Memorial Day at Lake Almanor

It was all about family at Lake Almanor over the weekend, May 24-27.

Nine of us packed the house on Lake Almanor West Drive. It was a bit chilly at times, but we managed to get a good amount of outdoor time in each day.

Besides catching a bunch of small bass and bluegill on Friday and Sunday, we also managed to catch some crayfish in our traps. Not enough for a meal, but enough to get a taste.

fergus and crawdads

Fergus gets a kick out of holding just about anything he can catch.

Born On A Friday

Dad was born on a Friday in a Colusa hospital and was raised an only child.

His was a very close-knit family with relatives scattered throughout gold country.

Lived in Livermore at a time when he helped Holdener’s Dairy deliver milk to people’s door steps.

Was lucky enough to board his horse off College Avenue and ride with his buddy Dick to the Famaris Ranch near Coral Hollow.

He was a gifted athlete in high school and was recruited to play football and baseball by several California colleges.

Graduated with the Livermore High School class of 1940.

Entered the Marine Corps in 1942 and qualified to land a Corsair on a carrier.

Celebrated VJ Day with his buddies including Ted Williams as they awaited transport to the South Pacific.

Married Betty Sills in June of 1947.

Had sons born in 1949 and 1951.

Was activated back to duty in Korea after being re-trained to fly helicopters, later carrying out nighttime  medi-vac operations.

Returned home and continued to raise his family while starting two separate and successful businesses.

In his senior years he and mom traveled the world and enjoyed contentment.

He now lives at Heritage Estates in Livermore where he goes about his daily life as a unintentional mentor for many.

He’s too modest to boast of any of his achievements.

Tell Nelson Fletcher that Friday the thirteenth is unlucky.

Happy 95th birthday Dad.


Grandma’s Stamps

During the dozen years that I knew my Grandmother Elizabeth, she was the family matriarch. A natural caregiver, it was not by chance that she was also a registered nurse.

By today’s standards, it would be ironical that she was a heavy smoker, as was just about everybody in my childhood family. It was smoking that led to her early death.

She was also an outdoor woman. He fished for stripped bass and cat-fish out of Del’s Boat Harbor at the Livermore Yacht Club near Mountain House.

Born in the year 1902 at Red Bluff, her family lived at Rich Bar, on the North Fork of the Feather River. She schooled in Quincy where she met my grandfather, Dwight. He was a Quincy native, born in the year 1900.

grandma and grandpa Fletcher

Dwight                                                                              Elizabeth

It was grandma and gramdpa who introduced my brother and I to camping, fishing and hunting. After retirement they spent their summers in the Almanor area. Grandpa remembered the Mount Lassen eruption and the large valley that existed prior to the creation of the lake.

My father came along in 1923, born in Colusa, as the family struggled to make a living in Williams. Grandpa found employment with PG&E and then took up residence in Montana for a while when California work ran out.

While grandpa was away, grandma and dad moved in with my Great Grandmother Minerva, who was a telephone operator at North Shore – Lake Tahoe.

Dad has several times told me the story of a trip that he and grandma made to San Francisco to visit relatives. On the way home darkness and fatigue forced grandma to park their vehicle by the side of the Highway between Auburn and Truckee.

They had a blanket and grandma wasn’t worried, just tired. They made their way into the woods and slept until a police officer appeared and suggested the woods were not safe and they should be on their way.

One of grandma’s favorite stories about their early days was the tale about stamp collecting. Because they had no funds for investment, she would occasionally go to the post office and purchase stamps, sometimes entire sheets of stamps and collect them in hopes that they would grow in value.

When my mom passed a few years ago, dad found grandma’s stamp collection and on the day that he held an estate sale, I spotted the cardboard box full of stamps. Dad said he was selling the collection for $150. Emotionally, I told him I’d rather he let me have them and related to him grandma’s story. He said OK.

So for a few years now, the box of stamps has sat in my closet and it’s time for me to do something with them. I’m not a collector of stamps. I’ll be selling them, probably a few at a time. First I need to do inventory.

A Hunter’s Christmas

christmasval Val at Christmas.


