Example of Chumash
pictographs from Cambell Grant's
"The Rock Paintings of the Chumash."
to voice over artist Tim George
the part of Hank Peabody
Tim George's website to learn more
about his work
A Visit to the Hall of Jars
from The Reeducation of a Turd Peddler
by John Henry Peabody
IN THE PASS, HANK IS INTRODUCED
TO OTHERS IN THE TRIBE AND SHOWN THE HALL
OF JARS, WHERE SERRA'S HEART SHOULD HAVE
BEEN IF IT HAD NOT GONE MISSING ALL THOSE YEARS.
THEN, A PHONE CALL CHANGES EVERYTHING.
HUSTLED US up the trail towards the group at the top. She had ditched
The New Yorker guy earlier that morning and now it was just the two
I recognized one of the three people waiting for us as De
Sheng Tan, whom I had met before through Janet. He was of Chinese ancestry
and as I remember a bit of a smart ass. The other two, a man and a woman
in their mid-fifties, I had never seen before.
This is Dell and Tory Ames, she said. Theyre
responsible for the history of the south side of the Pass where we came
up the trail.
Dell and Tory stepped forward and we shook hands. They were
both solid looking folks, chestnut skin, good hands. Dell wore a blue
baseball hat with yellow lettering that said, Drill Doctor, The
Drill Bit Sharpener. Tory wore a blue Dodgers hat, a smile, red-checkered
blouse and Levis. Although they had been married the better part of
thirty years, they looked like they could be brother and sister. Even
their clothes seemed similar, wearing the same kind of boots, making
one wonder who was mimicking who.
I didnt expect to see you guys, Janet
said. Wheres Myra and Boss?
Were filling in, Dell said.
Anniversary, Tory followed. They send
They went on a cruise to Mexico, Dell ran his
hands into his pockets. Its their twenty-fifth wedding anniversary.
They never been to Mexico, so their kids got them a trip and sent them
After the introductions, Janet nodded to Tory and Dell and
they led us underneath an enormous sandstone overhang that went into
the side of the mountain. Although the trail that brought us to the
overhang was well maintained, the top portion was all poured concrete
with hand railings.
Pretty fancy, I commented.
The large opening of the overhang quickly reduced itself
to a tunnel around twelve feet high as we entered. Electrical lights
were fitted along the top.
We did those last year, Dell said, pointing
to the fixtures.
I was the foreman on the job, Tory backed.
Got her contractors license from that,
The farther we entered, the more detailings and pictographs
there were on the walls. I thought I saw calligraphy.
Tory and Dell continued onward for a solid five minutes
until we came to a large, dimly lit cavern. Dell flipped a switch and
filled the room with light.
The walls were covered with polychromatic pictographs of
serpentine, mint, orange, red, black and white. Images of the Gerris
remigis, water walker, shared space with twirling suns, criss-crossed
lines, four-legged creatures with long saw-toothed noses. Marine creatures
seem to swim amongst the insect-style compositions, sharing similar
coloration and then switching from orange to green as if changing tense
or part of speech.
Some of the animals were dotted and some were lined. Some
looked like hair combs while others looked like microscopic paramecium,
down to the cilia gyrating around the creatures circumference.
Several black and orange turtles were present. There were human figures
and iron crosses, even people on horse back. One large, dramatic painting
was obviously a pelican, its wings out, beak high, a sense of forward
motion built into the composition.
Man, if Sean could see that, I said. Knock
Validation, Janet followed. Isnt
Look here, Dell walked us over to the walls
beneath the ceiling paintings. All this, he pointed. Chinese.
The writing was in four groupssquare blockseach
group in eight straight up and down rows of calligraphy.
Poems, Tory said. Homesick Poems of the
Janet knelt, pointing. I am related to the people that wrote those
poems, Hank. Look here . . . she translated slowly.
A flickering lamp keeps me company.
My captain and his boats have not returned.
I have grown old, like a pear blossom tree.
If we should return, spring will be late,
Pity the bare branches that once bloomed."
And this one, she moved to the next.
Is this predestined, that I should lose to gain?
Does heaven say that I will be rich or poor?
Will I be alone or with my family when I die?
Will these dark barbarians be my family?"
Dark barbarians! Dell laughed, looking at his
wife. Are you a dark barbarian?
They waited and waited, Janet continued. And
the fleets never came back. Two large ships wrecked off the island,
one where the marina is now. They didnt have room to take everyone
back, assuming that such a large armada from such a powerful kingdom
would return the next year . . . or the next yearor the year after
We took them in, Dell said. Theyre
amongst us, looking at De Sheng and Janet.
They gave us words, like `mah for horse,
Tory added. We had never seen a horse until the fleets came. Look,
she pointed up to cavern wall. That is the character for horse
When the Spanish came, we already had a name for horses,
Dell explained. We never said `caballo.
