Late Spring 1966

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Life continued to revolve around family, road access, phone line, and having to earn a living—not always in that order. Having phone contact at the ranch was very important but getting to that point was taking a long time. There were trees to trim, insulators to put on them, brush to clear from underneath the line, wire to string, and Bob could work on it only after work or on weekends.

One Sunday, Bob went early to work on the phone line. Florence came to watch Rebecca while I went to join Bob. It was one of those warm spring days “with clouds frequently passing over the sun, making it cool enough for a sweater but as soon as the clouds passed, too warm for the sweater.”

Just before I’d left, Doris Ohde had phoned asking whether they could bring their lunch and eat at our house. I told her where we’d be and we met them as they drove up. We ate lunch above Waldens and then they walked up the trail and on up to the ranch. Bob and I worked till 4:00. I cut poison oak and other shrubs beneath the line and pruned the trail. We left a note asking Ohdes to dinner. They came and we had a very good time.

Bob met Scoot Miller on the way out and Scoot wanted to move our slides. Bob told him he hadn’t asked yet because we couldn’t pay him. He said he would do the work and we could pay when we had the money. The next day I had poison oak. Wednesday it was snowing.

My mother sent a letter about trapping pine martens. She and my dad had found old traps at the park where they were living–D.L. Bliss– (against the law in state parks). The season had been closed since 1952. The trappers would nail a piece of galvanized metal on the side of a tree and bend it into a little roof where they put the baited trap. When the season closed in 1952, pine marten pelts were worth $20-$40 each.

One day some boys from elementary school stopped by and I gave them all popsicles: Ricky, Lennie and Jim Anderson, Tony and Tye Duncan, and Kevin Monroe.

My morning walks were longer now and much easier as I started carrying Rebecca on my back in a Gerry Pack. These types of packs are common now for carrying children but were rare then. People used to stop me and marvel at what a great idea idea it was. One day, when walking with Rebecca, a deer came right up to us to be petted. The hair was worn off its neck where a collar had been—obviously had been someone’s pet.

Then my mother wrote that my dad had a heart attack two weeks ago. Why hadn’t they called one of my brothers or me? She drove him to a doctor and they did call a family friend who was a doctor. No heart damage but no more physical labor at that elevation. They didn’t want to be a bother to anyone but…yikes!

I substituted for a couple of days at Cox Bar School.

We continued to look for land where we could live while also trying to fix things up at the ranch and finally decided to buy land in Weaverville. I would have to go to work. We would rent the Ohde’s house for the coming school year as they were going to Corvallis so Dave could go to OSU during that time. I was offered a teaching job at the Weaverville elementary school.

Shooting stars, fawn lilies and redbud were in bloom at Big Flat as was buckbrush ceanothus. Madrones were just starting to bloom.

In March Rebecca could take a couple of steps but by the end of April
she was running instead of walking, and preferably while holding something in one hand. She chattered constantly in her own language.

On the last day of April, after dinner, we drove downriver to look at a second proposed dam site for the Helena Dam. If used, all of Big Bar would be covered and the lake would be only a short distance from the ranch. Helicopter sites had to be prepared on both sides of the river, at both sites, so they could drill down about 200 feet. These had to be prepared by hand as it was too steep for bulldozers. We drove up Swede Creek to get a closer look at the spot.

This was part of a plan to send more water to Southern California from the northern part of the state. This State Water Plan would create a project that would include 10 dams and reservoirs, 700 miles of canals and pipelines, and eight hydroelectric power plants to send water from Northern California to cities and farms in central and southern California. A second plan, from what I could find online, was to bring even more water from places like the Trinity, where “water was abundant and people were not”. Part of the plan included a dam on the Eel River that would have flooded Round Valley near Covelo. But the dams, tunnels and pumps would have destroyed the salmon-fishing industry. My information source says that then Governor Ronald Regan refused to approve this plan.

I do have some concerns that such a plan might get resurrected, given the water needs, or perceived needs, of the state and the realization that climate change is affecting water supplies for cities and the huge agri-business industry.

Nevada City

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I thought I’d forgotten to take my camera but found it the night before we left Quincy. No wedding pictures but sometimes it’s just as well to focus on the moment. I took a picture or two of historic buildings the morning we left.

Nevada City was a result of a Great Old Broads auction I’d bid on last fall. We kept trying to figure out a good time to go plus coordinating with the homeowner. Kathleen K. had offered her home for two nights plus breakfasts. Sight unseen she was willing to take two guests, like a personal B & B. The wedding got us close and the timing worked well.

What a treat! It was so hot during that time and had been very smoky in that part of the state. But it all worked out. We don’t have Smart Phones and my GPS had malfunctioned but Nevada City is about the size of Weaverville and people were able to point us toward the correct street.

Her home was off the street and quite private. It was inviting even at that time of year but must be even more inviting in the spring when everything is green. The house backs up against a grassy hillside dotted with ponderosa pines and several blue oaks edge the driveway. She has a large, organic garden surrounded by a high fence to keep out the deer. I was delighted to find a little stream, a water ditch, running down one side of the yard. One afternoon I sat alongside on some rocks and soaked my feet in the cold water.

The upstairs was where our room was located. It was quite large, with windows on three sides, and we had our own bathroom–a thing of beauty in itself with wonderful floor tiles and a window view. No need to worry about neighbors. Bookshelves lined the bedroom walls. There was an oval wood table and wicker chairs. There was a fan and air conditioning if we needed it. At night, with the windows open, the only sound was the crickets.

After Kathleen had welcomed us and shown us around she led the way downtown for a quick overview by car. She went home and we went to a pizza place, where we’d stopped to ask directions on the way in, and ordered Greek pizza and salad for dinner. Kathleen had gone to see friends. When we got home we brought the extra pizza for her to have for dinner if she wanted it. She did.

The next morning Kathleen fixed waffles, bacon and fruit, including fresh blackberries she’d picked in her yard. We ate out on the patio. She is a gifted potter and we enjoyed using some of the items she’d made–a syrup pitcher, a bowl, etc. –with our breakfasts.

