Call me Sardo Pat. Everbody else does, why not you? You know what sardo is, doncha? It’s that special bread they bake down in Frisco. Folks claim the air got some special magical yeast in it or sumpin, makes it all so taste salty an’ tangy. Anyhow, my real name is Patrick Menahee Machlachglenahee and I was borned in Ireland. Came to 'merica when I was two. My pappy he worked on the Eerie Canal. You heard of that, aintcha? Lived in Skanecktidee. Came out west with the Rush I did, got me a claim on a placer on the Consumniss River, and my main drag is the town of Judas Gulch.
I gots to tell y’all a little sumpin bout how it all came about, too, how I come out here, becuz I am oner those them like to call “Original FortyNiners”— That is, I made it out here while there was still somethin’ good about it, an’ I had a chance to make me an ackshul bit of money. Nowadays with all the hydrollicking goin on, there’s lots of land get washed through but lots less gold fer the pickin’! When I com here a man could still work his own damn claim, didn’t need no help or none.
But that’s all different now. Takes me my six pardners and me together workin’ a sixty feet sluice together to get what little we gets. Oh its still somethin, usually bout two ounces a day I supose, but it aint like the old days when you could jest find them nuggets willy-nilly sometimes.
I come from Skanecktidee New York, like I said, ain’t all so much back there ‘cept my folks and little brother, and I ain’t been back, an’ I don’t care if I don’t, neither. I left Skanecktidee and got myself on a boat outa city of New York called the Curij. The Curij she were jest a two-master, culdn’t take the trip round the Horn, you know, and so I had me passage to Limon in Costa Rica, down there in jungle land. Took me a week of hard travelin’ through them rustic vines and tangles, with a cupple Injuns as my guides, with twenny others, hackin’ and hewin’ our way to the Pacific. But we got there, and we got to Puntarenas.
I was lucky, some of them other fellers took ill off malaria cause they got killer skeeters down there, an’ a couple of cholera, because ain’t no good water, I was lucky I had this here special large canteen carried my own so sip by sip I slipped across the Isthmus. Soon as we gets to Puntarenas we all catched a schooner headed up Frisco way. Ackshully it was headed to Portland Oregon, but had a stop there.
Frisco! Man what a place. Folks told me that when I got there was about started to get hoppin’ and it’s been hoppin’ ever since! I only stayed enough time to get me a map and an outfit- for me that meant a pickhammer , a shevel,and a pannin’ pan and a fryin’ pan, and a good hat. That lucky hat’s been with me all along, too! And I headed up this here way to Judas Gulch, and put down my claim on my little place on the Consumness. Made me a couple of friends there, them is now pardners in the minin’ comp’ny, too, Piney and Transom. An’ Cakey. Cakey’s sorta like our man Fridey, he’s frum th’ Sandwich Islands, he is.
In fact, Cakey were the first actual man I met that first day on the street of Frisco. I was just to set about gettin’ my land legs when this feller comes up to me- he’s got dark skin like a Nigro but more tan- an’ he asks me if I would be going up to the mines.
I said, “Why, yes, what man here ain’t?”
He proceeds to tell me he will make me an excellent guide, for a small fee. He is Cakey Kowakowa, from the island of Owahoo, an’ dang if he ain’t already been up thar in the gold fields and has his own claim goin’. Says, I will need some good advice as to how to go about things, this I cannot argue with, and he says, again, for a small fee, he will guide me to a good panning river, the Consumness, and he will help git me an outfit (that war the shevel and pick and pan and a little rocker) an’ we would both git two mules, and I can strap my gear on the back of one.
Now I happent to have brought me a blanket, and that were a good thing, since that would have cosset me some fifty dollars there if I got it in Frisco. The shevel and pan and pick war bad enough, that war a whole thirty. By the time I had bought us both lunch and paid for the supplies and paid the rent on two mules, I had about spent near seventy whole dollers, and I had left only about a hunnert, for whatever else would need come up.
Cakey said, though, that up thar a man must rely on his wits, slim supply, must make his shelter, must have good strong clothes, “much also he must have good strong back, because mine is hard work.”
I weren’t afraid of no hard work, that is so.
So anyhow I must also pay for the ferry for us both. My ticket was thirty and Cakey’s was thrityfive dollers on account of his Kanaka color, but we got the ferry, and left Frisco that same afternoon.
Now there were some troubles going on, and which I had of course no sense of the meaning, though Cakey seemed to.
