Valley People (Jan 21, 2015)
by AVA News Service, January 21, 2015
WES GOES NATIONAL! The following is the transcript of NPR's Boontling segment last Sunday morning featuring our very own Wes Smoot:
"Tiny Boonville, in Northern California, is known for a few things: its wineries, its tight-knit community — and its very own language, Boontling. Bahl means good. Nonch means bad. And horn of zeese? That's Boontling for a cup of coffee. The language was created long ago as a way to gossip covertly in this community of about 1,000 people, nestled in a valley a few hours north of San Francisco. Now, it's still alive, but barely. You can hear the sounds of Boontling in the community's senior center, where on a recent day, Wes Smoot and David Knight had this conversation:
Smoot: "You've been boshin'?"
Knight: "Just a slib."
Smoot: "You get a granny hatchet?"
Knight: "Nope. ... Mostly just gormin' and horse shoes."
Translation: Have you been deer hunting? Yes, but only a little. Bagged one yet? Nope, Knight says: instead, he's been eating barbecue and playing horseshoes. Boontling dates back to the late 1800s, but it was still spoken widely on Boonville's streets and even taught in its schools much more recently. The language was so ingrained in local culture that when Smoot's great-uncle joined the military, he had a hard time understanding English. "All he knew was Boontling," Smoot says. Smoot, on the other hand, enjoys being bilingual. "Strangers come in on the weekends, you know, metropolitan people, and they'd sit down," he says. "And we'd sit there and talk about them, things that would normally get your face slapped pretty bad. And they were just grinning at you, and they had no idea what we was talking about, you know. And that, to me, is a lot of fun." The community has some newer Boontling speakers as well, like Fal Allen. He's not fluent — "Ya, I by harp a wee slib of the ling," he says, translating it as "Yes, I speak a little bit of Boontling." But he's still one of the unofficial keepers of the lingo's history. He says Boonville's always been kind of removed from the outside world — by treacherous roads and by choice. "It was very hard to get in and out of this valley, and so they were very isolated, and they were not excited about having outsiders come in," he says. "And so the secret language for the people of the valley seemed to ... you know, make perfect sense." And it makes no sense at all to outsiders, which was the point of this combination of nicknames, jargon and the odd foreign term. Allen says Boontling eventually reached a vocabulary of 1,600 words. Now the language dances on the edge of extinction. It's estimated that less than 100 people still speak it — and far fewer are fluent. But it's still evolving, too. Back at the senior center, Smoot describes his contribution to Boontling, a word that means "oldtimer." It's "downstreamer," in honor of local dog salmon. "He's going back downstream trying to get back to the ocean, but he dies before he gets to the ocean," Smoot says. "So, when you get up in our age, we're almost downstreamers. We're headed for the ocean, but I doubt if we're going to make it." Boontling, for its part, just might make it, if enough of its younger enthusiasts keep it up. They've created a Boontling study group that meets once a month. The appeal is built-in, says Fal Allen. "Who doesn't love a secret language?" he says. "I mean, come on."
'TIGHT KNIT'? Until about 1980 that particular lazy media cliché — small communities 'tight knit' — applied to the Anderson Valley. But for years now the sociology of Anderson Valley, as much of America, can better be described as several thousand strangers strung out along twenty miles of serpentine road. Those several thousand people are loosely organized into small knots of friends, neighbors, affinity groups, and acquaintances. Most of us locals see other locals we've never seen before every day.
MIKE KALANTARIAN sends along this ominous photo of the Navarro, already closed at the mouth. Last year, it rained hard in December and was mostly dry the rest of the formerly wet season. We may be getting a repeat. “Drove past yesterday (Jan 16) afternoon," he says, "near low tide. The sand now keeps the river from the sea.”
SHAUNA ESPINOZA reminds us the "last official registration date for Little League will be this Thursday, January 22nd at the Elementary School from 4:30 - 6pm. All kids ages 4-12 are invited to join. Please bring your child's birth certificate and three proofs of physical address for verification. If your business would like to sponsor a team or our league in general, please give Shauna Espinoza a call at 684-9126."
ANDERSON VALLEY is now certified as its own Little League, meaning no more commute to Cloverdale! As we view this most encouraging development, we now look forward to our all-star team beating every other LL nine in the County, and from there, well, Petaluma won the national championship, didn't they?
AN ALL-CLASSES reunion for Anderson Valley High is on, reports Jimmy Short. "Our reunion chairperson for the 2012 reunion, Sheri Mathias Hansen, and myself met over the summer and are coordinating another gathering to be held over the Mendocino County Fair weekend in September 2015. Once the fair weekend dates have been established, we will notify everyone of the exact dates, however, due to the 2012 reunion being so successful (250+ attended), we wanted to give everyone a full year-in-advance notice! If you have any ideas, comments, or would like to volunteer to be a committee member, please let Sheri, Marti Tucker Titus or myself know. And please forward this notice to anyone we might have missed on the list above, as we want to ensure ALL graduates are invited. During our last reunion, a number of you suggested having the next reunion at the high school itself, so that will be definitely be taken into consideration. Let the good times roll!
Jimmy Short Facebook page for all updates:
THE COMMUNITY SERVICES DISTRICT is running a significant surplus, according to last week’s CSD budget status report. In addition to reserves of about $165k, the CSD is under-running this year’s (July 2014-June 2015) supplies and services budget by $20k-$30k. Part of the increase in reserves is due to strike team reimbursements for AV’s participation in fighting wildfires in recent years. Chief Avila says a significant amount of the reserves are earmarked for replacement of one or two of the District’s oldest fire engines, another chunk is earmarked for a communications equipment upgrade which they’ve avoided so far with smaller, cheaper upgrades. In addition, about $12k of the “administrative reserve” is for a CSD Board member election if one is contested which hasn’t happened this century.
RECOMMENDED READING: "Then and Now, An Anderson Valley Journey" by Wes Smoot and Stephen Sparks. I felt a little like Rip Van Winkle reading this crucial collection of photos and comment about The Valley, then and now. Our population has turned over almost completely since 1970 when I arrived with my consignment of hopeless juvenile delinquents and can remember what the place looked like then. For instance, like everyone of my seniority, I have vivid memories of the Mannix Building and Homer and Bea Mannix themselves and, at one time or other over the years, I've had some kind of direct experience with most of the structures memorialized in Steve's and Wes's beguiling little book, realizing, as I zipped through the pages, I'm now something of an old timer myself. For instance, I was involved in a couple of justice court matters presided over by Homer in the courtroom he had set up in the Mannix Building. He ran everything, it seemed to me as a newcomer — he was justice court judge, sat on the school board, was chairman of the CSD, which then met in a derelict trailer Homer had dragged to central Boonville from an accident scene, and he functioned as a volunteer firefighter and even showed up with the Boonville Ambulance. If the town had been re-named Mannixville I doubt anyone would have objected. Homer is only one of many people now gone who are recalled here, and it's gratifying, especially in these a-historical, speeded-up times that the authors have worked so hard to enable us to enjoy a walk down our unique area's Memory Lane.
OH, you're saying we're not unique, that Anderson Valley is pretty much like every other semi-isolated rural valley like Anywhere USA? Name a small population anywhere else that has gotten, and continues to get, as much national attention for one thing or the other as this one. There isn't one.