Spring’s arrived in my neck of the woods – or more appropriately – the high desert. The crocuses are budding and the reptiles are coming out of their long-time’s burrows.

The latter wouldn’t have been known to me if it hadn’t been for my black lab, Yaeger. He was kind enough to bring me the gift of a snake — indoors.

The thing is – the snake was still alive. In fact while Yaeger had a toothy grip of the serpent, it had his head wrapped in its coils.

When I saw what he had in his jaws, I was able to chase the other three dogs from the house and drop the doggie door. I then proceeded to examine the snake – albeit — from a safe distance.

At first I thought the snake was a rather large Diamondback Rattler. It had all the tell-tale markings of this highly venomous reptile.

But I quickly noted it was missing a set of rattlers and the shape of its head was longer than it was triangle-shaped. Therefore, I concluded it was simply a Gopher Snake.

As a rule Gopher snakes are harmless. They won’t bite unless they’re threatened.

This one was obviously threatened.

So calmly and as gently as I could, I tried to get Yaeger to let go of the snake. Instead, he wanted to “play a game of keep away.” After four or perhaps five times around the kitchen island, I grew frustrated and yelled, “Damn it, Yaeger!”

His lab-brain must have heard something different – like, maybe – “Drop it, Yaeger!” because that’s exactly what he did. Now, I had no idea how fast a snake could move across a hard wood floor.

The reptile came directly at me and I was compelled to jump on the kitchen island to escape. Meantime, Yaeger simply walked over and climbed in my easy chair to watch as the games begin.

The snake, I estimate, was about four and half to 5-feet in length and was able to clear the couch within seconds of me gathering my wits and giving chase. After going up and over the couch, as opposed to under it, the snake headed for the sliding glass door.

It slapped into the glass three times at full-tilt, trying to get outside, but didn’t slow down to allow me enough time to open the door. Instead it zipped around the corner and down our hallway towards the bedrooms.

Fortunately, all three bedroom doors were closed. Had it gotten in one of them, I’d possibly still be on the hunt for it.

Instead it lay, coiled up at the end of the hallway and displayed the behavior of the snake I first believed it to be. It was trapped and like most wild animal’s, it was willing to battle its way free.

Slowly, I walked towards the snake, removing my zip-up sweat-shirt and sat down a couple of feet from it. I didn’t reach for it or anything – I jus’ sat quietly.

About fifteen to 20 minutes later, I Gopher snake had relaxed from it defensive posturing and started to flick its tongue about — tasting the air and exploring its unfamiliar environment. A few more minutes and it moved away from the wall, coming to where I was seated.

It took me only seconds to bundle it in my sweat shirt and head for the front door. I jumped in my truck and drove to the end of our road, to where we have a huge undeveloped field — and I release the Gopher snake.

When I got home, I checked Yaeger for possible bites and found none – so no blood, no foul in my book. I’m still concerned though – if a Gopher snake was in our yard this early in the year– are we about to get a mischief of mice?

I should’ve asked the Golfer snake before letting him go.


Beyond the Emidio

For the most part, Japanese submarines operated off the west coast of the U.S. freely in the early months of World War II. As plans were made for the attack on Pearl Harbor, the Imperial Japanese Navy’s 6th Fleet submarines were directed to “make reconnaissance of American Fleet in Hawaii and West Coast area, and, by surprise attacks on shipping, destroy lines of communication.”

After participating in the operations directed against Pearl Harbor, the 6th Fleet dispatched nine submarines to attack shipping along the coasts of California, Oregon, and Washington. These submarines began arriving off the coast about December 17th.

The submarine flotilla had orders to engage in simultaneous shelling of coastal cities Christmas Eve. However at the last moment, Japanese naval command directed the submarines to abandon the attack and to return to their base at Kwajalein.

Only four of the nine attacked any shipping. The tanker Agwi-World was shelled by a submarine off Santa Cruz, California, December 19th, but escaped. Four other vessels, the Emidio, Samoa, Larry Doheny, and Montebello were also attacked off the California coast before Christmas.

