Posts Tagged ‘God’s Country’

A Second Venture North….. #31 (the 50’s)

April 30, 2017

   

     

It was 2 years ago that his parents had put Gary aboard  a Greyhound Bus at the San Pablo station, to spend some time with his Uncle Sam and Aunt Bernice in Etna, but this time he would be staying with his cousin Jerry Facey, her husband Fess and their three children, Sammy, Deane, and Trudy.  The Scenicruiser  departing the San Pablo Station at 10 P.M., traveling thru the darken morning hours, arriving at day-break in Yreka to be met by his Aunt Della Eastlick.

      

On his arrival, a somewhat still sleepy 12 year old finding the morning passing slowly at his aunts, patiently expecting the arrival of his cousins.  A car halting in front of the house, and to his astonishment it wasn’t Jerry and Fess, but his Aunt Bernice providing the journey over Yreka Mountain to Scott Valley and Etna.

   

The Facey’s house on Diggles Street was separated from his Uncle Sam and Aunt Bernice’s’  by a now vacant Cortez family house, and his cousins three quarter acre pasture.  Gary curious to the whereabouts of Patricia Cortez, and her little brother whom he had made friends with two years earlier.  Once settled in with the family, Gary getting acquainted with his younger second cousins, doing some reading, and playing his cousin slightly out of tune upright piano.  In some aspects it was becoming prosaic, having yet to tap his inventiveness,   Their Etna acreage was not without other occupants, the Facey’s  possessed a Holstein  cow named Boss, a well fed hog housed at the end of the pasture and a number of rabbits and chickens.  Gary was accorded an opportunity to milk the cow, and nurture the animal menagerie, his cousin Fess giving the opportunity of choice.  After experiencing both chores, the youth deciding not to participate in the milking activity, but would adhere to the feeding.

 

Festus Nimrod Facey was a Mountain of a Man, not only in size, but possessing an aura of sparkling amiability that radiated from his Persona, his disposition was always like Sunshine on a cloudy day.  He could  sense that Gary wasn’t too 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 had accompanied Fess on a work related mission was during his stay with his Aunt Bernice and Uncle Sam, the night of the formidable fire that destroyed Etna’s only sawmill.

         

             

The County Barn was the name given the large building where the local county crew stored the road maintenance equipment.  The Etna crew maintained a bulldozer,  two road-graders, a 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 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 used during the idle time while the pump extracted water from the local stream, a fishing pole.  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 one occasions when the road-grader driver called in sick, Fess operated the grader with young Gary aboard,  demonstrating how to run the grader with its many levers for raising, lowering, changing angles and the pitch of the blade, letting the Youngster have a turn at the controls.    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 one occasions when the road-grader driver called in sick, Fess operated the grader with young Gary aboard,  demonstrating how to run the grader with its many levers for raising, lowering, changing angles and the pitch of the blade, letting the youngster have a turn at the controls.

    

    

 

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, dispersed among the hail stones were other smaller animate objects.  Gary couldn’t believe his eyes, the small objects descending from the vaults of heaven and covering the ground were frogs.  Hundreds 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 the two to travel on.  Continuing back to Etna,  Fess notified the other members of the county crew about Impending road and culvert washouts,  but giving no mention of frogs.

     

Fishing on weekends was a given, the rainbow and eastern brook trout were bountiful with a limit of 14,  but Gary discovering, 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 Travels of the mountainous county roads enabled him in securing signs of possible bear locations, and enabling his quota during Deer Season,  ensuring that those who accompanied him did the same.

     

        

When it came to  fishing, Gary preferred bait over fly casting, using the plentiful grasshoppers captured in the field behind the Facey house, but favored the most trout enticing bait, the hellgrammites, a small crustacean covered larva of the dobson fly, 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 foraged.   Fess’s outdoor tutorage continued, 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 small 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 it up behind the unsuspecting idle frog, gigging It.  Gary didn’t count the number of frogs taken, but it was more than enough for The Facey family to enjoy a meal of frog legs.

  

It was always said: ” If you make plenty of noise you will never see wildlife in the woods.”   Gary was fishing,  making his way over the rocks on Etna Creek,  Fess having crossed to the other side   It was over the 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, Into the river, towards the woods, or continue upstream, The decision was made, back the way he had come, the warning no longer auditable, but a reminder of the exploit remained.

    

Just the name, Tangle Blue, sounded like adventure to 12 year old Gary , and what was more intriguing ,  Fess, and his brother Albert drove up in a military style 4 wheel-drive jeep.  The question was how to fit three adults, four kids, and the camping equipment into a jeep?, Where There’s a Will,  There’s Away.

   

The expedition traveled south on Highway 3,… crossing the east fork of the Scott River 16 miles south of Callahan, turning west on what appeared to be a firebreak or logging road paralleling Tangle Blue Creek, the makeshift road ending shy of the lake.  The uphill forest enshrouded incline presenting a problem, the weight distribution in the back of the jeep causing the front wheels to barely make contact with the ground.   Albert solved the problem by sitting on the hood, his added weight up front was just what was needed.

  

     

Arriving, setting up camp at the small Lake nestled below a 6900 foot peak, with patches of snow still remaining, undisturbed by the Sun.  The weekend finding Fess and Albert having success fishing,  Gary yet to master the challenge, never having lake fished before,  somewhat dismayed to stand and reel-in a bobber, his youthful impatience’s beginning to show.   Deciding to explore, including the shoreline for a creek exiting the lake, discovering a small stream but with very little water Flow.  Any disappointment was short lived with the beckoning of the nearby peak and the overwhelming presence of  the wondrous surroundings painting an unforgettable picture.

    

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 after the movie,  He enjoyed being with her and before leaving asked if he could see her again. This was the beginning of the two spending time together.  Gary experiencing a feeling of comfort he had never experienced before. 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 nights provided a wonderful view of the heavens, Gary with his youthful knowledge of astronomy naming 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 was not one of Boasting, but making idle talk of his ventures and of life’s Impressions.   This new incongruous experience and emotion began to play 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 Visit had drawn to a close.  It was homeward bound, back to school, He and Bobbi  having exchanged address’s, with a promise to correspond.   A  farewell Bidding to his cousins, and the enriching experience, forever cherishing the memory of this past summer month.