Ferndale, California, population 1372 not counting dairy cows (several thousand). Across the Eel River from the mainland. Once the country of the Weot/Wiyot or Eel people, whose main reservation is now on Table Bluff high above the tsunami zone. Primary European settlers were Danish, Swiss, Italian, Portuguese, Dutch, dairy farmers and fishermen, with a sprinkling of rich Anglo entrepreneurs.
You cross the Eel at Fernbridge to get here. In 1911, it was the longest concrete bridge in the world. The last big flood that cut off town (the bridge was underwater/impassible) was in 1964.
Let’s start with a tourist fave, the sublimely ridiculous Gumdrop Tree House (or as captioned elsewhere, Rene Magritte’s Lost Coast Getaway).
At the corner of Ocean Avenue & Main, the Ivanhoe, no longer a hotel but a restaurant and bar. Chicken cacciatore con polenta is the Thursday night special, when Bill McBride (4th generation rancher) and Don Hicks (120 bass accordion) entertain.
Valley Lumber, just off the one 4-way stop intersection (once controversial, of course) on Main Street.
Tipple Motors (next the post office, where everyone meets and catches up because we have the social boon of no home mail delivery) with the spire of Assumption Church behind.
Some of the locals.
Where there are many cows there must be much hay. Here is a nicely disheveled pile of wrapped hay from the end of summer—which, as some of the RFF wags have noted, suggests that we have giant marshmellow (mozzarella, toilet paper) farms.
Wags abound in Ferndale too. Droll signage near what was the main intersection in the settlement of Waddington (absorbed into greater Ferndale, ha ha):
Bill McBride at the Ivanhoe, delightful friend and raconteur, so-so singer and indefatigable show-off, but a total abuser of guitars. I am currently babysitting his 1930s National dobro to prevent him from breaking it.
And Don Hicks, whose musicianship on the accordion helps us overlook how terribly Bill beats up his Martin and rushes the beat on My Rose of San Antone:
At Spencer’s Vintage, where his wife and partner keeps the antique biz going, Richard Spencer gets to focus on building his whimsical toys, including dollheaded buddhas and coffeepot robots with flashing eyes. The little guy with the proboscis is home with me now.
Up on Grizzly Bluff (which protects town from tsunamis), the weather is often thus:
Some farm families have built modern homes in town, abandoning the original Victorians to pitiable entropy. But others blessedly cherish the architectural past in the living present.
And the cherished dead, who outnumber the living, keep watch over town in the great amphitheaters of Ferndale Cemetery and Assumption Cemetery. The steeple in the distance, once a Methodist church and now an Americana music venue, is where Linn and I had our wedding reception in 2017.
Our front porch, Main Street, with my squareneck lap dobro and the M4 that is now Gerry Miller’s.
Drop by if you visit the Redwood Coast.