- 100,000 Acres
- LakeCo Report
- Hospitality Center
- Dr Harris Expiration
- Inexplicable Bail
- Good Person
- Repurposed Buddy
- FF Birthday Club
- Yesterday's Catch
- MRC Recertification
- Gualala Water
- Destructive Devices
- Shooting an Elephant
- Open Studios
LOOKS LIKE CalFire is close to making good on their initial estimate of full containment of the Jerusalem fire in Lake County on Monday, August 17. As of Sunday evening they reported 85% containment of the 25,156 scorched acres which when added to the 70,000-plus acres of the adjoining Rocky Fire brings the total burned area to almost 100,000 acres, or in rectangular terms, about 10 miles by 15 miles.
CalFire: “Damage assessment has been completed. Final determination confirmed three structures initially claimed as residences were confirmed to be hunting cabins, bringing the residences destroyed total to nine, plus 18 outbuildings. Fire crews are diligently working to extinguish all hot spots and monitor the area inside the perimeter. Maintain a sense of awareness as firefighters are still working near the roadways.”
HOWEVER, according to the on-line weather website wunderground.com most of the smoke that is sitting on top of Mendocino County is from the many somewhat smaller blazes in Humboldt County.
REPORT FROM LAKE COUNTY
Smoke awful here today, even in the northwest quadrant of Lake County. Up until yesterday it’s been relatively easy to see and breathe on this side of the lake, but the expansion of the Jerusalem “incident” and abnormal wind direction seems to be predominant for the nonce.
Now we’re on to the bureaucratic blather about how to pay for removal of hazardous materials and unpermitted structural remains (lots of “informal” dwellings in the backwoods turned to cinder and bits), a la Board of Supervisors, Department of Environmental Health, etc., State Emergency Management Agency promising millions, code enforcement “officers” slathering in anticipation — just in time for the lake to turn to algal gelato (somebody ought to be testing to see how that works as fire suppressant!).
But here’s a valuable if small perspective on the rescue issue. The US Department of Health & Human Services put together a database of persons who are (1) enrolled in Medicare and (2) dependent on electricity for maintenance of critical life-sustaining equipment, by zip code. The press release is here:
The actual database website is here:
To get quick zipcode maps, use:
In theory, you’d want to get to those people quickly if they’re in the path of destruction. Also in theory, the Area Agency on Aging has a list of program enrollees (a subset of the larger list of enrollees in welfare programs for disabled persons, and other vulnerable people) that it will provide to the emergency responders like Sheriff’s Office, in the event that a mass evacuation has to occur or some other special circumstance requires evacuation assistance; it’s called for in the Area Agency on Aging’s PSA 26 (Mendocino & Lake Counties) Disaster Preparedness Plan, but I have no idea whether it’s ever been done or, if compiled, used in the exercise of preparedness planning by first responders. [Lake County’s officially approved Emergency Response Plan is dated 1996.]
During the peak of the Rocky Fire, when it was announced that the fire was encroaching on the east side of the city of Clearlake, volunteers from all over the county were assisting those community members to prepare and plan for the threatened evacuation requirement, because Lake County has only just begun to implement the State’s required “special needs” evacuation management mandate. Members of the Lake County Search & Rescue Team went out into the threatened eastern side of the Lower Lake community and helped people safely remove their animals and gather their important survival stuff. Extraordinary levels of cooperation among local and state agencies, as well as volunteer organizations (like the Moose Lodge, in Clearlake Oaks that operated a 24-hour sanctuary for days, and KPFZ programmers around the clock) kept bringing together local resources for members of the public providing assistance and supporting emergency responders.
Transportation and other types of assistance for “special needs” populations is “understood” as a Level of Service requirement for County Administration (Office of Emergency Services), but Mendocino is — as usual — worlds ahead of Lake. Any citizen can go online and pull up your EOP/ERP day or night. Over here, unless the disaster really does call for state or higher intervention, we use the YOYO system. (Well, not entirely — we rely heavily on our local Fire Protection Districts, whose integrity and professionalism make up for a multitude of County errors and omissions; FPDs supported by rural communitarians and civic organizations provide the backbone of day-to-day emergency management, where top-heavy “administration” at the highest level of local government emulates the sports mascot of UC Santa Cruz.)
