“Uncle” Donn Jaekle – November 14th, 2009

I met with Donn a week or so ago at The Boonville Lodge, an old haunt of his where he likes to have a couple of beers a few times a week in the late afternoon. As I sipped my coffee, he was brought a beer and we began to talk…
Donn was born at St. Francis Hospital in San Francisco in January 1928, meaning he will turn 82 in a couple of months’ time. He had a younger brother by a couple of years, Larry, and a sister, Joan who was five years older. Donn was 2 ½ months premature when he was born – “I couldn’t wait to get out and see what it was all about. A lot of good that did – I spent the next three months in an incubator! Unlike my brother who was a month overdue and weighed ten and a half pounds – my poor Mom.” Donn has a German heritage on his paternal side, his forefathers coming to the west coast in the early 1900’s. His grandfather settled in Mill Valley north of San Francisco where he became the captain of the ferryboat between Sausalito and S.F. – “it was the biggest passenger ferry in the world at that time, before the bridges were built across the S.F. Bay. He also had his pilot’s license enabling him to work as the guide for the big ships coming into the harbor.” Donn’s father, Donnelle, was an architect and he met his mother, Amy Frazier (of English/Scottish descent), in Petaluma. They initially lived in the Avenues in S.F. but soon moved back to Mill Valley and started a family.
However, Donn’s parents split up when he was just five years old and his father was given custody of the two boys; his sister going with their mother. At the age of 7 Donn was sent to a military academy school, a boarding school, in San Francisco for a couple of years – “we were midget army guys” – and then St. Catherine’s Boarding school in Benicia up the Sacramento River until he was in 7th grade. “I spent little time with any family for most of my childhood although I would still see my mother and sister sometimes. I was not close to my brother; I couldn’t stand the little prick… The school was in a rural area and we had nuns for teachers. They were horny. When we had our weekly bath on Saturdays they would scrub us and they sure took a long time washing between your legs.”
During the War, Donn’s father, whose still had his architect job in S.F., moved to work for the government in Cupertino, outside San Jose, as a draftsman and so Donn saw even less of him. He attended Jordan Junior High and High school in Palo Alto but as soon as he was 17 he quit and signed up for the Merchant Marines, entering boot camp in Sheep’s Head Bay, Brooklyn, New York. “I remember very clearly when President Roosevelt died in 1945. Everyone was very sad and people were crying in the streets. It really upset me too – he was a great President. Truman was next and he was o.k. but no Roosevelt.”
Donn signed up for three years, serving mainly in the Pacific. “I got married in those years, Marylyn Monroe was taken so I turned to my high school sweetheart. We then had a baby boy we named Kim. A couple of years later when I was a way on duty she sent me a ‘Dear John’ letter at Christmas to say she had fallen in love with my buddy from school and our relationship was over. She was pregnant and had a second child – a daughter. I had been home on leave but I wasn’t sure if the baby was mine or not. I have never seen her and don’t even know her name. I was bitter and may be I never really got over it as I never married again.”… Following his time in the merchant marines, the draft was still in effect so with his sea experience he signed on for the Navy rather than risk being drafted by the Army. “My final tour in the merchant marines was to Alaska for 5 months so when that was over I went out and blew $700 in just a few days following our return to S.F. We drank a lot, had a hell of a good time, and then I signed up for 3 years in the Navy (adding 2 more later). The Navy was fine and I officially graduated from High School in that time before I got out in 1953 when I was 25 years old. I still wear a hat every day that is a Greek fisherman’s hat and I used to have a 28’ cruiser on the Sacramento Delta – I have salt water running in my veins.”
Using the G.I. Bill, Donn attended San Jose State to study Commercial Art and Advertising. “I had treated high school as a place to play and never felt I had any purpose. In college it was different and I was good at what I studied. I’d always liked drawing and had done a lot of cartoon work when I was on the ships – people seemed to like my stuff.” Donn showed me some of his work from sixty years ago and he certainly was a very talented cartoonist.
However, there was no work in this field so Donn left after a couple of years and in 1955 went into the Construction business, greatly helped by his naval experience where he’d been in the Seabees – the Naval Construction Battalion. “I had been initially in the Navy Transportation Division but there was no future there so I’d transferred to the Seabees and was there for most of my five years. After 38 months at sea in the Merchant Marines, I was grateful to be anywhere rather than aboard ship or the cook.”
Around this time, Donn was at his home one day when there was a knock at his door. He answered and a young man of about 17 stood there. Donn assumed he was collecting for something and said he couldn’t help at this time and closed the door. They man knocked again and asked if he was talking to Donn Jaekle. Donn asked who wanted to know and the guy replied. ‘You are my father.’ “I had not seen him since he was two years old. We got along fine and I still see him sometimes. I was the Best Man at his second wedding and he now lives in Sacramento. I have five grandkids but I’ve never seen any of them. I have never felt like I had a family. I was never raised that way with my parents breaking up and being sent to boarding school. My friends have always been my ‘family’.”
Donn’s first civilian job was in San Jose as a Grader operator and he joined the Operating Engineers Union but as he moved up the ladder and became first an Estimator and ultimately a Project Manager, there was a conflict and he had to leave the Union. “I was in the construction business for 17 years, bought a house in Cupertino, had many friends, and had a good life but over time there was too much pressure and bullshit in the job and I quit when I was 44 in 1972.”
Donn’s mother had moved to Cloverdale a few years earlier and so Donn sold his house and moved up to be with her. He had been up this way many times over the years to visit her and fix anything she needed doing, plus he’d landscaped her land and built her patio and decks and had enjoyed taking her on drives through Anderson Valley. He moved into a travel trailer on her property and began to look for a job and may be some property. “I arranged to meet with a realtor in Covelo to look at a place – 22 acres on the Eel River. We arranged to meet at The Rock Inn at 9am or so and when I walked in it was packed and the pool tables were busy. It was a crazy place. We went to look at the property and nearby there was a bunch of Indians raising hell at the side of the road. We parked and were looking around when some Indians drove up, got out of their vehicle and then pushed the realtor’s car over the cliff and it rolled down the hill. ‘Not again,’ he said. They had done it before a few times apparently. We got a ride back into town from a logger and the realtor seemed surprised when I told him I wasn’t interested in the property. I never went back to Covelo again.”
