Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Russell loved the Yosemite Valley (as seen in May, 2005, from the Tunnel Overlook. Barry took this amazing picture.)
Yosemite, May, 2005, after a very wet winter

Sunday, October 5, 2008

Ping Pong with Russell

Have you ever seen Russell play ping pong? He could probably have made it his career had he so chosen! We spent a great deal of time playing -- I was the hapless little sister who tried and tried to even score a point. I cannot remember if he ever gave away points. What I do remember is how he would hit the ball then spin 360 degrees with a variety of sound effects --- and be ready to hit my return to him! He would get me laughing so hard that my stomach muscles would ache! Russell could put some kind of mystery spin on the ball so that it could just touch the edge of the table, where the white paint is, then "guh -- zing" right off the edge at some strange 90 degree angle. Other times he might just seem to tap the ball over the net right into the center of the playing area, but the ball would jump to the left or the right OR right back toward him! I have to admit instead of being frustrating it was hilarious! He was a real one-man show when it came to ping pong. (I also have to admit that I only seemed and still seem to think it was only funny when Russell creamed me like that. I don't like to play with other people who are so much better than me - ha!)

Friday, September 26, 2008

Thursday, September 11, 2008

The Pinnacles

Russell began his "Leading of Adventures" with me at least since we were in Palo Alto (1956). Our family went to the Pinnacles (down on highway 152) often enough over the years that I considered it to be one of my favorite places for exploring as a girl. There was a trail through the volcanic rocks that was lit with light bulbs hanging from a single wire looped along the ceiling of sometimes vast caverns and other times small passageways. It didn't take long for Russell and I to leave the lit path and go adventuring into tight places with no noticeable path or exit. He found a creek flowing underground that we walked, splashed, and crawled up (yes, very wet) and then went through gaps between rocks to find our way to the surface (eventually). It was something I looked forward to when we would return -- finding that little creek off the beaten path inside this massive, dark "pile" of rocks. There were times we had no idea how we would find our way out. To me it was like something out of Tom Sawyer -- and I half-expected that we might get lost in there and people would come with lanterns - calling our names - to rescue us! Amazingly, I can't recall ever being scolded for wet and/or muddy shoes, socks, and clothes. Thank goodness for a mom who wasn't worried about dirt or stains (thanks, Mom!). Anyway, other than Round Top in Los Altos Hills, the Pinnacles carry special adventuring memories for me. I was a very lucky little sister.

Monday, August 18, 2008

Russell at Tadpole Creek, August 2008

My mother and I cherish this photo.

Sunday, August 17, 2008

Russ, Gay, and Janet Julia in 1989

Welcome, Janet Julia, to the family!

(L. to r.) Shellie's two: Laura, 2; Julie, 5
Karen's two: Brian, 7; Jennifer, 3 1/2
Gay's two: Gus, 6; Gem, 8

Christmas, 1989

Left to right: Shellie, 32; Russell, 40; Gramcie, 63; Janet Julia Towle, 1 month; Karen, 37; Richard, 28.

Thursday, August 14, 2008

Tribute to Russell from the Italian Alps


Follow this link to see Ed Stadum's tribute to Russell on Sunday, August 10, 2008, from the Italian Alps.

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Russell Becomes and Uncle and then A DAD!!!

Christmas, 1989.
Russ, Karen, Shellie, and Rich in Grass Valley.
Notice how baby Janet is looking at her dad!
Russell was wonderful with my son, Brian, the first grandchild. It was special for me to watch them together...but Russell with Janet was transformed -- he became much like the big brother I grew up with.

Monday, August 11, 2008

Big Brother, Russ, age 5 1/2. Little Sister, Karen, age 2 1/2.

Russ, summer between 7th and 8th grade

Russ (12), Karen (9), Shellie (3 1/2), Richie (6 months) in Los Altos Hills. Note the apricots drying on the trays in the background. We had an orchard of 48 trees.

I wrote a name song for Russell

I used to sing this song to Russell (note spelling of muscle - oh well!) We had one for Shellie, too, as well as Mom, Dad, and baby Richie.

Russell's You Tube videos

Search for: rufus 16180339887

"Quintessence" by Russell


Beautiful photography while Russell sings, "Outra Vez"


Making Music With Russell

Russ (19) and Karen (16) play
"Never On Sunday"
Christmas, 1968
Los Altos Hills

Sunday, August 10, 2008

Russell Towle, Man Extraordinaire

"Towle is to local Western Sierra Nevada foothills geology, history, botany, and literary musings what Thoreau was to Walden Pond, Twain to the Mississippi, Muir to Yosemite, and Leopold to Sand County."

