We tried to visit Fort Ross on the northern California Coast last year only to find that the park is closed during the week. This time all was perfect.
Fort Ross was established by the Russians to harvest (steal) sea otter pelts and grow wheat for their Alaskan colonies. They brought Native Alaskans (slaves) who knew how to hunt sea otters. The Alaskans hunted with kayaks and atlatls so that they could sneak up on the otters. One shot from a Russian gun would have chased all sensible otters in the area away.
Oola and the Wild Card learned how to throw the atlatl from Ranger Hank.
What is an atlatl you ask. It’s an ancient weapon, found all over the world, which makes it possible to throw a projectile verrry far, verrry fast, so as to acquire dinner.
The Wild Card used his luthier’s skills to make one when he got home. Ancients would have used stone tools. The Wild One is not qualified on stone tools. He used his band saw.
Some atlatls have very long, sproingy dart shafts. The shaft on this version is short, as were those of the Aleuts, so that they could be manageable in a kayak. It’s also thick because it came from a hardware store instead of from a tree branch.
Note the elegant feathers. The Wild One did not have any feathers, so — the geese being unwilling — he used masking tape. Feathers are necessary to drag the rear end and make the sharp end go straight to the target. He put the nut on the tip to add weight and to make the pointer end of the dart less dangerous.
The Aleut’s atlatl would have a detachable sharp head which would lodge itself in the seal or sea otter and kill it. And the detachable point was connected by a piece of string to a toggle which could get caught in the kelp. Or to a float so that the hunter would know where the animal was and pull it out of the ocean.
The Wild One says throwing with the atlatl is an extension of his fast ball throw. He thinks that you can use your baseball or rock throwing skills to gain accuracy pretty fast.
Oola thinks it is pretty cool.
Her form is very good already. She found the shoes necessary because of the resident geese — who were not much impressed with the whole exercise.
Back in Fort Ross, Oola and I had petted a sea otter pelt. I have never felt fur so silky or soft. Those critters paid a high price for their valuable beauty. They were nearly made extinct in the 19th century.
Semester over, grades done. Whoopieeeee! The man who would be Mysterious and I headed off for a couple of days of snooping around at Fort Ross, on the northern California coast. The Mysterious One is a history buff, and loves old things. Both are found in abundance in the Fort. This trip is my treat to him for having been so patient with me during a particularly busy semester.
It has been raining a lot lately and there is much more in the forecast. But miraculously the two days we reserved months ago are serene and almost cloudless. So we head north in the rugged blue Prius with Mom’s memorial Chihuahua nodding in the window.
On the road through dripping redwoods and lush green hills, my travel companion remarks that everything is a wick; that the role of all plants and animals on this earth is to pull the water out of the ground and send it back up to the sky so that it can fall down again. Everything that moves is the Ocean walking around in its cycle. “You and I are here”, he says, “to carry the Ocean around.” It sounds more mystical than scientific, except for the pooping part.
Just north of Jenner, my companion comments on this site.
This and the RED cows on the GREEN hill. You just gotta love California.
We get to Fort Ross State Park, and WHAAAA????….It is closed! There we meet a woman with a Russian accent who has come to visit too. This is direct evidence of the budget woes of the State of California. (Not that there isn’t more evidence all over the place, the woes on my students being only part of the whole mess.) Maybe you don’t gotta love Caliornia.
Well, we have the rooms in the lodge reserved, too late to cancel. We will have to make our own fun.
Our room in the Fort Ross Lodge has a class “A” bed, a fireplace with wood to burn, a barbeque with charcoal, a private hot tub with a full, unobstructed view of the Pacific Ocean, No WiFi, and (except for the gentle thudding of waves arriving from Alaska) — SILENCE. Comfortably worn on the edges it would be our contemplative home for the next two nights.
We begin to unpack, and … where is Oola? We forgot to bring Oola! Oh, Man! Is She Gonnabe Pissed!!!
A glass of wine later we hear the thup,thup,thup of a helicopter. Here? We are used to such sounds in West Oakland. But here?! The vehicle lands, and out steps Oola. Cripes! She is mad! Meanwhile two guys in grey jumpsuits walk over to the store across the street, presumably for a six pack of beer.
Those of you with sharp eyes may imagine that you read “Sheriff” on the side of the copter. But…would I lie to YOU?!!!
About 2:30 in the morning I wake up and notice that the light of the moon is almost gone. Stepping outside I see the moon-set and I stumble back into the room, trying not to wake the Mysterious One. I fumble for my camera in the dark.
And, of course, the stars are amazing. The three of us lounge in the hot tub, and look and cook and look some more.
Day two of the adventure, we three drive south to the picturesque town of Jenner. We sip and chew some spicy, home-made-from-scratch, clam chowder. And we watch the Ocean trying to get into the Russian River inlet while seals snooze on the sand spit and gulls keep vigil.
(or sea lions? Can anybody tell which these are?)
A little farther north Oola enjoys the surf.
The Mysterious One decides to walk around the perimeter of Fort Ross and back to the Lodge. A truck driver — who was making room for him on the narrow road — seems to think the Mysterious One’s hand gestures are a greeting when the gesticulations were really about 3 cars coming up the hill just around the bend in the road. The Mysterious One thinks he almost caused an accident. He had no idea how dangerous it could be, but he gets back in one piece. Drivers, you just can not be in a hurry on Hwy 1.
Meanwhile I sip pinot noir and watch a tall brown heron of very prosperous mien eating small pale mammals in front of my patio. A few vultures are gracefully circling the landscape between us and the sea. Some ravens are dining on a small rabbit. Low score for the furry ones today. Never-the-less Oola and I take a walk toward the bluff. Oola has her eyes wide open for Mountain Lions.
Late in the afternoon we three sit again in the hot tub and watch the approach of the next storm on the horizon. It is spell binding and I forget about the damn camera.
In the middle of the night rain tap dances on the skylight.
Time to go home. We pack up and drop off the key.
Back in the supposedly real world we stop off for an IN-AND-OUT, that’s what a hamburger’s all about. During the meal Oola comments that this blog is supposed to be about the artist on the road. So, where’s the art? (Sometimes she can be really annoying.)
Well as it so happens, next door is a store that advertises “Indoor Gardening” in big red letters. Oola wants to see what kind of culture we can find in there. She is interested in African Violets. This might just be the place.
Inside we find rows of strange pumps and lights and heaters and CO2 thingeys and drying nets. Oola finds some art.
We don’t know WHAT they are selling (would I lie to YOU?) but it is obvious WHO they are selling it to.
There are many more stores like this in Oaksterdam. True rip offs. The Mysterious One says that “Wet Betty, the plant penetrator” is just very expensive soap. Didn’t anybody ever hear of dirt? The plant is called “weed” for a reason.
Home and safe now, it is raining and it is time to begin serious work on my new upcoming online class in Advanced CSS (MMART 48VA and 48VB). Oola and I will venture forth and visit some real artists in a couple of weeks.