Wednesday, December 29, 2010

A Long Overdue Explanation.

In a comment on my post about "Those Confusing Newcomers."
Charlie Two Crows asked:

“E...... You threw the paint on the canvas. We want to know the inspiration for the painting! So far you haven't explained your true feelings for whipping the dog this long!”

Or should I say Charlie threw down the gauntlet. Put-up or shut-up. There are a few posters on this blog that I can tell spend a lot of thinking about things. They read the whole story and really think about it. Charlie Two Crows is one of them, there are many others that come to mind, who give things a lot of thought, but this is a reply to Charlie.

If this blog is about anything... it is about change. I first started posting this blog with the hopes that I would learn to write. I wanted to make my writing easy to read, easy to understand, and still keep my message clear. Quite obviously, I have failed miserably. I started writing because I wanted to tell the story of the South Fork of the Eel Valley that fits between the early settler period, and the early seventies, when the massive culture changing influx of people moved into this canyon. I viewed that in-between period as the South Fork’s Dark Ages. Not much is known about the dark ages, because not much was recorded about them. We knew who the early settlers were, because they are in the history books. We know the history of the back-to-the-landers, because, for the most part, that is the present culture. What is maybe not understood is, many, many people left this area following the influx of the new people. The culture change was dramatic. It seems to me that people would be interested in that change. More later...

I was raised, indeed, steeped in stories about the early pioneer days. Most of the stories were tales of great heroism about the early settlers that moved out here from somewhere back east. They fought through the Indians on their way to California. They tried their hand at gold mining, failed, or caught one of the life threatening diseases that were rampant in the gold fields. Going back east was not an option! They gave up mining, and moved on to find “their land”, to build a farm similar to old McDonald’s farm, where they had pigs, ducks, chickens, and the rest of the menagerie. They grew big gardens and hunted wild game. They made their own lumber and built their own cabins. They were the Back-to-the-Landers of the 1850s. They were determined to survive no-matter-what. The early settlers fell prey to the native Indian people, and, the all-powerful cattle or lumber barons as well. A settler didn't dare cross one of the local barons, because he would almost definitely end up dead, or run out of the country. Indian depredations were met with a bullet. They didn't care the reason that the Indian person was eating their cow, the settler needed the cow to survive. They didn't have a 7-11 on the corner for a back-up. Those were the surface stories that I was raised with.

Along came the 1960s. A time of great civil consciousness. The children of the late fifties and early sixties set about to right all civil wrongs, I was one of them. Even though many of us in the South Fork of the Eel River had never met a black man, let alone knew one, we were convinced that they had been picked on unfairly, which in most cases, indeed they had been. It was with great joy, and a deep sense of purpose, that we set out to free the black man from discrimination.

Some of the children of the sixties started pointing out how unfairly that the American Indians were treated. As true of any label, a label becomes offensive. I asked a few of my Indian friends what they called themselves. Upon inquiring, most gave some version of; "I was born an Indian, raised and Indian, we call ourselves Indian people. So, I guess that you should call us Indians". The best answer that I got was from a person that is highly revered in the Wailaki tribe. He said, loosely quoted: "The native language and culture is mostly gone, what knowledge that is remaining doesn't define the local natives. I guess if you wanted to label the people that live here, it would be 'Indigenous Person'. Why do you ask White-eye?"

Along about the sixties, the local people had to suffer the wrath of the people without local history, because we were the descendants of "Indian Killers". Our ancestors were labeled as thugs and killers, rapist, kidnappers, and murders. You can only imagine what that did to my newly acquired "civil rights mind". I started trying to find the truth about what really happened. In a lot of cases I found that the stories were indeed true! So, I checked my family to see what they might have done. I checked most of my immediate family, back a few generations, and found that they were some of the "good people" that did what ever they could to protect the Indian people. I fell back into that group of people that were pro-civil-rights. (I still am very pro civil rights) But, something didn't quite settle with me. I checked ALL the branches of my family... and found that many had been killed by Indians, and my family in turn had killed many Indians.

Jack Farley, who lived in Laytonville's Long Valley, claimed that a white mans life was worth 20 Indians. He had a string of Indian scalps to prove his philosophy. Near the end of his life, "Uncle Jack", as he was known, was asked to what he attributed his long life. He proudly proclaimed that it was the friendship and care from the local Indians that keep him alive. He used the medicines that they provided for him, and accepted their care. Today's culture would not understand why the Indian people would care for such a man, who by today's standards would have been considered to be a "murderer". It was "Spyrock", another person with both white and Indian heritage that made the best guess as to why Uncle Jack would be so cared for by the Indian People. He proposed the idea that they respected him as a "Great Warrior". It made me realize that I might have been looking too closely to see that might be correct.

I have long realized that we do not have the knowledge, or the understanding, to make broad and sweeping judgements about the early people that occupied this valley. However, people that have recently moved here, or have recently become aware of what happened to the Indian people, have absolutely no hesitation to pronounce that the early settlers were evil, greedy, or pathological. I've been a student of this valley, and the people that live here, long enough to at least suspect that was not the case. I have often suggested that they were doing what they thought that they needed to do to survive. One of the survival tools of those days was to project a tough-as-nails attitude, that included doing anything that they needed to do to maintain that image, that might include killing people.

The local Indians were known to provoke fights fights amongst adjoining tribes, for no better reason than to prove their bravery in battle. Most people today would not understand the Indian culture's need to prove their bravery, but I've heard many stories about Indian bravery in battle that just don't make good healthy sense.

The culture change that the whites brought the local Indians was dramatic. The whites killed most of the stubborn old Indians that didn't want to adopt the white man's ways. They killed the Indian because the Indian  people yearned for the canyon to renew to to a time that had no more white men. Many of their prayer ceremonies were about praying for the white man to be gone. The Ghost Dance that the local people did was to pray for the white man to go away. The white man saw this dance as a "War Dance". One of the last Indian massacres was at Wounded Knee Arizona in 1890. It was because the Indians were dancing the Ghost Dance, praying for the white man to go away. They were killed for their prayers. The Indian People were not respected when they asked the white man to free them to live the Indian way of life in the hills. It was simpler to just kill them, I guess.

The influx of the back-to-the-landers, in the late 60s and early 70s, was much the same as the influx of the white man in the 1850s. I’ve said that before, and have been met with the same indignant opposition that I always get when I try to discuss the culture shock that came with the new people. The comment has often been: “There was a big difference, the people that moved here in the 1970s didn’t kill everybody that got in our path like the white man of the 1850s did!” The other “big difference”, that most of "the indignant" fail to recognize is: The local people of the 1970s didn’t kill the new people either.

The Indians that didn’t want to leave their ways behind, and stop going-on about the life that they lost, were simply killed or made “to get over it” by putting them on reservations. Their children were put in schools and told to forget about their Indian ways, to leave the Indian culture behind, and adopt the white man ways. They were trained that they were much better off now.

The white man knew little, and cared less, about the Indian culture. The Indians were trained to “get over it”. I see much the same with SOME of the new people that moved here. Some didn’t really give a damn about the people that lived here. They changed the names of our plants and places. They roundly condemned everything that we thought was important. They thought that we were foolish, and said so.

Some of the people that moved here were “good people“, same as some of the whites that came to California in the 1850s. Some of the back-to-the-landers joined fire departments. They built schools, health care facilities, parks, and community meeting places. They joined service clubs and they honored the local people. They even recorded some of the old-timers history. Most of the people that moved here were “good people”. By FAR the most of them were. But, they displaced the local culture with their own culture. The people that didn’t like that were told to “get over it”. Most of the people that weren’t about to “get over it” moved away. Sold out and left. It was easy for some because they saw an opportunity to sell their land to the newcomers and get out. Good-bye.

Some of the newcomers that moved in, I’d say about the standard  10%, came with their carpet bags in hand, ready to cash in on the big local crop that was valuable because it is illegal. They didn’t give a damn about the law, the local culture, or even the other new people that had moved here. They are still with us.

Some of the good people that moved up here, cared about, and cared for, our precious canyon and the environment. They grew a small amount of marijuana to pay for their land and care for their families. They recognized the medicinal value of the herb and promoted it as medicine. But they didn’t destroy the land.

Others pack tons of fertilizers into the hills, and stream off all of the water to their plants. The river has become so dry and polluted with fertilizers that it kills animals that try to drink from some of the backwaters. The indoor grows leak diesel and crankcase oil into the ground and creeks. I can’t believe that the good people, in any way approve of those methods.

