Grant Keltner

Bob

B1

I had just arrived at my father’s home in Half Moon Bay, California; my flight from Portland was fine, smooth, and a quick flight. I was twenty-two years old at the time; I was visiting my father, stepmother and half-brother Nathan. I looked around the house, seeing if anything had changed, the home sits along the coast range overlooking the coast line, it was the middle of July in 1982. The phone rang; my father walked into the kitchen and answered the phone.

“Hello?”

“Hey, Glen its Bob!”

“Hey Bob!” my father replied.

My father’s closest friend through most of his life, through thick and thin was my uncle Bob. Bob at that time lived in Atherton, California, just about an hour from my father’s home in Half Moon Bay, California. My uncle Bob was a bit of rouge in a way, worked in management with A.T. and T, and lived life to the fullest. He had been married four times by then; he loved his family, cars and his beloved boat by the name of the “Anna Mae.” He was a character for sure. A bit weathered with age, he had suffered a heart attack a few years back, was weak from the surgery, ‘ol Bob was a great friend of mine. Ever since my parents divorced back in 1962 my father’s brother was a true confidant. I always knew that I was loved by Bob. My father hung up the phone and smiled at me.

“Your uncle will be here in an hour; he wants to see you.”

I winked at my pop. I walked out to the back deck off the family room and looked out to the hillsides and down toward the ocean; a bit of fog was looping down through the mountains that run along the coast line. About an hour passed; a car rumbled out in front of the house, I could tell it was Bob in his Firebird. The front door swung open and there stood Uncle Bob. He smiled at me; I gave him a long hug and patted him on the back. He had a cut on his face in nicking himself while shaving earlier that morning. We walked into the kitchen and sat down at the counter. He laughed and shook my hand.

My uncle Bob was deaf in one ear. He wore a hearing aid that was attached to his thick black plastic glasses, and if you got to close to him the darn hearing aid would start to whistle and sound like a sharp beep that got pretty loud; it was a bit of a family joke in knowing if you got too close to Bob his alarm would go off in his ear. His hearing aid started to beep when I gave him a hug, his eyes got big, and he grabbed his right ear. According to my uncle when he was around four years old a group of kids threw sand at him while he was swimming along a river, some of the sand ended up in and went down his ear. Bob always needed the hearing aid since he was little. He could hear you fine at times, once in a while you had to repeat yourself, and sometimes he had to put his hand to his ear and say.

“Wha?”

I usually knew that I had to repeat myself when I talked with him. It wasn’t uncommon in telling a story a few times when Bob was around. I will always remember Bob’s temperamental hearing aid. My father and my uncle Bob were inseparable as friends as I had mentioned. They seemed to understand each other without ever speaking a word. Bob normally wore jeans and a sport shirt, when he had to dress up for business, he usually wore a dark rain coat; black wing tipped shoes, a white dress shirt and a thin tie; he almost looked like he could have worked with the F.B.I. He got kidded about his wardrobe. He reminded me of the actor Robert Duval, a bit of a cowboy, part sailor, and a good business man was ‘ol Bob Keltner. He worked up in San Francisco, commuted every day, and took the train out of Atherton. After work, he liked to hang out at the Royal Exchange bar and grill located in the financial district. He had a quirky sense of humor; he had the ability to listen to a conversation, listen and pay attention, it was a virtue of Bob. He loved his country and usually bought American made products. He loved his freedom, and he reminded me that he had fought for this countries freedom several times in my life. Bob confided in me and would often talk with me for hours heading into the early morning. At times, I think I was the son he never had.

Bob looked at me and smiled.

“Do you want to go up to the Delta? We can drive from here and get to the Ana Mae by 4:00 P.M. It’s up in the marina near Clarksburg. I’ll leave my car there in the parking lot and head back up with Caroline in her car in a few days and pick up the Firebird.”

He tilted his head one way and then the other and made a funny face and looked at me.

“Grab your things, we can drive up there, and you can help me float the Anna Mae down to Coyote Point.”

My dad looked at me and shook his head in agreeing with my uncle. Coyote Point is located near San Mateo, California, tucked down the south western side of the San Francisco Bay, down past Treasure Island. In late summer my uncle would perform an annual float with his boat winding his way down through the Sacramento Delta, performing a fairly mild cruise to the San Francisco Bay. The float would normally take a few days, maybe three days if we took our time. He normally plotted stops along the way, trying to find marinas where we could hole up for the night. My uncle had maps of the bay and the delta that showed almost every moorage conceivable. I had performed this feat with him once before a few years early. I knew it would be fun. He’d keep his boat in the bay during the winter months.

The Anna Mae was a great boat; she was in built in 1962, built by Chris Craft Corporation, and billed as a cabin cruiser. It could hold four people with bunks in the front of the boat; she had a little toilet and sink, a tiny kitchen, upstairs was the cabin, including the steering wheel, a throttle and all the electrical instruments needed with navigation; a large compass was attached in the middle of the dash in helping in finding our way down the river. The cabin could hold a few people; off the back was a small deck area of about ten by eight feet. He had a few chairs; a few storage bins and bench space, fishing poles were usually found to be close at hand along with three or four life preservers. The deck had areas to fish on the back; pole holders were attached to both sides of the boat. My uncle hung an American flag and had the name “Anna Mae” painted on the back of the boat. She was a big boat, about thirty six feet in length. The bottom of the half of the boat was made of dark-brown wood. The upper part of the boat was trimmed in white; she was a great boat.

“Do you want to go with your uncle?” asked my father. I thought it over and looked at Bob. “Sure I’ll go! Let me go pack some things.”

“It may take three or four days with the ride,” said Bob.

