Sunday, December 30, 2007

Who are you, no really, who are you for real?

I have a friend, Bill Roddy, who used to own the Southern Humboldt Life and Times. Each week he would publish an interview of two southern Humboldt residences, a man and a woman. This was before computers were relied on to keep things sorted out for us. One day he called a gentleman to ask him for an interview, and the man replied, “Bill, you already interviewed me a long time ago, remember?” He then went on to say that he would be glad to do it again, but only this time he wanted to be a fighter pilot. Bill got a lot of laughs out of that.

My grandmother used to say that “if you don’t like who you are, pretend to be someone that you would like to be until it fits”.

It has been said that the truest test of who you really are is who you would be, or what you would do, if nobody ever found out about the things you that you do.

Part of what I like about living in a small town is you can be anything that you want to be. Want to be on the school board? Chances are all you have to do is show an interest. Want to be president of a Rotary club? It’s fairly possible in a small town. How about; would you like to be a fireman when you grow up? It could happen.

I’ve lived a long Mittyesque existence, due to the fact that I live in a small town. Not to change the subject, but most folks know who Walter Mitty was, but for those of you who don’t, he was a man that lived mostly in his mind, and every small occurrence gave him the opportunity to drift off in a daydream about him being the hero who solved the problem and saved the day. I first read the story by James Thurber in high School, and I remember thinking at the time “My god that’s me!”

"WE'RE going through!" The Commander's voice was like thin ice breaking. He wore his full-dress uniform, with the heavily braided white cap pulled down rakishly over one cold gray eye. "We can't make it, sir. It's spoiling for a hurricane, if you ask me." "I'm not asking you, Lieutenant Berg," said the Commander. "Throw on the power lights! Rev her up to 8500! We're going through!" The pounding of the cylinders increased: ta-pocketa-pocketa-pocketa-pocketa-pocketa. The Commander stared at the ice forming on the pilot window. He walked over and twisted a row of complicated dials. "Switch on No. 8 auxiliary!" he shouted. "Switch on No. 8 auxiliary!" repeated Lieutenant Berg. "Full strength in No. 3 turret!" shouted the Commander. "Full strength in No. 3 turret!" The crew, bending to their various tasks in the huge, hurtling eight-engined Navy hydroplane, looked at each other and grinned. "The Old Man'll get us through," they said to one another. "The Old Man ain't afraid of hell!" . . . “

Yep! I’ve flown many airplanes through the Stormy North Coast sky's above my nice toasty bed!.

I’ve been a logger, a soda jerk, I’ve made ice cream, my wife and I built our own house. I change my own head gaskets on my truck when it needs them, and if the old truck needs painting, I do it myself. I've been a fireman for thirty-three years, I did all the refrigeration in major supermarkets. Every time I drive past a house down here I tell my wife, “I did the heating and air-conditioning on that house.” It has all been because I didn’t know that I couldn’t. And in my mind I had to do it, because nobody else could do it as well as I would. I think that I’ve come to believe that. Thanks gramma. I’ve been doing a real good job of becoming who I want to be.

Lately, I've been pretending to be a blogger..... "What? I didn't ask your opinion dammit, rev 'er up to twelve million megapixels... Poketa-poketa-poketa-poketa... Paste a new photo on the header bar... Aye Aye sir"

Have you ever done something because it reflected who you wanted to be? Or do you daydream about the greatness that you might achieve? Come on, give, I don’t want to think that I’m the only one! The Secret life of Walter mitty, By James Thurber. Required reading if you want to know who I am.

Kim Sallaway, "Have fun!"

Kristabel asked me, “P.S. Who's that cute guy in the camo. pants next to Santa?”

Kristabel, I'm glad you asked. The mans name is Kim Sallaway. He is a professional photographer. He does what I would describe as “Character Photography”. I don’t know how he would describe himself. But, if you want to see a collection of his photo’s go to I’ll put the link at the bottom of this page.

Everything in his collection was photographed in a public place. But some of his stuff should be rated “Not For Kids”. But you should get a kick out of the photo’s. He has also been the official photographer for “Reggae on the Whatever” since the very start. He is a very cheerful guy, and his personal motto is “have fun”.

To my relatives that read this blog: “No Toto, this ain’t Kansas anymore”. And admittedly am glad that I’m just looking at the photo’s and not being there in person. But Kim lives his life to collect photo’s like you see in his albums. Be sure to check out his nature photo’s, he capture critters “character” as well as people.

He also sends out to his subscibers a "Photo of the day". Which always has an "Everyone included" rating. He took the best photo of a Brush Robin that I've ever seen. (Whoops!, I forgot, he's a "Newcomer", he's only been here thirty something years, he calls it "Varied Thrush". My people didn't even have a fancy word like "Varied". You probably think that I'm kidding, don't you?)

I consider Kim a true artist of the highest caliber, and a true friend. If you go to his web-site you will see artistry like you’ve not seen in many places. Each of his photo’s either tells a story or suggests one. I tease him with; “If Shakespeare had a camera, this is what he would have said”.

This is a good example of a “Cross Culture’ friendship. But, I see many signs of the culture barrier disappearing. It's hard to not appreciate talent like Kim has, and it is an instant conversation to view any of his stuff.

Kim Sallaway Photography

Thursday, December 27, 2007

We can’t judge what happened then by who we are now.

I was reading Kim's Blog, “The Redheaded Blackbelt” the other day, and she was talking about her ancestors and their part in an Indian massacre. She was deeply ashamed of her ancestors, and their part in what “The Eel River Rangers” did to the Indian people that lived here at the time. I explained to her that, although what they did to the Indians was horrid, that it was possible that her ancestors were doing what they had to do to survive. We can’t judge what happened back then by our standards today. Few people realize the context of our ancestor’s survival, nor do most people have the background in history to know what forced them to do the things that they did.

There is no way to justify what our ancestors did, and no way to make make all of the Indian massacres okay. None of history has been fair, right, or just. But, we are all living evidence that our ancestors survived. In order to put some perspective on who we are, and where we came from, we need to know a little bit about history, and not so much about right and wrong.

Who were our ancestors? How far back in history should we go to make a valid judgment of what they were? Why did they behaved the way they did?

The Crusades. 1006--
(In Italics from Wicapedia)

The Muslim presence in the Holy Land began with the initial Arab conquest of Palestine in the 7th century.

Western attitudes towards the East came in the year 1009, when the Fatimid Caliph al-Hakim bi-Amr Allah ordered the Church of the Holy Sepulchre destroyed.

Christian Pilgrimages were allowed to the Holy Lands, but for a time pilgrims were captured and some of the clergy were killed.

Christians saw, with some validity, that the pursuit of their religion was being jeopardized by the Muslims. Consequently Pope Alexander II gave his blessings for the Christian soldiers to protect and defend the holy land and return it to Christian rule. Thus began the first Crusade. Christians felt that they were fighting for a holy cause, and to win meant everything to them, and there was nothing that they wouldn’t do to win their battle. There were no “rules of engagement”. There were no “Geneva Convention rules”. You either won the battle, or you died a miserable death at the hands of the Muslims. And, to be fair to the Muslims, they felt that they rightfully owned the Holy land, and the Christians had no right whatsoever to be there. So both sides fought with self-righteous-indignation, and both sides felt that “God was on their side", and winning at ALL costs meant everything.

There were nine major Crusades, and several other minor Crusades, with much the same stories of each side blaming the other for the horror and the destruction that ensued. Both sides, surely thought that nothing was too horrible to thrust upon such an ungodly enemy.

The Spanish Inquisition. 1478--
(In italics from

The Inquisitions were run by both civil and church authorities, which were used as a way for the Spanish rulers to unify the country into a strong nation. King Ferdinand and Queen Isabella established the Spanish Inquisition in 1478, along with a reluctant approval of Pope Sixtus IV. Entirely controlled by the Spanish kings, the pope barely had a grip on the Inquisition, the only thing that he had control of, was naming who the inquisitor general was. The entire purpose of the Inquisition was to unify and organize the country by punishing, or trying to convert any “non-believers” like the Jewish, Muslims, Pagans, Moors, and any others. Any heresy was intolerable for the Catholics.

It is documented, that anywhere from 3,000 to 5,000 people, male and female were executed during the 350 years of life that the Spanish Inquisition lived. They often used torture to try and persuade people to give in, and confess to their apparent sins. The amount of women that were killed in these trials seems insanely high, especially when compared to the amount of females and males that were put on trial and killed in Spain. earlier stages of the Spanish Inquisition, people that were accused of heresy would have inquisitors try and force them into the catholic religion. After all, this was the reason that the Spanish Inquisition began! The whole point of the Inquisitions was supposed to be organizing and strengthening the country by practicing only one religion, Catholicism. The reason being is that men were mainly the persons in positions of power throughout Spain. The only case in the Inquisition where more women were accused and executed then men, was with Pagans.

