Three solid weeks of rain, sleet, and a little snow have done wonders for our corner of paradise, especially the lakes, rivers and streams, which are all roaring full and, at least in the hills and mountains, over their banks. It's good to see, and it has been a long while since we last saw it. The past couple of days have been spring-like; sunny skies, mild breezes, and lots of cold-season grasses waving bright green. Nice, but coming to an end soon, with another Pacific storm due to roll in over the Coast Range on Thursday. Thank you, Lord.
Big news yesterday morning, at least for us: seems the feds and the Oregon State Police finally decided they'd had enough nonsense out of the lunatics holed up at the Malheur Wildlife Refuge in southeast Oregon, and intercepted the leadership of the group as they were cruising in a couple of SUVs on their way to a meeting with concerned locals in the little town of John Day, some 100 or so miles away. Details are still sketchy, but apparently there was some level if resistance from at least one of the armed terrorists, with the result that he was shot and killed. As I said, we still, at least as of this hour, don't have many details, but, as unfortunate as it is, it was bound to happen sooner or later despite the restraint the authorities had displayed over the past three weeks. Turns out you can't just decide to take up arms, invade a national wildlife refuge belonging to the people of the United States, threaten federal employees, intimidate the citizens of the surrounding countryside, and defy orders from local, state, and federal law enforcement agencies to vacate the premises and surrender your weapons without some consequences. These home-grown militants were given every chance to walk away peacefully, but were so deceived by the fact that the lawmen on scene were keeping their distance and exercising remarkable levels of tolerance in their dealings with them that they assumed (incorrectly) that their bluff was working, and so kept escalating tensions with nonsensical rhetoric and displays of weaponry. I don't know where the line in the sand was, but at some point they stepped over, and the curtain came down.
As many of you know, this particular group of "patriots" and "constitutionalists" claimed to be doing what they were doing as a protest of federal management of public lands in the West, which is another way of saying that they wanted to open up millions of acres of lands belonging to you and me to commercial exploitation by loggers, oil companies, and, most importantly to many of them, who happened to resent the fact that they were required to pay a modest fee for the privilege of grazing their cattle on our grasses, to ranchers for open grazing purposes. Here in the West, that last-mentioned item is an integral piece of the lifestyle we like to refer to as "cowboy welfare", and the two leaders of the band of outlaws at Malheur are sons of one of the highest-profile welfare ranchers yet exposed, one Cliven Bundy, who grazed his cattle on Nevada public lands to the tune of more than $1 million in fees, which he has steadfastly refused to pay and which, as far as we know, is still owed to you and me. (It might be pointed out, too, that ranchers who contract with the government for the right to graze public lands pay a small fraction of what it costs those who buy grazing rights on privately-owned lands, but some of them refuse to pay even that, claiming that they should have unrestricted access to do as they wish). So, in effect, these people are stealing from us, the public. Not to mention the fact that they're giving our part of the world a black eye just by the fact that they're here.
All of this is the long way of saying that neither these particular anarchists, nor any other of our increasing inventory of domestic terrorists, can be allowed to bully and intimidate the law-abiding citizens of our land, particularly when it's for no other reason than their own self-interests. They can put lipstick on it and call it what they want, but a pig's still a pig. So, congratulations to the folks of Harney County, Oregon, for getting their lives back, and thanks to the law enforcement agencies involved for the reasonable and rational way they dealt with this mini-crisis that could have been so much worse.
Now, on to Dottie Smith. I stumbled onto her, or at least her writings, when a byline of hers in the Redding Record-Searchlight caught my eye a year or so ago. I've forgotten what that particular article was about, but since then I've read dozens of her columns, and I've learned more about the history of Shasta County from her than I ever expected to know. Dottie is a retired teacher who has made a life's work of travelling this part of Northern California up, down, and from side to side, searching out and recording the stories, people, and places that make it what it is; the good, bad, and the ugly, as it is everywhere. What I love about Dottie is that she pulls no punches; she calls'em the way she sees'em. Proof of this would be two of her more recent columns, both dealing with unpleasant and inconvenient episodes in local history; one tells the story of the Chinese experience in the area, and the other with the shameful treatment endured by the Native American tribes of the region, both centered around events that occurred in the mid-1800s. The folks who settled this part of the state were probably no better or worse, on the whole, than any other group of pioneer settlers in our country's history, but they undoubtedly shamed themselves by some of their actions, and Dottie tells the tales with a clarity and economy of words that is a pleasure to read, attempting to gloss over nothing. For those of you who might be planning a to spend time in our part of the state, and who have an interest in the history of the places you might travel through and see, I can't recommend highly enough a website Dottie has created where you'll be able to find these articles and more Dottie: ShastaCountyHistory.com. It's time well spent, I promise.
Okay, lastly in this long letter, just a quick observation on a recent LA Times article I've been brooding about. The subject is a new concept restaurant in the Topanga Canyon area of Canoga Park called eatsa. First of all, everything about the eatsa concept is at least semi-radical, at least to an old f&b guy like me. The menu is built around quinoa; in fact, quinoa is about all there is. Lots of different iterations, for sure, but still, it's quinoa. Oh, you can get a hand-crafted soft drink, or house-made potato chips or salsa, but basically it's all quinoa all the time. Which is okay if you love quinoa. The curve ball, though, comes in the way the quinoa comes at you: no wait staff, no tables, no chairs...just iPads to place your order on, after which (in about 3 to 4 minutes, they claim) your name lights up over a glass cubicle which you then enter by knocking twice (cool) to claim your custom-prepared quinoa bowl. Problem is, then you have to go find a place to sit and eat it. Maybe it's more fun than it sounds. However, I love innovation in restaurants, and I wish them luck. There's also a San Francisco location (where else would it be?), according to the article, with more to come. If you go, give us a heads-up in the Comments area.
Good night; see you soon...