Where It All Started…
For those interested in learning the details,
Here’s The Whole Story…
A Short Story That Took A Long Time
The last time I was in Klamath was more than 50 years ago while on a family vacation when we camped on the Klamath River at the Chinook Trailer Park (now the Chinook "RV Resort") where Stacey Fisher was a teen-aged summer employee. On the last night of our vacation, I was standing on the dock watching the river flow by and Stacey approached from behind, putting his arms around my waist and his hands into the kangaroo pocket of my sweatshirt where I had put my hands against the evening chill…I got the thrill of my life when he grasped my hands as it was the first time ever that a boy had paid that kind of attention to me. Within a matter of moments my Mom called her kids in to dinner and then we left at the crack of dawn the next morning before Stacey had arrived at work…we were heading home and I was heartsick. My Dad took us just down the road to a little diner for breakfast but I wouldn’t get out of the car because I was crying…crying for the boy I didn’t get to say Good-Bye to. Mom said I cried half way home and we lived nearly 900 miles from Klamath so that’s a lot of tears.
A week after we got home my Dad came home from work with a letter addressed to me from Stacey. It had been sent to my Dad’s place of employment (the Los Angeles City Hall~where umpteen gazillion employees worked) in hopes that it would trickle down to the right hands and find me, which it did. The letter was innocuous enough and Stacey’s high school picture was enclosed but the words "I Love you" were written on the outside of the envelope (by Stacey or by young pranksters from the Chinook campground I may never know). Anyway, I would remember Stacey Fisher and the night he’d had his hands in my pocket for a long, long time, and I carried the memory of him somewhere in the basement of my heart until I got the call beckoning me back to Klamath to be a Camp Host at the Klamath River RV Park right on the river.
Fast forward 52 years…
When I got this Camp Host position at Klamath, I knew immediately I would have to check around to see if Stacey was still in the area. After hearing my ‘Stacey Story’ my friends jumped on the bandwagon and Googled him (found nothing) then checked the on-line white pages (still finding nothing). Upon my arrival, I began searching local phone books (a P.O. Box in Crescent City but with no address listed…how can you Stalk Someone Without an Address?), and then I began asking every local I met if they happened to know a Stacey Fisher. I told some of these locals about the ‘Hands In My Pocket’ story but I told many others, too…people from the RV Park, waitresses, gas station attendants, total strangers sitting around the campfire, anyone who would listen. Women told me stories of their lost loves in return and three of them promised to start a search for their old flames once they got home from their vacations.
My first hit was when one man I spoke with at a scenic overlook told me that he and his wife had gone to school with Stacey. His wife was nearer to Stacey’s age and he suggested I talk to her. He said she took a walk every morning on the south side of the river, out on the sand spit, her name was Diane and she had blonde hair. Next morning I’m at the sand spit looking for blonde Diane. It took me three mornings but I finally intercepted her as she came off the sand making her way towards the car. Explaining that I knew of her from her husband and that I worked at the RV Park where she stored her motor home (I had learned of this before actually finding her), I was able to overcome her apparent apprehension at having been accosted in the middle of the road by a total stranger in an old VW Camper Van. Our conversation quickly led to motor homes, the depressed economy and the price of gas. Before I knew it, I was saying how nice it had been to meet her and as I was driving away I realized I hadn’t even asked about Stacey. Well, Shoot! I’m thinking…now I’ll have to chase after her again.
We did eventually meet on several other occasions, Diane and I, and I’ve gotten to be quite fond of her. I came to learn she hasn’t really kept in touch with Stacey since her school days and she wasn’t able to fill in many of the blanks other than to tell me he was partial to jeans with rolled up cuffs and fast cars as a teen…he was pretty cool back then even though her dad stewed when Stacey came down their street revving his engine.
I struck gold when I finally asked the young waitress at our local Cafe if she knew someone by the name of Stacey Fisher. She said "Oh, Yeah, Stacey, He Comes in Every Morning About 8 or 9 O’Clock, Nice Man, Keeps To Himself, Drives A Blue Pick Up".
Well, Well, he’s still here after all these years! Everything inside me fluttered upon hearing this news.
And I’m sure you can guess where I was the next morning at 8:00 a.m….hunkered down behind a hedge with binoculars and my camera (can you picture this?) just down the street from the cafe. After a short time, out walks a not too tall, slightly pudgy, balding, flannel-clad, bespectacled man with a fairly long beard wearing jeans, a pair of suspenders and what I thought looked like a wedding ring and he was headed straight for the Blue Pick Up. I had the presence of mind (just barely) to snap a couple of shots which I put on Flickr so that my friends could see what all the fuss had been about.
