Sawmills and Scalps

The first sawmill in Del Norte County was established in 1853 in a gulch near the intersection of Third and C Streets in Crescent City. The machinery shipped from Pomona and it was F. E. Watson who built and operated it for R. F. Knox & Co. of San Francisco.

Much of the lumber was hauled over Howland Hill from Mill Creek. To transport the logs, loggers used “two large wheels about twelve feet in diameter, with an axle between and a long tongue, on which the logs were loaded, and partly dragged and wheeled by oxen.”

The mill was enlarged and relocated in 1855 to the corner of G and 7th Streets. It was destroyed by fire in 1856, and some of the equipment was salvaged by a Mr. Kingsland who used to build a small mill on Elk Creek.

Meanwhile, W. Bayse built a water-powered mill on Mill Creek. And while the road over Howland Hill was improved, the cost of transportation was too high and Bayse soon went bankrupt.

Finally, a horse-powered mill operated briefly near where the Elk Valley Mill subsequently stood. It was not considered a good investment and soon shut down.

There was also small sawmill at the Waukell Agency on the Klamath in 1859, but its production was reserved for the government. Jus’ a few miles away, after all, was Fort Ter-Waw which housed Company B, 4th Infantry, U.S. Army.

But it was further north, where A. M. Smith built his mill on Smith River, where it was later spanned by the bridge built by the Crescent City & Smith River Railroad. The Fairbanks Brothers also opened a small mill near Smith River Corners. Later, N. O. Armington became interested in this undertaking and a grist mill was added.

It is in the Smith River area where a number of clashes took place between settlers and indigenous peoples — namely the Tolowa. Generally, speaking, the Tolowa came out on the losing end of these battles.

Historian A. J. Bledsoe recounts in his book, “The History of Del Norte County,” about 50 Indian settlements were destroyed along the Smith River between 1855 and 1863. However, recent archaeological evidence shows his figures were off as much as 100 settlements.

He has been criticised for misrepresenting the figure — but it must be pointed out, many of the 100 settlements not listed were not know about at the time. In fact it wasn’t until the early 20th Century that archeologist rediscovered many of these places.

What’s also from missing from Bledsoe’s account are references to paying for Indian scalps. But a semi-annual Statement of Audit printed in the Crescent City News, February 16, 1894, shows the county paid out $50.20 in 1893 for bounty on scalps.

Then there’s the letter L. F. Cooper, who had served as a Del Norte county board supervisor as well as district attorney, sent his son August 26, 1895. In it he told him not to bring any scalps to Del Norte County as the county was no longer paying for scalps taken in Siskiyou County.

In fairness to Bledsoe though, his recollection is missing this information because the book he authored was printed in 1881.


Cathy Dunlap, 1956-1976

The accident happened sometime in the early morning hours, jus’ north of the Trees Motel. The vehicle Cathy Dunlap was in drifted off of Highway 101 and slammed into the trees lining the road.

Dad said Cathy, who had turned 20-years-old the month before, had died on impact. Whether that was true or he had jus’ told me that to make me feel better, I never knew.

It was later in the day when he informed me that he and I were going to go clean up the scene. It was something Dad had me doing since I was nine-years-old.

We drove by the site but since there wasn’t a turn around close by, we had to go to the old saw mill and drive back to it. Dad turned on the fire-rigs flashing lights and we climbed out, put on our gloves and opened the paper bags we used to place things in.

There wasn’t much in the way of personal items, like there can sometimes be in a traffic accident. A car or truck flips over and the windows break and objects get ejected and sometimes lost in the activity of trying to save a life.

There was blush compact and a hair brush as well as a shoe, all picked up and placed in one of the bags. I was down below Dad scanning the ground, when I found a few drops of blood.

I asked Dad, “What do you want me to do?”

“Scatter it as best you can,” he answered.

So I spent the next couple of minutes trying to erase any sign of the blood by kicking the stones and dirt with the toe of my tennis shoe. Then for some reason, I looked up.

Gently waving in the air, hanging from a fracture tree branch was a twist of blond-like hair. At one end I could see, what I can only describe as a tag of skin, hanging from it.

My heavy work gloves wouldn’t let me get a hold of the hair, so I removed my left one and pulled the strands from the tree’s branch. I rolled it around between the tips of my fingers and thumb for a second, and then stopped.

It was like a hot shower had jus’ washed over my face – tears were streaming and I felt so warm I became sick to my stomach. I had jus’ realized that Cathy, a girl I knew and had gone to school with had been killed and I was holding what remained of her.

Dad was quick to come down to me. He took the hair from my hand and placed it in a plastic bag as I stood there crying.

To this day, I’ve never passed that spot in the road without recalling that memory or of Cathy.

Return of the Skinny Man

“I think I jus’ saw a ghost,” Julio said as he walked into the newsroom.

It caused me to flash back to a couple of weeks before, when Paul came to work at his regular time. I was putting the finishing touches on my top-of-hour newscast when he sat down in his usual spot.

Once I was done with the cast, I left the control room and returned to the center console to continue working. That’s when Paul said something – but I didn’t quite hear him.

“What did you say?” I asked.

“I hope I didn’t do something to cause me a problem later,” he responded.

Puzzled, I asked, “What are you talking about?”

Paul explained, “I walked into the break room and in front of the soda were a bunch of aluminum cans arranged in the shape of a cross.”

I stopped what I was doing, “Are you kidding me?”

“No,” he answered.

Mind you, I was the only person in the building the last two and a half hours — and it wasn’t me who set the can’s up like that. Now Julio was standing in the newsroom, obviously shaken by what he’d witnessed.

 “I saw someone walk through the hallway and into the conference room,” he said, “But when I went to see who it was – nobody was there.”

Boogie looked at me as I asked, “What did this person look like?

