Day three found us mean as snakes and hungry as week old wolves!I awoke first, and then bundled up and peeked out through the shutters.Despite our predicament, the breathtaking beauty of the mountains once more overcame me.The magnificent Ponderosa pines leaned and swayed precariously, each bow hanging heavy, laden with a mantel of white.The air was still and silent, with only the occasional pop of an overburdened limb disturbing the quiet as it echoed from the canyon beyond.The river canyon to the west held a wispy tide of slowly receding fog, and the whole scene shimmered in the radiance of early dawn.
Shaking the coffeepot to ascertain its status, I found the stove cold and the fire spent. Donning my hat and coat, I headed for the woodshed to retrieve some kindling, and rounding the corner I heard something scurry away. On closer examination I discovered rodent droppings on the woodpile, and the hatchet handle chewed almost clean in two! The few remaining logs were far too large for use as kindling, and my best attempt at using the hatchet gently only succeeded in finishing the squirrels’ job! I gave up disgusted and stomped back in the shack!
Lidge woke up as I reentered the shack, and even his Irish spirit was insufficient to wipe away his scowl. He was all sulled up and mad as parliament! “Holy cow!” I exclaimed, slapping my sides for warmth. “It’s colder than the hubs o’ hooties out there!” Lidge backed up to the stove for warmth and found it dead as a doornail. “I heard some flatlander use that very phrase in town the other day.” He says, “What in tarnation is a hootie hub anyway!” “I have no clue,” I answered, “But don’t it sound cold though!” Lidge was not impressed! “Have you gone for kindling yet?” he asked irritably. “You bet!” I says. “Well where the heck is it?” Lidge demanded impatiently. “Well, it’s like this,” I says. “Some cantankerous fairydiddle gnawed the handle out of Griz’s only hatchet.” “A fairy what’ll?” Lidge enquired indignantly. “A fairydiddle.” I answered. Lidge glared at me like I was short wicked and fuelless! “What the dickens is a fairydiddle?” he demanded. “A fairydiddle is an exasperating little rodent with outrageous eyes, a stubby flat tail, and furry webbed wings.” “Yeah right!” Lidge grunted skeptically. “I’m serious.” I said defensively. “Furry webbed wings?” Lidge repeated. “Yep!” I said. “And they fly?’ Lidge repeated disgustedly, and gave me one of them looks that says “Eat worms and die!” “Well, not wings exactly.” I answered, “But flaps of skin between their legs that helps ‘em to kind o’ glide through the air like a leaf on a blustery day.” “Let me get this straight.” Lidge says. “You’re telling me that we ain’t got no fire, and no kindling to start a fire, because we’re infested with nasty little rodents that have huge eyes, flat tails, furry wings, and that they fly through the air and eat up hand tools!” “You bet!” I says. “I had some in my room back at Camp house too!” Lidge eyed me suspiciously. “I don’t remember hearing nothin’ about fairrydiddles back home. Were they pets?” he asked. “Not really.” I said. “They were mainly just pests.” “Well why didn’t ya just get rid of ‘em?” He asked. “Well,” I says, “they were there afore I was. I figured that give ‘em some kind of squatters rights.” Lidge looked at me real exasperated with his head cocked over and says, “Did them critters eat up your hatchet handles back home?” “Nope!” I answered sheepishly, “They mainly just ate biscuits!” “Biscuits!” Lidge repeated cynically. “Yep!” I replied. “Well I’ve not been exposed to such an extravagant excess of excrement, since Granddad’s bull bloated & blew up! Did you give ‘em the biscuits?” he asked. “Nope!” I answered matter-of-factly. “Alright, I’ll bite.” Lidge said defiantly. “Where’d they get the biscuits?”
I knew my ol’ pard was having a mighty tough time swallerin’ this explanatory tale, but I also knew it for the Lord’s truth, so I just answered right up, “They’d just swoop down two or three at a time and swipe ‘em!” Lidge grimaced and shook his head wincingly, “And you witnessed this yourself?” he says. “Well,” I says, “not always; they most always done it at night, while I was sleepin’.” “Great hoary bears!” Lidge ejaculated in disgust, and stomped out the door! OBIE’S QUEST
Following the battle of Chickamauga, the war was over for Lidge and me. Our next battle would be getting back on our feet. We spent the remainder of this lamentable day, jarred, jostled, and semiconscious, in the back of a wagon. Nightfall found us halfway back to Tullahoma, awaiting treatment in an overcrowded field hospital. Field hospitals were easily recognizable, from some distance, by their enveloping clouds of blowflies, the agonizing moans from tent after tent of dieing and demoralized men, and the sickening stench from pungent piles of putrefying feet! Sanitation was abominable, disease rampant and medical care mortifyingly crude! Advances in the dispersement of death and dismemberment having been vastly improved since the Mexican/American conflict, .58 caliber minie balls, now administered through rifled muskets, could be dispatched from three or four hundred yards away, with great precision and unprecedented effect. Shattered bones were generally the result. For want of disinfectant, the best hope of preventing infection, gangrene and an excruciating death was immediate amputation. Surgical kits bore a striking resemblance to carpenters’ tool kits; surgical saws were the instrument of choice, and the slang “sawbones” for field surgeon, struck terror in the hearts of battle hardened veterans.
