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Russ Carrington


INTERVIEWER (INT): That's fine but ... what we're trying to do is ... one of the reasons the Mono Lake Committee is hiring someone to do all this is because they're actually going to eventually restore some of the streams?

RUSS CARRINGTON (RC): ... I understand that.

INT: And so part of the ... the judge said, you have to, DWP has to restore them to their historical conditions ... and some of that people have figured out from aerial photos, but you can only do so much with those photos ... so it seems like, boy, it would be much better to talk to people ... and see ... if you just remember oh, I fished in this one certain place and the trees looked like that and ... (CONTINUES ON ...)

RC: Well! I'll see what I can do at this point. What ... are you going to ask questions or ...?

INT: Sure. If that's what you like. Well, to start with, you mentioned you'd been on Rush Creek in May of 1921. Do you remember what parts of Rush Creek you visited?

RC: Down at the lower part, more around the mouth, at that point, and up about a mile beyond the mouth at that point, and then probably for ... off and on for 395 where it-where it ... crosses 395 at that time, on-on-on I guess it would be north at that point. Or, yeah, about north, yeah, or northwest, or NORTHEAST, where it, I think it travels kind of northeast there. Then from, from ... I remember pretty well ... of course I think I was only eleven years old at that time, maybe ten at that time, when we first moved up there, and ... but I have a pretty good recall on what it was like at that time.

INT: Was there a lot of trees? Down there, for instance?

RC: It was more willows. At that point. And pines here and there, more willows. And ... as I recall.

INT: Okay, well let's do this systematically, whatever ...

RC: And two-two ... cottonwoods or something like that. But not, it wasn't heavily treed, no.

INT: So you could like walk down to the ...

RC: Yeah you could follow the ... very easy fishing! It was a very, you know it was ... there wasn't any, you know hardly anywhere where you couldn't get along the-the crick.

INT: Yeah, for instance, what was it like at the mouth? Was there a lot of willows?

RC: It was quite slow at that point and deep and ... you know, it was deep, it wasn't running fast, it wasn't quite as fast, and ... it was quite deep at that point where it, before-before it went out to the, into the lake. Back up I guess about a mile we-we stayed right at that point almost where it ... where it started to deepen up.

INT: So that was near the mouth?

RC: Yes.

INT: Wow! How deep was it?

RC: Pardon me?

INT: How deep do you remember it?

RC: Well it ... well there was a bridge right at where we went across, and it wasn't very good, but we got across in a car, and we came off from ??? Crater's Road over ... should of came up along the ... the Mono Lake's Road because it was close to the shore at Mono Lake, but we ... happened to take the wrong road and we had to cross a bridge there, but we got across! And it was ... with a car! And then you could walk henceforth at that point. It-it was no problem at all. But the, it was ... in the spring of the year by the way, and ... there had been a pretty ... heavy snow during the winter and there was lots of water flowing. It was very heavily ... there was lots of water in the stream at that time.

INT: Was it say at the bridge was it, I don't know, three feet deep or ... eight feet deep or ...?

RC: Oh yes, it ... well, it was at least three foot deep, and ... I would say, at least 20 feet across at that point.

INT: Wow!

RC: It was a ... just a wooden bridge and the water was up to the bridge and ... going over the bridge and it was almost ... at that point, too fast and too, and too deep to wade ... in it. Or ... you know, you couldn't have driven a car across it without a bridge. It was ... it wasn't muddy or rocks at that point, it was ... shores were ... the banks of the streams was fairly stable and they were square cut you know, there wasn't ...

INT: It wasn't undercut or anything like ...? Yeah. And what kind of trees were there for instance at the bridge crossing?

RC: Willows. There was more willows at that point all along there.

INT: So it was thicker ...

RC: No ... no big pine trees, or ... as I recall, probably a few which were, could possibly have been ... cottonwood or you know a tree of that nature, I don't know what they were, that kind, but they weren't very large. There were more willows along, along there. No pine trees at that point at all.

INT: And ... was there some stores down there? At some point there were ...

