November 2005 Issue Explore Historic California - Magazine for Enthusiasts





Burro Schmidt's

Tunnel Update

Burro Schmidt's "Famous Tunnel" now has a group of "friends" trying to preserve and protect the site.   

Click the photo to visit  their Website.



Click on the photo below to read more about Cerro Gordo.

Cerro Gordo now has its own Web site. Click the link below to visit.


Join us at the Nevada Boom Town History Conference, Feb. 3-5, 2006 in Amargosa, Nevada.  Click the drawing for details.



The Panamint Breeze is a new publication highlighting the history and legends California and Nevada.  

Click on the logo for details.

California Dreamin' On A Thanksgiving Day

by Cecile Page Vargo

           As a child I don't remember a lot about family Thanksgiving dinners, except that once or twice we got together with relatives in the San Fernando Valley and sat down to the traditional roasted turkey, gravy, mashed potatoes, stuffing, a vegetable of some sort, dinner rolls, and pumpkin pie. I also have an image of spending the day before the meal with my cousins sitting under a large tree picking pecans and eating them. I remember that my father being a baker, he normally had to work on the major eating holidays of the year, so family Thanksgiving's were not a big deal most of the time. As a young teenager, I do have memories of our little family of five getting in the car and heading a mile up Ocean View Boulevard from our house. Traditional Thanksgiving weather always seemed to bring warm dry Santa Anas that cleared the autumn fog and the heavy layers of Los Angeles smog to reveal great views of the vast body of water that borders the state of California from our high foothill vantage point. Driving to enjoy that ocean view is probably the closest to a Thanksgiving tradition, that I can remember.

Visions Of The First Thanksgiving

          While my family Thanksgiving memories are probably not comparable to most family memories, I do have very strong images in my head of the Pilgrims first Thanksgiving. Of course that includes the Pilgrims in their black outfits with oversized white collar and cuffs, the wide brim hats, and the Indians with painted faces, fringed buckskin outfits, and head feathers, sitting down to an oversize picnic table feasting on all the foods mentioned in the previous paragraph and more. And somehow, I always imagine they enjoyed a bowl of popcorn after it was all said and done, although I doubt, like many 21st century families, that they sat down and watched a football game or a  favorite DVD while they ate their popcorn.  

The rare and endangered turkey caterpillar (gobble wormus) may have been served at an early California Thanksgiving celebration if the Pilgrims had arrived on the Pacific Coast instead of Plymouth Rock.

         A quick search on the internet and I find that the Pilgrim Thanksgiving was not at all as most of  have been brainwashed to believe. Let us refer to Edward Winslow's account of the original 1621 Thanksgiving event in this letter dated December 12, 1621 which was published the following year and appeared in chapter 6 of "Mourt's Relation: A Journal of the Pilgrims at Plymouth":

 Our corn [i.e. wheat] did prove well, and God be praised, we had good increase of Indian corn and our barley indifferent and good, but our peas not worth the gathering, we feared they were too late sown. They came up very well, and blossomed but the sun parched them in the blossom. Our harvest being gotten in our governor sent four men on fowling, that so we might after a special manner rejoice together after we had gathered the fruits of our labors. They four in one day killed as much fowl as, with a little help beside, served the company almost a week. At which time, amongst other recreations, we exercised our arms, many of the Indians coming against us, and among the rest their greatest king Massasoit, with some ninety men, whom for three days we entertained and feasted and they went out and killed five deer, which they brought to the plantation and bestowed on our governor, and upon the captain and others. And although it be not always so plentiful as it was at this time with us, yet by the goodness of god, we are so far from want that we often wish you partakers of our plenty.

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The Dove's Romance

 transcribed by Harry Cornwell

Perhaps following the Pilgrim and Piute Thanksgiving in California, the Indians passed a pipe around and told stories, while snacking on left over piaghi. The dove that flew when they first came together, and the coyote that howled as the night grew long,  may have inspired this story:  

          Among the people at the Creation was Haiwee, the most charming young lady in all the land. She was dressed in a soft gray gown, and we now call her the dove. There was also E-sha, the cunning and tricky coyote, who was a doctor in general practice. His principal rival was Que-da-goy-goy, the magpie. Another little old man, in bright green and blue, named So-ah-hi, we call the humming bird. Near the lake lived an old hermit, the mudhen, with unbelievable healing powers.