Donn stayed on his mother’s property for a year or so before in 1974 he bought a parcel on the new sub-division – on Kramer Lane near the top of Holmes Ranch Road between Philo and Navarro. “I actually moved into the Valley a mere 35 years ago meaning I’m not an old-timer! I planned to have livestock on the land and wanted to do something with horses – I was a good horseback rider. I put my trailer on the land and found a job with Masonite on one of their road crews – watering haul roads at night and grading and paving the logging roads during the day. We worked for a long time on the road from the Demonstration Forest turn-off all the way over to Ukiah. However, I could never seem to get ahead and make enough money. I just couldn’t afford the payments on the property and lost it to foreclosure in about 1979.”
During these years Donn had spent most of his time in Navarro, the Deep End, and made many friends down that end of the Valley. “I didn’t know many folks in the Boonville area and for a social scene I’d go to the Floodgate which was both a store and a bar – it would be full of loggers by 2pm most days. It has an adjoining saw shop and the guys would come out of the woods and get their saws worked on or pick up parts. Naturally they would have to have a beer or two…or more. I lived just down the road and enjoyed hanging out there. I was a good friend with Steve Muchowski and we’d sometimes sit outside with a six-pack when it closed. People would ask us what we were doing there and we’d tell them we were waiting for the bus – of course there was no bus.”
In 1980, following the foreclosure, he moved his trailer to the Trailer Court behind Lemons’ Market in Philo and got work at the Philo Café in town, first as a dishwasher then as a cook. “I had been in The Lodge a few times but it was full of drunken loggers, a crazy scene. People like Skippy and Mickey Bloyd in front of the bar charging head first at each other. Skippy wore a hard hat, Mickey didn’t. Every time I went in there it seemed like there was a fight. Guys would come out of the woods and spend all evening there, and handing over their paychecks to the bar when they were paid. I did my laundry at Jack’s in Philo and would stop in Boonville for a drink but more often than not it was to the Boonville Hotel at first but over time I got to make friends at The Lodge and drank there. At one point I tended bar for a time. They were a good crowd of rough-and-tumble loggers. There were fights but it was logger-fighting – plenty of blood but they’d buy each other a drink afterwards!”
In 1987 Donn moved into a trailer on Hutsell Lane opposite Hwy 253 on Hwy 128 at the south end of Boonville. He’s been there ever since. Over the years Donn moved on from the cafe and worked various maintenance jobs, fencing contracts, and even at The Anderson Valley Brewery for a couple of years from 2000-01 as the gardener and groundskeeper. “I liked that job – making something out of Mother Nature’s gifts – but I did not like taking orders from that son-of-a-bitch (Brewery owner Ken Allen). He always made me wait around until way past my finishing time to talk to me. Then he’d have a drink or two and finally ‘condescend’ to meet up. I was an employee but in the end, he claimed I was a contractor in charge of the crew and therefore self-employed. I was kind of dumb, I thought we were all employees and had not realized that, with him now calling me a contractor, the taxes and workman’s comp etc, should have been deducted. The I.R.S. caught up with me later and I’m still paying them back – 15% of my social security – so I get $928 a month to live on. I have no money, no savings. Ken Allen treated me very badly, not just with the money, the way he treated me on a daily basis. Obviously I’m not the only one over then years. The dirty rotten bastard, I hate his guts and would have been in prison now if I’d done to him what I wanted to do. I told him what that was too. There are damn few people I have hated in my life – he’s at the top.”
I asked Donn how he got the name ‘Uncle.’ “I had a boss in the construction industry whose kids I would sometimes baby-sit and the family called me Uncle Donn. It just stuck. Then when I moved here some friends came up to visit me and asked people where they might find ‘Uncle Donn.’ Soon this got round and people started calling me by that name. When my friends came back a few months later they said, ‘you’ve sure been busy around here – everyone calls you ‘Uncle’!”
These days Donn goes into The Lodge a few afternoons a week, and often on Saturday and Sunday for a beer or two. His favorite hangout is the Redwood Drive-In where he goes most mornings for coffee and sits with several other guys who have been doing this for years. “I like to meet my friends and see what is going on. Guys like Mouse, my old boss in the woods, Donald and Manchard Pardini, Leo Howard, Fritz Kuny, Bill Holcomb sometimes, Emil Rossi – he comes in for his maple donut and nobody else can have it unless he hasn’t shown by 1.30pm… I love the people here in the Valley – they’re a great bunch that would do anything to help if necessary, rare in most places I’ve lived. It’s still like the good old days in some ways around here. Of course there are a few people around who are assholes but that’s the same anywhere you live.”
“I have a roommate who helps with jobs around the property and a couple also live in the trailer and help with half the rent, the phone, and the television payments… My health is pretty good apart from the screwed up cataract operation I had this year. They messed up one of my eyes. I am not sick very often. I like Dr. Power at the local Health Center although I don’t like the other one – Dr. Apfel. Hey, I did not sign a contract that said I had to like everybody, although I do like most… I have not traveled much – I like it here. I’m a stubborn old bastard, I guess. I’m here in the Valley to stay at this point. I don’t know why I’d leave – I don’t even like to go over the hill to Ukiah. My mother passed away in 1985 and I never re-married. There’s not a gal on Earth that doesn’t have her head on backwards and have the ability to take things out of context. I do o.k. though. I can get serviced anytime I want without having to get married. Of course, I may fall asleep during it.”
I asked Uncle Donn for his responses to a few of the local issues that confront Valley folks these days. The wineries? – “The Valley has changed so much from the logging, sheep, apple days of the past. Now its vines everywhere – the range of hills up on the east side of Boonville used to appear to be all white there was so many sheep up there. Those I’ve met in the winery business are the biggest bunch of snobs I’ve ever been around. I don’t like the trend towards the wine industry at all. It’s not the wineries so much as the people who own and manage them. They don’t mix with the Valley people although they try to kid you that they do. Just ask around here. They do help in some ways but only if they get something for themselves or are doing it so that they are praised for it”… The A.V.A. Newspaper? – “It’s a good gossip column. I like it more now there are these interviews and we get to know more about people we may have known for years. Of course I like to read the Sheriff’s log too”… KZYX & Z public radio? – “I like it. It’s too politically correct of course and some of the programming does not belong on our local radio but they do a good news report and I like the classical music.”… Law and Order in the Valley? – “Deputy Squires does a good job. He does not get too involved with the public and can make good decisions as a result. I was arrested once by Deputy Miller because basically I had been a poor witness for him in a case several years earlier and he’d always said ‘I’m gonna get you.’ He did, for D.U.I., but then it was dropped.”

