Press "Enter" to skip to content

Valley People (March 23, 2024)

TYLER NEIL of Yorkville died late last week of complications from pneumonia after falling ill in January. The Benefit on April 6 at the Fairgrounds in Boonville is still on to raise money to help his surviving widow and their three kids. Neil was a well-liked road crew member at the Boonville Yard and will be hard to replace. Donations can also be sent directly to the family at PO Box 53, Yorkville, 95494. 

RENEE LEE: You never know when a moment is going to become a cherished memory. RIP, Tyler. Prayers to Megan and family.

Tyler Neil & Ricky Lee

TERRY SITES: Tyler’s wife Meagan is comforted by knowing that Tyler is finally resting in peace after his two-year struggle after first contracting pneumonia.

THE WINE INDUSTRY’S ANNUAL ASSAULT on Anderson Valley began again for 2024 early Friday morning, March 15, when the first of their giant frost protection machines broke Friday morning’s quiet sleep of thousands of Valley residents with their now-familiar rumble. This nuisance goes back to spring of 2011 when the wine industry started using these infernal machines to keep a few of their precious buds from freezing. As Philo Grape Grower Ted Bennett told some complainers at the time: “My grapes are more important than your sleep.” Although the local wine industry said at the time that there was a permit process that addressed “noise, placement and need” of the rattletrap fans, that was a blatant lie since the “permit process” addressed only concrete and electrical considerations. When the Major sued the County to implement the same permit process that the wine people said was in place (but was not), County Counsel Doug Losak, speaking for the County as a whole, responded by saying that the Major would have to put up a $1 million bond just to be allowed to sue! Losak also said that the fans were not a nuisance because they’d been in use in the Ukiah Valley for pear growing since the 1950s. Not one Supervisor — especially Anderson Valley’s then-Supervisor Dan Hamburg — said word one on the record about the problem. Now that the fans have been in use since 2011, the claim that they are a new nuisance no longer even applies. The fans have become another giant nuisance on top of the pesticides, water draws, and other “agricultural” (i.e., grapes) nuisances heaped on locals so that a few grape growers can produce and sell fancy wine. 


The AVCSD’s General Manager Cora Richard has announced that she is resigning as of the March. District Secretary Patty Liddy had previously announced her resignation at about the same time. Rather than hire direct replacements, the Board is considering some internal reorganizations which will be discussed further at next Wednesday’s Board meeting at the Boonville Firehouse at 3pm. 


Are you interested in learning more about good fire, prescribed and cultural fire, and its use on your land? The Center for Environmental Inquiry at Sonoma State University is producing a series of public education events sponsored by the Mendocino County Fire Safe Council. Join us to learn more about good fire.

The first in the series is a virtual Zoom meeting on Thursday, March 28, from 5:00 – 6:30 pm. Entitled Is Fire the Right Tool for Your Job?,” this event will help you understand the reasons to burn and then envision the impact prescribed fire could have on your land to help you decide if you want to consider it.

The second event, How to Prepare Your Land for Good Fire,” will be in person at the Galbreath Wildlands Preserve in Yorkville, southern Mendocino County, on Saturday, April 13 from 2:00 - 4:00 pm. The focus will be on how to prepare for using good fire to achieve your management objectives. Registration for this one is very limited.

The last of the series will deal with documentation requirements and other prerequisites needed to get good fire on your land. The date and time are to be determined.

Expert presentations will be provided by Andres Avila, fire chief of the Anderson Valley Fire Department; Sasha Berleman, director of Audubon Canyon Ranch’s Fire Forward program; andMike Jones, forestry advisor for Mendocino, Lake and Sonoma counties at the University of California Agriculture and Natural Resources, and chair of the Mendocino County Prescribed Burn Association.

For more information and to register, go to

The events are all free of charge and registration is required.


Hey Boonville!

Are your dogs running loose?

Were they loose this weekend?

Did you see dogs running around the high school this weekend?

A dog or dogs got onto the high school farm and killed two young deer. We found them today. Pictures in the comments. We found paw prints in the mud. We saw the skid marks from the deer running scared. You can bet I have called animal control.

The gates that many people use to walk through to the farm down to Estate Drive are going to be locked. I can't have gates left open so dogs can get inside the farm. We have livestock that are sometimes out of their usual area. 

I am sorry the deer were killed. I am very glad none of the expensive student livestock projects were harmed. Dogs are not allowed on the high school campus. 

