If You Build It, They Will Complain

Colors are all wrong613There’s a big controversy brewing in Nevada County over a fellow who builds furniture in his garage and donates it to veterans. The homeowner’s association says he is violating the CC&R’s, which all residents agree to when they move into the neighborhood. Technically, they are right, but sometimes it feels like we are painting ourselves into smaller and smaller corners.

Posted in Local, Politics | Leave a comment

A Cornish Tradition

Marvin at work537When I was growing up in Grass Valley during the sixties, I was aware of my family’sĀ  Cornish roots, but it was never a big part of our lives. We ate a lot of pasties and my dad was a big tea drinker, but other than my grandmother’s English accent, there was little evidence of our European heritage.

Dad was not a joiner. He belonged to no civic groups and never ran for office. Unlike most of the local Cornish, he didn’t have a religious bone in his body. I knew this from the arguments he used to get into with my aunt, a prim and proper Sunday school teacher. It got so bad that she would sit in the car when dad’s brother would visit, rather than set foot in the house of the heathen Crabbs.

Only once did my father show any interest in his family tree. It was at his sixtieth birthday dinner in 1978. He was a little tipsy, the only time I can ever remember him being anything close to drunk. He suggested that he and I fly over to England and tour the old homeland. I never heard him mention it again. Maybe he didn’t remember, but more likely he thought about how much it would cost.

For the most part, he stayed out of the local limelight, and valued his self-sufficiency and privacy. He never asked anyone for help and never talked about any connection to his Cornish heritage, although he was somewhat scornful of the “Cousin Jack” chuminess that excluded those who weren’t related by blood or territory. It could be that he didn’t know much himself, since his miner father died when he was three years old.

I’ve been laid up with a cracked kneecap for the last two weeks, which has given me the opportunity to catch up on some long overdue reading. One of the unfinished books was Highly Respectable Families: The Cornish of Grass Valley, California 1854 – 1954 by Shirley Ewart. It covers the pilgrimage of some of the better known families across the Atlantic and through the jungles of Panama or around the Cape to get to the goldfields.

One of those names was Bennallack, a name familiar to me, although I had never been friends with any of that clan growing up. As far as I knew, there wasn’t any connection between our families, until I read the following passage about Sibley Bennallack Hansen…

According to Sibley, the most important Cornish value was concern for other people. The Cornish of Grass Valley cared about people and looked after each other. Stories of old James Bennallack describe his compassion and concern for anyone injured under his supervision; when Minnie Chinn Farley’s father was ill, she remembers that JamesĀ  Henry Bennallack ( son of “Old James” ) always came to their home to see if anything was needed. The tradition is a fine legacy; one that, it seems, the people of Grass Valley have kept alive.

I had to smile when I read that. Back in 2003, my father began his slow decline and had to spend some time at a local convalescent home until he was strong enough to come home. One day when I came in to visit him, I was surprised to see an elderly woman sitting at his bedside.

“Bob,” he said, “this is Sibley Hansen.”

I knew who she was, but had never known she was a friend of my father’s. And I still don’t know how she knew he was in the convalescent home. Somehow, she answered the call, and only now, all these years later, did I discover the reason for her visit.

Both Sibley and dad are gone now, but it’s nice to know they left us such a rich legacy. A fine tradition, indeed.

Posted in History, Local | 2 Comments

This Land Is Mine

Nina Paley is one of my favorite cartoonist/artists. We met many moons ago when she was doing a weekly comic strip in Santa Cruz, complaining about overzealous police and unfaithful boyfriends. Since then, she has gone on to bigger things….

Posted in Culture, History, Politics | 3 Comments

The Dreamer

dreamer621Scablands is actually two stories. My part of the story takes place along the same paths traveled by the dreamers of the Wanapum tribe one hundred years before me. The two stories weave in and out until they come together in the book’s conclusion.

I’ll be selling and signing copies of Scablands this Sunday, July 27, at McGee’s Annex in Nevada City. Hope to see you there!

Posted in Culture, History | 3 Comments

Act Your Age

Aging Boomer619I did this cartoon when I was fifty years old. Feels like a century ago now.

Posted in Culture, History | 6 Comments

Book Release Party!!!

Poster Scablands615Okay! The book release party for SCABLANDS is set for Sunday, July 27, from 3 to 6 pm. There will be munchies for the bums and I’ll have a big stack of books for sale. Let the good times roll!

Posted in Local | 10 Comments


LBJ583In recognition of the passage of the civil rights act, the Famous Marching Presidents of Nevada City are spotlighting Lyndon Baines Johnson in 2014. Lyndon’s greatest achievement ended up being overshadowed by the Vietnam war, but history will no doubt be kinder as the memory of that debacle fades. Look forward to seeing all the chief execs in this year’s Constitution Day parade on Sunday, September 14th. Hope to see you there!

Posted in History, Local, Politics | 2 Comments

Sunday in the park

Posted in Uncategorized | 5 Comments

SCABLANDS – sample

The following is a sample from my just-released graphic autobiography, Scablands, which is available in print from lulu.com. (keyword: Scablands) Enjoy…Scab Story One596Scab Story Two597Scab Story Three598Scab Story Four599Scab Story Five600

Posted in Culture, History, Local | 15 Comments

Free The Hands!

Gloves594Bartenders all over the state of California are clapping today, and it is the crisp clap of bare hands rather than the muffled slapping sound of rubber on rubber. That’s right, the omnipotent legislature has repealed the law they hastily passed last year requiring all food and drink handlers to wear gloves.

One might see the wisdom of requiring fast food handlers to cover their filthy teenage paws, but it was going to be a disaster for the bar industry. When was the last time you heard of someone getting sick from the celery stalk in a Bloody Mary, or the lime in the coconut? Having to change gloves every five minutes would seriously impede the public’s right to be served in a timely fashion, and would no doubt lead to fewer tips from anxious alcoholics.

But even a body as clueless as the solons in Sacramento must eventually see the error of their ways, especially when their campaign contributions from the powerful food and alcohol interests are in play.

Posted in Food, Politics | 5 Comments