Sunday, January 2, 2011

One more time

I tried this statement as a reply, but it got too long so I posted it.This is a reply to person who's opinion I value. I just want to change that opinion a little bit.

Well…. I’ve been ruminating all day long. It is at this point that most of the old north coast culture just rolls over and says to “hell with it, It’s not worth sacrificing friendships over”, but somehow I feel compelled to wade into the muddy waters and see if I can somehow stir them clear, you see my dilemma.  I am equally compelled to state, way up front, that I value Olmanriver’s friendship and the contributions of knowledge, and history, that he has made to this blog, and to my entire family. And, this whole valley.

Any time that it is tried to explain that we valued our culture that we once had, it is diminished by the people that weren’t there, and obviously can’t understand. Any analogy that I try make is poo poo’ed and put aside. I went back and tried to make the statement analogous the Indian culture more clear. Maybe I was clumsy.

Olmanriver said: “I have a big problem with your using what happened to the Indians as analogous to what happened to the local redneck culture!”

The fact that we didn’t kill each other this last culture change is the only difference that I can see. But, if we are going to involve ourselves in the killing of the first culture-change between the white man and the Indian, I want to make it clear that I had direct ancestors killed by Indians. Although it makes little difference who was the “right” and who was the “wrong“, it worked both ways, a lot of “innocents” were killed. And at this point I want to make it clear, again, that I feel strongly that we don’t have the knowledge today to judge the right or wrongness of what happened between the early settlers and the Indian people. Perfectly innocent Indians were killed, and, perfectly innocent whites were killed. I could go into details, but what’s the point? At every analogy that is given, the salient facts are pushed aside and the analogy is attacked. So, I’ll try it differently.

We had a culture here that was unique to the north coast of California. We weren’t “rednecks”, although we were more redneck than the culture that supplanted us. We had our own system of honor. Our names were our honor, our word was our bond, and a handshake was a contract. We didn’t swear in the presence of ladies, and we took our hats off and wiped our feet when we came into the house. We took a bath and put on clean clothes before we came to town, or was to be seen in public. We didn’t lock our doors, because we didn’t need to. We left our keys in our cars and trucks in case somebody needed to move them. We left our tools where we were using them so they would be there when we came back. We had free run of the hillsides and rivers, and we swam in the river anywhere we liked. No kid was ever home while it was daylight. We had games to play and hillsides to hike on and rivers to swim in. The only rule was we had to be home for dinner when the street lights came on. The men worked hard, drank hard, and played hard. The women were busy from daylight to dark, like in "a woman's work is never done".

Fights were frequent and gentlemanly, nobody sucker-punched, and the winner bought the beer. The crowd that watched two people fighting kept the fight “fair”. Any fight that got out of the boundaries of fairness was broken up by the crowd.

Everybody had a “favorite” of one of two choices. Ford / Chevy, Millworker / woodsworker, and so on, ad-infinitum.

Everybody knew everybody and we were proud of who we were and what we did. It was an insult to not ask a person what they did for a living. The people that we didn’t know were quickly placed by asking a few family questions. It was soon determined who we were by family and geographical area.

Our culture was the law of the land. As you might guess, it was often violated, but it was understood that you were going against the rules.

The Wailaki Indian culture was not the same as the Lakota Sioux, nor was it the same as the Pomo or the Yuki or the Cahto.  They were different and distinct cultures. The people of the north coast were different from Kentucky rednecks. Some people that moved here very early on in the seventies got a short glimpse of the people that lived here and at least tried to understand them, I could name those, but I don’t want another distraction from the fact that we had a culture that was pushed aside and disrespected. I know… If it wasn’t them, it would have been someone else. Who was it that said you can never go home again? But, it’s a lot harder to take the loss of your home when you never left it.

Now, for the typical couching that the Past culture has to do for the new culture: We love you guys, we're glad that you are here! We would just like a little love and respect back. How about it?


olmanriver said...

The fact that we didn’t kill each other this last culture change is the only difference that I can see.
The salient fact of the earliest settler/Indian encounters was the death of the Indians at a rate that was genocidal.
To claim that the local culture suffered similarly gags me!

My respect for the old culture is demonstrated by my rummaging through their history, listening, interviewing, asking questions, and sharing oldtimers oral accounts with those who lived here before the newcomers. I feed and share remembrance and preservation of history most days of the week.

