Archive for the ‘idyllwild’ Category

Cross Bearer Walks Along Highway 243 Near Idyllwild

Thursday, March 15th, 2012

Wes Maugh walking with his cross along Hwy. 243 Tuesday

By Marcia E. Gawecki

During this Lenten season, the cross is often depicted on posters, signs and church banners. For Christians, it symbolizes everlasting life.

Yet, it was unexpected to find a senior citizen carrying an oversized cross along Hwy. 243 near Idyllwild on Tuesday evening, March 13. About 40 yards behind him was a woman carrying a Bible.

“God asked me to do it,” said Wes Maugh, 63, an Evangelical minister from Banning.

He had carried his 40-pound pine cross from Valle Vista to Mountain Center (about 17 miles), and was headed back down the hill again. His wife, Victoria Grace, 59, was walking with him.

Wes Maugh and his wife, Victoria Grace

They stopped for a minute in a pullout. Several motorists honked and waved at them.

Wes built his cross in 2010, and since then, has traveled along roadsides to 194 cities and towns.

“I’ve traveled from 29 Palms to Glendale and Devore to Fallbrook,” Wes said. “The cross is for everyone.”

Even though there isn’t much of a shoulder along Hwy. 243, Wes was free from worry about getting hit.

“I have two angels beside me,” he said, winking at his wife.

For better traction, his 8 x 5 1/2 foot cross was equipped with a roller at the end.

“Otherwise, it would split,” explained Victoria Grace.

Yet, the roller didn’t help ease the burden any. Wes let me rest it on my shoulders as I walked just a few feet. It was heavy and uncomfortable, and I was going downhill. No way would I want to walk 17 miles up and downhill with it over my shoulder!

Yet, Wes and Victoria Grace were in good spirits. They said that many motorists have honked and waved at them. Some have stopped and prayed with them, while others have given them water, money or slices of pizza.

Wes walks with his cross to help avert natural disasters

“Whatever they have in their car, they share,” he said.

Victoria Grace said that some motorists have shouted at Wes for carrying the cross.

“Why are you doing that?” they’ve demanded.

“Why not?” Victoria Grace retorted.

Over the past two years, Wes has racked up 4,175 miles with his cross to help his fellow Californians avert natural disasters.

“God told me that if I carried this cross, then He would turn away catastrophes in California,” Wes said, mentioning storms, fires and earthquakes.

“God is not into death and suffering,” Wes said. “This cross is no burden; it’s a blessing.”

Wes added that the cross was a symbol that should be seen out in the open.

“It has a voice,” Wes said. “It is the gospel of Jesus Christ.”

Although Wes and his wanderings are not associated with any particular religion or church, it’s not an original idea.

“For 38 years, Arthur Blessitt racked up 38,102 miles around the world with his cross,” Wes said.

Arthur’s cross was a bit bigger than Wes’, 12 feet x 6 feet. Arthur made it into the Guinness Book of World Records, and they wrote a movie about him (‘The Cross’).

“I saw Arthur walking with his cross along Hwy. 101, and it changed my life,” Wes recalled.

The message that Wes wanted to impart was simple:

“Jesus loves you, and He is coming soon,” Wes said. “But it will happen in a twinkling of an eye, so you have to be ready, and stay ready.”

Copyright 2012 Idyllwild Me. All rights reserved.





NACA Help for Idyllwild Homeowners

Sunday, February 5th, 2012

NACA promised distressed homeowners face-to-face meetings with bankers, like Ollie.

By Marcia E. Gawecki

There’s help for Idyllwild homeowners who are upside down on their mortgages, behind on their payments or even in foreclosure.

The Neighborhood Assistance Corporation of America (NACA) is coming to the rescue! The grassroots group with “No Loan Sharks” on their T-shirts will be at the San Diego Convention Center Feb. 9-13, and the Los Angeles Convention Center Feb. 16-20.

Gather your paperwork and go!

NACA just helped hundreds of distressed homeowners at the Ontario Convention Center this past weekend.

For free, NACA will help you organize your finances so the final package is presentable to your banker. And they will get you a face-to-face meeting with one on the spot.

Throughout the day at the Ontario Convention Center, happy homeowners told others over the loud speaker how NACA and their banks lowered their interest rates and payments. Many spoke only in Spanish. Others thanked God, NACA and their bank (in that order), for the change that had taken place.