To end the interview, as I have being doing each week, I posed a few questions to Donn many of which are from a list originally devised by French Interviewer and Culture “Expert”, Bernard Pivot, and featured on television’s “Inside the Actors Studio with James Lipton”…
What turns you on creatively, spiritually or emotionally? – “Getting up and joining friends for coffee in the morning. It keeps you on your toes.”

What turns you off creatively, spiritually or emotionally? – “Living with someone – my wife – who leaves clothes on the floor after a shower… The cost of leaving is a real turn-off too.”

What sound or noise do you love? – “A cat purring – that’s a wonderful sound of contentment.”

What sound or noise do you hate? – “People talking in Mexican in front of me when I’m the only non-Mexican there. I have many Mexican friends and I used to work with a crew of Mexican guys. I learnt Spanish – all the curse words first. I lost a tooth when I got it wrong one day! Round here they speak something different, much more guttural and profane. I always thought it bad how they would tell me they did not like it here in this country and were only here to get money – that is wrong surely.”

What is your favorite curse word? – “Chinga.”

Is there a film/song/book that has greatly influenced you in some way? – “I found a book on the old Mexican civilization called ‘Aztec’. It was really interesting and I read it every few years – it was a historical novel. I sometimes think I know more about their history than they do when I talk to some Mexicans around here.”

What is your favorite hobby? – I used to love gardening until the landlord said I couldn’t use the water for that unless I paid more. I also read a lot but my eyes are not much good these days.”

What profession other than your own would you like to attempt? – “I wouldn’t change anything I’ve done but cattle ranching was a dream of mine that never materialized.”

What profession would you not like to do? – “There is a bunch of those – pumping out septic tanks comes to mind first.”

What was the happiest day or event in your life? – “The day my wife sent me a letter, when I was away in the merchant marines, saying we had a newborn baby – our son.”

What was the saddest? – “I don’t know but may be it was the deep, deep sorrow I felt when Roosevelt died. I shall never forget it. The whole country was in mourning.”

What is your favorite thing about yourself – physically/mentally/spiritually? – “That I get along with most people. If you asked what my least favorite thing was it would be my temper – oh, boy can I be bad; but it soon goes away.”

Finally, if Heaven exists, what would you like to hear God say when you arrive at the Pearly Gates? – “It would be fine if he said, ‘Welcome Uncle Donn – you don’t have to go to that place down below with your family’… I’d be lonely in heaven – I haven’t been a bad guy but I haven’t been a real good guy either.”

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Published in: on November 25, 2009 at 5:59 pm  Leave a Comment  

Doug Read – November 6th, 2009

I met with Doug Read a couple of weeks ago at his home on the Valley’s unofficial ‘Mason-Dixon Line’ that separates Boonville and Philo, just north of Breggo Cellars Winery. The house, built by carpenter Doug, is in a beautiful spot with 360 degree views of the Valley as it sits up on the hill on the east side of Hwy 128 overlooking Bill Hill’s Hole (huge pond).

Doug was born in 1952 in Stalin’s Soviet Russia. True. Within a year, Frank and Joyce Read originally of Salt Lake City, both practicing Mormons who already had their own biological child, Susan, and would soon have another, Kent, had adopted him. “It was a very unusual thing to do at that time,” Doug says. “I’m not sure of the details but I know it was not done through some sort of agency”. His new parents’ descendents had all been Mormons and at one point in the 1860’s, Doug’s Great, Great Grandfather on his mother’s side, and a practicing polygamist, had to flee to escape prosecution when that was made illegal. The Read’s lived in Ogden, Utah with their extended family nearby and where Frank Read ran his own water conditioning/softener business.

They lived in suburbia and Doug attended the local schools. “It all seemed o.k. to me – there were lots of kids around where we lived, I was happy. I was a good student but didn’t really like school. I preferred to be out hunting and fishing with my Dad and knew as a young boy that I wanted to live in the countryside when I grew up… My Dad was an alcoholic and a chain-smoker and for a few years he was quite mean but in his later life he was a sweetheart. I was at his bedside when he died at 74. He was on a morphine drip as he slipped away – it was beautiful, not sad at that point.”

In 1968, the family moved to Ventura, a ‘surf town’ south of Santa Barbara and Doug went to the high school there for two years until graduating in 1970 and going to a junior college for a couple of years – “for no apparent reason.” In 1970 with the war ongoing in Vietnam he registered for the draft to please his parents but then turned round and burnt his draft card. “This was terribly illegal and I did it as a symbolic gesture, to make a statement about the War. While at the J.C., I basically majored in draft evasion – I loved to read the Fabulous Furry Freak Brother’s magazine that was regarded as subversive, and I would drop off copies at the Draft Board. I’m not sure what they made of me but they had to file everything I gave them, not just medical records, which in my case were full of reports on my asthma and a burst lung. I was prepared to go underground if they came after me but my number was 235 and they were only taking up to 96 by this time as the war was beginning to wind down… Moving from Salt Lake to southern California had meant that I had become much more aware of the political situation and had gained a very different perspective on virtually everything I had known.”

In 1972, Doug’s parents moved back to Utah with his brother (his sister had stayed there). “It was not working for them. They were from a small town upbringing and my Dad was having issues with alcohol”… Meanwhile, while at the junior college, Doug had continued to date his high school sweetheart and when they left and he had started an apprenticeship in carpentry, they were married and had a baby girl, Tisa. Soon afterwards they moved back to Utah and he attended trade school there and began to find work. “We tried to make it there but it was tough after living in Ventura. I had been ‘California-ized’. Meanwhile me and ‘the kids’ mother’, as she is fondly referred to, had a second child, our son Winter.”

“We remained in Salt Lake for three years and then returned to Ventura in 1976 where I found work in home building and renovation. We lived a pretty normal life I imagine – raising the kids, hanging out with other parents. We had our 3rd child, daughter Aura, in 1979 – I delivered her – that’s a pretty good high I would say. Now I was 28 and had three kids. Thank God for ignorance or we’d never breed,” he added with a smile… “Along with other parents we started an alternative school with open classrooms run partially by parents. It was quite ground-breaking at the time, giving some logic to the standard way of thinking – a regular structured school is not for everyone.”

In the summer of 1979, Doug visited a friend of his here in Anderson Valley and they went wine-tasting at Husch Vineyards and Edmeades Winery, and generally had a great few days. “’I gotta live here’ I thought and when in March 1980 my buddy asked me to build him a house on some land he’d bought I accepted the job and we moved up. We lived in a tent, the two of us and the three kids, all under seven years old – once again thank God for ignorance, I would never have done that if we’d known what we were letting ourselves in for. We had just a spring on the property in Rancho Navarro, there was no well, but we had the VW bus, of course, and would drive over to Ukiah once a week and stay at the Motel 6 and spend most of the time in the hot shower… I found some part-time work with old-timer Bobby ‘Chipmunk’ Glover, installing pumps but most of the time I’d just listen to him talk and not much would get done.”

“It was very rough and neither my wife nor I had much idea about country life. Despite that, I was always o.k. about being here. I knew I could build but making it happen was another thing altogether. Then my friend ran out of money and the project stopped. We had a little money and in 1981 my father-in-law gave us quite a bit more so we were finally able to buy our own place nearby. For a time things were tight and many of the buildings in the Valley were old and shabby but I felt that the Valley was going to grow – the Hotel was undergoing renovation and the Navarro Winery buildings were going up. I thought I’d always get work. I was right.”

Doug found most of his work came from neighbors on Rancho Navarro. He continued to build his own home at the property they called ‘Poison Oaks’ whilst living in a 27-foot trailer his parents had bought them that ran on a generator, as there was no electricity. His marriage had been under strain; his preferred lifestyle was not the same as his wife’s, “She liked her City ‘fix’ and the nicer things. We split up around 1982/83 and she took the kids back to southern California. I would go down there and pick them up for the summers and every other holiday. It was strange. I was a single-parent for part of the year then a single guy for the rest. I found it tough to switch on and off – I feel I did not do very well at it. I thought I was going to lose my mind for a time but we all survived.” In 1986, Doug started work at the Philo Saw Works for Jim Boudoures and has been there ever since. “Yes, Jim has kept me very busy, he still does – I have to almost beg for a day off. We’re practically married!” he chuckled, adding, “I run one of his two crews – the finishing crew, I am the detail guy.”

