Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Seekers of American Indian Spirituality.

Fred "Coyote" Downing, Photo by Kim Sallaway

Because I am so deeply interested in the early history of the north coast, and in particular, the Eel River canyon, I get a lot of questions about the Indian people, their culture, and mostly their spirituality. I often just answer privately that I’m not an expert on Indian culture, and I’m definitely not the one to ask about religion.

We have covered many Indian stories here, that could be interesting to some seekers, but mostly I have not rendered any expert opinion. I am the one that only believes in tangibles, remember? However, I’ve often said that the beliefs of the north coast Indians come the closest to something that I could believe in. Their beliefs seem to me to be more real than anything else. The Indian people see the world around them, they see the seasons, the mountains, the fish and the animals, these real things of the Earth are included in their beliefs. They pray for renewal and restoration, as in The White Deer Dance of the Hupa Indians of The Klamath.

In the past, the Indians sought renewal in their everyday actions. The burning of the north coast brush was a way of renewing the brush and reeds that they used in basket making. The burning renewed their food supply by ridding the acorn oak trees of bugs and competing brush. Their every spiritual focus seemed to be in a circular cycle, like in what goes around comes around. The Ghost Dance was a prayer ceremony that the Indians used to pray that things would come around the circle and there would be no more white man on their land in the coming seasons. So, their religion seemed to be in a circular path.

The Christian religion is linear, you are born, God gives you a spirit, you live your life on this Earth in Gods service, then your reward is to die and get to go to heaven for ever and ever. I think they call it “eternity”.

I have recently received some mail from some people seeking spiritual answer, and I know that there are people more qualified than I in giving these answers. When I think of the North Coast Indian Spiritual leaders I think of people like Fred “Coyote” Downing, who does the opening ceremonial blessing of some of the festivals of the north coast. As I watch the blessings, I often wonder how much is original "north coast", and how much is simply American Indian culture blended into a modern ceremony. For instance, the dream catcher is Chipawa Indian, but all indians make one now.

What I am going to do is post some of my correspondence, and hopefully some of you will have advice for these “Spiritual Seekers”:

Dear Ernie,
Hi; my name is Delphine, I am a 37 year old French girl and I got your email while surfing on the net .

To make a long story short, I went to California the 1st time as a foreign exchange student when I was 17, coming back ever since whenever I could, having met some wonderful people I call my 'other' family.

The first time I went, well ... I had to. I don't know how to explain it but I had to!

NB: I am 1/4 Spanish on my father's side and a few years ago discovered that one of the missionaries who founded the several Californian missions was from my island, Mallorca: Juniperro Serra. I guess that is what drove me there .

But today, I am writing you this mail because, OF COURSE, I am coming back to visit my family (in July 2011)!

I am taking my 10 year old son with me for them to meet. I am trying to think ahead (yes, I know ... but time just flies you know!!) about things and sights that might be of any interest to him ... and natural parks and places will mostly do it.

As for my own interets, I would like to go to places where there is a lot of spiritual energy, mainly from ancient Indian tribes ... and that is why I am writing you this mail.

While surfing, I have discovered there are a lot of tribes, ancient territories, museums, etc. But that is not what I am interested in .

I will be living in Penn Valley and was wondering if there was any place in that area you can point out for me, that I could go to, respectful of Mother Nature and the Indian Past (healing places or centers of energy, you know: that kind of place), that you know of/or have heard of, even if it is just walking among trees in a small forest.

And if you are not familiar with what I am interested in, maybe you know someone who knows someone, ...

Thank you very much for your time and the interest you will put in answering my question.
Delphine .

Dear Delphine

I am a member of the local Rotary Club and we have sponsored many exchange students. Many students and hosts form permanent bonds that last through the years. I’m glad to hear that you are traveling back stateside, and I hope that you enjoy your visit here. As you already know the student exchange program is the very best hope in this world for peace and understanding.

Now that I’ve done my Rotary commercial, I will try to answer your questions. If there is a God, he lives in the Redwood forests of northern California. My favorite redwood grove is The Founders Grove located on highway 101, @100 miles north of Ukiah. It is simple to get there from Penn Valley. Simply drive west on highway 20, Penn Valley's main highway, until you come to hwy 101, go north to Dyerville, and you are there. (About 4 to 5 hours) The best time to visit is May, because everything is in full green foliage and bloom, but not to discourage you, any experience in a redwood forest is memorable. It is one of the most deeply spiritual experiences that you will ever have. Rain or shine. But stay out of a redwood forest in the wind. The falling limbs will kill you.

My favorite Indian tribe lives right here in southern Humboldt, the "Wailaki". They are my favorite tribe for a lot of reasons that I will leave for later. The Indian people of Southern California were steeped in the Catholic culture for years before the northern California Indians even saw a white man. Your countryman, Father Juniperro Serra started the California Missions in 1768, the Franciscans had a stifling influence on the Indian culture. However, the Northern California Indians lost much of their culture, later, from the California Gold Rush influence, (1849) but much of their history, culture, and spirit remains.

What I hope you will do is give me permission to post your letter with some others similar to yours and let my blog readers make recommendations to you.

Thank-you for writing me!

Her reply:

Dear Ernie,
Well, THANK YOU very much for that quick reponse to my mail: it was so nice of you to take the time !

... And thanks for the Rotary commercial talk because from my own experience, everything you wrote is right: going away that first time just opened my eyes, discovering that no country was better or worse than the other, its people just being ... wait for it: DIFFERENT, that's all.

... But knowing also that we are mainly all a piece of God.

