Toad in the Hole

July 30, 2004

Hunting for Bear

On one of those whims that we've vowed to honor since Joe retired, we drove up to the Sierra foothills towns of Jackson and Ione Wednesday. The objective was a copy of Mr. Bear Squash-You-All-Flat, copyright 1950 by Morrell Gipson.

Got it, too. Bookfever has a stall in one of those collective antique stores in Jackson, and as they'd advertised at least two copies of the book on their site, I figured a smart marketer would have one there. Evidently the main physical location is a house on a dirt road off a side road off a highway between Ione and Jackson; there's a flock of wild turkeys visible in the Web site photo. As visits are by appointment, I'm lucky to have found my quarry in Jackson.

Mr. Bear Squash-You-All-Flat is one of those childhood dents I was amused to find I share with Gary Larson. The Little Wonder Book copy I has as a kid in the '50s is long gone, pulped or atomized in the general household maelstrom generated by six kids, some of them fairly destructive. (I still hold a grudge about my Farfel dog, with his moveable mandible. I have no one but myself to blame for the awful demise of Amosandra(tm), though; she was rubber, and sitting on my desk in the sunshine eventually caused her to collapse in a truly grotesque manner. I've never seen another like her, oddly. I'm afraid to Google for her, as then I'd find one and it would cost an arm and a leg and, oh, you know.)

We used to play I'm Mr. Bear Squash-You-All-FLAT!! sometimes, a game that involved sitting on each other the way Mr. Bear does on the teeny forest homes of the teeny forest critters in the book. I kind of had an advantage there, though my first younger brother was nearly as big as I was, so it wasn't much of an advantage. No bones were ever broken. Hey, kids were easily entertained back then. I guess.

I'll leave the Surprise Ending as a surprise except to mention that it involves technology, in a recycled way.

We're finding that the hardest part of getting out of the Bay Area for these trips -- Pescadero, Sonoma, the foothills, Lassen -- is getting out of the Bay Area. I-80's a mess no matter when we use it, and 205-580 through Stockton and Livermore was no better. I could froth on for paragraphs about the sprawl outside Tracy and Stockton and Livermore, but some other time. Dang but it's hard to see perfectly good habitat, including the residences of birds and beasts and plants I've known personally (with their families) over the years, give way to rank upon rank of stucco clones built to the lot lines.

Nina Paley has a point.

Posted at July 30, 2004 11:10 PM


Enjoyed reading your story and I'm really sorry we missed you (we were in Maui, doing lots of snorkeling and fish watching) but I hope you make it back this way again. Some people think that Highway 12 out of Fairfield and thru the Delta/Walnut Grove, Lodi, etc. is a good way to escape the traffic, although even on that route there are spots where it builds up. The turkeys have been rather scarce this summer (the dryness?) but they should be back as soon as it cools off a little - and the road here is a lot easier than it sounds.

We are in the process of doubling our booth size at Antiques Upstairs in Jackson - so come back and visit there again too -

Chris Volk

Posted by: Chris Volk at August 31, 2004 06:49 AM