“Tall and skinny,” Julio relied.

“Okay,” Boogie interrupted, “I’m getting goose bumps jus’ thinking about this.”

“Well,” I returned, “That fits the general description of whatever it is we’ve been seeing.”

“What are you talking about?” Julio wanted to know.

“Both Tom and I’ve seen the same thing,” Boogie answered, “So welcome to the club.”

Boogie has seen the skinny man at least three times, I’ve seen him twice and now Julio has seen him. What the skinny man is or why he travels the radio station hallways, no one seems to know.

Inspired Writing: O. Henry

It was during my banishment from Margaret Keating School and while attending St. Joe’s that I learned about William Sydney Porter. He’s better known by nom de plume as O. Henry.

Now I had heard of O. Henry and knew at least one of his short stories, that being, “The Gift of the Magi,” but I didn’t realize he was known for this kind of Genre – the twist ending. O. Henry’s stories are famous for their surprise endings, so much so, such an ending is often referred to as an “O. Henry ending.”

Porter was born September 11, 1862, in Greensboro, North Carolina. His middle name at birth was Sidney; he changed the spelling to Sydney in 1898.

Later he moved to Texas where he worked in a bank, was accused of embezzlement and lost his job but was not indicted. From there he wrote and drew for a publication he started called “The Rolling Stone.”

In less than a year the publication failed and he returned to working in the banking industry. However he was caught embezzling and charged with the crime.

But before he could be brought to trial, he fled to Honduras.  Then he learned his wife was dying, so he returned to the U.S., where he was immediately arrested.

In short order, he was tried, convicted and sentenced to five-years in the Ohio State Prison. He was eventually released after serving only three-years, due to good behavior.

Porter’s most prolific writing period started in 1902, when he moved to New York City.  While there, he wrote 381 short stories.

By 1908, his health started to deteriorate and it affected his writing. He died June 5, 1910, of cirrhosis of the liver cirrhosis, complications of diabetes and an enlarged heart.

From O. Henry – or rather William Sydney Porter – I discovered a simple twist, coupled to a health dose of humor, makes a story interesting in the end. Furthermore, he’s a prime example of overcoming failure, maintaining a personal goal and eventually finding success.

Dave Barnett

Our falling out started shortly after I went to work at KNSS. He left the station about the same time and went to work at KROI.

Dave Barnett and I hadn’t gotten along for a number of years afterwards. Finally in 2000, I went and asked why was so pissed off at me.

When I started at KNSS, I decided to use a catch-phrase I’d been hearing for three or so years by another disc jockey in Eureka. “Dingy-Dandy-Dancin’,” Dana Hall was the morning talent at KRED at the time I left the coast and headed for Nevada.

Since I was nearly 400-miles away and I liked the catch-phrase, I tried it on the air — but it jus’ didn’t fit my personality, so I dropped it. Dave heard it and it felt slighted,  believing I had stolen it directly from him.

Evidently Dave used a similar catch-phrase, but I didn’t know it at the time. I explained this to him and apologized for the difficulty it had brought, to which he accepted.

Unfortunately — the damage was done and we never spoke again after that.  And now — well, now — it’s too late to rectify the situation, as Dave passed away July 9th, 2008.

Political Temper Tantrums and Jobs

Nevada’s unemployment rate held steady at 13.4 percent in September as jobless figures fell in other states. The September figure is a drop from a year ago at 14.9 percent.    

State employment department economists say 10,000 jobs were added, but most were seasonal and the net job gain was closer to 1,800.  Governor Brian Sandoval says the stabilizing numbers are a good sign but officials still need to work to spur job growth and re-training.    

The Las Vegas metropolitan area continues to post the highest jobless numbers, with 13.6 percent unemployment last month, compared to 12.6 percent in the Reno-Sparks area and 12.4 percent in Carson City.  Nevada lags behind the national September jobless rate of 9.1 percent.

But the state’s GOP leadership has bigger fish to fry, as the chairman of the Republican National Committee is urging Nevada Republicans to delay their caucuses by three weeks to February 4th. RNC Chairman Reince Priebus says in a letter that changing the date will benefit Nevada in several ways, including giving it a more prominent place on the nomination calendar.      

Several Republican presidential candidates and the state of New Hampshire are furious over Nevada having scheduled its contest for January 14th. They argue that would wedge New Hampshire’s primary too close to Nevada’s voting and Iowa’s caucuses, which are slated for January 3rd.          

My first reaction is wanting to tell New Hampshire, the RNC and any boycotting Presidential candidate to piss off — but I’m think better of this. Instead state GOP leaders ought to move the caucuses so they end after all others. This would place Nevada right on par with being dead-last in the nation with employment as well as its highest-in-the-country foreclosure rate.

Jus’ a suggestion, since arguing over caucuses isn’t bringing jobs to Nevada either.

Perfect Bite Mark

Mom was baking cookies and had jus’ set the metal baking sheet on the counter to cool before lifting them off. Her last words were, “Be careful, it’s hot.”

Evidently, Deirdre wasn’t listening,  more focused on the cookies than what Mom told her and Marcy. Without hesitation, other than to check to be certain Mom wasn’t looking, Deirdre took a bite.

Mind you, she didn’t lift one of the cooling cookies from the sheet –- no -– she bit the cookie as it lay on the sheet. This was followed by the most painful scream a five-year-old could manage with a mouthful of hot baked goods.

Within seconds the evidence of what had happened was plain to see on Deirdre’s face as both her upper and lower lips were swollen with blisters. Mom took her to the kitchen sink and started applying cool water to her burn,  followed by some ice cubes and later a trip to Seaside Hospital.  

As for me, I recall looking at the sheet, with a perfect bite mark in one of the cookies, then — like a dutiful brother — laughing.