I didn’t go to the podium, but I was “saved” by NACA last Monday. I was behind in my $1300/month mortgage payments and facing a Feb. 14 foreclosure date. After completing the process, Bank of America shaved off $150 of my monthly payment and lowered my interest rate from 6.25 percent to 2 percent.

Bank of America bankers worked hard with homeowners and approved nearly 80 percent of modifications, NACA said.

I live on Marion View Drive in Idyllwild, and I was months behind on my payments. At the time that I went to the NACA event, Bank of America was considering me for my third modification, but the prospects didn’t look good.

Days before, a foreclosure sale date was posted on my door while I was doing the dishes.

Then my neighbor, Louise, told me about NACA at the Ontario Convention Center. People were getting approved for modifications on the spot. In fact, Bank of America was approving 80 percent! Louise had seen it on TV.

My mother encouraged me not to wait until Monday, but go on Friday afternoon. It was a smart move, because the whole process took me three days.

When I walked into the Ontario Convention Center that afternoon, I felt like a weight had been lifted off of me. I was with 2,000 other people who were in the same boat. Everyone was struggling to keep up with payments in this economy, and were at risk of losing their homes. We were hardworking, but were getting the “run around” from our banks.

Since I work as a freelancer, NACA put me in the self-employed group for orientation.

“Bankers don’t like to give modifications to self-employed people,” the NACA counselor stated. “Your income doesn’t match your bank statements, and your bank statements doesn’t match your taxes. They think you’re lying about your income.”

We all laughed because it was true. But she was going to show us how to make it work.

I told Mary, my NACA counselor, that I had donated a $800 Herb Jeffries banner to charity

She told us to bring six months of bank statements, our 2009 and 2010 tax returns, homeowner’s insurance and various other documents (for a complete listing, visit

Before morning, we had to add up all the business expenses and deposits. But first I had to find everything. I sat in a sea of paperwork, hoping that I got everything. After all, Ontario was two hours away, and I couldn’t run back just to get something!

The NACA event was widely attended because it promised face-to-face meetings with a banker. For those of us who have gone through modifications before, it’s frustrating that you can never speak to a banker in person.

I returned on Sunday (because I had to work Saturday) with my paperwork. They had rows and rows of tables with calculators set up to assist. Once you had all of your paperwork ready, then you had to get in line to have it checked. That took about an hour.

Once you were checked, then you got a number, and waited for one of the six NACA counselors to look over your paperwork and signed off on it. Then you were ready to speak to a banker. The counselor finally approved my paperwork at 11 p.m. Sunday night.

I walked out to an empty parking lot at the Ontario Convention Center. It was a beautiful and eerie sight.

The next day should have gone smoothly, but I noticed that my bank statements were out of sequence. During Orientation and other times, NACA volunteers would tell stories about homeowners who were sent back to the drawing table because their paperwork wasn’t in order. We were all afraid of making the same mistake.

So I waited to talk to John, who was working with a young couple, so I passed him a note. An hour and a half later, I was still waiting. Then I began to panic that I wouldn’t make it through the process in time. He finally told me that he didn’t have time to correct any mistakes. Other NACA volunteers told me to go to the next step in the process.

At that point, I cried.

Why did he keep me waiting for so long? What if I lose my home because I waited too long to get through the process?

The NACA counselor told me to stop and take several deep breaths. I calmed myself. Everything was going to be OK, he said. I had mascara running down my face. I was sleep-deprived and hungry. And had just spent two days getting my paperwork together. Now I was going to talk to a banker?

The next stop was to sit at a table with phones. In the center, there were two NACA employees who faxed your paperwork to the NACA counselors whom you spoke to over the phone. This was the last step before you spoke with a banker about modifying your loan.

Ollie, my B of A banker, worked hard to "crunch my numbers" and make my modification work.

On one side of me, a middle-aged Mexican man was speaking to the counselor via a translator. He worked for UPS. Then he got depressed and didn’t work for three years. Now his benefits are running out, and he’s worried about losing his home.

The woman at my right went through bankruptsy when her husband left and she had huge house payments. When she got on the phone with her NACA counselor, she opened up a four-inch binder of all her materials, each color-coded. My shabby Stater Bros. shopping bag reflected how I looked and felt.