Fortunately, with the increasing number of literate old people (a matter of odds, with more Bay Area retirees escaping the fray, like me) perseverance of the local radioheads (KPFZ), and irreplaceable if febrile communication links with the “other” outside world (thanks to the AVA, mostly), the “community” of active “older adults” is beginning to challenge the establishment of redneck recidivist Civil War rejects that run this joint.
DESPITE PROTESTS, 'Hospitality Center' Set To Open Monday In The Old Coast Hotel, Fort Bragg
TO THE PATIENTS OF DR. DIANE HARRIS
by Dr. Diane Harris
North Coast Family Health Center (NCFHC) has been putting out a great deal of misinformation. Patients have been told things that cause them concern. It is not true, as patients have been told, that I have taken a medical leave. I do not have a medical issue; you do not need to worry about my health. Nor is it true that I just suddenly abandoned my patients, as one irate patient was told. The various stories patients have been told do not make sense to them. I, too, can make no sense of this. I am not trying to give you a one-sided account or hiding something I know that would explain this.
The real story is that NCFHC and Mendocino Coast District Hospital (MCDH) administration waited until the last minute to begin contract renewal discussions. Four days before the end of the existing contract, I was told by MCDH CEO, Bob Edwards, to just “suck it up” and sign it. The situation came down to two days before the end of the contract with three doctors unwilling to sign the new contract. On that day, I requested to see the latest version of the contract and Ilona Horton (NCFHC administrator) refused to give it to me saying that she and Bob Edwards decided to let my contract expire, and that they weren't going to negotiate with me any more. The next day I found out that the MCDH Board met in emergency session and gave the two other doctors who also wouldn't sign the contract a 60 day extension on their contract for further negotiations. I asked the Chair of the Board to schedule a special meeting to extend my contract in the same manner. My request was declined.
The administration didn't consider the effects of their actions on my patients, myself and my family, and on the community. Patients have had multiple reactions to the news of disruption of continuity of THEIR care. They like me and are very supportive of me. But they are flummoxed, furious and frustrated, deeply distressed and disoriented. They have said the following:
“The lack of consideration for the patients is immoral. What is glaringly absent is a focus or concern for the sacrosanct relationship between doctor and patient, and the healing process. I have found Dr. Harris to be knowledgeable, agreeable, and helpful. Clearly she is smart and patient-centric. I have valued my sessions with her and feel she is one of the best doctors in the area. It is incomprehensible that the administration would allow this to happen.”
I love being a doctor and love taking care of people. My patients depend on me and I do not want to let them down. I would not terminate my care of my patients in this sudden way. I enjoy and want to maintain those relationships – some of 23 years duration. I also want to acknowledge the support, trust and respect I have been given over the years by my patients and the community.
I am working to be available to patients in this community and continue my commitment to my patients, and the community.
The actions of the administration do not reflect the spirit of our community. There is a Hospital Board meeting on August 27 if you wish to speak your thoughts to the Board. The meeting is scheduled for 6pm in the Redwoods Room at the Hospital. Ask for an explanation so we can all understand why this happened.
CHALK UP ANOTHER INEXPLICABLE MOVE by Judge Clay Brennan of Ten Mile Court who reduced bail from $100K to $25K for hit and run driver, Gutierrez-Villarreal, over the District Attorney's strenuous objection. Most judges, at the very least, would have ordered that the defendant temporarily surrender his driver's license and not drive any motor vehicle as a public safety measure. However, Brennan did not order even this. Remember, for purposes of determining bail, the judge is REQUIRED to assume the charges are TRUE.
BACKGROUND: Jacob "Jake" Howard, age 36, was pedaling his blue bicycle south along Highway one (in a WIDE breakdown lane) on Sunday, July 12th when he was struck from behind around 4:20pm by a vehicle described by a witness as a red pickup. There were no brake marks at the scene and the speed limit is 55 mph on that stretch of road. The truck allegedly drove three miles and exited onto Fern Creek Road in Caspar.
Eight days passed and, while law enforcement followed up a lot of leads, there was no break in the case until the CHP and the Mendocino County Major Crimes Task Force descended onto 120 Hocker Lane about 9:30 am Monday, July 20th and a red pickup truck stashed in the garage was seized. The arrest of Gutierrez-Villareal followed.
AM I A GOOD PERSON? Deep down, do I even really want to be a good person, or do I only want to seem like a good person so that people (including myself) will approve of me? Is there a difference? How do I ever actually know whether I’m bullshitting myself, morally speaking?
