The first checkpoint was carried out on California’s Yuba River, as Charles and 5-year-old Ben prepare to board the original Gate #87. Uncertain, at the time, how the gates might withstand the rigors of whitewater rapids studded with unforgiving boulders.
Never a bad idea to have the finished products reviewed by a fresh set of eyes.
Quality Control Officer Faye Rayelynn Prowell.
With a bulbous commission from the Mexican government, the first stretch of an impregnable barrier is tested along the lush Rio Grande Valley.
Ben Prowell Gate Sailing the legendary Kickapoopoo Canyon.
With Gate Style #60 as a backstop, Ben ‘Sweet Swing’ Prowell takes a few pitches while Charles and the visiting Ken Griffey Jr. wait their turn on deck.
Not the first thought that comes to mind, but experience has taught us the reality of an ensuing paparazzi and their blasted flash bulbs. An endless parade of flashbulbs popping off like kaleidoscopic fireworks and the effects of such a phenomenon over the years and decades to come.
It begins with all the trees in Canada and culled down to all the cedar and narrowed further to only the straightest and these, these genetically favored applicants finding their way to the mill and from this a hand-picked selection destined for Prowell’s shop to arrive as the purest and truest planks waiting expectantly in their wood bins for those glorious few days of Prowell’s undivided attention.
They become close, naturally. Slowly revealing the eventual form and design of their everlasting appearance and perhaps a few words regarding the new owners and a few words about their ultimate destination (“On Fifth Avenue there will be many passersby in the latest fashions admiring the stateliness of your planks. I promise, you will be the center of everyone’s attention”).
They grow conditioned to the sound of Ben and Charles’ voices, the sound of them singing their favorite ballads or laughing at their own little jokes as the gate’s various parts and extremities are formed and joined and with each passing hour they can take measure of their good looks and general appeal with a growing pride and at this juncture, nearly always, they take a keen interest in their new owners with the endless questions such as “What color is the sky in North Carolina?”
But of course there arrives the day when their time in the shop is finished, accompanied by that clinging apprehension of an awaiting crate and a long truck ride and into a wide world far beyond the known world. And, like all unique creations, there are those who need a little reassurance, a little quality time by the pool out behind the shop where Prowell might read aloud a passage from Charlotte’s Web.
But of course the Prowell’s thoughts are already gravitating to those untouched planks awaiting their turn in the shop. And our new gate knows nothing of this. It knows and responds only to the sound of their voices tumbling over the passages like a mellifluous sermon.
Because Joe Montana’s sister-in-law once taught at the local high school, Joe often drops by the shop. Invariably we make our way over to the field, where Ben and Parker Prowell watch while the two Charles’ set up a Gate #2 for some target practice.
Jocko Ribinowitz cases a safe neighborhood along the upper lake when suddenly he comes upon a deterrent that triggers a reminiscence of the rolled steel bars in the Big House. The cold dank days of a life gone bad. A life quarantined among the thieves and the murderers and the side-show carnies of San Quentin’s famed South Block. The Big Q. The Bastion on the Bay. A separation between the promises of rehabilitation and the fallback to endless nights dreaming of his one and only, Lewella Longings.
But wait! What’s this? Yes, of course. Does Jocko know? Just inside the garden, his lovely Lewella, succumbing in his long absence to a bevy of fears and phobias that appear to include, well . . . peach trees. Oh Jocko. Hurry!
A typical Gate #91 taking the rigorous Maverick waves of Half Moon Bay
The Mavericks, those rogue 100-foot waves a half-mile beyond the coast at Half Moon Bay like notorious troughs of shattered glass. No place for an amateur or the surfer wannabe.