This was written following a trip to the waterfalls at Big Granite Creek. You can read it at http://gambolinman.blogspot.com and go to June 26, 2006. Of course, Russell also talked and wrote extensively about this amazing adventure.

Friday, August 8, 2008

My Brother, Russell Towle - Childhood Memories

My Brother
Does time dim the memory or heighten it?
Do I romanticize our adventures so as to make them sound as delightful to the listener as they were to us?
Did we not experience something unique and unusual between brother and sister?

I say time stands still and gives me memories as on a platter – full of colors and smells and tastes and sounds.
I say we had wonderful adventures that were romantic in the "high seas" kind of way.
I say no girl ever grew up with a better big brother.

Tonight there is a gaping hole where my heart should be, as if a cannonball has run me through.
Tonight I said goodbye to the one who was my best friend in the formative years of my life.
Tonight I weep for the loss of a fine man, wonderful dad, faithful partner, loyal brother, good friend to many, amazing scholar, creative musician, brilliant mathematician, interesting history and natural science author, protector of nature, wilderness guide in the spirit of John Muir, and all-around Renaissance Man: Russell Towle.

When I was very small we shared a bunk bed in Woodland Hills. I only recall going with Russ down to the golf course to look for golf balls, and kittens being born on my bed one evening.

Our early years in Palo Alto there were many days we walked to Ortega Elementary School - first crossing the "dangerous" Lewis Road, then walking down strange fenced paths through the middle of each block to the school. At this school Russ taught me to play "hoppi-taw," a form of hopscotch, and he taught me well enough that I was the city-wide champion for Palo Alto in 1959 at age 7 (I imagine there were age classifications, as Russ could certainly outplay me!)