I waited 45 minutes to talk to Mary. Right then, I didn’t realize that our conversation was more important that actually speaking with a banker. Because Mary was the one who was creating my “case.”

I told Mary about being an artist in Idyllwild. How I loved my home, and planted a new tree each year. I wanted her to see the “human” side of the paperwork. I knew that I didn’t make enough money to afford my home. Freelance is unpredictable. It’s gravy one month, and zilch the next.

Yet, I told Mary that I was working hard to improve my income. I cut back on my expenses. I didn’t buy clothes or go out to eat anymore. Forget about vacations.

When Mary asked me if I donated to the church, or gave to charity, I knew that I had to say something besides, “no.” When your home is on the line, you must pay attention to who is helping you. NACA’s headquarters is located in the Bible Belt, where God and family still mean something. I didn’t donate regularly to my church, but I am charitable.

I told Mary about the time I donated an 8-foot Herb Jeffries banner to a Cafe Aroma fundraiser at Cafe Aroma. The Pop Art banner was worth $800, but Herb needed money for his medical bills. I donated the banner that sold for about $300. Cafe Aroma presented the banner to Herb along with the money.

“That’s a sweet story,” Mary said. “You seem like you’re working hard to keep your home. We sometimes get people who want a modification, but haven’t worked in three years.”

I told her how I cleaned houses and walked dogs to make ends meet.

“When I cleaned my first toilet, I cried,” I told Mary. “I was a college graduate and an award-winning writer. And here I was doing the worst kind of manual labor. But I knew it was only temporary. I just hadn’t turned the corner yet.”

Mary went over my financials, including my credit report. She wished me well and I was shuffled over to another line, and then waited in a new area.

In front of us, there were about 100 Bank of America bankers all dressed in red polos shirts. Each was helping people like us modify their loans. They’d call out names and bring them over to their assigned bankers. One by one, we saw people getting up and receiving help.

It was even entertaining. Whenever a modification was approved, the Bank of America banker would hit a gong, and many of the others would stop and shake their “clappers” or tambourines in a momentarily “celebration.” This was very encouraging for those of us waiting in the wings. It seemed like Bank of America approved new modification every 15 minutes.

This was good news for NACA. For every successful modification, they received $150, according to the NACA paperwork. This was a small price to pay to have NACA guide homeowners through the process.

“Have a little faith,” said one homeowner sitting next to me. “There’s money available for us. Try not to worry.”

She was from San Francisco and had just driven seven hours with her family to get here. This was her second NACA event. Months earlier, she had driven to Texas, but didn’t get the modification. NACA said she needed to be working, so she got another accountant job and updated her paperwork.

“There’s people here from other states,” she said. “They know that NACA can help them.”

When I finally got to set before Ollie, my pretty Bank of America banker. I was out of words. My contacts were tearing into my eyes and my stomach was in knots. What could I say to make her want to help me?

Ollie focused on my paperwork, and started “crunching” the numbers. She asked for copies of pay stubs and bank statements. I reminded her of my foreclosure sale date. She nodded politely, and kept looking at her screen. After awhile, she called a supervisor over to check her work

“You’ve had two other modifications,” he stated. “You were fine for a year and a half, and then fell behind again.”

“They caught me up, but never lowered my payments,” I told him.

He checked another screen and verified it. With a lower payment, I could weather whatever came along.

Ollie and he shaved off $150 off my payment and (gasp!) lowered my interest rate from 6.25 percent to two percent. Over the past seven years, I’ve only been paying on interest and not the principal.

“I haven’t seen a two percent interest rate since college more than 25 years ago,” I confessed.

A lump grew in my throat and tears welled in my eyes. This was a beautiful day!

My first new low payment was due in two days, but I was ready. When I got into the NACA line to check out, they told me to make sure to ask Bank of America for my final documents (after the three month provision payments were paid).

“If you don’t hear from Bank of America, then you call us,” the burly NACA volunteer said.

They seemed like a Union to me, but it made me feel good that NACA “had my back.” No one was going to take my house away from me.

There’s hope for other Idyllwild homeowners this month. NACA and the bankers (including Bank of America, Chase, Wells Fargo, Idy Mac and many more) will be at the San Diego Convention Center Feb. 9-13, and the Los Angeles Convention Center Feb. 16-20.

For more information, visit

Copyright 2012 Idyllwild Me. All rights reserved.

