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Remembrances of a Half-Century Ago

Phil Barker finds differing customs in Ohio and California

Submitted by:  Phil Barker,  5/5/2007
This entry relates to the past
Category(ies) of this entry:  Coming to Davis, Nature, Holiday - Christmas

California poppies along the roadsides filled us with awe and joy when my wife, Mildred, and I arrived in the great valley of California upon moving in our new VW bug from Columbus, Ohio, to Davis in summer 1957.   I gathered a bouquet of California poppies from the roadside the following spring to take to Mildred, who had just delivered our first-borne at the Woodland Clinic Hospital.  To my surprise, she was concerned that I had decimated California’s landscape by plucking those California poppies, which I’ve never done again! 

On our first holiday season here, following custom I had known when growing up on a farm near Logan, Ohio, my wife and I cut two little Christmas trees from the wilds in the Sierra Mountains, several miles east of Placerville.  We tied them across the back bumper of our VW bug and headed home.  Shortly, we were stopped by a highway patrolman and were confronted with a sobering embarrassment.  The patrolman excused our naïve behavior and allowed us to heave those precious little conifer gems back into the dense woods. 

Next year, we drove to a U. S. Forest Service-authorized Christmas tree cutting area; dutifully affixing legal cutting permits on the two trees we cut there.

One weekend we drove on narrow logging roads far back into the forest northeast of Auburn.  There we encountered an abandoned logging camp.  Still hanging on a post at this camp was a triangular-bent iron rod, which obviously had been a “dinner bell” to call the sawyers from the woods at mealtime. It symbolized to me the lifestyle of early-day woodsmen, which Stewart Holbrook so vividly had described in his book, “Holy Old Mackinaw.”  We left that tempting souvenir hanging on the post as continuing evidence of by-gone days of old growth timber harvesting in California’s rugged Sierra Nevada Mountains. 

Today, half a century later, I wonder if that “dinner bell” yet hangs on the post in yonder mountains and doubt that my having gotten California poppies from the roadside has diminished the population of this ubiquitous California native.

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