Wednesday, July 18, 2018


…and a few moments with my grandfather(s)

Recently, we drove US 101 to Southern California for a long weekend. A nephew was getting married and a wedding is a fine excuse for a road trip.  The nuptials were elegant and warm and intimate, the bride stunning, the party glorious.  Weddings and long wedding weekends are supposed to be all about family, but the following day, I had something I wanted to do – something I wanted to check off the bucket list.  

I set out for Forest Lawn.

Lots of famous folks are interred at Forest Lawn: Jimmy Stewart, Clayton Moore, Red Skelton, Walt Disney, George Burns & Gracie Allen, Larry Fine, Casey Stengel, even Bogie(!), and more recently, Debbie Reynolds and Carrie Fisher – as well as hundreds of others.  Among the famous and infamous rest thousands of lesser-knowns, including my two grandfathers.  Or so I thought. Neither name appeared on the register at the parking area’s information booth, so I was directed to the lobby.  “Yes,” I was told.  “They are buried at Forest Lawn, just not this Forest Lawn.”

In the era of my grandfathers’ passings, back in the 50s and 60s, if a man wanted to get a new suit, he went to a Bullocks store. There was one in every major town. Apparently, it was the same deal with cemeteries.  If you were going to get buried, you would first go to Bullocks for a new suit and then head over to a Forest Lawn cemetery.  There seems to be one in every major town.  Grandfathers George Clayton Delgardo and Edgar Wirt “Hap” Bagnell were both over in Glendale’s Forest Lawn Memorial Park about ten minutes away – twenty if you, like me, can’t effectively operate the Nav system in your Subaru.  “No, I don’t need an oil change today,” I explained.  “I just need to turn around.”

The concierge in the lobby of the Glendale branch provided me with three maps.  One outlined the general layout of the place.  The other two offered diagrams of the sections where my grandfathers reposed. Tiny, tiny squares the size of ant larvae marked the thousands of graves.  Tinier still – and blurry – numbers printed in each square referenced who would be where. The concierge marked one grave on each map and provided me with the section and grave’s location number.  I was coached to look for little round concrete markers, perhaps four or five inches in diameter.  “They may be a bit hidden in the grass, so you may have to look some.  Cast in each you’ll find a set of two to four four-digit numbers indicating the corner of a section of the grounds.  Or,” he suggested, “if you go outside of the lobby, you can download the Forest Lawn App, plug in the names and GPS will take you right to the spot.” “Thanks,” I replied.  “I don’t have much luck with apps.”  “Well then,” he said, “George C. Delgardo is in the Whispering Pines section. It’s closest, so you might want to go there first.”  

And I did. Cruising the gracefully curved roadways in the park, I passed a small but stately churchlike building: The Chapel of the Flowers.  I vaguely recalled it from a previous long weekend trip to Southern California six decades before.  This was where services were held for George, a grandfather I never really knew – or even met.  Still, at eleven years old, I attended.  It would be my first funeral and although I could not have picked Granddad, my own blooded lineage, out of a lineup of old men, I do remember sitting in the dimly lit, cold, cold room for a long, long time, not understanding what was going on but tearing up the three or four times the minister uttered the words “George C. Delgardo.”  I don’t remember the interment.  Perhaps I’d been excused from it.

Whispering Pines was close by.  I waded through a section where the dearly departed are packed too closely to be lying in any kind of repose.  Bronze markers are set maybe just a foot apart in rows and the rows themselves are less than a football referee’s pace from one another.  “Folks must have been buried feet first,”I thought, followed by, “I wonder if Red Skelton is nearby. After all, he did stand-up.”  [Pause for rim shot.]  

After about a five-minute ground search, I found my unknown grandfather in a tiny, tiny plot, standing shoulder-to-shoulder with Addabell, a wife who had pre-deceased him. Next to her stands Gerald, his brother, about whom Mom disdainfully would say, “He drives around in a fancy yellow convertible like some sort of a rich playboy.”  Even to this day, I’ve never understood the problem associated with that.

