Tuesday, January 31, 2012

We The People

"Every reform movement has a lunatic fringe."

I was having my coffee at my bench out on Reservoir Hill this morning, when I became aware of the distant but unmistakable sound of migrating geese.  Craning my neck to peer up into a brilliant, blue sky, I spotted something creating vast, sweeping circles in the sky directly overhead.  It had an impressive wingspan and was easily distinguishable by its dark wings and stunning white head and tail.  It was an eagle.
I don’t get to see free flying eagles very often, and I rarely spot an eagle, that the sighting doesn’t bring to mind a poem that I wrote many years ago:  “Freedom is a wild river rushing to the sea. Freedom is a monarch butterfly.  Freedom is an eagle at its perch high in a tree, and its never-ending circles in the sky.”  
During my lifetime I’ve seen eagles brought to the brink of extinction, and I’ve seen our national bird saved.  Do you know what saved this country’s most recognizable symbol?  Our Government.  What do you think of when you hear the word, government?  There is a movement today, a very loud, provocative, misinformed, increasingly popular movement, which seems determined to cast the current government of The United States of America, as some demonic, self-serving enterprise to be hated and overcome.  They’re wrong! Those of you who’ve received some degree of education are familiar with the words “We, the people”.  Those words are from the Preamble of The Constitution of The United States of America
“We, the people of the United States, in order to form a more perfect union, establish justice, insure domestic Tranquility, provide for the common defense, promote the general Welfare, and secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity, do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America.”
Whether we choose to participate or not, we, the people, are responsible for our government.  In a very real sense, we are the government. Those of you with an education will also be familiar with the phrase, “And that government of the people, by the people, and for the people, shall not perish from the earth” from President Lincoln's Gettysburg address.  For me, those words,along with many other inspirational phrases found in this country’s historical documents, sum up why our country is the greatest country on earth.  It’s because of our government, or more accurately, it’s because of all those who are willing to vote, serve, contribute, or participate in, the governing of our great Nation. Do you do any of those things?
During the early days of America’s experiment in “Liberty and Justice for all”, there occurred an event known as the Boston Tea Party.  That event occurred when people of this country rose up in rebellion against what they considered to be the unfair tax practices imposed on them by a foreign entity. No one enjoys paying taxes, and our current system of taxation could undoubtedly benefit from some tweaking, but our taxes today are not imposed by a foreign entity. The United States of America exists today because of our Nation's Founding Fathers, our Historical Documents, and all those who subscribe to the American dream, dedicating themselves to the cause of freedom and investing in the dream. We, the people determine the course of our government today, when we vote. Taxes paid today in the United States of America represent our investment in the country that we love. 
Some of you will complain that taxes represent class warfare and the redistribution of wealth. We no longer wage class warfare in our society today. The war is all but over.  The Bernie Madoffs have won. Our financial problems today are not the result of taxes and the redistribution of wealth.  This country’s wealth has been stolen, exported, exploited, unwisely invested in warmongering, and relentlessly drained away, by powerful, deregulated corporations and self-serving, greedy individuals, who invest our money overseas, avoiding their fare share of taxes, and manipulating public opinion through fear, deception, a horrendous manipulation of religious and social values, and ungodly amounts of cash.  
We've been told for the last fifty years that if we'll continue giving tax breaks to huge corporations and billionaires, eventually that money will trickle down.  Well it trickled down all right!  It trickled down in India and China, where all the jobs have gone.  While we've waited for trickle down, the rich have gotten richer, while this country's middle class and most of our economy have been allowed to shrivel and dry up. 
Taxes in America today support infrastructure, our freeways, healthcare, education, National defense, and all the invaluable services that freedom and American ingenuity provide. Taxes and all the worthwhile things they support are why we still enjoy a degree of freedom, justice, prosperity, and uncorrupted media in this country. Taxes are why we still enjoy National Forests, pristine waterways, incomparable parks, unsurpassed cities, and free flying eagles. We have a choice to make.  We can continue supporting policies that make the rich richer at the expense of our country, or we can support policies that invest in America, restore our economy, and bring jobs home.   

Shannon Thomas Casebeer

Once in awhile we got to ride the train!

