WARREN’S WORLD: Skunks in San Clemente

By Beacon Staff

It was that time of year. I looked out my living room window in Montana and watched the brown dirt creep across the valley. Once again, it revealed all the blemishes that were kept hidden under a blanket of snow since last December.

It took three or four days for Laurie and I to pack up our trailer for the annual pilgrimage back to our island in the rain up near the Canadian border in Washington state.

We once again turned our backs on a winter spent living right next to a chairlift – a perfect location for anyone who likes to turn a pair of skis.

When most people go on a ski vacation they try to pack everything in one suitcase and rent their skis when they get there because of the excessive charges of the airlines. In our case, we go skiing for four or five months at a time and it is hard to take everything we think we need without a large trailer.

Laurie brings all of her bookwork to run her foundation to teach entrepreneurship to high school kids. I bring along all of the material to work on my weekly newspaper columns and help write my autobiography.

Meanwhile, I am trying to remember what happened between when I was teaching skiing at Sun Valley and got a job working for Emile Allais at Squaw Valley … besides surfing and working, what did I do during that summer?

I think it was the summer I worked for Featherlike Pneumatic Products testing air mattresses for leaks. Sounds like a pretty soft job, but I had to fill up the air mattresses with about 80 percent of the necessary air and then submerge them in a tank of water and mark where the bubbles came out with a special marking pencil. Then I would hang them out to dry and carry them to the ladies who were running the machines to glue patches over the leaks.

On Friday afternoon, I would merge into the southbound traffic for San Onofre and two hours later I could catch a few waves on my 100-pound, 11-foot-long, redwood surfboard. I’m not too proud to admit I was probably the last guy to convert from a heavy surfboard to a light one, but I had spent my life running back and forth on a long board and I just never made the transition. I did have a 3-year-old Ford business coupe (it had no back seat in it). I had opened up the back so I could sleep and cook back there as well as haul my surfboard safely and comfortably.

We all used to sleep in a sub-divided but not yet built neighborhood in South San Clemente and one night I made the mistake of laying the nose of my surfboard on the ground and the other end on the back bumper. This made a perfect ramp for a skunk to walk up the surfboard and enjoy a loaf of bread out of my food box. I don’t know how long it took that skunk to eat that loaf of bread, but I held my breath for a new world’s record while he ate it.

When he finally finished he walked back down my surfboard and went back home for the rest of the night. If I had frightened him and he had sprayed, I would have had to sell the car to a junkyard.

That same, beat-up ‘46 Ford got me to Squaw Valley for that first winter. At the time, Squaw Valley was the only chair lift in the Lake Tahoe Basin. We had two other rope tows. We could sleep almost 40 people. And with four ski instructors in the ski school there were days when we each had a pupil.

On days when I didn’t teach I started running my camera for the first time. With the $376 that I was able to earn selling cartoons and still photos, I bought 37 100-foot rolls of 16mm Kodachrome film that I managed to shoot, edit and script for my first feature length film called “Deep and Light.”

Apparently, it did not smell like that skunk in my car the summer before because it was the first of hundreds of movies that I have shot and glued together since 1950.

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