Essays, Stories, Adventures, Dreams
Chronicles of a Footloose Forester
By Dick Pellek
Lake Tahoe, Silver Dollars, and Piñon Pine
Those halcyon days working as a consultant forester in California in the 1960s salted the memory banks of the Footloose Forester with many, many fond reveries of adventures.
Some jobs were hundreds of miles apart and became adventures as unlikely as cutting piñon pines for commercial Christmas trees in the sagebrush hills around Reno, Nevada one week; and pruning branches off redwood trees in the Monterrey Peninsula in the following weeks. On the road…again! was the banner masthead slogan of many of his later chronicles, but working for Cal-Pacific Forest Consultants was the boot camp training company that transformed his not-so-humdrum job into unexpected adventures. More than anything else, being in the vicinity of Lake Tahoe and working in the Sierra Nevada Mountains was the paradise of opportunity he relished the most as a muddy boot forester.
The consulting jobs were mostly short-term and often seasonal, like caring for a Christmas tree farm at Alta, near the Sierra Crest overlooking Lake Tahoe in California in the summer season, to cutting selected Grand Fir and Noble Fir trees in contract parcels above Truckee Pass for sale during the December Christmas season. Lake Tahoe was off to the south of our Fir cutting property; and it was northwest of the sage-covered hills in the vicinity of Reno, Nevada where we were also contracted to select and cut Piñon Pines for the same market area. Oh, working for Cal-Pacific didn’t lead to monetary riches but it was more interesting than the Footloose Forester had ever imagined that it would be.
Designated as one of the Sierra foresters, the Footloose Forester chose to make his mailing address at one crossroads where many of the consulting jobs occurred. At one time it was in Grass Valley, and later on in Auburn. He remembers moving to new jobs 26 times in six months, so choosing a mailbox as his official mailing address was more a matter of convenience than out of a sense of attachment to Grass Valley, California. In the interim, he found himself driving north, south, east, and west to discover and delight in the challenges of learning new places, new tasks, and new revelations. One of those revelations was in learning that if you walked into the Golden Nugget Casino in Reno at breakfast time, the meal was on the house. But a regular gambler who frequented Reno casinos told him that they have a guy standing at the entrance who gives you a silver dollar as an incentive to come inside to gamble.
Sure enough, when Footloose Forester showed up there one weekend morning, the guy standing there with a heavy stack of coins gave him a silver dollar. They are rare enough, but that was the Golden Nugget Casino policy at the time. A pretty novel approach, and the free breakfast was good, as well.