Kevin Merrill

Kevin Merrill

I hope you all enjoyed the Thanksgiving holiday. We enjoyed time with my wife’s family in Visalia, and were particularly thankful for the rain that blessed us all that week.

Looks like we are in for more as I write this week’s column. No better Christmas present than a rainy December.

Last week our son Clayton and I were lucky enough to head up to Redding to do a little fishing on the lower Sacramento River. I wasn’t sure we were going to make it as Clayton came down with a touch of the flu a few days before we left. After resting at home a few days, he was good as new and we headed north.

We planned on stopping in Los Banos for the night, splitting the long drive in half, more or less. I wanted to have dinner at Woolgrowers and have Clayton experience a true French Basque restaurant.

After checking in to our motel we headed over a little early to the restaurant. As we entered the dining room the long tables stretched out in front of us with a few people already seated, enjoying their dinners. A nice young man of Basque descent seated us near another couple at one of the long tables. I told Clayton earlier it was probably going to be family-style and we would be sitting with other folks.

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After saying hello to the folks seated near us, our waitress brought our bread and a small bottle of chilled red wine. She quickly went over the entrees for the night — roast lamb, New York steak, baked chicken and scampi. She let us think about what we wanted for a few minutes, returning with bowls of vegetable soup, beans, green salad, potato salad and rice. Clayton went for the beans and salad while I started off with the soup and filled my small glass with red wine.

Our waitress seated a family of at least 10 next to us at our table and then took our entrée order. I had roast lamb while Clayton went for the baked half-chicken. The young lady and mother of several of the kids seated next to me asked how our evening was going and was very friendly. Their whole family spoke both English and Spanish, their conversations using both languages intermittently, it was not the Spanish I am used to hearing out in the fields. It was easy to tell they were involved in either farming or ranching in the area.

Soon my roast lamb and Clayton’s chicken arrived and as I took a sip of the chilled red wine, I thought of my grandfather Sam, and how much he would have enjoyed eating with us that night and conversing in Spanish with the folks seated next to us. After dinner we each enjoyed a small cup of vanilla ice cream with chocolate sauce for desert and headed for the motel just a few blocks away.

The next morning, we headed north toward Redding. With a few different sounds coming from the transmission of my truck, Clayton told me something was not right because we heard a loud whining noise as we made our way along I-5. I thought maybe it was just the wind, which was really blowing hard. Wishful thinking on my part. The transmission quit working just south of Willits and we coasted off the freeway, dead in the water, as they say. Clayton was right.

I will fill you in on the next part of our fishing adventure in my next column. Let’s keep that rain coming for now.

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Kevin Merrill of Mesa Vineyard Management is a board member of the Santa Barbara County Farm Bureau and a director on the Santa Barbara County Fair board. He can be reached at kmerrill@mesavineyard.com