Though it was a very small plot, I was pleased to find George’s resting place.  It seemed pleasant enough.  Little bit of a view.  Grass trimmed weekly.  I was glad he is with family.  I told him that I wished we’d had a chance to know one another when I was a kid and asked him if he’d seen his son Clayton recently.  Receiving no response – not even a hint of breeze – and with little else to say, I left a white rose on his marker and went off to look for Hap.

I hadn’t attended Hap’s funeral.  At age 6, I was deemed too young.  Hap’s resting place in the Sunrise Slope section proved a bit harder to find. 

I drove a looping quarter of a mile from where I’d stopped to find George, and parked neath the shade of a magnolia tree. Eyeballing the map of Sunrise Slope, orienting myself with the use of the Temple of Santa Something-er-Other at the top of the hill, I figured I was only moments away from a conversation with the one grandfather I did remember: Hap.  Hap’s name sits carved in a block in the Smithsonian Air and Space Museum as one of those “early-birds” who’d engaged in powered flight prior to a date in December of 1917.  Sikorsky, Pratt, Curtiss – by whom he later was employed – and the Wright Brothers are etched in the same monument.  Hap who flew air mail using ground-based concrete arrows to navigate from Chicago to the west coast in the 20s.  I’ve seen the arrows.  
Hap who invented an electric toothbrush, and who painted in oils – I have two hanging in my house, one a still life and one a portrait of an old woman purported to be his mother.  Hap who lived at our house in Chico for a short while and who smoked Lucky Strikes. I think that’s what eventually sent him to this place.

Barely knowing the grandfather I knew the best, I was looking forward to this moment.  But the dot on the map provided by the concierge didn’t line up with the numbers on the rarely found concrete disks buried in grass.  Twenty minutes into my search, I pulled out my iPhone, downloaded the Forest Lawn app and punched in “Edgar Wirt Bagnell.”  Within moments I discovered I was within two hundred fifty feet or a mere two minutes walk from my quarry.  Stepping one direction I found the glowing disc that represented me was moving away from the static dot that represented him.  Correcting, I could see the two electronic markers close in on one another when my phone announced, “You have reached your destination.”

Edgar W. Bagnell’s name was not on any nearby bronze plates.  I moved up the hill.  Not there. Down the hill.  Not there.  Left. Right.  The white rose I held was beginning to wilt.  The damned phone kept telling me I’d reached my destination.  “No, I haven’t!” I uttered a little less solemnly than a body should while standing in the middle of a cemetery.  I arced here and there for a long few minutes.  Finally, out of frustration, I sat down next to a bronze marker recalling someone named Mills or Miller or Miles.  There I pondered whether or not to continue the search. The summer sun was hot, and I really should be celebrating with family.  The plots here are larger than over in Whispering Pines. I craned my neck to see who might be nearby.

Hap was right next to Mills or Miller.  An Elizabeth Bagnell rests at Hap’s side.  I’m not sure who Elizabeth is but Mom’s middle name was Elizabeth and although she always referred to her mother as “Mama,” Elizabeth might have been Mom’s mom.  Next to Mama rests an I. N. Bagnell.  Her portrait, it turns out, is hanging in my study at home.

I laid the white rose on Edgar W. Bagnell’s stone and sat at his feet for a few moments, feeling my eyes get wet like they did for George 60 years before. Turning, I looked at the panoramic view he enjoyed from mid-hillside.

“Not bad,”I thought.  “I’d rather spend eternity on that ridge above Simpson Camp, but this isn’t all that bad.”

“This is just fine…” someone said.  

I turned to see who was there.  


“…not that it matters much.”

I sat in grass at Forest Lawn under a warm Southern California sun for a while longer.  A wedding weekend is supposed to be all about family.  

And, as it turns out, this one was.

© 2018
Church of the Open Road Press

Saturday, July 7, 2018


Riding through devastation and rebirth
in California’s Coast Range

One of the great positives of the changes in climate some say we are experiencing is that, in most of California, riding season is almost twelve months long. Unfortunately, so is fire season. September’s big blazes began in June this year.