— David Foster Wallace
IN 2014 SAN FRANCISCO WAS SPENDING $194.6 million a year on roughly 6700 homeless people, or $29,000 per homeless person a year, or about $80 a day, although more than half of those 6700 were, according to the SF Examiner, still sleeping on the streets. The annual cost for the 3200 not on the streets is almost $61,000 each, or $167 a day. If all 6700 of those homeless were renting a one-bedroom apartment (not in SF) for $2400 a month they could be housed somewhere.
OF COURSE, most of the homeless money is sucked up by the administrative overhead of the numerous nonprofits and public agencies allegedly helping the homeless.
IN MENDOCINO COUNTY, the ratios would be about the same as SF, even if the supporting statistics aren't available, as suggested by a story in Sunday's UDJ, which began, "The community gathered at the former Buddy Eller Center in Ukiah Friday to welcome the 'repurposing' of the Brush Street facility, which will provide a different way of delivering care at the site than in the past."
DOUBT IT, but we live in hope.
BUDDY ELLER, a large, jolly man of whom I have fond personal memories, used to be a straight-up shelter, but now it will veer off into rehab land with nicely paid jobs for "helping professionals." They'll glom onto the minority of persons actually trying to free themselves from drug and alcohol vagabondage, while the mostly male population who simply need to get out of the rain and the cold, and could get a hot and a cot for a night at Eller if they were sober enough, will, I'd bet, simply move west to Fort Bragg where they might get a bed and bologna sandwich at the Hospitality House.
CONTINUING to quote the UDJ story, "Ford Street Project’s residential treatment program is moving into the former homeless shelter, which has also been rebranded as the Ukiah Recovery Center and will have the capacity to serve 30 men and 10 women for residential treatment to help them overcome substance abuse or behavioral problems instead of admitting the homeless for nightly stays. There is also an existing inpatient treatment facility on the property for long-term recovery with a 22-person capacity. ‘This was a shelter and now repurposed into becoming a recovery center,’ said Jacque Williams, executive director of the Ford Street Project. ‘I think this is a good repurposing. This is our new beginning and second chance’.”
THE TROUBLED SOULS who qualify for the “repurposed” Buddy Eller will of course be that small minority of docile substance abusers and mental cases who, most importantly, will be convertible to cash via grants and government reimbursement money. Kelisha Alvarez and Travis ‘The Hump’ Humphrey et al will remain unhoused.
THE OVERALL PROBLEM of homelessness, i.e., untreated alcoholism, drug addiction and insanity, will continue to grow, as will the large number of people who live off them.
FREQUENT FLYER BIRTHDAY WISHES go out to John William Bolton this Tuesday, August 18. John was a bicentennial baby, born in 1976, so he'll be turning 40 next year. Perhaps Willits' most active FF over the past year, with 23 (count 'em) visits to the Big House. John's a compact 5'11" and 190 pounds, and has the look of a former athlete (wrestling division). His pickled visits to the Willits Police Department appear to be a model of efficiency, with his booking-to-release times often clocking in at just under an hour. We include this snapshot from a recent July visit, where he seems to be in high spirits. Happy birthday, Johnny!
CATCH OF THE DAY, August 16, 2015
TIMOTHY ASHBY, Fort Bragg. Domestic battery.
CURTIS BETTENCOURT, Fort Bragg. Resisting.
JOHN BOLTON, Willits. Drunk in public, probation revocation. (Frequent Flyer.)
HAROLD DAVIS, Ukiah. Possession of more than an ounce of pot.
PATRICK GARCIA, Willits. Domestic battery, false imprisonment.
ANTHONY LOPES, Willits. Drunk in public.
SARALEE LUA, Manchester. Drunk in public.
MIGUEL MARIN, Ukiah. Probation revocation.
GWENDOLYN MCGRATH, Potter Valley. DUI, suspended license, resisting arrest.
AARON MILLER, Ukiah. Drunk in public.
CARLOS MORALES-ESCARRILLO, Ukiah. Drunk in public, probation revocation.
LUKE PARISI, Ukiah. DUI, suspended license, probation revocation.
DAVID WILLIAMS, Lucerne/Ukiah. Pot possession, cultivation, processing.
