The Spider

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I was doodling with my compass when I came up with this design. My wife saw it and said it reminded her of a spider. So, I went with that for a title. I like the design so far. I decided to build it.

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My work table already had another design on it. I did not want to erase it. I might want to use it again.

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I bought me a new board to plan the design full scale. I need to know how long each piece of steel needs to be. Although the design is based on a circle I need to draw a square, then find the center of the square.

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X marks the spot. Now I can make a circle. I don’t have a compass that can make a circle with a 36 inch diameter.

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I am going to make a circle the old fashion way, as old as the first man ever who thought about circles. I am tapping a nail in the center of the square.

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I tied a slip knot around the nail.

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I have a pencil tied to the other end.

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I pull tightly on the thong and start drawing the circle.

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I am going to fit my design into this circle. I still don’t know if the final outcome will resemble the drawing. It usually doesn’t happen that way.

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I am drawing it in by hand.

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From one end to the other measures 40 inches. The “rose” part will be 4 inches on both ends. That’s an extra 4 inches on each end for a total of 48 inches. I won’t know if that is the right length until I make it and bend it into the shape I want.

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it is time to hammer each piece in the shape. I do not have an anvil. Instead I use a piece of real his heavy service most of my hammering needs.
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It looks like the 48 inches length is going to work.

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I am not sure of the length for the second piece. It looks good so far.
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I am roughing out the third piece. Then the 4th.

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As I’m adding more pieces I am comparing them with my drawing.

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Now I have all the pieces together. It’s a little different than my original drawing.

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You can see in the center I have used a piece of soapstone to keep them all centered.

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it is time to complete each iron rose before final assembly.

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I precut all the pieces that I’m going to need.
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This is a rivet. These have been used for many centuries to bind pieces of steel together.

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the center punch makes it dent in the steel. When I drill a hole the dent keeps the Drill bit from sliding around.

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The rivet expands when it is hammered on, and holds the pieces tightly together.

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No two pieces will ever be the same. There are too many variables. That is why trying to make a duplicate of one side is very difficult.

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It took me about 12 weeks to get to the final project. The final project turned out a little different. Highlight the changes that I made. They seem more graceful to me.

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The spider is currently on display at the Red Berry Coffee Bar on Main Street in Los Altos, California through February 2018.

 

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Graduation Day by Carlos Najera

It was here at last. June 1923. Graduation day at the Haydock Grammar School here in Oxnard. I went to school on that day wearing my best, that is to say, I wore what I wore every day, an old threadbare shirt and worn-out knee pants, no shoes. 

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 In the afternoon the principal came to our classroom and he gave us the worst scolding that we had ever received. “. . . . I don’t know why you girls are even here! You’re just going to get married and have babies. And you! Young men, unless you have rich daddies you’re just going to work every day until you drop dead from exhaustion. Find work at the factory. Work for the railroad. Work on the farms. If you can’t do that, get out town because there is nothing else here you can do.”

 He made us line up at the front of the class then he passed out the diplomas.  “Here! Here! Here!” He said as he shoved them into our hands. “Now try not to mess up the rest of your lives!” Then he rushed out of the room.

Boy! I sure was glad I had a rich daddy! Oh! Wait a minute . . . .

 

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1956 by Joseph and Carlos Najera

Tuberculosis took nearly ten years away from us.  As a family we were falling apart and growing more distant.  TB is a terrible disease. We thought the doctors had it under control, but it came back, she had a relapse and she was back in the ward.

I would come home from work and find an empty house, the front door wide open.  They were all gone, Carlitos, Teresa, Xotchi, even Joe.  He was only seven, and nobody knew where he was.

I worked in the Imperial Valley. Two hundred miles away Christi lay in her hospital bed at the Maryknoll Hospital in Monrovia.

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Xotchl, Teresa, and Joe were even farther away in Port Hueneme with their Godparents.

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That’s Christi on the left, her sister Catherine in the middle, and sister Emily. Carlitos, the Boy, was in Oxnard being raised by the sisters and their mother.    Tuberculosis took nearly ten years away from the life of our family.  It also took her lung. The surgery was a success but it left her with only one lung. The remaining lung was infected also but medication kept it under control.

This wasn’t good. It wasn’t right. I wanted my family back. I wanted the six of us to be a family again and I knew it wasn’t going to happen here in the Imperial Valley.

Oxnard had not changed much. It still had little to offer. There was work at the Naval Base.  There was plenty of work in the fields. Truck driving was also a possibility. I was so miserable growing up there that I did not want to put my children through all the racism and prejudice that still lingered there.

I remembered the Bay Area. Stanford, San Jose State, San Francisco State, University of San Francisco, Berkeley, Hayward State, University of the Pacific, UC Davis, University of Santa Clara were all within driving distance. San Jose also had a city college right there in town.

Lockheed, General Electric, Westinghouse, IBM, and many other companies were established there.  I wanted to go up there and find out if the Bay Area was actually as good it sounded.  I could not leave the kids alone again, so once again I packed them up and took them back to Oxnard.  My wife’s sisters would take care of them while I went up North.

I was a machine designer. There was plenty of opportunities there for me and I finally found employment at Food Machinery Corporation. It later became known as FMC.  They were famous for making farm machinery like tractors.  One division made tanks for the military.  They also made complicated machinery for processing food.

When you go to a restaurant for breakfast and open those little containers that hold jelly for your toast, I was one of the original designers of that machine.  I also help design the machinery that the Post Office uses to process the mail.  One of my last projects was involved in purifying sewage water to make it drinkable again.

Things happened pretty fast after this.  Christi had an operation.  The doctors removed her sickly lung.  I went back to El Centro and sold our house.  I went back to Oxnard and gathered my wife and children.  She was still weak from the operation.  We were a family again.  Highway 101 North, and we were family again.