It was their way of thinking, that the need to unify people into one Religion was a Holy Cause, and anything that they did to another human being was justified. After all, it was for the betterment of their Kingdom and mankind. Many people that didn't fit the background, of being purely Catholic, were tortured into confessing their transgressions upon the church. Many people were burned alive for being heretics. Imagine being burned alive!

Medieval to 1870 Europe.
(Italics from Wicapedia)

Until 1814, the full punishment for the crime of treason was to be hanged, drawn and quartered in that the condemned prisoner would be:
Dragged on a hurdle (a wooden frame) to the place of execution. (This is one possible meaning of drawn.)
Hanged by the neck for a short time or until almost dead. (hanged).
Disembowelled and emasculated and the genitalia and entrails burned before the condemned's eyes (This is another meaning of drawn. It is often used in cookbooks to denote the disembowelment of chicken or rabbit carcasses before cooking).[2]
Beheaded and the body divided into four parts (quartered).
Typically, the resulting five parts (i.e. the four quarters of the body and the head) were gibbeted (put on public display) in different parts of the city, town, or, in famous cases, country, to deter would-be traitors who had not seen the execution. After 1814 the convict would be hanged until dead and the mutilation would be performed after death. Gibbeting was abolished in England in 1843. Drawing and quartering was abolished in 1870.

Treason was not a crime against their country, as we think or it today, but a crime against the King, his property, or his rule. Anyone that dared to even utter a treasonous statement was dealt with in a very brutal fashion, and it was well understood that a person was to obey they Kings Rule, and the rules of his lords. There was no government of “We The People” back then. You did as the King willed, or you died. Your chances of surviving were better if you were one on the kings men, but that meant that you did the dirty work of the king no matter how repugnant that it might be to you. The King had the ultimate authority over a persons life or death, for what ever reason he might have.

Being gutted alive was not banned until 1814, and the body being mutilated, and quartered, and spread to the four corners of the land was not banned until 1870. This was a time in history that was contemporary to the American wild west.

King Henry the Eighth
King of England 1491-1547.
The story of King Henry the Eighth is too long and convoluted to detail here, and most people are at least vaguely familiar with the fact that he was a tyrant. But a little detail about the power of a King needs to be illustrated. This is what can happen to a Queen that falls into disfavor. (In italics, from Wicapedia)

“Henry the Eighth had Anne Boleyn arrested on charges of using witchcraft to trap him into marrying her, of having adulterous relationships with five other men, of incest with her brother George Boleyn, Viscount Rochford, of injuring the King and of conspiring to kill him, which amounted to treason. The charges were most likely fabricated by Oliver Cromwell. The court trying the case was presided over by Anne's own uncle, Thomas Howard, 3rd Duke of Norfolk. In May 1536, the Court condemned Anne and her brother to death, either by burning at the stake or by decapitation, whichever the King pleased. The other four men Queen Anne had allegedly been involved with were to be hanged, drawn and quartered; however, their sentences were ultimately commuted to decapitation. Anne and her brother George were also beheaded soon thereafter. At her final Mass, the Queen publicly swore to her innocence in the presence of a priest and various witnesses.”

Why didn’t anyone stop this execution that was perpetrated against a good woman? People surely knew that she didn’t deserve to die. The King had her executed because she bore him no male heirs, and he was in love with Jane Seymore. ( Same name, different woman) It speaks volumes about what power a King has over his subjects.

Did you notice that the king had a henchman in the form of Oliver Cromwell? Did you notice that the judge that condemned her to death was her own uncle? Why didn’t he just say “This is Wrong and I’ll have no part in it”. The reason that he did the things that he did is because it would have meant sure death for him and his family had he not participated in the death of his niece. There are a lot of people with the last name of “Howard” today because of what he did.

Black People were not allowed testify, for or against, white people. (Italics from “The History Of California” Theodore H. Hittell. 1897)

Patrick Cannay offered a petition in the assembly from
free negroes of San Francisco, praying such a change in the
laws as would enable them to give testimony against white men.
But such was the prejudice then existing against negroes that
when Richard P. Hammond offered a resolution that the house
should decline to receive or entertain any petition upon such a
subject from such a source, it was adopted by a vote of forty-
seven ayes to a single no.

Chinese were sent to California under contract and their families were held back in China as security that they would do their jobs well, yet they were highly despised. The only reason that they were here, was for their cheap labor. The Chinese that were doing our dirty work weren’t slaves, but their folks back home were held in slavery to make sure that they performed their duties here. (Italics, History of California)

Criminals, it was true, had not already come in numbers, because the Chinese in California had been sent by contractors who held their families as hostages; but, if the system had so far worked well, it was probably only owing to the limited number sent. But—he went on to say—the allowance of this immigration and the commingling of races would expose our own people "to pestilences as foul as leprosy and the plague, which with the bowlings of insanity would be likely to devastate the land."

This was the world in the mid to late Eighteen-Hundreds. There was no thought of “Civil Rights”. The only people who were thought of as “People” were White People. Some white settlers were surprised to find that Indians could cry. The Indians were thought of, and treated like animals. That didn’t make that kind of thinking right, but this is what you would have been up against, had you gone back in time to instruct these people as to what they were doing wrong.

On the White Settlers side, there was many stories about what the Indians had done to the Homesteads of the North coast. Some true, and most were exaggerations. But many Indians were just as brutal as the whites. And, they were very sneaky and cunning. Most Settlers at the time thought of them as a “Potential Menace”. And with their lack of education, they were easily convinced that “the only good Indian was a dead Indian”. And the mere thought of how fragile the settlers frontier existence was, scared the hell out of them, and they most likely decided that the best way to make sure that they didn’t have anything disappear in the middle of the night from a group of Indians was to eliminate them.

As I have also pointed out before, not all settlers thought this way, and they befriended and protected the Indians at their great peril. The people protecting the Indians would be in for sure trouble if it became known.

I think that in conclusion I need to tell you about the people that lived in the North Coast Hills. They were, for the most part, uneducated, poor, honest, hard working people. Their history is in being recently from Europe, where brutality was the norm. They well understood the power of a King. And the power of his henchmen.

What I say repeatedly, is that the mistake we are making, is that we are judging who we are now, and what we would do now, and placing that in a different context that most of us have no concept of at all.

You need to read a little history about what people were like back then. Especially Cattle King White. Then you need to imagine what you would do if his henchmen came to your door, and told you what you were going to do, understanding full well that you were going to do their bidding, or you would die! And your family would die! Remember, you just bought the land that you were on, had no place to go even if you could afford it. And the law, and all of people in authority, were afraid of cattle king White, and would do nothing to protect you…. In that context what would you do? Be honest. For your enlightenment I'm going to include two comments that I received recently:

Ben said...
The point of Jarboe's or Fleming's militias was to simply clear this country of Indians for the whites. Indians were not considered human beings by the majority of settlers in those days. They were not allowed to testify in court nor was killing an Indian considered a crime. The justification for killing an Indian baby was: "Nits make Lice." and this phrase was common not just here, but throughout the west. However, Indian children were useful as servants and so were captured and sold to whites. Woodman Creek near Laytonville is named for the notorious slaver George Woodman.The indentureship law allowed this even after the Emancipation Proclamation and the Civil War. The Army was the only law in Southern Humboldt and they were under orders to kill any Indian male who was not attached to a white settler or on the Reservations at Ft. Bragg or Round Valley. Within ten years, the Indian population was reduced to about a tenth of what it had been when whites arrived. The introduced diseases of smallpox and syphilis reduced the population further. Thousands died.The absence of any Rancheria in Southern Humboldt is evidence of the efficiency of the genocide in our area. Mrs. Bowman was living near Camp Grant when she was attacked. The year was 1869. There is evidence that the Indians involved were a renegade group of Chilula from Redwood Creek. The Bull Creek Indians said that they were also attacked. The vicious attack on Mrs. Bowman and her children was used as an excuse for more forays against local Indians. An entire culture, probably as complex and beautiful as the surviving culture of the Klamath and Trinity area was wiped out. Songs, dances and language were lost. It is important to remember what happened here. That we had slavery, just like the South and that human beings were hunted like animals. My umpty great uncle was tomahawked and killed on the banks of the Ohio River in Indiana. His brother was captured and made a slave of the Kickapoo in Illinois. He escaped and spent quite a bit of his time hunting Indians afterwords. Some of my more recent Indiana relatives were sympathetic with the Ku Klux Klan. As long as we stayed away from politics, we got along fine. They were terrific guys. Just a bit backward.
December 21, 2007 10:35 PM