Some of us have an attachment to the canyon that we live in, and an attachment to most of the people that live here.  Some of us had already been building schools and hospitals and parks, and belonging to service organizations. Some of us had a big personal investment in our community. Some of us didn’t want to leave.

So, when I yearn for the old days and the old ways. It’s just my harmless little “Ghost Dance” that doesn’t really hurt anybody. Some would say that the Indian people are far better of now than they were before the white man “gave” them everything. Some of those good Indian people might argue with that idea. Some would say that I’m a lot better of now that the Back-to-the-Landers gave me everything. Well….

I think that people like Charlie Two crows and Spyrock may understand my feeling of loss, but I know that not many of the people that moved in here would understand, because not many of them knew what was here before. The only thing that I would ask them to do is to look around you, and look at some of the bad that has happened, along with some of the good. So-Hum is not all roses, albeit we have some damn fine people that live here. Some are just a little more sensitive than others, but I intend to keep writing about the changes that I see. If the changes that I see don't really apply to you, don't take it personal. And, if they do apply to you, don't take it personal.

Monday, December 27, 2010

Those Confusing Newcomers!

First, as you have heard me say before, there were numerous different kinds of newcomers that came to what is now known euphemistically as the “Emerald Triangle”.

The very first newcomers seemed to be hard core drug addicts that they had chased out of the cities. They came to Humboldt County because we paid larger welfare allotments. There were quite a few old tumble down mill-shacks left over from the declining lumber industry. The newcomers figured that if nobody was living in them that they must be a free place to live. They figured that if they didn’t squat in them that somebody else would. The locals started “cleaning up” the old mill-camps by bulldozing or burning the abandoned houses.

The next wave of newcomers were trust-fund babies and back-to-the-landers. They were a little more sophisticated than the drug addicted trash that were the predominant part of the fist wave. This second wave of people were people with means and education. They either had the wealth or knew how to parley themselves a piece of land. Some of the poorer folk fell prey to the land speculators that were willing to take their money. The speculators would sell them land with a large balloon payment at the end of the year. The second wave of newcomers sold “Humboldt Homegrown” to their friends back in the city. Some were even able to pay for “their land”.

They always referred to “their land” as just that, “their land”. They never called it “home”, or anything other than “Their land”. The first thing that they did is put up NO-Trespassing signs. They jealously guarded their borders like they thought that they owned a small country or something. You could no longer take a hike in the woods. Woe be unto him that stepped of a newcomers “Land”. That trend became noticeable to the children of the area. The children were used to being able to hike to the top of Pratt Mountain, or scale Bear Buttes. It was kinda’ thought of as free range around here for the kids. Often the kids would run across somebody on a horse out riding the range and checking on the sheep or the cattle. The kids would always wave and say hello, or brag about their latest quest. The admonishment from the riders was always “take care of yourself and don’t get hurt.” Otherwise it was understood that you should just have fun.

The biggest thing that was different about the newcomers, that I have only been able to recently put my finger on, is that they didn’t seem to have standards! When I was growing up, everybody knew what their favorite pick-up truck was. It was either a Ford or a Chevy. Some of the outsiders that showed up in the late fifties and early sixties drove “Corn-Binders" as they called the International Harvester trunks. They are simply called International trucks now. But, back then, most people referred to them with a certain amount of disdain. They were called “flat-Lander Trucks” or “Okie Trucks”.

There were other trucks, like Studebaker or Dodge. It always seemed like the people that owned them were trying to put on airs. They were always trying to justify why they thought that they were better, or cheaper, than a Ford or a Chey.  Those people with high standards knew that there were really only two trucks, Ford and Chevy. But, Corn-Binders were a laughable truck for the logging roads back then. Everybody knew that a person needed to make a good run at at few of the logging road hills. Or make a run at a mudhole to get accross. Corn-binder were as heavy as a lump of lead, they always got stuck in the mud or they never seemed to get over the top of the hill. Maybe it was just the flatlanders drivers, nobody knows, because no self-respecting logger would drive one.

There didn’t seem to be much difference between the two trucks. The best part about owning a ford was being able to make fun of the people that owned Cheys, and visa-versa. The bragging and ridicule was discussed to great length in the local beer bars. Sometimes the discussions ended up outside, rolling and fighting in the dust or the mud, depending on the season.

When the wave of newcomers came to town in the late sixties and early seventies, they didn’t drive Fords or Chevys. Most of them drove old beat-up and gaily painted Volkswagen's, or some other foreign made, non-patriotic vehicle. My God, NO standards what-so-ever! Can you image the shock of the people that were used to actually fighting each other over what was the best truck???

Then we had our favorite beer, depending on which canyon you lived in. In our particular, South Fork of the Eel canyon, you drank Lucky Lager or Olympia, Nicknamed lovingly as “Lucky” or “Oly”. The same disputes rose out of which was the best beer. Sometimes it was back outside in the dust and mud again. As was the custom of the time, the winner of the fight would graciously buy the loser a “good beer” always the winners favorite brand.

Then of course, being good people of high standards, the local men were very proud of their work. They were either a logger, or they were mill men. With the usual settling of the argument of superiority in the dust or mud outside. It was considered an insult to not ask somebody what they did for a living, they were quite proud of being a millworker or a logger. It was acceptable to work in a grocery store of a gas station, not everybody could qualify to be a real man and work in the lumber industry. Strangely, the newcomers that moved into this country, that were able to get lumber jobs, were readily accepted. As a newcomer you knew that you were accepted, because of the endless ribbing about being a Newcomer, it never stopped. Some are still confused though, the newcomers never seemed to try to understand the locals. They just looked at us with incredulity on their faces. They never really tried to understand US!

What you did in the mill counted for brownie points in the pecking order. The top of the pecking order would be the sawfilers, then the millwrights, then the lumber graders, then the sawyer, the edgerman, the planer men, the planer-chain pullers, then the green-chain pullers. Then if anybody disagreed with that order, it could always be settled in the dust or the mud, but the winner always had to buy the beer. Sometimes the loser would think that he won and try to buy the beer, that always ended up back outside again until it became very clear who got to buy the beer.

The woods was much the same, it always seemed to follow the progression of things, the top of the pecking order was the fallers or choppers, the newcomers called them “timber fellers”. That caused no end of belly laughter, after a hundred or so years of being “choppers” or “fallers” the newcomers re-named them "fellers". In the local language a “feller” was somebody that just showed up and didn’t know what kind of a man he was yet. Then on down the pecking order was the Catskinners, the truckers and the choker setters. The bottom of the heap was the swampers, or knot bumpers.

The Choppers always had their favorite saw. Back in the fifties and sixties it was a Homelite or a McCullogh. If you owned any other kind of  saw, nobody would hire you, because it was VERY clear that you didn’t know what you were doing. The “best brand of saw” was most often determined in the dust or the mud. The only difference that I could ever see was a McCullogh cut faster, if you could get it started. A Homelite was easy to start and dependable, it just cut a little slower. At the end of the week the choppers would cut about the same amount of timer. But, they would still argue about who's brand was the best.

The newcomers never really caught on to how things were supposed to be around here. They thought that we were just supposed to blindly accept them. You have got to be kidding! We didn’t even accepted ourselves!

Friday, December 24, 2010

1964 flood revisited.

46 years ago we were in the midst of a great flood, the likes of which has never been seen before or seen since.
I did a post about it before, here is a link for you if you want to take a trip down memory lane, or if you are new to the north coast, some information to bring you up to speed.

I believe that KMUD news is going to do a broadcast about the flood tonight at 6:00 pm. Terry from KMUD News interviewed Sid Green and I, I suspect the hardest part of her interview with us was getting us to shut up!

Here is a link to KMUD.ORG after clicking on the link move you cursor over -"Listen" live/archive-. A drop down menu will appear. then just click on which way that you can receive that live streaming broadcast. If you miss it, you can listen on the "Archives" tomorrow.

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Santa takes gift orders from Redway Children

 Last Saturday Dec. 18th 2010. The Redway Fire Department loaded Santa Claus in a chair in the back of the volunteers 1937 American Lafrance fire engine.

We traversed every road in Redway handing out candy canes. It seems that all of the children were good little kids this year, and deserving of presents, or at least that is what they told Santa. Who would lie to Santa?
Santa, Josh and Jordan. The chair belongs to Brian Harper. (wink)

Brian was also elected "Rookie of the year". Though he is no rookie to a can-do attitude, he is recently new to the fire department in the last two years.
We made the "rain hat" the night before when it was blowing a gale outside and raining hard. Saturday the weather cleared to a very light sprinkle. We were actually feeling disappointed, thinking that we might not have needed the "lid", but we had one brisk shower that we danced around in, hollering like little kids, feeling vindicated that, indeed, we needed the cover. We keep Santa warm and dry!

