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Catching radio waves no day at the beach

Mike Drummond, Columnist
ALL | GrassValleyArchive

Every few months I ask the Cable TV Guy if his cables are anywhere near Clear Creek Ranch yet. The answer is always no.

The problem is population density. Not that certain members of the local population aren’t spectacularly dense. There aren’t enough of us with both TVs and visible means of support for the cable companies to build an entertainment superhighway offramp in our direction.

So we content ourselves with what comes in “for free” over the airwaves. On summer evenings this means sitting near an open window listening to our neighbors bicker. They could use a new script writer.



Explain radio waves to me. Apparently they come in “micro,” “short,” and assorted longer lengths and/or widths. Can’t some combination be nailed together to reach to the ranch? And from the direction I’d like?

For example, our old police/weather scanner keeps me current on a jaywalking epidemic 200 miles away on the coast, but the closest English language weather report is on storm fronts in British Columbia.




My wife doesn’t need a radio to determine temperatures and dew points. Nor does she need the comics section to get her first chuckle of the day. All she has to do for either is take a look at my hair.

Each night the Clear Creek Ranch Coif Pixies weave an original “doo” for my noggin. Given the sparse amount of material they start with, I am amazed at their creativity.

Most mornings, my undressed tresses resemble crop circles. At other times my morning fright wig does infinite variations on “man standing next to an electric fan.”

By sending me on short errands – the wood pile or the compost pile are her favorite ruses – my wife learns the weather by monitoring changes in the direction and moisture content of my failing follicles. This is important, since the ranch is situated down a radio wave black hole.

One morning not long ago my wife was interviewed on a local FM station. I promised to tape the whole thing.

As she drove off in the rain that day, my early morning hair was reminiscent of classic Julius Caesar. While my bathrobe was no Roman toga, there were definite Italianate traces on it (spaghetti sauce). “All of Gaul is divided in three parts,” I said to the mirror, “but my head has twice that number on the left side alone.”

Two minutes to air time it galled me that the prehistoric components in the ranch info-tainment center declined to pull in this “local” station.

But the truck’s radio might! I cobbled together a mobile recording studio using a cigarette lighter adapter and a portable tape player. Grabbed the keys and my coffee mug, clutched my robe together against the downpour, and crossed the Rubicon (a drainage ditch near the garage).

If I parked at the highest point on our driveway I could pull in the station, barely. The recording from the speakers was crude, the tape machine’s built in microphone picked up the rain pounding on the roof, the sound of slurping coffee, and the yelp I let out when a neighbor startled me and I spilled some in my lap.

He leaned in the window to say he was “parting out” the family cow and wondered if “the little woman” and I wanted any. Just an excuse to see why I was parked in my driveway in my bathrobe. So I told him, “I”m here because I’m not all there.”

He gave me a short wave as he quickly retreated. “Aren’t we all?” he said.

Mike Drummond is a Nevada County writer whose column appears on Tuesday. You can write him in care of The Union, 464 Sutton Way, Grass Valley, 95945; or e-mail him at miked@theunion.com.


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