Dory Dan's house burned down Sunday night with him in it.
He was a gruff gravelly shouter because of near deafness, with a heart of gold. He'd help anybody. A woman who prefers to remain anonymous –and I never understand that, but whatever – told me about how when she fled here with her kids circa early 1970s after escaping her husband's attempt to kill her, she was constructing a shelter in the woods out of available detritus, like a scout, you know, and Dory Dan appeared out of the mist and suggested at top volume that she just use a tarp. "HOW MUCH MONEY YA GOT," he shouted. She said, "Fifty-two dollars." He shouted, "JUST GO GET A TARP."
He lived for a long time on a houseboat of his own construction on the Albion River.
One time in the lobby of the theater Dory Dan shouted to me instructions on how to make a welder out of leftover house wiring, jumper cables and an old clothes iron, in case you ever need to weld something and don't have welding apparatus. "THE IRON IS THE CURRENT LIMITING RESISTOR," he said. "BUT YA GOTTA BE CAREFUL 'CAUSE IT'S ONE-TEN VOLTS."
When Dreama Blankenbeckler's son Jonah was a little boy Dory Dan took him out to catch his first fish. Apparently that was a thing he did-- took small kids out to catch their first fish.
I spent a day in Albion nearly 40 years ago that included a stop to see Dory Dan, and his girlfriend in their houseboat. It would be inappropriate for me to recount most of my memories of that day here, but I will say, I came home with culture shock. Sorry to hear of the tragic death. RIP, Dan.George Hollister
Here’s one of many he told me as I assisted him this year: circa 1970 he lived at Wheeler’s ranch, a commune in west Sonoma County and once a month they’d all load into an old bus for a drive to Ukiah to load up the bus with free commodities they all collected and then hitch hike back to the commune. As necessary they would take a bus full of folks in need of some meds from the free clinic in San Francisco.Skip Taube
Can’t add much detail, just remember him as an iconic member of the Noyo salmon troll fleet going back to the mid 70s, when I started fishing. He was undoubtedly there before that, but I wasn’t. Last I saw him was on his boat, the Ceac. No idea what the name means. He had netting surrounding the entire deck to keep his two or three chihuahuas from going overboard.Gary Smith
A friend and I canoed up the Albion River to visit Dan and his girlfriend Shadow in his houseboat in the late ‘70’s. They were very self-sufficient, and resourceful gleaners. From time to time, they bought a horse at auction, butchered it for food, and tanned the hide for carpet and clothes. Same thing with deerskin. Dan always wore a handmade coonskin cap.
As I sat in their small living room, I glanced up. There was a dried orange domestic cat skin on the slatted shelf above my head. It took me aback.
Their rescued pet otter, Ott hauled herself onto the boat and joined us on the couch. She came straight from the river, but her fur was so thick that it wasn’t wet next to her skin. Her body was oval-shaped, and so supple it seemed boneless. She had 2 speeds: frenetic movement and asleep. She was a bit bitey, but it was such a privilege to know and touch her.
Ott got in trouble for raiding the barbecuing chicken from a neighboring houseboat. Shadow took her in the car every time they took the skiff across river to go to the village. As Ott became sexually mature she would musk the interior of the car: Shadow said it was smellier than skunk spray. It became intolerable and Ott had to go to a refuge in the Bay Area.
Dan was a man true to himself, unconventional in appearance and habit, with a heart of gold. A mensch. I feel lucky to have known him.Devora Rossman
Dory Dan Bolin was a runner till a crippling car crash at 19 reset his life.
Running away from abusive home. Truant from catholic school. Escaping into the woods... fishing he was good at early on.
Always wary with fists ready -- a red warrior. In junior high he challenged the toughest boy and got decked. But he said, after that, nobody picked on him.
Dan's audacity was authentic and strategic. He felt that he had done things that nobody believed he could accomplish. And he had plans for much more.
But his legacy lives in the soil he created in the forest. With tons of mule manure loaded and hauled from Albion. Now bearing potatoes asparagus, carrots, beets, brussel sprouts, chard and flowers.
