A Second Venture North….. #32 (the 50’s)

East fork of the Scott River – Rainbow and Eastern Brook trout fishing

The small town of Etna still remained a garrison positioned before a nirvana expansion of forest flora, namely the majestic Trinity Alps and Marble Mountains Wilderness, their watchful eye and towering peaks forever vigilant.   This was Gary’s, (still known a Mike by his cousins),  second summer venture to Etna and Scott Valley.  This time he would stay, not at his Correct Aunt Bernice and Uncle Sam’s residence,  but  would domicile with his down to earth cousin Geraldine’, better known as Jerry, her husband Fess and their three young high-spirited children, Sammy,  Deane and Trudy.  As on his first Greyhound scenicruiser bus trip north from Oakland’s San Pablo Avenue  station, the trip would  depart at 10:00 p.m. traveling thru the early darken morning hours.  Gary arriving at day-break in Yreka the town of his birth, and as before being met by his Aunt Della at the Miner St depot.  The tired youth finding the morning passing slowly at her residence awaiting the arrival of his  cousins for the trip to Etna.  A car halting in front of the house and to his astonishment it wasn’t his cousins but, his Aunt Bernice providing the journey over Yreka Mountain to Scott Valley.   Gary still impressed with scenic wonder of Scott Valley, arriving at Jerry and Fess’s, their acreage separated by the now vacant Cortez house from his Uncle Sam and Aunt Bernice’s’ home.  Gary curious to the whereabouts of Patricia Cortez and her little brother whom he had made friends with two years earlier.  The first order of business was to establish bedding arrangements, it was  agreed upon that  Gary would bunk with second cousin Sammy,  but after much contemplation it was decided this was unacceptable,  a cot was set-up in a foyer leading to the kitchen, this proving to be a more suitable arrangement.

greyhound oakland

Greyhound Bus Station on San Pablo Ave. Oakland

A Scenicruser Express north

A Scenicruiser Express north

Once settle in with the family, Gary finding little to do but read and play his cousin Jerry’s slightly out of tune upright piano,  it was becoming distressful in some aspects because he had yet to tap his inventiveness, but he found that this was about to change.  The acreage was not without occupants, the Facey’s  possessed a Holstein  cow named Boss and also raised a future dinner enterprise, a well fed hog kept at the end of the pasture adjacent to their house.  Gary was accorded and accepted an opportunity to milk the cow and feed the hog,  but found that this enterprise was mundane, his cousin Fess giving the opportunity of choice.  After experiencing both chores, the youth deciding not to  participate in the early morning and late afternoon milking activity, but would adhere to feeding the hog.  Festus Facey was a mountain of a man not only in size but possessing an aura of sparkling amiabilities that radiated from his persona, his disposition was always like sunshine on a cloudy day.  He could  sense that Gary wasn’t to happy with this visit, the youth being several years older than his second cousins and presented him with an alternative offer.   Fess asking if he would like to accompany him to work with the Scott Valley county road crew,  the youth quickly accepting  this opportunity to  experience a new venture.   The last time he accompanied Fess on a work related mission was two years ago during his stay with his Aunt Bernice and Uncle Sam,  the night of the formidable fire that destroyed Etna’s only sawmill.

The Trinity Alps & Marble Mt. wilderness

The Trinity Alps & Marble Mt. wilderness

Fess and Cousin Jerry

County Roadgrader

County road-grader

The county barn was the name given the large building where the local county crew parked the road maintenance equipment.  The Etna county crew maintained  two road-graders, dump truck and a water tanker with sprayer to service the mostly gravel and dirt roads that frequented the area.  Fess was the primary operator of  the water tanker,  acquainted with all the roadside water supply locations from the numerous tributaries flowing out of the mountainous terrain into the Scott River.  Among the tankers equipment Gary discovered an item that was put in use during the time it took for the pump to extract water from the local stream, a fishing pole, which helped passing the idle time.  Accompanying Fess on the Water Tanker,  the youth getting very  proficient at starting the gasoline pump motor and attaching the filling hose that extended into the water source.   On other occasions when the road-grader driver called in sick, Fess would mount the grader with young Gary, demonstrating  how to operate the grader with its many levers for raising, lowering, changing angles and  pitch of the blade, letting the youngster have a turn at the controls.

A deluge

A deluge

It was a stormy Saturday afternoon when Fess received a phone call requesting that he take the county pickup and check a road for washout water damage because of the thunderstorm.  Fess asking if Gary wanted to  join him, the two proceeding across the valley in a steady downpour while the storm continued to heighten raising to a  crowning peak.  The vehicle being buffeted with high winds and a blinding driven torrent of rain such as the young man had never seen. Fess stopping the pickup, waiting as the lightning blazed and streaked across the sky, the echoing thunder shaking the pickup and the  earth seeming to roll in sequence with the sound.  The roar reaching a crescendo,  golf ball size hail stones pelted the surroundings,  stripping the foliage from the shrubs and bushes and Gary taking notice that dispersed among the hail stones were other smaller animate objects.  Gary couldn’t believe his eyes, the small object descending from the vaults of heaven and covering the ground were frogs.  Hundred of small frogs,  recognizable as tree frogs plummeting earth-bound.  All He could think of was, “no one will ever believe us!”.  The weather beginning to  subside enough for travel on, continuing back to Etna where Fess notified the other members of the county crew about impending road and culvert washouts,  but giving no mention of frogs.