Once in a while we got to ride the train!  The only things more colorful than the engines themselves were the fellas that manned the throttles and made ‘em go. Lidge and I received only a few opportunities to hop a ride with the fellas in the cab.  But those were some mighty memorable opportunities! The old cabs were cramped at best, and sightseers were discouraged.  Even under the best of conditions, the engineers were hard-pressed to keep up a good head of steam in the old wood burners, and with pests like Lidge and me onboard, it was almost impossible; we were never content unless we were blowin’ the whistle! 
   On a couple of occasions we finagled a ride, out to tracks end and back, in the cab of the C. P. Huntington.  Named for Mr. Hopkins’ fellow shopkeeper and coconspirator, Collis Potter Huntington, the little engine was a workhorse for the Central Pacific. Chugging along through the Sierra’s aboard the cab of the Huntington was reminiscent of riding an iron-wheeled wheelbarrow down a cobblestone street, only more gut wrenching and exhilaratingly perilous!
   The heat off the boiler and firebox was enough to wilt the feathers off a wooden Indian, and you could fry an egg on any surface of the cab!  We were hard-pressed to turn around without banging our head on something; and most of the time the cab was full of smoke and cinders, and the floor pitched and rolled till a fella couldn’t find his feet! “God pity the poor sailor, out on a night like this!”  We rarely made headway for more than an hour, without needing to stop for something.  If she wasn’t low on wood, she was out of water.  There were little wood yards scattered all along the way, and anyplace that had access to water, boasted a gigantic barrel-like water tower, at a sufficient height to deliver water to the thirsty boilers.  This process was rarely accomplished without soaking your boots and pants, which was mighty invigorating high in the Sierra Nevada’s.
   Occasionally, constellations of toxic, black smoke and carnivorous sparks would inundate the cab, the fragrance of scorched overalls and singed whiskers would permeate the atmosphere, and the place would erupt in flailing arms, as folks sang and danced and swatted smoldering cinders! OBIE’S QUEST 

Monday, January 30, 2012

"God made rain, but the devil perfected mud!"

 aka Ol' Dry Diggins, but not always!
Finishing his story, Uncle Mark tended the mules, and then heated a blanket for himself and retired upstairs.  I was left to sit up with Lidge and keep the heater stoked.  Outside the storm continued.  The sleet came down fitfully against the window, and periodically a gust of wind would find its way down the stovepipe and the old cast iron heater would belch smoke from around its’ damper and its’ red hot lid.  After a while the rough plank roof began dripping and leaking like a sieve, and one by one a strategically placed company of pots and kettles joined in a chorus of plops, plinks, and piddles, as they filled quickly with their captured leakage and began to splash rhythmically on the rip sawn floor.
   Around two o’clock in the morning, I stoked the fire and reheated Lidge’s brick.  Lidge was resting peacefully, but his face was still hot and he was sweating profusely.  I dried his face and adjusted his blankets.  Clearing a spot on the frosted window I squinted and peered outside.  The storm was relenting and I began to see some stars.  I warmed a blanket for myself, kicked back in my chair and leaned against the wall.  I remember watching the firelight from the damper, dancing on the wall behind the stove, and then the cobwebs came and the darkness took me in.  OBIE’S QUEST   

Sunday, January 29, 2012

Saturday, January 28, 2012


On May 10th, 1869, after several days of delay due to flooding, the two companies connected track at Promontory Point Utah.  The dedication was attended by hordes of photographers and reporters, who were on hand to witness what was heralded as the work of the age.   Ol’ Tom Durant himself was there, to drive the final spike; it was the first real work he’d done during the whole campaign. Most of the credit went to bureaucrats and flatlanders, and as usual, the lion’s share of the proceeds went to the politicians and predators at the top of the food chain.  As someone who was there, I can tell ya this; if it weren’t for the Chinamen and their dump carts, they’d never have gotten ‘er done! “OBIE’S QUEST

Wednesday, January 25, 2012


Possibly, but I'm havin' great fun with the 
Picasa3 program 
that Cassie installed on my laptop.
Thanks Cass, now see what you've done!

The living personification of power itself.

Despite the dark side of the Transcontinental Railroad’s consequences, my years with the railroad were a glorious adventure.  Without question, as those golden spikes were driven into that last tie at Promontory Point, America’s manifest destiny was achieved.  East was symbolically and literally joined to west, and the vast expanse of North America’s great Republic truly became one nation indivisible. Equally impressive as the thoroughfare itself, were its remarkable locomotives.  Everything about a steam locomotive is awe-inspiring.  The low moan of the engine, the earthy smell of burning fuel, hot steel, and well-oiled brass, and the rise and fall of the undulating rails, are an endless source of wonder for me.  A swiftly passing locomotive brings to mind a living, breathing creature.  To me, a steam locomotive belching smoke and billowing clouds of steam is the living personification of power itself. There’s no other sound in the whole wide world like the sound of a distant train, with its rhythmic rumble and the whistle’s mournful wail.  It’s a little like the call of migrating geese as their primordial cries grow faint, and they follow their leader along an ancient path. OBIE’S QUEST

Come on spring of 2012!