War has always been an enigma to me, an irreconcilable amalgamation of glory and godlessness. Even now, after my baptism of fire and a near death experience, I view it with a strange mix of abhorrence and wonder. It’s as though, despite its revulsion and abomination, war has some redeeming quality. I can tell you this about war. If war possesses any redeeming qualities, they’re not apparent on the battlefield, where gallant young men are killing and being killed. The redeeming qualities of war are pretty illusive to those who observe its horrid stench first hand. Wars finer facets, in order to be fully appreciated, must be polished, politicized, and refined, by some well-bred, manicured, articulate, gentleman back home. Back home the less desirable aspects of war may be overlooked. One may sip their brandy, smile benevolently, and observe, “Isn’t war inspiring.”
In the case of our Civil War, both sides sought peace. The north was bound by the patriot’s sense of E PLURIBUS UNUM, and the south was bound by home and hearth, and their ancestral way of life. Few would argue that either was served by war. Death and destruction may quell revolt, but they rarely result in peace. Don’t get me wrong. I realize that freedom requires commitment, commitment requires perseverance, and perseverance requires the will to act. When freedom and just causes are threatened, honorable men respond. But surely war is the last resort of those who know its grief. Surely for reasonable people there’s a better way. Freedom is every heart’s desire and every just government’s goal, but it’s a mighty illusive concept when you’re at war. Freedom is nearly impossible when you don’t have peace. OBIE”S QUEST
Not counting time spent visiting at Philadelphia and attending the reunion, the trip east had taken 27 days, and the return trip from Gettysburg to Placerville was accomplished in 14! Suffice it to say we made real good time on our trip home! An ol’ mule exhibiting these tendencies would be considered barn sour. Lidge and I preferred to view our accomplishment as unprecedented and inspirational! We spent the last night of our sojourn bivouacked at Tahoe, and at first light we began the long trip over the summit. There was a definite nip in the air as we crested the summit and began our decent toward Twin Bridges. Summer was giving way to autumn and the Quaking Aspen shivered with the first telltale signs of golden foliage. The higher elevations glacial crevasses had managed to maintain a few patches of the previous winter’s snowfall, and the breeze off the mountains was sharp and invigorating.
Motoring through Camino, several of the townsfolk waved broadly and someone evidently recognized us and telephoned ahead. By the time we’d descended the grade and cruised up at Smith Flat House, a welcoming committee had been organized, assembled, and worked into a frenzied anticipation through nearly an hour of waiting. At our approach, several nostalgia stricken old veterans jumped to attention, removed their old campaign hats, and saluted sharply from the balcony; the community brass band tooted out a tinny but rousing rendition of “When Johnny Comes Marching Home”, and a crowd of several dozen onlookers lined the thoroughfare reigning in youngsters and cheering enthusiastically.
The streets were adorned, quite coincidently, with all variety of colorful banners, in celebration of the foothill’s annual Bartlett Pear Festival, and the atmosphere was absolutely festive! At our approach, the Daniels boy jumpstarted his brand-new Indian Motorcycle and sped noisily to the front of our rapidly growing motorcade, as a couple of well stoked Stanley Steamers lurched from the shadows and slipped silently in behind.
Moments later we convoyed triumphantly into Placerville. Lidge was ahead in the flivver, and I sounded my horn, waving and pointing discreetly by way of indicating my intention to forgo the remainder of the parade route and make an inconspicuous run for home. Lidge returned my wave, acknowledging my intention, and then preceded for lower town, waving at the adoring crowd as though he’d just been elected to a third term, his wild, white mane animated by the wind off the cowl and ablaze in the twilight.
My sense of homecoming built to a fever pitch as I motored through upper town, and as I turned off onto Mosquito Road and sped for Reservoir Hill, six weeks of longing and homesickness morphed into inexpressible joy! Reservoir Hill greeted me with a characteristically spectacular sunset, and as I approached the old home place, the little Scotties came running to meet me, and soft lamplight offered a radiant welcome through steamy windowpanes.
As I careened up to the house and stiffly dismounted old Reliable, Mariah stood waiting anxiously on the porch. Her silver hair framed a welcome smile, gray eyes gleamed romantically in the twilight, and a month and a half of desperate longing had severely whetted my appetite for her company!
Our eyes met briefly as we arrived at the gate, and as I pressed my chapped lips passionately against her furrowed forehead, we joined simultaneously in a mighty comforting embrace. The long memorable trip had been life altering and inspirational, but it couldn’t match the emotion of coming home. OBIE’S QUEST
I recall puzzling as a young man, at the inclination of so many old folks, to forsake the present to dwell upon the past, sometimes cutting all ties to here and now. These days, whiling away the long, tedious afternoons, in a dreary house that’s all but abandoned, plagued with pains and tormented by my prospects, I drag the rocker up by the stove, stare into the coals, and soak myself in a warm bath of memories.
I remember sitting by a crackling fire, high in the Sierra Nevada’s, and listening to the ill-tempered Jerseys filing past, with their cowbells clanking and their babies bawling, and the old bull curling his lip and looking for work. I remember standing on the rough plank sidewalk, outside the Ivy House, inhaling the aroma of grilled ribs sizzling, over Manzanita coals, and watching the massive freight wagons lumber by, with their oxen lowing, their hames bells jingling, and the iron-clad rims of hickory spoked wheels smashing the gravel to dust, beneath their cumbersome tonnage of crocks of butter and barrels of fragrant cheese. I remember believing that my whole life would be a long and wondrous adventure. And it was.