“We get out of there just in time, Pat” he says, looking back over his shoulder at the town of Frisco as it diminished behind us on the water.
“Big bad fight happen. Sidney Ducks and Frisco Hounds making big trouble for Chillytown minders.”
“Chillytown? Frisco Hounds? Sidney Ducks? Me no savvy,” I says, intersted in the paticulars.
“Chillytown. Make homes there in tents, many Spannards from Chilly. Come up to work mines with sons and wives. Sidney Ducks- bad news operators. With Frisco Hounds, get paid to watch docks, and drag sailors back to boats. Unlucky sailor cannot leave his ship to go mines! Bad.”
“Sidney Ducks, Frisco Hounds, back there, they raging on Chillytown. Say, men from Chilly have no pay tax on mines. I pay tax on mines too! Yes, twenny dollah! Twenny dollah for year for man work mines not white American man. But Hounds mad that many, so many, too many Chillyman here in Frisco. So fight. Big fight go on, we leave it behind us. Big trouble. Where we go, not so bad. Lots of kanaka, lots of Chillymen, lots of Chinaman, lots of Injuns. But many men friends. You see. Gold work magic!”
I had to let this sink in for a whiles, but what I would find, of course, would be nothing like he described things.
When the ferry docked at Sackaminnow, he said it would be good for us to rest the night. We held the mules with a livery man at a hotel. Weren’t much of a hotel, just a little tent with five or six partitioned made out of drop cloth just like the walls. But they charged me and Cakey three dollers each to sleep thar. In the orning we rustled grub- was not so bad cept it were a dollar apiece, again. He still had not given me a price for his “good honest fee” but I was hanging on (if I could) to every cent I had. Still, it were tough. Not so tough as the steak we ate for breakfast, though!
We got up in the mornin’ and saddled the mules, and riding on mine were not much fun withtht rocker behind my butt, but somehow I managed and so did the mule.
Cakey was leading me onward, to the fated camptown of Judas Gulch.
So when Cakey get me up there into the hills, and after we had passed through Sackaminnow and I seen that fer what it was, we pulls into Judas Gulch on our old mules and goes up a hill where’s his place. Now I seen from the way he were livin’ weren’t much to advertise and that I wanted my own cabin right aways, jest as soon as I could make one. Cakey said “Oh fine, das right, I help you make house, you no worries!”
First things I gets offa the mule, he sets me down in this llittle hutch of his. I don’t know what else you’re gonna call it, causeit aint more than a roof and a wall, and on three sides mostly open to the are. He pinned back canvas around the edges. It was not til winter I seen him double back up them canvas flaps and make it almost a proper house, but that’s all it was, canvas flaps bent round some posts. And the roof, well, it were only a piece of grass really, flowers and all growing on the top of it.
Anway he sets me down an’ asks me what I’ll have ta drink.
“I don’t know, watch you got?”
Cakey says he gots whisky, but I passed on that, I figger I can see whisky enough once I gets my strike, and then have more reason ta drink it. He says he gots coffee so I says, “OK, fine”
He pulls some coffeebeans outta a big old sack and pounds them with a hammer on a stump-head, and scrapes them off into a pot, throws water on, biles it, and there, that’s a cup of coffee. Weren’t no nothing to it. Of course I was gonna set him back on his tail oncet he seen the cofee grinder I buys when I gets flush but fer now this were luxury.
Then he asks me eff I’m hongry, and of course I am, since we ain’t et nothin since this mornin when we lit out of Sackaminnow, and pulls a can offa his wall. He musta had twenty more these cans up there on a shelf and they all says the same thing- “Mr. Cook’s Two Finger Poi”. I never heard of this none. He says maybe I will like it. He opens up a can and I looks in and it’s the mos’ ugly looking purple slop!
He laughs, and pours it inta a skillet, grabs a jug of molasses and mixes it around, stirs that gloop like it were a regular soup or somethin’. Once its hot he says “Give a while cool down” then once it looks like it is, why, he takes his forefingers and dips it in, pulls up a hunk of it on ‘em, and slurps it right down!
I says, “Don’t you got a spoon for me?”
Cakey laughs and says if I needs a spoon, I be’s no good in Sandwich Islands, but he hands me one, and so I tried to start anyway, eating the glopaguss.
“It go so much bettah with fish. I show you nex’ time.”
