Dawn Pisturino's Blog

My Writing Journey

Reprise: Bigfoot!

(Still photo from Bigfoot film by Roger Patterson and Robert Gimlin, October 1967)

Crack! The bullet zings past my ear, hitting an old oak tree.

I drop the salmon wiggling in my hands and run along the bank of the Mokelumne River, propelling my long, hairy arms for speed. Behind me, the hunters move carefully through the dense underbrush, tracking my movements.

Sharp green thorns snag on my hair and tear at my flesh as I struggle through the blackberry briars and wild grapevines. I hike deeper into the wilderness on two strong legs, climbing skillfully around granite boulders barring my way. In the distance, the jagged outline of Deadwood Peak rises above the trees. If I can only get there, I will be safe.

Rounding a bend I see her, tearing meat from a rabbit carcass with big, sharp teeth. Mama! Her shaggy brown head turns in my direction. With a low growl, she opens her long, hairy arms as if to embrace me.

And then she smells it, the distinct odor of musky sweat. The hunters are near!

We run, ignoring the stones piercing our feet, causing us to stumble. Behind us, the humans call back and forth, “Bigfoot!”

Together, we melt into the shade of a thick stand of pines, hoping to slow down and catch our breath. But our feet become tangled in nets concealed by pine needles, and suddenly, we are swinging up, up into the air, and dangling from the limbs of a sturdy pine tree.

Mama struggles inside her net, growling with rage. I struggle, too, yelping helplessly as the net swings back and forth above the hard ground.

“We’ve got them now,” says a bearded hunter to his companions. “Bigfoot! That TV show, Monster Search, will pay us big bucks for these babies.”

“We’ll be famous,” cries a husky hunter with red hair. “Scientists won’t laugh at us anymore. Finally! Proof that Bigfoot exists!”

“How are we going to get them back to San Francisco?” asks an old man with spectacles. “I mean, we weren’t really expecting to find anything.”

The bearded hunter pulls out his camera. “I’m taking plenty of pictures, just in case something goes wrong. They can’t call it a hoax this time!”

While the camera clicks and the three men argue over the best way to get us back to the city, I turn my head from view and gnaw on the net’s thick webbing with my teeth. Pretty soon I’ve made a small opening, large enough to stick my fingers through. I wiggle them at Mama, and she understands what to do.

The red-haired hunter chuckles as he pokes me in the back with a long stick. I give him a warning growl, but he keeps it up. My powerful jaws chew faster on the netting.

“We need some of that fur,” says the old man with spectacles. “We can send it to a lab for analysis.”

“Good idea!” says the red-haired hunter. “Then, if they get away, we’ll still have proof.”

The three men stand under the nets, looking up at our shaggy brown bodies hanging in the air. Suddenly the nets give way, and Mama and I find ourselves lying on top of the three men on the ground.

We howl victory cries and scramble to our feet. The men, tangled in the nets, shout curses at us as we run away.

The Miwok Indians tell stories about us — great hairy beasts roaming these desolate mountains. They fear us and protect our sacred habitat on Deadwood Peak. We are going there now, secure in the knowledge that we cannot be followed. Men from the city will continue to hunt us. But, with help from the Miwoks, they will never find us. And we will never let them capture us alive.

Dawn Pisturino

©2014-2021 Dawn Pisturino. All Rights Reserved.

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Reprise: The Woman with the Blue Tattoo

Olive Oatman, Library of Congress

Olive Oatman became famous in the 1850s for the blue perpendicular lines tattooed onto her chin. She called them “slave marks,” and people all across America wanted to know how and why she had acquired them.

On the afternoon of February 18, 1851, while camped along the Gila River in Arizona, Olive and her younger sister, Mary Ann, watched in horror as a band of Western Yavapai Indians massacred their mother, father, two sisters, and three brothers. Held back as captives, the two girls, fourteen and seven, were forced to walk barefoot through the rugged desert to the isolated Yavapai camp. For a year they lived there as slaves, fetching wood, hauling water, and gathering food, until traded to the Mohave tribe for two horses, three blankets, vegetables, and beads.

The Mohaves (Aha Macav, “along the river,”) inhabited a lush, fertile valley along the banks of the Colorado River, the traditional boundary between Arizona and California.

Chief Espaniole and his wife, Aespaneo, welcomed the girls into the tribe and adopted them into their own family. They were proud to have rescued the girls from the cruel Yavapai and vowed to treat them well.

The girls worked alongside the other women of the tribe, gathering wood, fetching water, and planting seeds. They soon learned the Mohave language and developed close friendships with other members of the tribe.

Olive was variously called “Ali,” “Aliutman,” “Olivino,” and “Owich (cloud),” the clan name of Chief Espaniole’s family. Mohave women inherited clan names passed down from their fathers, and bearing a clan name meant Olive was considered a full member of the tribe.

Facial tattoos were common among the Mohave Indians because they believed the permanent marks guaranteed a place in “Sil’aid,” the land of the dead. Tribal members who died without tattoos would spend eternity in a desert rat hole. Since Olive and Mary Ann belonged to the tribe, they were expected to undergo the tattooing process.

The girls lay quietly on the ground while experienced tattooers drew designs on their chins. Since the tattoos were meant to be decorative, they chose designs that would enhance the girls’ faces. Using cactus needles or sharp sticks, the designs were pricked into the skin until the wounds freely bled. The sticks were dipped in the juice of a special river weed, then into a powder made from a blue river stone, and applied to the pinpricks on the girls’ chins. The process took several hours to complete and several days to heal.

With this rite of passage, Olive and Mary Ann became permanent members of the Mohave tribe and the first white females in the United States to wear tattoos.

A terrible drought in 1855 brought famine to the tribe. Many people died, including Mary Ann. Olive soon fell ill herself. Aespaneo saved her life by feeding her gruel made from cornmeal.

In January 1856, a Yuma Indian named Francisco arrived at the Mohave camp with papers from Fort Yuma ordering the release of Olive Oatman. Chief Espaniole refused to release her. But Francisco persisted, claiming that five million white soldiers were hiding in the hills, ready to attack and destroy the Mohave village. The Mohaves reluctantly gave in.

Once again, Olive was traded for two horses, blankets, and beads. She arrived at Fort Yuma ten days later, tanned, tattooed, painted, her hair dyed black, and wearing only a bark skirt. She was nineteen years old. Her brother Lorenzo, who had survived the massacre, traveled from California for a tender reunion with his long-lost sister.

Olive became an overnight sensation. Newspapers all across America printed stories about “the white Indian” and her blue tattoo. The Evansville Enquirer reported on November 9, 1859: “She will bear the marks of her captivity to her grave. Her savage masters having tattooed her after the customs of their tribes.”

In 1857 Royal B. Stratton published the first book detailing the Oatman ordeal, Life Among the Indians, which became an immediate best-seller. Olive and Lorenzo traveled to New York, where Olive promoted the book with autographed photographs and lectures. She openly displayed her tattoo while relaying the tragic story of the Oatman massacre and her life as a “slave” among the Mohave Indians.

When not delivering lectures, Olive self-consciously covered her chin with her hands to avoid the staring eyes of curious people.

Olive married wealthy cattleman John Brant Fairchild in 1865, left the lecture circuit, and eventually settled down in Sherman, Texas. She became reclusive, hid her face behind a black veil, experimented with make-up to hide her blue tattoo, and refused to discuss her life among the Indians. She died of heart failure in 1903. Afraid the Mohaves would claim her body, John Fairchild had her coffin sealed in iron and covered her grave with a thick granite tombstone.

(Mohave Indian woman with body paint and tattoos.)

Dawn Pisturino

October 17, 2012; November 25, 2021

Copyright 2012-2021 Dawn Pisturino. All Rights Reserved.

Please contact author for sources.

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A Tribute to Actor Michael York

Michael York as Pip in Great Expectations (1974)

Last night, I was thinking about the 1974 movie, Great Expectations, and wondering whatever happened to British actor Michael York. Was he still alive? An Internet search showed that he is 79 years old, living in West Hollywood, and still very much alive.

In 2011, my daughter, lyric soprano Ariel Pisturino, was a member of the cast in the Long Beach Opera production of Cherubini’s Medea. She had a singing role as one of Dirce’s handmaidens. One night, after the performance, an average looking elderly couple came up to her and expressed their admiration for her performance. The man was so sickly looking, he looked like he was in the last stages of cirrhosis of the liver, pancreatitis, or cancer. His skin was yellow and dry, his hair limp and straw-like. He seemed very familiar to me, but I could not immediately place him. But the man had a very distinctive theatrical voice, and there it was — Michael York!

