Press "Enter" to skip to content

Valley People (April 28, 2021)

COLLECTOR’S EDITION. This issue of the Boonville weekly is the first ever to contain a color graphic, or color of any kind other than newsprint gray, and this newspaper goes back to 1955. Special thanks to Joe Vetter of Healdsburg Printing and to Renee Lee, the technical wizard who cyber-organizes this effort every week, for getting it done.

IF ANYONE has ever earned retirement more than Lauren Keating of Lauren's Restaurant no names spring to mind. The remarkable Ms. K was the very heart of the Anderson Valley for better than three decades, not only serving up good food at reasonable prices, but also functioning as the community's after hours social center, dance floor, concert venue, and go-to site for events of all sorts. And our hostess with the mostess made it all look easy.

PRIOR TO LAUREN'S RESTAURANT… I remember the Smiling Deer, the Mexican Bar (as it was called under Mary Jane Cardin) and Jennifer Schmitt’s “Soundbite,” and, and… And it will be interesting what the premise’s owner, Eddie Carsey, will come up with next.

ACCORDING to County CEO Carmel Angelo, “All County parks are now open to the public following State of California guidelines to reduce the transmission of the Corona Virus. New COVID-19 guideline signage is being made and will be placed by Facilities. Overnight camping at Indian Creek is the only service not currently available. The Cultural Services Agency is recruiting for a seasonal Camp Host for beautiful Indian Creek Campground.

THE LATEST EDITION of the Anderson Valley Community Bulletin is out and available lots of places around The Valley, including the post offices. The invaluable guide to local institutions and businesses is the work of Steve Sparks, shadow mayor of the Anderson Valley, whose handy guide is a much more comprehensive version of a local phone book.

IT LOOKED like the entire NorCal CalFire cohort was assembled up on the Ukiah Road a week ago Tuesday morning about 9. At least 50 trucks of various sizes, and a lot of uniformed people standing around. There is, however, a stubborn wildlands blaze just down off the pavement in the canyon between the Hammond place and the Mission-style stucco home a little to the east, but that one is under control and now being pounded into extinction by an inmate crew. By 10am the CalFire fleet had dispersed. 

NAVARRO RIVER FLOW DATA: Current flow is 20 percent LESS than the minimum flow recorded in 2015. Yikes! (Marshall Newman)

FROST FANS last Friday morning but no frost. Not even close. Sodden thought: Are the lords of the grape rousting us in the early hours because they can?

BIG WIN for Boonville High School when the local girls defeated Ukiah High School's varsity volleyball team in Ukiah's gym  last Wednesday afternoon. Considering Ukiah's enrollment of nearly 2,000 and Boonville's maybe a hundred if everyone shows up, Boonville coach Kendra McEwen was justifiably proud of the big victory when I encountered her at Boont Berry Farm the day after. Years ago, in the Jerry Tolman era, Boonville's boy's powerhouse basketball team ran Ukiah clear out of the gym, theirs and ours, whomping the much larger school by upwards of twenty points. Twice. And Ukiah would never play us again. 

INTERESTING SPECULATION from a local ridge dweller: “As you know, I’d really like to understand why the water level is so low at this time of year. It seems to me that building roads back into the hills is carrying away winter rain that should be left to percolate down and replenish the water table. The other thing is the amount of water transpired by the grapevine. I think that the acre feet pumped out this way must eclipse that carried off by the wine aficionados. Water used by the settlers in their kitchens and septic tanks will “flow through” and not be lost to the atmosphere — it’s the agricultural crops I worry about. But to sum up, I don’t know how much is lost because of logging, absence of fog drip, marijuana gardens, road construction, catchment systems, vineyards, climate variation, etc, so I refrain from issuing a pontification on the subject.”

JIM SNYDER, high school principal, reports that the ninos are being phased back into their classrooms for in-person learning, and seeing the school buses on the road again is one more sign that normalcy, a version thereof, is returning. The high school faculty as follows:

  • Ballantine, Industrial Arts
  • Berrigan, Art
  • Bublitz, Science
  • Bullington, History
  • Campbell, English
  • Cook, Spanish
  • Corey-Moran, History
  • Crisman, Music
  • Ewing, History
  • Farber, English
  • Folz, English
  • Honegger, ELD
  • Jenderseck, Science
  • Page, PE
  • Panttaja, Math
  • Patterson, Special Ed
  • Suarez, Math
  • Swehla, Ag & Science
  • Wise, Resource Specialist

AV FIRE CHIEF ANDRES AVILA REPORTED Wednesday night at the Community Services District Board: “The Anderson Valley Fire Department will conduct a multi-agency wildland refresher course on May 1. The training will consist of hose lays, and line construction, fire shelter deployments, pumping, and mop up. The following weekend (weather permitting) will conduct a low intensity training burn on the Vidmar Ranch in Yorkville. The test taker burn will provide the necessary training for all fire personnel to observe fire behavior in different fuel models, changing daytime weather conditions, and topography influences. As we all know we are quickly moving into a very dry year again. Taking the mystery out of fighting wild land fire and providing a calm setting for our troops to reset their skills before fire season is invaluable he provided through these live burn opportunities.”