RIght now I guess he ain’t got no fish, so I sat myself there and stared into the wiggly face of the glopaguss and I et what I could. Which weren’t all of it. ‘Cept for the molasses that were some purty rank stuff. Half sar, and that were probly cause it were sar to start off with! Without that molasses I can’t see none how anyone let alone Kanakas could want to tech it. Mus’ be a quired taste.
When I et my full of his “poy” I asset him where he got it, seein’ as were a Sandwich Island dellikasy.
He said he got a whole case of it brung to Stockton secure and custom, when he made his first strike. Tells me once a man makes his strike well it’s lots like the gates of Heaven opens. All kinds of things is used and useful and comes to him easy like, much never thought of before. I was talking to him this way when he takes that thar empty poy can and flattens it and throws it in a bucket full of other poy cans, similarly skwarshed. I assed him what he was saving them all fer and he says, “ I melt down latuh. Make small pile tin and iron. Sell again.”
This were a unique conception to me of how to get ridda the trash. I made me a mental note about it.
“Now,” he says “Let’s see the river and the claim!”
I reckon I had no other reason to be there to begin with and he leads me on a path heads up a hil then down again and we are now walkin in what I sees as a reckonizable river valley. He brung along a gold pan with him, since he wanted me to see I was not bein’ led astray none- this were a bonafidee good claim, and all I needed to do was set myself down and start washin’.
When we gets down to the river is when I meets Jamjob and Suthrun. They are workin in the sun, Jamjob is loading the rocker, and Suthrun is trickin’ the sluicebox. On the flat side of a big old rock there is sparkly nuggets drying in the sun- first I seen the Californee gold! But it were real.
“Howdy Suthrun!”— all happy bright says Cakey.
“Howdy, Cakey! Who’s the Boston?”
I gesset and gesset right that the Boston were me, since there were none other in the presence.
“This hea Mista Pat— how he say- Micklockhagenahee- Dang his name almos’ bad as Kanaka Joe’s!”
Them other boys they laughed and interduced themselves. Suthrun been workin’ there best part of the year, and Jamjob, he were but three weeks ahead of me. Already they said they had their own cabin made up and I were welcome to sleep in tonight, if I would have none of Cakey’s little grass shack.
And that were it, of course. When I had set there watching them, Cakey were in the crick himself, and he brought that big old gold pan over to me and showed me some of what he had washed out of it. Sure enough, that was gold thar, in that pan, and all of it came from the river gravel, and if I would like to get my feet wet now, well, I could start working on my own pile!
That sounded purty good. So for the next thre hours, while them other boys sat on the river bank and did their little fill and wash and sort and preen, I did my own bit of pannin’. It took me a bit to get the hang of it, and Cakey showed me just zackly how you angle the pan and dip it so slightly for more water and to let off the sand or dross rock, but I did get the hang of it, and dang if I did not at least take a half-ounce of gold, home with me all wrapped up in my little bandanner! That were real good for a first day, Cakey says.
“Now you see I no Gyp you, I telling you honest humbug!” he said.
Yep, it were honest humbug, and I knew I had found the answer at least for now what I come all this way for.
Them other two boys takes me in to their cabin and sets me there and then I succumbed to their request to share their homemade whisky, which I insist, were perty good- smooth, clear, sets down the throat all smooth and syrup like and soon enough, you’re setting there and singin. Cakey come over after an hour or so with a little pint size git-tar he calls a ookoolaylay and plays and sings while we set there, sometimes we’re singin’ ourselves, sometimes it is jest him. And the moon starts rising big and full over the large mountains on the Eastern side, and them crickets commence their serenades, and all is fine, and that were the honest humbug.
The Cosumness River runs roughly east-west from the Sierras and empties in marshlands off the San Joaquin. It is one of about forty tributaries of the San Joaquin and Sacramento Rivers which madeup the bulk of the gold rush digging known as the Mother Lode— Names such as the Tuololumne and Mokelumnee, the American, the Feather, and the Stanislaus are all a part of the great network of Sierra Nevada watersheds which come to a due conclusion in the waters of the great San Francisco Bay. In Sardo Pat’s day all of this was virgin and unspoiled territory—men were just only now beginning to ply up the delta in steamships, bringing daily hundreds of gold seekersup from San Francisco- or Frisco, as everybody called it then.
