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Valley People (April 7, 2021)

FATAL ACCIDENT on Highway 128 near Yorkville. From the CHP report:

On Saturday, April 2nd, at about 10:30pm, an as yet unidentified 36 year old male from San Rafael was driving his 2014 Polaris Ranger on a gravel road on Highway 128 property (in the area of Maple Creek Winery near Fish Rock Road) about 4 miles northeast of Yorkville. For unknown reasons, the driver made an unsafe turn causing the Ranger to overturn. As a result of the overturn, the driver was ejected from the driver’s seat and came to rest on the gravel roadway and the Ranger came to rest on top of the driver. At about 7am on the next morning (April 3) the driver was somehow able to make a phone call for help and family members arrived to remove the Ranger from on top of the driver. Emergency medical personnel arrived and the driver was transported to the Ukiah hospital. Despite life-saving efforts from medical personnel, the driver succumbed to his injuries sustained in the accident. It is unknown whether alcohol or drug use was a factor in the accident which is under investigation by the CHP. 

NEED SOME HELP? Are you having a hard time paying your rent, staying current with your utility bills, or getting enough groceries on your table? Please call us as we may be able to help! AVHC has grants available to remain completely confidential. Call us and ask for Leah. 895-3477. Anderson Valley Health Center

Rainfall Totals

March was a little wetter than February but not by much — about an inch. Monthly figures for the 2020-21 wet season (Oct-Oct):

Boonville (16.3 inches total)

  • 0.1” Oct
  • 1.9” Nov
  • 3.5” Dec
  • 4.8” Jan
  • 2.5” Feb
  • 3.4” Mar

Yorkville (21.2 inches total)

  • 0.0” Oct
  • 2.2” Nov
  • 5.4” Dec
  • 5.9” Jan
  • 3.3” Feb
  • 4.4” Mar

As you can see from the running totals above, this year has been extremely dry. One can see it in the barely flowing rivers and creeks, and hear it crackling underfoot in the woods. Unless we monsoon in the coming months we are heading for a second consecutive year of minimal precipitation. Compare the above numbers (16.3 and 21.2 inches thus far) with previous yearly totals:


  • 18.4” (2019-2020)
  • 53.5” (2018-2019)
  • 20.7” (2017-2018)
  • 64.8” (2016-2017)
  • 35.4” (2015-2016)
  • 31.0” (2014-2015)


  • 26.9” (2019-2020)
  • 71.5” (2018-2019)
  • 33.2” (2017-2018)
  • 86.9” (2016-2017)
  • 54.9” (2015-2016)
  • 41.9” (2014-2015)

A READER NOTES: According to the official PD figures it is much worse than what is stated in this article. I did not think we had had that much rain, so I turned to the PD weather page which shows Santa Rosa with a rainfall to date of 12.77 inches and an average rainfall to date of 32.04. This is nowhere near the 53% of average shown in the article which says we had 17 inches so far .I am not sure where the figures in the article came from but they don't agree with those the PD is showing on an ongoing basis.

ELAINE FONTAINE, OF PHILO, REPORTS: “I woke up to a spread of discarded mail on my driveway. Names include Tom Jones, Graciela Camarillo, David Baxter, Maria Favela, Clayton Matson, Melanie Fuller, Jaime Clark, Thomas Keevan-Lynch, Griselda Fernandez, and Tisha McLeran. Several had been opened and the contents of both boxes are gone.”

THE ANNUAL AURAL FROST FAN ASSAULT  has been endured by residents of many areas of the Anderson Valley. The last two weeks the fans have roared on in the early morning hours seven times. For the unfortunate people who live in the immediate neighborhoods of the fans, the din is the equivalent of Huey troop carriers landing on their roofs or in their yards, the noise far exceeding the legal noise limit of 50 decibels.  The fans have startled several hundred locals out of their sleep shortly after midnight some nights, at around three am others, the impossible-to-sleep-through din lasting until full sunrise. The citation by the wine industry of the Right to Farm ordinance should not apply since Anderson Valley's residential neighborhoods preceded the grape gentry by 150 years.  We suffer a dozen vineyard owners, including the French imperialists at Roederer, permitted to serially disrupt the sleep of several hundred Americans, many of them elderly, some of them ailing? 

