Friday, July 10, 2009

Enoch Percival French and Newton Bishop Drury.

I ran across this following interview on the Internet while researching Richardson Grove. I knew Percy French, and I knew his wife Viola. I found the interview to be so interesting that I transcribed it for a post here. Most of the work was done for me by a Microsoft PDF scanner that scans what looks like words into real words and prints them out. Unfortunately it turns a messy page into words whether you like it or not, so I took the gibberish-like text and made it into readable, cut and paste-able text. Mostly, so I can quote from this article in the future.

I barely knew Percy, he died before I had a chance to know him well, but I considered Viola to be a great friend. She is the one that gave me my favorite Chocolate-Peanutbutter-Oatmeal cookie recipe. “Vi” as she was known, was a wonderful country woman. She was originally a Spangler. Her father and brother Lew, and her, built Tan Oak Park into the great summer resort that it was to become before the freeway took it out. Tan Oak Park was north of Laytonville in the Rattlesnake canyon.

Vi always had “Pets” the whole time that I knew her. She had a pet deer that she raised, and she kept it in a fenced area behind the French's Store. The kids would feed it, and it was quite plump. In her later years she had a little wild finch that had hit her windows and she had nursed it back to health. I can almost remember their names. It is on the tip of my tongue. If you mentioned the right name I would remember. She always had two or three hundred quail near her yard.

It was very common back in the fifties and sixties to have wild animal pets. I had every kind of wild pet that you could imagine. I believe that the close association with wild critters gave me much of the love of nature and critters that I have today. We knew that they were wild and unpredictable, we were used to their nature and we did not expect them to react to us with the same love that a dog or a cat would. But we understood and enjoyed them for what they were. I think that kids miss a lot of what nature is all about by not having a wild pet.

Vi and Percy built French's to be a vacation spot for the people from the cities who would come up here by the droves in the summer. French's, as it was known, was just south of Richardson Grove, In the grassy field area, and was the resort of choice by many city people. Most of the people that came up here would stay for a week or two at a time, and “camp-out” in the cabins or tent-cabins as they were known. They had a small grocery store, a campground, and swimming holes in the river. Kids would spend most of their vacation days packing rocks to make a dam across the river, to make the swimming holes deep enough to dive in.

Most importantly, to me and other children of the “50's “60's and “70's, they had a dance barn! Every night during the summer the adults would square dance in the evening. After the square dancing was over, the kids would break out the 45's and other L.P. records and we would dance until the adults would put a stop to it. On weekends they would usually let us dance late into the night. Many summer romances were formed, and we promised our hearts to each other forever. Soon to be forgotten after the closeness was gone. Just like the deer, I almost remember some of their names. Very few girls got pregnant. Quite a few people that met there ended up getting married.

I can still smell the sweet perfume of summer in the air. Those were the days!
The following story is about Percy French, Viola's soul-mate and “pardner”. The first ranger-supervisor for the Northern California Redwood State Parks.

University of California • Berkeley
University of California General Library/Berkeley
Regional Cultural History Project

Enoch Percival French


Newton Bishop Drury


An Interview Conducted by
Amelia Roberts Fry

Enoch Percy French

Park Superintendent

photographed at Dyerville State Park, 1935

All literary rights in the manuscript,
including the right to publish, are reserved to the Gener-
al Library of the University of California at Berkeley.
No part of the manuscript may be quoted for publication
without the written permission of the University Librarian
of the University of California at Berkeley.

All uses of this manuscript are covered by an agreement
between the Regents of the University of California and
Enoch Percival French and Newton Bishop Drury, dated 10
May 1963. The manuscript is thereby made available for research purposes only.


At the suggestion of his friend Newton Drury,
Enoch Percy French agreed to tape record these memoirs
as a supplement to that portion of the Drury interviews
which was concerned with the process involved in
purchasing redwood forests for preservation by the
state. As is apparent in Mr. Drury 's story, success
in negotiations with the owners for tracts of salable
timber depends on accurate timber inventories, or
cruises, that can be accepted as wholly reliable by
both purchaser and seller. The cruising of Sequoia

Semperviron presented unique problems in its large
diameter, its near-taperless trunk, and — more
important — absentee owners living on the opposite
side of the continent. How the traditional Eastern
methods of cruising, as practiced by Percy French's
father, were gradually altered for redwood forests
by the son is a story we wanted to get from Percy

Regional Cultural History Project interview with
Newton Bishop Drury [ in process 1963] .

An additional historical plum was Mr. French's
experiences as the first ranger-supervisor for the
Northern California Redwood State Parks where he
developed an effective system of protection. He
and Newton Drury further explore here the special
protection problem of erosion in lower forests when
the use of upper watershed lands, as in the case of
the Bull Creek area, remains relatively uncontrolled.
Since the day of taping, Save-the-Redwoods League has
deeded to the state 15,558 acres of this watershed
land with more to come, and a dam is being planned
for little, destructive Cuneo Creek.

Professor of Forestry Emanuel Fritz gladly helped
with the plan for the interview, and Newton Drury
arranged for both sessions when he knew Mr. and Mrs.
French would be coming to San Francisco on business
from their home in Richardson Grove.

Mr. Drury and Mrs. French were present at both
sessions, with the former contributing his own knowl-
edge as well as guidance to the three-way conversation,
while Mrs. French remained silent except to remind her
husband of a salient point now and then. The first
session, held on September 18, 1961, in the Save-the-
Redwoods League office at 114 Sansome Street, San
Francisco, produced a tape punctuated with loud blasts
from a Jack hammer In the street below, making neces-
sary the immediate transcription of the tape by the
interviewer so that human memory could fill in where
the recorder had been too indiscriminate. The second
session was held in the same office in January of
1963, fortunately without the previous background

Mr. French, born in 1882, has spent his entire
life in the coastal redwood region. At the age of
eight he was arising at 4:00 a.m. to feed the oxen
for his father's lumbering crew at Scotia, and now,
seventy- three years later, he remains distinctly a
man of the forest: tall, straight, and with an air
of eternal youth resembling the perpetuity of the
Sequoias themselves. He is energetic and keen, and
although he came to Mr. Drury's office dressed for
the city, it was not hard to visualize him in hiking
boots and ranger hat.

His interview is enriched with a direct honesty
which helps to portray the man himself, his deep
respect for natural ecological balance, and his long-
lived concern that the redwoods be preserved. His
speech is the straight-forward, loquacious speech so
familiar to residents in the Northern California
forests; perhaps here it is accelerated somewhat by
a pent-up energy that comes from a man of the woods
being confined too long in a chair inside an office.
For those who might want to listen, a portion of the
tape is preserved with parts of o their Newton Drury
tapes in the Regional Cultural History office.

It is this same fluency, nevertheless, that
probably caused Mr. French to have some misgivings
about the first typescript of the memoirs, "Some
of my easy- speaking prose," he wrote, "didn't come
out just the way I meant it — I get ahead of myself
talking." In the editing, Mrs. French helped him
make changes for clarification, sometimes both of
them rewriting a crucial paragraph which was then
put into the manuscript as an insert. Mr. Drury
also checked over the interview for accuracy. It
was Mrs. French who pointed out that her husband knows
many more stories about the old lumbering days in
Northern California, and we regret with her that our
tapes were too small and their visits too short to
capture them all. Some of the more gory accounts of
forest mishaps that Mr. French recorded he afterwards
deleted in deference to later — and possibly more
delicate — readers.

This manuscript becomes one of a series en con-
servation recorded by the Regional Cultural History
Project, which is directed by Villa Klug Baum and is
under the administrative supervision of Assistant
Librarian Julian Michel.

Amelia Roberts Fry, Interviewer
Regional Cultural History Project

15 August 1963

Regional Cultural History Project

Room 486

The General Library

University of California

Berkeley 4, California.




Developing a Cruising Method 1

Early Lumber Company Sales 7

Pre-cruising Surveys 13

Mapping the Tracts 18


Flood of 1955 27

Causes of Erosion - Should They Be

Corrected? 31

Watershed Control 41


Beginning the Redwood Parks 48

Protection, On the Spot 51

Running the Park Boundaries 59

Park Staff 61

Anecdotes 67

Earlier Plants and Wildlife 79



Developing a Cruising Method

Fry: Let me introduce you to our readers. Mr, Newton Drury
has brought along an old friend, Mr. Enoch Percy French,
who has been a timber cruiser for — how long, Mr. French?

French: When you get right down to it, I'd say since about 1900.
I was born in Guerneville in 1882 and Dad and I come to
Scotia in December, 1889, and the family come up in 1890.
we moved to Rio Dell and Dad, who was a lumberman, was
loggin' for the Pacific Lumber Company at Scotia.

Drury: Your father came out from Maine, didn't he?

French: Yes. He was a state-of-Mainer. He moved to Michigan
first and worked for Eddy Brothers in a loggin' camp
and then to California. Then they come out here and
looked Dad up when they started to buy the Pacific
Lumber Company holdings. So we done a great deal of
their checking on that timber.

Drury: That was the holding from which was purchased the
Rockefeller Forest, the Avenue of Giants, and the
Garden Club of America Grove. The Pacific Lumber
Company is still the largest lumber company up in
that general region around Scotia.
Mr. French, how did you get interested in working in
the woods?

(missing Photo here)
Enoch Percy French (lower right) as an eight-year-old member of
his father's logging crew for the Pacific Lumber Company in 1889
just south of Scotia. Mr. French notes, "I was getting up at
4:00 in the morning to feed the oxen."

French: Well, I started about 1890, I'd be eight years old then.
Dad took me down there in Scotia and to keep me busy
he put me with the old teamster who took care of the
oxen. They always did this logging with oxen, and
they give me the job of feeding them their grain.
Anyway, I'd get up at four o'clock every morning to
feed them and get their bedding ready. There were
anywhere from twelve to twenty oxen; they were used
as teams to haul logs. They'd usually have six or
seven yokes and that's fourteen oxen,
Then I went from there, after we got through
there, and Dad started checking around for these
companies and he took me out to run compass for him.
A cruiser has to have a compass.
How old were you then?

This brought me up to about sixteen or seventeen
years old.

This was about 1898 or '99?

Well, somewhere around 1900.
Here we have a bound volume which illustrates Mr. '
French's cruises. This was made at a later date, 1930,

Drury: When the State Park Commission was dealing with the
Pacific Lumber Company to buy the Rockefeller Forest.
Percy, why don't you indicate what timber cruis-
ing is for and what its methods are and how you trained
for that kind of work. Then you can tell us something
about cruising for the Rockefeller Forest in the Paci-
fic Lumber Company's holdings.

Frenoh: Well, I went out with my Dad, running compass and check-
ing with him about 1900, then about 1906 I started to
cruise myself.

Fry: Before I turned on the tape recorder you were telling
us that your Dad was a pretty rugged man to learn the
trade under.

French: Yes, he was. He got us out at daylight and always got
home after dark. You see, he was an expert at lumber-
ing himself because he'd cruised, bought, and sold timber
for others and owned two or three mills. If he brought
a cruise in on 40 acres he'd put down, say, "Two million
board feet of timber on this," and this was hie mill cut.
He'd size up the timber when he cruised and report only
what was worth milling. Dad was a great one to bring
his reports in on a chip of wood.

In other words. Dad was a comparative cruiser. But
Save-the-Redwoods League: "Timber Cruises of Pacific
Lumber Company Holdings that Later Became Rockefeller
Forest," by E.P. French. Copy Two will be deposited
in The Bancroft Library.

Sample page from Enoch P. French's Cruise Book 2a

(I found no sample page, Ernie)

French: later on my cruises were different from those Dad did.
You see, some of that timber was owned by companies in
the past, and he worked for all of them. They wanted
a little more detail from the cruises.

Well, I could see the idea and purpose of more
detail while I was cruising with Dad, but he couldn't
make more of a record because he didn't have anyone to
go with to make plats, and you have to have plats for
the kind of detail that was wanted.

Drury: What else do your cruises contain, if their purpose is
to determine how much merchantable timber is on given-'
parcels of land?

French: Well, when the company I worked for sent me out to look
over the land, they wanted to know what and how much
commercial timber was there, the mill cuttings, what it
could produce for them to sell. In other words, if you
have ten million board feet on 40 acres, you might be
able to get only five or six million off of it to sell,
they want to know that before they put their money down
to buy it.

On my tabulation sheet the first thing I compute is
the number of acres in the entire holding that I'm cruis-
ing, there is a column for that. Then the total num-
ber of trees on that particular 40 acres. Next comes how
much to discount for breakage and so forth, so that here
is the figure for the amount of board feet they will
actually be able to take out in net mill cut. Dad
would say, “What do they care about all that if they v-
don't take it out to the mill?" But the companies
wanted to know, you see. In other words, this is the
information that I figured out that they should have;
I gradually figured it all out. It was just like some
people go to college — while the boys was playing
cards, I was studying this so that when I cruised I
could go out and know what information I was after

Drury: Didn't you ever play cards, Percy? [Laughter]

French: Well, I didn't play much because I wanted to work. So
finally I had it so it was just like giving a picture
to them that you'd take with a camera. Say there were
652 trees, and I counted five of those down and although
they might make use of those later they were counted as
discount trees, plus so many cull trees.

Drury: Cull trees were those with no commercial value?

French: That's what they always said then. Now, we're going
pretty far back in time, and back then we figured
they'd never be cut, and by the time lumbering methods
had been improved so that a large part of these trees
could be used, they was burned up and gone. So we'd
just put down "rid value . "

Fry: Have you found that your estimates have steadily increased
on the amounts of usable timber in a given stand of trees
since you first started?