If things had been left to the work of individuals and even companies comprised of same, perhaps it may not have ended as it had to— perhaps the evidence, a century and a half on, might not have been quite as obvious. Yet greed was the currency in common all men that came to the Mother Lode shared. Greed took many forms but most often, it morphed itself into the shape of larger and larger collective enterprises and took more and more technological forms until the great waters had been stuffed back into artificial flues which stretched for miles up and down each river and stream, and great hoses capable of knocking a man down at a hundred paces were plied against the hillsides, that the hillsides themselves transformed into mile after mile of pulverized piles of dusty earth... which still remain, evidence for all of the complete ecological ignorance of 19th C. Man.
When I first started workin’ it, I started with the riverbank of course. Must have gotten eighty ounces out of it, that first summer. People asket me war didja hide it all! I ain’t a tellin them but I’ll tell you- when I had it all assyed an’ converted into Samuels I hid it all up in a coffee can under a floorboard in my cabin, is war it is, and unless you’re a damn fool, you won’t get any ideas yerself about comin to steal it from me, cause now I gots a Colt, and I can use it too.
Anyhow I said eighty ounces, that was a lot of money, yeh and I went back to Frisco that October once I had it and once winter come on cause who is gonna tryin’ be the big fool and mine the Consumness in winter? I come back to Frisco and musta blown a good half my wad then. I stays away from Sydney Town of course, and I stayed away from a lotta things, but I had me a ‘stablishment I prioritized and it were good fer whisky and decent card games and sometimes even a good decent breakfast, with eggs and bacon and ham and some beer.
Piney, he come from Caroliner, all the way hisself in a Conestoga wagon, the hard way to the stars crosset Injun land from Misery. Misery ain’t got much to recommend it, he says, but the Mississip, and Saint Louie, but nothin there but trail vultures, he says, and the ones led him out here was nearly well that too. Had him a few Injun scrapes, and I guess nobody amongst us hates Injuns now more than old Piney. He’d be ready to shoot one and scalp one ifet one even stuck up a feather over the edge of the rocks beside the sluice run!
Transom, now there is a characer. He come from Phillidelphy and he uset to be a solid citizen and all, but when he heard the word the gold was out here, he took off from his wife an little ones like you never seen a man do for want of it, and he sold half of his land right out under them and bought a ticket round the Horn. Him I met in that little stablishment I was talkin’ about. He was just headin up here and I was goin’ back, so I took this gentle tenderfoot aside and told him some of the facts of life, which he was thankful for, because after our first spring together, Piney and Transom and then Nicletto ganged up on me and forcet me to begin the company with them. I can’t say twas a bad decision, cuz we have darn near made six times over together what I did myself end of forty nine, but still, somtimes I get hungry for the old days, when you didn’t need to split nothin with nobody and you were always sure then of an even Steven, cause weren’t no Steven!
Me and Transom though we did get along, and amongst all them other fellers there, he seemed to be earnest even if he was a tenderfoot. I asket him why he was fool enough to sell out his land underneath a wife and kids, and you know what he said? He said, “Pat, if you had one chance to make the world a better place for them wife and kids, and you knew that you could do it, and you knew there weren’t no hope in the grocery bizness like it carries on in Phllidelphia, and that if you could make it in Californee and ship yerself back soon enough, who wouldn’t try and do it? D’you think you could? Specially if you loves that woman and kinders like I do.”
I looked at him long and said “Well, it musta been some gamble, cause now you been out here two year already and you ain’t doin yet half as well as you figgered! Why doncha go on back, now?”
“Because, Pat, them is goners to me, now. Yeh, oncet I been out here a while it was the girl got the old itch and began lookin’ round fer someone sensible. Like a lawyer. Sent me a letter one day said she had got herself one, and a deevorse, and now she was take up with him too! So now I gots nothin to go back for, Pat, and I jest mine fer myself and my own dreams.”
“Seems like you bout lost all you had to get what you didn’t need to me, son.”
“I reckon it too.”
That was last year when I had that talk with Transom. But let’s go back again because I got to keep on tellin’ you about how I come up here! I did not finish really I jumpet the claim on yer story.
