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Mendocino County Today: September 12, 2012

REGIONAL FIRE UPDATE: September 11 Scotts Fire (Cow Mountain east of Ukiah). Morning update: 4,618 acres; 50% contained; 1,625 fire personnel. Fire crews made significant progress overnight in building and holding containment lines. Full containment is expected by September 15.

LAST SATURDAY AFTERNOON, A 26-year-old male hitchhiker came running into the Redwood Drive-In, Boonville, to place a 911 call. According to eyewitnesses at the Drive-In, the kid, later identified as Juan Orr of Chico, had obviously been punched in the face and, the victim himself said, "kicked and stomped" by the "two Americans" who'd picked him up on 128. Instead of continuing to drive Mr. Orr south on Orr's journey from the Mendocino Coast, the "two Americans" drove their prey some distance up Mountain View Road where they beat him until he gave them $800 in cash, his cellphone and his backpack. Last seen, the "two Americans" were headed west towards Manchester. Orr was very unhappy that no one would stop to help him as he desperately tried to flag down passersby headed towards Boonville. When he got to Boonville, Orr was soon carried by the Anderson Valley Ambulance to the Ukiah Medical Center where he was treated for cuts and bruises and released.


BUT THE TWO ROBBERS were soon taken into custody near Manchester by Deputy Paoli who'd been alerted they were heading his way. They are identified as Timothy Donald Gitchel and Thomas Joseph Valdez, both of Albion. SO MANY WACKY young parents are refusing to vaccinate their children, a bunch of them here in Mendocino County of course, that the state legislature to approve a bill requiring parents to discuss vaccinations with a pediatrician or a school nurse before they can opt-out. Governor Brown has until the end of September to sign or veto it.

SPORTS NOTES. A friend gave me a box seat ticket to Saturday's Giants vs. Dodgers game, a box seat in section 101, deep in the right field corner. A few steps away from the Will Call window I looked at this unexpected blessing and read that the seat had cost $136. Better not wave this baby around, I thought. Someone might snatch it out of my palsied hand and sprint off to Scalper Land with it. $136? This must mean free drinks and all the negative food value items you can eat. But I remembered that the Giants maintain a "flexible pricing system," meaning that they jack up ticket prices for those games that people are especially keen to see. The flex policy flexes downward for games people don't want to see. My seat was five rows up from the visitor's bullpen. It was a seat like any other, and it came with no freebies. No sooner had I settled in than I had to duck a screaming line drive that ricocheted around the empty seats behind me until it was finally grabbed by a tatooed man dressed like a small boy in a Giant's jersey and a pair of pants that ended just below his knees. He carried his own baseball glove. The left handed hitters were drilling lots of batting practice foul balls right at us. I'd forgotten how hard major league ballplayers can hit a baseball. I once saw Orlando Cepeda hit one so hard it  knuckled all the way to the left field wall. I haven't owned a baseball glove in years, but I could have used one Saturday, imagining myself jumping up and snagging one from the tatooed 'tard in the short pants. There was also an unsuccessfully tattooed cop standing behind the bullpen, or maybe his right arm was beginning to age and his tats were all running together. As it was, he looked like a leper. I suppose he was positioned there to keep drunks from rushing the field, but at these prices the people seated around me were a sedate mix of the middleaged-to-old with a few grandkids who constantly chirped, "I wanna wanna wanna wanna, Dadeeeee!" Four forty-ish women in front of me got steadily drunk, taking turns for the trek to the liquor stand, laughing uproariously at the mildly lewd hip thrusts of Lou Seal, the Giants mascot, and constant ballpark reminder of how infantilized the population of our fine, fat land has become. I yearned for the Candlestick days when fans so often assaulted Krazy Krab the Giants had to retire him for the safety of the guy inside the costume. The ballpark demographic has changed from rowdy to well behaved, but then the ballpark has also changed from post-industrial Candlestick to gizmo-corporate AT&T with thousands of seats now occupied by non-fans who get their tickets as part of their signing bonuses down the street at in China Basin. Candlestick was often wayyyyy outtahand, but how can you knock fans with the aesthetic good sense to pelt a cartoon character with beer bottles? Bochy probably lost Saturday's game 3-2 when he let Cain hit with two outs and the bases loaded, and Cain, who struck out, was pulled anyway the next inning, and the seagulls swooped down on the tons of garbage left in the stands by the departing gourmands, and off we went into the cool sunshine on the water, a great mass of sated Americans moving like massed pods of landlocked Belugas, homeward bound.

THE SUPERVISORS COMMENCED budget talks Monday and Tuesday, flying blind because some large costs for the 2012-13 fiscal year aren't yet totaled. Health care costs for County employees and non-Medicare-eligible retirees continue to rise, but CEO Carmel Angelo says she doesn't anticipate layoffs but does anticipate a balanced budget.

IN RESPONSE to ongoing complaints from her Redwood Valley neighbors, and the horse associations of two counties, a beleagured Redwood Valley woman has again eluded animal cruelty charges as DA David Eyster last week issued this statement: “My Chief Investigator, Captain Smallcomb, and a veterinarian did a site inspection. The conclusion at that time was there was insufficient evidence to support a criminal prosecution. The opinions of the “horse people’ go back many years (beyond the Statute of Limitations) and their current opinions of ‘abuse’ run counter to what the vet concluded to my investigator at the scene.”

WHEN I READ the review copy blurb of Roni McFadden's memoir called “The Longest Trail, a true life novel,” it said I was in for a “coming-of-age tale in a magnificent setting.” I tried to remember the last time I read anything even remotely comparable. Johnny Tremaine? Misty of Chincoteague? I would have been about ten, and I remember the two books fondly, but I haven't read anything from the now-huge teen girl genre. Ever. And reading a book about a young girl and horses in my maturity if not dotage? Not to be too much of an oinker about it, I did not look forward to the experience. “Hmmm,” I thought, “a kind of prose chick flick.” But having admired Ms. McFadden's devotion to the well-being of these magnificent creatures back when I was covering the Denoyer case — suspected murderer and horse torturer — I started to read and darned if I wasn't captured, captivated even, by Ms. McFadden's story of how she saved herself from falling into the often irretrievable teen abyss of drugs and self-destructive behavior by her early affinity for horses, an affinity she was able to convert to a way of life pursued to this day near Willits. There's a lot of interesting stuff in this book about everything from pack trips into the Sierras to the transportation of horses, all of it told in a clear prose that moves right along. The Longest Trail gets both thumbs up from the AVA and can be found in any local bookstore.

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