I thought the waitress would probably tell him that a lady had asked about him (or maybe not) and I considered what I’d say if I ever got the nerve to approach him. But even thinking about approaching him after all these years caused my palms to go clammy. I had visions of approaching and blurting out ‘Remember That Night on the Dock 52 Years Ago When You Put Your Hands in My Pocket?’ and the next vision was of a man cautiously backing away while whispering ‘Who Is This Lunatic Lady?’ You see, I was still that 14-year-old-girl on the inside (not the mature and competent adult I like to think I’ve grown to be) and I could feel giddy just at the sight of the blue pick up parked in front of the cafe.
On one occasion I was just steps ahead of Stacey as we both walked into the local Post Office and I had the perfect opportunity to calmly turn around and say something to him…instead I put my head down as though I hadn’t noticed him, walked straight out of the building to the parking lot and into my van. I couldn’t seem to get enough air in my lungs, my head felt light, my mouth was cotton-ball dry, my peripheral vision was closing in on me and of course my palms were drenched. I was relieved just to reach my vehicle and hide myself inside.
Although I hadn’t yet mustered the courage to speak to Stacey, I continued asking locals if they knew of him. A young man who filled my propane tank, when asked, said he knew Stacey. "Good People, married to a big happy lady – they call her Mama Fish – works at Trees of Mystery…He lives just up the road, past Requa, past Minot Creek, next street on the right – way up at the end… big yellow house"…Repeating "He’s Good People".
Isn’t it amazing what people will tell you if you just stay quiet and give them the chance to speak?
Well, now I knew where Stacy lived and that he had a wife and I could go check this out if I felt the urge. (And Oh, Yeah!, I felt the urge.) Anyway, after receiving the info from the propane man and after having a serious heart-to-heart talk with myself about how ‘immature’ I was being and how there were actual laws against stalking, I decided to have a second go at approaching Stacey.
It was another two weeks before I got this second opportunity. Here was Stacey, entering the Post Office, this time three steps ahead of me, and I finally asked, ‘Excuse me, are you Stacey Fisher?’ To make a long story shorter, we stood in the Post Office talking for the next several minutes.Not only did he not remember a lot about Chinook Trailer Park, he didn’t remember me, my family, any of the kids that vacationed there or Johnny, the tall, dark and handsome kid who had worked beside him at Chinook that summer. I didn’t mention the ‘Hands In My Pocket’ incident, telling him instead that for some reason I had remembered his name all these years and thought I’d look him up now that I was back in Klamath for awhile.
I know now that my story had intrigued him because a week later he mentioned he’d looked through some old photos and he thought he had found a picture of me from that earlier time. He asked if I’d had blonde hair (I didn’t) but in another week, when I ran into him again at the Post Office, he said ‘I have something to show you’. And out he pulled from his wallet a small, faded photo bearing the words ‘To Stacey, Love Joan’. I had to tell him I wasn’t Joan, I wasn’t the girl in the photo, sending him on his way to further ponder who this crazy lady was that had wormed her way into his thoughts.
We continued running into each other at least once a week, sometimes more, usually at the Post Office or somewhere along the block that is Klamath’s downtown. I continued to see his blue pick up in front of the cafe most mornings, enjoying a little thrill each time I spotted it there. Once, as I sat sorting my mail in the Post Office parking lot, he bounced on my back bumper as a way of announcing his presence and another time swatted me on the arm with his mail as I walked by to pick up mine saying ‘Hey there, kiddo’…things he might have said and done as a teenager all those many years ago. I can’t begin to describe the effect these little actions had on me…but as insignificant as they might sound to a normal person, they meant everything to me and the 14-year-old that had returned to reside in my brain. He might as well have wrapped his arms around my waist and stuck his hands back into my pockets.
The day of his 69th birthday, instead of having his usual morning coffee with friends he walked into the cafe late (probably to avoid being fussed over for his birthday), just as I was leaving with two lovely campers from my RV Park. He asked if I wanted coffee so I sat back down and we talked for a few hours while the waitress and cook buzzed about what might be going on between us. Days later I asked if he had gotten any static from the community about being seen with me around town. He said that once as he entered the cafe, the cook called out "Hey, Stace, your girlfriend was in yesterday" to which Stacey simply proclaimed "She’s my Lady Friend".
Eventually we had some really good talks. On one occasion we sat for a couple of hours with feet propped on a plastic patio table during the heat of the day while taking a break from his mowing project, talking about events from that long interval between our first meeting and the present. He was married, had two grown children, three grand children. His wife still worked but he was retired and he had an obsession for race cars, hot rods and going fast. He’d spent his working years as a logger, cutting acres and acres of redwoods. He had a desire to be the best and fastest logger, and devised a way to install a go-kart motor on his chain saw, making him a strong contender for the best and fastest. He told of how he rescued and raised a tiny young flying squirrel that had been orphaned when Stacey cut down the tree that held its nest. Told of favorite pets that curled up next to his beard and slept there. I heard stories, many stories, some told a second time and I determined that he was a good man. On one of our talks I asked if he knew of anyone who could take me for a boat ride up the river so that I could do some photography in the pristine lands up there. I’d pay for gas if he could find someone to take me. We talked about gardening and canning the fruits and vegetables from the garden. Talked about how cutting the forests had altered the climate of the area. Talked about the Yurok Indians and the laws that allowed them to harvest salmon from the river using gill nets that Caucasians were not allowed to use even though the salmon numbers had dwindled to an all-time low. I talked about maybe buying a place in Klamath, he had a residence for sale and showed me the property. We were becoming better acquainted but never did we exchange phone numbers, relying instead on the accidental run-ins and I wondered if he even really knew my name, I had blurted it so quickly when I first approached him at the Post Office that time.