RC: No, there was a ... a building and some friends of our's was staying there and there seemed to be, at one time, sort of the headquarters for a group that was trying to get people interested in homesteading there. They were kind, sort of a ... group that was ... what do you call them? They were ... trying to sell, get people interested in settling-settling the country up there and it was sort of a scam in-in looking back, it was a scam, but ... These people had gone up there on ... and then our friends had gone up for that. And we went up to meet them. But there-there was buildings there! They weren't very much, they were more of a bunkhouse nature. And ... although very liveable, you know, you know. They're not by today's standards at all they weren't ... not good. Or not considered a home by today's standards at all.

INT: Where-where was your family coming from when they ...?

RC: We-we lived in Southern California at that time. My father worked for the Standard Oil Company at El Segundo, and that's where we-he met the people, the other people left there, and-and ... I don't know how they found out about this, but they did find out about it and wrote us, and told us how nice the country was, and wanted us to come up. So on the first trip, as I noted, the first trip here we went up just for a visit, the next year we moved up. 

INT: Wow! We're you excited?

RC: Oh sure! I'll say! We didn't spend a lot of time though, we was two weeks at ... at this particular place and as children, raced up and down the stream, you know, everyday, playing in the ...

INT: You mean Rush-Rush Creek?

RC: Lakes and ... As I told you, we went up about a mile ... we fished for some of the old ones, and we got fish but I don't recall how many ... and there was larger fish at that time. The older people got to fish more, we weren't that good.

INT: So you were camped ... I'm still not, not clear. You were camped near the mouth?

RC: Yeah. We was at, we camped I think about a mile from the, the mouth from Mono Lake.

INT: And then where would that be in relation to that bridge that we just ...?

RC: Right on the bridge.

INT: Okay.

RC: Right at the bridge.

INT: So that was kind of like public land and ... it was okay to ...?

RC: I think the people somehow or another had either ... that were trying to ... either sell it or sell ... I don't know how they were working it, but they were trying to get homesteaders to come up there. They were selling some-some homestead rights or something and ...

INT: Was there any cattle or sheep grazing in that area?

RC: No. There wasn't even much ranching going on, right there there was some ranches within ... that were quite well-producing ranches in vegetables and hay and things ... oh, about four-five miles I guess it would be west of there, and they were, they-they were ... they had, they took water out of Mono Lake, at that point. Or not out of Mono Lake but out of Rush Crick, they had a diversion chan-a diversion stream.

INT: So these might be those ranches ... oh, you know near the 120 ...

RC: Yeah, I think Mr. Mattly(??) was one.

INT: Hm-hm. He was along the shore of Mono Lake.

RC: Yes.

INT: That's-that's what we call the Dondero Ranch now.

RC: Uh, possibly, yeah. Yeah.

INT: Yeah.

RC: As far as my knowledge of ... at that point I didn't have very good knowledge of the ... stream as it is from Grant Lake below but in later years, in the ... more in the I guess the '30's or even the '20's, yeah, the late '20's and into the '30's, well into the '30's, well, then I had lots of experience in the upper end of Rush Crick, as it pertains to ... Grant Lake, you know, to Mono Lake.

INT: Wow! Well you're ... So delighted to have found someone who really has spent so much time, even on the lower part! (CONTINUES ON ...)

RC: The land was quite flat there at that point, from there quite a ways back there wasn't a big channel or anything like that. It was ... you know ... I-I guess ... banks could have gone back in places, maybe forty or fifty feet but it was gradual even, it wasn't a steep bank.

INT: Was there grass between the willows?

RC: Yeah, there was some grass there, sure. And around where we were there was lots of grass, lots of ... meadowland. It was supported ... it would have had supported ... livestock, I know. Not too far back, maybe beyond you know half a mile or so, from that point up, it-it was pretty sagebrushy all the way up, you know almost all the way up to ... 395.

INT: It would grow alongside the stream or ... back from the banks?

RC: At that point, yeah, there was, there was more-a few large ... pine trees or pine trees type and other willows ... and the larger trees, it wasn't barren by any means at all. But it wasn't heavily forested or heavily treed, but there was just enough to be nice, you know.

INT: You know it's interesting because supposedly there was one little patch somewhere upstream of where you were camped, that was a really thick cottonwood forest and actually had some ponds that, where the water spread out, you know, it wasn't really like a stagnant pond that would be ... Did you remember anything like that?