French: Yes. Two ways, first, they utilize them more in the
mills, trees of all descriptions, even down to the saw-
dust and the hark. And then too, they salvage more.
All band-saw mills out more lumber than mills using
circular saws. Second, there is the growth in the trees
over a period of time. In the last 30 years I've checked
some of the trees, and natural growth has increased the lumber
anywhere from 10 to 25% maybe even as high as
50% There was mostly redwood taken out to the mill in
the early days, for the simple reason that the cull fir
and cull redwood and anything that had defects weren't
touched. But now culls are just as good commercially,
and up to 50% culls can he used from those same stands.
Now they utilize everything, because they have saws that
just saw the defects right off. You couldn't do that
in the early days due to expense of handling. Today's
cruising is quite different. Then we — well, we worked
with the times.

Drury: May I ask this, Percy: How many other timber cruisers
were up in that area during your father's time?

French: There probably were others but I didn't meet any others
until about 1912 in these three counties –- Humboldt.
Del Norte, and Mendocino.

Drury: What was the market value of redwood and of fir when you
first began cruising up there?

French: Well, let's see. 1912.... You mean stumpage value?

Drury: Yes.

French: Then it was around $2.50 in redwoods and about fifty
cents on fir, average. That was per 1,000 board feet,

Drury: What do you think the market value is now of compara-
ble stumpage?

French: When they can buy it, the boys are paying $20 for it
now, and much more if it's got a good volume of
number one upper grade.

Drury: Fir now is worth than Redwood in some of that,
isn't it?

French: If you can find fir that's 25 to 30% clear upper grades
the gyppo loggers will pay you $20 to $25 for it.
They'll get $100 for that at the mill where they'll
only get $40 to $50 for the lower grades.

Drury: Your cruises always had a high degree of accuracy, Percy.

French: The only thing that ever puzzled me was once when the
lumbermen at the mill kept saying they were getting a
lot more board feet out of the trees than I had recorded
on my cruise sheet. And I said, "That can't be done.
My Dad told me when I was only a kid that if a tree was
16 inches in diameter and 16 feet long, it had 161 board
feet in it; that was Spaulding scale and if you're get-
ting more than that it just can't be done." I said,
"What are you doin' here? Are you getting more tree?
You can't do that." Well, it ended up they was putting
it into plywood, getting two and three boards out of an
Inch-thick board, and then trying to tell me my scale was off!

Drury: They were trying to inspire you to put in a higher cruise.
I guess that time you were working for the sellers rather
than the buyers. [Laughter]

French: No. Now, I always worked for myself ever since I started.
That's the only way to do it.

Early Lumber Company Sales

Drury: You know, later on when other fellows came in to oruise
timber, and when the companies wanted to sell the stumpage,
they'd present us with a cruise at the State Park Commis-
sion, and those cruises were always "seller's cruises."
But it happened one time that they gave us a cruise that
they said they wanted to add 40% to, and their reason
was because that cruise had been made for taxation pur-
poses. [Laughter]

What I am driving at here is that up there in the
redwood country when they had never had any systematic
method of measuring the value of redwood or fir stumpage,
Mr. French, around the turn of the century almost,
devised a method of keeping an orderly account of the
stumpage. The reason he had to do that was because he
was representing people in New York and Michigan and in
other states who weren't content without having the
details — although the reputation you and your father
had was sufficient to warrant their trust.

Fry: They wanted a complete inventory of their land, is
that right?

French: That's right. One time there was a company, the Sage
land and Improvement Company, of Albany, New York.
The first Mr. Sage had lumbered around Lake Michigan
and down in Oregon and Florida, then they come here to
California when they had a surplus of money and bought
some redwood land around Prairie Creek,

Drury: That's what happened to Pacific Lumber Company. The
Murphys of Detroit and the Sages and several others put
their surplus into redwood stands,

French: Yes. But speaking of their trust, one fellow came clear
out from the East to check on my figures. I'd been
working for the Sage company for six or seven years steady
there from 1912 on, and they owned 60,000 acres when I
went to work for them in these three redwood counties,
Mendocino, Humboldt, and Del Norte,

Drury: E.J, James was their agent, wasn't he?

French: Yes,he'd come here in 1912 too, with L,J. Curry,

Well, They wanted a recruise of this 60,000 acres
because they'd paid a lot more for it than was on it
due to inexperienced redwood cruisers. Curry and I
started going over it and discovered that they had paid
25% too much for that 60,000 acres,

Mr, James came up to me one day and said, Percy,
do you believe that there is eight million board feet to
be taken off that 40 acres up at Prairie Creek?"

"Well, if I didn't think so, Mr. James, I
wouldn't have put it down. You want to go back and
check it?

He said, "No, I'm just asking you."

I said, "When I get away from it I won't change
my figures because I figure I knew when I was lookin'
at it and I'll never know when I ain't lookin' at it."

So they gave me credit for that much. [Laughter]
Anyway, we returned and looked it all over again and
then Curry went over it. Finally they sent the report
up to Sage in New York and he called us up on the tele-
phone and said, "Do you know what you put down for the
second forty up at Prairie Creek?"

James says, "Yes."

He says, "Who cruised that?"

"Well, French and Curry,"

"Do you believe that's all there?"

"Well," he said, "They say so."

He says, "I want to see it." So he took the train
the next morning, a special train with his bunch, and we
went down in an old stage car and met him and took him
up to Prairie Creek. We went out on an old muddy road
and he looked around at the timber a while, and finally
he said, "Well, Curry, you're a bigger damn fool than I
thought you were. You fellows figure eight million board

"Yes, sir," said Curry.

- "Well, if I can't take out twice that I wouldn't
even be interested. I'm going home." [Laughter]

Drury:And your reputation was upheld. There are thousands
of acres up there that would measure that much. That's
an average of 200,000 board feet an acre.

French: That's an exceptionally good forest, Just like Bull
Creek, we consider Bul Creek 100% Redwood, and
section thirty in Bull Creek has 200,000 board feet
an acre. That's 32 million on 160 acres.

Drury: When you remember that the average forest has from 30
to 40 thousand board feet per acre, and the redwood
belt has about 60 thousand, to 65 thousand maybe on
the average, taking the forests with the heavy stands,
then you can see why it seems somewhat incredible to
have 200,000 on one acre, That's a lot of trees

Speaking of heavy stands of timber, when I first
went up there they unfortunately had already logged
off the Dyerville Plat area before we were able to
arrest the logging. There was reputed to be a million
board feet of lumber taken off one acre in North Dyer-
ville Flat. Do you know for a certainty if that was so?

French: Well, my checking was all there, I'll have to go back
and look at my records because every stick
was there when their man was there — Jack Hunt and them.

French: It could have happened like it happened in Larabee
Creek. P.L, [Pacific lumber Company] out that out special;
they cut an acre, measured it out for the actual board
footage an acre with the number of trees on it. Now,
the one on Dyerville Plat I remember because we checked
with Hunt about it and had quite an argument over it,
I was pretty stiff to argue with because I could beat
any of them on measuring, even the scalers, because I
had worked in the trees so much that I just had a sense
about it. Finally the scaler said, "Well, you do it,"

Mr. Richardson was there and he said, "You let Percy
alone. If he can't do it none of you guys are gonna do it,"

Drury: Did you confirm the one million board feet per acre?

French:I can't recall it. I don't think so. The only acre
with that much timber is the one that Emanuel Fritz
and I went over together in Bull Creek; that's in
Humboldt Park and it's still there — Rockefeller
Forest. There are probably several other acres down
there, too, with that much board feet on them; I just
happen to know about this one because I helped pick
it out.

Drury: Well now, you knew Frank Solinsky. Frank contended
to his dying day that it wasn't physically possible to
get a million board feet of lumber on the area of one
acre, that you just couldn't fit that many trees on
one acre because no trees grow tall enough.

French: If you have 30 trees on an acre, and had 100,000 board
feet per tree, looks to me like you'd have three million
feet, wouldn't you?

Drury: Well, it looks like it.

French: We can give and take a little, because maybe you don't
count all of them in there, but you can get them into
an acre because they are there; and maybe we could meander
out an acre in Bull Creek in Rockefeller Forest and get
nearly two million gross board feet on it.

When Sage first started to buy, all he'd pay was a
dollar a thousand board feet, no matter what the grade,
even for trees there on Bull Creek. And I told him, I
said, "James, why don't you allow them $2 for this on the
bottom lands and four bits for that on the hill? That
ain't worth nothing up there and this is worth more than
they are going to get for it."

But he said, "No, it's a dollar a thousand straight
through." And he bought two or three hundred thousand
acres at a dollar a thousand.

We made some mistakes, though, like everyone does
sometimes. We went over a section in Mendocino that
had a thousand acres instead of 640 — you know, the •
result of an irregular survey. It had I believe about
a million board feet on 1,000 acres. I said, "In our
time they'll never be able to get that out of there;
they'll Just pay taxes on it." So I went to Mr. James
(He was a' Scotchman, He was tight) and I told him,
"No use paying taxes on that." We were telling him —
don't know what business we had doing that, but we were.
"You'll pay more taxes than it's worth," So they let it
go« That's how much we knew. You work with the times.
Next time I was down there, about 4o years later, it was
logged off and the country was bare; they had taken out

Well, a lot of people went broke, paying taxes on timber
up there, and I don't want to dwell too much on it but
you remember we bought as low as 49 cents a thousand up
there from Del Norte Lumber Company because that repre-
sented the amount of their delinquent taxes and penalties,
they were just ahead of their time.

Pre-cruising Surveys

Fry: What was the first thing you had to do when you set out
to estimate the timber on a holding?

French: Well, the first thing you have to do is be sure that
you've got the right land. Early cruisers failed to do
this. Sage Lumber Company many a time had their cruisers
on the wrong land, and that's something we never done.

Drury: Isn't it true that sometimes you would have to go miles
to get a starting point from which you could find
the correct section corner?

French: Yes, that's true. To get the last known government -surveyed
corner, if it hadn't been destroyed; then you'd have
to move on to the next one, until you got to the one
that marked the comer of the section that you was
supposed to cruise.

Fry: I guess about the only survey done before you began
cruising was the government survey for the land grants.
Did you find these very accurate?

French: No. No. Accurate I [Laughter] I can say that I don't
suppose I have ever seen a section surveyed within 20%
of being accurate, compared to the way it would be if
you'd done it the way you were supposed to, The govern-
ment surveyors were supposed to measure 80 chains* north,
south, east, and west to make a section. Well, we might
find that it was laid out with only 70 chains, or we
might find it way out to 120 chains or even more than
that. Then maybe the line was off two or three degrees,
and that would throw you off a couple or three hundred
feet in a mile, so we'd always have to recheck all the
corners because hardly anybody had been in there ahead
of us since the government surveyors.
*(Chain: four rods or 66 feet.)

Fry: Did you do the re-surveying then?

French: Oh, I'd run it out temporarily and we'd cruise it, but
to get the official survey they'd send Ed Smith or the
county surveyor or McKee and survey out the section.

French: But as I said, I'd already found my corners and they'd
say, "Well, Perce, we'd "better send you; you do better
work than they do," because they were sometimes off
quite a bit.

we11, you know, the state highway was off one
time 300 feet. I was right there at the corner, so
Mr, James said, "Well, we'll let Percy pace It off and
we'll take his word for it. You fellows are all sur-
veying it wrong; you've done that twice now, Percy will
pace it off and we'll know where it is, anyhow,"

Drury: I notice on this map of the Garberville area in my
office that there are some sections that have around
900 acres in them instead of the standard 640,

French: Yes, That's that irregular surveying, when they
surveyed out the farmer's ranches and didn't survey out
the timber. That's one there by Bear Buttes. I don't
know if I ever told you. Newt, but most of that map
with all those crooked section lines is lines that
Curry and I found. I won't say "surveyed" because we
just followed the government survey lines and found
the corners for cruising,

Fry: Do you follow the government lines even though they
are wrong?

French: If it's off half a mile we have to follow it because
that's it. The government is always right, I found
one there across from Sylvandale that's off a quarter
to half a mile. Mr. Arthur Connick had me re-do it
against Lentell, who was our great surveyor. This
was when Connick was in the bank. Well, I wasn't a
surveyor, but Lentell was keener than the devil. He
called me up and said, "Did you find the government

"Yeah," I said, "I found two, and the quarter

"Where 'd you find them?"

I told him.

"Okay," he said, so he ran it out as per our work
according to government field notes and set the corner.
But Curry and I never did any private surveying; we
weren't licensed surveyors.

Drury: The essence of all this is that you have to be a, de-

French: Sage always told me, "Percy, when you go out you make
sure that you know where the government lines are, no
matter what they say or how many surveys are on it”.
Right there in Leggett Valley Mr, Walker, who'd
lived there all his life, showed us a corner on the
river bank, and I took my notes out and looked at them.

We had all the notes that the government had ever
made — sometimes there was two or three sets for
So there was the comer post all marked
up on it. I waited until he got away, and I said to
Hardy (my brother) who was with me that day, "The
corner that we want is on the other side of the
river." And you know I was crawling around on the
ridge to get a sight on where I could best come out
on the other side, and found Ves Donahue's marls, on
the side of a tree. He was one of the old Standish
and Hickey cruisers. Some of the boys were good on
tracing government lines and you could follow their
notes. Of course the comer was easy to find from
that marked tree.

Fry: After you locate your lines, what do you do to com-
put the stumpage?

French: Well sir, we take a tree, measure the diameter of it
and the height of it, then use Spaulding's scale on
the logs.

Drury: There's a modified Spaulding*s scale, isn't there?

French: Well, all my life I've used the only one he made and
my old Dad said it never changes so I've always used
it. I think the last time I was in court I used it;
I think it is standard in California.

