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Letters (March 17, 2021)

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The February 24, 2021 AVA featured an article by Marilyn Davin on the derivations of various Mendocino County place names. The author was puzzled by the source of the name for Dana Gray Elementary School in Fort Bragg. The answer was on the internet, but it took some digging.

The Gray family was a prominent one in Fort Bragg in the late 19th and early 20th century. Mark Dana Gray (1844-1923) and Mark Dana Gray II (1879-1947) were close associates of Charles R. Johnson, the founder of Union Lumber Company and his son and successor, Otis R. Johnson. References in various trade publications of the time suggest Mark Dana Gray was a prominent member of Union Lumber Company's management. The Gray family had a home on Fir Street in Fort Bragg called "Gray View." Kelley House Museum has a photograph of the Gray family and others at a picnic on the Albion River in 1889 and another of the family at "Gray View" in 1919. A 1921 photograph titled "Particular Fluted Growth on a Redwood Stump at Camp 21, Union Lumber Company" shows a person next to the stump and identifies him as "Dana Gray, Assistant Logging Superintendent." Clearly this is Mark Dana Gray II and shows he (and probably his father also) was known by that name. Mystery solved!

This 1921 photograph was taken by Woodbridge (Woody) Metcalf (1888-1972), a longtime (and well-known) Forestry Professor at University of California at Berkeley. Coincidentally, I met Woody Metcalf while attending 4-H camp at Mendocino Woodlands as a kid in the early 1960s. It is a small world.


Marshall Newman

San Francisco

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In regards to the reader complaining about phone pests, he/she sure has my sympathy. I get robo-calls from Apple, Amazon, Discover, MasterCard, Visa, Consumer Law, Marriott, Royal Cruise ships and someone who wants my Medicare number off the "old outdated paper card" so they can send me a new number on a plastic card. Ooh-la-la! They even tell me my new number.

Some give the option to push a number to be removed from the list. But that's a lie. Some call eight or nine times in one afternoon. Some call as early as 6:22 in the morning.

Sometimes I blow two coaches whistles in their ears. Sometimes I try to waste as much of their time as I can. I ask how they know I'm worthy of lower interest rates? They say it's because I make payments on time. I ask if they know so much about me why don't they know I have no Amazon account or any credit cards?

If it's a live person calling I tell them if they are calling to confirm my address to send me a big check.

The no-call list is a joke. Is there really no hope?

Casey Pryor


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Letter to the Editor

The House of Representatives just passed the $1.9 trillion American Rescue Plan, which will help all citizens by increasing economic and employment growth, and will cut child poverty in half by expanding the child tax credit.

Despite the fact that 76% of Americans like the measure, including 59% of Republicans, ALL Republican lawmakers voted against it.

Meanwhile, Republicans are pushing more tax cuts for the rich, including a repeal of the tax on estates over $11 million. This would be another massive handout to rich families, following Trump’s $1.9 trillion tax-cut, 85% of which benefitted the wealthiest Americans.

There can be no doubt which party best serves average Americans and which serves the rich.

Tom Wodetzki


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I will give my full support to the Great Redwood Trail as long as it's funded by federal funds that had been diverted from military spending and a tall thick hedge is planted on both sides of the trail as it passes through Willits. Willits is the crummiest town on Highway 101 between Canada and Mexico, ain't it? 

It's bad enough that we have a white trash party, but now we have white trash assholes. Senator Ron Johnson, Senator Ted Cruz, an asshole who was elected and reelected by those sainted folks of the :one “Ya’ll come back now" Star state. 

Now some state legislators are passing laws to make it more difficult to vote if you are a Negro. To counteract that I propose that the AVA print out a list of warnings of how not to make mistakes when voting and throw bundles of AVAs off the top of tall buildings in Negro neighborhoods. Just watch and see the Republicans in Congress who fought against the covid relief bill be nicely reelected during the next election. The United States of Stupidity.

At age 86 Ralph Nader has not lost a step. Now that Babe Ruth is dead, Ralph moves into the top spot. No matter what the subject, Nader seems to have the answer. How can anyone argue with him? An American in Britain shouted “[Bleep] the King” The Englishman shouted back, “[Bleep] Babe Ruth.” 