EkoVox said...
Eric, Have you read Genocide & Vendetta: The Round Valley Wars in Northern California by Lynwood Carranco and Estle Beard. It is very difficult to find as it is a very rare, out of print book. But, if you can find a copy, it is an incredible depiction of Southern Humboldt/Northern Mendocino in the 1850's to about 1880's.Here is a synopsis from a customer of Amazon:The book consists of three major sections:1) The genocide of the aboriginal inhabitants of Humboldt & Mendocino Counties. 2) The rise & fall of the Asbill brothers; two early settlers in the area. 3) The story of the infamous George E. White. Cattle King of Round Valley & the Yolla Bolly country in northwestern California from the 1850's to 1902.The first section is difficult to read. Partly because of the content, & partly because of the format. Appears to be written in the format used for a Master's thesis. Does contain a wealth of information. Some of it repeated from various sources. Gives an overview of the Indian population decline as well as graphic descriptions of some of the murderous incidents. Horrific. Bosnia today has nothing on what a few pitiless men did in the Yolla Bolly country during the 1850's & 1860's. Easier reading covering some of the same material are "The Story of the Stolen Valley," by Rena Lynn, and "The Saga of Round Valley The Last of the West," by John E. Keller.The second section is easier reading because it is based largely on the narrative of Frank Asbil. Son of Pierce Asbill & nephew of Frank Asbil. Follows their story from their arrival in the Yolla Bolly country as hide hunters through the rise & fall of their livestock operations. Colorful & entertaining. My favorite part of the book. If you like this section, look for the "Last of the West" by Frank Asbill & Argle Shawley The third section relates the story of George White's livestock empire. Includes examples of the brutal methods used by his henchmen to control the rich grazing land of the Yolla Bolly country. These included threats, theft, arson, perjury, false accusations, corrupt officers of the law, & murder by various cowardly means: poisoning, shooting in the back from ambush. Over a twenty year period in a population of only a few hundred people, over fifty murders occurred FOR WHICH NO SUSPECTS WERE EVER ARRESTED. Because of the large number of crimes, the authors present selected incidents to illustrate typical methods used by these organized outlaws to keep out homesteaders for nearly fifty years. This section reaches it's climax in the murderous vendetta against the two men that ultimately stood up to George White's outlaw buckaroos, and in the accounts of the killers' trials in Weaverville. It has lighter portions too. These cover cattle ranching methods of the day as well as anecdotes illuminating the character of some individuals involved. For fictionalized adventures in the Yolla Bolly country from this era look for the book "Wylackie Jake of Covelo."Contains an epilogue and an extensive bibliography. Compliments to Lynwood Carranco & the late Estle Beard on their thorough telling of this chilling history. Should be made into a movie by someone like Robert Redford
December 27, 2007 11:09 AM

It makes you think doesn’t it? Remember, there were many unreported murders and disappearances, food poisonings, etc. One man, that had paid a good deal of money for his ranch, crossed White over a land use issue, and he was offered enough money to “get out of town” for his ranch, and again, it was well understood that to refuse the offer was sure death. Whites henchmen would kill you for the boots that you were wearing if they caught you out in the open. What the folks did back then had far more to do with survival than morality.

I would love to see any of the moralist that spout about what everyone did wrong back then, go back and live there for just one week. I wonder how many times that they would compromise their integrity for their families survival.

To even judge the people that survived back then is arrogant. Was what they did wrong? Yes! Did they have any choices? Slim, and damn few.

The Indians were caught in the middle of this mess, and "The King" didn’t want them around, because they were taking up valuable grazing space. When the pony soldiers pulled out for the Civil War, the area was left to be “protected” by private contractors, like Jarboe’s Eel River Rangers, who were hired to keep the Indian population under control. Most all of these men had connections to people like Cattle King white, or other wealthy, but ruthless, land owners. The current thinking of the time was “The only good Indian is a dead Indian”. The backlash to the planned massacres is what finally brought some recognition of the problems that the Indians faced to the civilized parts of the world, and the killing was stopped.

Honestly. Tell me where do you think that you would have fit in in this mess. Remember you have no money, no education, no where to go, and you love your wife and kids. Why don’t you put yourself at about the head waters of Keckawaka Creek, just north of Covelo. Cattle Kings men come by to eat dinner every month or so. What are you going to do? Piss them off?

We have the luxury of living in one small bubble in ALL of history where peace and harmony is even thought of as a viable concept. Also, we have the luxury of living in one small part of today’s world where peace and harmony is thought of as “Ideal”. We have in less than One-hundred years emerged as a peaceful people. Any other time in history, everyone did what they needed to do to survive. We are indeed unique in all of history, or in all of this world, with a few notable exceptions.

Monday, December 24, 2007

Merry Christmas!

This is like a "Guess what I did for Christmas" post. Saturday, December 22nd we loaded Santa onto our old 1937 American LaFrance fire truck and drove him around Redway. We have tons of photo's of happy little folks sharing their Christmas wishes with Santa. We spent the whole day at it, and by the time we got back to the fire hall it was dark and raining quite heavily. Everyone had a good time.

Taking Santa around Redway on the Fire truck is a tradition that goes back to sometime in the fifties, where a man by the name of J.P. Rusk started it. He was one of the original framers of the Redway fire department , and he was big on Santa. The tradition stuck, and as far as anyone knows, we've never missed a year. It is one of the most special things that can ever be witnessed. Some kids are terrified, and some others run toward him with their arms open like he was their favorite person in the world. Maybe He is! Anyway, it is one of the most rewarding things that we do in the town of Redway. That is, other than a nice stop on what might have been a tragic fire.

I'm the one that's not anyone else. (Hint, I have a sweatshirt on)

It seemed like we had about twice as many kids this year, and I don't know why, but it sure made it fun. We had people chasing us down the street and one person even went to Garberville to pick up her kids to see Santa!

Later that night we had our annual Christmas Party. We parked all of the fire-trucks in a local garage. We decorated the fire hall so it was quite festive, complete with fireplace and Christmas Tree. I had a cut of prime-rib that must have weighted a pound, complete with all the trimming's. Then we danced to the "Roadmasters" until midnight. My wife hasn't been up that late for years. She even danced to "Night-Riders in the Sky", and she used to say that she doesn't like County and Western music. They are a great band and can please any crowd. J.P. Rusk's widow, who will soon be one-hundred, was up dancing to the Music. She attends our party every year as one of the founders of the Redway Fire Department.

The some of the rest of the firefighters were in the following support vehicle. And there were some back decorating the fire-hall. There Is a hint of another truck with us in one of the photo's. Everyone was it complete turn-outs, and ready for a fire, except one noticeable exception, apparently he didn't now it was going to rain.

Friday, December 21, 2007

It's going to take awhile.

A few days ago on the “Redheaded Blackbelt” I posted a reply to Kym, that I felt that she might be judging a relative to harshly. The relative was a member of Captain Jarboe’s Eel River Rangers that had massacred dozens of Indians.

In putting together an accounting of the way people thought back in the 1850’s, I have ran into so many interesting stories, of the interaction that the new settlers and the Indians had, that I have become side-tracked.

I called my cousin Penny in Laytonville who has an accounting of Mrs. Bowman’s flight from Hydesville to Laytonville to escape an Indian attack. Mrs. Bowman was gravely injured and was almost killed, yet she got herself and her kids to a neighbors cabin. Where the story gets even more dramatic. I called her because I knew she had a printer-ready copy of the story, and I didn’t want to re-type it.

While we were talking she casually mentioned; “You knew that Great, Great, Grampa and Gramma Middleton were the only survivors of an Indian attack in Arizona on their way to California didn’t you? ( I guess that I didn’t know that story was about my folks) Then she went on to say “You knew about the Indian attack on their cabin at Mud Springs, when the Indian sneaked down the chimney didn’t you? I vaguely remember that. But the good thing is her father, my uncle Ben, wrote the story down and she still has it, and we are going to get together at the next family reunion and photo copy it. Later I will transcribe it into my computer.

I also know that I had a Great Aunt who had her throat cut by an Indian, but his knife was dull and she was able to survive the attack

Anyway these are the same ancestors that helped hide the Indians, and help feed them, through the times of great strife. When they and anyone protecting them was being murdered.

It’s going to take a great deal longer to write about my feelings on this subject than I thought. It may even be a chapter in the book that I want to write about this canyon that I like so much.

I’m very much interested in any true stories about the early days. No, I haven’t read Ray Raphael’s new book yet. I don’t want my mind going in too many directions, until I get my thoughts together. I’ve always thought that there were two sides to the story, and all that I’m interested in is the truth.

Most of what people did back then was survival related, and I think that I can make that point glaringly clear.

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Weott today!

Please click on the following link For a graffic view of the city of weott today!

Very dramatic to someone that remembers the town as I do!

Sunday, December 16, 2007

The town of Weott after the '64 flood.

Weott before the 1955 flood.

Weott after the 1955 flood.

Weott after the 1964 flood.
The water was high enough to leave this sawhorse in the phone lines of what was the town of Weott. The water was still very deep when this photo was taken, if you click your cuser on the photo it will enlarge and you can see what lookes like a large tank still submerged. What's left of the town is washed up against the trees in the background. The town of Weott was no more.

