Lake County History, Chapter 119: Pioneer Tales

The first three tales are told by a child, Polly Hargraves. Let me offer a word of warning. The third story of a Grizzly Bear will leave you hanging… until next week.

Like all the others, these three offer the reader a three-dimensional picture of what life was like a century and a half ago during the early years of Lake County’s history. They tell of events with a truer insight and understanding of our ancestor’s trials, perils, and their happier moments. Related by a young woman in her more personal way, they reveal more than cold facts of history. The other tales that follow the first three put guts and heart into living breathing human beings, who were as we are. They don’t seem to fit anywhere special in Lake County’s history… so… here they are.


This first brief anecdote by Polly Hargraves was about Polly, her sister, her father, her brother, and their experiences in Long Valley in the 1860s.

“We would watch the Indian women grind Penola in those hollow rocks. I believe the ingredients were parched acorns, wheat, Manzanita berries, Mullen, grass seeds, and powdered venison. The old mother Indian kept filling her children’s hands and ours until the hollow rock was empty. One thing I know. It was the best tasting flour I ever ate. ”


Polly Hargraves liked honey and said so.

“Once me and Lillie came into the house holding a piece of honeycomb in our hands. It was filled with honey…and young bee larvae. The bees in the comb were not old enough to leave the nest. Mother was shocked when she saw what we had.”

“Throw that away. That’s nasty,” our Mother said in disgust.

“No, Mama, it tastes good,” I said.

“Mama threw the honeycomb into the front yard, thinking that was the last of it.  After a while, Mama saw us with the empty comb. Most of the honey was gone, and only the wax was left. The Indian children had always shared their candy with us. This time was no different. Together we had finished off the honeycomb, bees, grub worms, honey and all. For the Indians and us, this was good fare and as good as any candy.”


Polly remembered the bears of Lake County.

“We had lots of Grizzly Bears in Long Valley. For my father and the other ranchers, the bears were a plague. They killed the young cattle and the calves. On a day, when two of the men decided to kill the offending Grizzly, my father and my older brother, Dan, loaded their muskets and went looking for the bear. Deciding to ambush the animal, the next time it came for one of his cattle, my father secured the weapon to a nearby tree. He tied a string to the trigger of the loaded musket and stretched the string across the trail, which the bear would be most likely follow to get at its prey. Then they went home to wait.“

“That night, my father awakened to the sound of the musket firing a shot. The next morning they went out to get the dead Grizzly for meat and its pelt… It wasn’t where it was supposed to be, next to the discharged musket. Instead, all that was to be found, a clew that the musket had partly done its job, was a pool of blood.”

“They followed the signs of the blood. Before long, they came upon the bear.  He was lying under an oak tree a hundred yards away. The bear was not dead.”

Next episode; The bear is very much alive.


To enjoy and learn more about Author Gene Paleno’s books

visit Gene’s website; http://genepaleno.com/

Gene Paleno

Gene runs his life at a full sprint. In his ninety-three years he's dug ditches, painted signs, played semi-pro football, worked as a taxicab driver, an insurance agent, and a school teacher. He's been a technical artist, a marketing director, and a business owner. He served in World War II, raised four children, and was married to the love of his life for fifty years. He's an accomplished oil painter and skilled in ceramics. He's written fifteen books, including the definitive Lake County History, and doesn't show any signs of slowing down.

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