RC: No I don't ... recall that. We didn't get ... first, you know, I checked for that the first two weeks I was in the lower Rush Crick ... I didn't get back there again until ... you know, kind of the middle of the '20's or even '26 and '27. And ... I don't, I just missed the spot if you say that, I don't recall any ... areas that was grassy or as you say, ponds and this sort of thing, and ... It could have been, but I really don't think it was.

INT: No. There's a lot of people that don't remember that. But there are some old photos that's supposed to be labeled Rush Creek. Now it could be that they're incorrectly labeled ...

RC: Yeah. What I'd like to do if I saw them photos, I might be ... relate it to some other area, 'cause I, I have a good picture in my mind of the area. I-I've done a lot of flying and I've flown over that a lot ... since, and ... you know, since that time. So I have a pretty good picture of the lay of the land.

INT: Wow! So far this has just been great! I was hoping to meet someone who had ... spent the kind of time you have spent ...

RC: I just can tell you that it was ... it was an ideal stream for ... really for fishing ... all the way down, a long ways. I'm afraid I-I've never really, I-I can't truthfully say that I've fished every inch of the way between 395 and the mouth, I've gone down I know several miles and it was all ... pools, and rapids and big rocks around and you know where, it made good fishing and things like this, but the ... Along the edges of the stream it was you know back(??) high, just ... you know, not very far, it was pretty ... you got into sagebrush pretty quick. As I recall.

INT: Now do you ... I have tons of questions, should we set another time? 'Cause I don't want to ...

RC: Yeah, well ... Are you going to be back up into the Mono area at all?

INT: You know, this is what happened. They didn't get the funding for this project until now, and so, this is something that should have taken six months. So I will be actually doing another job January-February-March, which means maybe I'll be able to continue and do more in-person interviews ... But as it stands right now ... (CONTINUES ON ...)

RC: 'Till-till when? February or March?

INT: Well even then, I'm not sure, 'cause the-the first order of priority is to get this done! Like in January! Which is very short notice.

RC: Yeah. I have, you know I've done a lot of fishing out of ... and hunting you know from the dam at that time which was the dam ... they changed the dam, I think they've rebuilt it since that point ...

INT: That's right. It's been enlarged in 1935.

RC: Yeah, and ... below there and down I've ... you know hunted ducks along there, all the way down ...

INT: Oh! Well tell me, tell me more about that. 'Cause that's actually my-my main area ... is birds!

RC: From the you know, down several miles below ... the 395 and it was ... All I can say, particularly from ... I would say just particularly from the dam to 395 there just couldn't have been a nicer ... you know, nicer fishing stream! There was a lot of very deep water and ducks, ducks loved it and ... I don't think they liked me very well!


RC: We had several Thanksgiving dinners off them!

INT: What kinds of ducks? 

RC: They were mostly mallards at that point.

INT: Wow! And that was between the dam and 395?

RC: Yeah.

INT: That's interesting, 'cause the people I've talked to so far had done more hunting between 395 and the ... and Mono Lake. 

RC: Well, the stream really between the dam and 395 was ... particularly there for, not all the way to 395, but about half-way down was wider, slower, and deeper. And ... the ducks loved it! You know it was ... they ??, it wasn't the rushing water all the time, it was running quite still-still you know. It was a deep, kind of slow-moving stream.

INT: Was there dozens of mallards or hundreds of mallard or ...?

RC: No, there wasn't hundreds ... at all. There was certain groups that would come in there, you'd have to kind of know where they were and know how to hunt them and ... I just seemed to be well acquainted with their, with their habits and I just outguessed them most of the time. Now, at Mono Lake I hunted at that time, or in that '22 on I hunted lots of ducks on ... particularly the north shore of Mono Lake.

INT: And what were you getting there?

RC: Mallards too! It seemed to be mostly mallards. There was some, some teal, ruddies, and ... redheads, but they were ... the quantities weren't ... talked about they were more of the mallards. There was all the other ones were there, but not in the quantity that the mallards were.

INT: How about shovelers(??)? 'Cause some people I talked-spoken to remembered lots of shovelers. But that might have been you know a little bit later, like the forties.

RC: Well, they might of, that's ... I've never heard of that! They might have been related to another duck, 'cause people call ... and ... in fact, ruddy shoveler maybe or something like this. There's lots of little ruddy ducks there, little ones you know, on the lake.