A few posts ago I showed the town of Weott, before and after the '55 flood, this is a photo of down town Weott that they took after the sixty-four flood, as the waters were still receding and they realized that the town was totally destroyed. They rebuilt the town up the hill about a quarter of a mile, beside the new freeway that was just being built at the time.

The Railroad at Dyerville, where The South Fork meets the main Eel, was under twenty-one feet of water. One of the three rail bridges was destroyed and had to be rebuilt. Over one hundred miles of rail in the Eel River canyon had to be replaced.

Travel on the 101 highway was restored in only Forty-one days, but it was years before traffic was back to normal.

Twenty-eight people lost their lives to the flood in Humbodlt and Del Norte. Over five thousand head of cattle were lost.

Please click on the following link For a graffic view of the city of weott today!

Friday, December 14, 2007

Ed's Interesting Story

Most everyday I skim my list of links on the left side of this page.
( <--- Over there, near the bottom.)

Marco Polo, Orient Lines Antarctic Cruise Ship. Built in 1965, 22,080 tons, 826 passengers.

The last few days I’ve been following Ed And Mary Alice Densen’s trip to the Antarctica. I figured that they are mighty brave to be taking a trip down there after all the cruise ship disasters and illness’. So I found with some humor that they couldn’t get into port in Montevideo, Uruguay, because a Cruise Ship collided with a Cargo Container ship in the channel. A few cargo containers were knocked loose and fell into the pathway, and divers had to go down and rig them for removal, so Ed and Mary Alice were stuck at sea. Their ship was anchored beside the cruise ship that had been in the collision, it had a big hole knocked in the bow, and Ed said that he thought that they were nearby in case there was an evacuation, but apparently the damage was not that bad.

I wondered if it was the same Chinese cargo container ship that ran into the Bay Bridge in San Francisco. Then I thought about the fact that they are trying to get cargo ships and cruise ships into Humboldt Bay, in the winter. Sorry, but if they can't put a ship into San Francisco bay without running into things, how are they going to navigate Humboldt bay!

Pardon my Language, but how in the hell can ships these days run into anything. They have GPS, Radar, Sonar, Fog Horns, Harbor pilots, Captains, men on the bridge, and I could go on. And they still run into things!

I thought about Ed and Mary Alice taking a cruise right after the Ice-Breaking Cruise Ship hit an iceberg and sank in the Antarctic last month. That alone would have scared me off. That, and I have a morbid fear of freezing to death. Plus don't they have that Norovirus that Baywood County Club has? That dosn't sound like fun. They tell me that it's worse than drinking the water in Mexico. I don’t relish the thought of be stranded or drowning in Antarctica either. I firmly believe that the Antarctic should to be left for Penguins and Ozone Holes, and leave me here, where the sun shines!

Ed must have that lawyer thing, where he thinks that he can talk himself through any natural disasters, and give good enough "reasoning" to talk himself out of drowning or freezing to death. I don’t have that much faith in myself. I never go out in a boat where I can’t swim to shore.

Anyway, Ed got some good Photo’s and you can link to his site here.

P.S. My wife just informed me that we won a cruise ship trip to the Caribbean. Don't they have Hurricanes there?

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Bloggers Picnic

So, okay. I’m confused but optimistic. It appears that EkoVox has organized a bloggers picnic. Somewhere in Scotia or Rio dell.

To be Honest, I’m really looking forward to this picnic. I wonder why nobody thought of it before… What? They did? This is the sixth annual? And I wasn’t invited before?

I think that my family reunion is on the 17th of August, I wonder if Ekovox and everyone could move the date to Saturday the 16th, before this thing gets rolling to fast.

Does anyone else have a preference.

Rehash of an historic election.

Okay, I know that I promised that this blog would stick history or local topics, and stay away from politics, but something has been bothering me lately, and I just want to know if I’m the only one. The election is past so this post won’t be considered to be political.

I made a service call to Alderpoint Tuesday afternoon and when I got there, I notice three prominently placed “Carlos Quilez” campaign signs. After leaving Alderpoint, I drove to the New Harris Store to repair a refrigeration unit there, and on my way I noticed another prominently placed Carlos Quilez sign. A first I laughed and thought of the Alderpoint people just being behind the times, then it started to bother me that the signs were still up. I’m sure that Carlos had nothing to do with the signs, but the people that put them up should be responsible to take them down.

The other thing that I wondered about is, why did signs pop up in places to be immediately replaced other candidates signs, only to go back to the original? What kind of people do that? Is it the land owner changing his mind, or is it unscrupulous campaign workers?

The next thing that I wondered about is the shotgun that Quilez drew to protect his wife. Did that issue really change anyone’s mind about who they were going to vote for, or was it just used as a red-herring smear against Quilez by someone that was not going to vote for him anyway. I know it had nothing to do with the way I voted, so why was it made to be such an issue?

Next, I know that Eric Kirk made a significant difference in the number of people that voted for Quilez in the Southern Humboldt area. If more people had shown up to vote, would it have made any difference in the outcome.

Saturday, December 8, 2007

Geneses of a blogger.

People often asked me about why I didn’t have my own blog. They said that I seemed to enjoy writing and commenting so much that I should have a blog.

Well, it’s fun to drop in on somebody else’s blog, where the topic has already been chosen, make a few witty comments and scurry away, without having to take any responsibility to be entertaining. Add a few anonymous zingers, point out how ridiculous that something someone said was, make a few valid points, and feel like you have contributed to the conversation greatly, then go about the other things that you should be doing without worrying about not making a fresh posting.

I saved some of what I perceived to be my better comments on other peoples blogs. I secretly squirreled them away on what I thought was my “secret blogsite”. Thinking someday I might clean them up, rearrange them, and make an interesting posting, then go public. I was just trying to save those thoughts that I had for reminding me of something that I had said, that I might use in another context. I didn’t publish the URL, and I checked the box that said I didn’t want my site publicized. I know that that was awfully naïve. But, that is how it is when you just start blogging.

When I first started commenting on blogs, I was highly offended when someone would ridicule or lie about what I had said. Most all of the hateful comments were made anonymously. Which also bothered me. Then I figured out that you could just ignore most of what “Anonymous” had to say. Then, there is the higher class of blogger that stays anonymous for some “good reason”, but they are polite enough to make up an identity to give your conversation with them some continuity. I liked that, it seems like you know who you are talking to, and it is easier to follow a thought.

My ego took a real boost when Eric posted on his blogsite, “Sohum Parlance”, that “Ernie has a Blog’. Wow, my site meter count doubled overnight. In a panic, I decided that I had better post something for people to read and think about. I had a lot of fun, and thought wow, this is great to be able to carry on a conversation with people anywhere in the world. My ego came down a bit when the site-meter stopped spinning so rapidly. I figured out what everyone already knows, that Eric’s blog is the eight-hundred pound gorilla on the north coast, and the mere mention of something on his blog is going to generate a lot of hits in that direction. But, I noticed that there is still a small, but steady stream of people that are checking on my blog. They are probably looking for the latest acorn recipe, or something equally exciting.

My family started reading and critiquing what had to say. I thought that it was funny that they all e-mailed their comments to me. They say that it’s just too complicated to put their comments in that “little box”, and that it doesn’t have spell check, and when they tried to send it that their comments got eaten and they had to start over. That was real funny to me because those were the same problems that I had at first. Then I started doing everything in my word processor and cutting-and-pasting my comments into the box, and when they didn’t send, or something fouled-up, I could just re-paste them.

Some of the blogs that I enjoy the most are a few of the less active sites, like 299 Opine, Greg and Carol, and Chocolate Covered Xanex. I’ve discovered that I have a tendency to go to sites where there are no, or few comments by “anonymous”. It just gets to confusing for me to try to follow any train of thought with so many people being purposefully hateful or disruptive from behind their curtains. Like everyone else, I check Eric’s blog like it was the latest newspaper or something, and I enjoy most of the postings, and try to ignore most of the rants that make no sense.

You probably wont see too much comment on politics or religion here, not because I’m not interested, it’s just that I value my friends more than my opinions. And, I need all the friends that I can get.

Most of what I like are Human Interest stories, Family stories, local history, local news items, and whatever you are interested in, because if a person is interested in something, the interest becomes contagious.

Tuesday, December 4, 2007

Mussel feed recipe.

Recipe for a mussel feed by request, thanks to Lodgepole

Mussel feed:
Clean and steam mussels with a half inch of water in the bottom of the steaming pan. Cover and steam until the mussels on the top open. Remove meats, and remove the beard. If the mussels are large, throw out the tough white muscle parts.

Then eat as many as you can eat. Use hot butter and lemon juice for dipping sauce. My wife prefers fresh crushed garlic butter with her mussels. Breads, cheeses, and fruits go good with mussels. And a green salad with tomatoes and avocado works well. White, or red wine, or a good beer, also go good with mussels. If you are an alcoholic, or you can’t drink, you should switch to peanut butter sandwiches because a mussel feed just screams for a good bottle of wine to cut the butter sauce. Invite as many friends as you can. Good friends are the most important part of a Mussel feed. And there should be a least one friend to tell you how icky they look and how they would never eat anything that looks like that, it makes them that much tastier.

