Sunday, October 28, 2007

Early logging

My Dad’s logging company started out with an old “2-U D-8” Caterpillar tractor, and an angle blade D-7. They used to load the logs onto the truck with a “Loading crib”. They used a “brow log” along side and parallel the logging road. Then several poles were placed perpendicular, and on top of the brow log to be used as skids. The space underneath was filled with dirt. The logs were loaded by pushing the load log up the skids and onto the truck parked parallel to the crib. The logs were then held in place on the truck with “Cheeseblocks”. You can see why they only sent three log loads to the mill.

Some time in the early Fifties they got a “Triple Drum Skagit winch”. It was used to make a high-line cable log loader. Most things that I know about cable splicing was learned from watching them splice cables together for that loader. One drum was used for lifting the log off the ground. The other two drums were used to travel the log back and forth to the truck or the log deck.

Just like the Caterpillars were simply called Cats, and the drivers were called Cat skinners. The triple drum Skagits were called “Skagits”, and the operator was called the “Skagit man”. The Skagits were built in Skagit Washington. Dads was powered by a flathead Ford V-8 engine. It was mounted on a skid log frame, and was skidded by the D-8 from one landing to the next. There was a rudimentary tin roof over it to keep the rain off. The motor had twin straight exhaust pipes with spark arrestors. When it was being used in a hard lift it could be heard barking throughout the whole canyon. The Cats seldom had working mufflers and the chain saws always had the mufflers removed to give them more power. It’s no wonder that most old loggers were deaf.

They communicated mostly with sign language. Most everything that you needed to know in the woods was usually signaled by hand. Even the swearing was done with sign language, and it was quite graphic, and it was way beyond just the “finger”.

In the late Fifties Dad got a Cat 977, which was a smooth track laying front end loader with a winch. They used the loader for skidding logs close to the landing between trucks. It was funny to watch a skinner try to pull logs with a smooth tracked Cat. The tracks would spin and the skinner would cuss, then find a stump to get in front of and winch the logs to him, eventually getting the log onto the landing.

I can still smell the fir and redwood brush that was crushed. Mix that with a little crushed pepperwood, stir in a little of the smell of dust and diesel. Add the bark, roar, and howl of all the equipment, the cables slapping together. Add a strong sense of danger, and just as strong of a sense of progress. Put in a liberal sprinkling of loud as hell swear words, and it all adds up to some great times.

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Acorn Muffins

I just had a batch of Black Oak Acorn muffins.

I took the acorn grindings that I had leached and dried in a 175 degree oven for twelve hours. The mixture went on to the cookie sheet looking like chunky peanut butter, and it looked like crackers when it came out. I ate a few pieces just like that, and it had kind of a bland nutty flavor. With a slightly astringent aftertaste.

I boiled up a bowl of mush made out of the grindings with the same bland results. Then I added some jerky meat chunks and butter. Then it tasted like food. With no aftertaste.

I popped some of the dried grindings into the blender and made them into a coarse flour. I then made the following recipe for any of you lucky enough to have harvested some acorns.

Acorn muffins:
1-cup wheat flour
1-cup acorn flour
1/3- cup sugar
1-tablespoon baking powder
1-teaspoon salt
1-cup milk
½-cup veg oil
1-large egg

Preheat oven to 375. Mix all dry ingredients thoroughly, and then mix in liquid ingredients thoroughly. Grease a muffin tin and fill half full with batter. Place in oven and when they are done take them out. Time depends on the size of your muffin tin. Stick a tooth pick in them and when it comes out dry, they are done.(@10-20 min)

Eat with butter on them and a little honey if you like honey. Otherwise eat them any way that you like. They will be a great side dish at thanksgiving. And, yeah they are delicious. They taste like a nutty bran muffin. The only thing is, if you haven’t leached the acorns enough, you will have a slight, but not unpleasant aftertaste.


Music is a sanctuary of sorts. It seems to be a place that we all go when we feel that everything else in our lives has abandoned us.

As children we listened to childish nursery rhyme music. As teenagers we listen to anything that had a wild and rebellious rhythm. Especially if our parents didn’t like it. As young lovers we listened to songs that seemed to impart great wisdom in the way of love and life. As our hearts were broken, music seemed to be the only place to go that you could find understanding and sympathy. The blues always spoke to me, and made me feel good. So, I guess that I like the blues the best. The blues with a good rocking rhythm and a thumping base line. Stevie Ray Vaughn, and “Mary had a Little Lamb” is an all-time favorite of mine.