Standing here on top of the hill, with the setting sun casting a warm glow on the canyon’s crimson foliage, inevitably brings to mind those golden autumns of long, long ago. Closing my eyes with the soft warmth of sunset on my face and the murmur of the crick in the distance, my memory reflects a shimmering image of overnight outings long ago, when summer was perennial and I was a barefoot kid. I remember the goose bumps and satisfying shivers as Grandma prepared me for bed, and washed my summer-hardened feet from the rocky banks of a brisk, babbling brook.
I recall my Granddad’s twinkling eyes and his pleasant, raspy chuckle, as I hugged his neck and he rubbed his whiskery chin against my face. Here on the hill where I raised my family, I revisit my time of parenthood, and recall priceless memories of my own mom and dad, ages ago when life seemed simple, and childlike faith assured tomorrows joys. Treasure your memories, keep them fresh, and never take them for granted. Even our memories can fade with the harsh glare of time. OBIE’S QUEST
“Come on and be a sport.” Lidge encouraged, “It’s not gonna hurt ya just to take a look at it!”Well here’s another fine mess he’s gotten me into!Before I could get to Mariah for a little additional backbone, Lidge had me in the Torpedo headed toward town!Lidge and the dealer were clearly in cahoots, and once on the lot, they joined forces and began working me over something fierce!The commodity with which Lidge and his enthusiastic accomplice were bound and determined to saddle me, sat spit-shined and serviced in the middle of the showroom floor.Up until now, I’d shunned the automobile age and clung tenaciously to my mules, but today’s sales pitch comes at an opportune time.The majority of my mules are long of tooth, and begging to be put out to pasture!Truth be told, I have to fight back drool every time my buddy fires up his sporty Ford.
As luck would have it, the featured carriage today is a brand new 1913 Ford Touring car. Unbeknownst to this salesman and my buddy, is the fact that I’d already fallen in love with this very model when it was featured in a newspaper article the previous month. Henry Ford himself had recently presented this particular model to his good friend, Naturalist and poet, John Burroughs. Mr. Burroughs and I being of a similar vintage, and sharing a common interest in the environment, I’d already entertained visions of reclining proudly behind the wheel of this very machine.
The salesman encouraged me to climb aboard and take the long, lean jitney for a spin, and Mr. Kinney was all prepared to add his own encouragement, but it wasn’t necessary. I didn’t need to be asked twice! Quickly climbing into the driver seat, I donned my goggles as Lidge climbed up alongside. Being unfamiliar with the mechanics of the three peddled craft, I gingerly took the wheel and turned to Mr. Kinney for assistance. “Ok,” Lidge instructed, “The spark is the lever on the left of the steering column. Retard the spark by pushing it clear up, and give her a little gas by pulling the lever on the right, down about four notches. The floor pedal on the left is the two speed clutch, the one on the right is the brake, and the one in the middle is reverse.” With that the salesman gave the crank a couple of good swift spins, and the little machine sputtered briefly and then purred like a kitten. That’s all it took and I was head over heels in love!
It took a little doing to get the hang of that two speed clutch, and my first few attempts at finding reverse resulted in a couple o’ nose imprints on the windshield, but soon we were cruising through town, grinning widely, and waving at the admiring crowd as though we were royalty!
Met eagerly by the salesman as we arrived back at the dealership, I donned my best poker face, feigned nonchalance, and casually enquired, “How much?” “I’ll tell ya what I’m gonna do old-timer.” the salesman responded patronizingly, “since you’ve come in here with one of my best customers, I’m gonna make ya a deal! Anyone else would give six hundred and fifty bucks for this little jewel, and go away happy, and I’m gonna price ‘er to you at six twenty-five! “Would ya take five fifty?” I fired back with a doubtful grimace, and the salesman felt the nibble and set the hook! “Five seventy-five” he offered with a confident grin, “Plus tax and license, and ya can drive ‘er home today!” “Done!” I quickly responded, shaking his hand and pulling out my checkbook. I thought Lidge was going to drop his teeth! He quickly pulled me to one side and whispered excitedly in my ear, “Are you sure you don’t want to discuss this with Mariah, before ya write a check?” “Nope!” I responded confidently, “Around my house, the gentleman wears the pants!”
Well, I have to say, ol’ Lidge was mightily impressed! ‘Course he doesn’t realize I’ve been saving for this for years, and I’ve already secured the approval of Mrs. Camp. “Obie’s Quest”
The early 1850s found ol’ Hangtown up one minute and down the next, but always hanging tough! The irrepressible ravine city was forever boomin’ or bustin’! In 1852 the little metropolis was thriving, and rapidly gaining renown as the bustling hub of activity in the heart of the mother lode. The picturesque structures along Main Street were in a constant state of metamorphosis. The tinder dry buildings were forever burning down, abandoned, or completely renovated.
Main Street itself, for whatever reason, never seemed to change. The real estate changed hands, and the ramshackle, rough-sawn facades were gradually replaced by brick and iron, but the dusty, rut-riddled boulevard held tenaciously to its steady, time-honored course; passed the courthouse, down the grade, and widening for its familiar promenade at the bellower, before narrowing at the Round Tent and making a beeline passed the cozy inns and the dimly lit saloons.