Pickled mussels:
Take all of the left-over meats clean them and put then in a bowl.
Make a pickling brine out of left over juice in the bottom of the boiling pot. Taste the juice and if it is too salty add some water until it is acceptable.

For each quart of meat: Leave meat in the bowl, the brine will be poured over it later. Take two cups of juice and add one cup of apple cider vinegar to it. Put it in a pot and start to bring it to a boil, as it is heating add one tablespoon of off-the-shelf pickling spices, like can be bought at any grocery store. Add three bay leaves. Add a half of a small lemon, give it a little squeeze and toss it in the boiling brine. Then add as much crushed red pepper as you feel brave enough to try, but put at least a little bit in because the final product doesn’t seem to be as spicy as you thought it was going to be.

Simmer the pickling brine for forty-five minutes then pour it over the mussel meats. Cover and place in the refrigerator. They will be ready to eat cold the next day. Makes a good hors-d-oevres. I don’t know how long they will last; they don’t last over a week at my house because they get eaten.

My grandmother would have a whole shelf of her pantry filled with picked mussels. She would take us kids to the ocean and we would pick a whole large gunny-sack full and we would bring them home and have a mussel feed, and then can the rest. The kids got stuck with cleaning them, but I didn’t mind. I’ve always loved pickled mussels.

Sunday, December 2, 2007

Poor mans Mussell feed

A few posts ago I taunted everyone with what a great Mussell feed that we had the Friday after thanksgiving, but I had to beg my wife to download a photo for me because I asked her to use her brand new “high-dollar” digital Cannon Camera. From now on I am going to just take a picture with my cell phone and e-mail it to myself. It works good enough for this blog-site, and it’s a whole lot cheaper.

As you recall I said: "This time I got a great photo of dinner that I will post as soon as my wife downloads it onto my computer. I'm not sure when that will be, because she "has more important things to do than blog". She has different priorities. Don't be angry with her, she can't help herself, that's just the way she is!”

It seems that after I almost got insulting about wanting her to download her “Great Picture” I ended up owing her “big time”. The “big time owe her” took us to Eureka to look at area rugs. We took my truck to town “just in case” she found something that she liked. Fourteen-hundred-dollars later we are home and she seems to be happy, but she reminded me that I still owe her for downloading some pictures for the fire department that she took. At first I objected to this “Great camera“, but she said not to worry that it would pay off well for her. I’m beganing to see that she was right. So I’m going to show you the fourteen-hundred dollar picture of a “Poor Mans” dinner.

Just place your cursor on the photo and click, and it will open in a high-resolution Photograph. Please feel free to copy it and put on your wall if you like. But, if you do, just say that you did in the comments box; in fact say you did even if you didn't. Maybe I can take a tax deduction by proving that the photos were used for charitable purposes.

I’ll begrudgingly admit that she is a “Fine Photographer”, but darned expensive. I hate to think what it’s going to cost me for the fire department pictures, but I guess time will tell.

Now back to the mussel feed, they were delicious. We had dipping bowl full of hot lemon-butter, hot garlic butter, and we had fresh sliced guava fruit. We had sour-dough Italian Bread, because we are still boycotting the French for voting against the war, (the low life’s).

Back to the Mussel feed, We had green salad, with veggies, and a bunch of other stuff. And, oh, did I mention that we had a dozen bottles of wine? But now that I count them, I notice that there are only eleven bottles on the table. My wife has only fooled herSELF this time because her photograph is good enough to read the labels, and I noticed that her favorite brand of wine is NOT on the table. She does that at Halloween also. She goes the store to get the ”Kids” Halloween candy. When she comes back from the store, she always has extra Snickers Bars. When she puts them out for the Kids, there are NO Snickers Bars in the bowl. Her breath always smells like Snickers for a day or two after Halloween.

Back to the Mussel feed. We ate mussel until we couldn’t eat any more then I pickled the rest, and we ate them for snacks for the next few days. They were also delicious. Let me know if you would like the recipe.

I’m still worried what the fire department pictures are going to cost me. It seems like the longer it takes to decide, the more expensive that it gets.

Post script note:
My wife just informed me that the photo of the mussels was taken with her "old camera", and that anyone could CLEARLY see that the background was fuzzy. Then she told me that the camera focuses on the first thing that it sees, and that’s a perfect example of why she needed a “good camera”.

So, I’m thinking “why did I pay “high-dollar” for this photo???” Then I remembered; the fire department pictures that she hasn’t downloaded may be bad pictures also. I started to smell a bargain. I opened negotiations to buy the photos at a reduced price. Her reply was “oh no, those were taken with the “good camera” and that they are “high-dollar” photo’s".

Saturday, December 1, 2007

Frosty morning along the Benbow hedgerows.

Gee! "Home" doesn't look so bright and cheery this morning!

Interestingly, I was just reading this morning about the ice sheet that covered America less than twelve thousand years ago. I guess the Eskimo's didn't pay their tree farmers well enough for their "carbon offset credits", so they had to move further North to stay cold. As I left the house this morning I noticed that we had our first "Killing Frost" and all of my Petunias were killed. If this darn global warming doesn't let up I'm going to freeze to death.

They have just recently found a huge rock that was deposited in Garberville by a glacier. They are calling it a "Glacier Drop Rock". They are now busy studying where it came from, and how long ago. I'll bet that they find it came from Al Gores front yard!

Friday, November 30, 2007

My first "big fish" !!! !!!

This rather tacky picture of me and my first "big fish" capture one of the highlights of my entire life. My family and I had fished the creeks around Laytonville, and I had caught many trout, but I begged and pleaded that I wanted to catch a “big” fish, like the rest of my family had.

My real grandfather had died before I was born and my Grandmother eventually remarried. One day my step-grandfather said that he was going to take me fishing, but we had to get up early, and we had to drive a long way, and if I whimpered even once that he was going to turn around and come straight back home. We lived in Laytonville and the place that he took me fishing was just north of Dean Creek by Garberville. The rock that I stood on when I caught the fish is now buried under the freeway right next to the Avenue of the Giants information sign. We traveled about sixty miles to get there. That was a long trip for a four and a half year old kid, but I didn’t whimper even once, because I knew Grampa Ed didn’t fool around, and if I if I had whimpered he would have turned right around, and it would have been all over!

I think that my Grandmother must have made Grandpa Ed a “deal” to take me fishing because she knew that I wanted to catch a big fish so badly.

I remember feeling my pole quiver like I had a real big fish, and I hollered FISH!!!, Ed grabbed the pole from me and he gave it a big yank upwards. I didn’t know what I had done wrong, and my bottom lip was out about a half inch longer than my top lip, then my LIP started to quiver, I was starting to get that physical feeling in my chest that a person gets when their heart is actually breaking in two. Then Ed gave me back the pole, and he said with a gentle smile on his face; “Hang on tight... It’s a big one.” I found out later that he was just setting the hook for me, because he didn't want it to get away. I started smiling again, and I started reeling it in. The fish took off with the line because Ed had set the “drag” light so the fish wouldn’t pull the pole out of my hand. I keep wanting to grab the reel so it wouldn't spool out, but Ed said that it was okay, that the fish would stop before it got all the line. I remember saying a lot of times “It’s A Big Fish”.

When I finally got it to shore, Ed had a gaff hook that he used to land the fish, and I kept hollering “Gaff it Ed, gaff it”. I was terrified that the fish would get away because I had seen my dad lose one just as he got it to shore. Needless to say Ed “Gaffed it” and I don’t remember the trip home. So I must have slept. But I remember catching the big fish like it was yesterday, and I am now sixty-two and three-quarters. It was years before I could talk about that fish without getting that silly smile on my face, like you see in the pictures. In fact, if I looked in the mirror, I think that I could still see it.

The pictures of the fish were taken the next day. I think that it was my mother that took them. All I remember about the pictures is that I wanted the pigs and the dogs to be in them. So you can thank me if you are enjoying the backdrop of the wonderful pig pen that was on the family ranch. The black and white critters under my left hand are the pigs in their "Wallow". Pigs love "wallowing".

Whenever I had a picture taken, I always wanted my pets to be in them. If you look at the pictures, you will see “Suzy” the black momma dog, and the little black puppy licking the fish is “speed”. The dog, “speed”, grew up to become a Laytonville legend as a hunting dog. My dad said that the dog was so good at gathering up deer, that all he had to do was lower the tailgate and speed would do the rest. He said that speed could tell the difference between a buck and a doe. They were a mixed breed of dog, but like most ranch dogs, they had MacNabb shepherd in them.

The saw in my left hand was a “real saw”, and I was proud that I could saw a board clear in two with it, so it had to be in the picture. The truck was a Brand new ‘49 Chevy ton-and-a-half that my grandmother had just bought for ranch use. It was a big deal, so it had to be in the picture.

