Thomas M. O'Key

This website was first launched over five years ago. At the time, words spilled easily onto the pages and the blend of my activities stood quickly, without much stress. The inclusion of pictures added dimension and scope, describing what I was doing, so, the body of the site developed rapidly. The content formed a core and direction that recounted the events of my personal story and this excited and motivated me.

Soon, however, the struggle began to enter into my effort and work began to wear hard on my enthusiasm. I found that telling my story was painful. The requirement for truthful and illuminating views into my person became excruciating at worst and uncomfortable in the least, so, I wrote and erased and wrote and erased, again and again, over and over and over.

It was so difficult to face the words and stories that I almost gave up. I say, almost, because, here I am, once again, struggling to put the words into order of some kind of meaning for me, and you, who may be following this sorry account of my story and life.

When I looked at the page title, selected by the website host, the word “About” glared at me like a menacing verbal bully. What would I say to that? What do I say “About” me? How could I talk about any of it?

Then, with some reflection, I thought about the first time I worked up enough courage to walk onto a dance floor and challenge a different, yet, similar demon coming from a thought I imagined about myself! I manufactured a Nemesis of my own creation that haunted me deeply in my guts. A Dragon with fire blasting from its nostrils breathing down my neck till I was ringing wet with self-consciousness. Then, with the first step the second came, and the third and before I realized it, I was a dancing fool! (Frank Zappa said it, not me!) Happily, I admit I am an eager dancer, today, and can hardly keep my body still when good music moves me. In fact, I think I’m quite good at it and, so, if you want, would you like to dance with me? I have some great music stored in my fondest memories…..


About sixty years ago, light first entered into my life. My eyes struggled and resisted to grasp the reality of what they said I saw. Especially, the visions I saw reflected in a mirror. The World, as I experienced it, was a place I invented as I went along. I held mirrors so they reflected into each other creating infinite images in front and behind me and always wondering, how far I could go into my imagination. Where is infinity? Can I see it? And, so it was for me, for the being I believed I, myself, to be. An imagined me. A specter, a gumshoe, a scientist, an artist, an athlete, an inventor, a poet, a writer, a builder, a mechanic, a musician, an engineer, a politician, a gambler, a conniver, a liar, a sinner, a thief, a cheat, an anecdotal idiot who drank too much at times, a lover, a dreamer, a traveler, an adventurer, a doctor, a lot of things and, all of them true and all of them real. At least some are and some were and some will, yet come to be. And, trust me when I say, “yet to come” as that is the magic of how, and in many ways the mystery, I imagined – Me!

My 65 FLH Panhead


    Nothing like the wind in your face on a warm summer day.....


Valeree, Deb and Shadow
My little Family
The Loves of my life....
In early March of 2015, looking South into Joshua Tree National Park, we posed together for this picture.


BOBCATS ..... A story from the Cosmos -

A visitor to our door in Joshua Tree
photo by Valeree Woodard

So, it was a good day. The sky was clear and it was warm and sunny and unusual for the last days of January. The late afternoon sun drooped in the west, and knowing the evening chill of sunset was coming, I fetched my jacket from the rear seat of my pickup.

Locking up, I grabbed my walking stick and a couple of beers from the ice chest. The first I popped open right away and the other fit nicely into my vest pocket. One for the road and then one for the road back, is how I like to do it.

Looking up the hill, I started out for a short jaunt around my land.

I'd been busy there, as of late, moving rocks and laying out my ideas. You know, Disney gave me far too much inspiration and given the resources my land offers, I’m in heaven thinking about the possibilities that can happen on fresh land. My land! The enthusiasm kept me attentive, at least until the county cited me for moving dirt without permission. With that, my planning ceased into a depressing stall. Still, I was working through my thoughts about the grand development I'd been formulating, ever since settling in Joshua Tree. My mind is filled with stacks of old ideas and designs of my inventions, and a walking tour always invited metamorphosis that drives my creativity.

