I had the great fortune of spending my high school years growing up in Quartz Valley, Siskiyou County, a picture postcard little valley with a river running through it. It was nestled between Scott Valley with its busy little towns of Greenview, Fort Jones and Etna to the east, and Marble Mountain Wilderness Area to the west. In the early 1960s, living on a small hay ranch, the work seemed to never end. But I made a little money hauling hay for the neighbors under intense blue skies and cut firewood for the Quartz Valley schoolhouse in the smoky meadows of fall. Local forest fires were common in late summer, enhancing a sense of seasonality in an otherwise timeless corner of the world.
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Kelsey Thom, a wise old Karok Indian, spoke in soft clipped sentences. On occasion he would share with me the many wonders of nature and its link to our spiritual sense as we cut firewood or panned little nuggets from (a secret) creek. Whether hunting morel mushrooms, icknish or deer, one of his pearls of wisdom, “Takesome leavesome,” was simple enough for the boy that I was, and has always stayed with me. Kelsey was a remarkably sage and generous man as well as a decorated WWI veteran.
In Quartz Valley, spring and fall were marked not so much by a calendar, but by the melodious chatter of migrating Sandhill cranes. They flew so high one often couldn’t see them, but their distinct, unique sound was like a thousand distant flutes, a symphony to them and a message of time for those who listened. Winter was marked in the early morning light by a vast white carpet of sparkling diamonds stretched out for two miles along the gravel road where my brothers and I rode bicycles to the bus stop.
Like spokes on a wheel radiating outward, I believe I hiked and explored every hill and forest of firs, every creek and pond with its blue, green and red dragonflies, every deer trail, mountain and ridgeline of rock that could be crossed in a day’s venture. Later I took three- to four-day hikes to many of the high mountain lakes like Campbell and Big Blue where silver flashing Eastern brook and rainbow trout were caught on bare hooks as fast as they could be reeled in — where one was reminded to feed the campfire when signaled by the hair-raising scream of a midnight mountain lion. Today there are many more black bear at those lakes than in the 60s … and a lot fewer people in the valley.
Etna High School, a place where I used to play basketball and on occasion, hooky, has become smaller. Why? A once prosperous thriving valley of ranchers, loggers and cattlemen, a place where I learned to fly a little Cessna 140 on our homemade airstrip and reconned places I had only dreamed of hiking. On my daily trek to and from the bus stop I crossed a flat stretch of gravel lined with cottonwoods called Emigrant Creek. At one time it was covered by hovels where 3,000 Chinese laborers lived and worked the shallow gold-laced waters.
Today there’s not a trace of them left save an occasional opium bottle the size of a golf ball. When the gold ran out, so too did the immigrants, a natural decline in human population. But today, the unnatural decline of a modern population is still hard to fathom. Grocery stores, barbershops and Edgecomb’s hardware store … gone. Most of it is gone or barely surviving on some government subsidy. Driving familiar roads off the main highway I‘m struck by the virtual time capsule of change, but it’s upside down. There are overgrown pastures and broken fences, empty houses with fallen barns. The specter of man-made catastrophe by overregulation has arrived … clearly a black mark in the history of the west, and for mankind.
If one were to make a list of all the layered federal, state and county regulations, policies and twisted environmental pressures imposed on this land and its people, the consequences of such would fall into perfect alignment with UN Agenda 21. So we are now living under global regulation as well. Where is that written in our Constitution? More importantly, are we just going to accept losing America to politicians who lied to us when they swore to uphold and defend it? They are either incompetent, or liars … or both. How could this happen any other way? To refute this is to ignore the truth.
Even the British Magna Carta of 1215 AD, the foundation of the freedom of the individual against the arbitrary authority of the King, granted private property rights. What sleight of hand are we being dealt today by the EPA, in full view of our legislature?
If Kelsey Thom and his blood-stained band of doughboys dying in French trenches of 1917 could have seen the future of their sacrifice, our “land of the not-so- free and the home of the homeless,” I wonder if their attention would have turned towards a more fundamental evil, the thieves of our promised destiny?
Rod Kerr is retired with 30 years of service at the California Department of Food Agriculture and with the Oregon Department of Environmental Quality.