- Anderson Valley
- Mendocino County
by AVA News Service, June 1, 2014
ON-LINE COMMENT: “San Francisco has not belonged to San Franciscans since in the late 70s — it belongs to the world now. Having grown up here in the 50s and 60s, my relationship with The City makes me feel like I married my high school sweetheart who became a movie star, and now she has little time for me anymore.”
TO ME, the biggest change is how boring The City’s public figures are, especially the supervisors, and how purely awful The City’s intellectual life is. Art is terrible, literature pretty much non-existent, architecture soul-destroying, journalism never worse. There are exactly two really, really good writers — Rebecca Solnit and August Kleinzahler. (Mr. K deserves a Presidential Medal for his essay on Garrison Keillor alone which, if you haven’t read it, is a thing of beauty. He’s also a first-rate poet.)
And after that:
WHAT’S HAPPENED to The City is obvious enough, and often commented on. It became very attractive to wealthy people beginning at the end of the 1960s. Thousands of them moved in and continue to move in. The price of shelter has gone up and up and now the streets teem with these blank-faced young consumers with a lot of money and no style. And they all have dogs and 1.2 children they push around in strollers reinforced like miniature armored vehicles. With an effete dog, unleashed of course, trotting alongside. The vehicles on the invaders are bigger than two vehicles were in 1950. I think these geezer-thoughts every time I get past my front door because they’re the context for a second-hand housing adventure of my own last week.
THIS BOONVILLE KID is a student at SF State. I know him, I know his family. I agreed to co-sign his rental agreement. He and his friends were trying to rent some dump in the Sunset that was going for an extortionate amount approaching five thousand dollars a month, with an even more extortionate amount demanded for the move-in deposit. Which a lot of landlords steal and invest to their profit while they allegedly bank it for you, dear renter. It all fell through, natch, because City landlords now get applicants bidding against each other and taking cash bribes and who knows what all resorted to scumbaggery because there is a huge shortage of housing and none at all unless you have a lot of dough. The Boonville kid and his friends, after a lot of frantic negotiating with the agent for this place, were outbid by someone else.
I’VE LIVED OFF AND ON in The City since about 1960. As a young person, I could always find a cheap place to live, and I mean cheap. As late as 1967, my wife and I rented a two-bedroom, top-floor apartment at 199 Frederick for which we paid $200 a month. The manager, a non-English speaking Chinese guy who called himself ‘Frankie Fong,’ invariably greeted me, “Ha! You not heepie!” No, I not, I’d say. We could walk down the hill to the Panhandle and listen to the rock and roll yowling, as it bounced off my tin ear, which turned out to be eminences like Janis Joplin and the Jefferson Airplane. Sorry, groove-o’s, it all went right past me, but the crowds were interesting as the middle classes went wild for a few years beginning in ’66. By ’68 it had all gone to hell and hard drugs and the hippies took off for Back to the Land, hence the contemporary functioning of Mendocino County’s professional classes, from the Superior Court to the public schools.
SF STATE happens to be my alma mater. When I was there I was still operating on the flawed assumption that a college diploma would get me an easy job. I’d wound up at SF State, then a mere and modest college, now a mere and modest university, after a couple of years at Cal Poly, then purely a tech school. As a lib arts guy I’d run out of history and lit classes in San Luis Obispo and was totally estranged from competitive athletics, which was why I was there in the first place. I was a baseball player and the 13th man on Cal Poly’s 12-man basketball team. My late brother was a three-year starter on the basketball team at small forward and he held the Cal Poly home run record for several years. Sacrificing my last year of sports eligibility was no sacrifice to me because I’d lost interest. I delude myself now that if I’d worked on my game I might have been Mike Krukow, who arrived at the school a couple of years later. The Bay Area being my home since my arrival as an infant from the Hawaiian Islands where the Japanese had tried to bomb me in my cradle, I’ve always gravitated in its direction.
AS A STUDENT at SF State I found a place for a hundred bucks a month on Ramsell Street within walking distance of the school.