I am really into Indian 'things' right now:

- I am reading "1000 white women" from Jim FERGUS and what you wrote about the history of Indians in California made sense to me;

- I am doing a healing session next Saturday (all day long) with a chaman and there will be Indian songs, dances and drums- I can't wait !

- I am also making my very own "dream catcher": I have been taking clay classes for the past 3 years and I am used to model my own stuff (little stars, hearts, Christmas stuffing, etc); also, last summer, I met a lady in Mallorca who taught how to make rope out off palm leaves ... and I am in a desesperate need to touch, feel, be in the presence of and therefore will be buying very soon some rock crystal stones, don't ask me why! So it will be my very own special unique dream catcher made with these things !

Thank you for all the detailed directions ... now I have to study the map and see if I can make it there !

But I am sure my son will also be delighted to go to that spiritual place .

Yes, of course you can post my letter on your blog; I will be more than happy to get more recommendations .
Take care!
Delphine :-).

Then I also got this letter from another person:
Dear Ernie
Hi, i came across your blog when looking up pictures on eel river, and i saw somewhere you said the people who live on eel river have great wisdom.

What do you know about the indians or who ever it is that live there? I was always curious if there were spiritually enlightened groups in the humboldt area, but it seems all the natives here are all modernized and know nothing of the ancient knowledge their ancestors must have had. They just live easy on the government checks and get lost in western science like the elite want them too.
Tommy Hadley

I replied to him:

Can I make your letter into a post? I think that you will find some amazing answers to your questions. But, to make it short, many Indian people have lost their culture, but not all are satisfied to "Live easy on their government checks". I think that you will find that not many of them "get lost".

Are you any relation to the Eel River Hadleys?

His reply:
Sure you can post it.

I have always loved ancient groups with spiritual knowledge. Like the Javanese people of indonesia. I just find it hard to believe the natives here are spiritual. But i don't know much about the native history here in humboldt county.

I'm in search of an enlightened master. Doesn't sound like much, but finding an enlightened master is very hard. Many think they are enlightened but 98% aren't. The only way you can tell is if their aura is golden.

Sadly, most of the world population don't even see other peoples auras because they have be blind by material things like western science.

And my last name is hadley indeed, but what do you mean by the eel river hadleys? I know of 1 other hadley family here, but i always thought my last name was unique, and somewhat rare with a great history.


So that's it... I think that these people are honest seekers of a spiritaul path, but I would be less than honest to say that I would be the best to guide them, unless they are seeking the deep spiritual feeling that I get from living in the Eel River Canyon, but that is beyond my ability to expain.
So, all you wise people out there that are looking for fresh minds to guide and mold, this is your chance.

Some very interesting links:
Ghost Dance
Major Ervin A. Hadley
Current Two-Rivers Tribune
Wailaki tribe
Seeking Native American Spirituality? Read This First!

Local Indian Petroglyphs, Photo by Robin Shelley


Monday, September 27, 2010

Drugs... Really?

To read my blog would lead you to believe that I am some kind of an alcoholic. Nothing could be further from the truth. Even though I enjoy a drink or a good beer every now and then, I only have one, unless it's a rip-snortin' knock-down-drag-out party, then I might have two. I have a deep fear of being under the influence of anything. I've never taken any drugs to any great extent.

I took a half of a Valium 40 years ago. I mainly took it because I was depressed. It made me feel good for a little while, but when I got off it I discovered that the emotional pain that I was under only got worse. I decided that I didn't need a Valium addiction on top of my other problems, so I didn't take any more. I took some codeine for back pain once, I was so screwed up for the next day that I was not able to function on a productive level. I took a half of a vicadin after an operation. I slept for 16 hours. After than I figured out that life was better with the pain. I have never been able to figure out why anyone would like to punch-out of this life by using drugs. Is being non-functional that much fun.

I don't believe in a higher power that spends his life making sure that I don't stub my toe. So I realize that everything that I do has consequences, and I'm the on that suffers those consequences. I'm so faithless that I calculate the odds of every risk that I take. The odds of me being able to function with a drug adiction are remarkably slim, so I don't use them. In fact I fear them. I'm no moralist, I don't really care what you do with your life, but I question the value of being "out of it" with drugs.

Then in the last blog post I did, somebody listed Felix Wayne Mitchell Jr. as somebody that "Changed thier Life. I think that "somebody" was pulling my leg, but maybe not. Can somebody like Felix Mitchell be a "Hero"?

From Wikipedia:
"Mitchell created a criminal organization called "6-9 Mob" M. O. and B. standing for "My Other Brother" indicating the bond that connected the gangsters. Connected with L.A. kingpin Tootie Reese, he made business contacts in the Bay Area, Los Angeles and Detroit."

"For more than a decade, Mitchell battled competition from Mickey Moore’s crime family and the Funktown USA gang to gain total control of the lucrative heroin market. Before 1984-1985 and the widespread practice of free-basing cocaine (smoking crack), heroin use was more common and dealing it was a fast, easy way to make a lot of money in Oakland. It is estimated that Mitchell’s crew brought in around $400,000 dollars in weekly business. Mitchell used some of his criminal proceeds to give back to the community, and he is credited with sponsoring local athletic programs for youths. He also hosted a busload of children on a field trip to Marine World Africa USA. The community respected him and spoke highly of him. When he drove down the streets of Oakland, people lined the streets just to wave at him, the reception was similar to a visiting dignitary."