I walked down the tile hallway that led me to the family guest bedroom. I packed swimming shorts, t-shirts, socks, jacket, shoes, spare underwear, a pair of blue jeans a book that I was reading and a toilet kit. I threw the pack together and met my father in the family room. My father looked at me.

“Now calm down and make sure your uncle gets safely to Coyote Point.”

“Don’t worry will be back by the weekend,” I replied.

My uncle always liked nice cars, American muscle cars to be exact. He once had a 1968 Mustang, metallic gold, black leather interior, it had a hemi and was one of the fastest cars I’ve ever been in. His latest car that he drove in those days was a 1980 Pontiac Firebird, fire-engine red, he loved that car. He unlocked the passenger door and I jumped in and threw my stuff in the back seat. Bob started the car up and the engine rumbled as my father waved at us pulling out of the driveway. I was going on another adventure with Bob; it would be fun, through the years he had taken me on trips to Yosemite and Lake Tahoe, on trips through the San Joaquin valley, up through Fresno, Modesto, Salinas, and Santa Cruz. He had taken me on a few trout fishing trips when I was younger. When I was a kid, I always liked hanging out with Bob if I could, he was a bit of a loaner in a way, and I liked that about him. If Bob could get away from a crowd at a family gathering, he would usually find an excuse in escaping to the out of doors. I always felt he was more at ease with himself when he was in the outback.

We headed east over Highway 92, winding our way through the hills, and farmland, weaving through the country; the roads kept going and going leading you up to Skyline Boulevard, always heading east, down towards San Mateo, over the never-ending San Mateo Bridge and up to Highway 680, and then cutting over to Highway 580, driving through Hayward, Dublin and Tracy, meandering our way up to the San Joaquin valley and I-5.

Bob had aged through the years; his face was worn, and he looked older, more fragile. He was losing some of his hair on top. His radio was playing some tune by Merle Haggard. He had fair skin and red hair. He had a funny smile and a dry wit. By that time, Bob was close to fifty-five years old and going on his fourth wife, Caroline. Caroline had been with Bob a few years now. Bob loved driving through California; he loved the scenery and the vast endless miles of golden fields.

We continued up north on I-5 towards the Delta. The farm land stretches for miles on the river. I swear that I had never seen such vivid yellow, orange or purple shades of color as with those nights spent on the Delta. We talked about the Giants and A’s, talked about politics; we talked about Ronald Reagan. We stopped at a tiny local grocery store and got some bread, cold cuts, potato chips, cereal, milk, beer and some fruit. Dusty covered country roads were dotted with migrant workers working in the fields, wearing hats to protect themselves from the hot sun. It was beautiful this day with our adventure. We took I-5 to the Hood Franklin Road, cut west to River road and over to the Clarksburg marina. We reached the marina right around 4:30 P.M. An old hound dog started barking and jumping around, howling at my uncle and his car. We found a parking spot close to the Anna Mae. Locals wearing baseball hats and drinking coffee, smoking cigarettes and drinking beer hung out on the docks, looking at my uncle’s car as we pulled in. There were a few people at the docks; big boats were floating in their slips.

My uncle would keep his boat up on the Delta from early summer until late fall. He liked the Anna Mae closer to Atherton in the winter months. At Coyote Point, he could take Anna Mae out in the bay, or go out into the Pacific and fish through the potato patch and chase salmon. The drive from Atherton to Coyote Point was about a half hour. My uncle loved to play golf on the Poplar Creek golf course. He’d go play eighteen holes and then walk over to the boat at Coyote Point. The golf course was located just a few yards away from the marina, after playing golf he’d go take the boat around Alcatraz, or maybe out to Treasure Island. My grandfather (Bob’s father) had served in the Navy and was stationed at Treasure Island back in 1918. He’d cruse around the bay, and go cod fishing. He loved the sea.

My uncle Bob was a well-read man, having served in the Air Force, going through Air Force intelligence training he served in the Black Ops division of the Air Force from 1948-52. He worked in Air Force intelligence, out of the Air Force he started working for A.T. and T.; he got into management within the phone company in the early 1960’s.

Lying on the floor of his car was a book; he always had books by his side. Bob suggested that I started to read Hemingway, Fitzgerald, and John Steinbeck back when I was in eighth grade. I use to sit in his home in Atherton and read Hemingway; I remember reading “The Sun Also Rises” at his place. He loved American authors; he once gave me a copy of “The Paper Lion” when I was twelve. I remember him reading “The Godfather.”

Bob was a bit cantankerous at times; he liked a beer or two and liked his cigarettes, when he smoked his cigarettes, he would hold them in his fingers and twist them in a way while holding them, twisting them around in a manner in which it looked like he was almost painting words with his hands and his cigarettes. Bob always liked me.

When we parked Bob pointed down to the boat ramp and there sat Anna Mae. She rocked a bit, glistening in the sun. I hadn’t seen her in a few years; she hadn’t changed. She was clean as could be, I smiled at Bob. This would be a fun trip. He locked up his car and made sure he had everything he needed.

‘She looks great Bob!”

We swerved around the hound dog barking at us, walked down to the ramp, our hands full with our supplies. We reached the boat, crawled over the side, unzipped the canvas protecting the cabin and went down inside the boat. We put some of the supplies in the fridge located in the tiny kitchen. We finished putting everything away; making sure the cabinets were battened down. The sun was starting to set; we checked the pumps, fuel and fluids, emptied the toilet and started her up. We let her run for a few minutes. Everything was set for the float down the Delta. We’d start out the next morning; we’d start out around 8:00 A.M. or so. I threw my things in the bottom bunk. Bob was out on the back of the boat sitting in the sun. A cooler was full of pop, juice and beer. He was talking to somebody standing on the dock. He had grabbed a Coors and was tweaking at a smoke; he threw on his lucky San Francisco Giant hat. Bob loved the Giants.

