Sunday, July 1, 2012

Garden Valley People

John Bonds
  “I’m nineteen, unmarried and I don’t drink.”

   The weather in Ireland during the winter of 1739-40 was “terribly worrisome”, according to records. Fuel for heating homes was scarce and crops failed to yield enough food. The winter of 1740-41 was even worse, when John Bonds’ maternal relatives booked passage to Augusta County, Virginia, in America.

   They scattered to Kentucky, Tennessee, and Ohio, in the 1800s. Bonds grew up in Kentucky, with parents Nellie May Bonds (née Hooke, of the Clan Marmion), and his Welsh father, William B. Bonds. “I never had a good life at home,” says John, “but I had a mammy who lived to one-hundred-and-six-years-old. Her dad was a slave on my granddad’s farm. She was quite a lady, very strict. In the old days, we couldn’t eat at the table until we learned not to say anything—children were not to be heard.”

   “Speaking of children,” John muses, “it turned out I had a son I didn’t know I had. I was going to make the Merchant Marines a career during the Korean War--our crew of fourteen did the work it usually took thirty-seven to do, flying medical supplies from Kobe, Japan, to Korea. I got a telegram from my high school sweetheart, saying, “Honey. I’m pregnant.” I tried to send a telegram back, saying, “Go to my mother’s and when I get back, we’ll get married.”

Headquarters refused to allow the telegram to be sent, as it was not an emergency and could be dangerous.

   Later, Bonds tried to contact the lady, who had determined he was a rat and had ignored her. He remembers that it turned out she was getting married and her guy was going to adopt: “I was told by friends that she’d had a little girl.”

   During the invasion of Iwo Jima and Okinawa, Bonds was in the Navy and out of four friends, he was the only one to return.

   During the fifties, John’s first wife was murdered when she was twenty-two, while cleaning the bathroom of their home. Bonds says, “The guy’s name was John Chandler. He was high on PCP--didn’t know what he was doing—and had wandered in from the ‘cardboard village’ where people slept. He put a shotgun to her back and told her he would ‘put her in a better world’. That’s what he told the court. He was sent into a prison mental institution for the rest of his natural life. I’ll never, never forget it.”

   Years later, Bonds had been working at the lodge in the Mammoth Lake ski area, when he took a clocked turn in a friend’s go-cart, at Irwindale. His time was so good (“I’ve always loved speed”), it was the beginning of his racing career. He says, “I was a pro racer—Class B; I drove formula cars—C-Production Porches. I was very lucky when I was young. When you’re racing, you’ve got to have experience but you’ve got to have a lot of luck too. I made good and had a lot of fun.”

   During that time, John divorced his second wife, Mickey. He’d found out she had been writing big checks to different religious figures—Billy Graham types—and she also was “hanky-pankying around”. Out the door—“Mickey was Mickey Mouse!”

   Janice Gillespie was the next woman in his life. He calls her “my friend, my buddy, my wife. I couldn’t ask for more. What a great lady.” Janice had a bad heart and at one point, fell and hit her head. At the Emergency Room, his doctor—also his neighbor—made some mistakes and took too long to get her to a larger hospital. She didn’t make it. The doctor was found guilty of negligence and could never work in the ER again.

   Bonds’ lawsuit against him was for millions. He says, “The guy had five daughters and a nice wife. I got to thinking, this guy has no common sense—he’s just dumb. What would he do? He couldn’t go get a job even as a janitor in the hospital! I had to think about his nice I cancelled the suit.”

   In the 1970s, John received a phone call from a man. He’d left his name as John Chandler. Bonds called him back, wondering “What the hell was he doing out of jail?” It turned out to be a also turned out that this John Chandler was Bonds’ son from his childhood sweetheart. “She’d given him up for adoption,” he says in amazement.

   When the parents died, son John had found his real mother, but he had to drag out the information about his real father. “She still resented my supposed abandonment,” remembers John, “When I got off the plane in Alaska, I spotted him: Six-foot-six, he looked just like me—I had on a cowboy hat too. Since then, we’ve been good friends. Now I have a granddaughter and grandson, still in Alaska. He’s getting a pilot’s license—great money. My granddaughter is writing a book on me and my long-lost son. Funny, I always looked for a little red-headed daughter.”

   Bonds’ other son, John, took after his father—he loved speed. John muses, “I always told my kids to be careful. Well, John had an old Toyota truck and he loved to put his foot to the floor. After he got arrested for speeding on Mulholland Flat in Hollywood (after 17 citations), I told the district attorney, ‘Put him in jail for a few days.’ When John got out, he told me I’d never believe what goes on in there. He also said he’d never go to jail again!” John Bonds (junior) was later awarded an Emmy as a mixer for ER.

John Bonds and the indomitable Bertha Bonds.
   Three years after Bonds’ wife, Janice, died, he met his fourth and current wife, the marvelous and fun-loving Bertha Bonds. Her husband says, “She was always trying to fix me up with a neighbor lady. She was still married at the time. After her husband was gone about two years, we got married. That was five years ago. But all the time we dated, I thought I was taking out the neighbor lady too.”

   John and Bertha have lived in Garden Valley for four years. Bonds says it’s been okay, but they may sell the house, as so many things have gone wrong. He remarks, “I can’t believe it. I was a good athlete, loved all sports. I loved to chase women (then I met you—can we go to Ireland?)...I loved the ladies...loved horses. Loved to drink and gamble. In three years, I’ve broken my ankle, my hip, messed my knee up, had four heart attacks, my back operated on...right now, I get winded and have to take a break...can’t do my yard work. It’s like they reach out and take things away from you. I’d like to go to Ireland but Bertha won’t go.”

   After I have to remind him with a wagging finger that it’s Scotland I want to live in, he resumes...”Now I go to the old folk’s dinner house...the breakfast at the Center, I love that bacon—I ask Marcie to buy me a whole slab—but they could do with a different breakfast menu occasionally.”

   Bonds reflects that he’s had a good life: “I’ve had jobs I’ve really enjoyed. When I quit racing, that’s when the big money came in. I never owned a car—you could go broke real quick if you financed yourself.”

   “And...oh yes, I love peanut butter...So, can we go to Ireland now?”

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