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Valley People (Sep 23, 2015)

RICK WYANT. I set eyes on my brother in this life for the last time yesterday. With the exception of faint sobs and sighs, the room was fairly silent. However, inside my head I heard such a clutter. I heard laughter, basketballs bouncing, his wicked laugh, referee whistles, cheerleaders, dogs barking, chainsaws, babies crying, truck motors revving, gunshots, and even a giant redwood tree crashing to the Earth. These were the sounds of my brother. Sounds that went with the millions of memories that went along with the pictures flashing through my mind like a movie reel unwinding out of control. As I sat still in the chapel, virtually paralyzed by my grief, my gaze was so fixed on him. It was if I was taking that final snapshot, trying to drink in every curve of his face, every freckle on his nose, every wrinkle near his eyes, his neatly trimmed beard and mustache, and every perfectly coiffed hair. With a heavy heart and lead feet, it was like walking through quicksand as I left him knowing I would never see him again. And although my grief is staggering, probably the hardest part to deal with is that this sorrow is not mine alone. It's so awful to see the people I love the most in this world experience such deep sorrow. My father had to say goodbye to his oldest son, something that no parent should have to do. My sister-in-law, Schevilla, my brother's widow (that doesn't even sound right) lost the love of her life and husband of 41 years. Literally her other half. She must be so bewildered and overwhelmed. Going on without him must seem impossible. My niece and nephew, Jennifer and Clint, and their families — they lost a parent, a grandparent, a mentor, a hero and so much else to them. Their loss is so great. My siblings, Bryan and Cathy — there is an empty slot in what used to be a fierce and fiery foursome… Now only three remain. Siblings are your first friends, playmates, partners in crime, and the only other people who understand what it's like to grow up the same way you did. That space can never be filled again. My children and my other nieces and nephews lost a special uncle. And of course the remaining aunts, uncles, cousins and friends share in this grief… He was a lot of things to a lot of people, and we all have our own way of remembering him. Yesterday, when our family left the mortuary in Willits and followed each other in our cars to gather at my nephew Clint's house, we met a logging truck with a three-log load. To me it was a sign. If you knew Rick, it was a sign. And I had to smile. Here's to falling that big timber in the sky, big brother. All my love forever and ever. — Renee Wyant-Lee

NOW THAT THE BIG FIRES have been mostly surrounded and will soon be extinguished, we tend to assume that's the end of it for this fire season. But standing in Sunday's 2pm heat in downtown Boonville as the afternoon winds came up, I said a silent prayer that the Lake County fires were the end of it. Mendocino County is and will remain a tinderbox until the first real rain, and we'll hope that rain falls well before Thanksgiving.

MAYBE A THIRD of an inch of rain fell on the Redwood Empire Wednesday, enough to sweeten the air and bringing a most welcome cooling to the firefighters battling the infernos to the east, but we'll all continue on red alert until the big rains arrive.

MEANWHILE, Ukiah Valley Fire Captain Peter Bushby says he fears an arsonist is responsible for a half-dozen "suspicious" fires along the railroad tracks that bisect Ukiah, two of which were apparently deliberately set the same September 12th afternoon. The Captain says he's reasonably certain the same person has caused all the railroad track fires.

JOAN BURROUGHS formerly of Boonville and now a resident of Lake County, is the only local we're aware of who had to flee an advancing wall of flame. The fire never reached Joan's neighborhood, but Joan had more than a few anxious moments, many of spent at the Philo Inn, while she waited out a long night wondering if she was going to be homeless. Joan is a native Boonvillian. Her life friend, Violet Rennick, also a native Boonvillian with roots going back ten thousand years, was frantic that Joan could not be reached for a full day, but finally the good news. Joan's house was intact, and she could go home.

A LARGE turnout of family and friends helped Neil and Kathalene Kephart celebrate their 50th wedding anniversary Saturday at the Kephart family home in Boonville. Kathalene is a stepdaughter of the late Homer Mannix, founder of this fine publication. Individually or as a couple, you won't know finer people. Here's to another fifty! (Yes, Kathalene is the correct spelling.)

VISITING OLD FRIENDS in the Anderson Valley and the Mendocino Coast this week was Hap Tallman, presently a resident of Hawi, Hawaii, the big island, near Kona. One of these rare guys who's good at everything, Hap, a highly skilled woodworker, carpenter, and sailor, was recently the only haole selected to join a Samoan crew navigating the vast seas between Hawaii and Samoa the old way — by the stars. Hap was the guest of Doug Johnson of Navarro while he was in town.

AT THE MENTION of the talented Mr. Johnson, Doug's marvelous ceramic fence at Navarro is a true thing of beauty and now a most welcome Valley landmark. Hap mentioned that Doug's studio on Cap Salmella Road is "absolutely stunning." We don't need convincing.

WENDY READ reminds us that the Fall Equinox Ritual is this Wednesday (today), the 23rd at 5pm at the Caretaker's Garden, Boonville. Come prepared to make some apple cider and celebrate the harvest with a potluck and BBQ. Bring:
- an offering of gratitude for the altar.
- fruit from your orchards and vines to throw into the press
- and containers to take some juice home
- something to throw on the BBQ or a side dish to share
- Bring a towel if you want to use the hot tub

GRACE ESPINOZA has taken over the Country Kitchen at the Fair, but the indomitable Pat Hulbert, pie maestro at Fair Time for many years, and creator of the most delectable huckleberry pie this gourmand has ever tasted, still pulled a Fair shift last weekend. Let's hope it's not Pat's last. And before Pat there was Pat's mom, Ruby, the two of them setting a Fair time pie bake dynasty unlikely to be duplicated.