“Have a seat Grant”

I sat down and looked over the marina; it was a small marina, weathered and a bit worn with age. I waved to a few people standing up on the docks. There were eight or nine boats rocking in the water. The countryside consisted mostly of corn fields that stretched on both sides of the river. The landscape stretched on for what seemed for endless miles, crows squawkin’ in the air. The Delta looked inviting, green and blue with color, glimmering and shining, reflecting the golden-yellow colors of the endless corn fields. The hillsides to the west seemed to be further away than I can remember, they were colored golden dark brown.

I looked at him and laughed. I had started out that day with my mother dropping me off at the Portland International airport around 8:00 A.M. in the morning; the flight was quick, and I got to San Francisco International airport around 10:00 A.M. It was a beautiful sunny day in California. By 5:00 P.M., I was on the Delta, on the Anna Mae. How funny I thought, what a whirl wind!

I grabbed a soft drink and started to talk with Bob. Clouds started to roll in from the east; a small summer breeze picked up. The clouds were big, huge cumulus clouds rolling in, casting long shadows on the land. It was warm and beautiful. Bob pulled out his latest book that he had been reading. He held a copy of “Winds of War”, written by Herman Wouk. He loved his history with war.

“I love this boat Bob.”

Bob looked at me and laughed and gave me a nod. He beamed at me, looking like a pirate. He was content on his boat; the wind rustled his red hair.

“Are you hungry?”

I thought it over and decided I was.

I went to the kitchen and made a chicken sandwich, grabbed some chips and came back to sit with my uncle. We didn’t say much to each other, we were caught up in the tranquil setting, an hour or so drifted by and Bob decided to make some soup. He banged around knocking pots and pans, rustling through drawers in trying to find forks and knives. A few minutes later he returned with a cup of soup and sat down; half of his soup was on his shirt. The sun started to go down over the countryside. Long stems of purple, red and orange light illuminated the sky. We lit a couple of lamps that my uncle had tucked away in one of the storage bins. The water twirled and formed oblong shapes as the night set in, a couple of small bats darted by in the flicker of the lanterns, the light from the lamps twinkled in my uncles glasses. He’d look at me and smiled, he was happy on the water. He reminded me of an old sailor, of a salty dog, maybe an aged sea captain?

“Everything set for the morning, this should be fun Grant!”

“Yep, it should be just great Bob!”

Right around 9:00 P.M. or so the sun had started to set, and the darkness of the night surrounded us. Bob put on a jacket and started to look at the reflection in the lantern, memorized by the light casting shadows. I remember his profile and how he looked; he almost appeared as a ghost in a way, it was a bit eerie.

“Bob, can I ask you a question?”

He looked at me and blinked slowly.

“Sure Grant ask away.”

I fiddled around and finally asked him a question that had been knawin’ and knawin’ Bob looked at me and laughed and gave me a nod. He beamed at me, looking like a pirate. He was content on his boat; the wind rustled his red hair.

“Are you hungry?”

I thought it over and decided I was.

I went to the kitchen and made a chicken sandwich, grabbed some chips and came back to sit with my uncle. We didn’t say much to each other, we were caught up in the tranquil setting, an hour or so drifted by and Bob decided to make some soup. He banged around knocking pots and pans, rustling through drawers in trying to find forks and knives. A few minutes later he returned with a cup of soup and sat down; half of his soup was on his shirt. The sun started to go down over the countryside. Long stems of purple, red and orange light illuminated the sky. We lit a couple of lamps that my uncle had tucked away in one of the storage bins. The water twirled and formed oblong shapes as the night set in, a couple of small bats darted by in the flicker of the lanterns, the light from the lamps twinkled in my uncles glasses. He’d look at me and smiled, he was happy on the water. He reminded me of an old sailor, of a salty dog, maybe an aged sea captain?

“Everything set for the morning, this should be fun Grant!”

“Yep, it should be just great Bob!”

Right around 9:00 P.M. or so the sun had started to set, and the darkness of the night surrounded us. Bob put on a jacket and started to look at the reflection in the lantern, memorized by the light casting shadows. I remember his profile and how he looked; he almost appeared as a ghost in a way, it was a bit eerie.

“Bob, can I ask you a question?”

He looked at me and blinked slowly.

“Sure Grant ask away.”

I fiddled around and finally asked him a question that had been knawin’ and knawin’ at me for years.
at me for years.

“Bob, you served in the Air Force. What was that like?”

He looked at me and laughed, rolled his eyes and gave out a hoot. If he had been an owl, his feathers would have been ruffled by the mere mention with his involvement in the military. He rubbed his chin and rubbed his hands together in trying to stay warm. I looked at him; his whiskers stood up and made his face look scruffy.

“Well Grant I went into the Air Force in 1948; I had spent the first two years after graduating from Gresham High School studying and going to school at the University of Oregon, located in Eugene. I had studied business and due to lack of money, I enlisted in the Air Force. Back then they recruited me pretty heavily so I signed up, and I went in and was placed in Black Operations. Do you know what the Black Ops is?”

I had heard of Black Ops. I wasn’t too sure exactly what it stood for. The lanterns continued to glow as the night settled in, the darkness seemed to make things so much quieter. A couple of dogs barked, carrying their voices down through the corn fields and bouncing off the water. I looked at my uncle; his face was a bright orange from the lanterns.

“Back in 1946 I was stationed in Germany, in Berlin to be exact. I was working for the Air Force; I was basically a spy working for the U.S. government. I was given assignments, assignments in helping find and locate foreign agents and enemies of the United States living and working in Berlin, basically working for the communists.”