After his wife and kids had left, Doug began to mix with like-minded individuals in the Valley. “I joined the gang who were playing Jungle Ball up at the Cheesecake Estates on Greenwood Road. It was like volleyball but with very flexible rules. If it looked good then it was good. Being part of that scene was very healthy for me. It gave me a kind of salvation for the hard times I had, emotionally and financially – I had been growing old really quickly. Then we formed The Magic Company. It was born in a hot tub at Cheesecake and started by Henry Hill, Captain Rainbow, Terry Scott, and myself. They all knew each other and I really wanted to be a part of their scene; I had good banter with these guys so I pushed myself into the group and we began to write and produce shows. I had enjoyed, and always taken part in, theatre at school, I was too wimpy for sports, but initially I was just the lighting guy but after I blew them away with my stuff I was soon allowed to be on stage too.”

“Our first two shows, or rather ’musical plays,’ were both on Halloween – we claimed we ‘owned Halloween’ in those days – and they were held at the Old Grange building before it burnt down. Then Rainbow started The Variety show at the Philo Café before it moved to the new Grange. Those involved included people like Alan Kendall, A.J. Soares, Jack Tysselling, Dave Dart, Lynn Archambault, Lady Rainbow, Christy Hodgkiss, etc. Henry would build the props and the ‘play’ would be written around these, constantly evolving. It was all original stuff, and as Terry Scott would remind us, ‘you can only see something like this in Belgium and Peking.’ We had lots of fun and drank a lot.”

In those days Doug had long hair – “so going to The Lodge was out of the question” – and not much money so as a result he and his friends would gather for a film at The Grange and later, when The Grange burnt down, at Brad Wiley’s barn, to which people would bring popcorn and firewood for the stove. “There was not much to do around here. Change was slow in the Valley although places were being fixed up and high-end homes were gradually coming in, but it was still sort of a place on the way to Mendocino and the coast. It still is in some ways, I guess. In winter it would get really dead, like a ghost town. The apples and sheep were disappearing and grapes were arriving. I continued to get steady work fortunately.”

By the 1990’s Doug was working a lot and had dated a few people before entering into a seven-year relationship with Jonesy DeWolf. “We are still good friends. I have always tried to stay on good terms with any ex-girlfriend and have been successful in most cases.” In 1993 he sold his property in Rancho Navarro and bought the acreage he has lived on to this day. “It’s half-way between Philo and Boonville, on what is the Valley’s ‘Mason-Dixon’ line, to use some Boontling vernacular. It’s a very defensible place in case I have to fend off the mutant hordes from the City. When I bought the property there was a well but nothing else except thick Scotch Broom trees. I cleared a few out and immediately began to build once again. I am still working on this place. I am great at starting projects but not good at finishing them.”

Meanwhile, he had known Wendy Blankenheim as a ‘good pal” beginning in 1996 “but there was never a time when neither of us was with somebody else. I guess we finally became official in February 2005 and we got married on June 9th, 2007.” With a little money coming his way during the nineties Doug began to travel, visiting Brazil at that time, and then later with Wendy to Thailand three times and also Mexico. “Wendy is a true traveler. I have learned from her. I have not done much in the U.S. but I did go to see The South once. I wanted to experience that part of the country. I had a prejudice against it, and still did at the end of my trip. A lot of the history down there has been built on the back of slavery. I liked the difference in cultures but should the things that happened down there be glorified in its heritage?”

For a few years now Doug has been a member of the ‘Ukeholics’ music group, along with Henry Hill, Denver Tuttle, and Dennis Hudson. “I had a guitar when I was 12 and saw the Beatles. We are not too serious but we do practice regularly and currently I think we are feeling very comfortable as a band and playing in the band is a spiritual place for me. ‘I coulda been a real fancy singer if it hadn’t been for ma voice!’ ” he adds with a laugh.

Doug loves the Valley, particularly its sense of community and physical beauty. “I wouldn’t change much around here except may be have fewer vineyards and a closer check on the Valley’s development. I’d also create some permanent swimming holes for public use… And if we had a position of Mayor of the Valley I’d vote for Captain Rainbow – he drives me nuts but I like much of what he does around here. He is in to connecting with all the cultures we have around here.”

For seven of the last ten years Doug and various friends have attended the ‘Burning Man’ gathering in the desert. “It is 43,000 people, mostly doing creative things, very freely. We create ‘The Boonville Cabaret’ theme camp each time we go and set up a bar and stage – we’ve had as many as 23 Valley and honorary Valley people in the group. Bruce Hering, Linda McClure, and Wendy were Burning Man ‘virgins’ back in 2004. It seems to get better every year and is far more than just a big party. It is very spiritual and great fun – having fun is a right of every human being and enjoying it with friends is very special. To be in the midst of this incredible creativity is amazing. The whole sense of community there is wonderful; no money is exchanged – it is a gift economy. If I have it, and you need it, it’s yours. The energy is great and we try to bring home here a little bit every year.”

Doug always wanted to be in the ‘hippy world’ but as a result of having kids at a young age he had to get work and was never a true hippy. “I wanted to do the whole VW bus thing and travel around but my wife wanted the ‘picket fence’ scene and stability. I guess I’m somewhere in the middle now – I like to ‘dance’ in all of the different groups here”… As for the future Doug informs me that he may have to leave the Valley much as he would love to stay. He has asthma and the spraying done by the vineyards is affecting him. “They spray all night sometimes and some of that shit is not good. I am shocked at just how much they do spray. It is not talked about enough, even today with all the awareness of what it could be doing to us. Trinity County is a possible place I might move to – it will have to be somewhere where there are plenty of rivers and trees. I moved here for the clean air but it seems I have to think again. My mother is still going strong at 85 in Utah and even though my grown-up kids and my six grandchildren, all between 1 and 9 years old, are not in the Valley, my ties here are strong but my health is more important. For now though, this is my home – I love it here and part of the joy of traveling is coming back here.”

I asked Doug for his responses to some of the issues confronting Valley folks, starting with the Wineries? – “”We need more!!!…Naah! I do like wine but the issues of water shortages and pesticides bother me a lot. The regulations on what they can do need to be strictly enforced somehow. I’d like them all to go organic. O.K. so sulfur is organic, so I’m fucked. I do know that a lot of stuff happens at night around here, nobody is checking it. Who knows what is going on”…KZYX & Z local public radio? – “Public radio is important to a free country. Non-corporate radio is needed. I like our station – it doesn’t please everyone which is a damn good sign. I wish they could rely on more smaller donors and not corporations. I am no fan of N.P.R.”… The A.V.A. newspaper? – “It’s great. I read it every week. It’s nice to have such a publication here. Stuff gets written that pisses people off, me included, but that is fine. I believe you’ve got to have it.”

