Calistoga/Freestone Politics!


Outside of home on the West Coast is a town called Calistoga. Once taken from the natives, towns often went through a couple names.
Sam Brannan use to go up to carouse in Saratoga Springs before he went west to make money off the miners. Shoot, everybody in those days would go to Saratoga. Gambling, fast women, fast horses healing waters and geysers.
The Indians used to go there for the waters. Tastes terrible.
East of town was the deciding battle of The Revolution. Benedict Arnold led the fellas against The Crown; Johnny Burgoyne's men, and outgunned they just plain had the genious of the era outlining tactics and urging on valor.
Arnold was wounded and lost his lower leg there. That's what the monument to him saving the nascent union of scattered states shows. Just his lower leg. He got pissed not being named top-dog commander and gave that fella the defense plans for West Point.
Out west, like a bunch of interlopers, fella named Hinds also did his best to make money off others' labors. Had a Hotel/restaurant/hot running women and all that for the railroad workers putting in the line north to The Russian River and all those big trees. Only he saw as the rails would go further toward Summit another biz would get his business.
He started to torch the little trestles crossing Salmon Creek back when the creek had Salmon. He was there helping out with fire buckets and a shovel real fast doing the best he could like everybody else then set up a free round when they all came back to his place for food drinks and women. Happened two more times before they caught him. Tried to burn Brown's Trestle. At a hundred eighty feet plus it was going to be one of the taller spans.

Well it put H.C.Hinds in the slammer 'till he passed on to glory up above. Summit became Howard's Station, then Occidental.

Twenty years back from nowadays there was a saloon back
in sort of the arm pit of the general store that had been there since Hinds was around. As Innkeeper of the saloon I was the only place where folks could congregate late in the evenings. A responsibility that I carried over to to the voting habits of my clientele. A young fella was running for our Distict's seat on the County board of Supervisors. He'd stand on a busy street corner miles to the east holding a sign above him saying,"Vote For Me!". There'd be a finger pointing down to him holding the sign.
I'd be talking politics with the folks. I'd register everybody. Many of them taking a nap or no address and whatnot. "I'll fill that in later." I headed the comotose vote of Western Sonoma County before they started nit-picking about legalities. "Vote Early and Often!" A little bit of Chicago Irish and Landslide Lyndon Texas Politics brought to the redwood floor, big fireplace grassroots run campaign to hold back the shiney cars.

One night John, a boat-builder and Sailor-Philoshopher wandered in and asked for his usual spaghetti and beer and, "Oh, maybe call the Fire Dept 'cause there's a fire on the Salmon Creek Bridge."

The bar emptied except for John. On the way we stumbled over to the relativly new guy in town who had a double-decker bus painted in all sorts of odd colors and he wasn't a painter. He knew how to start and drive old trucks and the Firetruck was certainly one of those. It took bit to unstuck the door to the fire house. A big rock was jammed up against it so the wind wouldn't blow it open then kids would screw it up. Springs were sticking up in the air from the seat and the truck wouldn't start so all of us from the bar pushed the big red old engine.
A few were lost as we pushed. They sat on the sides of the road, finishing one of the beers we had thoughtfully brought with us and catching a breath of air. The truck started just as we approached Salmon Creek Bridge and the now subsiding fire. John had collected as many as he could fit in his truck of the four by eight plywood campaign signs of the entrenched conservative incumbent that those of us who kept up with issues couldn't stand.
Burning slower now like the calm embers of a weenie roast. Salmon Creek just moved along lazily underneath. It'd seen this happen before. A hundred years go by and not much had changed in Freestone.
A couple Deputy Sherriffs were walking through the embers from the other side through the smoke and fog. John came up from behind us chewing some spaghettii sauce soaked sourdough bread and finishing his beer. He told the cops that he set the fire, handed me the by now empty bottle and they trudged back shuffling through the coals, into the cop car and drove east into the night.

That was the last time I saw John.

He'd finished his boat that day. Got out of jail before we could get into town to bail him out. He sailed out of Tomales Bay. Headin' west.

That year I voted seven or eight times for the Absentee Voters I had registered and given addresses. I was always recognized by one of the sweet older ladies at the various polls. "Oh, you're so and so's boy from down the creek." Or I was Somebody else's kid up on the hill. I was always recognized.
It was darn interesting, getting a whole new background, family history and long-time friends of the family every half-hour or so... Sorta neat...

Eric didn't win in a landslide but it was the biggest upset The County had seen in generations. As The Speaker from Boston said, "All Politics are Local!"


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