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!


Rose said...

Yep. We used to ride way back up in the hills, and hike the trails to the next mountain range over.

When the "newcomers" came - the pot-growers, really - we found ourselves being shot at, because we had gotten too close to someone's garden. It wasn't about 'their land.' It was what was on it and what they were doing with it.

On this end of the county, I would say most of them were students, and some (maybe many) had siblings who also bought LAND down your way. They'd visit, bring their shit with them. The siblings were new parents, and would talk about how they called it "Daddy's medicine - don't touch" (pot or coke, sometimes mushrooms) and how the kid's questions were getting tougher as they got older. The "newcomers" would be raking in the bucks from their pot runs to the city, but they'd be drawing welfare and WIC and living on a homestead with water piped out of diverted streams. And instead of coming up with a cure for cancer, or using their botany skills to grow better tomatoes, they were killing the male plants and lovingly marrying themselves to the female plants.

Peace and love was what they professed, but not what they practiced. I wish they had never come. Back then there were tolerated, even welcomed (they were just kids after all). They rewarded us with gunfire and crime. And distinctly less freedom, even while they stake claim to the freedoms they want.

Fred said...

I have a Homelite 330 like the middle one in the picture sitting out in my garage. I bought it in the early 80s.

Anonymous said...

Yee-haw! Hyuk hyuk, the good ol' days. Damn dopers ruining everything for everybody!

You both sound older than you probably are, and are misdirecting your hostility. Stereotypical good ol' boys...local yokels hating on marijuana. Go introduce yourself to your neighbors for fucks sake, you bitter retards. They're probably nice people who wonder why you give them the evil eye everytime you drive by.

Ernie Branscomb said...

I AM older than I really am.

What hostility? Facts is facts. It was a story, okay?

Also, I know all my neighbors, all fine people, except the ones that like to hide on "their land" and be "anonymous". Some are a rather cowardly lot. In that case I don't care to know them.

Anonymous said...

You're broadcasting misdiracted hostility to an anonymous public. If you don't see the hostility in your story, well...then you don't see it. But there's lots of it...the ignorant kind.

Ernie Branscomb said...

I put anonymous comments in the same category as willow-the-wisps, nothing but annoying swamp gas. I have to admit that I enjoy the outrage that some Anons express. I just can’t grasp how they can claim personal outrage at on a subject that they won’t sign their name to.

I will say that anonymous people have made some very enlightening comments on this blog, to the extent that I wished that I knew who they were. I just like knowing intelligent thoughtful people.

In the world that I was raised in, a persons name was their honor, their word was their bond, and their handshake was as good as a contract. I know that not all of us achieved those lofty goals, but it was a code of ethics that seemed to count for something.

Some of the Anons sneak by and crap on the blog sidewalk, and go on like it was their duty to do so. I don’t see why they can’t feel that if it is important enough to say, it’s important enough to sign their name to.

I don’t hate anybody, but I do find some people to be ridiculous.

Anonymous said...

I assume the world you were raised in didn't have the internet until about ten years ago either...and that this form of communication wasn't part of your life until within the past 5 years or so. Welcome to the new world, I'm sure we'd get along in person, but I'm gonna tell you anonymously on the interntet what I think, because it's being broadcast to, as you say yourself, a lot of angry anonimi. That's the reality of the internet, I don't choose to put this virtual bullshit on the same plate as person to person reality.

Rose said...

Why, anonymous? You have nothing to fear. Honestly. there are any number of local bloggers and commenters who use their real names, or choose a nic.

Nobody comes after you at gunpoint to roust you from your bed in the middle of the night.

Bunny Wilder said...

I'll put my name to it Ernie. Get over it. Why, just tell me why you keep bringing up this same old topic. Do you think we missed it the last 10 times you wrote about it. Okay from your vantage point it was what you say it was. Okay, we heard you. That was 40 years ago. okay. 40 years. What relevance does it have today? This anger inside you for so long and I just want you to let it go. Forgiveness? Letting go of resentments, moving on. Acceptance. I know what you need, you need a good 12 step program to move on. Let go Ernie....2011 gives you the chance to start writing about other things, new things, more interesting things. I love you man and just want to help you through this.

Anonymous said...

