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Messages - wshawkins

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Eastern Sierra History / Re: Vintage photos of Rock Creek Lake
« on: April 16, 2012, 10:30:25 PM »
Lots of stories to tell, as Rock Creek Canyon has a colorful history.  Just depends on what people want to hear about.  Have many pictures too.  I'll share a few....

Studebaker Wagon near the Resort about 1975

DFG Fish Truck at Rock Creek about 1960

Rock Creek Lake Store 1938.  Pie anybody?

Fisherman at Rock Creek Lake 1930

Eastern Sierra Forum / Re: Sierra itch
« on: April 16, 2012, 10:17:20 PM »
Does sound like a story I heard before saudust.  Now I'm hungry for some trout!   ;D

Eastern Sierra Forum / Re: Rock Creek Road is open to MOSQUITO FLAT
« on: April 16, 2012, 10:14:11 PM »
Earliest I ever heard it open!  Must be a record or something.

Eastern Sierra Forum / Re: Sierra itch
« on: April 16, 2012, 11:57:05 AM »
I did the same thing, took out my last bag of fish out of the freezer.  Fish tacos will be delicious!

Trip Reports from Elsewhere / Re: Not actually the East Side
« on: April 14, 2012, 07:40:25 AM »
That is just great Gary!  He will remember this outing with his Grandpa for a life time.  Way to go!

Eastern Sierra History / Re: Chuck Yeager Story
« on: April 12, 2012, 03:16:27 PM »
I get your point Heuschele.  Old graffiti somehow turns into historic when it gets old enough!  The more famous the person was the more importance it is.  If a ranger caught me or you carving on a tree, a mighty big fine plus community work probably would result.

Yeager’s tree is on a private area and not in a wilderness area.  Not that it makes it right.  But there are a lot of writings out there.  For instance, the sheepherder’s carvings from the late 1800’s and the Paiute and Shoshone rock carvings as old as 8,800 years old.  Their actually graffiti, but you would probably be sent to prison if you decide to deface or destroy these historic pieces.

I love finding these old carvings.  We would know very little about these people if they didn’t scribble on something.  But there is no reason today to carve on trees.

Sheepherder markings 1896 Bishop Canyon

Paiute and Shoshone rock carvings as old as 8,800 years old Owens Valley

Anything Goes / Re: Let it snow
« on: April 12, 2012, 08:28:41 AM »
Hopefully more is on the way!

Eastern Sierra History / Re: Chuck Yeager Story
« on: April 11, 2012, 04:32:14 PM »
I prefer to keep the location under wraps, as this is an open forum.  All it takes is one person to ruin it.  If anyone finds this, great but if you take pictures of it, please keep any obvious background landmarks out of the picture.  That way our children, their children, etc., will be able to enjoy a small piece of history.  Thanks. 

Strictly Media / Eastern Sierra Photos
« on: April 11, 2012, 10:52:52 AM »
Eastern Sierra Photos

Let’s start a photo post of our beautiful Eastern Sierra.  The pictures can be anything Eastern Sierra, lakes, streams, sunsets, vistas, backpacking trip.  You name it.  This is no contest, so all Eastern Sierra photos are welcome, old or new.  Please name where the photo was taken, unless it’s your secret place (we understand) or you just forget (we really understand). ;D  Let’s this be an inspiration for the coming season!

Eastern Sierra History / Re: Chuck Yeager Story
« on: April 10, 2012, 01:03:20 PM »
Yes, he has fished out of Rock Creek area at the Hilton Lakes and hiked over the Mono Pass to Pioneer basin Lakes.  He hiked at Mammoth Lakes up Duck Pass to the Fish Creek area to name a few.  But his favorite was hiking from Horseshoe Meadows on the Cottonwoods Lakes Old Army Pass Trailhead, with the Mount Whitney Trailhead a close second.

He did leave his mark, so to speak, at the June Lake Loop close to “saudust” famous fishing hole.  I'm sure He's seen it many times as he walks by with his fishing gear.  And yes, Chuck Yeager admits that was by him many years ago!