Fry: I want to ask you If what Professor Fritz says is
correct: that you can go out and with only your eye
cruise a section more accurately than a graduate
student in the School of Forestry at Cal, with all
Ms instruments.

French: Yes, I guess that's true. That's from experience.

Fry: He said you rarely use instruments.

French: Well, no, because it wasn't necessary; everything is
done "by the length of the tree and its taper. That's
done by your eye. The size of the tree, both the
butts and the top of the first log and the top of the
last log is all done by your eye. But I always had a
diameter tape and the first thing we'd do early in the
morning as soon as we'd get to the forty was estimate
the measurements of three or four trees, then check
it with the tape to see if either of us was off.

Drury: Like batting practice before the game,

French: Yes, that was it.

Drury: How do you determine the diameter?

French: We used a diameter tape. On Bull Creek we had an in-
strument — I still have it — a diameter glass that
we had made. It was a field glass and we had to send
it to Germany to get it graduated. We tried to get
it done in San Francisco, but they couldn't do it so
we sent it to Germany just before World War I broke
out — or we never would have got it done.

After checking out visual estimates we could give
or take a little if we was an inch high or an inch low
that day as we cruised, because in the sum of
four million board feet you'd never know the differ-
ence. That was our way of doing it because they made
us cruise 80 acres a day; today they go over only 15
or 20 acres a day.

Fry: How many acres can you personally cruise today?

French: Well, I can take 40 acres and do It 50% in a day,
But for a 100% cruise, doing a tree count and actually
measuring them, it might take a month.

Drury: You mean on level ground, don't you?

French: No, I mean hills, too.

Drury: Could you explain the process of making the two-run
and the four-run cruise and the tree count?

French: Yes. I use a 25% cruise or a 50% cruise — or a 100%.
The 100% means you measure every tree.

Fry: And you more or less make a grill across the area on
any type of cruise?

French: We make four runs across the 40 acres for a 50%
cruise. The runs are 165 feet apart, lined off so
that as you look 82 and a half feet right and left
you are seeing actually half the trees, you use your
head then, when you're through, and if it checks out
and everything looks the same, you double it for the
final figures. That's a 50% cruise. I learned that
when I was a kid, so that pretty soon I could measure
it right off pretty quick because I'd see half the
land, and I figured, Well, I couldn't get too far off
from the other half. This is my speed, my way; I
learned that and nobody taught me especially.

Drury: Isn't it true that although you made a systematic
record of each forty, you could almost tell when you
went into a forty about what it would measure up to
in volume?

Prench: That's true. But without a real check you couldn't
take mine or anyone else's word just on what we knew
or how long we had worked there, because there is more
to it. Say this area that we start to scale is three
feet in diameter and it scales up to 3,000 board feet
standing. Then we have to discount a certain amount
as a rule for breakage and defects. Tour discounts
usually run anywhere from 15 to 40%, on a tree or on
the whole 40 acres.

Drury: But that was a matter for individual judgment...

Editor's note: Mr. French later supplied the following
information on cruising to supplement what was said in
the interview.

"Ran across this method of cruising which I thought you
might insert in the manuscript where you ask how I

A Method of Cruising 40-Acre Tracts

I locate the Section corners as per Government field
notes. The working line of the first run is 165 feet
on line from a corner of a 40-acre tract. All trees
within 82i feet on each side of the working line are
measured and listed. All trees 24" and over D.B.H.
(diameter breast high) inside the bark are estimated on
a saw-timber basis. Those trees from 12" to 24" D.B.
H. are listed as piling; those trees from 6" to 12"
as poles. Each tree is measured with diameter tape
or glass and listed with its D.B.H. and the length of
commercial saw-logs on it. Applying these figures to
Spaulding Scale for Redwood and Fir Timber, the true
volume of board feet in a tree is determined. From
this full scale a discount is made for breakage and
defects. This discount is made for each tree and may
run from 20 to 45% or more in some cases. In large,
defective Redwood and Douglas Fir timber all hollow-
butted and defective Redwood and Douglas Fir trees
are listed as "culls." Should any cull tree contain
some salvage timber, this is estimated and shown on
the cruise sheet.

Two runs through 40 acres results in a 25% cruise, a
large enough cruise for most pure stands of virgin
Redwood. Four times through results in a 50% cruise,
which is adequate for fairly dense stands of mixed
conifers and the size cruise most commonly used in
the Redwood region. Eight times through results in
a 100% cruise and tree count most necessary where
timber is scattered and a large number of non-timber
species are present.

Yes. You take a defect like goose pens [burned out
hollows]. Sometimes in redwoods there is something
like three prongs holding up 100,000 board foot. But
that doesn't make it a cull tree; it Has got to'show
hollow way up into it before there is a "big loss in «
it that we can't determine.
Fry: You also note terrain, watershed, and difficulties
that might be encountered in carrying out timber, don't you?

Drury: Well, that section map of these counties that I showed
you was made up, as I understand it, pretty largely
by the Belcher Abstract and Title Company in Eureka '
from Percy's cruise sheets.

French: Yeah, Curry and I turned all our sheets over to them.
Their little man, little Joe Tracy, would 3ust get all
our maps and find where I put down the government
comers, then he would Just get his machines and go
through his maps and maybe he'd find them off by
quite a lot sometimes.

Drury: The United States Geologlic Survey has made new maps
by aerial photo methods. Have you ever checked your
maps With the new ones?

French: I checked one the other day. They never hit it exactly,
The one there on Bull Greek where it goes up to the
first section line about a mile from the mouth, their
line was off I don't know how many feet. They didn't
hit it, but for all practical purposes it is all
right. Then I found a place where they was off a
quarter of a mile up on the ridge above Bull Creek,
But we haven't got to that — it's none of my busi-
ness yet.

Drury: Then do I understand that your cruise sheets and plats
are probably more accurate than the new maps?

French: Yes, they would be to check the government work.

Drury: Per detail of topography.

French: Yes. See, they'd have to spend thousands of dollars
to get that degree of accuracy and get it all
straightened out.

Drury: Yes. You did it on the ground; they just fly over
it and have a clerk in the office plot it out. You
are on the ground and make your maps while you are i

French: Our maps were made according to government field notes.

Fry: Actually then, I guess these U.S.G.S. Surveys should
be checked on the land before any purchases are made.

Drury: Well, they don't go into enough detail, They are
only 100 -foot contours, aren't they, Percy?

French: Yes.

Drury: You can't get much detail in that; you need a larger
scale, I think these cruise sheets of yours will
become increasingly valuable.

French: Well, some of them I've lost track of, and I've
destroyed some of my notes, too.

Drury: I have two of these Morocco-bound volumes of the
1930 cruises of the Pacific Lumber Company, and I'm
going to put one of them in the Bancroft Library, I
think, and the other one I'm going to turn over to
the park supervisor in Humboldt redwoods; although I
do that with great misgivings because of what has
happened to other old records.

French: The ones that got destroyed there, Newton, I think
was due to that flood in 1955. Due to the cutting
on those ridges and the debris blocking the river,
it let the water come up into the supervisor's house
for a few hours and took everything out and destroyed
it-- all the records. He couldn't get them out in

Drury: That shows the value of historical projects like this,
and of repositories like the University Library and
the Bancroft Library. In other words, valuable records
should be kept right where people are competent and
have the right kind of storage places. We didn't have
it there; we had frame buildings that were just swept

French: I keep the notes I made myself in the woods, like
this creek here on this plat.

Drury: When some of these timber cruisers from the East came
out here they sometimes had great difficulty in arriv-
ing at accurate figures, didn't they?

French: Yes, That's what I told Henry Sage when he was here
that time he came out to check on my cruise. I said,
"Some of your men don't understand this redwood.

Curry's here and I'm here and maybe we don't either
but we're trying to figure it out now." He said,
"Well, you certainly have figured it out. You cost
us a million dollars when you recruised that area."
Or I think it was $780,000 and he called it a million
to make it even ; that was how much he paid that he
t shouldn't have, because that first cruise was too high,
So he just took that loss and put it back to sell it,
which they eventually did; they have now.

Drury: When Curry worked with you I suppose your cruises and
his were more or less interchangeable, weren't they?

French: I think they were to a certain extent. When one of us
wasn't busy we'd go with the other one; we worked to-

Drury: Curry was from the East, wasn't he?

French: Yes, he was their [Sage's] man from Hale, Michigan,
on the Great Lakes where Sage owned thousands of
acres. '

Drury: How many thousands of acres do you think you've
cruised over the 40-odd years that you've teen do-
ing this?

French: I've been checking pretty close lately, and I guess
nearly a million acres.

Drury: You've gone over and estimated the timber on a
million acres?

French: I figure it's pretty close to that; I want to go over
my notes and check that up. That's two-run cruises,
four -nm cruises, and tree counts. ' **

Drury: How many trees to the acre?

French: Well, they run from 10 to 35 or 40.

Drury: Probably 25 to 35 million trees that have had the
ministrations of Percy French. [Laughter]

Well, Mrs, Fry, I wanted us to have some record
of Mr, French's experiences in cruising timber because
the Save-the -Redwoods League for over 40 years has had
complete confidence in his cruises, and the lumber
companies and timber speculators pretty generally
were willing to either buy or sell on his cruises.

French: That's right. I never had any particular question
on my work. Sometimes my cruise of timber would not
check to other cruisers, which would call for a re-
check cruise by the cruisers. Once Sage lumber Company
come to me and said they wanted to sell that land
across the river from Weott of about a thousand acres.
He said, "You've got a certain cruise there of so
many million board feet and the buyers claim you are
10 to 12 per cent too high,"

I laughed and I said, "Is that so, Mr. Holter?"

He said, "Yeah. Don't you think you could
knock that down 10 per cent?"

I said, "What do you mean, just take the cruise
and knock it off 10 per cent? I'll tell you, Mr*
Holter, if they say I'm so high, where is their check
on it? You get their cruise and show it to me, then
let's get their cruiser and we'll go out and check it
together. "

But they never sent anybody out and they paid
for the entire stumpage on my cruise. Holter told me
afterwards they probably could have got more. [Laughter]

Fry: Was the cruise on the Pacific Lumber Company lands
around Bull Creek in dispute about 1930?
Drury: No, this cruise that I have here was made as a check
between Pacific Lumber Company and the Save-the-Redwoods
League to verify or pass upon a cruise made by Mr,
Herman Gutsch. When our negotiations reached that
point. Pacific Lumber said, "This cruise of H.A. Gutsch
will have to be increased 40 per cent, which will give
you the amount of stumpage."

Of course. Dr. Merriam, who was a scientist and
was accustomed to precision in measurements, said, "Any
cruise that has to be increased 40 per cent isn't a
cruise." And that's how we got Percy into this.


Flood of 1955

Drury: Next is the Bull Creek discussion, if Mrs. Fry wants
to move on to that.

We have had, as you know, this critical flood
on Bull Creek where we lost about 55 acres of land in
the flats and about 550 trees, some of them eight or
ten feet in diameter. We figured, Percy, that the
market value of the trees that were lost, whatever
the cause of it was, would run well over half a
million dollars.

The question before us is. What causes this
severe erosion and what is the best corrective measure
to use?

French: Now, I ain't accurate enough yet to draw any firm
conclusions; I only took my own work and records I'd
made in the past and then went "back to Bull Creek and
spot-feed it out — noticed the same spots to see how
they had changed since the 1955 floods — and made a
rough estimate of changes in the Bull Creek channel
through the park, from about Section 30 down to the
Eel Riyer. The channel "banks haven't eroded more than
15 to 25 per cent of where they were before the flood,
and the rest of it has moved only slightly in place.
The balance is the same as it was in past years. I
think you said 55 acres were lost, but, by golly, I
figured it all up and I figure it might be five or
six acres lost at the most, but I don't want to make
It public yet because I'll have to go out there and
measure. I can't just walk up there and tell by look-
ing at it like I can a redwood tree. But I know that
the channel is intact the way it was in the thirties, and
in 1951 when I left the park.

Drury: Here is a photograph of Bull Creek taken in the
twenties, I'm not trying to argue with you on this,
but this is another photograph of a similar area at
the same point taken after the 1955 flood. Now, can
you possibly contend that there has not been any mater-
ial destruction?

French: That's just like they out a highway through Prairie
Creek redwoods one time for a 50-foot road, and
everybody come alone and said it'd ruined and altered
the forest there. I hadn't had too much experience,
But I told them, “Wait till that heals over and
grows together." And now what's Prairie Creek?
It's considered one of the prettiest roads in the
redwood belt, where they said it was altered. Well,
the reason it looked so open is the same thing that
makes Bull Creek look so different; all the limbs
were taken out and it just left the trees straight
up and down with nothing left. I can show you a picture
or two that gives you an idea of what I'm talking about.
See how narrow Bull Creek looks there? But it's just
as wide then as it is today.

Note: (The sharp gusts of wind blowing intermittently down
the creek channel broke off the extended limbs facing
the channel. Then due to the years of logging opera-
tions on the Bull Creek watershed above the park boundary,
logging debris accumulation was washed down the channel
from the barren slopes by several hours of heavy rain —
which hadn't happened in this locality for many years.
Log jams formed along the creek, and with the quickly
rising waters, all started down the creek gathering more
debris along the route, even taking the Bull River
Lumber Company's log deck. This formed a huge dam at
the upper Bull Creek Bridge and this bridge broke.)

Drury: Here is a picture of some of the destruction of the
1955 flood; surely you can't contend that no acreage
was lost at that point along the creek.

French: Well, I know, but you can take 30 feet off that creek
for a quarter of a mile and how much would you lose?
A couple of acres at the most.

Drury: Well, you're the computer.

French: That's all there would be to it; 33 feet for a quarter
of a mile is an acre.

