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Valley People (July 20, 2016)

THE BLACKBIRD matter will be heard Thursday, 9am, in the Supe's chambers, Low Gap Road, Ukiah. Opposition to their plans for a large expansion of visitor accommodations, accessed via Ray's Road, seems unanimous. The entire area's residents are opposed.


Blackbird Ranch Proposal, Use Permit #U_2013-0008.

Major Use Permit for the expansion of a permitted transient habitation (resort and recreational) facility, previously known as Highland Ranch.

The proposed expansion would increase the number of guests and employees from 36 to a maximum of 292 over a 7-year development time line. (Phase I through VII).

Approximately 2 miles southwest of Philo, lying off of Van Zandt Resort Road (private) which is accessed off of Rays Road. Located at 18601 Van Zandt Resort Road, Philo

Neighbors plan to object to the draft “mitigated negative declaration” for a project expansion as large as the one proposed for Blackbird Ranch which not only has major impact on the Rays Road and Greenwood Road neighborhoods, but sets a bad precedent which would allow subsequent similar applications to be treated inadequately like this one. We know of several significant areas that need much more attention before any permit is granted: Infrastructure (primarily water and septic), traffic impacts, emergency access and exits, combined impacts from Blackbird and Shenoa expansion, and the near complete lack of mitigation enforcement.

BIG RIG stuck on the s-curve at the Mandlebaums' place, lower Mountain View Road Monday morning, the second big rig to get hung up there this week.


LIZ DUSENBERRY reminds us that "the $4 a bag book sale is still going on at the A.V. Library. We still have a great selection of books and DVD's. So bring a bag and come to the library. Our last open day will be Tuesday, August 2nd. We are not accepting any more book donations at this time. Library hours are Tuesday 1:30-4:30 and Saturday 2-4."

SAM'S BIG NIGHT. Samuel Becerra Alvarez, 21, of Philo, was merrily spinning donuts in the parking of the Philo Grange last Friday night about 11 when he spun out into Highway 128 where his pick-up truck struck a passing car with two people in it. Both persons in the unlucky Philo-bound car, described only as "an older Mexican couple, were badly injured and flown by medi-helicopter to Ukiah. Alvarez, who suffered minor injuries, was transported by the Anderson Valley Ambulance to the Ukiah hospital. He has been charged with two felonies, including drunk driving (but as of Monday night had not yet appeared in the Sheriff’s booking log).


A BLACK COUPLE caused a brief stir in Boonville when they paused at Pic 'N Pay last Tuesday. They told passersby they were "walking to Jerusalem" to "return to the place our people were taken from." They were large people who didn't look like they walked all that much, but the previous night they'd been in Ukiah and now they were in Boonville. "A good man gave us a ride this morning out of the mountains," said the woman, gesturing to the modest east hills behind us. The couple was friendly and forthcoming. I was unable to make out their names clearly but they sounded Old Testament. The man pulled a cart with their belongings piled neatly and high on it, and she carried an infant in a sling stretched across her chest and pushed a stroller with a small boy in it. They said they'd begun their journey to the Middle East two years ago in Cleveland. "Our people belong to the lost tribes of Yaweh. We trust in our creator to carry us safely." She did most of the talking while he smiled and nodded agreement. "We gave everything up in our previous life, tore up our social security cards." They said they accept rides and donations, and that "good people" often give them a place to stay, but most nights they pitch a tent and sleep wherever they find themselves. Have you had much trouble? I asked. "The police in Texas were very unkind," the woman said, "but they are helpful in California." I asked if I could take a picture. "No," she said, citing what sounded like the Biblical injunction against graven images. He said, "The people in Boonville are kinda mean. All the nice people we've met here are from Philo." I said I agreed totally. She cited Biblical verses much faster than I could write them in support of their journey, which is clearly going to be a long if not endless one. Wednesday morning the travelers were just emerging from their tent where they'd pitched it on the Paget property on Anderson Valley Way.

