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Devil’s Weed in Fort Bragg

The house that I live in is now 35 years old. It was constructed largely from the lumber produced out of a single redwood that had toppled to the ground a century before. Though the property is a product of 19th century acquisitions by my father's parents, this particular abode stems from my mother's imagination and willpower. For years after it was built my father grumbled, “Your mother's damn mansion.” After dinner in the "redwood mansion," often as not, he retreated down the hill to the log house my parents, with help from uncles, constructed by hand. When I say by hand, I mean that they cut down trees themselves, hewed the logs, cut the notches for the logs to fit together, and everything else required to build your own two bedroom log house. That home, which included a large living room, kitchen, sun porch, and covered back porch, always sloped ever so slightly toward the southwest. So much for the perfection of do-it-yourself construction.

The Albion River runs slightly southwest as well. That is, it takes nearly ninety degree turns every mile or so in the lower Albion, eventually arriving at its ocean mouth a tad farther southwest than the route of its main river source in the environs of Comptche.

That last paragraph presupposes that the Albion River runs, which it does not. For the last three years the Albion has ceased flowing from fresh water to tidewater in mid-summer. Last year this occurred as early as the Fourth of July. Here on the Macdonald Ranch there are multiple locations where you can walk right across the river bottom without muddying your shoes or boots.

McKay Gulch, which runs north to south through the western portion of the Macdonald Ranch, is dry. The headwaters for that same gulch was the original water source for my Macdonald ancestors in the 19th century. They constructed a wooden flume that ran the better part of a mile to their house just above the river's flood plain.

A third of a mile to the west, an unnamed gulch stream is bone dry. In my childhood my sisters and I used to carry fresh water for our log house when the underground galvanized water pipes from a spring and tank up the hill (above even this house) froze solid. This seemed to happen every winter a half century and more ago. My older sisters would put on thick socks and rubber boots and pretend to skate on the frozen ponds in the bottom lands. In the present day, those two gulches to the west have been dry for months, not just due to the drought, but also because people living on the south side of the Little River Airport Road are using all the water from the underground springs which used to flow into those gulches.

Along the same lines of scorched earth, a long time local alerted me to the fact that virtually nothing has been done to repair the track behind Fort Bragg's Company Store, where the Skunk Train derailed months ago while backing up. This past week the same citizen pointed out that an invasive weed is growing in the area adjacent to the damaged line. The local called it "goathead," though the weed goes by passel full of euphemisms: devil's thorn, devil's weed, tackweed, cat's head, puncture vine and many more. Puncture vine might the most descriptive because this weed spreads like a vine, but amongst its green leaflets grows a bubbling head, or nut, that at this time of year bursts into thorns powerful enough to puncture a bicycle tire. Puncture vine, or "goathead," is invasive to North America. It is native to the warmer climates of Europe, Africa, Asia, and Australia. It has been spotted in Southern California for years as well as the Central Valley, but this may be the first sighting in coastal Mendocino County.

It will be interesting to see what is done about the weed in Fort Bragg. It's located in something of a no man's land between the G-P mill site, the Skunk Train depot and the Company Store. Puncture vine can be eradicated by herbicides such as glyphosate, but it is better yanked up by its roots to prevent further spread.

One Comment

  1. BB Grace September 11, 2015

    A long time local alerted you to the goatweed, which you suggest is best eradicated by yanking up by the roots, and neither the long time local or you pulled the weed and alert city maintenence?

    Fort Bragg City Council would have done allot better for Fort Bragg if they had given that block grant to the Skunk Train, because the Skunk Train brought tourists.

    Did Fort Bragg City really need to pave Koch Headlands and put up a parking lot?

    When was the last time you really looked at the Guest House? City maintenence does a great job landscaping, and why they would be interested in the goat weed, but the house… built in 1892, reminds me, I met a man once who came into the museum and was walking along with his hand out feeling the redwood as he explored each room. I caught up with him in the library. He claimed he worked for Union Lumber company for 30 years as the carpenter for the Guest House. He pointed out some of his tools in the glass case and explained how he needed to make planes to replace any wood that was not perfect. The House had to be perfect for Union Lumber Co. He was very upset with the City and how they let the house go to hell, what a shame it was. He was deeply hurt and I can’t say I blame him.

    The ADA ramp and porch to nowhere is rotted with holes, big holes, broken lights, an accident waiting to happen, paint is chipped falling off, homeless have broken in so metal grate now rusts out the bottom, and the restrooms are usually locked.

    Maybe folks thought that by getting a CEO and having a council managent government they would get Disneyland or Dollywood, which both have trains and mansions and little shops and restaurants and while Disneyland and Dollywood are fabricated towns, places like Fort Bragg, the real deal, could benefit from the management?

    So what does Fort Bragg get? What should be it’s landmark restaurant, the business location that empowers all the central businesses in Fort Bragg, City Council establishes a mental health center with bankers hours.

    Maybe that devil weed is nature’s way of telling Fort Bragg somethings wrong?

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