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Valley People (October 13, 2021)

COLIN WILSON of Yorkville, retired AV Fire Chief, writes: “We’ve been seeing a lot of PG&E contractors out here in the Yorkville area for a couple of weeks or more. Starting last week, possibly the week before, we started seeing relatively large numbers of various types of vehicles staged in a few locations throughout the neighborhood. We didn’t think much about it the first few times but over the course of several days it has become apparent that it was a general pattern that is being repeated day after day. 

“The accompanying photo shows the type of thing we’ve been seeing. 

The total number of vehicles I observed Tuesday at about 2 PM along Hwy 128 between mile markers 39.1 and 45.99 (over about 7 miles) was: over 16 pick-ups, 4 box trucks for carrying chips, good-sized 6 boom trucks, and 3 or 4 large chippers. This equipment was parked all day. I saw it on my way to town Tuesday morning and it was all still there when I checked around 2 PM Tuesday afternoon. There was additional equipment that was actually being used but these vehicles just sat. 

 “Day after day we see similar numbers of vehicles parked idle all day long.

On one hand I’m very grateful that PG&E is investing so much in clearing vegetation within and adjacent to their Right of Way. I think it’s exactly what they need to be doing and I’m all in favor of aggressively clearing the power lines.

 “The concern that I have is that it appears that the contractors are stacking the deck by putting a lot more equipment in the field than they can possibly utilize and — guessing here — undoubtedly billing for it. 

“A lot of this equipment appears to be brand new. I think it likely the contractors have gone all in by purchasing new vehicles to meet the bid package requirements and now are putting everything they possibly can on the job sites so that they can bill for it, even when they can’t possibly utilize more than a portion of it. 

"I’m definitely reading between the lines but I think my assumptions are pretty reasonable given what I’m seeing.

 “I wouldn’t particularly care what kind of shenanigans PG&E contractors were pulling but every dollar that’s wasted is a dollar that’s not available for legitimate work, and, additionally, I think it quite likely that this apparent over billing will in the end, show up on my PB&E bill.”

THE LINE-CLEARING contract between PG&E and mega-tree trimming corp Asplundh Tree Expert, LLC has riled and roused the rural Mendo population. Asplundh is based in Pennsylvania. Its blurb says they “specialize in tree pruning and vegetation management for utilities and government agencies.” Scott M. Asplundh is boss man. They do tree blitzing all over the world. Wikipedia says they made $3.9 billion in 2017. If you haven’t already suffered an invasion of Asplundh crews, take a look at the job they did at the northwest end of the Greenwood Bridge.

ASPLUNDH seems to be on the way to making another billion off PG&E here in Mendocino County given the number of their vehicles parked along 128, as recently described by Colin Wilson of Yorkville. People are complaining that not only do they do sloppy and destructive work, and have been known to get belligerently in landowner’s faces if they complain, their crews of imported workers tend not to bother to pick up their meal leavings after themselves. 

ON LINE COMMENTS RE PG&E’s tree clearing contractor Asplundh and their seemingly under-utilized vehicle fleet parked empty along Highway 128:

 [1] After the PG&E tree crews visited my neighborhood last year the woods were full of junk food wrappers, take out containers, beverage containers, and used toilet paper. They also left a lot of tree trash scattered wherever. (Stanley Kelley, Mendocino Coast)

[2]  I was seeing and thinking the same thing in Comptche a year ago. Tree crews everywhere, for a long time seeming to be inefficient and disorganized. At one point I questioned a young woman who was checking to make sure work that was supposed to be done, was done. I expressed Collin’s concern about who was paying for all this inefficient activity. She told me the work was being done on a contract basis. That is hard to believe, but that is what I was told. In Comptche these out of town crews had GPS points for where work was needed, but no road maps, or landowner contact information. So they would spend at least half their time lost. Really. One large bucket truck tried to go up a narrow driveway and went off in a ditch. A large tow truck was required to get the truck out. I expressed my opinion to the young woman overseer that what I was seeing was a reflection of poor management, and not the fault of the crews. She agreed.

 [3] In my neighborhood in Brooktrails, a large amount of these vehicles have been parked at our airport, they have not been used at all. The vehicles sit there day after day. They are all brand new. They also knocked down a memorial stone dedicated to a man who had worked at the airport and had died there in an aircraft accident. The memorial stone has not been set upright to this day. 

