Saturday, January 19, 2008

Stories you may have missed

I guess it’s about time that I explain what I mean when I say; “Language is not about correctness, it’s about communicating.”

I was raised in a culture of people that was comprised of ranchers, farmers, commercial fishermen, loggers, and lumber workers. Their heritage was either, born and raised here and had been here for generations and had little chance for higher education. Or recently moved here from one of the “poor states” to work in the lumber industry. The latter group also had little or poor education. My point is that I was raised with people that made their living by working hard, and they did manual labor. Higher education was not of much use to them. You couldn’t even slop a hog with higher education.

Most of my people, as I like to call them, admired educated people and would show them great deference, they would usually quiet down around an educated person. When there was an educated person in the group; that person always had the first and last say. When an educated person wanted to take over a conversation they would usually start it out with something like; “There is no such word as “ain’t”, usually in the context of correcting someone else. That always gave the educated person the floor because my people didn’t talk without words like “ain’t”. Their language was colorfully sprinkled with contractions and colloquialisms. To me their language was like a carefully thought out poem. And I loved to hear them talk. I knew from being around them, that some of them were the smartest and wisest people that existed anywhere. I knew their language, and I didn’t interrupt them with rude “correctness”.
I was always far more interested in what the working people had to say than some of the crashing, crushingly boring, educated people. It always bothered me that my people would stop telling stories around the “educated”.

It was easy for me to see the wisdom and wit that my people had. Today, few people understand Shakespeare, but after studying Shakespeare, and figuring out exactly what he said, most all of us would agree that he was one of the most witty, romantic and, gutsy of all story tellers. He could put feeling and wisdom into everything that he said, and once we know his language, nothing can be more enjoyable than reading Shakespeare.

It has always been deeply annoying to me to hear someone correct another persons language. To me it has always appeared to be a not-to-polite way of telling another person to shut-up.
We would no more think of telling Shakespeare to shut up than we would any highly respected person. What I’m trying to say is I have always highly respected “my people”, and they were always comfortable talking around me, and I have heard tales that some of you would see as a new work of Shakespeare…. If you had taken the time to listen, without correcting the language.

Something that you might not have known about Shakespeare;
“The most striking feature of Shakespeare is his command of language. It is all the more astounding when one not only considers Shakespeare's sparse formal education but the curriculum of the day. There were no dictionaries; Although certain grammatical treatises were published in Shakespeare's day, organized grammar texts would not appear until the 1700s. Shakespeare as a youth would have no more systematically studied his own language than any educated man of the period.
His facility with language, and the art with which he employed its usage, is why Shakespeare is as relevant today as he was in his own time.”

Most of my people are dead and gone now, so it makes little difference who you correct. Today’s society is rife with rudeness and it is expected. But have you ever corrected anyone that was in the middle of telling a great story? Do you now wonder what story that you might have missed? To me "my people" were wiser than the educated, and more articulate than Shakespeare. But you have to listen, and learn the languge.

“What, is the jay more precious than the lark Because his feathers are more beautiful? Or is the adder better than the eel Because his painted skin contents the eye? “
William Shakespeare

I guess what I’m trying to say is, if you have story that you want to tell, tell it here.

I don’t know how to use most of the words in the English dictionary, and care little if I ever use them. If I can tell you a story, or you can tell me one, that is what this blog is all about. I don’t give a damn how good you spell or how bad you talk. I'll accept swearing if that's how the hell you tell your story, I speak the language. I’ll delete with-out a trace, any criticism about how you use your "languge".

I want to hear history, I want to hear tall tales, and I want to hear bald face lies. But I want to hear your stories. I want any little known fact, I want any recipe, I want anything to do with the north coast…Even if it starts with; “I heard from somebody that heard from somebody that this story is absolute fact!’

You probably won’t be surprised to learn that I failed Enlgish in high school. If I can communicate, so can you. If I would be offended by anything, it would be if you tried to talk like somebody you aren’t. So, start telling me things! Learn to spell later. I did.

"This above all: to thine own self be true". (Willie again)


Anonymous said...

In the late 60s or early 70s my
great uncle found bales and bales
of marajuana washing up on the beach near Punta Gorda. It was
wrapped in plastic. You might have
known him Ernie. He spoke your
language. You know, the logger
language. He is to this day one of
the wildest people I've ever met,
although he's no longer with us.
I'll have to leave the rest of the
story to your imagination. I can tell you his initials though. C.W.

Anonymous said...

Sorry for the format?????

Ernie Branscomb said...

Anon, I've heard a few stories like that, and I've told a few.

A lot of great fortunes have been found washed up on a beach.

I think I know your C.W.

Have you ever heard the story of the U.S. government payrole that was on a ship that sunk off of Big Flat, north of shelter cove? supposedley it is hid somewhere on Kings Peak, yet to be found.

cz said...