Our Palo Alto house backed up on a creek, and Russ and I spent a great deal of time there with the tadpoles and frogs – and I imagine a snake or two. We brought frogs back from Steven’s Creek, also, and let them live in this strange drain pipe our father put in along the property line from front to back. If we wanted to hold our big, fat frog, we could put the hose in one end and turn it on, then wait at the other end for the frog. Many neighborhood children came to our "drain" to hold a frog or two over the years that we lived there.
Our father built a very tall swing set for us and Russ and I used to swing very, very high on it. We also had monkey bars, and Russ taught me to hang by my heels from the bar – an amazing feat (ha ha) if I do say so myself!
When Russ was 8 and I was 5 we got a trampoline. Oh, how we loved that trampoline. Russ took lessons and was soon doing front and back flips and all sorts of other tricks. He taught me quite a few as I got older. He was very limber and coordinated on the trampoline.
Although I hardly remember it, Russ and I went to Sunday School at the Unitarian Church for a time. I recall walking there - a fair distance. During a tag game one Sunday a glass door was shut in front of Russ as he pursued a friend in a game of tag and he flew through the door – and ended up covered in blood needing many stitches. I only recall the cloth wrapped around his head.
At Middlefield Park Russ somehow showed me how he could swing all the way around the bar. I also remember this, and could never figure out how he did it. I meant to ask him about it, as this is certainly one memory I could guess was slightly "amplified." I do know we did a lot of jumping out of very high swings into the sand – and we loved every second of it. Growing up in the 50's was great, because we were able to go to the park without our parents – who might have nixed the high jumping, etc.
Russ had a marvelous home-made go-cart on which he gave rides to all of the neighborhood children. I found this quite thrilling. I was very impressed by my big brother’s driving abilities! One day he gave Cathy Newman a ride on the back of the go-cart and the engine caught the edge of her tutu (ballerina costume) and very neatly removed it from her leotard. Scandalous!
Our best years together were in Los Altos Hills. We hiked all over the place, made tunnels in the tall mustard grass, slid down weedy hillsides on cardboard, walked to the pool in our bare feet (a half hour walk over a very tall hill), and even explored the tunnel taking the creek underground for one mile. (We did it the first time without a flashlight – I was afraid but I followed Russ down into the abyss. After that we returned many more times – with a light!)
I learned how to climb past barbed wire when we hiked up Round Top and how to run straight at a 5-foot chain link fence and vault right over the top! Russ taught me how to pitch and I became the permanent pitcher at recess for the boys’ softball games (they didn’t let girls play).
The next summer Russ taught me how to hit and field, and I graduated to becoming the only girl allowed to play with the boys at recess! Russ and I played "Around the World" and "Horse" out by the garage endlessly – and thanks to him I also got to play basketball with the boys at recess. I was very good at 3-point shots, too, although we didn’t call them that then. He and I would move farther and farther away from the basketball hoop when we were practicing, determined to out throw the other. Truly, we enjoyed our competition and I cannot remember any kind of cross words. Perhaps that is due to our three-year age difference.
Kickball was a huge favorite with us, and we practiced our kicking down at the elementary school, which was located just at the end of our street and across the way. It was fun to be the "star" at recess when playing kickball. I can still kick a ball very, very far. I owe it all to Russ, my brother.
The trampoline was set up in our yard at ground level adjacent to a tall water tower with a kind of lean to on one side. Russ and I used to clamber up onto that roof and jump off onto the trampoline, then bounce "guh------zing" into the bushes and trees on the other side of the area. Miraculously we never got hurt. We also had a game where one of us would lie very still on the trampoline while the other one bounced above, coming down with feet together until the very last second before landing on the sibling’s face. I don’t think our parents ever saw that game! We tried joint leaps and everything we could think of on that trampoline.
I had a pet monkey that had belonged to my third grade teacher at Hillview. I loved that monkey and at times it took Russ’ place beside me on the monkey bars at the elementary school or climbing a tree. Perhaps he was jealous of the attention I gave to that little monkey. I do not know. At any rate, the little one contracted pneumonia and died, and Russ (the only time I can recall him being unkind to me) came kind of prancing up to me saying somewhat gleefully, "Your monkey is dead, your monkey is dead." I was grief stricken and he did not continue to tease, so our relationship was not ruined by his unkind words. If I recall, he and I went on a special hike later that day to help me feel better.
Russ had a boomerang that we used to throw down in the hay field at the bottom of Weston Drive. He was very good at it and could throw it quite a distance. Sometimes we had to take a serious dive to avoid the returning boomerang. I got pretty good at it also, thanks to Russ’ tutelage and patience. Though he had friends his age, I was fortunate enough to get to spend a great deal of time with him, and even then he was an intrepid hiker and adventurer – lucky me!
One year I decided to try to join the Little League baseball team. Russ loaned me a pair of his jeans (with holes in them which made me look very authentic), a red corduroy shirt, and his Giants’ baseball cap. I tucked my hair up into the cap and went off to City Hall to apply. I can only guess that this was Russ’ idea, since he knew I loved baseball so much. I only know for certain that I changed my mind when the organizers said that all of the boys on the team took showers together after each game - yuck! Russ was kind to me when I came home disappointed.
Like I said, growing up in the 50's was great. We rode our bicycles more than once several miles to Los Altos and San Jose. I cannot even begin to fathom that now. We also rode down to the City Hall and bought soda in glass bottles from the vending machine – for a cool 5 cents each! (My favorite was orange soda, I think his was root beer.)
Dad had a lathe and Russ taught me how to make baseball bats, table legs, and other interesting things. We also melted lead and made army men. If they got too bent up, we melted them again and recast them. Even today I can’t believe we had access to so many tools and machines and so much fun. Maybe it wasn’t a very "girly" youth, but it was great for me. (Besides, I didn’t even want to be a girl – the boys had all the fun!)
To get to Round Top (a "mountain") we had to walk down West Fremont to Arastradero then go through the barbed wired then up the mountain. There were interesting caves at the top surrounded by sprawling oak trees. He made up all sorts of stories for our adventures – I wish I had written them down so I could retell them here.
The tall water tower had a wooden ladder on the side going to the top, and Dad showed us one day that you could see all the way to the Golden Gate Bridge if you climbed to the top. Russ went up and stayed up for a long time exclaiming about all he could see. I went up and barely brushed some wire netting sticking out from the roof. In seconds I had bees in my mouth, on my face and arms, and buzzing everywhere. All told I had seven very swollen places. Russ had none.
There are more adventures – trips to the beach and to the mountains. Perhaps I will write more another time. I could not sleep with my brother alone at the hospital - I wanted to stay - that isn’t done...He has been gone from us only nine hours...
I will remember and remember and remember. I will think of all the good and the fun and the learning and the passion for so many areas that he had
Those memories will fill the gaping hole in my heart, but only drop by drop, as time passes and the world goes on.
We have lost a great one - perhaps not to the world at large, but to many friends and admirers, and most definitely, to his sister, Karen.