I only use the term redneck because you have described yourself to me as an ol' redneck. The values that you describe are those that many of us were raised with. When I visited my farmer grandparents, the only tv shows that weren't considered smut were Andy of Mayberry, the Price is Right, and Lawrence Welk. In the fifties and sixties, we left our doors unlocked in the suburbs I lived in as well. This small town trusting way of life is gone in most places, not just here.

While I am at it, let me put in a plug for a Beeeauuutiful book that just came out... Humboldt Heartland by Andy Westfall...great photos of old ranching families with little vignettes. It is a great book that honors the ranchers who have been here a long time.

I am not diminishing your expression of loving the free range and lifestyle that you once had Ernie. Just stay to the facts to make your case, and DO NOT compare a local genocidal war on Indians to the cultural war of the sixties and seventies.

And again, disagreeing with you is not disrespecting you. I just don't like the poor nobody-understands-us redneck victimhood schtick.
I do appreciate you and your efforts here Ernie, but I do disagree, hopefully always respectfully.

Ernie Branscomb said...

We have Andy Westfall's book in stock at Radio Shack, we even have a counter copy if anyone would like to look through it.

I'd like to say that I will just "get over it", but I won't. I still haven't gotten over what Attila the Hun did to my family in Europe.

I didn't take anything that you said "personally". Nor was I offended. You are still one of my most highly respected history researchers.

One hundred years from now it won't make any difference but I would at least like the north coast culture that was here be at least a footnote. It was apparently pretty unique by todays standards.

Maybe instead of me getting over it some people ought to try to get used to it.

olmanriver said...

Thanks Ernie.
As you know, my focus is the first 75 or so years after the settlers arrived in NorMen and SoHum, but no one I talk to has much on that so I am ending up listening to a number of perspectives on the 1940's to the "newcomer days" period. You may find that in the long run I turn out to be a historical preservationist of just the period that was so rosy in your memory.
I spend a lot of time re-reading Mrs. Cook's sohum history volumes at the library. One interesting topic, to me, is the lack of law enforcement in the area. Back in the '30s, and into the '40s (I think), there was no local law enforcement and there were a lot of barfights, often spilling out on the street, and involving knives. Shootings seemed to have died out. My source for this perspective is a doctor who was here, and kept busy, during those lawless days.
Do you know when the area first got a sheriff or deputy? I sorta remember you doing some posts on local patrolmen...?

Ernie Branscomb said...

Yep, I even know were the bodies are buried.
Jim Black was our deputy and Marvin Davis was "dollar a year man".
Your contact would be Todd Barton, his grandson, and Dwayne Barton, his son-in-law.
Bud Miller was our CHP.
??? Perkins was our game warden.

Ernie Branscomb said...

"Shootings seemed to have died out."

The D.A. will be glad to hear that!LOL!

Anonymous said...

"Shootings seemed to have died out"
Dang!! And I thought some folks deserved to be shot.


Ernie Branscomb said...

What was Perkins first name, was it Bob?

Anonymous said...


olmanriver said...

From my limited perspective, bar shootings were more common around the turn of the 20th century, knivings more prevalent in the barfights in the early decades of the last century, and at some point, "pokes-in-the-nose" became the fashionable way to solve bar disputes.
I wuz talkin' about bar behavior, and deserve some teasing for not saying that more clearly.
My sources are the child of a barkeep, one local doctor,and two locals who lived next door to bars around here, decades ago.
I am not an expert on this subject.

Do you know what year the law showed up with a local office?

Ernie Branscomb said...

Yeah, we thought that we were pretty civilized settling our disputes by rolling around in the mud the blood and the beer.

There were a few memorial knifings.

There was a least one shooting were a well know wife of a well known rancher shot her husband in the well known ass. It was the consensus that he had it coming. at least she didn't spend much time in jail.

I'll check on the Cop thing. All of my sources are disappearing.

olmanriver said...

But, it’s a lot harder to take the loss of your home when you never left it .

Succinctly, and well said.

Ben said...

Hey! We love ya Ernie!

suzy blah blah said...

I get Ernie's viewpoint. I can see the parallel. And I can understand how he can empathize with the indian's pain upon the replacement of their culture. Although the difference in scale of change is humongous, and the difference in method and effect is dramatic, there is a common loss of one's past, one's place, one's culture or subculture, one's family's customs, one's people, etc. that I believe he shares.

