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Out of Control in Covelo

My ride on the Covid Coaster started on March 25, the day I got back to Covelo after three days down in the Bay. I thought it would take a week to work through it. 

It took five weeks. 

Even after five weeks I could only do actual work barely for two or three or maybe four hours every other day versus working 10 or 12 hour every day all week long. My lungs hurt, the area where my heart resides often felt as if a very hot rock had been placed there. For three of those five weeks the Covid Coaster was at its worst: every time I passed out in a nap from what I came to call narcoleptic freefall (covid 19 was NOT, for this camper, anything like the common flu) or went to sleep at night, there was no guarantee I would wake up. But every morning I did wake up was a brand new miracle. 

All this set the stage for a total enthrallment with the transformations of Spring. With two sweaters and a coat on under two or three blankets I watched the world become green through my windows. The little purple shooting star flowers came in, then the daffodils, then the iris. I stumbled around my three acres watching the leaves unwind on the oaks, watched the creek rise and fall as the rains came and went. It was the first time in years and years and years I had sat and watched the world go around from my cabin with that kind of freedom and it was delicious, a freakily surreal counterpoint to what was going on in the world, and what was going on in my body. 

At the end of those five weeks, as I reentered the world, I became aware of increased traffic on the road by my cabin and the roads throughout Covelo as I visited friends. It was the start of pot growing season I realized. 

Water trucks carrying 2,000 gallons of water piped into their tank from the Fire Department dragged gray clouds of diesel exhaust into the trees; hopped up pickups with six or eight foot high shrink-wrapped pallets of fertilizer ratchet-strapped onto the bed wobbled over dirt roads; and various other vehicles of all shapes and sizes — notably a lot of lifted trucks with Cummins engines — blazed around corners, up grades, over bridges with the self entitled driving style of gangsters. 

After the five weeks of virus-caused near-death-experience enhanced watching of nature, it was jarring. In the extreme. Because I couldn’t visit friends and because I was going stir crazy. I went for drives with my dog, still a puppy, who was going double stir crazy. I began to notice greenhouses everywhere, most of them large enough to doubt their legality, some huge enough, janky enough they could never be legal. The more I drove around the more greenhouse plantations I discovered, the more vehicles of all shapes and sizes I found in my rearview mirror, riding my tail as if they had fires to put out, babies to deliver. 

For weeks I’d been in bed before dark every night. But one night I drove home after dark and noticed the hillside above my place lit up with greenhouse lights. Lights in the greenhouses across the creek from me were turned on and for the first time ever, the amazing, fantastically brilliant and complex, awe inducing night sky over Covelo was screwed up like the skies over Oakland, Chicago, LA, St. Louis or New York. 

On a Sunday afternoon, at the end of my five weeks on the Covid Coaster, I was getting ready to get back to work and the world, while getting into the design nitty gritty of a building project with clients. Just then we heard, as we were talking — again — the winding up of an vehicle engine at the far, north end of Road 337L. The whole road is about three quarters of a mile long. We heard the car hit 50 maybe 60 mph, heard it getting closer, then heard the terrible, high and shrill yipping of a dog hit by that car which never stopped, or even slowed down at all, not even a little bit. 

I dropped my clipboard and started running and very soon I was holding my dog in my arms as she cried and cried and cried, leg snapped in two, dangling in a very wrong and nasty kind of way. 

She is not a road colored dog. She is mostly white, very visible against blacktop. Whoever hit her wanted to hit her, perhaps tried to hit her. The self entitled driving style of gangsters. That person was driving some kind of dropped down, air manifold upsized type of Honda etc. (I know the sound.) It was coming from, I have no doubt, one of the large, and obviously very unregulated grows at the end of the street. 

That incident brought into vivid focus what had been lurking, gathering in my peripheral vision: that the growing scene in Covelo had gone into some kind of unchecked, bat shit crazy phase. No more hippies with their patches tucked away in the manzanita bushes lest they be seen by a CAMP helicopter, no more 25 plants zip-tied in your backyard.

No. Everything was out in the open, in your face, fuck-you style. 

I started driving down smaller and smaller, more remote roads, seeing larger and larger greenhouse situations, some possibly legal, most obviously not. I started asking friends for their stories, for what they were seeing. 