QUICK PASS through Friday night's Fair took me past the relentless Stan Anderson at the Republican booth. Stan, a friend said, had complained to him that "the other Mendocino County Republican" hadn't shown up to relieve Stan at the booth. Stan said he was hoping to "enjoy the rest of the Fair." Next door to Stan were the Mendocino County Democrats. It was startling to see, of all people, Bill Heil and Linda Perkins aligned with...well, we all grow old and weak and fuzzy in the head. The Mendo Greens, by the way, only exist when the Democrat's herd bull, Supervisor Hamburg, pretends to be Green to ensure there's never ever any local political movement to the left of Hil and Bill. Sorry, I feel myself about to go off here so I'll leave it at that, but suffice it to say the local Democrats, like their national brothers and sisters, are not the way forward. The Republicans at least offer some comic relief.

MY ASSESSMENT of the Fair is that it's dying, or being strangled by a lack of imagination. Exhibit fees are so high they discourage local farmers, crafts people, almost everyone doing interesting stuff in Mendocino County from participation. I used to enjoy manning an AVA booth, for instance, which drew lots of random thrill seekers and insult tossers, but at $440 bucks plus insurance? And we had to set the thing up and take it down? The expenditure was not cost effective. We should have a Fair the equivalent in exhibitor mass to the Simple Living Fair, which is no longer the stoner-wacko event it was in its early years. We have a rich variety of small enterprises and creative entrepreneurs everywhere in Mendocino County, but you'd never know it from the Boonville Fair. Time for a shake-up.

THE APPLE BOWL football game was too one-sided to be of any interest to anyone but sports sadists who enjoy mismatches. And the field condition? A hundred yards of broken ankles. It was 36-0 at the half, a running clock for the second half. Mendo was game but undermanned and overwhelmed. Coach Dan Kuny's undefeated juggernaut has yet to be tested, and may not be tested until regional small school playoffs.

MUCH INDEBTED to Bonnie Clark Johnson of Rancho Navarro for her professionally rendered photographs of Friday night's big homecoming game between arch-rivals Mendocino and Anderson Valley. Bonnie, a part-time resident of Rancho Navarro, is a retired police department crime scene photographer.

AFTER ALMOST two years of delay, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) finally granted renewal of the KZYX license. The news was first received by Director Meg Courtney through an email from Congressman Jared Huffman's field representative, Heather Gurewitz. The nine page document can be found on the station's website

IT CAN HAPPEN HERE! Grover Beach police are searching for a man accused of robbing the Monarch Grover Winery tasting room while wearing a mask and an Elvis wig. The Tribune (San Luis Obispo) reports that the man took about $400 in cash Sunday. They say he showed a black semi-automatic pistol to a tasting room employee before binding the employee's wrists with duct tape and confining her to the restroom. Police say the robber wore an old man mask and a wig. He was last seen walking south on Highway One.

WOMEN IN THE CANNABIS INDUSTRY will be the topic of The Cannabis Hour on Thursday, Sept. 24 at 9 a.m. on KZYX radio. Journalist and activist Pebbles Trippet, a contributing editor to Skunk Magazine, and herbalist Crystal Rae Aleman, founder of the Mendocino Chapter of Women Grow, will join host Jane Futcher live in the studio. That’s KZYX radio, 90.7 FM, Philo; 91.5 FM, Willits and Ukiah, and 88.1 FM Fort Bragg. KZYX also streams on the Web at To listen to programs you may have missed, go to

GENE HERR WRITES: Please check the AVHC website ( ) and/or ( ) for any news and agenda and available new minutes and staff reports. Director and Secretary Heidi KnottGundling will get the information to director Ivan Jimenez for posting as soon as she has it. The meeting will be chaired by Vice President Kathy Cox in the absence of President Ric Bonner. The Finance Committee meeting was postponed to next Friday, due to director Clay Eubank's out-of-district assignment to the AV fire dept. strike team on the Butte fire. Answers to hope for: What happens if the government shuts down at the end of this month or soon after? How are plans going for a fund raising campaign? What news is there about an AVHC Strategic Plan? When will the Dispensary re-open? What specifically is holding that up? When will all the 2015 minutes, financial statements, committee and staff reports be posted on the web site? Who is the staff member in charge of maintaining the web site for accuracy and pertinence? (e.g. the recent schedule change for Dentistry among other things.?) Things seem to be on a more even keel, but questions as to procedure and direction still remain.

THE PARANOID'S GUIDE TO THE VALLEY FIRE: "Hmmm. Started at 1:24AM, in a very small all ARSON fires. These poor residents better demand a thorough arson investigation, and the results made public! Many of the more than 400 fires burning all over the west are being deliberately set by eco-terrorists and NWO zealots who both want to rid all rural and forest areas of what they refer to as the ‘human scourge.’ The plan is that after they are burned out by fires set during dry-high wind conditions, to a) foot-drag on restoring water and other utility services, b) withhold well water permits, c) require more stringent environmental permits for any rebuilding, and, worst of all, d) immediately introduce the pack-hunting gray wolves back into those areas to keep people out, which is already being done in many areas of CA, MT, ID, and OR. Google it. And demand a full-scale arson investigation by your local sheriffs… NOT by Cal-Fire, which has been ordered to rubber-stamp all fires as ‘drought-caused.’ But many locals report there being no lightning, seeing suspicious individuals where the fires started, and some of the arsonists have actually been caught—but we don't hear any more about them or their motives. Arson fires only start in a small area, as all of these fires have done. And non-arson fires are RANDOM in terms of their location and frequency, and the causes are immediately discernable. These are anything but random, and although the flashpoint can be determined the ‘natural’ cause cannot. That, along with the shear number of fires occurring all at the same time, points to arson. My point is that there is no talk of the cause of all these fires when that is always the main information provided. ‘Drought’ or ‘global warming’ does not CAUSE a fire, which is all we are hearing, instead of the CAUSES."

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