Then she led us to where a trailhead begins above town. It’s a popular spot—a wide trail that goes along side a very large water ditch that runs from the Yuba River. The ditch and the trail are both about eight feet across. The water itself was probably 3-4 feet across the surface. The trail is for hikers, bikers and runners. We could see the edge of a subdivision above the ditch and some people had built little bridges to access the trail. Tom and I walked out a mile and back. Kind of hot and a bit smoky but still a good thing to do. There’s a woodpecker preserve along the ditch.

After we rested awhile at the house we drove downtown again to look around. Really too hot to do much exploring. It’s an historic 1850s mining town and the buildings have been well taken care of–would be fun to explore more in cooler weather. We decided to eat an early dinner and went back to the pizza place, Northridge Restaurant, where we each had big salads (tri-tip for Tom and salmon for me) and a glass of beer.

Breakfast the next morning was out on the patio again–granola and bacon (Kathleen had offered eggs) and fresh fruit. What a good time we had! I told Tom I’d just stay there and he could pick me up on his way home. But off we went.

Winter 1965 to Spring 1966

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So it wasn’t mobile phones that were being worked on. I found a 1965 Trinity Journal news clipping that explains the phone project. At that time the phone company was called Western Telephone. They were offering the county a new 150-megacycle radio communication system on a lease basis. Bob was the company communication engineer. ‘He said the radio system, using Motorola Company equipment, had been substituted for a proposed mobile dial telephone system which the company had previously offered but which the sheriff and road departments had found unsuitable to their needs.’

“The coranchmpany proposes to install a repeater on Hayfork Bally and another on Oregon Mountain if the county would want a standby emergency unit.” The lease system would eliminate the need for a capital outlay to purchase equipment. Maintenance of the system would be included in the lease contract. The county’s current radio system was obsolete according to Sheriff Tom Kelly and Road Commissioner Ivan Jeans. The monthly rental would be “considerably lower than the dial mobile service” according to Gilman Snyder, president of the phone company. So that explains that!

My days continued to revolve around our child and making sure my husband got fed. Most mornings I’d take a walk with the baby after Bob had left for work. There was always housework—dishes, laundry, bathing the baby, feeding her and I often made bread. During bad weather I was more restricted so far as going outdoors was concerned but I did take magazines I’d finished down to Big Bar where there was a loaning/exchange area for books and magazines. I saved baby food jars to give to the school for artwork painting projects and saved some for Horace Jones, in Weaverville, for screws and nuts and other small objects for his shop. And I’d go to Weaverville to buy groceries, either on my own or with Bob.

We spent Christmas at Lake Tahoe (DL Bliss State Park) with my parents. When we arrived there were two feet of snow on the ground. They had such a nice house—an A-frame roof with beams, fireplace and a floor furnace. It started snowing that night. The wind howled in the chimney and the snow piled up. We left the baby with my mother the next day and rode down to Emerald Bay with my dad for an hour or so. A lost traveler woke us up at 5:30 on Christmas day. We took turns opening the baby’s presents.

One thing about having a son who is gifted with electronics is that you might get interesting Christmas presents. Bob’s Christmas present for Leonard that year was a switch that would turn off the sound on the TV commercials.

Back in Trinity, a few days later, it was snowing. Rebecca stood for the first time in her crib the last day of December. In early January, with the advent of more storms. the electricity kept going off. Bob couldn’t make it up to the creek. He put chains on all four tires to get to the top of the hill above Walden’s, where there was a slide. He managed to move enough of it to get past. At the gulch, which washed out last year, was a huge rockslide with a big oak in it. Both of these slides were where new roadwork had been done. I wrote, “He’s pretty discouraged, especially about finances for removal.” On the 4th we rode into town with him to get groceries—he chained up before we left. No electricity in Weaverville when we got there. “Trees had fallen all over town and a big limb had broken off the tree in Florence & Leonard’s back yard.” It snowed steadily all day. We stayed that night in town and learned later that it had taken Irene Nunn three hours to get home to Big Bar from town.

The phone company, courthouse, hospital and Morris Hardware had their own power systems. The bank moved one of their machines into the phone company office. Everyone else used Coleman and kerosene lanterns. We cooked on the trash burner at Florence & Leonard’s and kept the fireplace going.

A few days later, Bob and Larry Donaldson snowshoed to the top of Oregon Mt. to work on equipment. By January 10th we were back home at Big Flat. We still had no working phone. On the 15th he walked up to the ranch. There was about a foot of snow at the gate. Only a few trees were across the road, to our surprise. The clay slide by the creek was very large and fluid and had come down a little onto the bridge.

We had a serious discussion about living year-round at the ranch. Bob thought maybe we could buy a Scout and put blades on both it and the jeep. The idea of building another house and going further in debt on more land was very discouraging to both of us.

Earnest Duncan stopped by one evening. Earnest and his family had a ranch on the other side of the river. Two of his grandsons had been in my classroom at Cox Bar School. Earnest had walked way up on Manzanita Ridge and back looking for some lost cows and wanted to know whether Bob had seen them up at the ranch. He looked so tired, as if he were about to fall over. Earnest said the snow was quite deep. He had stayed on the north side where it was crusted but would fall through up to his waist whenever he crossed over bushes.

Bob continued to work on mobile units and testing how the phones worked from different places. Another day he left the car and went with someone to Horse Mountain. The mobile operated quite well from there to Oregon Mountain, a distance of about 60 miles. Sometimes he had to stay overnight in Willow Creek.

When I got a few spare minutes I would read and was reading Bequest of Wings and King Solomon’s Ring. We were in a “no pennies till payday” week. “The jeep is paid for now but we have income tax and fire insurance to pay.” I made bread. One thing about having a baby around was that there were always some new adventures being tried out. She was now crawling all over the house when I let her out of the playpen.