My first real recollection of having an opinion about music was when Elvis became popular. He came howling over our scratchy radios singing "Blue Suede Shoes", and “You Ain’t Nothing but a Hound Dog”. I never really liked Elvis. I liked Bill Haley and the Comets, little Richard, Buddy Holly, Chuck Berry, The Big Bopper, and the other folks that thought the music was the most important thing, not how to make the girls squeal with orgasmic delight. Somehow, that just didn’t appeal to my male sensibilities. Even though, I have to admit, it was hard to choke back the tears when ol’ Elvis sang Ol’ Shep.

The first music that ever really spoke to me was when Ray Charles came out with his country blues album, I was in high school. My convoluted mixed-up “So many girls, so little time” love life was out of control. I though I was I love with a girl that ended up dating my best friend. “You Don’t Know Me” and “Born to Lose” were just like I wrote the songs myself.

Even though I went to college in San Francisco in the sixties, I was an adult beyond my age, and I never saw the delight in drug abuse. I gave up smoking at ten years old. I drove water truck in woods at fifteen. By the time I was eighteen, I had earned enough money by working in the woods, to provide for my education.(with my parents help) So, when I saw my friends experimenting with drugs it seemed juvenile to me, and I was offended by what they were doing to themselves, and those around them. Of course, I never liked the Beatles when they moved into the drug glorification age. We all knew what “Sweet Mary” was, and we all new that “Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds” was about L.S.D. The beatles were great promoters of drug abuse. They did it with their music, and their lifestyle. They were more than riding the wave, they were creating it. And, of course they always stuck with their “plausible deniability” by saying they were singing about children’s stories, wink, wink,.. I liked Jimmy Hendricks, even though he was involved in drugs, his music was about the music. I liked that.

When I got married to my first wife, we listened to Ray Conniff, Laurence Welk, and what ever was on the radio. We were too busy building a life together, and music was on the back burner. When our marriage started to fall apart, music took on a whole new meaning again, and it became my sanctuary, as is often the case with all of us at a time like that. Every “tears-in-your-beer” song that was ever written became my anthem. I looked for the wisdom that I was so desperately seeking to solve the problems that I so wanted to solve. I still remember every word to Ray Prices “For The Good Times”. Even back then, I was very much involved in the community, and I belonged to a motor cycle club and I raced moto-cross. The motorcycle club used to party a lot, so I got to know a person that also belonged to the club who was in the process of having marriage difficulties herself. Whenever “Cracklin’ Rosie” came on the Juke box we would dance together. We really liked to dance to that song, and we were really good at it. Although we never discussed our marriage problems. We spent a lot of time discussing life in general. As our separate marriages broke apart, we all went our separate ways. One day in my loneliness, as I sat in my rented trailer, wondering what to do with my life, “Cracklin Rosie” came on the radio. I picked up the phone and asked her to go to the Kinetic Sculpture Races with me. I didn’t know it at the time, but she was involved with someone else. I’m Glad I didn’t know that, because I probably wouldn’t have asked her to go. But she said “Sure, I’d like that”. The race was on Mothers Day and I called my mother and told her, “Mothers day is next Wednesday”.

She packed a fried chicken pic-nic lunch and a bottle of red wine, and we hopped in my Jeep and headed to Ferndale. I had my old household speakers mounted in the back of my jeep, and I had a pretty good eight track tape player. She scratched through my tape collection and she gave me a funny look. She finally found a Neil Diamond tape that had “skipping over the ocean like a stone” on it, and an old Eric Clapton “Cream” album. That seemed to make her happy. We went for a drive out Centerville beach, and had a lunch near the mouth of the Eel river. We explored an old water tank that she was curious about. I parked my Jeep next to it and stood on the cowling, I boosted her up by holding her foot like I was a step. That worked great for getting up, but getting down was more complicated. She slipped and fell back, she landed on my head. I grabbed her legs in determination that I wasn’t going to let her fall. I staggered around on the cowl of my Jeep thinking that I didn’t want to hurt my neat as a pin, “Way-Cool” Jeep. Meanwhile, she is wrapped around my head and I can’t see. Finally I was able to sit on the top of the windshield so she can get off. She was extremely embarrassed by the fact that she had just sat on my head, I told her it was alright because I thought that I was in love. We laughed so hard we were in tears.

We dated for awhile, but we both had our separate plans, and both went our separate ways. But, It was a lot of dancing and listening to music while it lasted. She could not resist dancing to “Johnie B. Goode” Or “Jeremiah was a Bull-Frog”... I know it’s “Joy to the World”.

