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July 6, 2008
Celebrating small towns

The town of Mokelumne Hill prepares to celebrate Independence Day

On June 26, Gail was able to visit our mountain home for the first time in more than two months. Russell took a day off of work and we went up a day early – on Thursday evening instead of Friday evening. The reason was that we had received word of two local meetings taking place.

The first meeting, which we received notice of in the mail, was a community meeting to discuss the long-term future of the nearby town of Glencoe. Did it want to grow and develop into a larger town? Did it want to remain small and anonymous? We thought it would be enlightening to participate in local politics.

The second meeting, which we learned about through the Internet, was the monthly meeting of the Calaveras Historical Society. Not only were they meeting in the nearby town of Westpoint, but they would be selling a locally-produced book (a compendium of local newspaper clippings from the 1800s) that Russell was interested in purchasing.

Unfortunately, both meetings were on Thursday evening. The Westpoint meeting started at 6:00 and included dinner. The Glencoe meeting started ten-minutes’ drive away at 7:00. We learned that it was not too late to make dinner reservations, but that we might be stretching things a bit to attend both meetings. We decided to try anyway.

Driving through Thursday evening’s commuter traffic, we arrived at our mountain house with just enough time to unload the van and drive off to Westpoint. For the first time we were able to meet some of our neighbors. These included Debbie, who lives a few miles down from our mountain in a vineyard that we can see from our house. She knew at once what our “octagonal house” was, as she had been watching its construction from her property for the last several years. (We invited her to see it close up and had a very nice visit.)

The Calaveras Historical Society held its meeting at Westpoint's Veterans of Foreign Wars assembly hall

Unfortunately, dinner was not served until 6:30, so we barely had time to wolf it down before we ran off to the second meeting. (We missed both dessert and getting to hear the author speak.)

We arrived ten minutes late to the planning meeting, where Calaveras supervisor Steve Wilensky discussed Glencoe’s general plan. Apparently there hadn’t been one in the last ten years – a no-no under state law – so they were trying to create one now. We learned that the majority of the two dozen attendees – ourselves included – favored little to no growth in Glencoe. They enjoy being off of the maps and do not feel a need to become a Gold-Country tourist attraction.

Glencoe held its planning meeting at its American Legion hall

Our enjoyment of small-town life continued when we brought the whole family back for Fourth of July weekend. This was Cameron and Joss’ first visit since New Year’s. It was also our sixth Fourth of July celebration since we acquired the property in 2003.

The closest Independence Day celebration was in the nearby town of Mokelumne Hill, where they were hosting a pancake breakfast and parade. At breakfast we met even more of our neighbors. The parade consisted of 39 local “floats,” including the period-dressed “Calaveras Mountain Men,” a local farmer driving his tractor, and a family that had paid the 10-dollar entry fee just to walk in the parade. It was a very enjoyable morning, and our two teenagers were very good sports about their parents’ cultural indulgences.

Gail, Cameron and Joss walk the street fair at Mokelumne Hill

On Saturday the 5th, we attended a party hosted by neighbors Tom and Deanna, whom we had met previously at the Glencoe meeting. They were holding their annual weekend barbecue for Deanna’s line dancing club and we were invited to join. The attraction for the boys was that Tom had offered to teach them how to shoot on his shooting range. Cameron and Joss learned to shoot from a 22-caliber Rueger 1022 rifle with a scope. Even better, they learned gun safety from Tom’s father-in-law (also named Tom), who used to run the Livermore Shooting Range.

Cameron gives Joss some pointers on target shooting (We discovered that Joss shoots “goofy-eyed” – though ostensibly right-handed, he leads with his left eye)

It was a very enjoyable family weekend alternated by work and fun. Gail took advantage of the boys’ presence to have them move lumber from the inside of the house to the outside gazebo. (We need to clear the downstairs floor so that we can install an electronic radiant heat system before our next inspection.)

Balancing work and play – the boys move a stack of lumber

But perhaps the best spectacle was being able to watch 15-year-old Joss jumping on the trampoline once again. Only two-and-a-half months after undergoing major spinal surgery for scoliosis, it was wonderful to see Joss smiling, engaging in physical activity, and enjoying himself.

Joss, doing exceptionally well after his scoliosis surgery


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