Jeff Jardine

Animals along country roads near Oakdale offer photographic bounty

“Mary had a little ...” Oh, you know how it goes. This one was in a pasture east of Oakdale, a few hundred yards from where a flock of turkeys meandered through an almond orchard Monday.
“Mary had a little ...” Oh, you know how it goes. This one was in a pasture east of Oakdale, a few hundred yards from where a flock of turkeys meandered through an almond orchard Monday.

From the emails, voice mails and other sources:

CHECK THE CALENDAR, TOM – One of the best things about living in the Valley is that you never know what you’ll see along the country roads, and often the same one.

No, I don’t mean discarded sofas, televisions and tires. Sadly, there’s nothing surprising about illegal dumping.

I’m talking about the animals. One morning last winter, I photographed a black calf with a coat of frost across the top of its back and head in a pasture along Stearns Road north of Oakdale. On other occasions, I’ve seen pheasants in a field that had mounds of grass they’d turned into nests.

Monday morning, though, was the best: a flock of turkeys in an almond orchard along Stearns. I’d seen the birds many times before, but photographing them was difficult because some people drive that road, with its minimal shoulders, as though it’s the Autobahn. Before I could stop safely, park and get the camera out, the turkeys would vanish.

Not this time, though. With nine of them traipsing through the orchard and no cars behind me, I pulled over and started snapping. One tom was looking for a date, tail feathers all puffed out. The hens didn’t seem too impressed.

Nor, obviously, do they pay attention to calendars. Halloween is over. Guess which holiday is up next? If you’re a Merriam, its a good time to keep a low profile.

Photos taken, I got back into the pickup and continued south on Stearns. About 400 yards down the road, a very young lamb gnawed on a thistle plant in a pasture.

More photos. None involved mountain lions. Go figure. A great Monday morning commute to work, indeed.

TAXING THOUGHT – Lee Lundrigan, Stanislaus County’s top election official, forwarded an email from her counterpart in Santa Barbara County, Joe Holland.

While preparing to talk to a group of financial planners, Holland searched through a box of old documents looking for items of interest to include in his speech.

“I found a small stack of historical National and State Poll Tax receipts from the 1850s and 1860s,” he wrote. “I never realized that the State of California had poll taxes in its history.”

Poll taxes, in essence, charged for the right to vote.

“In searching the Internet for the talk about Poll Taxes,” Holland continued, “I discovered that in November 1914, California voters approved Proposition 10, which effectively abolished the Poll Tax in California.”

In fact, he points out, it happened exactly 100 years ago today.

DOUGHNUT WARS – This one came from Randy Siefkin, who taught government and politics at Modesto Junior College for more than three decades, and it has nothing to do with either government or politics and everything to do with doughnuts.

In a story in The New York Times’ Sunday California Magazine, writer Greg Nichols in great detail describes the doughnut duel between long-established Modesto favorite Mr. T’s Delicate Donut and newcomer Dunkin’ Donuts, the nationwide chain that moved in across the street and offers drive-through service.

You can find it online at

FRIGHT NIGHT – Last year, I noted that Modesto’s Bruce Klein wrote for The Bee’s Opinions pages about how a homeless dog named Chewy captured the hearts and imaginations of neighbors near Graceada Park. The border collie/St. Bernard mix’s story impressed a woman in the United Kingdom connected with Ebury and Ebury, a division of Random House. The publisher then contracted with Klein and his wife, Lauren, to write a book about the dog using stories from their neighbors. The book, titled “Chewy/The Street Dog Who Brought The Neighbourhood Together,” was published in England and Germany.

Then came Friday night ...

“Well, frightened by Halloween ghosts and noise, Chewy bolted and now is lost in Modesto,” Bruce Klein wrote in an email.

Anyone who has seen the literary canine star can email Klein at

AUTHOR! AUTHOR! – Former Modesto resident Vivian Hayes has published “Letters to a Lover” on Kindle. She based her book on letters written by her mom, Ofa Irvine, an artist who lived in Modesto in the 1960s and 1970s, to Hayes’ father, Michael Chepourkoff, in the 1930s. Hayes, who lived in Modesto from 1956 until 1960, found the letters among her father’s belongings after his death. The names were changed, Hayes said, but the story is true. Hayes is writing a second book, this one about her father, due to be published in July.

Bee columnist Jeff Jardine can be reached at or (209) 578-2383. Follow him on Twitter @JeffJardine57.