MRC CERTIFICATION MEETING IN CASPAR, August 25th, 7PM
Mendocino Redwood Company FSC Stakeholder Public Meeting, Hosted by Rainforest Alliance, August 25, 2015, 7:00-9:00 p.m. Caspar Community Center, 15051 Caspar Road, Caspar, 95420
The Rainforest Alliance is conducting a third party forest management and chain of custody certification re-assessment of Mendocino Redwood Company, LLC (MRC). The Rainforest Alliance is accredited by the Forest Stewardship Council™ (FSC®) and this re-assessment process must follow procedures which have been approved by the FSC. The re-assessment includes forests in California totaling approximately 228,000 acres. The re-assessment will be implemented August 25-28, 2015. The forest management certification re-assessment will evaluate the environmental, social, and economic aspects of forests managed by Mendocino Redwood Company, LLC using the FSC-US Forest Management Standard (v1.0).
Interested members of the public are invited to attend the stakeholder meeting on August 25th to provide input regarding Mendocino Redwood Company’s forest management as it relates to conformance to FSC-US Forest Management Standard (v1.0). To obtain a copy of these guidelines, please visit the FSC-US website:
For additional details on FSC certification, the MRC re-assessment, and/or the stakeholder meeting, contact Steve Grado, Rainforest Alliance at firstname.lastname@example.org or 662-617-3691 (cell). For directions to the meeting location contact Sarah Billig at 707-463-5125.
* * *
We - your forests and streams and wildlife - need your help!
Rainforest Alliance is coming to town - August 25th at 7PM at Caspar Community Center.
They're coming to re-certify - in our opinion, green wash – Mendocino Redwood Company's hack-n-squirt practices.
Come speak up for the health of our forests and streams and the safety of our communities. Read below for more details.
By Tanoak, on behalf of us all.
Mendocino Redwood Company is currently certified under FSC (Forest Stewardship Council) standards. This means they can use the FSC "Green" label to command a premium price for their "sustainably harvested" lumber. They need the FSC label in order to sell lumber at places like Home Depot, which demands a green label for wood sold in their stores. People are currently picketing Home Depot asking customers not to buy lumber at Home Depot stores. MRC has to get that green label re-upped every five years. Rainforest Alliance certified MRC originally in 2000 and will be re-certifying this year. Over the years stakeholders have brought up with the certifiers their outrage over herbicide use both in the context of its toxicity and its use in creating increased fire danger hazards by leaving standing dead tanoaks in the forests. Rainforest Alliance, like all the other agencies and legislative bodies, has not been responsive to us. This year is different. We will not stop. Among other things, we'll have an initiative on the ballot asking voters to declare standing dead trees a public nuisance. Come to the meeting! If you can't be there, you can contact Stephen Grado by phone, email or snail mail to get your comments to Rainforest Allaince.
Stephen C. Grado, CF/FCA #1155
George L. Switzer Professor
Department of Forestry, Box 9681
357 Thompson Hall
College of Forest Resources
Mississippi State, MS 39762-9681
IN MENDOCINO at Glendeven
THE NORTH GUALALA WATER COMPANY, Inc. is a private family owned public utility company located in Gualala. They provide water to about 1100 mostly residential customers in the area. The Bower family also owns other businesses operating in the office, which include a motel, commercial and residential rentals, airport hangers, ministorage, and a construction company.
In a locally unprecedented move, the California Department of Fish and Wildlife issued a strongly worded and lengthy letter to Mendocino County Planning and Building concluding, essentially, that if NGWC increases their water draw out of the Gualala River they would violate the Endangered Species Act.
CDFW recommends that Mendocino County “not approve additional Coastal Development Permits, projects or other development with the potential to increase water demand in NGWC’s service area” — unless NGWC can find other water sources or come up with a way to maintain minimum flows. (Historically “minimum flows” are below anything like ideal flows for fish. But “minimum” — itself highly subjective and disputable — has become the new standard to allow “maximum” draws. In drought conditions, however, even “minimum” flows are likely to be hard to maintain.
NGWC President David Bower told the Independent Coast Observer that he disagrees that their water draws are “substantial.” He added that NGWC times their water pumping to minimize impact on fish. Bower also told the ICO that a company built and operated reservoir would cost $4 or $5 million (not counting the land) and that “a tank of the size needed would cost around $45 million” — an astonishingly large number which we suspect may be a typo or based on a typo. (The largest tank/cost we could find on line was for a one million gallon tank which costs about $1.5 million for the tank alone.)