Sonoma, Lake and Mendocino counties have experienced more than their fair share of wild land fires over the past few years.  Only a couple of months ago, a section of hills around the Dry Creek wine growing valley erupted. In October 2017, Santa Rosa lost 4,000 homes and 40-plus lives. Lake County’s Cobb Mountain resort area was lit up in the summer of 2016; the town of Lower Lake that fall.  Over Thanksgiving weekend of 2015, the hills surrounding the Geysers geo-thermal units smoldered for days.  More than the turkey, that day, was smoked.

I’d checked things out about a month after the October disaster.  Now nearly eight months later, Enrico, the Yamaha, and I decided to take another look at the aftermath.

Departing US 101 at Mark West Springs Road a few miles north of Santa Rosa, I am immediately greeted by a forest of standing chimneys.  (I so want to photograph this orchard of masonry but, like before, feel doing so invades the privacy of those who’d lost so much. Thus, I refrain.)  Continuing into the once-lush Mayacamas Range, the vegetation is now seared away as are the houses once shielded from passers-by.  Only their foundations, chimney and a few scraps of twisted metal remain.  

Mark West Springs Road sweeps along Mark West Creek and over and around denuded hillsides now cloaked in the golden grasses of summer.  Rebirth had occurred – subtle, but a start.  It proves to be a nice ride this day, but I can picture residents clogging that windy route deep one October night as the firestorm rolled out of the east like a fiery boulder at the beginning of an Indiana Jones movie.

Passing the Wildlife Safari exotic animal exhibit, I am reminded that the owner, that terrifying night of the Tubbs Fire, saved every critter in the park using only garden hoses linked end to end, screwing them together by the light of the approaching flames. His residence, however, didn’t make it.

The road dips in and out of the fire zone.  Ridgelines of standing scorched trees appear with some turns, with other twists of both highway and fate, green meadows, pasture lands and unscathed houses stand as if nothing had happened.  The whims of wind and fire, I think.

In Calistoga, I stop at the roastery to purchase my supply of the whole bean that “wakes up Napa County.” Across the street a fine breakfast is offered at the historic Café Sarafina.  A bookstore, a bicycle shop, several boutiques and tasting rooms make this a pleasant stop – although I don’t taste when I’m on the bike.

California’s State Route 29 forms Calistoga’s main street.  South of town, one would venture into the heart of the Napa Valley where, even on a good day, the traffic can slow to a crawl.  North, Route 29 corkscrews out of the valley affording tantalizing over-the shoulder glimpses.  As the elevation gains, I pass through Robert Lewis Stevenson State Park, a mecca for hikers and cyclists beneath a canopy of redwood and madrone.  I’m thinking I should have packed a snack and taken a stroll.

Out of the forest and over a rise and I enter the higher pastures of Lake County.  The wonderfully engaging twists of the route from Calistoga remind me why Lake County never received rail service.  Construction through steep and narrow canyons and over rocky ridges proved too daunting.  The pavement, however, offers a graceful experience for the me and the big Yamaha.  Cresting that rise, I view the denuded tops of ridges that ring the upper reaches of the Putah Creek drainage: Fire scars from two, three, sixteen and perhaps thirty years ago.  

State Route 175 curls away from Route 29 at Middletown heading up to Cobb Mountain and, until two years ago, the Hobergs Resort. In the aftermath of the 2016 fires up that way, sections of Route 175 has been resurfaced and some homes rebuilt.  Rusted derelicts remind me of what once was.  Some vegetation is beginning the slow process of regeneration.  As massive as was that conflagration, just moments down the highway, I enter a cool pine and fir forest as lush as anything one might see in the Sierra Nevada 90 miles to the east.

Route 175 rejoins 29 just south of Kelseyville, one of several California sites bearing the surname of a brutal Indian slayer from the 1850s.  His wife (or sister-in-law), history forgets to tell us, created the original Bear Flag that was raised of Sonoma in the 1840s.  State Route 29 skirts the west shore of Clear Lake, the California’s largest fresh water pond, ending at State Route 20 near historic Upper Lake.  

