Last week, the Outdoor Writers Association of California presented me with the “Best Outdoor Book of 2016” award for my sequel, The Game Warden’s Son. What an honor to be recognized by this prestigious group of outstanding professional writers. I couldn’t be more excited!
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.
“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.
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.
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.
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.
“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.
—From The Game Warden’s Son
I first experienced California’s Channel Islands in 1959, as an excited eleven-year-old passenger aboard the Fish and Game patrol boat Marlin. My father, California Fish and Game Warden Wally Callan, was the Marlin’s rookie boarding officer, responsible for patrolling California’s offshore waters from the Mexican border to Point Conception.