The already infamous settlement gradually spread northward into Bedford’s tent city and eastward up Hangtown Creek. Eventually referred to as upper and lower town, the long narrow settlement was bisected by a crossing near Blair’s Lumber Yard where upper town proceeded eastward along the creek until gradually petering out just short of Smith Flat, home of Three Mile House and the Blue Lead Mine.
By June of 1852 Hangtown was bone-dry and cactus thirsty! The higher elevations held a deep luxurious snow pack and the creeks were running high, but below three thousand feet, the purple vetch was drying up, the roads were dusty, and the creeks were choked with mud! “Obie’s Quest”
The last Saturday of the month was to feature a harvest festival in town. There was to be a clambake that Uncle Gus was looking forward to, horse-shoe-pitching contests, and a big barn dance. The whole family joined in and made a day of it. By the time the dance began late that evening, the old folks had just about had their fill of food, frolic, and foolishness. They’d had all the fun they could stand! They were full of clams and fritters and longed for home and hearth. Irving and Kathleen decided to stay for the square dancing, and the rest of the family was headed home. I was pretty tired myself, but I was desperate to try out my new boots on the dance floor, and as I turned hesitantly to follow my folks, I locked eyes with the prettiest little red-haired girl that I had ever seen! She and several other young ladies were eyeing me coyly from across the dance floor, and their combined effect was more than sufficient to impair the best judgment of any naive ten-year-old, new boots and all. After several minutes of protest, Mother succumbed to my pleadings and agreed to let me stay for the dance and come home later with Irving and Kathleen.
The rest of the family headed home, and I bought a mug of cider and an ear of corn on the cob and sat down on the edge of the loft, dangling my legs and grinning ear to ear! Enthusiastic doesn’t begin to describe my state. I was exhilarated to the point of apoplexy! After finishing my refreshments, I licked my fingers, descended from the loft, and took my place alongside the other expectant onlookers, in hopes of an opportunity to join in the fun. I didn’t have long to wait. After a few minutes, the four young ladies whom I’d observed earlier began working their way around the floor, sizing up and critiquing the crowd of would-be dance partners. One by one they’d scrutinize the embarrassed observers and point out their shortcomings, much as though they were comparing plucked poultry on market day. “What about this one?” One would ask, and the others would offer criticisms, “too short, too thin, and too eager!”
The most vocal, and unquestioned leader of the pack was, of course, the little red-haired girl! She had the reddest hair, the thickest freckles, and the most luxurious get-along that I had ever seen, and as she approached, I held my breath and felt for all the world, like the black sheep in a lamb-judging contest. With the rest of the pack following closely and grinning with anticipation, the little red-haired girl stepped up boldly, looked me over briefly, and then stared intently into my face. I stared at my feet for a moment, bracing for rejection and humiliation, and then I swallowed hard and returned her gaze. “Dance?” she asked enthusiastically, and then offered a soft, thin, freckled hand. My head was swimming, my heart pounded, and I was dangerously light-headed from holding my breath! I grabbed her hand, we took our place in a newly formed square, bowed to our partner, and the fiddle began to play.
That little red-headed temptress whizzed tirelessly and elegantly around the room, frock flying and pigtails trailing, and I galloped happily at her side like a gangly pup, thoroughly enraptured, in a state of perfect bliss! We alabamed right and alabamed left and dosiedoed around that barn for the better part of an hour, and all at once I became aware that my poor feet were throbbing madly in those new boots, and several of my toes were clearly in tremendous distress! Just then the little red-haired girl turned hard a starboard, and we promenaded through the back door of that ol’ barn and out into the dark emptiness of the dimly moonlit corral beyond. A thousand breathtaking possibilities flooded my mind and weakened both my knees. And then, as I wrapped my arms around that warm, moist, gingham-clad form, and her sweet, cider-scented breath filled my nostrils, a milking stool came down on my head and the darkness took me in and swallowed me up! “Obie’s Quest”
In autumn of 1904, I turned 70. By now I was not only a 49er and an honored Civil War veteran, I was a great grandpa! ‘Course I still thought of myself as a rugged, youthful adventurer, so I was constantly crestfallen to glance in my shaving mirror, and find a silver whiskered ol’ prospector glaring back!
I’d pretty well retired from the freight service by now. I still rode shotgun once in a while just for old time sake, but for the most part I just relaxed and enjoyed my celebrity. During all my years out in the workforce, my fondest dream and greatest aspiration was to have a position where I was paid exactly what I was worth. Well I’m finally there, and I ain’t makin’ nothin’! Becoming absolutely worthless is the one and only area where I consistently and continuously improve!
On November 17th I’d slept in just a tad. Around eight o’clock I crawled out of the sack, slipped on my moccasins, and sauntered into the kitchen in my red long johns. “Well it’s just about time you were up!” Mariah chided jokingly, as I collapsed in the rocker by the wood range, “You’d think an ol’ codger like you would make better use of his remaining time!” Mariah smiled as she poured my coffee and kissed me on the forehead, “What would you like for your birthday dinner?” “Holy smoke!” I exclaimed, “I’d forgotten today’s my birthday!” Rubbing my eyes and consulting my stomach, I quickly concocted a menu. “I’d like butterfly pork chops, buttered parsnips, baked potatoes, and cheese cake!” “Alright.” Mariah replied smiling, “but that’s going to require a trip to Forni’s Market.” “I believe I’ve got one more shopping trip left in me.” I answered, “If you’ll fix me a soft boiled egg and some toast for breakfast.” “I’ll have your breakfast ready in about ten minutes,” Mariah replied, “but you’d better get a move on! You have to be back home by one o’clock.” “How come?” I responded, fidgeting with my mustache and stretching. “Did you forget about your afternoon appointment?” Mariah asked, eyeing me with that skeptical expression that was more and more the norm. “I don’t remember forgetting any appointment,” I responded with a chuckle, “To which appointment are you referring?” “The reporter from the Mountain Democrat is coming out to interview you about turning seventy.” Mariah answered. “Oh yeah,” I said, feigning recollection, “You don’t think I’d forget a thing like that?”