She went to Santa Rosa, to go back to college. I started looking for a job in an area with more opportunity than Garberville had to offer. We spent a lot of time on the telephone, and I was buying a lot of happier music for my tape player, but I was still not that sophisticated musically. I liked Sher at the time, and Sher had just released “Gypsies Tramps and Thieves”, which seemed to fit our lifestyle. There were a lot of trips to Santa Rosa. Finally, I said that I didn’t want to leave my home and go anywhere, and I asked her to marry me and make a life in Garberville. Her response was not as enthusiastic as I’d hoped but she did consent.

We moved our furniture into a house together, and a I still remember coming home from work the first time and seeing the windows shaking at full volume from a Jimmy Hendricks record. My lovely new bride came with a complete rock and roll record collection, and the house has been rocking every since. That was thirty-six years ago.

Is music a part of my life? It’s the theme that’s always playing in the background.

Sunday, October 21, 2007

I need a witness

My wife says that I exaggerate, so I stuck a tape measure in the box to verify these fattys are big! If you look you can see a three and a six poking out from under the nuts, so the first four acorns are close to one and one-half inches long and the one on the left end is one and three-quarter inches long. I've never seen such big acorns.

The ball in the middle is an oak ball that we are going to make Indian Ink out of.

You might be a little different if...

I came in the house yesterday and it smelled great, like something cooking. I take great pride in being able to figure out what’s for dinner with just a sniff as I walk in the door. It smelled kinda’ like nutmeg, maybe a touch of ginger, maybe some mint. I sniffed again, and I didn’t smell any cinnamon, but it did smell a little peppery.

My family has a recipe for mince meat pie that is well received in the fall of the year when the weather turns cool. We make it with real spiced meat, usually venison neck meat, stewed until fall-apart-tender, then diced real small. It is then mixed together with apples and various spices. Then all baked up in a top-and-bottom pie crust. The pie is a real treat for me. But it didn’t smell quite right for mince-meat pie.

What ever the odor was, it smelled like it would be delicious with meat. Not seeing my wife anywhere, I went into the kitchen, and lifted the lid on a large kettle of delightfully bubbling pepperwood nuts, outer skin and all. Of course that required me to find my wife and ask “what the hell….” She informed me that she was going to try it as a dye for her wool that she spins, and that we were going to have left-over spaghetti for dinner. Sometimes life is just not fair.

My wife’s brother was visiting from Pennsylvania. My wife was busy making pepperwood nut dye, and I was busy cleaning and grinding Black Oak acorns for mush. He’s a country lawyer, and likes the country life himself, but somehow I think that maybe our life-style might have been overkill for him. He feigned polite interest in our projects, with his suave country lawyer way, but I know that it will be a great source of humor for him to tell the story when he arrives back home.

Later that day, I went into Southern Humboldt Builders Supply to buy a snow shovel to scoop the Pepperwood nuts off the driveway and into a wheelbarrow. While I was there, I noticed a gentleman picking out a hand saw. He would pick each one up and take it out of its cover and feel, tap on it a little bit and put it back. I saw that he had tried a nail saw, a crosscut and, and a rip saw. Thinking he must be confused, I asked him what kind of a saw he was looking for. He replied that he was looking for a saw that could “sing good”. It seems that he had a gig for that night and didn’t have his singing saw with him. He then played a few bars of the Tennessee waltz on a saw for me.

It occurred to me that we might be a little different here in Garberville.

Saturday, October 20, 2007

Party line

My Gramma Ruby had an old hand crank Telephone. Her ring was one long and two shorts. She would set a chair in front of the phone so the kids could stand on it and answer the phone. Then she would head outside to do her “garden chores”. We would answer the phone, then we would go out to the garden to get her. I remember that we would stay in the house and wait for the phone to ring, so we could talk on it for a little bit before we had to go get Gramma. Looking back on it, I think that she probably left us to listen for the phone so she could go out to the garden for a little peace and quiet. It’s amazing the things that one realizes when looking back with a little older and wiser eye’s.

The phone was a form of entertainment in the evening, after supper and the dishes were all washed and toweled dry and put back on cupboard. At family dinners at Gramma’s house, my cousin liked to wash, my sister liked to dry, and it was my job the stand on the chair, that was normally left in front of the phone, and stack the dishes in the cupboard. That was the only chair that anyone was allowed to stand on. Her dishes were those Chinese Willow Ware dishes, Can you imagine letting children handle Willow Ware nowadays? I guess the were nothing special about them back then. I wish I had them now!

