Friday, August 31, 2007

Asbill book

"Last of the West"

My uncle had a copy of a book written by one of the Asbill brothers. You know… the One that killed his wife with a frying pan and decided to write his memoirs in prison. It was hand type copied. They didn't have photocopiers back then. I also read that book. It was a complete exaggeration of everything. One of the passages I remember was: “Before the Whiteman showed up, the wild strawberries were so thick that you couldn’t ride your horse around the hillside without slipping off” and “There was so many acorns that they would fill the creek bottoms”, probably exaggeration, but you got the Idea that there must have been more than we have now.

There was a lot of talk about; “When Men Were Men”, I guess he
yearned for the days when men were allowed to kill their wives.
He also talked about “Heathen Chinies” (spelling intact). I guess discrimination didn’t start with us. The book was not a great work of literature but it was well worth reading for what little historical value could have been gleaned from it.

Thursday, August 30, 2007

Genocide and Vendetta... Don't Judge!

I read it, and my uncle Ben Branscomb helped the writers identify some of places that were in the stories, and people that they talked about. That was the pivotal book that made me understand that “You can’t judge history by who we are now”.

My uncle was given a “gratitude copy” of the book and he loaned it out until it never came back again. Such is the way of books. But, I had a chance to read it and I now have a photocopy of the book that I’m reading. An original copy of the book, in perfect shape, will cost you sixteen-hundred dollars. A beater copy will cost you six-hundred dollars. It was proven that the authors engaged in plagiarism, so one of the most important books about our history was taken out of print. So, I’m probably going to go to jail for having a photocopy, but oh well.

It is difficult to read that book with-out jumping into judgments. But, if you can keep your mind completely clear of right and wrong, you can get a feeling of how it really was, and it was kill or be killed. Morality had nothing to do with it. I would really like to stick one of our modern day moralists back then, just to see how long they would survive, I get all giddy just thinking about what a predicament that they would be in.


Back in the fifty's there was hardly a hillside in Garberville that you couldn't find sheep on. I remember the newcomers calling them sheeps. That was one thing that we were right about, it isn't sheeps it's sheep. Mark one up for our side!

I remember that the ranchers talked about the fact that they didn’t have much of a problem with Eagles, but there were depredation problems, and Eagles did carry away some lambs, especially the newborns. The ranchers would shoot any Eagle that they could get a shot at in lambing season. A one-lamb loss was still a one-lamb loss, and a bullet was cheaper than the lamb. When they would shoot a bald Eagle, they would take their hats of and say “God Bless America”. Then they would give it a proper burial, to get rid of the evidence.

This is a true story:

Back in the early sixty’s my dad owned the honky-tonk logger bar in Briceland and one of the local “Old Indians” came in, sat down, and ordered a beer, it was in the fall of the year, and the weather was kinda’ tenuous, and the wind was blustering. My dad said, I'll buy you a beer if you can tell me what the weather is gonna' do". The Old Indian said, “It’s gonna’ rain.” My dad said; “How do you know that?” He said, “The sheep’s all bunched up, and when the animals gather in herds it means it’s gonna” rain.” My Dad being a old country boy himself, agreed that when the animals gather around each other it means it’s gonna’ storm. So he looks out the window to the pasture across the street and there was one sheep standing there. The old Indian was hiding his grin behind his beer mug.

Dancing Girls

If you'd been here back in the fifty’s, and been to the Original Syvandale, you would have found the "resort" cabins had professional dancing girls in them. You know, those girls that danced on one leg awhile, then the other, and between the two they made their living. It was a very busy place, it was the quintessential logger bar, and it was right on highway 101. You didn’t even have to take the off-ramp.

They say that we locals had a drawl back then. It wasn’t a drawl, we talked normal. You newcomers are the ones that talked funny. Ah,yes…Interesting times!I've almost forgoten how the drawl went. The blending of the dialects was so gradual that it wasn’t noticeable. I guess it’s like boiling frogs if you do it slow enough they won’t notice. Now, we all talk the same, and some of the loggers, of the ones that are left, smoke dope. The culture shock came and went.

Don't burn my history!