I built this here cabin in the winter of forty nine and that was a good thing. It has a stove, yep, genuwine Franklin, and it has a farplace, yep, and I does my cooking either way. Has me a little feather bed and pillers to rest my head, and a rockin chair, and an awl lamp, yep, and each new day I gets up and sweeps out the dust and shakes out my special carpet, was a soovenir from my first Frisco trip, too. Folks told me it was stupid expense, but I thought it was good to have at least one purty thing in my house, and this rug be it. On the wall I keeps all my surplies—a can of lard, cans of beans, bags of sugar and flar, can of pepper, sack of grits, sack of coffee beans. A sack of Injun popcorn, too, that’ll come in good in a pinch, by crackee. A keg o’ gunpowder an’ some pistol balls, an’ another one o’ terbacky, so’s I can smoke my own cigartees. Sometimes though I likes a pipe instead, it’s more homey, and sometimes, you jes aint got the cirgartee papers. Yeh I got me a good coffee grinder too, got that offa Teasewater runs the store down in town, cosset me thirty bucks. I make do with what I eat cause I catches fish, I snares rabbits, I shoots squirrels and other varmints, and deers, when I can. I got tard of tryin’ to keep horns fer trophies, though, I don’t want a bunch of clutter, so I gives most of the heads to the other guys, they are happy to hang um on their walls.
I hardly never see no eggs, cause they cost about a whole doller just for one, but if you go down to town you can get them, if you wanna pay an arm, leg, or foot t’ get some. I keep happy with hunks off my side of sowbelly, I buys one every season, that’s good enough, with a little beans, makes a tasty meal. I makes hortcakes with muh flar and sugars them over, and with my coffee ever mornin, it’ s breakfast. Any day a man can get up and make his coffee, ets a good life and a good day t’ die! I don’t care.
I grows me taters, too, on the sunny side of the cabin, got a whole wall side deddicated to nothin but taters. Takes so little to get so many, you only hasta set down a few good starters, and in half a year boy, you got enough taters last ya through as much time again! Taters is might good with that bacon and beans. Course me being Irish I cannot do without my taters and neither would you.
I come up, partly on the riverboat, the Sitka, an’ partly on the stage. The stage dumpeded me an’ Cakey off and I took on up toward the river. I was gonna git me a good spot, I was, and weren’t nobody here this side o’ Sodom was gonna tell me they was thar on the river firset on me. Cause I was! An’ was I ever lucky cause most of the other boys thought war I chose were none too smart- was way too much heavy boulderin’ thar, was not a lot of sandbar either, an’ besides, they said it was on the wrong side of the river bend for it to have any good placer. Well I reckon them boys all figgered wrong, cause the first week I brung out of there a mighty whole ten ounces and that were well enough to stablish me amongst the eyes of all the citizens here in Judas Gulch that I was, at least, one lucky Irishman, and I ain’t really looked back since, ‘cept to tell y’all this.
Yep, I had some luck. Me and Transom eventually decidet we needed to pardner up, and there war other pardners, and I guess I’m a gittin a little bit ahead of m’self, but Transom were a good guy to meet, regardless. I reckon his natrual honesty were better than most of the boys up here, who may as well been created liars right outta the fire, because Transom, when he set his own claim, he made sure that he left me that overhang of rock on the bend the overlapped his, if you reckon by a plum line, that was mine, aright and I’m glad he knew it, ‘cause the next year when I blowed that rock aprt I found a nice quartzite seam inside her was less pyrite than gold enough, and that boulder set me up for another twenty ounces all itself.
Now days when they come up and do all the highdrollickin’ like to see fit to wash all the hills into the durn sea, you can find sums like that lots quicker, if you set yer jets right and you happen to have a good vein to mine. Lots of people got claims that were nothin but a whole wash— lost lotsa money on them hose and pumps, lost lotsa money on their sluce runs, lost a lotta time cause they never had the sense to test the sedimentry layers fust. I tell you even smarties like Transom come out here, alls they ever knowed about gold is what they read in books, but some of them find that nothin’ out here is quite like they found it to be in college books, nope, cept it is true, that gold runs in quartzite, and so do mica and pyrite, and a man’s got t’ have a good eye t’ tell pyrite from gold on sight anyhow. But I ain’t ever been fooled. Even gold flakes is heavier than pyrite kind, and you kin tell jest by turnin’ it in the sun if it’s black on one side, was pyrite anyhoo, might as well hand up the pan and filler up agin.
I gots my coffee grinder, like I said, from the store here. Old Teasewater runs the place, he’s another smartypants college boy, says he went to Wesley in Massachoosits, has him a brood of little brats and a wife of course he hatched them all with. They are some fierce little terrors, and some of the boys say they is even worset than Injuns, for all the troubles they sponsible for sometimes. Them boys of the group loves to play pranks specially if they think they can get their Dad some money by means of doing so— I tell ya, one of them little varmints near broke up part of our sluice run just so McDavish would need to buy more railing from his Dad! Things like that happen up here, though. That coffee grinder, anyhow, it’s my only concession to what them folks back home might call “civilized.” Otherwise, me and the rest of the company, we’re right True Barbarians.