RAMSELL was a very peculiar rental in the house of a very peculiar man. To get to my room, I had to enter through the garage and take a tiny homemade, in-house elevator maybe fifteen feet upwards. There were no stairs, no other way to gain access. In case of fire, I’d have had to jump off the roof. My landlord, the odd old guy, had built and installed the elevator himself. It made a lot of noise so he always knew when I was at home, which was often because I worked downtown and did much of the classwork on the streetcar and at my aerie on Ramsell. The old guy watched wrestling every night. I could hear him cry out in alarm when Gorgeous George or Andre The Giant did something the old man considered life threatening. At least once a week I’d hear the elevator clanging up towards my room and the old guy would pound on my door. “What should I do?” he’d yell. “Gorgeous George is going to kill Zebra Man!” The first time this happened I thought the old guy was putting me on. Jesu Cristo, he couldn’t believe all that fake mayhem was real, could he? He could, and at least once a week he’d clank up in his homemade elevator to ask me if I thought he should call the cops before a television rassler murdered another tv rassler right before his rheumy eyes. The old guy was clever enough to build himself his own in-home elevator yet… Well, a combination of the constant summer fog and geriatric counseling that tv wrestling was not real, drove me to a bathroom-down-the-hall, clean-sheets-once-a-week room at 5th and Brannan. It was depressing as hell, too, but at least it was sunny downtown.
WHEN MIKE THOMPSON bats out a press release, the Press Democrat hops to. Thompson, a gun guy, grape grower, congressman, yellow dog Democrat is head of congressional committee whose purpose is to “address gun violence.” According to Thompson’s re-write man at the PD, Guy Kovner, Thompson “introduced a multi-pronged measure Friday on mental health approaches to preventing tragedies like the murder of six students last week at UC Santa Barbara.” Thompson’s break-through strategy? If the cops suspect mental illness they can take the crazy person’s guns away.
OTHER PROVISIONS in the bill would:
Prohibit the purchase or possession of a firearm by people subject to involuntary outpatient commitment for mental health issues. Federal law now applies only to inpatient commitments.
Prohibit firearms possession by individuals convicted of misdemeanor stalking, a step endorsed by the National Task Force to End Sexual and Domestic Violence Against Women.
Establish standards for restoration of firearms rights to individuals who have lost those rights due to mental illness.
Improve the submission of mental health records into the national criminal background check system.
REPUBLICANS ARE OPPOSED, of course, although all of this is simply commonsense and should have been law years ago, especially in a country that couldn’t be better designed to drive its citizens nuts.
STUDY FINDS MEDICAL POT FARMS DRAINING STREAMS DRY
by Jason Dearen
Some drought-stricken rivers and streams in Northern California’s coastal forests are being polluted and sucked dry by water-guzzling medical marijuana farms, wildlife officials say — an issue that has spurred at least one county to try to outlaw personal grows.
State fish and wildlife officials say much of the marijuana being grown in northern counties under the state’s medical pot law is not being used for legal, personal use, but for sale both in California and states where pot is still illegal.
This demand is fueling backyard and larger-scale pot farming, especially in remote Lake, Humboldt and Mendocino counties on the densely forested North Coast, officials said.
“People are coming in, denuding the hillsides, damming the creeks and mixing in fertilizers that are not allowed in the U.S. into our watersheds,” said Denise Rushing, a Lake County supervisor who supports an ordinance essentially banning outdoor grows in populated areas.
“When rains come, it flows downstream into the lake and our water supply,” she said.
Many affected waterways also contain endangered salmon, steelhead and other creatures protected by state and federal law.
Wildlife biologists noticed streams running dry more often over the 18 years since the state passed Proposition 215, but weren’t sure why.
“We knew people were diverting water for marijuana operations, but we wanted to know exactly how much,” said Scott Bauer, the department biologist who studied the pot farms’ effects on four watersheds. “We didn’t know they could consume all the water in a stream.”
So Bauer turned to Google mapping technology and satellite data to find out where the many gardens are, and how many plants each contained.
