September 2006 Issue Explore Historic California - Magazine for Enthusiasts





"Good Ole Days"

September 23, 2006

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Sept. 16-18, 2006.




Sept. 23-25, 2006.


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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.




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

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Ancient Indian Rock Art Tales

 by Cecile Page Vargo

          If you've ever traveled through petroglyph country in Owens Valley or elsewhere, you may have noticed large circles of rock which once served as the foundation for ancient Indian housing. Within these circles you often will find bedrock mortars where Indian women would sit for hours upon hours grinding seeds and whatnot to be used in their family meals. Sitting at these bedrock mortars grinding foodstuffs all day, was a tiring and boring job.

The women would sit and stare at a flat faced boulder in the distance and gossip as they did their daily food grinding. One day, an Indian shaman came along and offered them something more entertaining, but only if they sacrificed their virgin daughters to him. Once the Indian women agreed to do this, the Oprah show immediately appeared on the big rock. The women clapped their hands in appreciation, and found that this “Oprah Rock” educated them, entertained them, and helped to pass the time more quickly.

Bedrock mortars with ancient "Oprah Rock" on the right.

The Indian men had been gone for weeks hunting, gathering and etching rock drawing directions to these places for others. They were absolutely fascinated with this new moving picture rock their women were staring at. But Oprah Winfrey wasn't exactly their cup of Mormon (or perhaps in this case I should say, squaw) tea, so the good shaman channeled the big rock in on Dr. Phil for awhile. The women enjoyed Dr. Phil as much as they did Oprah, but the men weren't impressed at all, and begged for something more exciting. The shaman agreed to oblige the men on the condition they brought their young sons to him, as the women had brought their young daughters. For the most part, the ancient Indian men were not inclined to sacrifice their virgin sons to the shaman, so they rarely got to enjoy Monday Night Football.

To this day, you will find many Oprah and Dr.Phil rocks in the desert and mountain southwest, but rarely will you come across the Monday Night Football Rock. Occasionally you will find several big flat faced rocks clustered together, and you may faintly hear strains of Indian drumbeats in the almost constantly blowing wind. You can rest assured that you have found the site of an ancient Indian rock concert. If this sighting is in the forest as opposed to the desert, and there is a good supply of wood lying nearby, perhaps you have found the place of the ancient Indian Woodstock.

While it's not backroads politically correct to divulge the exact location of cultural rock sites, wood or otherwise, there is one ancient Indian rock that is so plentiful you will see actual signs marking where he is most likely to appear. I'm sure you are quite familiar with these garish bright yellow/orange-ish signs with big black markings which particularly appear on curvaceous mountain highways near unstable rock hillsides. Watch out for these during your travels. This rock, and the others that are prone to follow him, is considered quite dangerous.

In his book "A Guide to Rock Art Sites in Southern California and Southern Nevada", David S. Whitley makes no mention of the numerous big rock tv's that can be found throughout ancient Indian cultural sites. However, he does fill us in on why he believes shamans created rock art, and what these drawings might possibly mean.

Visitors view and photograph a petroglyph site on the Volcanic Tablelands north of Bishop.

In the Owens Valley, there are numerous petrgolyphs for us to ponder. One of the most interesting sites is called "footprints on the rock", created by the ancient nymph known as “Water Baby”.  Hunter-gatherer sites throughout the world commonly portray foot and hand prints. Perhaps these footprints lead the way to the great hunting sites themselves, or perhaps lead the animals to the sites where they are to be hunted.

Reversed color image makes these "footprints on the rock" stand out.

Regardless of what or why, these footprint carvings etched in large panels of rocks in the Great Basin  are said to have been works of the diminutive ancient Indian spirit helper known as “Water Baby”, or “Water Dwarf”. Water Baby has been commonly described as a “short, long-haired male human” dressed in traditional Indian clothing.

Water Baby resided in springs and rivers, and passed a lot of his time partaking of native tobacco. His footprints are most often found around what once were the site of  springs and water holes where he resided during ancient times. He was a great shaman spirit helper and is attributed as the creator of the petrgolyphs.

It was said that a sighting of the Water Baby would result in death. The death in this case, was more than likely the altered state of consciousness induced by hallucinogenic native tobacco or other psychotropic substances, not necessarily a real death at all. The sight of Water Baby’s tracks may signify that supernatural experience.

As we traverse over the remnants of the ancient Indian trails, on paths that more modern 19th century travelers took in search of riches and wealth in the mining camps the likes of Bodie and Aurora, we have been known to stumble across Water Baby’s footprints in the rock.  We occasionally run across the great Oprah and Dr. Phil rocks, by the bedrock mortars and ancient Indian house circles, as well. Surprisingly, we don’t have to smoke any of that special tobacco to see these visions, and we have always lived to tell about it afterwards.


A Guide To Rock Art Site Southern California and Southern Nevada

by David S. Whitley

Mountain Press Publishing Company

Missoula Montana


The Friends of Bodie Day,  August 12, 2006

 Photography by Roger Vargo

       Each year the Friends of Bodie organization sponsors a living history day where Bodie's dusty streets come alive with mule drawn wagons and costumed reenactors.

Members of the Lawdogs and Pistoleros group prowl Bodie's dusty streets while visitors (below) watched and took photographs.




The sounds and smells of gunfights punctuate the still air of Bodie.


Terri and Mitch Geissinger make a well dressed Victorian era couple as Eleanor Dumont and Pat Reddy.


A visitor peers into the window of Boone's store.


Ted Holoway (left) kept busy tending his wagons and mules.


Frazzled schoolteacher, Carissa Harstrom, scolds two bad little boys who hid a pink pig in the Bodie's school house during an after hours, members-only, telling of Soul Stories.


Chris Spiller, as Mrs. Mary Quinville, angrily searches for her late to dinner husband while telling her Soul Story.


Bodies society mavens gather on a porch to tell their Soul Stories,


Robin Titus, M.D., shares a  Soul Story about medical care in the old days of Bodie.



A few of the Bad Girls of Bodie tease a costumer as he walks the streets of Virgin Alley.


Stew Bromps, a firefighter in real life, relays a Soul Story about the horse and buggy days of Bodie's subscription fire brigades.


Robert Greene (left) and Dave James (below)  tells the Soul Stories of Grandpa Lester Bell and J. S. Cain respectively.



Tour Information--REVISED 9/06

We're back on the road again! 

Our By God, to Bodie! tour is Sept. 16-18, 2006

Our Golden Leaves and Golden Trails tour is Sept. 23-25, 2006

Please click on the photo for tour details.

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.

Roger, Cecile and Marty Copyright © 2006, All Rights Reserved.                           Powered by