Suthrun is one of them sort come up outta the South, which is why is his name Suthrun. Him and Piney get along real famous. But you orter hear them two talkin. Sounds like they hardly knows a word of English. I’ll bring that into it later. But Suthrun, he come from Georgia, some say he escaped and has a bounty on his head, but he don’t seem to act none like a crim’nal to me any. Mostly he stays up in his little shack- and I mean it, his place ain’t even a cabin proper, just a little lean-to that he made ‘reiginally out of a tent and some post beam, then when he got good and ready, he mad a little roof from a dilapidated river raft, and hung it up on to. He ain’t got much of nothin but a moss bag to sleep on, and a lamp, o’course, and he do all his cooking on a fire. On rainy days he is plum outta luck so he eats down at the Eye. It’s good for that, too, yes it is. But I likes to save my dough, not spend it, so I eats at home mostly. A lot more than Suthrun do at least!
McDavish, he’s a Scotsman. I reckon I gets along with him partly for that, and cause he was borned over there too, and come around the same time as my Pappy did, around the same age s me, too, ‘cept a little older. He’s got the red har and the temper, t oo, and if you pore him a mite of whisky, well, that would just wet his whiskers, he’d soon be at ya fer the whole bottleful. That’s why I never drinks with him, on account of trying to stay friends. Hard to stay friends with a man if you drinks too much with him, I thinks.
An then the last one of our company, Jamjob. He’s a sartin piece of work he is. Ain’t nobody ain’t a white man he’ll even speak to, not even a white woman, outta what he thinks is courtesy. Otherwise again if a feller ain’t white, I knows he hates ‘em. I never seen such a skirtscairt pigeon in all my days as that man. Why one day I seen Millie talking with him, and he kept his hat on his chest like to be handled, and backed away from her so fast... Everone at the Eyeball laffed at that. We found out later that Jamjob has a wife back east too, just like Transom, only he’s tryin to be a good little boy and then someday (maybe) he thinks he’ll be able to order her up and bring her to Frisco. Jes’ like that! I knows it’s a ‘saster jes’ waitin’ to happen.
Now Cakey Kowakowa, he’s been up har since before even the word came out about the First Strike. He’s from Honnalooloo, an’ fust he war a sailor, but when the Strike hit, he took off like a jackrabbit fer the Gold Country here. Lucky I found him, too, I spoze, and he was lucky I was all green and all like I was, cause I needed somebody to larn me the way this is all spposed to shake out, you know? I might not a got the hang of pannin’, nor even reckoned with no idears about a Long Tom or a Company, eff I hadna runned into him. He’s been a good soul, too, not a streak of savage in his heart, even if he does like eating pounded goop. He ain’t a full pardner, on account of him not being a white man, but we do give him chancets to take his own cut, and he swears he’s savin’ his dust for a trip back to Honnalooloo sometime soon.
Arcadia Cosmopolitan Mining Company we calls ourselves, and that we are, cause we is cosmpolitian—Why what else can ya call it when you gots an Irishman, a Scotman, an Eyetalian, a Boston, a Suthrunner or two, an’ a Kanaka? “A right mess!” says MacDavish, an’ I reckon he ain’t far from wrong.
The summertime fog of morning hangs like the hand of a lunatic monk over the land west of the Sierra Nevada, above the sleepy little town of Judas Gulch, above the sleeping heads of Sardo Pat and his partners— Transom, McDavish , Nicletto, Suthrun, Jamjob, and Keiki Kalakaua. Great piles of cumulus are lumping up above the mountains now, pregnant with the first storm of autumn. From the valley foothills, they appear like rough clumps of cake frosting, sculpted into high forms the height of the mountains themselves and more, shaded in tinges of grey, blue-grey, and white. As dawn arrives the cumulus are now colored with the back-light of the sun, which as yet may not break through, and perhaps, over the mountain towns of Truckee and Nevada City, may not break at all today. For the storms often remain a day or two. They got off easy this summer— few rained any if at all, and the cumulus had remained white. But now with the onset of winter, the wind out of the Oregon lava beds had added a northern chill to their makeup, and lofted them much higher than summer’s, and they settled over the mountain passes like men who meant business.