(Beth Swehla, AV High School Ag Director)

* * *

Adrian Maldonado: I have posted several times about loose dogs and dog poop all over the soccer field and school in the past. Dogs on or off leashes should be banned from the park and anywhere on campus. This should become an ordinance and fines must be imposed. It’s irresponsible on many levels. There isn’t a place in town to get away from this poop literally and metaphorically.

I'M HUMBLED, awash in a virtual tsunami of good wishes for my return to health, and guilty that in my present depleted state I can't thank all of you individually.

It’s Saturday and I've just gotten home from an excruciating eight days confined to Marin General Hospital, whose medical staff, in kindness and curative skills are the equal of Mission Bay. So much time and energy into one old worn out man. 

There was one particularly awful day of no food and water in preparation for late afternoon testing where I felt like I was crawling across the Mojave on a 130 degree day. By 2pm I could barely restrain myself from lunging for the water jug, Toughest physical day ever for me, and I've had a few.

It was interesting talking with the nurses, all of whom are so young they could be my great-grandchildren. One said she'd received a great blessing in Boonville. Now Boonville is a wonderful place chock full of truly good people, but the dispensing of benedictions was a gift I'd assumed was beyond the power of our community. “I got the animal love of my life at Bee Hunter Winery,” she said, referring to the wine outfit at the old Live Oak building which Anne Fashauer now owns. And out came her camera with an archive of photos of a fetching little black and white canine.

Another nurse said she'd been a tiny hippie in Navarro on property owned ever since by Doug Johnson, the Anderson Valley's gifted Deep End potter. The nurse explained that her parents had been back-to-the-landers and had bought the property in anticipation of years of movin' and groovin', but Mom and Dan had resumed life in the Great Outside, but the nurse daughter said, “I stop in to buy pottery from Doug every time I travel up your way. I love the man.” 

A doctor said he'd enjoyed Boonville Beer, but other than the doc's suds memory, those of the two lady nurses were the extent of Anderson Valley encounters, and both of those specific and interesting. Pretty good site recognition, though, for our Anderson Valley.

I've asked my two colleagues, Mark and Mike, to comb the archives for stuff I've written in the past to flesh out Off The Record and Valley People, wincing as I go because I won't be able to edit them. But due to my present depleted state that will have to do, until, I hope, some time late in April. And you will have noted my blithe assumption that these items will be of interest. I hope they hold up well enough.

I've been lucky to have been treated at two great hospitals, Mission Bay and Marin General. I've been struck by the smoothly functioning, multi-ethnicity of the nursing staffs, and doubly struck by how well everyone works together. In an ebullient moment I said to my daughter, perennial target of unsolicited patriarchal wisdom, “This is what the world should look like and be like. harmonious.” 

Don't get carried away, Mr. Pollyanna. Behind the saintly functioning us fortunate patients see, I'm sure there are labor beefs and all the squabbles inevitable among human beings. But still, I think anybody who's been a patient at either of these two remarkable hospitals comes away humming kumbayas.

All of which made the sudden, stern appearance of three women at the foot of my bed rather startling because the lead figure fairly demanded, “How do you rate the care you've been receiving?” She said it in a way that suggested she was more than receptive to a negative eval. “If my care were any better,” I said, “I'd be dead and attended by angels.” Thank you, the grim trio chorused. “Have a nice day.”

One caveat at Marin General: the coffee. It's so bad I thought maybe the kitchen had screwed up and sent up a cup of woodchips with hot water poured over them. “Oh the coffee here has always been like that,” a nurse laughed. Very odd for Marin where every third person can deliver a master's thesis on the history of the coffee bean, and coffee tastings are almost as common as wine samplings.

Hospital reading was confined to the local newspapers and Paul Theroux's latest, a novel called, “Burma Sahib,” a title that caught the attention of an East Indian nurse who was perhaps only three generations removed from the British Raj herself, hence her interest. Surely her grandparents would have relayed to her the full picture of that unhappy colonialism. I've done nearly a month in the two hospitals now. She was the first person curious about my bedside books. “What's that about?” she asked, slightly suspicious that her patient might be nostalgic for Rule Britannia. “It's about George Orwell's tour as a colonial policeman in Burma in his young years right out of Eton.” The nurse said she was familiar with Orwell, “but I didn't know he was a colonial policeman.” I recommended she read his “Burmese Days,” one of the great anti-colonial novels with which Orwell struck a strong blow against the Raj and colonialism generally.