Chuck Yeager 1952 June Lake Loop

Eastern Sierra History / Re: Chuck Yeager Story
« on: April 09, 2012, 04:56:17 PM »
Yeager was referring to when he first came to California and was stationed at Muroc Army Air Field (Now Edwards Air Force Base) in 1945.  Back then, there was no road to Horseshoe Meadows.  That road (Horseshoe Meadows Road) was not built until 1967, and it was just a dirt road then.  I believed they started paving the road around in the 80’s.  Anyway, the old road stopped at Carroll Creek pack station at the bottom of the mountain.  You would park your car there and you hiked up to Horseshoe Meadows and Cottonwood Lakes, or wherever your destination was.  It would have been a long hike to Rocky Basin Lakes back then.  25 miles sounds about right.

Eastern Sierra History / Re: Chuck Yeager Story
« on: April 08, 2012, 09:57:41 PM »
Been there once in the 90’s and is a pretty area.  But take the Cottonwood Pass trail instead of the New Army Pass trail and will cut 2 miles off each way.  Plan to spend your first night at Big Whitney Meadows.

Next day fill up your water bottles as there is no water until you reach the Rocky Basin Lakes.  Follow the trail west to the lakes and at the split in the trail take the right fork up over the ridge to the lakes.  Go around the first large lake to the west side and camp in the sandy area between the 2 lower lakes for the best campsites.

No fishing in these lakes as they have removed all the fish about 10 years ago or so.  Lots of Golden opportunities over New Army Pass as Sierraslam says, but none at these lakes!

Rocky Basin Lakes

Eastern Sierra History / Re: Chuck Yeager Story
« on: April 08, 2012, 01:24:24 PM »
True, Crabtree Lakes was one of his favorite golden trout lakes, but he had many more!  He just liked fishing for golden trout as they were the best tasting fish according to Yeager.  A couple of quotes from Chuck Yeager: 

"They’re so delicious that once you eat some, you’d crawl halfway to heaven to have some more!"

"We caught a batch, fried them up, and just rolled our eyes to heaven!"

On the copter crash, that happened at Rocky Basin Lakes.

Eastern Sierra History / Re: Chuck Yeager Story
« on: April 07, 2012, 09:04:10 AM »
Thanks for all the nice comments!

125 miles each way was a “typo” on my part.  Should read as “25 miles each way”.

Most information is from his book, “Yeager: An Autobiography” [Paperback], Chuck Yeager (Author).  Read the chapter titled “Operation Golden Trout” and he spills the beans were the great golden trout fishing hole is at.

Eastern Sierra History / Chuck Yeager Story
« on: April 06, 2012, 07:22:22 AM »
Thought I would share something not too old and the hero of this story is still with us today.  If I could trade places with anybody and live the life they did, this would be an easy choice.  It’s time to start living the life you dreamed about.  Let me know what you think!

Chuck Yeager Story

Chuck Yeager, a true hero and noted Air Force fighter pilot, started his career as a private and retired a major general.  He trained as a fighter pilot and flew many missions in World War 2 and became a decorated combat ace.  In one mission alone he shot down five enemy aircraft for an “ace in a day”.  He is one of the "toughest" pilots, both mentally and physically, in aviation history, and few have ever matched his piloting skills.

Ripping through the sound barrier in a bullet-shaped orange rocket plane, battling Messerschmitt’s in the cold European skies, testing exotic aircraft of all shapes and sizes in the bleak Mojave desert, hooting and hollering with friends on crazy drunken misadventures--it all sounds too fun to be legal!

What's more, he lived the kind of life that people don't seem to believe in anymore, the life of the self-made man who rises from nothing, who picks himself up by his own bootstraps and succeeds through good ol' Yankee Doodle initiative, ability and gumption.

Chuck Yeager WW11 fighter plane

After the war he remained with the Air force and became a test pilot, breaking many speed records.  He was first to break the sound barrier, Mach 1, Mach 2 and went to Mach 2.4 in 1953 with the rocket-powered X-1A fighter plane.

Chuck Yeager X-1A Rocket Powered Fighter Plane

Retirement allowed Yeager more time to return to his roots and his love of the outdoors. And nothing came between his two-week treks in early July through the High Sierras where he angled for the precious golden trout.  His favorite fishing trips was to catch golden trout which he extols as one of the best game fish and best eating fish to be found.