This was spring of 2011
Come on spring of 2012!

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Placerville, California 1936



Occasionally, while disrobing in preparation for bed, I painstakingly wad up my underwear and stash them affectionately under the misses’ pillow.  The dear heart generally discovers this token of tenderness in the wee hours of the morning.  And her reaction is immediate, exhilarating, passionate and unfailingly heartwarming.  And often requires my instantaneous evacuation of the premises, in order to avoid injury during her animated expressions of tenderness and devotion.

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Mosquito Swinging Bridge


HANGTOWN, CA 1936 www.ShannonCasebeer.com

“Grasshopper Soup” if you prefer Mr. Twain’s embellishment.

Eventually a pause in the conversation signaled an opportunity to freshen our coffee.  Nehemiah stood, stretched, and gazed briefly into the myriad, brilliant stars.  Turning to me, he gestured in an all-encompassing wave across the area to our east, and began a detailed description of our surroundings.  His observations were insightful and undoubtedly came of a wealth of firsthand experience. According to Nehemiah, approximately a mile east of our location, beyond a series of granite peaks are the headwaters of Gerle Creek and Loon Lake.  Barely a dozen miles beyond that, as the crow flies, occupying an ancient crater, is Bigler Lake, Initially christened Lake Bonpland, and known to Lake Valley’s native inhabitants as Tahoe, which translates as “Big Water” in the Washoe dialect, or “Grasshopper Soup” if you prefer Mr. Twain’s embellishment.  Stretching between here and Tahoe is Desolation Valley; a vast expanse of inaccessible canyons, impenetrable vegetation, flawless, jewel like waters, and sheer granite precipices, piercing the wispy cumulous and vying for the stars.  Barely two dozen miles from here, on the eastern shore of Tahoe, lay the Nevada Territory; home of Virginia City, Carson Valley, and haven to this areas Indian population during the long winter months, when snowfall in excess of twelve feet renders these magnificent mountains inaccessible to even the hearty Paiutes. 







The Terrier's Tail/Tale

After seeing Griz off, I fixed myself some soft-boiled eggs, and went to work cleaning stalls.  Around seven o’clock, I became aware of a ruckus of some kind outside in the street.  I went to the stable door and scanned the scene. There by the bell tower, in front of the Round Tent, several good-sized boys had waylaid a little black dog.  They’d pinned him on his back and were roughing him up something fierce!  As I watched, they released the terrified stray, and the elder of the ruffians gave him a good swift kick.  They‘d tied half a dozen empty cans to one end of a cord and the other end to the little terriers tail. Seeing his opportunity for escape, the terrified animal had hit the ground running, only to be further tormented by his clanging cargo of tenacious cans.  The poor little guy made two quick circles around the bell tower, yelping desperately and looking for cover, and then as he rounded the far turn, the string of cans wrapped around a hitching post, yanking him end over loop and landing him in a squirming heap on his back.
   The three promoters of this inhumane display made their way boisterously to the boardwalk in front of the restaurant, in order to improve their vantage point and prepare for additional sport.  After several minutes of witnessing this sorry spectacle, compassion seized my gut!  My conscience would not be satisfied till I’d interceded on behalf of the victimized scamp. I rushed passed the three jubilant juveniles, and hurried to the little dog’s aid.  The rawhide cord was tightly double knotted right at the base of the little terriers tail, and try as I might I couldn’t get it loose!  After all attempts proved fruitless, I lifted the frantic animal into my arms, and made a beeline for the stable, cans and all!  The boys stood squarely in my line of retreat, and as I approached, they blocked my way threateningly and began taunting.  “Save the puppy sissy boy, haul him home to momma.  Tuck yer tail between your legs, and run like a little girl.”
   Most of my attention was currently invested in calming the squirming terrier, but I glanced up disgustedly at the delinquent mob as they stepped into my path, and then I braced for impact and shoved my way on through. Things looked hopeful as I pushed my way defiantly past the gang, and then at the last possible instant, the elder of the trio stuck out his foot, and they all laughed hysterically as I tripped and sprawled headlong in the muddy street. “Awfully sorry sissy boy,” the eldest boy mocked sarcastically, and then all three boys bent over and roared with laughter.   I clung desperately to the squirming dog as I struggled to my feet, and then I glanced back indignantly and hurried for the stable door.  OBIE’S QUEST 