AVILA ALSO SAID, “We are informed of three additional in-district home insurance policies canceled because their homes are in a high wildfire severity zone. A Yorkville resident who has been with the same carrier for more than 20 years was completely dropped for being in a "high" fire hazard severity zone (FHSZ). This is the second tier of three: moderate, high, and very high. Most of our fire department response area is rated "high severity" with the valley floor classified as "moderate severity." "Very high severity" is scattered around the district in a mosaic of areas. Community Services District board members can reference these FHSZ maps online at the Calfire website. 

CSD DIRECTOR Francois Christen added that his homeowner’s insurance policy was canceled because the carrier has decided to get out of the home insurance business. Director Larry Mailliard said that he had been informed by his insurance carrier that the sprawling Yorkville/Mailliard Ranch property insurance outfit will either cancel their insurance or significantly increase  rates. (Mark Scaramella)

THE LATE ELINOR CLOW told me years ago that Octopus Mountain or Octopus Hill are both wrong. The famous Boonville landmark is officially designated on definitive topo maps of Anderson Valley as Tarwater Peak. Elinor said that Tarwater-Octopus isn’t tall enough to qualify as a mountain. A mountain must rise a thousand feet to be called a mountain. Tarwater Peak, aka Octopus Hill, was once part of the Tarwater Ranch. Tarwaters were among the old, old Valley old-timers. Cap Tarwater was proprietor of the Live Oak Garage back in the 1920s. Elinor, recalling a similar dispute from her days as a teacher in Healdsburg, remembered arguments about whether or not Healdsburg’s Fitch Mountain was a mountain or a hill, a dispute which finally provoked the people on the mountain side of the argument to roll a huge boulder up Fitch which irrefutably put its peak a few feet over the 1,000-foot qualifier. 

THERE WAS SOME NICE WINE called Octopus Mountain produced by the Dennison Brothers who lived part-time at the foot of Tarwater Peak where they grew grapes. Their vineyard is now owned by Daryl Sattui, a wine octopus out of Napa County. 

I’M ALWAYS STRUCK by how much history this lightly populated valley has pressed into a mere 150 years, leaving out of course all mention of the original inhabitants who lived here for the ten thousand years prior. Here’s an item from a 1971 Ukiah Daily Journal that reminds us of how quickly things have changed in Anderson Valley: “Mendocino’s oldest resident died yesterday in a Ukiah hospital at the age of 102. Had she lived 10 more days, Mrs. Rosa Watson would have celebrated her 103rd birthday. Born to the Rev. and Mrs. John Montgomery in Blunt County, Alabama on August 26, 1869, just four years after the end of the Civil War, Mrs. Watson came to Mendocino County’s Anderson Valley at the age of 13 when her parents migrated west. At the age of 20 she left Boonville and came to Ukiah where she worked as a cook for four years at the county hospital. While in Ukiah, she met and married James Watson, a Boonville farmer-tavern owner. The wedding ceremony was performed in the parlor of the old Hagan Hotel. Watson had come to California with a cattle drive at the age of 15 from the state of Missouri. He and his new wife returned to Boonville until 1910 when they moved back to Ukiah. During the years in Boonville, Mrs. Watson ran a boarding house. In Ukiah, the couple made their home on Ford Street. Mr. Watson passed away in 1926.” And Mrs. Watson went on living in a country about as different from the one she was born in as could be imagined.

ASSESSING the Anderson Valley at the millennium, I wrote, “Look what’s happened here: Second home communists. Kendall Jackson. Yorkville Highlands. Movie stars. NPR. Nobel and Pulitzer Prize winners. Decaf Lattes. The hills sprouting metal grape stakes. Rivers and streams pumped dry in the summer. French aristocrats flying in for visits. Range Rovers. Play groups. Ski vacations for high school kids. Chronological adults with no adult responsibilities. Art-fee art shows. Wine tours. Personal growth seminars. Retreats for adults retreating from adulthood. Watershed grants to study where the water went. Gourmet beer. Vegetarian tacos. Strangers on the school board. Mexican bands arriving by helicopter at the Boonville Fairgrounds. Dope dealers in stretch limos. Cul de sacs in Yorkville. Shops selling crystals. Locals wearing them. Vertical tastings. Horizontal employment.” Twenty-one years later, depletion and ennui.