Looking well north beyond the end of the little town’s Main Street, evidence of a decades-old burn area catches my eye, but that’s not why I’m pausing here.  Upper Lake boasts the Blue Wing Café, home of one of the best bison burgers on the planet.  Garden seating invites me to linger, and, were I not on the motorcycle, the selection of on-tap brews would be more than tempting.  Perhaps some future evening will find my bride and me lodging at the historic hostelry next door.

State Route 20 is a busy east-west crossing of the Coast Range.  On it, I wind past the picturesque Blue Lakes.  A mile or two short of Route 20’s interchange with US 101, I divert onto “Road A,” hopping over a ridge and descending into Redwood Valley.  This area was torched the same October night as the huge fire that scarred Santa Rosa. Lives and homes were lost here, as well, just not as many as a few miles south.

I wheel past several lettered roads until I find Road J.  Heading east, I check on the site of a friend’s home that’d had burned to the ground that night.  Oddly, the fire had placed a fiery footprint on his house but left the one fifty yards away unscathed.  Two-and-a-half months ago, a buddy and I had planted some olive trees near the ashes of the house.  This day, those trees seem to be doing fine and evidence of a rebuild can be seen through the fence.

For the most part, fire is a natural occurrence.  Even after the worst of wild fires, rebirth is almost immediate.  It will be a personal goal to ride this route through fire country every six months or so to see how things – both natural and man-made – evolve.


Today’s Route:  Exit 494 from US 101, east on Mark West Springs Road which becomes Porter Creek Road. Side trip:  Franz Valley Road to Franz Valley School Road (windy and interesting) back to Porter Creek just west of Calistoga. State Route 29 through town then north to Middletown.  (Great twisty pavement!)  Left on SR 175 through Cobb and Hobergs eventually merging back onto SR 29. North on SR 29 to SR 20, right one mile to Upper Lake, left onto historic Main Street.  Continuing: West on SR 20, right on Road A, right on East Road, head north as far as you want.  (You could end up in Willits!)  Backtrack on East Road, follow signs to US 101.

© 2018
Church of the Open Road Press

Wednesday, July 4, 2018


Never thought we’d own a GM product 
– but dang!  This is a good little car!

Our 2017 Chevrolet Bolt is a fully electric vehicle with a claimed range of 238 miles.  By offering $6,000.00 at closing we obtained a 1,000 mile per month lease for about $350.00. Having held true to that mileage, a monthly report from GM estimates we’ve NOT used about 50 gallons of fuel each month. Although not for certain, it appears our electric bill has increased by around $20.  Those are the facts as I see ‘em.

Now, how do we like the thing?

Performance and Handling. The electric drive system is pretty hot – and by that, I mean cool.  We can easily reach freeway speeds about half-way up the average on-ramp.  On-board gauging lets us know how much electricity we are using (measured in kilowatt hours) as we cruise at highway speeds in traffic.  A graphic on the infotainment screen illustrates power flow from the motor to the wheels and it is gratifying to watch that flow go the other direction when the brakes are being used as they regenerate electricity.

As a front-wheel drive vehicle and with the battery’s weight riding low, the Bolt eats up curves. With the wheels pushed to the corners of the car, it sticks nicely to nice pavement.  It is, however, little more than a short-wheel-base econo-box – just one without an internal combustion engine – therefore, when the pavement is poor or chunky, the driver is informed.  Also, know that the low-slung battery means there's not a lot of ground clearance.  We've scraped bottom a couple of times on unpaved roads.  It'd be a good idea to avoid those - save 'em for the Subaru.  Still, coupling its crisp handling with its zesty acceleration (even when not in sport mode) the drive is engaging and fun.  