UPDATE ON CHERRY GREEN, Anica Williams writes: “I wanted to update you on one our beloved Village members - Cherry Green. Her daughter Taunia said that Cherry is currently in a care facility called 'A Nice Care Home' in Nice, Lake County and doing well. Her little dog Molly is by her side. Cherry is allowed to have visitors who are vaccinated and would love to hear from her many friends in the Valley - especially since it is her birthday Thursday, 10/7. Give her a text or a call: (607) 348-4394."

CONSTANT TRAFFIC in water trucks through the Anderson Valley, most of them headed to the Mendocino Coast to keep the village of Mendocino and the town of Fort Bragg in the very stuff of life. One more year of drought like this year and… more property for sale, with full disclosure required — depending on annual rains, this property may or may not come with water.

WT JOHNSON sold Starr Automotive and planned to retire but continued to be bombarded with requests from his old customers and friends to get rid of junked cars fouling the local roadsides. Most of us know him from his years of rescue work with Starr. (WT’s hauled me out of a couple of jams, one of which I thought was impossible to do.) A personable, hardworking guy, WT finds himself in something of a predicament because his ongoing junked car removal effort was and is being done in lieu of an effective county abandoned vehicle abatement program. WT thought he had a deal with a local property owner to store abandoned vehicles on a much less visible property, but that agreement fell through and, having no other place to temporarily store his collected wrecks, WT has had to put them in his front yard, which just happens to be adjacent to Highway 128, thus attracting complaints from travelers at the unsightly visual. WT emphasizes that his accumulated cars are temporary at his place “until I can find a lot.” WT also said Friday he is going to erect a fence between his place and the highway.

BOONVILLE, EYES ONLY: Wendy Kerski alerts us: “I wanted to share to the community that my garage was broken into and attempted stealing of items in Gun Safe during the summer… in Boonville. Everyone should lock your doors, garages and sheds. The suspect is a juvenile and there is a bench warrant out for his arrest, for not showing up to court. I was always under the impression that this is a small, safe and quiet town but it is inevitable that crime happens, fortunately the juvenile was unsuccessful with breaking in. If you see something that looks tampered with, call and report it, the Sheriffs did a good job fingerprinting and identifying the suspects.”

FLU SHOT CLINIC AT ANDERSON VALLEY SENIOR CENTER, 14470 Hwy. 128 in Boonville, October 19 at 1 pm. Please call 895-3609 and leave a message with your contact info to get on the list. You may also email:

Please bring your insurance card the day of the clinic.

A LOCAL WONDERS: “Am I off my rocker or did I see this type of creature (Fisher) running thru grass & trees off 128 between Philo and AV Way? Anyone else see anything like this? 

(Google image)

REBECCA BRENDLIN TO RETIRE. Superintendent Simson writes: “You may have heard the news that our beloved Rebecca Brendlen has decided to hang up her tiara and retire effective mid-December. She is the longest serving employee in the district and her amazing skills, knowledge, collaboration, and attention to detail is a huge loss to our staff and students. But, we can only honor her for her amazing career at AVUSD and thank her for her service. We have posted her position on Edjoin. This is a critical hire as all of our funding actually ties through her amazingly detailed reports about students and their demographics. She also handles reporting for ELPAC, CAASPP, and so much more. We need to find someone that is comfortable with data and databases and can trace the errors.... Do you know anyone? If you do, have them call Vero or me, and we’ll go from there on next steps. Details on how we will celebrate Rebecca will follow."

OVER THE LONG YEARS I’ve tried to explore Mendocino County’s little known back roads, hearing about them here and there, usually in offhand contexts. “Butler Ranch Road is a shortcut to the McNab Ranch,” a friend mentioned in passing just the other day. Having driven past that driveway-looking dirt road that runs south, mostly, off the lower reach of the Ukiah Road, we all pass Butler Ranch Road on our trips to and from Ukiah. I also remember the Butler Ranch Road from the days when the Butler Family opened their ridgetop cherry orchard to any and all u-pick visitors. That annual free event was very big with hippies back when there were still hippies, and advertised widely in their media, such as it was, but the mere mention of “free” attracted quite a crowd. 

