Wednesday, July 1, 2009

Missing Pawnee Wells

Above: the cabin as it looks today.
A bit worse for wear, but still standing!

Juliet here:
When I was a mere stripling, my parents bought a 20 acre parcel of land in Northern California's Siskiyou Mountains, east of Yreka --$8,000, back in the day. My dad talked his good buddy, George Heskett, into buying the plot adjoining ours sight unseen, and for the next couple of decades my folks and their three girls would spend the summers up on the mountain with the Hesketts' three girls, along with whatever hangers-on were willing to brave the mosquitoes. Our place was dubbed Pawnee Wells, and the Heskett's was Dinky Springs.

To the right: my sisters helping me to walk on the foundation logs of the "temporary" cabin, built by hand by my mother and father

Surrounded by Klamath National Forest, sixteen miles from the nearest town -- Fort Jones, boasting all of 500 residents-- There was no power or telephone, but there was a creek nearby with the sweetest-tasting water...apparently in those days we were either blissfully unaware of water-borne illnesses, or they weren't so much of a problem.

To the left: me "helping" my dad, starting me on a lifelong career as a painter

Sure, we sat around innumerable campfires, sang, ate S'mores, and told stories. But it was much more than that.

Here are some memories of those long, hot, blissfully lazy summers, in no particular order:

Going to Jones Beach, a small patch of sand at the banks of the Scott River, riding the rapids in massive inner tubes, reading, and soaking up the sun...

Catching frogs and digging clay out of the clear cold creek beside the cabin, convinced we could make a fortune selling "natural" pots...

Scrounging around in that very same creek, determined to find just one more Shasta Grape Soda floating around in the murky bottom of the "cooling hole" where we kept our drinks....

Spending several days setting up a "haunted trail" which all adults were invited (read: required) to tour, including an entrance fee and plenty of chances to throw money into the Haunted Well and the Haunted Grave...

Making "snakeskins" by putting Styrofoam cups on the end of sticks and letting them melt and twist in the fire (these were then featured along the Haunted Trail, see above)....

Waging a merciless campaign of nagging and cajoling that began about one week into the vacation, wherein we children would target some poor adult with the aim of getting them to take us the twenty-five miles into nearby Etna (population 700 --the "big town" in the Scott Valley), which had a theater that ran third-run movies ( I remember seeing "House of Blood"). This outing always included a stop at Dotty's Jolly Cone, which served chocolate-dipped soft-serve ice cream that would inevitably drip down your arm before you had a chance to eat it.

To the right: My very tired (yet handsome) father with his three girls (me making a face, of course)

It was the kind of multi-week summer idyll most of us don't have time for anymore. I know I don't.

When I returned to California after spending ten years back East, I packed my boy, a couple of brave friends, and a whole lot of supplies into my truck and headed north, cleaned out fifteen years of mouse droppings and deteriorated furniture, jacked up the porch, laid down some tile, cleared the fire circle, and set up summer residence once again in the cabin that my folks built by hand.

When they built it, they declared it was the temporary structure that would suffice until they built their dream home on the mountain. Things change, plans go awry. But the cabin is still standing, guarding our memories and summer secrets.

I was bound and determined to go up this summer to lay on the beach with a book, write by hand on a pad of paper, and trek into town for a soft ice cream cone (which, I have to admit, is not nearly so sweet now that I can drive myself any time I want.)

But no luck. With two manuscripts (for two different series) and a media tour planned this summer, I finally had to admit last week that I wasn't going to make it to Pawnee Wells this year, after all.

But I expect part of my mind, and most of my heart, will always remain at Pawnee Wells, relishing the never-ending summers.

And once I make a my fortune and find the time, you'll know where to find me...just stop in at Charlie Bob's bar in Fort Jones, and ask for directions.

9 comments:

Sophie Littlefield said...

that was magic. love that picture of you with a paint roller!! I'd go on the haunted tour any day :)

Lisa Hughey said...

Oh, lovely. What a great memory and how cool that you still have the property. :) Here's wishing you can squeeze out a little time this summer :)

Hard Boiled Mysti said...

You'd think with the financial crisis our employers would be BEGGING us to take extra time off. Not so my guys. Reading your post, I can remember the gorgeous smell of summer in the mountains, and the unique pleasure of doing it yourself :)

Thanks for sharing!!!!!!

Anonymous said...

ummm... there's a story missing ... the bear, the string and the hammer?!

Anonymous said...

Wade Penning might have something to say about you inviting people onto his retirement.

Anonymous said...

Wade Penning isn't going to appreciate you inviting people onto the retirement. His ex-wife told me he's not too friendly with strangers.

pamela groves said...

Great story; lovely photos. One day I hope to join you there!

Mario said...

Making a face? I knew that was you right away.

Dana Fredsti said...

Sigh... I am so loving these summer posts. This one really captures an era when kids were kids - no video games or texting... I remember those days.

Loved it!!