Leonard McKay

Leonard McKay

Posts by Leonard McKay

The Educated Fly Rod (Part 1)

When I was rummaging around my garage recently, I found an interesting five-foot long box. The garage is packed as it houses two cars, cupboards, power saws, woodworking tools, workbenches, sanders, a sink and, of course, many treasures that I am going to use or may need some day. I was looking for a small umbrella that fastens to a chair when I came across the box.

Read More 6

Fish and Snakehips’s Romantic Adventure

It is hard to realize today, when teenagers go to their proms in limousines and plan to spend a thousand dollars plus to attend, but in 1938, it was a whole lot different. It was in the ancient days, during the Great Depression and before World War II, when I was a young boy approaching manhood. The Junior Prom at Los Gatos High was approaching and my buddy, Bill “Fish” Hildebrand and I discussed attending. (When I was in high school, nearly everyone had a nickname. Bill was always called “Fish” and I was known as “Snakehips” because I was so skinny that if I turned sideways to the sun, I didn’t create a shadow.) Bill and I were both on the football team and had earned our block sweaters and felt it was time to impress the ladies. (Bill was a pretty good player and I kept the bench warm.)

Read More 4

Dirt (Part 5)

After World War II, I returned home to college and normal life in “The Valley of Heart’s Delight.” Agriculture was still king, but waste from the industry overwhelmed the sewage system, which was unable to carry it all to Alviso. So, truckloads of tomato and fruit waste were hauled there and dumped in huge piles. These piles fermented and developed hydrochloric acid fumes that were borne on the wind southwards. If you owned a building that was painted with white lead paint (very common in the 1950s), it could turn gray overnight.

Read More 6

Dirt (Part 4)

I learned some valuable lessons working on the land in the local orchards. When I was about 13, I worked for Dr. Seikman, a woman chiropractor who owned ten acres of fruit trees near the San Jose Los Gatos Road. First we picked apricots and then, after a lull, prunes.

Read More 2

Dirt (Part 3)

The policy imposed by the Missions was that the Indians should work, tend the fields and care for the animals. This was a concept that they didn’t like or understand. (Locally, the Indians never had permanent settlements in the valley and their gods Eagle, Hummingbird and Coyote lived in the mountains—Eagle on Mt. Diablo and Hummingbird on Mt. Umunhum.) The Missions also separated the unmarried Indian men and women at night, another concept they didn’t like.

Read More 5

Dirt (Part 2)

The Spaniards—a mixture of Spanish, Basque and Indians—were the first Europeans to settle here in the Santa Clara Valley. Captain Juan de Anza, a Basque, led what I believe is the greatest migration in local history. He left the garrison town of Tabac, in what is now southern Arizona, in the dead of winter 1775-76, with 241 men, women and children. They were to arrive in California with 242; one woman died during childbirth and two were born on the harrowing, three month, overland journey. Because water was so scarce in the Sonoran and Mojave deserts that the party had to cross, de Anza split the party into two divisions so that the limited waterholes would have a chance to recharge.

Read More 6

Dirt (Part I)

For the next few weeks, I am going to write about “dirt.” Not political dirt, not Hollywood dirt, just plain dirt—the kind we have underneath us, some of the best dirt in the world.

Read More 2

Two Dogs Named Buck

I’d like to tell you about two dogs named “Buck.” The first one is widely known because he was the lead character in the famous book, “The Call of the Wild,” by Jack London.

The book, as you remember, featured Buck’s experiences in the famous gold rush in Alaska and the Yukon. Perhaps you didn’t realize that the book was written right here in Santa Clara on the grounds of what is now the Carmelite monastery. Then, it was the ranch of Judge Bond on the western end of Franklin Street. It was on the porch of the Jamison Brown house where the book was written and London describes the location in the text:

Read More 22

Man’s Best Friend

In my recent series on the 1906 earthquake, I related Ralph Rambo’s memories of the day. I especially liked the episode of how he adopted the Doyle School dog after discovering him shivering on the front stoop of the school. Calling the dog, he jumped into the buggy, driven by Ralph’s father, and the dog stayed with them until he died many years later.

Read More 19

Credo Quia Absurdum

There has been considerable debate about the purpose of the Ancient and Honorable Order of E Clampus Vitus. Is it a men’s historical and drinking society, or is it a drinking and historical society? What does the name stand for? I can’t answer these questions and the name doesn’t translate into anything meaningful in English. The society’s roots—as a benevolent fraternal society—go deep into the gold rush history of California, when there was a real need for such things.

Read More 8