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Valley People (February 5, 2020)

TOM CONDON, former co-owner of the Buckhorn Bar and Restaurant, is rightly upset with last week’s mention in this space suggesting that former employees are having trouble getting their W-2’s. If they are, it’s their fault, was the gist of Condon’s complaint, which certainly seems legit from here. Apologies.

THE LODGE FIRE in central Boonville occurred a little after noon on Thursday, December 5th. It destroyed four homes, the Mexican restaurant and bar, and the Pic 'N Pay Market in the center of town. Rumors immediately circulated that the market was looted of high end liquor while attention was focused on the south end of the blaze where the slow moving fire began, burning laterally to the north via connecting roofs until it finally engulfed Pic 'N Pay. The enterprising thieves removed as many bottles as they could, returning to the unsecured store several times to re-load. The rumors said, and continue to say, the looters were two teenage boys, maybe more. The Sheriff's Department has confirmed that the store was indeed looted, and the case is under investigation.

MARRIED MONDAY at the Mendocino County Courthouse, AVA staffers Marilyn Davin and Bruce McEwen. Judge Moorman performed the ceremony before a room full of Courthouse staffers, friends of the popular couple and well-wishers.

SUPERVISOR TED WILLIAMS AT THE UNITY CLUB MEETING THURSDAY. A Public Meeting with Ted Williams our 5th District Supervisor  is scheduled for Thursday February 6th at 1:30 in the Fairgrounds Dining Room.  Admission is FREE.  Come to the presentation hosted by the A.V. Unity Club.  Warm beverages and cookies will be provided by Val Hanelt, Arline Bloom and Dolly Pacella.

FORMER Boonville resident deputy, Craig Walker, was on the Channel 7 news the other night busily going about his work for his new employer, the Moraga Police Department. Walker was at the scene of a shooting, a rare event in that otherwise placid suburb. Here in Mendo, and on his home turf of Anderson Valley, Walker was a busy lawman indeed, although on its surface rural Mendo looks even more placid than the prosperous Bay Area ‘burbs, Mendo has a much larger population of people who need constant supervision of the type only the police can provide. On that same telecast, Spencer, the Weather Guy, had ‘Navarro’ inscribed on his weather map!

THINGS I LIKE include the impressionistic paintings of local landmarks by Saffron Fraser. I’m the happy owner of Saffron’s lively and colorful rendition of the Navarro Store, and fully intend to buy another of her reasonably-priced paintings or prints as finances permit.

THE LOCAL ANGLE. Len Feinstein of Boonville has rightly garnered a slew of film editing awards. He's the guy who makes a coherent narrative out of a jumble of raw film, which makes him just as important, or more important, than the creator of the film, depending on the creator. Len most famously edited the marvelous "Joseph Campbell and the Power of Myth,” but he’s got many jewels in his crown, including his latest, 

 "The Confession Killer," a five-part Netflix documentary that tells the story of Henry Lee Lucas, famous for being the man who claimed responsibility for hundreds of murders when the only person he knocked off was his dear old mum, and there’s some doubt about that one. (Mom once disciplined little Henry by hitting him over the head with a two by four.) In 1983 and 1984, Lucas’s self-reported instinct for mayhem helped a Texas Rangers task force clear 213 unsolved cases, meaning they'd apparently assumed mayhem was Henry's full-time job. It didn’t matter that the victims, methods and weapons appeared to be chosen at random, nor that actual tangible evidence was non-existent. Lucas had confessed, and that was enough. Cops flew to Texas from all over the country with their unsolved murders, and Henry would dutifully confess to them. Fascinating doc, and very funny in a macabre way. The AVA gives it all digits up.

FROM AV Fire Chief Andres Avila: “At the MCAFD [Mendocino County Association of Fire Districts] Ad Hoc meeting with Supervisors John McCowen and Ted Williams, Ted [Williams] agreed to get two topics on the BOS agenda. The first item is to ensure county Planning and Building has a process in place that would allow fire departments to fulfill their required duties in the [fire prevention/inspection] process. The second item is to start a PT [part-time] county fire marshal position that would cover the areas outside of the noncontiguous fire districts and to assist implementation of the process. This would include conducting the required field fire inspections where districts don’t have the capacity to do so. I was told today [Wednesday, January 15] by Ted Williams that only the EMS items that we spoke on were on the agenda and this issue has been tabled. We will need to see if this is a typical deflection of an item that they ultimately know needs to be done but will avoid by burying it in process.”