Operation Golden Trout

In 1964, "Operation Golden Trout" was a go.  Chuck and a USAF general had been drinking in the officer's club at Edwards AF base and after getting pretty smashed decided to go on a fishing trip for a few days. They got dropped off with all their camping and fishing equipment at the golden lake, but when the pilot returned to pick them up a few days later the altitude along with four passengers instead of two, plus all the equipment and golden trout caught was more weight than the chopper could lift.  It crashed into the lake but Chuck, the general, pilot and co-pilot got out before it sunk.  They hiked out and the general sent a recovery team back to salvage what they could. 

Each July Chuck Yeager undertakes a backpacking/fishing trip that would cripple many a younger man. "Years ago, when I was flying over the Mount Whitney area," he says, "I spotted this lake way up in the High Sierra—gin-clear and teeming with trout, up there above the timberline. Lake at 13,000 feet and the golden trout spawn in there. We pack in on foot 25 miles each way.

Fondly, he produces a well-thumbed pack of color prints: The fish, some up to four and a half pounds, are the color of old gold. Looking at them, his blue eyes sparkle under the curly gray hair much as they must have many years ago.

"When you really stop to think about it," he says, "finding that lake like that, just with the luck of the flight pattern, that's one of the real rewards of flying. Those trout up there—they've got the real Right Stuff."

Chuck Yeager

Eastern Sierra Fishing / Re: PHOTOS FROM MY TRIPS
« on: April 05, 2012, 05:49:58 PM »
Very nice report and pictures Chris!  That brookie at CSI lake was something!  The Steelheads are good sized too.  Thanks for the report!

Eastern Sierra History / Re: Lying Jim Townsend
« on: April 05, 2012, 05:44:23 PM »
Didn't newspaper journalist weld a lot of power in that time period?

That's true as there was no other media (no cell phones, internet, TV, etc.).  What the newspapers printed is what people mostly be-leaved to be true.  Newspaper journalist's had a duty to print the truth as the best of their beliefs.  Of-course, any newspaper man worth his salt always had a gun nearby just in case the public got mad of what you wrote!

Eastern Sierra History / Re: Lying Jim Townsend
« on: April 05, 2012, 08:48:28 AM »
There are plenty of sources for Lying Jim Townsend.  Most books include a whole chapter or more on Lying Jim.  I just picked the most interesting parts.  Have fun!

Bodie Bonanza
Warren Loose
Exposition Press New York


Bodie “The Mines Are Looking Well…”
Michael H. Piatt
North Bay Books


Ghost Mines of Yosemite
Douglas Hubbard
The Awani Press


Gold Guns & Ghosttowns
W. A. Chalfant
Chalfant Press, Inc.
Bishop, CA


Alan Patera
Western Places


Red Blood & Black Ink:
Journalism in the Old West

Trip Reports from Elsewhere / Re: Not actually the East Side
« on: April 05, 2012, 08:17:38 AM »
It’s been a few years but have fish above the Johnsondale Bridge for the Kern River Rainbows.  So I know that catching a brown is a special treat.  Have seen a few large browns caught in the area, but not many.  You did well.  Thanks for the report!

Eastern Sierra History / Re: Lying Jim Townsend
« on: April 02, 2012, 09:12:26 AM »
Some more quotes from “Lying Jim Townsend”:

Mill Creek (Lundy Lake) is so crooked in one place that it is difficult to cross it. We waded it half a dozen times the other day and came out on the same side every time.

The Waters of Mono Lake are so buoyant that the bottom has to be bolted down, and boys paddle about on granite boulders.

Wild onions are plentiful hereabouts, and eaters thereof smell like the back door of a puppy’s nest.

“When thieves fall out honest men get their dues.” But when honest men fall out lawyers get their fees.

The editor of the Pioche Record says “Mrs. Page’s milk is delicious.” We shall soon hear that her husband has weaned him with a club. He knows too much.

Eastern Sierra Fishing / Re: Guiding again
« on: April 01, 2012, 12:07:34 PM »
I think it great that you’re going back to guiding!  Nice of the Board to allow you to post it here.  I’m sure there will be some contacts coming your way from this topic.  Your own website could be helpful.

Eastern Sierra History / Re: Lying Jim Townsend
« on: April 01, 2012, 12:06:31 PM »
FlyGirl, it was common in that day to follow the crowd to the next big gold strike, and when the gold petered out, go to the next boom town.  A lot of the time it was the same people following these gold rushes.  Wherever gold was discovered, hundreds of miners would put up a camp and stake their claims.  The first buildings up were the saloons and gambling houses.  Merchants were quick to set up shop for the miners.  If the discovery was big enough, a newspaper publishing would set up too.