By comparison, the Irish Beach Water District up the road in Manchester — where my father was water treatment operator for the last ten years of his life in the 1990s — now has about 200 residential customers (perhaps double that in buildout capacity), about 110,000 gallons per day estimated source capacity, a maximum monthly usage of under a million gallons with a storage capacity of 300,000 gallons or so in five tanks of various sizes; one of them is basically a covered swimming pool. (Many of the homes in Irish Beach are not full time residents, and we assume something like the same is true of the Gualala area.)
All of these numbers are order of magnitude only, of course, but they would tend to indicate that $45 million is way too big an estimate for whatever NGWC may need for tank storage. The reservoir cost seems reasonable as an order of magnitude estimate. NGWC is also looking at potential well development in the area (which is also part of the Irish Beach water source complement). So the NGWC needs to serious review their tank storage options and cost estimates. Obviously, 1100 customers would have trouble financing $45 million in tank storage, amortized over 20 year would be roughly $4,000 per year per customer.
The CDFW says they’re willing to work with NGWC to come up with a plan of some kind to maintain minimum flows, but however that plays out it would take months if not years.
Bowers also says he has 55 “will serve” letters that were “approved” before the development moratorium which Bowers insists are “exempt from the new connection rule.” This also sounds suspicious because “will serve” letters are not based on capacity or ability to deliver, but simply a generic promise to permit the applicant to buy (some) water and provide revenue to the water company. Something most water companies — which are in business to sell water — are happy to do, never mind pesky questions about how much water capacity they actually have.
According to the ICO report, County Planner Andy Gustavson is reluctant to approve any new development or projects without proof from NGWC that they are complying with state and federal regs. (— Mark Scaramella)
ON LINE COMMENT OF THE DAY
In the US, you can buy most anything, including field artillery, with the correct permits. The FBI has nothing to do with these weapons, as they are permitted through an agency known as the National Firearms Agency (NFA). The process is long, thorough, and expensive, with a flamethrower transfer to a qualified individual costing in the neighborhood of $2000 for the privilege. Machine guns are legally transferred through the same agency, at $200 per transfer…as in the case of destructive devices (flamethrower), the vetting process is extensive, taking several months. These transfer taxes are on top of the cost of the weapons, of course. I, at one time, collected machine guns as a hobby, and am well aware of the process.
SHOOTING AN ELEPHANT
by George Orwell (1936)
In Moulmein, in Lower Burma, I was hated by large numbers of people — the only time in my life that I have been important enough for this to happen to me. I was sub-divisional police officer of the town, and in an aimless, petty kind of way anti-European feeling was very bitter. No one had the guts to raise a riot, but if a European woman went through the bazaars alone somebody would probably spit betel juice over her dress. As a police officer I was an obvious target and was baited whenever it seemed safe to do so. When a nimble Burman tripped me up on the football field and the referee (another Burman) looked the other way, the crowd yelled with hideous laughter. This happened more than once. In the end the sneering yellow faces of young men that met me everywhere, the insults hooted after me when I was at a safe distance, got badly on my nerves. The young Buddhist priests were the worst of all. There were several thousands of them in the town and none of them seemed to have anything to do except stand on street corners and jeer at Europeans.
All this was perplexing and upsetting. For at that time I had already made up my mind that imperialism was an evil thing and the sooner I chucked up my job and got out of it the better. Theoretically — and secretly, of course — I was all for the Burmese and all against their oppressors, the British. As for the job I was doing, I hated it more bitterly than I can perhaps make clear. In a job like that you see the dirty work of Empire at close quarters. The wretched prisoners huddling in the stinking cages of the lock-ups, the grey, cowed faces of the long-term convicts, the scarred buttocks of the men who had been flogged with bamboos — all these oppressed me with an intolerable sense of guilt. But I could get nothing into perspective. I was young and ill-educated and I had had to think out my problems in the utter silence that is imposed on every Englishman in the East. I did not even know that the British Empire is dying, still less did I know that it is a great deal better than the younger empires that are going to supplant it. All I knew was that I was stuck between my hatred of the empire I served and my rage against the evil-spirited little beasts who tried to make my job impossible. With one part of my mind I thought of the British Raj as an unbreakable tyranny, as something clamped down, in saecula saeculorum, upon the will of prostrate peoples; with another part I thought that the greatest joy in the world would be to drive a bayonet into a Buddhist priest's guts. Feelings like these are the normal by-products of imperialism; ask any Anglo-Indian official, if you can catch him off duty.