I digress. After dinner, Gramma would lift up the phone and listen for conversation, if there was conversation she would announce that she was there, if there was none she would ring the operator to connect her with someone. Usually it was someone on another party line. Then, the long conversation about nothing in particular would start, and usually went on for hours. Who ever got to the phone first got to decide which other party line that they would be connected to. Sometimes Mrs. Sutherland, the Operator, would tie several party lines together. That was real entertainment! Sometimes the family would sit in the living room next to the kitchen where the phone was mounted, and listen. Every now and then Gramma would cover the mouth piece and bring us up on the other end of the conversation. They had a Blog-site where they didn’t have to do all this darn typing. And we think that we’ve made progress. Sometimes we would close the kitchen door and turn on the radio, The Lone Ranger came on at Eight, and The Amos and Andy Hour came on at nine.

The phone was a long oak box about 16 inches tall by eight by eight. The front opened and there were two big volt-and-one-half dry-cell batteries about the size of a twelve once beer can in the bottom. There was a row of horseshoe shaped magnets, with an armature in the center that was spun by a train of gears that was driven from the hand crank on the side. There was a switch on the top left that was shut off when you put the “reciever” back on the hook. The front had two bells at the very top that made the phone look remarkably female. The mouth piece was mounted on the end of a bracket that stuck out the front about eight inches. It was adjustable up and down to accommodate the variance in a person’s height, because the whole assembly was mounted solidly on the wall at about mouth level. The phone had a shelf at the bottom that angled out and down at about forty-five degrees, with a stop to keep things from sliding off. Gramma always kept a pencil and writing tablet on that shelf.

Bye. My wife says that I have to go clean the pepperwood nuts out of the driveway.

Friday, October 19, 2007

Acorn Soup

I’m going to leave all of the Old Indian lore behind, because the acorns are ripe and the deer are eating them as we speak. We will revisit the Indian history later. I hope you have your acorns gathered, if not, hurry!

I think that I’ve come up with a better method of processing acorns. Whack them with a mallet to open them, or use a pair of pliers if you can’t get the mallet thing going for you. I find it easier to use a mallet though. After you get the nut open, pop the meat out and dump it into water as you are peeling them. If anyone has already dried the nut meats, throw them back into a pan of water and re-soak them, it’s okay because it will remove more of the tannin on the first soaking, but when the nut meat is as sweet as it is this year, skip that step and go right from the shell to the water.

Throw away any wormy meat, or dark fermented meat. The good stuff will be clean and yellowish. You’ll get the hang of it after peeling a few. If there is any skin on the nut, peel it off. With the acorns that I’ve just gathered, the skin has been coming off in the shell, lucky me. They have all been big fat Black-Oak acorns. Let the nutmeat soak over night, and in the morning drain the water off the meat into a plastic jar, and give it to your spinny-weavy type, wool dying, other person that lives in your house. That is the mordent liquid. A mordent will set any dye permanently. The mordent is what she will use for setting the dye in her wool, or all by itself, the tannic solution will set a permanent light tan color in the wool. There is a reason that they call some Oaks Tan Oaks.

After draining, run the meats through a meat grinder with the fine blades in it. Most people have a hand crank grinder. Or, an attachment to the mixer that they can use. Put the acorn grindings into a cotton muslin bag. A pillowslip will work great, or a jelly sack. What ever you use, just accept that tan is its new color, because tannic acid is a mordent, remember? Then place the sack into an equal amount of water, soak over night. Drain and twist the sack to squeeze out most of the water. This draining also serves as a mordent, and should be saved with the first draining. Repeat this process until you are happy with the taste of the acorn meal. Some acorns are sweet and need very little soaking, others are extremely bitter and need lots of cycles. The proof is in the tasting. Some people like the tannin taste, not me.

If you are in a big hurry for your acorn mush. Place your sack of acorn meal in a bowl and poor boiling water into it, let it soak for an hour and repeat the process, until your acorn meal tastes sweet with only a slight after taste.

Another method that sounds promising is to clean the rear tank on your toilet spotlessly clean, and place your sack of meal under the water in there for a couple of weeks. Each time you flush, it will leach out tannin. It will turn the toilet bowl tan from the tannic acid, but can be bleached clean when you are through. I laughed when I heard about this method, but some day I’m going to try it. But, if I do, I’m not going to tell anyone. I’m going to tell a painful tale of how I hand rinsed the meal for days on end. Oh, woe is me!

As Ben said, some Indian people like Tan oak the best. One of my friends says he likes Black Oak, with a few Tan Oak nuts mixed in for flavor, but they are too strong by themselves. Just as I like a handful of Huckleberries baked into my apple pie, and Christina likes a few Merlot grapes mixed in with her Cabernet, and not left on the Oak too long. You will learn what you like.

