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Sport 14: Autumn 1995


page 152


I grew up in an unincorporated area between Loma Linda,
San Bernardino, and Redlands, in Southern California.
Last year, when there was a ‘hostage situation’ on Gould Street,
One block over from my parents’ house, Dan Rather referred
To it as ‘a working class neighborhood.’ When I was young,
Before this sliver of fields and houses was annexed last year
By the city of San Bernardino, before an influx of Mexicans
And Asians forever altered the area’s ethnic composition,
Before the yuppies came in the seventies to take advantage
Of cheap housing and the sixty-mile commute to Los Angeles
And left in the late eighties when the bottom fell out
Of the real estate market, before my dad died last September
And my mother sold the house and moved in with my sister
In Idaho, before the world as we knew it then became the world
As we know it now, the area east of Tippecanoe, south of
The dry Santa Ana River bed, west of Lugonia Avenue,
and north of Devoll’s Market was known, to the locals, as Okieville.

It was a community populated by those who had headed west
During the Dust Bowl and thereafter, had migrated to Salinas
To pick lettuce and to Redlands to pick oranges and to pack
Oranges at the packing houses adjacent to the railroad tracks.
One of my grandfathers came west with the railroad and retired,
Disabled, in Okieville, after falling from a moving train car.
My other grandfather came to build houses and later built and
Operated a store, Campbell’s Shade Tree Market, a half block
From my old house on Hardt Street. The store is still there,
Or rather, the building is still there, a faded green now, an oddly
Rectangular edifice, long and green with a tall, thin intersecting
Rectangle of green on the right side that serves as a sign. My mom
Many years ago had painted a shade tree on both sides of the
Sign and carefully lettered the name of the market. There are still
Trees in the cracked blacktop parking lot, casting shadows, but
There are only weeds and an old tractor parked there under them.
The city has lopped off a section of the blacktop to make a crude
page 153 Drainage ditch, and the entire property is fenced off. Still,
Since my grandfather died and my grandmother moved north
To be taken care of by my cousin, the fence has been scaled
Several times, the back store door kicked in, and the store looted.
There is a trail of wet cardboard boxes and assorted wrappers
Leading from the store door to the fence, trailing off at the ditch.

I went back for probably the last time in December. My mother
Sold the house to a nice Vietnamese couple with one kid and
Another on the way. They agreed to keep our dog, an Australian
Shepherd, which was a relief to all of us. My niece had named
The dog Cutie, which seemed inappropriate for a male but which
Stuck nonetheless. However, when my dad took Cutie for shots
Sometime later and the vets asked for the dog’s name, my dad
Hesitated and then, apparently embarrassed, responded ‘Sheriff’;
Thereby, renaming him. We had a yard sale to make some money
And to get rid of a lifetime’s accumulation of tools and utensils,
books, wood scraps, fishing gear, weights, bags of fertilizer and
Cement, furniture, the broken lawn mower. The neighbors and
Collectors began gathering almost before dawn. Sheriff ran up
And down the front fence barking at them to no avail. They stood
Their guard, studying their watches and newspapers, waiting
For the moment we would open for business. I felt besieged and
Compared them to Penelope’s suitors in The Odyssey. My mom,
Better schooled in such matters, simply called them vultures and
Went about her business. The sky was overcast and a light drizzle
Was forecast. At seven a.m., I carried some last-second additions
Out to the patio. There I found an older Indian woman rummaging
Through a box. ‘Is 8 o’clock,’ she said, pointing to her watch.
‘Is not,’ I replied as I escorted her to the gate. All day long, they
Came, folks by the hundreds, friends, neighbors, acquaintances,
Collectors. My mom and my sister dealt good naturedly with the
Insistent bargaining. ‘A quarter,’ said a Cambodian woman from
Across the street. ‘No,’ my sister said, ‘It’s marked a dollar.’
Later, the same woman approached my mom, holding the same
Used telephone before her. ‘A quarter,’ she said. My mom shook
Her head no and continued talking to the Mexican couple from
Up the street. I stood at the gate totalling prices and collecting
page 154 Money, watching the swarms of buyers rummaging through the
Boxes of odds and ends that lined the driveway from where I
Stood all the way to the garage. Finally, almost a half hour later,
The Cambodian woman approached me, the telephone still
Clutched before her. ‘A quarter,’ she said. ‘Is only worth a quarter.’
I bit my lip and continued collecting money in a weathered manilla envelope.