Jeez Louise. All I did was write a column about Mt. Lassen and the whole West Coast Division of Ma Nature’s Geology Department goes whacko!

First we got a 6.0 earthquake on the San Andreas Fault near Parkfield. Then the San Simeon Fault throws a 5.0. And they continue to pas de deux and hello-you until they wake up Mt. St. Helens all the way up in southern Washington. All of this can’t be related to a column for The Zephyr, can it? I’m more inclined to think it had something to do with the full moon or maybe that asteroid which just missed Earth the same week. (All right, it was 930,000 miles – but that’s only four times the distance that separates us from the moon! Astronomically, even half-astronomically, that’s CLOSE!) Now where was I? Oh, yeah...

People in these parts are pretty blase about earthquakes; but right now, they’re looking at all the unreinforced brick and stone buildings in the vicinity the way a long-tailed cat regards a room full of rocking chairs. I mean you don’t have to be jumpy yourself when the ground can jump for you and dump a three-story building on your head.

I happened to be standing on my own fault line when the first Parkfield tremor hit us – the line where the two halves of my double-wide mobile home meet. Let me tell you, gomer, I got off it in a hurry. Now, you can follow the line by the ripple in the carpet from one end of our place to the other. Eventually, everything settled back into place with no damage done (that I know of) besides the carpet – but every aftershock reminds me I live in a very flimsy house on very shaky ground.

Of course, you’re probably asking yourself why anyone would live near an earthquake fault. Well, if people weren’t willing to do it, you’d have to empty California, Oregon and Washington. Hey, we’re the people of the Pacific Plate, riding the North American Plate over it like our children ride surfboards along our foaming shores.

And speaking of surfboards, the anchovies are running in San Luis Bay. How do I know? Well, sea lions eat the anchovies and great white sharks eat the sea lions and a great white shark took a bite out of a 14-year-old surfer’s board just off the Pismo Beach pier last weekend. The board-biter or one of his kin has been spotted twice since then; and the warning signs are up from Oceano to Avila. But there are still surfers on boards by the pier. As one of them put it: "If you’re a surfer, you surf. Sharks are just part of the experience." Talk about fatalism!

Just goes to show you that surfers can wax philosophical as well as wax their boards. Or maybe they’re crazy. Maybe most of us are. The human animal develops ties to his terrain that defy logic. Build a plywood shack on stilts in the backwaters of the American Bottoms? Live in a prefab house with no foundation in Florida? Live in ANYTHING along the turbulent trail that is Tornado Alley? Americans do it all. Just ask FEMA.

And we’re not alone.

Homo sappyens dwell in the shadows of volcanoes, on monsoon deltas, in deserts, jungles and swamps. We hunker down when trouble comes, clean up the debris of our homes, bury our dead, succor our wounded, and endure. We often rebuild on the very spot where disaster struck us. Where common sense would seem to argue for moving away, we stay.


Damned if I know. You’re asking a guy who lives in a mobile home in a fault zone.