AMUSING STORY relayed to me way back by Elinor Clow: When the unforgettable Mel “Boom-Boom” Baker was the local superintendent of schools, Elinor had some difficulty decoding an article Mel had published in Homer Mannix’s Anderson Valley Advertiser, a kind of living museum of antiquated newspaper technology. Elinor quickly deduced that the Superintendent’s piece lacked quite a number of clarifying commas and asked Homer to explain the comma deficit. “I don’t have enough commas so I try not to use too many of the ones I do have,” Homer explained, and which I’ll explain to you by pointing out that Homer printed his paper on one of the last functioning hot lead presses in the United States. Type was handset by the amazing Marie Helme, probably the last manual typesetter in the United States. Her fingers flew, plucking each letter for every word from her mass of letters in her overhead type case, and only so many punctuation marks. The comma deficit was severe. If Homer had had to publish a wordy paper in 9-point type like this one he’d have been out of commas at the end of the first page, but the comma shortage accounted for the Superintendent’s unintentionally run-on prose style. The recalcitrant linotype, Elinor recalls, was dubbed “Old Miserable” by the late Juanita Maddox, who wrote for Homer in the hot lead days, but it and Marie managed to produce a weekly paper from these antiquated means for a good twenty years.

MARIE had a complicated back story. She came from a newspaper family in Michigan where, as a child, she learned to set type by hand. As an adult Marie suddenly took to occasionally running nude through her home town, which got her packed off to the state hospital. But once free, her mortified family encouraged Marie to head west where she soon landed a job at the old Ukiah Daily Journal at the tail end of its hot lead days. When the Ukiah job ended, Marie came to Boonville to work for Homer Mannix’s hot lead Anderson Valley Advertiser. She lived in a room in the old Boonville Hotel for a while, then in a small apartment in the Mannix Building, long ago destroyed by fire. Marie always wore a black overcoat, and every day, in all kinds of weather, walked down the street to the Boonville Lodge where she downed exactly one short beer then walked home to the Mannix Building. Gossips claimed she was nude beneath her habitual black coat, but how they would know that about this most private of private women was never explained. One infamous afternoon, as Marie sat perched on her habitual end-of-the-bar stool, the man sitting next to her took a bullet in the head. Marie finished her drink and, without seeming to notice the corpse next door, walked out of the bar and back to the Mannix Building. Homer’s paper appeared right on schedule the next day. 

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.

THE PURLOINED PAINTING was returned to the Boonville Hotel by a woman who appeared with it at the Hotel bar the following Sunday, explaining to Hotel staffer Gina Barron that her friend who had taken it hadn’t realized that it had value. Everyone involved seems satisfied to let it all rest at that. But a guy climbs through the kitchen window of the Hotel in the middle of the night, takes a picture off the wall that doesn’t belong to him, sneaks off into the night with it and a few bucks in coins from the bar cash register, but a couple of weeks later sends his girlfriend out to return the painting armed with the excuse that he’s giving the painting back because he didn’t know it had value? 

LOCAL HISTORIAN JEFF BURROUGHS: “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 1940's or 1950's. 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."

BILL KIMBERLIN: There is a remnant of an old apple orchard on my place in Boonville. At this time of year the apple blossoms gently slap us awake to the change of seasons that even Californians can't quite ignore. 

I remember one evening before I rediscovered Boonville and Anderson Valley, when my lady friend and I stayed in a single rental at the Reilly Heights home which is a landmark in the Valley. About midnight I woke and noticed an unusually bright moonlight. Let us explore I said to a sleepy partner.

Behind the Reilly Heights house was a large apple orchard that on this special night was lit by moonlight. Every white apple blossom was afire with reflected moonlight. Neither of us can forget that evening stroll through that orchard. 

MR. K ADDS: Thank you for your mention of me in your paper, but it got screwed up. Jeff Burroughs commented on Facebook about our Boonville hotel.

Geoff Brown, who is a friend of mine, asked me a question in that post, about whether my Uncle Avon built the Boonville Hotel. I answered Geoff with the Jack London hotel history that you mistakenly ascribed to Geoff Brown.

It may interest you to know who, Geoff Brown is. His cousin is Jerry Brown, lately our Governor and years earlier also our Governor.

Geoff was for many years the Public Defender in San Francisco. Geoff's uncle was Edmond Brown also a Governor of California when I was a kid.

We all made a trip to Squaw Valley for the opening of the Olympics in Squaw Valley and I remember Geoff running up the steps of the Governor's Mansion in Sacramento to return a book he had borrowed from his Uncles library.

I have written about this in more detail, that may appear in my next book.

Be First to Comment

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *