Sunday, July 11, 2010

Nothing says "Home" like tar weed...

Olmanriver, my most favorite Long Valley history researcher, just made a comment on an old post that I did about Tar Weed and other aromatic plants. He found and transcribed the poem so we can all enjoy it. I have never seen the poem before, but it rings so true to Laytonville and the Long Valley that it tugs at my heartstrings and brings back that far away feeling of being back home in Laytonville again.
This is what he placed in the comments:
olmanriver said...

"I am still not sure about which plant is tarweed. Maybe a local poet can help us with our tarweed identification...

Margaret S. Cobb Smith was a poet and painter who taught school all over northern Mendocino county. The daughter of Chilean royalty and one of the first settlers of Long Valley, William Smith, Margaret married Mr. Oliver Cobb who ranched beside the SF Eel by Sproul Creek. They married in 1904, and the property was left to her at the time of his passing in 1914.

The Cobbs hosted Jack London's 1911 visit when he toured up the coast with his wife Charmian, driving a four horse team. He wrote an account of this vacation expedition for Sunset Magazine. Andrew Genzoli wrote in the Redwood Country: "The Cobbs proved to be such good company that Charmian called them 'our people'. She tried her hand at fishing and caught up on correspondence while Jack set about writing his lasst Post story, 'The Feathers of the Sun', a rollicking comedy about a desreputable beachcomber with royal pretensions. Here was a South Seas version of Kipling's 'The Man who Would Be King,'..."

Margaret also had George Sterling as a close friend, and corresponded with Ambrose Bierce. She did get poems published, and was a good painter, but the work she is most known for was Blaxine, a story of mixed white and Indian families and a rare novelized glimpsed into what it was to be a half-breed. The poet Joaquim Miller touted the book highly. Lynette sagaciously sussed out that this was modeled on the AE Sherwood family situation of Sherwood valley, which I was able to confirm through an online reference to a teacher who had taught the Sherwood kids in Sherwood, and Margaret Smith in Long Valley. As this is Lynette's bailiwick I shant say to much here."

More after the poem.

Long Valley by Margaret S. Cobb

"We passed through Long Valley in September,
Facing its first gleam of level at Farley Creek,
Then from the little uplift at the old Talkington place,
The valley before us in a glory of browns, tans, and saffrons,
That dimmed and faded in the distance of mauves and gray.
It was late evening. the guarding prescence of old Farley Peak
Lifted itself against the sky in pale opaque blueness.
Cow Mountain and the Cahto hills lay black against the west,
Against a wash of pale green western sky, and across this sky
Floated thin lines of brilliant crimson clouds.
Yet so transient this cloud beauty that even while we watched,
And ere we reached the old Leonard place,
It had faded to a gray lavender and lay against
A paling sky.
And now the tar weed, sweet vagrant of the valley,
Useless, unloved, but offering its golden discs by millions
To waste places, filled the air with its poignant tang,
Bringing back childhood with a pang of pain--
Old dreams of childhood lived in this lovely valley.
Fences now lay as purple lines across the fields,
Straw from the threshing lay as beaten gold,
Willows become as gray and olive dreams against the low red hills, Unkempt old orchards glowed, painted with scarlet apples'
Pines lifted their delicately lined contours, oaks were purple massed,
Then came the friendly Lights of Laytonville,
And blue night settled broad and vast o'er all,
Only the tarweed, vagrant, unloved weed,
Still told of fields widespread beneath the night."

Well, the whole south end of Long Valley was named “Farley”. There was Farley Ranch, Farley Flat, Farley Peak, and the Farley School House. I guess that the newcomers decided that there were too many things named “Farley”, so they changed the name of Farley Creek to Long Valley Creek, otherwise everything is called much the same as it was a century ago.

There are two glorious times to be in Long Valley One in May, when all the grasses are just starting to dry up and turn brown, and all of the wildflowers are blooming in grand abundance, with the sweet smell of the drying grasses, and beauty of the flowers, waving in the last of winters windy grip.

And two, in September, when the gardens are ripe, the orchards are ready for the plucking, the berries are all turned into fragrant syrups and jams. The last of the grain straws are still laying in the fields, and… ah yes! The stinky little flower that most all of the Laytonville natives have learn to love.. Tarweed. The Tarweed grows in the clay soil of the valley bottom, where other plants have been grazed or mowed down. The tarweed takes over the fields after the harvest of the hay and grains. It is the sweetest, or strongest, depending on whether you like the smell or not, in the warm summer evenings about beer time.

There is nothing like eating a fried chicken dinner at Gramma’s house. With chickens fresh from the hen house, soda biscuits and gravy, and fresh corn and peas from the garden. Gramma always served the summer dinners on the back patio that was cooled by a large grape arbor built over it. One of the things that I remember about those dinners it the smell of the hot summer heated tar weed in the valley air.

My great grandmother Laura Middleton used to speak of “the Talkingtons” who she was friends with. So the name is familiar to me. My mother said that the Talkington’s place was at the south end of the valley just north and west of Jack Farley’s place.

My mother also said that she went on a plane ride with a fellow by the name of Lew Leonard in 1928 or 29. But she didn’t know if he was related to the Leonards in the poem.
Every homestead, everywhere, had a fruit orchard, with as many variety’s as possible. Albert Etter, from Ettersberg‘s, name was invoked whenever anybody wanted to speak about apples with any degree of authority.
Ah… but the tarweed… the sweet smell of home. Sweeter then the smell of all of my sweetest memories.

