Saturday, May 30, 2009

Thoughts of a Generational Native.

I've been thinking a lot lately about how long you have to live here before you are an Old-Timer. I don't know, but here is some of the ways I, and many native people think.

First, I consider myself to be an environmentalist of the first order. I love the trees, and the forests, and all the critters. But, I think of myself as being part of the environment. I believe that; "There is some of the same fitness in a man's building his own house that there is in a bird's building its own nest. … Henry David Thoreau said that. I also believe that I should put back, replace, or make something better for what I took to build my house.

Being one that lives my beliefs, my wife and I built our own house. We didn't built it it the sense that we ran around with a clipboard and a blueprint doing a lot of pointing and directing. We built in the sense that we cut every board and drove every nail. We wired, plumbed and painted it. Janis (my wife) nailed off the whole roofing by herself. I guess that she thinks a lot like me. We have an abundance wild plants and critters around our house, and they seem to thrive. That is one of the most enjoyable things about living here where we live.

What some people may not know, but they will realize that it is true, if they give it a small amount of thought, is that we have more biomass (trees, brush, grass) right now than we have had in recent history. The Indians and Mother Nature used to burn any group of trees standing close enough together to support a fire. The routine fire stripping of the weak and diseased trees and plants was a very healthy method of cleaning the forest. I have to smile a little just thinking about an Indian person trying to take out a modern day burn permit. “Yes ma'am, we only want a permit for a small burn. We only intend to burn from here to the coast.”

In the fall of the year lightning strikes would start numerous fires. There was no attempt to put them out. The fires burned until it rained, or they ran out of fuel. Ray Raphael made reference in his book “Two People, one Place” to the early Spanish explorers being afraid to come ashore, because of all of the fires on land. They said that it looked like “Hell” at night with fires everywhere.

The Indian People were very mobile, and they would outflank or outrun a fire. The new shoots that sprang up after a fire were eaten as food or weaved into baskets. The Indian people thought of fire as part of the Earths renewal. Many legends were told about fire. The legend of the Phoenix Bird becoming old and burning up, then rising, young and renewed out of the ashes, is nothing more than a story about the cleansing nature of fire, and the renewal that happens from it's ashes.

The Indian people honored what they took from nature. When they killed a deer for food, they had a ceremony to honor the deer before they ate it. They gave no thoughts of becoming vegetarians. But, they realized that they had taken something from nature, and they knew that the fires that they started caused the sprouts to grow that the deer ate. That was their way of giving back for what they took. Their fires killed the bugs that ate their acorns. Their fires open up the forest floor and made for healthy trees. Any diseased tree would burn. Trees with healthy bark, and ones that were not crowded, would survive. It's no wonder that they had legends like “The Phoenix”.

The ground on which we stand on the North Coast, is some of the most dynamic land in the world. The Earth keeps heaving and pushing the land up from the old sea floor, and our winter storms form our canyons by eroding and washing away the dirt and rock back into the sea. If you simply open your mind and think about it, you can feel the process happening. I really mean that. I know that I'm not the only one that feels the connectedness to our “Place”. I see it in Kym Kemp's Photography, I know that she feels the North Coast in her very being. One of my good friends, Diana Totton, expressed it better than anyone that I've ever heard. At her Citizen of the Year party, she was taking about what it meant to her to be here on the north coast. One of the things that separates her from many others, is that fact that she knew the feeling of standing on the top of Kings Peak after it had grown 16 inches taller in one of the many earthquakes that happen here. She mentioned her visceral feelings, to be part of, and standing on top of one of fastest growing mountains in the world. I knew that she felt that connectedness that many others miss. The shore line at Petrolia lifted out of the ocean about four feet in that same earthquake.

In our own lifetimes we have seen many changes to the North Coast. The ground at the entrance of the Eel river has raised through the years to the point that ships can no longer travel up th Eel River like they did back in the 1800's. Some day we may have an earthquake strong enough to lift the seashore, or drop the riverbed. We could end up with a new bay. Many Indian legends talk about Humboldt Bay when It was a field of grass. One of the legends say “When the sky rumbles move to low ground. When the ground rumbles move to the high mountains”. So they knew to get away from the lightning, and they knew about Earthquakes and Tidal Waves.
I remember when the Redwood trees were planted in the field south of Scotia. I remember when the young forest of trees where planted at the Mendocino county line, where Rastafarians camp during Reggae weekend. Many, many trees have been planted on the north coast, which is only right and fitting. Loss should always be replaced.

Getting rid of Maxam was a good thing. Selective cutting and sustained yield logging is the only environmentally acceptable method of harvesting trees to build our houses. You can double the production of a redwood forest by clear-cutting it. But clear-cutting is not good for the other plants and critters. We need to pay attention to that. If everybody has to play by the same rules it makes it fair. I have to include China and Canada in those rules of Fair-play. They should be as environmentally sound as we require our lumbermen to be, or we shouldn't allow their products into our country. Period!