Jaycee Snodgrass did the "Merry X-mas" sign. When we got through building the cover we had a good laugh. We decided that we should give Santa a Jed Clampet Banjo, and play the theme from the Beverley  hillbillies instead of Christmas Carols on the Disc Player.
Fun was had by all and that night we had a Christmas Party at the highly decorated fire hall. We dined on prime rib, prawns, and marinaded chicken breasts. Complete with salads and biscuits. There was a BOWL full of butter on each table. As hard as I tried, I couldn't find a thing to complain about. OH...wait. I did too! they didn't have the salad dressings labeled, but they had  a spoon in each bowl so you could taste each one. At least that's what I assumed the spoons were for. I chose a rather tasty blue cheese dressing.

After dinner we danced to the band "Taxi". They kept us moving pretty good!

Ah.... good times!

Friday, December 17, 2010

Lunar Eclipse

To the people out there that are guided by the moon, like maybe werewolves. December 21st is going to be a big night for you! Not only is the Earth going to eclipse the Moon, it's going to happen on the winter solstice. Not only is the lunar eclipse going to happen on the solstice, the center of the eclipse will happen almost directly over us. So, the moon will be in full eclipse for quite some time. Totality should last 72 minutes.

Winter solstice happens at 3:38 pm Pacific Time. That's when Fall turns to Winter. Fall turning to Winter is a subtle difference for Humboldters. We only have two seasons here, dust and mud, and we have long been in mud season.

An eclipse hasn't happened on the winter solstice in 456 years. As you can guess, it is a very rare event. What's even more rare is that we would see anything in the night sky in December. So, if I were you, I wouldn't ever get out of bed to look.

The eclipse will go into totality at 11:41 pm Monday the 20th and come back out at 12:53 am (pacific time) Tuesday the 21st. The "umbra", or the mid-eclipse is at December 21st 2010 at 12:36 am Pacific time. Early Tuesday morning. I hope that there is no more confusion.


My wife say's that I exaggerate… So. I took pictures! 

I’m one of those people that seems to notice every little bit of minutia about the South Fork Canyon. Two our three years ago I noticed that we had an incredibly good year for acorns and pepperwood nuts. I even gathered a big box full of absolutely huge black oak acorns and made some acorn muffins just for kicks.

Four or five years ago we had a deep soaking spring rain the made the wildflowers better than I’ve ever seen them before. Often when I see an incredibly (to me) unusual occurrence I will point it out to me wife. She seems to never agree with me, but often other people will. Ben also noticed the heavy year for acorns. And, anybody that went down the local ridges noticed the wildflowers.

If there is something unusual with the wind or the rain, the river or the night sky, I will notice it. Sometimes I get annoyed that I’m the only one to notice these things. My wife scolds me for even mentioning it, and accuses me of “always saying that it’s best year for etc. etc. etc….” So I apologize, but this is the best year that I have EVER seen for mushrooms, bar none!

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

One man's hero is another mans pariah

John Lennon, From Wicipedia
I hope that I’ve waited a respectable time away from the anniversary of Lennon’s death to do this post, December 8th, 1980. Don’t get me wrong, I think that Lennon’s death was a great tragedy. It was once said that “any man’s death diminishes me”, that always seems to be true.

Lennon was the quintessential dreamer. There is nothing like dreaming. Nothing like lighting up a fatty and wishing that the whole world was like him. Unfortunately if we all sat around and smoked a doobie and sang, nobody would have been able to afford to buy Lennon’s recordings. Oh well, it takes all kinds to make a world, "drags" and producers. I see Lennon as a person that the rest of the world dragged to the top.

I’m probably a little bit older than most of the members of Lennon’s fan club, so I see him differently. I graduated high school in 1963. When I was growing up we had no drugs in Southern Humboldt, other than the ones that the doctor gave you. The only illegal drugs that we even knew about was used by the Mexican people that worked on the railroad. We just assumed that they couldn’t afford tobacco. Nobody would lower themselves to smoke marijuana as long as they could afford tobacco.

I was in college in San Francisco when the Beatles became popular. They seemed overly pretentious to me. Everything that they did back then would be called “In your face” today. Back then, the adults didn’t like them at all. They were impudent, arrogant, and they wore their hair long like girls. The sight of them made most adults shudder. That was a sure recipe for the kids to adore them. The Beatles were a way to tell the parents: “Screw you, I’m all grown up now, I’ll like who I want", and "the Beatles reflect all that I’m feeling about my parents and the world right now".

To the children of the sixties, the Beatles were the picture of their rebellion. The name “BEAT”les… get it? The “beat” generation and the “beat”nics were the rebellious group in vogue at the time. Of course, they named themselves for some other reason, but all the kids knew that it was really about the BEAT, and the teenage rebellion.

It wasn’t long before the Beatles were openly experimenting with drugs. The song “Sweet Mary” was about Marijuana. The very-sophisticated Beatles claimed that the song was actually about Sweet Mary and had nothing to do with Marijuana. That gave the children of the day one more thing to laugh behind their hands about; how stupid the grown-ups were… Ha, ha, ha. “They think that Sweet Mary is about Marijuana… Ha, ha, ha. But, all the time they knew, or at least suspected, that it really was about Marijuana.

By the time that “Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds” came out, they had the plausible deniability thing down pat. The Beatles must have been laughing uproariously behind closed doors. The more that they denied that the songs had anything to do with drugs, the more the kids knew that the the songs really did, and the more popular the songs became. Every kid joined in denying that “Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds” was about L.S.D. The song was actually about a little girl named “Lucy”. That was often proclaimed, dripping with self-righteous indignation. Ah… but secretly they knew, and parents were easy to fool, because they are dumb.

I learned to drive on the ranch when I was 9 years old. I was driving a water truck watering logging roads when I was 15 years old. Driving was nothing to clown around about on the steep dirt roads in the logging woods. One little mistake and you would most likely die. Needless to say, I took driving very seriously.

I used to race go-carts on a dirt track, My cousin Oregon and I built a water cooled go-cart that had a large outboard motor stripped down to the motor that was tucked neatly behind the drivers seat. It would do 0-80 mph in the same gear. It would literally tear up a dirt track. It would smoke a paved track. The only problem is that we were forced to go fast to get air over the radiator. We got our thrills driving the darn thing. Soon nobody would race us because they didn’t like being humiliated. So, I knew about go-fast racing and skidding around on dirt.

By the time that other kids were just learning to drive, I had all of the danger-danger out of my system, and was only concerned about getting somewhere safely. I didn’t feel the need to test my skills, or experiment on the highway.

I started smoking when I was ten. I got a few lectures from adults about how stupid it was, and if they had one wish it would be that they would NOT be addicted to nicotine. I was unaware of what an addiction was at the time. They assured me that if I kept screwing around with smoking that I would become addicted. I would lose my ability to run, jump, and hike, and all the things that I loved to do. I knew these people well, I trusted them, I believed them, and I quit. I shudder to think what would have happened to me if I had continued to smoke tobacco.

When the other kids started to smoke at thirteen and fourteen, they would invite me to go with them and hide somewhere and smoke cigarettes. I would simply say, “been there done that, have fun”. Smoking always seemed a little childish to me, having quit at ten years old. I always have to chuckle when I see a kid smoking a cigarette, boy does it seem dumb. But, you can’t tell some kids anything… It’s part of their rebellion.

I guess what I'm trying to say is, I might have grown up a little faster that most kids around me. The fact that I stayed very busy in my youth gave me less time to be bored and get into trouble. My perspective may have been different than my peers.

When we were kids growing up, we were told the things that we couldn’t do because we were too young. “Nope can’t do that, you’re too young”. It seemed like we were too young to do anything that adults liked to do. It was the “do as I say and not as I do generation of parents”. As soon as a kid could sneak a can of beer out of the fridge, they would try it. Some kids thought; “wow that was good”. So kids wondered what else parents were keeping for themselves.  Kids were told that they couldn’t drink alcohol because “it was bad for them”. They were told never to have sex out of marriage because they could get syphilis or worse yet get pregnant.

It seemed like everything that the kids of the sixties were told was “bad for them” was great fun. The sixties turned out to be about “Free Love” because kids found out that sex was fun. They soon learned that drinking alcohol was fun. Then they had the Beatles telling them, wink-nod, that smoking marijuana was great fun. Then the Beatles song “Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds” was implying that LSD was also great fun, and their parents told then that it wasn‘t good for them. So making love, smoking marijuana, and dropping acid turned out to be fabulous fun. The best part is was it was rebellion, and in-their-parents-face. The sixties child was free!

