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Bob ‘Chipmunk’ Glover

Last week’s story about Bob Glover’s participation in local politics incited me to go up to my attic archives and begin reading through the set of Anderson Valley Advocate newspapers stored up there. The Advocate I remind us was the monthly newspaper my wife and I founded in 1972 that survived for over two years as a cooperative of more than a dozen amateur reportorial and photographic journalists. It’s history is a story I think worth telling another time.

What I had forgotten before browsing its pages is that our paper began as a one issue promotional sheet for Richard Kossow’s campaign to unseat Homer Mannix as the local Justice Court judge. More important though I had also forgotten how much Bob Glover contributed reportorially to The Advocate. Reading episodically I found numerous instances where he wrote and helped research pieces for our pages, including AV history articles of great depth and even one time a “Boontling” crossword puzzle.

Boontling, for those of us who have forgotten, or never knew, was a local pseudo-language born in the farm fields of Bell Valley and Boonville back in the 19th century. It was a form of recreation whereby sweat labor could entertain itself sharing gossip about neighbors while hoeing around hops and row crops- instead of passively depending on portable radio music the way we do in the vineyard today, and in a jargon only understood by the participants. In 1970 a Chico State professor, Charles Bell published an academic work, Boontling, an American folk Language. Bell’s book reminds me that when I first arrived here in Anderson Valley, there was in Boonville a formal Boontling Club with members and regular meetings. Members’ names I hope familiar to us include Wallach, Rawles, McGimpsey, Bivans, Sanders, Pardini, and others, all of whom lived in Boonville, except, of course, Bob Glover.

And of course the most charismatic and Valley-wide known member of the association was “Chipmunk” himself. In my presence he was always throwing out “Boontlingo” words and phrases that sparked my Celtic soul. Phrases like the “High Shams”, “Poleeko” or “Backlands” to describe local neighborhoods, or “sharkin’ a brightlighter” or “codgie Kimmie snap barrelin tidric at the gano beemsh” to describe certain kinds of activities or people. I was a “brightligher” city person myself and knew sometimes the true Boonters were “sharkin’” me with their ambitions or stories.
In the early seventies, the national media, specifically network TV, heard about Boonville and Boontling, and I know of at least two incidents where Bob was the featured expositor on Anderson Valley and its folk language. The most dramatic was his participation in the Johnny Carson celebrity interview program in 1971 or so. I didn’t have a TV back then, but at least in my imagination I see Bob entering the show stage left, walking across to meet and sit at a desk right with Carson, and as he proceeds cross stage nodding approvingly at the quality of the audience’s applause for his appearance. Modest swagger, no fear. Did I see a tape of the show somewhere, or did I make this up? What I’ve been told is he rambled on with Johnny for fifteen or twenty minutes, throwing out a few Boont phrases and their interpretation to the delight of Carson and audience.

Then a year later a American rural culture TV journalist, Charles Kuralt, and mobile video crew visited Anderson Valley for a day or so to continue pursuing the theme of our quaint backwater and its indigenous lingo. Apparently the taped production shot several locations around the Valley, in Boonville with Club members and under the oaks up at Burger Rock south of town, interesting location, though various local sources claimed the actual programming lasted only one minute when it was aired. And of course Bob was the star local figure capturing the cameraman and editor’s eye. Well, today Boontling is a moribund, almost forgotten part of Anderson Valley’s past, despite the heroic efforts of Bob Glover to keep it alive.

In my last piece I mentioned Bob’s active interest in local politics and his unorthodox way of expressing it. Here’s another example of that interest: in the June, 1974 County Sheriff’s election race, Incumbent Reno Bartolome had an opponent. Wealthy coast rancher Bobby Beacon, semi-literate owner of 13,000 acres of timber and cattle south of Elk, decided he wanted to be sheriff and mounted an aggressive county-wide electoral campaign. For a reason I never determined, Bob Glover became Bobby Beacon’s unpaid campaign manager in Anderson Valley. Beacon knew nothing about crime prevention under law, and was a campy Rhinestone Cowboy who loved parading down the main street of Elk or at the Apple Fair Parade, with a Sharp’s rifle and in full dress cowboy regalia and tack said to be worth $25,000. Bobby also loved shooting at ranch trespassers hunting for abalone on the Highway 1 and ocean side of his Elk Ranch. Bob Glover never to my knowledge mounted a horse and didn’t even own a pistol.

