A standing-room-only crowd showed up at the Orland Carnegie Community Center this week to hear me talk about my latest book, The Case of the Missing Game Warden. Thanks so much to Friends of the Orland Free Library for inviting me, and thank you from the bottom of my heart to everyone who came. What a wonderful day!
Last Saturday’s book signing at the Chico Barnes and Noble was so much fun. We were greeted at the open door by store managers Caitlyn and Alisa. They and their professional staff made us feel at home all day.
Mount Whitney Fish Hatchery. Photo by Kathy Callan.
The last weekend in April marked the opening of trout season in California’s Eastern Sierra Mountains. This annual spectacle rivals the Mardi Gras in New Orleans or spring break in Palm Beach.
Highway 395 out of the Los Angeles basin was jammed with a steady stream of cars, trucks, motor homes, and trailers, all the way to Bridgeport. Every motel in Lone Pine, Bishop, Mammoth Lakes, Lee Vining, and Bridgeport was booked and every campsite was full. What Christmas is to department stores, trout opener was to businesses in the Eastern Sierras. Fish and Game wardens from all over Southern California were commandeered to leave their own manageable districts and spend three days in virtual chaos.
Ring-necked pheasants were plentiful in and around the rice fields of Butte County during the 1950s. Photo by author.
“That’s strange,” said Berg, pulling to a stop and reaching for his binoculars. “What’s that fancy new car doing out here in the middle of all these rice fields?” It was mid-morning in early August 1954, and the enthusiastic young rookie warden was patrolling for pheasant poachers near the Northern California farming community of Biggs.
Warden Wally Callan in the ghost town of Newville, circa 1962. Photo by author.
Out of beer and three sheets to the wind, the three deer poachers turned west on Newville Road and headed northeast toward Paskenta. Rounding the first bend, they passed the ghost town of Newville. Newville had thrived from the early 1850s until 1929, when all but a few buildings burned to the ground. During its heyday, the little pioneer town boasted a general store, two livery stables, two saloons, a blacksmith shop, two hotels, a post office, a race track, and a service station. Now only the ramshackle, two-story Newville Hotel and the falling-down service station remained.
The fish rescue crew: Mike Cauble, Paul Martens, Glenn Tibessart, unidentified gentleman, Steve Callan, and Kenny Callan, circa 1964. As the Orland Fish and Game warden, my father had organized this effort to rescue stranded fish in Stony Creek. What fun we had!
Writing the chapter “The Road to Plaskett Meadows” in my sequel, The Game Warden’s Son, was a trip down Memory Lane for me. In it, I described growing up in Orland during the 1960s.
A wonderful slice of small-town America at the northern end of California’s Central Valley, Orland was very much like the community of Mayberry in the old Andy Griffith Show. I remember our mayor being the town butcher, people parking in the middle of 4th Street, and Cary Tommeraason running for touchdowns. Mom bought groceries at Graham Brothers, the playground at Fairview School was a converted cow pasture, and the biggest event of the year was opening day of pheasant season.
My greatest fear in those days was being called on in Mr. Valov’s chemistry class. My greatest joys were baseball, basketball, hunting, fishing, exploring Stony Creek, and riding on patrol with my dad, the local game warden.
Lower Battle Creek as it would appear during the fall salmon run. All photos, unless otherwise noted, by author.
This is an excerpt from “Stakeout at Battle Creek,” a chapter in my recently released sequel, The Game Warden’s Son.
I’m sometimes asked if I had any favorite places to work during my twenty-one years supervising the warden force in western Shasta County. Lower Battle Creek immediately comes to mind—from the mouth, where Battle Creek flows into the Sacramento River, to the barrier weir at Coleman National Fish Hatchery.