When a friend of mine left his amazing/beautiful house in the hills for a week I went up there for a sauna and a change of place. D’s house had always been a favorite for its amazing wind-lashed remoteness at the top of an almost vertical ravine/mountainside. 

When I got there I discovered that on the other side of his house — from the almost vertical ravine/mountainside across the one lane dirt road that led to his place — a greenhouse plantation had been set up with a generator, not the quiet kind, going 24/7. 

Later I asked D about that grow. He told me that further down the road there were a bunch of other grows, all large, all illegal, all run by people who, shall we say, were not the best of neighbors. The year before, at one of the grows, someone had been shot and the grow had been busted and pulled down but this year the same people were back and twice as strong. 

The stories that started coming back from friends were all of a piece. Out of control. … Scary. That the growing scene had gone on zombie steroids within the recent year or so. And: that the hardest, most zombie/aggressive vibes were coming from the huge, definitely illegal grows that were everywhere

At one grow, black tarps and metal roofing walls right up to the road, there had been at least FIVE fires started there over the last two years. At another, I heard, a guy had been threatened by people with AKs defending a grow on his property. 

People began to tell me stories of bureaucratic/enforcement nightmares: the greenhouses are under Building and Planning’s purview but the light pollution itself was under Fish and Game. BUT, one person told me, when you called Fish and Game to report light pollution they asked you for the plot/AP number of the parcel in question, wanted you — in this person’s words — “to do their job for them.” I heard that the state of things was a function of the Board of Supes who had pulled Sherriff Allman off the enforcement job when legalization happened and had done no enforcement since then. I heard a lot of things, saw fingers pointed in a number of directions, but one thing all the people I talked to agreed on was that things had gotten insane. 

On my way back from the vet in Lake County with my dog in the back seat, $4,000 worth of stainless steel holding her back right leg together, as I drove on Highway 162 into The Round Valley, I passed a bunch of Enforcement type of vehicles: pickups and jeeps with light bars on top and one seriously oversized rig painted the color of sand that looked like it was owned by the National Guard or the Marines. 

Turns out that convoy included folks from the DEA, the FBI, the San Jose Police, Mendocino County Sherriff, Fish and Game and the Tribal Police. (I hope I got everyone there.) They had just busted a very, very large and very, very obviously illegal grow directly and in full view across the road from the Covelo dump. There had been a murder and a disappearance connected to that grow which had brought the attention of the FBI, the San Jose Police, etc., and something had been done. But as I talked to more and more friends about the recent goings on it came out that that very large and illegal grow had been complained about by many people for quite some time

Is the current state of affairs a function of bureaucratic confusion and oversight? Do the powers that be have no money to enforce the laws? Do the powers that be have no will to enforce the laws? Do the powers that be have no clear mandate because of confusing, poorly written laws? Do the powers that be not give a rat’s ass about Covelo because it’s too far away, because all the people there are crazy, because because…? 

I offer a very genuine and very grateful THANK YOU for taking action, mustering the DEA, the FBI, the sheriff, Fish and Game etc. etc. etc. and doing something at that one grow, but if something will be done ONLY WHEN SOMEONE GETS MURDERED then — WTF? 

Powers that be: please advise. 

(Fed Up In Covelo)


  1. Also Concerned June 4, 2020

    Take the “do”s and the “?”s out of the second to last paragraph and you hit the nail on the head. I’m an extreme liberal who moved into rural/frontier CA a decade ago to see what was up. I’ll never leave it again, but the truth is, no one gives a “rat’s ass” about Covelo or any other frontier town. The ridiculous Dems wonder why all the rural counties vote for fascists….

    Keep on writing good citizen.

  2. Toni iversen June 5, 2020

    Why does it have to be ridiculous dems?Im not even going to play the back at cha game instead I’m going to tell you what was told to me when One Man Caused Insanity Tripping All Over Our Mountain here in Sonoma couny..I called the authorities and they said Everybody Needs to call them and call them any time you see anything they are doing because one complaint might sound like your picking on them or you just don’t like whoever .BUT another complaint and another this means serious business They told me to send in or call if they do ANYTHING !!If they spit on the street if they look at you menaceing or drive to fast .Believe me if your getting terrorized in the peacefulness of your own home property get rid of them with complaints ..They’ll get sick of hearing about it plus they don’t want them making money when “They”Could control monies for themselves in legal grow farms ..

