to voice over artist Tim George
the part of Hank Peabody
Tim George's website to learn more
about his work
Lenses, Hearts and Rockets
from The Reeducation of a Turd Peddler
by John Henry Peabody
IS BROUGHT UP TO THE PASS
BY JANET, ON THE WAY TO THE HALL OF JARS,
AND SPENDS TIME WITH THREE RETIRED
FORNAY INDIAN GENTLEMEN.
FORNAY HAD BEEN GRINDING LENSES for nearly five centuries. The local
sandstoneboth Matilija and Coldwater that made up the
Passwas riven with lodes of crystal structure.
Longer than anyone can remember, the Fornay had coveted
and polished the crystal chunks into the charm stones and amulets discovered
by anthropologists and pot hunters to this day. I do remember once in
high school when Fatboy Crumwill showed
up in the parking lot with a trunk load of this kind of thing and I
thought, You are just asking for trouble, brother. He didnt
care. His family had done that kind of thing in the area for two centuries.
Crystals were unique amongst rocks. To ancient peoples,
an old Fornay explained to me, crystals were like frozen water, but
they never melted and they werent cold. They could sit in the
sun all day, hot and unmelting.
In the hierarchy of materials, crystal was the wise mans
stone. The hunter had obsidianblack, igneous, quickly drying magma
glassand he had chert, Franciscan, pure and brown as chocolate,
or white, Monterey, striated with black and blue. Each was capable of
being knapped into a razor. But the Shaman had enormous and peculiar
bits of crystal to make magic rocks, crystal balls, and heads of staphs
into which they could see. If the clarity of the deposit was good enough,
a shaman could look into a crystal, even before polishing, and see worlds
that had been hidden and waiting for discovery. A holy man in Nevada,
in 1045, looked into a large geode with its crystal center and saw a
mushroom cloud set slightly back, rising towards the frame of the geodes
By about 1300 A.D., the practice of shining crystals fell
out of the hands of the shamans. A fraternal cult developed around the
use of crystals, not unlike the sororities of basket makers or fraternities
of tomol plank canoe makers encountered by Cabrillo at Carpinteria,
near present day Santa Barbara.
Weeks were spent buffing the best rocks with chamois-style
deerskin and grades of sand. A well-polished piece of crystal could
be used for ceremony, to astonish the citizenry or start a fire. A lense
of crystal given to a boy or girl would magnify a captured bugor
grill a desperate ant with the suns rays. Crystal set in boxes
held blue caterpillars glowing in the summer night to light a travelers
way up the Pass.
Zhou Mans armada had been using telescopes throughout
their voyage. When they arrived in El Fornio, one of the first things
that the Fornay took to was the Chinese use of the telescope. After
the beaching of some of their ships in early winter, 1423, they offered
their skills to the Fornayone of which was the development of
In 1784, when JTopet, the Salinaan Indian, sat on
his belly at the Valley of the Bears peering through an eye stick
provided by Muhu and Monsowas they looked for Junipero Serras
hearthe was looking through three-hundred and fifty years of shared
Fornay and Chinese technology.
No small wonder a dozen Fornay men and women went on to
attend Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute in the 1940s and 50s, the other
MIT, applying their interest and know-how in lense technology.
The team that put together the Hubble Telescope, with its concept of
analog lenses and digital relay communication, had two Fornay Indians
on their rosterone a descendant of Sumx Tai Fun, the procurer
of Junipero Serras heart, and his brother, Muhu Owl
Tai Fun, who provided JTopet his first look into a Fornay eye
Today, strung along the highest points of the Pass, the
Fornay have state-of-the art telescopes. Although the modern scopes
were purchased from outside, many children are still taught how to make
the kind of eye stick the Chinese helped the Fornay develop.
The Gaan Geng Festival or Lense Festival
takes place once a year at the summer solstice. Grandparents work with
their grandchildren to make imaginative to highly functional telescopes
using only allowed materials. Because of this tradition, discussion
and use of the telescope are a favorite pastime. Even local Walgreens
are required to carry at least two kinds of telescopes as part of their
As part of my education, after the theft of
the heart, Janet arranged for me to head up into the Pass and meet some
of the Fornay.
The very first day we hiked up to the forward point of the
western face of the Pass with a journalist from The New Yorker.
Janet was showing him around, so she left me there, about two-thousand
feet up, facing the Pacific, while she took her guest down into the
villages on the eastern side of the crest.
I was given three retired Fornay gentleman who were drinking
tea, reading the paper and looking about the area with a Celestron C80Ed-R
telescopenot that I knew that, but that they were happy tell me
all about it.
The sky was clear, a mild front having passed through and
run off the fog of the previous day. Across the channel one could see
the Island of Sirenas. Something, likely dolphins or an upwelling of
anchovies, was working the surface a mile or so off shore. The sun had
about forty minutes left above the horizon. The blues were turning to
orange. Soon the oranges would turn to yellow, and white would flare
off the water as the horizon cut up into the sun.
The three gentleman, two of whom I had seen around town,
offered me some of their tea as they fooled around with the telecope.
All I know is I didnt steal the damn heart,
Benny, in his fifties, eight years retired from PG & E, said.
Oh, theyll try and peg it on an Indian,
his brother-in-law Charlie went on. Charlie had been a Prudential Life
Insurance guy for years before taking over the reigns of treasurer for
the tribe. He retired three years ago.