And I can understand what river says about the loss of his home town culture in the midwest too

spyrock said...

in september of 65 i went to college and lived in the haight where my bank was, where i got a haircut and where i bought pepsi and surfer magazine. there were no hippies there. the first sign of a hippie was this homeless guy who took showers by the cafeteria below the dorm. he wore clod hoppers. the next sign was a coffee shop called the blue unicorn. they served good sandwiches but not as good as an italian lady down the street. the first store we saw in the spring of 66. they had a manequin with xmas lights on it. it was the psychedelic shop. they gave out free posters which i used to collect. at first they begged you to take them. as things changed, you had to beg them to give you one. and then not at all. certain people were attracted to the street in those days. i was one of them. nobody was from there. the kids at the beach where i surfed were just like the kids i left at home. most of these so called hippies i saw were over 25. we were the babies. there were no hollywood looking women and the band people were just like everyone else. people started moving into haight street from all over. at first, most of them came from northern california, oregon, or washington state. 6 months later, everyone from southern california and then the rest of the world. not all of these people lived in the haight, you would see people like richard braughtigan walking the streets all over the city alone at night. as time passed, more and more people moved in and tried to pass themselves off as hippies. but by then it was no longer cool. so they had a death of the hippie parade to keep the newcomers away. because what had first started as peace and love, was turning into a bummer. the vibes on the street changed in 1968. it was over before most people ever came. and most of the original people had already moved out of the haight. steve gaskin took the rest of the flower children to tennesee. around that time the organic spiritual movement started with an influx of spiritual teachers coming to san francsico from all over the world.
the berkely political scene was becoming more insane but most of these movements had nothing to do with haight street. we never considered ourselves hippies back then. to us, it was an imginary person, someone who was trying to be cool or someone he wasn't. we used to get put down for having short hair and because we looked like surfers. we saw a very self righteous attitude come out of even people in the grateful dead. so it doesn't surprize me to hear that people like ernie felt the same way that i did. because a real hippie is an imaginary creature. sort of like a snipe that spin and marty used to hunt for, or bigfoot, or those wylackie creatures that chase you down the mountain. i don't think many real hippies made their way up to the sohum or mendocino out of the hundred or so that i saw that might qualify. the first growers i saw at a party near albion in early 70's were obviously locals with long hair and paranoid vibes.
so what i think happened up there is an example of shapeshifting. the local shamans brought these creatures down on you to get even for the old days. these so called newcomers are probably really whiptallies or chinhahas. they are in reality just ordianary people like everyone else, but because you live in a parallel universe these ordinary people have shapeshifted into hippie looking newcomers because some local shaman put a whiptali spell on you. i don't know how else to explain it. we have the same thing going on where i live but its worse. i sometimes wonder why ernie whines about this all the time too because believe it or not most people still don't know where your dogpatch is or would ever drive more than 3 hours to get there. so enjoy paradise while you can. and if you think you see a hippie. trust me. they never ever existed. its probably a whiptali playin ya.

Anonymous said...

Spy, I don't care what you call them. All I know is there sure is a lot of them.


charlie two crows said...

Spy.... If all those hippie girls I had sex with were Whiptali. Could you please whip up a spell and make me another one. I haven't had sex like that in years

Ekovox said...

In the summer of the late '60's or early '70's the Gypsy Jokers motorcycle gang came to Weaverville. Set on terrorizing the local community with biker gang fear tactics, the sheriff of Trinity County and his lone Douglas City resident deputy tried to deal with them. When the Gypsy Jokers would have none of it, the sheriff went to the townsfolk who took up arms and like a scene out of a Randolph Scott western, they escorted the rebel biker gang out of town. Rednecks? Nah. A logger/millworker community coming together for a cause. Yep. The same guys the sheriff was arresting the weekend before for fighting in the bars and on the streets standing side by side with him.

I've told this story here before. But, that is the kind of community these hills had. The communities who dealt with two devastating floods, earthquakes, built the schools and towns and ballfields and roads we all live, work and play in. The ethnic groups, Scandihoovians, Portugees, Swiss-Italians and the local Indians. The Dustbowl Okies and Arkies, the transplanted Washington gypo loggers, the highway builders and such. Now, a mere shadow of their former selves. When was the last time you heard a prominent Oklahoma accent spoken in your town? In Hoopa, they had a place called Okie Lane. Why is that? When we attended school, the Indian kids would see a rash on our skin and call us Poison Okies. And we intermarried with the local Indians, er Native Americans. Oh, yes we did.

We, the generational natives, often get pigeonholed as a monoculture, but you know, sometimes it takes one to know one.

I have a friend who grew up in Reedsport, Oregon, really just up the coast at the mouth of the Umpqua River. I asked her if she had the onslaught of newcomers, ne hippies in her region like we had here. Nope, none whatsoever. It's kind of interesting to me, since we have similar histories, geographic regions and industries.