One spring day I had a crew in my vineyard planting an acre of grapes in what once was the old Colson apple orchard. In those days my labor crew was not Mexican, rather hippie friends like Tom English, Wayne Ahrens, Tom Grange, Benton Kelly, and so on, five of us that day. It was after lunch, a warm day, and we were drowsily digesting our food as we feigned work, when I heard a vehicle drive into the vineyard. Out of his old Ford van stepped Bob Glover and the sheriff candidate Bobby Beacon. The next hour was so stimulating it awoke us from our near-naps. Bobby Beacon was a great story-teller, nothing about political issues pertinent to law enforcement, only about growing up wealthy on a 13,000 acre ranch and about his philanthropy to the town of Elk, like the new fire truck, support for the local softball team, the coffin on the back bar of his Elk restaurant he sometimes napped in, etc.

After an hour the candidate’s handler supposed it was time to move on to the next appointment. We all were now wide-awake, had done not a minute of grape-planting during the visit, instead gathering around the two Bobs to hear the stories, so back to work we went digging holes and planting grapes. For the rest of the afternoon and into the following weeks I wondered what motivated Bob to bring candidate Bobby around to us. I was probably the only registered voter on the crew, definitely the only one informed of county government affairs and personalities. Later I realized it was another form of entertainment for “Chipmunk,,” another way of getting to engage with all the pieces of the complex Anderson Valley community by throwing us the Bobby Beacon curveball to see how we’d handle it.

And this was the Bob Glover way- in business or pleasure navigate The Valley in the most unconventionally provocative manner possible as a way of getting to know all of us more intimately.

Back to Bob and provocative business practices. In 1975 or so, he and I designed and he installed a domestic water well on top of a seasonal spring a quarter of a mile from my house. It was the kind of difficult engineering and electrical project we both enjoyed. His work was scrupulously durable in both equipment and installation; I am still using the water source 46 years later, drought conditions and all. But I couldn’t get Bob to bill me for his work, a not inconsiderable amount for the time, maybe $1,200. Stiffing local goods and services businesses is hateful to me, and once every three months or so I would phone Bob to remind him to send me an invoice.

Meanwhile, I began hearing reports about the payment matter from a few friends around The Valley. Bob was advising anyone interested that Brad Wiley was a deadbeat, had owed him money from a job done six, nine months, a year ago. So to end the game I drove over to his home one afternoon when I knew he wasn’t there, and asked his wife Ava, who I knew did his bookwork do get me a bill. Ava acknowledged she knew nothing about the work, found the records for it, and sent me a bill within a week, fifteen months after the due date. Hmmm. Was provocative gossip more important to Bob than money in hand?

In retrospect I will propose that Bob Glover’s most important and enduring contribution to The Valley was his profound and intimate knowledge of its history going back to his Guntly and Gschwend ancestors’ arrival here in 1855. Herewith let me describe and illustrate the depth of his recollective capabilities (more on that made-up term later).

The July, 1973 Advocate centerfold is devoted to Bob’s report on Walter Gchwend’s horse-driven stump puller - accompanied by a beautifully reproduced photo our photography staff took. The stump-puller was a mechanical device used by first generation settlers to turn redwood forest into cultivable farmland, thus an important tool in the agricultural development of Anderson Valley. The all-steel device was in essence a vertically standing spool capturing about a hundred feet of 1” woven wire and supported by a steel frame that also bolted it to an anchor-shaped plow. Part of the spool frame’s top were two 4 inch “eyes” through which was inserted a pepperwood fir “walking bar” to which the power device would be attached.