One day something happened which in a roundabout way was enlightening. It was a tiny incident in itself, but it gave me a better glimpse than I had had before of the real nature of imperialism — the real motives for which despotic governments act. Early one morning the sub-inspector at a police station the other end of the town rang me up on the phone and said that an elephant was ravaging the bazaar. Would I please come and do something about it? I did not know what I could do, but I wanted to see what was happening and I got on to a pony and started out. I took my rifle, an old .44 Winchester and much too small to kill an elephant, but I thought the noise might be useful in terrorem. Various Burmans stopped me on the way and told me about the elephant's doings. It was not, of course, a wild elephant, but a tame one which had gone ‘must’. It had been chained up, as tame elephants always are when their attack of ‘must’ is due, but on the previous night it had broken its chain and escaped. Its mahout, the only person who could manage it when it was in that state, had set out in pursuit, but had taken the wrong direction and was now twelve hours’ journey away, and in the morning the elephant had suddenly reappeared in the town. The Burmese population had no weapons and were quite helpless against it. It had already destroyed somebody's bamboo hut, killed a cow and raided some fruit-stalls and devoured the stock; also it had met the municipal rubbish van and, when the driver jumped out and took to his heels, had turned the van over and inflicted violences upon it.
The Burmese sub-inspector and some Indian constables were waiting for me in the quarter where the elephant had been seen. It was a very poor quarter, a labyrinth of squalid bamboo huts, thatched with palmleaf, winding all over a steep hillside. I remember that it was a cloudy, stuffy morning at the beginning of the rains. We began questioning the people as to where the elephant had gone and, as usual, failed to get any definite information. That is invariably the case in the East; a story always sounds clear enough at a distance, but the nearer you get to the scene of events the vaguer it becomes. Some of the people said that the elephant had gone in one direction, some said that he had gone in another, some professed not even to have heard of any elephant. I had almost made up my mind that the whole story was a pack of lies, when we heard yells a little distance away. There was a loud, scandalized cry of ‘Go away, child! Go away this instant!’ and an old woman with a switch in her hand came round the corner of a hut, violently shooing away a crowd of naked children. Some more women followed, clicking their tongues and exclaiming; evidently there was something that the children ought not to have seen. I rounded the hut and saw a man's dead body sprawling in the mud. He was an Indian, a black Dravidian coolie, almost naked, and he could not have been dead many minutes. The people said that the elephant had come suddenly upon him round the corner of the hut, caught him with its trunk, put its foot on his back and ground him into the earth. This was the rainy season and the ground was soft, and his face had scored a trench a foot deep and a couple of yards long. He was lying on his belly with arms crucified and head sharply twisted to one side. His face was coated with mud, the eyes wide open, the teeth bared and grinning with an expression of unendurable agony. (Never tell me, by the way, that the dead look peaceful. Most of the corpses I have seen looked devilish.) The friction of the great beast's foot had stripped the skin from his back as neatly as one skins a rabbit. As soon as I saw the dead man I sent an orderly to a friend's house nearby to borrow an elephant rifle. I had already sent back the pony, not wanting it to go mad with fright and throw me if it smelt the elephant.
The orderly came back in a few minutes with a rifle and five cartridges, and meanwhile some Burmans had arrived and told us that the elephant was in the paddy fields below, only a few hundred yards away. As I started forward practically the whole population of the quarter flocked out of the houses and followed me. They had seen the rifle and were all shouting excitedly that I was going to shoot the elephant. They had not shown much interest in the elephant when he was merely ravaging their homes, but it was different now that he was going to be shot. It was a bit of fun to them, as it would be to an English crowd; besides they wanted the meat. It made me vaguely uneasy. I had no intention of shooting the elephant — I had merely sent for the rifle to defend myself if necessary — and it is always unnerving to have a crowd following you. I marched down the hill, looking and feeling a fool, with the rifle over my shoulder and an ever-growing army of people jostling at my heels. At the bottom, when you got away from the huts, there was a metalled road and beyond that a miry waste of paddy fields a thousand yards across, not yet ploughed but soggy from the first rains and dotted with coarse grass. The elephant was standing eight yards from the road, his left side towards us. He took not the slightest notice of the crowd's approach. He was tearing up bunches of grass, beating them against his knees to clean them and stuffing them into his mouth.
