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The Life Saving Bead

First I need to set the scene and background to tell you about the bead that saved my life.  When I was about 12, my Brother-in-Law was stationed at Hawaii with the military.  The year after he had been there, my Sister received her paperwork to join him.  This was in the mid-1950's.  There was no way my Dad was going to let her drive alone all the way from Albuquerque, New Mexico to California.   It was unheard of back then.  My Dad began his preparation for the trip and told me and my younger brother that after we dropped my sister off at the ship she was departing on, he would take us to Disneyland.  This, of course, made the trip more appealing to us.

I hated traveling on long trips with my Dad driving.  He usually drove in the middle of the road, passed other cars while going up hills and was always sure it was the other driver that almost wrecked us.  I always wondered if he needed better glasses.  We seldom stopped at restaurants to eat.  It was the old balogna sandwiches and peanut butter and jelly sandwiches instead, stopping at picnic tables along the way to eat.  Occasionally we did eat at a greasy spoon type restaurant and my brother and I would stare and ogle at everything, taking it all in so we could remember it later, especially the pancakes or burgers we ate.  My Dad was in construction and sometimes had a job and sometimes not.  My family had to be frugal with expenditures, especially luxuries or "twiddle-twaddles" as my Mom called them.

The drive seemed to take forever.  No one drove over about 50mph back then, at least not until we arrived in California.  We stopped at a place in Nevada for the night.  Next door to the motel was a small casino.  I went inside with my Dad and looked around while he asked for road directions.  It was a dejaveau experience.  I had never seen one-armed bandits before, nor had I read about them, but I immediately knew what those machines  were and was completely familiar with this casino as if I had been there before.  I also knew how to play the one-arm bandits.  I got so excited, I began to babble my experience to my Dad.  This was not something my Dad or Mom wanted to hear about, so I quickly dropped the subject.   I have, however, never forgotten the experience of walking into that casino, a place I had never been to before, and feeling I knew every corner of the room we were in and that I had been there before.

The next day we headed to California and when we arrived at the huge long bridge all the trouble started.  We were in shock at how fast the cars were going, 70 to 80mph, zoom, zoom, zoom, my Dad was driving 40mph.  We quickly clogged up all the traffic going both ways and three police cars surrounded us.  They told us we were holding up traffic and to turn back and not come across the bridge.  The police hailed a taxi to take my sister across and escorted us back, a police car in front, one in back and one along the side to make sure my Dad did not change his mind and try again.  My Mom and Dad were both ballistic at being barred from going across the bridge.   On the inside, I think my Dad was thanking his lucky stars he did not have to cope with the crazy traffic or go any further.  We were only able to give my sister a quick kiss and hug before she was swept across to the ship waiting for her.  All the while, cars were honking their displeasure at we "hicks" holding them back from their busy appointments.

We then headed south to Anaheim and Disneyland.  My older brother had given my Dad a pile of tickets for Disneyland.  Back then you had to purchase tickets for each ride and my older brother was able to purchase them at work at a discount.  My younger brother and I had eyes as big as saucers taking it all in.   We had never been to such a place.  We ran and tried to get on every ride we could in the next three hours, especially the "E" rides.  We had a ball.   Then my Dad told us we had to go.  He had originally said we could have the whole day plus half the next, however the gypsy in him or should I say the "never stay in one place long  jitters" attacked him and he was ready to go.  We were used to his jitter attacks so it was no surprise we left after such a short time, gobs of tickets still in our hands, and headed out again.  We did not complain and felt ourselves lucky to have such an experience even if it was short.

I can't remember which direction we went from there, but I do remember stopping in a city that had the most glorious of flowers everywhere including on top the houses.  It was like a dream city.  Flowers as far as you could see in every direction.  From where ever that was, we headed along the Coast and my brother spied a place along the road that advertised a hidden cavern that went down to a hidden cove on the beach.  He put up a hissy-fit to see the hidden cove and my Dad relented and stopped.  It cost a quarter each to go down in the tunnel and out to the cove.   My Dad and Mom grabbed up some sandwiches and decided to have lunch while we had our little cavern trip.  This area was along the highway where the coastline was very high up and you could look over and see the ocean below.  The person taking our quarters did not accompany us and told us to follow the trail to the tunnel that would get us to the hidden cove.  My brother jumped out and ran ahead following a painted pathway and wooden arrows pointing the way.  I was hollering at him the whole time to be careful, why I don't know since I was usually fighting with him and wanting him to go away.  The interior of the tunnel was very dark with a small walkway carved down in hollowed out areas.  I can't remember if it was manmade or natural but the walkway was pretty primitive.  It was wet, cold and funny smelling inside.

bead-of-lifeWhen we got to the bottom, there was an opening with light showing through.  Outside there was only a very small amount of ground or sand we could stand on and walk around.  The ocean was right in front of us.  We both began to look for rocks and shells and my brother used a stick to draw in the sand.  For some reason I looked farther out and saw a sparkle, a beautiful piece of abalone shell laying near the water's edge.   I went over and picked up the shell and immediately felt compelled to look out across the water.  I was shocked to see a huge wave rolling towards us, I mean a big wave surfers could surf on!  Here we were out in the open and the wave was coming right toward us.  I grabbed my brother and began pushing him towards the tunnel, with him complaining every step of the way.  I literally pulled him up the tunnel, running for our lives.  We barely got to the top when the whole tunnel was flooded and water popped up through a blow hole on top of the surface.   My brother looked at me, I looked at him, I looked at the abalone shell and realized I was holding my breathe.

My Dad began packing up as soon as he saw us coming.  We ran and told my Mom about the water and wanted to show her where the water was right up through the blow hole, but she ignored us and told us to not dilly dally around.  It was time to head back for home.  Little did either of them know that my brother and I could have been swept out into the ocean.  If I had not seen the shell and looked up at that massive wave in time, my brother and I would probably not be here today.

That lovely shell piece has a natural perforation and I have carried it with me everywhere.  Recently, I put a silver wire through the hole and attached it to a silver wire bracelet I made.  A final touch was my little storyteller charm, since I am a storyteller.  Although I can not remember the name or place where this tunnel and hidden cove was, this is a true story and did happen.  If you live in California and know of such a tunnel that goes down inside and out to a small sandy beach, please email me and let me know.

The Beadwrangler
Tampa, November, 2001


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