Kevin and Bret left a little before 2am. They returned home since it seemed that we'd be safe for the night.

My position with the Legion makes me the contact in case the County Emergency Services needs me to open the post for use during this. I contacted them earlier for instructions and was told to standby for a call one way or another.

The next morning, Thursday morning, we found out that over 4,000 acres have been overtaken. And yes, phone calls from neighbors and also from our family was coming in. Many with news we had not heard and all wanting to help in one way or another. 

Besides our safety, one huge concern for my three brothers and sisters was my horses and their safety. I kept letting them know that all was being handled the best I knew how. Yes, with a lot of advice from Emergency Services.

About 1:40pm after checking on my neighbors, I got the word from Emergency Services that they were not going to use the Legion and that we must evacuate. I made a couple of calls to others in the area, including some who were already at the Legion, advising them of what I had been told and that they need to leave now.

At home, I search for a few more things. Small things such as family pictures that can't be replaces. I was on our deck looking at our roof and the bellowing smoke over the trees from behind my property. Cinders and burnt leaves floated down and I saw a few ambers and thought this is just not a good sign with no water or power. 

I cut open 9 bales of alfalfa and left it for our horses. I hoped and prayed that I was doing right and they'd make it like I'd hope they did. The Cal Fire told me they may keep an eye on them while they use our front pasture for a staging area. I hoped they would.   

Highway 26 from Highway 49 at Mokelumne Hill all the way up the nine miles to Glencoe was closed because of the fire, and yes mandatory evacuation was set into place. My wife packed up her three cats, and we had Holly our dog with us, and we soon left for the safety of Ione where my 80 year old mom lives. God Bless having my mom nearby.

So all in all, by a little after 2pm, my wife and I left headed to Rail Road Flat because we were told the road up to West Point was already closed. 

As for our horses, as I said before, I had spoken to County Emergency Services about our horses and we talked about my best options. Since, unlike other properties up-country, our property has pasture land, I was told that they would be OK if they were turned loose to get away from the fire.

Even on Friday when my wife and I went back in to see for ourselves just how bad it was and if we could help others, before leaving again I was told by Cal Fire that my plan was good because our home and big trees were in the back of the property away from the open pasture in front. I was told the fire would be held to the back of the property or stopped at the ridge above our place.

While we got the word that the fire had grown to 15,000 acres, then to 31,000 acres, I felt better about my plan after I was told the fire shifted again and was moving away from Glencoe. And while I was OK with my livestock plan, I soon found out that others were not as fortunate to have open pasture and were indeed trying to get their animals out and far away.

I then found out that a few folks were going in to pick up horses and other livestock from threatened areas. And frankly, while I was certain that our horses would be able to survive with the water and feed and staying to the front of our property until the fire passes, I found out that there were folks with stock trailers picking up livestock in my area as well.

As of September 13th, the Butte Fire has:

Total Fire Personnel: 4,541  
Total Fire Engines: 499  
Total Fire crews: 87
Total Helicopters: 18
Total Dozers: 118
Total Water Tenders: 57

From those flying the aircraft to the men and women driving the Water Tender, these people are blessings from God. Yes, they are Godsends.

I've heard that term for years, that so-and-so was a "Godsend." And frankly, there are those who are there at the right moment to lend a hand or be of great importance at the right moment. But as for Bobbie Laughton, well I believe she was put here for a reason -- especially during this emergency.

Bobbi Laughton is a true Godsend.

I spoke with Bobbi Laughton and told her my plan. She wasn't as sure about it as Cal Fire or the County was. She asked where I lived and how many horses was there?

I told her which ones would be easy to catch if I went in to do so, and which ones were still feral horses that have a home but little training. The other thing was that the roads were closed to all traffic on Friday. While they were letting in livestock rescue earlier, I was told that had ended. And yes, California Highway Patrol had positioned officers at the road to stop people from entering. Bobbi and I discussed this, and how her volunteers could not get in to help me even if we wanted to.

As busy as she was, she took my number and I thought that was that. That is, until about 10pm on Friday night when I got a call from her daughter Desiree.