Drury: Then it's your opinion that the loss of acreage at
Bull Creek Flat has been exaggerated.

French: Well, I want to take two or three days and measure it
out, and if I was doing it for you I'd do that because
I've got all my old marks there.

Fry: You actually marked the trees, you mean?

French: Well, I cut them off, because we had to cut some.
Look at this picture.

(Continuing from page 29) Releasing the log jam and
debris which spread out on Bull Creek channel and
took all the smaller trees such as alder dogwood,
tan oaks, small fir, and shrubbery such as huckle-
berry, etc. It left the wide channel appearing
quite barren after the flood, but the new growth is
coming in already, and in a few years it will be
back to normal. B.P. French.

Log Jam in Bull Creek, August 1934.

(Missing Photo)

Same place in Bull Creek, June 1965

(Missing Photo)

Mr. French notes, "You will note there is very
little change, if any, in the width of the Bull
Creek channel at this spot and this is true the
entire length of Bull Creek. I find two or
three places where the creek banks were washed
away where jams gathered."

(Missing Photo)

>.. After the denudation at watershed and the flood of 1955.
(picture from California Division of Beaches and Parks)

Drury: Where did those downed logs come from? This was taken
in the thirties?

French: Yes, 1935 to '40. The logs came from upstream where
they were logging.

Drury: Were they logging in 1935?

French: Oh, yes, men had been splitting in there for several
years, and maybe some of this came from the upper end
th«re because they'd logged in there for the last
thirty years, up above the parks for four or five

Drury: You mean that opening for Bull Creek Village was once
a heavy forest?

French: Well, part of it was, yes, and they want a big price
right now for the timber that's still on it.

Drury: Well, nobody contends that there hasn't been erosion
before this.

French: Now, they don't realize that those wide spots were al-
ready there. I've been there every day for the last
forty years} I know it just like my back yard.

Causes of Erosion - Should They Be Corrected ?

Drury: Percy, you read this report on the protection of
Bull Creek Flat by the Division of Soil Conservation
of the State of California, Do you care to make any
comment on it?

French: No, not -too much. Part of it is all right. This
flood probably wouldn't happen again in a thousand
years, "because it's been here a thousand years and
It never happened before. Now, here is what they
say, and I agree with them a hundred' per' cent. Why
did it happen? Because in September 1955 there was
a fire up there that brought everything down as flat
as this floor. Then they started logging the trees
and they did it with cats [caterpillar tractors] up
and down the hills and made regular channels right up
next to the fire area; then come the rain, and
instead of it being retarded as it came down the hill-
side by the little green stuff like you see there now
(the same rain today wouldn't be half the race), it
just raced down the hill to the creek and everything
was washed out like a tide.

Drury: There haven't been many fir trees growing back on
the slopes of Panther Creek or Cuneo Creek, or those
other creeks that drain into Bull Creek.

French: We was up there and the slopes show a good start of
all the trees and shrubbery that grew there before.

Drury: I was up there less than a month ago and I saw nary
a fir — mostly tan oak.

French: Don't matter what 'tis; long as it' has roots and it
grows, it'll hold that soil.

Drury: Then you feel fairly sure that nature is healing the

French: [laughing] Well, I just can't get away from it,
Newton, If I could tell you all the different times
I've seen it happen I'd be talking all night. There
was Albee Creek, Mill Creek, Squaw Creek, and all
those creeks where they logged that flow into Bull
Creek, and it all happened the same way: They had
a fire and all the timber had been cut above it and
the water come down, with nothing to stop it.

Drury: Well, everybody respects your opinion on these
things, Percy, and I do particularly. There are two
things, however, that make some justification for
the misgivings. Men like Dr. Lowdermilk, for instance,
go up to Cuneo Creek and see a 50-foot wall of gravel
and debris of the type of soil that in a heavy rain
will just melt away and roll down the tributary
creeks. This in turn tends to raise the water level
to a point where more trees along the Bull Creek will
be undercut,

Fry: Have gravel and debris from above always come down to
raise the level of the creek bed?

French: Not as heavy as this, no.

Drury: This is the only time something like this has happened.

French: Yes, we'll say the only .time in hundreds of
Because it is just the same as it was In 1890. Take
the time I had my tools and everything and a crew of
men on Greenlaw Bluff, which was pretty near half a
mile long and covered with fir from one side to the
other. It's a wonder I'm here. One morning at eight
o'olock, no rain or anything, a slide started and
went down to the river and it moved Eel River over on
what is known as Camp Five Plat, another flat Just
like Bull Creek Plat, and it run through there for a
week or two because it took that long for the erosion
to get out of there. The river was high, too. But
now you couldn't find any damage. In time it heals
over and that's all there is to it.

Drury: Your point is that the sedimentation from floods is
as necessary to the growth of those trees as the silt
was that came down the Nile in ancient Egypt.

French: Well, about every ten years the Plat gets covered
over. One of the largest floods we ever had, higher
than this one in 1955 1 was on March 22, 1915. I
worked all night to get the people out of houses at

Drury: If this was higher than the 1955 flood, how much
damage was done on Bull Creek that year?

French: Not anymore than — Well, you say "damage." There'd
be a tree fall now and then on the bank, but while one
tree falls on the bank, there 'd be eight or ten falling
on the main Plat, with no flood waters at all, only
bad winds.

Drury: Trees fall every day, yes.

French: That's just nature's way of improving things, if you
want to really get at the truth of it.

Drury: There's no question about that.

French: I was interested when you mentioned Canoe Creek.
There's a creek that's been in its natural state for
a thousand years; probably two or three thousand be-
cause it took that long for the crop of trees that's
there now to grow, and it took another thousand before
that. I've showed it to Garden Club members and the
public hundreds of times, in its natural state, the
mouth of it and all; that's why I got a little excited
when it was threatened. Oh, you could go in there and
make it a man-made thing, but it's been there for
thousands of years and it'll stay another thousand.

Drury: Mr. French is referring to 'to incident where a mis-
guided cat driver bulldozed a trail up Canoe Creek; his
thought was that they were going to start to take out
these downed logs that had been there for a century or
maybe several centuries. They are not going to do that.
You see in Canoe Creek a good example of the
stability of a watershed when you own and protect prac-
tically all of it. Don't you think, Percy, that the
lesson of Canoe Creek, and the minimal damage done
there in the 1955 flood, tends to support the idea that
this was an abnormal thing on Bull Creek in 1955?

Prenoh: Well, these men say that in the report, but if they
start in now and build those dams and stop the sediment
from coming down, like it's always done, I can't see
that it would work.

Drury: Don't you concede, though, that this debris and gravel,
rocks and all the rest of it, are coming down at an
accelerated rate? I have felt as you do, that the
healing by natural growth of the scars of the cutting
and the fires will in time establish an equilibrium up
there. But you wouldn't recommend, as this report does,
that $7,125,000 be spent on building a flood control and
sediment retention dam?

French: No, because that's going against nature. That's pre-
venting nature doing what's been going on there for a
thousand years or more that made the greatest trees
in the world, and I wouldn't know how to cope with
that at all. It would be out of my line. Why inter-
fere with nature when she is doing it and she has done
it all these years and there ain't no reason to believe
that she won't do it from now on?

Drury: Trouble is, you're dealing with both nature and
human nature. [Laughter]

French: Well, you'll have trouble trying to handle either

Drury: I think we are dealing with an abnormality here, as
when you have to put in a highway and you let in
sun and light and sometimes moisture. You have an
accelerated growth that gives you a screen along the
highway, so you have to clear it out to get any views
at all.

French: Yes, that's true.

Drury: For 21 years you handled that erosion situation at
Bull Creek, didn't you? How did you handle it?

French: Well, there are certain things you can do, that
anyone can do. It may be something that nature
can't do, but you have to. They are doing a good
job there with those cats, shoving the gravel over'
into holes so the main channel comes down, so that
as this erodes and gets away and cleans out itself
it'll eventually be back where it belongs, and not
get under the roots.

Drury: Do you think that's all that's necessary? What do
you think of this bank revetment work?

French: Well, I think if they want to spend some money I'd
let them do it. They can't hurt anything except maybe
the looks of it. Oh, there are places, we'll have to
admit, where we'll say all right, we'll push the gravel
up. What more can you do?

Fry: Are you recommending simply a continuous program of
gravel removal?

French: In my estimation nature will in time take care of the
gravel in the creek channel.

Fry: What about the coincidence of these two conditions?
Could the burning over of the watershed and the log
jam on the creek happen again simultaneously?

French: Well, the logs are gone now; they've taken everything
out so the second growth can come up, and it'll be
fifty years before that timber is ready to cut.

Fry: And the really bad floods come about how often?

French: About every 10 or 15 years. The ones I measured
were all about the same. This one in 1955 happened
to hit two or three places along the river especially.
One place was down where the boys had the bridges by
Lane's Flat. The water raised there seven feet, and
the boys took a record of it and said it was raising
six or seven feet an hour. Well, at that rate how
many hours before it would be over the whole county?
I said, "You're wrong," And I finally discovered that
the big bridges there were damming the river with logs,
etc., and it got clear up, and then all at once it all
went out.

Drury: At some points in the river there was a much greater
water level than at other points.

French: Yes, It wasn't the whole river coming up, uniform.
That would have been altogether different. That's
something else, and that wouldn't have been so bad
for the trees, '* ^

It's like a windstorm in those flats. You have
an even steady wind and you'll see those trees blow
over 25 to 30 per cent, and it'll scare you to death.
But then they spring back and right themselves. That's
a uniform wind. But just let that wind stop a minute
and they begin to jerk. We knew 18 trees to fall in
one of our finest groves, right in front of Burlington's
Headquarters in the Gould Grove, It started up at

Richardson Grove and went right on down the line. My
contention is that there ain't a redwood tree that
stands that under certain conditions won't fall. Some
of the finest trees we had, sound and up on the rise
where no water could get to them, they had a wonderful
slope, one morning I went up, a tree was down.

Fry: Mr. French, I guess you know each Bull Creek tree
almost by name. Do you think the loss per year is
greater now than it was in the thirties?

French: No, I'll tell you, we lost 80 trees -— a million
board feet-- one stormy season in the thirties,
1933 or 1934, and the boys who could figure tree
volume were there, So I took the diameters of those
trees that went down and we figured it all came to
about a million feet. Then I took what would come
there in growth for the next ten years, figuring an
inch and a half would be put on them, and they figured
both ways that it would come out to about a million
feet that would grow up there in the ten years. So
I'd say it is holding its own.

Fry: You are speaking of large trees being replaced by
several small trees, not considering the comparative
aesthetic value of the large trees.

Drury: Well, of course it is deplorable when you lose one
tree ten feet in diameter. Some of those trees are
worth a thousand dollars apiece.

French: Yes, that's very true. The larger trees tend to grow
faster for a certain number of years, then they grow
very slow.

Drury: As I understand it, your point is that sudden wind-
fall or destruction through erosion of the big trees
is unavoidable. It's part of the natural process.

French: Why, I'd like to see if there's any man in the United
States who could come and hold some of it up!

Watershed Control

Drury: The thing that we're trying to determine, and that
Superintendent Tryner and all the rest are honestly
trying to determine, is whether this is an abnormal
situation that some temporary manipulation can remedy.
Maybe it isn't. But a final question: What do you
think of the acquisition of the entire Bull Creek
watershed? Don't you think that would be a good
thing from the park standpoint?

French: Well, I'd have to think that over a little. I've
pondered on it two or three times because I know of
places so much finer and greater. • •

Drury: That's what my wife says.

French: The most beautiful park you could buy, of that
description, would be Just this side of Crescent
City in Mill Creek. It's the head of Mill Creek and
just beautiful. And there are a number of other places.

French: The Bull Creek watershed is the roughest place in
the world.

Drury: I know it is. I think much of that land will never
be of any use except as valuable watershed. That
level land at Bull Creek Village, of course, could he
developed recreationally — perhaps to the detriment
of the park, I don't know,

French: And you've got a few acres, about 300 feet of redwood
growth on each side of Bull Creek up at the head of
it I that's pretty nice along there in places.

Drury: If you study the ownership map of that watershed, you'll
find that there are forty or fifty miscellaneous
owners, a considerable percentage of whom have filed
their intention of keeping the land clear, if neces-
sary burning it, in order to convert it from timber
land to grazing land. Now that's a record from the
state forester's office. There are fifteen or sixteen
statements, and under the law the state can't prevent
them from doing that. Apparently those people will
perpetually be trying vainly to create grazing land
there by grubbing and burning. Then there are others
who are going to re-work the downed timber there. All
Of that will keep the watershed in a constant state
of turmoil. You'll never get the stability that
nature would ordinarily give it, unless there can
be control by some one public body, whether the
Division of Beaches and Parks or the Division of
Forestry. I can't help feeling that we should have
unified management of the watershed, whoever is in
charge of it. But you can't have the chaos that
you have there now under such unstable conditions.
How about Some of those owners who contend that
they are going to run sheep on that land?

French: Well, I don't know, Newton, The Pacific lumber
Company had 10,000 acres up near there and they cut
all the timber and ran 1500 or more head of cattle
there. And they kept it burnt — they set fire
every year or two. But still there is a heavy stand
of second growth there today, across the river from
Greenlaw Bluff, it would pretty near scale out in
timber now to as much as Pacific Lumber cut down
there in the early days in old growth timber.

There is a lot to what you say about the ero-
sion danger. But when you are getting into that,
I'd have to study it out. If that's all they are
going to do, just grass it, why that might not hurt
any. There's been deer and elk there for years.

Drury: But deer and elk don't periodically hack and burn the

French: Yes. But Pacific Lumber used to do it. i doa* lif

Drury: Well, that doesn't make me in favor of it, if the
Pacific Lumber Company did it. [Laughter]

French: Well, me neither. We always used to get mad when we'd
see them set out the fires. I've got some pictures
of it.