The path I decided to take came with the goal of visiting a couple of my favorite landmarks. Rock formations that draw me close when I want to meditate and endear the land. My mood told me I was craving a moment of relief and sublicense. Time to reflect and digest the stuff that had been going on.

Available choices on how to get to my destinations were wide open, and only dependent on which place I wanted to visit first. In the end, I decided on the long, less arduous, path because it's easier hiking with a beer in hand.  Besides, it goes through a sandy wash where I might find a Sacred Crystal or two.

 This quest sets up a peculiar style of hiking because close attention to small, geometric, shapes of pebble size stones requires sphering to sort out the little treasures that suddenly appear on the ground. With my head down, constant scanning leads to the occasional need to check where I am and looking up, a fresh view changes moment to moment.

Rounding a large boulder, I looked ahead. There, twenty-five feet away, something came into view that astounded me. With it, also, came something else! A surprise that even in my wildest dreams could I ever have foreseen. There and then and without a clue about it, an adventure had begun! I'd been thrown into a deep and exalting relationship on a profound and incredible journey with bobcats.


At this point, everything I was doing got redirected. Not only was this a surprise, it was a series of surprises, and several infuriating disappointments were about to shock my nervous system. The first part of the surprise was apparent. I realized that I encountered a bobcat trap! I knew it right away, too. The size and the location where it was and the litter of feathers and fuzzy stuff that was all around and in the trap looked like the kind of stuff a cat would like. The other part of the surprise was that I was unable to find any kind of identification on the trap. My immediate thought was that the wildlife guys from Joshua Tree National Park were doing a scientific survey or study of some kind. It was an easy thought, really, since the "set" was only a half mile from the park boundary and the cats around the park do come around my neighborhood. Then is struck me that if that if an official agency was involved there would be a tag or something on the trap, identifying it as official business, perhaps, saying to not disturb it. Maybe even some contact information and such. There was nothing! Just the trap.

Surveying around, I could see the trapper had gone to a lot of effort to plant the trap. It was set back under a medium size Jojoba bush and branches from another nearby bush were placed all around the trap to hide the clearly visible industrial look of a heavy wire rectangular cage. Rocks had been laid out like a floor to create a firm base. I also saw a steel cable was securely fastened to the cage and then wrapped around one of the larger stout branches and anchored with a padlock.

Stepping back a bit, I was clearly seeing the bigger picture! It only took a matter few minutes and I knew, without any doubt, someone had come onto my private property with the intent to trap bobcats! Why, was my next thought, as I was adding up all of the clues and insights I could gather. One thing I also knew, whoever it was, they hadn't asked me if I was okay with any of this!

Dark was only half an hour off and my next move was to begin the investigation. I had my cell phone with me so I call the local sheriff office and selecting the emergency option I was soon speaking with the dispatcher. Asking about the obvious questions, she responded that an officer would be in contact with me right away. Always expecting that maybe this would happen I explained that I did not want to create an issue over all of this and expressed my anger and resentment that made me ask for a report number as well as contact information to identify her and a file number to retrace my steps in the developing process, This must have been the way to handle things because it was my only about five minutes later that my phone rang and a deputy was on the line with me. explaining my situation, it was obvious that the deputy knew exactly what to say and told me precisely what the law required.

My heart sank with every word he said. My hopes that I had a case to reprimand the trapper evaporated with every question I answered for him. "Do I have signs that say "No Trapping" around my land?" he asked.  "No," I said. "Do You have "No Trespassing" signs posted every third of a mile on all boundaries of my land" he adds. "No, but I have signs on my two of my roads into my land and it there are gate posts at the entry points" I said. He asked me "have you got any other signs that say anything about hunting or fishing or anything like that" and I said, "No." With that he tells me that there is nothing I can do except return the trap to the trapper and tell him to stay off my land! "That's it!" I bellowed! " You mean to say I have no rights here and I have to give back the trap and that's it?" "Yes, that all you can do and if you don't he can press charges against you, so don't destroy the trap and don't create any issue that he can claim you assaulted him, or I will have to arrest you for not complying with the law, sorry as I am to tell you this."

