Humboldt County Norm

humboldt buhne post

Every community displays subtle social clues that separate newcomers from recent arrivals. Of course, recent is a relative term. In general, the more isolated the community, the longer it takes for a new arrival to be assimilated and accepted into the culture.
Here in Humboldt County, we generally define an old-timer as someone whose family has resided in this, the furthest point west in the continental U.S., for a minimum of a century. So, roughly five generations. Minimum. This parochial exclusion of all things new is another dead giveaway of an old time resident of The Land of Limited Visibility.
And you really can’t blame us. Our ancestors happily harvested ancient trees and, more recently, Humboldt Gold for a hundred and fifty years, hidden from all but the very adventurous. Jack London got in a fist fight with an ancestor of local timber baron Woody Murphy, Brett Harte wrote a scathing condemnation of our slaugher of the Wiyot Indians. Both men then promptly sailed to the more civilized world of San Francisco.
Only the strongest or, possibly, the most desperate of individuals stayed behind the redwood curtain. My great-great-great grandfather Merritt Curtis Foster arrived here from Kansas at around the time that state enacted the Civil War Enrollment Act. I suspect my disgust of killing perfectly fine men over disagreements that could be better served without gunpowder was inherited from ole Merritt.
See how I established my credentials as a Humboldt County native? Yes, I left twenty-five years ago and roamed the world with my Vietnam Vet husband, Jack Jones. Yes, I’ve lived in other states and – gasp! – other countries. But Humboldt County has always been where every spot on every river and every beach and lagoon is layered with memories of picnics and accidents and family gatherings and stories. My breath comes easiest in the fog. Humboldt is home.
So, Jack and I recently returned and bought a home in Eureka. As fate would have it, our new house is located on Buhne St.
With the mention of Buhne, you old-timers now understand where I’ve been going since my opening paragraph’s reference to local norms and subtle methods of separating true locals from new arrivals. For the rest of you, please stick with me a moment more.
When I tell someone my new address, their reaction is a test.
“Jack and I live on Booner.”
“What? Booner? I guess I don’t know where that is.” Ah, newbe.
“Booner, huh? What’s your maiden name?” Local.
So, here in Eureka, why is a B U H N E R pronounced Booner?
When Hans Henry Buhne (1822-1894), a sea captain with roots in Denmark, sailed into Humboldt Bay during the California gold rush, my best guess is the man himself pronounced his name with what sounded like an ‘ah’ at the end. Over time, that nebulous and soft ‘ah’ became an ‘r’.
Great-grandpa would be proud of me. I always insist on giving my new address as ‘Booner’. Though, as a favor to new-comers like the cable guy, electrician, and home health workers, all of whom have gotten lost and had to call for directions to one of the longest and busiest streets in Eureka, I now give these directions:
“We’re on Booner. B U H N E R.”
Even over the phone I can hear the thoughts of the newcomers. What is wrong with these rednecks? They need to learn to speak English.
Which is fine. Their thoughts are drowned out by my own snide internal dialogue. Another freaking transplant.

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About Author and Speaker Pamela Foster

Pamela Foster is a speaker and author. Her first book, Redneck Goddess, is available at local bookstores and on Amazon. Her second book, Bigfoot Blues, will be available in August 2012.
This entry was posted in buhne, Eureka, Humboldt County, logging, marijuana and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

2 Responses to Humboldt County Norm

  1. Staci Troilo says:

    Sounds like you didn’t need to “settle in.” In your heart, and in the eyes of the other residents, Eureka is in your blood. Hope this means you’ll be posting more often and writing again. I’ve missed your stories since you left.

  2. Then you have to deal with we transplants from a whole other country 😛 😉 Glad to see you posting again – and hopefully writing, too – and that you had no trouble whatsoever settling in! Miss you, my friend ❤

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