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Valley People (April 21, 2021)

FIRE! Monday morning. Approximately 100 acres and 15% contained on the Ukiah side of the Boonville Road. The fire  was first reported Sunday (4/18) at 5:51 pm and, as of 11:30am Monday, had grown to 185 acres. Resources assigned: 5 engines, 2 hand crews, 1 Dozer, 1 Chief Officer, 1 Safety Officer and 1 Helicopter. AV Fire Chief Avila says the blaze was out of AV’s area of responsibility, and was a control burn “that jumped the line.” Another fire is burning near the headwaters of Feliz Creek, west of Hopland.

STILL NO ID  on that fatal accident off Highway 128 near Yorkville  on Friday, April 2nd, 2021 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 the property of 20770 Highway 128 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 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. 

TWO WEEKS LATER, on Wednesday afternoon, April 14th, there was another terrible accident on Highway 128 near Clark Road, Navarro. That one involved two vehicles, one of them driven by Christy Satoru, 54, of the Holmes Ranch, the other by David Ellis of San Francisco. Two of Ellis’s passengers, one a woman out of Berkeley, another a woman from St. Paul, Minnesota,  were badly injured and airlifted to Ukiah and Santa Rosa. The CHP has not yet concluded its investigation.

CHRIS ISBELL was felled by a stroke in March, paralyzing him over much of his body. The well-known Navarro resident is believed to be presently confined to a rehab facility deep in the East Bay. We’re trying to find Chris’s address, although we understand the poor guy is pretty much comatose.    

AS CATASTROPHES, large and small, accumulate, a small one is the 13 (so far) aural frost fan assaults out of the past 14 days on the people of the Anderson Valley, sleep deprived for two weeks now. The larger catastrophe is drought — Lake Mendocino's a puddle — and the consequent combustibility of much of the Northcoast, including Anderson Valley, thus far spared major fire, already has all of us on edge. Everything's dry, stressed trees everywhere one looks.

THE BOONVILLE HOTEL, Jeff Burroughs writes: “While a docent at the little red school house museum I was browsing through some of the old stuff in the drawers when I found an old Boonville Hotel ledger and as I thumbed through the pages of signatures I saw Jack London's signature. I put the ledger out where people could see it with a post it note alongside the ledger pointing to the signature. I don't think the museum even knew they had this little gem in their piles of old stuff.”

Boonville Hotel, 1907

GEOFFREY BROWN ELABORATES: “Actually, the Boonville Hotel is circa 1870s and my uncle, “Big” Avon was born in 1884 I think. This is where Jack London stopped for an overnight stay as he and his wife returned from the Mendocino Coast. Jack had been on assignment from a New York newspaper to cover the San Francisco earthquake of 1906. He and the wife then went to Santa Rosa, followed by the Coast visit. He rode on horseback to the Hotel from the Coast which at that time was called, Mrs. Berry's Place. London's wife kept a journal of the trip and I read it at the S.F. Historical Society. Those pioneer journals are where the history lies and in my opinion no historian has yet done them justice. Avon may have helped in Hotel repair at some point, I have home movies of him on the roof of our Grange Hall and he built a lot of excellent fire places in the Valley.”

ANDERSON VALLEY BREWING is selling hundreds of whole whiskey barrels for $10 a piece. We previously used them to age beer in, and they are ready for a new home. Great for chopping in half for your garden. Stop by the brewery to pick up, or for more information give us a call during business hours at (707) 895-2337 ex123. 

FIRE EXTINGUISHER DAY: Inspections & Service by Ukiah Oxygen Supply. Friday, May 7, 11am-2pm, Boonville Firehouse. Service fees start at $15.50 Limited number of Extinguishers for sale at $65-$75. (More info: 895-2020.)

BOB ABELES COMMENTS: “Re: Wednesday’s AT&T Outage

When AT&T’s Boonville DSLAM went down Wednesday afternoon, I thought it would be a good time to measure cellular performance under stress. First responders please take note, the results were not at all good. Normally, the 4G tower near the Highway 253/128 intersection can pump out about 10 Mbps, barely enough to stream choppy low resolution video, but acceptable for web browsing. With AT&T DSL circuits down and everyone piling on cellular, that number dropped to 0.05 Mbps, less than the speed of an old school dial-up 56K modem, rendering it useless for almost all purposes.

My point is that our rural communication systems in Anderson Valley are fragile and not up to the task of providing reliable service in the event of an emergency.”

SUPERVISOR TED WILLIAMS: “FirstNet (off the AT&T) tower offers a quality of service for first responders, prioritizing their traffic over the general public's Netflix streams."

JEFF BURROUGHS’ HISTORY NOTES: “If I remember correctly I read that the first commercially grown hops in Mendocino County were grown sometime around 1870's at the small hamlet named Hermitage which was located about 4 miles South East of Yorkville, at the headwaters of Dry Creek on what is now Hwy 128. Apparently the story goes that some guy who owned a little ranch near Hermitage decided to try growing hops and did quite well, selling the hops for 22 cents a pound, so he took every bit of his money and reinvested in doubling his crop only to have the price of hops drop to 10 cents a pound the following year. He lost everything and went bankrupt. The County wouldn't see hops commercially grown again for another 30 years.