Thinking quickly, I asked the deputy if I needed to be the one to return the trap? "No, just so long as he gets it back is all the law requires and a third party is fine. I suggest you remove the trap and leave a note with your phone number on it and wait for him to call you, if he does?" "Can the local land trust or newspaper be the ones who can do this, since I am not letting this just slip on by," I told him. "Sure, that's fine, just so long as you follow through to do your part and he gets his property back, that's all the law requires. Perhaps you could take some pictures of the trap and the location for your records, just to be sure you have your information covered." He suggested.

So, that's what I did. I busted the big branch that tethered the trap and I wrote a note that I stuck to bush and I headed for home. By now, it's well after nine pm and I'm tired and bummed out that I was trespassed against and had no way to lash out and get my satisfaction for the blatant situation.

Arriving home, Deb and Valeree joined me in the driveway as I showed them the trap and told them what had happened. I could see the rage building with every word I shared as I recounted the discussion I had with the Deputy. Disbelief and more anger and more words of rage and then, the final question was raised. "So, what are you going to do, now?" Valeree asks. "I don't know, but I think letting the paper and the radio station know what is going on is a start" I said. And that is exactly what I did.

Morning came and I was on the phone as soon as I felt the business day was under way. The radio station had a phone machine that allowed me to leave a message and the paper answered my call. Moments later I was speaking to a reporter who was a friend of mine from other stories I had been connected with in the past. After a few questions it was suggested that I hold a little press conference and give everyone a chance to see the trap before I returned it. I called the radio station again saying that I would be in downtown Joshua Tree, behind the local restaurant with the trap at 11:30 that morning. If they wanted to see it and ask me anything, that's where I'd be.

Sitting and waiting like I arranged, I began to wonder if anyone was coming. I was so angry that I was eager to at least vent and get my story out for the public to hear. The truth about what this all added up to was still a mystery and the depth and scope were only beginning to come to the surface. So far, I was only aware of this isolated incident and had no idea if there was more going on or if anyone else had a similar experience.

Soon, a reported arrived from the Hi Desert Star, our local paper. Expecting to see the reporter I spoke with, I was pleasantly surprised to see the young and beautiful new reporter show up. She said hello and that Jimmy had sent her to see what was up. Going over the details of the events of the previous evening, she was writing vigorously. Then she asks if she could take a picture for her story. And, with that, the news was out. Not only that, the idea hit me that maybe the newspaper would be willing to return the trap to the trapper and just maybe, he would want to give his side of the story. I called Jimmy and he thought about it for a minute and said he needed to clear it with the boss and would I hold for a minute. Moments later, he said, "Yes, can you bring it by the office?" I agreed and decided to follow Courtney back to the paper and deliver the trap. Sitting with the two reporters, I was able to expand on the story with more detail and once they felt they had the story, I left.

About two hours later my cellphone rings and looking at the caller ID, I knew it must be the trapper, calling. Indeed, it was. I began to question him about how he felt he had the right to go on my land and why he thought it was okay to trap bobcats in our neighborhood. He simply said that it was legal to do what he did, that there was nothing I could do about it and that if I didn't like what he did, too bad. He said he would not be back on my since I told him not to, but until I posted my land correctly, someone else could come around and repeat exactly the same situation. In fact, he knew the law by the letter. My ignorance was his friend and I was without recourse to do anything. He said that I had to give him back his trap or he would go to the sheriff and file a complaint. I told him that was what I understood was required, but informed him that I didn't need to be the one to give it back and that I had told my story to the newspaper and that they had the trap if he wanted to get it back. I told him that I had informed the sheriff that this was what had happened and that was fine with the deputy. He grunted and moaned but knew he had no choice but to call the paper and take it from there. Maybe the paper could get him to talk?