Later on, Bob was able to tell Earnest Duncan that he had heard cowbells above Walden’s. Earnest stopped by to tell me to thank Bob. He said he had found two cows in good shape and was leaving them till he could take them up Manzanita Ridge in a few weeks.

Bob continued to work on our telephone line to the ranch on weekends. He cut some trees that had fallen across it and spliced the line where it was broken.

One day, after Bob had left to go work on ourRebecca, 1965 phone line, the house began to get quite smoky. I found smoke pouring from a section of stovepipe in the living room. I thought there might be a flu fire and called Darrel Towne in Big Bar. He said he’d call the Forest Service. About five minutes later three USFS men came with their truck. They looked things over and decided to clear the stack. They climbed up on the roof and lowered a wire, scraping enough soot aside to allow the fire to draw (Bob had just said that morning that he thought he would have to drop a chain down the stack). When I went to take Bob’s lunch to him at 1:00 o’clock, he decided to come home and do a thorough job of cleaning it, and he did.

It just seemed as if there were one thing after another with the road. In the old days I think it was easier to rebuild a section of trail. Plus they didn’t need access in and out every day in order to make a living. Roads make things more complicated. Providing for water runoff is a huge issue and this road seemed to really want to be a trail. Toward the end of February Bob came home soaking wet after borrowing Frank Walden’s Tote Goat to check on the road and finding there was another slide just below the gate—huge boulders. He thought the clay slide might stabilize sooner than we had expected though, a slight bit of cheer. We found out George Costa had sold everything—house, cats, mine, etc. so he wouldn’t be able to work on our road.

A few nights later Bob called about 4:30 saying he was coming down Horse Mountain in a snowstorm through about eight inches of snow with fog and snow blending so well it was quite difficult to see the road. He arrived safely but late.

Fall 1965

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looking toward Eagle Rock Reading journals that I kept years ago, and then writing, involves a lot of sorting and decision making: Will this interest anyone besides me? Should I include detailed descriptions? What about mentioning others names—former spouses of friends or relatives, people only a few others might remember? I’ve pretty much decided to include names if I think a reader from Trinity County might recognize them. I’ll include sightings of various birds and animals because I found them interesting and if the reader doesn’t then the reader can skip it. I talk about various projects and semi-disasters because those were a big part of our lives at the time. I’ll try to not do too many “cute” baby or toddler things. Sometimes the words get very disorganized and I know that. And apologize in advance.

Fall advanced swiftly. We enjoyed a potluck (Schoenthaler, Varney, and Van Duyn families). The men helped move a rock and haul some pipe and then we ate. Entertainment was Bob on banjo and me with a couple of tunes on the accordion.

Farm advisor Joe Borden and his wife, Mary, came out for dinner. He was trying to find out whether we had for sure a fly that parasitizes snails. He’d found one and wanted to be sure there were more. We had little snails in the spring and in the swampy area across from the house where watercress grew. My eldest brother learned in a parasitology class that some species of snail uses watercress for a host and people can get infected with it. My father-in-law loved watercress and chose to ignore any possible hazards. I indulged but not often, just in case.

Every household has machinery that breaks down but when you live an hour from town and have nooak leaves telephone it seems worse. The washing machine broke down and I used the tub to wash diapers by hand. Fortunately Bob was able to fix it. “I almost hoped the washer wouldn’t run the next day because it was so quiet and pretty out on the porch. The engine is loud and blots out all sounds of birds and wind. “

Bob put roofing paper on the front porch roof, tacking it down with1x 4 wood strips. I kept planting flowers that had almost no chance of surviving the deer.

Seeing the first snow of the season across the canyon on Eagle Rock was followed on
October 18th by someone bringing Bob home on crutches after work. He was at Horse Mt. with Jim Barrett, unloading some equipment, with the assistance of another man who was up there working on ski plans. Bob was in the truck holding the dolly. It slipped and Bob tried to hold it. He fell, throwing his knee out of joint and hitting so hard that paint came off the truck on his pants. He put the knee back and then discovered that the other man was a doctor. Our own doctor told him he couldn’t drive because of the clutch. From then on there were trips to Redding to see a doctor. Hard for him to get in and out of the VW, unlock the gate, carry anything, etc.

We had decidorcharded, before the accident, to rent a house at Big Flat from the Rybergs, for the winter. It was behind the campground. The house had a large kitchen, two bedrooms, heated with an Ashley stove. So that meant when we moved we’d also need to move firewood. How to do this with his leg and the baby to care for? One day Ira and Curtis Adrian came walking up to the house with their rifles on their shoulders, having left their car at the gate. They’d come to help. Ira helped put the tractor back together. Curtis helped Florence, who soon arrived with the small store truck. They filled it and their pickup with wood. I fed everyone and then we drove to Big Flat and unloaded. Steve Ryberg helped. By the time we got back, Ira and Bob had the tractor in the barn.

The fall colors were spectacular. The oaks were an orange-yellow; maples a brilliant yellow; the peaches flame colored (looking as they had been waxed); the English walnut was a big yellow butterball; the pear was purple and then turned a deep red; grapes were turning yellow as was the black walnut. Afternoon temperatures had been quite warm.

It was a little more frantic now with me having to do loading and unloading of things. Rebecca’s colic usually kicked in around dinnertime, adding to the stress. The swelling would go down a lot if Bob lay down and put his foot up. When he was at work I cut up some wood with a saw and also hauled some big wood to the porch for the Rightway. His leg began to gradually improve to the Redding doctor’s surprise.

In early November we packed more things and took both cars to Big Flat. I unloaded and Bob put some things away and comforted Rebecca who was screaming as I tried to clean the refrigerator. The next day Florence and Curtis came and we really got busy. Took the beds, the crib, the playpen. It was raining lightly the whole time. Florence had brought chicken and cake and I fixed coffee and bread and cheese for lunch. I unpacked while they all went back for another load. We’d never have made it without them. The next day I washed baby clothes and diapers by hand because we didn’t have our electric washing machine yet.