Fry: Could the uses of the watershed be regulated by the
Division of Forestry?

French: Well, I don't know ...

Drury: Now, Percy, you know the character of the popula-
tion there. It's a shifting population. You couldn't
get any cohesive cooperation. There is talk about
forming a soil conservation district; so far as I know
there has never been one formed in Humboldt County.
Those people are the original individualists.

French: Well, what would a soil conservation district be for?

Drury: To put in whatever works are necessary to minimize
erosion and to serve the area below the watershed.

French: Well, that of course gets out of my line. I hope
they don't start in doing something to Bull Creek,
where we've got the greatest forest in the world.
See, I got a little feeling against man. There wasn't
a tree cut from Scotia on when I first came here.
Everything that's happened there has been done by
man and his little tomahawks.

Now Bull Creek is settled down and in the next
four years it'll get back a lot of that growth and
it'll be Just the same as it has been.

Fry: If it's left alone. I guess what we need is a
guarantee that the watershed will not be mishandled.

French: Well, I don't think they're allowed to burn. We got
a law on that.

Drury: They can burn in season, of course.

French: They've got to know what they're doing if they burn;
they'll burn up the other guy's land, too.

I tell you what I am more afraid of now. I
cruised that Bull Creek Plat in 1930. Now, just
the other day we went through to find a corner or
two, and to my surprise I couldn't crawl through it.
When I went through it in 1930 I could see the ground
as clear as this floor. I'm going to make a report
on that to you one of these days soon, Newton, after
I take another look — I don't want to get too excited
yet. But if that whole Bull Creek basin is that way,
and it ever caught on fire nothing would stop it.

All that undergrowth of hazel and huckleberry is
getting so thick, I don't see how it could hurt
anything to cut a little of it out.

Drury: That argument has been waging since before you and
I were young men. In Mendocino County there were
the light-burning people, and the let-nature-alone
people, and the people who wanted to pile the brush
and let it disintegrate. They are all still arguing
along the same lines that they did when I first went
up there.

Well, it's been valuable to get the benefit of
your thoughts on these problems. I wish we had
time today to record some of your exploits of hero-
ism, too.


Fry: Now could we go back to about 1922 when you began work-
ing around Humboldt for the State Division of Forestry?

French: First I cruised Richardson Grove for Solon Williams,
who was the head of the Division of Forestry; he had
me cruise Richardson Grove and Williams Grove, A few
years before, I met Newton Drury of the Save-tho-Red-
woods League*

Drury: Yes, that was in 1919. Dr. Merrlam was head of the
Redwoods League, and J.C. Sperry was a very active
director. He and I and my brother Aubrey went up to
Ukiah first and met you and E.J. James of the Sage
Land and Improvement Company. I think Ed James is
still up there in Ukiah, isn't he?

French: E.J. James has passed on. His son Ed is still in Ukiah
but he never worked in the timber.

Drury: We arranged for you to cruise the Sage timber which
made up the bulk of the Humboldt Redwoods State Park.

Fry: Did you do anything except cruise at first, when Solon
Williams was chief forester?

French: No. That's all I did till I went to work for the
state as superintendent.

Fry: Were you hired on a steady basis by the Save-the-
Redwoods League, or were you hired by the job?

French: I worked by the day or job.

Fry: You weren't their full-time employee, then?

French: Only when I had a particular job to do for them.
I was cruising for others also.
Fry: Were you an employee of the state later on?

French: Yes, from May 1931 to 1953. I was district
superintendent of the northwest district of state
parks. Colonel Charles B. Wing was chief.
I also served under the Forestry Board for a
while, in 1922 and later.

Beginning the Redwood Parks

Fry: After you met Mr. Drury and when the Save-the-
Redwoods League bought some of these groves of

Drury: We have a tabulation right from the beginning of
the groves that were purchased, for instance by
the Save-the-Redwoods League and by Humboldt County.
I'm surprised to find that Humboldt County put in
close to $100,000 in the early days. Then the
Russ family gave us a piece of land on Prairie Creek
and the county bought the Roberts tract for $50,000,
and so on and so on.

The Forestry Board spent $300,000 to set up th«
nucleus of the Humboldt Redwoods State Park and they
did a very good ^ob of purchasing (with Mr, French *s
help). It was later on that the park commission was
established, I think you were th« first park super-
intendent under Colonel Wing of the State Park
Commission in 1927*

French: Yes, for this redwood district.

Fry: What did that include?

Drury: The counties of Humboldt, Del Norte and Mendocino.

French: Colonel Wing was a wonderful old gentleman; he told
me what he wanted me to do and I said, "Well, I*m
not capable of doing this, Colonel Wing, This
takes an education,"

"Well," he says, "we don't care about that.
Educate!" He said, "We're educating them down here
in Stanford, we're putting them out by the dozens,
and we haven't got a man to come up here to take
your place in the redwood parks."

Drury: You did pretty well. The protection of these
properties was mostly worked out during your 21 years,

French: Well, in a sense I wouldn't have gone to work then
if it had been anywhere else, but I thought. Well,
it'll just "be for a few months and I'm just as a
Interested in saving them as they are. So I went
to work at it at about half the salary I could get,
"but that didn't have any bearing on it because I
was like my dad: he was a great believer in saving
the redwoods and so was I. So I took it.

Drury: Now you don't mean to say you never cut down a red-
wood tree, Mr. French. [Laughter] ^

French: Well, I tried to show a man the other day where I'd
cut one down and I couldn't find it, so they are
all hid anyway. But when I was seventeen years old
— that was way back in the nineties — I had to
make a little money and so the P. L. Company [Pacific
Lumber] (Dad had worked for them) said I could go
out and cut a tree if I wanted to, any tree I could
find. So I went out now and then and I suppose I
out eight or ten trees for split lumber. But they
never misaed them.

Drury: That's the same way the farmers would go out and
kill a chicken; if you needed a little spending
money you'd cut down a redwood. [Laughter]

French: yes, I'd get $4 a thousand for split shakes delivered
to the railroad and today split shakes are worth
anywhere from $60 to $lOO per thousand.

Fry: What areas did the parks cover when you started
as superintendent?

French: We started with Bull Creek, which was about eight
thousand acres, Richardson Grove, Williams Grove,
Hickey Grove, Whitemore Grove and Patricks Point;
and then right after that they got the Garden Club
of America Groves and Prairie Creek, which was six
or eight thousand acres, and then I think the League
bought the piece in Del Norte, 7,000 acres. It ran
up pretty fast to 50 or 40 thousand acres. Clifford
Allen was telling me the other day we had 60,000
acres of redwoods when I left in 1953, and they've
bought some since.

Drury: There are now 86,254 acres in all of the redwood
parks, but that includes south of San Francisco in
Big Basin, Butano, and Portola parks. Up in your
district it's about 62,000 acres.

Protection. On the Spot

Fry: You were charged with the total protection of this?

French; Yes.

Fry: When you first started, what sort of protection did
it need the most?

(Missing Picture)

Northwest District State Park Staff, 1945:
left to right, first row, Edward Nash,
Llewellyn Griffith, Lloyd Lively, Carl
Schnaur, James P. Tryner, Ronald Miller;
second row, Ernest Aronstein, Charles
Lilley, Glen Jones, William Weatherbee,
George Lynn, Richard Brock, Enoch P. French,
Ernest Gray.

French: Fire protection always was needed and should be
yet. What I'm trying to talk them into now is
to he sure and keep an eye on the forests them-
selves. They don't understand it all, I was
telling Corky [Clifford Allen] the other day,
"For God's sake, you can't sit in an office and
protect these parks." When I was here for 21
years I never paid any attention to an office.
That was not my work anyway; of course, I had a
man who stayed there. "But you have to get out
into the parks, you've got to protect them from
fire and trespassers. Look at Canoe Creek now.
No one's there to protect it." Trespassers went
right in and cut it and took out two or three
million hoard feet. That was after I left.

Drury: It runs into hundreds of thousands of dollars and
the pitiful thing is that in all of our proceed-
ings in court I don't think we ever got a red cent
in reparation. The kind of people who trespass
on other people's timber are judgment -proof;
they haven't any assets, so that you might get a
judgment against them hut you never could collect.

French: I said to Corky, "Well, who gets out there once in
a while?" He says, "Well, nobody. We don't have
time. We have so much writing here," I said,
"I worked 21 years and never thought of anything,
only of protecting them." He told me the other
day a man came along overnight and felled a tree
worth two or three thousand dollars, cut it up in
the night, got it out, put it on a truck and was
gone. They don't know yet where it went, I said,
I guess that could have happened to me, but I
doubt it.

Fry: You mean you literally walked around through all
these forests?

French: Well, you go as far as you can with a machine, and
if it gets too rough you walk. But you got to get
around your boundaries, and I don't understand
with all the money we have to run the parks with
and the risk we're running from fires and other
things, why we don't have a man there every day.
When I was there you'd drive as far as you could,
up Canoe Creek you'd use all the roads you could
to get there, then you'd walk clear around, but
you've got to make the entire trip, you can't
make it one day and let it go another year.

Fry: "Clear around" the boundaries only? Why didn't
you inspect the interior, too?

French: Well, anyone interested in getting logs out just goes
around the boundries to see if they can get
in there. If they can't get in they don't bother.

Drury: They have to have access roads.

Fry: In the thirties this was not one continuous park
in Humboldt; you had a lot of little parks, so
there were many boundaries.

French: Well, no, You take Canoe Creek, They tried to
buy it in blocks, like Bull Creek.

Drury: There were a lot of inholdings... still are, for
That matter.

Fry: What did you do about the inholdings?

Drury: The same as he did for the park; fire was the
great hazard.

French: Fire was one of the main dangers; it is right now.
I see things that I know no one else can see and
they're only going to see it when it gets afire.
That's why I keep telling them, "You've got to
know the minute a fire starts, for protection
against crown fires." Well, just look at any red-
woods that are all scarred up from a fire a hundred
or two hundred years ago.

Fry: What was the source of most of the fires in the
early years?

French: Hundreds were set in my times; around Canoe and
Bull Creeks. I've seen seven or eight fires set there
in one day. Once we were on Grasshopper Ridge
[a lookout] and we had to go to the head of Bull
Creek and clear around for miles to catch them
cropping up.

Drury: Did you ever arrest any hunters in Humboldt Red-
woods State Park?

French: Oh yes, they got two or three there. Some of them
they caught they proved set the fires, sure.

Drury: While poaching on the deer.

French: I knew all the boys — I don't like to mention
their names, that wouldn't be right; I was raised
there myself — and of course they'd just have to
laugh at me because I knew what they were doing
and they knew it. "Oh, we're just resting."
But they were out killing deer in the parks. To
me, that didn't hurt anything; a deer is all right.
But if a man's out there with a truck and he takes
some trees off it takes 500 to 1000 years to grow
them again; they don't come right back. Anyhow,
that's what I was there for, to protect them from
fire and trespassing.

Fry: What did you do in the twenties and thirties when
you discovered a fire?

French: The first thing is to start backfiring. You get
your men —

Fry: Where did you get your men?

French: Wherever you could. Any man who'd just come along
the road you'd stop and tell him to come out and
help you.

Fry: I Wasn't the Division of Forestry in existence?

French: No — not during the twenties, But the Division

of Forestry was always available after I went to
work for the parks*

Drury: Ever since the beginning, almost, the Division of
Forestry was primarily responsible for putting out
fires, but the park crew would take them first and
then when forestry arrived they'd take over,

French: And if they asked us to stay we had to stay
Drury: You remember very well the time during the Depression
when fellows were out of jobs they would set fires
and then go to work as fire fighters.

Fry: Was this a real problem for you?

French: Yes. I was right on Grasshopper Ridge — - that's
our lookout — and I was talking to Earl Hanson,
who was out there. Five fires started in Bull Creek.
It was hunters. It happened to be a bad fire hazard
country? it burnt the whole country out that time.

Fry: It was an especially bad time?

French: Yes. If you get certain falls, certain dry spells.
like Bull Creek just before the '55 flood. It seems
to be a bad period right now [1962], because we haven't
had any snow and we're short of rain.

Some people stole the ferns; that was a funny-

Drury: That's another form of trespass, the fern pickers,
which really doesn't do a great deal of harm,

French: They can make $15 or $20 per day selling ferns to

I was going to tell you about the one piece
of land that was reported because fern pickers had
been there, I run up and inspected it and I said,
"Well, I guess that'll be all right;" and in two
or three years it was prettier than it had ever
been before; just like you had a lot of weeds and
stuff out in the garden and mowed them all down.
Those ferns came up beautiful. But that wasn't
the thing you wanted. You didn't want them all
beautiful there and the rest of them looking too

Drury: The fact remains that it's against the law. But
ferns of course die down in the winter.

The subject of burls, I think, is important,

French:Yes, I had to watch that. We had large burls,
seven or eight feet in diameter, worth many thou-
sands of dollars. In the Garden Club Grove, in
Canoe Creek, and in Prairie Creek you've got lots
of burls.

Drury: It's something like bird's-eye maple, I imagine.
It polishes beautifully and is very hard, like

French: We could watch the forest more carefully then because
we didn't have the work they do now in offices;
they've got more men now in offices than we used to
have in the whole parks.

Fry: You weren't too troubled with paper work.

French: No, that didn't bother me at all. My wife took
care of it till I got first Tony Urch, Earl
Hanson and others,

Drury: You believed that the important function of a super-
intendent was to get over the ground and see what
the conditions were.

French: That was the only thing I thought of.