Rose, I have in fact been spied on in real life, at night in my own home, because of what I thought was safe discussion on the internet, in a forum where we discussed all tings while primarily trading music. I was using an anonymous name as well...somebody went out of their way to find me out and fuck with my head in real life because they didn't like what I was saying on the internet. You and ernie might use your real names but it doesn't make a difference unless somebody knows you either way...for all practical purposes you're both going to remain anonymous to me forever.

What I read in this particular story, a random click from an anonymous internet surfer as far as you're concerned, is typical fuel for typical fire. Maybe I grow pot and wasn't born here. People would treat me like shit just because of that...take my word for it. Lots of people already talk shit on the internet about people who grow pot and weren't born here ....anonymously and otherwise.

THe pot growers I see around here are very kind and for the most part practice what they preach about healthy simplicity and community. It's people who talk shit about them that make some of them feel like they have to hide to protect their own. Maybe write a story about the people within the good ol' timer's community who throughout the years have thought it's okay to violate the lives of those families.

Ernie Branscomb said...

Thank-you for signing your name. It is much easier to explain things to someone that I know. I know that you are a wonderful person, with an outstandingly good heart. The kind of person that disserves an explanation about the preceding post.

The post was about the ridiculous conflict between the local people that had lived here for generations back in the 50s and 60s and the fact that they only saw things in black and white. Bad newcomer, good newcomer. Bad truck, good truck, Bad job, good job. Bad saw, good saw. Bad beer, good beer. Even though their opinions were at odds, they thought that they were worth fighting about. I was poking as much fun at my stereotypical self as anyone else, but I guess the story is lost on anyone that wasn’t here at the time. I think that this same story would be funny anywhere else where people didn’t see themselves, and have reason to be offended.

I’m truly sorry that you didn’t just relax and see the humor. I’m sure that many saw themselves and laughed just a little bit. Many people today have their favorite truck, or whatever, including strong opinions about politicians. Opinions that differ so wildly that they think that they are worth fighting over.

I guess today’s fight is over what is best, beer or marijuana. But I’m getting too long in the tooth to fight in the dust or mud about it. Besides, I think that you could whip me, and I’m not about to let you buy!

Ernie Branscomb said...


“….THe pot growers I see around here are very kind and for the most part practice what they preach about healthy simplicity and community…”

I couldn’t agree more! Those are the kind of people that I love!

But don’t expect me to like what drug addicts and thieves do, nor people that would dump fertilizers in the creeks. Or carelessly spill diesel. I don’t think that you would approve of those kinds of things either.  So, it seems that you practice your own form of discrimination.

Thank you for the little bit of insight that you allowed me. I sorry that you have been harassed. If I had one request, it would be that you choose an anonymous name so that I can place your thoughts a bit above the typical anonymous, venomous, tripe that some Anons spout.

I will respect your reasons for wanting to remain anonymous, as I have, if you will respect my need to be able to appreciate your comments for there independent intellect. That requires a title. Otherwise you are lumped right in the other garbage.

Ernie Branscomb said...

(sorry for the typos)

Anonymous said...

Anonymouseses don't have to care about reputation at stake, just the message. ;P

spyrock said...

i've got a picture of my sister at spyrock in 45 at grandma simmerlys 90th birthday. there weren't no lumber trucks up any part of that road back in the early 50's. there were hardly any houses that i saw and those were almost to the river. pappy did used to say that he would drag a log behind their trucks or cars all the way down the mountain to 101 to keep the brakes from wearing out so fast. so i guess he was a brake logger. he had two army jeeps on his ranch at stinson beach, nellie bell and clara bell. i can't think of any finer vehicle than a jeep to drive up in the hills to give the cattle their salt. my first job was in my uncle delberts rodeo. $5 entry fee for team roping. aunt daisy in the booth with the microphone. me using a hot shot to move cattle into the shoot, later i tended the barrier and finally the stopwatch and flag. we had dairy work to do as well and the only thing easy about cattle ranching is having a dog do his job for you. uncle delbert had about 9 dogs and everyone of those dogs had a job to do. he feed those dogs good too and some of them he slept with.
growing up with a genuine covelo buckaroo spyrock cowboy for an uncle taught me all i needed to know about being a man. and my dad taught me the rest. i do have sort of a high standard myself for who i think is a real cowboy. for years, i thought john wayne was a city slicker. so when ernie tells stories about oly and lucky, i have to remember and smile about those days riding on horses and in trucks with a real cowboy.

charlie two crows said...

Ernie; In one of your comments you use the word BITTER. Is that the real problem? Your bitter? In one comment you talk like you hate the growers and in the next you say you love them. Which one is really you. With out the growers, how many stores in garberville would be open! Including yours. Is that why your bitter? Because the local economy
is tied to these people(good or bad)like it or not!

charlie two crows said...

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!

Anonymous said...

I'm a Husky's fan now days. bought two of them and I don't miss those manual chain oilers.


Ernie Branscomb said...

My next post is for you. Thank-you for asking. I'm typing as fast as I can.

I wouldn't be caught dead running a Husky, I'm a Stihl man myself. But, I guess only a logger would understand this discussion...

Anonymous said...

You must be getting old Ernie. I can see it now. "I gotta go cut some wood and don't want to but hopefully the Stihl will break down again".
Just about all the mills use Stihl saws and for every saw they buy they have to get two extras for backup cause they break down. Gotta keep the mill runnin' y'know.
When I was cuttin' logs back in he 60's I swore by the Homelight. Back during the 80's I had my brothers Mac Super-Pro 81 and almost cried when Bailey's ran out of used clutch's. Best and fastest saw I ever ran.


Ernie Branscomb said...

I think that the back-and-forth argument over "who's is the best" is lost on anybody but you and me. Maybe a few other old-timers, but everything is P.C. nowadays. I don't think that competitive banter is even understood anymore.

Anonymous said...

My Dad never bought anything but American - He was a Chevy man, But in the mid 70s he bought a beater truck to use on huntin' trips. It was an International Harvester. We kids called it his "Hippie Truck" & he was hard pressed to get us or our Mother in the big ugly green thing.
Thanks for the trip down memory lane Ern.


Anonymous said...

Somebody had an old International Harvester that was in my dad's possession and I drove it once in awhile. It was big and rough riding and no syncromesh transmission but it was RED. I wouldn't be caught dead in a GREEN Cornbinder.


spyrock said...

about the 4th job that i had as a kid was working on a peach ranch. my mom knew this guy who was a bootlegger during the depression but was on the school board of her school. so i went out there in the summer of 65 when there were still braceros working in california. i started out hauling peaches from the fields with different types of tractors. ford, john deere and international harvestor. so i know what you mean. that international harvestor used to get stuck all the time. even when we were discing or furrowing the fields they would have to come and pull me out of the mud. the little fords would just keep on truckin and seldom got stuck. back in that first year they used to have a cook house who cooked breakfast and lunch and they would deduct that from your wages. at lunch we would play poker with montez who liked to cheat and jimmy who looked like lee van clief, the guy clint eastwood used to battle in the good the bad and the ugly. jimmy had these steely blue eyes that combined with the way he acted its a wonder he never made it to a spaghetti western in hollywood. putting up props on a peach tree for $1.40 an hour back in 65 for nine hours a day in 100 degree heat, a white man couldn't buy a job like that these days, they wouldn't even consider you. i was really lucky. i still am. still working in labor. a white man working in labor. i'm going to retire that way. i've been blessed

skippy said...

I like your stories. And your history, Ernie. Thank you.

Rose said...

I like your stories. And your history, Ernie. Thank you.

Me, too. And your long range perspective.

As for why the subject keeps coming up - have you noticed how EVERY news story about elections is framed as the rednecks in jackboots v. the newcomers? Even when that's really not it at all? It's especially bad when an out of town reporter comes here to "cover" a story. They love to frame it as simmering tensions and longstanding hatreds.

We're really much more and much better than that - and one of the best things about a college area is that there is a constant influx of new people, new energy, new ideas and new innovation. It is never really stagnant here. It would be if we lost the University and CR.

Johnathan Wilson said...

Great post Ernie!

Anonymous said...

