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LAKE COUNTY HISTORY CHAPTER 41: WILDCAT ROAD (PART 2) – TIMBER

A short review of Lake County Timber may not be exciting stuff, but it will add to your prestige and reputation for being an expert. To know so much about wood when you are in company with someone you wish to impress will make you the life of the party.

Yellow Fir: A tall tree, it grows as high as 200 feet. It is good lumber.

Red Fir: Also, tough wood but not as good as Yellow Fir.

Sugar Pine: Best of the softwoods. A tenth part of the east slope of Boggs Mountain is Sugar Pine.

Cypress, and Laurel: Lake County has plenty. None of these woods are used for lumber.

Live-Oak, Black Oak, Valley Oak and other varieties of oak: Great for firewood but not much else.

Chestnut or a White Ash and maybe a few White Poplars: Once in a great while you’ll see these trees growing on a mountainside… but not often.

Manzanita: Bright red bark and green leaves are beautiful to see and they grow where there is moisture. The Native Americans used Manzanita berries for food.

Tule (or Balsa): Not really a woody material but it deserves a high place in the totem pole of woody plants. The Indians fished the waters of Clear Lake often. They made boats of Tule, the round-leaf type. Tule was good for many things. It was used to thatch the roofs of the Indian structures, to make baskets (along with white willow, poison oak, bulrushes, green briar, hazelnut, spruce and pine, to name a few), mats, cradles, fish traps, and most anything you might think of that made their life easier.

The slopes on Wildcat Road have good stands of high-quality timber. It was easy to reach the trees growing on Mt. Hannah. For the mill hands cutting timber logs, there was a considerable added advantage of being near the Clear Lake Basin. It was an ideal place for a sawmill. The Rice Sawmill ground out lumber for the settlers of Big Valley and the Middletown area and continued to provide lumber for more than twenty years, until 1910.

California Cedar: Another stately tree that attains a height of 200 feet. Sadly, that wood is mostly played out and few cedars remain. Nevertheless, there was enough left the Indians were able to find a few pieces here and there. It made a good fire starter. If you are ever stranded in the mountains around Lake County, and it is getting cold with no matches, here is valuable information on how to get warm. This Native American secret should only be applied when it is raining or there is no danger of a wildfire.

How to make a Fire Starter

On the hunt or when traveling, the Natives carried a piece of Cedar about eighteen inches in length by an inch thick and two inches wide at the center; boat-shaped. This tool was always in a warrior’s quiver. He used his Cedar tool to start a fire. A circular hole was cut with obsidian into the center, about an inch deep. A small channel was cut to extend to the edge. A handful of dry grass or powdered Pine wood and, voila, he had his tinder. From there all the operator had to do was twirl a branch of Buckeye Oak between his palms until there was a spark.

Butter and Cheese

If the reader imagines that timber and minerals were all that the pioneers found in Lake County, he is mistaken. We had butter and cheese makers too. In 1900, the marshy wetlands near Lower Lake were drained for a dairy of seventy-five prize cows. In 1968 a water wheel was built to churn butter and make cheese.

Next Episode: Spotlight on a Main Actor in Lake County’s wonders; Sawmills.

Lake County History. $32. (includes. Tax & Shipping)

Pal Publishing, PO Box 6, Upper Lake, Ca 95485

e-mail: genepaleno@gmail.com

Website: 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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