To wrap up, I think the Humboldt oldtimers have had an easier time adapting to the newcomers than vice-versa.

Ernie, do you belong to the Society of Humboldt County Pioneers? I have been asked to join. Want to join with me? Before 1885 is the eligibility requirement.

~Ross Rowley

spyrock said...

great post ekovox. its great to hear about people standing up for their community. i did the same thing but i found out i was standing there by myself. the thing is, it did make a difference.
what i'm saying in that other post is that there was never any such person as a hippie. any more than there is a snipe, bigfoot or a whiptali. a donkey is a donkey whether he has a short mane or a long mane. and i agree, a donkey can be a pain in the ass. but to prefer one over the other is some type of insanity akin to being hexed by a shaman. i was raised to respect other people no matter how they dress up. as long as they show respect to their elders, women and little kids. i was raised with okies and arkies, portuqese and mexican,, italians, mennonights, and air force brats with a few black people thrown in.
i liked the joke about the poison oakies. we still have oakies and arkies around here and they are among my best friends. but i've never picked one group of people and hated them without giving them a chance to show me who they are. so i can agree that i have met a lot of donkeys who thought they were hippies or even gypsie jokers. but most of the hippies and bikers that i've met were good people. people like skillet, j c, the one arm bandit, janis joplin, jerry garcia, and pig pen. so i do have a problem with people prejudging people because of what they appear to be to them. but i understand that this happens all the time. even to me. the difference is. ernie might think that out of a thousand people, 950 are hippies whereas i could see the same people and only see 10 people who i think might qualify as hippies. thus we live in parallel universes. its great to repect people who deserve our respect. it's greater to visualize or respect people who don't respect themselves because it neutralizes that and gives them a push in the right direction. see the qualities in them that you wish were there. i'm watching romeo and juliet right now and its the same ole story. the capulets and the montegues. the loggers and the hippies. some things never seem to change. i totally understand why ernie likes to poke the newcomers. so all of you respectful hippies and newcomers just have to remember that he doesn't mean you. don't take it personally. but if the shoe fits, wear it.

Ernie Branscomb said...

I got far more of a positive response than I expected. And, I want to make it clear that I'm a peaceful man. I haven't poked anybody in the nose in years, and even when I did, I did it in self-defense. I have been poked in the nose before, also years ago, and I can assure you that you will change your mind about things when somebody pokes you in the nose.

You can take a man named Ferd poke him in the nose and tell him from now on his name is Dolf, and by golly he is Dolf!

Ernie Branscomb said...

I remember when the Gypsy Jokers came through Garberville. They tried to terrorize the town. They raced back and forth through town on mainstreet. Everybody just pulled to the side and parked while they made fools of themselves.

The CHP followed them to town and parked at the standard gas station, which was in the center of town at the time. The station operator turned off the pumps. When they demanded gas the operator told them that he would be more than glad to give them gas, but that they would have to pay him up front. He told them that it would probably be a good idea if they didn't cause any trouble because the cops had shotguns and that they were itching to use them.

They paid up front, filled their tanks, raced up and down mainstreet a few more times and headed on up to you I guess. We were kinda disappointed that something didn't get going. Oh well.

I have ancestors way back in Mendo and California, I haven't really made any connections to Humboldt though. I bet that I might find a connection if I researched it a little bit.

spanky mcfarland said...

After starting this out with a too harsh sounding response, only to be followed by better, more articulate comments by Eko and Spy...
I ruminated all evening, watching Our Gang and got all nostalogical for the way it was in my little home town...back in the days when I could streak buck naked down the block to the sorority girls house and they would return me home, again.
Maybe life has been all downhill since, moving from pretty location to pretty location, until they get overcrowded by others drawn to the same beauty. Always the newcomer, never the local.
Now it is crowding up here, but like Cap'n Eric Kirk, I have stayed here longer than anywhere else, with no intention of leaving.

To wrap up, I think the Humboldt oldtimers have had an easier time adapting to the newcomers than vice-versa.
I thought long and hard about this comment, and outside of the first ten years (an arbitrary number) of violent encounters, I believe there is a lot of truth in that statement.
None of my peer group ever talk about working with the locals, pretty much staying in their own hippie circles.
(note: A missing part of the story is how many locals asked us newcomers for help with their dope crops very early on, but that would involve naming prominent names.)
When I arrived in the late eighties, loggers were still thumping hippies, not to resurrect the timber wars here, but just to say that there was an atmosphere of mistrust that prevailed.