THIS WEEK AT BLUE MEADOW FARM: Summer bounty begins …. Cherry Tomatoes, First Early Girl and Heirloom Tomatoes, Padron, Jalapeno, Corno di Toro, Gypsy Peppers Zucchini & Patty Pan Squash Lettuce, Basil, Walla Walla Onions Strawberries & Sunflowers. –Blue Meadow Farm, 3301 Holmes Ranch Rd, Philo 707-895-2071

THOSE OF YOU following the John Wolfe case — he's the guy who savagely struck Mrs. Knight two weeks ago in Navarro — will want to know that he was arraigned on felony battery charges last Wednesday in Ten Mile Court, Fort Bragg. Wolfe has a prior 2013 drunk driving conviction out of Sonoma County and a reputation in the Anderson Valley for hitting women. Kevin Davenport is prosecuting the case for the DA. Wolfe is claiming that Mrs. Knight, a grandmother, attacked him, and that he acted in self-defense after Mrs. Knight had objected to insulting remarks about her husband, Adrian Knight.

THE ELK CREEK FIRE earlier this week to our west was one more reminder how dry it is out there, and how crucial CalFire's aerial firefighting capacity is to life in Mendocino County. Before, say, 1950, you lived off the pavement and deep in the hills only at your annual summer peril.

NASH MILL'S most exciting resident, Thomas Plowright III, is back in the County Jail. He failed to appear for judgment and sentencing back in November of last year, and was arraigned Tuesday on the bench warrant, as well as a new felony failure to appear case.

THE PLOWRIGHTS were arrested last year by the CHP when they were pulled over at Highway 128 and Peachland Road. Granma Plowright, 70, and her wayward son, Thomas Plowright, 47, were both charged with possession of: methamphetamine, drug paraphernalia, two controlled substances, a forged driver's license, transportation of marijuana for sale. Gran Plowright, one of our more active senior citizens was still walkin' the wild side.

BACK A WAYS, on May 6th (2010), an Obama-size police convoy, reinforced by a hovering helicopter, passed through Boonville on its way to 3500 Little Mill Creek Road, Philo, the home of Thomas Plowright III, then 42, of San Jose, and Thomas's wife Teresa Plowright, then 50, of Manteca.

THE PLOWRIGHTS had come to local attention three weeks earlier when deputies discovered a tractor stuck in Little Mill Creek where Little Mill flows, or attempts to flow, through a neighbor’s property. The creek is a year-round blue line stream in which much local volunteer labor has been invested in a vain effort to bring it back to its once fecund life as a major salmon and steelhead stream. It appeared that the Plowrights had been attempting to build a catchment pond to irrigate an outdoor pot field when their tractor became mired in the streambed.

THE COUPLE was arrested a few weeks later in 2010 “without incident” by that Obama-size task force composed of representatives of an array of police forces and regulatory agencies. The raid team found several pieces of stolen equipment, including a cement truck, apparently taken from a San Jose construction site. These items were valued at approximately $80,000. The raid team said they also found burglary tools, marijuana, methamphetamine, and paraphernalia related to drug manufacture at the property in addition to numerous firearms including a fully automatic assault weapon. Additionally, items and chemicals consistent with the manufacture of methamphetamine were discovered along with an “explosive device.” The Highway Patrol's hazardous devices technicians were summoned from their Sacramento office to render the apparatus harmless “by counter charging the device.”

THE UPSHOT of all these 2010 charges was a few months in the County Jail for Thomas and a period of house arrest at the Plowright headquarters in Campbell, Santa Clara County. It took a long time to sort everything out because David Eyster, then in private practice, had represented the Plowrights; then Eyster became DA, meaning a conflict of interest, meaning that the State Attorney General took control of the case, meaning it all just kinda went away over a period of years.

BUT YOU GOTTA hand it to the Plowrights. They just keep keepin' on, and here Tom is again!