Okay, this is the plant below more commonly known as "Tarweed". The blue flowered plant above is "Vinegar weed". I call them both tar weeds. I know.... I'm wrong. But, I'm not the only one.


kymk said...

We have some tarweed up here--golden sticky disks. I'm trying to learn to appreciate it...

Anonymous said...

To me, the smell of tarweed is mostly nostalgic. Most of my encounters with the stuff was with it all over my clothes.
Something else that is nostalgic to me is when Ernie mentioned the grass turning brown in May. By the middle of June the bucks were fat eating the dry grass before it went to seed. The good ol' days I tell ya.


Anonymous said...

Yellow sticky tarweed , Holocarpha virgata ssp. elongata.

Ben said...

Your photo is what I call Vinegar weed and my wife, Tui, calls romero. Round Valley is perfumed with tar weed this time of year. You can smell it as you drive.

spyrock said...

"Nothing says "Home" like tar weed..."

yeah, everytime we go up to spyrock to look at the old ranch down below iron peak mountain we can smell the tar weed coming up the west slope of the hill all the way from laytonville. after a few minutes of smelling that tar weed, you start feeling pretty good. or maybe its just the view.

Anonymous said...

Can you smoke that stuff???

Ernie Branscomb said...

More Pictures:Yellow Sticky Tarweed

Ernie Branscomb said...

More; blue vinegar weed

Ben said...

The one called Madia elegans, which has a dark center has sprung up along the Avenue of the Giants and down by the freeway at the 650 exit.

spyrock said...

i haven't heard anything out of this blog lately, looks like ernie got busted growing tar weed. imagine that. getting busted over a weed. who'd a thunk it.
anyway, i'm sure everyone hopes he is okay.

Ernie Branscomb said...

I'm here! I've got three new posts in the wings. I've been very busy, heat wave, remodel, tourist season and all that.

Don't check back 'til Monday. Thanks for y'all's patience!


Ross Sherburn said...

I figgered Ernie was busy with refriggeration business!!!

spyrock said...


olmanriver said...

I have been hydrating regularly to keep cool all summer. My beloved Eel is looking great where I go upstream of the towns. Five days a week I spend part of the afternoon walking upstream in midcalf to waist high water to get to Otter Point, a strip of gravel on the west side of the river a hundred yards below a small rapids. After 2pm there is shade here, so it is a perfect place to ride out the heat of the day. Though I have not seen any otters nearby yet, I have to clean the gravel of their "otter-sign" regularly.
Yesterday I watched a doe and two fawns walk in the water along the far edge. Later a white egret and an osprey flew by.
Remarkably the water quality is still high, no blue green algae and none of the floating gunk that has joykilled the past few years of summer swimming in Sohum, or Northern Mendo where I frequent. Wunderbar!
My legs don't contribute much but I can still breaststroke, so a hundred yard swim to the oxygen rich rapids for a pounding shoulder massage is great exercise. This year's riverwalking has strengthened my gait and quads enormously and I am walking without so much weakness and fear, to my great delight. Healing! The return of health at any age is a great blessing. Maybe I won't be so cranky, funny how it creeps in with chronic pain and limitation.

I hope you all still have a swimmin' hole or three you still like to use.
That's the river report.

Off Topic said...

• 83 percent of all U.S. stocks are in the hands of 1 percent of the people.
• 61 percent of Americans "always or usually" live paycheck to paycheck, which was up from 49 percent in 2008 and 43 percent in 2007.
• 66 percent of the income growth between 2001 and 2007 went to the top 1% of all Americans.
• 36 percent of Americans say that they don't contribute anything to retirement savings.
• A staggering 43 percent of Americans have less than $10,000 saved up for retirement.
• 24 percent of American workers say that they have postponed their planned retirement age in the past year.
• Over 1.4 million Americans filed for personal bankruptcy in 2009, which represented a 32 percent increase over 2008.
• Only the top 5 percent of U.S. households have earned enough additional income to match the rise in housing costs since 1975.
• For the first time in U.S. history, banks own a greater share of residential housing net worth in the United States than all individual Americans put together.
• In 1950, the ratio of the average executive's paycheck to the average worker's paycheck was about 30 to 1. Since the year 2000, that ratio has exploded to between 300 to 500 to one.
• As of 2007, the bottom 80 percent of American households held about 7% of the liquid financial assets.
• The bottom 50 percent of income earners in the United States now collectively own less than 1 percent of the nation’s wealth.
• Average Wall Street bonuses for 2009 were up 17 percent when compared with 2008.
• In the United States, the average federal worker now earns 60% MORE than the average worker in the private sector.
• The top 1 percent of U.S. households own nearly twice as much of America's corporate wealth as they did just 15 years ago.
• In America today, the average time needed to find a job has risen to a record 35.2 weeks.
• More than 40 percent of Americans who actually are employed are now working in service jobs, which are often very low paying.
• or the first time in U.S. history, more than 40 million Americans are on food stamps, and the U.S. Department of Agriculture projects that number will go up to 43 million Americans in 2011.
• This is what American workers now must compete against: in China a garment worker makes approximately 86 cents an hour and in Cambodia a garment worker makes approximately 22 cents an hour.
• Approximately 21 percent of all children in the United States are living below the poverty line in 2010 - the highest rate in 20 years.
• Despite the financial crisis, the number of millionaires in the United States rose a whopping 16 percent to 7.8 million in 2009.
• The top 10 percent of Americans now earn around 50 percent of our national income.