Running the Park Boundaries

French: When I hired out first for eight months the State
Park Commission paid me half and the state paid me
half, I was supposed to retrace the boundaries and
mark them so anyone could find them. Well, eight
months went on and the State Park Commission was
paying me half time, and finally the state gave me
a check for full time and let the commission forget

Drury: I don't know what you're referring to when you speak
of the commission paying half. They were using the
same money that the Division of Parks was using.

French: Well, I don't know where they got it.
Drury: Part of your compensation came from the Save-the-
Redwoods League, I think, in the early days.

Fry: At any rate, you stayed on.

French: I didn't want to stay on because I was cruising
and I could make more money. But the money I
didn't care so much for, I wasn't a great hand at
looking for that.

Drury: His case was much like that of the young man who
made the rather cynical remark that once you get
interested in your work you're sunk. [Laughter]

French: I thought maybe I'd get through in a year, and 21
years later I got through and I was further behind
than when I started. The boundaries are not run yet.

Drury: When I left Sacramento we were ten years behind
just on boundaries, with the crew that we then had.

Fry: Is it so difficult to get appropriations?

Drury: It is for that kind of thing, yes, and it's hard to
organize the crews. You see, we were buying land
very extensively and for every piece of land you
bought, there was some kind of a map of it and
sometimes very good government notes on the corners
the markers for the corners are the hard thing; the
monuments disappeared. Down in the desert they just
put up a cairn of stones; up in your country you'd
usually blaze a tree, wouldn't you, Percy?

French: Oh, yes.

Drury: The corner might not be there at all physically but
anybody who's experienced in surveying could locate
it because it gives the angle from different points
--usually two to four trees up in that country.

Fry: I When the Save-the -Redwoods League and the Park
Commission bought these lands didn't you have to have
an established boundary before you could purchase it?

Drury: Usually by common consent, For Instance, a very common
method of bounding properties in the early days was
to use some stream or the shore of a lake or some
physical object. The great disadvantage of that is
that streams change their course and lakes dry up,
so nowadays the boundaries are much more meticulous;
they have surveys by metes and bounds. That's one
of the many things that slows up the process of buy-
ing land. In the old days when land and timber
didn't cost so much we often took a chance just from
a map, and they really weren't very accurate maps

French: Sometimes. Then after the purchase we'd survey it
and find out what we had. You can't do that now, with
timber at $40 a thousand.

Park Staff

Fry: Mr, French, when you had charge of the park but
very little staff, what did you do during tourist

French: Well, the parks gave us a few men. The Save-the-
Redwoods League put some in, too; they put one at the
azalea patch, and Newton furnished a clean-up man,
up and down the road.

Drury: The present dean of the College of Chemistry, Bob
Conniok, started his career as a schoolboy driving
up and down the highway with a stick with a nail on
it picking up papers. The Save-the-Redwoods League
financed that, somewhat in the way of what you might
call selfish motives; we had these very generous people
who were giving money to match the state money and
they'd go up there in the tourist season and it'd
"be so littered up that it created a very adverse
impression, so it was cheap at the price to hire
somebody to go ahead of them and pick up the litter.

French: I can give you a little instance of that. Newton
[and a group of Leaguers] came along one day. Bob
was very conscientious, he never would miss a
cigarette paper. He got ahead of us about an hour
or two and a bunch of tourists come in and they
cluttered the road up again. Well, of course the
league was paying him and they thought it ought to
have been cleaned. It had been cleaned, but it was
hard to make them believe that.

Drury: Percy, I agree with you that we wish we could go
back to the good old days, but in that one respect,
the maintenance of camp grounds and roadsides and all.
I think things are better because they have more hands.

French: Oh, yes.

Drury: I objected that we concentrated too much attention
on the campgrounds and the roadsides and not enough
on the thing you've been talking about, protection.

French: That's the whole thing. To me the litter didn't
mean much. In winter the water washed it all off
and then that's gone. But tourists don't like it.

Drury: The whole tendency in park administration nowadays
is to concentrate on what you might call the popu-
lated areas where housekeeping is a necessity, and
not just daily but hourly housekeeping. And a lot
of more important things aren't being taken care of
as thoroughly as they were in the old days.

French: The thing that I worked for is gone. Corky is the
only one I know who can go out and locate a parti-
cular point.
Drury: One of the great difficulties, Percy, is that the
rangers have been moved up by promotion, and the
system expanded so that there's a constant turnover.
There are very few oldtimers; Corky Allen is one of
the few up there who knows much of anything about the

French: Glen Jones is pretty good, for a younger man. He
is superintendent of Prairie Creek, He was with me.

Fry:Just one other phase of park administration I wanted
to ask you about: Did you set up any sort of
exhibits for the tourists?

French: Well, at Dyerville we had quite a setup for a
while when I was there, then it washed away in the
flood of '55. We started it about five years before
I left. All sorts of exhibits of flowers, shrubs
and trees, I took cuts from some trees in there,
two thousand -year-old cuts,

Fry: You didn't do much of this in the thirties, then?

French: No, We didn't have time to do that then. It just
took all our time to watch the river and the fires.

Drury: Wasn't it during your time that the exhibit at
Richardson Grove was set up?

French: Yes.

Drury: I remember Emery J, McLaughlin in a picture [of that

French: Oh, sure, he was a good hand, an old woodsman like
myself. He was an honest old state-of-Mainer.

Drury: Oh, California has its share of honest people, too,
[Laughing] In the early days you didn't have anything but
State-of-Mainers and Nova Scotians and maybe a few
French Canadians. That's what ran the country.

Fry: I As you got rangers in, did you try to train them?

French: We did when I was there, yes.

Fry: Did you do any of that?

French: Yes, I'd say I trained them; Glen said the other day,
"I learned more being out with you than I've ever
learned anywhere else." He was referring to outside
work. I was with them and I'd take them with me to
run lines. I guess I was "training" them,

Drury: There were the two city fellows who didn't find any
firewood .

French: Oh, I was telling that the other day. When Governor
Rolph came in office they made some new appointments
in the parks. And here came a new ranger, a yoiing
man just married and his wife.

Drury: [Laughing] This was before the days of civil service.

French: Well, he come in, so I take him up and put him in the
rangers' house. Of course it was rough; it was
expected to be, I'd slept out between two roots of
a tree for years and I thought he could at least lay
in a house with a fire and a stove, I says, "There's
the stove." There was a little wood that had been
left by the last man there. I said, "You can build
a fire.” “Fine.” I thought it was all fine. I
came back next day and he hadn't had a fire yet
because he told the boys he couldn't build a fire
-- there was no way to open the stove. [Laughter]
It was a stove with lids on it. He'd never seen
one in his life. Well, that was the first experience.

And then Old Man Holt, the new ranger they sent
to Dyerville, come to me when I come in in the evening
and he said, "Mr. French, I've been all around here;
I can't find any wood." [Laughter] I looked at him
and wondered what the devil he meant, and finally I
said, "Well, did you go up Bull Creek?"

"Yes," he said, "you told me to go up there and
I went all over that creek from one end to the other
and I didn't see a stick of wood." "By God," I says,
"I'll send to Colonel Wing and tell him we have
millions of feet of timber here but we can't find wood
enough to build a fire in a little stove." I says,
"I don't know how you got in and out with your truck,
it's so covered with limbs there." I figured he'd
go up like any other man and throw a lot of limbs in
the truck, come down and saw 'em up for wood. He
expected to find it all tied in little square bundles
like you get in a service station or something.

We couldn't get in with a car for the timber, and
he "couldn't find any wood.” Well, I always took it
easy, I never got excited, because I'd lived rougher
than they ever thought of living. They'd have starved
to death. But that didn't have nothing to do with it
either. When I started in we'd go out in the woods,
W.J. Curry and I, in places where I don't believe some
of them could go out now and survive.


Drury: Tell about the time you came down the river on a tree.

French: That was in the flood. The river got up high.

Fry: Which river is this?

French: Eel River. It backs into the groves when it is high.
You're probably referring to the times when we
were working up the river and living at Rio Del.
During high waters when the roads were washed out and
we wanted to go home we would jump on a log or anything
that would hold us up and drift down the river using a
paddle made from a piece of timber found in the woods
for steering. This was our only means of transporta-
tion when the roads were washed out. Of course, to
get back we had to walk, or ride and tie. (Ride and
tie is where you ride a horse for a quarter of a mile
or so then the rider jumps off and ties the horse and
walks up the trail and his pardner coming from behind
jumps on the horse and rides on past the first rider
another quarter of a mile or so, ties the horse, and
80 on until you get back to camp.)

Anyway, the Eel River backs into the groves when
it is high. I rowed up in there, then I took the
boat way up the creek. When the water's high every-
thing is still, so it's easy; it's so full it can't
get away, (I took Mr. Olmsted in there at high water
and he was just tickled to death; he was going to
start having us put some canals in there.) [Laughter]

One day I went over to the Tall Tree in a boat
with Jake Poole, another native. We crossed the river.
It was up to about four feet below the railroad track
and coming back there was a great big tree floating
down and I wanted to see it. It was eight or ten
feet in diameter, and around 500 feet long, I pulled
the boat alongside of it and I jumped out on the tree.
When I turned around Jake was white as a sheet and
hanging onto the boat, scared to death. I can always
gauge those things and I said, "It's all right, Jake."
That tree would have taken us out to the ocean.

Another time I took Earl Hanson and went across
the river. The river was right up under our buildings
where we .lived and he wanted to get to the railroad
on the other side, so I took the boat and rowed him
and a couple others up around. A tree fell over the
electric light wire and knocked it into the water and
it splashed just below us. We didn't pay any atten-
tion to that; I took them clear over and brought them
back. Earl was pretty quiet; he's got a pretty good
head on him. He didn't say much. But Mrs. Hanson and
the girls said, "You just liked to've scared Earl and
the rest of them to death."

Drury: What was that episode where you rescued someone from
up there in Eel River?

French: Oh, Mr. Vinnum that fell in the river across from
South Fork. It was during high water when the river
was overflowing its banks. Mr. Vinnum, in his sixties,
lived across the river from the railroad station at
South Fork and made a daily trip to the post office
for his mail. This day, as he was crossing the swift

waters, his boat capsized and he lost his oars. He
managed to right the boat and clung to the swamped
boat which was floating down the river at a rapid
pace. He was calling for help all the time. Jake
Poole, who was outside having just come to work,
heard the cries for help and came running in and said,
"Perce, there's somebody in the river and he's in

I ran out and said, "Where's the boat?" Our
park boat wasn't available, but Jake had a small boat
about ten feet long, just room for one man to sit in.
I took the boat and started to row out to the center
of the river, but the oar broke, so I used one oar
like paddling a canoe. I managed to catch up to the
swamped boat and got hold of the mooring chain which
was attached to the front of Mr. Vinnum's boat. I
wrapped the chain around my leg and told Mr. Vinnum,
"Hang on to the boat and try to keep your head above
water." He had been under twice. The park and
forestry boys were in their trucks by this time, with
ropes and blankets. About two or three miles down
the river they managed to get down to the river bank
and were waiting for us. It was a welcome sight to see
Bill Salyer of the forestry department on the bank with
a rope. I maneuvered the boats to the bank and caught
the rope. Mr. Vinnum was as good as ever in a day or

Drury: You said that you never cut a tree but up at Pepperwood
where you had your boyhood home; wasn't it true that
they used to have tremendous big specimens of the Cali-
fornia laurel, and somebody cut those big trees? Who
was it?

French: [Chuckling] Well, it was the Laurel Lumber Company
that cut 'em; the company bought them and we had to
cut them. [Laughter]

Drury: What was the greatest diameter of a pepperwood (or, a
California laurel) you ever saw?

French: Well, the biggest one we had, as I recall it, offhand,
had to be about five feet, with 80 or 90 feet of barrel
(trunk) on it, and I remember that well because we made
32- foot two-inch plants for bar tops, and they took a
wonderful polish. We shipped a big lot of that you're
talking about to the government, too, but Old Mercer
Frazer still had some left. In fact, one piece is in
the University at Berkeley now. Professor Fritz in
the School of Forestry asked for it.

Drury: Was there a great deal of pepperwood that size up

French: Oh, yes, we bought a million feet in 1919 of pepper-
wood that were from two to four feet in diameter.

Drury: We don't have any California laurel trees of that
dimension any more.

French: Well, you might go someday and look at the mouth of
Chadd Creek right there as you go into Holmes Flat;
we cut all that, and it grows up in 25 or 20 years.
It grows very fast. There is still a stand of pep-
perwood there.

Drury: With park protection those trees will grow up to five
and six feet in diamAer. Like the madrone. There's
one tremendous one near Briceland. Mr. Menzies, who
is on our council, took a picture of it. What's the
diameter of that one?

French: That was 10 feet in diameter with a 150-foot spread;
the limb was bigger than some trees, that limb I
think was three to four feet in diameter.

Drury: Another tree that's disappearing up there is the yew.
They used to go up there and take them out to make bows
for archery.

French: They had them in Mendocino especially.

Fry: Did you have anything to do with showing visitors through
who were special guests of Save-the-Redwoods League?

French: Yes, I couldn't remember how many; several hundred. And
there was one gentleman that had been all over the
United States, he took six months to travel every year
(he's just one of the ones I'm speaking of), who wrote
back and said, "Mr. French, we've traveled all over,
and the most interesting trip was when we went through
the Bull Creek Basin" — where I took him.

Drury: Do you happen to remember what you used to do for the
garden club ladies when the water was too low for them
to go over in the boat?

French: I took them over in the boat, or carried one or two
over on my back.

Drury: Oh, now, you carried many of them over.

French: Oh, well, I just put them on my back and took them

Drury: Well, they didn't seem to object to it, did they?