Using Tweets to Help Recruit New Arts Students

Sunday, January 29th, 2012

Emily tweeted Michael Jackson's son about attending Idyllwild Arts

By Marcia E. Gawecki

The faculty and staff aren’t the only ones who are helping recruit new students to Idyllwild Arts this year.

One enterprising theatre student recently targeted a Celebrity “A” List’s kid all on her own.

She tweeted Michael Jackson’s son, Prince, age 14, about enrolling in the Moving Pictures Department at Idyllwild Arts.

“Basically, I told him that he should look into the school, if he still likes film,” said Emily, 17.

Three days ago (Jan. 26), Prince and his two siblings, were in the news. They used their dad’s shoes and gloves and their own hands to make imprints in cement at Grauman’s Chinese Theatre in Los Angeles.

Emily couldn’t remember how exactly she got Prince’s email address, or how she learned that he was interested in studying film. She just wanted him to get the same great experience that she had over the past three years.

Celebrities’ kids are not uncommon at Idyllwild Arts. More recently, Actor Cheech (of ‘Cheech & Chong fame) Marin’s daughter was a visual artist; The daughter of Ed Catmull (from Disney and Pixar Animation) was a film student; and the son of Dennis Haysbert (‘The Unit’ and Allstate spokesman) was an actor. Michael Jackson’s son would be in good company.

The King of Pop's son is interested in studying film, not music. Illustration by Marcia E. Gawecki.

Prince tweeted Emily back, saying that he would consider coming to Idyllwild Arts his sophomore year. He’s currently a freshman at a day school in Calabasas.

That was the end of the tweet exchange, but maybe not the end of the story.

If Prince ends up going to Idyllwild Arts, maybe Emily should get a commission or at least a hearty thanks for starting it all with a sincere tweet. More than likely, the two will never meet.

As one of the 70+ graduating seniors, Emily is focusing on college. She just auditioned at Pepperdine University, and is looking forward to group auditions with her theatre classmates in Chicago next week.

For more information on Idyllwild Arts Academy, visit or call (951) 659-2171.

Copyright 2012 Idyllwild Me. All rights reserved.

Published on: Jan 29, 2012 @ 0:17



Casey Abram’s Expanding Fan Base

Sunday, January 15th, 2012

Casey banner by Idyllwild artist Marcia E. Gawecki

“Is your most famous celebrity still living in Idyllwild?”

It was Saturday night, Jan. 14, and we were chatting at the Bill Anson Gallery in the Backstreet Art District of Palm Springs.

Sorry, Casey, but I instantly thought of “The Bronze Buckaroo,” Herb Jeffries, and not you. Although she was pretty, this woman was middle-aged.

“We just loved watching Casey each week on ‘American Idol’ (Season 10),” exclaimed Brenda Friend, of Palm Springs. “My friends and I even went to Los Angeles where they taped the show to meet him and get an autograph, but it never happened.”

She was almost giddy.

“Then we were thinking of going up to Idyllwild to meet him, if he still lived there.”

Going from relative obscurity to instant celebrity must be a surreal thing for Casey. To find middle-aged fans like Brenda who are willing to travel great distances to meet him. But the young ones are rabid too!

Remember when the ‘American Idol Live’ Tour ended Sept. 20-21 in The Philippines? Bianca King, a young actress, was hell-bent on meeting Casey, so she turned to her Twitter fan base to help get a backstage pass.

They hit it off and had a good laugh when Bianca told him that if he dyed his hair black and got a spray tan, he’d make it as an actor in The Philippines. She then posted pictures of the two of them on her blog site.

Casey playing with other Idyllwild Arts students at the LA Club. Photo by Marcia Gawecki

Back at the Art Walk in Palm Springs, I told Brenda Friend that Casey’s parents still lived in Idyllwild, and Ira Abrams worked with me at Idyllwild Arts.

Then I found myself promising I would try to get Casey’s autograph.

I secretly hoped it was possible.

Brenda wrote down her Palm Springs address, and then rushed over to tell her husband and friends.

The funny thing was that Brenda hadn’t even heard about Casey’s latest You Tube video announcing his record deal with Concord Records. It’s the same label as Carole King and Kenny G.

Casey’s mom, Pam Pierce, sent an email saying there was an Idyllwild Arts connection to the video. The song was written, recorded and produced by Casey (all instruments and voices). The video was shot and edited at Idyllwild Arts by Nick Cain and Sean Stromsoe of Persistent Vision (former Idyllwild Arts film students).