His study estimates that about 30,000 pot plants were being grown in each river system — and he estimates that each plant uses about six gallons per day over marijuana’s 150-day growing season. Some growers and others argue the six-gallon estimate is high, and that pot plants can use far less water, depending on size.
He compared that information with government data on stream flows, and visited 32 sites with other biologists to verify the mapping data. He said most grow sites had posted notices identifying them as medical pot farms.
Pot farm pollution has become such a problem in Lake County, south of Bauer’s study area, that officials voted unanimously last year to ban outdoor grows.
“Counties are the ultimate arbiter of land use conflict, so while you have a right to grow marijuana for medicinal use, you don’t have a right to impinge on someone else’s happiness and wellbeing,” Rushing said.
Saying they were being demonized, pot users challenged the law, and gathered enough signatures to place a referendum on the June 3 ballot. They argue that grow restrictions like the ones being voted on in Lake County lump the responsible users in with criminals.
“We definitely feel environmental issues are a concern. But more restrictive … ordinances will force people to start growing in unregulated and illegal places on public land,” said Daniel McClean, a registered nurse and medical marijuana user who opposes the outdoor-grow ban.
While some counties are trying to help regulate the environmental effects of pot farms, Bauer hopes his study will lead to better collaboration with growers to help police illegal use of water and pesticides.
“The county or state gets in there and starts doing code enforcement on other things,” Silvaggio said. “They’ve done this in the past”
He said pot farmers believe they are being unfairly blamed for killing endangered salmon while decades of timber cutting and overfishing are the real culprits.
However, the environmental damage has led to a split in the marijuana growing community.
One business, the Tea House Collective in Humboldt County, offers medicinal pot to people with prescriptions that it says is farmed by “small scale, environmentally conscious producers.”
“Patients who cannot grow their own medicine can rely on our farmers to provide them with the best holistic medicine that is naturally grown, sustainable and forever Humboldt,” the group’s website advertises.
Despite efforts of some pot farmers to clean things up, the increased water use by farms is a “full-scale environmental disaster,” said Fish and Wildlife Lt. John Nores, who leads the agency’s Marijuana Enforcement Team.
“Whether it’s grown quasi legally under the state’s medical marijuana laws, or it’s a complete cartel outdoor drug trafficking grow site, there is extreme environmental damage being done at all levels,” Nores said.
Officials say until the federal government recognizes California’s medical marijuana laws, growers will continue to operate clandestinely to meet market demand for their product due to fear of prosecution. Meantime, enforcing federal and state environmental regulations will be harder.
“If cherry tomatoes were worth $3,000 a pound, and consumption was prohibited in most states, people would be doing the same thing,” Nores said.
* * *
THE ABOVE STORY has been done to death. Yes, pot ops siphon off a lot of water. Wine ops siphon off a lot more water than guerilla grows. The drought is taking its share, as is the over all increase in demand for water, particularly up and down the Russian River from Potter Valley to Healdsburg. From Santa Rosa on out to the sea at Jenner, the once proud Russian now functions as a leach line for treated sewage liquids out of the Rose City, hence the aqua-weird greenish-blue it is from where Santa Rosa drains into it all the way to the Pacific.
Fifty years ago, prior to the wholesale development of vineyards from Potter Valley south to Healdsburg, and also prior to the Green Rush that kicked off guerilla grows in the lush watersheds of Mendocino and Humboldt counties, and before Santa Rosa tapped into the Russian River as its flush field, water was not the issue it now is in the Emerald Triangle. Will the situation improve? Only if the rains return, pot prices drop so low because of over-production and the vineyards cease their blank draw on the streams of Mendocino County.
RURAL SKILLS WORKSHOPS, Saturday, June 7, 2014 at the Boonville Farmers’ Market, Featuring:
• Jesse Rathbun of Boonville Bike Works will have his Mobile Bicycle Repair set up and will be offering $5 bike exams. This is the perfect time to bring your bikes to Jesse to get ready for Summer cruising. Maintaining our tools and transportation is definitely considered a “life skill” and Jesse will be cranking out a demo with plenty of Q & A for all of our local biker’s from 10:30 to 11AM.
