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Radio Story of Hide ‘N Seek

Photo By Gail Fisher, LA Tiimes

Just got back from a month out on the road. A follower on my blog, Patrick Early, sent me a link to the radio story version of “Hide ‘N Seek” that I did for NPR back in the early 80’s. I had forgotten I did this but here is a link: https://beta.prx.org/stories/11658/details

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The Ride of My Life

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Here’s the latest video posted on The Ride of My Life. I have a story in about the middle of the clip. Check it out!

 

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Happy Father’s Day!

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The Decroos. My sister, Audrey Decroo and my dad, Ken,Sr. He will be 94 this September. He’s still hell on wheels.  My dad is a true american hero. He lived through poverty as a boy, combat during WWII in the South Pacific and is a true product of the American Dream. He raised a family, worked hard in construction all his life and made sure my sister and I had a better life than he and my mom had. He and mom were married for over sixty-five years. I once asked him how that was possible and he said, “Learn to loose the argument as quickly as possible.” Mom and dad wrote to each other throughout the war and married shortly after and settled in California.

Dad is part of the generation who built this country. They stormed the beaches of Okinowa and countless other islands when they were kids (my dad was 17). Fought that war with the knowledge that they would only get to come home when it was won. The Decroos serve. He lost many of his high school friends on those beaches and islands. He was wounded (purple heart) and silently carried those injuries to this day without complaint. Those kids had no “safe places” but rather had to make them for themselves.

My dad taught me many things but most importantly to be an honorable man. He has always said if your decision is good for people and your motivations are pure then let the chips fall where they may. Dad and mom made my sister and me who we are; for better or worse when it comes to me.

When the last of them pass, our country will have lost our greatest treasure. They are the spirit of this land. His generation is a non-renewable resource that will be missed. Don’t get me started on my mom!  I love you dad. 

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The Background Story of Almost Human

This short collection of stories is some of the events in my life, as a wild animal trainer, that inspired my novel, Almost Human. I’ve entitled this collection, Animal Days. I hope you enjoy my humble effort. Just click on the title above for a free copy. More Than Human the sequel will be released soon.

Oliver and Ken

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Bahia de Los Angeles

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Headed to Bahia de Los Angeles in a week and a half! We’ll be working on our place at Campo Gecko and doing a little fishing. Most importantly, we’ll be unplugged so I’ll be able to work on the third book in the Almost Human series. What could go wrong?

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Hecho en Mexico! – Lessons from the Road

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Many years ago while traveling in the backcountry of Baja I learned an important lesson that I have carried with me ever since.

Several of us were on a fishing adventure slowly making our way down the old Mexican 1 which serpentines it’s way along the backbone of this wild peninsula. We were in the middle of one of the loneness and driest places on earth, the Vizcaino Desert, when I felt a hard jolt followed by a loud clanging. My jeep coasted to a halt next to a large Boogun tree, engine still running. My son, Sam, ran up the dusty road and retrieved the driveshaft. It is amazing at how quiet and empty the desert can feel when you are broken down in the middle of it.

After a little trouble-shooting we figured that we could limp back to the village of Catavina some miles away by engaging the 4WD, which still transferred power to the front wheels. And so we began a long and tedious trek back to that little pueblo.

Upon arriving, we searched for a mechanic to help us. Actually, this place had more abandoned dwellings than occupied. But as luck would have it we found a guy who had ran out of money and was stranded there waiting for an opportunity to continue his journey North and he was a mechanic—only in Mexico.

Julio examined the shaft by rolling it on the crumbling pavement of an old abandoned gas station to check its trueness. I remember looking at a peeling mural of a map of the peninsula with a star marking our location. We were a long ways from home. The station had shut down years before for lack of traffic. Since its closure, the only fuel available was gotten from fifty-gallon drums strained through a chamois. My attention went back to Julio, who was shaking his head while examining the broken strap. We would not be traveling far without a new one.

I began to worry when he shaded his eyes from the intense Baja sun and scanned the surrounding desert. Without a word, he abruptly left us and carefully picked his way through the cacti toward a line of wrecked vehicles. I watched him disappear underneath a rusting Chevy pickup with a cholla growing up through its missing hood.

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Upon returning, he told me he needed 80 pesos to pay the man who “owned” it. Sensing I did not understand, he explained that he would have to salvage the pin bearings from it and further he would need to buy a strap from another “owner” of an old Ford rusting on the other side of the road. He smiled sweeping his arms across the desert encompassing at least thirty old, rusting vehicles and said, “This is my parts department.” The parts he needed would need to be salvaged off these abandoned wrecks.

Without any further discussion, he began to work. Using the tools we always carried on these adventures and an old rickety jack, he worked for a couple hours in the sweltering heat. First, he replaced each pin bearing one by one and than slowly jacked the shaft back up in place using a cradle he had made from pieces of wood he had sent the village children out to gather from along side the road.

By now, we had attracted most of the villagers; us being the best entertainment in town. I remember my friend, Fritz, teaching the game of chess from the tailgate of his pickup.

I asked Julio at one point how he was going to balance the shaft so it would spin true when reconnected to the engine. He smiled as he propped one end on a rock and took a small hand sledge and carefully lifted it a few inches above and struck it. He did this a couple of times more with care and precision. When he finished, he proudly said, “Hecho en Mexico!” Made in Mexico!

I paid Julio less than a hundred dollars for the whole job, which got him on his way and us as well. We continued our journey south to explore many bays and beaches without names that fueled countless campfire stories to this day. Years later, I passed that jeep on to my son and it still runs and has never needed any modifications to Julio’s repairs.