Finishing my breakfast, I made a hasty trip to town for groceries, and picked up Mr. Kinney before returning home. Shortly after lunch, the journalist arrived. He was one of those smug young men, with a fancy tie and a turned up nose, just slightly out of joint! He’d brought along a notebook and a photographer. “This shouldn’t take long;” he said following introductions, “What I’ve got in mind is a human interest story, with a bit of history and a nice photograph. We’ll need to know what you’ve learned in seven decades, what you remember of ’49, and what kind of plans you’re making for tomorrow.” Well he’s right about one thing. This shouldn’t take long at all! At this point in time, my plans are grandiose but tentative, my memory unreliable, and my tomorrows becoming a mighty speculative commodity!
The reporter posed Lidge and I hunkered over with our gold pans in the crick, while the photographer exposed a couple plates of the two of us grinning and pretending we’d discovered a nugget, and then he got out his notebook and began asking questions. The exchange began pleasantly enough. “In my experience, Mr. Camp, you garrulous ol’ codgers tend to be notoriously sentimental and nostalgic. Fare enough?” “Fare enough.” “Okay, with that in mind, is there anything in particular that you miss about the old days?” Well that was a good question, and I meditated on it briefly but earnestly before replying. “Bells.” I chimed in melodiously, beaming with satisfaction at my reply. “I miss bells.” This response gave the gentleman pause. “Bells.” He responded, scribbling contemplatively in his notes. “Why bells?” This hadn’t actually occurred to me before; but it was true. I do miss bells. “Well,” I says, “years ago, the world rang with bells! There were cowbells, school bells, dinner bells, train bells, doorbells, ships’ bells, fire bells, church bells, hames bells, jingle bells, Christmas bells; every single season tolled melodiously with bells. These days you rarely ever hear a bell, and I miss ‘em.” “Well, that is insightful, Mr. Camp; insightful, perceptive, and quite true.” The reporter and his photographer both smiled thoughtfully at each other, nodding their concurrence with my assessment, and then the interrogation continued. “How have you managed to live to such a ripe, old age, Mr. Camp?” was his next query. “One day at a time,” I answered matter-of-factly, “Just like the good book suggests.” The reporter feigned a smile and replied ingeniously, “How quaint. Let me ask you this Mr. Camp; what, in your opinion, is the most blessed aspect of old age?” “That’s easy!” I answered spontaneously, “its brevity!”
“Alright!” responded the reporter, grimacing and rubbing his temples, “And why is that?” “Well, since you’ve asked, I’m gonna tell ya exactly what I think of old age. In my humble opinion, maturity is highly overrated and esteemed old age comparable for old folks and apples! Both can figure on bruising easily, going all soft and squishy, and drawing flies! When I’m in church, I most always fight an exasperating tickle in my throat; when I dine with friends, I can generally rely on choking, going all glassy eyed, and assuming an unflattering shade of hemorrhoid blue, and except on the warmest of occasions when I’m sweating profusely, my feet are so cold that my fingers ache!”
Our dauntless correspondent mopped his brow with a crisp, white sleeve and endeavored to persevere. “My resources indicate that you two gentlemen are a couple of honored Civil War vets. Are you and Mr. Kintie proud of your service to the Union during the war?” Lidge just grinned, lowered his gaze, and stared musingly at his feet. “About the only service the two of us provided during the war,” I responded, “was to afford a mighty tempting target to the Confederate artillery.” “Well, were ya successful at that?” He enquired dryly.” “You bet we were!” I responded with a chuckle, “We got blown all to hell!”
Scrutinizing me over his spectacles and squirming uncomfortably, the exasperated reporter opted at this point, for a change of subject; “I’m certain, Mr. Camp, that our readers will be interested to know whom you consider your favorite author.” “I’m confident that you won’t be surprised to hear that, like most folks, my favorite writer is Mr. Clemens. You may be surprised to hear that I take exception to one of Sam’s quotes. Mr. Twain suggests that God made man because he was disappointed in monkeys, and I’m absolutely certain it’s the other way around.” “Yikes! That’s a pretty provocative statement Mr. Camp. Can I quote you on that?” “You bet!”
“You may be surprised, Mr. Camp, to hear that your partner in crime here seems to be of the opinion that you’re quite a phenomenon yourself, right up there with Mr. Clemens and Christ. What do you say to that?” “Well” I responded, “Mr. Kinney is a bit biased because he and I have doubled The Horn together, and been to see the elephant, but, in truth, I have at least one thing in common with both Mark Twain and Christ, neither Twain nor Christ could tolerate cheap cigars, religious fanatics, or watered down wine, and I share that sentiment.”