On why no harm came to Lying Jim, most people know who he was and just took at as part of the entertainment in town.  Didn’t hurt to have Mark Twain as a friend.  Also where there was not much entertainment in town, newspaper men and the paper they turned out were very much cherished.

Anything Goes / Re: New Mystery Lake
« on: April 01, 2012, 12:04:37 PM »

Had me guessing to myself on this one bj!  I thought when you said south of Whitney you meant somewhere over the New Army pass.  Looks like a nice trip to South America.

Eastern Sierra History / Lying Jim Townsend
« on: March 31, 2012, 05:05:22 AM »
Lying Jim Townsend

James William Emery Townsend (1838-1900), more commonly known as Lying Jim, was the original of Bret Harte’s “Truthful James,” the source of Mark Twain's Jumping Frog story, and much more. According to The Western Literature Association, Townsend “was one of the most talented and notorious liars of the Comstock, no small accomplishment. He was famous for his ability to spin elaborate and elegant yarns at a moment’s notice. Twain mentions him in Roughing It as being hoaxed by an even greater lie than he could compose, but this was early in his career. In later life he participated in one of the most creative scams in Comstock history when he singlehandedly printed a regular newspaper in a deserted mining town, peopling it with imaginary citizens and reporting in detail about them and fictional mining operations, so that foreign investors could be inveigled into buying stock in nonexistent companies.
This story below was taken from a Carson Appeal column printed in Hawthorne Nevada’s Walker Lake Bulletin dated 1890.

Lying Jim

While Jim Townsend was in Carson City a few weeks ago, he was sitting by the Arlington House stove talking in his usual exaggerated vein.

“If you want to see mining on a big scale, go to Mono County.”

“How big?” said a little man sitting close by.

“Why the Big Hole Mine, that I am connected with, has the deepest shaft and the biggest workings in the world.”

How deep asked the little man.

“You can’t measure it, because if we stopped work long enough to see how deep the shaft was, it would interfere with bullion production. We dropped a line down once and reeled it out until it broke with its own weight.  When a boy falls down the shaft, he strikes the bottom a grandfather.”

“Must have a big payroll?”

“We used to send the money down to the hands in cages until the workings got so deep that we didn’t get the winter account settled until a way along in the spring.  So we started a bank and telegraphed the money orders.  That system saved us an awful wear and tear on the cages.  The miners live down there and rear their families.  They got an underground city bigger’n Carson, with a regular charter and municipal elections twice a year. They publish two daily papers and a literary magazine.”

“I never heard of the magazine,’ said the stranger.

“Of course not, it would be a year before it got to you.  Besides they hold a fair there annually and racing every Saturday.  Finest four mile track in the world, lit with electric light.  No mud, no dust, always in the same condition.  Perfect paradise for sports.  What do you think of that for a mine?” 

Here the stranger, who was a Californian, threw his leg carelessly over the arm of the chair, and lighting a cigar, replied in a deep earnest tone:  “I don’t think much of your mine.  You work too much for small results.  When your mine plays out you have a lot of old truck on your hands, and where are you?  You mine after primitive methods, like all new countries.  It takes experience and hard work to tackle the industry in the proper shape.  With your mine you must be on the ground in person and have any amount of men to look after this department or that.  Now I have a bigger mine than yours.  It is located in Storey county, somewhere in the northern part I believe, and I run it quite up to the handle with one or two assistants.”

“How deep might the shaft be?”

“It might be pretty deep if I allowed the men to rush forward and overdo the thing, but at present there is no shaft at all.”

“Hoisting works up?"
“No, no hoisting works – not if I know it.  You can fool away a great deal of hard coin on hoisting works.”

“How in thunder do you run your mine?”