• Alice Woelfle-Erskine – Local Livestock Manager offers livestock consultation services throughout the county as well as products including sheepskins and her miniature felted sheep sculptures. Alice will give a demonstration in the traditional hand sheep sheering method from 11:30 to 12 noon at our Boonville Farmers Market. This is the perfect opportunity to catch this busy farmer with any questions regarding the raising and management of livestock.
• Andy Sands – Another of Boonville’s renaissance men will be available at his “Garden Talks” table in the center of the Market. If you haven’t met Andy yet, then introduce yourself and come with your gardening questions.
• Bebing and Bill McEwen – Our Farmers Market Managers will offer their latest Olallie berry Jams and Syrups to sample and for sale.
Local Farmers, Gardeners and Culinary Artisans are available each week selling their labor of love (produce and more). Our Market Vendors each offer their experience stewarding Anderson Valley land and animals.
Rural Skills Presenters Needed for future workshops at our Boonville Saturday Farmers Market. Everyone in Anderson Valley has a Rural Life Skill to share in a half hour workshop, demo or presentation. Pick a Saturday that works for you and determine if you’d like to facilitate one or two workshops (10:30 to 11AM – 11:30 to 12) on that day. Contact Valerie Adair (707 367-2143 or ValeriesDream@gmail.com) with questions.
WHY SO LOUD?
To the Editor
Regarding the frost fan controversy, I’m curious about the decision-making process local grape growers used that produced giant, community-disrupting noise machines? For example, did they do any research at all into alternative, quieter wind machines such as Shur Cold Air Drains and the 4-blade Australian Frost Fans? And, if so, why did they choose the loudest alternative? Was an alternative of having more, but quieter fans rejected as too expensive? Was it a strictly bottom-line, community-be-damned decision?
Apparently, the loud 2-blade models can be converted to quieter 4-blades. Wouldn’t that be a better alternative?
Dave Smith, Redwood Valley
LET THE SUN BEAM IN
Please vote for Robin Sunbeam for Clerk-Assessor-Recorder. I have known Robin for several years. She is extremely competent, of the highest moral character, and dedicated to using the full powers of the offices to protect and serve the people of Mendocino County.
Just before this campaign, I watched Robin organize a county-wide tour by Ellen Brown in support of public banking. It was the best organized series of events I’ve seen any advocate or group put on in years. And she has managed her campaign even better, getting started early, rallying people, raising money and other support, getting signs. If signs are an indicator of good management and efficiency, then Robin has won the sign contest, with more and bigger in great locations.
There is a network of support that has been building over the past few months. People realize that someone who is willing to change the status quo has a chance to be given the power to do so. No one doubts that Ms. Ranochek is a decent and competent administrator. But she has shown no vision in this campaign. When the Ft. Bragg News-Advocate sent a questionnaire to the candidates, their final question asked for a closing statement, a chance to summarize what what their candidacy was all about. Ms. Ranochek offered none.
The choice is clear. Do we want an administrator who does only the very minimum, and maybe not even that? Or do we want someone who will exercise her discretion on behalf of the people? This is not just a technocrat position. If it was, why bother with an election? We all know how important overseeing elections has become. And I still contend that the Recorder has the duty, not just the option, of making sure that all signatures required on a document are original and verified. On that point I respectfully disagree with the Ukiah Daily Journal. Their editorial today suggested punting these problems to the Board of Supervisors, and then the District Attorney. But why add more layers of bureaucracy? Why give lobbyists a chance to influence the supervisors? The Recorder has the power to enforce the law and to make criminal referrals if someone commits or attempts to commit fraud. Why shackle her?
It’s time we had a clerk-assessor-recorder who is willing to do her job and protect the people, their records, and their political process. This can be a moment of great political change, a precursor to the Community Rights Ordinance and County Charter campaigns. But people must vote! If folks stay home because it’s an off-year primary, then change will never happen.