I had halted on the road. As soon as I saw the elephant I knew with perfect certainty that I ought not to shoot him. It is a serious matter to shoot a working elephant — it is comparable to destroying a huge and costly piece of machinery — and obviously one ought not to do it if it can possibly be avoided. And at that distance, peacefully eating, the elephant looked no more dangerous than a cow. I thought then and I think now that his attack of ‘must’ was already passing off; in which case he would merely wander harmlessly about until the mahout came back and caught him. Moreover, I did not in the least want to shoot him. I decided that I would watch him for a little while to make sure that he did not turn savage again, and then go home.
But at that moment I glanced round at the crowd that had followed me. It was an immense crowd, two thousand at the least and growing every minute. It blocked the road for a long distance on either side. I looked at the sea of yellow faces above the garish clothes-faces all happy and excited over this bit of fun, all certain that the elephant was going to be shot. They were watching me as they would watch a conjurer about to perform a trick. They did not like me, but with the magical rifle in my hands I was momentarily worth watching. And suddenly I realized that I should have to shoot the elephant after all. The people expected it of me and I had got to do it; I could feel their two thousand wills pressing me forward, irresistibly. And it was at this moment, as I stood there with the rifle in my hands, that I first grasped the hollowness, the futility of the white man's dominion in the East. Here was I, the white man with his gun, standing in front of the unarmed native crowd — seemingly the leading actor of the piece; but in reality I was only an absurd puppet pushed to and fro by the will of those yellow faces behind. I perceived in this moment that when the white man turns tyrant it is his own freedom that he destroys. He becomes a sort of hollow, posing dummy, the conventionalized figure of a sahib. For it is the condition of his rule that he shall spend his life in trying to impress the ‘natives’, and so in every crisis he has got to do what the ‘natives’ expect of him. He wears a mask, and his face grows to fit it. I had got to shoot the elephant. I had committed myself to doing it when I sent for the rifle. A sahib has got to act like a sahib; he has got to appear resolute, to know his own mind and do definite things. To come all that way, rifle in hand, with two thousand people marching at my heels, and then to trail feebly away, having done nothing — no, that was impossible. The crowd would laugh at me. And my whole life, every white man's life in the East, was one long struggle not to be laughed at.
But I did not want to shoot the elephant. I watched him beating his bunch of grass against his knees, with that preoccupied grandmotherly air that elephants have. It seemed to me that it would be murder to shoot him. At that age I was not squeamish about killing animals, but I had never shot an elephant and never wanted to. (Somehow it always seems worse to kill a large animal.) Besides, there was the beast's owner to be considered. Alive, the elephant was worth at least a hundred pounds; dead, he would only be worth the value of his tusks, five pounds, possibly. But I had got to act quickly. I turned to some experienced-looking Burmans who had been there when we arrived, and asked them how the elephant had been behaving. They all said the same thing: he took no notice of you if you left him alone, but he might charge if you went too close to him.
It was perfectly clear to me what I ought to do. I ought to walk up to within, say, twenty-five yards of the elephant and test his behavior. If he charged, I could shoot; if he took no notice of me, it would be safe to leave him until the mahout came back. But also I knew that I was going to do no such thing. I was a poor shot with a rifle and the ground was soft mud into which one would sink at every step. If the elephant charged and I missed him, I should have about as much chance as a toad under a steam-roller. But even then I was not thinking particularly of my own skin, only of the watchful yellow faces behind. For at that moment, with the crowd watching me, I was not afraid in the ordinary sense, as I would have been if I had been alone. A white man mustn't be frightened in front of ‘natives’; and so, in general, he isn't frightened. The sole thought in my mind was that if anything went wrong those two thousand Burmans would see me pursued, caught, trampled on and reduced to a grinning corpse like that Indian up the hill. And if that happened it was quite probable that some of them would laugh. That would never do.
There was only one alternative. I shoved the cartridges into the magazine and lay down on the road to get a better aim. The crowd grew very still, and a deep, low, happy sigh, as of people who see the theatre curtain go up at last, breathed from innumerable throats. They were going to have their bit of fun after all. The rifle was a beautiful German thing with cross-hair sights. I did not then know that in shooting an elephant one would shoot to cut an imaginary bar running from ear-hole to ear-hole. I ought, therefore, as the elephant was sideways on, to have aimed straight at his ear-hole, actually I aimed several inches in front of this, thinking the brain would be further forward.
