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Scrappy & Me (Part 5)

This time I’m gonna talk about “Scrappy,” who got his nickname because he collected and sold bottles and cans at the camp ground near Lake Pillsbury, and maybe for other reasons, too. I'd see Scrappy picking up the garbage and the recyclables that the Yahoos from the city would leave. That part was easy. But Scrappy had a problem with Phil Mohica, a big Indian from Michigan who also collected bottles and cans and so they had a territorial dispute. Scrappy could only pick up cans under fear of death.

I liked Scrappy and had more work than I could handle on 320 acres known as Toe Head Flat above Lake Pillsbury. I asked Nick at Soda Creek if Scrappy was okay and he said, “Yes, except the doctor told him not to do anymore drugs or he’d die.” Scrappy had given up drugs to move in with Nick at the back of the store. When I offered him a job he jumped at it like an ex-tweaker rabbit. I paid him $20 an hour. He collected garbage on the land and he also organized the small pots with marijuana that I had. Forty acres was in Mendocino and two hundred and eighty acres were in Lake. One day, he went up to the top of the property, about 6,500 feet above sea level, where we had a fire lookout in case we had to evacuate, and also where I had been growing a big garden. I could straddle the county line, with one foot in Lake and the other foot in Mendocino. I was up there with Scrappy. We were both in my truck. I turned to him and said, “You’re in Lake and I’m in Mendocino.”

Right then and there he had a heart attack and died. I didn’t know what to do. I didn’t want the cops around. Hide the body? Take him to Soda Creek Store? “Oh shit, he’s dead, I said out loud. I kept working and while I worked I figured out that the only thing to do was to take Scrappy down hill. I had to put the seatbelt around him because he kept falling on the gearshift. Then his head began to bang against the window. I was afraid the cops would think I had beaten him to death, so I stopped and put a pillow between his head and the window.

I got down to Soda Creek and told Nick, “Scrappy is in the truck and he’s dead.” Nick says, “Oh,” and walks away. Nick’s son-in-law Big Mike comes out of the store and says, “Oh, bummer, I guess we should call the cops.” Nick comes out with Scrappy’s wife. Tears are running down her cheeks. She picks up his hand and holds it and she freaks out. By then, Scrappy’s hand was ice cold. Nick tells me that Scrappy has had heart attacks before. “Why didn’t you guys tell me,” I said. “ You all suck.”

I went up the road to my place and locked the gate so no one could drive in and rip me off and then I came back down again. At the store, there was a big jarhead cop, very cool and laid back. “What happened?” he asked. I told him exactly what happened, though I left out certain details. “No worries,” the cop says. “You did the right thing. Hang for a bit because the coroner is coming.” He gives me his card and says he saw a lot of death during Desert Storm.

Two guys in suits arrive in a mini van. They didn’t ask me any questions and the cops didn’t go up to see where Scrappy had his heart attack. I gave his wife $500—his “death benefits.” After that, she went out with a tow truck driver and moved up in the world.

I went back to my plants up on the hill and harvested soon after that. I have always thought of that crop as “Scrappy’s Crop.” Later, my wife and I enrolled in a class in CPR in Ukiah, so we’d both know how to try to revive someone who was having a heart attack. I didn’t realize it was an advanced class in CPR until the end of the session when the teacher handed out our certificates. So I can thank Scrappy for them, too. 

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