Peter Cavanaugh

Adios mis amigos

“The sky plane caught fire over Los Gatos Canyon…” Woody Guthrie, “Plane Wreck at Los Gatos” (Deportee)” (1948).

Here’s a letter I wrote to Rychard Withers, general manager of Fresno’s KFCF in late August of 2015:

Dear Rychard:

Last night I was leaving a “Town Hall Meeting” conducted by our conservative Congressman Tom McClintock at the Yosemite Lakes Clubhouse.

Suffice it to observe, the location was rabble free and safe from any madding crowd, particularly those perceived as dauntingly different. There was substantial audience feedback on “dangerous immigrants,” “illegal foreigners,” and “job stealing freeloaders,” with special emphasis on the “Mexican threat” being so courageously outlined by presidential candidate Donald Trump. Cries of spirited affirmation filled the room with Trump, Trump, Trump.

Gasping for sanity as soon as I got in my car to head home with a dazzling, fiery red summer sunset blazing on the horizon, I dialed up 88.1 FM for a breath of fresh air. I was blown away by an explosive version of Woody Guthrie’s “Plane Wreck at Los Gatos” (Deportee). It turns out “La Raza Chronicles” was scheduled in that time slot, except that “Plane Wreck” selection was playing when I tuned in, but was followed by some sort of interview in Spanish joined in progress at the end of the song. In any event, that particular selection after that specific meeting couldn’t have been more perfect.

So, do you have any idea what happened and who did that version? It featured a powerful Bruce Springsteen-like vocalist and wonderful slide guitar with someone softly speaking Spanish in the background. Maybe it was some sort of magical hallucination. I’ve had stranger things happen.

With best wishes,

Peter Cavanaugh, Executive Committee, Oakhurst Democratic Club

Rychard informed me that this marked an occasion of pure serendipity. It turned out that there was a software glitch in broadcasting “La Raza Chronicles” and the KFCF programming computer had filled the sudden dead air with “Plane Wreck at Los Gatos” by Lance Canales and Tim Z. Hernandez as a matter of pure random chance. I don’t believe in coincidence.

Early this year, I discovered Dr. Ruben Casas’ excellent article on “All They Will Call You” in the February issue of Fresno’s “Community Alliance” along with rave reviews of this new book by Mr. Hernandez. It tells a remarkable story with precision and perseverance, presenting a brilliant, experience driven narrative with deeply personal compassion and powerfully persuasive insight.

I immediately tracked down Mr. Hernandez and asked him to visit Oakhurst. He said he would be pleased to do so.

The next monthly meeting of the Oakhurst Democratic Club will be this Saturday, June 3, at Denny’s on Highway 41 with breakfast starting at 8:30 a.m. and program beginning at 9:30. The general public is encouraged to attend.

Our featured speaker will be Hernandez, author of “All They Will Call You”, a history of the 1948 plane crash in Los Gatos Canyon that killed 28 migrant workers.

Recipient of numerous national book awards, Hernandez is an American writer, poet and performer. Tim was raised in the San Joaquin Valley, the son of migrant farm workers. In his adolescent years he became immersed in school plays and recitation, eventually studying poetry and performance at California State University, Long Beach.

He earned his bachelor of arts degree in writing and literature from Naropa University - the first accredited Buddhist institute in the West. He holds a master of fine arts degree from Bennington College in Vermont and is currently an assistant professor in creative writing at the University of Texas in El Paso.

His books and research have been featured in the Los Angeles Times, The New York Times, The San Francisco Chronicle, Public Radio International and NPR’s “All Things Considered.”

Anne Driscoll of Branches Books & Gifts is celebrating the store’s fourth year anniversary this weekend and has ordered copies of “All They Will Call You,” offering a 20% discount to those mentioning Hernandez’s Oakhurst appearance. If you buy one, be sure to have it at the meeting for signing.