The Editor’s update and photo last week certainly conveys his difficult circumstances. Jesus, what an ordeal! Hopefully the trajectory will be upward and homeward from here on. Good thing you went into this in relatively great shape. All those miles and push-ups are probably serving you in good stead, even though it may not feel like it right now. 

The Major delivered an enjoyable bit of history as the first act of Saturday night's Variety Show. I forget what the language entanglement delivery was called, a first cousin of pig latin, but it did help soften some of the storyline a bit. He delivered a 2011 AVA article about three Mexican kids getting ripped off for weed and money by some black mopes from Oakland packing heat. And the locals turned to Keith for assistance. Sure could use an updated version of Keith right about now. But, of course, now all the Mexicans would also be packing heat so there would probably be some first degree carnage before anyone thought to call the cops for help. 

Our wonderful Volunteer Fire folks were out in the pelting rain at sundown last week controlling traffic around a spot a few miles west of Navarro where someone had managed to careen down a steep embankment off into the woods. Looked like the driver was probably ok, but car extrication was going to be challenging. Must have accidentally swerved for some reason as it was a fairly straight stretch of road. Rain just pouring down.

Happy to see some sunshine on Monday and will try not to get concerned by the forecasted 75 on Friday. 

So sorry about the end of the print edition! I know that would have been a difficult decision to make. But completely understandable!

Sending good vibes your way every day. I would close with “This too shall pass,” but under the circumstances, I would not want to make you gag. 

BACK IN THE EARLY 2000s, Anderson Valley High School called the Sheriff's Department to have a 15-year-old taken into custody for allegedly threatening to blow up coach Jason Page's pick-up truck. It was the day after a kid had opened fire on a high school campus near San Diego. AVHS seemed to share the popular misconception that every other adolescent is about to go for his gun, which is not the case. In any case, Mr. Page, the owner of the truck that wasn't blown up, was the school's gym teacher and football coach. The 15-year-old was a special ed student prone to exaggeration. I doubt if Page considered the threat to destroy his transportation a viable one. I happened to have known the alleged teen terrorist. I'd known him since he was a pre-schooler. I didn't think he was crazy. Of course, I'm not a mental health professional, and I liked the kid and was biased in his favor. I don't like many mental health professionals. I think some of them would be much more likely to blow up a football coach's truck than this particular 15-year-old would. But I concede I'm probably in the minority there. The mental health professionals, incidentally, backed up by the edu-mob, had had this boy on strong drugs since he was in kindergarten, allegedly for therapeutic reasons. I would have expected his liver to explode long before he put together a frontal assault on the coach's transportation. Anyway, the kid was put in juvenile hall in Ukiah where he was sure to go crazy if he wasn't already while the experts looked him over for ultra-vi potential. It's all part of the television-sponsored hysteria about violent teenagers that is not based in any kind of reality. And most school people, disclaimers of their undying devotion to “the kids” aside, will throw a real kid overboard every time to cover their own cringing behinds. 

THE RED CROSS blood bank used to hold blood drives at the high school. A bunch of us who showed up were regulars who were personally invited because the Blood Bank feared they might lack enough donors to justify the expedition north from their Santa Rosa headquarters. The stage at the north end of the gym was converted to a sort of mini-hospital. When I arrived to contribute a pint of Anderson blue, I was encouraged to find people I knew prepared to roll up their sleeves in the interest of restoring the emergency blood supply to something above its present state of dangerous depletion. I was even more encouraged by the sight of several high school kids who were becoming donors for the first time. Too bad the whole student body couldn't simply be compelled to give blood, thus getting into the habit of it young. But then compulsory anything as applied to the young is long out of fashion, unfortunately. The Blood Bank's screening questions seem a little bit more intrusive than they used to be — necessarily, of course, I guess, the indiscriminate boffing millions of Americans got into back in '67 having resulted in the inevitable plagues. “Have you engaged in risky sex for money with a person who is also engaged in intravenous drug use, Mr. Anderson?” I'd certainly consider it if the money was right, I replied, momentarily confusing the pleasant young woman who was conducting the interrogation. “Excuse me?” she laughed. Just kidding, I said, suddenly aware that I was just another old crank who hadn't quite adjusted to the times.


I’m also on a United Health Care supplemental plan, G to be exact, that I purchase through a deal with AARP. These plans are federally regulated as to what they cover and how much they must pay, so when purchasing a supplemental policy there’s not much difference between carriers. AARP throws in some little extras that include a dental discount that has saved me enough this year to cover the G premiums for a couple of months.