(Lyric soprano Ariel Pisturino in 2011 at the furniture warehouse converted to a theater for the LBO production, Medea. Photo by Dawn Pisturino. The production garnered a lot of media coverage because former director, Andreas Mitisek, had a reputation for staging innovative opera productions in unusual locations.)

Michael York and his long-time wife, American photographer Patricia McCallum, were so kind and gracious to my daughter! He encouraged her talent and career and wished her the best for all of her future endeavors. He did not come off as arrogant or condescending, but just a real, down-to-earth person. In other words, he is not one of those Hollywood snobs who thinks he’s better than everybody else. He is not an angry, loud, foul-mouthed creep like Alec Baldwin, who was forced to go to anger management therapy. He and his wife showed up in ordinary clothes. In fact, they were under-dressed. With his obvious health problems, it looked like he had fallen on hard times. But the reality is a little different.

In 2012, York was diagnosed with amyloidosis, a rare disease in which insoluble proteins invade parts of the body and internal organs, eventually causing the organs to shut down. It took three years to get the right diagnosis. He underwent autologous stem cell transplant therapy and has been doing well since. A classically trained Shakespearean actor, York now writes books, does voiceovers, and promotes fundraising and public awareness of amyloidosis.

It just goes to show that no matter how talented you are, how important you think you are, or how rich you are, bad things happen. And it’s how you handle those challenges which determines the kind of person you are.

(Ariel Pisturino [facing front] as one of Dirce’s handmaidens in the LBO production of Medea.)

I will always have the greatest respect for Michael York for encouraging my daughter in her career. His humility and graciousness touched both our hearts. And I wish him and his wife all the best. We never know how our lives are going to end up, but we can never go wrong with being kind to others, supporting others with positive affirmations, and encouraging their hopes and dreams.

Michael York’s website: http://www.michaelyork.net

Long Beach Opera website: http://www.longbeachopera.org

Ariel Pisturino website: http://www.arielpisturino.com

Dawn Pisturino

November 4, 2021

Copyright 2011-2021 Dawn Pisturino. All Rights Reserved.

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Hollywood Forever Cemetery

Hollywood Forever Cemetery, 6000 Santa Monica Blvd, Los Angeles, CA, (866) 706-4826.

All photos by Dawn Pisturino.

The owners of the Hollywood Forever Cemetery had a vision to turn a sad, quiet place of rest into a thriving cultural and visitor center. Built in 1899, the cemetery is home to numerous Hollywood stars, directors, and other dignitaries. Visitors flock to the site to view the final resting places of famous people and walk among the beautiful gardens. At the south end of the cemetery can be seen the historic Paramount Studios on the other side of the wall.

During the summer, the cemetery features classic film screenings in association with Cinespia. People bring picnics and lawn chairs and hang out on the Fairbanks Lawn after sunset to enjoy the warm California weather. There’s usually a long line to purchase tickets and to get in.

The cemetery also hosts one of the largest Dia de Los Muertos festivals in America.

Every time I have been to Hollywood Forever Cemetery, I have enjoyed myself immensely. And walking among the headstones and mingling with the crowds is a fun experience and not scary at all – even after dark.

Did you notice the lipstick on Rudolph Valentino’s crypt? He still has a big following of swooning female fans!

Dawn Pisturino

October 6, 2021

Copyright 2008-2021 Dawn Pisturino. All Rights Reserved.

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A Case Study in Drought: Bullhead City, Arizona

New York Post – Lake Mead at Hoover Dam

Bullhead City, Arizona Primary Hazard: Drought

According to the National Drought Mitigation Center, drought is considered a creeping natural hazard because it has no “clear beginning and end like tornadoes or hurricanes or floods” (National Drought Mitigation Center, 2019, para. 19).  It can develop over many months or years as the climate in a region changes.  This is called “natural climate variability . . . we consider drought to be a normal part of climate just like floods, hurricanes, blizzards, and tornadoes” (National Drought Mitigation Center, 201, para. 7).

