MODESTO — From the emails, voicemails and other reliable sources:
A GREATER GIFT In April, I wrote about former Modesto firefighter Joe Mingham, who found a diamond bracelet in the sand while driving his quad. He and a state park ranger went out of their way to find the owner Robin Giranda of Orange County and he handed it over to her after Ciccarelli Jewelers buffed it back to life.
Of course, Giranda was thrilled to get a $7,000 bracelet back and vowed never to wear it while four-wheeling again. And Mingham felt a great satisfaction in returning the bracelet to its rightful owner. They have stayed in touch ever since.
Fast-forward to Thursday at the University of California at San Francisco Medical Center. That's where Mingham's daughter, Erin, gave her brother a far more precious gift: a kidney.
Justin Mingham, 32, was born with a genetic defect that eventually rendered his kidneys useless. Erin, 26, offered one of her own.
"It's been a long, long ordeal," said their mother, Shelley Halstead, a neonatal nurse at Doctors Medical Center in Modesto. "She did a very brave thing."
Both surgeries the removal of Erin's kidney and Justin's transplant went well. Both are home recovering.
Justin is one of 100 patients worldwide taking part in a study involving anti-rejection drugs. The hospitals at UCSF and Harvard are among the institutions involved.
A DEEP SUBJECT Each summer, I schedule a back-country trip into the Emigrant Wilderness during the first week of August. Why that specific week?
The mountain springs usually run at least until then, making water plentiful. Snowbanks offer a key ingredient for a margarita in camp each night. The mosquitoes can be a bit of a problem, but nothing that can't be deterred by a 97 percent DEET concoction.
This year, though, schedules demanded an earlier trip. Six of us went July 22. None of the springs were running not even at Spring Meadow. Ponds at the meadow's lower end turned brackish within a couple of days. We moved up to Upper Relief Valley. A snowbank that usually lingers until early August was long gone. (That didn't cause any particular hardship because the tequila already was gone.)
And nowhere were mosquitoes an issue. We applied the sauce perhaps twice the entire week.
In other words, water conditions usually found in late August or early September descended upon the high country by mid- to late July.
That, as folks in the mountains or valley below know, is never a good sign.
HORSE COURSE A story in The Bee on Saturday detailed the recent theft of saddles, tack and other items from the Modesto Junior College West Campus. As a consequence, the school faced the possible cancellation of its popular colt training courses. But that won't have to happen.
After Erin Tracy's story appeared, instructor Julie Haynes received numerous calls from people offering to donate items and spent part of Monday afternoon picking them up, said Mark Anglin, MJC's dean of agriculture and environmental science.
"The outpouring of support has been tremendous," he said.
Donated items are tax-deductible. Contact Haynes at (209) 575-6200 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
CASE CLOSED In July 2011, I wrote about 88-year-old Piara Johal, accused of killing his wife in 2008 but found mentally incompetent to stand trial after years of observation and examinations. Stanislaus County refused to fund a conservatorship. Rather than allow the case to be dismissed and Johal to be released to his family, Deputy District Attorney Beth O'Hara Owen and the other principals agreed to place him locally in a secured-perimeter facility. The case officially ended in June when Johal died.
BRAIN CRAMP In my July 20 column about NASA retiree Robert Tinkey and his friendship with Neil Armstrong, I wrote that Tinkey also met Armstrong's fellow historic moonwalk flightmates, Buzz Aldrin and Gus Grissom. Indeed, Tinkey met Grissom. But Grissom wasn't the third member of that crew. He'd perished in a tragic fire inside the Apollo 1 capsule in January 1967. Michael Collins was the third man in the Apollo 11 crew.
AUTHOR! AUTHOR! For those who read my Aug. 1 column about the sawmill-fed rivalry between Tuolumne and Sonora folks, author Mark Francis offers the history of the Standard Lumber Company in his book "Empire." The book focuses on the lumber industry from 1850-1900, the building of three logging railroads through 1920 and the history of the Browne family, which built the Empire Mill along the North Fork of the Tuolumne River near Long Barn. The book is available at the Tuolumne County Library and is for sale ($60) at Mountain Bookshop in Sonora, Railtown 1897 State Historic Park and Charlie's Books in Jamestown, and online at the Tuolumne County Historical Society Store.
Jeff Jardine's column appears Sundays, Tuesdays and Thursdays in Local News. He can be reached at email@example.com, @jeffjardine57 on Twitter or at (209) 578-2383.