“Oh, he’s so natural and fun-loving in front of the camera,” Brenda exclaimed. “His parents raised him right.”

To view Casey’s announcement video, click here: Casey_Abrams_Signed-1

Copyright 2012 Idyllwild Me (text and images, but not video). All rights reserved.

Action Photographer Helps Idyllwild

Tuesday, January 10th, 2012

Fire near Black Mountain Sunday. Photo courtesy Jenny Kirchner.

By Marcia E. Gawecki

The emergency dispatch call came in at 2:53 a.m. Sunday, Jan. 8. There was a fire burning on Hwy. 243 off Black Mountain Road near Pine Cove.

By 3:30 a.m., she was on the scene taking pictures next to the fire trucks. By 5 a.m., she had posted two of the best fire photos on Facebook and emailed them as a warning to others.

She also sent copies to the Idyllwild Town Crier and other media outlets to post on their web sites as “Breaking News.”

You could say that Idyllwild freelance photographer Jenny Kirchner thrives on chaos.

She spent three years as the main photographer for the Idyllwild Town Crier covering fires, accidents, natural disasters, and crime. At that time, she was using all of her own equipment, but purchased a police scanner and GPS device to help her to be first on the scene.

However, it was her “softer” photos of Idyllwild School kids playing soccer that won her national journalism awards.

Now that she’s a freelancer, Jenny can’t stay away from the natural disasters. Her best friend, Jill, is a dispatch operator in the desert who lets her know when things are unfolding.

“It’s a thrill being so close as things are happening,” Jenny admits. “But I also like knowing that my photos are helping people.”

She remembers grumbling to herself at 5 a.m., with no sleep, that people better check their emails about the fire in the morning.

The fire photos she sent out went to homeowners in the area, and van drivers from Idyllwild Arts Academy who were going down the hill early Sunday morning. (Jenny is also a part-time van driver for Idyllwild Arts). Julia Countryman is both a homeowner and a van driver.

Jenny captured the intensity of the fire in the early morning. Photo courtesy Jenny Kirchner.

“I saw Jenny’s pictures before I left for Ontario Airport Sunday morning,” Julie said. “And told my daughter that if the fire comes over the ridge, we’re evacuating.”

Since Jenny’s posting, there were several reports of the fire online, but none had her spectacular shots.

Even though it was dark at 3:30 a.m., Jenny managed to get both the blue skies overhead with the fire’s orange and yellow intensity, and the scrubby brown brush below.

In the second photo, Jenny captured the wind as it moved the fire along. She was at a safe distance, but everyone knows how quickly winds can change to move the fire in another direction. Gusts were reported up to 60 mph that day.

She sent the Idyllwild Town Crier her fire photos as a “professional courtesy” for them to use on its web site. They gave her photo credit and are in the process of negotiating a freelance contract.

Obviously, they know the value of a local photographer who is willing to bypass danger, give up sleep and take awesome action photos for them.

In addition, Jenny posts her fire photos and those of other disasters on her own web site, The web site generates commissions to do other photography work. She likes covering sports events, she says, but would rather not do weddings. Perhaps they’re not exciting or dangerous enough?

Jenny Kirchner’s fire photos can be found on her web site,, and the Idyllwild Town Crier’s web site,

Copyright 2012 Idyllwild Me. All rights reserved.

Published on: Jan 10, 2012 @ 12:39


Idyllwild Resident’s 30th Consumer Electronics Show

Monday, January 9th, 2012

Idyllwild resident Charles Schlacks, Jr. is attending his 30th Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas

By Marcia E. Gawecki

Today, Charles Schlacks, Jr., 80, an Idyllwild publisher and record collector, will attend his 30th  Consumer Electronics Show (CES) in Las Vegas.

The show is estimated to attract 150,000 attendees, however, it’s open to only “those in the electronics industry,” Charles says.

For the past three decades, Charles has received a “press” pass, which is an all-access pass to the vendor booths and lectures. However, this year, CES sent him an “entertainment” pass, which offers pretty much the same access. Without the pass, however, the show would cost Charles $100 a day.

Charles is considered “press” because he publishes two trade journals, “Muzaka,” about Russian music past and present; and “Music and Society in Eastern Europe,” which discusses discographies (musical histories) of open reel tapes and records.

