The Old Yuba River Days

Writing can be fun but I think story telling is even more fun.  I want to write stories specifically about my past and things that happened to or because of me.  I hope that some of these stories are amusing to someone other than me.  I have a guy doing carpet cleaning here in my home, cleaning all my carpets before I move out.  So I am sitting here, either watching him or starting to work on my memoir pieces.

So, this little story is about some interesting times when I was a teen.  My Yuba River adventures started in 1978 after graduating high school.  One of my best friends from school, Randy, was looking to go off and make his fortune in gold panning.  His idea was amazing and a bit grandiose.  But I have to give him credit for the plan.  He did all the background education he could.  He spent time in the library, talked to miners that made a living at it.  He saved money like a fiend.

Then, in 1979, he bought the gear that he’d need and he took off for California Gold Country.  At the time, I had gotten a small apartment in Carson City Nevada and did not see much of Randy anymore.  I had been working in my uncles hardware store in South Lake Tahoe up until he closed it due to a bigger competitor moving in down the street.  So, this hardware store owner from the largest hardware store in Carson City had contacted me and asked me to interview for a Vice President position in his company.

I was nineteen and had a hell of a lot of experience in retail and hardware – but this was a dream come true.  So I accepted his offer and moved to Carson City.  I took a little time to move. And while moving, I ventured into the store often to pick up odds and ends.  It also gave me a chance to meet the employees.

Pretty soon, I met the VP of fishing tackle.  I met the VP of paint & wall coverings.  I met the VP of nuts and bolts.  And I found out that I was going to be the VP of plumbing and PVC pipes.  Fuck I was disappointed.  So I went to the owner and told him that I had another offer to work elsewhere and would not take a position with him.

I started job hunting.  I took a position with Culligan as a water filtration system salesman.  I did really well at it – but I was never really comfortable with the cold calling and the high pressure needed to close the sales.

One evening, I was sitting at home and there was a knock at the door.  I opened it to find Randy’s mom.  She said, “Ron, I have something to show you”.  She led me to the back of her truck.  She opened the pickup shell and there sat Randy with a big grin on his face and casts on both legs.

It would have been too much for him to come inside, so I sat on the tailgate of the truck to hear the story of how he’d come to lend up in this condition.

Randy’s First Attempt at Gold Panning

This story starts just a few days prior to Randy and his mother arriving at my doorstep.

Randy had gathered all the gear he needed to start his gold dredging operation.  I use the word dredging, because that is a step up from panning.  In a dredging operation, you use an engine driven vacuum to suck up material in the bottom of the river, pump it up to a processing box called a sluice. In the sluice, the water flow carries off the lighter materials and the gold settles into the matting.  Later, you simply clean the matting to collect your new found gold.

My buddy Randy had made several adventures into gold country to meet people, top off his education, and eventually he met someone that would lease him a gold claim (section of the river).

Next was to head up and setup camp.  That’s what he was doing when he had his accident.  It was a rainy night and he was driving to an area on the north fork of the Yuba River called ‘Indian Valley’.  His claim was close to there and he had a spot picked out.

He was practically there.  He’d driven over 100 miles from his parents home in South Lake Tahoe and now he just had 4 or 5 miles left on the journey.  Then several deer walked onto the highway in front of him.  He slid out of control and  crashed into the steep uphill embankment on the right side of the road.

Damage was pretty bad to both his body and his truck.  He had a broken leg and a compound fracture (broken leg with the bone sticking out).  He was very fortunate that someone came along quickly and got him to the hospital in Grass Valley.

As far as the truck, all the contents were ruined.  His travel trailer which he was towing survived fairly well.  Locals stored it for him until he was healing and I could help him go get it.

At that time, I was looking to leave my job at Culligan and move back up to the lake.  So, I did a short stint back at my parents house, renting a room until I could save up money to get another place on my own.

Randy was doing the same.  Once we had enough money, we rented a little condo on our own and set out to save enough money to go back to the river to open up the dredging operation.

The carpet guy is finished.  I will continue this story in a new post.