A few big leaf maple along roaddays later Bob went to the ranch where he lubed the jeep and defrosted the refrigerator. The clay slide above the creek had come half way across the road with all the rain. A few weeks later the clay slide completely covered the road.

One morning, on our way into town, we saw otters playing along the river on a sandbar. They tumbled around together. Then went into the river, diving and playing, then swam upstream.

Bob was working on mobile units in December. I’m assuming this means mobile telephones versus landlines. He was really excited about it. Hard for us to imagine now with Smart Phones. They installed two units. He got home late one evening after eating dinner with the Motorola man. Another night he got home around 10:00 and then went up on the ridge to test a unit. One day we drove into town, testing on the way. We stopped at Varney’s for a few minutes where they had just watched the Gemini 7 take off on TV. Many evenings he was studying to learn more about mobile units.

A Busy Summer, 1965

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log cornersWe went to visit my brother, Peter and his wife and children at Whalen Station where he was working for the U.S. Forest Service. Picked up some vegetables Alice had left for them and took some groceries. Stopped in Trinity Center to visit Uncle Stanford (Florence’s uncle) and Gertrude and picked up my brother’s mail in Coffee Creek. along with a map. The road to Whalen had been washed out last winter but there were no signs so we had to backtrack and go by way of Mumbo Creek. Their cabin had two tiny rooms and a bathroom. They slept in bunk beds and the kids slept in the truck. Angenett washed clothes by hand. We slept in a trailer but it was about out of gas so we would get up periodically to turn the gas on for heaters.

The next day we drove to Castella, Bob’s first visit to that area. Of course I spent most of my childhood there at the Crags. Several bridges on Castle Creek had been washed out. We stopped at Ammarati’s store and talked to Joe for a while. He said Mary, his daughter, was teaching in El Centro and young Joe working on a doctorate in botany.

We ate lunch across the Sacramento River in the day-use area. The footbridge there had washed out. The park ranger loaned us a key so we could drive up to the water source (our name for where the park water originated) and see the dam my father had built in Indian Creek. Then we drove to Dunsmuir for a milkshake and to see the high school. From there it was back to Weaverville where we fed the baby, talked to Leonard for a few minutes and headed back out to the ranch. We ate dinner in Big Bar.

A few days later we met Doris and Dave Ohde for the first time, at Helen and Herb Woods’, where there was a small gathering. Little did we know this would be the start of one of those life-long friendships! Florence and Dorothy Lee had to leave early to go judge a façade for the new museum.

We spent part of one night searching for a very loud cricket and finally found it and put it outside. Funny how noisy one cricket can be. The porcupine tried chewing on one of the house logs.

I saw a covey of Mt. Quail on the lawn and was afraid they might get the mouse poison under the house. Went out to scare them and found they’d left a guard on the rock pile by the back porch. He/she whistled a warning and they flew under the porch. When I walked over to them they all flew away. Bob recently saw a doe, a spotted fawn, and a spike buck in velvet. He also saw a bear by the bridge.

Labor Day weekend Bob dug a large rock out of the lawn, fixed the washing machine, and cut some wood. One night, when I’d made a 5 a.m. trip to use the outhouse, I saw the porcupine. Bob got his 22 and eventually was able to chase it into a gully where he shot it, hauling it away the next day.

One night we heard that weird sound we’ve been hearing off and on for a couple of years. We had thought it was porcupines but not so. Bob got up to look out the south window and then motioned to me. There was a full moon and the lawn was brightly lighted, with deep shadows next to the black-walnut tree. About ten feet from the shadow was a fox, seen only as a dark fox shadow sitting with its tail straight out behind. Suddenly another fox dashed from the shadow and raced around as if hunting for something. It disappeared and then reappeared, skimming across the grass. Abruptly they both disappeared. A truly beautiful sight. Later, Bob heard the barking, rasping sound again. He got up and shined his light, and the fox growled at him.

A week or so later we were expecting my younger brother and his wife to arrive around 6 p.m. but by 9:30, with them still not having arrived, Bob drove into Big Bar so he could call to see whether they’d left a message with Leonard. They hadn’t. At 5 a.m. they came roaring up our road in full moonlight. Fortunately Bob had left the gate open or they would have faced a two-mile walk. We gave them coffee, unrolled sleeping bags and blew up air mattresses. They had left Fresno at 5 p.m. Then everyone went back to bed. We were up by 9 a.m. but let them sleep another hour. We took them up to Eagle Rock lookout although we had to run at some of the hills with our VW. We all enjoyed the view. Mary Woods was working there and her husband was on Ironsides. Back at the house we ate the previous night’s dinner, fixed sandwiches for them, and off they went, Seattle bound. Well, after an overnight stay with friends in Castella and a hike to the Crags.

A couple of nights later I saw a ring-tailed cat on the lawn. It was at the south end of the house and appeared to be watching a porcupine. When my light hit it, it moved quickly off, lifting its feet high.

One night Bob left the house at 8:30 to go work on the tractor even though it was dark. “He drives himself too hard sometimes.”

I saw the skunk again. He ran up the road at kind of a rocking gallop. We saw a fox on the lawn last night. I had a fire in the Rightway Stove. Temperature down to 40 degrees. It was cold and windy although beautiful. The air was so clear. I chopped some wood and had a fire in the cooking stove most of the day. Took advantage of that to make some apple Betty pie.

I had a brief lesson in shooting the 22 in case I needed it now that hunting season was starting and there could be trespassers. I hit the rock I was aiming for and got close to others. Spouse seemed satisfied.

Saw the skunk again, nearly running over it on my way to the outhouse. It was hunting in the starthistle along the path and I was about 10 feet from it. The skunk wiggled through the thistles and went down on the lawn to investigate some bird feathers left by the cat. Reading over this material I’m thinking I could write a short essay on Trips to the Outhouse– Wildlife Sightings.

