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Valley People

PEOPLE SAY DEATH comes in threes. I hope not. We've had enough of it around here for now. Peter Summit's sudden passing at age 32 hit lots of us hard, as the untimely deaths of young people always do. I'd known Peter and his parents, Marrianne and Tony, forever, and I can tell you I had a hard time getting myself to Peter's memorial service at the Apple Hall. I didn't want to go because I didn't want to believe he was gone, and I certainly didn't want to have to face the terrible fact that he really was gone in the form of a memorial. The standing room only services were painful, but brought off with a dignity a life and death deserves. I always liked that kid; everyone liked him. There was nothing in Peter to dislike, and I, like the rest of us, will miss him.

I'LL ALSO MISS Jim Clow, but Jim's passing in his eighth decade was not unexpected. He'd lived a long, full life, a life he shared with us in Steve Sparks' wonderful interview with Jim which appeared in the June 23rd, 2010 edition of this newspaper. It's stored on-line at and well worth reading because, as everyone who knew Jim will testify, he was a wonderful storyteller. He had some great baseball stories from his youth as a "ringer," an old sports term that means the insertion of a gifted athlete into a ball game played by ordinary athletes. The ringer gets paid. The other guys don't. A terrific baseball player when he was young, Jim, a pitcher with the big fastball and pro-level breaking stuff, was much sought after by local semi-pro teams in the forties and fifties when semi-pro baseball games were big draws in rural and urban areas alike. Lumber mills were great ones for bringing in ringers, and Mendocino County had lumber mills everywhere. I've always heard the Harwood Mill team out of Laytonville loaded up their mill team with ringers, and I know the Fort Bragg mill team was a whole line-up of ringers, including the great Vern Piver, a Fort Bragg homeboy who went on to play pro ball. Fort Bragg held its own against City teams featuring the DiMaggio brothers, to give you an idea of the quality of the competition you could find in the rural areas of Mendocino County in the thirties, forties and fifties with Jim Clow in the forties and fifties mowing down the invaders one, two, three. I always pumped Jim for baseball stories when I met him in Boonville, and he never failed to deliver. If you missed his interview, look for it on-line. If you're of Jim's vintage and you don't know on-line from a fishing line, get your grandkid to print Jim's interview out for you. That man was a one-of-a-kinder.

AS IS CHRISTINE CLARK presently confined to Howard Hospital in Willits where she's recovering from a nearly fatal battle with blood poisoning. Christy Kramer, Christine's devoted daughter-in-law, said Tuesday afternoon that Christine was much improved. "She's got her color back and she's able to walk a little," Christy said.

LOTS OF LOCALS are following, or trying to follow, the ongoing Plowright matter. Plowright is the guy who tore up a stretch of Little Mill Creek, a blue-line stream into which a huge effort at restoration has been invested. He, or persons associated with him, drove a tractor into the stream near land Plowright owns off Nash Mill. The tractor got stuck in the creek and left there, an indication that Mr. Plowright was not the kind of guy who walked lightly on the land. The stream damage drew the wrathful attention of everyone in the area, including law enforcement and a host of state environmental agencies. Law enforcement subsequently busted Plowright for possession of heavy equipment stolen out of the Santa Clara Valley. They speculated that the whole Plowright show, as it played out near Navarro, was the rural end of a crank business headquartered in San Jose. Plowright was ordered by Water Quality to clean up the damage he'd done to Little Mill Creek which he seems to have at least attempted to do but, perhaps, not quite to regulatory standards. The case was moved to Ten Mile Court in Fort Bragg where it presently rests. The state's Attorney General's Office is prosecuting Plowright, and getting information out of the AG's office isn't easy.  We hope to know the status of the Plowright affair by next week.

FRIDAY NIGHT, under the lights of legendary Kezar Stadium, the Anderson Valley football Panthers take on Stuart Hall, a San Francisco private school. Kick-off at 7pm. Of course I'll be there. Wouldn't miss it, the venue being about a ten-minute bike ride from my city home. I was sorry to see the old Kezar go; I saw my first Forty Niner game as a little kid at Kezar in 1950. Made a football fan out of me forever

CINDY WILDER tells us that the final Boonville Summer Farmers' Market takes place this Saturday, October 29th. "After the market, at 1pm in the Hotel courtyard, we will come together for our annual End of the Season pizza bake and local food potluck, The pizzas will be baked in the outdoor oven in the courtyard and will feature toppings from our local farmers. We will also have fresh-pressed juice from our apple press. Bring a dish, utensils. Hope to see you there."

WE WERE DELIGHTED by the sudden appearance Tuesday morning of Jeni Benville, the ebulliently charming proprietor of the Boonville Chocolate shop, open now for two weeks in the Caboose complex next door to Boont Berry Farm. Ms. Benville is a delight in herself, but instantly became doubly delightful when she handed us a sample plate of the quality chocolates now available at her shop in the Caboose. And we're here to tell you that the goods live up to their advertising: "Specializing in fine American made chocolates and confections." A most welcome business much appreciated by the great many of us always on the lookout for the perfect gift. Ms. Benville's shop is easy to miss because it's partially obscured by the English walnut tree landlord Mike Shapiro maintains out front, but with a discreet haircut the tree can be mooted, and Mike's an amenable sort of guy. The chocolates are truly delicious.

FROM AN OCTOBER 1886 edition of the Mendocino Beacon:  "... We are informed that a fine large lobster was caught in the bay at Noyo last week. A large number of Maine lobsters were planted in San Francisco Bay some years ago and this one is probably an offspring from them. We believe this is the first Maine lobster caught on the coast." And the last?

THE THURSDAY NIGHT trivial pursuit contests in the unfailingly pleasant Lauren's Restaurant are mucho fun, as are the names of the competing teams. Last week a group of young people called themselves, "Occupy Hendy Woods," which it may come to if the state tries to close it down.

ALSO FROM AN ANCIENT Beacon of October 1911:  "Dwight Kent, the expert mill fisherman, succeeded in landing a large salmon near the mill one day last week. In cleaning the fish Mr. Kent found about four pounds of junk composed of bolts, set screws, etc. He says he thinks the fish must have been hanging around an Oregon foundry, or possibly the Union Iron Works in San Francisco. However, others who claim to know, say this was one of the salmon trained as carriers from the blacksmith shop at the mill who can make emergency trips up-river to the Boom whenever mechanical apparatus is needed up there in a hurry. The hardware is on exhibit at the Beacon office."

CHIEF COLIN WILSON advised the CSD board last week that he will be asking for somewhere between $30,000 and $50,000 to purchase two used water tenders, an estimate ranging from pocket cash to lots and lots because it depends on availability of state surplus property. One will be stationed on the Holmes Ranch — we suggest the $30,000 truck for them — the other at Navarro. Chief Wilson believes that positioning water tenders in those locations will lower the fire insurance rates of residents.

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