One of the vessels attacked was the General Petroleum Tanker S.S. Emidio. The attacking submarine was the I-17 and would become the first enemy to shell the continental United States in World War II by attacking the Ellwood Oil Company refinery, near Santa Barbara, in February 1942.

Saturday, December 20th, Emidio was running down the coast, when at one in the afternoon, the lookout sighted a submarine bearing down. Captain A. C. Farrow, in an effort to escape started a standard zigzagging maneuver, which took the 7,000-ton tanker near to the coast.

Realizing he’d be unable to outrun the submarine, Farrow ordered, “full speed, and dump ballast, but we had no chance to escape. We were rapidly overtaken. The sub was making 20 knots. I tried to get behind her but she reversed course and kept after us.”

The submarine soon drew within range. Her gunners then opened fire with their 5-1/2-inch gun.

A salvo of six shells was fired, five of them striking their target. Several of the lifeboats were damaged, the tankers radio put out of action, and three sailors, R.W. Pennington, Fred Potts and Stuart McGillivray were knocked over board.

The radioman W.S. Foote, however, was able to get off an S.O.S. before his set went dead.

Then Farrow and most of the crew abandoned the Emidio. While they were searching for the men blown overboard, a U.S. Navy patrol bomber appeared, forcing the submarine to cut short its attack and submerge.

With only a skeleton crew aboard, the Emidio was beginning to list to the starboard or right side, while Farrow and his crew in the lifeboats looked, unsuccessfully for the men hurled overboard. Then as soon as the bomber disappeared, the submarine resurfaced, closed to within a quarter-mile, sending a torpedo slamming into the already stricken tanker.

The torpedo exploded in the after engine room, killing Kenneth Kimes and R.A. Winters, who were two of the eleven men remaining aboard. After the submarine had disappeared, the two lifeboats took on the nine survivors of the skeleton crew and headed for the coast.

Twelve hours later, they reached Blunts Reef Lightship.

When interviewed, Farrow called the attack, “shameful and ruthless,” and charged the Japanese with deliberately shelling their lifeboats before they could be lowered.

“If we had been armed,” he added, “we’d have had a good chance against the submarine, as she was within easy range.”

I-17 was eventually sunk August 19th, 1943, by an aircraft from the armed New Zealand trawler HMNZ Tui. Only six survivors from a compliment of 100 were pulled from the water.

As for the Emidio, it refused to sink.

It drifted north with the current, and came ashore on Steamboat Rock, near the entrance of Crescent City harbor, on the evening of December 25th. Hundreds of people crowded Battery Point the next day to view the dying ship.

The tanker’s bow was out of the water, with the after portion submerged. One person reported, “The bridge and forward deck are out of the water, the ship’s stack with the letter, G, rising out of the water at the stern, which appears to be riding on the rocky bottom. The bow moves with the rise and fall of the waves.”

Emidio drifted free Wednesday, January 14th, and wallowed in the entrance to Fish Harbor. To prevent the derelict from damaging other craft or blocking the harbor’s entrance altogether, Leo Ward was taken out to the hulk and released its anchor.

Although the vessel was in custody of the United States Coast Guard, Ward was interested in the possibility of salvaging the vessel, and he had contacted officials of General Petroleum in San Pedro. He believed the bow of Emidio was sound, and if the after portion could be raised with pontoons or cut away, the craft could be salvaged.

However, R. C. Porter of San Francisco made a better offer for the hulk than Ward, and he acquired salvage rights to Emidio.  He hired a crew of local fishermen and boats to carry out the project.

But Porter failed to notify the Coast Guard of his plan, and he and his men were fired on by the guard as they sought to board the wreck. After identifying themselves, they were allowed to proceed.

In the meantime, Ward cut the anchor chain and the sea carried the hulk toward Fauntleroy Rock. Nine years later the rusty bow was finally broken up for scrap, with a set of forward bollards and a section of the hull placed at the foot of H Street as a memorial.

The final Japanese submarine patrol off the coast of Del Norte was undertaken in reprisal for the Doolittle raid and also involved the same submarine. The submarine with its reconnaissance plane equipped for bombing, reached the coast jus’ north of the Oregon border at the end of August 1942.