"The notoriety of Mitchell’s empire soon came to the attention of local and national law enforcement. Mitchell was convicted in 1985 and sentenced to life in prison. He was shipped off to Leavenworth Federal Penitentiary where he was fatally stabbed on August 21, 1986, a little more than a year into his sentence, just days before his 32nd birthday. However, Mitchell's imprisonment did not have the crime reducing effects law enforcement had hoped for. In what would later be termed the "Felix Mitchell Paradox", drug sales continued and, with Mitchell's monopolistic pricing eliminated, competition reduced the price of heroin. The main effect of Mitchell's imprisonment was to destabilize the market, lowering drug prices and increasing violence as rival gang members challenged each other for market shares with a consequent rise in drive-by shootings, street homicides and felonious assaults. Indirectly, effective law enforcement, followed by incapacitation, stimulated serious random violence."

Felix Wayne Mitchell Jr. Bio=

Thursday, September 23, 2010


This group played at Earth Dance. I got hooked on this dance scene. Warning: the ending is graphic. It kinda goes along with the stuff that people do to shock others today. If Eric is reading he definately shouldn't watch the ending. Like Eric, I seriously question the need for some of this stuff, but I liked the music and especially the dancing. Kids...

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Name a few people that changed your world.

While Suzy and I are debating how great Jack Kerouac and Charlie Parker were, I thought maybe the rest of you could chime in with your own list of your favorite characters, and what made them great to you. I know the obvious is usually someone in your own family, that’s okay, but try to add someone that you think changed the whole world. And say a few things about them...

I'll start! I'm not necessarily going to put mine in any kind of order. I'll just mention them as they come to the top of my mind. Kinda' like the academy awards of my favorite people. These are the people that made me what I am today, for the most part.

Albert Einstein: I know, you guys are tired of hearing about Einstein, but he was one of the first people that ever made me wonder about the things around me. I first remember hearing about Einstein as a small child; even then he was revered as one of the world’s smartest men. I often wondered that, if I studied hard, could I become as smart as Einstein? That statement alone should tip you off that Einstein was much more intelligent than me.

I’ve read a lot of things about Einstein through the years. He always had my admiration. He caused me to wonder about time travel, and would it really be possible to travel back and forth through time. After reading Einstein’s theories about changing time, I came to an understanding that to change time would be so enormously complicated that it would never be practical, as in Jules Vern’s Time machine, where you just set the clock shaped dial, and went to what ever year and day that you wanted to travel to. So Einstein brought me the disappointment of knowing that I wasn’t going to go forward or back in time. Even if I could, I would not get any younger or older with-in my own personnel time frame. Dang!

Einstein so well understood the world around him that he was able to understand how to manufacture an atomic bomb. Building an atomic weapon is hard enough when you already know how to do it, but to just pull it out of your head is pretty amazing. Most people could understand the physics of an atomic weapon if it was drawn out on paper for them, including me. Einstein personally warned President Roosevelt that the Germans were very near to having an atomic bomb back in 1939. Roosevelt launched the “Manhattan Project” to develop our own nuclear weapon, but we didn’t use it on Germany, we used it to stop the war with Japan.

As some of you know, I always wondered about “God” and at what level is God real. I always looked to very smart people for guidance. Einstein was reluctant to speak out against God, possibly because of the vast amount of people that believe in a God, and the fact that most people believe that we were “made in God’s image”. His reluctance to speak out about his disbelief in God prompted many people to put words in his mouth, as indeed we still see today. Many people claim that Einstein believed in God. I think it best to simply quote him:

"The word ‘God’ is for me nothing more than the expression and product of human weakness, the Bible a collection of honorable, but still purely primitive, legends which are nevertheless pretty childish”

Repeated attempts by the press to present Albert Einstein as a religious man provoked the following statement:
“It was, of course, a lie what you read about my religious convictions, a lie which is being systematically repeated. I do not believe in a personal God and I have never denied this but have expressed it clearly. If something is in me which can be called religious then it is the unbounded admiration for the structure of the world so far as our science can reveal it.”—Albert Einstein.

Isaac Asimov was also one of my Heroes. As a young man I read everything that I could possibly get my hands on. I’ve always loved machinery, and building things. One of the first things that I noticed about machines is that they are always consistent. If you turn the wheel to the left, the machine goes to the left. ALWAYS! It’s not like arguing with my wife, the only thing consistent there is that I always LOSE.

It has been said that Isaac Asimov invented the word robot. The word was actually a Czech word for artificial man or slave. Asimov gave it it's modern meaning that we all recognize; a mechanical-man that follows our instructions. Asimov was a brilliant man that was one of the most prolific Science Fiction writers of all time. I've read every book that he ever wrote many years ago, and it is time to start over. If you don't know who Asimov was, but want to read one of his books, read "I Robot" it was the book that put the word "Robot" into the English Language.
There was no room for doubt about how Asimov felt about God:
“I am an atheist, out and out. It took me a long time to say it. I've been an atheist for years and years, but somehow I felt it was intellectually unrespectable to say one was an atheist, because it assumed knowledge that one didn't have. Somehow, it was better to say one was a humanist or an agnostic. I finally decided that I'm a creature of emotion as well as of reason. Emotionally, I am an atheist. I don't have the evidence to prove that God doesn't exist, but I so strongly suspect he doesn't that I don't want to waste my time.”

I like Robert A. Heinlein. Who wrote "Farnham’s Freehold". I have posted about him before. He was very important in forming some of my thoughts. "Farnhams Freehold" was about the nuclear apocalypse, and life after.