Charles is not like the other journalists who write about their likes and dislikes of the popular trade show. He’s attending for his personal enjoyment of music. Each year, he takes about two dozen classical records (audiophile LPs) and goes from booth to booth at the Flamingo and Venician Hotels.

He’s looking for good turn tables and card readers to play his high-quality audiophile LPs. Generally, he knows everybody and returns to the same booths each year. In the four days of the show, he’ll visit about 50 of them.

The CES exhibitors take Charles’ records and play them on their stereo systems, which range from $250 to $150,000. Both enjoy the experience.

“As a whole, I found out they prefer analog to digital,” Charles said. “My records sound much better than CDs and DVDs.”

Over the past three years, however, there’s been a resurgence of turn table manufacturers and the re-release of dozens of new vinyl recordings (LP records), Charles noted.

He’s happy that companies are reissuing classical, pop and jazz records from the 1950s. Some of the originals are likely in Charles’ record collection.

Charles has been collecting classical records since 1946. He has about 45,000 now.

Since 1946, when he was about 15 years old, Charles has been collecting classical records. There’s only classical records, no rock n’ roll, jazz, pop or vocalists.

“My friends from England couldn’t believe that Charles had never heard of The Beatles,” said Jeffrey Taylor, from Green Cafe in Idyllwild, of his longtime friend. “Who hasn’t heard of the Beatles?”

But now that he’s 80 years old, Charles has amassed about 45,000 classical LPs that he stores in Hemet, with a small amount in his Idyllwild home.

Eventually, Charles plans to sell the majority of his collection to record collectors in Los Angeles and individuals over the internet. His records are his retirement, he says, and they will help him pay off his house.

Although it’s not his plan, Charles will take a list of the details of his 45,000 record collection to the CES this weekend, just in case someone is interested in buying a few hundred of them. In past years, Charles has returned from the CES with small sales that he ships out of the Idyllwild Post Office, or drives to northern California. Once, he tried to deliver records up to San Francisco in a day.

“I’ll never do that again,” Charles said of the 7-hour drive. “I was so tired that I had to stay overnight, and that cost me about $75. Next time, the buyer would have to pay shipping or my gas and lodging.”

Charles doesn’t generally attend the keynote lectures at the CES. In the past, it’s usually been someone from Microsoft, he said.

“Was it Bill Gates?” asked Jeffrey Taylor, who had worked for Apple after college.

This year, however, Microsoft is scaling back and Apple doesn’t plan to attend, Charles said. According to today’s Los Angeles Times, Microsoft has its exit planned, saying it wants to announce its products on its own timetable. The absence of Apple has long spurred manufacturers to bring out Apple-type products that quickly fade from the marketplace.

At the same time as the CES in Las Vegas, other shows are going on. At  “T.H.E. Show,” last year, Charles got a “shout out” from the keynote speaker, the editor of Stereophile magazine.

According to Charles, the speaker asked Charles to stand up and be recognized.

“I’ve seen you every year as long as I’ve been coming here,” the man said. “You must be the oldest veteran here.”

Of course, there was a round of applause, and they congratulated him afterwards on his dedication and longevity. In a few months, Charles may see some of them again.

Charles belongs to the Los Angeles and Orange County Audio Society, which will be sponsoring “T.H.E. Show” for three days in Irvine in June.

However, for the next four glorious days, Charles will busy himself with the Consumer Electronics Show, visiting 30-40 exhibitors.

“I like to meet people who enjoy good music,” Charles said.

His light blue hybrid car has vanity plates which read, “FFSS,” which stands for “full frequency stereophonic sound. The first LP with FFSS was recorded in 1958.

“It was the greatest audio recording ever,” Charles said.

In his collection, he has hundreds of audiophile recordings. For more information about his collection, email Charles Schlacks directly at:

Copyright 2012 Idyllwild Me. All rights reserved.


Caballero Sells Eucalyptus Wood in Idyllwild

Saturday, January 7th, 2012

Samuel Perez, 77, from San Jacinto, shows off his roping skills while he sells hard wood in Idyllwild

By Marcia E. Gawecki

Most weekends, you’ll see him in a cowboy hat throwing his rope next to his truck full of wood near Strawberry Creek Plaza in Idyllwild. Lean and handsome, he looks like an extra in a Hollywood movie. But he’s the real McCoy.