Occupant Comfort.  The press gives the Bolt low marks for its relatively small and relatively under-padded seats. This is not fake news. The seats could use some additional bolstering, but, given its purpose – an electric car aimed at pollution free daily commutes – the accommodations are more than tolerable for the drive to work and back.  The rear seat is roomy but positioned near the rear axle so bumps in the road are easily transmitted to bumps in the bum.  That said, as a six-foot-four occupant, I don’t mind hanging out back there and letting someone else ride shotgun.

Fit and Finish.  There’s a groan that pronounces itself, we think emanating from the rear hatch, if the car is wallowed over uneven pavement. Other than that, the thing is as sound as any Japanese or European vehicle I’ve ever owned.  The closure lines on the doors, hood and hatch are remarkably even.  Nothing on the exterior has rattled off as of yet or shows any signs of wiggling loose.

Inside, the trim on the driver’s side A-pillar snapped loose.  Not wanting to push on the thing and risk screwing up or discharging the airbag covered therein, I returned it to the dealer for a two-minute fix. (Interior trim covering air bags need to be secure enough to not fall off, but loosey-goosey enough to fall away in the event that the bag needs to deploy, I was told.)  Other than that, with the exception of a rather dumb brushed chrome strip unnecessarily highlighting the front dash with blinding reflections of sunlight at times, the largely plastic interior is handsome – not outstanding – but serves the purpose well.

Range.  Our first major test of the Bolt’s range came a month back when we headed from our house in Cloverdale over to a B&B in Mendocino via the steep and poorly paved Orr Springs Road.  Orr Springs Road crosses a section of the Coast Range climbing steeply out of the Russian River drainage just north of Ukiah.  Our hearts began to sink as we watched that graphic.  We depleted over 50 miles of range in the first twelve or fifteen miles up to the ridgetop.  Damn! Will there be a charging station in Comptche (population about two dozen)?  Not likely.  The forty-plus mile descent through that little berg and out to the coast revealed something we hadn’t counted upon: Power re-genned to the battery as we coasted, gradually winding from high pastures, though oak woodlands, along the south fork of Big River, through Montgomery Redwoods and out to State Route 1. By the time we reached the coast highway, indications were that we had MORE juice in the battery than when we’d left Ukiah fifty-five miles earlier.  SHAZAM!

Would we buy or lease another one?  

Our contract on the 2017 Bolt expires in less than two years.  So far, we have been impressed with the quality of the car and the savings on fuel.  (If we move forward with plans to put solar on the house, an argument could be made that we’d be driving the thing for free.)  We were encouraged to lease this first generation electric Chevy because by the time the lease is up, there’s a good possibility that technological improvements will be in the offing.  I had a chat with the Chevy salesperson with whom we had dealt.  He confirmed that the Chinese-owned Swedish carmaker, Volvo, would be upping the ante on electric vehicles world-wide and that their product might be one to watch when renewal time circles around.

Here’s what we’re thinking: If major improvements in the electric vehicle segment don’t surface by the time our lease expires, we would give strong consideration to negotiating a price for a purchase of the Bolt we have (many will be coming off lease at that time, so residuals may be depressed) or simply buying our next electric vehicle outright.  Given the experience we’ve had thus far, I wouldn’t be surprised if that next EV is also a Chevy.

© 2018
Church of the Open Road Press

Thursday, June 21, 2018


The correct – but incorrect – answer is “C”

Quick quiz:  When in a party of two or more, one person, experiencing chest discomfort, stops, sits and most likely says what?  Is it:

A)        “I’ve had enough for today.  I’ve got to turn around,” or
B)        “Whale.  Oil. Beef.  Hooked.  (For maximum impact, practice saying that really fast.)  I think I’m havin’ a coronary,” or
C)        “You guys go ahead.  I’ll wait here.  Maybe I’ll catch up in a minute.”

Conrad, Suzie and I had just left the parking area for our second little high-country hike of the day.  The first jaunt found us on a steep trail wading through foot-and-a-half deep snow remnants to a magnificent view of the High Sierra.  

Worsening trail conditions turned us back and after lunch-with-a-view and a short drive on a dirt road, we arrived at a second, slightly lower in elevation trailhead.