Rose, re your comment:

"As for why the subject keeps coming up - have you noticed how EVERY news story about elections is framed as the rednecks in jackboots v. the newcomers? Even when that's really not it at all? It's especially bad when an out of town reporter comes here to "cover" a story. They love to frame it as simmering tensions and longstanding hatreds."
And isn't it amazing the defense towards what's going on in the huge indoor operations and mountains, while they still have their say about the "BAD TIMBER FELLERS/loggers/ranchers". They believe they have every right to badmouth the mills and the legal jobs created within. WHAT A SHAME they worked hard for a legal dollar!! and all that is remembered about them is how they were rednecks who ruined the environment.

The big time growers are not alone, there are also the cookers (whatever they are called), who defend the diesel that runs into the creeks, the fertilizers in the rivers, the crime their little industries have brought. They love the big money and their big trips to all over hell and back. They don't pay taxes to help our state or counties so that social security benefits might survive long enough to receive a little back from what we've paid in. Are they helping the person who barely makes it in this area. They brag about it in the post office where the fumes from the stench of their harvest and stale weed smoke tears up the person with breathing problems and allergies. For shame they will live off state benefits and claim to be the poor when they are the ones with all of the toys...where is your conscious???

I'd rather be called a "redneck" to speak any day than to be a crack head or someone under constant influence of any illegal substance. I voted for medical mj because I believe in a person's right to relieve their pain. But our sick society is lost in the drug jungle and it's out of control. KIDS for GOD sakes have grow permits...... where's the 2nd opinion.. Ask a kid and they'll say, "I have a permit! and smile...where in that permit states their ability to sell...?

It is degrading and humiliating for me to admit where I'm from anymore due to the excitement expressed about the cash crops in our area. I'm caught in a selfless defense for myself. Mendo and Humboldt Co have rightly earned their reputations, which reflect on everyone including the person with an honest living. I guess what bothers me the most is the people who are part of it don't have a problem badmouthing the person who loves the way it was. He/she acts like they can't see what a pile of shit things are turning into. Why can you not see the destruction?

I am a 5th generation of this area, if you want to know why I hate what's going on, just look around and see where the young are headed. Maybe I'm jealous!! Maybe I hate change!! Or maybe I hate watching as we self destruct.

This is a mouth full, Rose:
"Peace and love was what they professed, but not what they practiced. I wish they had never come. Back then there were tolerated, even welcomed (they were just kids after all). They rewarded us with gunfire and crime. And distinctly less freedom, even while they stake claim to the freedoms they want."

(I don't mind that people came I just hate the direction we are headed)


charlie two crows said...

Anon. Cousin, I believe every thing you stated. But your fighting a loosing battle. Case in point the second year of EPIC's battle against big timber they took in $850,000 in support $2300 in private and the rest from foundations that are supported by big timber, your fighting an OXYMORON!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Anonymous said...

Charlie Two Crows:
I know it :( You are so right.
And I don't think we'll be able to recover a lot of all of our mistakes; that's what bothers me. It's not the occassional partier
:(, logger, farmer, millworker that I worry about, it's the lives of the people who can not escape what they have going on.

Another shooting in our area last night. This time a 37 year woman.

Oh well, I care for people and wish us luck.


spyrock said...

i agree with everything cousin said but what you have up there has nothing to do with peace and love. that was over by the fall of 1967. in 1968 some berkely people bought some kuroc land called the black bear ranch or mine. around the same time, morning star and wheeler's ranch near santa rosa were places anyone could live on. chipper and i went to the wheeler ranch in 1971. we spent the night and i bent over a faucet to get a drink before our walk down the hill to bodega bay. a couple of naked women with large breasts scolded me that i was waisting their water, (which i mistakenly thought was free) which was an oxymoron for me. so much for back to the land.
i can't come within 5 miles of where my mother grew up and where my ancestors lived for 100 years because of what you talk about. but i know the answer. don't resist. what you resist, persists. vote to make it legal. it will hurt your economy for awhile. but you will survive off that land no matter what happens. they shut down an air force base where i live, people said that the base was our whole economy. not true. the town has more than doubled in size since the base left. pretty soon we won't have to go out of town to shop.
just like that congresswoman getting shot. sometimes it takes a five year old girl dying before people what up and smell the coffee.

spyrock said...

sometimes it takes a five year old girl dying before people wake up and smell the coffee, what you resist; persists. legalize: peace.