The Fire Next Time......
The lunch was about wealth creation in poor agrarian communities. There were a bunch of ag guys, some Greenfield politicians and some initialed folk......the NRFC or some such. I didn't hear much.....beyond one guy from San Benito County who wondered why no one from San Benito was there. Apparently San Juan Batista is going up the tubes: town, businesses, homes.....the whole ball of wax. It is probably of little comfort to them that the Catholic Church is the major landlord in San Juan.....
Anyway.....to get to the lunch, we traversed the length of Carmel Valley Road. The smoke this morning was the most intense of our whole month-long experience. We could barely breathe on the way into Cachagua.....and in the Valley floor it was really bad. The length of the Valley Road there was nothing to see.......except the awe inspiring campground that has fueled the fighting of this fire. Not just the camp at Tassajara and Carmel Valley Road.....but in the fields beyond where Ari died. I wonder what he is thinking about all this. His memorial looks a little bedraggled.
Don't worry, Ari. We will catch you up in a few days.
The campground was awe inspiring especially because it is now a shell of its former self. There are still dozens of giant earth moving machines, and a passel of various sized helicopters.......and a mile of tents.
The smoke was so thick that there was nothing to see from the road. I identified the CV road spillout of the Lambert Flats road.....and the Anastasia spillout.....and Piney Creek. CSS. Couldn't See Shit. The smoke continued over Cahoon Grade.....no view of Mrs. Cahoon's gravesite......we could barely see the oak that guards the pounding stones above the old schoolhouse that Bookenoogen personally flattened the first day he owned it.
The day kind of sucked.....hot as hell. We met five nice people.....and none of them were Americans. The unbelievably gorgeous Latinas of King City pulled it out for us......along with a stroll through town with the hound, and a half hour in the graveyard.
When walking in a graveyard remakes your day.....maybe you need new employment.
On the way back, the famous afternoon winds had kicked up.....and we could see the hills.
At the most beautiful ranch in the world.....at the intersection of Arroyo Seco and Carmel Valley Roads....where Rose and Jeff got married......we could see fingers of fire had crept over the hill like lava flows. There were clear-burned spots......and lots of crispy red oaks. We saw some firebreaks.......think Hwy 280....cut along the ridge line.
And some back burns. Entire hillsides completely stripped of everything that had ever been vegetation. Whoa. Steep hillsides, dropping directly into the Arroyo Seco.
Along towards Piney Creek we saw evidence of mind-numbing detail work. Hand Crews had cut the low branches of a million billion oaks, dragged them down the hill and piled them up along the roadside. There were some more gnarly firebreaks. I know the Forest is closed.....but there are gonna be some really happy motocross guys as soon as the Feds leave. What are you gonna do.....shoot them?
And, coincidentally.....the motocross guys I know are often some of the same folk who carved the trails. I just hope I can keep up with them when the time comes to fire up those bikes........
All the canyon floor along the beginnings of Hastings.....where the Newt Signs begin are completely untouched and remain paradisical.
As we climbed the Cahoon Grade from the back side....we saw a tower of smoke from the far side of Chews Ridge. We joked that.....hey, after a day in King City.....we just aim for the biggest flames and drive back home!
As we cruised along the road I have done a thousand times.....past the old Howard Ranch, the flattened School Site, Piney Creek.....Hastings.....Ari's memorial....the tower of smoke beckoned.
Sure enough, as we came closer to the Store....it was right behind.
Some of our more hard core locals were in the Store. One guy is one of the gnarliest heavy equipment operators around.....and the only guy I know not on the gubmint tit. He stayed behind the barricades to defend his house. Another wood rat was also stocking up on Budweiser and the two of them told the same story:
"Old George the Cowboy (whose foto is next to Grant's at the beer tap in The Store......) was riding along the firebreak when the napalm helicopter came over. It hit on the right side of the break.....and the flames shot up like motherfuckers. They lept over the road and started a fire on the far side of the break. Flames shot up a hundred feet in seconds.
"Yeah, old George said: 'Fuck! I ain't never been so scared in my whole fuckin' life! I tole that horse, ride or we're done for!'"
"Yeah......I ain't never heard old George say 'Fuck' before.....and he said it twice in one sentence!"
"Yeah......and then when I mentioned it, he said "Fuck you...that was some serious shit!"
George is an old rodeo hand......Not easily intimidated.
What on earth was he doing riding his horse on the firebreak in the middle of a fire?
The helicopters swarmed in and doused the spillover in seconds with water and retardant.
Seeing those hillsides completely stripped by the flames when they burned really hot, scared me like George was. The old Indians ran fires all the time.....so those old Grey, Blue and Valparaiso oaks could flourish over the scrub.....and there was plenty of room and vision to gather acorns and run down game.
Stripped hillsides scare me.
Tonight there was a meeting in The Village....a final meeting. They finally pulled the World's Most Stupid Checkpoint at 6pm. My weird, rich neighbor....the one who passed on the Thermo-Gel because it might stain her stucco....called me to rally the locals to go and give a home-team cheer to the troops at the meeting.
I tried to tell her that the folks at the meeting were the PIO's.....not the firefighters.
Grandpa Fred said two weeks ago: "If everyone just went home....this fire would go to sleep on its own......."
Grandpa Fred is the wisest soul in these mountains....and I tend to listen to the few words he shares with us mortals.......
What I don't buy into is the law enforcement end of the fire. I am tired of being a Cassandra.....I am truly sick of warning folks about things, being dismissed as a loony....and then later being proved right.