Please vote for Robin Sunbeam. Thank you.
Dennis O’Brien, Ukiah
PS. Here are some words of support from Lynda McClure:
I’m writing to Mendocino County friends to ask for your support for 2 candidates on the ballot for Tuesday’s election.
Betty Yee is running for State Controller. She is highly qualified and exceptionally attuned to critical issues in our state…brilliant and grounded.
Robin Sunbeam is running for Assessor-County Clerk-Recorder. I support Robin because she intends to be pro-active in investigating bank foreclosure fraud. This has been a point of debate, with the current office holder claiming she must record all deeds and Robin claiming officials in other counties have done more to guard against illegal foreclosure filing. I reviewed a legal analysis and interpret it to say that a more rigorous review of foreclosure documents could be done by the Assessor-Clerk-Recorder’s office. I don’t believe the incumbent is in violation of the law by not conducting this research, but she is doing the minimum required. On the critical issue of home foreclosure in our county I’d like our elected officials to use the full force of law to protect residents against illegal bank foreclosures.
The specific point is, if a lending institution uses a “robo” signature (electronic) on documents they must also have an affidavit with an original signature authorizing the use of the robo signature. Very often the borrowers have not signed this affidavit and therefore have not given permission to sign on their behalf when loans are bought and sold. There have been many cases around the country of banks foreclosing without legal proof they hold the note on the house, but no one asked to see the required documentation.
These foreclosures on property, which represents the largest portion of most working people’s wealth, gluts the housing market with discount priced homes. This lowers all property values and allows people with large sums of investment money to buy up property, resulting in a significant shift in wealth to the people who already hold a greatly disproportionate percent of our country’s wealth. We must stop these robber barons.
Thanks for your consideration and be sure to vote!
Lynda McClure, Boonville
HUMCO FEARS THE WOLF
by Daniel Mintz
One supervisor’s recommendation to support listing the gray wolf as an endangered species in California has been soundly rejected by his colleagues.
Key to the decision is opposition from ranchers who say their cattle will be vulnerable to attacks and disease if wolves are listed under the state’s endangered species law and then flourish.
The Board of Supervisors debated the listing issue at its May 27 meeting. Supervisor Mark Lovelace wrote and asked for approval of a letter which states that listing the gray wolf will lead to “a solid and secure foundation for planning, management and recovery for the pending wolf population.”
A gray wolf’s entry into the state from Northeastern Oregon has opened the prospect of an eventual population of wolves. Referred to as OR-7, the gray wolf broke from its pack, has been tagged and is being tracked.
Lovelace said having the state list the gray wolf will proactively address management issues and prevent a rushed regulation process. But during public comment, Kneeland rancher John Rice said that if a gray wolf population emerges in Humboldt, it could be “devastating” to the ranching community.
Humboldt isn’t a likely area for gray wolves to migrate to but there was debate about that. “Don’t think it doesn’t scare the hell out of me, because we will be out of business,” Rice told supervisors.
Prompted by Rice to respond, Lovelace said there’s “no expectation of a wolf population of any size in Humboldt County.”
“There wasn’t in Yellowstone (National Park) either, when they started ‘em,” Rice said.
Lovelace cited the lack of a historical record of wolves in the county and said their emergence is expected only in Modoc County and the California stretch of the Cascade Mountain Range.
“Are you gonna put a fence down there to keep ‘em from coming this way?” Rice asked. “No – I know you aren’t,” he added after Lovelace responded in the negative.
But Natalynne DeLapp of the Environmental Protection Information Center, which has joined a petition to list the gray wolf, said there are ways to reduce the impacts humans and wolves have on each other and listing is a means of enacting management measures.
“It’s not likely that wolves are coming back here so I feel that you do have a little bit of flexibility and leeway to act as the ambassadors for building social tolerance for these predators,” she continued.