After you have leached your acorn meal to your tasting, spread it on cookie sheets and place it in a 175 degree oven, or into a food dehydrator until thoroughly dry. Never leave your meal out of fresh water or lying around, it will mold in about two heartbeats.

Once the meal is dry, you can run it through a flour grinder set on fine, if you have one, or you can put it in your blender. (With mixed results) If you have a large stone Indian Grinding Bowl, and a basalt pestol, that’s best. Don’t laugh, a lot of people are using than as ornaments.

To make mush, stir one cup of meal into two cups of boiling water. That’s the way the Indians ate it. Or, if you want to be able to eat it, slice up some smoked venison jerky, and boil it until tender in two cups of chicken stock, then add one cup of meal. Salt and pepper to taste, and you might like a little garlic powder. (I put garlic or my venison jerky, so it doesn’t need any.) a good cook can now go nuts (Pun) trying new ways of using acorn meal. You can use a recipe for corn meal muffins, only replace the corn meal with ACORN meal.

You can use acorn meal with flour in any recipe as a replacement for corn meal. Acorn has no gluten so it won’t work by itself for baking, although the Indians did.

Let me know if you have any success!

Thursday, October 18, 2007

Acorn soup 1

Okay, all you white eyes that have ever wanted to try Indian Acorn Mush but were afraid to try, I’m about to give you a recipe for Indian Acorn Mush that you will actually like! You will be the hit of Thanks-Giving dinner. It’s a great way to guarantee that the Grandkids will be at your house for thanks-giving. Simply let it slip (To your Grandkids) that one of your dishes this year is going to be Real Homemade Indian Acorn Soup. Don’t worry; your son-in-law won’t taste it.

This is the best year of all the “Acorn-Masts”. It’s the best I’ve ever seen, and I’m an old guy. The acorns are big, and fat, and sweeeeeet. If you don’t find any under the first tree, go to another one. The deer will beat you to most, but not all; there are too many acorns this year. The lower elevations are the last to ripen. But, don’t try eating one without preparing it first. It’ll stick in your throat, and you will want to go to the Hospital. But, you will live through it, so if you can’t resist, clean one and bite a taste of the end. Your tongue will say; “Wow, that’s good,” but your throat will say; “Oh no you don’t!”

I’m a busy man, and this will be long, so I will do this on installments on this blogsite.

White Oak acorns are the mildest, so you might start with them. Every acorn has a different flavor, so if you should become a “Gourmet”, you will be able to decide which acorn you like the best. I like Black Oak, for their nutty, slightly maple syrup flavor. I’ve never tried a Chinquapin, but they say they are the best. Don’t use pepperwood. I’ve tasted them, but I am wholly unsure of them.

If you don’t know one tree from another you might ask an Indian or a generational native that has been here a few years. Or ask a deer, they always gather the sweetest nuts first.

When gathering your acorns, pick the ones with lightest color, with no worm holes. Gather the biggest ones you can find, shake them in your hand to make sure they are full. After a few thousand you will know which ones are best. The big ones are easier to clean. If the pickins’ are slim, do like the Indians did, gather them all, they are all good, just some are better. Rinse them off, to get rid of any dirt. The Indians would dry the acorns in the shell for a while, until the shell was brittle, then they would drop the acorns in a grinding bowl and pop them open with the grinder. Then they would peal the shell away with a deer antler. Peal the nut, toss away any with to much rot or worminess. They were then sun dried, or dried by the fire inside, depending on the weather. Shell them with a dull paring knife. Don't use any steel or cast iron around your acorns it will turn your mush black!!! Chop them into 1/4 inch pieces. Rinse them again in a colander, and then spread them on a drying rack, that you keep behind your wood stove. Just kidding, if you have a food dehydrator, that will work. The main point is to thoroughly dry them in a warm place. Dry them out thoroughly, thoroughly, thoroughly. This is an important step, so I will leave you here so you don’t rush ahead!

This aught to keep you busy for awhile, but hurry, this is the last of acorn season and the deer are eating them as we speak. The Damn Grey squirrels got most of my wild hazel nuts. More Later…………………….

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 CafĂ© 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.

Monday, October 15, 2007

Tree house

Years ago, I was on a refrigeration service call in Branscomb CA, at the store. I was approached by a young man that related the problems that he was having with his household refrigerator. My opinion was that he should just replace it. He told me that he could do that, but it would be extremely difficult, because it was in a tree-house. So, I agreed to take a look at it. (He had me at “tree-house“. I thought, no-way am I going to miss this!)

