Valley People

by AVA News Service, May 11, 2011

“HAPPY BIRTHDAY, JASON. I love you, Bridgett.” A young woman called this one in early Tuesday morning. I knew she was young because women over the age of 30… well, Jason, Bridgett sounded like she really does love you, and here's hoping you hold up your end.

LOCAL HOTELIER Johnny Schmitt says four of his guests in recent weeks have received speeding tickets on Highway 128, and that Highway 128 is getting a reputation as a speed trap now that there are more CHP patrols stationed at strategic locations along the roadway where people are most likely to speed.

THAT EXPLOSIVES report from Yorkville a week ago Friday was a half case of decayed dynamite discovered on the Burger Ranch. According to the Sonoma County Bomb Squad, the ancient cache of explosive, estimated to be “several decades old,” appeared to be “sweating” nitroglycerin, a sure sign it was volatile. The Bomb Squad gingerly moved the stuff across Highway 128 to a large open field and blew it up. A collection of some 50 aged blasting caps found in another building on the Burger property were also destroyed, bringing the total number of explosions that day to four.

FIRE CHIEF Colin Wilson, speaking post-detonation, pointed out that the Valley’s ranchers often kept explosives handy to blow up stumps and inconvenient boulders. Up until World War Two, Emil Rossi has informed us, dynamite was simply one more over-the-counter product at your local hardware store. Well, maybe not over the counter, but the popular explosive was available on-site to anyone with the purchase price. Post-war, dynamite was obtained from a bunker near Ukiah, but then, with the rise of The Lone Nut, became virtually impossible for even ranchers to obtain and Lone Nuts went to the Anarchist Cook Book for new recipes not involving convenient dyno in stick form.

CHIEF WILSON also pointed out that stashes of hazardous materials are not the exclusive province of the old ranchers. These days, all sorts of hazardous chemicals of the ag type can be found in forgotten sheds on remote back forties. Wilson suggested the County’s “Hazmobile” or the County’s collection site to the rear of the Animal Shelter in South Ukiah for safe disposal.

IF YOU HAVE come to possess mystery chemicals, it’s best to call the County’s hazardous materials team for disposition — Wayne Briley, 463-4066.

MODEST LOCALS deserving of high praise include Danny Pardini, Mike Foucault and Bill Holcomb for their work rehabbing the Fairgrounds arena, which also serves as a football field and soccer pitch every fall. For years that barely tamed hundred yards was full of gopher holes and other ankle-busting hazards, but thanks to these guys it's now much less of one.

AND KIRA BRENNAN'S energetic initiative is fundamentally responsible for the truly beautiful five-lap mile track to the rear of the Elementary School, meaning she got it built with some crucial help from Antonio Soto, and Valley children can run around it five times and go home to tell mom and pop they ran a mile. Kira's got a bunch of little kids running every day, and that's a very good thing in these sedentary times. Two fifth graders have turned in age-group times on Kira's track that are truly impressive. Julia Brock, a 6th grader, has turned in a 6:30 mile, and Christian Guerrero, a mere 5th grader, which means he's about ten, smoked the tree-ringed oval in 5:03!

SO THIS BIG plane appears at Boonville International last Wednesday morning, and this local lady happens to walk by. The local lady asks the guy lounging beneath the plane's tail, the pilot probably, “Whose plane is this?” Somebody's, the guy says smugly, like it's top secret. Somebody's turns out to be a Silicon Valley software magnate called Kevin Harvey. Harvey’s the guy who's converted Navarro's Horse Haven Ranch to a vertical vineyard and a tighty-whitey winery complex, the whole of which Harv has dubbed “Rhys Vineyards,” probably not in honor of the great novelist, Jean. The Michael Moore look-alike is Mr. Jeff Brinkman, Harv's winemaker.

VAGUELY on the subject of quality booze, the 15th Annual Boonville Beer Festival is this Saturday, 1-6, with the dudes and dudettes pounding down as many quality beers as they can between 1-5. $50 at the gate, cash only.

THE EAGLE has landed. But wait. That's no eagle, that's a vulture, a turkey vulture, and on its tired wings is Steve Sparks back in The Valley after a long month in England where his stay was prolonged by the hospitalization of his father. Dad is now safe at his Birmingham home and, as of tonight (Wednesday), so is Steve.