Is that why I think I see Chinese in the villages
here in the Pass? I asked.
Yes, sometimes, for basic things.
Like the bathroom, Tory chuckled.
Precisely, Janet continued. The characters
for male and female. Theyre basic and useable. Also, ``up
and `down. ``East, west, north, south. She pointed
back to the cavern wall. Here is the pictograph for the sun. Over
here, she turned ninety degrees, Is the character for `sun
in Chinese. Very basic and useable.
We share the polychromatic pictograph technique with
the Yokuts and the Chumash, Dell continued. But we added
some of the Chinese stuff.
We used to use their numbering system, Tory
Right, but Arabic numerals are so much easier,
Dell laughed, Hell, even the Japanese and Chinese have switched.
And the chickens, Tory went on. They come
from the fleets.
I had seen fancy chickens in the village as well. With
the cool feathers, I added.
Asiatic, Tory said. Not European. Zhou
Man left them everywhere. Go to Central America. The Mayans still raise
them. They cant fly. Had to have been brought here by ship.
And good eating, De Sheng smiled with Dell in
agreement. Theyre pretty yummy.
A lot more meat.
So where are all the ships? I asked. Wheres
the stuff? I understand that they wrecked in a storm, but they didnt
just melt. What happened to the horses?
Dell and Tory led us to the next cave. It was about the
same size but installed with wooden platforms and thick columns of dark
Youre right, Hank, Dell said. The
storms in 1423 broke the ships up pretty solidly. But they werent
made out of balsa wood. They were made out of teak, hard teak from northern
Vietnamese forests, and compartmentalized. So what ever didnt
breakactually snapjust disengaged like legos. Here,
he climbed the stairs onto the next level and held on to a post. All
of this woodworking, these levels and housing, are the rebuilt ships.
This right here, he held to the post that went floor to ceiling.
This is called the `Chung-ta-wei or the main mast. This,
he moved to his right, Is the `Erh-wei, or second mast.
All of this wooden flooring is the decks, the transom, the bulk heads.
We helped them retrieve as much of their stuff as possible and brought
it inside where they built places for themselves to live. Eventually,
this all became ceremonial. And the Chinese moved in among us,
he looked at De Sheng. Well, some of them did, they laughed.
Im different, De Sheng smiled. I
just keep to myself. My father did, too. If you have a radio, baseball
is all you need.
Your brothers, on the other hand, Tory said.
My sisters have some stories about the Tan brothers.
All joking aside, it wasnt hard for us to live
with the Chinese, Dell explained. There were many eunuchs
amongst themyoull see this in the Hall of Jars. We didnt
want their women to go lonely. More laughter.
Even though we were so ugly, De Sheng chided
him. You took us in.
The pulleys, Janet said. See the pulleys,
the teak pulleys? My brother Peter found those pulleys in an auction
lot on Ortega Street in Santa Barbara . . . We had to piece this stuff
The horses? I asked.
Buried. Dead. Drowned, Dell replied. As
far as we know, they didnt make it. And perhaps there werent
many horses on the ships that went aground.
Ive heard that there are horse bones out on
Sirenas, Tory added. Where some of the Chinese are buried.
Where all of us are buried, Dell added.
For special holidays, Janet continued. We
still use porcelain from the ships. And on Forebears Day, called
Tiat, my father would put on a silken robe that came from the
Chinese. But its so delicate now, we just have it to look at.
Dell looked us over. Janet nodded. On to the Hall
We moved out of the cavern and into a broad tunnel. Janet,
Dell turned to her while we walked. You give a pretty good tour
yourselfwhat with the translations and all. Have you ever thought
about doing the Connected Oral History for any of the caverns or halls?
I did a lot of that, Dell, especially before I went
off to school. I keep my mothers story and my fathers story.
Thats enough sometimes. We just dont have enough people
coming and going to dedicate ourselves to it full-time.
Remember, sweetheart, Tory told her husband.
Shes a lawyer. Shes busy keeping the water clean.
Well, I guess so, he said. But dont
I have a little filter I put on my kitchen tap for that?
Janet smiled. Im trying to get to the water
before it gets to your tap, Mr. Dell.
Down the tunnel, we arrived at another large cavern. Tory flipped on
the switch and light filled the space. She joined Dell in front of hundreds
of ceramic jugs and clear jars. Pictographs filled the surface of the
walls. Yellow light shot through the clear glass of the jars and shown
Dell raised a hand. This is the Hall of Jars.
Its really a cave, Dell explained. But
we updated the name a while ago. You know, its not the 1300s anymore.
The jars and ceramic containers were set in five to six
levels, a hundred or so across at some spots. The place was well kept,
with fresh flowers and datura placed in orderly fashion. A blank spot
sat prominently amongst the others.