He had started building it as a young child. His dad was a mill-right at the local lumber mill, and he had access to all kinds of lumber and do-dads that are handy for building tree houses. It was quite a ways up in a huge Madrone tree. He had built a rather elaborate stairway supported from the ground with posts. He had a complete small kitchen, a bathroom with a shower, and the rest was a combination of bedroom, living room, entertainment center etc. I remember that it had all kinds of angles that fit the tree, and it was supported from the tree with bracketed straps, so everything could move in the wind without breaking anything. It was very nicely decorated with couches and chairs, with lots of throw rugs and wall hanging tapestries. It reminded me of the inside of Arab tent, except for the huge stereo speakers that he had for his sound system.

Several of the major limbs of the tree went right through his house, and he had wind and waterproofed the limbs with large sheets of rubber that would also allow movement in the wind.

Later on, when he went to college he asked his forestry professor what he should do to protect the tree. He was told to never water it in the summer, because that would cause root rot. And, that he should trim any dead and dying wood out of it, and seal the cuts with tree seal to stop rot. And, to only do very minor trimming, because a Madrone needs all it’s foliage to feed the tree.

I think that it was the first time in my life that I envied anyone’s house. It was quite a novelty. I’ve often wondered what happened to it, and whether it is still there.

Sunday, October 14, 2007

Hawks, Pigeon and Chicken.

Was going to tell you about today’s experience, but I got side-tracked with Christina’s cute baby coon story.

Today my neighbor and I cut a cord and a half of wood on his property up the hill from me. (More wood) I take care of his mini-ranch while he is gone. He has property in Indiana, and he is gone a lot. The last few weeks as I headed up the hill I’ve been seeing a small hawk perched in a small oak tree. I’ve never gotten a good look at it, but I thought it might be a Peregrine falcon, but it appeared to be too small. I wondered why it was hanging out there. Today as we were setting up to cut wood I saw a flash out of the corner of my eye, and I turned and looked just as the Hawk hit a quail in an explosion of feathers. He sat there with the fluttering Quail in his talons. He looked about defiantly like he was ready to protect his kill from us or anything else. As I watched him I checked his face for the tell-tale helmet and goggle look that peregrines have and he didn’t have the goggles. I tried to memorize his features so I could look him up in my bird book. The most striking feature was his bright black and white banded tail.

When I got home I found a picture of him in my book, the description said; “looks like a miniature peregrine falcon, but doesn’t have the sideburns, and it has a strikingly banded black and white tail, his habitat is open oak forests.” He was a Pigeon Hawk.

My wife spent the first part of today in Half Moon Bay at the Giant Pumpkin Festival. While she was there she saw the fifteen hundred pound plus pumpkins that they grow. She said that they are very impressive. She also met a man with a hawk. She was asking him what kind of a Hawk that it was and it turned out to be a Harris Hawk, and it is reddish brown in color with more reddish shoulders. She said that the man said that it was “The sweetest cold blooded killer that you ever met.”

Anxious to tell her my story about the hawk that I saw. She said; “eeeuuuu, yuck, poor Quail!”. I forgot that she is a city girl.

Beings that this thread is supposed to be about chickens, I will say that when I was growing up, the Red-tailed hawk and the Brown-Shouldered Hawk were called the Red Chicken hawk and the Brown Chicken Hawk. We had an assembly at the South Fork High School one time in the early sixties, and this Falconer was the speaker. He said that we should never refer to Red-Tailed Hawks as Chicken Hawks, because it gave them an undeserved name, and the only Red-tailed hawks that would hunt chickens were hawks that had been wounded. He might have fooled the city kids with that story, but he didn’t fool any of the south fork kids. It started out as a dull chuckle then broke out into a full-fledged roar. Too many of us had seen those poor wounded hawks kill chickens. And I can guarantee that if the people you wrote about are really going to raise free range chickens, they will soon find out about Chicken Hawks.

Coons and baby woodpeckers

Christina, bear tastes like bear. It's red, dark, and greasy. It's an acquired taste, few people like it the first time they try it. If they are eating berries and acorns they taste better than when they are living of dead fish carcasses‘. Go figgur. The fat makes good boot grease and pie crusts.

I loved your baby coon story! We had a bird feeder outside our bedroom window so we could wake up in the morning and watch the birds feeding. It was great until the coons discovered it. The coons we had were also fun to watch but they would show up about three ‘o-clock in the morning. My dog that was bred for hunting thought that it was a perfect opportunity for a hunt. I wasn’t that enthusiastic. But, I would turn on the outside light and watch the coons eating the bird food. They would look at the dog though the sliding glass door. Their eyes were riveted on the dog and their hands would feel for the bird food, they would scoop up a handful and eat it without moving or even blinking their eyes.