Heinlein was an outspoken atheist, Quote:
“The most ridiculous concept ever perpetrated by H. Sapiens is that the Lord God of Creation, Shaper and Ruler of the Universes, wants the saccharine adoration of his creations, that he can be persuaded by their prayers, and becomes petulant if he does not receive this flattery. Yet this ridiculous notion, without one real shred of evidence to bolster it, has gone on to found one of the oldest, largest and least productive industries in history.” Robert A. Heinlein

Way up on my list of men that I admire is Arthur C. Clark. Clark described the position in the sky where satellites would remain in geosynchronous orbit indefinitely. Many of the satellites that relay television and other communication signals are positioned in the “Clarks Belt”. Named after him for his intelligent thought on the subject. His calculations of it’s position were exactly right. He also wrote "2001, A Space Odyssey". It was made into the worlds most boring science fiction film. Read the book, forget the film, too artsy.
His feelings on religion follow much the same as all of my other heroes. But he like to remark about religion facetiously, leaving one to wonder how he really felt about the presence of God. One of his quotes was:

"Religion" is ultimately somewhat complicated. He said, "Any path to knowledge is a path to God—or Reality, whichever word one prefers to use".
But he also said:
"One of the great tragedies of mankind is that morality has been hijacked by religion."
On his death bed he said:
"Absolutely no religious rites of any kind, relating to any religious faith, should be associated with my funeral."

Just to prove that I am not completely without religious heroes, Dr. Martin Luther King is also one of my heroes. Not for his religious work, but his work for civil rights, and the betterment of mankind.

My two favorite song writers are Kris Kristopherson and Hoyt Axton. I’m not sure about their belief in God.

Any thoughts of your own?

Monday, September 20, 2010

Not Fair!

When I first started blogging I got attacked unfairly a couple of times by anonymous bloggers. Being new to blogging, I felt that I had to defend myself. I spent hours (yes hours) composing a good reply to the unfair remarks. I was particularly annoyed that the person didn’t even have the courtesy to sign their name. As I spent more time blogging, it occurred to me that there was such a thing as a “Blog Troll”. The blog troll is a person that will say anything, even lies, without fear of retribution. The more annoying they become the more gleeful they get. Nothing makes them happier than to get into a persons head, and make them think that they have to defend themselves.

Some of the more experienced bloggers advised me to simply ignore the trolls, but, I found that a percentage of the people out there will believe the rantings of even the most insane person. The experienced bloggers told me that a certain amount of people will believe anything, right or wrong, credible or not, and that there would be nothing that can be done about it. I swore that I would never believe anything from an anonymous blogger. Later I started reading some of the more intelligent of the anonymous blog comments. I found some of them to be very wise and pertinent. So, I could no longer ignore the anonymous bloggers, but I very often wished that I could have the privilege of knowing WHO was so wise as to make some of the comments that I admired so much.

Very often, knowing who is making a comment will put it into context for you, when otherwise, it would make no sense. Some of that happened recently on my blog, where something completely innocent was taken as a death threat. Emails behind the lines flew, until everybody found out that a “choker” is a cable that a log is pulled with, and not very threatening at all. Funny how after we knew who the “death threat” was from, an old logger, it became quite humorous.

Sometimes you get to know a blogger by his/her “nom de plume”, or made up name, where they don’t reveal exactly who they are, but give you the courtesy of knowing that they are the same person that used that name the last time. When people just sign “Anonymous” nobody knows one from the other. Some of us spend a great deal of time trying to sort out who is who.

Most of the “nom de plume” bloggers are people that want to build a mirror identity. Usually they espouse some great cause or ideology. They think of themselves as Zoro. Batman, Superman, or some other anonymous crusader. If they see a wrong in the world, they whip out their false identity, put on their capes, sit down at their keyboards, and type as if the world depended upon their rantings. They set about righting all the wrongs in their silly little worlds. Usually they just cause turmoil. In my opinion, Nixon would have been exposed without “Deepthroat”, but who am I to say.

I admire people like Eric Kirk, Hank Sims, Fred Mangles, Rose, Dave Kirby, Bunny, and others that sign what they have say. Sorry to all of you that sign their names that I forgot, but I also admire you! The ones that I don’t admire are the ones that pontificate about others wrong-doings when they themselves don’t even have the-courage-of-their-convictions to sign their names. I don’t mind gentle opinions, but personal, named attacks, should be signed.

My grandmother often said that “you are the person that you would be, if nobody ever found out about the things that you do.” I often refer to the wisdom of my ancestors, and after a few un-signed attacks on me, I vowed that I would always sign my name to anything that I say on the blogs. If I say it, I sign it. You would be amazed at the things that I have thought about saying anonymously, but didn’t. In the end, I feel better about myself knowing that I avoided being mean, or hurting someone’s feelings. Sadly, I seem to think that “Anonymous” is fair game, because they have no personal investment in what they say. Incredulously, they seem to be insulted when I fly into them, like they were personally invested in an unsigned comment! Go figure, they take "Anonymous" personally, like that was their real identity!

Now, to the root of all of this rhetoric. An anonymous blogger (The Joe Blow Report) attacked Dave Stancliff for writing about the unfairness of doing a very vulgar demonstration at the funeral of a fallen soldier. Dave, a writer and a journalist, believes in free speech, above and beyond what the average person has even thought about. Many journalist agonize over what, and when, it is the right time to say things. Like, “You can’t shout FIRE! in a crowded theater”. An old cliché, but a good point. Dave spent a considerable amount of time, and gave a great amount of thought to the rights of the church group that demonstrated at the soldiers funeral. It was Dave’s opinion that the family of the fallen soldier had the right to a respectful, quite funeral, without disruptive disrespect. Many would agree, including the courts. But, the decision was overturned, and it is now going to the supreme court.

To add to the confusion, and possible unfairness, Dave is a veteran of “The war that didn’t happen” he was a soldier in Cambodia. The war that Nixon denied, the war that caused the Kent State riot, and the student deaths. I don’t know what demons that Dave still carries around with him, but I would guess that they are considerable. To have “Joe Blow” openly taunting him, from behind his cowards curtain of anonymousness, seems to be patently unfair. I think that the unfairness would be easier to swallow if he had the courage to sign his name. Don’t get me wrong, Joe Blow often makes valid points, but plain viciousness, for viciousness’s sake, is just plain unfair. Dave deserves respect. Even when you disagree with him.