As we share precious memories in our collective souls. Leaving offerings at Dan's Dory by the river. I am grateful for time well spent helping him and sharing his journey.Skippy
I have been friends with Dory Dan since we were both 16, in high school. [Theresa sent the school picture of Dory Dan at 16 years old.] I was the new kid on the block after transferring in at the end of sophomore year. I wanted to join the school chess club, but I had two strikes against me, I was black and a girl. The president of the club told me only boys were allowed to join.
Dory Dan, was outraged. So he played against me and I won. Then he arranged for me to play each member of the club, he challenged them to try to win against me. None did...his conclusion to them was, they had to let me in because I was better than all of them. A fierce defender of justice, even then! This is Dan when first we met:
I just visited him twice in September, the last time was the the 27th. I so miss his presence on our planet!Theresa Sheppard Alexander MA, MFT
Dory Dan was an unassuming but unabashed Ladies Man. Packaged in the body of a hippie freak, was Clark Gable surrounded by Fred Astaire. It was real neat to know him. He was one of the few people I really liked.Brian
In September 1977 I got a load of firewood from Dory Dan. I had cherished friend from that day until October 6, 2020. He arrived with firewood in his coon skin cap just like Daniel Boone! He took me mushroom hunting. Entertained me with his accordion.
A good memory is Dory Dan riding his motorcycle in the early mornings around the headlands to check out the fishing weather and buy the paper with Spotty Boy, one of his herd of chihuahuas, tucked into his leather jacket.
One night in 70’s we went up Albion River to dinner at the little houseboat. My son who was in Kindergarten played with Shadow’s young nephew and a skunk she and Dan had taxidermied into a stuffed toy of sorts. Dan told us he’d helped clear a dead horse in Albion from a farm. We had a big hunk of meat he fried up in a skillet. It came out of a white paper wrapper. I always wonder if we had part if that horse.
My husband helped Dory Dan a lot in recent years. Most recently he helped Dan with his bed. Dan had fallen out of his loft bed a few nights before. Into his recliner instead of the concrete floor thankfully. He built him a new bed down the stairs on solid ground so he didn’t have to climb up and down the ladder.
Dan’s huge heart always included animals in his life. He loved to share his home with his menagerie. He grew huge amounts vegetables he shared with everyone. The hens he kept laid the best eggs. He was a hugger and Covid protocols were hard on him. And Dory Dan could talk really loud!Barbara Sochacki
I only met Dory Dan once, but I heard a lot about him. My mom, Wendy, drove Meals-on-Wheels and would see Dory Dan every week. They’d chat and she’d come home with wonderful and colorful stories. One week, I was along for the ride. We were going to get some extra ‘vegetables’ which included a tour of his garden, a quick walk past the bee hives, a short visit in his house, and many stories. I was a bit nervous, but my mom was comfortable and relaxed. That day, I learned a lot about my mom and a little about Dory Dan - kindness was the theme.Carin Berolzheimer
I met Dory Dan after the puppet performance at the Mendocino Theater Company. He stood there with his funny hat, and yelled at me loudly (haha) “Hey, man! I know some Czech people, they were hanging out with me on the houseboat! It was 10 or 20 years back. I still have Susan Swansea’s guitar, here at my beachhouse! Would you like to come and hang out?” We didn’t have any place to stay for that night, so we went, and it was a very memorable evening for the rest of my crew. He talked and talked, his stories about the whales and the shining excrements of the whale. He talked all the night, and when I came in the morning to check in, they were all still talking. Anyway, then he became our good friend, and never minded to ask me to do anything for him anytime (haha). He was a very giving person, too. Every Christmas, he gave my children loads of books, old taxidermied fishes, etc. One day, it was Sunday afternoon, he called and said loudly on the phone, “My bees are swarming! Can you come?” “You mean, right now, yeah?” “Yeah!” I came to Dan’s little cabin on Little Lake and saw the biggest swarm of bees you can imagine on just a skinny, very tall fir tree. “How we are gonna get them?” Dan was holding two trash bags, and said “Just like this! Cut the branch, and put them in!” (haha) Then he showed me his rickety old ladder and I decided to climb on the other tree next to