Soon there was a competing tribe of coons moved in, and there would be coon arguments for the rest of the night. I would watch them fight, they back up to each other and push the other coon with their butts. When the other coon got off balance the aggressive coon would whirl around and bite the crap out of the out-of-balance coon. These fights would go on for hours. When we painted the house we took the bird feeder down. It became quite peaceful again. So we hesitate to put it back up.

The thing that I will miss about having no bird feeder is the heart warming experience of watching the birds pair up, take turns coming for food, while their mates watch the nest. Then one day they show up at the bird feeder with their baby’s, with the little rubber corners in their mouths and their bright enthusiastic manner.

My favorite was a Acorn Woodpecker. With the black and white body, and the bright red head, and the slightly yellowish throat. When he showed up the other birds would scatter and stay away until he left. I never saw him harm any other birds but they treated like he was “The Fonze”. He would lay his head sideways and scoop up seeds that way. He never pecked at them. I know you probably though that acorn woodpeckers don’t eat seeds, but they do something with them, because he sure hauled a lot off.

One day a mate for him showed up, and they ruled the bird feeder together for a while, then she pretty much disappeared. One mid-summer day I woke up about five thirty in the morning to the most gosh-awful woodpecker racket that you ever heard. They are noisy boisterous birds anyway, but this was remarkably noisy. I looked out the window and on the limb of the tree in front of the feeder was daddy woodpecker, momma woodpecker and three cute fledglings and they were all contemplating the bird feeder. I imagined in my mind the parents were saying to the babies; “And this is where you come to eat!”

Saturday, October 13, 2007

I had a great week!

It's been a great week for me.

Today, I cut and stacked a half cord of fire wood. The weather was so good that you couldn’t find anything wrong with it, dead calm perfectly clear blue skies. The sun was bright and there was no wind. Fog this morning that cleared at ten. About nine thirty, as I was loading fire wood onto the truck, I heard a bunch of squawking coming over the ridge. I looked up and saw a rather large golden eagle swooping down the hill right over me, followed by two very annoyed ravens pecking at him. I stopped and watched them until they were out of sight. I thought that it was too bad that I didn’t have the grand kids with me. About five minutes later a flock of wild doves flew right over my head.

Last Tuesday I was at the medical center working up on the roof and I heard a flock of geese flying over. I spotted them off in the distance flying at about five hundred feet; flying in their familiar vee shaped pattern and heading right toward me, I went down the ladder and went inside and had a friend come out and we watched them fly over. We were remarking about how rare it is to see geese in Garberville in the middle of the day. There was about two hundred of them. We watched them changing positions and sorting out where they wanted to be, some would speed ahead and drop back in line, others fly all the way across to the other side. For a period of abut ten seconds, they flew in a perfect straight edged vee shaped formation. It was almost like they did it just for me.

All of these signs of winter are about a month early, If I were to predict the weather, I would say that things are shaping up for an early winter. But there’s an old saying; “Only damn fools and outsiders predict the weather on the north coast.” I was born here, so my only option would be the “damn fool” one. So you’re going to have to figure out the weather for yourself!

I guess what I’m getting around to is saying is, that this is the perfect kind of a week to end up with chicken and dumplings for supper. I like my dumplings made with parsley and green onions chopped up and mixed into them.

Thursday, October 11, 2007

Casino Royal

Sunday, October 7, 2007

KMUD / Estelle

“Holy crap, I can't believe I beat Ernie to the first comment.”

Okay, you night-owls caught me napping, so this time I guess I’ll just have to go for last. You know what they say, and I guess I’ll have to get that last laugh!

Eko, without going into politics, I have to say I agree with you on a lot of things. It must be genetics. I love Ed Denson’s show, and I personally admire Ed Denson, and I agree that everyone is entitled to a good lawyer, and everyone deserves their day in court… I guess at this point I need to shut up. A long time ago someone told me as a merchant, your job is to take care of your customers, and not bore them with your opinions and politics. So as to not bore you on the rest of the point, I’ll follow some other wise advice and “Shut up and sing”.

I haven’t listened to KMUD since Estelle Fennell resigned, and I listened to her last broadcast. It’s not any kind of statement about KMUD, but Estelle was the first person that ever worked there to catch and hold my interest. With her gone, it has just left a hole in my heart that I haven’t been anxious to fill. KMUD has lost too many good people. I miss people like Michael Jacinto that told me after I complained about some of the broadcasting: “Turn it off, only a fool can listen to KMUD all the time. We have something for everybody, that means that some people aren’t going to like it.”
Wow! Honesty!

