DONORS:
California Hawking Club, North American Falconers
Association, Dan and Bev Fenske, Tamara Heineman,
Frank Ely
By Johni K., his daughter
This is the story of my Dad.
He was born in Santa Monica, California.
His priorities were: Birds, Women, Music (Classic Rock) and Art in that
order too.
He has/had 4 children: Me -his daughter Johni K, Michael Culver
Smith Jr. (1/2/60 - 11/17/2015, died of heart disease) from his first
marriage. Then from his second marriage: Kenneth Smith (died of
heart disease) and Tamara Heinemann. He had 6 wives throughout his
life. Marilyn was my and Micheal Jr’s Mom. Roneen was Kenny and
Tamaras Mom. Then there was Deanna, Maria, and finally Diane who
he married when he was 69 I think. She left him when he got sick.
Dad grew up with compassion
for living things. His first bird
was an owl he had found and
took home. He named him
“Killer” I have no idea why. That
was when he was 14. He was in
Jr. High. Well because it was in
the local newspaper Disney saw
it and asked if they could make
a movie using his owl and a few
others. The Movie was called
“The Owl That Didn’t Give A
Hoot”. It didn’t come out till
1968.
When he was 17 he started
trapping birds in Semi Valley. He ended up keeping a small sparrow
hawk and so was hooked. I went with him when I was a little girl. Often
wed find hurt birds like baby eagles and others. We bring them home.
Dad raised them until they could fly. So I have seen many kinds of
falcons.
3/31/1940 - 3/25/2016
I remember not getting many baths for a while as we always had baby
eagles or some kind of babies in the bathtub. I called the fuzz balls. You
outta see 4 fuzz balls in a bathtub. Pretty funny. Then they graduate to
a play pen. Dad made all his own hoods, perches and barrel bathing
tubs for the birds. We also had a few owls that were mine and my
Moms. Eggburt and Molly had full run of the house.
Unfortunately Dad tied Eggburt in a mews with 2 other hawks and tied
him to close to one of them. Eggburt got eaten! I was devastated. He
was mine. I didn’t speak to him for 4 days.
I was an animal lover too. Poor Dad, I brought everything home that
could fly, run or crawl. Hurt of course! We nursed many back to health.
Hed get mad at first but then again he was the one who taught me to
respect animals and such. I told him it was his fault. Hed just grin.
As time went on Dad started flying hawks more and more. I’d go
with him as the years went on. Moffit field Air Force base in Cailf. He
had a bunch of birds then. Then he got Rosie. She was a peregrine
falcon. She was gorgeous and won many flying heats. He had a small
tiercel too. “Little Bit”. He flew away one day and never came back. We
looked for him for weeks.
He claimed I was the best bush
beater he had ever seen. I always
could find the pheasants and rabbits
even before the dog. Then wed
watch the birds in the air as they
spotted the prey. Watching a bird
soar and go after prey is a wonderful
sight. It can’t really be described.
I even got my license to fly a bird
too. It was like taking a driver’s test
back then. Then Dad had taught me
how to drive. I was 10. 1958 Dodge
Van. He had run to go get the bird
wayyyyy other there when it landed!
Someone had to drive the van over to where he was, so he made blocks
for my feet.
He co-owned a transmission shop Called B & M Transmission. I
worked side by side with him when I could go with him and learned
how to drop a tranny in a short period of time. I was a tomboy of
course so it was fun for me. Him on the other hand…..he said I need
to learn cars. Girls should know about cars that way we dont have to
depend on anyone. I was a junior in high school by then. At school
they wouldn’t let girls go to car mechanic classes. I came home and told
Dad they would not let girls attend. He marched down there with me
in tow and had it out with the principal. All I know is that girls were
allowed to attend after we left. Then Dad decided to switch gears after
the transmission shop dissolved because his partner ran off with all the
money. He got new job engineering for Atari.
He was also going to school too. Most folks don’t know he had 4
degrees in engineering and a degree in Law. He studied law not
for people but to defend bird rights, people with birds rights and
sanctioning a hawking club. He had to fight Fish and Game all the
way.
This was about the time he and his cronies, as he called them, were
starting a hawking club, the California Hawking Club. They’d all
jump in the Dodge Van and go “flying. There were a lot of hurdles to
jump to get the club sanctioned, hence why Dad got his Law degree.
Dad even got the opportunity to go fly falcons with some Royalty in
Iran.
He had a friend of ours watch me while he was gone. Frank Hernandez.
Dad was teaching him how to fly Red tail Hawks. Anyways, Dad had
done business with this royalty person ( I don’t remember his name).
