You probably knew him even if you never caught his name. You likely saw him driving his red Mustang on the 128. Maybe you saw his huge white fluffy dog named Tinkerbell in that car (sister to the big white dog named Max that used to be seen at Anderson Valley Farm Supply). You definitely heard his loud stereo jamming hard rock and roll, most likely ACDC, if you knew him, and you likely saw his tie-dye shirt, his white beard, his sly grin, and maybe you even knew him by his name, Morris Caraway. Whatever you knew about Morris, you may not know that Heaven gained a new angel last week when Morris passed away in the Cloverdale Healthcare Center at the age of 75.
Morris moved to Philo in May 2019 from the Los Angeles area, where he worked in the San Fernando Valley as a property manager for the last couple of decades of his life. He left his LA life to retire and come live here in Mendocino County, moving to our off-grid property in the redwoods sight unseen, although we’d had a lot of discussions about the country lifestyle before his move. I did my best to prepare him. I too had been living in LA for years to be near family and moved back to Mendocino County in 2019 once my kids were grown and my elderly mother passed away.
Morris showed up in Philo driving an overly large moving truck carrying all of his belongings to settle into a small Komfort trailer with his favorite person, his girlfriend Diane. They were coming to be my new property managers and tenants and of course, friends, on the acreage in the deep woods we all call Dragonwood Retreat.
I first saw Morris in 2013, before he and Diane started dating, in LA when I was at a music event in Malibu. He was there early, chatting with the band (a renowned LA band called Cubensis) and snapping photos of the crowd. It was my first time seeing Cubensis since my college days. My youngest child had just turned 18 and I was starting to go out on the town, and in fact went with a “dad friend” (my daughter’s best friend’s dad named Ben) to that show. I noticed Morris right away, with his trusty camera in hand. He fit right into the scene in his orange tie-dye shirt and matching Vans tennis shoes. It turned out he was the “paparazzi” of the local music scene and was known for posting hundreds of photos of bands and crowds having fun on his Facebook page of every music event he attended, which was a lot, several shows a month. Sometimes several shows in a weekend! Ben and I ended up in a photo he took that night in Malibu when I first saw Morris, even though we didn’t become friends with him or see his Facebook page photos until we met him in person a few weeks later at a show in Hermosa Beach.
Over the months that followed I went to shows every weekend, so I became close to Morris, along with our friend Ben, and two other friends, Jenn and Alan. We were all single at the time, and we all got along really well and started hanging out together. Our age ranges had a thirty year span, but we were all very close and watched out for each other as we became part of the live music show circuit in LA. Collectively the five of us acquired the name the Wolf Pack, mostly because we always showed up in a “pack” as we carpooled to most shows, except Morris, who always drove himself in his trusty red Mustang since he lived further away in the valley and the rest of us lived in the South Bay beach cities. We all heard awesome music every weekend, followed bands with fun names like WTFB, Strawberry Moon, The Isms, and Like Zeppelin. We met great friends, and Jenn and Ben started their own bands and music careers during that time. Meanwhile Morris took photos and chronicled our lives in the fast lane. Morris, or Mo as we called him, was always optimistic, opinionated, and a good person to have by your side through it all.
Our lives changed dramatically when Morris, Diane and I left the LA scene and moved to Philo. We still saw as much local music as possible here, and would drive sometimes to Terrapin in San Rafael and the Sweetwater in Mill Valley to see bands like Jerry’s Middle Finger, Midnight North, and other bands from our previous area. When the epidemic hit in 2020, the music scene came to a grinding halt, but we were already out of the loop for the most part.
Morris adapted well to country living and he was my other pair of hands on the property as he helped out at my animal rescue known as Pixie Dust Ranch. He had a way with our cantankerous adult male peacock named Rad, took good care of the ancient curse-breaking pygmy goat, Buttercup, as well as the grumpy Nubian goat named Fern. Morris was my dog Drinian’s best friend until the day that wonderful dog passed of old age, and Morris helped us with our elderly pony Dale in the horse’s final days as well. When our new young guardian dogs arrived pregnant and had an unexpected litter of Colorado Mountain Dog pups, Morris found the white squirmy newborn puppies in a redwood tree grove, and helped get the pups and mama dog moved indoors. The puppies, ten in all, adored Morris. We called him the Dogfather. That winter the young pups would all run from wherever they were in their indoor pen toward Morris whenever he walked into the Aframe cabin. We discovered he secretly gave them bites of Ritz crackers and that he had a relationship with every single one of the Pixie Dust Ranch Terrific Ten pups. He claimed Tinkerbell, the runt of the litter, early on as his own special girl pup and kept her. Tinkerbell and Morris were inseparable.
Aside from being a dogfather, Morris was also a tough guy. Though he was a marine in Vietnam, he didn’t usually talk about his time in the war, but when he did, you knew that it was a miracle that he was sitting there able to tell the tales. He had seen a lot, done a lot, and had a good attitude in general about life. He ran full-throttle all the time. Morris was boisterous, happy, and wise.
Morris lived in the Cloverdale care facility since he had a stroke in June 2021. During his stroke event here at Dragonwood, he was picked up by our adept 911 responders and air lifted to the hospital in Ukiah. He pulled through and he was moved to the Cloverdale facility where he was starting to learn to walk again, using his 'can do' spirit he likely learned in the Marine Corps. Ultimately it was complications from pneumonia that took Morris from us.
Aside from Diane, who visited Morris often during his months in the Cloverdale nursing home and sometimes brought Tinkerbell to visit him, Morris leaves behind a son, Joey, and his sister Ann, and three granddaughters, and a niece and two nephews, and his wolf pack full of dear friends, and the music community who loved him. We were all lucky to have Morris at shows with his camera. He will be greatly missed by those who knew him well.
That guy I have known and run around with since 2013, and yes, the man I have actually howled at the moon with many times, stayed as long as he could and fought to the very end. On the next full moon listen closely, because you may be able to hear me howling at it again in tribute to my wolf pack brother and confidant. You will be missed my dear friend. Morris, may the four winds blow you safely home.
Rest in Peace Morris Caraway, October 19, 1946 — March 29, 2022.
(Cat Spydell lives in Anderson Valley, She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Her books are available on Amazon: https://www.amazon.com/Cat-Spydell/e/B00802884K/)