A lady wrote about Jefferson's black girlfriend the other issue. Her name was Sally Hemmings. A horse breeder in Paris, Kentucky had a two-year old filly he wanted to take to the race track. He had named her “Sally Hemmings.” An outfit named the Jockey Club makes the rules at race tracks including vetting the names of horses. “No horse named Sally Hemmings will be allowed entrance to any racetrack in the United States.”

Rivers — two things I have always wanted to do: explore the great cities of the world on foot which I largely accomplished except for Australia, India, Cairo and Scandinavia. The other was to travel up the Amazon. I have read a lot of books about the Amazon area, the last being “River of Doubt.” Teddy Roosevelt reached the Amazon flat on his back, barely alive. In the spring when the river is high the Moore-McCormac Steamship Company sends a couple of ships up the Amazon to Manaus. For several years I try to snag a berth on one of them but failed. A part of Colombia touches a tributary of the Amazon at a place called Leticia. When I was in Bogota during my Gabriel Garcia Marquez pilgrimage I tried to get some information about this place. I found that a plane went there once a week and turned around and came back. I had no idea whether I could get transportation to Manaus, Brazil, one way or Iquitos, Peru, the other way. So that ended my Amazon quest.

The River Planta. Very wide. You can't see either shore. Dirty white-gray. Must be very shallow in places as there are wooden targets everywhere. There are no river facilities in Buenos Aires. Tugboats pull ships through locks into basins like big bathtubs and close the gate behind them. Buenos Aires is like a European city. I like Argentina better than Brazil. 

The river going up to Guayaquil, Ecuador. I don't know the name. Real jungle. River full of debris, anything that will float. When the tide comes in it all goes upstream. Guayaquil is two degrees below the equator but very cold at night. 

The 40 thieves (Customs and Immigration) wear heavy coats. This is where most of Willits’s bananas come from. 

Rio Magdalena, Colombia. The main commercial river from the Caribbean to Central Colombia. Major port is Barranquilla. Large Barrio Chino. Do you know what Barrio Chino means? 

Germany: the Elba runs past Hamburg. Just after the war we took a load of potatoes from Maine to Hamburg. When a bag of potatoes broke open everyone from three-year-old children to grandmothers chased after those potatoes. People were hungry.

The Limeys bombed in the living crap out of Hamburg, but somehow missed the St. Pauli district. Girls sat behind windows at street level. They would turn a trick for one pack of cigarettes or a bar of Ivory soap. (I think you can still buy St. Pauli girl beer around here.) In France where the girls lifted up their skirts and sat on their underpants (if any) the Seine River was fairly small and mooring lines were clean. I took a load of coal from Baltimore to Rouen. The tide comes in rapidly so you have to adjust mooring lines each change. There was a temporary wooden foot bridge across the Seine so I put a new carton of cigarettes in a bag and while they were discharging coal into barges (with living quarters) I took the train to Paris for several days. I knew I was going to get fired when we got back to Houston along with having my pay docked. 

In England the Thames is a big dirty river. As soon as a ship gets tied up in London, a Port Authority dude comes on board and locks up all the toilets. They don't want anybody shitting in their river. I'm too busy looking for all of the locations I read about in Charles Dickens novels. The children in England seem to be much smarter than their gringo counterparts. (Rena Lynn Moore of the Willits News went to New Zealand and told me that the children seemed to be much more intelligent and polite than those in this country.)

The limey-juicers leave the lights on during performances in concert halls. The cheapest seats at the Royal Albert Hall are the most expensive in this country. 

In Portugal a large river meets the sea at Lisbon. The interesting thing is that all of the working vessels are under sail.

In southwest Spain Rio Guadalquivir River passes Sevilla on the way to the Atlantic Ocean. It is very shallow, narrow with lots of twists and turns. Ships must be nearly empty. Propellers kick up lots of mud. In the port of Sevilla ships load cork rolls stripped from trees. 