“Is that a fact? Well that is remarkable! “Speaking of your accomplice here, would you say that you and Mr. Kintie panned out a pretty respectable poke back in your day?” “Nope!” “Fare enough Mr. Camp.” The reporter responded, clearly annoyed, “and how would you like to be remembered?” “By whom?” I fired back! The newspaperman grunted irritably, bore down with determination, and busted the lead right out of his pencil! “What does it matter who?” He enquired, sighing deeply, and struggling to remain calm. “Well,” I responded in all seriousness, “I’d like the Lord to remember me as a good steward, who set out each day to do justly, and to love mercy, and to walk humbly, with God, through Christ.”
This answer struck home and provoked a pregnant pause. He stood in silent contemplation, eyeing me meditatively as I continued. “I’d like history to remember me as a good Christian, a proud American, and a genuine 49er, with freedom and the wild Sierras in my eyes.” “So you’re of the opinion that there is a God, Mr. Camp?” “Absolutely! And I know that God loves you.” “And how is that, Mr. Camp?” “Because God loves cheerful givers, good losers, and compassionate conservatives, all mighty speculative commodities!”
I had him vapor locked and speechless now, and I should have let it go and called it good, but a big job’s never finished till you’ve entirely fouled it up! “Would you like to take a look at my journal?” I asked expectantly, anticipating the praise of a fellow journalist. “Why not!” the reporter responded smugly. Quickly perusing several pages, he handed it back, smiled patronizingly, and announced, “It’s an innocuous little diversion, passionate but unprofessional.” Finding myself suddenly persecuted and temporarily possessed, I suggested curtly that the same was true of his mother!
That concluded the interview! The following Thursday the Mountain Democrat featured an intensely edited excerpt of the interview, next to the obituaries and a photo of a poisoned cat!
For those of you anxiously awaiting some genuine winter weather, here are some favorite photos from last winter. 2012 promises to be unique and exceptionally challenging. The bigger the challenge, the greater the reward. For those who are politically inclined, the 2012 presidential election is bound to be a real rip-snorter! Please try to remember, the most satisfying aspect of any competition, is the camaraderie of the combatants at the end of the day.With the peaceful conclusion of a civil contest, everybody wins.
Sauntering down Main Street past the courthouse, I couldn’t quite put my finger on what was missing. The celebrated, old bell tower was all lit up, just as expected. Street lamps were bright and festive. The big, old evergreen near the courthouse was decorated in its usual Christmas finery, just as I remembered long ago. All the storefronts were decked out in their traditional sales-stimulating regalia, with Sacramento Hill silhouetted against a lavender dusk, and the snowcapped Sierra’s glistening to the north. The temperature was sufficiently brisk to render my breath clearly visible on the invigorating evening air. And a recent shower had bedight the streets with shimmering lights and radiant Christmas colors. There was even an occasional snowflake in the air. Still, something wasn’t right. Then, just as I started to question cherished memories, the sound of oncoming traffic caught my ear. Moments later, several cars came cruising into view, windows steaming, wipers slapping, and windshields lightly frosted and finger smudged. Everyone waving, noses to the windows, cordial, happy, rosy cheeked, and brimming with genuine joy! This indeed was Placerville, Just as I’d remembered, the irrepressible little city in the ravine.
Twas the night before Christmas, when all through the house
Not a creature was stirring, not even a mouse.
The stockings were hung by the chimney with care,
In hopes that St Nicholas soon would be there.
The children were nestled all snug in their beds,
While visions of sugar-plums danced in their heads.
And mamma in her ‘kerchief, and I in my cap,
Had just settled our brains for a long winter’s nap.
When out on the lawn there arose such a clatter,
I sprang from the bed to see what was the matter.
Away to the window I flew like a flash,
Tore open the shutters and threw up the sash.
The moon on the breast of the new-fallen snow
Gave the lustre of mid-day to objects below.
When, what to my wondering eyes should appear,
But a miniature sleigh, and eight tinny reindeer.
With a little old driver, so lively and quick,
I knew in a moment it must be St Nick.
More rapid than eagles his coursers they came,
And he whistled, and shouted, and called them by name!
"Now Dasher! now, Dancer! now, Prancer and Vixen!
On, Comet! On, Cupid! on, on Donner and Blitzen!
To the top of the porch! to the top of the wall!
Now dash away! Dash away! Dash away all!"
As dry leaves that before the wild hurricane fly,
When they meet with an obstacle, mount to the sky.
So up to the house-top the coursers they flew,
With the sleigh full of Toys, and St Nicholas too.
And then, in a twinkling, I heard on the roof
The prancing and pawing of each little hoof.
As I drew in my head, and was turning around,
Down the chimney St Nicholas came with a bound.
He was dressed all in fur, from his head to his foot,
And his clothes were all tarnished with ashes and soot.
A bundle of Toys he had flung on his back,
And he looked like a peddler, just opening his pack.
His eyes-how they twinkled! his dimples how merry!
His cheeks were like roses, his nose like a cherry!
His droll little mouth was drawn up like a bow,
And the beard of his chin was as white as the snow.
The stump of a pipe he held tight in his teeth,
And the smoke it encircled his head like a wreath.
He had a broad face and a little round belly,
That shook when he laughed, like a bowlful of jelly!
He was chubby and plump, a right jolly old elf,
And I laughed when I saw him, in spite of myself!
A wink of his eye and a twist of his head,
Soon gave me to know I had nothing to dread.
He spoke not a word, but went straight to his work,
And filled all the stockings, then turned with a jerk.
And laying his finger aside of his nose,
And giving a nod, up the chimney he rose!
