The Cactus Patch
Volume 14       February 2011      Number 02

Somewhere the Sun is Shining
A Letter From Bruce
by Bruce Hargreaves

Somewhere the sun is shining,
Somewhere the people shout,
But there is no joy in Mudville,
Mighty Casey has struck out!
~Casey at the Bat

I was born and raised in Mudville (aka Tuleburg), although by the time I arrived the Delta had been diked and drained and renamed Stockton. I knew of the rivers which were above street level and, of course, the famous “Inland Port” (from which the baseball team received its name the Stockton Ports), but it wasn’t until 1955 that I realized how precarious the whole water system in California is. That year we moved out of the Central Valley and settled (briefly) in dry Riverside.

That Christmas we set out at 3 a.m. on the long drive to Stockton to celebrate with my Grandfather. Unfortunately, we had a flat tire somewhere in the desert. It only took a half hour to change, but that brought us to the bridge at Madera just after the river had risen enough to close 99. We detoured West through Firebaugh and eventually made it back to 99 five hours later. (We barely made it through the western roads as they were flooded as well!) We survived on the Pfefferneusse which we traditionally bake for Christmas. To this day some of the family hates these cookies while others (like me) love them. We eventually made it to Stockton and learned of flooding throughout California. In one city (Marysville, I think) logs came in through the courthouse wall.

[From the National Weather Service: “December 1955 Flooding: Extensive flooding a few days before Christmas throughout central and northern California. Close to record floods on most of the major Central Valley rivers and the greatest flow of record to that time on the Eel River on the North Coast. Statewide disaster declared. Calculated Damages: 74 deaths, $200 million economic losses.” -editor]

In 1956, we moved to Bakersfield, which seemed a nice dry town. In 1963, Polly and I joined the Kern Cactus Club and learned of Sand Ridge from Jack Zaninovich who was active with Nature Conservancy. I asked my father (an authority on things geological) how such a formation came to be. He dismissed it as, “Just sand brought down by Caliente Creek.” I looked at the trickle and wondered how this could be. In 1983, I learned! By that time my father was settled on a farm just north of Lamont. I had started teaching at the National University of Lesotho, but Polly stayed behind with the boys while I settled in. Back on the farm, the rains came down and the floods came up. Caliente Creek broke loose and the farm was cut off except for a track in the back. (Fortunately the land was higher than the surrounding area.) Polly was working in town and had to wend her way through the water. We survived and didn’t lose trees etc. like our neighbors.

I was not surprised to learn that Lamont was once again inundated in the recent rain. Fortunately we remained high and dry on Olive Drive. The only bad news was damage to the ceiling on the add-on room (originally probably just a porch) in back of the house. When I first saw this, I couldn’t believe it as the whole house had recently been re-roofed. I found that the back add-on had a flat roof which had not been replaced. This was confirmed by Mr. Fiddler, the Roofer, who still has not come to see what can be done. (I note that Herb Benham also has had roof problems, so we are not alone.) Richard Beene of the Californian wrote (17 Jan.), “You know you’re from Bakersfield when you’re always thankful if there’s water in your river.” Always?

Other bad news: Polly’s lounge chair collapsed and an element went out on the stove. Polly phoned the number on the bottom of the chair and got a free rod with bolts to repair it. The only problem was a lack of instructions. It only took three tries to get it right and Polly’s back hurt for days. The element is still awaiting repair, but the parts have arrived.

On the 21st we drove around Hagen Oaks to gawk at the outrageous displays. I wish I could afford to waste money like that! On the 24th we had dinner at Anne’s, but the crowd was smaller than the Thanksgiving one. The only out-of-towners were Anne’s son Shannon and family from San Francisco. Next morning we had breakfast served by Polly and then went back to Anne’s to exchange presents. Dinner was at Lora’s with her husband Dave present. (He has finally left his job as a pilot in the Marshall Islands.)

On the 6th of January we went to Fresno where Woody Minnich presented a new program on Yemen. He included a lot of fascinating architecture and people as well as plants. Anne won three plants at the raffle while Polly and I got none! Interestingly, she got none at the Bakersfield meeting on the 11th, whereas I, my mother and Polly each got one. (Well, I chose a rock with sharks’ teeth instead.) Interestingly, there was some pfefferneusse among the refreshments. It was good to see Jack Kelley back after knee surgery. I hope many of you saw his comments as a Bakersfield “old timer” in Richard Beene’s comments in the Californian. He was also mentioned for his surgery, though Herb Benham got much more space.

The talk Brian gave on fly fishing was interesting, but he had few plants. It did bring back memories of 1963 when Polly and I back-packed from Cedar Grove to Mount Whitney (with my parents and baby Lora as chaperones -- we weren’t married until 1964). Although we had lots of dried food, it was a real pleasure to find that Bubbs Creek was bank to bank trout, so we feasted the whole time. Unfortunately, as we came down from Whitney, we came to an iced-over section of the path. We bypassed it by inching our feet along a crack and swinging from pipes which had been wedged in below the trail. Polly lost her footing and was hanging by one pipe when my father reached out and grabbed her. Her fishing rod knocked off his hat which went sailing down the cliff! We bought him a new one for Christmas (which was also his birthday).

Egret and Kern River

Christmas- Alice, Lora, Linda & Robert

Woody @ Fresno

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