The fish enticing Hellgrammites

The fish enticing Hellgrammites

Fishing on weekends was a given, the rainbow and eastern brook trout were bountiful with a limit of 14,  but Gary discovering that for some reason when it came to fish limits, the residence of Scott Valley couldn’t count.  Gary having only fished for trout once before and not very successful at either bait or fly casting but was anticipating the challenge.   Fess was an avid bear hunter and deer harvester, his work related traversing of the mountainous county road enabled him to securing a bear and his limit during deer season, also ensuring that those that accompanied  him did the same.  When it came to  fishing he preferred bait over fly casting, using the plentiful grasshoppers captured in the field behind the house, but preferring the most trout enticing bait, the hellgrammites, a small crustacean covered larva of the dobsonfly found adhered to the rocks on the shoreline of the small streams. With Fess as in instructor it wasn’t long before the young man felt confident with the rod and reel and more important was the confidence in how to read the water cascades and pools, learning to recognize where the fish forage.   The city youth introduced to another water homage challenge, this time amphibian, frog gigging, the two traveling a short distance out-of-town one evening to where a  rural road bridge crossed a small stream.  Standing at the railing Gary could see the stream having formed an eddy, about the length of the bridge in circumference and was host to a population of bullfrogs, their head visible above the water, beginning  their nighttime communication ritual.  Fess handing the youth a fishing pole with a three-pronged hook attached to the line, directing him to lower it just below the water level, then bring up behind the unsuspecting idle frog, gigging it.  Gary didn’t count the number of frogs taken that evening, but more than enough for a Facey family meal of frog legs.

A scarry moment when heard but not seen.

A scary moment when heard but not seen.

It was always said: ” if you make plenty of noise you will never see wildlife in the woods.”   Gary was making his way over the rocks on Etna Creek fishing,  when over the amplified sound of the rushing water he heard a chilling sound.   He froze,   it was what he had been told to do,  but then again his instinct said get away from the sound.  The problem was with the roar of the rushing water he couldn’t determine the direction of the alarming source.  He knew what the intonation was,  it was the sound of a rattle snake, a scary moment, especially when heard but not seen.   Which way to go, his mind racing, the decision had to be made quickly,  not into the river,  not towards the woods,  not upstream,  the decision was made,  back the way he had come.    No snake.

Pleiades Nubula known as the Seven Sisters

Pleiades Nebula known as the Seven Sisters

The blonde haired girl’s name was Bobbi Brown,  she was Gary’s age.  She resided one block away on Center St. in a two-story house with her mother,  younger sister and father, who was the editor and publisher of Etna’s weekly newspaper.   The two met after a movie in Etna’s small theatre one evening, Gary introducing himself,  walking Bobbi and her sister home, enjoying the conversation with someone who he found shared many of the same interest.  This was the first of several meetings and he  began experiencing a feeling that being with Bobbi was meaningful, a sense of caring,  someone he wanted to be around.   Fess soon recognized that Gary was spending his evening with Bobbi and kidded him about not wanting to go with him in the mornings, which in many respects was true.  Gary finally deciding to spend the remaining vacation  days with Bobbi and her little sister, the three gathering fishing equipment, hiking up Etna Creek,  fishing or venturing into the wooded mountain area with a sack lunch. The evenings together were transcendent, the clear warm night provide a wonderful view of the heavens, Gary with his youthful knowledge of astronomy  would name the constellations,  planets and those stars he knew, pointing out the Pleiades, better known as the seven sisters, one of the more recognizable groups decorating the heavens.  His conversations with Bobbi were not of boasting but making idle talk of his ventures and of life’s impressions.   This new incongruous experience and emotion played heavy on him,  emitting a secret desire to remain in Etna,  not only because of Bobbi,  but because of the ambiance of Scott Valley,  a Shangri La exponent, a youthful image from Lost Horizons,  a haven from reality unto itself.

The arrival of the family car was expected,   Gary’s Father, Mother and two sisters having journeyed from Oakland to retrieve their family member, he was saddened that his Scott Valley adventure was drawing to a close.  It was homeward bound,  back to school and his Oakland Tribune paper route, Gary in parting, bidding a  farewell to an everlasting enriching experience,  returning  to confront life’s tribulations that awaited, but cherishing the memory of that summer month.

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6 Responses to “A Second Venture North….. #32 (the 50’s)”

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