My family called that plant “Wiregrass” and it was used as a sure indication that there was water in the ground year around. It was used to identify where it would be logical to develop a spring-box for water. But, we all knew the other term and we had no reason not to use it, it was aptly descriptive. It has only become offensive in modern times, and I agree with all the reasons, so save your rhetoric! We had a large spring on our family property in Laytonville and we called it “Wiregrass spring”.

The newcomers were instantly offended by our “rough” (polite term) language. The reason that you don’t hear too many old logger stories is that they would have a five x-rating. Racism, sexism, x-rated sign language that goes way, way, beyond “the finger”, nationalism, statism. In fact the best way to describe working in the woods is “nothing was sacred“. Most of the equipment that was used was named after body parts. The language goes so far back that some of the terms are archaic. Has anyone heard of a “Schoolmarm tree”? That’s a tree that has two forks that looks like a naked schoolmarm upside-down. Do you Know what a “Bull-Pr*ck” is? How about a “C*nt-splice”? I apologize to the sensitive, but it gets even more raw. That’s only three expressions, the rest I’ll forgo, because I would only embarrass the sensitive among you. Some of the things in the woods had to be talked about in that fashion, because there was no other terms for them. But, wouldn’t you like to know, with a completely open mind, what it was like to work in the woods back in the fifties?

There is a weed that grows in well used paths, that looks similar to a green doily. That weed is called “Whitemans Footsteps”. it was called that because white men always made trails where ever they walked. The Indians didn’t like to leave trails because they didn’t want people to know where they were, or to follow them. So it was a great source of amusement to the Indians that the white people were that dumb, that they would leave trails. Should we banish that word also while we are burning our legitimate history?

I think that it is more important to preserve our history, and the words that got us to where we are today. I always lose this argument because there are so many pain-in-the-butts out there that take “the high road” and spout that we should just burn our offensive history in deference to sensibility. I always said that; “We can’t judge what happened in history by today’s standards, and to ignore history is to repeat it.”

Wouldn’t it make more sense to allow our children to know these terms and the history of how they became used? And, explain the reasons that they are no longer used, because they have become offensive. “Whitemans footsteps” was a real lesson to me in my youth, the story caused me a lot of thought. I wouldn’t deprive my children that opportunity.

It always distresses me to see us consider “book-burning”, but it distresses me even more when you talk of burning MY history.

Banned words

N-gger Head peak in Petrolia is still on the C.D.F. maps, but they politely cross it out. I wonder what they call it when there is a fire out there? It must go something like this; "Fire on... Uhh.. Um... South-east of Petrolia on that round brushey hill that looks like someones head with curly hair... Um you know?"

I have a black friend that has actually seen his people hanged in what was a hate crime. To hear his story, really makes you think about what you say.

When people set around the t.v. and say things like, “they aught to put a rope around his neck and drag him behind a pick-up truck“, they think nothing of it and they aren't likely to do it. But, what do their children hear? They might think that should happen, because after all, their family has said more than once that it should happen, and the young people in a foolish moment actually do it. What we say and the attitudes we have, are far reaching, and these things should be discussed openly with children, and taught actual discrimination is wrong. To hide history and historic names is wrong, but used in an educational context, the impact on a child can be dramatic.

Teach how discrimination sucks, but leave history alone!


“We can’t judge what happened in history by today’s standards". But,"to ignore history is to repeat it"

I always thought it was one sentence and could not be separated. How would you feel if someone decided that they disagreed with you and your name should no longer be used? That is how I feel about north coast history, to delete some of it is to delete all of it, it is all connected, and we are all connected.

To bring the blacks from Africa to be used as slaves was wrong. So should we hide that from people, for fear that they might start doing that again? Or should we teach what happened, and why it was wrong. We can use words like slave ship, slave driver, working like a slave. maybe we shouldn't use those terms anymore because slavery was wrong. Pretty soon the only word that we will be able to use will be "IS", and that will depend on how you define it.

This has been a fun subject for me because of my need to save history, I can wax endlessly about it. But, don’t feel bad if you disagree with me. I’ve lost in this discussion many times. It is easy to be able to be “touchy-feely-feel-good” to say discrimination is wrong, and all things connected to it must go including our history, and it is always P.C., no worries!

Them's fightin' words!