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The Graduate by Joseph and Carlos Najera

I made it. I graduated from Oxnard High, Class of 1927. It was a proud moment for my mama. She couldn’t stop crying.

I didn’t think it was such a big deal, but looking back, the teachers thought I was retarded because I didn’t know the language. Then, once they figured out that I wasn’t retarded, they still didn’t like me because of who I am. For the most part they didn’t teach me anything. They just wanted me to sit quietly and not be a bother.

It was the times, I know that. If you were Mexican, you didn’t need to learn. Your future was out there, working in the fields. It wasn’t right. I knew then and I know it now, so I studied. I learned, everything the school system had to offer. I read most of the books in the Oxnard Public Library and I kept on reading, even to this day. It wasn’t that great a fete, back then, in an age before television and affordable radios.

My mama saw how hard everyone worked, John, all his people, all the field workers in the county. She didn’t want that for me, and I was determined not to disappoint her.

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By now my brother Roberto was working in Calexico. He worked for the lumber company and said there were opportunities there for me.  I shook the dust off my shoes and made my way down south.

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The Little Flower by Carlos Najera

Xochitl August 24, 1935 was the day our first born daughter came into this world. That’s her on the left Margaret Christina. That’s not what I called her. To me she was the beautiful little flower and I called her that, the Aztec way, Xochitl. We pronounced her name “So Chee.”

Sometimes this world isn’t fair to the young and innocent. When my wife Christi became ill with TB, Xochitl was the one who took over her mother’s duties and responsibilities around the house. She did the cooking and took care of her two brothers and sister.

She did that until my broken heart couldn’t take it anymore.

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 It Is Good by Carlos Najera

The Lord once made the Earth and likewise made the Sky. And when He looked upon his work, and saw what He had done, He saw that it was good. (Klaus Australis)

I was nine years old in 1917 and another school year started.  I dreaded the thought of going through another gauntlet of scoldings, unkindness, and misunderstandings.

This was why many of my cousins and the  other Spanish-speaking kids that I knew dropped out of school. I do not blame them. I did not want to put myself through this terrible experience.

I had a lot of wonderful teachers throughout my school years but in between I have had the opposite. I never understood how grown-up people could express such hatred for our kind.

This is our land. This was Spain. This was Mexico. We were here many years before they ever heard of our West Coast. So many of the English-speaking people treated us as outsiders.

“Don’t pay them any mind, mijo.” My mother would tell me. She know what me and my brothers and sisters were going through in school. “You show them who you are. You show them that you are better than they are. The gringos want you to give up. They want you to quit so that you would be willing to work out in the fields. Many of our people do just that. Working in the fields is hard work, but it is also honorable and dignified.”

“But that is not your way. You have a brain. You have intelligence. Your father graduated from the University. He was a civil engineer and he wanted you and Bobby to follow in his footsteps. Bobby chose a different way and he works hard in the lumber business. It’s up to you now to be strong, to study, and be the best person you can be.”

“You read. You study. You learn everything you can. Your father is gone now but he can still be proud of you.”

“He can still be proud of you.” My mother repeated.

That is the path I took. I went on to finish school. I graduated from Oxnard High, Class of 1927. I never stopped studying and learning.

I still don’t know that how it works, but sometimes, now that I’m an old man, remembering these things, I feel that my father is not too far away looking down at me and saying:

“It is good.”

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Free Food and The Cold Walk by Carlos Najera

Our old house was on C Street near Magnolia. I am not sure that it actually qualified as a house. A better word would be to call it a shack. It had a frame with 1 x 12 planks for the walls. Strips of wood covered the cracks or spaces that were in between the planks. It had no sheetrock or plaster.

Our house consisted of a kitchen and dining area, a bedroom for my parents, and another bedroom for the rest of us. My sisters slept in one bed, my brothers Frank and Henry slept together, and after my older brother Bobby left home, I had our bed all to myself.

Our outhouse was outside  in our backyard. Every once in a while John would dig a new hole and move it. We did have running water, but it too was outside and it was usually my job to fill a bucket and bring it in.

The city had electricity and many houses were wired for it, but for a long time we relied on kerosene to light our house. We rarely stayed up late. Kerosene was an expense and our family needed to be thrifty with every penny we had. Even now in my old age I go to bed when it is dark and wake up when it is light.

When we could afford it, mama would send me downtown to the feed and seed  warehouse, that was the store where farmers went for their supplies. Nowadays in our modern times we call them hardware stores.

It was still early if you went by the clock, but it was dark and gloomy outside. The late afternoon sun was hidden by a thick fog bank that covered the coast. I walked the few blocks to the downtown area. All I had to warm me was an old sweater that was mostly full of holes. It was Bobby’s when he was still at home. It has been a couple of years since he went off on his own, plenty of time for the moths to have a grand old time eating it up.

I was beginning to feel the chill of that November afternoon as I walked inside the store with my can. I gave the man the handful of coins my mama handed me and he filled up my can with the kerosene.

On my way back home I could smell pork chops that someone was cooking for dinner. I could tell by the wonderful smells what everyone was having that night. I also knew what my mama was cooking, frijole beans with verdulagas on the side.

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Sometimes I have seen verdulagas in the markets especially in the local stores that served mainly the Mexican people. In our town it grows like a weed. John and I and the girls, went around the empty lots and picked bunches of it for dinner. Free food!

I remember stopping in front of one house on the way home. It was dark by now. The people left their curtains open. The inside of the house was bright with their electric lights. They had a nice fire glowing in their fireplace.  The father and his children were sitting in front of the fire. I stood outside looking in and shivering with the can of kerosene in my hand.  I stood there until the chill finally got to me and made it back home to the kitchen that was lit by a candle.

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