Years later (after my sulfuring years) we moved to a house that backed up to the Biale vineyard on El Centro Avenue in Napa. The house was of decent size, but the front & back yards were small. So our bedroom was less than 50 feet from the edge of the vineyard. This was a zero lot line plot, so our garage was on the property line. Our garage gathered a few scars over the years from the tractor drivers trying to turn in the narrow avenues. The master bedroom shower window faced the vineyard. I was tall enough to be able to shower and look out over the vineyard, with little more than my head showing from the vineyard side. I remember one early morning shower when there was a tractor sulfuring in the still dark vineyard. There were bright lights on the tractor pointing backwards so the operator could monitor the quantity of sulfur being applied. As he came down the row approaching our house, his silhouette was very pronounced by the lights behind him. I was in the process of shampooing my hair and wondered if he could see me in the shower. I raised one soapy hand and waved… And I saw the silhouette of a hand wave back.
But in spite of all of this, we loved having this vineyard in our back yard. We didn’t understand why several of our neighbors would complain about the vineyard operations in a conversation that would start with the desirability of having a vineyard in the back yard. They go hand-in-hand folks – Accept it!
We got used to hearing the hum of a tractor traveling through the vineyard at night. Since we were not at either end of the vineyard, we could always hear the tractors making their loops through the vineyard well in advance of them being in our “back yard”. It gave us time to get up and shut the windows so the scent of sulfur wouldn’t permeate the house.
On Sept 3rd, 2000 at 1:36 AM, I was in my “deep sleep” mode. Through my mind’s sleepy fog, I slowly became aware of a low level rumble that kept building. At some level of consciousness, I was thinking that a tractor was getting closer & closer to the house. And then the house started shaking. My not-yet-fully-functional brain surmised that the tractor had hit our house. Things started falling. The house kept shaking. After an eternity of maybe 6 or 8 seconds, I realized we were having an earthquake.
The above file charts the earthquake for 20 seconds, with the active shaking appearing to last somewhere between 10 & 14 seconds. I would have guessed longer. We had four TV’s in the house and they all hit the floor. The dresser in our daughter’s bedroom fell, spreading the drawers across the floor as it fell and simultaneously blocking the doorway into her bedroom. She had pulled the blankets up over her head and was screaming. Within a few minutes, people were filing out of their houses and into the street, checking on the well-being of their neighbors. Our neighbor across the street had converted a large closet into a wine cellar. He had lots of broken bottles and wine stains that traveled well beyond the wine cellar. When it appeared that everybody in our neighborhood had survived, I headed to the winery where I anticipated fallen stacks of wine barrels with wine flowing everywhere. I just knew that my brothers Larry & Davie would already be there dealing with the mess. And that was only if the building that I had designed & constructed with my dad and brothers, was still standing. Turns out, it WAS still standing. Nobody there. No signs of any damage.
Although quite violent in our neighborhood, the earthquake wasn’t too bad outside of a fairly narrow fault line.
We sure miss our backyard vineyard.