He sprang to his sleigh, to his team gave a whistle,
And away they all flew like the down of a thistle.
But I heard him exclaim, ‘ere he drove out of sight,
"Happy Christmas to all, and to all a good-night!"
First of all, set aside a bright, roomy section of your mind, and fill it with all your best memories. Visit it often. Keep it immaculate and it will serve you well. Share it with your Deity, whatever you perceive him to be.
Sharpen your awareness of the natural wonders that surround us, and encourage their appreciation by others. Be cognizant of life’s cycles, appreciating each new season in turn, while realizing fully that, despite our best efforts, time is resolute, and with time, each season will pass. Embrace each new season with hope and optimism, while retaining all that’s best of seasons past. As a young man I tended to envision time as a vast, unlimited resource; time it seemed was an inexhaustible sea.Now in the autumn of my life, each hour is increasingly precious, and I thirst for each minute as it drips away from an alarmingly finite pool.
Do not be drawn into meaningless, futile, debilitating debates with loud, obnoxious people. Just consider the source and when possible avoid their venting. Their noise is a noxious vapor, and repulsed silence is often the appropriate response. I have good news. Your loudmouth neighbor, your loudmouth in-law, and the loudmouth in your Sunday school class, all have one thing in common; they don’t know squat! They’re just noisy! Relax and ignore them, and don’t encourage their clamor. Be mindful of your example to others; it’s your most effective testimony. Value truth and consider the cost of deceit.
Many people have given their lives in order to secure the freedoms you enjoy today. Honor their sacrifice. Honor our veterans and all those who choose a life of service. Honor individuality, revere tolerance, and exhort all those who lift up the cause of freedom. Confront ignorance, and be diligent in the advancement of knowledge. Ignorance and intolerance are almost inseparable, and despite what some will tell you, neither one is a virtue.
Cherish and reverently exercise your right to vote and keep this Country free! Clearly, America’s collective conscience, as reflected by our chosen leaders, requires constant scrutiny and surveillance. Even in a democracy of, by, and for the people, justice and equality are only as perfect as the conscience of that people. Even America’s grand and glorious democracy reflects not only our goodness, but our greed. Greed and corruption have reached epidemic levels in our society today. Certain individuals have amassed great wealth, and they abuse that wealth to cause discontent and manipulate elections. They do not do this for the good of our Nation, but to satisfy their own insatiable greed. Do not believe everything you’re told by the far fringes of our media. Media will say what the media is paid to say, all too often, regardless of the truth. More often than not, the wealthy own the media. There’s nothing wrong with affluence and wealth, but money buys power and too much power corrupts. Everyone knows what the bible says about money.
Pay attention, stand up and be counted. Freedom is not a privilege to be taken lightly. Freedom is a right and a responsibility, a perishable torch to be diligently tended and faithfully passed along. Freedom burns within our hearts, ignited by the founding fathers, and it falls to us to keep that flame alive. America’s most trusted and time-honored institutions are only as righteous as the hearts of our citizens, our most godly leaders only as just as the collective conscience of their constituents, and the most telling measure of a nation’s heart is the empathy of its people.
Positive outcomes are never achieved through negative actions. Respond to others, as you’d have them respond to you. Freedom is every heart’s desire and every just government’s goal, but it’s a mighty illusive concept when you’re at war. Freedom is nearly impossible when you don’t have peace. Freedom requires commitment, commitment requires perseverance, and perseverance requires the will to act. When freedom and justice are threatened, honorable men respond. But surely war is the last resort of those who know its grief. Surely for reasonable people there’s a better way.
Be open to affection but wary of unwholesome pleasures. And do not be deceived. Deceit is ephemeral; lies and indiscretions will eventually come to light. Every action has a consequence. When considering any action, before proceeding, think the scenario through to its logical conclusion. You can never undo a thoughtless deed, and carelessly sewn seeds produce a ponderous harvest!
Anything that you are unable to do in good conscience and moderation, do not do! Eat nutritiously and judiciously, consistently burning more calories than you consume, until you’ve achieved your ideal weight, and you will be healthier, more industrious, more prosperous, more popular, profoundly gratified, and gut wrenchingly contented. It’s what all the ages have striven for.
As we face an uncertain future together, let us do so with faith, optimism, attention to stewardship, and goodwill toward our fellow man. God grant us stamina to persevere, determination to prevail, and the wisdom to roll up our sleeves and work together.
In all things, promote liberty for all, and justice tempered with mercy. In this Country, everyone has the right to life, liberty and their pursuit of happiness. Celebrate ethnicity; take pride in your own heritage, but value the traditions of others. Our country’s greatest strength is diversity; honor diversity and keep America strong. While I am generally conservative in my own actions, I am passionately liberal in defense of the choices of others. Personal choices, that’s what freedom is. Remember always that you are as good as any and better than none. Be just, merciful, humble, and be happy.