Yes, they somehow got into Glencoe and pulled into that open pasture and loaded 4 of my 5 horses into a stock trailer and headed for Jackson. Desiree, like her mom, doesn't understand the word "can't." She said she had gotten into Glencoe and picked up four of our five horses before anyone knew she was there and waved as she was leaving.

Earlier in the day, I found out that the fire backtracked and was heading straight for Glencoe. So yes, when she said she got out 4 of 5 and couldn't get that crazy BLM horse of ours, I was shocked and thankful. Frankly, thinking about what I was advised to do with my horses was taking it's toll and I was very relieved that they were out.

When I passed by earlier that day, I wanted to talk to Bobbi Laughton in person and thank her for the help on the phone. But frankly, I didn't stop and see her simply because when I arrived everyone was moving horses and feed and livestock panels to make more temporary pens and there was no need to get in the way.

After getting the call from Desiree, I told her that I would be at her Mom's and meet her and our horses. When I arrived, nothing had changed from earlier. It was controlled chaos in an entirely good way!

Bobbi Laughton and her crews of volunteer livestock rescuers are amazing folks -- everyone of them. They have zeal and determination and smarts. And yes, I watched as some of the greatest people in the world came together to help others.

Bobbi is the Commanding General of the operation, and sketchy cell-phone reception, dry eraser boards, and great assistants is how she keeps a handle on a situation that she said, "took on a life of it's own."

She is a great lady who I had met once before when I wanted to do an article on her starting a rescue facility. She is a country gal from the word go. She is a wonderful women who, at that point on Friday night, was running on only two hours of sleep since Wednesday morning. Yes, I was talking with her on Friday night at 10:30pm and she only had two hours of sleep in three days.

Bobbi Laughton is what being American is really about. She is what the American woman really is. She is kind and loving, strong and determined, and yes determined to do right. She is the gal who rarely gets any attention, or is saluted for being the person that others can look to and respect and emulate.

I was called on Saturday morning by Mike Richards who told me that he was going to take a shot at going after Dancer, my BLM mustang, who is still as feral as the day is long. I asked him if I could go with him instead of taking two vehicles. He said he'd meet me at the Laughton Ranch.

Mike Richards is retired. But like most of us who worked until we are able to follow our dream, he is now a Horse Trainer with a real good reputation in our area. While on the way to get Dancer, we talked about her and how much training I put in her. How my own health stopped me from doing more and how she was pretty herd-bound.

We also talked about working through the night rescuing livestock and carting them back to the Laughton Ranch and more about ourselves. It was not hard to tell instantly that Mike is a good man.

We tried to get in but were turned back by California Highway Patrolmen who did not want to talk about it as they had bigger things to worry about like not having us in the way of on-coming emergency equipment. We definitely understood. They too are doing a great job!

After getting some chow, we returned to Jim and Bobbi Laughton's ranch. I found out that the Laughton Ranch had brought in more than 200 horses, and farmed out the overflow of horses to other ranches in the area. With the overflow, they rescued well over 300 horses -- but that figure doesn't even count the pigs, sheep, goats, cows, chickens, dogs, and cats that they rescued.

She was there and again surrounded by questions and having to make all sorts of decisions on the spot. I also found out that donations and feed and water and food for both the animals and the over 150 volunteers are coming in from all sorts of folks big and small. Yes, many sources, including Lowe's, The Feed Barn, Tractor Supply, grocery stores, and even farmers who are sending truckloads of hay.

While this is not over, I watched her crews feed off of Bobbie's sense of doing good for others. And yes, her goodness.
The vast majority of volunteers are mostly young people, mostly teens and those in their 20s, some older, but mostly young and all wonderful to the core. And frankly, the volunteers don't want anything in return. Nothing.

I was impressed to see the way they brought in trailer after trailer. They unload and feed and support the tired and the lost. When they are done with one task, they walk off like so many Champions feeling a sense of pride in simply doing good for others. It was wonderful to see.

Yes, while at the Laughton Ranch, I saw a sense of goodness gained by doing good. Godsends all. Yes, all were there as blessings from God in a time when blessings were needed. Angels in rubber boots and jeans, tired and working harder than they may ever again. And like their counter parts who are fighting the fire and saving homes, Bobbi Laughton's small army of volunteers are there doing the best they can during a bad situation to help in a positive way.

