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It’s Not 1955 Anymore

A senior female paused to look at the AVA shirts we were selling, reading out loud to herself, “Fanning the Flames of Discontent.” Then she asked, “What am I supposed to be discontented with?”

A young barefoot woman asked us where she could find marijuana and a job trimming marijuana. “Isn't this supposed to be Mendocino County?” she demanded.

One hundred yards in any direction, I replied.

She wouldn't leave, and the more she talked the more depressing it got. She said she'd been drug-tested out of the Army, and she'd liked the military life and had wanted to stay in. And now she was on the road and, this is where it got really depressing, she was pregnant, but “I'm really looking forward to having a kid.”

Where are you staying tonight?

“I don't know. Something will come up.”

She said if she couldn't find work as a trimmer “around here” she knew a place in Southern Oregon where she could make enough money in the dope business to get her to San Antonio where she planned to live “for a while.”

What happened to homes for unwed mothers, the ones with the deadbolts on the outside doors?

Mr. Coleman of the Central Valley said he'd come to town for the reunion at the Vet's Building. “There must be 300 people down there,” he said, “but I still haven't seen anybody I know. I grew up here. As a kid I rode my horse all over these hills. My dad was the ag teacher at the high school. Now, I barely recognize the place. I stare at the buildings in Boonville and it takes me a while to remember what they were when I lived here.”

A Ms. Raab appeared, introducing herself as a member of The New Yorker staff and, occasionally, a resident of the Holmes Ranch, Philo. She brandished a wine ticket for three glasses full but the Winegrowers Alliance had run out of wine, and she'd only downed two. Ms. Raab asked if I was looking for someone to replace Cockburn. Nope, he's irreplaceable, I said, pointing out that my paper's demographic is not the same as The New Yorker's; but Cockburn, who lived not far to the north, had fit right in. In fact, he used to join us in our fair booth where, one memorable afternoon, he shouted out to Jason Page, “How would you like to be a communist, young man?” Page, a teacher at Boonville High School, reacted like he'd been asked to sign up as a sex offender and scurried off.

Ms. Raab said the paper “wasn't left enough.” Thank god, I said. Name a left paper or magazine that doesn't put you to sleep one sentence in. She entered a plea for Obama. I said I usually voted for Nader, but with Ralph not in the rigged game this time around I'd probably vote for Miss Stein or Rocky Anderson, that the only difference between Obama and Romney was that Romney would accelerate the looming catastrophes. Ms. Raab invoked the usual scare stories that Romney would stuff the Supreme Court with fascists, step up the Republicans' ongoing war on women and so on, basically running out the same Democrat arguments we've heard now for fifty years, the gist being that if we didn't vote for this toady to the One Percent over that toady to the One Percent we'll all be toad toast. I said that short of a revolution the rot was taking the house down no matter who's in office, but that I liked Obama on a personal level and was totally charmed by his wife and children, and that from an aesthetic perspective he was certainly preferable to the two yobs, three if you include the appalling Biden, but look what he's done, out-Bushing Bush. Funny to get criticized for not being left enough by an Obama voter. Nice lady, though, and I'm happy she lives part-time in the Anderson Valley.

Willis Tucker, World War Two veteran and retired logger, and a man I've been after for years to submit to an interview, told me that he remembers a Fair when he and his Odd Fellow lodge members served up 6,000 hamburgers.

Then a very odd thing happened. The most impossibly voluptuous woman ever to appear in person in Boonville — in my admittedly limited experience anyway — walked past. Tottered past, more precisely, in very tall spiked heels. Everyone froze and stared like in a movie when one scene is stopped in place. “My god!” a woman exclaimed. “Jesus!” a man exhaled. I was among the speechless. And when the sex goddess tottered back past us again with an armload of onion rings, everyone was frieze-framed a second time.

A guy said he thought there were two kinds of people at the Fair: those who were fat and those who were not yet fat.

Corn dogs. French fries. Onion rings. Slurpees. Cardboard pizzas. God's very own apples coated in sugar! I warned my young friend Miguel, “This stuff will take 20 years off your life.”

“It will?” he said.

Supervisor Hamburg hustled by without so much as a grudging hello, veering away from our booth like it was kryptonite, which it is to him, a guy with cult-like political devotion unused to even the mildest criticism. When our 5th District rep walked past a second time, Steve Sparks offered him a shirt, and Hamburg asked, “What do they say?” Sparks replied, “Hamburg for Supervisor!” Hamburg picked up his pace, away and away.

Cowboy Johnny Pinches appeared in Sunday's parade but not at the Fair. Supervisor McCowen, however, seemed omnipresent and, unlike certain of his colleagues, a guy who rolls with the punches, and we've slammed him repeatedly over the years on a whole range of issues, but he always comes up smiling.