If you want to familiarize yourself with this subject, please use the following links:
 Dave Stancliff, offers a reward for exposing the identity of "Joe Blow".
 The Joe Blow Report.
Free speech, maybe

Sunday, September 19, 2010

How to refinish a tub

Robin wants to know how to refinish a tub. Oregon told her that I might know...

Reply: Yeah, I've got a bunch of stuff on tubs. Do the research, and do it right. It has to be professionally done, and the fumes can kill you. The restorations turn out great though. More later…

I’ve been up to my eyeballs lately. More later…

Did you notice that Joe’s back? More later….

I’m on my way to Laytonville to LaNell Goforth’s funeral. More later…
My internet at home is out. More later…
Think of something to talk about until I get back. More later…

Sunday, September 12, 2010

No Folks... This Ain't Kristabel's Kitchen!

Kristabel's kitchen pumps out stuff that mine never will. Her cooking makes my mouth water, and my stomach growl just reading about it. She tells how to make Marshmallows, limoncello, nectarine tarts, and other treats that few can even ponder. ( Link to Kristabell )

Nectarine Tart and photo by Kristabel

Her posts are neat and organized. She has enough of a sense of humor, she can include a photo of her pie crust all over the floor, where she spilled it. I’ve also spilled pie crust on the floor. I cover my clumsiness by pretending that I was feeding the dog. I hate when that happens, the dog doesn’t meet my standards for cleanliness, I have to stop everything clean up what the dog leaves, wash and dry my hands, and start over. The last time that I did that I forgot to put the salt in my pie, and I ended up with a flat pie. (humor, get it? Flat pie?)

Anyway, I made some pies last night and I thought, “hey I should do a picture post, like Kristabel”! Rather than use a good camera like her, I just use my cell phone. I soon found out, that slows things up considerably. Each time you take a photo, you have to stop and wash and dry your hands. I imagine that a camera would soon be ruined with flour and other food orts if you didn’t. (now, the next time you do a crossword puzzle and they give you a clue for three letter word for “Food Scrap”. The answer is “ort”, and now you have actually seen it used in a sentence.

I just included the photos below. Anybody that is going to make the pie will know what order that they belong in, so figure it out yourself. Included in the photos is a clue for one of the commenters here. See if anybody can figure out that one of the pies is a “pay-up” for some work done on the Laytonville history. And who it might be.

This is a pie made from the recipe in a previous post. I should tell you that the pie is made EXACTLY like the recipe said. So don’t come whining to me if your pie doesn't turn out. The only thing that might confuse you is the amount of apples. Store bought apples are larger than the average local tree apple, so cut down to FIVE store apples. I used I/4 teaspoon of nutmeg, and ¼ teaspoon of ginger. I cooked the pie at 350 for 55 minutes. The pie should be bubbly, and have a nicely browned crust. Some like their pies well done, if you are one of those, reduce the temperature down to 300 until the pie is done to your satisfaction. Don’t over-cook, or let the crust burn.

The other thing that I should tell you is, you can use a food processor if you like. I do everything by hand, it reminds me of the old folks that came before us. Their pies were remarkably tasty achievements. My 3G grandmother was famous for her pies, and her legend lives yet today. My recipes include things like acorn muffins. I cook mostly as a remembrance of the Old-timers.

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Love, hope, and charity, in a rip-off world.

Photo from Wikipedia. "Brother can you spare a dime"
How many times have you turned on the news and been confronted with a poor sad faced child from a third world country. Usually they have an actor presenting the child to you, with the story line that all you have to do is send pennies a day to keep this child fed, clothed, and educated. Then you read that all of the food that is being sent to the African countries, where children are starving, is setting on a dock somewhere rotting. You become somewhat jaded and hardened because you know that most of the poor sad faced children that you see on TV are most likely part of a scam, or if not, most of the money goes to “administration."

I like to feel that the money that I spend for aid and health care in the world is actually doing some good. Sometimes the sad little children’s faces that I see on the TV get to me, and my guilt becomes somewhat unbearable. When that happens, I donate a little extra to a club that I belong to, and the funding that I give is actually matched by Bill Gates. I know and trust that ALL the money that I give is actually going to the right place. That is a real salve for my guilt.

You walk into a grocery store and see a can on the counter, “Little Billy needs a liver transplant” or some other expensive malady. You feel horrible, knowing how little that you can really do. As sorry as you feel for little Billy, you know that your children need new shoes and you haven’t even been able to save a thing for their college education. Sometimes I might put some change in the can, knowing full well its not enough to do any good.

I have a friend who’s wife had kidney failure, they had no insurance, but a relative was willing to give a kidney. I don’t know how much the operation cost, but it was well beyond his family’s means. He did a fundraiser, where he raffled off the family car. I bought a few tickets, and my wife bought a few tickets. I discussed it with her, and we both agreed, that if we won it, we would give it back to them. You know that I didn’t win it, luck never works that way when you want it too. I saw him the other day and he told me that his wife would be getting the operation, and he would be “getting his wife back”, as he put it. It was a very warm feeling to know that I was a very small part of that. It was a bitter / sweet reward. Bitter knowing how little that I actually contributed, and sweet that his wife would be getting a new kidney. Then it’s not over yet either. She still has a long walk to the other side of the woods where she can be happy, healthy and whole again. They will be in my thoughts.