WILL, the soccer film written and produced by local boy Zack Anderson, has released its official “unofficial” promotional trailer. It's already gotten 37,000 hits on youtube in less than two days, which apparently is almost unheard of for a small independent film without any press. Zack and team are screening at Cannes this week to distributors from all over the world. Hopefully the movie, which stars Bob Hoskins, can make its Mendoland premiere at the Anderson Valley Film Festival next February. See the trailer by logging onto, ahem: http://bit.ly/iUu54r  — yes, that's the link, if you dare trying to type it, and not the serial number of a lost Sumerian library book.

GLEN ERICKSON has died at age 88. A long-time sports writer for the Ukiah Daily Journal, Glen was a walking encyclopedia of local sports history going back to the 1950s. He told me once, among other historical things, that he remembered Hal Perry playing for Ukiah High School. A guard on the great USF teams of the Bill Russell era, Perry was black and grew up in Ukiah, probably at the Catholic-run orphanage called The Albertinum as did, incidentally, the great California historian Kevin Starr. I don't know for sure if Perry was an orphan, but I assume that's how he got to Ukiah because Ukiah wasn't exactly black-friendly in the forties and early fifties, so I doubt that Perry's family lived there. Glen was ubiquitous in the gyms and playing fields of the County. He'd show up at junior high basketball games in Redwood Valley, Pop Warner football in Ukiah, old timer baseball gatherings in Laytonville. Glenn was sports-ubiquitous. The only guy who came close in local sports knowledge was the late Brad Shear, another one-of-a-kinder somebody should have taped before he went on to The Big Ball Game In The Sky. I always got a charge of Glen's prose style. He said what he wanted to say in thrilling Faulknerian sentences that often ended very far from where they'd begun. When my oldest kid was a senior at Boonville High, and tiny Boonville (enrollment 70) ran gargantuan Ukiah (2,000) out of the gym twice that season by twenty points, Boonville took a road trip to Honolulu. Glen went along for the ride and for the games that pitted Boonville vs. Hawaii's high school powerhouses, and it occurs to me that Boonville just might have played against Obama's Punahou School. Didn't the President play high school basketball? Boonville held its own but the Honolulu teams were a little too much for the Mendo boys, not that we embarrassed ourselves; they were bigger, basically, and stronger. Glenn devoted reams that year, 1986, I think it was, to Boonville basketball because Boonville played the best high school basketball in the County. Er, check that. Boonville could put five kids on the floor who could shoot. Fort Bragg could put one kid on the floor who could shoot — Tony Piver. But Fort Bragg was coached by the canny hoops strategist Vern Piver, and Vern easily out-maneuvered Boonville's Gene “Yew-Gene” Waggoner, and Boonville was out of the small school playoffs in the first round when they should have won it all. (At any level of the game, you put five guys on the floor who can all shoot and you win. Not that year, though.) Glenn, of course, wrote it all up. A famously prodigious milk drinker all his days, an irrelevant fact of the random type Glen would have tossed into one of his stories, Glen was crippled early in childhood by polio, and his last illness was a long one. But I'll bet he bore it with the resilience he'd always shown. He couldn't play sports but he could love them, and that's what he did all his days. I hope Glen left an archive, and if he did I further hope someone will make sure it gets to either the Held-Poage Library in Ukiah or the County Museum in Willits. Sports history is history, too.

THE AV LITTLE LEAGUE'S benefit home run derby and tri-tip lunch last Sunday afternoon drew a nice field of entrants despite a knife-like chill wind blowing down The Valley that was not particularly conducive to the summer game. But the gale force blasts were blowing south, meaning if you got the ball up in the air and out to left field chances were it would loft on outta there. Which it often did, and at the end of the day Wade Lemons had hit more out than any of the rest of us male-type individuals, Jenna Walker went home knowing she was women's home run champ, and Riley Lemons, organizer Erica Lemons' daughter, knocked more balls over the fence than her male Little League teammates could manage. As the oldest entrant by a quarter century, yours truly hit a respectable three out. Also making respectable appearances at the plate were Ernie and Tony Pardini; Jerry Karp; John Toohey, who hit one that was still in the air as it flew past Yorkville; Luis Espinoza; Amanda Hiatt; D'Ann Wallace; and a lot of people I'm not acquainted with, having been away from Little League for forty years.