I loved to listen to Christina Bauss, who said she resigned KMUD because “She didn’t have the time”. I’ve found that I always have the time for things that I like, and that interest me. I loved her articulate, smooth as silk delivery of the news. I always had to chuckle that she didn’t seem to know that there was a society that lived here before the “back to the landers” came here to form their brave new world. But as you’ve recently noticed she’s paying attention. Soon we’ll have a convert. Maybe we’ll invite her to our “Deliverance on the Eel”.

Say what you like about the firebrand Paul (PB) Bassis. He was darned interesting, and made a lot of valid points. “Thank Jah it’s Friday” just isn’t the same without him.

But unlike Cristina Bauss, I’m all new to writing. I type with two fingers, I space-bar with my chin, and I use my right toe for the enter/return key. I’m just now finding that my fingers know where the keys are, even when I don’t. So it’s no wonder that she beet me to the punch.

KMUD may be doing fine, I don’t know. I intend to go back someday, and I still help sponsor part of the news. But I’m still feeling the loss.

Maybe KMUD’s loss is going to be our gain. I hear that Estelle Fennell is thinking seriously about running for supervisor. I like her proven dedication to the people of Southern Humboldt, and the fact that she is honest, and cares about people. She is smart and knows how to dig for facts, and she doesn’t base her opinions on whimsy. Did I just slip into politics? Maybe, but I’ve long been an Estelle fan.

Tuesday, October 2, 2007

Family History reply to Hank's question if I had any Californio relatives

A lot of the early Californians intermarried with the Indian population, but we have not been able to trace any Indian blood in us, my loss, I sunburn at the flash of a camera. And, no Spanish blood.

The Californio’s are an other interesting group of people. Back before the depression, my grandfather William Rathjens ( a German Immigrant ) was the manager of El Rancho Primero in Laytonville. I’ve meant to study the history of that ranch, but never have. I suspect that it has some roots in the Californio’s history.

If your wife is from Branscomb, she is familiar with Wilderness Lodge and Horseshoe Bend. Great, Great,Grampa Lockhart, and Great, great, Uncle Lovejoy settled that area, and built the lodges. My Great-Gramma (Lockhart) Middleton was raised there. My Gramma Ruby (Middleton) Branscomb went to school in the Elder Creek school house.

My family, ( I say proudly) not only has history, but they have incredibly rich history. The stories that I heard as a child of my direct ancestors were of Clipper Ship Captains that sailed miners to San Francisco during the gold rush, Wagon Train Masters, Sheriffs, Personal body-gaurd to The Kiaser, Judges, and early survivalists, and their association with the Indian people. The most fascinating of the stories involve my ever-so Great Grandmother Mary Cull who made her own way to San Francisco during the gold rush at the age of sixteen with her fourteen year old sister in tow.

Readers digest version: In New York City Mary turned her rich aunt’s pet monkey loose during a high-society party to allow her and her sister to escape during the distraction. She then left to find her lost Father and Brother that had headed to California on a wagon train, never to be heard from again. They made their way to new Orleans where they caught a ship to Panama. They took a couple of mules across the isthmus. They caught another ship to San Francisco. They were locked in their room aboard ship, for their own safety during a storm. The ship capsized and righted itself twice during the storm. They limped into San Francisco. She worked in a boarding house there, where she ran into the son of Ever-so-Great Grampa Lockhart. She knew Son of lockhart in New York. Married same and moved to Sacramento to find her dad and Brother. Never found them. Moved to Mud Creek in Branscomb to escape Sacramento Diphtheria epidemic. …And, I left the good parts out…Fascinating people.

Monday, October 1, 2007


I was raised with functionally illiterate people. Just because they were illiterate doesn’t mean they weren’t extremely intelligent, nor does it mean that they weren’t learned in the local lore and crafts.

When talking to these old timers, I would slip into their way of talking. I was raised talking like that, and it was easy for me, and I did not offend any of them by talking that way. I’ve heard some of the best tales that were ever told about the local area, and the people that live here. I’ve learned many of their tricks for doing things that made their lives easier. An old timer always had a lead-in to what they wanted to say, and how you followed that lead would determine what you would learn. For instance what would your answer be to; “I never seen a piece wood I can’t split”. Nine out of ten people would be distracted by the grammar and start correcting it. A sure way to clam a person up. The correct answer would be; “Bullshit, I’ll bet you can’t split that piece right over there”. Then he would proudly go about demonstrating his technique.

“You could learn a lot from country folk.” But, you have to learn their language first, and their language isn’t all spoken out loud. You have to learn to read their hearts, and to “correct” them in any way is to disrespect them. Fortunately for them, they are mostly all gone. My loss.