I had spent my first month in Klamath looking for Stacey and the second month getting up the nerve to introduce myself and start up a dialog with him. At the beginning of my third month, again as I was sitting at the Post Office making phone calls, Stacey pulled up in the blue pick-up stopping even with my window, shrugging his shoulders, palms up, asking ‘Well?’. ‘Well What?’ I asked back, prompting him to pump a thumb over his shoulder towards the back of the truck where I saw a boat on a trailer…did I want to go up river? I shouted that I had to go home and turn the sprinklers off and that I would meet him at the boat ramp. ‘Don’t forget your bikini’ he shouts back while driving off to launch the boat. His two little dogs came along for the ride and he complained that I hadn’t noticed he had trimmed off half the length of his long beard. This was the day after his 69th birthday and he had told me earlier he wouldn’t be shaving for anyone. The boat, he said, had been a ‘deal too good to pass up’ even though it wasn’t exactly the boat he had wanted. But here I was riding up river with Stacey and loving the ride, the scenery and the company. . .especially the company.
Another day…I am parked at the gas pump having just filled up. Stacey drives into the bay stopping directly across from my window and through his window hands me a plastic grocery bag saying ‘Now don’t drop it, its glass’. Looking inside I find jars and jars of peaches, pears, carrots, applesauce, pickles and albacore that he has canned plus the fattest cucumber I’d ever seen. ‘Its a care package for you’, he says. I had commented earlier on the difficulty of preparing home-cooked meals while living in a van. Do you see what I mean about being a nice man? I haven’t mentioned how he and his granddaughter quietly saved me a seat at the Senior Citizen luncheon where I knew not one soul other than him, or the bits and pieces of Klamath history and characters that he’s entertained me with. For a quiet man who ‘keeps to himself’ he’s been so very generous in giving me chunks of his time.
I’ve learned he usually wears a t-shirt with some silly saying or another and I’ve spun him around on occasion to read what funny thing he’s chosen to wear for the day. One shirt shows a spiky, jagged line running part way across the shirt before flattening out, then ending in another spiky, jagged portion. Under the line it reads “For Awhile There You Were Boring Me” (my personal favorite). Or the one I haven’t seen yet but he seems to be especially fond of, “I’m Not A Gynecologist But I’ll Take A Look”. Or the one he’s wearing in this photo, “I Like It When You ___ My ___”. I won’t even mention the “$5 Footlong” with the arrow. Yes, they can be called raunchy but one just has to snort out a chuckle before mumbling a disapproving ‘Oh, Stacey, Really!’. A quiet man, yes, but he can make quite an impact.
Other than co-workers from my RV Park, I don’t know many people in Klamath, at least not the kind of people I can phone and say ‘hey’ to. At home I could be doing something as simple as putting out the trash and end up making arrangements with a friend or neighbor to go for coffee, see a movie, hike a hill…any number of things. But here in Klamath there is no one to do that with except when friends come to visit (my thanks to all of you who have made the trek to Klamath!!! Barb, Howard, Rob, Mary, Joyce, Doris and then the Ignatius’s again, Mom, Cak, Jay, then Steve and Mark and later Kevin and Anne). So as I finish my fourth month here in Klamath I have come to cherish the few times Stacey and I have had together.
This week my family came to visit. They informed me they would not be going home until they had at least a ‘Stacey-Sighting’ so I took them to the cafe for breakfast (rather than have them hunker down behind that hedge down the street) and I was pleased when Stacey walked in shortly after. Not wanting to bother or embarrass him I asked if he would mind meeting my family and, good sport that he is, he agreed to meet them. We had a nice little chat and my family was exceptionally well behaved, perfectly following my adamant instructions…under no circumstance were they to mention anything about anyone’s hands having been in anyone else’s pockets (and that went for my 87 year-old-mother, as well). My sister, bless her heart, used her cell phone to snap a couple of pictures making it possible to wrap up my Stacey Story here on the Flickr web site.
So I have found my man.
We have sort of become friends.
And my Stacey Saga has come full circle.
Thank you Liz, Judy, Barb and Howard for the support and good wishes…and Steve, if you hadn’t insisted on ‘Stacey Updates’ I might not have gone as far as I did with this. . .but I’m so glad I did!
For any of you who may be reading between the lines and wondering,
there has been absolutely no inappropriate behavior.