Hey, if the county sent out their tax bills as late as this newsletter you’d be ecstatic so we don’t want to hear any more complaints.
Besides, last winter threw us completely off schedule. It was so bitterly cold that it stopped all of our fermentations and delayed bottling by months. That’s our story and we’re sticking to it!
A few years ago while hosting some visitors at the winery a question was poised by one of the guests that baffled me.
The person wanted to know what it was like to live here in the “old days”. On the face of it I considered the question pejorative and more appropriately directed to my grandfather who, alas has been dead for nearly seventy years. I profess to know nothing of the “old days.” In fact, during all my time in the mountains my neighbors and I have been blessed with every modern convenience: roads, schools, electricity, telephones, restaurants, stores, police, post offices and even an air strip.
Of course, during the summer the roads were caked with six inches of dust and an equal amount of mud in the winter; the telephone was a hand cranked seventeen party line; the power lines were constructed for the gold dredge and only those within rock throwing distance were allowed to hook up; the school was a one room wood-heated bell-towered building that housed children from the first to the eighth grades; movies were periodically shown at the I.O.O.F. hall where the reels would break often enough to allow the viewers to visit and gossip with their neighbors; crime was held in check by a constable known as the fastest gun west of the Pecos for his penchant of shooting his pistol in the vicinity of speeding vehicles; the general stores contained everything from grocery items to tools and saddles, and from Mason jars to rolled oats; gasoline was dispensed from an apparatus composed of a hand pump and a glass fuel receptacle; the post office was in the Red & White store and no one had to worry about improperly stamped envelopes or packages since Florence, the post mistress, never failed to dig into her purse to make up the difference; and the air strip was more than sufficient for small planes as long as you eschewed afternoon landings when the heat from the dredge tailings made operation problematic.
After having spent the summers between 1945 and 1952 working for the forest service on the Angeles, Shasta and the Trinity National Forests, with a one season hiatus at the family gold mine at Steveale, I found myself at the Coffee Creek Guard Station, alone and rattling around in a large empty house devoid of furniture except for a single bed, two chairs and a rickety table. The only entertainment was the aforementioned telephone which was, admittedly, more fun than a pratfall at a monastery. Unless, of course, you had the curiosity of a coarse-haired sloth or a scintilla of decency. Nevertheless, eavesdropping was rampant and the state of the art eavesdropper was Mac, our constable, who regarded it as a sworn duty to monitor all phone calls. Indeed, he was relentless in his effort to ferret out any and all nefarious plots hatched in the community. And it was evident when Mac was on the job. He had a huge Grandfather clock next to his telephone and its ticking and tocking was an ominous prelude to cacophonous BONGS.
In addition to his anti-crime obligations Mac also held the Coffee Creek mail contract and once when my Willys conked out I persuaded him to give me a tow. Out of sorts and grumpy that his routine had been disrupted he tied a rope to my bumper, jumped back into his jeep, gunned the engine and took off in a cloud of dust. I can’t tell you how disconsolate I was to see my bumper fade into the distance, bouncing and twisting down the road. I later learned that Mac had driven twelve miles before noticing he was missing a vehicle. Needless to say, Mac had a little drinking problem, a fact that I deduced well before my teens when he once refused to give me my mail until I shared a drink with him.
That first summer at the guard station we had some horrendous lightning storms which produced a profusion of fires.
One particularly hot one was on the East Fork of Coffee Creek and I was dispatched with a crew of six to corral it. Upon arrival it became immediately evident that we would need some additional man power so I radioed Bob Anderson, the Billy’s Peak Lookout, and asked that he relay my request for another eight men to the District Ranger, Clem Crouch. Shortly thereafter Bob called back barely restraining his merriment, “Clem said that you were to take a deep breath, fine the shade of a large tree, sit and relax for fifteen minutes and then radio back and let them know if you needed any more men.” Fifteen minutes on the dot I radioed Bob and said, “Tell Clem I considered the matter and have changed my mind. Send sixteen men!’
And then there was the case of the phantom prowler, the notorious peeping tom who terrorized Trinity Center and Stringtown for months.
Husbands and fathers kept their shotguns handy and loaded with buckshot during the duration of the siege. To no avail. For in response to the nightly roar of shotguns the prowler would merely flit from shadow to shadow “Whistling a mocking reply.” No one ever knew who he was or whatever happened to him. I always suspected that he found more fertile ground for his escapades, some place where women didn’t wear long johns.