INT: Well I think actually the few of them I would really trust, they're birdwatchers as well as hunters ...

RC: Shovel-?

INT: They call them spoonies or shovelers(??) ...

RC: Maybe I know them! But I don't know them by-by you know sight! I've probably seen them and didn't know they were shovelers then!

INT: Well okay. That's possible too. Or, it could be in the forties there were huge, you know, hatches of shovelers so there were a lot of those birds around ... And-and in the '20's, there might have been more mallards?

RC: Yeah. I'll say that on-on Mono Lake I noticed, as far as the larger ducks ... now there was a lot of the smaller ducks in the ... I'm trying to think-recall ... ruddies and there was some other kind, there were smaller ducks ... but the large, really good eatable ducks ... as I recall was ... was mallards or ... you know, were more of them than anything else.

INT: Where were some of your ...? Like how did you hunt the north shore of Mono Lake? Like what did the habitat look like?

RC: Well it was ... along that place there was, water came in in a number of places - small streams and ... Wilson Crick and ... see there was ... Lundy-Mill Crick came in there, and then there was some streams or little riverlets or streams that came in off of-from farms or ranches in there that had diverted water, irrigating streams that came in, came in water.

INT: So that would be say, between Mill and Wilson?

RC: Yeah, that would be ...

INT: Ranches would run-off?

RC: Almost from Wilson Crick really over to Mono Inn, area. In that shore area there.

INT: So was there I don't know, lagoons or ... swamps ... freshwater marsh or ...?

RC: Yes, it was in some areas packed(??) with lagoons ... But they were mostly ... they seemed to feed-they seemed to feed on the shore ... a lot, or close to the shore.

INT: What were they feeding on? Did you have any ...?

RC: I don't know. You know I just ... it was good spot to hunt, it was a beautiful area, a lot of meadowland along there, and lots of grass, right up almost to the ... lakeshore! And ... a nice beach running all along there, was, you know, you could easily walk around. And then there was places to kind of stalk them easy, you could ... you know you could be inland maybe, from(??) Mono Lake about 20 or 30 feet ... you know ... just walk along or sneak along there and sneak up on them!

INT: Will-what were you sneaking through? Willows or ...?

RC: Yeah, willows ... mostly willows I would say. Mostly willows in that area.

INT: Yeah, so the beach ... and the beach was sandy? When you said there was a nice beach ...

RC: The beach at that point was sandy, yeah.

INT: And how about, what was the mouth of Mill Creek like back then? How much water was there and were there a lot of trees ...?

RC: ... A lot of trees were then in Mill Crick. That was a nice stream, actually I-I never fished it, I don't know why, but ... it would run kind of ... sometimes it would be running real full and other times it would be you know, not so much. But it would be most-mostly due to maybe the fall when the snow would ... you know it probably melted a lot and there wouldn't be so much and ... it could be some of the ranches were using more than they should ... The DeChambeau ranch would divert some of the water there, and I think even Conway ranch would divert some of the water-water at times. And ... some of it was diverted along Thompson ... from the Thompson ranch in that area! But, eventually all that water run into the lake anyway so there they wouldn't ...

INT: Yeah. When you say when it was full, like how full-wide-or deep?

RC: Oh it wasn't near like Rush Crick at all! At all. It was, I would say, about a third the size of Rush Crick normally when it was running good. Maybe ... 15 feet across, you know depending on how fast it was running. It seemed to run fairly fast at that point, it was ... And ... the-the bed was-the bed of the stream was ... more rocky.

INT: Okay. So like more like boulders? As opposed to like gravel?

RC: Yeah, uh-huh. Small stuff, not ... you know stuff in the baseball size and stuff.

INT: Oh okay. Even knowing what the stream bottom looked like is really important because they may even have to put gravels back, so the trout have a place to spawn ...

RC: I wouldn't ... consider that a good fishing stream there at all. And I fished Mill Crick a lot further up. And it was really ... you know, exceptionally good fishing. Further up. But in that area it wasn't ... at all. I wouldn't consider it even fisheable! I don't know why, I didn't-people didn't think of it(??) as a fisheable stream.

INT: Like maybe it was too ... not enough pools or ...?