French: No, I didn't see anything wrong about it. I'd just

take them up and across the river we'd go. [Laughter]

Drury: That was another one of the duties of a park superinten-

Of course I remember very well Mrs. Laura Mahan,
who was chairman or president of the Women's Save-the-
Redwoods League in Humboldt County, which was responsi-
ble for Dr. Merriam and Dr. Osborn and Madison Grant
going up there and starting this whole movement. Her
husband, Mr. J. P. Mahan, was one of the leading attor-
neys there.

Somewhere in our files is a letter from Crescent
City from the Del Norte Women's Save-the-Redwoods League,
the secretary of which was Mrs. Ellen Estes. Unfortunate-
ly, the last time I was in Crescent City I asked about
Mrs. Estes and they said she'd died the year before.
Sometime I want to look up the old files of the Eureka
and Crescent City papers, because I think there's quite
an intriguing story there. These women way up in the
sticks, where in those days they didn't even have a
highway into that country, had the foresight to realize
that this redwood forest was a great thing and should
be preserved.

There were several others — Mrs. Judge Murray,
who died only last year.

French: About Mrs. Mahan — there was only one thing we didn't
agree on. The women got this idea, but she didn't tell
me anything, she told Jim, her husband. I went to the
office and Jim said, "Have you heard anything about
the Women's Club?"

"I haven't, no."

Well. he said, "the California federation of
Woman's Clubs were Just here and want a pond left in
the grove there." In the winter they had five or six
acres of beautiful pond. Jim said, "They want you to
fix it so the water will stay right there,"
I said, "Now, wait a minute, that's one thing I
happen to know about. Do you want the trees or do you
want a pond there? You can get a pond anywhere, but
if you put one there we couldn't have any trees after
a year or two. It would kill them. Redwoods cannot
survive in standing water. They'd have to come out.”

“Oh, you can't do that, Perce?"

I said, "That's what I'm telling you."

So he told her. She had to go and get it checked
up but finally she told him, "No, I guess Perce's right."

I'd seen too many in the woods where there 'd been
water standing and it killed the trees.

Drury: In the sequoia park in Eureka, where they have trees
on the border of a lake —

French: Yes, same thing. At Benbow Dam they've got a few trees
they've lost there through there being too much water.

Drury: Redwoods like water, but not too much of a good thing.
I wanted to ask you, too, if you wanted to tell us
about an early flood. Wasn't there one in the 'teens?

French: The first I remember was in 1890. Then we had one in
1915 when I was living at Pepperwood. I took people
out of the houses all night, working from daylight to
dark, and took all their stock out. Pepperwood is on
the main Bel River. The water was about as high as
in the flood of 1955.

In fact, it could have been higher. At times it
could be higher down the river than it was up the
river, according to the way the water is coming in on
the creeks before they recede. I've seen the main Eel
rise so quick at South Fork that I was up at Williams
Grove in the boat and started downstream, and when I got
to Weott I began to slow up. I don't say I went back
up the river, but I didn't go down very fast. I should
have been moving and I couldn't figure it out, and when
I got down to the fork of the main Eel River I found it
was higher, slowing the water up the South Fork two or
three miles.

Drury: You told about a man who had been through a previous
flood, at Dyerville or South Fork, and had taken refuge
in the top story of his house, so when this 1955 flood
came along he did the same thing. He was an oldtimer.
He went up as high as he could go in his house; the
trouble was the river came up so high he was drowned.

French: Drowned all his cattle, too. When the river went down
a day or two later, the cows were up in the orchard
in the apple trees where they had landed. So they
had to pick the cows out of the apple trees.

You've got to take it as it comes. Of course, they
were cutting timber up in South Fork; these log dams
came in, and in Bull Creek the same, two or three
dams; hadn't been for that mill log deck we wouldn't
have had much trouble in the creek channels. All the
logs came down and jammed right up in the creek channels.

Drury: Well, of course there was a great deal of damage below
the jammed logs also. But maybe fifty per cent of the
damage was due to that.

French: I'd say all of it. I'm like Earl Johnston. If it
hadn't been for that dam down there he thinks they'd
have been all right, and I do too. We'd have had a
little high water, but not much. Earl was right there.
He wasn't excited, but what damage was done to his
store was caused by the log jam at the mill.

You got to take things as they come. Train got
away one day and killed four or five men and I had to
help pick 'em up and put them in baskets. Took drowned
men out of the river.

Fry: Was everybody who lived around there as philosophical
about calamities as you were?

French: Well no, because they didn't do that kind of work.
They were more on fixing up their back yards, and I
lived out in the woods; I was like an Indian, you know.

Fry: What crimes were you troubled with in Northern Califor-
nia in the real early days, when you were a child? The
whole society was so different.

French: Well, the main problems would be, well, like it is now;
fires, high water. Otherwise people just lived like
the Indians, sat around and smoked their pipes, but
they had certain problems like fire and high waters.
Of course you didn't have men with their little toma-
hawks doing much timber cutting, so everything stayed
natural. If timber cutting could be eliminated it
would take only a few years until the South Fork of
the Eel River would be back to its natural state.
Just leave it go and it'll come back again; it's done
it before.

Earlier Plants and Wildlife

Drury: What's become of the Humboldt lilies, Percy?

French: They've taken them all. I haven't seen a redwood lily
for many years.

Pry: What's a redwood lily?

Drury: About like an Easter lily.

French: Every year they'd have another bulb or two and you can
smell them yards away, they have a wonderful fragrance.

Fry: What happened to them?

French: Well, the people the minute they'd see them would nail
them. All redwood lily bulbs have been removed by
people in the last ten years. Very few, if any, can
be found in the parks at present.

Drury: It only takes a few dozen people coming through an area
to denude it.

French: Same thing with trillium. I tried to protect them.

Fry: In cases like that did you ever do any replanting to
try to replace what people removed?

French: No, I never have.

Drury: If you give nature a chance they'll come back. There
are 13,000 acres in Bull Creek that we've just bought
which should become quite a wildflower reserve.

French: Same as you've got on Mill Creek, but the brush is
growing up too heavy now. It was wonderful there

for a while. It is yet, when you get out in it.

Drury: A man wrote me the other day that he'd written and
published a book on the wild animals of the redwood
region. I've been going up there for forty years and
I haven't seen enough wild animals to put in this

French: Oh, after 1910 or '12 the elk, bear and everything just
went out. How could there be any? If you heard of a
bear up there now I'll bet you'd see a string of cars
you'd think were going to a fire. All the dogs and
guns after a poor little bear; they'd just kill him.

French: What about cougars? Aren't they still up in that

French: Well, occasionally one slips over, but he wouldn't last

Fry: Within the park?

French: Anywhere. Well, not so much within the park, but they
nail them outside the park so there's none to come in.
You can get deer in the park, a lot of them. And there
used to be plenty of elk up in Bull Creek.

Drury: There were elk in that country?

French: Yes, as late as 1910.

Drury: You remember seeing elk around Dyerville?

French: Not as much live elk around Dyerville as I found the
horns, but I found them on Bear Creek. I saw 30 or 40

Drury: We have an "Elk Creek" down at the Boiling Grove.

French: The last track I ever saw of an elk was on Elk Creek.
An old cow elk had walked along ahead of me. That was
probably in 1907 or '08. They were still scattered
around but hunters nailed them. You couldn't do any-
thing about that; I never paid any attention to it.
My whole attention was on the natural growth and the
trees; that's what I was there for.

Drury: Of course, that country had been skinned even before
you went up there.

French: Yes, after 1900.

Drury: What about bird life? Was it more abundant in the
early days?

French: Oh, yes. There's lots of quail now in the country.

There were ducks and geese. They used to have them so
thick in Eureka, right out at our place at Pepperwood —
there on the Eel River bar for half a mile you couldn't
see the river bar for the geese. Just once in a while
a few come in now. I was living there in 1914, '15,
'16, and I'd come out in the mornings and here'd be
all these geese on the river bars.

And back about 1899 there were these big geese I
was talking about, honkers, anywhere along the Eel
River. They'd go out onto what's known as Bear River
Ridge in the daytime to get grass, and go down to the
river and roost nights and get their water and gravel.

Fresh Water Lagoon used to be quite a place. They
used to have ducks there by the thousands. They fed
them. How you don't see a duck there. I don't think
I've seen a duck there in the last twenty years. In
the early days when we lived there in 1915 to '20 or
so Milton Carson, who had duck reserves on the lagoons,
fed the ducks and geese and everything that came in.

Drury: Do you think those birds can be brought back? Take
for instance this expanded area on Bull Creek. There's
some land that will have park protection.

French: If it's protected, sure. Why shouldn't they? You ever
seen the quail around our place? There are about two
hundred of them there. The ground is just covered
certain times of the day, and it's due to protection.


Anonymous said...

A wonderful, rich in history read. Great to get it onto the net!

Ernie Branscomb said...

Thank-you. I identified with it more than anyone can ever know, and so many different ways. This book should be on every local persons history shelf. Too bad it's not available.

I especially got a kick out of the fact that they thought that Cuneo Creek should be dammed for flood and erosion protection, and the thought of a canal system up the Eel is laughable in todays troubled north coast society, we can't even maintain a railway. Fact is, we can't even maintain a truck legal highway.

Percy was a realist and he understood that trees fell and died and others replaced them. He felt the loss of every two-thousand year old tree that fell, but he fully understood that they would come right back again. Floods fires and trees dieing of natural causes were all part of the process.

I think that he would have felt a deep shame for what Pacific Lumber Company became under Maxxam and Hurwitz.

spyrock said...

that was a great read, taught me a few things about where i am right now on 20 acres of trees that was surveyed years ago and maybe more or less than 20 acres. i sort of got the same story about the eel river after the railroad closed is rapidly returning to the way it was before the railroad was ever built. but what is really great about this story is the vision of the man himself and how his vision still lives on to this present time. and how we can create our own forest.

spyrock said...

for suzy
if a tree falls in the woods and no one is there to hear it will it make a sound? no, it won't make a sound. it also won't fall. if no one is there to observe it, the tree and the woods won't even exist in the physical sense, they will be waves of energy. when someone does observe the woods, the waves will concentrate and coalece into particles of tree and the tree will be already lying on the ground. superposition is the norm in quantum physics. it is you who creates from your subconsious mind, with your thoughts and feelings,,a personal, individual world for yourself. it is your choice, your observations that makes one "reality' show up in front of you and seem real instead of the other possibilities.
your world shows up only at the moment you observe it, because that is when the waves of energy fuse. with nonlocality everything is connected, with superposition, anything is possible, anyplace, anytime. this is from natalie reid's 5 steps to a quantum life. i have inserted this knowing that after reading ernies article on percy's view of redwood reality, i will never see the forest the same way i have in the past.

omr said...

And for me too! thank you spyrock, made the whole day get better.

As I have been trying to imagine these northcounties covered in oldgrowth a hundred years ago. Reading of Mr. French's cruisings through those forests really helped get more of a feel for back then. I learned so much from that post Ernie.

Ernie Branscomb said...

While reading this story, I kept thinking of Jim Baker. He is a surveyor, his dad was logger. The parallels to Jim are astounding. We have often talked about how far off the government surveys were. Jim once told me that his father, in his later years, was almost consumed with guilt for taking some of the old growth forests.

I feel differently about it. I'm very proud of the fact that many, many Redwood forests have been saved for posterity. If you have a garden full of carrots you can pick them every year, but if you have a forest full of redwood trees, that live to be two thousand years old, you can only pick one each year,
and still maintain natures balance. Fortunately we have many, many thousands of redwood trees. It is going to take a few years to make up for the over harvesting of the past, but I see a sustainable redwood forest products industry in the future of California. Redwoods are a renewable resource.

I fully believe that we should have a few untouched virgin redwood groves to appreciate and study, but we shouldn't miss the opportunity to harvest a few trees for the building of our homes.

suzy blah blah said...

when someone does observe the woods, the waves will concentrate and coalece into particles of tree

Suzy has conducted research and i have observed waves of energy that didn't coalesce into particles. i observed them as waves and they stayed waves as i observed them. Waves changing into particles when observed is not an absolute.

it is you who creates from your subconsious mind, with your thoughts and feelings,,a personal, individual world for yourself

Thats a nice comforting thought. But the subconscious mind is only personal on a superficial level, on the deeper level where realities are manifested, the subconscious isnt personal its collective. ie they are not your thoughts and feelings. They come from a common resource accessible to all who are interested in exploring the depths of the mind. You may contribute in affecting 'your world' in small ways, but you don't create it.

Jim Baker said...

Ernie, you threw some chum in the water and I am taking the bait. First, thanks again for bringing these bits of history back into the public eye.Secondly, my dad was not consumed with guilt for the part he and his father (and I, for that matter) played in logging old growth ("virgin", to be politically incorrect) timber on the North Coast. I may have given you the wrong impression. He did live long enough, however, to see public opinion swing from respect for his vocation to contempt on the part of many people, and he thought it was undeserved. That brings the conversation back to a topic you and I have discussed before - whether to judge an individual's past actions by contemporary norms or from the context of the time and place in which the actions were taken --a question I have pondered a great deal, and worthy of more space than is available here.