Lovelace’s proposed letter is timely because the state’s Fish and Game Commission is holding a public hearing on the listing question in Fortuna on June 3. But supervisors Virginia Bass and Estelle Fennell said they don’t see an immediate need to take a position and want to do more research on the issue.
Board Chairman Rex Bohn was more definite. “I think the only way I can support this letter is if you change the word ‘support’ to ‘oppose,’” he said.
Bohn is skeptical about Humboldt being out of the gray wolf’s migration range. “We’ve heard that OR-7 has travelled 3,000 miles and you’re telling me it won’t come another 240 miles over the plains to come visit Humboldt,” he said.
Saying he’s been contacted by several ranchers in his district, Bohn warned that gray wolves are a “proficient” species and he also advised against “pooping on our neighbors” in Modoc County.
Supervisor Ryan Sundberg – who’s running for re-election along with Supervisor Virginia Bass — said his gut reaction was that “this was being done for political reasons, to make us look bad.”
He added that in Idaho, the elk population has been “completely devastated” by wolves, which he said eat 10 pounds of meat a day and can have four to seven puppies a year.
With support for Lovelace’s letter lacking, supervisors voted to take no action on it, with Lovelace dissenting.
Warm sun, quiet air
an old man sits
in the doorway of
a broken house —
boards for windows
from between the stones
and strokes the head
of a spotted dog
— William Carlos Williams
WHEN ONE READS any strongly individual piece of writing, one has the impression of seeing a face somewhere behind the page. It is not necessarily the actual face of the writer. I feel this very strongly with Swift, with Defoe, with Fielding, Stendhal, Thackeray, Flaubert, though in several cases I do not know what these people looked like and do not want to know. What one sees is the face that the writer ought to have. Well, in the case of Dickens I see a face that is not quite the face of Dickens’s photographs, though it resembles it. It is the face of a man of about forty, with a small beard and a high color. He is laughing, with a touch of anger in his laughter, but no triumph, no malignity. It is the face of a man who is always fighting against something, but who fights in the open and is not frightened, the face of a man who is generously angry — in other words, of a nineteenth-century liberal, a free intelligence, a type hated with equal hatred by all the smelly little orthodoxies which are now contending for our souls. (— George Orwell)
CATCH OF THE DAY
ANGEL MARIE FOSTER, Ukiah. Revocation of probation
TRENTON NORRED, Willits. Drunk in public, interfering with a police officer
TREVOR PARTIDA, Hopland. Revocation of probation
ALFREDO ROMERO, Hopland. Revocation of probation
VICTOR SALO, Fort Bragg. Methamphetamine, vandalism
HENRY SOLLID, Willits. Drunk in public
NEIL WALDRON, Covelo. Methamphetamine, driving on suspended license
JOYCE WILSON, Laytonville. Battery. (Arrested in Willits)
REID GARRISON, Martinez. DUI. Arrested in Ukiah by the CHP.
by William J. Hughes
Breakfast at the Lariat Restaurant, Main St. Hardin, MT, as recommended by the nice husband of the nice wife at the Western.
Steak & eggs & spuds & biscuits & butter, coffee& juice, hunters in reflective gear, a décor as simple as here’s a place to sit.
Sitting next to me, a Sunday morning dressed up table of Crows, speaking Crow.
What a trip, this is. What a trip it has been for the Crow.
Whitey in hunting gear, and the Crow. Conquistadors & Aztecs.
And me, somewhere in between.
What feels better than a full belly on a sunny chilly Montana morning. We all know what feels better but not so in this one man drive-about.
Rt. 212 away from the battlefield and about half an hour of wide open, plateau prairie land, silent, enormous, almost the buffalo herds, all the land colored like a sun up, a fine road for the Jeepette, just outside Busby turn right for 314 south to the Rosebud.
There’s a beauty in here that’s a gray, as if the earth itself and the hills were stone, marked with patches of dark green pine forests, any ranch, any cultivation, in this continuing long, low, almost secret valley, that much more barn red, wheat gold or grazing green.