Samuel Perez, 77, came by train to the San Jacquin Valley from Guadalajara, Mexico, in 1961 with the U.S. Bracero Program, which brought in thousands of “strong-arm” contract laborers after WWII.

He said about 2,000 of them lived together on the farm and picked strawberries.

“It was hard work,” he said, shaking his head.

Since then, there have been better times for Samuel and his family. He has a new home in San Jacinto now, but the eucalyptus wood that he sells comes from his 3-acre ranch in Winchester which is now rented to another family. There’s only horses there now, but he used to buy and sell cattle at the San Jacinto Auction until the accident.

“I broke this bone,” he said in halting English, pointing to his femer bone on his thigh. “There are two pins in there.”

He also had his hip replaced.

Samuel sells a half cord of eucalyptus wood for $130 in Idyllwild

The accident happened when Samuel was herding cattle through a corral, and one of the steers panicked and gouged his leg.

Now he has two horses, a quarter horse named “Mr. Perez,” and an Andalusia named, “Napoleon.”

On weekends, he loads up eucalypus wood that he cuts from trees on his ranch (less than 18 inches in diameter) and comes up to Idyllwild. He charges $130 for about 1/2 cord and will deliver to any home here.

He has no regular customers, but would like to build up some clientele.

From September to October, he was coming up about twice a week, but in November, everything came to a halt.

“I wasn’t selling anything in November,” Samuel said.

He took December off, but was back in a different roping spot near Mountain Harvest Market on Saturday, Jan. 7. He looked like a vision standing in the sunlight with his cowboy hat and rope.

One Idyllwild resident offered to buy Samuel Perez's rope

Just then, an Idyllwild resident came up and asked how much he wanted for the rope.

“This one is not for sale,” Samuel explained. “I brought it from Guadalajara, and it cost me about $200, that I cut into pieces.”

He told the guy that he’d bring him another one next Tuesday.

It looked like regular rope to me, something that you’d buy by the yard at Forest Lumber. But cowboys know ropes, and both of these guys knew the true value of it. It will likely cost one as much as a truckload of wood.

Samuel will stack the wood for elderly women, he said, if they offer him a $10 or $20 tip.

“But not for the guys,” he said with a laugh. “They can stack it themselves!”

However, one elderly woman asked him to deliver the half cord of wood, and stack part of it near the front of the house. Then she told him to drive around to the back of the property and stack the rest of it.

“She was expecting too much,” he said.

The woman also had a big dog that was part wolf that she kept inside the house. When she wrote him the check, Samuel couldn’t wait to get out of there. He said the wolf-dog’s head came up to waist level.

Samuel will take cash or local checks for the eucalyptus hard wood. He’s up in Idyllwild most weekends, but you can reach him directly at (951) 692-2084.

Copyright 2012 Idyllwild Me. All rights reserved.


‘Three Viewings’ Play Tonight

Friday, January 6th, 2012

Three Viewings is a comedy made up of three monologues. Courtesy art.

By Marcia E. Gawecki

Tonight at 7:30 p.m., the Isis Theatre Company will present, “Three Viewings,” a three-act play by Jeffrey Hatcher at the Quiet Creek Inn Gallery . Since this is a “Reader’s Theater,” everything is pared down to a minimal set, props and only three actors.

Yet, those three actors will make all of the difference. The show, directed by Suzanne Avalon, stars Isis regulars Howard Shangraw, Ann DeWolfe and Alicia Dufour. It’s a comedy set in a funeral parlor and comprised of three bittersweet monologues. Each of the three have just lost a loved one and talk about how they plan to cope with their lives.

They’ve lost, are longing and are uncertain. Yet, to pull it off, each of these actors must practice restraint.

For one, Howard Shangraw, will do a great job. He has to. He heads up the Theater Department at Idyllwild Arts Academy. A couple years ago, Howard wowed Idyllwild audiences in his portrayal as an East German transvestite in Doug Wright’s Pulitzer Prize Winning play, “I Am My Own Wife.” Onstage, Howard played multiple characters. Not an easy feat indeed.

Howard won’t have to play more than one person tonight, but you can bet that his performance will make you laugh, cry and cheer for him. After all, his theater students are returning from Winter Break this weekend, and this will be his last chance in the spotlight.

