Saturday, August 16, 2008

Ernie goes home.

We all gathered at the Harwood Memorial Park, located south-west of town, down by The Little Ten Mile Crick. Yep it’s a crick this weekend. If crick was good enough for my Gramma, it’s good enough for me! We call it “The Little Ten Mile Crick, because the Big Ten Mile Crick is over by Fort Bragg. Some of the old family words pop up, and pretty soon we’re all speaking “Pioneer Laytonvillian”, just like the good old days, before the English Majors showed up to correct us.

The Willits team is wearing green and the Laytonville team is wearing blue. I was horror stuck when I witnessed players wearing their caps during the Presentation of the Colors. I thought, I can’t believe that it has finally come down to this, that they don’t know any better. While under the Presentation of the Colors, the son of Diana Elliot gave a very moving remembrance of his mom, who was a major player in the Harwood Park Association, and after that he sang the Star Spangled Banner. I noticed that all the players took their caps off during the singing, after I got through being thoroughly disgusted by the lack of knowledge about respect to the flag, I remembered to remove my hat. (I hope none of the busybodies noticed)

Annually, we all meet on the third week-end of August, for the Laytonville town team to play the Willits town team. They have a big chicken barbeque developed years ago by the old timers. They built two big pits at least four feet deep, I remember them deeper but my sister say’s that I can’t embellish if I’m talking about something that might be accepted as history. So, I think they are deeper than that, but maybe I remember them as a kid, when I helped my dad Everett, and Eddie Downing make the sauce and swab the chickens, everything was bigger when I was a kid. But, what happens if they are really six feet deep and I report them as four? My sister would probably be upset about that too. So, very accurately they are big deep barbeque pits that are deeper than you would think that they would be. I’m sorta’ glad that my sister stays in Pacifica and leaves this story telling stuff to me.

The rest of the food is done like a big pot luck, everybody brings their favorite dish, and everything is delicious. It’s pretty obvious that they all try to out-do each other. Having a little history with this group of people, you MUST take a little bit of everything, even if it is only a teaspoon full. Every now and then on of the ladies will tip her hand, and she will say something like, “You should take a little bit more of that, it’s delicious”. Then you are required to add just a little bit more and rave about how delicious it looks and smells and make a hasty retreat before the rest of the “girls” can add more of their stuff on your plate. The meal is truly delicious and everybody eats too much.

After the game, when nobody really caught what the score was. We headed back To “Mary’s House”; Mary is my cousin Roys Wife. She can even start a Charcoal Briquette fire, without even a man in sight. Most all of our families are from pioneer stock and things like building fires just come naturally! So, we showed back up to the house (Mary’s House) with fire for the tri-tips already blazing! After we let the coals settle for a few hours, we put the tri-tips on. (Sis, I know that it wasn’t that long, but it’s a lot funnier when I don’t have to explain my jokes!)

I made fried zucchini like has become another tradition at Cousin Mary’s. My cousin Ella and Brad usually brings the Zucchini, but this year there was a rumor of a crop failure. As is normal with our family we started a phone tree to see who could bring Zucchini, We always come through for each other in an emergency. I had heard that my cousin Roy’s mother’s brother’s son would be there, and he had plenty of Zucchini. That problem being solved I decided to marinate a couple of tri-tips just in case somebody extra showed up. My one of my other cousins showed up with some barbequed chicken just in case. My Aunt Roberta made this big chocolate whatchamacallit, complete with whipped cream. She made enough for three family reunions. When the meal was over there was enough food to feed an army, and there was enough zucchini for everybody to take some home. It doesn’t look like any of us will starve for at least a week.