What a dream, a perfect two lane, warm enough to open a window and let the purity of it fill you up, no rush, no agenda, almost gliding to the State Park of the Rosebud.
The wolf pelt gray and the dark woods continue, curving, always curving, hill tribes just over the hillsides.
An adequate state park sign for the Battle Of The Rosebud. The fight to the death of a way of life begins.
A dry dirt road, a yellow road grader taking a break, the driver down from the cab, talking with a woman from the nearby, neatly kept roadside ranch.
We all wave a howdy, and I head up the stony road.
An interpretive stop, like a small corral with interpretive signs on posts.
It’s secluded and beautiful, low curving hills wrap all around the dirt road continuing on behind the hills.
You can see Rosebud, thick & velvety; but it appears across fenced property. I’ll keep my distance.
General George Crook wishes he’d kept his distance. The Lakota/Cheyenne surprise his troop, about 2,000 in strength. Here at the Rosebud.
Crook’s troop has to withdraw. The tribes move west to the Little Bighorn, brimming, shimmering with ass-kicking confidence.
With four wheel drive I could carry the hills and the ravines back to Lodge Grass. No way that’s going to happen so I just clunk my way up the cracked road that takes a visitor up to the buffalo jump above.
I don’t want to bump any further, only the circling ravens for assistance. But I’m sure I see the buffalo jump, a long soft butte, almost the tan of worn & weathered buckskin. You know a buffalo jump, don’t you?
The native hunters set fire to the prairie and drive the herd over a cliff, the rest of the tribe below setting up a traveling butchering & skinning shop. Maybe more of that than the great Frederic Remington warrior, bow & arrow & horseback or Kevin Costner helping out with his Remington repeater.
Heading back, melancholy, finished business a bit. You can take the spirit back home but the spirits ain’t never comin’ back.
And here’s a reminder why. A coal company, Mad Maximum tonnage, all very tremendously neat & tidy, lines and lines and lines of coal cars, dark and brooding, coal stacked just so, so we all can live larger than we should, need to. Let there be so much light we can’t find the spirits in the night.
Heading back, rushing up to Garryowen with a quick stop at Lodge Grass, my friend’s cattle ranch near here. I have to inquire without knowing exactly where or what it’s called. I have some Lazy something or other as a guess but who doesn’t?
Back to the battered Crow gas station & salvage yard, a couple of good old cowboys inside.
From their tobacco chaw jaws they think they know what I’m asking about. Mark’s wife is of Greek, and the cowboys think they know an exotic woman from maybe South America? That’s as far as we can get.
I go off along the frontage road that borders I-90, beef cattle loafing around, but no sign of Lazy anything except me and the cattle and the weather, welcome and warm enough.
Pulling off I-90 for the postal dot of Garryowen, all fake fort and souvenirs.
The Little Bighorn is very close by, the dry cottonwoods within bow & arrow distance.
Reno and his troop. You can hear them splashing across. 1,500 warriors await.
I want to get down to the river but it just seems impossible, the fake fort with real fences.
Close though, a clear line back up the bluff where Reno & Benteen (that’s Major Reno & Captain Benteen because I don’t think I have — at least Benteen).
Enough time to do the battlefield again, just into the Visitors Center for some postcards of the white headstone markers of where the natives fell and the battle strategy map.
And the winds that carry Crazy Horse’s spirit. And the swaying grasses that carry Sitting Bull’s spirit. A hawk circles high overhead.
The spirit of Yellowstone, the river, up north outside of Billings. Just about 55 mikes. Out here 55 miles is to the Q-Mart for milk.
The sun is softly on the cocoa brown bluffs, like buffalo robe shoulders, hefty & soft, out there to the west, our Himalayas, Yellowstone Park tucked in behind a la Shangrila.
I’m tempted. Man, am I tempted; and Helena, where a young flame of Yellowstone still glows, is reason enough to stay away, stay on for the Yellowstone, powdery tan mesas, shapely, womanly, passing between them, feeling the plateau like a fish ladder of a road.
Again, the extra disadvantage of our oil & gas cities out here on these wide open oceans of grass.