As I walk down the street, I am constantly panhandled. I guess I have that guilt stricken look on my face, like I might slide some beggar a buck or two. I admit that I have given some panhandlers money, but I have taken a very strict line of not giving to panhandlers. Some look like they honestly just need the money. Others look like whatever is wrong with then, they did it to themselves.

The rest of my day is distracted with wondering about whether or not the panhandler deserved the money, or if they just playing on my naivety. It somehow makes me angry, I’m not sure if it is anger at myself for not knowing what to do, or anger at the panhandler, for ruining my day. At any rate most people must feel like I do.

I’ve purposely watched people approach a panhandler situation, just to see how they handle it. Some people just open their wallet and hand them money with out even slowing down. Others look them over like they are trying to decide who the money would be more important to, themselves or the panhandler. Other deliver a sermon, give them money and move on. Still, others just give them a lecture and point out that they don’t belong here, they don’t give them any money and they look satisfied with themselves. A group, probably in the majority, remain stone faced and just walk on by.

Quite often people will change sides of the street, mostly I see women do this. I don’t understand it, but they probably don’t spend the rest of the day wondering what they should have done, because they successfully avoided the question. Why can’t men be more like that?

I wonder about the young people that I see in town that follow the concerts. They always look skinny and destitute, but they always seem to come up with the cash to get into whatever concert that they want to get into. Something can be said for their freedom, and lack of responsibility. I always think of Janis Joplin and the song “Me and Bobby Mcgee”, and the part where she says, “Freedom’s just a word for nothing left to lose”. From all outward appearances, it doesn’t look like they have much left to lose. I often think of a post that Kym Kemp did about “just walking by”, where she came across a poor broken-hearted waif begging on the street. She walked by, then started making up stories in her head about the poor girls perceived needs, to the point that she turned around, walked back to her, gave her some money and told her in no uncertain terms, “Call your Mom!”

This is one post where I will accept anonymous comments gladly. I was just wondering how you deal with all of the scams out there. How do you sort out what is right and what is wrong. What is the right thing to do in today’s world, when a lot of people can’t find jobs, and maybe, just maybe, the person on the street is too proud to admit that he can’t find work, and he says that he lives on the street because he likes it.

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Hey mister... wanta buy a display stand?

So, as everybody knows, that has been paying attention, Janis and I have been working on a remodel. It appears that we are going to have some left-over gondola roll-around racks. I was going to put them on Craig's list, but I thought that I would put them up here and ask for some honest opinions first. These racks are in fairly good shape, and they would be a good way for a small business to get some nice fixtures in their shops.

We were thinking about selling them for $80.00 per four foot section (Three posts, four panels, and the connector parts) The new roll-around racks are costing us $400.00 dollars each, for comparison . Please note the photo of the bare four foot section. The sections can be added together endlessly. But we only have about 80 feet total.

The red and grey end caps might go for $25.00 each. (Like in the end cap photo)

The two other photos are just typical Gondola arrangements.

The shelves would come with three brackets each, and a 4 foot long sections would sell for one dollar per inch (I.E. a 12” shelf with three brackets= $12.00. A 16” shelf with three brackets= $16.00)

We have a variety of peg hooks available. If you know of anybody that might be interested please have them call us at 707-923-2734

We might sell them by piece, or the whole lot as one. We are not ready yet to sell them. We would be glad to talk to anybody about them. Or you can look at them in all of their glory at 429 Maple Lane in Garberville. This is not an firm offer to sell, but we are going to have to move them out.

Monday, September 6, 2010

Apple pie

Not my pie, i just borrowed this photo from wikipedia

Apple pie

Make the crust:
First, cut up 1 cup of unsalted butter into ½ inch cubes, put them in the freezer. Put two cups of all purpose flour in a big mixing bowl, Add 1 tablespoon of white sugar, and ½ teaspoon of salt. This is where everybody usually goes crazy. “Why use unsalted butter and then add salt???” Because, unsalted butter also doesn’t have so much whey in it either. So, as long as you don’t also add whey, it will be different. The whey makes the pie crust less crumbly. Happy? Now, your butter has to be in the freezer for I/2 hour to get good and firm, so you can drink a beer or watch TV. You can channel surf and catch up on the news.

While you do that you can ponder about how you could have been more organized and not had to wait for the butter to cool. Good luck! I've never figured out a way.

After the butter chills, mix the flour, salt, and sugar completely. Add the cubelettes of butter. Take your pastry cuter and cut the butter into the flour. The crumbs should be about the size of a pea. If you mix it too much, throw it out and start over. Remember no more than pea-size, you don’t want to mix it too much. Too much mixing ruins the flaky. If you have to throw it out and start over, at least you get more beer and TV.

If you don’t have a pastry cutter, go get one. Some of you smarties have food processors with pastry cutter blades in them. They work better, but I don’t like to use them. The way that I figure’ good cookin’ takes getting’ your hands in it. The last time that I put my hands in a food processor, I didn’t like the results.

Now that your pastry lumps are about pea-size, it’s time to add the water. Gently sprinkle ¼ cup of ice water into the mix while cutting it in with your pastry cutter. It will look stringy and crumbly, but if you pinch it, it will stick together. When it just sticks together, divide the mix into two parts. Wrap each part into a ball, wrap them into plastic wrap. Flatten them into flattened balls, like gouda cheese. It makes it easier to roll out later. Now put them into the refrigerator overnight… By now you know that you were supposed to have started yesterday.

Good cooks always have pie dough in their refrigerators, that way they can say, “I think I’ll make a pie!” And, BOOM, they can make a pie without having to screw around with the crust for two days. I don’t know why anybody wouldn’t have pie crust in their refrigerator. I don’t even know why I don’t! It even freezes!