“OUR RECENT DROUGHT brings to mind a story I once heard about how some local folks put their heads together to save stranded steelhead trout.

I'm not certain of the year but if I were to guess, it must have been around the 1940s or 1950s. Anyway, the winter that year had been a dry one, so bad that a large number of sea run steelhead had been stranded in the upper reaches of Rancheria Creek and the creek was drying up. The water had stopped running weeks before and all that was keeping these fish from dying were a few shaded pools of water along a stretch of Rancheria Creek near the Ornbaun Valley / Fish Rock Road intersection.

Russell Tolman was the local constable at the time as well as a rancher and sportsman who was keen to recognize the seriousness of the situation with the trapped and dying fish so he enlisted the help of some of Anderson Valley's other concerned citizens to take charge of saving these desperate fish.

The story goes that by the time they headed out for Rancheria Creek they had a flotilla of some 4 or 5 flatbed trucks, 15 -20 empty wine barrels, boots, nets, and a group of women from town who prepared a delicious creekside lunch with fried chicken, mason jar pickles, potato salad and all the sweet tea the workers could drink. After hours of hard work netting and wrestling with the steelhead doing their best to not injure them, the last oak barrel was loaded onto the last truck to join the other loaded trucks already headed down the road to meet up at Dimmick Park on the Navarro River where there was an ample amount of water for the fish to survive. As the trucks drove through the valley people on the street waved and lifted their hats it was truly a grand event.

Almost every single steelhead survived the journey that day and it has been said that in the following years the steelhead returns were phenomenal with numbers into the thousands. But that's probably just another fish story.

“OTHER THAN SOME AMBIGUOUS evidence stored in tree rings of the north coast's oldest trees, we, the European invaders, can only go by a mere 150 years of recorded rainfall data so defining what is or isn't normal rainfall is just guessing. From what I have read about the tree ring data Northern California has sometimes seen droughts that lasted 50 or more years over the past thousand year period and that in the last 300 years we have been experiencing a wetter than normal climate. Not to be a wet blanket but it is very possible this recent drought may simply be the beginning of a decade or more without substantial amounts of water.”

LOCAL SIGNS OF DROUGHT River Watcher David Severn told us Friday that he’s seeing disturbing signs of the significant drought in Anderson Valley. First, the Navarro River gage, which apparently was malfunctioning and reporting some implausible numbers a few weeks ago, has now been fixed and it is showing a record low flow for this time of year of 27 cubic feet per second, significantly below the “median daily statistic” of almost 200 cfs. As far as anyone can recall, the previous record low for this time of year was about 34 cfs. In addition, Severn has not seen any young steelhead, aka “reds” this year, and the few adult steelhead he’s seen seem smaller and darker in color than previous years. Severn has also noticed that local fir trees are showing significant signs of stress and branch brittleness and appear to be weak while at the same time their leaves are not green but parched yellow. Severn wondered if any other local outdoors people have seen similar indicators.

I REMEMBER the late Cecil Gowan, the very oldest of the old timers at the time, saying that he remembered the Navarro dry all the way to the Greenwood Bridge. Gowan was speaking against a ghastly condo development planned but nixed finally for the Hendy Woods area, making the point that a project of the proposed size of the development lacked a reliable source of water. 

FROM THE AVFD: “Did you know that ember cast is a leading factor in homes lost to wildfires? An ember can travel up to a mile ahead of a fire and land in leaf litter, tarps, or other combustible material to ignite a home ahead of the fire front. 

You can reduce the risk to your home by reducing or eliminating combustible materials in the Home Ignition Zone - the five feet out from your exterior walls. 

Every small step you make toward home hardening makes a difference. When you work to reduce the risk to your own home, you're also reducing the likelihood that it will become fuel and contribute to the growth of a wildfire.”

AV HEALTH CENTER has a moderate amount of first dose vaccines available this week. Just a reminder, we are now open to everyone so if you have not done so already, sign up on our jotform. We are working with the county and school district to identify the number of 16-18 year olds in our district and hope to hold a Pfizer vaccination clinic in the coming weeks. As you may have seen in the news, vaccine supply is expected to be limited over the next two weeks. We’ll keep you posted!

THE UNITY CLUB GARDEN SECTION is having a Plant Sale at Disco Ranch in Boonville to raise funds for our college scholarships. The sale will take place the first two Saturdays in May, 11:00 am - 1:00 pm. May 1st and May 8th we will be in the Disco parking lot with a variety of native, veggie, herb and flowering plants for sale.