Refineries, belching smoke & ash, welcomes you to Billings, MT. Welcome to Upton Sinclair.
Turn right and get it behind you, the Yellowstone out to the left, out of sight, down in its channel, between its tale of cottonwoods, flowing from the great caldera, Yellowstone Lake, over the park’s Upper Falls, then rushing to the so famous Lower Falls, sacred, down through the Yellowstone Canyon, past Gardiner, through the paradise of the Paradise Valley, out onto the prairie to meet and mate with the Missouri.
The nice husband at the motel reminded me of some Lewis & Clark outside of Billings. No thanks. No more of them, the bringers of real bad news. I might try for Sacajawea’s grave on the Wind River rez but no more Lewis & Clark: “Meet the new boos/same as the old boss…”
Up river to the town of Worden. The Rosebud comes in further on but the light is turning silvery already — night, early.
The Yellowstone, in a dry wash gulley, partly river and mostly dry rocks and shrub covered sandbars, is still prominent enough, standing up above it by a few feet and maybe twenty yards away.
Grizzly bears drink from the Yellowstone. Sure, they’re wearing radio collars and tranquilizer scars, but you can only dance with the ones you brought back to life.
The silver sunshine, a 1,000 watt twinkle on the moving river. No dams on the Yellowstone. Pure enough.
My usual offering; the crumpled marijuana floats away. Peace pipe. Bring us peace, oh un-dammed Yellowstone.
The river knows me. I’ve wadded in it, drank from it, made love beside it. It knows I’m here, for friends, for family, for future generations to come out here. 1,000 watt twinkle.
A solitude. A solitude on the way back to camp.
There had to be an incomprehensible sun to bathe this comprehensible landscape as far as humanity is willing to let itself free.
Still enough sunlight to make it back to that KFC beside the battlefield.
Odd. Odder still. Crow kids working the KFC counter. Crap is chief.
Oddest still. On the wall, a glass display case, with one of Custer’s white buckskin jackets and a shiny gold railroad watch.
It has all come to this. Eventually it all comes to this in this, or maybe, any country. A Custer artifact off his own back on display in a KFC. Bad commentary.
The 8 piece chicken facsimile back at the motel is stranger than it usually is.
A shiny pocket watch that Custer carried, on display with the large Cikes to go. Go on America. Just go on as you are.
Dreams, ever since my Iroquois & Mohawk dreams in the forests of upstate New York. Dream on.
THE ONION on Isla Vista:
‘No Way To Prevent This,’ Says Only Nation Where This Regularly Happens
ISLA VISTA, CA—In the days following a violent rampage in southern California in which a lone attacker killed seven individuals, including himself, and seriously injured over a dozen others, citizens living in the only country where this kind of mass killing routinely occurs reportedly concluded Tuesday that there was no way to prevent the massacre from taking place.
“This was a terrible tragedy, but sometimes these things just happen and there’s nothing anyone can do to stop them,” said North Carolina resident Samuel Wipper, echoing sentiments expressed by tens of millions of individuals who reside in a nation where over half of the world’s deadliest mass shootings have occurred in the past 50 years and whose citizens are 20 times more likely to die of gun violence than those of other developed nations. “It’s a shame, but what can we do? There really wasn’t anything that was going to keep this guy from snapping and killing a lot of people if that’s what he really wanted.”
At press time, residents of the only economically advanced nation in the world where roughly two mass shootings have occurred every month for the past five years were referring to themselves and their situation as “helpless.”
THE FIRST PHOTOGRAPHS OF YOSEMITE ever taken that inspired Abraham Lincoln to make Yosemite a National Park.
In the summer of 1861, a 35-year-old photographer named Carleton Watkins set off on a journey to capture the landscapes of the Sierra Nevada on film for the first time.
And a slide show of some of Watkins’ dramatic photographs:
Ed Note: the free museum at Stanford University (Cantor Arts Center) is hosting an exhibition of Carleton Watkins’ original prints until August 17, 2014.