The Loop Newspaper - Tehachapi's Online Community News & Entertainment Guide

By Bill Mead 

'Bummers' are winners in the end

The Overall Picture


Today, We Honor The Overall Man Classic Bill Mead

Reprinted with permission

When we were in Sacramento recently to visit a sick relative my wife made an interesting observation. She noted that in the past we take the good times for granted while we reserve our sharpest and fondest memories for the pratfalls.

She said this revelation came to her because of an incident in Sacramento when she was a young women. She was being driven down Freeport Boulevard when the drover, another relative, had the steering wheel come off in his hands. She said he managed to stop the car without crashing into anything and somehow was able to re-attach the wheel so they could continue on their way.

She went on to point out that while she has enjoyed many uneventful visits in Sacramento over the years, it is the recollection of a stunned Homer clutching a disembodied steering wheel that she cherished the most.

I don't think my wife is odd in feeling this way. I find most people tend to emit a certain glow when they recount some episode that surely must have been the pits when it occurred. It may be significant that the longer ago these bad scenes took place the funnier they seem.

As a case in point, we were talking to somebody just last week about camping. In the midst of the conversation my wife and I began chattering enthusiastically about an ill-fated safari we had made to the High Sierras more than 30 years ago which turned out to be a world class bummer.

When we set out on that trip, my wife was under the impression she was seven months pregnant with our youngest daughter. As we learned after the trip was over, my wife had been eight-and-a-half months along when we left home. We hit the road with a tiny teardrop trailer (remember those?) behind our elderly Pontiac. You can imagine the expectant mother's discomfort trying to get into and out of a sleeping compartment hardly larger than a refrigerator crate.

But the force was with us in other ways because we spent much of our time in remote campgrounds. Had Carol decided to enter the world only a tad early I would have learned a good deal about obstetrics the hard way because for one period we were 80 miles from the nearest doctor, much of it over dirt roads.

That's the good part. We traveled more than 1,200 miles on that expedition in the middle of summer, packed into a car built before air conditioning had become affordable for the likes of us. That was the bad part. It could help explain why Carol was our final offspring.

When we finally straggled back home, the overloaded trailer cracked an axle only one mile from our house. With the tempature holding well above 100 degrees, I had to crawl under the wounded beast, remove the massive undercarriage by myself, take it to a machine shop for major surgery and then re-install it. Keep in mind that all of this was performed by the king of klutzes, mechanically speaking.

We'll never forget that summer. Had everything gone smoothly we wouldn't remember anything about it, most likely.

My wife may be onto something.

If you don't know Bill: Bill Mead was the longtime publisher of the Tehachapi News, along with Betty Mead, his wife and partner of more than 50 years. Known for his keen wit, which could be gentle or scathing or somewhere in between but was often self-deprecatory, Bill's writing won him a wide following among News readers. His column "The Overall Picture" ran in the News for more than 25 years, and in 1999 he published a collection of his columns in a volume entitled The Napa Valley Outhouse War. His book is currently available for sale at the Tehachapi Museum for $10.

Bill had a remarkable mind and because of his intelligence, humor and appearance he was regarded by many as Tehachapi's Mark Twain. As Betty used to remind him, he was "older than the oldest Model A Ford" and his wealth of life experiences and rural upbringing allowed him to bring a thoroughly American, 20th century perspective to his reflections and musings on the everyday. Bill passed away in 2008 but his writing lives on.

[Publisher's note: I read Bill's articles during the 80s and 90s and 20s and I am grateful to share them now with our current readers. I hope you enjoy them as much as I do.]


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