Sadly, some of my friends got caught up in the thrill of the sex drugs and rock and roll way too deeply. I have a few friends that went clear off the deep end. They got tangled up in cocaine. they discovered that they were addicted. Most found their way from cocaine to heroin, to come down softer. Some died laying on the floor in their own puke, unconscious and gasping for breath. Somewhere the fun left the sex drugs and rock and roll.

Many of the big time performers of the sixties got way past their ability to cope. Most people can think of many names of the celebrities that they knew that died of drug O.D.’s… The sad finale of the chapter of fun of using drugs that the Beatles glorified.

It just seemed to me that John Lennon never grew up. He never tired of trying to shock people with his drug use or sexual escapades. He sang songs about how screwed up the world was, and how wonderful it would be if everybody could just get stoned like him. He never followed through to tried to imagine what the world would really be like if everybody was stoned.

So when people all join hands, stand in a circle, and sing the praises of John Lennon, forgive me, but I watch with a certain amount of incredulity. I feel like an Indian on Columbus day. I don’t see John Lennon's life work as anything to celebrate.

I’ve seen the aftermath of the thrill of drugs just to damn many times, someone laying in their own vomit is nothing to be happy about. Some live to do it all over again, and some go back to their maker. I wish that there was some way to connect the young person starting to play with drugs to the pathetic shell of a human dying in their own puke. “Imagine” if young people could do that.

I’m sorry about my cynicism. But, I got to see the whole story. From not knowing a thing about drug use, to the finale episode. Many of you, that came in the middle, may have had enough information to know how to use drugs recreationally and not go too far. I know that most people don’t die from drug use, but many do. Those few that die, remind me that I was told that this would be the result of the Beatles glorification of drugs. Even if it is wrong to think that way, I’m reminded of that every time I see the poor people that got beyond their control. I see the dying shell in the puke, and how damn sad it is. Imagine that.

No excuse for stupid people!

I was driving home from Alderpoint yesterday. As will happen with people like me that like to live it the real world, I started thinking about the clueless people that I always seem to run into, or more likely they run into me. I often wonder how some people get through a single day without killing themselves or somebody near them. Some people are so unaware of their surroundings that a mountain lion could be sneaking up on them and they wouldn’t even know it. Can you imagine that? They surely wouldn’t have lived a single day back in the 1860’s. They are fortunate that they live in the here-and-now, where people are obligated to take care of the people around them. People constantly have to remind them: Don’t step in that hole! Watch out for that limb! Don’t trip! Hold onto the rail! Don’t put the batteries in backwards or it will explode! It goes on and on but you get the drift.

About half way up the hill I came upon a county road crew. I saw the flagman with a stop sign in his hand. I edged over to the shoulder of the road to leave room for oncoming traffic. I pulled right up next to him, leaving him room for comfort, but able to communicate. I’ve done plenty of flagging with the fire department, so I was thinking to myself how much he probably appreciated someone that knows what they are doing. I’m comfortable in most situations.

The traffic went through smoothly, because I had left them plenty of room. The flagman turned his sign around to slow. As I start to pull away, the flagman slowed me down, I expected him to thank me for knowing what I was doing, but he said. “Turn your lights on. It’s raining and it’s foggy on top”. I could tell by the look on his face what he was thinking, I have a talent for that. He was thinking: “Idiot, I don’t know how some people make it through a single day without killing themselves or somebody near them.” I thought about explaining that the blank look on my face was because I was deep in thought and I was not really oblivious. It just seemed like he wouldn’t have been interested.

Friday, December 10, 2010

Jury Summons

The court system is certainly laid-back. They treat everything with the knowledge that they can totally screw-up your life if they want to. If they send you a Jury Summons, you MUST respond. They are smug in their knowlege that you are out there doing the best you can to jump through their hoops. Never-mind what else you are doing, it's your duty as an American citizen is to drop everything and drive to Eureka, or what ever courtroom that they summons you to, and do your duty, God Bless America.

Woe be unto him that tries to ignore a summons! How do they continually seem to be able to summons ME? I once got a parking-ticket fine from Santa Barbara. Yes, Santa Barbara! I've never been there in my life, and I don't think that my truck has either. The only thing that was right on the whole ticket was the license number. Even more insulting, the ticket was on a Yougo. I wouldn't be caught dead driving a Yougo. But it was my responsibility to prove that THEY made a BIG mistake, thus taking hours out of my precious time. It probably wouldn't have taken that much of my time, but I had to lecture and embellish in the letter that I wrote them. Being borderline obsessive-compulsive... Oh hell, I'm probably full blown obsessive-compulsive. I maybe wrote too long a letter, but everything seemed to go away. I think that it was my detailed explanation that saved me!

Anyway I'm obviously attention-deficit-syndrome also, because I keep following my anger instead of my subject. I got a jury summons last October. I'm not sure when, because the courts are so important that they don't even have to pay postage, or get a date on the letter stamp cancellation. The summons was to appear for November 09, 2010 at 8:15 AM. I guess they get 15 minutes to make coffee. I responsibly put the summons the middle of my desk to get my attention. That's where I put everything that I need to deal with. Sometimes the pile gets ahead of me and I don't get back to the bottom for a while. I need something like a compost bin that I can turn every now and then. Anyway, the summons got buried until it was too late to reply. I was secretly overjoyed, because I could honestly say "I forgot". The universal slackers reply! Hah! Home Feee!

NOPE! By November 17th I got a computer generated scolding for "failing to appear. One of the reasons that I sometimes wait too long to reply is they never allow you to make-up a good excuse. There IS NO excuse, from me, that will make them happy. They leave a place for my Doctor to say why I won't be there, but I just can't tell them myself! I find that very insulting, like I would LIE to them.

Anyway, they foolishly left me a blank on the scolding letter that read: "REASON FOR FAILURE TO APPEAR" Hah! They finally want to hear from me! Good!

So, I wrote them the following letter:

December 9, 2010

Jury Commissioner
Superior Court of California
County of Humboldt
825 Fifth Street, Room G03
Eureka, California. 95501

Dear Kerri L. Keenan
Court Executive Officer.
Re: 100092292

Things to consider:

1- I am 65 years old. I am unable to retire because I’ve led a rather frivolous, but fun filled life. So, I'm still working for a living.

2- I work as a refrigeration contractor. My wife and I also run a retail store in Garberville. My job allows me a lot of free time, but I have to be available to cover emergency freezer and refrigeration calls. Ice-cream has a habit of melting down in my dalliance. Sometimes, when I have to send a customer to other contractors, to get things repaired, they don’t come back.

3- My wife needs to be out of town once a week, to visit and care for her 96 year old mother. I feel that the store runs better in her absence when I’m close-by. That’s a myth in which she allows me to persist.

4- The retail store has employees, for which I’m able to fill-in when they have their various life emergencies. However, they can’t fill-in for me.

5- I am a volunteer first responder, (fire/medical). It gives me great joy to be part of saving a person’s life. It also gives me joy to be part of a fire-department that often saves a home, or a business from a fire. It gives me less joy when we are only able to save the buildings next door, but some days just don’t go as well as others. Often we don’t have a full crew. I love my community, and it’s people, and I feel very responsible for it.

6a- My wife tells me that I don’t hear very well. I know that is not true. She continually mumbles and expects me to figure out what she is saying. I find that to be annoying. I can hear the news on the TV just fine. Sometimes I miss a few things because she screams at me to turn the TV down, then I have to listen for the next broadcast. And… she wonders why I watch the same thing over and over. Sometimes I take a nap while I’m waiting for the next broadcast.

6b-I see very well without my glasses, as long as the light is very bright. Please pardon the large type, my computer screen gets all fuzzy when I type smaller.

7- I am a prostate cancer survivor. I’m am rather proud of my doctors, because, I am “cured”. I am glad that I’m cured, because, I don’t like sympathy! As you might imagine, nobody has been cured of prostate cancer without a few side effects. Mine are: When nature calls, I stop whatever I’m doing and go the restroom. That’s absolutely no problem at all, as long as nothing is between me and the restroom. I’m in control of my life, and it’s functions. As I say, this is not a problem for me at all, I only involve myself in things that allows me the freedom to be where I need to be when I need to be there.

8- I consider myself to be a good citizen, even though I’ve been told that voting will put me on jury-duty, I vote responsibly, and I follow most of the laws that I agree with.