  3. Shyla Peters June 7, 2020

    What s really out of control is your health and the fact that cdc didn’t quarantine you, while you are the only thing out of control in covelo, besides Matt kendall who gave this big spiel with lt. Shannon Barney whom also was a tyrant of covelo, before being moved to the coroner’s office, for reasons, that only the residents seem to know. Maybe there is a lot of green houses, but the real reason your fed up is because your dog got ran over, which everyone knows is gunna happen, when your dog is in the road chasing cars.The roads in covelo are narrow and dangerous , people even get ran over all the time. The marijuana scene is most residents only source of income in this small valley, that brings me back to the Matt kendall spiel saying he is going to clean covelo up which all sounded fine and dandy, until we started seeing their actions they only seem to be helping when the Hispanics are in trouble and arresting those that are standing up for themselves, cutting down greenhouses that are in compliance and not even bothering to check in with local authority before you ask for to much help, might want to consider the helps agenda and who your asking. Tom Allman did a great job here. A RESIDENT OF COVELO

  4. lauracooskey June 8, 2020

    I’m glad your dog pulled through okay. I offer nothing but sympathy for anyone (there are many of us) whose lives have been messed up by this crazy scene of selfish greed-rushers. I suppose some would say it’s karma–we had it too good for too long; it had to crash, and now we have to be the ones suffering from the radical degradation of our natural, social, aesthetic, economic, etc., worlds.
    I’m in Humboldt County, and in my area it’s damage of a smaller scale, but i think many of the challenges are the same: people are creating absolutely anti-social and anti-nature grow scenes and getting away with it because we’re still stuck in the neighborly mindset of feeling that it’s uncool to narc on anyone, to call in The Man against community members. So we suffer the double bummer of no law enforcement and no community shaming or habit of informing the offenders of their insults to our values. Those old values are becoming invisible, overshadowed by the want and need of money, whatever its price. People who pilot growdozers into crashes with resident dogs are not worthy of the term “neighbors” and not part of the “community.” It’s not fear of being unrighteous that keeps most of us from doing more to stop them… it’s fear of having our pets, our homes, our families, or ourselves harmed by these sociopaths that makes us think twice. That’s succumbing to the worst kind of bullying, submitting to thugs. I don’t know what will make it stop.
    Good luck in your neck of the woods. Happy that you recovered from the coronavirus! I enjoyed reading that story in the context of the neighborhood changes.

  5. Doxology June 8, 2020

    Was reading the paper because it is interesting, and I am curious about the north coast of California.

    Read your article, and a few more. Pasted “ Negie Fallis“ into Google just now….. Wow. Busted on your road. In a very loud car. A day after this article.

    Good job. Your dog is avenged. Some murdered people as well.

  6. Fed up June 8, 2020

    Who ever wrote this article I’m sure has a grow in thier back yard and is a hypocrite to say the least and if they had any type of values and morals to say the least they wouldn’t have been out in and about with the corona virus putting our small community at risk by thier selfish acts. That us out right disobeying our shelter in place order which is to keep us all safe. This individual took it upon them self to appoint themselves void to the rules of our society. Pure negligence and dangerous. Who ever you are you should be put on trial and charged with a crime for the attempt to infect our community with a virus that has changed our whole world as we new it. So tell us now who is the real criminal here. Yes I will say it. The person who wrote the article. The people who keep harassing stalking and threatening negie fallis. He served his time in prison for the crime he did commit and that was not murder. Reality is you people are miserable and have nothing better to do than be in everyone’s business except the business you need to be in which is your own. Clean up your own back yard first you hypocrite

  7. Betsy Toll September 8, 2020

    Good story, thanks for the update, and it’s good to know that you (and your pup) have made it through the summer. But your story feels kind like dragging my heart over broken glass, hearing about the changes in Covelo from 40 years ago when I was in the mountains outside Round Valley. Sad news.

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