First Trek North………………#16 (the 50’s)

Welcome to Scott Valley

Welcome to Scott Valley

It was after ten when they installed him on the bus, Mike situating himself in the seat as a bus station attendant came up the aisle with a handful of pillows, stopping, handing the young man one,  commenting about his comfort.    He determined that it had been arranged by his parents as it was Mike’s inaugural overnight bus journey and like most   “first”,   he had that alien feeling of uncertainty.    Settling in for the night noticing that he and all those aboard were not alone as the bus ventured north,  an unexpected guest had joined the travelers.   Even as sleep approached he would briefly open an eye to verify its presence through the bus window its wondrous gracing glow could be seen traversing the night sky accompanying the bus, the ever presence of the moon.

First overnight bus ride experience

A traveling companion

The morning and his Yreka destination both having arrived as he stepped off the bus that summer morning greeted by an awaiting Aunt Della.   He hadn’t slept very well,  spending a lot of time deciphering why the moon appeared to be moving with the bus,  but the thought of food was foremost in his mind at the present.  The young man almost feeling he was among strangers, but realizing they were relatives,  but having only made their acquaintances sparingly in the past. His cousins Johnny and Jenny were up and about as he ate a bowl of cereal while waiting for his Aunt Bernice to facilitate their trip to hers and his Uncle Sams Etna, Scott Valley home.  With his Aunts arrival Mike was reintroduced to a memory, the reserved looking lady, very correct and proper in her dress and mannerisms lady was familiar.  Her stay was brief, they soon departed making a stop at a  large grocery store, which the boy later found to be the customary for Scott Valley residence when in Yreka.

A two lane hi-way over Yreka Mountain

A two lane hi-way over Yreka Mountain

Approaching Etna on Sawyers' Bar Road

Approaching Etna on Sawyers’ Bar Road

    Leaving Yreka Mike couldn’t help but realized they were riding in a pristine late-model Mercury Monterey two door sedan with twin exhaust pipes and was impressed, but what was puzzling was it didn’t seem to fit the demeanor or character of his Aunt.   The trip over Yreka Mountain was one of remembrance,  when traveling downhill on the two lane blacktop which snaked it way up and down the mountain, the Mercury would back off under compression, the mufflers emitting a resonant popping sound.  Even a twelve-year old knew that the sound was made by new mufflers called glass packs and later finding out that the car had belonged to his cousin Bobby, Bernice’s son who had tragically was killed the previous year when his Air Force plane crashed during a flight training exercise.   The Yreka Mountain road  had numerous switch-backs and accommodating turnouts so an automobile could pass a laboring slow crawling logging truck that would pull to the side of the road.   On the Scott Valley slope of the mountain was a natural spring area that in years past provided water for the radiators of overheated cars making the up-hill climb, people still  paused but only to fill their containers with the pristine water for personal use.   On the way down the  mountain his Aunt pointed out Robber’s Roost,  the rock formation  from which the legendary old west outlaw Black Bart hid behind waiting for an unsuspecting stage-coach to appear,  or so the tale is told.

Mike’s aunt & uncle

Main St. Etna - Population 500

Main St. Etna – Population 500

Sam & Bernice’s – and the Cortez house

Descending into Scott Valley they passed Fort Jones, the town having gone through four name changes until acquiring its present name in 1860, and was the birthplace of his Mother, the Mercury continuing on to the community of Etna.   The small town of less than 500 situated below the beautiful majestic Marble Mountains and the Trinity Alps wilderness, even in the summertime,  the mountains still wore a crown of snow adding to their already regal appearance.  The young man getting settled in his aunt and uncles Diggles St. home, his Aunt Bernice directing him to Bobby’s bedroom, Mike noticing that all of Bobby’s youthful accumulations of stuff was still present, his aunt mentioning he was the first to stay in the room since Bobby’s death.  Mike questioned when he had last seen his Aunt and Uncle, cousins Bobby and his sister Jerry but couldn’t recall them ever visiting his family in Oakland, it had to have been when he lived in Yreka during the war while his dad was overseas.

The first couple of day found Mike curious about the the old wooden house northwest of his aunt and uncles, to him it looked like a renovated barn from the turn of the century and he soon introduced himself to a girl about his age and her younger brother.  He soon was making friends with Patricia Cortez  and quickly was on the receiving end of an education concerning red peppers.   She wagered  that she could eat a whole pepper completely and  that he wouldn’t be able to and proceeded to promptly demonstrate by consuming the pepper.   A confident Mike with pepper in hand was ready to prove her wrong,  but with the first bite  discovering  she was correct, it was a hot pepper, immediately asking for a glass of water.  The younger Patricia  informing him that water wouldn’t relieve the burning,  handing him a slice of bread with a smile on her face, admitting that she had scraped the wall of the inner portion and also removed the seeds from her pepper which were the source of making it hot.  The two Sharing a mutual interest, Mike having discovered a pair of well used key adjustable roller skates that may have belonged to Bobby and Patricia also having skates, the two entertaining the sidewalk on the other side of Diggles Street.

      Young Mike soon discovering a side of his aunt and uncle that they kept somewhat hidden, they really cared about him.  At lunch one afternoon Mike was asked if he would like accompany his uncle back to work.  His uncle,  who was also a architect, was working on a recent new apartment, instructed the young man how to drive nails properly and the consequences when  you do it wrong, Mike not hesitating, found that his error was aptly pointed out.  His aunt on several occasions not asking outright, but inviting him to joining her in a brief visit into town and of course he was rewarded with an ice cream cone, but that wasn’t the reason he accepted, it was an enter feeling that she wanted the company.  His aunt also was rightly corrective after noticing him engraving his name on a tree with a knife, amiably saying “fools names like fools faces are often seen in public places”.  Something that he knew would be ingrained forever.

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