10- I have often served on juries in my hometown of Garberville. That was back when the country was run by it’s citizens, and not the evil corporations, and bought-out politicians. Back then, we could afford to have our own courthouse. I had a gentleman’s agreement with the local court that I would serve any winter’s day. I was too busy in the summer. Quite often the judge, or his assistant, would call me in, to see if I could qualify to be a juror.

11a- I was a juror a few times, I was even the jury foreman a few times. Most often I had a great deal sympathy for the accused, but we found the person guilty of their crimes. It was with some comfort to know that we were right, according to the laws of the land.

11b-One person, whom everybody knew was guilty, but the lawyers couldn’t thus prove, was turned loose. I would love to tell the story, It’s a great story! But, my time is too valuable to write about it, and I know that your time is too valuable to read about it.

12-You asked me to state the: “Reason for failure to appear”. I don’t really have the time to go into it, and again, neither do you. Besides, I think the 5th amendment tells me that I don’t have to tell you. I could be wrong, I’m not a lawyer. Also, I’m not going to consult with one unless I have to.

13a-I could probably get a note that would get me off jury duty from many of my doctors. I probably really don’t hear that well, but I’m functional. I probably really don’t see that well, but I’m functional. My bathroom habits are inconsistent, but, thank-God, they are not incontinent… yet.

13b-I’m getting more sympathetic in my waning years, and it’s likely that I would just turn some poor person loose that has been harassed and harangued by the legal system. I know that it can be unyieldingly cumbersome at times.

14- (Because, I can’t just stop at 13). -You will probably, wisely, throw this letter in the trash. So I am, wisely, going to save a copy of it. That way, I can just forward this to you on your next query as to why I’m not there. I move slower now, so I find ways to save time.

15- I would probably qualify as a member of a jury-of-their-peers if you have an insanity case. Otherwise, I most respectfully request that you remove me from your jury list.

Ernest Leroy Branscomb
429 Maple Lane
Garberville, California


To any friends that may wish to visit me in jail, I like peanutbutter oatmeal cookies.


Sunday, November 28, 2010

A South Fork Indian

charlie two crows said...
I wonder what it was like to be a native american on the south fork in the 1800's. Charlie two crows.

Charlie Two Crows. First, I want to thank-you for all of the fine contributions that you have made to this blog. Then I will try to answer your question.

I want to say that I am no expert. The things that I know about the Indian people are only things that I can scratch up from my childhood memories. Tales that I’ve heard, that were related by the Indian people to the early whites, and history that has been gleaned by surmising. Some that I have learned through this blog.

The 1800’s were a period of great change for the South Fork of the Eel Indian. The Indians started off as people that had maybe only heard rumors about the white man, to being almost completely exterminated by the white man. The 1800’s completely changed the life of the local Native American.

The early 1800’s had tribes that were not yet exposed to the new world diseases. Their culture was intact and functioning. They hunted, fished, dug roots, picked plants, and gathered nuts and berries. They truly “lived off the land”. They moved about within their tribal spaces, hunting and gathering. In the summer the coastal tribes lived along the seashore. In the winter they lived inland in the coastal valleys, like the South Fork of the Eel River.

As all American Indians were, they were highly spiritual people. They believed that animals were directly connected to the people and the land. Many of their stories related how people and animals could change shapes and become the other person or animal. Many of the stories that I heard as a kid were about “Whiptali”, who was a deer-human. Whiptali was very smart, and very evil. He liked to kill men with his horns if he could. The stories goes that Whiptali didn’t like noise or water. And, the big one… he could be invisible! When Whiptali was after you, the only thing that you could do to ward him off is make a lot of noise or scare him off with water.

My Uncle tells a hunting story about when he was a kid. He and a local Indian kid were hunting deer out near Covelo, My uncle said that he heard all kinds of yelling and screaming. As he watched the Indian kid came running down the hill, making as much noise as he could, yelling and beating the brush with a stick. He ran down the hill and out into the creek. My uncle caught up with him and asked him what was wrong. He proclaimed, “Whiptali is after me!”. My uncle jumped in the creek after him and asked: “Where!!!”

I often thought about my uncle's close association with the Indian kids. When he was growing up he believed a lot of the old Indian Spirit stories, much as other children being raised in any other religion or culture, he adopted the culture of the people he was closely associated with. I viewed the Indian Spirits and the Biblical myths as much the same, something to ponder, and wonder where these stories came from. But, I never really believed in them.

Another Indian Spirit story that my uncle talked about was ChinHaHa. He was a bear/man spirit, and just like all of the other spirits he could be invisible. All of the Newcomers tell me that I have my tales mixed up, and this is entirely possible, but I remember ChinHaHa as being a bear. The newcomers tell me that the spirit ChinHaHa should be “the trickster”, the Coyote. The Bear Spirit was “The Grandfather Spirit”. But, I’m used to being told that I’m wrong, so I will tell it they way I remember it, and you can twist it however you will. ChinHaHa was the one that takes things right out from under your nose while you are using them. Sometimes they disappear forever and sometimes he puts them back. That bear follows me everywhere. He hides my keys, the wrenches that I’m using, and sometimes even takes my glasses. Sometimes he returns them as a bigger joke. He is a very funny bear!

So, the Indian people were very spiritual, before the white man came along to tell them that they were wrong. They put the Indian people in school, taught them the white mans language and religion. The whites even beat the Indian kids that tried to stick to their religion or practice their culture. I think that the way they treated the Indian religion, and language, has a lot to do with why I resent the practice of Christianity. Christianity leaves no room for spirit or wonder, they claim that all of the answers are it their Bible. I don’t see how anyone with a truly open mind could believe totally in the Bible. I really think that any religion would have to include respect and wonder for the world around us, much as the local South Fork Indians did.

As the white man’s diseases came, the Indians died off. Many died of diphtheria and smallpox. The Indians would die from as simple a disease as the flu. So many of the Indians died of white man diseases before they even saw a white man. The Indian tribes were almost decimated from disease. The remaining were killed off when the white man showed up. The first of the whites came for the gold. The rest came for the land and the timber. The Indians tried to fight back, but they never had a chance. Some of the white people protected them. Proof of that is that some Indians remain. That would never be true if someone hadn’t protected them.

The Indians of the South Fork were well known for fighting amongst themselves. There is a “Great Battleground” up on the ridge just north of Bell Springs. There were many legends about Indian battles up there. There were many artifacts that had to do with fighting recovered there, so the legends must be true. As with many stories that I heard as a child, a lot of things went unanswered. I don’t know what they fought about. The best explanation that I got was that “they were bitter enemies, and enemies fight”. What they fought about I can’t began to say, but they fought to the death over what appeared to be a “sport”.

Another battleground was on the Valley in Laytonville. My uncle used to tell a story about a great Indian battle that the Indian people fought. Many people were killed. When one side ran out of arrows they would stand out in the open and dodge the enemy’s arrows until they had enough to shoot back. It sound like great sport and bravery to me. Maybe the fighting was to prove their prowess as a fighter or to prove their bravery. I don’t know. I asked my uncle who won. I got the impression that it really didn’t make any difference who won, it was more about the fact that they fought and proved themselves in battle. He said that if rained they would just go home. “You can’t fight in the rain”.

I’ve heard many stories of the things that the Indian tribes would do to provoke a battle with another tribe of Indians. They would taunt them by killing one of the elders of the tribe that they were trying to pick a fight with, and play with the severed head in front of them. Strangely, as civilized as we think that we are today, we can still see the same sort of things go on. The gangs, drug culture and turf battles today are much the same.

But, of course the white man did show up and ruin everything for the Indian, and much is known about history from that time forward. The thing that still bothers me, is how little we really understand about the motivation of people back then. Jack Farley of Laytonville killed many Indians. It is claimed that he said, “A white man’s life is worth twenty Indians.” He had a string of scalps to prove it. Yet, he was revered and protected by the local Indian tribe. He said, when asked what he credited his long life to, that it was the care from the Indian people, and their medicine that gave him his long life. He killed them, and they treated him like a God! Go figure.

So, such was the life of The South Fork Indian in the 1800's. Do you think that you would have liked to have been to be one???

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Happy Thanksgiving

Better late than never! I've been having trouble with "malware again".

Our good friend Olmanriver sent me some information pointing out the fallacy of the “Thanksgiving” event, and the relationship between the white man and the Indian. I don’t think that he intended for it to be a controversy, so I will not include it here unless he wants to. I found it very interesting. He also wished me a happy Thanksgiving.

I was going to reply to him, but it got so long I thought that I would just put it here as a post!
Happy thanksgiving to you also! Thank-you.