While at the family reunion, I took the opportunity to do a little storyteller housekeeping. My mother criticized me for saying that Ernie Erickson had a pet fox in one of my stories. She said, “He might have, but I don’t remember it”. Both my mother and sister think that they have to remember it, or it probably didn’t happen. So, I asked my aunt Roberta, if her dad Ernie Erickson had a pet fox. Her answer, and I gloriously quote (As near as I can remember). She said, Quote: “Oh heavens yes, he had a pet fox and I helped raise it!” The exclamation mark was hers! I then asked if the Fox had the run of the house. Her answer was: “Gosh yes, my dad wouldn’t have it any other way. He loved that little fox like it was his kid” I sensed a bit of wistfulness in her voice that caused me to wonder if she was jealous of the fox or just missed the cute little critter. Then I said “I heard a story about the fox having an outside cage”, and she said that was true, her dad would put him in the cage while he was gone or wanted him out of the house for some reason. The fox was allowed to run loose sometimes and one time he took off. They speculated about what might have happened to him, and every critter that was run over on the road was checked. After about two months the fox came trotting up the driveway A happy reunion ensued. There was a story that was the only time that anyone saw the tough old guy cry. God I love reunions, sometimes I get to prove that not all my stories are wrong!

Just as a side note: I found out that Black Bart Rock moved again. I asked a friend of mine that was raised in The Ridgwood area one time, he said that he knew of four or five different “Black Bart rocks”, and he laughed about it, and he said that he was not sure exactly where Bart held up stages, but it was done in more than one location, so it’s possible that everybody’s right about where Black Bart Rock is. So, I have to concede this battle to Mom. But, I do wish that she would stop moving the rock on me.

More reunion stories to follow,,,, I’m going to bed!!!


Jim Baker said...

Re: Black Bart Rock - A good little book recording Black Bart's various robberies from Siskiyou to Tulare Counties is titled "Black Bart" by George Hoeper, 1995. As a kid, we always pestered our parents to stop at Black Bart rock, (along with the "Snake Pit" near Confusion Hill) on the way to "the City" every three years to buy a new car on Van Ness Avenue and buy another batch of those little turtles with the American flags painted on their backs at Fisherman's Wharf. The turtles would invariably get lost under the couch or in the dirty clothes bag and die an ignominious death of one kind or another before the next trip rolled around. Our parents always had some kind of excuse not to stop at the snake pit or take a detour on the old highway to see Black Bart Rock, which they remembered seeing on their trips to the the City on the old road when they were kids. A few years ago, I determined to see the rock before I kicked off without completing at least one childhood desire, so I purchased the above referenced book, and stopped at the Mendocino County Historical Society to do some research. Here's what I found: On the afternoon of October 2, 1878, Black Bart stopped the Arcata to Ukiah stage at a spot about 10 miles north of Ukiah on Forsyth Creek - specifically between the confluence of mill creek and Forsythe Creek on the south and Wool Rock on the North. He was hidden behind a large rock "about the size of an automobile" according to old oral testimony from the Historical Society, on the east side of the road. It was apparently not bedrock, since the testimony of one "oldtimer" stated that it had toppled onto the old roadbed sometime after the freeway was completed. My brother was a geologist working for CalTrans when some additional work was done in the area in the 90's. He told me that CalTrans had to locate the rock during the EIR process. It was located within the area of fill necessary to perform the work, and was covered by the fill during the course of the work. Nevertheless, I hiked the old road north from it's intersection with the freeway south of Wool Rock, just to see for myself, and it looked like my brother was right. Bart only got a gold watch and $40 from the express box. The next day he held up the Covelo-Ukiah stage near Centerville on the Potterville valley road and the Sheriff tracked him 60 miles (Bart was on foot) east, only giving up when the trail petered out near Williams. Anyway, that satisfied my curiousity about Black Bart Rock for the time being. I'm anxious to here your Mom's version of it's location.

Ernie Branscomb said...


Have you been reading "Spyrocks" Comments?

If I'm forced to be honest, that is pretty much her recollection of the location of the "Black Bart Rock". I only tease her about the location, and I have been careful not to mention any of the places that I thought, or have heard, that it might be. I really don't want to pass on any bad history. But, I’ll let her speak for herself if she will. She is gone until the middle of next week. Put when she returns I'm sure that she will be filled with glee that your description and hers are pretty much the same. Mom wins this one!

Ernie Branscomb said...

As a side note, I talked to a lady that knows where there are more rocks with Indian Writing on them and she has found quite a collection of arrowheads on her ranch.

