August 10, 2014

Robin Williams
Robin Williams..very good for us

A couple of years ago, we posted a tribute to Whitney Houston ("Broken Songbirds"). Simply because like everyone else in America, we had heard her sing, "I Will Always Love You" and were saddened by her death. She sang as beautifully as a meadow lark on the Kansas prairie.
This week, another favorite American entertainer died. Particularly sad because Robin Williams had lost his battle with depression and committed suicide.
I am sure that when he appeared at the pearly gate, St. Peter erased his pain and comforted him, "Go right in, Robin, you are going to be happy here. Yes, you are. " Because that is the cool thing about heaven.
And I suspect that a waiting throng of angels split the air with their joy. They had seen him act in "Good Will Hunting" and "The Dead Poets Society. " And they had laughed at his humor in "Mrs. Doubtfire."
But even in Angwin, like everyone else in America, we are left with a deep sadness. Robin Williams was very good at what he did. And that was very good for us.
Duane Cronk, Editor

Angwin boys star in Little League
Six Angwin boys enjoyed a summer of baseball. And did very well, thank you, on two St. Helena teams.
Caleb Jeske, son of Vern and Holly; Liam Gilson, son of Rob and Betsy; and Zane Bullock, son of Galen and Fiona, played on the Eagles team, sponsored by the American Legion.
Caleb Granados, son of Hernan and Amanda; Jackson Dema, son of Mark and Tracine; and Stacy Nelson, son of Stacy and Angie, played on the Red Sox, sponsored by Central Valley Builders Supply.
Hernan Granados, Mark Dena, Vern Jeske, and Jim Gamble served as coaches.
Boys up to 12 years of age can play in the League. The Angwin boys are 10 to 12.
They played 23 games early in initial season and earned spots on the Napa All-Stars team.

Coach Mark Dena congratulates Herman Granados
Coach Mark Dena congratulates Herman Granados enjoying a home run.

Sirens going through Angwin
The Pope Valley Fire - July 1, 2014
Angwin residents learned to their dismay a few days ago that we live in a beautiful but dangerous environment. The Pope Valley fire originated at James Creek Road where it intersects with Butts Canyon Road, and fortunately for us, the wind took it north instead of southwestardly toward Angwin.
The starting point was about eight miles away as the crow flies. It started tiny and grew in ferocity, moved up Butts Canyon Road, into Snell Valley, and onward for a total distance of about five miles from its origin in Pope Valley.
A reminder of how fast a fire could come up the eastern side of Howell Mountain from a fire in Pope Valley. That has actually happened here. Years ago such a fire burned up the forests from that direction all the way to Eastern Avenue. That is close to what are now hundreds of homes.
Angwin people were conscious of the Pope Valley fire from the first minutes of its beginning. An Angwin resident coming home from the Market shortly after noon, July 1, saw a plume of smoke, grabbed his camera and took the picture below, looking toward Pope Valley across the Beringer vineyard from Hill Road. Within minutes the fire had nibbled its first 32 acres and our fire trucks were moving down Howell Mountain Road with their sirens on.
Historically, this kind of boat would've anchored and sent small boats back and forth. The engine allows for the modern convenience of docking; but though she purrs like a (large) kitten, the single-screw 350-horsepower Scania doesn't offer much maneuverability for a 210-ton vessel.
Nine Angwin fire department volunteers were first responders.
Sirens became a familiar sound for the next three days as Cal Fire called for more and more crews from other Napa County departments, then Sonoma County, Lake County and then farther and farther away. Sixty-eight crews in all..
At the height of the fire, Cal Fire reported more than 1700 firemen on the job and the sirens of most of their 128 fire engines announced them laboring up from Napa Valley through Angwin and down to Pope Valley. The fire had become a raging beast moving up Butts Canyon Road on both sides, into Snell Valley, and beyond. The heavy brush on the steep slopes of this mountainous terrain was easy prey. In the forested areas tall trees exploded into flaming torches.
Almost from the beginning Angwinites heard helicopters overhead as they flew to Angwin to refuel at the airport. Their labored sound buffeted the air overhead and started neighborhood dogs barking. The helicopters and air tanker planes dumped water and fire suppressant on the steep slopes firemen could not reach.
An estimated 15 people who live in Berryessa Estates and work in Angwin could not get home for several days. They stayed with friends here.
On July 4, Cal Fire reopened Butts Canyon Road. A couple of days later, the firemen finally snuffed out the fire with its army of firefighters, cargo planes, helicopters and such strategies as cutting firebreaks with bulldozers, even at night, and backfires where they could.
The beast had travelled about five miles, and eaten 4,300 acres.