ST. ELIZABETH SETON held its 18th annual crab feed last Saturday (Feb. 1st) to an overflow crowd of 350 guests dining on succulent crab with Balo Estate Pinot and Yamakiri Chardonnay. Not only were Valley residents heavily in attendance, but guests came from as far away as San Francisco, Emeryville, Manchester, Sonoma, Lakeport, and  Ukiah, with one person coming all the way from Lake Placid, New York who was thought to have traveled the farthest to attend the festivities until we discovered a couple had made the jaunt from Paris, France. Almost the entire village of Yorkville attended, holding court over a string of tables and taking home numerous raffle prizes, including a wheelbarrow. Next year’s event will be February 6th.

IT'S BEEN A RATHER ODD RAIN SEASON thus far: consistently damp, but not really wet. We've lacked what Boonters call trashmovers. The upper reaches of the Navarro River have remained stubbornly low this winter, hovering down at more summerlike levels. As Marshall Newman noted a few days ago, our rainfall numbers are beginning to look rather droughty. Typically, the wettest months here are December, January and February. These three months should each bring around ten inches for us to attain average rainfall. But January fell well short of the mark.

MONTHLY PRECIPITATION for the 2019-2020 rain season, thus far:

January 2020

  • 4.76" Yorkville
  • 3.97" Boonville

December 2019

  • 12.96" Yorkville
  • 7.28" Boonville

November 2019

  • 3.12" Yorkville
  • 2.19" Boonville

October 2019

  • 0.04" Yorkville
  • 0.07" Boonville

YTD (Oct 1 - Jan 31) TOTALS

  • 20.88" Yorkville
  • 13.51" Boonville

ADD Look-alike: Paul McCarthy of MSP and Kansas City coach Andy Reid.

ON LINE COMMENT re CT Rowe's Land Trust adventure: "Very interesting. Sure doesn’t paint Land Trusts in a good light. I too would be skeptical of getting involved with one after reading this. It’s sad that idealism can be turned around and used against landowners, especially against the same family that gifted the easement to the land trust in the first place. Going straight to litigation without talking to the family first, and a few times at least, seems very aggressive. Which seems strange to deal so aggressively with any family, but especially to a family that had made a huge donation by gifting an easement of their property. Why are they doing it? I would like to see their response to this. I have donated to land trusts in the past, believing in the ideals of conservation, but I doubt I will anymore. Harassing land owners deeply connected to the land and the community goes against the idealism they pretend to uphold.”

THE COMPANY KITCHEN: Sign spotted on the Philo building formerly known as the Poleeko Roadhouse (and Libby's Restaurant before that):

PHONE SCAM ALERT: "I have received 2 calls this morning saying my Social Security is being blocked because of a report against by SS # and Driver’s License #. I was told in order for it not to be blocked I should call 628-400-8860 I did not call, of course. Just be aware these calls are happening. Don't fall for it."

A CLEVER E-MAIL hustle also had me wondering last week. It purported to be from a copyright lawyer who said we owed six hundred bucks for posting a photo of a painting by a certain dead artist. It gave me pause although I had no memory of either the painting or the artist. Years ago, I printed a poem I liked from an obscure poetess. A few weeks later came a scorcher of a letter from her agent, who really was the poet's agent, a twofer, I thought — a poet with a one-client agent. But I'd dropped a line from the poem in the paste-up process, which was then by hand. "You're not only a thief, you're a stupid thief," the one-client agent wrote. She had a point — two points actually, which didn't prevent me from writing back gentle words suggesting that both the poet and her agent should thank me for (1) being aware of the poet's work and (2) re-printing it. "Instead of damning me, you snarling ingrate, you should be thanking me!" 

BRUCE ANDERSON, the spry octogenarian who edits Boonville's beloved weekly, the Anderson Valley Advertiser, may have outdone the other geezers in his age group at the 12th Annual Marin Free Throw Contest at Drake High School last Saturday morning when he swished 6 of 10 free throws. The popular annual event is a fundraiser for the Arch Diocese of Marin County’s free meals program. Anderson asked a geez-ette at the sign-in table, "Is there like a Father William trophy for my age group?" Anderson was politely informed that a San Rafael wheeze, age 88, has won the over-70 age group sweepstakes for 12 consecutive years. 

UNINTENDED CONSEQUENCES. Back in 2016 when the Anderson Valley Community Services District surveyed a couple dozen local residential wells in downtown Boonville, elevated levels of nitrates and coliform were found. When these worrisome results were reported to the State Water Board, State staffers decided that Boonville's fouled agua made the scruffy little town eligible for substantial amounts of public funds for municipal water and wastewater projects. 

A STATE WATER bureaucrat who reviewed the findings from the testing apparently decided it might be time to re-survey Boonville’s public entities — any place, including restaurants where water was on offer. As the wheels of bureaucracy ground on, the surveys — simple forms returned to the Water Board — revealed to the Water Board bureaucrats that some public-serving establishments had to be re-classified because of increased numbers of people visiting them — NOT that there was any problem with the water, which was being monitored for the state out of the County’s Environmental Health Department. 