One of the great things I enjoy about Christmas is giving and receiving, particularly with my hunting friends. Shopping is so much fun when shopping for my brother, Rob, and my cousin Wes, who are part of the hunting community.


And, shopping is so much easier when you know the medium. On a recent trip to Bass Pro in Manteca, CA, I overdosed on shopping. Found some great, sometimes inexpensive, but useful stuff. I also found a few of the items on my list, but I was disappointed a bit. Unlike Cabela’s, Scheels or Sportman’s Warehouse, I didn’t think Bass Pro was as oriented towards the hard-core hunter. They had a better selection for the fisherman – I guess the name says it. And, that’s why most of the stuff I purchased was in the fishing department.


But there’s a melancholy side to it as well. For, unlike the relatives that share this interest and bond, I have many that don’t. For some reason, I feel like our connection is incomplete. If only they would give it a try they would surely find it as exciting and fulfilling as I do. Right?


Not necessarily so. I’ve taken most of these people on outings where we hunted and/or fished and they seemed to mostly enjoy it, but it just doesn’t fit into their life style. It takes a certain commitment to live the life of a hunter – and those who don’t do it will never understand.


Went to a great birthday party for one of my hunting friends last night. Joe DiDonato is a serious hunter and we’ve shared many hunting trip together as well as a love of nature and the outdoors. I was proud when he stood at the microphone and announced that his deer-hunting buddies were in the room and that we’d had a very successful season. Nice to see somebody unafraid to acknowledge his love of hunting.

joe-rocks-croppedJoe the rocker.


Joe the hunter – a man for all seasons.


We’ll be celebrating at my house tonight and my brother’s tomorrow. It will be a great Christmas and I’ll give a cane pole to my three-year old granddaughter. Will her mother  approve? Hope so.


Here’s some bad news. If you hunt the public areas and you weren’t out there this morning, you missed the best day of the year. Here’s the good news. New Years eve is also on a Wednesday this year.


The question of the week is, “How do you know you’re a hard core duck hunter?”


Answer: When, on the 23rd of December you say to your wife, “Relax honey, I’m not going duck hunting again until after Christmas.”


Merry Christmas

Alameda County Hunting Heritage Endangered

This morning, as I read the story in the Tri-Valley Herald (   about the Koopman Ranch and how the county’s ranching heritage is threatened, I couldn’t help but think that something very important was missing.

Yes, agriculture is dwindling in Alameda County and ranches are disappearing along with wildlife habitat, but often forgotten is the loss of habitat for use by human hunters.

A loss of our hunting heritage will insulate man further from contact with mother earth. Hunting is one of the most compatible uses for open space and wild places. We have very few of those places left in Alameda County. Unfortunately, a large portion of the remaining wild places are owned by agencies that have foreclosed on hunters.


The remaining hunting spaces are more threatened than the kit fox, tiger salamander and red-legged frog. As agencies (primarily East Bay Regional Park District and San Francisco Water Department) close in on consumption of Alameda County’s remaining open spaces, they are signaling a death knell for Alameda County hunters who have worked hand in hand with ranchers to develop and protect wildlife habitat.

Hikers and bikers use open space, but unlike hunters they don’t carry field glasses and sneak through the woods. Bikers speed by, unaware of their surroundings while hikers grunt at the weight of their load intent upon reaching their destination.


Like the mountain lion, human hunters are acutely aware of their surroundings. Both types of hunters are often misunderstood by those who don’t share in their pursuit. Aboriginal tribes appreciated and worshiped the hunter. In our modern world, the venison is not as important, but the characteristics that made those aboriginal hunters valuable to society are just as valid today.

Also like the lion, these hunters depend upon healthy and well-managed deer herds to make their hunting adventures successful. Unlike mountain lions, these hunters are bound by many laws that limit take and insure public safety, laws that are important.

If Alameda County’s rich hunting heritage is to live on, steps must be taken to cultivate a climate in which hunters can survive. That means protecting the remaining large blocks of contiguous habitat and opening up public properties to limited hunting. Or, like the other endangered species, an American culture will disappear from our midst, leaving us all further removed from the outdoors and more susceptible to encroachment upon our remaining wild places.

Once we remove people from the outdoors, the outdoors will be gone forever and nobody will know the difference.