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?


Eel River Ernie said...


What a wonderful place! I have not spent as much time as I would have liked down there, but have golfed, dined, fought fire and drifted all through the area. As for me, my heart still lies in the hills and mountains around the still small town of Weaverville. While our ranch has long been subdivided, I still find solice in "going home" for visits. Often its like I've never left.

Anonymous said...

Like you I have that sense of homecoming somewhere just north of Ukiah on the rare times I go away, and if I am coming from the north, it is more like around Weott. You are fortunate indeed to have been born here and to have stayed here; I was born near an air base and spent my childhood moving from place to place, country to country, following my father, a career military guy. After college I traveled for a while more, until one day I came to visit a friend who had moved close to a town I could barely locate on the map, Garberville.
Getting off the bus with a migraine on a hot and dusty July day I had an inner sense "this is where you are supposed to be". Although at the time I thought I had had a nervous breakdown I did end up turning over my life and plans and staying.
It's been something around 35 years and three kids later, and on Thanksgiving, as I sat at my eldest son's home with more of the family gathered, looking down into the river valley from up on the slopes of Bear Butte, I felt grateful. And at home.

Anonymous said...

Great pictures and writing!

Ernie Branscomb said...

I took all the photos on this blog with my Motorola Razor cell phone and e-mailed them to my computer from the place that I smapped them.

I'm not a photographer, it's just that you can't take a bad picture of this area.

As for the writing, it's like you can't take a bad piture of something beautiful. It would be hard to not say something good about "home".

Anonymous said...

For me, it's driving past Boise Creek Campground just two miles west of Willow Creek. Waterman Ridge rises up and the people are nestled within the valleys and upon the flats next to the Trinity.

When I arrive at my mom's house in Willow Creek, located on the same flat as two of my brother's houses, I see Campbell Ridge protecting the home place from the rest of society. Tucked away within these mountains is solace and peace. No need for locks on the doors and all the neighbors know each other. Know each other well.

I know that I have lived much longer in Eureka than I have lived in my hometown, but, still Willow Creek is my home. Lack of educational opportunities, social adventure, night life, arts and culture, gas station cuisine and employment drove me to the coast.

I can't go back to the country to live. My lifestyle prohibits it. But, these little ledges tucked between the coast range and the ocean are fine by me. And the weather, too.

But, I can visit my past with a 52 mile trip to Eastern Humboldt. I would never give up my first eighteen years for anything in the world. And that is why I blog about it. Because, gentlemen I'm sure you'll agree....The memory is the last thing to go soft on a guy.

Ernie Branscomb said...

Ekovox, you are indeed lucky to have a home place that is much the same. Many people don't. I think that part of a person dies when their home place goes away.

Thanks for the thoughtful comment.

Kym said...

Brought tears to my eyes!

I am, like you, so lucky to live where I was born and where I belong.

Carol said...

What a beautiful place to call home, Ernie!

I was born in Rochester, New York, but moved to Cape Cod at 6 months, so my childhood home was Chatham, Massachusetts. But I have live my whole adult life in California, and the last 25 years in Humboldt County. We live further down river from you, Ernie, near Loleta on the south facing side of Table Bluff where we look over pastures and the cottonwood trees along the lower Eel. We can see the Pacific Ocean to the West and love the sunsets. This is home.

Kristabel said...

Very nice, Ernie.

Even though when I was just out of college I felt like I had to experience living in a different place other than Humboldt, it called to me the entire time I was away, and I eventually had to go home.

Now, as silly as I feel admitting this, I still tear up when I look around Bear River Valley because I feel so lucky to live in such an incredible place.

P.S. Thanks for the link. xoxox

Jennifer McKenzie said...

Beautifully written and those pictures are amazing. My husband was born and raised here and traces his roots to the Karuk (who barely exist) and the Hoopa Indians. I'm a "newcomer" and I've only been here fifteen years.
But my husband loves every inch of the county including the Eel River, though he favors the Van Duzen.
Thank you so much for sharing your home.

Katy Dickinson said...

I was searching for history on our home here in Willow Glen (San Jose, California) when I saw your reference to the chicken ranch owned by your sister-in-law's aunt. I think we live in the house that was built in around 1930 after the ranch was closed. I am writing a blog entry now about the fence we just built on the remains of the chicken barn's foundation. See