“On the assessment plan, sir.  That’s the latest and most improved method.  We have a big map of the mine hung up in the company’s office, made by one of the most competent artists on the Coast.  Now when I have a good map of the lower workings we don’t need any works to speak of.  We photographed the Savage hoisting works from the top of the Hale & Norcross trestlework’s an entirely new view-and call it by our name; the Bullion Brick.  I keep a man in Virginia City at $60 a month to superintend the location and write weekly letters, and I stay in San Francisco in my office on Pine Street and levy the assessments every 60 days; that’s as often as the law allows.  I’m the president, board of trustees, secretary, treasurer and everything-more especially the treasurer.  Of course, I draw the salary for all the officers, and when I get through drawing salaries, I turn the rest over to the agent in Virginia to pay off the hands.  By not employing any hands he saves enough to pay himself.  My regular income from the mine is $200,000 a year, and never a pick struck the ground.  This is what I consider scientific mining, sir.  You get the silver out of the pockets of the stock holders and leave the vast argentiferous and auriferous deposits in your claim for your children, who can go right ahead and develop the mine just as soon as the people quit putting up, which isn’t at all likely to occur.  As soon as a man drops on the game he dies, and the newcomers have to learn for themselves.  As long has people are being born in Nevada and California, my mine will run on like a chronometer clock.”

“But,” said Townsend, “my style of mining keeps a lot of men at work.”

“So does mine, quoted the Golden Gate chap.  Thousands of men are working night and day to pay the assessments.  It keeps the country as busy as a beehive, and the speaker sauntered to the telegraph office to order assessment No. 36.

He Lied His Way Through the Mining Camps

We turn the clock back to May 27, 1882, in Virginia City, Nevada.  Readers throughout the Comstock Lode were amazed to read this story of Townsend’s life and career: 

“James W. E. Townsend the gentleman who is making the local department of the Reno Gazette sparkle these days has led a remarkable life.  From information imparted by him to his friends while he lived on the Comstock, we learn that he was born in Patagonia, his mother, a noble English lady, having been cast ashore after the wreck of her husband’s yacht, in which they were making a pleasure trip around the globe. She was the only person saved.  After the birth of her son, and September having arrived (there being an “r”) in that month) she was killed and eaten. Jim was saved out as a small stake and was played until his twelfth year against the best grub at the command of the savage tribe for fattening purposes.  Then he escaped on a log, which he paddled through the Straits of Magellan with his hands, and was picked up by a whaler and taken to New Bedford.”

“At the age of 18 he entered the Methodist ministry and preached with glorious results for ten years, when he went to the Sandwich Islands as a missionary to Kanaka heathen, and remained for twenty years.  Then he reformed and returned to New York and opened a saloon, which he ran successfully and made a large fortune.  In an evil hour for himself, but to the world’s advantage, he tried his hand at journalism.  Fifteen years of this reduced him once more to poverty and preaching.  For thirty years longer Mr. Townsend occupied the pulpit, when he went back to the saloon business, after eighteen years of industrious drinking on the part of the public he brought his wealth to the Pacific Coast.  This was in 1849.”

“For several years Mr. Townsend ran simultaneously eight saloons, five newspapers and an immense cattle ranch in various parts of the Golden State.  In 1859 the enterprising gentleman was suddenly afflicted with a disease which for many months compelled him to lie on his back in one position.  This misfortune was, with the cruel levity of those rough days, turned to his account by his acquaintances, who dubbed him, ‘Lying Jim Townsend’, and ever since the sobriquet has stuck to him.  For the last decade he has devoted himself to journalism and is of course, once more poor.  Some of his friends who are of a mathematical turn have ascertained from data furnished them by Mr. Townsend in various conversations the remarkable fact that he is 384 years old.  Notwithstanding his great age, however, the gentleman still writes with the vigor of youth, and his shrewd humor is making for the Gazette, more than a local reputation.” 

A Career Is Born

In reality, we first hear of James W. E. Townsend in Virginia City itself in 1862. He worked at the Territorial Enterprise, often sharing drinks and tall tales with Mark Twain. Townsend was apparently such a good friend of Twain’s that some believe he was the inspiration for “The Celebrated Jumping Frog of Calveras County.”  He also worked alongside Bret Harte for a paper known as the Golden Era, and supposedly was the model for Harte’s “Truthful James”, story. We may never know whether Townsend, did indeed inspire the more famous writers, but he apparently did a good job of writing his own stories, which were written in his head, not on paper, and set directly to type.  He often worried that he could not set the type as fast as he could think up his stories.