It takes time for healing to occur. I have Indian friends who as children raised in the 1940's
were told to hide under their beds by their parents to avoid white people stealing them. It wasn't til the forties that Indians could sit where they wanted to in Ukiah theatres. Today that seems unthinkable.

The melting pot, and I think that this term works well, seems pretty well stirred these days.

Ernie, I don't think I should be the writer of the history of the period that you are more of an authority on. That's your bailiwick, and you are getting morea and more articulate with all this practice writing... when are you gonna start writing the book?

Damn I miss having a sorority house just down the block.

lilly said...

All SFHS graduates from the 50s say how good we had it, growing up in a clean cut - well dressed - small town. We were innocent of what would take over - Even more would move back for retirement if the people on the streets were not so non caring of where they lived.

charlie two crows said...

Ernie, Great writing. You have creative style that's fun to read. I sent Blog address to random house so they can sample your style. Don't let local pressure keep you from publishing great stories abut SOHUM. Just think when you have a book out we could start calling her SUZY HA!HA! LOL.

Mr. Bunny said...

I think this pretty much sums it up.....please sing as you read.

Ernie Branscomb said...

Too funny Mr. Bunny!

It occurred to me that Mr. Rogers Neighborhood was EVERYTHING that my neighborhood wasn't. If I had been raised in Mr. Rogers neighborhood I would have failed to thrive, withered and died. Which causes me to wonder if those kind of programs are what's wrong with the world today... Toooooo P.C.

suzy blah blah said...

Hi. Can you say "neighborhood"? Sure you can. Is this a nice neighborhood? Sure it is. Hey, there's Ernie. He drives the big red firetruck. Can you say firetruck? Sure you can. Let's ask Ernie about those model airplanes hanging from the ceiling in his shop. Do they go real fast and make a loud noise? Sure they do. Okay then, have a wonderful day, and don't forget to feed the fish :)

charlie two crows said...

Suzy, In ernies neighborhood the growers shot down santa. Thought it was feds. So ernie delivered all the gifts with the fire truck. He's the neighborhood HERO!

olmanriver said...

The Crescent City Herald of April 7, 1858 gives us this novel approach to "Newcomers".

The following account of a tribe of Indians on this coast of whom we have never heard before, is given by a gentleman traveling the Northern part of the State with a government party, some years since. It will be found both curious and interesting:
‘To the east of Cape Mendocino, I met with a small tribe to whom my men gave the name of “Whistlers,” from their continued whistling, a peculiarity I had never met with before among Indians. Soon after we had camped, a party of Indians made their appearance upon a bluff about half a mile from camp. Taking Messrs. – and – with me, left camp and approached them in hope of being able to have a talk with them. At our approach they all fled, but two who apparently remained awaited us. When within hearing distance they commenced whistling, which they continued without noticing us. –tried to open a conversation but they took no notice of him or either of us; after a number of fruitless attempt to attract their attention, we determined to separate. --and -- to follow the hillside while I would descend to the creek, in hopes that we might find some more of the tribe.
Proceeding along the bank about a mile I came upon a chapaden or village. Immediately the squaws took to the brush, while the bucks set to whistling, and no effort that I made to attract their attention had any effect. But as soon as I began to retrace my step, they got up from their sitting posture, and filing in single file, whistled me back to camp. Several times, one or the other of the men would go out from camp—at once they were upon the trail whistling.
During the night they posted themselves in the brush and continued to serenade, and when we broke camp in the morning, they accompanied us some four miles, giving us specimens of their skill in the art of whistling.”

Jim Baker said...

Ernie, heard your voice on the California Report on the way home from work. You're famous. Does this mean I have to find somebody else to fix my furnace?

suzy blah blah said...

Ah, now we know who the real Santa is, the one who the growers have to thank for all their wealth. That's a pretty cewl story Charlie ... But what we really want to know is, more details about that hot sex you had with all those hippy girls back in the day ;)

charlie two crows said...

SUZY, Don't judge me to soon. I'm just the TElLER of the santa story. About 30 years ago some people were lost on the EEl down by dyerville. So they sent out the civil air patrol to look for them. And someone shot down one of the planes with a 20mm army surplus cannon. After that the radio would please ask the growers to hold there fire when search and rescue was out looking for someone. But every christmas the redneck station KEKA would laugh it up for a few days saying that the growers would shoot down santa. Suzy, I'm sorry to bring up rednecks and growers again. That's just the way it was!!!!