No, I hadn't heard that story.
There is a legend involving a
Russian ship that has been handed
down through the generations. It
seems the vessel went aground below
King's peak. The indians killed all
the survivors and buried the treasue in a cave at the base of the mountain. And earthquake covered the entrance and its location has remained a mystery. That was taken out of a book written by Mario Machi. I know he seriously looked for that treasure
with his metal detector. My family told me he got real excited one time only to find a box spring and
mattress buried in the sand.
Mario was one of the most outstanding people I've ever had
the pleasure of meeting.

Monica... Media Professional said...

Well said, Ernie. Nothing bothers me more than a story interrupted. Well, maybe not using one's turn signals, but that's a different bother.
I tend to be quite a talker (it's the Italian blood, I assume), and when I get stopped in the middle of a story for whatever reason, I just don't feel like picking back up and finishing it. Like somehow it's lost its importance.
That's what I love about blogs. As long as you can keep your stream of consciousness, you can finish telling your story.
And I'll be happy to read it.

The Boy Most Likely to ... said...

One of the lessons I learned from my "Brutal Youth". Respect. I feel like that rude SOB I once was is going away. NEVER interrupt a story teller, unless the person asks a question of the audience.

Your blog is great. An education for me, let me tell you!


Ernie Branscomb said...

Sorry, I've been out...

CZ, I remember reading the story in Mario’s book. I agree that Mario was a great man. I did Mario’s Refrigeration for years, and built most of his early refrigeration when he decided to be the Mosquito Fleet fish buyer.

As you know, Mario was a survivor of the Bataan Death March. He would frequently be found scanning the coast for Russian fishing vessels and possibly submarine conning towers. If there was any unusual activity going on offshore Mario would always know about it. I have heard many stories of Mario’s “discoveries”.

Monica, Mario Machi, the person that CZ and I are talking about was an educated man, and very interesting to talk to, but he was also Italian, and talked with his hands a lot. I always liked that about Italian people, it adds a whole new dimension to a conversation.

Boy, thanks. You instinctively know what other people never learn. How to listen.

Kym said...

I had heard the marijuana bale story but none of the others.

I have a question about the Mendocino area. Has anyone heard about cattle drives in the late 1800's from there to Nevada?

robin shelley said...

You're in good company, Ernie.


"A man may see how this world goes with no eyes. Look with thine ears: see how yond justice rails upon yond simple thief. Hark, in thine ear: change places; and, handy-dandy, which is the justice, which is the thief?" (King Lear)

Ernest Hemingway:

"I like to listen. I have learned a great deal from listening carefully. Most people never listen."

A.D. Miller:

"Listening is not merely not talking…it means taking a vigorous human interest in what is being told to us."

Gayle Jones:

"I learned to write by listening to people talk. I still feel that
the best of my writing comes from having heard rather than having read."

Robert Frost:

"The ear is the only true writer and the only true reader."

Samuel Johnson:

"In order that all men may be taught to speak the truth, it is necessary that all likewise should learn to hear it."

Ernie Branscomb said...

A few years ago, Johnny Pinches and a few other "Cowboys" did a cattle drive from his ranch on Island Mountain to Laytonville. They have many photo's and stories about it. It sounded like a great adventure, but I’m sure that they were glad when it was all over. They don’t do it anymore, so it must have been more of a lark than a necessity.

What was the point of taking cattle clear into Nevada? I’m not much of a cattleman, but that must have been a heck of a trip. What could the payoff have been? Why would they drive cattle into cattle country? Were they breeding stock? If that happened, there must be a thousand interesting stories around it. Cattle would need food and water along the way, and the trip over the Sierras must have been brutal. I’ll ask my historian cousins about it.

I see that you get my point.

When ever I listen to a story I’m always interested in the “Why” of it, and I inadvertently steer the conversation in that direction. It seems like I’m more interested in the motivations than the details, so I probably miss much of the story. I think that is why I remember things about how people felt about things, or what would motivate them. Most historians grind on endlessly about details that don’t interest me. What makes people tick seems to be my focus. I guess that I’m beginning to sound like a hippy, but I’m much more interested in the “Feelings” of the story.

Do you remenber any of the details of Jonny's catle drive?? Or have you heard of the drive that Kym asked about? And, were you a writer for the Laytonville Paper?

Kym said...

The reason I ask is a family legend that says that Grandpa Cole made a cattle drive from mendocino area to Nevada. That seemed a long ways to go but the story goes that Nevada had the nearest Railroad.

Ernie Branscomb said...

Ahh.. Railroad. Now it makes sense.

The Golden spike in the first transcontinental railway way driven on May 10, 1869. When the railroad was completed, it went from Sacramento to Ohmaha Nebraska.