He stopped and stared at me. He cleared his throat and swallowed slowly. I blinked at him. He started to shake a bit. He looked out towards the corn fields, and then looked at me. His eyes had a look of pain.

“I killed people when I was in Germany Grant. I killed people that were dangerous.”

He blinked and took a drag from one of his trusty smokes. I looked at him as serious as I could.

“How many people did you kill Bob?

He thought a bit, looking to the heavens in trying to remember. He looked at me and stayed quiet.

“I figure I killed about ten or eleven people, spies and terrorists they were, out to steal documents and information, some were out to kill us!”

I stayed quiet for a minute and let him continue his train of thought.

“I was ordered to help find these people; many had been working for the Nazi’s near the end of the war. Several former Nazi’s were in Berlin after the fighting stopped.”

There was a moment of silence.

“How did you kill them Bob?”

“I was ordered to go out in the field and hunt and locate these people down. Along with counter intelligence we would locate and try to help capture and hold them captive with war crimes they committed. A few times we were forced to kill them. At times we’d have to chase them down dark allies, or track them down in old bombed-out buildings, or maybe chase them into East Berlin. I was forced to kill them. There were times when we had them cornered, we had no choice. They tried to shoot their way out while we chased them. Several times they would try to resist us.”

He looked at me, he started to shake.

“I was forced to shoot people Grant. I usually carried a 45 caliber revolver.”

It seemed to get darker and quieter as we spoke, almost as though others were listening to our conversation as his conversation got more intense. He looked at me and excused himself for a moment.

“I need to go squeeze the lemon.”

I was fascinated by some of the things my uncle would tell me, especially that night. He came back a few minutes later and past some gas and laughed at the sound it made.

“Buck snort!”

“I was stationed in Berlin. It’s where I met my first wife, her name was Katie. She was German; I was twenty three at the time. I loved her very much; I was too young to fall in love then and didn’t realize it. She was born in Berlin, and we met when I was stationed in the city. She was young, around eighteen; she fell for me. I married her; we had a small flat. At the end of my hitch we decided that we would come back to Oregon, I would finish school in Eugene and then settle down and raise a family.”
He looked at me and smiled.

“Things changed when we came back to Oregon, back to Gresham. I bought a small home and within a couple months I found her in bed with another man one night, the next day she was gone. She ran away with him, and I never saw her again. She hadn’t been in the states more than a month. She used me to get to the Unites States I figured. My dreams and plans changed after that.”

I stared at him. I didn’t really know what to say.

“Yes, I killed men who tried to kill me and other allies working in Berlin at the time, men we corned down like drown rats. We’d track ‘em down, they’d shoot at us. We shot at them, shot them after they fired at us first! I had no choice! What was I supposed to do? We had no choice!” He stared out into the night. He started to sob. I felt sorry for him.

“You were only doing your job Bob, don’t cry,” I patted him on his shoulder.

“Yeah I guess you’re right. I hate knowing I killed people. It’s something I’ll always have to live with.”

A sudden hush settled in. I heard a pheasant dart off out of the brush. The moon was big and bright; soon it was around 10:00 P.M. I started to rub my eyes; I was tired.

“Bob, Bob can we will continue this talk tomorrow? I’m a bit tired,” I asked.

“Sure Grant, get to bed. The bunks are ready to go. Have a good night sleep.”

I crawled down through the cabin, headed down the stairs that led me to the friendly inviting beds. I changed, brushed my teeth and crawled into the lower bunk; the covers felt nice and warm. I looked up the stairs and could see Bob’s face as he stared out in the night. He was rubbing his eyes, trying to dry the tears. He was talking to himself, mumbling a bit, dealing with his demons in Berlin; I watched him for a while. I fell asleep listening to the sounds of the night. An hour or so later I heard Bob bumping around trying to find his bunk. He fell into his bed with a thud and snoozed through the night. I loved Bob; he fell asleep with his Giant hat on.

The next morning I woke up, the sun was shining bright as I rubbed the sleep from my eyes. I couldn’t remember where I was. Oh yeah I was on the Delta. I threw on my clothes and found a Cheerios cereal box and poured some milk, poured some orange juice and pulled a cinnamon roll out from a sack lying on the kitchen counter. Bob rolled around and fell back to sleep.

I went out on the back of the boat and looked at the river; it was calm and dark; the wind picked up a bit; the sun had already risen in the east, and the morning sun felt wonderful. Shades of purple and lavender mixed in with green meadows that radiated, glowing in the early-morning light, the fields were full of butterflies and bees; a few cotton tails bounced around eating bits of grass.

I ate my cereal and turned on a small transistor radio that my uncle kept in the cabin. I found K.N.B.R on the radio. I listened to the news and surfed through radio stations trying to find some music. A few minutes later Bob poked his head out and ducked back to the kitchen. I could hear him fumble through slamming cabinets, opening coffee cans, pouring water and filling an old warn coffee pot full of water. He soon joined me out on the deck.

“How did you sleep?” he asked.

“I slept pretty well, pretty quiet.”

He rubbed his head and belly. He looked at me.

“Are you ready to shove off!” as he tried to clear his throat.

“Give me a minute or two Bob; I need to finish my cereal.”

“Wha?”

“Give me a minute or two Bob; I need to finish my cereal!”

He went down into the galley and started to shave his face; he came out on deck and finished off his morning ritual, cleaning off his face with a towel. He poured himself, some coffee and some cereal and stood there and ate looking at his maps. He planned on drifting down to Rio Vista, down to the Delta Marina the first day, maybe covering around forty miles or so. He made reservations in staying at the tiny marina in Rio Vista that night. The next day we would put in a stop around near Oakland and dock Anna Mae there for the night. The following day we would head over to Coyote Point. Bob was on his short-wave radio, one hand holding the hand set attached to the radio, talking with the harbor master in Oakland, arranging for us to get a space to park his boat the next night at one of the local marinas that Bob liked.

