Coleman Fish Hatchery is a lovely drive through walnut orchards and along the river. Try to visit during the annual open house and Salmon Festival in October, when the leaves are starting to turn beautiful autumn colors in some of the best of rural Shasta County.
My beautiful wife and I took our youngest grandchild to that event recently. He’s the only boy of the four grandkids and a cute little inquisitive nonstop whirlwind. It was a typical lovely north state day, with the weather fulfilling its obligation to sparkle. We went early, so there was little traffic. Parking was plentiful and well handled, and the place was packed with booths and demonstrations of all imaginable kinds.
The hatchery had millions of fish, from eggs on up through yummy pan-size to a tank of craggy old monsters. There were balloons, popcorn, pamphlets, and hamburgers that weren’t ready yet (like nobody eats one at 10 a.m.?). There were fly fishing lessons, kayak clubbers and Native American demonstrations. There was a big basket full of acorns that kids were urged to smash with rocks, so the acorns could later theoretically be made into something edible. Smashing is the main attraction, however. Little kids could paint on a big piece of butcher paper, which was also a hit, although perhaps not entirely salmon-oriented. Our little Buddy got to paint a lot of blue on a low corner of the paper, and we took pictures. Somebody dressed up in a big, fuzzy, Smokey Bear costume and another somebody else donned the “Give a hoot, don’t pollute” owl costume, both of which I’m sure got really warm later that day. And both interested our grandson, but Smokey actually got a hug – and a knuckle bump, like guys do. Yes, we took pictures of that, also.
Now, picture this. Buddy announced that he wanted popcorn. Whether he saw it on the way in or just thought of it, I don’t know, but I found some and bought it, whereupon he commenced cramming crunchy corn in his mouth with both fists. I am 6 feet tall; he’s not yet 3 feet. My wife and our son (Buddy’s dad) were following along, walking down the middle of a hatchery road watching the kid. When he got distracted by something to the side, I asked, “Buddy? Do you want any more of this popcorn?” He replied, “Nope. Let’s go find the beer.”
Now, I’m pretty sure he meant BEAR. We had just seen Smokey. However, it sounded like BEER, and we asked him to repeat it. I think he said beer. I’m sticking with it. Cool kid. He got water.
But I don’t mean to talk about Buddy, and that isn’t his name. It’s just what some of us call him. He has one of those new names kids are getting now, some of which sound pretty strange to these ancient ears. It’s as though moms don’t want their little bundle of joy to have to share a dull name with other kids in class, so they think up a unique spelling or name. Like the boy named Sue, I guess. Or the kid we met once not long ago who got Anteni instead of Anthony.
Occasionally you still find kids named John, Bill, Linda or Mary, but less often Phil and Steve or Nancy and Jane. I have a fondness for girl names like Elizabeth and Cynthia, but somewhere in the 60s, kids suddenly got named Dweezil and Moon Unit, so now Apple and Sunflower are almost traditional-sounding, and nobody seems to notice when girls are named after Wyatt Earp’s brother, Morgan. (Come to think of it, why no girls named Wyatt?) At one point kids went through a serious rash of “J” names – Jarod, Josh, Jason, Jennifer, Jessica – that are pretty common now, but the names I recall from my childhood – Eunice, Thelma, Maxine, Mildred, Alma, Berniece, Henry, Ralph, Norman, Harold, Raymond, Clifford – now only show up in the obits.
This generation doesn’t have a total monopoly on unusual names. One of my childhood heroes was named Yelberton (that’s the “Y” in Y. A. Tittle), and one of our family’s closest friends was saddled with first and middle names Elbridge and Vearl. It’s interesting and a little weird to speculate what might be next, where it might go from here, whether the pendulum will swing back, or what these kids will name their kids. I find it mildly amusing. The name isn’t what makes a person memorable or unique. It’s the human being inside that skin that counts.
“Skylark, have you seen a valley green with spring/Where my heart can go a journeying/Over the shadows and the rain…?”
Thanks for listening. It may be martini time here.