You forget that I know that there are usually many stories that lead away from a historical event. I usually say "at least five". Seldom will we be able to know the real truth of any event.

As to the fairness of the conduct between the Indian and the white guy, I think that I will plead "Human Nature". I don't think that "white guy" and "Indian" had much to do with anything. I sincerely think that what happened was simply human nature applying itself. You need look no further than Northern Ireland fighting England, the Protestants fighting the Catholics, the Muslims fighting the Jews, and the latest; North Korea and South Korea, to find that it is within human nature to be treacherous. Seldom does wars have to do with race… with a few rather remarkable exceptions.

If we refuse to take blame for what happened in the past, it becomes incumbent upon us to conduct ourselves in a civilized manner toward each other today. Therefore I sincerely wish each and everyone a peaceful and joyous thanksgiving in the manner that we have come to accept the day, and be truly thankful for our friends and relationships.


Monday, November 22, 2010

Bullshistory fish stories.

Okay, I’m way too busy for this, but I can’t resist a good fish story. Fish stories and my family go hand in hand. When we were all kids we were raised on lots of fish, deer and wild game. Some of it was even legal. All of these stories have origins before 1935.

Olmarnriver said... (paraphrase)
Ed Downing said the largest salmon he'd heard tell of was a ninety pounder ["caught by an Indian" ] out of Jackson Valley who promptly traded it for a sack of flour.

Oregon said:
Most likely a small sack of flour for a 90 lb. downstreamer.
who promptly traded it...

Then here’s the story I told:
Don't knock downstreamers, That's how we ended up in Garberville.

Seeing as how we are now telling fish stories, the Branscomb’s have a story about my, and Oregon's, great grandfather Ed Branscomb catching a fish in Ten Mile Creek in Laytonville. The creek ran by his house, about a hundred yards away. They used slip point spears to catch fish back then. NO, it wasn't legal, but the creek ran through the family ranch for miles in both directions, so it was hard to tell an old-timer that he couldn't fish in his own creek.

The spear has a barb that is attached to a rope, that barb slips off when stabbed into a fish. Typically you tie the other end of the rope around your wrist, so as you are fumbling to put down the spear shaft on the river bank, the fish doesn't get away.

Grampa saw a big fresh fish so he stabbed it. As he was putting the spear shaft away, the fish came to the end of the rope. They say that the rope came tight so hard and fast that it lifted grampa clear off his feet and into the water. The fish drug him through the pool and out the lower end. My grandfather Roy caught grampa Ed bumping through the riffle, and heading into the next hole.

They say that it took three of them to land it, and that Grampa was lucky that he had someone fishing with him or he might have ended up in the ocean.

The typical ironic ending to the story is that they didn't weight the damn fish, and weight is the first question that anybody asks. They do say that when they cut the head off, it completely fit a peach lug! The guess is about 60 lbs!

I don't know what is wrong with my family, but they never have an ending to their stories. My uncle Ben tells a story about a great Indian battle in the Laytonville valley. When asked who won... (Drumroll) Nobody won, they went home because it rained! Just don't expect big endings from my families history stories.

Then… as a I often do, I fact-checked my facts with my mother. She is a great source of facts about history, but, just like all of us, her memory adds her own twists to things. She is good on the things that were important to her, but crummy on the things that she wasn’t really involved in. I also remember that she traumatized my childhood by pointing out a different rock as “Black Bart Rock” every time we went to Ukiah. Laugh, but ALL the kids in the fifties had outlaw heroes. My was “Black Bart, the Gentleman Bandit, and PO8”. A really cool outlaw, but it frustrated me to no end to not really know which rock that he hid behind! Crap! I did not know where the “REAL black Bart rock was. Woe was me! The good news is that the new freeway took it out. It doesn’t bother me anymore!

Now back to my fact checking… Mom says that she remembers Grampa Roy using both hands to hold up a fish. It came up to his chin, but the tail was laying fully flat on the ground “laid out in front of him”. She said that “the fish was wider than he was”. She said that they did weight it, but the scale only went to 50 pounds and it hit the end with a thud when they tried to weigh it. She doesn’t remember the peach lug story, but she did say that a lug of peaches was much larger then, than now.

She went on to say that the fish might have been caught down by Leggett, but she is not really sure who or where it was caught. She said that she thought that grampa Roy caught the fish and that is was around 1935, he was fishing alone and almost got pulled in. She said that maybe it was two different fish, there were MANY large fish back in the 30's. The good news is that she distinctly remembers the fish.

Like I have often said, every South Fork of the Eel history stories have at least 5 versions.

I should also say that nobody ever tells a Laytonville fish story without invoking the name "Ed Downing" so there you have it. A South Fork of the Eel story with a beginning a middle and an end.

Monday, November 15, 2010

Philosphy kindergarten

I have often wondered why I like the old English authors and philosophers. It finally came to me that it was because they project the wisdom of the past in a language that I can understand. (Understand, with a little struggling.)

When reading things written in Old English, I like to take one line at a time and try to completely understand it, then I read the whole paragraph in place, then I read the whole story in context. That is the only way that I can understand Old English. If I don’t read it that way, I will often scan through it, think of it as gibberish, and move on, often missing valuable understanding.

In the post about “Indigenousity” I referred to the passing of the baton from one group of people to the next. I made reference to how I know that many people have been replaced by a new group. I mentioned the different languages, and where they came from as proof. I also mentioned different artifacts from Clovis being the same as found in a cave in France, more proof that people moved around and supplanted groups of people with their own people.

I gave anecdotal evidence that there were various races of people in America before the Indian people. I don’t see that as good or bad, simply that the indigenous people were replaced untold many times. There is much evidence that this is correct.

As a 5th generation resident of the South Fork of the Eel River, I know the pain of being replaced and supplanted by newcomers. I also know that it is the way of things. One generation of people replace the previous. Or, one kind of people replace the last kind. The last takeover was the Back-To-The-Landers that moved here and displaced, or at least took the place of the logger and rancher. I know that it is the natural way of human nature to do so. I’m not sure that an apology is even necessary, or in order… By either side. Such is life. We move past the things that we can’t change.

Now, what brings me to this philosophy, is that, as often happens when I’m writing, I get the feeling that this has all happened before. Not really a Déjà vu feeling, but more of a “knowing”.

John Doane (1572-1624) was on his death bed and contemplating the order of things. As he pondered his passing, in his need to understand, he came up with the following thoughts. In his writing he said; “any mans death diminishes me”. At my age, I know the truth in that. I have had so many people, that knew so much history, die, and leave me knowing that much of my source of history and knowledge died with that person. The dying takes away knowledge, and diminishes us all.

I have often said “I’m not a historian, but I know where the bodies are buried”. That is my reflection of the history that we have lost in the passing of the good-and-the-bad, the people and the stories. Plus, it has the obvious double-entendre of murder most foul to cover the truth, and hide the evidence. A deliciously deceptive phrase, much in the nature of the Eel River Valley. But “any mans death diminishes me”, as it diminishes us all.

“All mankind is of one author, and is one volume; when one man dies, one chapter is not torn out of the book, but translated into a better language; and every chapter must be so translated…”

Meaning that as painful as one mans passing may be, it is the nature of things to move on, and the old is replaced with the new. The “new” writes it’s own story, and somehow seems to reject the old, much to the agony of the old. However, we accept it, much as our children reject our standards and they form their own, somehow not worse than ours, but different. We turn the page, move forward, and leave the past in history.

“As therefore the bell that rings to a sermon, calls not upon the preacher only, but upon the congregation to come: so this bell calls us all”

The “Bell” calls not ONLY the preacher, but ALL of us... If there is anything that I ever meant this blog to be, is that it is for EVERYONE. I enjoy each and every comment made on this blog, because it adds to our collective consciousness. I don’t delete comments that should be deleted, because I think that It helps people see the world around them, and who lives in it. The thing that I have noticed, is that most everyone seems to “get it” when there is unfairness afoot.

The “Bell” that this blog rings is for everyone! I know myself, and many others, have gained an interest in history, and learned about history far beyond what a group of “non-historians” could have ever gained without it. Sadly, there are people out there with great history stories that don’t comment because they are too embarrassed to comment, or they are afraid that somebody will say they are wrong. That saddens me, because I never allow criticism on language, spelling, or concept on this blog. I will delete criticism of colloquial language instantly. I have seen too many good stories blown away by somebody correcting another’s language. Let me be an inspiration to you! As bad as I am, I still tell stories, and I am often wrong, but I tell the story the way I know it. I think that I’m even getting better because of it. (Not!) You could even start your story with “Here’s a new lie for you to pass on”.

