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Mostly Local People in Ukiah: Jimmy Webb – survivor

Ukiah Daily Journal logo Ukiah Daily Journal 10/12/2020 David Taxis
a man standing in a parking lot: “I show the kids around here that I have a parrot (Daisy). Put her ears like this, and she can fly away.” (Photo contributed) © Provided by Ukiah Daily Journal “I show the kids around here that I have a parrot (Daisy). Put her ears like this, and she can fly away.” (Photo contributed)

Two mostly anonymous sub-populations exist in Ukiah; well, in America! On the streets, these common sojourners come into view.   Homeless guys are fighting for their lives. First responders (cops and firefighters) are helping save our lives. They each have an easily recognized uniform. Most citizens try to avoid both. They arouse jumbled feelings depending on one’s experience.  All of these folks have names, and at one time in their existence were referred to as Jimmy, or Miguel or Rogina or Don.

I plan to do short features on these mostly local people in my column…they do have names. Let’s learn their names and stories.

Jimmy Webb was born in Healdsburg and came to Ukiah as a young boy. Here’s his early history as he recounts it: “My family lived in Annapolis near the Sonoma County coastline and the entire family worked for the Hollow-Tree Lumber Company. There was a fire there when I was a little kid and they took all the families down to the Garcia River, where boys older than 13 had to go fight the fire.  We moved from Ukiah to Redwood Valley when I was in the fifth grade. I loved it out there. You could go in any direction and keep going. No house, no traffic, no nothing. I’m 62 years old now and been homeless most of my life.”

“Mom went to work here managing a store named JV’s Dress Shop on School Street.  I think that it used to be JC Penney’s and then the community center; now it’s a church. They had a JV’s dress shop in Santa Rosa too. They folded but my mom then went to work managing Benjamin Franklin Stores. I went to local schools, like Redwood Valley and most of my friends were Native American boys; that’s what was out there. It was great! And we got along really well. I didn’t ‘want for anything’ and I was disciplined; thank-God for that. It kept me in line.”

“I worked in the mill on the load machine or soft filing or in welding. I learned at Earl’s Manufacturing in Calpella, which folded up long ago. A lot of my mechanical experience, I learned from my dad. He built super-modified race cars for Donny Wiles and other race-car drivers here in Ukiah.”

“I was married three times, but methamphetamine destroys everything. Nobody could stay married with that in the middle of things.  Meth took me down. Everybody was doing it at the time, and I wanted to be accepted by people. It was part of the experience. I wound up in jail with a bunch of programs. I finally got out of it. I smoke a little pot and have a beer once in a while now. That’s it; I’m off the bad juice – it’s garbage!”

“I grew up here my whole life. Most people are pretty good. All the gas stations give me permission to get their stuff. I get into the garbage cans, but not the dumpsters. There’s a law.

Spanish people are kind to me out here. They give me meals and some money and every once in a while a 12 pack of beer. They’re a good class of people.”

“It costs five times as much to make a new can from ore as to recycle them. They just melt them down to create a new one. I make enough money to feed myself, especially in the summer. I refuse to give up on myself like those guys in front of Walmart.”

“I’m eligible for a bunch of programs: housing, food assistance, but I just think it’s too big a hassle; waiting in line and having to find something that takes HUD; beat the brush and find lodging. They don’t find it for you….. I qualify for SSI, but I’ll wait until I can’t do this collecting aluminum and plastic and glass. I get out every day and make my rounds. I’m against handouts.

“I only use my truck for storage. Gas and insurance are really expensive. Everything I own is there in my truck. I store most of my clothes with a friend, but it’s suddenly dangerous there. They’re hitting each other; jumping everybody that comes to the door.  They’re just angry with the neighbor, who provokes everybody. So, I’m staying away from there. I haven’t had a shower there in three days, but it will calm down.”

“I can go to the day center (homeless center on South State and Thomas streets) to wash my clothes and take a shower for free.  Shelter is there, but I stay off by myself. I can’t understand why most homeless people steal from each other. It’s safe for me here. I don’t let anyone know where I stay, because stuff gets stolen. I’m either always here or on my route. I pay a friend (give him a drink) to watch my stuff when I’m away.”

“As far as bettering my situation, I trust in God. I get mad at him from time to time, but in the end I realize that it was my fault making the wrong decision. Daisy (wiener dog) has little time left; she’s about 18 now and has been my partner for 16 years, ever since my dad passed away. She came down the road and joined me, so we’re together. She deserves a nice quiet place to be buried. My mom and grandmother (she’s 97) come to check on me. They’re out in Redwood Valley. I care about them too.”

“My advice to young people is to look ahead, because being homeless can happen to anybody. I adjusted really fast and survived.”

“My medical is pretty simple, although I have gout. My grandfather had the gout too. It’s on my dad’s side. I go to the Laws’ Clinic when I have to. I have Medi-Cal. I need to go to the dentist to get these pulled (points to his teeth). Doctor Lewis up on Laws’ Clinic is the most pain free dentist I’ve ever had in my life. He is really top-notch.”

“Politics doesn’t really matter! They do what they want to anyway. The electoral vote is supposed to work, but any guy can just change his vote there. Ross Perot should have been president. He was a good businessman. You need that to run a country.. He had a lot of sense and a little charisma going there.”

“Thank God for the parents I had. They believed in God and taught me that way. I grew up with some principles; a lot of kids are just turned loose to fend for themselves. Their parents don’t teach them what they should. And my parents taught me right from wrong…..and I try to live that way.  I treat people the way I want to be treated.”

Say his name: It is Jimmy Webb, a survivor!

Write comments to youngrey@comcast.net 

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