As does Sheriff Allman, who gets rolled in these pages on a fairly regular basis, but stopped by to say hello anyway. The Sheriff is a master politician. Craver was the first of the County's top cops to realize that about half the County's population were people he'd just as soon lock up — permanently — and that realization got him elected. Allman, though, has the politics down-down. Before Craver and Allman, the cop attitude was, “I don't need all these hippies and communists or whatever the hell these weirdos are, I'll stick to my demographic: the good people, the gun people and the Republicans.”

Craver retired to Idaho.

Slim Pickens, a rodeo caller before he got into movies, said Boonville was the roughest place he'd ever called a rodeo in, which would have been in the late 1950's. It was still pretty rough in 1970 when there were drunks and fights everywhere, especially across the street at the old Boonville Lodge where people spilled out into the streets. David Summit told me when he was a little kid he couldn't go to the Fair at night unless his parents went with him. Anymore, the Fair is a pretty tame event, a family event, even after dark.

This year there were only a few Fair arrests. A kid got popped for trying to buy a beer with a false ID, the sloppiest drunks had to be hauled over the hill.

Deputy Squires, out on a medical leave that appears to be permanent, was telling a cluster of young deputies war stories. He said rumors that he was coming back on duty any time soon were completely untrue. The Deputy is a guy who can tell some stories, but the only one I heard Friday night was the one he told about the bear tracks — very big bear tracks —he'd seen up in the hills.

Nearby, the Boonville Panthers were taking on the Point Arena Pirates, and we'll pause here to ladle out heaps of praise for the football marvels John Toohey and Tony Pardini have wrought, the two of them reviving Anderson Valley's football prowess, Tony at the little guy level with Pop Warner, John at the big guy high school level.

A visitor from the city was pleased when I, mustering a suitable civic pride, pointed out a distinguished passerby. “See that guy? He won the Emerald Cup last year, meaning of all the pot growers in Northern California his product was adjudicated best of show. And if he's the best pot grower in the Emerald Triangle, that's got to mean he's the best pot grower in the world!”

A befuddled guy on a cellphone was looking at our banner and saying to someone on the other end, “Yeah, I'm at Anderson Valley Adventures. No, Anderson Valley Appetizers. No… I'm at… Well, I don't know where I'm at.”

Terry Ryder was delighted she'd won Best of Show for her floral arrangement, and we were delighted she was delighted.

I wanted to watch the guy shave angora rabbits for their pelts, but I only heard about this curious event after the fact.

The exhibit people most often commented on were the sheep dog trials, won by Yorkville's Kevin Owens, and the sheep shearing on Saturday. Parents universally enjoyed the animal exhibits.

Informally, with the precise numbers not yet available, Fair manager Jim Brown said attendance was down Friday, down just a bit Saturday, up Sunday.

The Fairgrounds crew, as directed by Bobby Owens, did a first-rate job keeping up with trash disposal.

As did members of the Fair's board of trustees. All of them were much in evidence doing everything from directing traffic at Sunday's parade to moving stuff around inside the Fair grounds.

Our booth was nicely situated at the end of a row of booths that began with delusional Democrats, continued past Save Hendy Woods and Cycked (agitation for an Anderson Valley bike path), past the deranged Republicans, and finally to us, your beloved community newspaper, next door to Stan Anderson of the Mendocino County Republicans. Stan, adrift in a weekend sea of liberals, manned the Repug's lonely outpost all three days by himself, often stopping in next door for brief arguments with us.

Nice guy, Stan, and living confirmation that Americans can hold the most terrifying political convictions but, in their every day lives, be the very soul of sympathetic humanity.

When a woman who didn't look particularly deranged walked up to Stan and blared, “All Republicans are morons!” Stan laughed. “I guess that's what the hippies mean by dialogue,” he said.

I said that if it's any consolation, Stan, we get that kind of thing on a regular basis, and sure enough, a learning impaired teacher duly appeared to announce “You always get your facts wrong” and blah blah blah. I missed that one, unfortunately, because, and I'm not exaggerating here, every time I've been in that argument, and it's an argument I always enjoy, it turned out that the disputed “fact” was simply an opinion someone had been offended by, not a fact at all. Not that we don't get the facts wrong, and not that we don't try to correct them when we do.

Apart from the usual walk-by death vibes aimed at your beloved community newspaper, the All-Republicans-Are-Morons woman represented the only overt display of bad manners we witnessed.

Early Monday morning, a few ghostly figures were visible in the foggy dawn light, and as the morning grew bright enough to fully see, it was as if the thousands of people thronging Boonville only a few hours before had never been here, and there was peace in The Valley.


  1. Diane Campbell October 3, 2013

    nice nice piece.

  2. wineguy September 19, 2012

    As Bobby Zimmerman sez: The times they are a changing’ and they surely have been and will be…get on board or step off your choice…

  3. September 19, 2012

    Bruce: If shaving Angora rabbits for their pelts was really an exhibit, you missed what must have been a bloody show.
    The pelt is the fur and skin together.

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