DO THE MATH: According to the reliably unreliable NPR commentator and economist Betsy Stevenson, an American life has an economic value of about $10 million, calculated birth to oblivion, or eternal choir practice, depending on one's ontological expectations.

IF WE ASSUME that an average lifespan is about 80 years, and each citizen weighs 180 pounds (275 in Ukiah), we get:

$10,000,000 / 80 = $118k per year.

$118k / 180 pounds = About $650 per pound per year.

FURTHER ASSUMING that Boonville residents are denied sleep for 14 nights per year, we get: 650 / 365 x 14 = about $2 a night per pound per year.

TIMES 1000 residents = $2000 per pound of residents per year.

FURTHER-FURTHER ASSUMING that Lord and Lady Bennett of Navarro Vineyards — rumored to spend frost nights in Mendocino — produce 40 acres of grapes at 4 tons per acre per year at $2,000 per ton, we get, 40 x 4 x $2,000 = $320,000

FURTHER assuming that Lord and Lady Bennett’s frost fans save them maybe 10% of their annual crop by reducing frost damage to their grapes, we get their savings of $32,000.

CONVERTING this figure to per pound, we get $32,000 / 2,000 = $160 per pound per year — irrefutable, mathematically invincible proof that Lord Bennett was wrong when he told that memorable assembly at the Philo Grange, ”My grapes are worth more than your sleep.”

THE FIRE SEASON hasn't begun, but there's introductory smoke blanketing Cloverdale to Philo. It's from a “controlled burn” in Yorkville, and if it goes outta control as controlled burns have too frequently tended to do, you'll know where it started.

NOT SURE what kind of trees they are (crepe myrtle?) but they're in full bloom on South State Street, Ukiah, splendid white petals for about a half-mile on both sides of the street.

FIRST REPORT we received said Ms. Louise Simson, the new Superintendent of the Boonville schools, placed her in jumping frog country, Calavaras. Now we learn the Ms. S. was last in Foster City, and has earned a credential in school administration as well as a special education credential. She has held her current position as Principal/Assistant Superintendent at Vallecito Union School District, a district of 600 students, for five years, and has led her current school in composing and carrying out its COVID-19 re-opening plan, implementing its Distance Learning program, coordinating a district professional development program, participated in labor negotiations, coordinating a successful WASC accreditation, and much else. Ms. Simson may find Boonville much less demanding assuming, of course, the gorgons at the Elementary School don't complicate her life as they did their previous female boss.

INDIAN CREEK PARK will be open soon. Probably would have been opened earlier but for confusion at the County level plus the County's shabby treatment of Russ Clow, who'd been the live-in manager. Russ departed and, one supposes, a new live-in manager is being sought. Adding to the confusion over the County’s parks, they have been administratively folded into “Cultural Services.”

MULLING over Brad Wylie's vivid portraits of the Anderson Valley circa early 1970s, one of the local characters who never failed to fascinate me was Larry Parsons. I remember encountering Larry one night at the bar of the Boonville Hotel, where he was allowed one drink before he was lead across the street to the more tolerant Boonville Lodge. I asked him about the tragic recent death of a friend of his. A couple of Parsons’ blind pals were visiting him from the Bay Area where they and Parsons maintained lucrative blind man concessions in federal buildings. The three blind guys got drunk and drove around The Valley from one place to another getting drunker. Blind men driving? It happened. As Larry explained, one of the blind guys had had enough and asked to be driven to where he was staying on west side of Anderson Creek. To get there one had to drive across an ancient redwood bridge some 60 or so feet above the stream bed. The bridge itself seemed to defy the laws of both physics and gravity and, as I also recall, had been condemned. At the east end of the bridge the blind guy being driven home asked Larry to stop the car so he could relieve himself. Larry was at the wheel although even at high noon on a cloudless day he could barely make out shadows of objects around him. The next thing anybody heard was a startled yelp and, a split second later, a thud. The blind man had stepped off the bridge and fallen to his death on the rocks of the stream below. I asked Parsons what had happened. With the sinister little chuckle he prefaced all accounts of his misadventures with, Larry said, “Heh-heh. I told him to watch that first step. Heh-heh.” 

PARSONS, who began life in the Anderson Valley as a pot grower, also installed a few grapevines at his home at the top of the Holmes Ranch. I met him when an alarmed neighbor called me, “I just saw that blind guy’s kid driving him around up here while the blind guy shoots out the window of his truck. He told me he was hunting quail.” Larry’s son was ten or eleven at the time. He’d drive and aim Larry’s fire at wildlife. “Over there, Pop!”

PARSONS TOLD ME he was originally from Oklahoma. His father forced him to sell light bulbs door-to-door, “When I was in the first grade,” Larry told me. As an adult, Larry got a blind man’s concession in the Oakland federal building, which he parlayed into country property and then into his famous Pepperwood winery.

THE BLIND MAN became famous when his genius inspiration to put braille wine labels on his wine, not only made his wine a must-have among the vino trendys, the little blind winemaker became something of a media sensation, and soon there was a steady stream of traffic up the subdivision’s dusty roads, a subdivision that never expected a busy tasting room at its lofty ridgetop.

THERE followed some shocked calls to the ava from wine tasters, especially women who complained that Parsons had been “inappropriate.” Which could have been his middle name, because inappropriate occurrences were synonymous with him. “I was with my husband. We’d read about him in the New York Times, and being wine enthusiasts we wanted to meet him and buy his famous wine. We had a very hard time finding the place, and when we finally got up there it looked like a private home so we knocked on the door. A man yelled at us to ‘Come the hell in,’ like we were intruding. He was drunk and slumped in a corner of the room, but as soon as I entered he started saying things like, ‘Oh baby, this must be my lucky day. Sit right down next to me, honey. You sure smell good.’ Well, we just turned around and left.” There were several iterations of this experience from other women.

LARRY DIED in an odd car crash on the far side of Yorkville in the late 1980s. His underage daughter was driving, mom was in the passenger seat, little Larry was in the back seat with big Larry, but big Larry was the only Parsons injured, and he was dead on impact when the car left the highway and hit a tree.

DAN BRAUN: Happy Spring Everyone! Here's to a safe and better year ahead....Camp Navarro will reopen in early June and we are currently hiring. Jobs in all departments, at all levels, are being posted at our website and we will continue to add more positions over the next few weeks. We are currently seeking an Assistant GM and Sous Chef as well as the other positions currently listed. 

CN will start to welcome the public in like a hotel as well as continue to run events selectively and safely. Our GM Dean Anderson and Chef Cody Butler are onsite and they look forward to meeting many of you in the days ahead. Thanks. 

POINT ARENA, MARCH 27, 1918 (Fort Bragg Advocate): "Two Point Arena hens, valued at $1 each, have stirred up a rumpus in that city which will probably lead to quite costly court proceedings. Joe Casella claims Berri’s stole them from him. Casella swore out a warrant for Berri’s arrest and then regained possession of the hens by means of a search warrant. He was later persuaded to dismiss the charge against Berri. Mrs. Berri now comes to light claiming that she owns the hens and that Casella took them away from her with the search warrant. The latter plaintiff is highly offended and asks for $2 as value of the hens with 7 percent interest, $40 for auto hire, $7.50 for three days wages, and $250 punitive damages. The auto and wage items were run up in a search for the hens."

RUSS EMAL asks the question worrying all us baseball fans: “Valley sport's friends, what are you doing to watch Bay Area Sports on TV? Dish has ended broadcasting the Dubs and the Giants. Where are the games being broadcast on TV? As a second choice, where can it be watched on the internet?”

ABS FISHED OUT: The California Department of Fish and Wildlife has announced that the North Coast abalone season will remain closed for five years, until April 1, 2026, and this is not an April Fool's gag.


“My State of California has yet to adopt a ban on North Coast river fishing for Steelhead and Salmon from a drift boat/float vessel and it is way overdue. 

I live in Mendocino County, I fish the Navarro River which is not a very large river at all. One cold winter morning about 30 years ago I was Steelhead fishing from the bank on the Navarro and I saw one of the first drift boats to go down the Navarro River. They drifted through the hole where I was fishing, pulled their rods in and said hello. Now I had been struggling all week to just get a bite and so when I asked them how they were doing one of the guys leaned back and said, "Had 9 hook-ups but we only netted 5 of them." Well I damn near fell face first into the river, either this guy was an outright liar or they were simply better fishermen than yours truly; I was putting my money on the guy's pants catching on fire after telling that obvious whopper. But still, there was something about that odd looking boat that spiked my curiosity. So between casts I watched them as they crudely positioned themselves at the head of a riffle just below me... "Nine Steelhead, pffftt, yeah sure whatever" 

Satisfied with my assessment I looked away and reeled in my line to make yet another cast when suddenly I was startled out of my arrogant stupor by the loud clatter of metal and wood banging against one another and screams of joy. The noises were coming from the direction of that funny looking boat that just passed through and I immediately recognized them as the familiar chaotic sounds of "fish on!!" 

After the excitement died down I watched that drift boat for the better part of an hour and in that time I witnessed strike after strike as they inched that boat down river literally vacuuming the fish out of it.

I was mad as hell because these guys and that boat were changing the rules of the game. By this devastatingly effective method they never gave the steelhead a fighting chance and I was struck with a horrible realization that this was probably the beginning of the end for the wild steelhead runs in the Navarro River. The end to everything I had been taught, everything that seemed fair, everything I had held so dear in my heart in my pursuit of this magnificent fish called Steelhead. And I was right. 

Things were never the same on the Navarro, nor was I.

I often wonder what if there had been a ban put on drift boat fishing all those 30 years ago, perhaps....perhaps  (Jeff Burroughs)

TEN PERCENTER REPLIES: “Jeff Burroughs, before you blame fishermen (and drift boaters in particular) for local steelhead decline you need to consider vineyard expansion, rural road building, and timber management. Those factors and the subsequent sediment input to the river and its estuary are what doomed your beloved steelhead. Of course some “mismanagement” by state fish and game along the way made things worse. Oh, and now annual rainfall seems to be trending lower and lower in our watersheds – more bad news. That will likely be the final nail in the local steelhead’s coffin as fewer of these fish are even able to return to freshwater for spawning. Rivers to the south of us have instituted the no drift boat policy (to deal with crowds, not overfishing)and it doesn’t seem to be bringing their fish back any faster. How did the boat out-fish you that day way-back-when? Well maybe their technique was more refined or the bait was fresher than yours. Ten percent of the fishermen catch ninety percent of the fish, you know.

JEFF BURROUGHS: In response to the comment made to my recent story about drift boats depleting the Steelhead in the Navarro: If we are truly committed to steelhead conservation, we should never allow ourselves to become arrogant and narrow-minded about our role as part of the problem. . Simply shifting blame towards other factors as being the major cause of the Steelhead decline only makes thing worse because it gets in the way of solving the problem. The Navarro River is simply not big enough water to justify the use of a drift boat.

Two modern-day steelheaders and an oarsman worth their salt have few obstacles between them and success.

Every nook, cranny, and hog trough will be thoroughly carved out. Every pocket will be probed and every run swept clean.

Being a 5th generation steelhead fisherman I have spent the majority of my time fishing from the bank but some of that time fishing has been in our drift boat. The success rate in a drift boat is tenfold compared to bank fishing. This has forced me to face an uncomfortable reality – that drift boats have had their boot heel on the backs of these fish since the day they showed up on the Navarro.

Anyone who thinks encounter rates of 1.5-times per fish per season don’t have an effect on steelhead energy reserves and possibly spawning success is fooling themselves.

TEN PERCENTER: “True some days the boat boys can rack up numbers, but I’ve seen bank guys do better than the drift boats too – your catch rate depends on many factors not limited to just bank vs boat. Skill level, knowledge, preparation, bait quality, environmental conditions, patience and more come into play.

Your argument holds no water because steelhead are hurting across the board in Mendocino county and beyond. Even in streams with little or no possibility of launching a drift boat – see: Ten Mile, Pudding Creek, Noyo, Hare Creek, Caspar Creek, Big River, Little River and on and on. Hell, some of those waters listed don’t legally allow for fishing at all, but the fish there are still F’ed! How can you explain that with this drift boat nonsense?

It’s funny. I’ve been a bank fisherman exclusively. Never been in a drift boat, but here I am defending the sleds. I suppose I’d like to have the option to ride one someday.

Another thought – most boats I’ve encountered on the rivers from here to Washington were full of friendly, clued-in, keyed-up, dedicated sportsmen. Exactly the type of people I want to see on the water. Very few exceptions.”

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