SO OFF I drove for an exploration of Butler Ranch Road on a slow Tuesday morning. It’s well maintained but often 4-wheel steep, and it’s a long climb with no visible structures until you nearly reach the top where, lying to the north there’s a gray scatter of structures around a rather lavish main house with a requisite swimming pool that looks as if it were plucked from the Hollywood Hills and plunked down in the middle of literal nowhere, this particular nowhere being amidst a dusty vista of scrub oak and struggling madrone. The Butler road would certainly discourage drop-ins and doesn’t offer much in the way of the stunning long-distance visuals common, say, on the Mina Road out of Covelo, or 162 out of Covelo over to Willows on I-5, two of my favorite drives.

FINALLY REACHING the ridgetop where Butler becomes McNab after about a forty-five minute climb, there are suddenly lots of mysterious driveways and scruffy settlements of the shipping container and abandoned tractor type interspersed with suburban-looking homes. McNab’s heavily settled all the way to Highway 101. 

ON THE WAY DOWNHILL, I caught sight of movement on my right where a large mound of flesh wildly gestured for me to stop. Truth to tell, I always carry a gat on my explorations into back country Mendo, rural headquarters for what has become a national catchment for outlaws belatedly — five years belatedly — hoping to cash in on the dope boom. It was hard to tell if this guy was having a Big Mac attack or I’d accidentally driven on to his property. He seemed alarmed. No sign of a weapon on the guy, though, so I stopped, rolled down my passenger side window to talk to him, certain I was on the public road. I zapped him with a big phony smile and asked, “Wazzup?” like I’d heard cool young guys greet each other. “Who are you and what do you want?” he demanded. If I were still in my salad days, I’d probably have told him that as a free American I was under no obligation to explain myself to anyone, least of all obese hill muffins. But this man just looked uncomprehending, confused, not particularly hostile, so I courteously explained that I was from the Boonville newspaper and I was just like kinda you know sort of like driving through an area I’d never driven through before. “Boonville has a newspaper?” he asked. Justifiable skepticism, I suppose, but reasonable certainly as newspapers everywhere have either blinked off or soon will. Not only does Boonville have a newspaper but schools, a brewery, indoor plumbing. The works! I didn’t say that because as quickly as he’d appeared, the big man bustled nimbly off and soon disappeared among shipping containers. I drove on. I realized that despite signs of settlement all around me I was still at the very peak of the north end of the McNab Ranch, far enough off the beaten path to rouse residents who, particularly at this time of year, are justly suspicious of outsiders. The rest of the trip was uneventful, and soon I was on 101. If you mistakenly assume that Butler Ranch Road is a shortcut to Hopland, or a shortcut even to the top of the McNab Ranch, I’m here to tell you that you’d better stick to the pavement.


  1. Debra Keipp October 30, 2021

    Pacific Fisher Cats are more closely related to weasels, minks, otters and skunks. Fishers used to be seen frequently between the Boonville dump and the Owens’s property below the dump. When climbing Mountain View by car at night, Fishers could often be seen scurrying into the brush on the shoulder of the road. But, after the environmental disturbance caused by the Owens’s fatal fire at their place last year, I haven’t seen one Fisher roadside, since! Another possible reason for their disappearance from that area where they are frequently spotted, cars keep descending downhill too fast when hitting the wet curve between the dump and Owens’s, and have been skidding off road in the rain there frequently right in the spot where I’ve seen the Fishers’ trail. Three single-car wrecks there that I’ve seen in the last few months. One guy hit a big tree on the way off the cliff and wound up hospitalized.
    Anyway, with all the cars crashing off cliff and into the brush, fire damage and human interloping into Fisher territory up on Mountain View, these carnivorous mammals have most probably moved downhill to the creek bed behind AV Way. There’s alot of wildlife back there. When I had my horse on AV Way, I saw a mountain lion, and a huge coyote chasing deer, down in the creek bed.
    True, Fisher populations are depleted here with the encroachment of humans. Fisher Cats have been known to attack and eat other small mammals like cats and squirrels, similar in size to the Fisher. Sable in color, they resemble otters, with cat-like ears and their tail descending from the rump is more the webbed shape of a badger than a cat. I’m guessing they’re about 20-30 lbs.

  2. Debra Keipp October 30, 2021

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