September 9th the plane dropped an incendiary bomb into a heavily wooded area on a mountain slope, near Brookings, Oregon. The bomb started a forest fire, which was quickly brought under control by fire-fighters.

After evading American forces, the submarine torpedoed and sank two tankers on October 4th and 6th off the coast of southern Oregon. These attacks marked an end to Japanese submarine activity off the west coast.

I-25 was sunk less than a year later by the destroyer U.S.S. Patterson, August 25th, 1943. All 100 sailors and officers aboard the vessel perished.

Nevada’s Still Looking for Green Jobs

President Obama’s making a pitch for his national energy strategy.  Speaking in Boulder City, Nevada, at the Copper Mountain Solar I plant, he says the strategy must include an aggressive pursuit of clean, alternative energy sources.

The President also says the solar energy industry’s increasing, adding the U.S. must continue efforts to lessen dependency on foreign oil.  However, he failed to speak about the number of green jobs clean energy’s providing in the state with the nations highest unemployment rate.

That’s because at Copper Mountain Solar One, which is touted as the nation’s largest photovoltaic solar power plant, there are only five permanent full-time employees. Mind you, the cost of the plant is about $141 million with CMS II currently being built and CMS III in the planning stage.

That’s not much bang for your taxpayer buck.

Tape Delayed Fight

Like most brother’s so close in age, Adam and I used to get in physical altercations. Sometimes I’d be the one who’d start it — other times Adam would start them.

What we were fighting over at the time is now lost to me, however it became quickly evident that Mom had enough of our bickering. It’s probable I was the one who was picking on Adam and that’s why Mom decided on the kind of punishment she did.

She made me sit on a stool in the living room. Immediately she started taping me to the stool using a roll of heavy packing tape.

By the time she was done, I was strapped in a seated position and couldn’t stand up. My right arm and hand were also taped to my side and lap.

Then Mom told Adam and I to duke it out.

At that moment Adam and I started swinging at one another. He was landing blow after blow to my head because he wasn’t taped down like me.

After a number of strikes to my face — I was able to target one real good hard punch to Adam’s crotch. The blow dropped him to the floor.

In anger I forced my way into a standing position and wiggled my right arm free. I was now ready to take on Adam in a fair fight — if he should ever get up off the carpet.

Mom concluded that was enough and she stepped in before anything further happened. She left me to finish untaping myself as she picked Adam off the ground.

It was the last time she ever punished us in this manner. When we were older,  Adam and I would talk about the incident, laughing much to Mom’s embarrassment.

History of the Blue Ledge Mine

While doing some research about Del Norte resident L.F. Cooper, I found out he and others were invested in a mining operation in a neighboring county. Furthermore the mine exists today.

Somewhere between 1896 and 1898, copper deposits were discovered in Siskiyou County, near the Oregon border. Named the Blue Ledge for it’s distinct coloring, the mine was slowly development over the next couple of years.

Ownership fell to L.F. Cooper, William H. Hamilton, and others of Crescent City in 1902. However in June 1904 the Blue Ledge was purchased by John R. Allen and Associates of New York.

Lucius Franklin Cooper was a surveyor, attorney at law, and notary public.  According to the 1885 Del Norte Directory, he owned 456 acres of land jus’ outside Crescent City.

Furthermore, Cooper’s listed as a State Assemblyman in 1880, having also served on the Del Norte County Board of Supervisors and having been the county’s District Attorney. Cooper passed away November 5, 1909.

William Hamilton’s a bit harder to trace. He may well have been the head of the law firm Hamilton & Hammond in Crescent City. This is based on the fact Cooper was also a lawyer.

However, while one William Hamilton’s middle initial’s listed as “H,” the others is recorded as “A.” Adding to the confusion — a William Hamilton is listed as having married Cora Moore, January 8, 1890 – and that Hamilton has no middle initial at all.

Subsequently, the mine was expanded and in 1905 it was sold to Robert Safford Towne, president of Compania Metalurgica Mexicana (CMM). Chartered in New Jersey in 1890, CMM was part of a holding that included several railroads, a timber company, a smelter, and mines all located largely in Mexico.

At Towne’s death in 1916, his estate was appraised at $2,500,000. The value of all the property he controlled, but did not own, was even greater.