Summer 1965

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ranch top of meadowBack to the rising at 5:30 a.m. routine with Bob leaving at 7:00 for work. It was nearing the end of July and on this day I scrubbed the upstairs as well as one can with a sponge mop—mostly in the middle of the floor and around the edges of boxes. Washed three small rugs in the washing machine. Bob brought the cat out, hoping it might help with the mice problems.

The next day I mopped the downstairs and washed diapers. Bob had figured out how to run the lamp that my parents, Mary and Ben, had given us and it really was nice. Gave a soft light instead of the harsh glare of the Coleman.

My days were full and often fractured as I adapted to and tried to establish a routine for life with a newborn—the nursing and changing, the wonder and the fatigue—along with trying to keep up any sort of house and yard work. There were visits to the doctor in town for baby checkups (July 18th she weighed 10 pounds) and to buy groceries. “Haven’t accomplished much today” was a common journal entry. She had colic, often beginning around dinnertime, so a lot of time was involved in holding her and trying to ease her discomfort.

We loved having the shower upstairs and off the porch. Bob could take a shower before going to work and, with the gas hot water heater, I didn’t have to have a fire in the stove for us to have hot water, a particularly uncomfortable situation in the heat of summer.

One night in early August, we heard a strange sound around 3 a.m. Bob went out to see what it was and discovered two porcupines, one on the ground and one up in the nearest apple tree. The one in the tree was getting apples. I saw the striped skunk a few nights before that. I think it was getting grasshoppers as it was hunting on the lawn. The flashlight didn’t seem to bother it. In fact, it came toward me, up to within about 15 feet of where I was standing on the porch.

Bob Jones came with his D-6 cat to work on the road. He and Bob worked on the road for a full 12 hours. They got the stump oout by the rock sliode and nearly finished working on the creek channel.

My parents wrote that they were to be transferred from Turlock Lake to Bliss State Park at Lake Tahoe. They were delighted and really looking forward to being back in the mountains and away from that hot reservoir park.

I found time, over a few days, to put another coat of varnish on a kitchen cabinet and to carry rocks from driveway down to the cellar ara and stack them.

One day Denny Bungartz (sp?) (U.S. Forest Service) and his wife and Abe Nunn and another man arrived. Denny dropped off Abe and the other person who then drove Hondas up the hill to inspect trail work that was being done north of us.
One thing about having an outhouse is that you see things in the middle of the night that you wouldn’t otherwise—the stars that are so distinct with no lights to interfere, and animals that are just going about their nocturnal business. I saw the skunk again (August 9th) last night. There was a nearly full moon and both the skunk and a porcupine were out on the front lawn. When my light hit it, the skunk crouched down. Then it ran directly toward me, toward the ramp up to the porch. My first thought was that it was rabid. But it went under the porch right near the ramp, forgetting to take its tail along. Then it remembered and the tail also disappeared. I tiptoed softly across the porch and went on to the outhouse.

After the recent bulldozer work, the road was much smoother and easier to travel.

We had a rainstorm and of course the laundry was hanging out on the line. A good time to bake a few cookies though with the cooler temperatures. That weekend Bob cut slash in the creek and worked on the tractor. I managed to find time to put one more coat of varnish on one side of the kitchen cupboards but otherwise was busy with “domesticity”.

The baby was getting more and more social, smiling and making noises and responding to smiles. She could raise her head for long periods. She seemed fascinated by the rafter and knots in the pine boards of the ceiling upstairs.

The following Tuesday when I got to the gate with the truck there was a low whistling noise coming from the radiator and I noticed steam coming out from under the hood. Decided it was just as easy to go down the two miles to the highway as to go the two miles back to the house. I let the engine cool down near the highway, found an empty beer can along the road and put two cans of water from Prairie Creek into the radiator. At Big Bar I got the radiator filled and drove on into town. Carl soldered it for us to hold us temporarily.

Bob was spending time after work and on weekends cutting slash in the creek or working on the tractor. He put handles and hinges on the cupboards that I’d varnished and they looked so much better. We had a lot of old half pipe from mining days that we had hauled from downriver someplace. (I think that’s the pipe that we hired David Adrian, Bob’s brother-in-law, to haul for us shortly after we were married. It was a lot of work. We ended up using a lot of it for downspouts for culverts to prevent erosion.) Nancy and David and their two daughters stopped by one afternoon.

Toward the end of the month I was up at 4 a.m. with the baby when I heard a loud noise from downstairs—sounded like a huge mouse! I took the lantern and looked out the window in the door and there, gnawing on the doorsill, was a large porcupine. Bob came down and we chased it clear around the house on the porch. It would go to the edge, look over and then continue. Finally, we threw chunks of b ark from the woodpile at it and it went off the porch, dropping about three feet to the ground.

That August we had rain at least one day a week. And usually when there was laundry on the line.

New Beginnings

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ranch spring lilacs

By Mother’s Day the phone wire on the Prairie Creek side was strung as far as the main line and we had 900 feet of culvert delivered. Progress! But even before any larger projects there were always maintenance things to be done. We drove out to the creek again but had to cut a fir out of the way that had been leaning across the road, supported by other trees, since the last snow.

Herb Lane cut down a big snag in the creek and Bob was going to use it for abutments for the temporary log bridge. The lilacs and redbud were about past, and there were still a few apple blossoms. The iris were in bud and grosbeaks seemed to be everywhere. Just a couple of tiny patches of snow lingered on the mountain. The meadow was green with a white sprinkling of popcorn flowers. Woodpeckers had been pounding holes thorough the south end of the upstairs. We drove back to town, changed, and went to Junction City grange hall with Florence and Leonard for a Mother’s Day dinner, seeing many people we knew: the Snyders, the Bordens, the Rablins, and Coburns among others. I met Ola Peterson, who wrote a column for the Trinity Journal, for the first time.

The baby was due the 8th and I’d made arrangements to get all the report cards done a week ahead of time, which was when I was going to stop teaching. Gay Coburn, who was a board member and a teacher, was going to take over for the last week of school.