"Foul language only proves that you have no upbring."

It was understood that “woods talk” and “polite company talk” were two different things and to be used in two different situations. If you had said that in front of some of the loggers that I knew, that would have been an opportunity to fight, which they would have done so just as soon as look at you. Fighting wasn’t personal, it was sport. It was mandatory to fight over of something like that, they had to, to protect their self-image as a man. Have you ever heard the expression “Them's fightin’ words”? Fighting was usually done after work, it wasn’t honest to fight while you were “on the clock”. I told you, you can’t judge history by today’s standards. For a “man” to walk away from an expression like that would have been personally humiliating. You can talk all day about how right or wrong fighting is, but under those conditions, in those days it was the only option. Are you beginning to grasp the concept of what I say about “Not judging history by today’s standards?”

Newcomers only look at the surface of what we were and say; ”forget that, that was wrong”. But, to a man in the position of being insulted in front of his people, it was a different situation entirely. And, you better be ready to engage in a little healthy sportsmanship, and he wouldn't have killed you, he would have just kicked your ass until you learned better. But he would have been the first one to buy your beer afterwards, so you would know that there wasn't any hard feelings. Or if you kicked his butt you would buy the beer to show him that you were sorry. Got it?

So many people have heard these tales, and they seem like fantasy, but I was there. Please don't look at this as an insult! I don't like getting my ass kicked anymore, no matter how much fun it was "back then". But, if you didn’t want to get your butt kicked, all you had to do was not insult anyone, and you‘d get along just fine! Honor was important back then. Maybe we have lost something…….

Tuesday, August 28, 2007

The Boogie Barn

In reflection, I recall the time that the Mateel Building was built. Feel free to correct me on this because I was not heavily involved in the Mateel at the time. But since the Reggae fund raising project started I have donated my time and material to a great extent, so I hope I have “talking credentials”.

Before the Mateel hall was built there was much talk in the community about the lack of direction that the Mateel had in building the much needed community center to replace the one that was eliminated by the tragic fire that consumed the old one. There was also serious talk about community members buying up memberships to bring about a take-over. The idea was presented to the Garberville Rotary Club, Kiwanis, Sorority, Soroptimist club, and the Garberville Chamber of Commerce. All very large and power clubs at the time. It was thought of as a viable plan to get a Community center built.

There was a much more clearly defined line between “them and us” in those days and most of the club members elected to have no part of belonging to the Mateel. Some members of the community at large started joining the Mateel anyway, and precipitated a mass joining of the Mateel by the “hill folks”, because they wanted to have no part of the rednecks owning their “Boogy-Barn”. Does anyone remember that?

The atmosphere at the time forced the Mateel to purchase inappropriate land, and build in an inappropriate place. The water mains were inadequate, the sewer mains were inadequate, there was no parking, the property was too small. The only thing that the land had going for it was it was for sale and it was buildable.

The straight community was shocked that the hippies would try to build a community center in such a spot, and went about trying to point out the error of their ways. That only polarized the situation. The young hippies were tired of being told what they could or couldn’t do, and they said; “NO, this is our place and we’re building it!” They became firmly resolved to build their “Boogy Barn" no matter what the reason to not, and the rest is a long, long, story of legal battles and code violations, but they built their Boogy Barn and it has been used by most of the community to their great advantage. Say what you like, ya’ gotta’ kinda’ admire folks like that! And, the Barn does have it’s own kind of charm.

Where'd we get that "North Coast Drawl"?

I've only been in the Eel River Valley since I was born so I can’t say what influences might have effected our language before that time. But when I was young there were still a lot of “Okies”, “Arkies” and people from the poor states moving to California to get jobs. Their language was heavily accented and simplified. In the earlier days, there were a considerable amount of Irish and Scandinavians that had moved here to work in the woods, mills and fishing industries. And then, there were the local Pioneers that had been here from the gold rush days. They had lived in the Eel valley since then and had little means to get an education.

Until I recognized the accent I would say, “Huh?”, Then they would repeat what they said much slower and more distinctly, but their speech still contained their misconceptions of the way words were pronounced, and their sentence structure was much more simplified than it is today, as in there was no such words as “were” or “whom.” I think that the language got simplified because there were so many Scandinavians, that had to learn English, that it was easier to speak a simplified form, and after all, language is not about correctness, it is about communicating. So, everyone slipped into a pigeon English form of speaking until it became our local dialect.

We spoke that way until the newcomers showed up and brought their "Proper English" with them. Being that it was probably apparent that we didn't appreciate their intrusion, they took great joy in correcting each and everything that we did wrong. Our way of speaking was paramount in their criticism. It caused me to speak much more slowly than I normally would, because I would be thinking about sentence structure along with what ever else I might be saying.

I had the good fortune to have known my great grandmother when I was growing up. She was born in Laytonville in a cabin at home. She was a very small baby. She was kept in a shoe box on the open door of an oven for an incubator. As an adult and in her later life she was married to a man that was quite deaf. She often had to repeat herself, and she became quite used to doing so, she would say something, and then she would say, without prompting, ”I say”, and repeat herself much more slowly and distinctly, but her language was “Pioneer Uneducated”. I loved her dearly, she was my kind of folk.

The combination of all the different factors, language, region, difficulty hearing, and so on, is what I think caused the slow talking “North Coast Drawl”. If you want a damn fool’s opinion.

Oh yeah, I left out that the men folk, when by themselves, had the most colorful way of talking that you ever heard. Every other word was a swear word whether it was needed or not. Then, there was special swear words for extra emphasis. That was back in the day’s when men were men, or at least they thought they were. And when they were around women, or polite company, they talked much more slowly because they were carefully deleting the swear words between every other word. I've given three theory’s on the “North Coast Drawl“, both educated guesses. Educated by the fact that I lived it. You decide!

Monday, August 27, 2007

Higher education

When I went to college in San Francisco, (Healds Engineering College.) I lived at a residence club at 220 Gough street, San Francisco 2, California. Yep, before the five digit zip code!

People at the residence club would spend a great amount of time trying to guess what country I was from. The most common guess was England. I had never lived anywhere out of the Eel River Valley, and had been to very few places. So when I moved to San Francisco, I was trying desperately to hide my “Hickyness”. I talked even slower than I normally would, and was careful to pronounce every word. The “pigeon jabbering” San Franciscans were very difficult for me to understand. It was like a foreign language to me.

I went straight from being a choker setter one Friday, to being a student the next Monday. There was not enough food in the world to fill my stomach. It was fortunate that there was a Chinese Restaurant right next door, "Bucky's Cuisine", and they had pork fried noodles to go, for fifty cents a bowl. The residence club served breakfast and dinner and that was all. You were handed a plate with your serving already on it, and it was rare that they would allow seconds, and that was only if they were trying to get rid of something. Every evening after dinner at the residence club, I would go down the street an get three orders of noodles to go. They must have felt sorry for me because my room-mate said that they never gave him such large portions. Or maybe they were honored that I seemed to like their food so much. I would eat the noodles through-out the next day, I know, it's a wonder that I didn't get food poisonings, but at the time there was no such thing as poison food! The people at Bucky's didn’t know that I would have eaten the stuff in their slop bucket, had I known where it was. The rest of the people at the club would have left-overs that they would sometimes give me with great amusement, to see such a small guy eat so much. (150lbs at the time) After about a month of relatively little physical activity. My voracious appetite calmed down and the food that the club served was more than enough.

San Francisco in the early sixties… But that’s another story!

Saturday, August 25, 2007

Milkman story

Back in the fifties, my uncle Tom Newland was a milk man in Garberville and he was a 1/3rd partner in Riverside Farm Dairy along with the Pancoast brothers. He distributed formost milk. But before that, they milked their own cows and bottled their own milk at the dairy farm by the river below Garberville. I guess that is how the Dairy got it’s name.

He had an old Divco milk truck, and at four o’clock in the morning we’d deliver milk to every door step in Garberville and Redway that had an empty milk basket on the porch, that meant that they were out and needed more. I was only ten or twelve at the time. I was the runner, he was the driver. When the truck stopped, I would run to the porch and pickup the milk basket with yesterdays empty milk and cream bottles. The order and money for the day would be in box on the side. I’d take it to uncle Tom and he would fill the order in the back of the truck, make the change then I’d run set it on the porch. If the houses were close together, I‘d run to the next porch and the same procedure. If the houses were very far apart, I’d jump in the side of the truck on the fly, as it was trundling down road, kinda’ like catching a cable car.