it, better than using that ladder. Well, I knew a little bit about the bees from before, and that when they swarm they are pretty calm, so I wasn’t nervous and just climbed, cut the branch as Dan instructed me, and slid them down in the plastic bags to Dan with the rope. We opened the hives, found the queen, and put the bees into the box. Dan was so happy. I left immediately because I had something else to do; it was around 5:00 in the afternoon. When I got home, I got another call from Dan, with a similar message: “The bees are swarming again! Can you come?” And I said again “You mean right now?” So I jumped into the car and went there. I already knew the way to take them down (haha) we did the same thing; this time, we made sure they had enough extra food around, and then Dan told me, “Great job, man. Remember that old guitar from Susan Swansea, which is still here? You can have it, for the help with the bees.”Radek Tuma
Dan was practicing Nichiren Buddhism for some years while living on a houseboat. Matthew Miksak and I visited him on the Albion River to chant Nam-Myoho-Renge-Kyo together and talk about Buddhist philosophy. He had a keen, inquisitive mind and a huge heart. He was loved and will be missed.Sue Zipp
One day when I was visiting Dory Dan he introduced me to one of his little chickens. She was his pet and she slept with him at night like a dog or a cat would. Dory Dan loved people and he was lonely and that little hen kept him company.Sakina Bush
I knew Dan for many years. He once told me that he had been in a severe automobile accident when he was younger and almost died. When he recovered he felt that he was given a new lease on life. He no longer felt bound by the constraints of the society that he had grown up in and want to live his life as free as possible, which he did with great skill and joy.
One day in the mid '70's, Dan pulled into our driveway in his old Jimmy truck he called "Yellow Peril." He held up a big dead skunk and said "Look what I found!" He laid the skunk on the hood of the truck, pulled out his pocket knife, and skinned it. By the time he was done, he had tears streaming down his face. He looked at his knife and threw it into the woods. After he tanned the hide, he made a hat out of it and wore it for years. He always said nothing gets past a skunk, including rain.
In that same era, I stopped in to see Jan Me and her daughter Yonana when they lived in the hippy shack in the middle of the eucalyptus grove by the Point Cabrillo lighthouse. Dan was there and they were eating a raccoon he had picked up at the side of the road. He had a reverence for life and wanted nothing to go to waste.
Dan was a good man and one of more unique individuals I have ever met.Dick Whetstone
Sorry to hear about Dory Dan…Old Hippies never die, they just go up in smoke.
The first time I formally met Mr Dan was around the turn of the century or right before diving urchins out of Albion. Carson Bell asked for some help up the river where Dory Dan lived on his homemade houseboat anchored in the middle of the channel of the river, rent free, for like 25 years! He needed some diving help to secure cables for the house to some logs or something. Dan spoke really highly of Carson and from there I would run into Dan occasionally, give him rides. He could talk it up. One thing I noticed was how much he was admired by the younger generation, he was a pioneer, one of a kind.Eric Wilcox
I fished salmon off the California Coast and lived with Dan for 20 years, and in the winter we anchored our boat up the river by the houseboat. We fished salmon at the Cordell Banks, the Farallon Islands, Half Moon Bay and Monterey, Shelter Cove and Noyo undersea Canyon.
Escorted by dolphins through the friendly fog, the swishing waves and birds all around, we shimmered with the light on the water, landing the big slabs and bringing them fresh to market-- in Oakland, Bodega Bay, in Noyo when the river was so packed with boats that you could hardly make your way up the channel. From the time we sailed the dory into Fish Rocks anchorage with her propellor spinning freely, to the fabulous flying Ceaac [Cecilia-Isaac] with her walk-in engine room and 471 Jimmy-- many, many days upon the rising, shifting water.
Blessings to all of you who loved Dan, or simply found him odd or fun for a day.Shadoh
One evening Dan and Shadoh came to my barrel house cabin for dinner at Spring Grove Coop, the old Bo's Land Commune on Albion Ridge. I don't remember much about the evening but I'm sure we had had a great time amidst clouds of Purple Haze, Tai Sticks and maybe some homegrown that was considered trash in those days because no one yet knew much about growing weed.