George Costa started on the new route for the road and roughed it out from the creek up to where it forked. He and Bob and another person finished the bridge on the 30th and Bob was able to drive the jeep back to town after all those months of it being up at the ranch. One evening we drove up the Glennison Gap road so Bob could look at some culverts and turnouts. Very pretty up there with much dogwood, and all still in full bloom. Bob cut two sprays for me, which I put in a vase on the dining table. Then we visited with the Varneys for a while. Fred was going to help load culvert into the store truck the next day.

My brother Peter and his wife arrived in Weaverville. He was going to be working for the U.S. Forest Service at Whalen Station that summer. June 5th he went with Bob and George to the ranch. They moved culvert and George buried it. They got home around 7:00 p.m. coated with dried clay. Bob was pleased because they couldn’t have gotten this much done without Peter’s help. Pete seemed to have enjoyed himself and later commented on Bob’s stamina and muscles.

Our daughter was born a few days later. “Such a tiny bit of humanity!” It seems so strange now but at that time the father could stay in the room up until moments before birth and then had to leave, not being able to see the baby emerge. He was allowed in immediately after that when the umbilical cord was still attached. Seems unfair but that’s how it was. My mother and father came to help for a few days, sleeping on cots in the little apartment. That Saturday Bob hauled the last of the culverts and said there was a rockslide on the other side of the bridge. He went out the next day with Jay Pruett and his backhoe and they put in more culverts. The slide was in a place where George undercut too far and about 400 feet of bank had begun to move.

We watched the 4th of July parade from in front of Morris Hardware—propped the baby up in a chair in the window where we could see her. Bob put up a “not for sale” sign. Some small boys began a heated discussion of whether or not she was real, one insisting that real babies weren’t that small and didn’t breathe that fast—that she was probably a robot.

July 5th the three of us went out to the ranch. We took the jeep and had Rebecca’s car bed in the front seat. Bob worked on the shower (upstairs now), finishing the drain and starting the water pipes. I cleaned out the two food shelves, which had been ravaged by mice. Also found a dead mouse upstairs in the tissue box. Mice were a constant issue any time we were absent for a while.

There is a huge crack in the bank above the new road, just beyond the rock bluff. This will undoubtedly come down this winter—really a mess. The rest of the road is in good shape with a beautiful grade.ranch spring w:redbudjpg

By July 19th we had a functioning shower, a hot water heater, and a gas washing machine. The washing machine and hot water heater were out on the back porch. The washing machine started by my pushing a lever with one foot, like starting a motorcycle. The clothesline was a pulley type and ran from the house to the second woodshed.

We moved out of the apartment and to the ranch on the 25th and Florence and Leonard came out that afternoon. Florence brought dinner, which was a big morale boost. We were discovering that moving with a baby was a bit more complicated than with just the two of us.

Christmas and Beyond

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ranch winter 1964

November 14, 1964

The day after Christmas, Peter, Richard, Charlotte, Bob and I drove out to Junction City. A cable had been strung across Canyon Creek with a small cart attached to it and we rode that across the raging water to the other side. There, a friend (Sandy Sanders) who lived a little further downriver, met us and took us down to Prairie Creek. We hiked up our road and discovered that the culvert across the small side stream, at the end of the long hill, had collapsed. Several places had washed out. When we got to the fill across Little French Creek, we found it completely gone. Apparently the culvert had plugged up and the high water had washed around the east end. There was only one log left from the original, old bridge and we were able to cross on that. My two brothers and my husband walked across, but Charlotte and I scooted across on our rears. It had been raining hard the entire time, and the log was wet and covered with gravel. I’ve never been good at walking across logs that extend over running water. And besides, I was four months pregnant and not inclined to take chances.

We hiked up to the house and had hot soup, sandwiches and coffee for lunch. Then we packed out our clothes and the cat, Aloysius. When we got to Prairie Creek, Sandy picked us up and took us back to the cable car at Junction City. We must have given him an estimated time to meet us because there were no phones.

By January we had found an apartment and started moving into it. January 3rd, there were three feet of snow on the ground in Weaverville and it was still snowing. But by the 16th we were able to drive out to Prairie Creek. A Bailey bridge had been put across Canyon Creek a short distance up the creek and we could drive up and over a hill on the Powerhouse Road. That was the way I ended up commuting once school started again. Eventually a new bridge was constructed across the Canyon Creek. I could be mistaken on some of this having to do with the bridges because my notes don’t mention any of it. I do know I had to use the Powerhouse Road for a number of weeks. When we got to Prairie Creek, Bob cut five trees out of the road and we stacked the pieces.

A week later we left the car about one-half mile up our road and hiked through the rain up to the house. We crossed logs downstream from the devastated fill. I took the decorations off the tree. The wind started blowing hard in the middle of the night and when it stopped it began to snow. By morning there were four inches accumulated. Bob did some surveying while I cleaned out the refrigerator and swept. We went home by way of the usual log and ate dinner with his parents.

In late February we did some more cutting and pruning along the area where the phone line was going to go, but down closer to the highway. And a week later he and a co-worker hiked in and packed out some more things. Bob also pruned the peach trees and the small orchard trees. By now it was possible to cross the creek on some driftwood below the washout. The daffodils were about to bloom. Bob started up the tractor but something was wrong with the rear axle.

In March we took the small, store truck (Bob’s parents owned a hardware store in town) and some old boards and drove out to the sunken culvert at the foot of the long hill. He built a sturdy little bridge across it , which the truck could just go over and which would be perfect for the VW. He cut the oak out that was across the road. Then we drove up to the switchback and cut that tree out. We were then able to drive to the gate at the top of the hill above the long descent to the creek. I noted that the redbud along the river was about to bloom.

A week later we drove as far as the creek and walked up to the house. The weather was beautiful, a gorgeous spring day. Bob surveyed and marked a road route for a new stretch below the house. I planted flower seeds and changed sprinklers on the lawn. There were many goldfinches, robins and Steller’s jays that day. The trees all had swelling buds and the maple was about to bloom.

