ContentsPutah and Cache: Winters

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Citykid Tours the Greater Winters Area

Maria Melendez

I. Coming in from the east

Winters folks say The Chevron tower rising
               lets you know you're getting close—
                            purple coast range
               in evening's last light.
                            The only stoplight, one color...
  Pisani's Service, Dean's Frostie, Mariani Nuts (Winters' "big time" industry),
  greets you at the corner of Dutton and Grant.
Citykid say I don't want to die in fog. I head into this town and can't even see the front end of my car much less the loamy ghosts of anyone who's ever made camp or village (Patwin, farmers, braceros, rabble rousers, citizens) along the creek.
Stevenson bridge say Beep this beepin' beep and I love x always, y was here, z rules from one bank of the creek to the other, try and dam this you mother beeper.
Winters folks say Watch for egrets
                            in the field across from D-Q U.,
                            and in the orchards ("trees with sleeves")
                                              opposite Yolo Housing
                            (speed trap: the 45 sign sneaks up on you).
Dead crow under a cottonwood, still clutching the branch that broke beneath her in a windstorm, say                                       that last flight's really a short plummet,
  like the distance between an infant's pulse
  and the drum of a corvid's heart.
  Cull the alkaline emptiness
  from my sockets, boil it into an indigo slag,
  take a dose and be whole again
  in the eye of confusion.
Winters folks say Neighbors and evening walks,
               small town comforts-
  this town has a halo.
  When we first moved here, we lived abajo de un arbol;
  the other school children laughed at the burritos
  I made for my daughters. "What are those things?"
  My sacrifices have fertilized los triunfos de mis niños.
  Shedding impersonal
               buildings of Sacramento, smug political
  correctness of Davis... at sundown, the Berryessa Notch is backlit-
               beckons me home to walnut trees, Main Street,
  real yards and more cats
                            than I can count.
Naturenut say Did you see that yellowish powder on the ground? Maybe it's lime to make the soil less acidic, or maybe it's a fumigant to prevent mold.
  Did you see it?
Citykid say No.
Winters folks say If it rains more than three days and you have a small car, don't try driving across a flooded road. In wet years, people get stalled out all the time when water goes up the exhaust pipe. We see people in rolled up jeans, wading through brown water away from their stranded cars.
  Nuestra familia vinimos del sur de California, y ántes de Mexico.
  We picked walnuts along the way as we migrated up,
  English varieties grafted to native roots.

II. Town of Winters

Winters folks say Developers promise Amenities-
               golf courses, shopping malls.
  "You don't understand, sir,
                            Winters is the amenity."
  The Mariani walnuts rattle high in silos
               before going to Japan or Korea,
  Australia or New York, as advertised in the New Yorker.
               The Marianis moved here from San Jose
                            when orchards there were asphalted.
               Where will they move to next?
Citykid say I can't eat enough of this place: I'll have a tall stack of Putah Creek Café pumpkin pancakes please, and a hunk of that squishy bread pudding stippled with raisins.
Citykid goes into la tienda, recognizes los amarillos y rojos fuertes around the familiar brand names; to other citykid contemplating if she should buy the blue or the red Virgen Maria candle, citykid say              You can never have too much of the blessed mother!
Winters folks say We just moved here Know the name Martinez? We came from Spain
                                    from the Bay Area.
  to Hawaiian cane fields, then moved en un grupo
  to be farmers in Winters. We wanted to live Do you know Mrs. Takahashi?
  Did you know my family came from Oklahoma?someplace quieter.

III. More-than-human inhabitants

Naturenut say We're hiring a tree removal company for those invasive eucalyptus and painting the stumps with herbicide. We aren't taking down any treehouse trees and don't want to mill any childhood memories, just trying to preserve the native community: wildrye, oak trees, I'm even collecting poison oak seeds for a nursery of natives. I don't want to live in a place where pipevine swallowtails can't find something to eat.
Winters folks say The smartest are the crows and magpies
  that keep the roadside body count,
               monitor the harvest and empty fields,
  assess the health of trees and nest out of sight.
  When we built our new house in what had been an apricot orchard, we were visited incessantly by bugs called springtails; pesticides couldn't get hold of their tiny, jumping bodies, so out came the vacuum each morning.
  When my family moved from the field to the condemned house, huge possums lived underneath it. Us girls thought they were giant rats, and they watched us whenever we went outside.
Citykid say I can't even tell the difference between a walnut tree and a tree of heaven.
Naturenut say Well, for one thing, there are usually a bunch of walnuts under a walnut tree...
Winters folks say ... and a bunch of clipped-wing angels under a tree of heaven!

IV: Creek, dam, lake

Winters folks say Cuando vivimos abajo de un arbol,
  I carried water from the creek on my back
  like the Japanese.
  In the 70's, when times were different, we would swim naked at a swimming hole below the dam. We'd cut through the orchards, hike down to the gravel bar, and the farmer's kids would hide in the bushes to watch us tan nut-brown.
  The lake filled and the Glory Hole overflowed five years after completion of Monticello Dam—people were amazed, didn't think it would fill for 25 years.
  The lake was a place of much scuba diving when "Sea Hunt" was popular on TV. Several people drowned after they disappeared under the water with their tanks on their backs. Bad place to learn scuba diving.
  When the Glory Hole is running over, seems like the whole population of Davis spills over for breakfast at Putah Creek Café, then up the road to see the Glory Hole. I talked to them coming or going when I worked at the Antique Store on Railroad Ave.
Glory Hole say             I'm the lake's one dark eye.
              None but threadfin shad
              survive my suicidal pull.
Citykid see red sign on roadside fence near the Hole, big white capital letters: Warning / Hazardous Area / Stay Alive By Staying Out. Thinks there isn't a single place on earth that shouldn't have that sign up.
Naturenut say Because of sedimentation, that dam only has a 50 year life before it should be drained.
Citykid say cheerfully, so we still have six years left!
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