Many years ago, I was very involved in the 4-H program. A highlight of the year was 4-H camp. This was held at beautiful Mendocino Woodlands east of the town of Mendocino. I had attended camp for as long as I had been a 4-H member. The last year I attended camp was when I was Junior going to be a Senior in high school. Over the many years I had looked upon favor of the older 4-H members. Now this year I was an older member and I enjoyed meeting all of the camp members, especially the ones who I had made friends with during the previous 8 or 9 years. I intermingled with my own age at not only camp but the local fairs and other 4-H events.
Camp was overseen by the University of California 4-H Farm Advisor. This last year it was a man named Frank Thomlison. We all called correctly by him Mr. Thomlison. One of the things that attracted me to him was Mr. Thomlinson’s belt and buckle. The leather belt was narrow, and the buckle was sized appropriately narrow. The face of the front of the buckle read, “CALIFORNIA AGGIES “which referred to UC Davis. I always planned on attending UC Davis. I just had to have the belt and the buckle. I had to devise a way of getting the belt and buckle off Mr. Thomlison. Looking back this was a gusty thing to attempt especially for a 15-year-old. I needed some help from some of my 4-H Camp friends. The first person I could think of was Bobbie Bishop. Bobbie belonged to the Mendocino Spartan 4-H club. Bobbie and I were the same age and mentality. Let’s plan on a fun wrestling match between Mr. Thomlison and a few of the guys. Bobbie‘s father was the postmaster of the Mendocino Post Office and if we got into serious trouble he just might bail us out. The second guy was someone named Leonard from Point Arena. The 4-H leader from Point Arena was Dorothy Halliday. Dorothy carried a lot of weight at camp and might just stick up for some unruly teenagers. Next was Jimmy Babcock from the Fort Bragg Club. This was really iffy, because Jimmy’s mother was a chaperon at camp and would not think well of our plan to steal a belt and buckle from the 4-H Advisor. The last of our motley crew was Bobbie Portlock from the Coyote Valley Club. He was a slight bit younger but would go along with us.
So, one afternoon we started horsing around with Mr. Thomlison, and sure enough with all four of us we got the belt and California Aggie belt end buckle off of Mr. Thomlison. I immediately put on the belt and buckle. I look back and wonder just what was going thru my head. I wore that belt and buckle all thru the rest of high school and my college years at UC Davis. When the belt wore out, I had another belt custom made to fit the narrow buckle. After another 30 or 40 years the belt again wore out and I put the buckle in my jewelry box on my dresser for safe keeping.
In 2017 we lost our home to the terrible firestorm. As we sorted thru almost no remains, I found a scared belt buckle. The front of it I could still identify it as California Aggies. No longer wearable the buckle now sits atop of a new chest of drawers in our new house. I think of Mr. Thomlison and the terrible thing I did to get the belt and buckle away from him. It’s too late to try to return it to him. I can only apologize for the actions of a couple of unruly 15-year olds.
To pay my penance for my action every year I donate to the Doctor Russell Preston 4-H Fund now held by the Regents of the University of California. As I have previously written Doctor Preston left a building in Mendocino to the Spartan 4-H club. Ultimately the money from the sale of that building still supports the 4-H program in Mendocino County.
I would gladly appreciate any other contributions from 4-H club supporters to donate to the Russell Preston Fund Regents of the University of California at 1111 Webster Street, 10th Floor Oakland, Calif. 94607.