Just past a sign indicating we were entering a designated wilderness area, and after what seemed like a pretty easy uphill stretch, Conrad plopped down on a rock or a stump and while not exactly clutching his chest said, “I’m feeling some pain here,”

Conrad didn’t look his normal self, but I knew he wanted to see what was over the next rise or around the next bend.  It’s in his DNA.  So is heart trouble.  His father, at about the same age didn’t make it to church to preach one Sunday, rather he made it to the ER a few blocks away.

Our closest ER would be forty-plus forest road miles away and cell phone coverage?  What’s that?

“You go on,” Conrad said.

“Nope, I’m stayin’ here.”

Eighteen years before, while serving as a school principal, Mrs. Nelson, a teacher, was called upon to drag me from my office to a nearby building where staff was feting me with cake and ice cream for Bosses Day.  (Oh, how I hated Bosses Day!)  A few feet out the door, it felt as if someone had taken a swing at my chest with a sledge hammer.  Staggered a bit more than I’d like to admit, I diverted to the multipurpose room, across the breezeway, saying, “I need to sit down for a moment.  You go ahead.  I’ll catch up in a minute.”  Unfolding a chair, I sat in the dark.  Mrs. Nelson touched her palm to my clammy forehead and chose not to leave.

Suzie had trekked up the trail perhaps fifty yards, up and around a switchback to a point where she could look down upon us.  She held of the same Gotta-Explore DNA as her brother.  Conrad sat on the stump/rock.  Amidst some small talk, I ascertained that Conrad thought perhaps he’d eaten too much lunch; that a physical ten or twelve years ago uncovered a restricted artery; that this happens every once in a while; that he hadn’t had a comprehensive physical in he didn’t know how long; and that, at 59, he was about the same age as this father when Dad had had an incident.

Shadows across the trail somehow prevented my eye contact with Suzie.  Foolish discretion about not wanting Conrad to feel badly about truncating a hike kept me from saying anything to Suzie.  Ultimately, Conrad decided to soldier on, first at a very reserved pace, then at a much sloggier gate than his usual.  I followed, all the time thinking, “The further he goes, the further I’m going to have to carry his ass out.”

After about two-and-a-half miles – these with no stunning view – we turned back around.  Downhill was easier.

That night at the cabin, over some shared Knob Creek, we conversed.  He began, “I think it’s just part of getting older.  You know, like you and your bad knee.”

“If I blow a knee out on a trail, I suspect I’d survive.  I’ll whine like a baby, but I’ll probably survive.”  Then I asked, “When was the last time you had an EKG?”

“Ten, maybe twelve years ago,” he confirmed, adding what he’d found out with that exam.

“Maybe you should see about getting a fresh one.”

An eye was not batted as he said, “It’s just part of getting older.  Besides, with a $5,000.00 out-of-pocket insurance policy – silver level they call it – I can’t afford to go in for the test.”

So, there you have it, I thought.  Conrad could expire on the trail because he doesn’t feel he can afford the care needed to, perhaps, mitigate the problem.

“Well, pal,” I said, “You need to know that, in the future, if you have a heart attack out there on the trail, I’m probably not gonna drag your ass back to the car.”  I raised my whiskey glass.  “I’ve got a bad knee.”


Notes and a plea:  The incident at school proved not to be life-threatening.  It was a simple transient ischemic attack according to the folks at the hospital.  But Mrs. Nelson didn’t know that.  She just stayed with me.  To this day, I embarrass her by reminding her that she saved my life.  

Mrs. Nelson knew not to leave the victim because of Red Cross (or similar) CPR/first aid training she received every other year sponsored by our school district.

If you haven’t renewed your card, do so.  Please enter “CPR Training” or “First Aid Training” in your browser and sign up for a refresher near you.  I may be riding through your town and need your assistance.

Know that I’ll be renewing mine…
… in case you should ever need me. 