Tom’s Dairy had four or five routes and route drivers. Sometimes I would work with other drivers on their routes. One driver in particular would stop in front of this one house and go inside to “have coffee” while I rearranged the load and sorted the empties. About a half hour later he would be back and we would continue with our route. I didn’t even think about it at the time, but later in my life, I slapped my forehead and said; I’ll be darned, the old milk man story must have some validity!

reply to below

Well said Ben, you nailed it! Those were interesting times when the first welfare hippies showed-up. It's a wonder that no one got killed. You missed the part about the newcomers whining; “What do you people have against newcomers?” While their ol’ lady was fleecing the store shelves. They soon learned that they were not allowed into the local stores and even a dirt-bag hippie had to eat. With there being only three stores in town the merchants soon got wise to them. Good riddance!
Ah, but then the Back-to-the-land hippies started showing up. No matter how honest or sincere they were, they were not readily accepted. We had just been through the experience with the “truckers“, who were dirty, drug addicted, dirt-bags with no standards what so ever. The Back-to-the-landers looked and smelled the same as the trucker hippies. They had beards and long hair. They had no place to take a bath, so they smelled like goat farmers. The thing that wasn’t readily apparent was; they were honest, they were not thieves, they had no money because they just spent everything they owened on their “land“, as they called it. It was hilarious to the locals, that these people were buying land that wouldn’t even support a half a goat. But strangely, these people were buying everything in sight that had south exposure and water, where they could grow their food “organically”. These “honest” people had one thing in common, they honestly loved marijuana. Some sung the praises of L.S.D. (acid) that they said that they were using when the “back-to-the-land vision came to them.
They were so desparate to move to the new promised land that they would sell all they owned, borrow from their parents, or form welfare supported communes. (That is another whole chapter; you will have to wait for the book!) They soon learned that they could sell some of the left-over Marijuana that they grew in their gardens, to help make their land payments. I think you can guess the rest of the story.
So you were the bar-tenders at Astrinsky’s? That was the first bar that finally allowed the hippies to have a social life. Before Astrinsky’s opened the loggers used to have a lot of fun at the hippies expense at the logger bars. “Nothin’ like a good bath, haircut, and shave”, that phrase got used a lot. The hippie’s usually got smart and left before the loggers implemented their plan.
I was the refrigeration man at Astrinsky. I always tried to schedule my calls for the evening. I’ve always been a people watcher, and Astrinsky’s was like going into a foreign country, of another world.
I used to love to watch the people gather around the old wood stove, where the lady with the little regular looking pipe sat. That pipe sure did smell strange didn’t it?
Ben, they aught too pay us to shut up shouldn’t they?

Ben's comment on 299 opine

Ben said...
I moved to Southern Humboldt in 1971. Beard, longish hair and VW bus. Went to work as a bartender at Astrinsky's, the first "hippie" tavern around here. In our shopping trips to town, we were often greeted with suspicion and curt language. Store keepers were wary of hippies and for good reason. Some of them lived by the philosophy that everything belongs to everyone. The Truckers had just been run out of Briceland and many were still around town. Mendes Market was broken into. A beard and long hair made you very unwelcome in the local bars.About 1977, I shaved to get a custodian job at the high school. Suddenly, the storekeepers who had glowered were smiling and friendly. I liked it. Now, I have a beard again and nobody notices. Rednecks wear beards too also pony tails.I miss the old timers I knew back then. They had a different way of talking. Slow, very slow. They drew out and emphasized words, pausing to wave a hand to show how the ground lay. If you found youself at the Feed Store and started a conversation withsome old rancher from the back of beyond, you had better be ready to stay awhile. If you were patient, you might hear an unforgettable story. This is a great plce to live and it's history is endlessly fascinating for me.

Thursday, August 23, 2007

Generational Native

Did you know that any family that has been in the U.S. for more than five generations can trace their family back to the Mayflower? There is a lot of people reading this that owe us a debt of gratitude for breaking the way for them. So to heck with history, I’ll just talk about the feelings that I know a lot of us “Generational Natives” share.