“You’re confirmed for the night Mr. Keltner,” barked the voice at the other end.

My uncle fired up the engines, hummed and started to sing a little tune as he checked the gauges, I released the lines, my uncle pulled in the anchor, and soon we were backing out of the moorage and drifting in the middle of the Delta. He waved to a few people on the docks and blew his horn; we headed south, floating along as we passed the brown banks of the river, drifting along dark-green lagoons that had big willow trees with long branches of green moss attached to them, we drifted past off shoots of the river, some that stretched on for miles, going by old farms that had cattle grazing; some of the cows would stop and stare, occasionally a car would buzz along the side roads that followed the river. The land reminded me of a Thomas Hart Benton painting.

The Anna Mae chugged along as my uncle settled in his seat commandeering his vessel. He looked proud and excited at the same time, like a kid opening a Christmas present for the first time. I laughed at him. He watched the river, looking at drifts and paying attention to the water, watching how it swayed and moved; he was good at gauging water depth. We passed small docks that must have been carved out during the early 1900’s, many of them were falling apart; old broken-down wood piers could be found along the river, as we made our way down south. Orchards ripe with apples, walnuts, pears and oranges sprawled out along the river banks. We drifted and floated down the river; the morning sun kept us warm.

I walked alongside the stern and made my way to the front of the boat. I waved at Bob as he looked at me through the front of the cabin window. He sounded his horn; it blasted down the river; the horn sounded so loud. We passed two or three boats; one boat was pulling a water skier; they waved as we passed them. Down we went, down the Delta. Acres and acres of land, corn, wheat, land for grazing, land for planting, lots and lots of land. The skies rambled on for miles; the mountains located to the east were off in the distance, golden brown with color.

Bob waved at me and pointed at the steering wheel.

“Do you want to drive?”

“Sure!”

“Wha?”

“Sure!”

I worked my way back to the cabin, and he allowed me to sit in his swivel chair and steer the boat. He reminded me of where the port, starboard, stern and bow were located. The Anna Mae was a fine boat, and really had a sturdy strong engine. Bob started to tie fishing lines, long three-foot leaders with wiggle warts attached to the end on each leader. He put some smelly jelly on the wiggle warts and threw a line out as we bobbled in the drift down the river. Bob loved to fish, he’d fish for salmon, rock cod, white fish; you name it, and he loved it all. He left his line out for an hour or so.

Soon a bright yellow biplane showed up in one of the corn fields that we were passing through; he started spraying in a certain area in the field, and then the tiny bi-plane would fly off and maneuver around in a circle and start spraying in another area in the field, continuing this pattern until we passed and the little plane became a small dot in the air. Bob noticed the end of his fishing pole; its tip was bending down toward the river, bouncing with activity.

“Fish on!” yelled Bob.

He grabbed his fishing pole and tried to set the hook, lifting up on the pole and trying to set the sharp shiny hook as quickly as he could.

“It’s a salmon!” cried my uncle.

You could see the excitement on his face. Sure enough he had hooked what looked like a twelve-pound salmon. It was putting up a great fight. The handsome fish jumped in the air a few times, tossing his head back and forth.

“You got him Bob, ya’ got him!

“Yeah, Yahoo, yippee!” yelled Bob.

Bob reeled in the salmon; it kept fighting until he was too tired to fight; soon it was next to the side of the boat flapping its tail, banging his fins against the boat.

“Grab the net!”

I ran over to the side of the boat and found the fishing net; I dipped it in the water and tried to scoop the fish’s tail into the large green net; he wiggled and tossed around and finally fell right into place; I pulled him up and put the net on the deck while he flicked his tail.

“It’s a buck and he’s clipped, he’s a keeper!” cried my uncle.

I grabbed the salmon and whacked him on top of the head with a wooden mallet that my uncle handed me. After a few knocks on the head, the fish became still, a small amount of blood came from his mouth. It was a fine fish. It was around 1:00 P.M, and we had caught our dinner for a few nights. It would make a fine meal. My uncle was in his own little world when he fished, he taught me how to tie knots, taught me about line weight, about corkies and yarn, about spinners. He loved every minute of the trip. I cleaned the fish, and soon had it covered with olive oil, garnished with chopped onions, garlic and I added a bit of lemon wrapped it in aluminum foil. I put the fish in the fridge; we were sure to have a fine feast. I threw the remains of the fish in the water.

A few hours later we reached the small, weathered marina for the second night. We drifted down the river taking about seven hours with the first part of the excursion. We’d hold up at Rio Vista. The docks were pretty small, up along a beat-up bank, up along the river where it was deep and opening up to a wide area for the moorage, a perfect place to rest the second night. A large brown meadow ran along the side of the marina; I saw what looked like pheasant fly out from a batch of long tall weeds. A few wild cats ran around the docks, eating scraps of fish that had been recently cleaned.

I threw one-half of the fresh salmon in the oven along with making a small salad and toasted some French bread, within an hour the salmon was ready, and we ate like kings. I grabbed a couple of beers from the cooler. The fish tasted wonderful; it was flaky and light to the taste. I love salmon. I cleaned up as Bob sat back on the porch. I handed him a beer, and we chatted through the night.

“Bob, so after your first wife left you what happened then?”

“Well, well I was in Gresham; Katie bolted, and I was left in the cold. It hurt. I had started working with A. T. and T. in the local sales department and asked for a transfer down to Scottsdale, Arizona, that would have been back in 1960 or so. That’s where I met June, my second wife.”