© 2018
Church of the Open Road Press

Tuesday, June 19, 2018


A visit to Van Arsdale Dam

Today’s little adventure finds me locating the Van Arsdale Dam – one of only two on the entire Eel River Complex.  (Note that the Eel River watershed is the third largest in all of California.)  Also known as Cape Horn Dam, it and its powerhouse became operational in 1908.  I’ve been wanting to see this since we moved to the area a few years ago.

The dam itself seems like quite the early 20thCentury engineering marvel.  Built in concert with Scott’s Dam which impounds Lake Pillsbury 15 or 20 miles upstream, the pool itself is relatively small.  Water cascades over the stair-step face on the dam providing a nice soundtrack to a morning summer ride.  I can only image the roar during high water seasons knowing that the Eel has a propensity for washing out rail lines and wiping out towns further downstream.

The water held in Van Arsdale Reservoir is diverted through a tunnel to Potter Valley four miles to the south.  A powerhouse stands somewhere at the north end of that valley, but banjo music, increasing in volume over the hum of Enrico, the Yamaha’s motor, prompted me to turn back as the road wound into the pretty remote country and turned to gravel. Location of the powerhouse was not marked on the map I carried.

A small network of canals provides for the irrigation needs of ranchers in the beautiful and relatively remote Potter Valley, but much of the water channeling through supplies the Sonoma County Water Agency which contributes to the growth of towns along the Russian River from Ukiah south and west.

Non-diverted water remains in the Eel twisting through remote and rugged canyons until emerging at the Pacific Ocean near Fortuna.  On-going arguments are offered that without the diversion from the Eel to the Russian, farming and growth from Hopland to Healdsburg would be stunted.  With the diversion, however, in low-flow years, as we have experienced during this on-going drought, downstream salmon and steelhead fisheries on the Eel suffer.

No act of human engineering – no matter how marvelous – comes without some costs or compromise. As licensure for the Van Arsdale project comes up for renewal in the near term, it will be interesting to see what, if any, changes are in the offing.


Today’s Route:  From CA 20 between US 101 and Upper Lake, look for signs and exit north on Potter Valley Road. Head north.  Just as the road turns west (at the store) turn right on Eel River Road.  The road climbs out of the valley at the north, corkscrewing through oaks and diggers offering expansive views but few, if any, places to safely stop for a photo. Bear left at the top-of-the-hill fork and wind about a mile or so down into a valley and left again onto Van Arsdale Road.  The dam and CA Fish and Game facility is on the right but fenced.  Nobody answered when I knocked at the door.  Walking back up the hill, I could see the fellas at work monitoring stream flow and capturing water samples.

Return? Bear left at the fork and following Eel River Road for about two miles.  At the junction, a right turn will carry you up the Eel River Cut-off back to the fork at the top of the hill.  Continuing straight (east) will take you along the deepening canyon of the Eel, then, skirting a ridge, up to Lake Pillsbury.  A loop can be made from there down to the community of Upper Lake in Lake County.  (Get lunch there at the Blue Wing Restaurant!)  A nice road for heavier dual sports.

This little ride was a good early morning jaunt, affording me the opportunity to check something off my bucket list.

© 2018
Church of the Open Road Press

Wednesday, June 6, 2018

Killing for Land in Early California: Indian Blood at Round Valley 1856-1863 – a book recommendation

Required reading for a full understanding 
of our conquest of the American West 
and, perhaps, our current state of affairs

Killing for Land in Early California: Indian Blood at Round Valley 1856-1863 by Frank H Baumgardner III.  Algora Publishing. 2006. $23.  (Out of print but still available with some searching.)

A couple of months back, I reported on Carranco and Beard’s Genocide and Vendetta, the expose of atrocities committed just north of here by white settlers upon their discovery of a fertile and hidden Round Valley.  Here’s a link:

Recall that the volume, published in 1981 by the University of Oklahoma Press, inflamed the passions of the descendants of the victors to the extent that a bogus plagiarism law suit prompted the U of O to suspend publication.  Many of the copies, it has been reported, were snatched up and destroyed by those eager to erase this bloody portion of California history. Remaining few may be had by ponying up prices ranging from $350 to $1140, depending on condition, either on line or, if you’re lucky, at a used book store.

