Last Wednesday was a good day. Not that every day I can work and talk to my friends is not a good day. They are all good days. But yesterday was exceptional. I received two pieces of good news.
Gene runs his life at a full sprint. In his ninety-three years he's dug ditches, painted signs, played semi-pro football, worked as a taxicab driver, an insurance agent, and a school teacher. He's been a technical artist, a marketing director, and a business owner. He served in World War II, raised four children, and was married to the love of his life for fifty years. He's an accomplished oil painter and skilled in ceramics. He's written fifteen books, including the definitive Lake County History, and doesn't show any signs of slowing down.
“Staley and I were living together in one of the Bullion Mine’s cabins. The following night we all took an oath. If anyone spoke of the raid, he must ‘pay with his life.’ During a third meeting, we put burnt cork blacking on our faces and put on the flour sack coats and masks. McGuyre, the leader, told us there must be no bloodshed. On the way over to Riche’s place, McGuyre called Staley and me. He said if ‘Bennett or the Riche’s abuse us, of course we must defend ourselves.” “When we were all on the porch, McGuyre gave us a signal with a whistle from an empty .44 shell casing, and we entered the tavern in a body. After the shooting was over, we all went out, and we all walked down the road. We repeated our oath to keep silent and returned to Bickard’s house… by different routes.”
This year I have a helper. More and more, as Cleo grows up, she insists on being a part of whatever I am doing. When I write, she lays on the table beside my keyboard and watches the screen. Supervising and guiding me, I suppose. If she gets bored and wants to have her ears scratched, she lays her tail on my keys. She makes it look like an accident so that I must stop to pay her some attention. It is the same for whatever I am doing. When I go down to the cistern to check my well water level, there she is right behind me all the way to make sure I know my way back to the house.
The plot thickened. It was common knowledge that Bennett had thrashed several of the raiders. They all hated him. Testimony was given to say that Blackburn wished to get ‘even’ with Bennett, and Blackburn was the man that originated the idea of the raid. Habishaw added, “There was never any intention to injure the Riche’s. The raid was aimed solely at Bennett. Blackburn said, ‘We’ll flog him well, give him a coat of tar and feathers, escort him to the County border, and order him never to set foot in Lake County again.’”
Who were these ten men? They were not outlaws. They were ordinary citizens. The single thing they had in common was that they all worked for the mine. One man was part owner of the Bradford mine. Staley, one of those held for murder, had been an election officer at the Great Western Mine, one of the places selected for polling.
At a time of the year, when many of us are the center of a human bee-hive of family and friends, and have work we enjoy, feelings of loneliness don’t pay us much attention. Still, there are many of our friends, who are older, or because of illness or the loss of someone near and dear to them, feel alone. They suffer more often from those great cripplers; loneliness and depression. In a world so wonderful and amazing, some may wonder why being lonely has gained such control over so many people’s lives.
The men in the posse stared at the bleeding corpse with interest. The dead man was dressed in what was meant as some sort of disguise. He looked like he had dressed for Halloween. His arms were covered in red sleeves, burlap sacks were sewn around his body and his legs, and there was a white paper mask over his face. Later, as they searched around the tavern grounds, the officers found more white masks made of flour sacks with holes cut for the eyes. Near the barn, sixty feet from the tavern, they discovered a small tin lard bucket filled with tar and a cat-o’-nine-tails whip lay next to the bucket.
Helen Riche was a fighter. Somehow, during the melee, instead of remaining where she was on the floor, she crawled to the front door and managed to grab the Winchester from behind the door. Before she could throw the rifle to her husband, one of the men saw what she had done and took the Winchester out of her hand, throwing the weapon out of reach. Making no further move, Mrs. Riche lay on the floor bleeding. Fred Bennett, the bartender, had disappeared into the bedroom, leaving Mr. Riche alone to deal with the situation. Riche stated, “I thought the best thing I could do was get right in the middle of them. That way, they could not shoot me without risking their own safety. I did, and they backed out of the room onto the porch. The last one in the room I kind of threw out. As I did, I heard more shots outside on the porch by the door.”
Everything changes. No matter how hard we try to keep a wonderful moment from ending or changing, sooner or later, it ends and slips away like sand between our fingers. That’s all right. When we continue to step out and have new experiences, our good memories keep, and we add to them. Cats change too. Cleo, my friend and writing associate, is a case in point. Now that Cleo is nearly two years old, and no longer a teenager, she has put away kitten attitudes. Cleo has developed not only a mind of her own but very definite ideas about how her world should be.
Riche’s young wife, Helen, angry at the sudden rude intrusion and manner, rushed to one of the men and tried to pull the mask from his face. At the same time, seeing her intent, her husband grabbed at her, moving to protect his wife. One of the masked men reached her first. He pushed her to the floor, and at that same instant, a volley of gunfire erupted in the room. “There were eight or ten shots, or maybe more,” Riche said later. ”I tried to pull Helen away from the man that was holding her down. That was when I saw Helen was wounded. She had been shot, and her side was bleeding.” Riche always kept two pistols in his bedroom under his pillow. He also had a rifle. Unfortunately, getting to that weapon at that moment was no longer possible. His Winchester 44 was behind the front door of the saloon, and the masked men were in the way. “I pushed Helen’s body under a little raised part of the bar. I hoped to take her into the kitchen for safety while I went to the bedroom for my pistol.”