I'll bet that the cattle was for the railroad workers before the rail line was finished.

More in a bit....

EkoVox said...


When I first started blogging, (June 1, 2007) I tried to stay anonymous, yet give a Highway 299 perspective on the world. My earlier posts are very much about telling stories of my growing up in the 1960's and 1970's in Eastern Humboldt County.

But, I find myself running out of things to blog about. I have to dig to not repeat stories. So, then I just started blogging about everyday life and introducing Ladyfriend and her boys into the mix and I end up with much more material.

But, about every 10th post, I remember some history point that I want to bring up.

I really try to refrain from political banter. It's not my idea of fun. Although, I do let loose sometimes on other people's blogs.

But, history is important to me and therefore I blog about it. I have noticed though, much of my material is from, newcomers are left out of the conversations. That lowers my comments I have found. The 64 flood....very few comments. More contemporary topics....more comments. That's what makes Eric's site so popular.

And that's ok. If I were into this for popularity reasons, I would blog about Arkley, PALCO, Reggae On the River, Roger Rodoni, TPZ's and the railroad, too....But, that is already being done.

There is more to life than political feuding.

Ok, now, who wants to reminisce about "Waffle Stompers" and "Shepard's Pie"?

Ernie Branscomb said...

I agree with you about politics and some of the local issues, but I have been watching Kym dabble in politics, she does it in a much less controversial manner, and nobody seems to want to jump down her throat. The jury would still be out on religion though, that seems to be hitting people where they live. And, it makes little difference to me as long as it stays off my toes. I have my own set of reasons for the way I believe. (or not) Don't say "Waffle stompers" it makes me mad. More on that later

Monica... Media Professional said...

Waffle stompers? You mean like the boots? I have my own waffle stomper-boot story, but it's totally not blog-worthy. Maybe a fun comment, though.

Ernie Branscomb said...

I pruned some interesting information from Wicapedia, and left some of my thoughts:

“On 10 May 1869 from Promontory Summit northwest of Ogden, Utah, a single telegraphed word, "done," signaled to the nation the completion of the first transcontinental railroad. Railroad crews of the Union Pacific, 8,000 to 10,000 Irish, German, and Italian immigrants, had pushed west from Omaha, Nebraska. At Promontory they met crews of the Central Pacific, which had included over 10,000 Chinese laborers, who had built the line east from Sacramento, California.”

Isn’t it strange that some of the most discriminated-against people built our most important piece of infrastructure of that age?

“Union Pacific's No. 119 and Central Pacific's "Jupiter" engines lined up facing each other on the tracks, separated only by the width of one rail. Leland Stanford, one of the "Big Four" of the Central Pacific, had brought four ceremonial spikes. The famed "Golden Spike" was presented by David Hewes, a San Francisco construction magnate. It was engraved with the names of the Central Pacific directors, special sentiments appropriate to the occasion, and, on the head, the notation "the Last Spike." A second golden spike was presented by the San Francisco News Letter. A silver spike was Nevada's contribution, and a spike blended of iron, silver, and gold represented Arizona. These spikes were dropped into a pre-bored laurel wood tie during the ceremony. No spike represented Utah, and Mormon Church leaders were conspicuous by their absence.”

One of the things that always rings out at me like a sledgehammer hitting the liberty bell, is when I pick up on something that has been changed on me to fit the newcomer’s sensibilities. I was raised knowing that the “Last Tie” was made out of California Pepperwood. (Umbellularia californica) That was a source of great pride to me, because it only comes from California, (They have Myrtlewood in Oregon, and they claim it's different) and that fact was probably significant at the time, I don’t know, but I always thought that way. It was Peppwood dammit! Even a newcomer should be able to learn something!
Why weren’t the mormans there???

“For several weeks Promontory continued to be a town of tents and crude shacks. The land speculators, petty merchants, saloon keepers, gamblers, and prostitutes who had followed these tent cities stayed only as long as there were workers to entice. But, unlike many of these "hell on wheels" camps, Promontory never became the site of a permanent city.”

Girls just wanta’ have fun!

Immediately afterward, the golden spike and the laurel tie were removed and replaced with a regular iron spike and normal tie. At exactly 12:47 p.m., the last iron spike was driven, finally completing the line. Stanford and Hewes missed the spike, but the single word "done" was nevertheless flashed by telegraph around the country. In the United States, the event has come to be considered one of the first nationwide media events.

"After the ceremony, the Golden Spike was donated to the Stanford Museum (now Cantor Arts Center) in 1898. The last laurel tie was destroyed in the fires caused by the 1906 San Francisco earthquake."

I’m always amazed at how much history is lost to fire. Someday I’m going to do a posting at how many fires that I have been to that have destroyed history.

