This section is from the book "The Gardener's Monthly And Horticulturist V22", by Thomas Meehan. See also: Four-Season Harvest: Organic Vegetables from Your Home Garden All Year Long.
Another year has brought us little additional knowledge of the country and its climate, except as to its capacity for storms. The winter had been unusually cold and stormy, and cold rains continued with little intermission until July, and interfered unusually with haying and harvest. With brief intervals of pleasant weather, the autumn was very wet, and early in December the rain changed to snow. On the night of December 24th, the mercury stood at three degrees above zero, the coldest night in many years. On the 9th of January there was a terrible wind storm, continuing four or five hours. At the very beginning of the storm, a tree fell upon a school-house only two miles distant, killing two children instantly and injuring almost every one in the house, some severely. Great masses of trees were felled, filling roads, cumbering fields, and destroying fences, buildings and stock.
On February 18th, we had nearly two feet of very solid snow. March opened quite pleasantly, but on the 16th nearly a foot of snow fell, and to-day, March 28th, the ground is white again. So much for the " semi-tropical climate " of which we heard such flattering accounts.
This can never be a land of gay and smiling landscapes while its native features remain. The ever-present firs, so dark and sombre in the cloudy day, light up, it is true, in the sunshine, and take on altogether a different aspect; but it is only a mild and pensive gladness, and in autumn there is only here and there a glimpse of brightness where a dog-wood or vine-maple hangs out its purple or scarlet banner. The grand snow-peaks, Hood, St. Helens, Adams and Ranier, are the glory of the land, and a sight of them is always inspiring.
As the Indian question is now a prominent one, perhaps a few personal observations may not be amiss. The Indians we saw in California were all, I suppose, of those known as Diggers. They worked a little, stole what they could, and lived in the poorest and wretchedest way. With a friend I visited one of their camps. It was built on a hill-side, sloping steeply to a considerable stream. The best of the houses were mere huts, patched together with fragments of lumber of all kinds, with no floor, and a single sash for light. These were provided with conspicuous padlocks, and belonged, no doubt, to the "upper ten." More numerous were huts made by laying poles across low forks, and setting up bark or evergreen boughs against them, or hanging blankets or sacking to secure partial shelter.
Under one of the poorest and smallest of these, upon a few rags, lay a poor woman in extreme old age, totally blind and racked with pain. A fire at the mouth of the tent offered little warmth, and a little acorn soup was the only visible nourishment. With a thankful heart I heard, not many days after, that death had relieved her from suffering.
At one side of the village stood a great turf-covered "dance-house." The women were sitting about on the ground totally idle and stupid; the men and boys engaged in noisy games. Large quantities of acorns were gathered here for winter use. These they pound fine and manufacture into bread and soup. They pound them with smooth stones in circular basins in the rocks, and these primitive mortars are to be met with on every hand. As a desert after acorns, there were also gathered large quantities of "Indian berries," the scarlet fruit of the beautiful shrub which Mr. Vick calls American Holly. The Indians were also said to be very fond of the bulbs of some of the pretty flowers, Calochortus, Tritelias, etc. One, a beautiful yellow Calochortus, was known as Indian potato.
At certain times these Indians meet in large numbers to " mourn their dead." I saw one of these companies on their way. All were in their best attire, and, as means were found to transport all, old and young, and even the blind and crippled, I suppose it is an important rite.
The Indians I have met with in this region are superior to any I ever saw elsewhere - better looking, better dressed, more intelligent and self-respecting in appearance. I am told that many of them have comfortable dwellings, some stock, and raise fruit and vegetables; but none, so far as I have heard, do much farming. The abundance of fish and game is a resource which some of them find quite profitable.
Meeting some of them at the village store, I examined their curious baskets with much interest, and " Indian Lewis " gave me these particulars: They are made of the inner fibres of certain roots, fine and tough as threads, woven so closely that they will contain water, and the outside is covered with rushes of different colors, interwoven as the basket is made. The work is extremely tedious, but the baskets will last a life-time. Lewis said that "before the white men came " these were used for cooking. They were made of large size, and water, meat and vegetables being placed in them, red-hot stones were added, and continually changed till the cooking was finished.
These Indians have long been at peace with the whites, and say that if any of the hostile tribes from the east should ever invade this region, they would be the first victims.