As a kid I loved his wife June, she was great. I remember her being in my life at an early age, and she was always so kind to me. She listened to Johnny Cash back then, along with Credence Clearwater Revival. When I visited Bob and June in Arizona as a kid, she took me on my first horse ride and was always looking out for me. She was great. She couldn’t have been kinder to me if she tried.

“Well June and I moved up to the bay area in 1966 or so from Scottsdale, up to San Jose, California, and we got a place up near Saratoga Avenue. We lived there for about three years or so then bought a day light ranch out east of San Jose, yes it was a great home on a huge lot next to golden fields that rambled on for miles. It was beautiful up in those mountains back then; wildlife was abundant. I’d go hunting for chucker’s and pheasant, up in those hills looking east to Fremont.”

“I remember the house Bob; it was a great home!”

“Yes it was, why you visited there a few times, didn’t you? Didn’t you like the yard and the view of the bay?”

“Sure did Bob; it was a fine yard, it was a fine time, it was a great time to be living in California. I can remember the view looking north, the view of the bay.”

I remember that June and Bob stayed married for about ten years or so, the marriage fell apart around 1974. I was saddened by the news, seems like times had taken a toll on their relationship, and they split up. June had been married before meeting Bob and had a daughter by the name of Belinda, she was really kind to me, and she was one of the first kids that I knew who liked the Doors. She had posters in her room of Jim Morrison. Bob and June adopted Sheri (their second daughter) around 1964; she was a beautiful girl and loved both Bob and June, and they treated her like one of their own. I know the divorce hurt her; I always enjoyed my time with Sheri.

“I liked June a lot Bob.”

He looked at me and shrugged his shoulders.

“Shit happens Grant; I blew that relationship with her. I should have been more patient. I shouldn’t have been so insensitive about things. I grated on her like a chalk board at the end of our relationship.”

I nodded my head.

“After you divorced June you were single for a year or so and then you met Lucille back in 1975 or so didn’t you?

He started to laugh. He looked towards the heavens.

“You do have a good memory don’t you Grant? Yes, we met back in 1975 or so, she worked for the phone company, and we soon got married and bought the home up near Los Gatos, up near the golf course. Do you remember that place?”

“I sure do Bob. It was a great home, built right on the sixteenth hole, right on the Los Gatos Country club; it was about an acre or so wasn’t it? It was a big home, and if I remember Lucille had two daughters who lived there with you.”

Bob looked at me and shrugged his shoulders.

“We didn’t get along too well. I think the marriage lasted two years at the most. We split and sold the home and that’s when I bought the condo in Los Gatos.”

I looked at Bob.

“Maybe you should have married Elizabeth Taylor.”

He laughed and just about fell off his chair. I usually could make Bob laugh.

“Yep I remember Lucille; she was pretty tough, and not very friendly at times was she, kind a bit of a screamer and a control freak?”

He laughed and nodded.

“She wore on me, I’m sure I wore on her. I didn’t have much patience with her. She was a bit of a nag. I don’t do very well with a woman who yells. I’m sure I gnawed at her as well, matter of fact I know I did. I guess I should have never married her.”

I started to laugh. I looked at my watch and decided to head to bed. He looked at me and gave me a smirk as I shuffled down towards the bunks.

“It was a great day Bob!”

“Wha?”

“It was a great day Bob!”

I changed my clothes and crawled into bed. Bob stayed out on the back of the boat. I could hear him talking to himself. He mumbled and looked at the moon; soon I fell off to sleep. The next morning I looked over to the other bunk and there was Bob, his back turned to me snoring. He had a blanket wrapped around his body; his feet were stickin’ out.

I got out of bed and grabbed the cereal, made some strong coffee and went out on back of the boat. It was a clear morning, bright, no sign of a cloud in the sky at all. The stars and stripes flapped in the air as I fumbled for my cereal bowl. Blue Jays and sparrows flew through the air, swerving in all kinds of directions. The tiny marina was pretty little; it had three or four boats floating in a few of the slips. There was a gravel parking lot off the docks, there also was a small old rickety grocery store up off the ramp, I jumped out onto the dock and walked through the parking lot, over to the grocery store. I went in and a little bell started to ring as I opened the door, I grabbed a Chronicle; I paid for the paper and went back to the boat. I opened the sports section and glanced at the baseball standings, finished off my cereal and had another cup of coffee. Bob soon appeared; he looked worn, and his hair was messed up; his glasses sat slanted on his face.

“Morning Bob,” I said.

“Morning there Grant!”

“The Giants won last night!”

“Wha?”

“The Giants won last night!”

Bob walked down and fixed cereal and poured some coffee and grabbed a cinnamon roll. He snatched the business section and glanced at some stocks he was working with. Bob was smart ‘ol Bob was; he had worked himself up with the telephone company. By 1982, he had been working for the phone company for almost twenty-some years. He was good with management; it was a stressful job. He had come back after his tour of duty, finished up getting his Business degree from the University of Oregon. He moved up the ladder into management, transferring to the bay area in 1967. I think he moved to the bay area so he could be closer to my father. They were such great friends; they were inseparable.
Bob started the engines and looked at me.

“Let’s get going Sunny!”

I jumped on the dock and pulled in the lines. Bob got the anchor. He drove us out onto the main drift. We started to head down south down towards Collinsville. The countryside now started to show more signs of homes and warehouses spread out on the land; the river unveiled more signs of development as we started to head down the Delta. It got hot, hotter than usual, around 11:00 A.M. it got to be around 93 degrees before noon. I looked at Bob; I could see that he was getting hot around the collar.

“Bob, Bob why don’t you stop the boat, I want to jump out in the river and cool off.”