To end the interview, as I have being doing each week, I posed a few questions to Doug many of which are from a list originally devised by French Interviewer and Culture “Expert”, Bernard Pivot, and featured on television’s “Inside the Actors Studio with James Lipton”…

What is your favorite word or phrase? – “I like the word ‘procrustean’ – it means wanting everyone to be the same and refers to someone who is intolerant of others – not my kind of person.”

What is your least favorite word or phrase? – “The very annoying way that the word ‘whatever’ is used. It annoys the shit out of me – someone is basically saying ‘nothing you say is important.’ Wendy uses it sometimes. I am getting used to it I guess – now I even use it myself sometimes!”

What turns you on creatively, spiritually or emotionally? – “Beauty…Being around free spirits. Being at Burning Man is such a boost – a very creative scene in a beautiful environment.”

What turns you off creatively, spiritually or emotionally? – “Television.”

What sound or noise do you love? – “A baby’s real belly laugh – it melts me every time.”

What sound or noise do you hate? – “Fuckin’ sprayers in the night; poor radio reception.”

What is your favorite curse word? – “That would be ‘Cock suckin’, mother fuckin’ whore’…I am a carpenter and it helps if I can get this phrase out sometimes – suddenly everything seems to fit. I have told my grandkids that they must learn discretion when cussing – never do it in front of the elderly or your teachers.”

What is your favorite hobby? – “Well these days it’s playing the ukulele.”

What profession other than your own would you like to attempt? – “May be a gigolo – not really working, just trying to please the older ladies…Travel writing would be cool too.”

What profession would you not like to do? – “Cop”

What was the happiest day or event in your life? – “The birth of my kids and marrying Wendy.”

What was the saddest? – “My divorce – when my kids were taken away. Those were really bad times.”

What is your favorite thing about yourself – physically/spiritually/mentally? – “Physically? My feet. According to my Mother they are perfect…. Spiritually? All the great spiritual leaders say the same thing ultimately – ‘There it is.’ I like to keep my mind open and try to follow this and the mantra ‘Just be cool and have as much fun as possible.’ That is important to me spiritually… Mentally? That I have the ability to avoid filling my brain with trivial things.”

Finally, if Heaven exists, what would you like to hear God say when you arrive at the Pearly Gates? – “May be he’d say, ‘I put you down there to have fun – I hope you had a good time. If you didn’t, I’ll have to send you back”… And I’d willingly go back if there was a good party to go to.”

Published in: on November 18, 2009 at 7:40 pm  Leave a Comment  

Elwin Maxey – October 31st, 2009

101_0052When I met with Elwin Maxey for lunch at The Boonville Lodge a couple of weeks ago, his granddaughter and caregiver, Dee Gowan, accompanied him. Elwin is now 93 and he and Dee live together in the home behind the A.V. Farm Supply that is owned by Elwin’s daughter Nancy and his son-in-law, Dave Gowan.
Elwin was born in Redding, California on Feb 16th, 1916 to parents, John and Eva Maxey and he has one younger brother, Herbert. The Maxeys were originally from Oklahoma and were the neighbors on the farm next to that owned by the family of Jesse James, situated alongside the Platte River, outside the town of Coffeyville close to the border with Kansas. ‘My Dad knew Jesse a little but it was his brother, my Uncle Claude, who knew him a little too well and actually rode with the James Gang. He did a few bad things but after they held up a train and shot the conductor he quit.”
The family raised thoroughbred horses and a few cattle in a small town but the temptation of another Gold rush, that of the 1890’s in the region a little further north than that of 1849, led the family to leave and move to a small town called Ono, near to Redding, where John Maxey went to work in the gold mine at Harrison Gulch. Elwin attended a small grade school with just seven other children and then went to high school in Watson Gulch (not far from Redding) where he played baseball while enjoying a lot of fishing and hunting when not at school. “A river flowed through our property and we’d catch trout and hunt for all sorts of animals. We had a family farm and raised cattle and horses, with our own vegetables and many fruit trees. Ono was very small and had just a gas station and a post office but I liked it more than the big town of Redding. Then when I was sixteen, in 1933, we moved to Anderson Valley where my Uncle Art (Ragland), my Dad’s brother-in-law who had married his sister, owned the Big 4 Ranch down by Yorkville. My Dad worked on the ranch and also helped the Government Trapper catch mountain lions that were killing so many sheep. I went to the high school in Boonville for my senior year. Others who are still around here from my graduating class are Austin Hulbert, Shine Tuttle, and Charmian Blattner.”
Elwin soon had a high school sweetheart – Bernice Gowan – and not long after graduating in 1934 they eloped to Reno and got married, leaving James Gowan, Bernice’s brother of Gowan’s Oak Tree fame, to tell her family what had happened. “Yeh, I got mixed up with them Gowans at an early age,” said Elwin with a big grin on his face. “It was not much of a honeymoon though – I was ill the next day and thought it was food poisoning from eating some pumpkin pie so we came back but then I was taken to hospital in Ukiah and it turned out I had to have my appendix out!… We were married for 69 years until Bernice passed away in 2003 – that’s along time to be with one woman and we had our ups and downs believe me!”
For a time after getting married they lived on the ranch in a small cabin but then an opportunity came along to move to the town of Upper Lake in Lake County and have a ranch with about 70 dairy cattle along with fields of alfalfa and pear trees. “I did not think it would be nearly fifty years until I would live in Anderson Valley again. When I wasn’t working in those days I loved to ride motorbikes. I had an Indian motorcycle and rode all over the State on it, and down to Mexico too. I damn near got killed a couple of times so I moved on to car racing – the midget cars. They were small but could go 100 mph. You might say they were too fast but I drove them in races all over the place – Stockton, Sacramento, Reno – and had a couple of accidents. I was o.k. both times but the cars were wrecked. Finally, Bernice said, ‘Either stop racing or we get a divorce – I figured it was cheaper to stop racing!”
While he was racing Elwin had a job in a glass making factory – “it was hotter than hell in there”, before he quit the sport and the job and turned his attention full-time to the dairy ranching. “We sold our dairy products to Clover-Stornetta who distributed it all over the region and we also got to house horses there – one of them was called Nevada Boy, who was to become the famous Sea Biscuit”… Over the next few years they had three children – Nancy, Jim, and John – and during the Second World War they moved to the Bay Area where Elwin worked as a machinist making landmines for the government and was therefore given a deferment from joining the military.
Following the War, in 1945, they sold the ranch to Clover and moved to Lafayette, at that time a rural community in the East Bay, and Elwin joined the Fire Department. He was there for 18 years and for many of those years he was the Assistant Fire Chief. Over that time he and Bernice would often visit Anderson Valley to see relatives as most of her side, the Gowans, were living here. “The Valley was changing very quickly at that point – mills everywhere.” During those years he also worked for the Government as a trapper, dealing with the ongoing mountain lion problems for ranchers with sheep, cattle, and domesticated hogs. At some point Elwin hurt his back and the injury eventually brought an end to his career as a firefighter so in 1963 they moved once again – this time to Placerville, California, where they built a home, their kids attended the local schools (with both sons eventually joining the Air Force and going to Vietnam), and Elwin began work as a welder in equipment maintenance and also a grader for the County Road Department. “I became a very good welder, eventually quitting before I went blind, but I continued to work on the grading of many of the roads in the Lake Tahoe area.”
In 1976 Elwin retired from the Road Department and, with a number of others, he and Bernice formed ‘The Placer Panners’ and they and their friends began to travel all over California in their house trailers for a couple of years – at one point their group/convoy consisting of seventeen trailers. Eventually, in 1978, Elwin and Bernice settled in Ft. Bragg on the coast but Elwin still maintained a busy lifestyle by buying a boat, Big Mac, and doing some commercial fishing. “Bernice said it was the perfect job to get me out of her hair.”
In 1983, Elwin and Bernice finally returned ‘home’ to Anderson Valley. Their daughter Nancy had married Dave Gowan and they had started the Anderson Valley Feed and Supply in Navarro, at the Floodgate location before moving the business to its current location just north of Philo on Hwy 128. Elwin and Bernice moved into a mobile home on the property, behind the store and barns, where they lived together until Bernice passed away in 2003. He has four grandchildren – Dee, Mark, Andy, and Kelly, and five great grandchildren with another on the way.
Over the twenty-five years that he has been here in the Valley, Elwin was kept pretty busy until his failing health finally slowed him down in recent years. His excellent welding skills have been in much demand and an example of his handy work can be seen at the gates to the Roederer Winery that he made and installed with help from Butch Paula. With his machinist skills he also installed the bottling line there and has helped out when needed at the Farm Supply, including hauling feed up from Santa Rosa and delivering hay to customers.
He has also kept busy by attending as many of the social events as he can, depending on his health. He used to be in a group for men called The Old Codgers, who would talk about their farm equipment etc but that no longer exists. He loves the annual Crab Feed and the various tri-tip bbq’s that are held in the Valley and tries to go to the Senior Center on Tuesdays and Thursdays whenever he feels up to it. “Most of my old friends have passed on now and I guess I’ll join ‘em one of these days – I just don’t think he’s ready for me yet and anyway he’ll probably put me to work welding something when I get there.” He particularly likes to go out to the coast and have some seafood for lunch at Captain Flint’s in Ft. Bragg, close to where he had kept fishing boat, and another favorite spot is Hendy Woods where he can be pushed by Dee in his wheelchair amongst the redwoods. “She is wonderful but I try to push her buttons when I can.”
Elwin has traveled quite a lot over the years including trips to New Orleans, Las Vegas, Hawaii, Europe – “I saw the Queen but couldn’t understand her English”, Mexico, and a cruise to Alaska. However he loves it here in the Valley the most. “It is beautiful here. In many ways it is still a quiet little town but it will change I’m sure. In the next fifteen years or so you will hardly recognize the place but I won’t be around to see it.”
For a year or so Elwin was in Brookside Care Home for the Elderly in Ukiah but he never settled. “There were many elderly people and I had my own apartment there so it was o.k. I guess, but it still seemed like a jail to me and I couldn’t wait to leave. My health suffered there too– I caught everything that any of the others had.” He has been much healthier since he left there a year ago and has had Dee as his caregiver on the property in Philo. Dee tells me that he is strong as an ox some days but like most people at that age he has good days and bad.
I asked Elwin for his opinions about some of the issues that concern Valley folks these days…The Wineries? – “Well they had to do something to get money here and that seems to be the best option. But there are too many now and I think they will have problems down the road. It’s sad that the apples and sheep are no longer here. There have been some big changes in the Valley and I think there are more to come”… The A.V.A. local newspaper? – “It’s good – Dee reads it to me every week. I like hearing about the people I know”… The tourists? – “It’s o.k. as long as they don’t drink too much when they’re at the wineries – one of them hit our car last year”…