Everyone in the Upper Carmel Valley thought it was OK to be banned from their homes, livestock, loved ones, gardens, businesses.......because some vague authority figure said that it was the thing to do.
The voluntary evacuation order, and the subsequent road closure and denial of public access to public roads and private houses was complete bullshit. There is no basis in law....anywhere: municipal, county, state, federal, global....for such a declaration.
The fact that the road closure was enforced long after there was any actual danger to locals or firefighters is significant and has been missed by everyone who does not live in Big Sur.
This was a game run on all of us by a corrupt, alcoholic, power hungry politician who is reaching beyond his grasp. That paradigm is all too familiar. We.....the citizens of Monterey County...went along with it because like all beings we were enraptured by the idea of fire. Disaster is exciting.
There was no rational reason to close Carmel Valley Road at Sleepy Hollow. None of the houses or businesses on the North side of Cachagua Grade were even inventoried by the firefighters. The people, houses and businesses on Tassajara Road south of Carmel Valley Road were so far from the fire that an asteroid strike was more likely than fire danger.....especially with dozens of helicopters and thousands of firefighters living literally across the street.
There was no legal force behind any of the ridiculous, incompetent bullshit that we were all subjected to in the last ten days......and people completely bought into it.
"Oh, I need a pass.......No problem."
No one asked: "Why do I need a pass? What is the danger? Who has made this decision, and why?"
People came and went for three weeks with no problem, with no checkpoint.
The Sheriff imposed a random checkpoint....for no reason.....as a practice in martial law. And everyone bought it. It was worse in Big Sur. Deputies, along with the intimidating and morbid tactic of demanding dental records.....actually confiscated fire-fighting equipment from residents.
Three times in my memory, I have used my own personal firefighting equipment to hold the line and keep fires knocked down until the troops arrived......one time for an hour and a half (there were three other fires that day that had all the fire folk already committed). Jack Swanson wouldn't have a ranch if a crippled guy and I had not used personal firefighting equipment....the kind the Sheriff was actually confiscating in Big Sur.
Does anyone else think this behavior is mindlessly bizarre, insulting.....and probably criminal?
Part of our lunatic Cachagua book club involves reading not just cop novels, but historical texts. Tim Moore is the go-to guy for this stuff. War. Battles. Holocaust. Fun things.
I am always amazed by people that say things like: "I don't understand the Jews. Why didn't they just stand up? Why didn't they just run for it?"
People.....you just had a game run on you exactly the same as what happened in Germany 80 years ago......enforcement of a non-existent law in the name of public order by an out-of-control and corrupt public agency, who co-opts other law enforcement agencies to go along because.....NO ONE SAYS ANYTHING.
And my neighbors want me to go to The Village and cheer about it.
I hate to be the turd in the punchbowl.....but you people need to pay more attention.
Me, Toddie Springs, the Curtis brothers.....and Diana Frietas are the only ones who stood up to this bullshit. Well, and not to get them in trouble.....but the Cachagua Volunteers opted out of the law enforcement end of things when the permits were "enforced".
And we are all on a Terrorist/Arsonist watch list. (Not the Volunteers......though they suffered the indignity of being informed that their State issued ID's were not valid to pass through the checkpoint to come and go from their houses to the fire station. Luckily, the CHP officers enforcing the charade had more sense than whichever idiots came up with that one).
Have a nice night.
Meanwhile.....in the midst of all this......many of us mountain folk are hard-core addicted readers. This is why I was so cheered that Alex read "The Road" in the middle of the lock-down, and that Grapevine Matt was reading "The Anatomy of Human Destructiveness." And, one of our mercy-missions on the Hennickson's Ridge Runners was to go to the library last Friday and pick-up a book that Peyton had ordered and get it to him.
Emergencies are relative.
Peyton and I.....and some others.....are readers of modern cop books....actually readers of anything and everything..... and we tell ourselves that it is all literature.
I just finished the latest James Lee Burke novel....."Swan Peak" I found some wisdom there, on the last page.
Here is a quote from the latest James Lee Burke cop novel....after Burke talking about Thomas Jefferson's letters to John Adams about personal and individual political responsibility:
"A confidence man chooses only one kind of person as his victim....someone who, of his own volition, invites deception into his life. Eventually we catch on to charlatans and manipulators and ostracize or lock them away. But unlike the fifth act of an Elizabethan tragedy, order is seldom reimposed on the world. The faces of the actors my change, but the story is ongoing, and neither religion nor government has ever rid the world of sin or snake oil."
And our Incident Commander may be a hero......but why is it that all the folks who were shitting their panties about spraying pheromones against a moth that might destroy a multi-billion dollar industry in Monterey County are all lining up to sing Halleluliah about an agency that has put so many direct toxins in the air that even someone like me who is inured to poison oak, nicotine and automotive hydrocarbons....not to mention the ambient marijuana from the Mexican Mafia pot farms........ is having trouble breathing in air so thick that you can't see 5,000 foot mountains from a mile away?
My judgment is reserved until I ride those new fire trails with Callie and Gerrit......and I talk to my brothers in Fish and Game this winter about our steelhead.
Fish and Game is still.....with the CHP....the only law enforcement entity in my Valley worth even thinking about trusting.....or even worth the distinction of "Law Enforcement".
And.....Sadly.....along with the CHP, and the Cachagua Volunteers....they are the only ones completely unfunded in this debacle.
Fuck. The address for donations to the Volunteers is: Box 2090, Carmel Valley, CA 93924
Don't talk to me when the Fire comes.....