While the curved-bill thrasher sat at the top of the juniper this morning, I thought of the Thoreau line “monarch of all I survey.”

At first I was smug. Yeah, but I’ve got coffee, I told myself. Then I rethought my shallow human insights.

The thrasher doesn’t need coffee to help him take in the morning. We have different MOs — maybe he is thinking of bugs, mates and Cooper’s hawks — but he can fly and sing and I can’t. He doesn’t need sunscreen or a hat.

The author David Roybal posted a wonderful picture on Facebook this morning, a photo about what he called the joy of finding and just watching trout swim in the stream below his ancestral Northern New Mexico home.

I tapped the like button on the photo immediately because this has become my favorite kind of fishing, too. Sometime in the early 90s, between the first reservoir and the headwaters way up on the Rio Grande in Colorado, I discovered that I could keep a low profile on the open banks above the river in Brewster Park and watch for cutthroat trout. Trout are my favorite fish to eat but I found that I was having as much fun watching them as casting a line. I got grouchy a long time ago about the greedy aspects of catch-and-release.

And I now I remember that my favorite job ever was helping on a U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service brown trout survey in Hot Creek in the Sierra Nevada. It was kind of rough on the fish — electroshocking to clip fins, weigh and measure before returning them to the stream live as part of testing its health — but god was it gorgeous work.

I liked the experience so much, I saved the Thermos I used on the job in 1972, reminding me of sunny mornings and the gleaming fish from the clear stream. I no longer used it but took it along for old times’ sake to a trail crew reunion in the Sierra in 2012, where I dropped it, shattering the glass inside.

Before the thrasher this morning, I had three visits in several days from what I’m guessing is the same young bull snake. Each time we check each other out, he’s looked like he’s grinning. A friend over the ridge has been asking me to bring her a snake because she has a mouse problem. But I’m not giving this guy up. He looks like he knows what he’s doing here and he’s been making me smile.

Looking through photos for Father’s Day, I found this: Dear not-so-old Dad, Bob Robertson, right, aboard the Adventurous in Sausalito, California, maybe around 1962.

I don’t know whether the photo was taken after a late night at the No Name Bar or as the crew prepared the scruffy little schooner to race George Draper, an elegant San Francisco Chronicle reporter who would be riding his 12-speed bicycle and possibly wearing a beret, from Sausalito to Monterey, down Highway 1.

That is Adventurous owner and skipper Bob Hardin on the left, a Chronicle editor and a kind man who was generous with his boat. My father, too, was a Chronicle reporter. I’m not sure of the identity of the sailor in the middle of the ratlines pose but, if this is the 1962 bicycle-boat race to Monterey, a short Chronicle story identifies the third crew member for the race as John Cotton. (Apologies: I guessed in an early version of this post that the third man in the photo might be Bay Area sports announcer Bill King, who had a dandy goatee and mustache and berthed his much-better maintained ketch in the same Sausalito yacht harbor).

I don’t remember much about the race itself, including who won, although something tells me it was George Draper, who drove an ambulance for the Loyalists during the Spanish Civil War and was awarded a Silver Star as a pilot in World War II.

The only tale of the merry adventure I remember is someone aboard saying just before a horrendous jibe, “This boat will sail itself. “

My father, who died in 1995, was still in his 30s in the photo and I do not feel old, even near 72, as I write here. I have to remind myself that he was only 20 and, after serving in the Marines, just a college sophomore when I was born.

But what the photo reminds me of most is that these guys knew how to have fun.


This just in: I found a brief about the race in the Chronicle sports pages, Aug. 21, 1962.

Meanwhile, some stuffy editor must have gotten wind of this story. I cannot find that the Chronicle published a follow up.

And rummaging around in those old photos I find one of another crew, roughly about 1963, with the three brothers recently changing scenery from 1,600 acres of Simms-owned land at the far end of Tano Road outside of Santa Fe to one of the gingerbread apartments across from the Glad Hand restaurant and San Francisco Bay on Bridgeway Boulevard in Sausalito. After a year of teaching at New Mexico Highlands University in Las Vegas, our father moved from the Columbus (Ohio) Citizen to the New York Times to the Grand Junction (Colorado) Sentinel to the Santa Fe New Mexican and the San Francisco Chronicle. Then he joined the Peace Corps. It was the 60s.


Bob Robertson and sons, left to right, John, Pat and Rob, Sausalito, California, around 1963.