When you leave the frontiers and venture down the back roads of Baja there is no Auto Club to call, no machine shops, no dealerships, or Auto Zones to stop at. You only have yourself and the kindness of strangers. These strangers, the locals, are geniuses at making do with what they have. They live by the adage that necessity is the mother of all invention. It is what surely attracts me to these lonely places over and over.

When not writing and adventuring on my moto, I work as an educational consultant here in California. Doing that work in these times is not much different. We are bombarded with an endless stream of regulations and directives from the state and federal government that cost large sums of money to implement while we are asked to do it with less.

We find ourselves spending more and more time out of classrooms meeting the needs of outside bureaucrats who claim to have all of the answers. But when all is said and done, the solutions are in the talent we have all around us. The secret to our success is the same as Julio’s; use our own talent and ingenuity to solve the problem.

We need to invest in ourselves for a change. This of course, will not make the test making companies, “consultants,” textbook publishers, software designers and outside trainers very happy in their quest for billions of our tax dollars.

But in my experience, a good teacher who makes positive connections with children will out perform any program, any time. That is were I have always put my money because I am used to betting on winners.

 

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So excited!

 

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I’m very excited. I was just picked up by AIA Publishing. They will be repackaging Almost Human with a new cover design and a complete re-editing (line, copy and proof) of the book. As many know, I was very unhappy with the previous edition of AH. Even though it sold well, I didn’t like the errors that ended up in the book. AIA will be publishing More Than Human as well and so look for a several book series. They have a stellar reputation and are very selective. I’m humbled to be pickup by them.

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Lost Book

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 ‎Tina Lingenfelter‎ to Ken Decroo

Feeling sad because I brought your book, the one you signed, with me to Germany. I had it on the train in a backpack when it was stolen. Hopefully I can get another one. Someone, hopefully, is enjoying your book.

 

Ken- I will make sure you get another one.

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Moving Past the Fear of Giving: BMW Magazine, January 2018

Click here for my lastest article in BMW MOA Magazine!

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Fresh Chicken – My Lastest Article in BMW MOA Magazine (October 2017)

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Fresh Chicken Enchiladas!

As I write this, I’m sitting in my favorite coffee shop in the world, Hotshots in Lake Arrowhead, CA. And believe me, I’ve been to my share around the world and all pale to this gem in the mountains of Southern California.

When my dish came I was reminded of another time I ordered chicken. I had been riding a 2nd Class bus for days after crossing the Guatemalan border into Mexico. I knew this was going to be an adventure when I saw the sign on the bus driver’s visor that read, “Jesucristo Mi Copiloto—Jesus Christ is my Copilot.” Above the inscription hung a collection of crucifixes and crosses and a picture of Christ ascending into the heavens.

As we wound through the first mountains that evening, I noticed the bus driver was turning his headlights off when passing on blind curves. He explained to me that this allowed him to see the lights of oncoming vehicles. He laughed when I suggested that another vehicle could be doing the same thing and pointed to the sign. I retired to the back of the bus with some Campesinos and shared my flask.

As the trip progressed, I contracted dysentery requiring the bus driver to make frequent stops. Ultimately, the patience of the driver and the passengers was at an end and I found myself in Vera Cruz recuperating. A kind lady hotelier and a local pharmacist eventually put me right, which is a story I shared previously, The Fear of Giving.

I knew I was on the mend when I had the overwhelming craving for fresh chicken enchiladas, Vera Cruz style. My hostess told me of a local restaurant in her neighborhood that made the best in the city. She laughed and assured me they would be really fresh.

I decided I was strong enough to walk and could use the evening air. As I made my way through the narrow streets it began to rain, slowing my progress. Finally, I saw the little place down an alley and quickened my pace to get out of the weather.

I was about halfway when a young man sprinted past me chased by a rotund policeman; huffing and puffing with his pistol drawn. I had just enough time to dodge into an alcove as he began firing. After several shots, he bent over trying to catch his breath. The young man disappeared into the mist. The policeman and I went to dinner.

Inside was so steamy that you couldn’t see out the windows. My newfound friend and I were the only customers, so took seats near the kitchen. The policeman validated that the enchiladas were the best in town. The waitress was a short, little firebrand that stood tapping her foot impatiently as she waited for our orders.

I asked her if the chicken was fresh before I ordered. She laughed, as though to a private joke and assured me I wouldn’t find fresher. Right after she entered the kitchen with our orders, a small boy darted through its swinging doors, passed us, disappearing outside. I quizzically looked at the policeman but he just shrugged assuring me all was normal. Of course, I took that with a grain-of-salt as this was the same man who minutes before had been shooting at someone out front.

Now, in Mexico, you wait for your meal. It takes time and nothing happens very quickly. But usually, it’s worth it. A dinner is a social event that should be savored. But this dinner was really taking a long time, longer than usual. Just as I was about to call the waitress over, the boy returned with a chicken under each arm and disappeared into the kitchen. Seconds later, we heard squawking and the chopping of a cleaver followed by silence; except for subdued laughter and the rattling of pots.

After about half-and-hour, we had the freshest and most savory chicken enchiladas I’ve ever tasted to this day. And I made a few lifelong friends that have enriched my world ever since, but, as I said before, that’s another story.

The road to the freshest chicken enchiladas you’ve ever tasted can be a long and unpredictable one, but, as in life, the rewards can be great.

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