Pope Valley smoke plume viewed from Angwin
First sighting of fire in Pope Valley from Angwin, taken about 15 minutes after its start.

Pope Valley map of fire
General area of the Pope Valley fire.
What was lost
The Butts Canyon Road is not what one would really call beautiful. Much of the views are of dense brush, with intermittent and scenic forests of evergreens and oaks. The steep roadside cuts are non-descript conglomerate, what the geologists call "volcanic rubble." Watchers will see specimens of serpentine, the greenish rock which is the official stone of California.
During the morning and evening rush hours, commuters from the remote Lake Berryessa Estates drive the Butts Canyon Road to Pope Valley, to get to Howell Mountain Road which will carry them up the slopes to Angwin and down to Napa Valley to jobs in St. Helena, Napa, and Santa Rosa. They drive over the 45 mph speed limit. There is only one stop sign in Angwin to produce a one-second stop.
During the rest of the day, however, the Butts Canyon Road is a recreational drive. Oftentimes, one can travel leisurely for 20 miles without seeing another car ahead or behind. In Springtime, the coarse roadsides turn colorful with wild flowers. One may spot a wild boar alongside the road, a pair of river otters in the Guenoc Reservoir.
The random scene below reveals what the fire left behind in its five-mile march toward Middletown. It will take a long time to bring back any sparse growth here, and to create a wild habitat to once again support the deer and the bobcats.

Pope Valley burned scenery

What was saved

Unburned field just outside burn area
Firemen stopped the fire just 20 feet to the left of this typical Snell Valley scene.

Unburned hillsides
Butts Canyon Road beyond where firemen stopped the fire.

Ed Black, a man for his time
Charles "Ed" Black passed away a few days ago and some of the old-timers in Angwin will remember him as veteran of an earlier and distinctive time. Ed was a craftsman. He was the pressman at PUC's College Press. His sharp and demanding eye produced beautiful printed pieces.
I remember seeing Ed at work, running from the feeding end of that big Meihle press to snatch a wet sheet, 38 x 24 inches, and appraise it with a practiced eye, making sure that all those tiny ink dots were producing beautiful pictures. He was one of a team of guys whose combined skills made the college press a go-to place for quality work. The California Banker magazine was printed in Angwin. So was the Pacific Union Recorder.
That was an era when the college was making money from a variety of enterprises- a chicken farm, a herd of milk cows and dairy, a bindery, a dry cleaner, a laundromat. Under the direction of Industrial Education Professor Burt Pontynen, students were building houses in Angwin, learning carpentry, electricity, plumbing, roofing.
Dozens were enrolled in classes which gave them hands-on lessons in woodworking, welding, auto mechanics.
I remember a story about those days. About a student bringing a sample of his welding work to the instructor and watching anxiously to see if it would pass inspection. He was chagrined when the teacher would hand it back with the curt question, "Son, is that a butt weld you would show to your mother? "
Ed was born in 1924 and grew up in the depression days and the World War years. Married to Cindy in 1947 and moved to Angwin. Served his community as the assistant fire chief and one of the first ambulance drivers. He took the sick and injured to the hospital in the family's Ford station wagon. As a hobby, he made picture frames, built a toboggan for his daughters. Always the craftsman, at work or at home.
I saw Ed Black at work. He was a man for his time.