Willow Creek History by Marcia Penner Freedman About the Author Fighting Fire in the Sierra National Forest Willow Creek History Marcia Penner Freedman

Willow Creek History

Tales of Cow Camps

Tales of Cow CampsIncluding children on cattle drives goes back to the very earliest days of ranching in the Sierra foothills.

Imagine that it’s 1912 in Coarsegold, California. It’s the first day of school after summer vacation. The children are given an assignment to write a composition on how they spent their two-month summer break. Nine-year-old Dulce Tully describes a cattle drive to the mountains to her family’s cow camp, wandering around on horseback, fishing, picking strawberries, and work, work, work.

Cow camp meant living for two months in an isolated cabin with no electricity or plumbing, in a rough natural environment surrounded by flies and mosquitoes and mice, with visits from bears and rattlesnakes and meat bees that Dulce said “surely would carry off everything, anything that wasn’t nailed down.” Dulce’s family looked to her to make sure that the meat bees kept away from the line of jerky they had strung along a clothesline.

Cow Camp

Tales of Shake Makers

Charles Howard ShinnCharles Howard Shinn, the first supervisor of the Sierra National Forest, realized early on that he had inherited a legacy of animosity and antagonism toward the shake makers and was under pressure to give them the boot from the forest.

What he learned was that there were fifty “natural shake makers” in the area who had a specialized skill, that he loved his work, his camp life and his freedom, and that he was happy to “make a living out of a summer’s work — and there ambition ceased.”



Tales of Basket Weavers

Tales of Basket WeaversThe spiritual life of the Mono finds expression in basket making, affecting when to weave, when not to weave and what designs to use. The plants have spirits. The animal spirits live in the design. They draw the animal to you.

A weaver has all the baskets inside her waiting to come out. The basket maker might visualize the design in a dream then weave it into the basket.  Sometimes the spirit can take its time revealing what basket is ready to come out.  The weaver might have dreamed that she was supposed to make a basket with a big rattlesnake design, but then the spirit will change design right in the middle of her work.


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