Why Ft. Bragg?
Well, Ft. Bragg… we moved to Ft. Bragg from Devon, England. Merle and I met in San Francisco. She’s English. It must have been 1976 when she and I met. And when she figured it was time for her to go back to England to spend some time near her mother, we decided it would be a good thing if I went, too. So we moved to England near her mum in the southwest for a couple of years. It would have been a difficult proposition for us to remain in England. I was trying my hand at some writing and so I did not have real work…
You weren’t in brewing yet?
And you’d left biology?
Well, I had my degree in zoology and—much to my father’s disappointment—had not yet managed to find a job in my field. And so I was still sort of free and easy, with the exception that I was in this committed relationship and we were over in England. So I had the responsibilities of an immigrant over there. They were pretty serious about that stuff even in the days before homeland security of their own variety. So we decided after a couple of years we’d have to return to the United States because the British government said, basically, “You can’t stay here unless something happens: you get married or someone here decides they can’t continue in business without your help,”—I think that probably sums it up. Or I would suddenly find myself with offers from publishers for my book—which of course wasn’t going to happen.
We knew we wanted to move back to California, but not to the city. I had always had ideas and still had ideas of pursuing a career in marine biology. It had been my dream to work on the coast of California in my field so we looked up and down the coast, to see what made sense, far enough away from the city, but close enough that we could partake of the culture. Of course, you know that with a bachelor’s degree, there’s not a lot of opportunity. With a master’s degree there’s not a lot of opportunity! When I first got here, I traveled up and down and stopped at Scripps and a bunch of places and talked to people about what I could expect to do, and really it was nothing. If you don’t have a PhD and convince people you’ve got work and funding, well forget it.
Four years of college was about all I could handle, and I knew there was no way I was staying around for more just be able to do the work that was interesting to me. On the other hand, the interest was here. All the things that I was interested in studying or learning more about, the marine biology of the Pacific Coast, was here. You don’t have to have a job to study them. Midterm in our stay over there, I came Ft. Bragg and Mendocino, and looked around. It’s such a beautiful coastline, and I thought I could pursue my interest without a job and do some other work.
So we made the decision to move someplace that we thought we’d really love to live, a beautiful place away from the city.
The place we lived in England was absolutely idyllic. It is on the Channel side, South Ham near Torquay, Dartmouth actually, in the Dart watershed, a beautiful little area, and it convinced us we wanted to stay in a pastoral environment. We lived in a 900 year old house. For me, being at home all day long, it was fantastic because there were all the rhythms of the country there. You know, Reg the cow man would drive the cows out in the morning and he’d call them in at night. The only sounds during the day besides the sounds of nature, every now and then a car would go down the lane. So we really wanted to continue that experience here. We made the priority to find a great place to live, and then find jobs and all the rest.