Here is the article in full, as reported by Courtney Vaughn, a reporter at the time working for the Hi Desert Star. This was the first article of many that followed across the state of California. Louis Sahagan from the LA Times interviewed me later and in my conversation he said, " You have no idea of
what a fire storm you've created!" 

Posted: Tuesday, January 29, 2013 10:28 pm | Updated: 11:35 pm, Fri Feb 1, 2013.

MORONGO BASIN — Until recently, local bobcats had few predators. They feasted on ground squirrels and cottontail rabbits, rarely encountering a creature of threat.

Booming pelt prices in countries like China and Russia have changed that.

Currently, three bobcat trappers are licensed in the Morongo Basin, according to the California Department of Fish and Wildlife. It is legal for them to hunt and trap bobcats on public, non-protected lands in California during a 69-day season from Nov. 24 to Jan. 31.

There is no limit to the number of cats a single person can legally trap each season. In the 2010-11 license year, nearly 1,200 bobcats were legally harvested in the state.

Some Morongo Basin residents are outraged at the hunting and trapping of local wildlife — animals that organizations have spent millions of dollars trying to protect.

One local licensed trapper sees it differently, and if he sets his traps right, he can literally make a killing.

Bobcat pelts can sell on the fur market for $80 to $1,700, according to the local trapper, who asked that his name be withheld because he feared retribution.

The man began trapping and killing bobcats nearly two years ago. He’s licensed, well aware of state regulations and happy to comply.

“Hunting and trapping is legal statewide on virtually all public land, but there are several exceptions and there are zones and restrictions for certain types of animals,” Andrew Hughan, a spokesman for the Department of Fish and Wildlife, said Tuesday. “It’s really, really complicated, and I actually feel for the hunters.”

Bobcat harvesting drew little attention until recently, when area residents began finding traps on and near their properties.

Tom O’Key, a local astronomer and conservation activist, was appalled to find a bobcat trap on his land abutting Joshua Tree National Park. O’Key removed the trap, called the county Sheriff’s Department and eventually spoke to the trapper.

“I found the trap night before last under a jojoba bush,” O’Key said last week. “I left a note saying the sheriff had been noticed and stay off my land.”

The trapper, who mistook O’Key’s property for public land, said Thursday that he does report each kill to the local Fish and Wildlife warden before he sends the pelts to the fur auction. The average bobcat pelt from the Morongo Basin will fetch $200 to $700 on the market, he said.

While most wildlife activists scoff at the trapper’s business, he reiterated his rights and compliance with the law.

“It’s in the trapper’s best interest not to decimate the bobcat population,” he said, insisting, “the area’s bobcat population is healthy; they have no natural predators here. There are more bobcats that die from old age than trapping.”

According to the North American Fur Auction website, the company expects increases in fur sales this year, with China being the largest consumer, followed by Russia and Korea. The company successfully sold muskrat, otter, fox and coyote pelts in 2012. The auction company notes that fur sales are down in Europe and North America, but the demand for fur trim remains strong in both regions.

The trapper declined to disclose the number of wild cats he catches in one season, but said among the nearly 30 traps he has placed throughout the Morongo Basin, he’s caught “more than expected” this year, noting a recent harvest of five cats in one night.

“It’s a hobby. I’ve learned more about predators and wildlife by trapping,” he said.

A local active-duty Marine, he said even if he wasn’t making a profit off the animals, he’d probably still be trapping.

“Bobcats are awesome animals,” he said.

It may be the only sentiment he shares with animal activists and conservationists.

He’s careful not to divulge too much about his practice, but he does want the public to know he numbers each of his traps and checks them every day, as required by law. He uses cages, not foothold traps, which are illegal in California.

He said he kills, or “dispatches,” all of the animals he traps almost immediately after finding them, usually with a rifle. He then must skin each one and treat the hides. For the self-described outdoorsman, it’s just part of the process and to him, it’s worth it. After he retires, he plans to continue to pursue the fur industry as a means of extra income for his family.

Here's a link to the article.