Over on this side of the Atlantic the St. Lawrence is a useful river connecting the Atlantic with the Great Lakes. The Columbia has a bad bar, everything must be stowed away. The ship does somersaults coming over the bar. The pilot comes out in an eight foot boat with an outboard motor. 

Most people drift down the Mississippi. I drifted upstream. Shipping was slow in New Orleans and, like Ishmael, I had no money in my pocket. New Orleans is no place to be broke. I went across the river and signed on to a riverboat pushing barges. You may recall who wrote in the New Yorker several years ago. John MacPhee wrote about a river boat up the Illinois River to Chicago. You don't see anything but water and trees. I think I saw one city, Memphis. You are kept busy dropping off barges and picking them up. Six on, six off. 

When you get to the Ohio River there are a number of locks so you must bust up your tow and go through the locks single file. You may let the barges adrift and then go and catch them or just shove them into the bank. Most of the crew on these riverboats are from Kentucky and Tennessee. I was surprised to find a couple of dudes who could not read or write. 

By the time we reached Louisville I had had enough of this hard work and discovered some good news. For working 12 hours a day I received four hours overtime and 12 hours overtime on Saturday and Sunday. That's all the information I have on rivers.

Coming up next, “A trip to the South Pacific,” and some anecdotes about Alexander Cockburn and The Nation magazine and some stories about the Catholic Worker. Price: one cent.

Ralph Bostrom


PS. Anybody who was around during World War II knows what “You speak Joe?” means.

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Dear Governor Newsom:

I am writing to let you know that the California Correctional Peace Officers Association and the Department of Corrections are circumventing the voter-initiated Prop 57. They are trying to force general population inmates who are eligible to receive credits on to non-designated programming facilities which is nothing more than a protective custody yard knowing that a great many of these general population inmates are going to beat someone up or get beat up as soon as they get onto the yard. It is the days of Corcoran and staged gladiator fights all over again. Even when they try to put someone on one of these yards for non-designated programming facility and he fights, he is brought back to a general population yard within 10-12 months later. They try to force these men on to these yards again while 15 or 20 officers line up to watch the fight.

The Department of Corrections and the Correctional Officers union are trying to force general population inmates to live with people who the public itself doesn't want living in their neighborhoods. Is this your policy, Governor? Or is the green wall working to keep the prisoners full, above the capacity of 137%? In fact here at CTF Central they’re right around 185-195% capacity. You have two grown men in cells built for one without proper ventilation.

Are you too involved in his ploy to help the Department and the Correctional Officers keep California's prisons full while telling the people of the state you are trying to downsize the prison population by closing prisons? Maybe the public should be made aware that your so-called closing of these prisons is not reducing the overall population -- it is only forcing more men into already overcrowded prisons.

Then you're asking the Department of Corrections and Correctional Officers to fight general population inmates with non-designated programming facility and protective custody inmates by trying to force us to live together on the same yards.

We general population inmates do not want to live with or around rapists or child molesters. How would you feel about living next to one? I'm sure you wouldn't put up with it. So why are we expected to?

You, Governor Newsom, are in charge of the Department of Corrections and if you are a part of these gladiator fights being sponsored by the wardens and the these Correctional officers then you need to step in and stop these events from taking place. The Department of Corrections is using this ploy to get around Proposition 36, Proposition 48, Proposition 57 and all the other voter approved initiatives meant to help alleviate prison overcrowding.

It is also being used as a means to deny life prisoners parole if they refuse to be forced to live with the very same monsters, child molesters and rapists that the people in the community refused to live with.

The Department of Corrections created this monster, the protective custody inmates, when they started allowing anyone to go there and now they are trying to reintegrate these two populations and it will not work. Yet you are allowing the Correctional Officers to continue pit-fighting us.

It's time for you, the Governor, to stand up to the the Correctional Officers Association and start doing what you told the voting public you were going to do, that is, reduce the prison population. Start spending more money on education instead of incarceration. Some of these Correctional officers are making over $200,000 a year with overtime. Why not give that money to teachers?


Charles V. Statler


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