They became friends when Dad found out he was a falconer. The man
sent plane to get Dad. Dad took Rosie to show them how its done in
America and vise a versea. Rosie did beautifully as always. They were
impressed. What was real cool was, when Rosie landed with her prey,
dad knelt down to sit with her and found a square ceramic tile half
buried in the dirt. He brushed it off and it was a picture of a King on a
horse with a falcon on his arm. What are those odds? He had that tile
put in a sealed clear case to remember his great adventure by and to tell
everyone the story of how he got it.
One time I was about 12, he had to fight the Fish and Game for another
reason. We had just gone down to San Luis Obispo to a hatchery and
bought 200 or so baby chicks as food for the hawks we had at the time.
Protein. I think they were 3 or 4 for penny. I cried all the way there and
back till he quit taking me. I was so against killing them for food.
What had happen when he had to fight the Fish and Game people
was we had all the baby chicks locked in a pen in the back yard when
we left to go to the store. When we came back from the store, traffic
was stopped about the middle of our block. We got out of the car to
see what was going on. All you could see was this big yellow mass of
peeping chicks running down the street. Funnier than heck. My Dad
tuned at looked at my brother and I because he didn’t think it was
that funny. Not me I said. My brother Michael had left the back gate
open and they got out of the pen and then out of the yard. There
were people, dogs, cats, and a ton of kids chasing them in all different
directions.
When we finally made it to the house, Dad was instantly surrounded by
MAD parents. Their kids wanted to keep the chicks and it was his fault.
Then the department of Fish and Game came. I could see Dad having a
heated agreement with them over it. I think Dad won because the Fish
and Game guy slammed his car door shut when he left.
Dad and Deanna would put the baby chicks in plastic bags and then
put them in the freezer. He would try to tell me they just lay down and
Michael with Killer, a female
barn owl in 1954.
Michael with Rosie in 1972.
Michael with red-tail in 1958.
Remembering Michael
go to sleep. Nope, I wasn’t buying it !! I had a temper tantrum every
time. So beef heart started being the hawks food more and more after
a while. We’d go see Bob Coleman then. He raised beef and flew hawks.
Dad told Bob “Johni just has a fit all the time and the chickies werent
worth it.
Dad had many attributes. I was I guess 17 when he was a CEO at Atari
by then. I worked there briefly till they found out I was his daughter.
Policy. I tested Pong games on a TV all day. Loved it because I could
watch All My Children on my lunch hour. Dad went all over the
world doing business for them. He was getting help with the games
from Bill Gates and Paul Allen in a garage. That’s when Dad designed
and engineered the Centipede Game. He won an award for it.
He also took his idea and engineer skills to Japan when he engineered
the Teddy Ruxpin Bear under Atari. I still have the 3 prototypes. Of
course we all know what happened - Teddy Ruxpin was born. Then he
retired from them to start a new company.
He partnered again and started a company called GRT Tapes. It was
a recording studio. He loved music. His head for business got him
famous clients. Rock bands and such. But I think he was proudest
of his biggest client “Warner Brothers. He had a friend over there
from working at Atari and asked
if they were interested. Warner
Brothers did all their movie
music in his studio along with
Warner Brothers label bands.
When he retired from there, he
became a CEO recruiter with
clients like HP, Raychem and other
large companies. He did it from
home so he had time for birds.
Rosie had died of a foot infection
after 8 years and Dad never
recovered after that. He didn’t
get another bird either. He talked
about it but never did.
Now he was monitoring the
migration habits of birds down
in Corpus Christi TX. Plus
fighting for their rights. He loved
the little sandpipers too. I also
have pictures of him down at the
ocean bank herding baby turtles.
Yes, turtles. Every year he would
go help herd the babies into the water so they could up the population.
I called him “ the turtle herder”. He loved doing it. I loved seeing him
do it.
I moved him from TX to Oregon with me because of his health issues.
He had Heart Disease all his life. I got the call from the hospital while
I was at work. They told my boss he had 24 hours to live. I raced there
and laid with him for hours trying to wake him up.
Then the weirdest thing happened while he was in the coma. When I
finally realized I didnt want him to wake up and to suffer anymore,
I whispered in his ear it was ok to go. I will be fine Daddy. His eyes
popped right open and he looked right at me. He then took his last
breath. And he was gone. He passed in that coma from COPD and
heart disease. I laid with him till they told me they had to take him so
the funeral place could come to get him.
His passion for hawks, women and living it up never died in him till he
passed away that day.
I think about him and miss him every day still. He was a wonderful
man and I am very proud of him.