Round Tent Stable

The Round Tent Stable opened onto Center Street within a stone’s throw of the bell tower.  It was a rustic, two-story affair with a loft and a rip sawn plank roof.  The rear of the building, supported by posts, extended out over  Hangtown creek, and a small backroom offered a bird’s eye view of its murky waters if one peered beneath either lid of the two-holer. What the facility lacked in environmental considerations it more than made up for in its ease of operation. The wagon was pulled into our new headquarters, the mules fed, groomed, and stabled, and at long last the three of us spread our blankets in the loft, doused the lamp, and sprawled contentedly on our backs; recalling the events of a long day, and studying the twinkling constellations through the ample gaps of that drafty plank roof.  “Midst pleasures and palaces where ever you may roam, be it ever so humble, there’s no place like home!”   OBIE’S QUEST     

Thursday, January 12, 2012


Freight Wagon on Wentworth Springs road
Can you hear the hames bells?
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.” OBIE’S QUEST     

Two Little Skunks

On the morning of our departure, we met on top of the hill and went over the checklist of supplies and equipment.  Besides exorbitant quantities of snacks and groceries, we stowed away a two-man tent with additional canvas tarps, Asa’s old gray-granite coffeepot, The cots I’d inherited from the MacCauleys, several canvas camp stools, spare tires, tubes and patch kits, a variety of lubricants and petroleum products for the machines, additional gas cans secured to the running boards, a big bottle of Zemacol for insect bites, sunburn, poison oak, and what not, bedrolls, suit cases of clothes including our freshly laundered uniforms courtesy of the 44th Indiana Infantry, a Coleman stove and lantern, a large Stanley thermos, an oak split picnic basket full of enamelware plates, cups, and utensils, fishing gear, swimsuits, and a beach umbrella!  By the time we were loaded there was barely room for me!   Mariah saw us off at the gate.  “I expect you two ol’ warriors to keep your powder dry,” she said smiling and shaking her finger at us.  “Keep level heads on your shoulders, and these chariots on all fours!”  I gave the ol’ gal a big hug, and she was still waving as we motored passed the cherry orchard and disappeared down the hill.  It’s been a lot of years since I’ve spent a night without her. Merging onto highway 50 at Blair’s Brothers lumberyard, we sped through upper town and began our assent into the Sierras.  The little Fords made real good time, as long as we tended the spark and kept an eye on the temperature.  If ya get ‘er too hot she finds ways of getting even!
   We had lunch at Strawberry, and then pulled for the summit.  The rigs overheated several times on the grade, and we pulled off at Meyers Station and purchased a couple of burlap water bags for topping off our thirsty radiators.  These we hung over the radiator caps, and filled as necessary from roadside creeks.  Late that afternoon we checked our sparks and throttles and began our descent into Lake Valley.  We both had the tops down and the windshield vents wide open, and the sensation of the breeze in my hair and the sun on my face as we sailed down the grade, was an exhilaration I’m never likely to forget.  It’s one of life’s rushes I’d highly recommend!
    We spent the first night right on the beach of Tahoe’s south shore.  The lake was high as usual; the stars brighter than ever and the night calm and characteristically cool.  There were a number of other folks tenting there on the beach, and as we first pulled in we took a good-natured ribbing from a guy driving a big Packard.  He watched amused as we pulled in, and as soon as we’d set up camp, he dropped by and shared the following congenial jab:
Two little skunks by the roadside stood, 
As a Model T Ford sped by.
The odor it left was far from good, 
And a tear stood in one skunk’s eye.
“Why do you weep?” asked his anxious friend. 
“Why do you sob and quake?”
“Because that smell,” said the other little skunk, 
“Is like mother used to make!” 