We all gain from this blog, and to paraphrase a friend of mine. “You get out of this blog as much as you put into it. Participate”.

Now read the following Quote from John Doane, and see if it also reminds you of why we need each other:

This is a quotation from John Donne (1572-1631). It appears in Devotions upon emergent occasions and seuerall steps in my sicknes - Meditation XVII, 1624:

"All mankind is of one author, and is one volume; when one man dies, one chapter is not torn out of the book, but translated into a better language; and every chapter must be so translated...As therefore the bell that rings to a sermon, calls not upon the preacher only, but upon the congregation to come: so this bell calls us all: but how much more me, who am brought so near the door by this sickness....No man is an island, entire of itself...any man's death diminishes me, because I am involved in mankind; and therefore never send to know for whom the bell tolls; it tolls for thee."

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Uncle Ben the fisherman.

Photo from Robin Shelley. Clipped from the (Laytonville) Leger.

This is what kind of fish were in the upper South Fork of the Eel River 31 years ago, almost to the day. My uncle Ben loved to fish, and he caught his share. This is not the largest fish he ever caught, but this was a large fish. The Sacramento River Pike Minnow have decimated the salmon. That and the late winter rainfall that we had in the past.

With the heavy and early rains that we have been having the last few years, I expect the salmon runs to come back. The early rains get the salmon up the river and past the sea lions that eat them in the mouth of the river. Good wet years produce abundant salmon.

Now if we could get permission from the fish and game to channel gravel mine the river, and plant willow and other riparian shrubs we could have a healthy river again.

Getting back to my uncle Ben, he was the repository of a great amount of old Laytonville history stories, some were even true!

Friday, November 12, 2010


In the last post, Olmanriver hinted at the fact that the white man might be wrong in his name for the “pepperwood”. The indigenous people that preceded the white man called the tree an “Aantcin.” Also in the last post, Spyrock related a tale about a tribe of white people that lived here before the darker skinned Indian people. The white people were called the Wa-Gas. They “left going north saying that they would return someday.”

What I’m getting at, is that there is so much about history that we don’t know, that it is hard to say, definitively, what anything might be called. Names change as people change. The latest wave of newcomers, "the-back-to-the-landers”, is evidence of what I say. They have their own names for everything. Some brought the names with them, from the place that they departed, and other names they have made up, because they can’t, or won’t, accept the local names. Such is life.

There has been wave, after wave, after wave of “newcomers” on the north coast. Change and conquest has always been a part of the Human Condition. Who’s to say who really belongs here, and who’s to say what things should really be called.

The other day I made the comment to a friend of mine, who came with the first wave of the-back-to-the-landers, that I hoped he didn’t take my banter about the “dratted newcomers” too seriously, that it was just my sense of humor about the situation, and to make it clear that I understood that the times are a changing’, and it was as unstoppable as time or tide. He said that he “fully got the humor” and understood that it was just a sign of my frustration at having to change. So if you are still offended that I curse the Dratted Newcomer… Gotcha!

I know, as most students of history know, that there has been many conquests, and name changes on the north coast. Ray Raphael and Freeman House made note in their book, “Two Peoples, One Place” that there was a tribe of people that lived here before the current Wiyot tribe. The Wiyots claimed that the indigenous people were not a very smart tribe of people. The story goes that they drove them off by dropping poop down the smoke holes of their dwellings. “They got mad and left.” I often wondered where they went.

The fact that the Wiyots didn’t think that the people that came before them were very smart was probably because they didn’t speak the same language. And, they called everything by the wrong names. They probably called the Aantcin tree an Ooohwho tree. Who knows what happened in pre-history. The only thing that we know for sure is what archeology tells us.

The cupuals, little holes chipped in rocks about 2.5 inches around, and 1.5 inches deep, are found all over the world. So, did they come from one common tribe, or is it just a natural instinct to make them?

The Clovis Point, made by knapping chert, obsidian, or flint, is found in Clovis New Mexico. The points are about 13,500 years old. They were used for spear points. The same identical points are found in the Solutre Cave in France. Not only are they similarly made points, but all of the other tools are the same as found in the Solutre Cave in France.

The Athabascan languge that the local Wailaki tribe speaks originates in upper central Canada. So we know that any Athabaskin language speaker is a “newcomer”. Also, at least 36 words are identical to the same words used in the Basque language, from the region north of France. How could that be a coincidence?

Many connections can be made to European ancestry. I feel that it is only fair to warn you that when you start trying to research ancient ancestry, most of the sites that you go to will be white supremacy crap. They are trying to prove that the white man was here first, therefore the Indian people should just go away. I don’t advocate the kind of thinking, in fact I find it highly objectionable. I don’t think that research trying to prove who is right, and who is wrong, is productive. The white people may very well have been first in America, and they were killed and driven off by the Indian people. Remember, the fact that the Indian people weren’t resistant to our diseases, and the fact that we had them seriously outnumbered, and outgunned, is the only reason we were able to take land away from them the last time that the whites showed up. The Indians were very skilled fighters.

The carvings on the rocks in Laytonville are the same as found in England and Ireland. There is much evidence that the American natives came from Europe. The north coast and Inuit tribes probably came from Asia, some say the South Pacific. The rock carvings in central America depict the round head, broad nose, and full lips of the African natives. At any rate, we would be hard pressed to say who belongs here now.
I was born poor and have been completely broke twice in my life. I can fairly say that my wife and I worked for everything that we have, (which isn’t much). It kind of bothers me when people say that this land belongs to the Indian people. The old Indians used to say that nobody owns the land any more than you own your mother or your father. The land is what we came from, and back to which we will go. Ownership is not that important. things whatever you need to... to get your point across.

Tuesday, November 9, 2010


I was over at Eric Kirks blog nosing around, and he has just done another “Food Post”. I've been wanting to tell him that my wife and I had lunch at Patrona's in Ukiah. (Located across the street from the north west corner of the Mendocino courthouse.) It was every bit as good as he and Ed Denson said it was. I had a grilled Ahi Tuna sandwich with aioli sauce and bib lettuce, with a side of spring salad. My wife had something that she said was delicious, I didn’t pay much attention because it was all veggies. The food was outstanding, the service was good, and, compared to Garberville,… swiftly delivered.

But, the thing that popped right out at me was their handcrafted furniture. I noticed immediately that it was pepperwood. Pepperwood is one of the prettiest grained woods that you will ever see. It is a light ginger colored wood with dark brown to charcoal streaks in it. The only problem with pepperwood is that it can never truly be tamed. It can be cured for years, then as soon as it is made into something it warps and curls and almost crawls away. If you try to brace or contain it, it will only crack and end check.

Pepperwood is so truly beautiful that I have always made things out of it with a high gloss, clear finish, to show off the wood. I’ve never tried to make anything large like a table, because I knew that it would only warp. It makes great bowls, jewelry boxes, and any SMALL item that won’t show the warpage.

As soon as I walked in, and recognized the wood, I also recognized the genius of the person that made the tables. Instead of trying to make a perfect, and flat finish, he went with the crude beauty of the wood. The wood appears to still have circular saw-blade cut marks in the wood. He made cross hatch marks across the blade marks so it appears that the back side of the saw blade cross hatched the lumber. It appeared to have been done with a sander rather than a saw blade because the wood ended up smooth, rather than slivered. The cross hatch marks are very subtle, but still highly visible. Then the whole table was sanded to a very smooth finish, lumps bumps warps and all. He oiled it with a light oil that sealed the wood with a light satin sheen. WOW! Why didn’t I think of that? Genius.

The above is a piece of pepperwood that I made a plaque for my wife from. I had such good cooperation from the club members, the year that I was president of Rotary, that I made them all plaques. I believe that most of them probably ended up as firewood, but I still see a few around. I made my wife one just for putting up with me. The wood is deep root-beer colored. The bottom looks to me like a sun and the rays away from it look like fire. The top looks like a brilliant sunset. It is very three dimensional in real life. The photo really doesn’t do it justice. But maybe I’m just prejudiced because I like pepperwood so much. I cut the pepperwood tree for firewood, but it had such beauty that I couldn’t bring myself to simply burn it.

I asked the owner of Patrona's what Kind of wood it was… but of course, I already knew. He said that it “is Pepperwood”. I knew instantly that he was a “Homey”. Only people that were raised on the north coast call it “Pepperwood”. The newcomers call it “Bay, Laurel, Oak, or Myrtlewood”. Cripes folks… The north coast of the United States is the only place in the whole wide world that this stuff grows... called what it has been called by the locals for years! Pepperwood! (It’s even more rare than Redwood) (but don’t let that get out or we will have Idiots trying to have it declared an endangered species.)