Why Bullhead City has the Highest Probability of Drought

Bullhead City, Arizona is a desert community on the Colorado River which sits at an elevation of 566 feet above sea level.  Roughly 40,000 people call it home (City Data, 2017).  Due to an abundance of rain and snow during the 2018-2019 winter season, the U.S. Drought Monitor determined in June, 2019 that Bullhead City had graduated from drought to an abnormally dry area (Associated Press, 2019).  As of this writing, however, the monsoon season—which normally dumps a lot of rain in the area—has been sparse, and Bullhead City is in danger of falling back into drought if the 2019-2020 winter season does not produce adequate precipitation.

Lack of precipitation affects water levels in lakes, rivers, and reservoirs.  Lake Mead, which is held in place by the Hoover Dam, supplies the bulk of water used by residents in Bullhead City and other populated areas along the Colorado River (Associated Press, 2019).

In April, 2019, Congress passed an updated Colorado River Drought Contingency Plan which affects Arizona, California, Nevada, and other states dependent on the Colorado River for water and hydroelectric power.  If Arizona loses its Colorado River allotment, communities will have to pump groundwater, which can be contaminated with natural nitrate and arsenic, or find other alternatives, such as the unpopular use of recycled water (Whitman, 2019).                                                                                                                                         

Removing contaminants raises the cost of water to consumers.  The ideal situation is “to pump only as much groundwater as flows back underground, a balance known as safe yield, by 2025” (Whitman, 2019, para. 13).  But that is a tough goal to implement.  Water conservation measures can stifle growth, an unpopular idea in high-growth areas.

Currently, the Colorado River supplies water to more than 30 million people in seven states, with 70% of that water used for agriculture (Zielinski, 2010).  When government officials designated water allotments to these states in 1922, there were far fewer people living in the region.  And the strain is showing: “the Colorado River no longer regularly reaches the sea” (Zielinski, 2010, para.10).  In fact, it turns into a pathetic mud puddle 50 miles north of the Pacific Ocean.

The Los Angeles Department of Water and Power (DWP) plans to build a solar-powered pump station south of Hoover Dam on the Colorado River that would continually refill Lake Mead and produce a continuous supply of hydroelectric power to millions of people in California.  The fear is that this project would shrink water supplies to communities farther down the Colorado River—such as Bullhead City (Grossman, 2018).

Shrinking water supplies, smaller water allotments, and increased demand have fueled tensions between the states dependent on the Colorado River—especially, between Arizona and California.  And those tensions are not going away anytime soon (Runyon & Jaspers, 2019).

Preparedness, Mitigation, Response, and Recovery

Bullhead City has its own Drought/Water Shortage Contingency Plan.  The Arizona State Legislature passed House bill 2277 in 2005 which requires communities to develop and maintain a system water plan that includes three parts: a water supply plan, a water conservation plan, and a drought preparedness plan.  This requirement has become part of the State’s water resource management plan to develop preparedness and mitigation strategies at both the local and state level (City of Bullhead City, 2016).

The United States Bureau of Reclamation (USBR) also requires local communities to develop drought/water shortage contingency plans to conserve water.  These plans outline community response to reductions in the water supply due to drought, infrastructure failure, or other causes (City of Bullhead City, 2016).

Bullhead City depends solely on the Colorado River for its water supply.  Arizona’s water allotment was designated in the 1922 Colorado River Compact.  “The city of Bullhead City diverts its Colorado River surface water allocation through groundwater wells” (City of Bullhead City, 2016, p. 5).  This is possible because of the Colorado River aquifer that exists.

The Secretary of the Interior can declare a shortage of Colorado River water.  All states dependent on the Colorado River would be forced to share in the water shortage as determined  by the 2007 Record of Decision – Colorado River Interim Guidelines for Lower Basin Shortages and the Coordinated Operations for Lake Powell and Lake Mead.  Bullhead City’s right to Colorado River water is fourth priority, which means that communities with higher priority will get their Colorado River water first.  The Mohave County Water Authority (MCWA) has set aside 107, 239 acre-feet of long-term water credits for Bullhead City.  Bullhead City, along with other Colorado River communities, has been given until 2026 to put preparedness plans in place to respond to drought and water shortages (City of Bullhead City, 2016).