          Esha tried to meet Haiwee, who avoided him. When a chance came he offered her everything, even a pearl necklace, a most valued possession because it guaranteed ownership to the owner's descendants. Dove declined his gifts.

          By chance, while hunting, Esha saw Quedagoygoy place a bronze-blue necklace around haiwee's neck, in token of their marriage. Enraged, he later sought the campfire with arrows dipped in rattlesnake venom. He drew his arrow on one whom he took to be Quedagoygoy, but as the eagle and the sagehen interrupted his deed he saw that he had aimed at the crow.  

          The next day he sought the dove, who asked him for a knife to remove a sliver from her finger. He gave her a poisoned arrow instead. She became ill, and Coyote was called to doctor her. She got worse, and coyote blamed Rattlesnake for her condition. Then Humming Bird was called in, and blamed Coyote. Coyote decided that he didn't want Dove to die, so he went after Mudhen. But Mudhen knew he was coming, and filled his tepee with so dense a smoke that when Coyote plunged in he was almost suffocated. Mudhen refused to go unless Coyote would give up the precious pearl. At last coyote agreed to give the pearl if Dove were saved. Under Mudhen's ministrations she recovered.

          Coyote was blamed for her illness, but denied his guilt. He challenged Magpie to a test of marksmanship, the winner to take Dove as his bride. The crowd objected, but Magpie was willing, and gave Coyote the pick of his arrows. Coyote shot at the mark and missed, then claimed that he had slipped and it was not a fair test. Magpie magnanimously gave him two more arrows, taking only one himself. Coyote shot again, almost piercing the center of the mark. Magpie shot, striking the center exactly. Magpie again gave Coyote a chance, leaving it to Dove to make her choice. Magpie was chosen.

          Then came a great change, and every one except Coyote, who was despised by all, was permitted to choose his way of living. Mudhen announced that he would always bear the pearl on his bill, in token of coyote's disgrace. The glossy necklace is still to be seen on Dove's neck.


The Story of Inyo

By W.A. Chalfant

Chalfant Press

Bishop, CA            


Tour Information

We're back on the road again! 

Click on the photo for current schedule details.

Our 2005 tours are history! Thanks to all who joined us on our dirt road travels.

Our 2006 schedule will be available in December.

Please contact us at for additional information or reservations.

Explore Historic California!

     Not too many years ago, the family station wagon was the magic carpet to adventure. Today, that family station wagon is likely to be a four wheel drive sport utility vehicle or pick up truck. SUV's and other 4x4's are one of the best selling classes of vehicles. Ironically, industry statistics show that once purchased, few owners will dare to drive their vehicles off the paved highway. Click your mouse through our website and enjoy our armchair adventures and the histories behind them. If you are interested in taking one of our guided tours with your vehicle, please contact us at:

     Several years ago, we bought our first SUV. We went to a one-night class at a local community college entitled "How to 4-Wheel Drive" by Harry Lewellyn. The following weekend we attended the hands-on day tour. We liked what we were doing so much that we began going out nearly every weekend and learned how to negotiate a variety of dirt roads. Our spare time was spent doing research on the history and ecology of our favorite areas. A one-day outing turned into 16 years of leading others on mini-vacations throughout Southern California and the Owens Valley.

     Our 4WD outings involve driving on easy to moderate dirt roads and are ideally suited to novice and intermediate level drivers. All tours are suitable for stock vehicles in good condition, although some tours do have vehicle size restrictions.

     Our tours are operated under permits issued by the Bureau of Land Management, U.S. Forest Service, and other authorities.

     We share our knowledge of the backcountry over the CB radio with our guests. We frequently stop to explore mining areas, old and new, and ponder the rocks, plants and animals we may encounter. We'll occasionally visit an old cabin or deserted mountain lookout.

     California has a fascinating history, from geologic unrest and prehistoric petroglyph scribes to the "Radium Queen of the Mojave" and the "Human Mole of Black Mountain." Load up your 4X, fasten your seatbelts and get ready to explore historic California.

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