The next day he cut branches out of the black walnut. We measured the fall from the lower spring to where we were going to put a generator below the house as well as the length of pipe needed to convey the water. The daffodils were all in bloom, but the lilies had been chewed off by the deer. Oso berries (Indian plum) were in full blossom, filling the air with their fragrapicket fence ranchnce.

In late April Bob worked on the phone line, climbing and putting up insulators. I laid one out by each tree. The apple trees and the lilac were in bloom and I took a picture of the redbud. Down at Prairie Creek a dogwood was in full bloom. The next day, while he put up more insulators, I worked on science worksheets for school.

I had been fortunate to have a cooperative group of children during this time. With just one teacher you are on duty the entire day—classroom, recess, noon hour, etc. When it got to where I couldn’t run around on the playground with them it was fine for me to just supervise standing or from a chair. Sometimes the phone went out. This happened one day when one youngster decided to run away and there was really nothing I could do about it. His sister suggested leaving his lunch near the driveway, which I did. Sure enough he came back when he got hungry and was happy to join us again. May 5th there was a surprise baby shower for me at school!

Road or Trail?

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ranch christmas card

First Christmas Card

My husband said more than once, “This road wants to be a trail.” And it certainly did seem that way. The dirt road spanned four miles, with the first two, starting from the highway, slowly winding up the east side of a canyon. From the top of that ridge it was a mile down to the creek, mostly shaded, and edged by a steep, rocky hillside. After crossing the stream it was another mile to the house with more open terrain. Keeping the road passable meant brushing ceanothus on the east slope; cutting any fallen trees; maintaining the water bars so that storm water would run off the far edge instead of eroding ditches by running down the road; and periodically cleaning out slides and rocks. We got adept at a quick flip of the toe to clear smaller rocks when we were walking.

The day after my long hike to get to school it was snowing. Bob put chains on the VW but they were hitting the body because of the large snow tires so he tried wiring them onto the jeep. That evening, just before 5 p.m. I was driving the VW home and, just above where our nearest neighbor lived, close to the highway, there was an oak across the road. It had split in two and both pieces were blocking access. I backed up, turned around and called Bob from Big Bar, just before he left his office. I had a cup of coffee and a piece of pie while I waited for him. Big Bar is a tiny community but it had a good café, a small store and a post office. He cut the tree with an ax, that he must have purchased or borrowed, and we drove home. (Instead of calling and asking your spouse to stop for milk or eggs it was—bring an ax or saw!)

We both had the next day off, Veteran’s Day. He put in the last rafter upstairs and nailed some boards on the edge of the roof to keep the drip off the porch. Then went over to the oak tree, dragged it up the road and sawed it into pieces. I spent some time stuffing insulation in cracks between the logs downstairs. By Friday we had four inches of snow although there was none in Weaverville. From this storm we lost the top of the black walnut on the south side of the house and there were branches all over the ground. We also lost a chunk out of the English walnut at the top of the orchard.

Saturday was foggy but no storm. The trees were covered with snow and lovely. Bob cut wood all morning and in the afternoon wrapped the pipes under the house. I tacked black felt paper over the spaces between the logs and the ceiling upstairs and he put the third section of plywood on the floor up there. Sunday was clear and beautiful. The snow melted rapidly with a steady swish and splash from the woods around us as it fell from the trees. Bob worked on the tractor and the jeep most of the day. I hand-washed a few things, picked frozen apples from the tree by the woodshed and made applesauce. Then wrote a couple of letters and wrote up a test for the fifth grade. The temperature had dropped to 24 degrees night before. We had deer browsing under the walnut tree in the morning.

There was a school Christmas program the day before Christmas vacation started. Friends from the Bay Area, Julie and Bob Wilson, arrived on the 19th to stay for a few days. It was raining. On Sunday, Ted and Betsy Lewis and their two small children arrived from Berkeley, just for lunch and dinner. Bob Wilson and Ted were classmates of Bob’s at Stanford. We had put up a small Christmas tree decorated with strings of popcorn and cranberries. Still raining.

Monday, the 21st, Bob drove the VW into town to work and I drove the jeep in a little later to get groceries, leaving the Wilsons on their own. I could see that the river was quite high. That evening we decided to put their car on the other side of the creek. The next day we packed Christmas presents and two suitcases and left. Bob put the tractor on the far side of the creek and we left the jeep at the house. Our creek was about four feet deep and 20 feet wide and small logs were being washed down.

When we arrived at Prairie Creek we were met with water backed up on the road for about 50 feet. The culvert was plugged. I got out and waded in far enough to be able to tell that there were no holes and the two VWs drove through. The river was very high. We could see the center was higher than the sides, big muddy waves forming peaks, and large logs being rushed downstream. We could hear rocks cracking together in the torrent. Bob and I were entranced by the power of it all and stopped to look but our friends were really nervous and wanted to keep going so we did. At Eagle Creek water was washing against beer cans along the highway. At Junction City people were trying to plug up a large drain so water from the river wouldn’t wash through it into the community.

Bob got to work around 9:30. The Wilsons left in early afternoon to head for San Francisco. Florence, Leonard and I drove out to East Weaver (a small suburb of Weaverville) to take boxes out for the Howells, whose home was being undermined by East Weaver Creek. Many homes were ruined out there. The U.S. Forest Service was hauling furniture in their trucks to the Civil Defense Building (built in the days of civil defense concerns, now used for community events and known as the Veterans’ Memorial Hall). Then we drove to Junction City and watched the bridge across Canyon Creek collapse, cutting off traffic on Highway 299.

We spent Christmas with Bob’s parents, as did my younger brother, Richard, and his wife, Charlotte, who had planned to spend a rustic Christmas with us at the ranch but had arrived to find chaos instead. My sister-in-law and her husband and two children were already spending Christmas with them. I’ve never seized to be amazed at how much Florence could handle with caring for family!


