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And Still They Howl

There was a time, and some of us remember it, when nightly howls echoed about the neighborhoods of Ukiah, howls intended as loud shouts of support for front line workers in the pandemic of 2020.

If it was ever a fad it no longer is, and anything trendy about it was over and done by July. Of 2020. Now we’re deep into 2021, the pandemic refuses to let go its grip, and the merriment of standing in the yard and baying at the skies to show solidarity for cops and nurses has cooled. Fun while it lasted but no one barks at the moon anymore. No one’s around to jump on a bandwagon that left the station a long time ago.

Almost no one.

Because somewhere out in the deepest darkest jungles of west Ukiah, the howls persist. Not only do the whooping cries erupt nightly, it’s as if the howlers punch time cards. Eight p.m. arrives and (Bing!) the howls ring out. You can set your watch by them. Compared with the punctuality of Ukiah’s nightly howlers, German train schedules are flexible and erratic, and Greenwich Mean Time is just a good estimate.

An initial “Oooowwooo!” kicks things off at 8 o’clock sharp, and following the initial call-out there often comes a chorus of accompanying responses that are either A) numerous and raucous, lasting perhaps 60 seconds, or B) puny or nonexistent. A lone howl might be repeated, again and maybe again, at which point the audio show is over for this evening.

Until tomorrow. And tomorrow and tomorrow. They never stop. Tomorrow’s nightly coyote calls are as sure to come as the sunset. If there’s been a missed performance in the past 16 months I didn’t hear it, which is a variation on the tree falling in the forest, except inside-out.

A few weeks back I went patrolling those darkened, overgrown neighborhood pockets in search of the mysterious team who devote their evenings, or at least a few minutes of each evening, to voice support, albeit brief, for those who continue to labor through the slog of months that today define an era.

They weren’t hard to find because they weren’t trying to hide. Those performing the nightly ritual remain a bit mysterious, but of course admirable. They come out nightly to stand up for the heroes who do the heavy lifting and dirty work associated with this ongoing COVID 19 daily, deadly aggravation.

The two nightly howlers salute the heroes among the cops and firefighters, doctors, nurses, motel maids, teachers. Me, I’d add supermarket clerks, cashiers, restaurant cooks and waiters, front-liners who receive neither the pay, the training nor equipment cops, docs and nurses get. Yet they stand all day in close, and at times unpleasant and dangerous, contact with whoever walks in the door, masked or not. Some for minimum wages.

The front-liners also work in in nursing homes, churches and retail shops. I’m here to dispute none of their hard work and to admire them all.

But I am here to also tip my cap and bow in the general direction of that specific west side home from which the nightly outbursts erupt nightly and promptly at 8. I find their dedication refreshing and their resilience well beyond the expected.

As mentioned, I met and contacted the pair, suggested an interview and maybe a photo or two. They demurred. I let it go, but a week or two later I saw them again and reiterated the idea that a nice feature story would be a fitting tribute.

This meant I’d made two offers to write a story, twice as many as usual, but they hemmed, after which they hawed and said they’d think about it. They probably have thought about it, but my phone hasn’t rung.

Maybe they’re shy, maybe they feel no need for public acclaim, maybe they have outstanding warrants or are in a witness protection program. It matters nothing to me.

Congrats to my yelping duo nonetheless. I salute your dedication and look forward to hearing from you tonight.

SERVING THE PUBLIC: Among the many places that are too expensive for you to visit, let alone spend several days eating and sleeping and loafing around is the Little River Inn over on the coast.

Luckily you can do the next best thing, and foot the bill for some of the wealthiest people in the county and state to visit there to eat, sleep and go to seminars and conferences. And that’s just what the Mendocino County Office of Education recently did, and then bragged about in a press release the Daily Journal ran a week or so back.

These administrative parasites that have burrowed into the public education system get phenomenal salaries, retirement packages that would bring many tears to your eyes, and then flaunt their expense accounts on what Michelle Hutchins, Superintendent of Mendocino Schools, called a “high quality experience with comfortable accommodations and excellent service.”

Why can’t desk bound administrators Zoom a conferenc, like they made our kids take classes all year?

(Special thanks to my pal Al, who alerted me to the school district’s expensive, selfish shenanigans. Tommy Wayne Kramer is the fictional sidekick of longtime local writer Tom Hine.)

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