Triplicate Staff

Longtime Del Norte County resident Chuck Blackburn's column appears monthly.

Del Norte County has always amazed me for its rural way of living.

Building friendships is one of the great things about small-town living. One such family friendship developed many years ago between the Blackburns and the Hartwicks.

Bill and Rolane Hartwick lived on Adrian Way, one block north of Angel Lane where my first wife, Dort, and I lived in a nice rural setting. Bill and Rolane raised two fine sons, Kevin and Billy. We had four kids: Charlene, Danny, Lynn and Angie.

There was a gate in the back fence for both properties. The Blackburns and Hartwicks became great friends and neighbors and our kids and theirs spent a lot of time together as they grew up in their early years.

One Christmas Kevin was given a football uniform with a helmet with the Cowboy's colors. We decided to get Danny a similar uniform with 49ers colors. The two boys decided to have a Super Bowl game in our back yard, one on one, with a fan base of Cowboys and 49ers.

Bill and I both took 8mm movies of the historic contest. The coin flip was made and the game was started in the backyard stadium going west to east. Kevin won the flip so he was on offense and Danny had to center the ball to him and quickly turn around and tackle Kevin. They had four downs to score.

Who won the game wasn't important, but the true value of the contest was not evident until we all sat down after a great barbecue the next week to watch the film. It was atrociously funny, like a "Three Stooges" movie.

Bill Hartwick was an avid Cowboys fan and I was equally a 49ers fan. We bet $1 on each game that they played against each other. One rainy winter the two teams met and the Niners won. Bill said he would pay me the next day.

The backyard was very wet so I decided to pull my fishing pram over to his back door where I knocked on the door and quickly sat down in the pram. Bill opened the door and, with oars in hand, I said, "I rowed over to collect my dollar."

"Come in," he replied, and I will pay you." He showed up with a small metal stand with about five rods welded to the base and each rod contained 20 pennies soldered to the rods. "Here," he said, "is your dollar." I gave him a huge hug and thanked him.

Bob Stevens was another neighbor on Adrian Way and we also had a dollar bet so I pulled (rowed my pram) to Bob's house. He was gracious and gave me a dollar. I told Bob that I was going over to the house and get my pickup to load the pram. He said that would be OK. I got the pickup and drove back to Bob's house, only to find that he had chained and locked my boat to the telephone pole with a sign that said, "Mooring fee $1."

Bill came over and we had a good laugh and they helped load the pram. Boy, what great neighbors.

My old Chevy pickup was getting tired in the 1970s and Bill had a Volkswagen pickup that he used for several years. It had a 4-cylinder diesel engine in it and got about 40 miles per gallon. He told me he was getting a new pickup for his business and would sell the Volkswagen for a good price. It was a fair price and we made the deal with a hand shake, our only way of doing business.

I drove the pickup over to our house and showed it off to the family. I had never had a diesel engine-powered vehicle and loved the klunk-klunk sounds that diesels make. I had moved from teaching and coaching at Crescent Elk to Del Norte High School during those years. It was certainly a much shorter commute than my current long-standing commute to Big Flat, a 50-mile round-trip a day. I really enjoyed driving that little truck.

Each week I would usually stop at Bill's house on Adrian Way after work to visit and have a drink. One day Bill asked me about fuel consumption and I told him I was amazed that I had figured out my mileage and I was getting 80 miles to the gallon. He responded that I probably was not figuring it properly.

Several weeks went by and I had visited Bill several times after work. When I dropped by he would always disappear for a few minutes and I guessed that he had to use the restroom. I fueled up again and the 80-mile-per-gallon figure was still there.

I stopped again one afternoon and when I brought up the fuel situation again, he got a broad smile. I finally realized that something was akilter. He laughed and admitted to sneaking out to the garage and pouring several gallons of diesel fuel out of his storage tank into my Volkswagen. My good fortune came to an end.

I met Roger Long last week at Northwoods Restaurant sitting with Bill's two granddaughters and we talked about the event. Roger responded, "Back in those days, everyone knew the story, Chuck."

We had a good laugh as I had a chance to share with Bill our great adventure and good times together.

The Hartwicks and Blackburns will always have this friendship and great memories. Kevin is a successful CPA in town and Billy has grown into a fine administrator as principal for Crescent Elk School. My Charlene is here working with Steve Hendricks at Western Valley. My daughter Lynn is a successful hair dresser in Redding, and younger daughter Angie is having a good life in Clear Lake.

Del Norte: a place to live, a place to build friendships. My wife of 18 years, Missy, and I continue to love this community.