The Cambrian

Kathe Tanner: The urge to do something

As we wandered around town on Independence Day weekend, I felt a customary thrill and pride because we’re free Americans who live in Cambria. It doesn’t get any better than that.

But occasionally some feelings of discontent intruded, often triggered by a news update or casual conversation.

At those times, I was frustrated, disgusted, afraid and still furious about the seemingly uncontrollable oil gusher which, for 11 weeks, has been fouling the warm waters, fragile lands and shores of the U.S. Gulf of Mexico.

Most of all, I feel impotent. Despite everybody’s efforts, the Deepwater Horizon’s crisis continues, and we don’t seem to be able to do anything about this horrifying destruction of an ecosystem, a way of life and vital part of our country.

It could be easy to feel detached — after all, the rig explosion’s disastrous aftermath is more than a mile underwater, more than 2,100 miles away.

But many of those little towns along the coasts of Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama and Florida are like our little town, with spectacular shorelines, the ocean, the creatures, the habitat and the beauty of the land.

As our friend Ingrid Turrey said, “I keep thinking, what if this was happening on our coast?”

Certainly, it could be. Remember the Santa Barbara spill? Ocean waves might have carried tons of oil to Cambria just as easily as the Gulf Stream is whooshing Deepwater’s crude to Florida and beyond.

It seems there’s not much we can do to help people in the Gulf. And that’s so frustrating.

Here on the North Coast, we’re doers. When bad things happen to good people and beautiful lands, we jump in with both feet and our checkbooks. We invest our time, caring and strong backs to make things better, get things back to normal.

We’re hands-on helpers. We pick up our hammers and help rebuild a neighbor’s house or barn when it’s been destroyed by fire, flood, wind or age. We donate time, money and goods to raise money when families are battling illness or injuries or — you name it.

We gather up clothes for flood victims, food for the

hungry and everything under the sun for innumerable tag, rummage or garage sales to help causes dear to our hearts. Sometimes we even buy back our own donations.

It must be in the DNA, because even our children get involved, selling lemonade or trinkets and doing chores to raise money while arm-twisting family members for donations.

Of course we want help the people in the Gulf, people just like us on a coast that mirrors our own.

Sure, we’ll donate to help people who lost loved ones in the oil-rig explosion, or those who can’t work until the flood of oil stops, or business owners watching their dreams for the future buried in a wave of goo.

If we can, we’ll vacation in the affected areas, as we did in New York after the 9/11 attacks. And we’ll pressure regulators and legislators to make sure this never happens again.

But we want to do something tangible. Now, please.

A few ingenious Cambrians found one way. As the disaster progressed, we published a little story about Ingrid and Andrew Turrey, who were helping by collecting panty hose and cuts of human and canine hair.

Hair? Panty hose? It was all part of a nationwide campaign at,Ingrid said. In the ultimate recycling project, hair stuffed into stocking containment booms can soak up oil.

Others wanted to help, too. After the stories ran, Ingrid said their Pacific Hair salon was flooded by “so many calls for days, from Nipomo to Templeton and lots of other places.”

Eventually, the Turreys sent off 54 pounds of hair and 17 big boxes of panty hose, and would be doing more of that except donations are on hold because the campaign first needs more volunteers in the Gulf to stuff the hair booms. (Couldn’t BP hire some out-of-work fishermen to do that?)

Now, those actions alone certainly won’t solve the crisis and won’t prevent it from happening again. But the Turreys’ efforts undoubtedly helped. That made all of us feel a little bit less impotent, and, as always, very proud to be free Americans living in Cambria.

E-mail Kathe Tanner at Read more “Slices” at thecambrian . com.