Yes, it's true. That's what's been going on at the Laughton Ranch since the Butte Fire has started. And yes, I feel absolutely blessed to have met such wonderful people. For their tireless devotion to others in need, I can't salute them enough. I can't praise them enough. I can't be proud of them enough.

We hear so much about the bad and the worse in the younger generation. But seeing these young Americans coming together for their parents, friends, neighbors, strangers, other Americans in need, it was all so encouraging. I saw who will inherit America. And frankly, I see the future in a much better light today than I did a few days ago.

They are the unsung. They are the best of the best. And yes, these are only the volunteers at the Laughton Ranch. During the Butte Fire, the community came together in many places big and small, from the County Fairgrounds to other ranches, Americans came together to help others for no reason than simply wanting to do good.

Those Godsends at the Laughton Ranch showed me that every generation has those who do not hesitate to step up to the challenges of the future. From the young man who raced home from Oroville, where he is going to college, to make sure that his parents evacuated safely, to the young gal who whispered "God Bless you" after she handed me the lead rope to one of my horses, America is in good hands.

And as for my BLM mustang that they couldn't catch that night? Along with the word that many of our homes in Glencoe have been spared, I've been told that Dancer is running around the open pasture in front of our property calling out for her four companions that will return home as soon as this thing is over.

And yes, blessings do take place even in the worst of times.

Tom Correa

Editor's Note: 

The pictures below were not a part of the original story above. I've included these recently to give more perspective of what took place.

At 7pm, this was what we saw facing Moke Hill from Robinson's hill on 26.
That first night near Mokelumne River
This is what the ridge behind lower Glencoe looked like a little more than 24 hours after it started near Moke Hill

When it was finally contained, this is the territory that the fire consumed. Yes, more than 70,000 acres. And if you notice, the fire actually hooked around Glencoe. If it weren't for the fire changing course, we would have lost our home as others did around us.

Tom Correa

Friday, September 11, 2015

A Time When All Lives Mattered

Yes, it was a time when All Lives Mattered. It was a time when people didn't apologize for stating the obvious in that American Lives Matter.

It was a time not that long ago when Americans had no color or race because the vast majority was in fact united. And yes, the vast majority of us were angry at those who did such a thing.

For those of us who refuse to forget, 9/11 is a constant reminder of the wickedness in the world.

But specifically, 9/11 is a day when average Americans were shown the evil that is the Muslim world. And yes, it was a time when we would become educated as to those who support Muslim terrorism.

Does it aggravate me that some act as though it never happened? You bet it does! Does it aggravate me that people are looking at securing the U.S.-Mexican border as a immigration issue, or worse a racial issue, when in fact it is a security issue? You bet it does!

These two factors bother me simply because those who pretend that it never happened are the same Liberal folks who try to scam people into believing that securing the U.S.-Mexican border is a immigration and racial problem. They purposely neglect to mention the fact that securing the border is an integral part of our Nation's overall security.

Securing the border is about security. And yes, that is one thing we should remember on the anniversary of 9/11.

Securing the border goes hand in hand with securing our shipping ports and securing our airports. It makes no sense at all to secure the ports, airports, and our Northern border, but not secure America's southern border,  Yes, leaving the southern border unsecured is the same as locking your front door and locking all your windows -- while leaving your back door unlocked and wide open to any criminal in the area.

And what comes with poor security? While it may be our fault, we are leaving ourselves to the mercy of those who want to kill us. We leave ourselves open to unimaginable evils.

And yes, as the old saying goes, "The greatest trick the Devil ever pulled was convincing the world he didn't exist."

There are some who still say it never happened. But for me, I have seen the Devil a few times in my life. But mostly, I remember how he showed his face to the world on 9/11!


While others gave strength and comfort to us all, others prove without a doubt that the Devil lives in the hearts of those so evil that they are awash in hate. 


Yes, there are those who hate as a way of life. To them, only certain lives matter while others simply don't.  Yes, to them, only certain lives matter while others just don't. They live in evil.

And frankly, part of me wants to feel sorry for them but I can't. That's because another part of me hopes that one day they meet the evil they support, and get exactly what's coming to them.

And yes, that's just the way I see it.

Tom Correa