I might do a post on "Snake Pit" sometime.

ben said...

Well Ernie, Part of my "bullshistory" is that I tell folks the big rock at Ridgewood Summit is Black Bart Rock. I have no excuse except that we need a rock to point to not something buried under the freeway like the soda spring at Long Valley Creek. I have the little book on Bart and it is good. In "Last of the West", Frank Azbill says that Bart was a guest at the Azbill place at Summit Valley and ate dinner with a lawman who was on his trail. With Azbill, you never know if it's the truth, but it's a good story. So that's my excuse and it's a great looking rock and not some dinky thing the size of an auto.

ben said...

Jim... do you remember the way those turtles smelled. Amazing our folks let us buy them.

Anonymous said...

Geez, how did I wind up here?? I was googling “Tre Cool” to see whether he lived in Willits or Laytonville after his dad was done flying choppers in ‘Nam. Somehow I wound up here. I read some of these postings. Looks like a message board for geezers. So you probably don’t know that Tre Cool is the drummer for Green Day. (“Who?”) His dad’s name is Frank Wright, in case anyone from Laytonville or Willits who isn’t senile might recall. Did some of your members carve the Spy Rock petroglyphs? I’m into rock, not rock art. Tre Cool’s best song is called “Like a Rat Does Cheese”. Guess what that’s about? Good luck with this message board of yours. With all the killer weed up there, it could be better.

Ernie Branscomb said...

Geezer board???

We knew Frank LLOYD Wright.

Some of us here have our OWN band, and don't have to beat anybody else's drums.

Yes some of our ancestors did carve the Spyrock, petroglyphs. The Indian ones.

We are into, both, Rock and Rock & Roll.

We’ve found better things to “do” than cheese.

If I ever run across “TRE Cools” dad, I’d like to buy him a beer. A living Vietnam chopper pilot is a rare person indeed, and he has all of my respect that I can muster.

Yes we do have “Killer Weed” in every sense of the word.

Anonymous? You ain’t from around here. We all have names.

Robin Shelley said...

Yeah, well, "Tre's" name is Frank, too, ya little sh--!!! And, YES, I do know who he (& Green Day!) is.
Do you know who Larry Livermore is?

USelaine said...

Ernie, you rock. You soooo rock.

spyrock said...

Re: Geezers,
Hi honeypunk. Your West German
is four years shy of geezerhood himself. It's great that you can enjoy the same 3 chords played over and over but if you are smoking railroad that's probably all the music you can remember anyway. The question is how did 3 kools lose his left testicle? A rat thought it was cheese? If you are a true fan, you should know.
Real rock n roll was invented in the fifties, then in the 60's they called it pychedelic rock and when all their acid babies grew up they played punk rock. your kids will probably chant om and look like eckhart tolle.

spyrock said...

I'm an old drummer myself. I didn't play like old 3 kools though. Everything I played was spontaneous, like one long drum solo that never ended. But he's good at keeping a beat which is what a band drummer is supposed to do. Just like my friend Greg Elmore, the drummer for Quicksilver Messenger Service. Greg could always keep a beat and was good at being in the background. We used to jam with Lee Michaels when I was a Freshman back in 61. Lee was a prodigy and could play everything but drums. That's why it was only him and Frosty most of the time. I saw him play at 9 years of age in the garage he and his mom called home, The piano occupied most of the space. Lee only lived a 1/2 block away. He was the original garage band musician. My 97 year old dad invented the word honeypunk for use whenever he was talking to someone like you.

Anonymous said...

Just how many years do you have to have under your belt to qualify as a geezer? I've seen people at 50 that were much older than some I have known at 70.


Robin Shelley said...

Don't worry... you qualify, Jimmy Oregon!

Anonymous said...

Robin, thank you. I feel much better now.


Robin Shelley said...

Up & posting at 3:45 A.M, Jimmy O?!! Old people's hours! Pffft.

Anonymous said...

Robin, I'm up at that time every day. I always give people a bad time that start work at 8 or 9 am as working the swing shift. However they also get off work about the same time as me.