I digress… anyway, when he called one of my favorite trees “Pepperwood” I had to fight back the tears. I asked him how he came across the wood. He said that he had cut it for firewood, but couldn't bring himself to burn it… Well now I’m really choking back the tears. I complimented him on his knowledge of north coast timber, and his excellent taste. And, I thanked him for showing me how to let my wood be free and still be beautiful.

I hope this rain lasts long enough to build a butterflied Pepperwood coffee table. I have had the wood curing in my garage for thirty years, now I finally know what to do with it!

Friday, November 5, 2010

Laytonville Middletons and the Arizona Middletons are connected again.

So many of the old family stories keep popping up on this blogsite. When I was a small child, in Laytonville California about 1951, my great Grandmother Laura (Lockhart) Middleton lived on my Grandmother Ruby (Middleton) Branscomb’s ranch in a small house by the highway. Her husband, Lafayette Middleton, had already died. There was a man by the name of Fred Grimes lived in the same house. I often wondered who “Fred Grimes” was. I just assumed that it was one of those questions that little kids weren’t supposed to ask. Now, I began to hear stories about how the Grimes and the Middletons have long history together.

The thing that I remember about Fred grimes, is that he had a cleft pallet and a slightly deformed upper lip. Not so bad as to be a deformation, but enough that it was noticeable. He pronounced his name as “Thread”, which I would repeat, and not be able to understand his frustration. I would pronounce it as carefully as I could, but he would only get more frustrated. My mother had to drag me aside and tell me that, “no matter what he said his name is, just call him Fred, and nothing else.” I thought that must be another one of those things that kids just don’t understand.

I just asked my mother a few minutes ago about Fred, and she told me he had a brother called “Doc” Grimes, he also had a Cleft Pallet. She thinks that one was a “Cicero” and there was another Grimes that didn’t have a cleft pallet. The three brothers lived in Laytonville.

Now, the stories that I am starting to hear about the Middletons and the Grimes are starting to sound like Butch Cassidy and The Sundance Kid. I also understand that there are many old stories about Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid being around Laytonville and especially the Covelo area. However, I'm not making a connection to that history, but just pointing out the "outlaw" similarities here.

From Robert Flowers:
I too have heard the "Lafayette/crazy" family legend, but it refered to family inlaws (outlaws?) Lafayette and Royal (Cicero) Grimes, who robbed the packtrain carrying the Mack Mine payroll at "the Big Rock" at 14 mile Wash on Sunday, August 20, 1882. Unfortunately, they also killed Andy Hall (who was with Powell at the Grand Canyon Expedition) and the only doctor of medicine in Miami, Dr Vail (who had just donated a foot pumped reed Organ to the local church (--ha, he was an organ donar back in 1882!). Lafayette Grimes and Hawley were lynched at gunpoint by an angry mob and hanged from a Sycamore tree growing in the middle of Main Street in Beautiful downtown Globe (at that time Main Street was mostly in an arroyo, and everything tended to wash away every time it rained). It was Cicero Grimes, nicknamed "Royal" who was sentenced to 21 years in the Yuma Territorial prison, but was sent to a Mental Institution in San Francisco after telling the Warden he "heard voices in his head". From San Francisco, he escaped from an unlocked upper story window by sliding down bed sheets tied together (which he obtained while working in the facility laundry). He is said to have made his way to Oregon and rejoined his Family, using the name Lafayette Middleton for the rest of his life, to the possible discredit of the real person of that name. Read story here
Bob Flowers
My mother tells a story about a Middleton, "who she thinks was "Granville", that might have killed somebody and he hid out in the hills of Laytonville. He also pretended that he was crazy. Connection???

Do you suppose that those "dratted Grimes" all changed into "Middletons". (Just more romantic speculation, and wild assumptions)

I know that my Great Grandfather Layfayette Middleton was a varifiable life-long local resident and worked at running a redwood split-stuff camp his whole life. So he must have been the "real Layfayette Middleton." I had never heard about the "Cicero 'Royal' Grimes Layfayette Middleton", but I think that My mother might know more than I do.

Now, onto more Arizona Middleton History,
From Robert A. Flowers:
Enjoyed the Middleton history website, especially since William and Miriam are my GGGgrandparents also.  I own a few acres of horse pasture in Young, Az about 7.5 miles West as the crow flys over Gentry Mesa from the old family cabin at Middleton Mesa on Wilson Creek, a tributary of Canyon Creek & literally bordering the White Mountain Apache Reservation within several hundred feet.  The Middleton cabin site is still accessible today, but exists only as a ruin, having burned in the 1920's.  Its visible ground layout nonetheless conforms to the stories exactly.  The stone fireplace is a work of art, having used no mortar, and the deep hand-dug stone-lined well on the flat by the creek says much about the profitability of the family butter business, as it was paid for by the proceeds of Miriam's butter, dug by miners at full wages.  There is a road to within a quarter mile of the ruins,  which are about 2 miles from the Nail Ranch and 1-1/2 miles from the Flying V (formerly Vosberg).  I have taken photos (film) of the area, which is quite green for Arizona, and I have stood where Uncle Henry (William Henry Middleton) was standing when he was shot by the Apaches. I wish to add that he was later killed during the Pleasant Valley Range War, while he was riding for the Grahams, though the rest of the family indeed did not take sides or talk about it much.  He is buried in the Young community Cemetery between 2 Grahams shot within 30 days of himself, during the most violent month of the feud.  The decayed wood marker was replaced in the 1920's with the present stone tablet paid for by a ladies historical society in Globe, which gives his name as "Harry Midleton", but with correct dates, and he is locally honored every year during "Pioneer days" events.  The Henry in the "middletonfrank" obituary attachment is presumably Frank's brother-in-law, Henry Price, although it probably helped calm the water during the feud by placing "Henry Middleton" out of Arizona Territory altogether.
Despite it never being mentioned in the Range War History, I have always pondered whether the Middleton cattle were at the heart of the Pleasant Valley Range War.  When Stinson's ranch boss John Gilleland drew on the Tewksbury's at the Middleton ranch a year after they sold to Mr. Vosberg (who by then was partnered with Edwin Tewksbury), it is generally agreed Gilleland had just come past the corral, and what he saw was what set him off.  Cowboys are apt to do most anything, seldom have cool heads, and the ranch boss got to be boss by beating every man at the ranch in a fist fight!  Plus he had been drinking from a flask all morning.  The Middletons had driven 50 head of Scottish highland red cows (Devons, the premier milk cow of their day) from San Francisco to Arizona, selling one troublesome young bull to a rancher in San Bernardino, California and arriving with the rest.  They bred reliably, and when the family sold the ranch, the Stinson's, the Grahams, and the Tewksbury's all maintained they owned Scottish reds along with their other cattle.  They probably did, but all Scottish highland reds look pretty much alike, especially when they are all branded with a Middleton brand...  As they say, the rest is history, and tales of over-branding.  For good reason the Middleton's certainly wouldn't be the ones to bring it up..  For a fact, every cow brand in Arizona Territory registered up to the feud could be overbranded on a Stinson, including the "tumbled" Hashknife, newly arrived from Texas!, and for years the opposing factions shot first and asked questions later (and it was a very small valley!)  The postmistress changed that years later, telling everyone that if they expected their mail, they had better wave instead of shoot. (To this day, every car passing by in the opposite direction on the road in Young, Arizona will wave at you as you go by, and we could all learn from that.)
Respectfully Yours
Bob Flowers
Photos By Robert A. Flowers

The Obituary of Frank Middleton:
Frank Middleton
Arizona Silver Belt
May 14, 1896

The distressing news was received by telegram last Saturday
that Frank Middleton had been killed that day, May 9, by a
saw at the saw mill owned and operated by the deceased and
his brohter Henry, at Chiwankum Kittitas County, Wash. 
Particulars of the dreadful accident are expected by letter
written a few days.  The announcement was a severe shock to the
relatives in Globe and Mrs. Miram Middleton, mother of the
deceased, is prostrated with grief.

Frank Middleton was the eldest of nine children, all of whom,
except Henry, reside here. He was 43 years of age.  Frank was
for many years a resident of Globe and was married here to the
eldest daughter of Mr. and Mrs. N.H. Price, who, with four
children, survives him.  The family left Globe in 1883 and
went to Flagstaff where they remained four or five years,
going thence to Washington where they have since resided.

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