To end the interview, as I have being doing each week, I posed a few questions to Elwin many of which are from a list originally devised by French Interviewer and Culture “Expert”, Bernard Pivot, and featured on television’s “Inside the Actors Studio with James Lipton”…
What is your favorite word or phrase? – “Well I probably have a few but saying ‘I just don’t know what they’re doing’ is one of my favorites.”

What is your least favorite word or phrase? – “When someone tells me that another person ‘should go to hell’.”…And I don’t like some of Dee’s phrases like ‘whatever’ or ‘talk to the hand’ – I don’t know why I should talk to her hand.”

What turns you on creatively, spiritually or emotionally? – “Seeing friends and talking about the old days… Going for rides in the car and checking out the places that have old memories for me.”

What turns you off creatively, spiritually or emotionally? – “ I don’t have an answer for that.”

What sound or noise do you love? – “ Music – country and western music.”

What sound or noise do you hate? – “Dee scolding me,” he said with a big smile on his face.

What is your favorite curse word? – “Whatever comes to mind first.”

What is your favorite hobby? – “I like football – the 49ers especially, although they had better get their heads out of their ass… I like to watch ‘Law and Order’ on television or old western movies with John Wayne and those guys.”

What profession other than your own would you like to attempt? – “A pilot of some kind.”

What profession would you not like to do? – “An outhouse cleaner.”

What was the happiest day or event in your life? – “When World War 2 ended and I knew my family and friends were coming back home.”

What was the saddest? – “When my Dad died. We were close.”

What is your favorite thing about yourself – physically/mentally/spiritually? – “That I took the opportunities that were offered to me and that I traveled so much with Bernice.”

Finally, if Heaven exists, what would you like to hear God say when you arrive at the Pearly Gates? – “Well I’d like to say to him, ‘I hope to have as good a time here as I had in the place I just came from.’ And hopefully he’d say, ‘You’ve done well – I can grant you that.’ “

Published in: on November 11, 2009 at 6:34 pm  Comments (1)  