As you may recall, I once had a cat named Calico. Mrs. Fallon, the widow neighbor lady, who lived across the road and passed away a few years ago, was the reason I acquired Calico. She had cats. After she was gone, the cats ran wild. When Calico came to my house, I adopted her. We became good friends.
I’m not a person that believes in ghosts or spirits. Nor can I claim to be religious. I do believe that our awareness does persist after death in some fashion. However, I also have a deep respect for science and the laws of chance. A few things have happened to me during my life that any mathematician would agree were way outside the possibility of chance. Like the time I was in downtown Los Angeles thirty years ago.
After the smoke and sounds of the bloody Civil War died away, there was peace. Yet, for some, the prejudice and hatred remained. Long after the Civil War ended, there was bitterness and prejudice between people of different political parties; Democrat and the Klan-like bands of marauders and vigilantes rode by night to enforce their ideas of right and wrong and punish those who held views about slavery, race, morality, and religion different from their own. These avenging night riders were descendants of the Civil War Northern Knights of the Golden Circle, or as they were called by others, The Circle of Honor or The Knights of the mighty Host. One of the most violent was the White Caps.
On the day of her launching, the watching crowd was uncertain whether the solid Teakwood Golden Dragon would float… or would it even survive her launching. As the Golden Dragon slid into the waters of Clear lake, the audible gasp of relieved tension that came from the assembled citizens was a testament to her success. During the next hour, as the Golden Dragon showed off and skimmed upon Clear Lake’s water, she behaved as though she had swum there all her life.
The ladies of Lake County were not only beautiful and charming, but they were also, in matters of personal grooming and personal conduct, a cut above the ladies of most other counties. In 1879 they outdid themselves, and the rules described next explain why. Do not suck the head of your parasol. To follow that unladylike habit will make one to question whether you have breakfasted. To suck it is not lady-like. And, let me tell you, it is excessively unbecoming.
Thank goodness the ladies today are not under the same courtship pressures as they were in the 1880s. The playing field between men and women is more level. In Victorian times it was a matter of social survival for a woman of 1900 to look beautiful without showing any of the signs of powder and paint make-up. How did they do it? An article by Marilyn Johnson of Lake County gives us some of the answers as to how the magic was wrought.
Lately, I have not been up to par. After a couple of consults at Sutter Emergency Hospital near my home (with the VA’s okay) I gave myself to the good graces of the Veterans’ Administration Medical Helpers. The VA Medical people are thorough. Give them an inch and they will take a mile. A first minor symptom, which they thought might be a ‘pre-stroke’ was the cause of every test for heart and lung problems known to the mind of man. After taking all those MRI’s, X-rays, and examinations, the long and the short of all that investigation was there was nothing wrong with my ticker. It was pumping away pretty well and behaving as expected. It was a lung problem.
The main hotel in Kelseyville was typical of the undisguised prejudice against Chinese. The name, ‘Uncle Sam Hotel’ was in recognition of the establishment’s location near Mt. Konocti, which was, at one time, was called Uncle Sam Mountain. A prominent sign in the front of the establishment made their prejudice known: UNCLE SAM HOTEL Good Hunting and Fishing Close Proximity to the Hotel Table Always Supplied with the Best the Market Affords NO CHINESE EMPLOYED
This morning, when my cat, Cleo, and I, peered out the window and saw, in the growing morning light that the hills on the far side of my valley were clear, the dark smog had vanished and, once more, the air was the purest anywhere in the world. Covid-19 is like that. Here we are in the home stretch of a world-wide plague that has laid us low for nearly a year. It has given the world’s economy what might have been a death blow. It has sickened millions and killed hundreds of thousands world-wide. The morning is coming.
At one o’clock in the afternoon, Hans Anderson, faithful employee of the Bartlett Springs forty years, discovered a fire in the bottling plant. The conflagration soon spread to the nearby buildings. Strong winds, blowing up from the steep canyons below, drove the flames from building to building in minutes. The four large hotels were quickly engaged in the inferno. The handful of guests and workers at the resort could not hope to combat such a fire. In less than three hours, more than fifty buildings, from the four large hotels to the smallest open-air cabin and tool house, were no more than smoldering embers and ashes.
20 September 1934, the Lake County Bee reported Bartlett Springs Resort was destroyed by fire. It was a bad fire. Fifty buildings were torched. Only the heroic efforts of hundreds of CCC boys, called to battle the blaze, kept the mountains around the Resort from burning. The Resort was above Nice, northwest, and twelve miles from Clear Lake. The road to that forlorn memory twists and turns like a peripatetic snake. To reach Bartlett Springs, the intrepid traveler must climb into Lake County’s higher mountains to an altitude of nearly forty-five hundred feet. He must pass over Bartlett Mountain’s summit at about four thousand feet. He will pass Pinnacle Rock and then Little Pinnacle on his left; both also close to four thousand high. Finally, as the road runs beside the South Fork of Bartlett Creek, the traveler may heave a sigh of relief. The last stretch to the springs levels out. Once there, the traveler will be in the center of what once were some of the most important mineral springs in Lake County.
Every person I have met during my fifty tears in lake County, and especially in Witter Springs, are good neighbors. They are the sort of folks you would want living next to you. Next to my farm in Witter Springs, I have two of the best neighbors you could find anywhere. Maybe it’s because of Carl Sandburg’s poetic prose about neighbors; ‘Good fences make good neighbors.’ We all have fences in Witter Springs. Naturally. Otherwise, our cattle and horses would be sitting on each other’s front porch.