Occidental celebrated a good man’s life yesterday with a town wide memorial for Ranger Rick. If you have ever been to Occidental, a sleepy little Sonoma County town tucked away between the vineyards and the California coast, then you probably have met Ranger Rick. Ranger Rick was an eccentric man with a large white, nicotine stained, beard and piercing blue eyes who had been a staple in Occidental for decades, for my entire life. I remember Ranger Rick always being around whether I was getting a candy bar in the fifth grade or running through town drunk at two in the morning in high school. Ranger was always there to share a story, a drink or to predict the weather, one of his specialties.
Ranger Rick was as essential to Occidental as Occidental was to Ranger Rick. He was in charge of keeping the town clean and beautiful. He sometimes took his duties a step beyond by helping people park or offering people with stranded cars gas out of a gallon jug he kept in the bushes, something that is extremely useful in a town without a gas station. Like I said, Ranger Rick was an eccentric.
He was also a good, loyal, man and Occidental was full of stories of Ranger Rick on Saturday, some of them funny and some of them deeply moving, Ranger Rick seems to have affected everyone he met. One of my favorites was a story told by my boyfriend’s father, Jeff, who had only met Ranger Rick in passing. Jeff told me about the first time he went to Occidental and saw Ranger Rick. He was standing in front of Gonnella’s Market taking in the town when a truck passed carrying a very large cut of old growth redwood. As the truck paused at one of the only intersections in town Ranger Rick appeared out of nowhere and gave that driver a piece of his mind. Standing in front of the truck he screamed, “You can’t do that! That trees not yours! You don’t own that!” Eventually he let the truck pass, but it is my opinion that we need more humans like that in the world.
I feel that with Ranger Rick’s passing an era has ended in Occidental, and am saddened by the thought that new comers will not be treated to his animated howl or well meaning help. Rest in Peace Ranger Rick you will be deeply missed.
There has been a Ranger Rick statue proposed in Occidental. If you would like to make a donation go to the Occidental Hardware store and buy a Ranger Rick shirt.