Kathy and I had a ball at last Saturday’s book signing in Orland. The Rusty Wagon’s friendly staff couldn’t have been more gracious. Many wonderful friends—old and new—dropped by, and we all remained warm and cozy on that cold and rainy winter afternoon. I’d like to thank everyone from the bottom of my heart!
Just like in the Statler Brothers’ song, the Orland High School Class of ‘66 had its dreams. In June of 1966, all 138 of us spread to the wind and set out to live our dreams, much like the Orland High School classes before us. Some went on to college, some served in the military, some pursued occupations elsewhere, and some remained in this wonderful little Northern California farm town for the rest of their lives.
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.
I’ve often said that the reason I enjoyed the old Andy Griffith Show so much was because I practically grew up there. Growing up in Orland was as close to living in Mayberry as you could get without being a member of the cast.
My family moved from the Los Angeles area to Orland, a small farming community at the northern end of California’s Sacramento Valley, in 1960. By the end of our first day in school, my brother Kenny and I felt as if we’d lived there all our lives. The following Saturday, we joined several of our new friends and walked the railroad tracks to Stony Creek, where I caught my first smallmouth bass and began a childhood adventure that would last until I left for college years later.
I have to admit that I was more than a little apprehensive about my upcoming Orland High School class reunion. I hadn’t seen most of my classmates since we crossed the stage and received our diplomas on that fateful night fifty years ago. Would I recognize anyone? Would anyone recognize me? I sure hope they provide name tags.
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.
Mallards are hard to beat for grace and beauty. The drake’s dark-blue head shines iridescent green in the light, hence the nickname “greenhead.” All photos by author
“Dad, can I go with you?” I pleaded. “There’s no school tomorrow.” I enjoyed riding on patrol, weekends and sometimes after school—whenever I didn’t have baseball or basketball practice. Soon after moving to Northern California, I’d been given a copy of Francis Kortright’s classic, The Ducks, Geese and Swans of North America, and had become fascinated with waterfowl—so much so that at age fourteen I could identify just about every duck and goose in the Pacific Flyway.
While working on a sequel to Badges, Bears, and Eagles, I recently returned to my old stomping grounds near Orland, California, and the ghost town of Newville. Located twenty-two miles west of Orland, Newville thrived from the early 1850s until 1929, when all but a few buildings burned to the ground. During its heyday, Newville boasted a general store, two livery stables, two saloons, a blacksmith shop, two hotels, a post office, and at least one service station. I mention the service station because as of this week, it remains the only building left standing.