Towne’s vehicle for developing the Blue Ledge was the Blue Ledge Mining Company. He invested nearly $2 million in the operation.

Ledgers from 1905-1909, written by F.W. Carnahan, Towne’s chief engineer on the site, document expansion and exploration of the mine. Although the Blue Ledge claims were patented in 1911, the mine was inactive between 1909 and 1916.

In 1913, the mine was transferred to the Mexican Smelting and Refining Company, a subsidiary of CMM. That same year, the American Smelting and Refining Company (ASARCO), founded in 1899 by financial baron Henry H. Rogers, became financially involved with the Blue Ledge.

Yet, according to the California State Mining Bureau’s State Report from 1913-1914, “Blue Ledge, owned by Blue Ledge Mining Company, of New York, is located in the Elliott mining district in the Siskiyou Mountain range and near the boundary line between California and Oregon.”

The report adds, “Hutton is the nearest post office. The mine is connected by wagon roar with Joe Bar, an old placer camp.  It is reported that the company has planned the erection of a smelter on the Applegate River.”

By 1900, the Guggenheims gained control of ASARCO, and in 1905 they floated securities to purchase, among other properties, the smelter at Tacoma, Washington. A 1990s Blue Ledge Mine property report lists ASARCO as the mine owner in 1913, but other sources attribute ownership to the Mexican Smelting and Refining Company.

In either case, CMM came under ASARCO control in 1923 when ASARCO was given a 60-percent interest in a number of Towne mines. Towne’s heirs, however, still held title to the properties.

CMM was integrated into a holding company, Towne Mines, Inc., which in turn was directed by ASARCO. A 1925 mining report remarks the Blue Ledge was reportedly sold to Guggenheim interests but was still assessed to the Mexican Smelting and Refining Company.

The Blue Ledge re-opened in 1930 following its lease to Dr. J.F. Reddy of Medford, Oregon and George Hughes of Spokane. The mine’s ownership history in the subsequent years remains murky.

California mining reports credit ownership of the Blue Ledge to Towne Mines, Inc. in 1935, CMM in 1944, and the Mexican Mining and Refining Company in 1947. During these years, limited exploration of the mine was conducted as well as a U.S. Bureau of Mines study that involved some sampling and drilling.

In 1956, Transcontinental Resources purchased the mine and in 1974 Blue Ledge was again sold, this time to Michelle Tracy. Blue Ledge was then leased in 1981 to Freeport Exploration.

The mine was joint-ventured to Long Lac Mineral Exploration in 1984. A Forest Service memo cites Sikaman Gold Resources of Toronto as the mine owner in August 1991.

Further Forest Service records lists attorney Robert J. Custis as the mines owner in 1998. By 2002 the ownership of the mine was back with Tracey, who was looking to sell it.

In June 2010, the federal government began cleaning up the 50,000 cubic yards of mine tailings containing concentrations of heavy metals.  The $13.6 million project is being paid for through federal stimulus funds.

Nevada Lawmakers Sans Job Creation

Nevada lawmakers have been busy this week, hearing bills and creating laws to better the lives of residents in this great state. Problem is — so far I see nothing that creates jobs — something Nevadans are desperate for.

Health care workers could have a state-mandated to-do list if a new bill becomes law. Las Vegas Democratic Assemblyman John Oceguera introduced AB280 which would require hospitals to develop safety checklists to remind workers of tasks such as washing hands after touching a contaminated surface and positively identifying a patient before treatment to avoid mix-ups.

A bill before a state House committee would require a prescription for over-the-counter cold medicines that contain ingredients used to make methamphetamine. Authorities says the easy sale of such products contributes to Nevada’s methamphetamine problem. Detractors dismissed the criticism, saying electronic tracking is an effective tool against abuse.

The Senate Health and Human Services Committee heard testimony on SB224 and SB228. The bills would make it illegal to possess or sell synthetic marijuana or bath salts which are smoked or snorted. Opposition was limited to how to best define the drugs, whether specifying compounds or opting for a broader language that would encompass a class of compounds.