My concluding admonition was “Let’s do what we can to ensure voices are not stilled by those they might offend or expose.”

An Amazon search (although I did not purchase my copy from Jeff Bezos) found Baumgardner’s Killing for Land, a text that might cover the same ground.  The independent Mendocino Book Company in Ukiah was able to find a new copy for me.

Baumgardner references Carranco and Beard frequently but also cites period newspapers, federal and state reports and records, dissertations, census reports and personal interviews in order to detail how local land owners and wanna-be cattle barons thwarted the government’s attempt to provide sanctuary to displaced Native Americans.  While serious corruption occurred on the watch of some Indian administrators – corruption that lead to those folks looking away as Euro-American war parties set off to slaughter the natives based upon false claims of horse and cattle depredations – many others reported that the Native Americans were peaceable, willing to learn farm trades and desirous of learning the language.

Set in history against the backdrop of the Civil War, folks in Washington, while in receipt of reports and requests for monetary support for the Round Valley Reservation, barely afforded those requests passing attention.  Thus, seed supplies for the Nome Cult Farm, established on the reservation to create self-sufficiency, were denied or ignored.  Government Agents had little resource to repair fences pulled down by settlers or establish tribunals to call those guilty Euro-Americans to task. With the fences down, Government livestock wandered off to be appropriated by the settlers.  Crops were grazed off by settler’s cattle or trampled to dust.  

With the assent of the Agent, Native Americans from as far away as Chico-Oroville (the Concow) and Placer-Nevada Counties (the Maidu) starving, left the “protection” provided by the government to return to their ancestral homelands.  Leaving in October, before the streams were too full to cross and before the snow flew, more than 450 Concow struggled to return to Butte County only to find white settlers there unwilling to allow them back.  Returning over the Mayacamas (Coast Range) just 277 survived.  184 had departed or died on the trail.  It was California’s “Trail of Tears.”

Captain Charles D Douglas, Commander of Company F, 2ndInf, Round Valley California, in a message to headquarters wrote: “Now the Question is which of the two parties is to blame for this wild and disorderly state of Indian affairs, the Government Agents or the Settlers?”

The lens of history shows us that it was a combination of factors: Poor support for managing the reservation coming out of DC, superior weaponry in the hands of settlers, greed, corruption and bald-faced lying under oath, all coupled with the remote and rugged nature of the terrain made supervision and first-hand observations of the Mendocino Indian War less than a footnote in the troubled history of the times.

The area Yukis, Wailaki and Pomo were doomed from the moment the first whites set eyes on the place.

In the text’s final line, Baumgardner cheekily concludes: “There may be a little poetic justice in the recent success of Native American tribes through the legalization of casino gambling.”

My conclusions are darker: 

1          “…California Indians were among the most gentle and ‘primitive’ of North America’s aboriginal peoples. Most were generally at peace and harmony with their environment, and that harmony – exemplified in their view of nature and themselves as parts of a whole and their acceptance of what life offered them – branded the California Indians as hopelessly ignorant, lazy, backward and ignoble in the eyes of many of the whites.” [quoting Elizabeth Renfro in The Shasta Indians and Their Neighbors, 1992].  Renfro’s quote sounds starkly similar to the thoughts of some of my fellow citizens regarding blacks, Mexicans, Muslims…  After all: Who are we if we cannot say we are better than someone else?

2          George Santayana reminds us: “Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.”  Reading about the corruption, theft, falsehoods and protection of the guilty from the Round Valley Wars, an apt then-and-now comparison might be drawn.

3.         Therefore, I’d again suggest: Let’s do what we can to ensure voices are not stilled by those they might offend or expose.

This is a difficult volume to read, very textbook-like but, I would hazard, quite essential if we are to gain understanding of and an appreciation for a fragment of history those once in power would just as soon have us forget.  

It is well worth asking your local independent book seller to search out a copy for you.

© 2018
Church of the Open Road Press