Larry Smith – October 24th, 2009

101_0041I sat down with Larry outside the A.V. Market in the heart of Boonville and spent a very pleasant few hours talking with him during which time virtually every person who passed by acknowledged him with a wave or greeting – undoubtedly a popular fellow.
Larry was born to William ‘Cotton’ Smith and Imogene Brown in 1942 in rural southern Illinois, an area of farming and oil. “It was a small community – my Dad’s sister married my Mum’s brother!” Larry was the oldest of six – four boys and two girls – and his heritage is French/Scots/Irish on his mothers side while his paternal forefathers were long-time settlers in the region, although originally they were descended from the Choctaw Indian tribe… His father worked in the oilfields, first as a wildcatter, then a roustabout, and finally as a pumper and his Mother, when not raising the kids, worked in a shoe factory during the war, making footwear for soldiers. He was raised in the town of Clay City, “about the size of Boonville”, and spent his entire childhood and youth in the area. ‘The nearest town of any size was Carbondale about 75 miles away – we practically knew everyone in the County. I went to elementary and high schools there but didn’t like any of it. I wanted to be out duck hunting and fishing – wild game was a large part of our diet – so I missed a lot of school but managed to be just smart enough to get by and I graduated in May 1960.”
He was raised in the Methodist religion and attended church every Sunday and Wednesday “until when I was about fifteen a new preacher arrived in town and I had the ‘hots’ for his daughter. We were caught making out in a car and I was banished from the church – it was fine with me”… The day after graduating Larry joined the military. “There were no jobs around except in farming and I knew I didn’t want to do that – I had helped my Grandfather on our small farm. Most of the men in my family had been in the army or the marines and I wanted to be different so I went in the Navy. I was a bit of a rebel I guess, and I also figured that the girls would prefer a man in a sailor’s uniform.”
The Second World War was in its third year in Europe and Larry was just 17 when he went to boot camp in Milwaukee and then moved on to the naval base in Norfolk, Virginia. “When I got off the bus in Norfolk the first thing I saw was a sign on some pristine grass that said, ‘No sailors, niggers, or dogs on the lawn.’ I hated that place”… His first job was in the Communication Center as the Admiral’s messenger, which he did for ten months before getting a transfer in 1961 to an active minesweeper – an experimental steel-hulled one, headquartered in Key West. The Cuban missile crisis was bubbling up not one hundred miles away and “I was soon involved in my first killing exercise.”
“We left our base in the Dry Tortugas, islands off the Florida Keys, and went down towards Cuba with the purpose of doing something out of the ordinary. It was not our usual routine and was a covert action. We shot down an airliner. I know nothing more than that – but it was not a military plane. I guess we needed to get somebody out of the way. On our return to base a friend and I got very drunk and re-enlisted, adding more of my life to the service. I signed up for six more years and did my best until I got out in 1968. I didn’t like any aspect of my job on the minesweeper but by re-enlisting I was reassigned and sent to radio school in Bainbridge, Maryland in late 1962. From there I was recruited into the Submarine Service; well I volunteered – I liked a challenge; I was twenty and felt like I could take on anything.”
Larry received his first assignment on a World War 2 submarine out of the Portsmouth shipyard in Virginia and ended up going “all over the place, with many near death experiences. I had a carefree attitude towards things. I was also not a big fan of the officers but on my very first dive in a sub we went down too fast and went below ‘crush depth’. We had a smart cookie for a C.O. and got out of that one thanks to him… Over the years I met many great guys and there was a wonderful camaraderie in those old WW2 vessels that was never quite repeated when I was in a nuclear sub later on.”
Larry’s submarine was part of the Atlantic Fleet but they were sent all over the Caribbean and the Mediterranean too. “I had a great time in Europe and met many of the local populations, particularly when I was the ‘mailman’ for a ‘Wolf pack’ of subs in a port and would have to travel to various ones delivering their mail in a naval truck… Vietnam was revving up and the Marines were all very excited about going there in those early days. However, the Submarine Service is a different part of the Navy and we were generally assigned to maneuvers concerned with the Cold War, not the Far East. We did a lot of ‘Black Operations’ (covert) – involving the dropping off Marines and/or Special Forces at various places in the dead of night.”
Following a period of time when Larry was the Commodores personal radioman, Larry was transferred to the S.S. Triton, a nuclear submarine, in late1963. “From then on we did mostly espionage in enemy territory, making many trips to Soviet waters. We’d go from the east coast to Western Europe then to the North Sea and under the ice to the Bering Straits and the Sea of Oshkosh. Every sub had its role – we took pictures of Soviet subs and stole equipment whenever we could, particularly the sonar buoys that they had dropped into the sea by helicopter to look for us. We tracked and recorded everything and gradually built up a library of what they had, often listening in on their conversations. During one period of time I was under water for 330 days out of 400.”
In June 1966, Larry headed to Instructor School on Treasure Island in the S.F. Bay and then on to teaching at the Submarine School at Hunter’s Point Naval Shipyard in San Francisco. “I loved the City. I was right in the middle of what was going on there at that time – those were the days. I was working regular hours, had a car, and could enjoy all that S.F. offered. My time there changed my life in that it confirmed the perspectives that I had been accumulating in the previous few years. I was angry with the number of government lies we were fed, by both Kennedy about Cuba and the U.S.S.R. and then Johnson about Vietnam. We came so close to nuclear war – it blows my mind. Our policies were counter-productive, both sides were very, very foolish and I thought the anti-war demonstrators were right.”
“As a result I was in a very difficult position – teaching kids about going to war while not agreeing with that war. I had thirty young men in my class, all had volunteered, none were drafted. Often if a kid didn’t want to be there I’d find a way to get them out. Those that wanted to be there got the best training I could offer – some are still my friends.”
Around this time Larry got his first experience of Boonville when he came up this way with a friend from the shipyard to go hunting. “Something hit me about the place but we didn’t get a deer and so I didn’t think much more about it.”… In 1968 Larry left the Navy. He had been studying at City College and found that he could apply himself academically after all. “I got over the feeling of being stupid in that way but meanwhile there were no acceptable jobs for me and it was a rough couple of years from 1968-70 in every way – a chest full of medals didn’t pay the grocery store bill, although I did do some cab driving and house painting at that time”
Larry was living in Redwood City, south of San Francisco, and had signed up on the G.I. Bill to attend college. “I took music and a class in basic education that I’d never got before. One day I walked into the Community Services Center (C.S.C.) and was told by the guy at the desk that the jobs on the wall were not for me – I was ‘not Mexican.’ This pissed me off and so I attended the Center’s next few board meetings and got really involved. I was soon elected Chairman and immediately fired the guy who had told me I couldn’t apply for the jobs. That reverse discrimination was not acceptable – I have always hated discrimination of any kind.”
In 1973 Larry became the Director of a Neighborhood Service Center – a non-profit working with a small amount of money. However, over the next few years it had expanded to a staff of 29 and a budget of $3 million, as they provided a job center, a senior citizens program, and food kitchens for the area. “It was a tough job, it was making me ill, and I burned out. I took time off and went off looking for a place to live, a place to ‘hide out’ for a time. I came to Anderson Valley, far enough away from work to prevent me from commuting. I checked the area out and found 30 acres way up on Peachland Road just north of Boonville. It had a cabin – all I needed – and so I bought it for $35,000.”
He soon found a job in Santa Rosa as the Executive Officer of the Construction Industry Association – “Yes, the C.I.A.!” This group was involved with the General Plans for several towns in the area and encouraged growth in a forward-thinking and ethical way, with particular emphasis on access issues for the disabled. Larry was with them from 1976 to 1979 when he decided to start his own consulting firm in resource development using the excellent contacts he had made over the previous few years in construction, real estate, and banking.
At this point he moved to Anderson Valley to live and there he met Gwyn Leeman, an accountant in the area. “She was on the women’s adult softball team along with the likes of Terry and Sherry Ornbaun, Patty DeFaveri, and Karen Ottoboni – the ‘Hot Sox’ was their name and I guess I became their cheerleader. Their coach was Harold Perry and they were a very good team, winning the North Coast Championship.”
After Gwyn and Larry were married in 1983, she joined him in his business and over the next few years they lived and worked in South San Francisco for a time, working on a big sound-proofing project for houses near to the San Francisco Airport – just one of many other jobs in various northern Californian vicinities, from surveying for wells, to building improved housing developments in poor areas such as East Palo Alto, to moving effluent from sewage treatment plants to wineries. “I was an ideas man in a business that was basically all about problem-solving and solution finding. It was what I did best and most of the time we were based here in the Valley.”
In 1995, Larry had a brain tumor. An operation removed one third of the tumor and the rest was dealt with by radiation treatment. It has been a long recovery ever since and he still gets treatments for seizures and depression. “I also suffer from Post Traumatic Stress Disorder as a result of my wartime experiences. My dreams can be very tough, my memory can be bad, and I nod off to sleep easily. However, these days I think I can do just about anything and am currently learning Spanish, both as a brain exercise and also to keep pace with the human family.”
Larry has now been in the Valley for over 30 years and has obviously witnessed many changes. “I love it here – the people, the climate, the opportunities given to serve the community. The Valley has a magic vibration – I believe some people have come here when they are sick and then they get well… I am proud of what we have done at the Hospice, of which I was one of the founding members. If people are given six months or less to live we provide help and assistance of all kinds for them. We have helped many people in the Valley.” Larry was also on the Chamber of Commerce for a time and is still in the American Legion, which provides scholarships for students and help to veterans… These days he loves to come into Boonville and hang out with the many different people he knows – I can attest to that. His misses some of the old-timers such as Jack June but has friends in the younger generations and continues to play his trombone both in Bob Ayers Big Band and The Peanut Butter and Jam Band that plays regularly at Lauren’s Restaurant in Boonville. He has also written a novel that he is fine-tuning for publication. “It’s a kids story, around 300 pages, set in a haunted house – essentially a tool for persuading young people to stay in school showing what can happen if you don’t. We are proud of our boys who came through the school system here in Anderson Valley – Nemo who was born in 1987 and Ras, born in 1990. There are thousands of Larry Smiths – I learned that, so I wanted different names for them and Nemo has a nautical connection while I had a favorite uncle called Ras.”
I asked Larry for his thoughts on various Valley issues and topics of debate… The wineries? – “I like them. They’re much better than sub-divisions, they provide employment for many, and they seem to contribute to local fund raising”… The school system? – “I’m really proud of our schools, they do an excellent job with 95% of the graduates going to college. Both of our boys are at college now – Nemo at Santa Rosa J.C. and Ras at Chico State – they received a good education here. One thing I would say is that there used to be more trade schools for the kids to go to and that’s something I think we need to think about again”… The A.V.A. newspaper? – “I’ve been a subscriber since before Bruce Anderson was the publisher the first time, back in the Homer Mannix days. I read just about the whole thing, including the want ads and people’s business card ads. Bruce is not a bad guy and I think it is wrong-headed to not read the paper just because you do not agree with some of the things that are written”… KZYX & Z local public radio? – “I’m a supporter and have been a member since the beginning, twenty years ago. I don’t like everything on there but the music is great and they are very helpful and are on top of any emergency or fire situation. If you don’t like it, become a part of it and initiate change”…Changes in the Valley? – “So much has changed in the 33 years I’ve been here. In those days you had to have your shit together to come into town, be prepared to defend yourself – there were several different groups at that time, downtown Boonville was a tough place, even the women used to fight back then, slugging it out just like men”… Drugs in the Valley? – “Well it has definitely got worse. In the old days it was just marijuana. I don’t think the government has any right to get involved with that if it is on private property. Isn’t it supposed to be government of the People, by the People, for the People’? Besides, marijuana is a good medicine for many – we have used it at the Hospice practice for years and have never had one person react negatively or have a bad experience, not one. Meth use is different and the problems with that have taken a toll on people here”…
And if Larry were the Mayor what would he do around here if such a position existed and had some legitimate power? – “II would order that building on the south end of town demolished as a hazard. I would even risk getting sued and organize volunteers to take it down piece by piece if necessary”…And whom would he vote for Mayor? – “Kirk Wilder probably – he walks on both sides of the street. I think he would blend in with old-timers at the Drive-In and also cross the road and be welcomed at the ‘love-in’ at the Boont Berry Store.”
To end the interview, as I have being doing each week, I posed a few questions to Larry many of which are from a list originally devised by French Interviewer and Culture “Expert”, Bernard Pivot, and featured on television’s “Inside the Actors Studio with James Lipton”…
What is your favorite word or phrase? – “Beautiful.”