UNSOLICITED PLUG: The Aquarelle Restaurant in Boonville, Christine Jones, chef. And a talented chef she is. First, a confession: I'm a food-as-fuel guy, not a three-hour dinner-in-a-fancy restaurant-guy. I get hungry, I want to eat, not linger. But like most people, I like good food. No vegan stews for this guy. Aquarelle serves really good food in lickety-split fashion. Nothing pretentious about the place. Price? There were three of us. $140 for three dinners, a couple of side dishes, two bottles of an excellent wine called Yorkville Semillon and a shared desert. Ordinarily, I'm not a wine drinker either, but that stuff was good, and the whole of it truly excellent.

REGARDING the planter boxes on the Elder Home property, I think I have compromise solution likely to please everyone. As our Seniors pass on, the planters could easily be converted to in-place, above-ground caskets. In fact, I'd like to reserve one for myself. I like the thought of reappearing some day as a radish.


A LADY walked into the office not long ago, took a look around, and said, "You guys are too fat." She was emaciated and could barely pull the stairs but advised me and my colleague to "go vegan" and, while we were at it, re-think our commitment to gluten. Who's Gluten?" I asked. Always a mistake to either joke or attempt a give and take discussion with a food nut. Or an animal nut. Or a health nut. Or a conspiracy nut. (Paranoids were arguing on MCN last week this proposition: Is Michelle Obama a woman?) However, discussions with plain old fashioned nut-nuts can be fun.

ACCORDING to the latest stats, American women weigh in at 180, men at an average of 230. I weigh exactly 230, although I don't weigh myself unless I have to at the doctor's office. While not exactly, ahem, what you'd call svelte, I can easily walk for three or four hours including long uphill stretches and can do about 30 push-ups, especially if some guy says, "I'll bet you you can't do five." (I do forty a day — twenty in the morning, twenty at night, a few sit-ups every day, and push a twenty pound barbell in furious reps three or four times a week. Got the pulse of a kid, no sign of diabetes. I eat meat, potato chips, ice cream, Yorkville cookies, and whatever else is put in front of me. I drink beer and whiskey, occasionally to excess. I'm 77 next week. Not bragging here, but it's the exercise that's the diff. Diets don't work unless you get up off it. If I don't get at least one big sweat a day, I have trouble sleeping. Been doing it for years, and it's the daily movement that seems to have overcome all the rest of my bad habits.

MY FRIEND JIM UPDEGRAF, noting the above boasting, wrote: "At 230 Lbs unless you are 6 foot 7 inches your BMI is way too high. Other factors than diabetes come into play with your high BMI. Beer Belly (waist is larger than your chest). Blood pressure should be no higher than 120/80. If you do not pass these marks you could be a candidate for a stroke or a heart attack."

BELLY bigger than chest? I immediately solicited three-second opinions. My wife said, "You don't look too bad but you could lose a few, for sure." Two fat guys said I was too thin. I'm sticking with the fat guys.

THE AVA has moved. We are now ensconced in a trailer next door to the Redwood Drive-In, central Boonville. Although the move is complete, the new premises are a work in progress, so all you aesthetes who challenge us with sneering versions of, "So, Mr. Eyesore, after all your years of complaining about the Ricard property you've managed to out-Ricard, Ricard." Patience, my children. By next July you won't recognize the place.

INCIDENTALLY, our move from the Farrer Building to our present headquarters down the street seems to explain the black arm bands worn by our old neighbors on the Farrer's top floor — Torrey, Gwen, Angela, and Dawn. We'll miss you, too, ladies, but grieve not! No more will you have to endure the raucous male voices resounding through your work stations not far enough down the hall, the ominous visitors demanding to know where our office is after walking right past it and belligerently on into your spaces, arguments so loud you've had to shush us, the clatter of too early beer bottles, the occasional thumps of what sound like bodies hitting the floor, the smell of rancid coffee boiling over in our hazmat-quality micro-wave, and we don't even dare mention our shared bathroom. Really, ladies, I'm surprised to find you mourning our removal rather than shouting, in chorus, Good bye to all that!

