Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Limey Kay, Part Two

My previous post about Limey Kay caught the interest of a lot of people, including a newspaper, the Half Moon Bay Review. Their reporter Greg Thomas came to La Honda and interviewed me, and then I took him to Limey's house. Here's a link to the article he wrote.

Everybody who encountered Limey came away with a story to tell. I won't repeat what was said in the Half Moon Bay Review article, but here are a few more details.

Most of the Limey tales involve Limey with a gun, such as the time Limey held a gun to the head of a Hells Angel. For weeks thereafter Limey was on the lam, hiding out as the Angels sought revenge. Meanwhile Nancy Kay, Limey's wife, asked for mercy from her old friend Sonny Barger, who was head of the Oakland Hells Angels. Eventually Sonny called off the manhunt, and Limey came out of hiding. (In case you don't know, La Honda has always been something of a second home for the Hells Angels since before the days of Ken Kesey.)

Other stories involve Limey laying a gun on the bar and demanding a beer, or Limey with a rifle threatening a neighbor's dog, or Nancy waiting until Limey passed out from drink and then tossing his gun in the lake. But here's the thing: Nobody has a story in which Limey ever fired a shot.

James Adams, who gave me the old Stiletto hammer that I posted about here, says that Limey's real name was Hubert Allan Kay. I'll let James tell it: "The name 'Limey' was supposed to have been because he raced English flat-track motorcycles on no-brake bikes. The real reason for 'Limey' was because his Mom was English and he would go to England with her in his youth.

"Limey had, at one time, 22 feral cats. [Descendants of those cats still hang around the woods near his cabin.] The cats knew they could trust him. He'd take Jody, his infant daughter, out with him to feed them in the mornings. He'd spend more money for huge bags of cat food than he'd spend at the bar, which was a lot.

"He had a feud with the town of La Honda, and poured concrete over the water meter box. It was years before the town got a reading."

Some La Honda houses (including mine) suffered major damage in the 1989 World Series earthquake. Limey's brick house was no exception. When he repaired it, he left a memento. The writing on the abalone shell says EARTH QUAKE 89.

Another La Honda resident has this memory of Limey: "One of the first summers we were in La Honda, I was gardening. It was morning and Limey walked down the street and we spoke - just small talk. The next day, I was gardening again and Limey stopped and handed me a flower. He said something like, 'I know you like flowers so this is for you.' I don't even think he knew my name but his gesture touched my heart. We had heard that he was impolite, sometimes dangerous and that his personal health habits were somewhat unacceptable. But I never saw any of that side of him. I'll always remember him as the old alcoholic who wandered down the street and was gentle and kind."

And then there's this story from another resident: "I had a white Samoyed husky. He was not fenced, nor were most dogs at the time. I tended bar at Venturi’s, and my dog would sometimes wander down to the bar to pick me up from work. This was fine for a long time. Then we started seeing a pair of shepherds. Apparently the shepherds were building their gang/pack. Limey had a great rabbit warren and maze in his yard on the hill across from my house. One day I came home, and there were all of Limey’s rabbits, dead, scattered all over the street and my front yard. Apparently the shepherds gathered up a bunch of compatriots from up and down the neighborhood and they raided the helpless rabbits. I was scared silly. I didn’t know what to do. So I got a shovel and buried them all. It was scary. Apparently Limey wasn’t at home at that time. So that night I went to work. After a few hours, into the bar comes Limey with a rifle over his shoulder. He told me that the next time he saw my dog in his yard, he’d shoot him. I was scared, but he was absolutely right. I kept my dog inside. Within a couple of weeks, I learned that the pair of shepherds were shot [by a rancher, not Limey]. So my dog went back outside, and life returned to normal, and Limey never said another word about the incident to me."

Some of Limey's best work was hidden from the public inside his own house. I have a couple of examples here. He made a lovely passage between kitchen and dining room.

How did he keep those bricks in the arch from falling down?

It's a small cabin - one neighbor calls it "the Hobbit House" - with a small dining room, and yet at one end of the dining room Limey built a fireplace in which you could roast an entire pig. Imagine sitting at a dining table just a few feet from a full roaring fire.

He used brick as a baseboard and as a windowsill.

Limey usually had a toothpick in his mouth which he'd soaked in brandy the night before. If you wanted Limey to show up for a job, you enticed him with a six-pack of Coors. It was generally the cost of getting an estimate - or doing any kind of business with him. And when he worked, he started the day (at 6:30 in the morning) mixing mortar and drinking Coors, even in the cold of winter.

People were scared of Limey because he was gruff. If he spoke, he mumbled. And yet he often showed kindness. If your car was stuck in a ditch, Limey without being asked would pull you out with his monster jeep-like vehicle which he called The General.

Limey seemed to have a soft spot for animals and children. Besides the cats and the rabbits, I remember the goats he used to keep in a pen. My children would feed them carrots through the fence. And if anybody drove too fast up our narrow little road, Limey would flag them down.

I wish I had a photo of the brick shower that he had downstairs. Unfortunately, the plumbing was less durable than the brickwork, and the whole thing had to be destroyed. I wonder how he waterproofed it. Has anybody ever heard of a brick shower? It was certainly an appropriate spot for his use of abalone and other shells. Like Limey himself, that shower was rough, unforgettable, flawed, and one of a kind.

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