I think that a railroad could be built to environmentally safe standards. Those slides that everybody has seen pictures of, were there before the railroad came. They were there while the railroad was here, and they are now busily reclaiming what the land thinks is it's own. If a railroad is built, they should realize that those slides have been sliding since the beginning of time, and they will have to go over, under or around them, because they are not going to stop them. Slides are a natural process of the Eel River system. That's where the Canyons come from. Erosion happens, and it is not caused by roads, logging or ranching, it only makes them more noticeable.

Anything that is taken from the land should be given back. It's only fair.

That's a few of my thoughts, I have more, but I'll stop here for a while. Maybe you have some thoughts yourself. Did you know some of the stuff that I mentioned? Do you agree or disagree?

32 comments:

Anonymous said...

I read the first sentence and I thought to myself I already awnswered the question about what it took to be an old timer. Second generation folks! suzy blah blah is old folk. suzy is not old but she is Humboldt County.
I know suzy is not old because at some time a couple weeks ago Ernie told me he was throwing rocks at some young girl that parked in his place of work.

Oregon

Chris Crawford said...

Jack McKellar was an ornery old coot and I miss him, but he once said to me that he welcomed any new comer to the North Coast as long as they spent some time understanding her history and really getting to know who she is.

It's OK to complain that there is no Trader Joe's here, but only in the context of knowing that there are hard working ranch, dairy and fishing industry workers who deserve it, too. That forestry in the hands of just about anyone except Maxaam is sustainable, responsible and science based. That this is not an either-or argument ... my way or the highway.

The people and industry that make up the North Coast worked hard to get us to where we are and will continue and deserve to thrive.

I have really enjoyed your last few posts Ernie ... well said.

Ernie Branscomb said...

I agree with Jack McKellar. I think the fact that people move up here with college educations makes them think they know everything.

I think that a lot of people would be surprised about many things if they would look into the natural history of the north coast.

Jack Mckellar was a guest speaker at our Rotary Club a few times, Roy Heider would invite him. Roy loved Jack like a brother. Roy hung on every word that Jack said, because he believed in him.

It's hard to argue against the case of environmentalism on the North Coast until you realize that many, if not most of the environmentalists are charlatans. I'm not sure who said it, or how accurate I'm quoting it but I think Indie said “I'll believe they are real protesters when they show up acting serious and ready to participate, not wearing clown suits juggling tennis balls and refusing to negotiate”.

Thank-you for your comments Chris, I consider them real complements.

Anonymous said...

a little off subject and i'm behind times,but is this JACK Mckellar related to KATHY McKELLAR???or do i have last names mixed up???

Ernie Branscomb said...

I don't think that there was any close relation there. Mike McKeller still lives here. If I see him I will ask.

Ben said...

Aaaaaaaaaamen, Ernie!

Anonymous said...

Who was Jack McKellar? He must have been a newcomer because I don't remember him.

Oregon

kymk said...

It doesn't matter to me much whether you're a newcomer or an oldtimer what matters is if you care enough about Humboldt to be involved in taking care of her. And I don't just mean the land, People who work at Hospice or Wish or volunteer at the schools or work for Trees or pick up litter or coach Little League or volunteer for the Fire Dept. --those are the people who make Humboldt better and they've got my respect.

Robin Shelley said...

I don't live in Humboldt Co. & haven't lived there(Somoa, Garberville, Kettenpom) since I was too young to remember but what you say holds true anywhere, Kym. Thank you for saying it so eloquently.

spyrock said...

i think of bud bowman and marvin pinchess as old timers. i think ernies just another youngster like myself. it sounds like ernie is right about cutting a couple of trees so we can have free trade up there in humbolt county. they passed nafda so why not hufda. most of the unsafe trucks on the roads these days are from mexico. but i don't think that dissing people that disagree with you is going to do anything but make them want to chain themselves up to those couple of trees just to show you they can.
i'm all for rebuilding the railroad through the eel all the way from eureka. they did it back in the day, and i rode on that train and its still in my memory as being an unforgetable experience.
so i think ernie is on top of the situation up there. the only thing that confuses me is when willie nelson sings about the sun sinking west of the mendocino county line, isn't that really the pacific ocean. but maybe it was foggy that day or he was so stoned that he thought the western county line was in the east and was really rising instead of setting.

Anonymous said...

