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Valley People 8/26/2009

LESTER ‘Smitty’ Smith, of Philo, will get his life savings back. According to Smitty's attorney, Keith Faulder of Ukiah, the District Attorney’s office has finally agreed that the confiscated cash, as Smitty has insisted all along, did not derive from marijuana-related enterprise. Faulder finally convinced the DA’s office of the obvious: that 91-year old Smitty needs his savings, some $55,000, to support himself and his wheelchair-bound wife, Mary. That Smitty, a child of the Big Depression, was so alarmed at the recent news of bank failures, he had indeed taken his life savings out of the bank in Ukiah because he felt it was no longer safe there, and that when the police arrived last year to investigate other family members at the Smith compound for marijuana sales the police assumed Smitty's money was somehow related. It wasn't, and now Smitty has his money back and is working on getting his peace of mind back, too.

THE SHERIFF’S OFFICE has confirmed that the Fort Bragg man found dead near Navarro last Sunday (August 16), died of a self-inflicted gunshot wound. The deceased has been identified as Bruce S. Rodgers, 52, of Fort Bragg. Deputies responding to the scene found a suicide note in Rodgers’ truck, which was parked on Highway 128 near Dimmick State Park. Mr. Rodgers leaves behind his children, Kevin and Erica Rodgers, and a sister, Deborah Rodgers, all of Fort Bragg. A full obituary is expected soon.

THE 35th ANNUAL “Great Day in Elk,” a benefit for the Greenwood Community Center, will be held on Saturday, August 29 beginning with a parade at noon. The day's festivities include carnival games and crafts for children, live entertainment, belly dancing, a watermelon-eating contest, sack races, a bounce house, a cake auction, a raffle, and a $100 climb the greased pole contest. Food and drink available all afternoon with a barbecue dinner served from 4 to 7:00 p.m. This year's dance stars at 7:30 p.m. and features “The Pollinators” and “The Stereotypes.” All this plus Charlie Acker and Norman deVall! Think of it! Better put your dark glasses on Mendo, the pure splendor of this event could be blinding. Elk, incidentally, is the precious purple little purple town perched on the edge of the Pacific. To get there turn west at Philo.

THE POP WARNER little guys kick off their season this Saturday in Point Arena at 5:30, and Lisa Kuny asks the community (that's you!) to donate whatever marketable item or items you might have for junior football's fund raising sales table at the Labor Day Flea Market. Bring your stuff straight there at the Vet's Hall parking lot. By the way, at home games, and we'll have a complete schedule soon, I hope, there will be 50-50 raffles.

WITH A NIP in the morning air, the pink ladies in miraculous bloom in parched gardens, the Gravensteins heavy on their trees, footballs flying, school begun, summer slips into fall.

THE MAYOR OF FORT BRAGG stopped in Monday. The unofficial mayor I should say, the people's mayor, Vern Piver. Vern and Betty were on their way south to the Giants games this weekend. Retired from years coaching and officiating local ball games all over Mendocino County, Vern, arguably one of the best athletes ever out of Fort Bragg, played professional baseball for a number of years before the expansion of the Major Leagues. A retired woodsman, Vern recently beat back a cancer as Betty cleared her eyes of cataracts. Vern looks like he could still steal second base, and the two of them, Vern and Betty, look like a couple you might see on Dancing With The Stars.

DR. MARK APFEL, as he popped my swollen thumb at the AV Health Center the other day, neatly summed up our deteriorating economy. The doc said, “Our funding has been cut by a third, and we've all taken big pay cuts.” A third is huge whack out of any budget, but it's still not as bad as what happened to Potter Valley's, which has disappeared entirely, unable to survive massive cuts to its budget.

CALTRANS has erected a safety warning flag in the crosswalk at the Boonville Post Office, reminding us all that pedestrians have the right of way. The flag is on a pop-up spring, a solid indication that Caltrans expects it to be repeatedly run over.

IN THE EARLY years of the 20th century, Chinese herb doctors concocted a potion heavy on rattlesnake venom that they claimed cured rheumatism. Enterprising ranchers here in Mendocino County trapped the snakes and shipped them to Frisco where they sold in Chinatown for $5 each. The brewmasters poured a half gallon of alcohol into a two-gallon jar in which the snake was immersed until death carried him off to serpent heaven a few hours later. A secret ingredient was added to the mix and, after six months ferment, sold as just the thing for aching bones.

YOU CAN IGNORE the following, of course, but I can't resist and I own the paper. The basic political argument in this country for many years, all the way back to FDR, and before that all the way back to the Founding Fathers, has been between the wealthy who don't want to give up a dime and the wealthy who understand that unless there's a basic social floor free enterprise places itself in revolutionary peril. Jefferson thought there ought to be revolutions every few years anyway just to keep power from becoming too entrenched. But all this Fox News nonsense from the blow-dried fools and their blonde bimbos about death panels and socialism is a lot of hooey. Medicare for everyone would save everyone money, a lot of money, but the real argument is this: You want a social floor or do you want Big Trouble such as we haven't seen since the 1930s, only this time the Big Trouble will be a lot bigger? (There were a lot fewer of us in 1930 and a lot of us still lived on the farm. We didn't have automatic weapons and bad attitiudes either.) To provide a social floor means people with money will have to pay higher taxes, much higher, like they pay in the serene countries that pay high taxes in return for certain social guarantees, among them universal health care, free education, in-home care for the elderly and the rest of it. But here you have the Dirigible of Drivel in my friend Cockburn's dead-on description of that particular wind tunnel, calling Obama a socialist! Unfortunately for most of US, Obama isn't a socialist. Here's how you can tell he isn't: Obama continues to give freshly printed billions to the owners of banks. Get it? He's putting money into the top of the system, not the other end where most of us live. FDR put the money into our end of the system. He wasn't a socialist either. Here's to higher taxes!

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