Wednesday, October 17, 2007


I’ve always had a sanctum-sanctorum (A very private place) of some kind or another. Back when I was very young, about five or six, the neighbor kid and I had a “fort” built on the edge of a vernal pond that had reeds growing around it. Back then, game playing and make-believe was a big part of my life. We carefully parted the reeds and made a zig-zag trail to the center of the reed patch. Then we flattened the reeds in about a six foot by six foot area for a floor. It was a great hidy-hole. We took all of our toys out there, where we would sit and play with them. When we were all through playing we would put them all back in the box and hide them in the reeds, like it was a pirate’s chest.

When I was about eight years old, my folks built a house on the family ranch in Laytonville. My aunts and uncles also had houses on the family ranch, so I had many cousins to play with. The boy cousins and I built a fort in a closely-grown stand of small fir trees that were about ten feet tall. We made the same zig-zag path through the trees that I had used on my other fort. We built a building about six foot square, and about six foot tall. Only this time we put a tin roof on it, so we had a waterproof structure. It was probably not as elaborate as you are imagining it to be. We took all the trimmings from the trees we cut and stacked them around the fort to camouflage it. The fort was mostly used for the “boy folk” to hide from the “girl folk”, and it worked quite nicely. The location of the fort was a closely guarded secret. We imagined up some kind of a blood oath that we took, and anyone that “told” would come down with a dreaded curse, which we also, imagined would happen. One day we approached the fort and found a nicely lettered cardboard sign, with crayon colored flowers around the edge, that said “Ha ha, we found it”. After that we had to share with the "Girl Folk", and it wasn’t as bad as we dreaded it would be, but we did have to do some remodeling.

When I was about ten or eleven my family came to Garberville to log timber in the Sprowel Creek canyon, and we camped on a ranch that my uncle Tom Newland was a partner in. The other partners were the Pancoasts. It was called the Riverside Farm Dairy, and it was an actual working dairy and bottling plant. It is sometimes known as the Pancoast ranch. One of the Pancoasts sons, Loren, and I became fast friends, buddy’s, and partners in crime. As criminal as two ten and eleven year old kids could be. He was a year older than I. We became good, if sometimes distant, friends. We went all through school together and he went on to be a counter munitions officer aboard a B-52 bomber in Viet-Nam, and he continued with his military career and moved on to banking, so we didn’t see much of each other for forty something years. But, when we did see each other, it was just like we never parted. I guess we all have friends like that.

Loren’s dad raised hay on the ranch and bailed it for the horses and cows, and it was kept in the large barn that still stands there. One day Loren’s dad decided that the hay was getting too scattered, so he put us to work restacking the hay and sweeping the barn. During the course of this project we decided to make a hollow spot in the middle, and we placed boards over it to support the hay that was stacked above it. The pile of hay was huge and we knew that nobody would notice that a corner of it was being used as a Hideout. The entrance was in the rear of the pile, and when we weren’t using it we would neatly slide a bale of hay into the hole. Of course we made all the standard oaths about not revealing our sanctum-sanctorum to anyone, on threat of a dread curse that still makes me shudder to think about.

That winter my family and I had returned to our home in Laytonville. The next spring when we returned to the same logging show, my mother decided that it would be better to live in a real house for the summer, so my folks rented a house in Garberville. I renewed my old friendship with Loren, and I found out that Loren’s dad had discovered our fort. He said that he had never ever seen his dad so upset.(He was actually madder than that, but I had to clean it up!) He had been counting the bales of hay by how many bales high, and deep and wide they were, and thinking that he was doing better with feeding the herd than normal, and he was being very generous with the hay, he was happy to be sharing his abundance with his much beloved cows. Imagine his surprise when he found Loren and my fort, and had to buy hay to get through the winter.

As with most of life, everything has come full circle, Loren has returned to Garberville after a career as an Air Force officer, and a career as an investment adviser for a bank, and he now has a job in Garberville to supplement all of his retirement funds. We get together for coffee at The Eel River Café at least once a week and talk about Garberville’s history, and gloat that we are the only ones that really know anything, and our "sanctum-sanctorum’s" are mostly in our minds.

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