What is your least favorite word or phrase? – “A word in Boontling used by some of the old-timers still – ‘eisel’, meaning asshole…Another is ‘I can’t’, I don’t like to hear that.”

What turns you on creatively, spiritually or emotionally? – “Music – all sorts. I once tried out for the Oakland Symphony with my trombone but I blew it.”

What turns you off creatively, spiritually or emotionally? – “Young people just hanging out with no get-up-and-go in them, with no ambition. So much is open to them these days.”

What sound or noise do you love? – “I like the sound of silence – I get that where I live five miles up the road out of the Valley.”

What sound or noise do you hate? – “An unattended baby crying.”

What is your favorite curse word? – “Shit or damn.”

Is there a film/song/book that has greatly influenced you in some way? – “A book called ‘Be here Now’ by Ram Dass, the section called ‘From Bindu to Ojas.’ It is oriental mystical philosophy and it opened the floodgates for wide acceptance of diverse philosophies and cultural diversity. It signaled the beginning of the ‘New Age’ movement. I read it in my 30’s and it made me cry. It really affected me and changed my life to some degree.”

What is your favorite hobby? – “Reading – mysteries and history.”

What profession other than your own would you like to attempt? – “High School career counselor.”

What profession would you not like to do? – “Electronic plating.”

What was the happiest day or event in your life? – The day I closed escrow on the house on Peachland Road in 1976.”

What was the saddest? – “Probably the death of my Grandmother, who basically raised me. It was hard enough just dealing with that as a small child but my father did not approve of my lingering sadness and that was tough to cope with too.”

What is your favorite thing about yourself – physically/mentally/spiritually? – “That I respect just about everybody and love ‘em if I can. Some are hard to love of course.”

Finally, if Heaven exists, what would you like to hear God say when you arrive at the Pearly Gates? – “I have had some contact with ‘God’, so if he said ’Welcome home, son – good job’ that would be fine with me… Other regions in the world deal with death in better ways. I don’t believe in death per se. I believe the spirit leaves the body and goes to a place of all energy. As in the core tenet of Buddhism – ‘Gone, Gone, Gone beyond, Gone utterly beyond, Oh what an Awakening’ The meaning is essentially that by letting go of your preconceived notions, opinions, and attachments, you can become open to all the wonders of our life… I believe in a ‘creator of all that is’ – a higher power, I guess, but I admit I do have an element of doubt of course.”

Published in: on November 4, 2009 at 5:22 pm  Leave a Comment