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.
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.