If the water credits are eventually used, Bullhead City has a contract with the Central Arizona Project water canal to use groundwater pumping to recover their allotted water.  The use of such credits would incur extra costs that would be passed on to consumers (City of Bullhead City, 2016).

Bullhead City has developed plans to respond to a 20% and a 40% reduction in water supplies.  Both plans call for the unpopular use of reclaimed (recycled) water.  The extensive use of reclaimed water would require the building of extra infrastructure (City of Bullhead City, 2016). 

The response plan for Bullhead City has been developed as a staged response with the following components: water use reduction; priority users and water reduction; water rates/financial incentives; the role of private water companies; preparedness and mitigation plans for private water companies sub-contracted by Bullhead City; voluntary versus mandatory water reduction; agricultural irrigation versus drinking water; water conservation; public education; stored water recovery and delivery; scenarios of probable water shortage conditions; the use of reclaimed water; demand versus supply evaluation.  These plans would be implemented according to the water level in Lake Mead.  The strictest water management plans would be enforced when the level in Lake Mead is at or below 1,025 feet (City of Bullhead City, 2016).

In the meantime, Bullhead City has waged a public education campaign about the use of xeriscaping using low-water plants and trees; drip irrigation; and harvesting rainwater for landscape use (Water Resources Research Center, 2019).  Tips on conserving water are freely available on the city’s website.  Water rebates are available to consumers.  Water usage reports are available for public perusal.  And water development fees have been imposed to improve water services in the city (City of Bullhead City, 2019).

Bullhead City receives an average of 3 to12 inches of rain a year (Arizona Water Facts, 2019).  Epcor, a private water company, has raised consumer water rates 25% to 35% during the drought.  This situation has prompted Bullhead City to introduce Proposition 415, which would approve a bond up to $130 million to buy out the company (City of Bullhead City, 2019).  If approved, the city will own another source of water and provide water services at a lower cost to consumers.

Identify Gaps and Suggest Expansion of Preparedness, Mitigation, Response, and Recovery Plans

Bullhead City has not done enough to control population growth.  The city advertises itself as the lowest cost of living city in the state based on a 2015 study done by the Council for Community and Economic Research (Merrill, 2015).  This draws more people on fixed incomes from within and outside of the state.  These people can ill afford to pay higher water rates and development fees.  And if water supplies are, indeed, shrinking, Bullhead City can ill afford to add more people to its population.

Furthermore, if Bullhead City plans to use reclaimed water in the future, it needs to build the infrastructure now, and not wait for an emergency situation to arise.

Initial Evaluation and Emergency Management Procedures

Drought is the main hazard facing Bullhead City, Arizona.  It is dependent on water supplied by the Colorado River and the allotment it receives based on the Colorado River Compact of 1922.  Although it has plans in place for a 20% and 40% reduction in water supplies, it has not planned for anything more severe.  At the very worst, the governor of the State of Arizona would declare a disaster and water would have to be trucked in for residential and business use.  A lack of water would lead to social chaos and fighting among citizens.  There would be a mass exodus of people out of town.  Law enforcement would be heavily involved to control the situation. EMS personnel and local hospitals would have to deal with people who were severely dehydrated.  Animals would be abandoned and left to die from thirst.  City officials would be overwhelmed by demands for water.

Interrelationships among the Core Components of the Emergency Management Phases

Drought and water shortages can vary from season to season.  Preparedness plans to deal with these problems and to mitigate the costs and impacts are essential to protect the vital resource of water.  Well-conceived plans must be in place to respond to serious shortages of water for the sake of the community.  If the problem becomes serious enough, there might not be a recovery phase.

Conclusion

The desert was never meant to support millions of people.  Water is a precious resource that has not been taken seriously enough by government officials, city planners, and members of the real estate and development professions.  Bullhead City is dependent on a river it cannot control, weather and climate it cannot control, and State politicians it cannot control.  The city must do whatever it takes to protect its water supply.

Dawn Pisturino

Thomas Edison State University

September 24, 2019

References

Arizona Water Facts. (2019). Bullhead City, Arizona. Retrieved from

       http://www.arizonawaterfacts.com/mtw/bullhead-city.

Associated Press. (2019. June). Arizona out of short-term drought. Mohave Daily News.