The Boy Most Likely to ... said...

It is good to see that I am not the only who has a challenge when it comes to blogging about things that are not the Hot Button Topics we find elsewhere. Maybe my new team member, Blah Blah Nyborg, will bring some new energy to my blog.

Eko and Ernie...very few bloggers tell stories like both of you. Please do not stop!


Ernie Branscomb said...

Eko's comment about not having anything to blog about reminded me of when they were talking about closing the patent office because everything had already been invented.

I'm so full of bull that my biggest problem is posting again before the last posting has had a chance to "soak".

Most of my ideas come from comments.

Kym said...

I can still see the cool pair of waffle stompers I got just like Fedessa Thomas. Whew, I was in awe of my own coolness!

Eel River Ernie said...

Just catching up on things (again) after spending three days in the Mattole Valley in pursuit of the wily winter steelhead. We actually hooked several and I managed to get one to shallow water for a “photo op.”

Another great post Ernie! I too failed “Enlgish” in high school and was finally relegated to accepting a “D” if I would just keep my mouth shut and “not disturb the serious students.” I had to go to work after high school and didn’t really get much of an education mainly because I was such a goof-off.

I too admire “educated” folks for having been able to accomplish that goal. Although I admit to being somewhat intimidated I still don’t mind weaving a tale or two for my similarly and more educated brethren because many of my experiences and adventures tend to peak responses like “you did what?”

One quick story… I have always loved “malapropisms” and use them occasionally in casual conversations. One afternoon at a Rotary meeting I was sitting with a group of members which included the high school principal and the subject of using one’s right hand and left hand to do certain tasks came up at the table and I piped up and said “oh yeah, I’m pretty ambivalent too!” After the laughter died down the “teacher” proceeded to tell me, with a straight face and in a serious tone, that no, the word is “ambidextrous” which means…

Ernie Branscomb said...

I’ve always been amazed that the people that correct you are usually one-dimension people that have done little else with their lives, but have received a good education.

If they had anything to say, they could do it oh-so-correctly, but most of them have done nothing with their lives but learn to spell. It’s mostly true of younger people that are still being steeped in education, and most grow out of it, but not all. I have listened to many great stories only to have the mood ruined by a “Correction”.

I’ve never been able to figure where the motivation to Correct people came from. First, they must know what was meant, or they couldn’t correct you. Second, it might be jealousy. Third, they might be trying to show off their education. Fourth, they might just have a mean streak and be trying to spoil other people fun. But, it seldom seems like they are trying to help the speaker better themselves.

Ernie, you would have loved Norm Crosby, the king of malapropism. Alaxander Haige was my personal favorite. He would just make up words as he went along, strangely the words that he made up and used made perfect sense, but people would go on endlessly about how he was using the wrong words. It was a great source of amusement to me.

Ernie Branscomb said...

Before anyone corrects me I meant "Alaxander Haig", but then, you knew that didn't you.....

Ernie Branscomb said...

Ernie, I'm ambiguous too, equally bad with both hands.

Anonymous said...

Great, now there are two of us! - ERE

EkoVox said...

Well, if you should know, I'm quadridexturous. Able to use both my hands and my feet.

Ernie Branscomb said...

Well, I’m litteradexterious; I can use both my feet, my hands, and my tale.

Eel River Ernie said...

I knew it! I knew it! The two of you had to be dexterously related somehow. Wow, one of youse is a “quadri” and one of youse is a “littera,” better hope that one of them “enviros” doesn’t find out. - ERE

robin shelley said...

I understand about the "feelings", Ernie, but I don't think that ability makes you a hippie or anything else you're not. If you think about it, most stories are about "feelings" & we humans have a vast array of emotions to play to. If you can't "feel" it, how can you "tell" it? Actors do it when they're preparing for roles, too, but some people really do not have the ability to put themselves in someone else's shoes. Hard to imagine, isn't it?
I know what you mean about historians, too. Some of them are little more than transcriptionists.
I worked for the Laytonville paper for many years in all capacities. Have some great stories of my own to tell about that. Don't worry about spelling, punctuation & grammar... that's what editors are for!
I do remember Johnny's cattle drives - there were at least two - & can probably dig up an old story about it. They drove from Johnny's ranch at Island Mountain to Laytonville. But I've never heard anything about the Mendocino to Nevada drive Kym asks about.

Ernie Branscomb said...

Kym, sorry to drop this on you here, but I just got around to it.

You asked me about the cattle drive to Nevada. I asked my Mother and she said that she had not heard of it, but it must have been to feed the soldiers during the Civil War. I'd not thought of that.

Mom said when she was a kid '27-'33, that she remembers her father driving the cattle from the El Rancho Primero (Laytonville) to Longvale to ship the cattle on the railroad. ???