RC: Well it wasn't wide enough, it wasn't big enough, and the ... there wasn't the big pools and ... you know, and these things. It was just a straight running stream, with a ... with tiny boulders all along the bottom and ... just confined in the one area. And that's probably true from the lake back about two or three miles further on. I think-I think that was true all the way up where you got ... almost to the highway, what is considered the highway now. From the-from the highway ... to Lundy Lake, it was ... it was all terrific fishing.

INT: Okay. So when you say further up, that's where you mean ... is below the dam but above the highway?

RC: Yeah. Right. In that area there ... Below the dam to-to the highway.

INT: It must have been hard to get in there? 'Cause it's pretty ... now, it's pretty thickety!

RC: Oh it was very accessible!

INT: Really?

RC: Yeah. Very accessible.

INT: How weird!

RC: No I-I enjoyed fishing there. I lived ... you know right on the shore, we lived right on the shore on the lake, which is close to what is Thompson's ranch right now, or you know where the Sykes/Sitze's (??) live now?

INT: Yes. In fact ... how I got your name ...

RC: Oh it was a beautiful spot! The lake came right up ... Their house would be, part of their house would be what ... at that point would have been in the water of the lake!

INT: Wow!

RC: That, their ... one room. Of course that building was there, but it was right on the shore! And they've built their livingroom out ... oh, I guess a little bit to the south ... It would be what would have been in the water by ... you know.

INT: Was your family ... ranching then? Or ...?

RC: No. My father came up to ... he recognized that in talking to people that that country was about ready to open up to-for tourists, and he got acquainted with Gus Hess(??) up there and ... my dad was a very good auto mechanic and although that wasn't his ... job with the Standard Oil, but he was a mechanic and ... talking to Gus, he decided to go into business and-and put a garage in and open up ... First they were going to have the garage at ... Tioga Lodge, but they found out that wasn't ... didn't seem to be the best-best choice ... and so they thought about Lee Vining, which is now Lee Vining. And at that time, it was the Chris Mattly ranch and in talking to Chris ... Mattly and some other one and getting together, he decided to ... start the town of Lee Vining and ... put the garage there, along where there's a store and a restaurant and ... gasoline station and these things, and ... that's what he went up there for, was to-to be in that business.

INT: Was that when-was Gus Hess having-was his shop, still at Tioga Lodge?

RC: Yeah! At that time, the-he was at Tioga Lodge at that time. And I guess we say that, we ... we ... the garage was built and was running before we went to Lee Vining, but ... we basically had the first house that was probably liveable in Lee Vining, except for the ranch house that was there, and ... and the buildings that were the business buildings! But ... the reason for that was that they wanted to open up the school, and we ... were six-six children, and so we had-liked to have the school there. And so ... we got our house built there and moved up there.

INT: That's wild. Is that house still standing?

RC: No, it ... I don't even know where it was! It ... we had a stream or a little crick run right by it! And we had water rights even to it there, and there was trees all built into the little-a little group of trees that was right there and ... It was an ideal place at that time. And you could just go out and throw a buck of water-a bucket in the stream and get a bucket of water and take it in the house, that was your water supply.

INT: Do you ... was it really a natural stream? 'Cause I know there was an irrigation ditch that ran ...

RC: No, it was an irrigation ditch! Really. But it was, it had been there for a long time, it was for the ranch house. They used it for irrigating. But Chris Mattly deeded my parents ... the water rights to the stream. To do that with. And ... for a long time, I was vested with the water rights, but by not los-using them, we lost them. And then they-they put in their water, they put in a ... water supply, regular water supply for Lee Vining. It was no longer needed. And that's ... you know, really I guess ... And then I did lots of hunting around Lee Vining, up and down Lee Vining in the crick area. I was a great rabbit hunter! I loved to hunt rabbits and ...

INT: Would they be jackrabbits or ...?

RC: Jack-there was some cottontail. And that was true even at the Mono Lake when we lived there. I loved to hunt ... rabbits. In fact, there was a reason we did! You know it was very tough to get meat-buy meat up there in those days! And that was ... you know when we had a rabbit to eat in our house, well everybody enjoyed that.

INT: That was before the Curries or maybe after the Curries had their slaughterhouse?

RC: Before what?