Now, the filling:
My Gramma Ruby always said that she would show somebody how to cook, but she would never give somebody a recipe. Most of my family are naturally good cooks, but chances are, nothing will ever be cooked the same. There are just too many variables in cooking. Some year berries are sweet, and some years they are sour. If you don’t know how to put in the right amount of sugar you can get a sour pie. Yuck!

The only thing that I can tell you for sure is that pie apples are for feeding to the pigs. The only reason that the old-timers would make pies out of pie apples is because they couldn’t be eaten any other way. Good pies need good sweet apples! A good tree ripe Delicious Apple is as good of an apple as you can get to make a pie. If you don’t have a tree, you can use boughten apples. They work, but a home grown apple is better. Good food requires good ingredients.

Take about seven apples, or enough to make a pie. Peel them, quarter them, remove the core with a paring knife. Slice them about one quarter inch thick. Squeeze the juice of ½ lemon over the apples, that keeps them white and adds flavor.

Mix ¾ cup of brown sugar with ¼ cup of flour. I like dark brown sugar, because the pie is too white otherwise. I know, it seems dumb to keep the apples white with lemon juice, then make them brown with brown sugar. Well, the flavor of the lemon has to be in there. Not too much, just enough to make people notice that it’s a good pie but not enough to make it taste like lemon. If you want a lemon pie make that instead. Great flavor is subtle, so don’t get carried away! You can put up to 1 full cup of sugar, instead of just ¾ if the pie looks like it needs to be sweeter. There is no such thing as subtle when it come to sweet. I always go toward the sweet side. Besides if you are on a diet, why the heck would you be eating pies anyway?

Now, you have brown sugar and flour. Add ¾ teaspoon cinnamon, just a light sprinkle of nutmeg, I don’t know how much, but just enough so that you can’t taste it. Remember to be subtle. The subtleties are why Gramma Ruby wouldn’t give out recipes, but she was always glad to show you. Then just a little ginger. Plus 1/2 teaspoon of salt. Stir the dry ingredients completely. Add the apples and stir them into the dry ingredients until they are mixed.

Take your pie crust rollout sheet, or use waxed paper, place in on a flat surface. Sprinkle the sheet with a light dusting of flour, press the dough out by hand a little bit, dust the crust dough with flour and rub your crust roller with flour. Don’t let the crust stick to the roller. Gently roll out the crust, that you had thoughtfully placed in your refrigerator yesterday. When you roll it, roll it gently in all directions from the middle to the edge. When it gets to be the right size, gently set the pie dish upside down on the crust, side your hand under the roll-out sheet and flip it right side up. (clean any loose flour away first) If you can't do that, fold the crust in half and move it to the pie dish, like sissies do. Settle the crust in the plate and trim the edges.

Place the bowlful of filling into the crust. While nobody’s looking, take another cube of unsalted butter out of the freezer and use a cheese grater to grate butter over the top of the filling. I learned that from Julia Childs. She said that nobody likes to like butter, so you sneak it in, ‘cause that’s what makes it good! Grate in about 4 tablespoons.

Brush the edges of the pie crust with a damp cloth, to get the flour off it and make the top crust stick to the bottom. Roll out the top crust in the same manner as you just did the bottom. Gently fold it over in half. Lift it up and place it on the top of the pie and unfold it. If at first you don’t succeed, feed it to the dog and make another crust. No wait! If you have disaster, you can place it back together with a few well placed crimps. When you get the top in place, seal the edges with a fork, or if you are fancy, I am, do a clever finger pinch edging.  Poke some air holes in the top with a sharp knife. Be creative! Brush any excess flour off of the top and sprinkle with WHITE sugar this time. (It’s prettier)

Bake until it’s brown and bubbly. Then place in in the window cooler for about twenty minutes. Serve warm!

For Gramma Jane’s Bear crust blackberry pie, simply replace the butter with bear fat, and the apples with blackberries. I might have stolen this apple pie recipe from her.

1 cup frozen butter ½ inch dices
2 cup flour
1 table spoon white sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt
¼ cup water

3/4 cup light brown sugar
1/4 cup all-purpose flour
3/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
ground nutmeg, to taste
ginger to taste
1/2 teaspoon of salt
7 medium apples, peeled, cored and thinly sliced
1/2 lemon, juiced
I just thought that I would add that NOBODY makes better pie than Elsie Branscomb (Mom) I've asked her to give me her recipes, but she say's "Well, I'll show you, but you have to make them different everytime." She can make ANY kind of pie. I haven't gotten much past apple myself, and blackberry, and huckleberry/apple. And sweet cream apple.
But, that's another post.
By the way, you only have to chill your crust in the refrigerator for 40 minutes. I just wanted to make sure that you read this all the way to the end!

Sunday, September 5, 2010



About the time that Babe Ruth was hitting his famous "called shot", Laytonville was forming it's town baseball team and "old-timers day" was started.

Every year, on the Saturday of the third weekend in August, the Laytonville town baseball team gets together and plays the Willits town baseball team at Harwood Memorial park in Laytonville. The boys of summer play hardball, just like the pros. The teams have been doing this for more years than I can remember. The story that I seem to remember is that the baseball game started over a bet many years ago between Boomer Kelton and Al Greenberg, the owners of Boomers Bar in Laytonville and Al’s Place in Willits. Both long dead now, but not forgotten because this “Old-Timers Day Baseball Game” has immortalized them.