Summer and Fall

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Lake Anna copy

Lake Anna

Having deadlines makes time go by very rapidly and the summer months with their good weather were speeding by. I used some of the yellow paint left over from when I’d painted the wooden part of the outhouse interior to paint an old shelf and moved it upstairs to use as a bookshelf. Washed all the windows. These were the original windows, complete with bubbles. Bob was making trips into town, when he had time, to bring back gravel and cement for the cellar.

We were able to squeeze in a couple more camping trips. We took the Corral Bottom road over hills and down to the South Fork of the Trinity. There were many clear-cuts along its edges on private land. The South Fork was a beautiful river that made me think very much of the Smith—big, deep, emerald-green pools. We ate lunch at Underwood Creek, where there was a suspension bridge over the river, and then backpacked downstream from there about a mile, crossing around one bluff where there seemed to be nothing to hold onto but poison oak. We camped on a gravel bar, went swimming, and then Bob succeeded in catching a fish.

The next morning, we had a hot fire going quickly, using dry driftwood. Our drinking water came from a little spring behind camp, very cold, that tumbled down a rocky grass-covered slope. It was a pretty spot with small yellow monkey flowers and a few ferns. During our brief stay along the river we saw water ouzels, a heron, sandpipers and a pair of kingfishers.

I began preparing for the school year, spending time at the school decorating bulletin boards, getting library books, etc. My mother rode from Modesto to Redding on the Greyhound bus and I picked her up there so she could visit for a few days. On one of our walks by the creek we saw a rattlesnake.

Bob continued to work on the cellar, getting longitudinal and horizontal rods for supports (rebar). He and I took my mother for a drive up Swede Creek. There was an old, beaten-up log cabin and a barn which appeared to be held up by only a cable, and a chicken coop. Back at the house she and I made ice cream while he worked on the cellar. After a couple of days I took her back to Redding to catch a bus home.

On August 25th Bob came home and said that a big fire was burning near Douglas City. Someone had set a total of five fires between Douglas City and Hayfork. Two joined together into one huge one. The next day I rode into Weaverville with him to attend teachers’ meetings most of the day. Wilma Smith, who taught at Douglas City, and I drove to look at the fire. It was burning hard on top of a ridge behind there with flames high above the trees and smoke billowing up. Borate planes came in and dropped their loads while we watched—swooping right in at the head of the fire–not borate but similar and pink. Many people had to evacuate. The radio said 7,000 acres and 1400 men on the fire lines. They had a fire camp on the flat below the school along the river and one at Deer Lick Springs.

School started August 31st and that’s all I said about it in my journal! But I do remember that during that year I had anywhere from 13 to 22 children, including several sets of siblings. There was a U.S. Forest Service station in Big Bar and I had a brother and sister from one family and a little girl from another. There were two brothers who lived on a small ranch. There was a brother and sister who lived a couple of miles up a nearby hill. And there were children whose parents were in the timber industry—some of them had to move away for part of the year, depending on where there was work. With five grades and no teacher’s assistant I sometimes had older children helping younger ones—or a line more or less patiently waiting for help.

I moved to Trinity County two years earlier, to teach grades 1-4 in a two-room school in Douglas City—no teaching credential, just a B.A. in Wildlife Conservation from UC Berkeley, with an English minor. My previous job had been working as a seasonal ranger-naturalist at Crater Lake. They were desperate.

As one school board member said when they hired me shortly before school started, “She sure doesn’t know anything about teaching.” The board member was correct but the upper grade teacher gave wise advice; I loved the job and the children, and they seemed to learn. I met my husband-to-be on a pack trip into the Trinity Alps that weekend. Later, when I went to San Jose State to get a credential (driving on the Bay Area freeways with my rural driving experience, knuckles white on the steering wheel), my requirements were cut in half because of the previous teaching experience. And I could tell, because of that experience, that some of my instructors hadn’t been in a classroom in a long time!

old Cox Bar School 1965 before demolision

Old School

Cox Bar Elementary School had been in existence since the 1860s. The original school, about 16 x 20 feet, burned and was replaced before 1887, and was replaced again around 1922 by one a little larger. In 1870 there were 19 students but in 1894-1895 there were only seven. (information taken from the 1967 Trinity, the Historical Society Yearbook, in the article “Big Bar and Vicinity” by Robert J. Morris) I was lucky. My school was brand new (dedicated May, 1964) and quite modern, much larger, and had a tinted window extending all along one wall. It was roomy and full of light.

On Labor Day weekend we backpacked in to Lake Anna, via Bowerman Meadows. It was steep toward the end but otherwise no problems. We had the lake to ourselves and enjoyed a beautiful sunset with pink thunderheads and a lovely sunrise. We saw a porcupine swimming in the lake in the morning. It was quite cold though. The second day we hiked as far as Van Matre Meadows and ate lunch at Echo Lake. We camped up where springs start from under a huge rockslide. One of the most beautiful campsites we’ve seen. Again, we had it to ourselves. The next morning we hiked out and down Red Mountain to where Bob’s mother, Florence, had left our car. A perfect trip except for the cold and the lack of sleep.

This was a fall for relatives coming to visit. My parents arrived on September 25th and stayed for the weekend. They were traveling around the countryside looking for possible places to retire. In early October my eldest brother and his family arrived. My brother helped Bob haul some pipe and I went with his wife and two small children to see the school and then to get the ingredients for ice cream. Bob’s Great Aunt Nell and her cousin came out for dinner on another day.

just school

New School

November was the start of realizing we really were dealing with some distance issues as well as the lack of a telephone. I was driving the jeep truck to work on school days and November 9th started out as usual. But down on the one small, flat area, about a mile from the house, the clutch went out. I had no choice but to leave the vehicle and try to walk to the school, which meant three miles more on our road and then a couple of miles along the highway. I began hiking as fast as I could and reached the highway in 50 minutes. I knew I’d be quite late and was really worried about the children. At that hour of the morning there was very little traffic on the highway. With the river to my right and the highway to my left I tried to keep up a good pace. But I was lucky. A U.S. Forest Service employee, on his way to work, saw me and pulled over. I was so grateful!