|There was water flowing EVERYWHERE!|
This is the fifth episode of a nostalgic look back at a time period, July of 1975, when we did not hesitate to ask our siblings to move mountains for us. The funny thing is, they did it. When we left off yesterday, our grateful travelers were being accosted by the fuzz, having been pulled over while attempting to surmount Pacheco Pass, on Highway 152, from the Central Valley into the Santa Clara Valley.
“Well then, can I walk along beside you? I have come to lose the smog.
And I feel myself a cog in something turning.
And maybe it’s the time of year, yes, and maybe it’s the time of man.
And I don’t know who I am but life is for learning.
We are stardust, we are golden, we are billion year old carbon,
And we got to get ourselves back to the garden.”
Having been informed by the CHP that we “could not go on like this,” we were shot down in flames. Matt’s little Datsun truck, complete with camper shell and four passengers, had been cruising along like nobody’s business, even while towing our little VW Bug, when all of the sudden our speed had been reduced. Shortly thereafter, we had garnered the interest of the constabulary.
The kindly officer had suggested that he could call a garage for us.
“Here’s the skinny, your officership. If we had had the bread for limousine service, we would have been kosher, but we didn’t and we’re not. We’re maintaining.”
Actually, maintaining is the last thing we were doing, if you were looking at the big picture. Nancy and I had been taking classes, full-time at SJSU, we were both working part-time jobs and we were scouring NorCal, looking for property.
We were seeking that which would mesh with our goal of establishing a commune, or more accurately, a community, where we could work together to become self-sufficient.
Nancy had prevented us from making a poor choice on a parcel in Marin County, through her knowledge of geology, so we kept on perusing the personals in the San Francisco Chronicle. One day, there it was, the best shot so far at what we were looking for:
“Newly available tract of 100,000 acres, formerly Blue Rock Ranch, now being shown. Contact T.J. Nelson & Associates to make an appointment to see twenty and forty-acre parcels along Bell Springs Road, located in northern Mendocino County.”
“How far north is that from here?” I had asked.
“Remember when we looked at that parcel in Willits, the one that was so steep?” asked Nancy. “Well, according to the map, we have to travel 22 more miles north to get to a town named Laytonville, and then another ten or so miles to Bell Springs Road. Then we have to go up Bell Springs Road, it doesn’t say how far, so at least another hour or so.”
“Dig it, pops,” was my informed response.
I described in a recent post how we had hooked up with the rancher, Jerry, on this particular occasion, in the midst of a driving rainstorm, special delivery from the South Pacific, and ended up gathered around his wood stove, emitting steam even as we sipped on some Beam.
Jerry had a square face with a weather-beaten exterior that bore testimony to how much time he actually spent outdoors. His ruddy cheeks glowed in the kerosene oil lamplight, and he drew smoke in heavily from a filterless cigarette.
After debunking any highfalootin’ notions we had about the vast abundance of water, based on seeing all the creeks filled, he let us in on a big secret: This was some damn good land. He ought to have known, having been born in that same house, in which we were standing, and having roamed every square inch of the property on his horse.
Even as we stood there drying out and warming up, both on the outside and the inside, he regaled us with a yarn I have never forgotten.
|We bought this stove in 1976 at a barn sale in San Jose.|
We fixed it up and it has been in our kitchen since 1982.
“You know old Covelo, away over yonder?” he’d asked, gesturing to the southeast. We didn’t but we nodded in unison, that we sure did.
“I did my schoolin’ over there when I was growin’ up; I’d spend all week settin’ in a classroom and stayin’ at my granny’s, and come back here to the house for weekends.” Again, we all nodded. "Rode my horse."
“‘Bout 20 miles as the raven flies, but the horse weren’t no raven, so it were longer on the ground. I’d just give him the reins, and I’d go to sleep whilst he made his way overland. Took ‘bout three hours each way.” Bobble-heads, all of us.
Didn’t everyone ride a horse to school?
Didn’t everyone ride a horse to school?
I couldn’t help but wonder how it all worked out, when the rain and/or snow got in the way, but that was my thinking down the line. Right now, as we huddled around the stove and listened to the old rancher spin yarns, I was sure we had found our “commune.”
At four hundred dollars an acre, it was grand larceny at its finest moment, but no one was going to come after us. We paid eight thou for twenty acres; to put that in perspective, a year’s college education in 1975, cost $7,938.
[Editor’s note: Someone paid $7,938 per year for a college education in 1975-not this poor-boy. It cost $359.00 per semester to attend SJSU, the entire time I went there, with a hundred or so each semester, give or take, for books.]
I went to college from September of 1970, until May of 1982, with only two years off that I was away in the service, which meant I was only five years away from the land being paid off, when I actually moved up to Mendo County.
Exactly how much was my monthly land payment? $67.00.
Now, as we made with the palaver with the nice CHP officer, all we were trying to do was get home.
“Look, I understand that you’re broke, but until you get that flat fixed, you’re not going anywhere,” the cop said with finality.
Say what, futhermucker? We had a flat?
No wonder the little Datsun truck was struggling. It just never occurred to us that the reason could be found by checking the tires on the bug.
What could he say? It was all just a misunderstanding, one which took about ten minutes to rectify. At that instant his radio squawked, and he made like the wind, and blew.
“Ready for action-ready for danger! We’re copacetic now so let’s boogie!”
And boogie we did.
Tomorrow: There’s more?