The game has been played continuously ever since, with a few years missing during the Second World War. The party before during and after has become known as “Old-Timers Day”. The day starts about noon with a chicken barbecue, with all the trimmin’s. The ladies bring their favorite side dishes. They become quite competitive with their side dishes. More than once I’ve gone through the line and had the serving ladies point out “Those are Lydia’s chili beans, those are Mary’s, and these are mine”. The only correct request is, “I’ll have scoop of each to compare, but yours smells absolutely delicious!” Then, of course you have the same choices with the salads, breads, and desserts. You stand no chance all of getting through the line without your plate spilling over. The food was so good this year that I cleaned my whole plate, with the exception of the fact that I had a little bit of my chicken left over. They serve a large chicken-half.

When I was a wee lad I helped my dad, Everett Branscomb, and my Uncle Ed Downing, make a sauce of sautern wine, butter, vegi-oil, garlic, lemon juice, and salt. The chicken soaked in it over night, then it was barbecued on an oak fire about four feet above the flames, liberaly dawbed with the butterwine sauce.  It was the BEST chicken I ever ate! "Here, try mine".

During the time before the game, you eat lunch. The older ladies talk about their gall bladders, and the men have little side-table discussions about their prostates. The young ladies talk about their kids, and young men talk about sports, and sports. The teenagers flirt, and children play games in the children’s park that is set up there.

The Lady’s Auxiliary sells historical photo calendars and has the late local historian Kate Mayo’s scrapbooks on display. As I was going through them, I noticed a photo of a pretty young lady in a green dress at the presentation of an award for Kate Mayo. It must have been a few years ago, because Kate looked younger than I remember her being. The young lady was a frequent commenter on this blog, Robin Shelley. I think that she probably worked for the "Laytonville Ledger" newspaper at the time.

There is a liquid refreshment stand on the third-base corner of the park. It’s a popular place for the politicians to shake hands and talk politics. The old retired baseball players usually gather there and reminisce about the early days. There is a large sign on the back of the recreation hall that says “D. Dodd” and a date that he hit the back of the building with a home run ball. It is the longest hit ball in the history of the park. A few people proudly tell about being there to see the ball hit, and testify to the fact, what to some would seem impossible.

The Willits players all know the Laytonville players. They are friends that go back to high school ball. There is always talk back in forth when they see each other. I’ve never seen such warm friendships as these players seem to have.

The kids chase fouls balls and home runs, and the ump will give them fifty-cents apiece to return them. Every now and then you will see a kid that will hide a ball for later, and take it home. Nobody seems to care, they know the ball will be put to good use, and who knows, the young lad might come back in a few years and hit his own ball out of the park.

I’ve never seen the park in as good a shape as it was this year, the infield was the perfect combination of clay and sand. It was properly damp, and not muddy or dusty. The outfield was a perfectly green field of well watered grass. The kind that anybody would be proud to have as a front lawn. The flag pole was brightly painted white, and a brand new flag flew proudly at the top. My cousin Ella and her husband Brad Newman had the flag pole placed there last year (2009) in the memory of the Branscomb Family. My cousin Roy worked with the park to get it right. Wow, what a great park for a small town to have.

“I don’t know who won the game this year”. That’s the proper response to the question, “who won”, when Willits wins. When Laytonville wins, the response is, “Willits played a hell of a game. I don’t think that I’ve ever seen them play so good. But, of course, we beat them”.

After the game, we all head to Cousin Roy and Mary’s house across hwy 101 from the park, where most of the family and friends of the Branscombs gather for a yard party. Roy barbecues up a large barbecue of tri-tip roasts. I fry my recipe of deep fried breaded zucchini, seasoned with salt, pepper, garlic and fresh shredded parmesan cheese, served while still warm and crispy! Everybody contributes to the pot-luck, and the dinner is the same as it is at the park, everybody is pushing the dish that they brought. Just like at the park, plates are piled high, and food disappears like a magic act. Hamms beer seems to be the drink of choice for the men, and wine is sipped by the ladies. One of us only drinks beer at the family party, so it is an annual event for him. I usually don’t drink, because I’m too busy frying squash, then I have to drive home, but I definitely have a good time!

A real funny side-story at this years party was about a friend of mine, that has contributed greatly to the knowledge of the history of the Branscomb family. He goes by the pen name “Olmanriver.” I told my family that I was going to make sure that he came to dinner this year. My cousin Penny already knows him. He considers himself to be a “hippie.” Whereas, I would probably fit the “redneck” description better. Just like the Willits and the Laytonville baseball teams have become great friends because of their common interest in baseball, Olmanriver and I have become great friends because of our love of the history of the local area. The distinction between “hippie’ and “redneck” means no more to us than “brown” and “yellow” hair. Or, in my case, bald.

Olmanriver is a vegetarian. I had my mother bring her famous “vegetarian lasagna”, that most people rave about. She made such a large dish of it that I had to pack it to the car. I remember thinking that we would probably be having left-over lasagna for weeks. I called Mary and asked her what was on the menu, I was just trying to assure myself that there would be enough good vegi food for OMR. She assured me that we would have “tons of salads, cassolroles, and desserts and other dishes that would be veggie". And, of course my fried squash was veggie.

The day of the barbecue, Mary proudly stated that she had made her famous Veggie-chili beans for Olmanriver. As it turns out, the tri-tip was the only meat dish there!

As a big surprise for all of us, Olmanriver didn’t show up, as he firmly warned me that he might not. So, our dinner was mostly vegetarian. Every last bite of Mom’s huge lasagna was eaten, all the squash that I took got eaten. Again, we had a huge meal. We have a lot of very good cooks in our family, that cook what I call “down home food”. That’s real simple, but real delicious food. Most of it is garden fresh.

Well, I had one of the best visits that I’ve had with my family in a year. We all swapped “stories” about ourselves and had a great time. We quit calling them “lies” years ago!