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.