Written by Estelle Moore on July 8th, 1996
Never, in all of my wildest dreams, did I ever think that our family would own property along a river! To me, having riverfront property is comparable to owning ocean front property – something that very few of us can ever do.
My husband and I, along with our 3 oldest children, moved to Mason Valley in 1969. Jim managed a busy service station and tow service (the Hancock Station) for 2 years and we lived in a crowded mobile home near the older road to Weed Heights.
I acquired a job writing about the activities of Mason Valley residents for our local newspapers and, through this came to be friendly with many people I would not have ordinarily known.
While talking to one of my best sources for news, this lady told me that she & her husband were going to sell their place in Mason – 8 acres + a house and one outbuilding. Knowing it’s location right along the Walker River, we went right over to take a quick look at the house and decided immediately to buy it. Our former residence near Pollock Pines, California was in the process of being sold, so the timing was perfect!
If our children had been younger (they were about 7, 11, & 13 at that time) or if we had known we would soon have 2 more children, we might never have considered living next to a river. Certainly we would have through about how unsafe this would be for small youngsters!
Fortunately, my concerns never materialized. Our two youngest boys never went near the river when they were little. To them the river was no big attraction because it had always been there. Our children, as they grew older, had many wonderful adventures along the river. I am sure there are some that their parents were never told about, as well.
The youngsters have met skunks down there and deer and porcupines. One boy climbed a tree to get closer to look at a porcupine, when he was swatted with the porky’s tail; and he fell to the ground breaking his foot.
Another learned to call crawdads by rapping on a cement slab with a rock, and he’d feed them bread.
Almost all the kids had forts or hide-outs along the banks where they spent hours when they wanted to be alone.
Some tried to ice skate when the river froze over one winter; and one son broke his nose when he fell on his face, leaving bright red blood where he fell on the white ice.
All of us enjoyed several weeks of beaver-watching when Jim threw branches pruned from cottonwood trees down over our high steep bank, hoping to stabilize the bank. Beavers of all sizes figured we had provided the branches for them to feast upon and we saw them every evening after dark. They even got used to our flood lights and our voices. There was not need to speak in hushed voices when we were watching them.
Our kids are grown now. The river still holds our interest in many ways.
During dry years its still flows, but is merely a small stream. Now, after 2 good water years, it is a mighty river that I would not attempt to cross. It’s deep, probably 100 feet across & flowing rapidly.
It is murky most of the time, having picked up much silt in the journeys of its 2 forks coming down from the Sierras, but in winter it can be clear. In its flood stage its waters are the color of chocolate milk!
We are in no danger of flooding from the river. Our place lies on the west side on a high bank which keeps getting undercut by the waters, causing long sections to fall in. But this is something we will put up with until we find a way to stabilize the bank.
Landowners along the river must get permits from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers before making any changes to our river or to its banks now, or face heavy fines. And probably this is a process we should begin in order to prevent the loss of more of our bank.
In the meantime, even when we are not admiring the beauty of our river, we enjoy what the river brings us. Lately we have watched a family of sparrow hawks that made their home in a wood pecker hole. The parents are teaching their 2 or 3 young ones how to take care of themselves and each little one appears to have at least one magpie to harass it! All this we wouldn’t see if the river was not there to have watered the tree housing the family.
The river attracts herons, pelicans, geese and ducks. One time a pair of Canada Geese laid their eggs in a former hawks nest high in a tree across the river. We could only hope that the babies got down safely after they hatched.
Once we saw a bald eagle following the river upstream and another time the river brought us an osprey that perched on the top of a high tree & watched us for a long time!
Whoever lived on the river in past ages has seen what we have seen, for civilization has not changed these things. And in the years to come? I hope that man will use his wisdom & expertise to take care of this system and others, instead of allowing so-called “progress” to alter the balance.
Our river does not belong to those of us who live on the land along the side of it. It belongs to the Creator who enables us to possess it only temporarily. He doesn’t want us to reside on in exclusively without thoughts for other living creatures that live next to us.
I am so thankful to have been given the privilege of living along a section of the beautiful Walker River.
(Estelle Slater Moore 1935-2001)