I hope that “Eel River Ernie” see’s this, because I don’t want him to think that he’s the only Ernie that can catch a fish. He will probably take the prize for most fish though. My friends and I always had a bet before we went fishing. It was a dollar apiece for first, most, biggest, and last. A lot of times I got all four dollars. What’s the fun of telling a fish story if you can't tell at least one lie!

Now for a little history; if you click on any of the photos they will enlarge to a huge scale. The house in the upper left of the third photo down (Beyond the pig pen) was a hand built Board on Bat balloon frame house, built with a minimum of lumber. No decoration, no Verge rafter, no trim. It belonged to my Great Grand-Father Lafayette Middleton and my Grandmother Laura. The building to it’s immediate right is the wood shed and the building further up the hill was the chicken house and the small building this side and in front of the chicken house, was the outhouse. Then the last real small building on the right is a dog house that the dog was penned up in at night to scare predators away from the chickens. The smokehouse that was used for curing meats is not shown, It's further up the hill. There was a barn and a milk cow also not shown and the barn had all the farm implements in it that was used for plowing and mowing hay. In the early days most homesteads had at least two horses that were used for everything. The vegetable garden was between the house and the chicken house. That was a typical frontier homestead building arrangement. All of the modern buildings on the ranch were behind the camera. That is modern for 1949

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Weott @1950, and after the 1955 flood.

View looking north on Avenue of the Giants in @1950, It was then Highway 101. click on photo for full screen high res. picture. After the '64 flood there was a road barricade sawhorse left in the powerlines thirty five feet above the street level.

View looking south.
Weott was partially rebuilt after the '55 flood but was completly devastated after the '64 flood and was moved up the hill above high water.
The two photo’s at the top are by Art-Ray photography and have been donated to the Garberville Rotary Club, and to be used for historic purposes. The Rotary club owns the high resolution negatives that were produced for the purpose of selling postcards. Rotary has the complete collection of negatives and is interested in using them for historic purposes as you see here. There are about 150 in total. So if you are interested in any thing from Leggett Valley to Weott circa 1950, let me know. You will probably see more on this blogsite someday.

One of the advantages of being a long time resident, and a historian by default because I was born and raised in the South Fork Valley, is that good things come my way. A few years ago out of the clear blue sky I received an envelope of photo’s from a lady by the name of Neva Cimaroli. She said that she had received her uncles photo’s and didn’t know what to do with them because she knew nothing about them and she wanted to donate them to someone who knew something about them and would appreciate them. And, that there was no need to return them. The two photo’s on the bottom are from her uncles collection.

She said that her uncles name was Lee Beavenue, and his wife was Annie. He was a park ranger at Richardson’s Grove California State Park. She didn’t know where the Photo’s were taken, but I was able to determine that they were of Weott, after the 1955 flood. There are about two dozen of them.

The 1955 flood was in most respects more disastrous then the 1964 flood. It caught people totally off guard, because they had no idea that the water could get that high until it happened. Then as it happened they had no plan, and no communication. The whole north coast was cut off for many days, and many bridges were wiped out.

South Fork of the Eel mystery

I was down at the river that goes through our valley. I take a walk every now and then. There is a road that lines along the bank of the river, and it is a good place to take a walk. More often than not, my walk is taken over by my curiosity. I seem to be drawn to the river bar, I look for the prettiest or most unusual rock, or piece of driftwood to take home to my wife. I try to pass it off to her like it was jewelry or something. She seems appreciative but the “jewelry” thing doesn’t fly with her.

I always check the edge of the water, the small tadpoles and baby fish interest me, and I like to watch the under-water bugs work and do their thing. I learned a long time ago that if a person will just stay really still, and not move or make a noise, that mother nature will perform for you every time.

I found a flat rock by a small pool surrounded by willow and river grass, I pulled my cap down low over my eyes, laid down on my belly, and set my chin on top of my crossed hands. I started to study the small pool under my nose. Soon, small fish came out of hiding and went back to feeding, I noticed several frogs that moved back into the opening in the middle of the pond, and the bugs were scurrying around doing what I’ve never been able to figure out.

As I laid still, trying to watch everything, I noticed out of the corner of my eye that a critter was doing something under the edge of a rock. That soon took over my attention, and I started to speculate what it might be, as I watched, I could see a claw dart out pushing sand and muck out in front of it. After a while, a whole crawdad about three inches long came scooting out and scooted right back, as if to say “look quick, this is all you will get.”

I laid awake that night thinking about the crawdad. I hadn’t seen one in the river in a long time, and I wondered why I hadn’t. I got to thinking that it would be great to have a crawdad in my Koi pond. So I got up early, grabbed my goldfish dip net, and my fishing license, and headed to the river. When I got to the spot that my pet crawdad was hiding, I noticed that his spot was all dug up. I thought, wow, he’s been a busy little critter to move that much sand. Then I looked on the river bar beside the pool, and there was what was left of his tail.

There were coon tracks all over, but as I looked across the water, I saw a group of four river otters playfully looping through the water. I know now why I don’t see crawdads so much any more, but now I wonder who ate my little buddy, the Coons or the River Otter.

Sunday, November 25, 2007


Benbow Lake.
Place curser on photo and click, for larger view.
My home is on the left end of the brushy ridge behind the lake.
Benbow Dam
My wife’s sister, who was born and raised in Willow Glen with my wife, is here to visit us. When they were kids, Willow Glen was by the edge of a huge walnut orchard, and there was a chicken ranch that her aunt owned just down the road, within walking distance. The valley that they were raised in is now known as Silicone Valley.

She moved away from California about thirty five years ago. She is highly educated, and speaks a few other languages. She made her career at Governor State University in Chicago. She married a Swedish National that owns a Fire Equipment sales company. He travels all over the world, and is out of country more often than not. She, on occasion, travels with him and has been to most of the civilized places in the world herself.

Sorry for all the details, but we got up early this morning and while we were chatting over coffee and tea, she described to me what I thought was something that only I could feel that way about, and it brought a lump to my throat.

She said the airplane that she was on flew for miles on end over the desolate frosty plains of the country, then the plane flew over the beautiful snow capped Sierra Nevada mountains and started it‘s decent through the crystal clear air of California, over the green quilted valley below, and the thought came to her mind that it sure feels good to be coming “Home”. I feel that feeling every time that I come back to California. I start feeling that “I’m home” very intensely at about Ukiah when I’m traveling northward, and when I get back in “my valley”, I AM home.

I’ve heard it said many times that “home is where your heart is”, but I was thinking about where my wife and her sister were born and raised, and basically it’s gone, as they knew it. My wife has adopted the South Fork Canyon as her new home and is very content with it. But, what would it be like for her to return to the place that she was born, as it was then, completely intact. Chicken ranch, walnut orchard, and fresh air, most of her friends and family still around her. What would a small moment of time like that be worth? Just for an hour or a day?

I’ve been lucky enough to stay in my “home”. Part of what I call my home is what you see in the photo’s that I have included. Without looking at the photos very closely, you couldn’t tell whether they were taken today, or sometime in the 1850’s. It would look pretty-much the same. I’ve seen many changes, and suffered many “Newcomers”, most of which have become my friends. Most people that move here, end up feeling the same way I feel about this place, and it becomes apparent as they become one of us.

I woke up this day to perfect weather, and the fresh smell of winter around the corner, and mother nature is getting ready to water my trees for me. But, she gave me a few more very pretty days, because she knows how much I like a sunny day in the Fall.

What would I give to go back home? I’d give my whole life to live here. In Ernie’s Place.

Where do you call home? Or should I say, where does your heart live?

Saturday, November 24, 2007

Getting there backwards.

Hey, guess what! I found a picture of dessert before it was all eaten. Nothing like pie and wine, with a little side dish of greek almonds.

I took this picture with my cell phone and e-mailed it to myself. I would go sass my wife with the "Fancy Camera", but I'd probably just lose ground, so I'll just patiently wait for her to download the dinner picture.

Friday, November 23, 2007


Well, Thanksgiving is past. We had the smallest group for dinner that we have had in years, but it was fun and intimate. My whole family gets along very well, which I understand is a little strange in today's world. I think knowing how to get along with family is genetic in mine. We were all born and raised within miles of each other in Laytonville and we get together often. We have Easter at my uncles in Fort Brag, we meet in laytonville for the Old Timers Baseball Ball Game, and we have a reunion at my Cousin Roy's on the old family ranch after the game. Then we have thanksgiving at my house. We have had as many as thirty five people for Thanksgiving dinner. Not all family people can meet at all gatherings, but we see enough of each other that we still feel like family. I think that the real trick to getting along is that we don't try to feed each other Hot-dog / Butterscotch / Noodle casserole.