When I pulled the trigger I did not hear the bang or feel the kick — one never does when a shot goes home — but I heard the devilish roar of glee that went up from the crowd. In that instant, in too short a time, one would have thought, even for the bullet to get there, a mysterious, terrible change had come over the elephant. He neither stirred nor fell, but every line of his body had altered. He looked suddenly stricken, shrunken, immensely old, as though the frightful impact of the bullet had paralysed him without knocking him down. At last, after what seemed a long time — it might have been five seconds, I dare say — he sagged flabbily to his knees. His mouth slobbered. An enormous senility seemed to have settled upon him. One could have imagined him thousands of years old. I fired again into the same spot. At the second shot he did not collapse but climbed with desperate slowness to his feet and stood weakly upright, with legs sagging and head drooping. I fired a third time. That was the shot that did for him. You could see the agony of it jolt his whole body and knock the last remnant of strength from his legs. But in falling he seemed for a moment to rise, for as his hind legs collapsed beneath him he seemed to tower upward like a huge rock toppling, his trunk reaching skyward like a tree. He trumpeted, for the first and only time. And then down he came, his belly towards me, with a crash that seemed to shake the ground even where I lay.
I got up. The Burmans were already racing past me across the mud. It was obvious that the elephant would never rise again, but he was not dead. He was breathing very rhythmically with long rattling gasps, his great mound of a side painfully rising and falling. His mouth was wide open — I could see far down into caverns of pale pink throat. I waited a long time for him to die, but his breathing did not weaken. Finally I fired my two remaining shots into the spot where I thought his heart must be. The thick blood welled out of him like red velvet, but still he did not die. His body did not even jerk when the shots hit him, the tortured breathing continued without a pause. He was dying, very slowly and in great agony, but in some world remote from me where not even a bullet could damage him further. I felt that I had got to put an end to that dreadful noise. It seemed dreadful to see the great beast Lying there, powerless to move and yet powerless to die, and not even to be able to finish him. I sent back for my small rifle and poured shot after shot into his heart and down his throat. They seemed to make no impression. The tortured gasps continued as steadily as the ticking of a clock.
In the end I could not stand it any longer and went away. I heard later that it took him half an hour to die. Burmans were bringing dash and baskets even before I left, and I was told they had stripped his body almost to the bones by the afternoon.
Afterwards, of course, there were endless discussions about the shooting of the elephant. The owner was furious, but he was only an Indian and could do nothing. Besides, legally I had done the right thing, for a mad elephant has to be killed, like a mad dog, if its owner fails to control it. Among the Europeans opinion was divided. The older men said I was right, the younger men said it was a damn shame to shoot an elephant for killing a coolie, because an elephant was worth more than any damn Coringhee coolie. And afterwards I was very glad that the coolie had been killed; it put me legally in the right and it gave me a sufficient pretext for shooting the elephant. I often wondered whether any of the others grasped that I had done it solely to avoid looking a fool.
OPEN STUDIOS ARTISTS IN MENDOCINO & FORT BRAGG SEPTEMBER 5 & 6
Local artists from Mendocino to north of Fort Bragg are opening their studios in a special event during the holiday weekend, September 5 & 6, 11AM - 5PM. Watch demonstrations at the Artists' Co-op in Mendocino and stroll through extensive collections and selections by well known local artists including many art forms. The featured artists include:
- Eleanor Harvey - mainly a landscape painter, with great love and appreciation for the outdoors.
- Claire Fortier: I live and paint on the coast. I gravitate to oil but I also work in acrylic, watercolor and graphite. Much of my work is done plein air (outdoors).
- Judy Hewitt - Hand-knit hats mostly original designs from hand-spun wool yarn.
- John Hewitt - Plein air watercolors
- Will Hewitt - Pen and ink and colored pencil drawings . Will currently lives and works in the Oakland area.
- Jacquelyn Cisper - oil pastels and oil paintings, upcycled clothing, pillows and handbags, hand-painted greeting cards, decorated ceramics
- Christopher Cisper - Functional and sculptural ceramics, outdoor garden sculptures
- Sandy Oppenheimer - a self-taught artist who “paints with paper”
- John Fisher - marble sculptures
For a map of the studio locations visit Artists' Co-op, 45270 Main St, Mendocino or look up Open Studios Fort Bragg Mendocino on Facebook.