To be honest, the most important thing to me is my sense of family, who I am, and where I came from. Just like my wife, my home is were my heart is. I am grateful that my heart is where I was born, and where I live, because the South Fork of the Eel is the only place that I ever want to call home. I could be happy anywhere, and I know that, but Darn, look around us, isn’t this great? I don’t know, because I have no perspective. I’ve often wondered if I love this area so much because I was born here, and so was my father, and his father, and so on back five generations, to the point that it is genetically bred into me, and I can’t leave, because this is where my roots are. I’ve talked to people (newcomers) who claim they feel the same way. But, I have also talked to people that can’t stand Southern Humboldt / Northern Mendocino, and I’m always glad when they go away.

Before the newcomers showed up we always talked about family connections. When meeting someone we always asked about how we might be distantly related. It helped give us a sense that we “knew” the person, sharing family history was as important to us as shaking hands, it was an offer of openness and friendship. The thing that bothered me the most about the newcomers that showed up, is when you asked them their name, it would always be something like; “Coonman Who Walks Over The Rainbow On Snowy Ridge Where The Trees Don’t Grow” then they would puff all up with great pride, like it was all about him… I used to take great joy in asking them; “Is that your first name or your last?”… But, what he was really telling me, or I should say what I was getting out of it, is that he had no “family” and was not under any circumstance to be trusted until we knew more about him. Then the next question out of their mouths is, “What do you guys have against newcomers?” … Well, could we trust someone who won’t even claim his own family. I’ve been trying to describe the nasty attitude that the newcomers claim that us old-timers have. It probably stems more from the fact that some of the newcomers didn’t want us to know who they were, but wanted us to just blindly accept them. We put up with those kind of people, but accept them blindly? ‘Taint likely ta happen. We’ve been taught ta “not trust a snake ‘til ya see if the tail rattles“.

I wonder how many people never knew that about us Generational Natives, and if they think it’s fair?

Wednesday, August 22, 2007


I've already written too much on this subject.

It was not the newcomers that I objected to so much, but the dreaded “change” that blew in with the wind that followed them. The newcomers didn’t have to change, because they were right. None of us liked, not only having to change, but also having to accept that everything that we held dear had to be released, like the last desperate grip of a person holding onto the edge of a precipice and not knowing how he was going to land.

I’ve never been able to adequately describe that feeling, not even to myself. Maybe someone else can, but I know it would have to be someone with long history here to know what I’m talking about. Sadly, few newcomers reach out to those of us with all this useless knowledge and history. I married one that did, and we have met half way, so I have been able to accept some change.

Such is much of history.

Monday, August 13, 2007

Organic or 'orse poop?

I started gardening when I was just a mere child back in the fifties. The only fertilizer we had was chicken, cow, and rabbit manure. My grandmother said pig manure is no good. She said it was because pigs ate grain, and that doesn’t provide enough nitrogen for the soil. I don’t know, I’ve never tried it. I always wondered why chicken manure was good, but pig manure wasn’t, because we fed them the exact same thing. I would ask that question from time to time, but I never got a good answer. I just assumed that was one of those questions that kids are just not supposed to ask!

We always spaded the manure into the soil the year ahead of planting. We had plenty of flat fertile ground in the Laytonville valley, so we rotated our garden spots, and rotated what we planted there frequently.

Later on when we had fewer animals to depend on for “fertilizer”, we used some commercial “Triple-six” fertilizer. (6-6-6).We were never as happy with the commercial fertilizers as we were with manure. There is nothing like manure and patience for a good garden. I always thought that the manure gave the food good flavor. I know, that sounds disgusting, but you’re the one that asked this question!

We never used pesticides, that was the kids job, picking off the tomato horn worms and other pests. I thought that all apples had a worm. It never bothered me at all to eat around the worm. It was always funny when one of the kids would accidentally eat the worm. I don’t know of anyone in our family that has ever died from eating a bug. The fact that we never used pesticides was probably more for economy than health concerns, but now I'm glad we didn't use them. Does that make me part of the vanguard?

The flavor of produce is more a factor of how fresh it is above all else! Commercial gardens force-ripen some foods so they can control when it hits the shelf. Force ripening always provides a diminished product. Some foods are made to be “more durable” by modifying the plant to have tougher skins, like apples and tomatoes. Some foods are made to be seedless with varying results. Grapes are better, watermelons are ruined. (my opinion) Corn is a whole chapter unto itself, but the University of Indiana has developed several corns that are outstanding. (Illini Chief and Candy Corn)

A peach has to be ripened on the tree to be any good. A pear has to be picked before ripening, or it becomes grainy and woody. Apples have a longer tree life, you can pick them how you like them.

My grandmothers garden provided half the valley with produce. When I’m in Laytonville, people still come up to me and talk about her garden. The memory of my dear little Gramma Ruby lives on. She was less than five feet tall and she was always moving. My mother said that she was so short because she wore herself down moving all the time. She died at ninty-two, and we had to harvest her garden.

Now, I live on the North side of a hill, but you should see the moss and ferns that I grow!

Wednesday, August 1, 2007

Cousin Penny Contributes.

Hey Penny, I just said jog my memory, not outdo me! What a great job!
The following is contributed by Penny (Branscomb) Comer:

Gramma's garden

My grandparents on both sides raised huge vegetable gardens including every berry imaginable, all of the fruits that grow in the area, and more vegetables than we could eat even with supplying the reservation and passer-bys. One summer in particular that stands out in my mind was when I was about 8 years old. Grandma's garden was ripe for the pickin' and we kids well understood what that meant. We seemed to forget from one summer to the next what harvest time meant. We sat at the back patio which was covered with grape vines for shade, in Gramma's old metal swinging chair. We helped shell peas until our thumbnails got so sore that we could barely use our fingers then went to stringin' the beans. During this time the adults were blanchin' corn and cuttin' it off the cobb. Now, I want to tell you, they cut the corn at a wooden patio table covered with what was called oil cloth, and a single light bulb hung from a socket above the table. They stacked the steamin' hot corn in huge piles at the end of the table and two of my aunts or my mother would begin cuttin'. The other aunts poked the corn into containers as fast as they could while fightin' the bees. I remember the huge mound of kernels that was at least a foot high and 2 feet long because they couldn't keep up. My dad kept the knives razor sharp so the cuttin' was easy, but a hot job. The corn juice (milk) that wasn't collected in the packages ran off the end of the table into a bucket for Gramma's old sow. I remember the fresh, barely cooked corn bein' as sweet as candy and you were in trouble if you consumed too much of it at one time. It didn't make sense to us kids puttin' up so much food with jars to be dumped out from the last harvest. Seemed like a waste of time to us.The problem with my family: they always stored so much food for the winter that in the summer they had to dump all of the unused jars or frozen containers, and pack what was dumped to the hog pen. WOW! I can remember the smell of that tangy stinky old pen. It was in the orchard area across the road from the Chief Drive In, now. That old sow would snort and thrash about knowin' what was coming to her pen. Then all of the jars had to be washed and sterilized again so we could dump it out again the next season. I really prefer the frozen method to the pressure canning now however, because the food doesn't loose all of its value in the processing, but the jars of fresh canned vegetables and fruit looked so pretty on the shelves. Kids today don't know what they're missin' to grab a jar of fresh fruit off the shelf instead of a bag of potato chips for a snack.Dad and his mother were avid hunters and fishermen. We always had meat for buck stew or deer bone soup. Carcasses weren't disposed of until the bones were stripped clean and boiled white. There was a way to make somethin' out of nothin' in those days. Grandma raised all of her chickens, pigs and goats, and the rest of our food came from the sea or rivers. I remember eatin' so much fish: cod, snapper, surf fish, steel head, summer salmon, trout and abalone that I hoped when I left home I'd never have to eat it again. But, back to the gardening, it seems to me like people are getting back to those times again; livin' off their land and gardens. My grandparents would be amazed at all of the packaged fertilizers in the stores now when they just had to shovel it out of their pens and haul it in their wheel barrows to the garden. And, another thing is this global warming they're talkin' about. Seems to me like it has changed the harvest season from late summer to late fall. That's a concern.