INT: You know that the Curries-Currie family had a slaughterhouse ...

RC: Before the Curries came up. Way before! Yeah. Curries didn't come up until ... you know, well into the '20's. There in Lee Vining. In fact, I was just trying to think, about '26 I think or something like that, that the Curries started the ... But even at that time, well particular on Mono Lake when we was there, there was ... there was no ... you know there was no butcher shops at all! It was ... you just couldn't hardly buy meat then.

INT: Everybody had to either grow it or use what they grew around ...?

RC: Yeah! Every once in awhile one of the ranchers would butcher and you know, you could buy some meat. But ... unless they butchered and had it for sale, well ... or the parents went to ... to Minden ... We did a lot of shopping in Minden!

INT: Wow! That's a long ways.

RC: And also Bishop, well, you know, you just ... I don't know what we ate! Come to think about it! I was trying to think! And ... so that was one reason why the fish and ducks and-and rabbits came, you know, were well received. And I was right at the age where I loved to do that anyway.

INT: I bet. So tell me more about what lower Lee Vining Creek looked like in the '20s.

RC: Oh that was a little bit like Rush Crick, only more so. It couldn't have been anymore beautiful. From ... oh what was at that time the ... road around the lake that we ran around the lake, that serviced the, all the ranches around there, which were three or four between there and ... and Rush Crick and ... even beyond there, there was some Indians living on the ... From that spot on there was of course bridges over ... a good big bridge over that spot.

INT: This is on Lee Vining Creek?

RC: On Lee Vining. And a nice ranch there, a beautiful ranch there. But from that point on it was ... it just couldn't have been ... it was slow-moving again, you know, like a delta, slow-moving and wide and deep and just ... lots of trees and ... all kinds of trees ... there wasn't any ... along the mouth there wasn't any pine trees, but from all, from the ... that particular ranch all the way back to Lee Vining Crick and of course on up, there was all kinds of pine trees, and-and I guess, poplar trees, and willows, and more pine trees and the willow type of tree and ... some sort of a ... the poplar type of tree.

INT: Like an aspen?

RC: Yeah. Aspen. Lot of aspen in there! Lots of aspen in there.

INT: How 'bout cottonwood?

RC: And cottonwood, yes.

INT: Wow! So it sounds much woodier than Rush Creek?

RC: Yes, uh-huh.

INT: 'Cause Rush Creek has willows ...

RC: A lot woodier ...

INT: And meadow ... maybe, but ...

RC: Not much meadow, no. There was very little meadow from ... There was no meadow in-in Lee Vining Creek. Now from-from where the ranch was on the lower part of Lee Vining, yes, lots of meadow in that area. From what I told you, the ranch and where the road was, from that point onto the lake, there was ... more meadows and that sort of a thing.

INT: Did you ever fish on Lee Vining Creek?

RC: Oh yeah, sure! No, it was ... It wasn't I don't think, was ... I don't know why it ... wasn't that good of fishing I didn't ever feel ... and a little more harder to fish! It was down deeper and it, you know in a canyon, and harder to get to and ... Although I-I had fished quite a bit in there and there was other people, I know some Indians that fished that and they-they always did real well in there.

INT: Sounds like it was hard to get to the stream bank?

RC: It was harder to get there, yeah. It was harder fishing. But there was ... really I think it was ... as far as ... you know what's considered ideal fishing stream, I think it was more ideal than the other ones. It was ... consisted more of ... nice pools and rushing water and backwater, and this sort of thing. It ... there wasn't-there wasn't the wide channel type of a ... or the a ... the rapid, too many rapids. There was rapids but not, they weren't very, they'd only be very short areas and then there'd be a pool and more. It was quite steep! You know from the ... from 395 on down, it was ... dropped pretty rapid from there on down.

INT: What, like how wide was the band of trees around the stream? Coming out 100 yards?

RC: Well they followed ... they followed pretty much the stream back, they didn't go much further than ... at that point ... from that area on down, they weren't ... much more than ... you know, 20 or 30' back! They were all you know really right around the streambed, right around the stream.

INT: So it'd be like 20-30' on each side, so it'd be 40-60' ...

RC: Further on down in the delta area, it was ... there was more grassland and more trees down there, smaller trees, there weren't large trees, there was no pine trees down there.