Tuesday, January 10, 2012


Throughout the years, Hangtown maintained its reputation for throwing a dance or a big parade with little or no provocation.  If there wasn’t some kind of shindig down town at the bell tower, there was a dance going on at Smith Flat House.  The dances at the Three-mile House were usually held upstairs, and if Mr. Case wasn’t calling squares, they were spinning 78s on a dandy Grafonola.  Finding no other excuse, the gregarious residents of Placerville were always primed and ready to celebrate the Pony Express, Wagon Train days, or us irrepressible 49ers. By the close of the nineteenth century, we 49ers were a mighty illusive group!  Those that hadn’t wandered off were mighty long of tooth!  The fewer our numbers, the more privileged we became!  ‘Course Lidge and I just ate that up like candy!  We got to where we was sportin’ whiskers and red flannel shirts ever’ where we went, just so folks would smother us with their admiration! I’d always heard tell, that despite his many accomplishments, a fella couldn’t figure on resting on his laurels.  Lidge and I were sure exceptions to that old rule!  We were celebrated and fussed over, like ol’ Mark Twain hisself, for doing next to nothin’ fifty years ago!  It’s enough to cause a fella to bust his buttons!  There’s nothin’ like being society’s pet, just for being old and toothless.  We’d o’ run for office but we both preferred honest work. “OBIE’S QUEST”


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 poundin’ the cobalt blue water into a fine spray and the shore is sailin’ 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 catchin’ sunlight, his eyes are glazed over and glistening in grateful satisfaction, and the tobacco juice is streamin’ out the corners of his mouth and collecting in his whiskers and his ears?  Now that’s happy!  OBIE’S QUEST

Cary House Stage Stop

Climb on in and let's go for a ride!
All at once, Hoot’s ears perk up, and yonder comes the stage!  About an hour late as usual, the Wells Fargo wagon rounded the corner with a startling screech, and then swaying and spring tossed, in a big cloud of dust, it slid to a gut-wrenching stop! Instantly a crowd gathered and passengers began milling about.  Anxious to confer with the driver and expedite receipt of Lidge’s mystery delivery, I made my way to the side of the coach and competed for the driver’s attention.  The ol’ geezer that was riding shotgun jumped to the ground and began unloading luggage. The driver was totally oblivious to all my efforts, and I was already exasperated and rapidly losing patience!  Seeing an opportunity to address the storied Mr. Monk, I stepped toward the stage, a choking cloud of dust enveloped me, the jostling crowd about knocked me down, and all at once someone grabbed me by an arm.  I spun around agitatedly, expecting to be further antagonized, and there with her luggage and a mischievous grin, stood Mariah! Before I could regain my balance and recover from my mind numbing shock, Mariah lit in my arms in a passionate embrace!  Stepping backward to catch my balance, I got tangled in a trunk, lost my footing, and down in a heap we went, head over heels backwards, in a big pile petticoats, gingham, and pantaloons!  

Monday, January 9, 2012


This is the original cover, 
as created by my son, Jared, and me.

Take A Brake!

Reservoir Hill
Jared Waldo, Asa Wilder, & Unk
In front of Apple house
{Granddad Daniels, Great Granddad Daniels, and Uncle Ace}

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

In Memoriam

My Aunt, Eloise Casebeer, Passed away today.  Aunt Eloise, a native Ozarker, was 98, and embodied a breed, quality, and class of genuinely independent people who are quickly disappearing from the scene. With the passing of my dad's brother, my Uncle Edgar, several years ago, Aunt Eloise lived very self sufficiently, at home and alone.  As the occasion required, she was soft as carded wool, or hard as tempered steel. Aunt Eloise did justly, loved mercy, walked humbly with her God, and held her views passionately and unequivocally. She respected the rights and choices of others, and was not receptive to having her own choices challenged. Those who chose to do so proceeded unadvisedly.  Her chosen vocation, teaching had for many years been both her calling and her passion.  In this capacity she was an encouragement and a blessing to countless young people during her many years of service, and she was remembered fondly by each and every one.  She lived self sufficiently at home until very recently, and when she determined that she could no longer do so, she bid the family goodbye, and with her usual resolve and tenacity, she refused nourishment and passed quickly away.  Aunt Eloise was loved, admired, and respected by all those who had the good fortune to know her. She will be very sorely missed.
Shannon Thomas Casebeer

January 4, 2012

I pledge Allegiance.

There are at least three flags in this photo. One has to look closely, but slightly above and right of center in this old ambrotype is the US flag, appropriately faded and almost ghost-like, but nonetheless emblematic and proudly waving, the tattered emblem of a sorely tested Union, tested still, but waving nonetheless. One can’t but wonder how anyone familiar with the cost and sacrifice of establishing and sustaining this remarkable Union could boldly claim citizenship and even go as far as to feign patriotism, and then openly support secession of a single state. But then, even the strongest of fabrics are susceptible to fringe. One can only hope they won’t destroy the fabric.