Today, Friday after Thanksgiving, my sister and I and her husband hopped in my truck and went to Shelter cove. The weather was outstanding, warm clear blue skies and no wind. The Seagulls that are normally riding the gusty wind currents were all perched and waiting out the calm. Low tide was at four o'clock and we intended to wait for it and go out and get some mussels. While we were waiting, we had shrimp and chips at the deli, they were out of their world famous fish and chips. Some guy, just ahead of us, came in and ordered a whole large box of fish and chips to go. He was apparently having a family reunion. My sister and I thought about going with him for dinner as "Cousins Ernie and Sharon". Instead, we had some rather plain "Popcorn Shrimp with French Fries". I'm glad that I'm not a food critic, that way I don't have to say how much I liked them. I had a little chuckle when I thought that maybe this could be a new offering for Ekovox at his family dinners.

After lunch we went down to the mussel rocks that I always like to go to, and to our surprise, the tide was already far enough out to reach the big, fat, clean, tasty mussels that exist only on the outer most reef. So we got our ten pounds apiece and came home early.

This time I got a great photo of dinner that I will post as soon as my wife downloads it onto my computer. I'm not sure when that will be, because she "has more important things to do than blog". She has different priorities. Don't be angry with her, she can't help herself, that's just the way she is!

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Uh oh, somebody found my hidey-hole

Dear folks,
I have been maintaining this blogsite as a means of saving some of my random thoughts. I imagine that everyone has seen most of the stuff written here if they follow the blogsites and newspapers. Please don't take anything to be absolute fact, because I usually write something first and then go back and get it right later.

You are welcome to read and comment. You can help me get it right, because someday I'm going to write a local history book and all this stuff will be used to jog my memory.

My archaic terms offend some people, I’ve already heard one complaint about the word “whore”. I don’t know the current respectable term for that word, so maybe someone can help me there.

Monday, November 19, 2007

Head cheese

It’s amazing the parallels that existed in country living “back then”. I remember that everybody thought that beef tongue and mustard made the best sandwich ever. I was raised on what my family grew on the ranch, beef, lamb, pork, and what came out of the garden. We supplemented what we didn’t grow on the ranch with abolone, clams, mussels, surf-fish, venison and salmon. It seemed like the food was abundant if you planned well. One of my favorite foods was pickled mussels. I still make those from time to time.

One of the things that I ate as a child, and thought nothing of it, was head cheese. After the pig was butchered, the head was scalded and scraped clean with a dull knife, and then it was sawed down the middle longwise. The brains were scooped out and saved because my grandfather liked pig brains and scrambled eggs, but the brains were no good for head cheese. Then the head was cleaned again to get all the bone dust from the saw off it, then it was cleaned again.

The process usually involved all the women of the family, because the whole family either lived on the ranch or close by. I remember Gramma and Mom talking about how the head just had to be real clean, how they just about couldn’t eat the lady that lived down the roads head cheese, because they could tell it just was not clean enough. They always talked about how they liked to take the eyes out because a person could always tell an eyeball in the cheese, and they didn’t like that for some reason. After they were satisfied that the head was clean, they would place it in a big kettle and boil it for hours and hours. When the meat all fell off the skull, it was ready to clean again. The stuff that came off the skull was sliced and diced into about one-half inch pieces. Then it was put back in the pot and boiled onr more time. This time they put salt and pepper, a few bay leaves, and some sage, and some something else. Mace? Allspice? I forget. It was boiled to get the gelatin out of the ears, lips, skin and snout, so it would set up firmly when it cooled. Then it was poured into regular glass bread loaf pans to set and jell. Then there was much discussion about whether or not to put cracked pepper on the top of the loaf. The men in the family liked the cheese with cracked pepper on top. But the women didn’t so it usually went without.

I still like head cheese, but I have to personally know who made it before I’ll eat it.

I’d tell you how to make chicken foot soup, but it’s too late in the day.

Sunday, November 18, 2007

City Kid Daughter.

I’m going to sound like a sexist here, but I’ve probably been guilty of worse sins of indiscretion. Women like the city and men like the country. I realize that is not true in all cases, but it works as a generality.

My daughter couldn’t wait to move to Los Angeles. When I called her, often at first, I would ask her how she was doing, hoping that she would say that she needed me to help her move back “home”. Her answer was unwaveringly that she was happy and positive, and she thought that she made a good move. After a while I stopped worrying that she would not fit in, being a country girl born in the Garberville Hospital, and SIXTH generation native of the South Fork of the Eel River. I couldn’t understand how she could just set all that glory aside to move to a place that nobody knew who she was. To me she was like a princess in exile. I couldn’t understand how she could live in a place that nobody knew her heritage and linage.

Then I started being curious about how a person could live in all that smog and heat and mechanical turmoil. When I asked, she replied; “Dad, you go don’t go outside, you drive everywhere that you go, and all the shopping malls are air-conditioned.” She told me that a person could get their nails done in one shop and get a pedicure in another. She could buy a blouse in a separate shop from the place that she bought her skirts. There were thousands of shoe stores. They even had foundation shops. Being a country boy, I had to ask her what a foundation was. I thought that maybe that’s where you went to by a bottom part for a house. She said no, that was were she went to buy underwear to cover her bottom part. Of course a father doesn’t like to discuss underwear with his daughter, so I used it as an opportunity to give her a fatherly lecture about proper manners, being that she was living in a town that has a bad reputation for bad manners. It made me feel like I was needed again for a few seconds. After all what’s a father for?

To make a shorter story, I will fast forward like they do in Hollywood. She went to work in a “Builders Showcase”, fell in love with the manager, got married and wanted to have four kids because she likes kids. At least she inherited something from me! And lucky, lucky for you, you didn’t have to hear about all the total reject boyfriends that she had leading up to the great guy that she married. Why do daughters do that? Looking back, I think that some of the guys that she went out with… she did it just to watch me turn all those funny colors that I turn when I absolutely can’t stand someone and I’m trying to hide it while trying to be “nice”.

So anyway, this great guy that she married and my daughter had a girl and a boy. Children are the best methods of birth control. After two, my daughter and son-in-law decided two were enough.

She has done very well and probably enjoys more of “The country life” than I do. They live in the hills behind Loma Linda. They could buy or sell me many times, which is good, Because I thought that I would probably have to support her for her whole life, a father always has plans for such things.

Sunday, November 11, 2007


When I was a kid, I used to like to fish the small streams for trout, where I could hike in and take nothing with me but a spool of fish line and an aspirin box full of fish hooks. After I found the right spot I would cut a willow stick for a pole. The creeks were usually fairly cool in the hot summer, so it was a nice place to hang out. The creeks smelled like the caddisfly and dragonfly larva that lived in them. Those that don’t know what that smells like, it smells like the front-end of your car after you’ve driven through a bug storm.

The larva is irresistible to fish, so that would be the bait that I would use. The lava is easy to find, all you have to do is move a few rocks below the edge if the stream and the larva would be the cone shaped object in the water around it. It hatches about late May to early June, my time to fish. The larva likes to decorate their shell with objects that it finds around them, that fools the fish but their cone shape sticks out like a sore thumb to anyone that knows what they are looking for. I just slid my hook through the larva and threw the soft shell away, then I would sneak quietly upstream and toss the bait in the water if there was a fish in the hole it would be on my willow stick in no time at all. Sometime I would use worm or a grasshopper for bait later in the season. After a days worth of fishing I would usually have a willow stick loaded with fish and then I would hike back home. I’ve never liked to pack things with me, so I would usually not take a lunch. So the fish dinner would be extra good.

I used to like to fish in Brock Creek by Eel Rock, or Indian Creek in Piercy, or Ten Mile, or Rattlesnake, or Coleman creek in Laytonville. The upper South Fork near Branscomb was also good fishing.

I used to fish the large holes In the Eel River with a small spinning rod and reel with four pound test line. A Super-duper was killer in the riffles.

Branscomb Road

Greg and Carol,
First, happy anniversary, you couldn’t have found a more romantic place to spend your anniversary.

Fort Brag is one of my wife and my favorite spots. Especially this time of the year when the weather is so clear, and the ocean is becoming angry with the winter storm waves. I can watch Seagulls riding the wind along the ocean banks and never get tired of it.

The house on the hill at Howard creek is the old Howard Ranch house. If you know where to look further up the hill, you will see a grave where he is buried. I believe that they turned the ranch into a bed & breakfast. My mother Elsie Branscomb knows all the ghost stories, I’ll ask her for more info.

As a young girl, my great grandmother Laura (Lockhart) Middleton worked as a maid in the Westport Hotel until she was married, and then she worked as a cook in the tan bark camps where my great, grandfather Lafe, (Lafayette Middleton) worked as a foreman. The tan bark camps were in Howard creek where there is an extensive stand of Tan Oak.