My grandfather was orphaned at the age of 16, ran away from his grandfather's prune farm in Healdsburg to join a railroad survey crew on the Feather River, banged around from job to job until he landed on the North Coast in 1906 surveying for the Oregon and Eureka Railroad which was soon thereafter bought out by Hammond Lumber company. He stayed with Hammonds, eventually earning his Land Surveyor's license and then his Civil Engineering license through self-study. Logging was largely an economic and engineering endeavor in those days. The long-term effects on the environment was not an issue in the minds of most people, for a variety of reasons. This viewpoint persisted, for the most part, into the 1960's. One has to remember that Dr. Emanuel Fritz, who was mentioned by Drury and French in the oral history you posted, was the head of the forestry department at U.C. Berkeley for many years and was regularly consulted by the large timber companies in their heyday regarding their operations. My grandfather eventually worked his way up to the position of logging superintendent for all of Hammond's woods operations on the North Coast and I have several letters written to him by Dr. Fritz praising him for the job he was doing. My father grew up in a logging camp behind Crannell and later became the logging superintendent for Holmes Eureka after WW II and also worked for GP and LP before he died. I am proud of both of them for their accomplishments and the way they lived their lives. Like you, I started working in the woods (and on the green chain when I had to) at an early age. I paid my way through college with the money I earned that way, mainly as a mill worker, scaler and hand peeler of old growth redwood. That is what "coming of age" was all about as a young man growing up in a logging camp, and I do not regret the experience.

Jim Baker (continued) said...

That is not to say that hindsight has not provided me a wider perspective of the effects that some of the actions that my grandfather, father and I were engaged in have had on the North Coast landscape. As we all grow older, we have a choice of defending every past action we have taken as being the right one, or taking credit for good decisions and learning from those which might have been done differently. Old loggers generally point to healthy 2nd and 3rd growth forests as examples of what they did right. Those whom you refer to as "newcomers", without the baggage of having to defend past logging practices, might emphasize the scarred and unstable areas which should never have been cut over in the first place as examples of why logging in any form was wrong. The truth is more nuanced, and we all have to be willing to be open to learning from the past without being personally defensive if we are ever to be able to move ahead into a better future for the generations to come. The question of whether an old growth redwood tree has greater spiritual value than a carrot simply because it's bigger and older is not one I'm going to get into here. I could argue both sides, and it involves personal spiritual views and the issue of absolutism vs. relativism which cannot really be argued in any objective manner anyway. I think it's important to respect other people's views on those kinds of matters whether you agree with them or not.

Jim Baker (continued again) said...

The topic of retracing old government surveys would also require more time and space than available here. For the most part, those old guys did a Hell of a good job with the tools they had at their disposal. Many of the townships were completed in two or three weeks, and were amazingly accurate considering the conditions. There are about 50 miles of section lines within a township, and most people today would have a hard time just hiking that far in the time it took the original government surveyors to survey the lines and set the corners. Everyone talks about the obvious blunders and fraudulent surveys that have occasionally come to light during retracement surveys, but the fact is that most of the work was done pretty well. The original government surveyors bid on the jobs in the early days, and the corners and section lines did not always fall in the most easily traversed terrain. There were obvious incentives for taking shortcuts, and sometimes those shortcuts resulted in pretty embarrassing blunders when plotted on today's topographic maps.Again, I think it's important to judge their work in the context of the times rather than by today's standards. Some surveyors were more proficient, experienced and ethical than others in those days just as is the case today. A surveyor recovering old corners today becomes pretty familiar with the practices of the individual surveyors whose work he is retracing, for better or worse. When you're floundering around in the brush on a hot summer day looking for evidence of a corner which some guy said he set 140 years ago and you have a strong suspicion he was never there, strong emotions are occasionally aroused. On the other hand, there is nothing better than finding an old scarred bearing tree or rock mound that was originally set by someone doing the same thing that you are doing on another hot summer day so long ago. I repeat -- context is everything.

I could argue with you about the future of the redwood forest products industry as compared with past years. Second growth redwood is not used much for structural building material anymore, not even for decks. It is used primarily for decorative purposes or hog fuel, as you know, and forest management practices and economics will never allow for harvesting redwood with the same characteristics as the old growth trees. Those days are part of our history now, and the part that you and I and so many other people we love and respect played in that history is behind us. The task for the present generation is to utilize the lessons learned from the past to regenerate and maintain a sustainable forest products and restoration industry for the future. That will include redwood, but never again in the way it has historically been utilized.

Sorry for running off at the mouth. Keep up the good work.

Ernie Branscomb said...

I'm glad that your father wasn't "Almost consumed with guilt" as I had him depicted. All of them, and also us, were proud people, and proud of what we were doing. We thought that we were building America. Little did we realize at the time that people would show up with such excellent hindsight to tell us what we did wrong.

Thank you, indeed, for your well thought-out comments.

Robin Shelley said...

Yours is a long post that I haven't finished reading, Ernie, but I will. Very interesting!
I just wanted to say that I remember French's as "French's Camp" & that's what I still call it today although I never spent any time there except to purchase a cold drink on the way by. Also, most people today refer to Tan Oak Park as "Mad Creek".
And, Mr. Baker! What a gem you are! You are a wonderful writer & I greatly appreciate the point(s) you make here. I would very much like to hear more of what you have to say.

Ernie Branscomb said...

Robin, Please take the time to read the rest of the story. I know that you don't relate to it as much as some of us relate to it, but it is a real eye-opener about the pioneering days of the state parks.

Yes, Jim Baker is a very good writer. He is also a very astute historian. I think that he checks on this blog every now and then just to keep it honest. I really appreciate his input, because he comes from an old north coast lumber family, much as many of us did. He sees a lot of reality. He lives in the forest for the most part, because he is a surveyor, and knows more about our end of the country than 99% of the people. If he decides to say something, it should be given great attention. He doesn't say anything without giving it great thought.

As for “French's”, it was always called just French's. It started to be called French's Camp after the famous motorcycle gang rumble in another place in California called French's Camp. The newcomers started calling it “French's Camp”, and it stuck.
But, that's another story.

Also, you have made some real significant contributions to this blog that I greatly appreciate. Many others have contributed to making this blog interesting. Many come to mind, and I would like to mention them, but I would forget a few outstanding people and I would feel bad, so I'm going to just drop it. But thank-you for yours.

spyrock said...

"That brings the conversation back to a topic you and I have discussed before - whether to judge an individual's past actions by contemporary norms or from the context of the time and place in which the actions were taken"
this is the main reason why i am here on this blog. to find out the context of the time and place in which my ancestors lived. what was it that they had to deal with that made them the way they were. in uncovering this information by bits and pieces of history from many others on this blog and elsewhere, i have a much clearer perspective of who my ancestors were and i realize that i truely underestimated how much they loved me.

spyrock said...

i've read that book twice now and i will probably read it again in a few months. quantum physics isn't the easiest subject i have tried to understand and i don't feel qualified to translate it so i pretty much just copied what she wrote. since she tried to answer your question about the tree falling in the woods, i thought you might be interested.
a better question might be, if a 3000 year old virgin redwood tree falls in the forest and no one is there to hear it, does it make a sound?

suzy blah blah said...

Spy thanks for thinking of me and copying that passage from your book, i AM interested in what she has to say and also what your reading and thinking about.

Maybe another way of understanding what she is getting at is to think about it in terms of time. The world that existed a second ago no longer exists, in the usual way of thinking, and the world that will exist a second from now does not yet exist, relatively speaking. But her thesis seems to say that the forest doesn't exist at all unless a human observes it. That's, to me, the flaw, because consciousness is everywhere and not limited to the human.

And, from my experience, there IS consciousness outside of time. Or at least outside of "normal" time. So imagine yourself being "above" time, so to speak, as though you were looking down and could see your life from beginning to end as though it were a river. You see the source over there and you see the delta over here, so in this way you would be able to observe your life from beginning to end. Or the life of a tree... You could see it's beginning and you could see it fall. You could observe your whole life "at once" and this moment would appear like a mark on a linear thread. Of course your death hasn't happened yet so what am I talking about, right? But the "possibility" of your death has happened, and exists. The countless possibilities of how you might die do exist and are "real". But where do possibilities exist? In the mind. But where is the mind? No its not behind your eyes, that's the brain. LOL!

But the world of possibilities is real and exists (on some level of reality). Out of the countless possibilities of how you might die, one will manifest in "this" reality. Here's where your book comes in. Out of the possibilities, we choose one that becomes our life, and death. But that's not to say the conscious mind, the ego, chooses. Something deeper than the conscious mind makes many of the choices that affect our life. ie we don't choose to get in a traffic accident, but it happens, a truck comes around the corner in the wrong lane and --Smash! It was one of countless possibilities that might have happened. How did it come about? if we had chosen to stay in bed that day or leave a moment later, or earlier, all would be different. So we create our reality by all the little decisions that we make. But if we forgot our hat and thus went back to get it and thereby avoided getting struck by the truck that would have hit us if we hadn't gone back for the hat, it isn't because we consciously decided to create a reality where we wouldn't get hit by a truck --its cuz we decided to go back and get our hat that we didn't get in an accident. But why did we decide to go back for the hat? Why did we forget it in the first place? Was it just becuz we are forgetful, or is there something deeper at work here that adjusts reality and jiggles it into what we experience?

Robin Shelley said...

Thank you, Ernie. Your entire blog is a significant contribution to your community as well as to your old, new & yet unknown friends. (Chew on that, Suzy & Spy - ha, ha!) I have certainly learned many things here & enjoyed myself in doing so. Like you, I also love to hear people's stories & I relish the diversity here & in "real life" (maybe Suzy & Spy can explain what "real life" is!).
Has Mr. Baker written a book?
Sorry I didn't stop to meet you a couple of weeks ago. Next time!

suzy blah blah said...

Robin, Ernie disagrees with me on this one but what i have said here before is --"real" life is subjective, ie there is no objective reality. That's the same idea that is expressed figuratively as the tree not making a sound if nobody is there to hear it. Spy's book agrees with Suzy, which is what he was pointing out.

spyrock said...

i've really enjoyed reading about ernie's, jim, oregon, ross, percy and others experience with logging and the forest. i come from people who lived during the depression and who continued working until the day they died. some of them believed in the barter system, that was the only monetary system my dad lived by. i have worked at physical labor since i was a child and i have studied california labor history.
i have perform a wide variety of jobs both mental and physical. the list is so long i won't bore you with it here but i was a printer for 35 years and i was replaced by a computer so i know what its like to lose my job to new ways of thinking or new realities. in other words, i have no judgement issues about this, just appreciation and sympathy.
as far as how i see the forest goes, i think i have a knack for it. on dove's land i can see which trees need to be cut down and which ones to save. last year i was telling dove's son matt about getting a job clearing space around homes in the forest so they won't burn down. he went to work for the county supervisor who lives accross the road doing just that. this year, this county supervisor has started a program called chips for fire protection and clearing the forest of all the dead wood. he is in washington trying to get funding for this program which hires locally and is into recycling the biomass. this is a way to put people back to work and is green at the same time with the idea that eventually it would support itself financially and make the forest safe for everyone. of course, i didn't do any of this. i just saw it, told someone about it and it manifested.

Robin Shelley said...

I hope it pays off for Matt.

lodgepole said...

Wow, another great post Ernie.

spyrock said...

matts the talker of the family. he goes up to burning man up your way and has some kind of girlfriend who told him that she could get us all into spyrock easy. no shooting, just like the love boat. but i'm not sure if they just had a train wreck or a rail car caught on fire and smoked them into thinking that.
anyways he went to minnesota don't ya know and i'm sure he's gonna have those swedish dreadlocks when he comes back. he's there teaching them how to sweat. that's his gig, he's a sweat lodge guide. they paid his airfare and everything just to do that. but yes, he is a creator, and so was his dad, mike blondell.
the supervisor bought his story about the forest. calaveras county. he is the one that's doing the chips thing.

Ben said...

Spyrock... All you have to do to go up to Spyrock is drive there. You'll find gates eventually and you won't be able to get to the old home place, but you should be able to drive up to the ridge without the slightest hassle. It's a beautiful drive.
Year ago, I was amused by an attorney on a Eureka TV talk show who warned everyone not to drive up Salmon Creek as someone would surely fill their car full of lead. I was plenty amused as I had just returned from a drive around the loop and only saw one person who waved at me.
The attorney's Salmon Creek pot crop was busted about a week later.

spyrock said...

that was our experience. everyone waved at us on spyrock road but eventually you run into locked gates and can't really see much from that road. but if you go right on iron peak mt road it will take you to a ridge just below the lookout station where you can see for miles in every direction. simmerly road shoots off to the left down the mountain but theres a big metal gate keeping you out. but you can see where the old simmerly house was because there's buildings down there. in fact, you can see most of the 12,000 acres that they owned looking northeast down toward the river. a guy named larry drove by and asked us what we were doing up there and i told him that my family used to own the land there and we were trying to get down to where the house was. he just laughed and told us that he lived south of there for 30 years and never could get past that gate and they wouldn't let the state firefighters in there to fight any fires. he stopped the next truck that went by and they were laughing like crazy probably saying "now ive heard it all, that dude is saying his family used to own all the land up here, what people won't say to get our weed" well, i don't care about their weed, but i did feel really stoned looking at the view from up there and i had a smile from ear to ear.

Robin Shelley said...

That sounds like Happy Larry, Spy.
Middle-aged guy, soft face, long gray hair, moustache, maybe a funny hat & tye-dyed shirt, twinkling eyes? If you knew him, you'd know he wasn't laughing at you or pulling your leg.

spyrock said...

yep that sounds exactly like him, he was real friendly to me. dove did most of the talking to him, i was too busy looking down the hill to pay him much mind. dove got a little spooked by some of the things he said and wanted to leave right away after he left. she'll get a kick out of him being named happy larry. he sure was happy. i remember telling dove not to be so fear based and this was not the place to show fear but after marking my territory on the ground by the car we left for the red fox casino anyway.

Robin Shelley said...

A Viola Richardson was the County Clerk of Mendocino County for many years. Any relation, do you know?

Ernie Branscomb said...

Nope, Viola’s name was Viola French. Percy was the park superintendent for Richardson Grove, named after Governor Richardson.