Stump Puller

To research actual operation of the stump puller Bob’s did an in-depth interview with 94 year old Monte Bloyd, his uncle Walter’s kin by marriage. What Bob in elegantly careful detail then reports is the story of the first stump pulling event at Gschwend Ranch, about 1900, I am guessing. First though Bob recounts the source of this now-forgotten farm machinery. The manufacturer was Hercules Mfg. Co., in Centreville, Iowa who shipped it to Walter at “Christine, Cala (sic).

Day after arrival Walter calls brother-in-law Monte for help, and they begin by making out of Douglas fir logs a skidder to which they bolted the puller. Next they engaged Gschwend plow mule, “Katie,” and skidded the whole show up near the ranch “clay pit.” Now with precision recites the details of a successful stump pull. First Walter selected two stumps close to one another, one “large,” one “medium,” I can only guess over 8’ for one, maybe 5’ for the other. They then attach a “choker” cable to the larger stump, making it the “dead-man” or anchor for the operation, next winding the longer cable around the smaller stump and back to the puller, each step done using Katie as the organic Cat D-6. 

Then Katie was harnessed into the end of the pepperwood walking bar and coaxed into a circular transit around the puller. As the cable wires became taut, the puller and skidder rose a few inches off the ground, so the horse had to step over each of them as she drove the winch. Bob’s report: “Walter thought they should stop and look things over so he yelled, ‘whoa,’ and the mule stopped, the ratchet dogs fell in place holding the cable tension and the mule could rest with no pull on the walking beam. Monte felt the large cable and said, ‘Walter, this is so tight I could play music on it if I had a bow.’ Walter replied, ‘You ain’t seen nothing yet, stand back, I am going to pull some more.’”

Bob then reports the yarders began hearing roots on the back side of the smaller stump begin to snap, then the ground began to tremble at its base as larger roots were breaking loose, finally with a loud groan the stump broke free and rolled on its side, the cables settled back to ground, and Katie took a few more turns around the puller to completely free the stump roots from the ground.

Walter not only used the puller all over Gschwend Ranch, he also rented the equipment, sometimes himself and Katie, to other farmers clearing redwood stumps on their property. In his article Bob’s story deviates from what he recounted to me some 35 years after the first pull event. The article recounts Walter’s last pulling job being for Ted and Maude Ingram down in Navarro, true enough. But here’s where I tell a different tale reported directly from the historian’s lips. In the photo accompanying this article you see Walter’s stump puller on a skid. I own the Ingram property, my home and vineyard, and around 1975 I built under Bob’s direction the skid you see in the photo.

What he told me back then was that in 1937 Walter rented the puller to “Fat” Clow, Jack’s uncle, who had leased the Ingram Ranch and was running cows on the 235 acre place. Well, Fat did apparently use the stump a bit, I am not certain where, or why it ended up near the Guntly/Ingram house and barn down near Highway 128. There are today a couple of pulled over stumps in the 6’ diameter range nearby its current abandoned site. Bob said to me Walter “lent” the puller to Fat; and Fat never returned it. Who knows. What I do know it’s a wonderful artifact of farm life in the pre-internal combustion age and belongs at the Anderson Valley Historical Society Museum at Con Creek School, and I’ve been promising myself for two generations to deliver it there.

Before I go, one more Bob Glover the socialite story, this one recounted me by Boonville raconteur Mike Reeves. I’ve described that Bob’s acquaintances, and friendships around the Valley, were remarkably diverse and broadcast. I never saw him in a bar or restaurant around The Valley. Rather he socialized mostly via business calls. He also left The Valley from time to time, not just to travel, but also to attend movies and theatre in Santa Rosa and south. One time Mike reports Bob accosted him somewhere in Boonville and asked if he and his wife would like to accompany Bob down to The City to see the opulent porn movie, Deep Throat — I am not making this up.

(Next Week: Bob Glover, historian and mushroom docent.)

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