Raymond McDonald chronicles his lifelong friendship with Merle Haggard

McDonald begins by writing about his Native American heritage and peripatetic childhood, traveling from place to place with his typesetter father, who eventually took a job at The Bakersfield Californian and brought his family to a dilapidated “mansion” on Truxtun Avenue in Oildale.

One of McDonald’s school-age memories entail his experience with nuclear bomb drills in school.

“We weren’t stupid,” he wrote. “We knew about Hiroshima and Nagasaki. I remember locking eyes with my classmates as we huddled together beneath our desks, disbelieving this was a solution. I always thought if a bombing raid happened, we might as well go out to the playground, watch the mushroom cloud, and kiss our proverbial asses goodbye!”

McDonald writes about another shocking childhood memory after his father moved the family to Hollywood. He and his younger brother Danny were standing in front of their new apartment building when a woman pulled up and offered to take them on a Hollywood tour—something that today sounds very dangerous.

“She was blonde and beautiful, probably in her early 30s,” McDonald wrote. “We were two kids under 10 years of age, with no adult supervision and without a care in the world. Hell yeah, we wanted to go for a ride around Hollywood with a pretty lady in a convertible.”

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