I think its a good opportunity now, Sy
said. Sy had been a schoolteacher and served on the downtown Board of
Supervisors in the early 1980s. I think this is our chance to
get it back. Whoever stole it has loosened it up for us.
Charlie was looking down into the neighborhoods. Lets see,
what do we have?
Sy and Benny laughed. You dirty old man.
Thats the Chinese for you. Youre all so
hard up. They laughed at Charlie. Charlie was Zhou Manmeaning,
like Janet, he was descended from the Chinese explorers.
Hey, dont tell me you havent done it.
No, Sy said. But Ive been told that
the time to do it is not at a quarter to five in the afternoon. You
have to wait until everyone gets home from work. Then theyre changing
They all howled.
Here, Benny redirected Charlie. This is
a great time of the day to see County Corner. He swung Charlie
around and pointed the telescope north. At this time of year and
this time of day, you can actually see the shadow cast by the post.
Nah, he drawled. You lie.
Yeah. Ive seen it. Let me show you. Benny
took the telescope and directed it north, towards County
Corner, where The Oldest Standing Fence Post in the West
The orginal County
Corner fencepost, on display in
the garden out front of the historical soceity.
centuries, before it was a fence post, it had been a Fornay rock cairn,
denoting the northern edge of Fornay land. When the Spanish began surveying
the area, high ground and rock cairns were some of the places they started.
The rocks at County Corner were kicked over and scattered years ago
by Spanish boots and sandals, but its place as the transition between
native presence and European ownership was solid.
In 1926, the original fence post was replaced by a clean
piece of four-squared, milled wood which stands there today, while the
original post leans in a reliquary at the historical society (about
twelve feet from where Junipero Serras heart sat).
Today people go to County Corner to have their picture taken with their
aunts and uncles and other out-of-towners. You can buy a hotdog and
a coke there, too, if you want, a bag of chips or an ice cream cone.
While most of these people dont do it, I like to remember
that standing with the post, one is tracing the bodies of those who
came before them, putting their body where ancient bodies stood. This
is particularly true if one followed the measurements away from County
Corner as a spot of survey. Any sub-division or road measured from County
Corner was a reference to the areas historical body, its corner.
Flat on a mattress in a room in a modern house, you have been put there
by County Corner. Laying in bed facing the Corner, youre on the
grid. Youre a compass. Driving in a car, laid out on local roads,
you are in reference to County Corner. You see it: when my mother and
Janets mother were killed in their automobile accident, it, too,
was a reference to County Corner.
There. See, Benny left the telescope and directed
Sy over to look.
If you ask me, Charlie said. Whoever took
the heart has to have a reason to want it.
We didnt do that job, Benny said to him.
We had other chances. But that wouldve been too obvious.
Sy kept looking through the lense. Oh, yeah. There
it is. You can see it. He waved Charlie over.
Alright, alright, Charlie skittered over and
looked through the telescope. Technically, my County Corner is
about eight thousand miles that way, he pointed west across the
The other two scolded him. Traitor!
But, yeah, he stared through the lense. You
can see the shadow. Thats a good trick, Benny, he gazed
for a moment and then relinquished the telescope.
Hey, shit collector man, you wanna have a look?
No, I waved them off. Im just here
They shrugged and started back into themselves.
If you wanna know what I think, Sy said to them.
I think its either one of two things. Its either some
kids thought it was funny to steal it, and that means itll turn
up in a bar or fraternity somewhere, or some big time ass hole wants
to make a statement.
Like those canonization people, Charlie offered.
Maybe they want to get a hold of it and, I dunno . . .
Youre on there, Charlie, Benny let in.
This `Society to Do Whatever the Hell It is They Want,
he waved a hand trying to finish his sentence. Whatre they
The society that wants to be a bunch of assholes is
what theyre called, Sy finished. You know, rebuild
the mission and sell ice cream cones.
Yeah, Benny pointed. They could do it.
Well, Sy figured. The whole group? I dont
Alright, Charlie looked at his watch. The
real reason to be up here, he readjusted the telescope. Not
that shooting the shit with you old duffs and hanging out with, whats
your name again? they asked me.
Yeah. The historical society guyyoull
like this, he looked at me. This is the science part.
Charlie hit his watch again. Id say about a minute.
They followed him as he spun the telescope around and pointed
it south. Then they all looked at their watches.
5:58, said Charlie.
Like a single bird alighting, a small white flare of an
object started straight for the sky. It headed up steeply, leaving the
faintest contrail and no sense of shape or depth.
There she blows, Charlie smiled. A Lariat
heading for the other side of the planet.
Kapowey, Sy let.
Ka-ching, Benny backed him as they watched the
object race higher and higher into the atmosphere.
It was a Lariat Missile out
of Vandenburg Air Force base to the south.
We watched for about a minute and a half before the missile
disappeared into the atmosphere, its contrail leaving a flush of emerald
and orange whisp.
Well, thats that, Charlie looked around.
Yeah, Sy kept his eyes to the sky, watching
the contrail unfold, going into blues and reds, a silver shimmer passing
Aint it perty, Benny said. Thats
some napalm they got there.
So, Harry, Charlie said. Is Ms. Janet
going to come back and get you? Or are we just stuck with you for the
rest of the evening?