Tuesday, August 16, 2016

Remembering Klau Mine Dave a.k.a. Studebaker Dave

David Brooks was my friend. We first met at a gun show in Paso Robles the weekend of December 9-10, 2007, at the Mid-state Fairgrounds. I was the oddball rock seller in the midst of guns and antiques and other gun show-requisite types of dealers like knife-sellers and jerky sellers and right-wing bumper-sticker sellers and army surplus sellers, etcetera. He liked rocks, too, and we clicked right away. He invited me out to where he lived which was on the Buena Vista Mine/Klaue Mine complex where he was the 20+ years caretaker. The day after the show ended we began to regularly exchange emails about obscure history and geology and other similar nerdy things. I soon took him up on the offer to visit the mines. My then-girlfriend and I paid him a visit and had a blast. The friendship continued beyond my relationship with that girl. We become brothers, he becoming the older brother I never had, sometimes quarreling as he was one of those angry atheists angry at the God in whom they claim to not believe and afraid they might be wrong. I tried to patiently battle him in such a way such as to show him the reality of the love of God and beauty of Christ in all my brokenness and still casting about trying to figure life out. By the end of his life I do believe he transformed and his perspective changed on this matter... I certainly hope so and am hopeful.

Dave was a combination of a trusty foreman, hardscrabble miner, master mechanic, fearless hunter, not to fail to mention de facto Nordic blacksmith, ancient mariner, epic poet (watch him read one of his poems HERE) and natural philosopher in the tradition of the Scientific Revolution and the Enlightenment as he often did arcane research and wild experiments reminiscent of the sorts of things we recount Benjamin Franklin to have done. In short, he was a Renaissance Man disguised as a short Odin with a perpetual limp and grin. That limp and grin accompanied me on a number of adventures during the time of our friendship, some of them on the mine complex and some elsewhere. On the mine complex he and I explored an adit he had not explored in many years due to difficulty of access and we unsuccessfully searched for another nearby. We also participated in the March 2009 CFMS Ant Hill Field Trip.

Dave was always there for me as a friend, brother, mentor, and wingman as the occasion required. He helped me move when I lost my house and had a short time with lots to do. I lamented to him that I could not repay him for his time and gas and he famously responded, "some things just have to be done" meaning that he simply must help me regardless. I did repay him with spoils of a project in which I was paid with material things like an old motorcycle and such. I was also there for Dave as a sounding board and adventure sidekick. Sometimes Dave would drunk-call me awash in angst over a sense of eminent major life change due to his fear that his mentor and boss and landlord Harold Biagini would die of his cancer forcing him off the property. The irony is that Harold recovered from his cancer scare, dying several years later of old age in his 90s while Dave would die on Monday, August 16, 2010, six years ago today, at age 47.

I discovered Dave's body six years ago today. All through 2010 it seemed he was having respiratory problems. After a while it seemed he got better but then fixed a neighbor's tractor he had long before agreed to work on and he got a bad relapse of whatever it was afflicting him. As he worsened he seemed to glom onto me over his much better and more long-lived friends like Andy and Billy. I think each of his friends knew not too much about his other close friends and we each thought we were his best friend not knowing how close he was to the others. For whatever reason he kept us each apart. I was honored that a guy who could be somewhat cagey and distrusting of strangers opened up to me so quickly. He was a fairly good judge of character and I feel he could read my sincerity, genuineness, authenticity, and in some respects, innocence, relatively-speaking. What I now think was going on then was he felt his impending death and wanted to be with a Christian given I was his distinctly Christian friend. I was ministering to not only his physical and logistical needs but also his emotional and spiritual needs. I was the noob friend but I by the grace of God possessed the things he needed most. I also feel he did not want to worry his longer-term and closer friends like Andy and Billy whom he loved dearly.

Anywho, he was drawn to my support and care down the final stretch of his last days as his breathing became more labored and he became weaker and prepared for his grandmother to come up from Southern California and take him to the hospital and be there with him. I helped him prep his home space for an extended absence and was going to care for his dog. He also needed a lot of assistance like bringing fluids to drink and food as he found walking about the house incredibly laborious.

On the night of August 15, 2010, we had dinner after working all day and watched BBC's Planet Earth which we had been watching successive nights  previously. I went home to sleep and get ready to finish helping him in the morning before going back to Cuesta College later that day for the first time in over 20 years. When I arrived the next morning his outer lights were still on as they had been the night before and his radio was still on as it had been when I left. I immediately knew something had happened to him, either he was down on the ground and in trouble or he had already died. I walked through the front door, the same door threshold Billy May (different Billy friend-of-Dave than the aforementioned) would drop dead in when murdered in that house in 2014 after he took over the caretaker duties at the mines. Anywho, I immediately saw Dave still sitting on his sofa where I left him and it was clear he was dead. His eyes were looking straight on focused at a very great distance. I do believe he was seeing something when he died. He died awake, not in his sleep, but without any struggle or any more discomfort than he was already experiencing as evidenced by his positioning and facial expression which was a stare into the distance.

At that point I freaked out and did not think of using the phone in his house to call 911 but got in my pickup and started driving down Klau Mine Road looking for a neighbor from whom to get help. Of course, on that day nobody was around. Even the Cal Fire state at the intersection of Klau Mine Road and Chimney Rock Road was empty as the crew was out on a call. I drove up Chimney Rock Road to Justin Vineyards (pre-Resnick ownership) and placed a 911 call right in the tasting room with everybody watching and hearing me. I then drove back to Dave's and waited. The Cal Fire engine from the aforementioned nearby station arrived and went in and confirmed Dave was gone and then the crew stayed with me and comforted me while we awaited the sheriff's office to arrive. They did and got to work getting his guns out of his house so nobody stole them while the house was unoccupied until his family arrived which happened the next day. Later, his autopsy revealed he suffered from emphysema exacerbated by a right lung infection. Had he sought treatment sooner he would have been told to leave the mine and that would have killed him, too. He died on his terms. It would appear that for 20 years working and living on an EPA Superfund Site, working a coal-powered forge, regularly working on diesel motors, and living adjacent to a dusty road inside an unsealed house will ultimately be fatal for even the hardy likes of Super Dave.

I went on to class feeling overwhelmed and things felt surreal. It helped to be a bit numb but my sadness and sense of loss steeply deepened in the days and weeks and months to follow. From the grave, Dave gave his friends new friends as Billy and Andy and I all got to know each other and became friends with each other which we remain to this day even though our paths cause us not to see each other much anymore. However, Billy and Andy are now my buddies for life and Dave brought us together through his death. Dave remains with all three of us and I hope the four of us meet again in eternity.

Dave rockhounding at Ant Hill near Bakersfield in March, 2009. Photo by Kim Patrick Noyes (all rights reserved).
Dave working his magic forge. Photo by Andy Randrup (all rights reserved).
Dave's life accomplishment that took years to complete and was completed within months of his death. This $20,000 gate is still located in Cayucos, CA. Photo by Kim Patrick Noyes or Andy Randrup (all rights reserved).
Super Dave with his super friend Andy; they were brothers by other mothers. Photo by Wendy Randrup (all rights reserved).
Andy returning Dave to the sea from whence he arose in a Morro Bay ceremony in October, 2010.
Photo by Wendy Randrup (all rights reserved).

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