WITH THIS reclassification — a complicated “decision tree” exercise based on the survey results — local establishments fell into a higher category of water monitoring, which required more frequent testing and oversight by the state’s Regional Water Quality Control Board, not the County’s Environmental Health department. 

UP went the costs for the local businesses. Simply on the basis of those original, innocent-seeming surveys local businesses and organizations now have to pay several thousand dollars more per year for monthly testing , the results of which must be sent to the state’s Regional Water Quality Board in Santa Rosa. Even though there was no indication of any contamination in water in any of these places, the state compelled the much larger fees based on the state's arbitrary calculations.  (Mark Scaramella)

THE CSD’s WATER/WASTEWATER PROJECT standing committee will meet at the Boonville Firehouse tomorrow, Thursday, Feb. 6 at 10:30 AM Joy Wildflower from the State Water Resource Control Boards, Division of Drinking Water, Mendocino District  will be there to discuss water quality issues in Anderson Valley.

FEBRUARY may not be the best time to talk about the beauty of fire given that the Anderson Valley has recently suffered a destructive rash of them, but back in the early spring of '97 there was one that destroyed nothing but grass and  was conveniently visible to all of us. 

THAT Sunday evening was a perfect time for it. A high marine layer, formerly known as fog, prevailed, accompanying winds steady but without the gusts that sometimes come with the summer breezes off the nearby Pacific. It was cool out rather than combustible, not at all the conditions of the fast-moving inferno which struck nearby Peachland Road on a hundred degree afternoon the previous year. That one somehow began on Anderson Valley Way near the Tebbutts' gate, and quickly jumped the highway and took off up Peachland, threatening several homes before it was extinguished by a miraculous effort of local volunteers and CDF aerial firefighters.

BUT the Octopus Mountain blaze of that May Sunday of '97 was as serenely beautiful as a wildfire can be,  and conveniently occurring on a cool early evening in an area where there isn’t much grass and brush to feed it.

AT ABOUT 7:20pm the sound of sirens alerted us that some sort of emergency was underway, and stepping outside I, and hundreds of other locals saw a necklace of flame  burning slowly up the south tentacle of Octopus Mountain, directly east of the Anderson Valley Elementary School behind Phil Wasson’s stately old Victorian hidden behind redwoods but almost identical in design to the highly visible Reilly Heights(*) and designed by the same builder, I believe. (There's a third Victorian off Anderson Valley Way, but it, too, is not visible from any public vantage point.)

THE OCTOPUS FIRE reached a tree line where a couple of scrub oak burst briefly into flame. That s was about as spectacular as the blaze got as it climbed slowing up the hill. A CDF spotter plane was instantly overhead, circling the stately arc of flame as it consumed the octopus's three tentacles.

BY 7:35 tiny, yellow-clad firefighters could be seen spraying water on the upper end of the leisurely blaze. Then a CDF helicopter dropped the first of perhaps thirty baskets of water scooped from Anderson Vineyards’ pond not a half mile south from where the fire burned, dumping the pond water on several unburned oaks in the fire’s path as two CDF borate bombers unleashed their pinkish mists of flame retardant on the fire’s advanced positions.

THE impressively quick response of our local volunteers, combined with CDF’s typically efficient appearance both on the ground and in the air, had the fire out by 8pm. Inmate Crews mopped up hot spots late into the night.. An estimated five acres were burned but no structures were either lost or even threatened.

OCTOPUS Mountain’s several hundred acres had been grazed to the nub by Wasson’s cattle, accounting for the fire’s failure to pick up momentum; there wasn’t much left on the ground to feed the flames.

SPECTATORS were strung out along 128 between Fitch Lane and the Little Red School House to watch the firefighters do their stuff, oohing and aahing as the borate bombers swooped in low to drop their magically stifling brews.

ANDERSON Valley’s fire chief, Colin Wilson, said the following Monday that a raven, usually known for its function as a messenger of ill omens but this time serving as the ill omen itself, had flown into a power line not far from the Elementary School, burst into flame at impact, and then flown woozily off in the direction of Wasson's place before falling to earth in a burning heap, igniting grass which soon fanned into the flaming crescent that moved inexorably up Octopus Mountain before firefighters stopped it.

WE learned later that Deputy Squires had had to threaten the hermit of Deer Meadows with arrest when Herm denied firefighters access to the Octopus' flank through his property.

(*) Valley old timer Christine Clark described the Reilly Heights house in 2009: "The Reilly Family had come over from Ireland in the mid-19th Century and the three brothers headed west, with two settling in Anderson Valley in the late 1850’s. James Reilly (Christine’s great grandfather) built the Reilly Heights House in the 1890’s but unlike many other houses built at that time it had a good foundation and therefore the majestic three story red house is able to survive to this day."

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