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
Camp/Daniels Place, just outside Hangtown