UNITY CLUB NEWS: I miss having the Wildflower Show about this time of year.  If you're like me, you will be glad to hear you can still buy beautiful plants from the ladies of the Garden Section of the A.V. Unity Club.  Propagation and nurturing of these plants has been an ongoing enterprise. Reap the fruits of their labors on May 1 & 8 in the Disco Ranch parking lot.  There will be Native plants, pollinator-friendly plants, vegies and decorative plants available, from 11 to 1 both May 1st and 8th.  All proceeds go toward Scholarships for graduating high school seniors. Support the students and beautify your home at the same time. Our next Unity Club zoom meeting will be held on Thursday May 6th at 1:30. More about that next week. Details for the link will be sent to you by Arline B. just before the meeting.  Questions?  Ask Arline, she'll be glad to help. Stay safe and healthy. (Miriam Martinez)

YOU THINK YOU KNOW BOONVILLE? How many rooms are available for rent at the Boonville Hotel?

ONE DAY A FEW YEARS AGO I was standing in Boont Berry Farm chatting with Karen Espeleta, who’d just introduced me to her teenage daughter, a very pretty girl even beneath what seemed like several pounds of nose rings and, as I recall, a purple Mohawk. The fashionably-accoutered lass had about as much interest in me as in any other tiresome adult acquaintance of her mother’s. Until Karen mentioned that I was a good friend of Lawrence Livermore, who was once a regular contributor to the AVA. The kid , incredulous, stared at me. “You, you know Lawrence Livermore?” The pure improbability of the relationship seemed to stun her. That I not only knew Laytonville's lead citizen, we were good friends, becoming allies in futile counter attacks against the forces of destruction, LL via his seminal zine ‘The Lookout,’ me with the ava. That was my first awareness that LL had become a truly famous person, known to avant garde teens everywhere. I picked up a Sunday Chron and there he was denying that he’d just sold his record company for thirty million dollars! Out of the parched hills of Laytonville to big time show biz! Livermore, for those of you deliberately out of the know (like me), brought Green Day and other famous bands to mass attention and, prior to his subsequent eminence, often wrote for the Boonville weekly. 

WHO DUNNIT? Sometime between 11:30pm Monday night the 21st of July, 1997, when Lydia Espinoza locked all the doors to the Boonville Hotel, and 7:45am the next morning when the men working on a Hotel remodeling project arrived, someone or someones lifted a painting on display in the Hotel’s dining room. The purloined pastel is called “The Journey Home.” It’s fairly large at 20” x 27” — large enough to have prevented someone from simply walking out the door with it while other people were around. There were five rooms of guests on the premises, presumably asleep upstairs; none of them left suspiciously early and none were observed carting bulky packages out to their cars when they left. Val Gowan, the Hotel’s manager, was the first to notice that the painting was missing when she arrived at work Tuesday morning, just after the construction crew had begun work. She also noticed that the kitchen door had been left unlocked, which was an oversight quite unlike the meticulous Mrs. Espinoza who locked up at night. “When I walked back through the dining room toward the kitchen from my office I saw that the painting was gone,” Mrs. Gowan recalls. “I spent a lot of time Tuesday checking with staff to see if someone had bought it or had taken it home to try it out. Nobody knew anything. The painting had been stolen. Also, Lydia was certain she’d locked the door before she went home.” Johnny Schmitt, the Hotel’s owner and chief chef had, in the interim, noticed that the screen over a kitchen window had been torn, leading Schmitt and Gowan to surmise that a single thief had waited until Mrs. Espinoza left the premises, then climbed through the kitchen window to get inside, removed the painting from the wall, detoured to the bar of the Hotel to remove $12.50 in coins from the register, and walked back out through the kitchen door, leaving it unlocked as he departed. (The theft of the petty cash would seem to rule out a hotel guest as the art thief since guests pay upwards of $80 for an overnight stay.) Having to wedge her investigations in around a constantly ringing phone and her many other duties, it wasn’t until Wednesday morning that Mrs. Gowan was certain a theft had occurred and found the time to call the Sheriff’s Department to report it. Deputy Palma seemed surprised that anyone would steal a painting. Deputy Palma took the report and promised he’d put it “in the file.” The painting, by Mendocino artist Julie Higgins, is valued at $450. Ms. Higgins told Mrs. Gowan that she is flattered that someone would steal one of her paintings, but it was the first time she’d been robbed of her art since she was in high school when a fellow student stole a poster of hers he’d coveted. Mrs. Gowan said last week that the theft of the painting was the first time a work of art had been stolen from the Hotel where local artists display their work year-round. “We did have a little spree of coffee mug disappearances last summer,” Mrs. Gowan remembers. “In a three-week period we lost twenty-four mugs at $18 each. People don’t think of it as theft, I guess.” The Hotel has arranged fair compensation for Ms. Higgins. Mrs. Gowan thinks the robber will be haunted by his theft. “Every time he looks at it on the wall it will bother him,” she says, with perhaps an optimism unjustified by the prevailing morality.

1997: THE SUPES have approved $11,350 to clean up seven illegal dump sites strewn throughout Anderson Valley. An estimated 150 garbage truck loads (5,000 cubic tons) has found its fouling way to The Valley’s roadsides and will be collected and hauled to Ukiah. After the clean-up, berms will be pushed into place to prevent easy resumption of illegal deposits at these sites. The Ukiah City Council has magnanimously offered a small discount at the Ukiah landfill where the refuse has been offered a home.

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