The Isis Theatre Company will present “Three Viewings” tonight at 7:30 p.m. at the Quiet Creek Gallery, located at 54300 North Circle Drive (next to the Rustic Theater). The Quiet Creek Gallery grants its gallery space for free for community events such as tonight’s show. Tickets are $12 and seating is limited to about 50.

For more information, contact Suzanne Avalon at (951) 692-9553 or visit

Copyright 2012 Idyllwild Me. All rights reserved.

Hemet/Valle Vista Pot Dispensary to Close

Friday, December 23rd, 2011

The pot dispensary in Valle Vista will be pressured to close.

By Marcia E. Gawecki

The “medical” marijuana dispensary operating across from the Shell Station in Hemet/Valle Vista is on Riverside County Supervisor Jeff Stone’s hit list.

It’s one of 36 pot dispensaries illegally operating in unincorporated areas of Riverside County, which have been banned since 2006.

According to the Dec. 14th issue of The Californian, this move from the County Supervisors comes one month after a state appellate court upheld the city of Riverside’s ban on medical marijuana dispensaries.

“That gave us the legal comfort to aggressively pursue what we have always thought was an illegal operation,” said Supervisor Stone to The Californian. “This is going to put people on notice. They had better cease and desist.”

According to Corinne Daly, one of Supervisor Stone’s legislative assistants, the property located at 44518 Florida Avenue in Hemet/Valle Vista, is on their current list of closures.

“Our office is working closely with Code Enforcement and our legal and law enforcement team in having those activities come to a halt,” Corinne wrote to us in a recent email.

The exterior of the pot facility looks like a legitimate doctor's office.

“I think most people believe that dispensaries really cater to the recreational user of marijuana,” Supervisor Stone said in the Dec. 14th article.

The county intends to invoke code enforcement powers and lawsuits to pursue dispensaries unless operators voluntarily shut down. The county also plans to seek recovery for all legal costs associated with its efforts.

For weeks, Idyllwild Me has been rallying to close that dispensary down. It has a tremendous amount of activity at all hours of the day and night.

Cars drive up and park and within 30 seconds, they take off again. It happens at 6 a.m. as well as 8 p.m. on Sundays and holidays.  Is all this activity legal? Are all of these people terminally sick with legitimate green cards? We hardly think so.

However, after reporting the activity, the Hemet police said there was little that could be done. (See Idyllwild Me blog post, “Little Recourse for Hemet/Valle Vista Marijuana Dispensary,” dated Nov. 28)

“The only way an officer could investigate that medical marijuana dispensary is if someone said they were able to buy marijuana there without a green card,” the officer said. “We would need actual information.”

The Valle Vista pot dispensary is busiest after dark

However, according to the Dec. 14th article in The Californian, police officers have been lobbying elected officials to find a way to close pot dispensaries down for years.

Now they have Supervisor Stone’s bite and the state’s legal backing, it’s time to “Get Er Done.”

They could start by looking at the dispensary’s books. Bet the hundreds of customers the Valle Vista pot dispensary sees each day only pay quick cash, and there’s no credit card and check receipts. Perhaps the IRS would like to see the books too, and get their fair share.

Corinne Daly said Supervisor Stone’s office would keep us apprised of their progress.

Copyright 2011 Idyllwild Me. All rights reserved







Lost: Family Cat in Idyllwild

Friday, December 2nd, 2011

Peanut, my 8-year-old cat, has been missing for one week, since Thanksgiving Day.

She was last seen outside the family home at 53530 Marion View Drive (near McMahon) in Idyllwild.

She is all black with yellow eyes and weighs about 10 pounds. She has tiny paws. There was no collar or ID tags.

There were many visitors around town Thanksgiving weekend, and it’s possible that Peanut may have “hitched” an unlikely ride home. On several occasions, Peanut  would jump into people’s cars. Sometimes they’d drive off not knowing she was there until they heard her cries.

Or, Peanut may have gotten locked into a shed or garage. You know how curious cats can be!

If you live near Marion View Drive, Country Club, or McMahon, and saw Peanut around your home Thanksgiving weekend, please call me. It’s possible that she may still be alive, and just trapped somewhere. It is my only hope! My heart is breaking!

Reward: $100 for Peanut’s safe return

Please call Marcia Gawecki at (951) 265-6755

Thank you!