Bob looked at me and turned the engines off. He threw out the anchor. We came to a stop in a wide section of the river. I put on a life preserver and got on the back of the boat. I looked at Bob waved and jumped in. I could hear Bob laugh as my head bobbed up out of the water. The water was fine, just right. I could feel a current down about six feet from the top of the water; the current was cooler than the rest of the water and felt cool on my feet.

“The water is great Bob!”

I started to float down river, treading water, floating on my back. I floated into adrift and went by the Ana Mae. I swam back up the river towards Bob.

“It’s perfect, the water is just fine.”

I loved the Sacramento Delta; it’s such a smooth river, with cool drifts that felt great in the hot summer. Bob picked up the sports section of the Chronicle; he loved sports; he liked the Giants and A’s. He had taken me to an A’s game back in 1970. He liked to grin at me once in a while, making funny faces. His arms and face were getting red; he started to put sun tan lotion on his arms, then his face. He left some of the soothing while lotion on his face. About fifteen minutes later I crawled back onto the Anna Mae. He handed me a towel and started to pull in the anchor.

“That felt great! The water was perfect.”

Bob started up the engines, and we floated down towards Collinsville. By the late afternoon, the sun started to cast long shadows. The hillsides towards the east were painted golden brown. I could see the lights of the bay off in the distance. We started to see warehouses and large docks, weaving through the Delta we went, massive barges and ships carrying cars passed us along the river. It reminded me of rush-hour traffic. Oil refineries belched smoke in the air; the river had become very active. Ships carrying wheat, barges piled with gravel were tied up to the docks that stretched for miles. We passed under the Martinez Bridge; the bridge rattled with rush-hour traffic.

We came to one of my favorite sites on the river; the U.S. Navy has at least one hundred or so ships tied up near the a town called Benicia, located down under the George Miller bridge, located on the north side of the bridge, where it gets big dark and wide, these huge boats are tied up and stretch out down along the river for what seems forever. They all mothballed, stretching east along the delta. I’ve never seen anything like it anywhere. We cruised towards the boats, aged battleships, transport carriers and destroyers. Row after row of these old ships, worn, each one must have had its own story to tell. Some of them were missing parts, several had rusted hulls. It was such an amazing sight, especially drifting by these old ghosts in the Anna Mae.

We traveled through busy sections of the Delta without a hitch, not too much traffic through this stretch of the trip. The fog started to roll in over some of the hills as we approached Pittsburgh and Suisan Bay.

Shortly, there was the San Francisco Bay in full view. We headed west out into the bay; it seemed to open up like a popup book, it was so big and blue, the sun bouncing off the water. We cut through the small waves, almost bouncing in rhythm at times. We started out around the north side of Alcatraz; we soon approached the historic island and gazed in wide wonder. Looking towards San Francisco there sat the Golden Gate Bridge, beaming proudly as we spun past her, I could see Sausalito off in the distance, and I could just make out and see the Presidio and Chrissie field. We cruised around the west side of Alcatraz, and headed down towards the Bay Bridge, down towards Oakland. San Francesco sat to the west, big, tall, and wide. It’s such a great city. The skyline was beautiful, the Transamerica tower and the financial district stretched up to the sky; the Bay Bridge sprawled out to the south; Treasure Island wrapped around the west side of the bridge, abundant with green foliage. I love Treasure Island it has so many things that I enjoy, the naval yards, and the gigantic eucalyptus trees.

“We’ll stay in Oakland tonight. We’ll tie up at the Alameda Marina.

“That sounds good to me Bob.”

“Wha?”

“Never mind!”

I grabbed one of his maps and tried to see where we were, trying to see if I could find the location as to where we were going to spend the night. About an hour later Bob started to head towards a marina located on the west side of Oakland, down through a long narrow slough; you could see the lights of San Francisco to the west and Treasure island; we passed along a few docks, and then we pulled down a row of boats; Bob parked the Anna Mae into a vacant slip. He turned off the engine and winked at me; we seemed to just float on the water, a few seconds later we drifted perfectly into place.

“Smooth as silk,” laughed Bob.

Bob was always proud of being able to navigate his boat. Ramblin’ and tamblin’ down the river. He had been traveling to the waters of the Delta for almost ten years by then, a true veteran of the river. He liked to hang out in Oakland; it was a great city. He knew where to go, he knew people with other boats in the city. He loved Jack London square, loved to read his beloved stories. We tied the boat up at the docks and walked down a ramp that led us to a local bar and grill. We meandered around and found a seat tucked away in a dark corner with a view looking out to the west, looking out towards the bay.

Bob ordered cheeseburger and fries and had a beer; I ordered a club sandwich and a coke. We talked about heading out towards Coyote Point. We’d be there in the middle of the afternoon he figured. We ate and watched an A’s game. We headed back to the Anna Mae. He grabbed his smokes and sat down in the back of the boat. I sat next to him. It was dark, and the lights of Oakland lit up the sky.

“So Bob after you divorced Lucille; you married Caroline.”

“Yep I met Caroline back around 1977 or so. I’ve been with her for five years now.”

By that time, Bob and Caroline were living in Atherton, California. Both were working for A.T. and T. She was good to Bob, was born in Oregon and had moved to California when she was young, she watched after him, and made sure he was well fed. I don’t think my uncle could live without a woman in his life; he wasn’t raised that way. She could be stern with him, caring and loving as well. They were a cute couple. She had been married when she was younger, divorced and met Bob. She had a daughter by the name of Elizabeth. Elizabeth and Bob were great friends. Bob looked after her and helped her through her schooling; she was like a daughter to him. They got along fine. The night started to surround us once again. Bob peered out and looked out at the bay, always twirling his cigarettes.