From the Territorial Enterprise, Townsend, who was busy earning his reputation as “Lying Jim”, went to the Daily Union, also of Virginia City, and worked there until 1865. He then traveled to the western side of the Sierras to edit a Grass Valley paper during a political campaign. He moved around for 18 years working at various newspapers, setting type, writing stories, and occasionally serving as the editor.  He wound up at the Gazette in Reno Nevada, writing locals, and then moved on after only a few months to spend his winters in Washoe County, and his summers in the Sierras.  Off and on he continued to write for the Gazette.  In 1886, he wound up back at the Territorial Enterprise of Virginia City, Nevada as reporter and editor.  November of that same year, he bought the Nevada Daily Index of Carson City, Nevada, and turned around and sold it three months later.

The Great Inventor

Time spent in the Sierras was in and around the mining towns of Bodie and Lundy.  In early of October 1880 a prominent citizen of  Bodie,  mentioned visiting  mining camps in Mill Creek and Lundy where he saw one five stamp mill and three arastras.  One of the arastras probably belonged to Townsend, who had come to try his hand at mining.  He was noted for his inventive genius, and was eventually written up in one of his own papers for the scientific methods that he used that illustrated his aptitude for mechanics, “ that were only exceeded by his unlimited capacity for whiskey.”  In fact several years before Orville and Wilber Wright made the first flight, Jim worked on his own flying machine, which was one of the “grandest inventions of the time, surpassing anything in the line of perpetual motion ever talked of.”  Although he left his job at the Homer Mining Index of Lundy, to invent this magnificent flying machine, he made sure before he left, that 3 weeks of local news was reported and printed ahead of time.  After the flying machine was invented, it apparently took the six hours before starting it, to stop it. 

The Homer Mining Index

James W. E. Townsend came to Lundy, prospected, built an arastra, apparently built that flying machine, and bought the Homer Mining Index in the early 1880’s.   According to author W. A. Chalfant, an English company owning the mines in and around Lundy developed the Homer Mining Index in hopes that it would fortify mining stock sales.  A plant was provided for the paper, and J. W. E. Townsend was hired as editor. When he took over the newspaper in the beginning of 1881 he announced, “We have taken hold of the Index for the purpose of making a living.  We are not here for our health…”  By April 30 of 1881, he was complaining: “An Indian makes ten times more money catching fish than we do by publishing a newspaper.” He also bragged that same April: “There is more whiskey consumed in Mill Creek than in any other camp its size on the coast.”  Townsend probably was the one responsible for consuming the Mill Creek whiskey, as he enjoyed his fair share in the tradition of many newspaper men of the day. In August 1880, the newspaper had reported that “Jim Townsend went to Aurora a few days ago.  In consequence the saloon keepers of that burg have ordered fresh stocks of liquors.”   In November of 1882, Townsend sold the Homer Mining Index and delivered a lecture on “man’s capacity for holding rotgut’.  He spoke to the wicked and just from the roof of a dry goods box on Main Street.  His audience was reportedly large, intelligent, and sober.  Interestingly enough, it was reported that Hugh R. Hughes, of the Grand Lodge of Good Templars gave two intemperance lectures that same week and collected $14 from Lundy citizens for the Good Templar Home for Orphans.

The Homer Mining Index with the help of Jim Townsend played up the town of Lundy for British investors.  Although the town only had a few minor businesses, the Index carried advertisements for three big grocery stores, a wholesale house, two banks, many saloons, millinery stores, undertaking establishments, and so on.  A railroad timetable showed arrival and departure of nonexistent trains.  Nonexistent presentations of the great Thespians of the day took place in non-existent theaters. Townsend wrote a lavish report of the first night of the theater event listing notable people in the boxes, and describing their fine costume.  The actual story was taken from a society report of a San Francisco paper, with the names changed as he saw fit.

The Truth or Not

Townsend told the truth or not, as he was so inclined. An elaborate Fourth of July celebration written by Jim was actually a few gunshots from a miner’s six-shooter and an occasional remark to thirsty bartenders that it was time for another drink. He often adapted articles to his surroundings.  A leap-year ball report went as follows:  “Joe Thompson was attired in a light buff silk handkerchief, to conceal the absence of a collar.  Marion Budd’s shape was advantageously displayed by a close fitting jumper and long auburn chin whiskers to match.  Jim McCallum was dressed-also.  George Sherman appeared under a high forehead and behind an insulating kind of nose.  Charley Traver appeared as a gray eagle, or a bald eagle, we forget which.”

