John Barleycorn HTML version
"Come," says the White Logic, "and forget these Asian dreamers of old time. Fill your
glass and let us look at the parchments of the dreamers of yesterday who dreamed their
dreams on your own warm hills."
I pore over the abstract of title of the vineyard called Tokay on the rancho called
Petaluma. It is a sad long list of the names of men, beginning with Manuel Micheltoreno,
one time Mexican "Governor, Commander-in-Chief, and Inspector of the Department of
the Californias," who deeded ten square leagues of stolen Indian land to Colonel Don
Mariano Guadalupe Vallejo for services rendered his country and for moneys paid by
him for ten years to his soldiers.
Immediately this musty record of man's land lust assumes the formidableness of a battle--
the quick struggling with the dust. There are deeds of trust, mortgages, certificates of
release, transfers, judgments, foreclosures, writs of attachment, orders of sale, tax liens,
petitions for letters of administration, and decrees of distribution. It is like a monster ever
unsubdued, this stubborn land that drowses in this Indian summer weather and that
survives them all, the men who scratched its surface and passed.
Who was this James King of William, so curiously named? The oldest surviving settler in
the Valley of the Moon knows him not. Yet only sixty years ago he loaned Mariano G.
Vallejo eighteen thousand dollars on security of certain lands including the vineyard yet
to be and to be called Tokay. Whence came Peter O'Connor, and whither vanished, after
writing his little name of a day on the woodland that was to become a vineyard? Appears
Louis Csomortanyi, a name to conjure with. He lasts through several pages of this record
of the enduring soil.
Comes old American stock, thirsting across the Great American Desert, mule-backing
across the Isthmus, wind-jamming around the Horn, to write brief and forgotten names
where ten thousand generations of wild Indians are equally forgotten--names like
Halleck, Hastings, Swett, Tait, Denman, Tracy, Grimwood, Carlton, Temple. There are
no names like those to-day in the Valley of the Moon.
The names begin to appear fast and furiously, flashing from legal page to legal page and
in a flash vanishing. But ever the persistent soil remains for others to scrawl themselves
across. Come the names of men of whom I have vaguely heard but whom I have never
known. Kohler and Frohling--who built the great stone winery on the vineyard called
Tokay, but who built upon a hill up which other vineyardists refused to haul their grapes.
So Kohler and Frohling lost the land; the earthquake of 1906 threw down the winery; and
I now live in its ruins.
La Motte--he broke the soil, planted vines and orchards, instituted commercial fish
culture, built a mansion renowned in its day, was defeated by the soil, and passed. And
my name of a day appears. On the site of his orchards and vine-yards, of his proud