BOONVILLE POSTMISTRESS Collette Hanns informed us Monday that “North Coast Postal Officials” have decreed that there will be no more “local separation.” In other words, mail from Boonville to Boonville or Yorkville, or Philo, or Navarro, will go from Boonville to Petaluma then back to Boonville. Which means that locals who previously got their subscriptions delivered on Wednesday will now get them on Thursday (or whenever if our delivery history with the Regional Processing Facility in Petaluma is any guide). Postal HQ thinks that processing more mail in Petaluma will somehow postpone the inevitable closure of the Petaluma facility which, as America goes electronic, has been suffering from declining mail volume.

THE POST OFFICE has raised our rates four times in the last two years, but from now on the subscriber across the street will get his paper a day later, and the subscriber in New York will be lucky to get his at all.

BACK in the 1980s The Major worked for a company that made “flat sorters” for the Postal Service. “Flats” are magazines and similarly sized parcels. When the installation crews arrived with the fancy new machines at some of the smaller mail sorting facilities they sometimes discovered that there wasn’t enough flat mail around to even test the machines. Why? Postal officials had decided that they wanted a sorting machine even without the mail volume to justify buying one so they re-sorted mail multiple times to get their counts up so that it looked like they'd processed enough mail to justify the machine. The Major suggests that same solution here. The Petaluma people should simply re-process some mail and get their counts up without delaying local mail that does not need to go to Petaluma.

ATTENTION PARANOIDS! (And outdoor marijuana grows) PG&E, according to that much beloved utility's press release of Monday morning, will be conducting helicopter patrols of distribution lines in Mendocino and Lake counties, 7am to 5pm, from May 16th to 23rd.

OF COURSE insiders know that the infamous power monopoly is really up there in their choppers to facilitate a super-secret program to re-direct contrails into smart meters. Get your tin foil hat on now, and keep it on at least through the summer. Tune in KZYX for updates.

CHRISTINA ANNESTAD, formerly the above mentioned radio station's news person, is off to Ecuador where she'll be working on a story about Big Oil's despoliation of vast swathes of the Amazon. Chatting with Supervisor McCowen the other day, McCowen asked, “If KZYX is looking for a reporter, why don't they re-hire Christina?” Beats me, I said, but they probably won't re-consider her because she's smart and capable, and the management of the place, since its inception, has been stone dumb, petty, fearful and vindictive. That mentality tries to sticks to its own kind.

THE NAVARRO has been closed at its mouth since mid-April, and fishermen tell me that its once fecund flow is now fish-free.

THE MAJOR, functioning as replacement Quizmaster for Steve Sparks last Thursday at Lauren's, was disappointed that not many people were able to correctly answer his eight Mendo-specific questions: 1. Within 500 miles, how many square miles comprise Mendocino County? 2. To within one thousand, what is our population? 3. Name Mendocino County’s incorporated cities. 4. Within five years, what year was Mendocino County founded? 5. (a.) Within a thousand, how many acres of grapes are there in Mendocino County? And 5. (b) b. How many head of cattle? (Multiple choice: 10,000, 13,000, 15,000, or 18,000? 6. Name the last three elected District Attorneys. (half point for two) 7. Name the last three elected Sheriffs. (half point for two). 8. Which County official is responsible for checking the accuracy of gas pumps? (Multiple choice: Sheriff, Ag Commissioner, Clerk-Recorder, or None of them— it’s done by the state.)

A COUPLE of people complained that multiple choice answers for the population and size question questions would have been more fair, but The Major, annoying everyone in the room, and to audible groans, blithely replied that the County's physical size was “merely a matter of applying simple math — just estimate the County's rectangular dimensions.” The best anybody could do on Mendo-knowledge was a pitiable 3.5. One team managed only a single point. Two teams couldn’t remember former Sheriff Tony Craver’s surname, writing only, “Tony.”

ANSWERS: 1. 3510. 2. 87,841. 3. Ukiah, Willits, Fort Bragg, Point Arena. 4. 1850 (Mendo was a founding County administered out of Santa Rosa for a few years until it was considered ready for self-government, that question remaining relevant to this day 5. (a) 16,616. (b): 18,000. 6. Eyster, Lintott, Vroman. 7. Allman, Craver, Tuso. 8. Ag Commissioner, who is also Commissioner of Weights & Measures.

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