An opposing political candidate was described as not knowing enough to drive nine ducks.  Stories were told of a ragged beggar with a different name and inscription beneath it each week.  One week the story read:  “John Jones, Stand Up!  You continued to take the paper from the post office without even paying the postage on it.  Are you dead, dead broke or a dead beat?”

The Index also reported other interesting stories:

“The public school is doing well, and has an enrollment of six children.”

“There is an Indian child in the camp which has ten toes on each foot.  Each extra equipment of toes is on the rear of the foot, normal in shape.  The ankles are centrally situated, to give the toes a chance to sprout naturally.  The great disadvantage is that the mother cannot tell by looking at the feet whether the child is going or coming.”

“Jeff McClellan is going to South Africa as a mine foreman, not superintendent.  This makes it safer for the company.”

“We have to pay our taxes March fourth, and would like to have our delinquent subscribers march forth and settle up.”

“Our devil says he don’t mind carrying the paper around on snowshoes, but thinks he had his eyesight injured by smoke while calling down stovepipes and chimneys to look after their paper as he dropped it down.”

“The Bodie papers are changing to tri-weekly.  The Bridgeport paper still continues weakly as before.” 

To The Rescue

Not only did Townsend report about the Bodie papers and their changing schedules, he helped to rescue one of them.  As the town dwindled from a bulging population of 8,000 to a meager 500 by the year of 1889, the Evening Miner was fading as well.  Sunday January 6, of that same year, J.W. E. Townsend sent the following letter to H. Z. Osborne who was selling was left of the Free Press:

“Friend O. – What will you take for the remnants of the ‘Free Press’ outfit?  The type is all gone and nothing but two or three stands and the press remain.  The roof over the press leaks and the machine is badly damaged by rust.  It’s a d—d shame.  The last time I was in Bodie I went to the office to cover it up, simply because I dislike to see good material wrecked through the carelessness of a drunken sot, but they would not let me have the key.  And so it remains, subject to the moisture of God and the whims of a beast, who is drunk-drunk-drunk, and has not issued a paper for a month.  Frost is her with me, as fat as a balloon and apparently happy with a good grub and a fair allowance of grog.

In your own good time I would like to hear from you.  I am perfectly contented in Mill Creek, though we have to wear snowshoes to bed and every thermometer has a cold in the head.  But things are lovely anywhere if you steer a true course.  Respects to Cleveland.”

The wreck of the Free Press was Townsend’s for $100.  Several years later, he was in Bodie producing the Bodie Mining Index., probably using that very equipment he had acquired from the Free Press.

Ode To An Editor

After years of moving from one mining town to another, James W. E. Townsend died, rheumatic, nearly deaf, and not surprisingly, suffering from liver problems from all of the frontier whiskey he had consumed over the years.  In his book An Editor on the Comstock Lode, Wells Drury summed up “Lying Jim Townsend’s” career as an editor:

“To read his paper you would think that it was published in a city of ten thousand inhabitants.  He had a mayor and a city council, whose proceedings he reported once a week, although they never existed, and enlivened his columns with killings, law suits murder trials and railroad accidents, and a thousand incidents of daily life in a humming growing town-everyone of which he coined out of his own active brain.

“Among the most exciting things with which he kept churning up his readers were a shooting scrape and divorce proceedings arising from a scandal in which the mayor’s wife and a member of the city council figured.  It dragged along through his columns for nearly six months.  It was very interesting to read and implicitly believed-except by persons who knew there were no mayor and no council at any time in the town where Jim’s paper was published.  He was called “Lying Jim” Townsend to the day of his death and could he have had his way it would have been graven on his tombstone.”

James W. E.  Townsend rests in peace in a cemetery somewhere without the “nom de plume” he would have preferred but his tradition continues on at Explore Historic California each month in our Legends and Lore, and by the many others who know how to provide a good belly laugh, even when there isn’t a real reason for one.  Here’s to "Lying Jim!

Lying Jim Townsend Gravesite

Eastern Sierra History / Re: Nellie Bly
« on: March 29, 2012, 06:14:46 PM »
Nellie Bly was the first “Licensed” fishing and hiking guide.  There were many other guides around but just not licensed.  On day trips she would take them to Lake Canyon (Oneida Lake), Lundy Canyon or 20 Lakes Basin areas.  On longer trips, Yosemite was a favorite.

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