The Heavens Aglow……..#16[a] (50’s)

The Heavens Aglow

Mike’s cousin Jerry Facey, husband Fess and family lived on the same block as his Aunt and Uncles in Etna, the Cortez’s house and two acres of pasture land  extending to the behind their house made the separation.  Mike getting acquainted for the first time with the Facey brude, his five year younger second cousins, Sammy, his younger sisters Dee Dee and Trudy, but finding their jovial Dad Fess more entertaining.  Fess inviting the youth to attend an evening meeting of the local volunteer fire department.   Mike and Fess arriving at the two-story Main St. Fire House, the gathering being held in a large upstairs conference room with several 8 foot folding tables placed end to end providing seating.  Cousin Fess when introducing  young Mike at the meeting of the Etna volunteer firemen, a member asking the youth a question, “are you a Limburger man” ?    Mike with a quizzical look on his face replying in all honesty that he didn’t know what the question meant.  The explanation becoming self-explanatory with the immediate serving of a some snacks.   Soft drinks, luncheon meat,  cheese and crackers were provided during a pause in the meeting, there were two kinds of cheese provided, regular cheddar and Limburger.  The answer to  question became apparent by the seating arrangement,  those who took Limburger would sit at one end of the tables, the cheddar people sitting at the other end.  Mike deciding to forgo the Limburger.

The Edna Fire House

The sleeping youth  was aroused from his bed, his Aunt Bernice and Uncle Sam having been awaken by the sounding of the town’s fire siren, soon discovering that the sawmill less than a mile away on the east side of Etna has erupted in flames.  Mike standing on the front porch could see rising from the inferno an amazing sight, an enormous plume of glowing sawdust embers cascading thousands of  feet upward,  the heavens filled with bellowing embers, the effervescent sparkle twinkling like a thousand stars in the clear night-time sky.  Fess suddenly appearing saying he had been to Mill and there was nothing they could do about the fire but let it burn.  Mike was surprised when Fess asked if he would like to accompany him back to the scene of the  fire, the answer was a resounding yes.   The young man having never witnessed a major fire let alone a sawmill fire,  it was already an unbelievable sight.   Listening to conversations of the adults, he learned of the two components that fueled the spectacular Mill blaze.  The cuttings from the saw blades, better known as sawdust and the lubricating oil for the chains and sprockets that rotate the blades, the mixture presenting a most volatile combination.  The volunteer firemen were regiment, doing their best to control the flames when suddenly a very loud shrill  sound burst forth.   It was the mill whistle connected to the boiler that provided the steam to power the cutting blade drives.   For an instant everyone hesitated thinking that the boiler might explode, but gradually the whistle volume began to decrease  finally totally subsiding.  Mike finding a unique perch,  Fess having seated him atop one of Etna’s two fire trucks, the loft a safe distance from the flurry of activity,  the twelve-year old experiencing a once in a lifetime event.

Beware the cattle guards when on horseback

The visitor from Oakland was introduced to some  older boys,  Gene and Sam Branson,  who were nephews on Fess’s side of the family.  Gene was a horseback rider offering to take him riding,  but having to ride double, Mike seated behind the saddle.   It was during a riding occasion, Gene dismounted attempting to lead the horse around a cattle guard with Mike still on the horse seated behind the saddle.    The horse hesitated, Gene tugging on the reigns but the horse still refusing and then bucked,  Mike remembers the horse going up.  The next remembrance was waking up sitting at the dining room table in process of eating his supper with his Aunt and Uncle, somewhat confused, having no recollection of what had transpired after apparently being bucked off the horse.  Still somewhat in a daze he excused himself from the table and retired to bedroom deciding to remaining silent about the event, later finding out from Gene that he had landed on the metal cattle guard.  The fall must have also affected Gene,  it was the last time he offered to take Mike riding.

Mt. Shasta viewed from the Callahan road

Mike watched diligently as his uncle loaded the pickup with camping gear, having found out that his cousins would be joining them.  As curiosity would have it, he asked where they were going, not that finding out where would have meant anything to the city boy, but the name Cabin Meadow Creek sounded engrossing.  It was early afternoon the two family caravan leaving town, traversing east on Callahan Road, crossing Etna Creek and the Scott River, then south on the east side of the river towards Callahan.   Callahan was where the east and south fork of the Scott River converged and  besides having a store, post office, a couple of old building and few residents it resembled an old movie stagecoach stop, but what was impressive was the view of Mt. Shasta 2o miles to the south, southeast.

Siskiyou Mountain meadows

The camping expedition proceeding up the south fork road, then venturing onto a once bulldozed steep logging drag trail.  It became apparent, the further they went up the more the greater the impasse, but unexpectedly the incline leveled into a large meadow adjacent to crystal clear, ice-cold flowing creek, they had arrived at their destination.  What impressed Mike retiring in a sleeping bag after dark was the serenity that enveloped the mountain, the  sound of the nearby creek caressing the stillness of the night occasionally broken by the dialog from the unseen inhabitants.

Mike having never fished before was subject to a learning experience, his Uncle Sam taking time to demonstrate the stringing and use of the reel, the difference between fly and bait casting.  The youth catching his first trout,  not a large rainbow, but a small eastern brook, but excited as he was in catching his first fish, there was a problem, he couldn’t tell anyone how he came to catch it.  It started with a shoelace coming untied, setting his pole down to tie it, but laying it down with the baited hook in the water.   When he picked up his pole he found a fish on the line, deciding it might be best not mentioned the details of catching his first fish.

Gleaning from his visit,  found the small Etna logging community a remnant from another era.  Mike discerning the towns simplicity,  its residents bonding with the contemporary world by listening to the Richfield Reporter at 10:00 P.M. on the radio and a once a month pilgrimage out of their majestic valley to Yreka for groceries.  With the arrival of his parents,  his stay in Etna instilled an immense hope and desire to return to this marvelous place of enchantment.

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