“So Bob you’re on your fourth wife now, do you think this will be the last?”

He rubbed his head and laughed.

“Who knows; I love her and she’s kind to me. I hope this one sticks.”

I shook my head and nodded in agreement. I went to bed and looked forward in seeing Coyote Point the next day. During my sleep, some of the big ships blasted horns in the middle of the night that woke me up. The sea breeze swept through the boat, rustling up some of the newspapers that were left on one of the bunks. I fell back to sleep; I slept like a log that night; I was woken up early in the morning, right around dawn as I watched Bob dart up to the cabin, his trusty short-wave radio was blaring; a voice was at the other end. It was my father talking loud as could be.

“When are you guys going to be at Coyote Point?”

“Hey Glen, we’ll be there around late afternoon, say around 3:00 P.M. or so. Why don’t you bring your sticks and will play nine holes at Poplar?”

“O.K. See you then, over, out Roger that captain hook!”

I looked at Bob, and he was laughing; I could tell he was hungry. He headed to the kitchen, found some brown eggs in the fridge, poured some oil in a pan and cooked them sunny-side up; he also made some toast and poured a bowl of cereal. We ate and listened to the radio. The skies were clear; the water was a bit choppy from the wind, seagulls darted by, come to think of it I never had seen gulls in what seemed as though that they were frozen in the air watching us as they glided in flight. There was a lot of activity at the docks that day, people talkin’, squawkin’, shoutin’, drinkin’ coffee, and starting their big boat engines. I could smell the mixture of fish and exhaust in the air; it was around 7:30 A.M. or so. Horns blared and soon we were heading out of the marina.

The water stretched out towards the bay, down towards the south. We floated along, out to the west side of the bay, following the peninsula. Soon, there was Coyote Point off in the distance a couple of miles away. It looked inviting, surrounded by large trees. I looked at Bob, and he smiled; we were almost there! There were a few boats circling around us in the water, sail boats, a few catamarans, it was a great day to be out on the bay.

“Hand me the binoculars would you Grant?” asked Bob.

I fumbled around inside of the cabin and found his binoculars. The U.S. Air Force emblem was affixed to one side of the binoculars.

He grabbed them from me and started to look out towards Coyote Point.

“Looks excellent, I can see the marina, looks like everything should be good to go Grant!”

I was excited as we wound up our trip; it was a great ride. I started to clean the galley, make the bunks, clean off the deck, grab garbage and sack everything up. Bob sat behind the wheel of the Anna Mae, smiling as we started to head into the marina.

“Don’t go swimin’ with bow legged woman,” Sang my uncle as we made our way to Coyote Point.

There was my dad standing by his 1965 Mustang, laughing and waving at us as he waited in the parking lot. The top was down, and he was dressed in his golf duds. My uncle waved and started to slow the Anna Mae down to a crawl; we headed towards the marina, down towards a slip that my uncle had moored his boat at several times before through the years. We came to a stop. My father walked down the boat ramp and climbed on board.

“Well you guys made it! How was the trip!” he exclaimed.

“Fine just fine,” I replied.

“Grant was a big help; we caught a salmon, and we caught a keeper!”

My father beamed when he heard the news. He sat for a bit and talked with Bob as I grabbed my belongings and put them in the back of my father’s car. I went back to the boat; it was decided that they would go play nine holes of golf, and I would stay on the boat. My uncle went down in the cabin and came back with his golf clubs. They walked up the ramp and headed over to the golf course. I sat on the Anna Mae and listened to the radio, read a book and took in the beauty of Coyote Point. A few hours later my father and uncle were back at the boat; they looked tired.

“How was your golf game?”

“Your father beat me as usual; he always beats me at golf!”

We made sure everything was locked tight on the Anna Mae. I zipped up the leather covering that surrounded the cabin, checked the lines and made sure everything was turned off. We jumped in the car and drove over to Atherton; Bob got out of the car and grabbed his things. I gave him a hug and thanked him for the great time; Caroline was standing in the doorway waving at us. I waved back and then in no time my father, and I headed back over to Half Moon Bay.

My father died in 1994 of complications from a stroke; my uncle Bob died shortly about two years later, they’re both buried at the Golden Gate National cemetery located in South San Francisco, buried next to my grandmother and grandfather, not too far away from Coyote Point. As I said before my uncle Bob was really close to my father, I think that when dad died, part of my uncle died as well. I’ve been told that can happen sometimes.

Bob died in the late summer in 1996; he died early in the morning, right around 4:00 A.M., his body had been shutting down on him the last couple of years. I was in Portland, Oregon at the time that he passed, fast asleep in my bed. I’ll never forget what happened early that morning. I was woken up after hearing my uncle’s voice as clear as a bell while I was asleep in my bed, I was startled when I woke, I woke up exactly at 4:00 A.M.; I could hear his voice clear as a bell, it was frightening in a way; I could hear him saying good-bye to me believe it or not. You might think I’m crazy, but I swear I heard his voice. I got the call from my aunt around 7:00 A.M. in telling me he had passed on.

“What time did Bob die Caroline?”

“He died around 4:00 A.M. Why do you ask?”

“Oh I was curious; I was just wondering.”

Bob and Caroline stayed married right up until he died, they had a few ups and down in their marriage, a few rocky roads, and a few mishaps along the way. I was happy they stuck together through the years. He had some rough seas with the woman in his life; a few heart aches here and there; I was happy that they found a way to make things work in their marriage. I miss Bob; I miss his love, friendship, his stories, and his laughter. He was a great friend, faithful to his country and loyal to his friends and family. Whenever I’m around water I think of Bob. I hope he’s at sea, floating in his beloved boat the Anna Mae.

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