Members of the Assembly Transportation Committee on Tuesday heard AB188, which would bar semi-trucks from hauling three trailers and bring Nevada in line with 38 other states. Bill supporters say triple trailers are so long that drivers have difficulty passing them, and the last trailer is vulnerable to flipping over. AB188 would still allow other long trailer configurations that proponents say are easier to maneuver.

A bill introduced in the Nevada Assembly would create a license plate specifically for female veterans. Las Vegas Democratic Assemblyman Elliott Anderson introduced AB27 which would add the plates to Nevada’s selection of specialized plates that already include one supporting all veterans. Anderson is a Marine Corps veteran and said the plates would honor women for their service in the predominantly male armed forces. Funds from the plates would go to veterans’ outreach programs.

Critics say a Nevada bill banning air fresheners and candles in public places would lead to stinky rooms and prohibit priests from using candles in Mass. Las Vegas Democratic Assemblyman Paul Aizley presented the proposed legislation, which would set restrictions on pesticides, fragrances and candles to accommodate people with chemical sensitivities. Proponents said air fresheners give them migraines or asthma attacks and prevent them from going to the movies or to restaurants.

Critics counter the bill would affect everything from candlelit restaurants and weddings, not to mention unmasked odors in public bathrooms.

Nevada is also tackling truancy with a bill tying incentives such as teen drivers’ licenses and parents’ hunting licenses to school attendance. The Assembly Education Committee heard AB64, which including provisions that make graduation policies more flexible and others that allow principals to bring law enforcement to investigate a truancy case. It also requires students to show proof of school attendance or graduation before they can get a driver’s license or work permit.

The Nevada Assembly has approved a bill making it easier to buy and sell guns across state lines. AB217 repeals a section of state law that only allows such sales if the buyer and seller live in states adjacent to Nevada. The bill allows sales of rifles and shotguns between a resident of one state and a federally licensed firearms dealer in another state. Sales must comply with the laws of both states included in the transaction.

A bill heard by the Senate Judiciary Committee that would empower Nevada’s attorney general to create task forces to examine fatal domestic violence cases. SB66 would also authorize creation of a panel to examine how domestic violence cases that end in suicide or death are handled.

Under current law only a court or local agency can create task forces to examine domestic violence cases.

So far, all I see is a lot of over-regulation. Finally why is it that the many have to suffer for the whims of the few?

Mining in Del Norte

Del Norte County yielded several types of metal to miners who worked here more than 100 years ago. Gold mining began in 1851, and by the late 1800s remained one of the “most important” of its industries, according to A.J. Bledsoe, who published a history of the area in 1881.

By that date, Bledsoe included placer diggings on Smith River and the Klamath along with the off-and-on efforts to mine the black sands at the foot of Gold Bluffs, south of the mouth of the Klamath River. Although considerable money had been invested at Happy Camp, Bledsoe wrote that it remained the only section of the county not yet to receive any capital benefit.

At the time he published his history, Bledsoe said the most important mine in the Happy Camp District was Del Norte Hydraulic Mining Company’s. Its diggings were a mile above the town.

But four other mines and various river bar claims also dotted the area. The gold mining areas of Big Flat, Haynes Flat and French Hill were worked since about 1854.

Miners worked the Smith River with placer mining methods, but did not find large amounts of gold, so when the beach sands of Gold Bluff began drawing notice the miners paid great attention. Other gold-bearing sands were found at Humboldt Bay, Klamath River and Crescent City, but Gold Bluff became the most consistently mined for about 20 years.

Gold was not the only metal mined, however. Silver, copper, chrome, iron and coal also drew investors.

Silver was not found in a specific area but rather in ledges throughout the county. Copper was localized around Low Divide in the north-west part of the county, in the vicinity of the chrome-bearing ores. Low Divide also contained “enormous” amounts of iron ore of various grades.

Although coal was discovered at Point St. George, Bledsoe noted that “like every other mining company, with the exception of the Tyson company, the coal company was destitute of capital.” It sank a shaft about 70-80 feet, but was told to suspend work by its creditors.

Bledsoe described the coal as brown and of valuable properties. Copper mining in Del Norte County had a 20-year run before the industry went belly up.