Laura’s Grandfather, My great, great, great grandfather, was the Captain of a Clipper ship that brought miners around the horn into san Francisco bay. I want to get the plans of that ship and build a model, but the research has not borne fruit. Back in the 1850’s Laura’s mother Mary (Cull) Lockhart made her way to California at the age of sixteen by herself and with her fourteen year old little sister in tow. After turning her wealthy aunts pet monkey loose to cause a distraction, she ran away from home to come to the gold fields to find her lost brother and father. She took a train from New York To New Orleans, then a ship to Panama, then a mule across the Isthmus, then a ship to San Francisco that capsized and righted itself twice on the way. She was working in a boarding house in San Francisco when she met the son of the sailing ship captain, who she knew from New York. It was a small world back then.
They married and moved to Sacramento to continue her search for her father and brother. They were never found and may have disappeared on the wagon train to California. It may have been the same wagon train that brought the Branscombs to California. Again, it was a small world back then. The Lockharts moved to Branscomb and established the Wilderness Lodge back in the 1870’s?, It became a popular hunting resort for the “Great White Hunters From San Francisco.“ It is on the Upper South Fork of the Eel River.

Anyway if you head back over the Branscomb Road, just as you cross the South Fork of the Eel creek, you will see a road going North called “Wilderness road” if you drive to the end, then walk another ten miles, because it is the most beautiful wilderness area that you ever saw, you will find the old Horseshoe Bend Lodge that was built by my great, great, I not sure, but two of the Lovejoy boys married two of the Lockhart girls. And there is more connections, and incredibly interesting (to me) stories. That are just to long to tell.

And, if you stop in at the store at Branscomb , go in and go back in time about a hundred years, tell them you know Ernie Branscomb, and they will say Who?

My Great, Great, Grandfather and grandmother Benjamin and Jane Branscomb are buried on the hill behind the store. Please send them my best.

Ernie Branscomb
P.S. I’m going to post this on Carol and Gregs spot, and 299 opine just to save myself some time Good nite.

Thursday, November 8, 2007

Water truck driving, before the December 1964 flood.

I haven’t seen a sturgeon in the Eel River since the December ‘64 flood. Has anyone seen one lately? Back in the early sixties, before the flood, I lived at Eel rock. It was a picture perfect small community nestled in the Eel River Valley on a bend in the river. There was a great big blue rock in the middle of the river and sturgeon used to hole-up in the deep hole that had been washed around it.

Eel Rock was a logging / railroad town where everybody knew everyone else, literally by name. There was one store, one post office, one railroad stop, one one-room-school-house, one teacher, one drunk, one whore, and I was the one water truck driver. My truck was an old “White” with a two thousand gallon water tank, it had a five speed main transmission, a four speed “Brownie” transmission, and a two speed “Duplex box” behind the transmissions for more gears. All the gears were called “square gears” which that meant that you had to time the shift exactly or it wouldn’t shift.

We logged the hill across the river. There was a riffle that angled for a long distance down the river. We used that riffle as a ford to cross with the trucks. And yes, It was okay with fish and game to ford the river back then. We converted the bunks on the log trucks to ten feet wide with stake-sides to hold the huge off-highway loads. The trucks hauled their logs to the railroad where we loaded them onto log cars to be railed to the mill.

I drove the water truck that watered the roads and kept them free of dust, and gave the road traction. I was fifteen at the time, and I thought that driving a truck was a great big deal. I loved the job, I loved the smell of the woods after a hot day, the smell of fresh cut wood and the drying fir and pepperwood leaves, the smell of the diesel, dust, and mud, the smell of the mossy river, and the indescribable sweet smell of the willow banks. And I liked the thought that I was doing something important. But, I always worried about getting too high or too low on the riffle and getting stuck. So I watched it very carefully, and moving water can be very disorienting.

On one hot, fragrant, late summer evening, as I was coming back across the river in the water truck, with my arm out the window in the warm air, the riffle was boiling with silver colored fish about a foot long, there was so many that I could smell them as I sniffed the air for the sweet willow smell that I like so well. At first I though they might be steelhead, but they were just too silver and flashy. They looked flattish, like a perch only longer, and chrome silver. After I got across the river, I saw a group of the Mexican workers that worked on the Railroad. I asked one of the kids of the people that had worked there, and had lived at Eel Rock for a long time, what kind of fish they were. They got all excited and started talking in Spanish, pretty soon they all disappeared. The kid asked me if I wanted to “go fishing”. I said “sure”.

They came back with a long piece of chicken wire about 75 feet long, and a washtub. When we got to the river it was well after dark, but there was a bright moon in the sky and the light simmered off the warm river water. We could see very well. We took off our shoes, so we could hold the bottom of the chicken wire on the bottom of the river with our toes. While being extremely quite, not so much as to not scare the fish, but to not get caught doing what we were doing, because we weren’t real sure it was legal. And no, It wasn’t alright with fish and game back then. We waded the chicken wire across the river as deep as we could above the riffle. Then the guy on the tail end of the wire started a sweep across and below the riffle. I could feel the fish hitting the wire in a panic. The ones that hit close to where I had my toe in the wire hurt like it might cut my toe. Soon we had a whole wire net full of fish next to the shore. Several people got inside the looped net and started tossing fish onto shore, while others picked them up and put them in the tub. There was much excited talk about “pescadero, agua, and caliente”, and I was “Gringo Pescadero”. I think it was a compliment. The fish turned out to be Shad. The Mexicans brined them in salt and smoked them with a maple flavored Black Oak wood, The Shad were very boney but they were very tasty.

I think those days are all gone when you could do those kinds of things. But what fun! When I close my eyes, I can still smell those days in my mind.

The Rock in Eel Rock that I was referring to was the Eel Rock. And it was aptly named. There were rafts of Eel that lived in the hole, there were also Bluegill and a small fish that I have no idea what it was, but the Mexicans called it a pan fish. It was about three to four inches in diameter it looked a lot like a blue gill, only it was yellowish. Do you have any idea what that fish was? The only place that I have ever seen one was at Eel Rock and Dos Rios. Maybe a crappie? Something that someone planted? A wild Goldfish?

The N.W.P. Railroad blew up the Eel Rock and used it for rip-rap after the sixty-four flood. So my chances of finding those fish again are somewhat diminished.

Friday, November 2, 2007

Bus ride. Reply to Ekcovox

The only thing that I didn’t like about school was school. I didn’t like the discipline, or the structure. I didn’t like the teachers that ruled with an iron claw. I’ve had responsibilities from a very young age, and I didn’t like someone else thinking for me, and telling me what I needed to do because I felt that I could think for myself. Wow, I didn’t know that I had pent up anger, and post traumatic stress syndrome from school!

I liked the camaraderie that I had with my fellow students, and one or two good teachers that I thought highly of. I got decent grades for a person with my attitude. I passed “shop class” with one-hundred and twenty-five percent. Top that! I got “Fs” in English, go figger. I elected not to join the military because a teacher explained, in great detail, that when I joined that I would have to follow even stupider people than they have in school. That did it for me. I was determined that when I left school that nobody was going to be telling me what to do ever again!

Strangely, I have had a remarkably non-confrontational and happy life, and I fit well within the rules of society, which is basically that you shouldn’t treat anyone worse than you might want to be treated yourself. Just don’t expect me to do anything stupid just because it’s your idea of what I should do.

Now, back to the trauma of school bus riding. I lived in Eel Rock in my sophomore year of high school, and it was a forty-five minute ride to Miranda on the school bus. Our driver was Jay (Last name of; expletive deleted). We called him “Jaymond, the little tin bus god”. The kids were all backwoods and milltown kids and were generally rowdy. Jay would not allow kids to put their feet in the isle at ANY time, which of course seemed ridiculous to all of us, because we were riding three to the seat, and you couldn’t stay in the seat without holding on to the railing. Of course the kids in the seat behind you would “Frog” your hand. Which meant that they would hit the back of your hand with their knuckle to raise a lump. You would let go of the seat whenever that happened and you would fall in the isle, or put your feet out to catch yourself. Jaymond (he hated that name) would stop the bus and come back to lecture you about the rules, and would put a mark by your name. Three marks and you would be kicked off the bus. So the other kids on the bus would check the list to see who they could get kicked off. I only got kicked off once. I always thought that all those fun-and-games were beneath my dignity to engage in, and that adult attitude seemed to appeal to the cute little blue-eyed blond girl from Arkansas that I liked to sit near. She knew that she talked differently and she was trying desperately to lose her “accent”, because the other kids would tease her and call her "Arkie'. In less than six weeks she was talking just like us. That amazed me that she could do that. You might have guessed that I was also infatuated with her. I’ve always been extremely shy, but I fight it off well, and I helped her with her speech therapy. I explained to her that the other kids thought that she was really nice, but they were just dumb kids and didn't know how to express themselves like us more mature types. She thought that I was very nice, and I thought that she was very nice… She ended up marrying the jerk that named her "Arkie", they have six kids and he still calls her Arkie! It bugs me to see her so happy. But all's well that ends well, I now have my very own lovely wife.

Thanks Eko, I was almost over being bitter about high school and you bring it all flooding back. Of course, there were some very good times in school, so I guess it’s alright that you reminded me. I would tell you about the good times, but I’ve been sworn to secrecy. So all you get is the bitter.