These three codgers are the living personification of freedom itself. They’re dressed in tattered dungaree pants with suspenders, or a wide leather belt, or both! Their shirts are long-sleeved red wool affairs, patched at the elbows with whatever material they happen to have on hand. Their pants are loose at the waste, and the legs are tucked into the top of rough leather boots that cover their calves right up to their worn-out knees. Their hair and beards are wild as the rugged country they inhabit, and what little of their faces you’re likely to see, are chapped and weathered and rough as their leather boots. They carry a deliciously rank tobacco pipe and a dandy Colt revolver; they know how to use ‘em, and they fire ‘em both up every day. They have one or more knives that they sharpen religiously on the sides of their leather boots. They’re sharp as a razor and used for pealing everything from pears to possum. They can stick them an inch deep in a pine stump, from twenty paces away; they practice with em’ daily, and they’re willing and able to stick ‘em in more than a stump! Having said all that, these three guys are the most gregarious, amicable; easy to get along with rascals I’ve ever met. “Obie’s Quest”
Sacramento has been blessed and cursed by its location on the banks of the river. Commerce is great, but floods are an annual event. They don’t get much rain here during the summer, but come fall you’d best button your slicker and roll up your pants! We stopped briefly at the wharf for information, and were sorely tempted to take time out for a quick tour of Sac and a purely medicinal whistle wetting, but money was tight and time was money. We decided to check out downtown on our next trip through. The sight of those bags of gold has had a huge effect on our previously dwindling energies. Our hearts are set on that hole at Chili Bar! We spent the rest of that day paddling for all we were worth in the drizzling rain! Just north of Sacramento, we left the Sacramento River and turned northeast up the American, toward the infamous Sutter’s mill itself, where this worldwide obsession began back in ’48. We petered out pretty quick and called it a day.
That night we didn’t fare no better than the night before! The next day it rained even harder, the temperature dropped into the forties, and we didn’t make but fifteen miles all day. And so it went for the next two days. At last we came to the fabled fork in the road. In this case it was a fork in the river. To the left, the south fork of the American River continued its tenacious climb into the foothills and the majestic Sierras beyond; Gods’ country to those who know it best. That way was Coloma, Sutter’s mill, and, just north of Hangtown, that hole at Chili Bar. Most of the traffic was headed in that direction. The water was muddy, the competition fierce, and we’d soon run out of supplies. To the right lay an innocuous little tributary by the name of Webber Crick. The sun was shining; there was reasonably clean water for drinking, and a nice quiet place to pan for gold and camp. The biggest advantage of this little branch is the indisputable fact that we’re already here! Sometimes your best bet is to set your cap and take your shot and claim the duck that drops!
Someone asked, if I had to choose one, whether I’d rather be loved or respected. That’s an easy one. Back when Lidge and I were working for the railroad, everyone respected ol’ Mr. Crocker; about the same way you’d respect a coiled rattler! Given an opportunity, we stayed clean out of reach; but when ol’ Crocker was nose to nose with ya, puffed up like an adder who was just fixin’ to strike, he had our earnest interest and our undivided attention; but we’d of liked to knock him senseless with a rock!
Uncle Mark on the other hand, had our affection. When Unk needed anything, he’d ask us one time, quiet like and gentle, and we done it or died tryin’! Respect is fine, and I’ve tried my best to earn it, but I couldn’t go a day without affection. One picture’s worth a thousand words, but a hug expresses volumes.
Most of us pursue happiness through an all consuming quest to attain one thing that others will covet. That’s our nature, inherent in our robes of flesh. We seek validation through what we have, to justify who we are. That one thing may be a grandiose house, a pretentious spouse, or all variety of shiny, superfluous possessions. Failing in this pursuit, our happiness remains elusive. Even when we’re successful, our satisfaction is generally fleeting. If your goal is happiness, make that one thing an optimistic attitude. Invest in a winning attitude, and earn dividends with every smile. If you can develop an attitude that others will admire, success is certain and happiness guaranteed.
Am I happy? Why, I’m happy as a bug on the bow of a boat! Have ya ever watched a grasshopper at the bow of a boat, when the ol’ steamer is churning along at a good clip, the hull is pounding the cobalt blue water into a fine spray and the shore is sailing by; and that ol’ grasshopper is clinging to the railing for dear life, his little antennae are trailing in the wind, his molars are all catching sunlight, his eyes are glazed over and glistening in grateful satisfaction, and the tobacco juice is streaming out the corners of his mouth and collecting in his whiskers and his ears? Now that’s happy! “Obie’s Quest”
There appears to be some confusion in our Country today, regarding what it means to be a Republican. Abraham Lincoln was a Republican. Ulysses S. Grant was a Republican. Teddy Roosevelt was a Republican. These men believed in God and Country. They devoted their lives to the cause of Liberty and Justice for all. They regulated banks, established parks, and supported a system of taxation, through which all those who shared in the American dream, benefited from, and contributed toward that dream. There’s absolutely no question that some of this Country’s greatest Presidents were Republicans. But get real! A real Republican would be embarrassed by the behavior of many today. Real Republicans don’t support secession. They’ve not divorced multiple wives. They don’t entirely reverse their own passionately held positions for political purposes. They don’t resort to unethical if not illegal means in order to avoid paying their taxes. And they don’t slander, condemn and dishonor the office of President, over petty, partisan grievances. They respect the office of President regardless of who currently holds the office, and they conduct themselves with dignity, civility, and deference toward all those who dedicate themselves to the causes of freedom, Justice, and public service. It’s possible that a real Republican couldn’t be elected by an electorate who revolt against paying their fare share of taxes, and who feel absolutely no responsibility to contribute toward the legitimate expenses of maintaining the greatest nation in the world. It’s possible that a real Republican would appear too reasonable and moderate to appeal to the self-serving, every man for himself mentality that is prevalent in much of our electorate today. But you show me a real Republican, and then we’ll talk.