Just when I was trying to get over the loss of one of my closest friends for 40 years, Steve Merlo, I lost another one two weeks ago. Jordan “Turk” Eliades was my algebra teacher at North High School. During the fall of my senior year, he and I discovered we had something in common ... pheasant and duck hunting.

Beginning then and for many years after, we would hunt around the Alpaugh and Corcoran area every fall. His good friend Bob Newbrough, who was also my chemistry teacher, would often join us. Bob would bring along his two sons, Steve and Mark. Both of these young men would go on to become medical doctors practicing here in Bakersfield.

To this day, Steve is one of my closest friends and we regularly hunt waterfowl together. Turk was a really one-of-a-kind guy: World War II fighter pilot, prisoner of war, husband, father, educator, coach and great hunting companion. He will be missed by the hundreds of friends and students who knew him.

Another fog story

In my column a couple of weeks ago, I mentioned that there were two times when I was completely disoriented direction-wise due to Tule fog. Once was up at the Wilbur flood area, when Merlo and I launched a boat and made a U-turn back to shore.

The only other time I was completely disoriented in the fog was in the same area of the Wilbur. One morning I drove up to the south side of the flood area to look for geese in the fields adjoining it. By the time I got there, the fog had pretty much lifted and the sky was just a solid overcast. It was all the same color and you could not tell where the sun was.

After cruising around for a while, I thought I was headed west across a nice grassy field with a few salt cedars scattered about. I was driving a Subaru 4-wheel drive station wagon at the time. Suddenly I zipped through streams of water that had seeped in the field from the Wilbur flood area, and I realized I was heading due north into the flood zone.

I made an abrupt U-turn and tried my best to get out of the many little muddy streams that were all around me, but to no avail. I hit a huge one, and my car went right down to the frame in the goop. I was stuck so deep that I could not open my door, so I crawled out the window. Standing there, I knew it was a two-to-three mile walk to the west and then another mile north on a road to the north side of the Wilbur, where I hoped I could find a hunter willing to drive down and tow me out.

I had taken just about 10 steps when I looked far off in the distance and saw a truck that was heading right to me. Lo and behold but who should it be ... Steve Merlo and Dino Fanucchi. Steve steps out of the truck and says, “Barnes, we’re only charging $100 for towing fees today because we know you. If it was someone else, it would be twice that.” Lucky for me, I guess!

I was only about 20 feet from dry ground, so I got out a couple of tow straps I carried and they just sucked me right out of the bog. Thanks pal. RIP. I will never forget you.

I would like to take a moment to thank Zach Ewing, Mike Griffith and the staff at The Californian for allowing me to write an occasional column. Please be assured that I am in no way trying to replace my longtime friend Steve Merlo in this department. It would be impossible for someone to fill his shoes, ever.

If any of you readers have some ideas that might help with a column about field shooting or target shooting, please get in touch with me through my listed email address. This is all new to me, so I am open to suggestions. And, I hope you all have a very happy New Year.

Ken Barnes is a longtime outdoorsman in Kern County. His opinions do not necessarily reflect those of The Californian. Email him at ken.barnes@aol.com.

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