MIKE McKELLER!now that rings a bell!!!is that KATHYS brother???

spyrock said...

when ernie was talking about he and his wife building their house themselves in the context of straightening out the road in richardson grove and that only a couple of trees would be cut down, my girl dove has a neighbor named hank who is a trucker and truck mechanic that lives on the road to her house. hank is real tired of some of his neighbors from the north fork of this road stirring up dust on his house as they drive by. he asked some of them to slow down but to no avail. so rather than do anything legal about this easment through his property. he's borrorwed a cat and made a new road away from his house and around the far edge of his property and cut down several trees in the process. he gave dove the logs of one of these trees for firewood this winter and he has a drainpipe under the new road and the only thing left for him to do is put a gate on the road that still goes in front of his house so they then will have to use the new bypass. he did this all at his own expense. of course, this road might erode a bit if it rains a lot next winter. but he's got gravel and it looks like he isn't done yet. he's going to do a good job. so maybe ernie will just take hank's example to heart and go out there in the middle of the night with a cat and take out those two trees before anyone can chain themselves to them and do a little road straightening while he's at it. not that i'm advocating breaking the law. but at his own expense, ernie would be saving the tax payers of california a lot of money and this trucking problem would be solved once and for all. of course, we would all come to visit him in jail and he would be free to devote all his time to this blog.

Anonymous said...

WHERE the heck is ernie going to get a hot-rod D-7 in this day&age,just to push a couple trees down???

Ernie Branscomb said...

"MIKE McKELLER!now that rings a bell!!!is that KATHYS brother???".

Yep.

omr said...

spyrock that is one noble plan to save the environment from more arguing...ernie if you follow spy's plan and end up in jail...watch out for the brownies some folks might be bringing ya...just a warning.

Anonymous said...

May 31. 11:00 PM
What the heck is people up at this time of night for anyways?

I figure Ernie would get a hotrod D-7 from John Vanmeter. That is what Ernie did when he leveled the ground for his new house.


Oregon

Ernie Branscomb said...

Oregon
That’s the only time of day that I get to work on a new post.

I forgot that I leveled my own lot. It was really funny though. Janis had never been on a Cat before, so I had her get on the armrest in the “choker setter chair” as I started to level of the lot, I backed up the hill kinda’ sideways and steep. She was terrified and was getting ready to jump off. After I got through laughing at her, I had to assure her that it was “flat ground for a Cat. I would have loved to see her take a ride on a logging woods Cat.

Anonymous said...

Well dang-it, I have a few more nasty words in my list.
I don't think Ernie ever mentiond he has a sister so I am going to spill the beans. Ernie's sister is smarter than Ernie. I am saying Ernie is my best friend but his mom, sister and wife are smarter.

Oregon

Robin Shelley said...

Ernie, I feel like I owe you an apology. Ever since I said Oregon is nice he seems hell-bent on proving me wrong. Sorry if my compliment sent the guy over the edge - LOL!
Suzy, can you calm him down? By the way, I happen to know he doesn't care much for mushrooms so you might have to wear some lemon meringue pie instead.

Ernie Branscomb said...

Robin, If you read the accounts of the Pioneers, they wanted to seem so tough that nobody would come near them. I think that attitude rubbed of on some of us generational natives.

I laughed my butt off When Suzy said that she would share a mushroom with "Oregon". He won't even set at the same table with somebody that is eating "Fungus". I see that he has been able to convey that message to you too!

Ernie Branscomb said...

Ummm... Double Lemon Pie for me.

Robin Shelley said...

Or bleu cheese!

But he can huff & he can puff but I know he's just a big pile of meringue in a wool plaid shirt! OMR, are you listening? (-:

suzy blah blah said...

he can huff & he can puffAlright!! Suzy likes to huffnpuff.

OMR said...

Robin are you sayin' he uses lemon meringue aftershave? Is that his secret?

OMR said...

or is it the plaid shirt?

Robin Shelley said...

I really wouldn't know, OMR. Maybe it's just that opposites attract. (;

OMR said...

Thank you Robin for answering for the hardworkin' fella. Maybe Penelope Cruz and I were too much alike and that is why our relationship fell apart before it could get started.

Robin Shelley said...

I'm sure it is, OMR. The very same thing happened to me & Robert Redford years ago.

suzy blah blah said...

LOL! after shave?? sheeesh dude you should take a class in how to connect the dots . . . . poor omr, not a clue on how to get from the hammock on his back porch to Suzys front door much less Penny Cruz's, but while yr furrowing yr brow omr, trying to figure out the plad-ness of why and if and how and what and where and when opposites attract... and what might cause the attraction that a bird like Robin had for a red-ford... me and Oregon will be Cruzin into Alaska by way of the E-triangle, laughing and getting baked, LOL! but hey no hard LOL feelings, here's a recipe for something that will at least simulate the sweetness that S and O will be partaking of when we stop over in Juneau. --juneau what i mean...

omr said...

u are the queeen! still laughing....

lucky oregon.

Anonymous said...

omr, just want you to know it's not the aftershave. I just happen to be suzy's biggest fan. Oh yeah, I am very good lookin' to boot.

Oregon

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