WE'VE GOT miscellaneous items for sale: a whole bunch of plastic tubs with lids that fit and in good condition; an engrimed but working office frig; a battered, thrillingly uncomfortable love seat that hasn't seen love in many years, if ever; a retro telephone; the fetid, semi-functioning microwave mentioned above. Of all this stuff, the tubs are the most viable. 707/895-3016

SUNDAY, the enterprising Boonville high school student, Julia Brock, presented her unique and impressively ambitious graveyard mapping senior project to the membership of the Anderson Valley Historical Society. Miss Brock, and several of her fellow high school students, have carefully assayed the Babcock-Rawles cemetery about a mile up Mountain View Road, only a quarter mile from Miss Brock's high school classrooms. The students have plotted each grave marker, cataloging each with name and birth and death dates. To the unschooled eye it looked like there were well over a hundred burial markers at the seldom-visited burial grounds hidden away on its little hill off Mountain View Road. Miss Brock was assisted and trained in mapping techniques by former fire chief and former professional surveyor Colin Wilson of Yorkville.

AMONG the Valley family names on the markers were Pardini, Tarwater, McGimsey, Beeson, Lowery, Babcock, Rawles, Maddox, Burger, Crouch, and Boonville Hotel founder John Burgots, and there was an Anderson of the Valley pioneer Walter Anderson family.

THE CEMETERY site was probably selected by the Valley’s founding settlers because of its fine view of the Valley, and selected in a time when the comfort of the departed, including their eternal vistas, was still important.

IN 1978, when Mrs. Alva Ingram recorded the markers in the cemetery, she observed that many of the graves seemed to be outside the fence in small wooden markers whose names had been removed by the seasons. But Ms. Brock and her crew said they could only find two unmarked wooden gravemarkers.

THE EARLIEST markers are from the first decades of the 1900s. The oldest existing marker is that of Henry Beeson, who, when he died in 1914, was the oldest surviving member of the Bear Flag Revolt of 1846, the pretext for California's adoption into the USofA.

BEESON ARRIVED in the Anderson Valley about 1860 where he bought a ranch in the area of the current CDF station south of Boonville. He was regionally well known as an expert saddler.

MISS BROCK'S cemetery map is not yet posted on the internet, although some of the information may be found via the “” website. But plans are underway to incorporate Miss. Brock’s information in that master database with the coordination of local graveyard historian, Valerie Hanelt of Yorkville. Ms. Hanelt also chairs the Community Services District. In the transient times we suffer, Miss Brock's research is not only timely but historically important.

AV HISTORICAL SOCIETY BOARD MEMBER Marvin Schenck summarized the Society’s future plans (which were enumerated in these pages a couple of weeks ago). One of the projects the Society is working on is a septic system upgrade to include a bathroom for the Rose Room and a major remodel of the Museum’s bathroom which, in the deadpan words of Society President Jim Hill, “is slowly morphing from a functional bathroom into a museum exhibit itself.”

AFTER some routine trustee business, Mr. Schenck presented an old locomotive bell that had been restored and donated to the Museum. Schenck said the bell was presumed to have been salvaged off a locomotive belonging to the old Albion Lumber Company that crashed near Navarro when the engineer lost control of it as it came down a steep trestle and ran off its tracks. But local history buff Bill Seekins said he suspected that the bell came from a different crashed locomotive and that he had heard that the derailment Schenck was talking about may have been caused by ice build-up on the trestle during winter operations that the engineer hadn’t accounted for.

THE MAJOR’S LATE COUSIN, Elma Scaramella-Rawles, was married to a Rawles, John Rawles, the Major recalls. Elma’s father, the Major’s late uncle and former Fifth District Supervisor Joe Scaramella, opposed the marriage because Mr. Rawles was a heavy drinker and not kind to women. The marriage didn’t last long as Elma found her husband unbearable and divorced him within a few years. Elma retained the name Rawles for the rest of her life, never remarried, and died childless in Ukiah in 2010 at age 88.

PS. A LOCAL OLD-TIMER at the meeting who is familiar with the old Highland Ranch (now the Blackbird Ranch) told us, “There’s no water up there. I don’t see how they can get anywhere near enough water for their big expansion plans,” adding laughingly, “unless they dam up Ham Canyon! And the Water Board will never let them do that!”

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