Junipero Serras spot, Tory said. We
set it all up expecting the heart to arrive within a day or two of his
No slam dunk there.
Im not the main storyteller here, Dell
said. Boss and Myra, their two sons, and another coupleAntonio
and his wife, Suluythey handle much of the COH on this, but since
Ive been cross-training a bit, I can handle a few stories.
He pointed, Since the main heart youve heard about is Junipero
Serras, one might think that these are all padres heartsbut
theyre not. Weve got some bad Indians up here, too. Some
Shoshone invaders from way back. Weve got our own criminals who
did stuff within our society from centuries ago. Keeping their hearts
in one place has the same meaning across the boardno afterlife.
With the body not intact, the spirit is restless. A good example in
the news a couple years back, they found Ishis brain way down
in the basement of the Smithsonian
Those were Fornay agents, Janet said to me.
Until they brought the brain together with his
body, his spirit could not go on into the afterlife. Did you know,
Dell continued. That until then, old Ishi was buried pretty close
to Joe DiMaggio on the other side of San Bruno Mountain in Colma, near
San Francisco. Youre not going to hear that anywhere else on the
planet Earth today.
He walked up to a line of jars. We do have Mission
padres here, he pointed. Father Gil Y Tobaoda, Mission San
Rafael; Father Juan Amoros, his replacement. Here we have Father Vincente
de Sarria, from Ventura. Not the worst guys, but bad enough. Here, though,
Dell reached over and clanked the ceramic with his knuckles. Janet and
Tory chuckled. Two rotten apples, Indian killers. The first one
is Father Jose Maria Mercado who took over at Mission San Rafael. One
day, he armed some mission Indians who went after some visiting folkprobably
just another tribe looking for something to eat or someone to say hi
toand his people ended up shooting, killing and wounding a good
many of them. Well, we took his heart.
Then, here, another knuckle rapped on the ceramics.
Father Jose Altamira, Mission San Francisco Solana in Sonomaa
real conniver against his own people as well as a beater, a whipper
and an imprisoner of Indians at his mission. In 1826, they got so fed
up with the man that a band organized themselves and took him on straight
away, forcing him to flee south. His own people hated him so much, that
he wasnt even allowed back in the system. Then he went off to
Spain. We tried to get to him in the last year he was herethats
how bad his reputation wasbut missed him. So followed him to Spain.
In fact, it was the son of Sumx Tai Fun, the man who took Serras
heart, who went undercover all the way. He removed the heart in Spain
and brought it back to us in the Passwe were the Israelis before
there were Israelis. Understand? They consulted with us until the Fifties
Dell took his hat off and adjusted himself in the heat.
Thats a great story and you can read it in our main library,
if you like, he looked at Janet. Or maybe you cant?
I cant remember whats off limits and whats not.
Maybe someday, Janet said.
someday, Dell corrected himself. Heres a good one
over to another group of containers. The heart of Reverend Stephen
Crumwill, pot hunter, grave robber and inventor of Crumwills device.
I understand you went to school with his great, great grandson, Doug?
Fatboy I laughed. Actually, he killed
the last El Fornio Iguana, too.
Well, we wanted his heart as well, but looks like
the so-called Homecoming fire took care of him.
Burnt him up, Tory said.
To a crisp! De Sheng exclaimed. Im
the one who found him after the flames passed up the canyon.
Whatre those? I pointed to other side
of the hall, to little jars and containers.
Those? Dell walked over.
Gonads, his wife laughed.
Yeah, Dell let. Gonads.
Yeah, the living Chinese eunuchs and the Chinese eunuchs
that died in the ship wrecks left those behind. The ones who went on
to live the rest of their lives here were buried with their own. But,
the story goes, we couldnt match the bodies to the jarsyou
know a eunuch keeps his nuts with him throughout his life so when he
dies and hes buried, he can maybe put himself back together again
in the afterlifewe didnt know what to do with the ones we
saved from the wrecks, so we kept them. Kinda strange, I admit. Like
old cans of paint leftover in the garage.
I like to keep my nuts with me my whole life, too,
You dont even believe in the afterlife,
Well, if my nuts were cut off in this life I would
have to hope there was an afterlife where, you know, my nuts and I could
be put back together again.
I always wonder, De Sheng piped up. Would
you keep em on the shelf or in a drawer?
Dell noticed the light of the phone blinking near the entrance
to the hall. He went over and answered. He spoke for a moment, then
called Janet over. Janet took the receiver and continued the conversation.
Alright, very good, she said. Ill
tell him. She hung up.
Whats up, Jan? I asked.
It seems that about ten minutes ago the heart was
returned to the historical society.
Heart is Returned