On the other hand, the Medicare Advantage plans are pure poison. You do save the additional monthly premium you’d have to pay for a supplemental plan, but in exchange you may literally pay with your life. Any treatments, surgeries, and medicines your physician has prescribed are subject to “prior approval” which outfits like UHC will routinely deny while you languish. Additionally, Medicare Advantage plans operate like HMOs where you are required to stay within their network. The rub here is that the pool of providers willing to be part of a plan’s network is steadily shrinking due to their costs dealing with the carrier’s processes (see “prior approval”) and their poor reimbursement rates. There are also geographic barriers that the Advantage plans put up that make seeking care outside the county in which you reside an out of network event.

Then there’s the Medicare supplemental trap to consider. When you initially enroll in Medicare, you are eligible to purchase supplemental coverage without underwriting. This means that regardless of the state of your health you can purchase a plan. However, if you opt for an Advantage plan and later develop a chronic condition you may not be able to pass underwriting and so will not be able to leave the Advantage plan.

Finally, there’s a hidden insurance sales grift that goes along with Advantage plans. In California an agent that signs you up for an Advantage plan receives a commission of about $700 initially and then about $350 per year that you remain in the plan.

YES, TIME'S WINGED CHARIOT does seem to pick up speed on the mortuary side of 80, doesn't it? I remember when Rachael Birch, whom I last recalled jousting with at school board meetings when she was in high school, about to graduate from UC Santa Cruz with a diploma in anthropology. Asked what a young person with a diploma in anthropology does with it in the way of gainful employment, Rachael merrily replied, “Wait tables.” For now, anyway. Rachael says she is going on to graduate school at UCSF. According to linked in Rachael Birch is now Chief Operations Officer for Contra Costa County’s Public Health Department.

THERE ARE CERTAIN young people one encounters that prompt one to think to oneself, “This one has something special.” Our intern years ago, Khalilah Ford always affected me that way. When I met Khalilah's mom, Sherri, at AV market years ago, I wasn't in the least surprised to learn that Khalilah had graduated with top honors from Georgia Tech and had been commissioned as a second lieutenant in the Marine Corps. Khalilah is now retired Marine Lieutenant Colonel Khalilah Ford-Thomas teaching English at Southern Louisiana Community College in Lafayette, Louisiana.

I RECALL once having to elude careening blackbirds who had gotten themselves drunk on berries and had decided to make avian frontal assaults on passersby, and I've had to dash from marauding geese a couple of times, but other than some unfriendly encounters with dogs and the more-or-less human morons allegedly responsible for them, I've enjoyed pretty good relations with the critter world. But if crows began hurling themselves at my front door, I think I'd be downright unnerved.

THAT VINTAGE 1955 dinette set we talked about last week was still available a couple of weeks later, still at the bargain price of $25. We thought we had it sold, but it's still here, menacingly still here, in fact. The lady who'd said she wanted to buy the dinette, fetchingly covered in a fake naugahyde with the imitation naugas floating in the faded yellows and browns of what seems to be a color scheme derived from pineapple pizza vomit, may have appeared last Sunday afternoon to buy it. I'm not sure. I heard a scream, the sound of a car door slamming, and the roar of an SUV engine, but by the time I got out to my driveway, all that remained was a cloud of dust and one of the chairs askew beside a flower box. The poor thing couldn't bear to bring the dinette home. I don't blame her. Unless you have a blind old man and masks for the kids, this particular table, six chairs and table leaf pose a clear mental health risk. But look at it this way. For a mere $25, some lucky son or daughter of that memorably wacky decade can teach the grandkids some real history — history at a glance, one might say. Buy the dinette, array the kids around it and begin: “See this stuff? That's why your grandmother and I became hippies. We grew up eating margarine on Wonder Bread in your great grandma's 'breakfast nook' on furniture just like the dinette set you see here. Damn near killed the both of us. But when we got a little older we knew we'd been the victims of what is now called “Aesthetic Trauma Syndrome.” Millions of us got it, and it's been psychologically uphill for us ever since. Look at that thing, kids. Now you know what we suffered. It was our Iwo Jima. I don't want any of you to ever suffer the kind of furniture-inspired forms of mental illness we did.” At $25, the dinette set is a bargain.

Be First to Comment

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *