Bill Crowell was a farm boy, a Navy pilot, a truck driver, a Real Estate Broker and my Dad. He was one of the most well-respected common men I have ever known. He never made a big splash any where, but there are those who literally owe their life to him. There have been few men as honest as he was. Rarely can you find a man who truly did his best to do the right thing, every time. The older I got the more I realized what a gem he really was. He used to tell me when I was a teenager that the older I got the smarter my old man would get. He was right about that one.
Years ago I worked at a big dance bar in San Francisco. I’d gone downstairs to get something and found a thief down there. He tried to escape by running up the steps, through the bar and out the door. I chased him assuming Security would join in. They didn’t and I found myself on a quiet San Francisco street late at night face to face with a criminal. He hit me. In the head. Eight times to be exact. And then escaped. I walked back to the bar to get help. One of my friends took one look at my face and closed down the bar throwing everyone out. They took me to the hospital where the Dr. looked at me and said “How many times did he hit you?” “Eight.” “How do you know eight?” “I counted. I work out a lot and I count in my head a lot.” It was the night before Thanksgiving. I woke up the next morning and it was apparent that I was going to miss the Family Massacre in Davis. I called my Uncle and told him I wouldn’t be there because I couldn’t see out of the swollen closed eye and it was too dangerous to drive in holiday traffic like that. The day after Thanksgiving I had to work at Founder’s Title. In walked my Father to check on me. “When are you going to quit doing stupid shit like that?” he asked. “Dad, what would you have done?” “Same damned thing.” Well, there you have it.
He told me not to get Xica. She was a little probably 4 day old puppy when I first saw her. It was time for me to get my first dog as an adult. I was living in San Francisco. I had this great apartment at the end of the panhandle. I lost my apartment over that dog. Later he told me he was wrong about that dog and that I’d done the right thing. He didn’t have a dog at the time. When she was two we had Christmas at my house. He sat in the living room and threw the wet slobbery tennis ball against the wall so Xica could chase it in the living room. He would have killed me for doing that at his house. Xica had an awesome time and so did he.
Back in 1989 I was a season ticket holder at Candlestick Park. I had World Series tickets. That’s not something my Dad would have ever pursued, but I had them and I asked him if he’d like to go to Game 3. We were in the parking lot when the ground came up at him. He grabbed his chest, sure that he was having a heart attack. I thought “Oh shit! I don’t know CPR.” Then I saw a 5 series BMW rocking on it’s springs. I looked up and the telephone poles were swinging wildly. I turned to the old man and said “Stand up you silly sonofabitch, we’re having an earthquake.” “Oh!” And we walked to the third deck. Halfway up I said “How’s your ticker going to do with these stairs?” “That’s a good question” was his reply. We got to our seats and I turned on my watchman. I could see on the little tiny screen that the Bay Bridge had collapsed and the Marina was on fire. “Dad, the Bay Bridge collapsed, we got to get out of here.” “Shhh, you don’t want to upset the crowd and cause a riot” was his reply. No Dad I don’t but it did and they aren’t going to play this game. With that we left. I took all my secret routes back to my apartment. When we got there my phone was blowing up with friends who were scared to stay in their own home. We ended up with a dog, two cats about 10 people and my Dad camping out in my apartment that night.
I got hurt a couple of times with my Dad. He was teaching me to ride a bike out on Boyce Road. When I was a kid it was a dirt road. It’s all developed now. I was riding along just fine and then I wasn’t. I’m sure he was yelling “Keep pedalling!” And down I went. I landed face first. I broke my front tooth. I know he ran to where I was scooped me up in one arm and the bike in the other and headed home to my Mother, who was an RN. There wasn’t much she or the family dentist could do about that one and I spent a number of years getting my school picture taken with a broken front tooth. Another time I was with him in the yard and he was getting stuff ready to go to the dump. He had a big heap of lawn and yard clippings. He was using a 2 prong weeder hoe.
He was hacking at the pile and I was supposed to be gathering it up. And he came back with that hoe and hit me in the face right at the very corner of my eye. He grabbed me and ran to my Mother who was inside the house. He tore the screen door off of the house trying to get inside, terrified that he’d blinded me. He was a lucky man. He didn’t damage my eye. I was no worse for the wear.
One time he was working in the front yard. His Doberman Kurt was trained to the nines. Kurt would lay on the porch or walk while he worked. He looked up one day and Kurt had three little boys rounded up and cornered on the porch. He walked up to the little boys and said “Are you the little boys that have been poking a stick through the fence at my dog?” He made it clear that the practice would end right then and there and Kurt let the boys leave.
As a 17 year old I got a job at a title company. It was a combination of him not wanting to see my 17 year old ass laying on his couch watching tv when he came home for lunch and his calling in of a favor with an Escrow Officer. He came home with a phone number written on a cocktail napkin. 786-1620. It was the phone number to Pacific Land Title. Back then you didn’t need the area code because no one called outside the area code. There was no 510 or 925 or 650. It was all 415. After I got the job (Microfilm technician) he called my boss and told him to work my ass off. He didn’t want me getting comfortable and not finishing college. So my boss punished me and worked my ass off. But I wouldn’t go away and kept coming back. Unfortunately I was a tough kid who didn’t mind working hard. I went back to and dropped out of college seven times. I never got a degree.
I’m going to miss my Dad. I don’t miss what Parkinson’s disease did to him. It is a foul, hateful disease. It is the worse thing that a physical man like my Father could have been cursed with. I hate Parkinson’s disease and I particularly hate those who hinder stem cell research. Nancy Reagan understands where I come from on that one. That’s why she stood up to the wingnuts. On that one, I stand with Nancy Reagan. Strange as that seems. It pained me to watch him suffer. He fought that shit for 18 years. They said he’d be wheelchair bound in five years and dead in ten. He lived 18 years with it and never owned the wheelchair they said he’d need. A couple of weeks ago I took him up to Horse Camp. He loved horses. And dogs. We had to park up the road a little bit and he walked down the road with his cane like he meant business. We watched the children on the horses demonstrating their new found horsemanship skills to their parents. “Which one do you like Dad?” I asked, knowing the answer. “The Bay.” I knew that.