So after our hours together Dan and Shadoh left for the houseboat and time for bed I thought. But as soon as they pulled away in Yellow Peril I heard a noise at the door. I opened it and Ott their river otter came rambling in as they couldn't find him so figured they'd come back tomorrow for Ott. First I tried to shoo Ott back outside with a broom, soft end. Well, that didn't work so I turned the broom around and gave him a little of the other end. All good I thought and climbed into the loft for bed but all night long Ott was down below making a load of noise and I could see him in the sink cleaning the dishes for scraps, more noise.
So in the AM I had revenge on my mind and lured old Ott into an empty dog house laying about and when I threw the drumstick in he went and I had a hammer and nails at the ready so Ott was quickly boarded inside. After a while Dan showed up looking for his pet and this is just one day in the many Moons that Dory Dan and I spent together. I'm so grateful for these memories dear Dory Dan Bolin and hope we meet up again someday.Gary Moraga
I met Dory Dan in 1976 in Noyo Harbor. We were chasing King Salmon, and he was exuberant about the endeavor. He was fishing a tiny dory, which he and Shadow also lived on. We tied up at the logs below Casa del Noyo, along with the rest of the hippie fleet.
One day I was talking with a fellow fisherman and Dory Dan's name came up. The guy said he didn't think much of Dory Dan so I asked him why. He said "I think he ate my dog." Hmmm. I asked Dory Dan about that and he scoffed, saying that the dog was already dead when he got it.
After I quit fishing I rarely saw him. When he moved to Little Lake Road Liz and I would visit, share smokes and fish stories. We got eggs and veggies from him.
He was generous and good hearted in every way. I'll really miss him.Frank Letton (F/V Delgada '76-'83)
"We die to each other daily. What we know of other people is only our memory of the moments during which we knew them. And they have changed since then. To pretend that they and we are the same is a useful and convenient social convention which must sometimes be broken. We must also remember that at every meeting we are meeting a stranger." -T. S. Eliot, The Cocktail Party
A few days before fire took my treasured friend/neighbor Dory Dan, he hobble-lurched ahead of me to his garden, a madly flourishing oasis carved out of Pygmy transitional hardpan. He directed me to harvest the wealth of tomatoes exploding under a sprawl of hefty vines, & hove his scarecrow frame into a weathered chair, glorying in the late summer exuberance, especially the marigolds.
Next year, he said, he wanted marigolds in every row. Would I like some seeds?
I walked home from our final visit laden with ripe tomatoes, bouquets of kale, monumental carrots, & that day's eggs, some to be delivered to another of his friends along the way.
Since the early '70's we had casually crossed paths, both of us part of the fishing fleet/hippiedom cast of coastal characters. A few years ago, delighted to discover we were neighbors, Dory Dan & I became the kind of friends who checked in with each other every few days, age-appropriately.
I was honored to be a close enough friend to disclose his secret chanterelle patches to. He would gallantly open the door of his pickup for me before driving to his mycelial goldmine. I was honored to be called late at night after he fell from his sleeping loft.
I would flash by for brief but juicy visits. Dory Dan was too deaf for actual conversation or argument, so he would treat me to wellhoned yarns, diatribes, elegies, & manifestos, often cuddling a pet chicken. The cabin where he had lived with his beloved Petra until her death would be shipshape despite the free flow of chickens in & out. I marveled at the resourcefulness & creativity expressed in his fully stocked machine shop, the sauna, the redwood-shaked chicken house. The touches of elegance like the piano (bought for a heartthrob) & the art on the wall.
I would hear his hoarse whispery voicemails wondering if I was OK, reporting his howabouts. He would call me when the pain of living in his stove-up body was too much or the balance of his marginal living situation tilted toward ruin or his expansive generosity backfired or when he was just bone lonely. A little respectful loving attention would restore him.
As wracked & armed as he was in his last days, Dory Dan admittedly & literally lived for his friends.
What & who we gather around us reveals us.Late Night Liz