       Retrieved from http://www.mohavedailynews.com/news/arizona-out-of-short-term-

       drought/article_8c36c50a-9259-11e9-ab41-9b4eacdd7bd1.html

City Data. (2017). Bullhead City, Arizona. Retrieved from

       http://www.city-data.com/city/Bullhead-City-Arizona.html

City of Bullhead City. (2019). City of Bullhead City. Retrieved from

       http://www.bullheadcity.com

City of Bullhead City. (2016). City of bullhead city drought/water shortage contingency

       plan. Retrieved fromhttp://www.bullheadcity.com/home/showdocument?id=7546

Grossman, D. (2018, July). The hoover dam changed america – And it might do it again.

       Popular Mechanics. Retrieved from

https://www.popularmechanics.com/technology/infrastructure/922539919/the-hoover-dam-

       changed-americaand-it-might-do-it-again.

Merrill, Laurie. (2015, June). Which arizona cities will cost you the least. AZ Central.

       Retrieved from https://www.azcentral.com/story/money/business/2015/06/17/bullhead-

       city-cheapest-arizona-city/28899239.

National Drought Mitigation Center. (2019). What is drought. Retrieved from

       http://www.drought.unl.edu/Education/Drought forKids/What is Drought.aspx.

Runyon, L. & Jaspers, B. (2019, February). What is happening with the colorado river drought

       plans. KPBS. Retrieved from

https://www.kpbs.org/news/2019/feb/07/what-is-happening-colorado-river-drought-plans.

Water Resources Research Center. (2019). Low-Water tree and plant guide. Retrieved from

       http://www.wrrc.arizona.edu

Whitman, E. (2019, April). After colorado river drought plan, what’s next for water in arizona.

       Retrieved from https://www.phoenixnewtimes.com/content/print/view/11268880.

Zielinski, S. (2010, October). The colorado river runs dry. Smithsonian Magazine.

       Retrieved from https://www.smithsonianmag.com/science-nature/the-colorado-river-runs-

       dry-61427169.

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Remembering the California Camp Fire 2018

Huffington Post Photo

Around 6:30 a.m. on November 8, 2018, the deadliest fire in California history broke out near Pulga, Butte County, California after a Pacific Gas & Electric high tension power line fell to the ground. Strong winds spread the fire to Concow, Paradise, Magalia, Chico, and Centerville.

Thousands of people, pets, and livestock were forced to evacuate. Towns not touched by the fire were overwhelmed with evacuees. Community organizers set up shelters and tent cities. Representatives from insurance companies and FEMA erected stations to help people affected by the fire.

By the time the fire was extinguished three weeks later, 153,336 acres and over 18,800 structures had been destroyed. At least 86 people perished.

Pacific Gas & Electric took responsibility for the fire and immediately began the cleanup process. But the costs of the damage forced PG&E to file for bankruptcy and cleanup efforts were delayed.

The cleanup has been estimated to take two or three years. Over 1,500 people were hired to remove debris. They must be certified in Hazmat cleanup due to concerns about asbestos. PG&E moved forward with its tree removal program to help prevent future wildfires.

A major hazard after the fire was the contamination of the water supplies. Benzene, a known carcinogenic, was released into the water when water pipes melted. People were forced to drink bottled water or install huge water tanks and have water delivered by truck. This hit surviving businesses particularly hard.

Many people who lost their homes and jobs moved away to start fresh someplace else. Six months after the fire, only 1,500 residents had returned to Paradise out of a population of 27,000. Businesses supplying basic goods re-opened with limited hours. Internet, telephone, and electricity services were restored.

More than 1,000 animals were rescued and taken to shelters, an overwhelming number. Six months later, all but 200 had been placed with new or recovered families.

On August 6, 2019, the Butte County Public Health Department issued a press release indicating that many locations in the Camp Fire burn area remain under the do-not-drink water advisory. Water quality is monitored by the California State Water Resources Control Board.

Agencies which have cooperated with response and recovery include: the California Department of Fire, California Department of Transportation, California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation, California Highway Patrol, California Office of Emergency Services, National Weather Service, California Conservation Corps, Butte County, and the City of Chico, California.

Dawn Pisturino

September 10, 2019

Copyright 2019-2020 Dawn Pisturino. All Rights Reserved.

Please contact author for sources.

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