INT: Did you ever go down ...

RC: It was a beautiful ... it was ... Everybody would remark what a beautiful delta that was.

INT: What was the mouth ...

RC: Now from Lee Vining on back, it was up to what is considered the ... you know where the intake would be?

INT: For Los Angeles?

RC: No, well ...

INT: Or for the, for the town of Lee Vining?

RC: That was, similar to that, all the way back but more trees really all through up and down, further back. And larger pools and ... a few more ... the stream dropped more rapidly and it rushed a little bit faster, but there were lots of big pools! You know you could fish in a lot of-a lot of good areas to fish. It wasn't a wide, slow-moving stream at all. It was very rapid and fast, until you came to the pools, and there was-there was ... there were lots of these pools. This was due to the-the big rocks that were you know, in the stream there, and it would block the stream up and they'd fall over and there'd be a pool below them and a pool above them and ... of this sort of a thing.

INT: So this was between like 120 ...

RC: 395 and back about three miles, back where the ranger station is.

INT: Oh, okay. Great, yeah.

RC: And then from the ranger station-the ranger station it changed again from there on upwards. I think it's pretty much still today like it was then. I've been up there and it still hasn't changed.

INT: That's good to hear! I guess of course it never really got dewatered!

RC: No, that's right!

INT: It seems to be a correlation there.

RC: I think it was even prettier in that area. I think probably ... you know it was ... from a standpoint of out and out of beauty it was more ... it appealed more to the person, but from the standpoint I think of fishing, the better fishing was from there on down.

INT: From there on down, meaning the lower part of the stream ...?

RC: Yeah, all the way to Mono Lake, all the way to Mono Lake.

INT: Say below the ranger station?

RC: Yeah.

INT: That's interesting. From the ranger station all the way to the lake.

INT: Because you know of course now, it's such a popular fishing spot above the ... diversion.

RC: Yes. No, that's a beautiful area up above. But it was nice below. And of course it was more accessible to us. I guess that's why we fished it, but ... no, I tried fishing the upper part and maybe I just didn't know it, but you know, I can't remember what the fishing was up there. I think it didn't appeal to me that much anyway.

INT: Did you fish with flies or bait or ...?

RC: No, mostly worms and salmon eggs. Flies, no. We weren't that ... you know sophisticated in fishing. We went out for ... Actually we fished for ... we enjoyed the fun of fishing but you know, there was actually ... you know, they play a part in your diet, that's all!

INT: What kind of fish sizes? I mean how many fish would you catch, say ... in an afternoon or morning?

RC: You know you could very easy go up and catch ten or twelve in an hour or so.

INT: Gee!

RC: We never-never thought as much about a limit or something, you caught what you felt you wanted and needed and used. At that time, I think the limit was 25 ... I believe. But the fish were decent size, and if you got that many, well you know you had plenty! And they were all, you know if they weren't over ten inches, you threw them back almost you know.

INT: Oh boy! So, what would be some of the bigger ones you'd pull out?

RC: Oh, they weren't much larger than that. You'd be lucky if you'd get one 12 inches and in there. They weren't, there weren't large fish in Lee Vining Crick. They were larger in Rush Creek.

INT: And how, how large do you remember some of the ...?

RC: Oh, they would get ... they would get up in you know, thirteen-fourteen inch ... oh, there was a lot of little ones in there, but you could, it wasn't uncommon to catch 12-14-16 inch cutthroat mostly in that ...

INT: Interesting. So there were still a lot of cutthroat then?

RC: Yes, lots of cutthroat.

INT: Wow!

RC: Cutthroat and ... Eastern, and the brookies, the brookies. There weren't very many rainbow. They just hadn't brought them up there yet, I don't know why.

INT: And how about, what were you catching out of Lee Vining Creek?

RC: That was brookies, Eastern brook. All that time. Pretty, beautiful fish. Almost entirely Eastern brook. Eastern brookies I guess you call them.

INT: Times have changed. Is ... I know what I meant to ask, also, at the mouth of Lee Vining Creek, what was that like? Where the, where the stream flowed into the lake? Have you ever tried fishing that for fun?

RC: I didn't fish that very heavy, I don't know why ... And in fact there's I think ... maybe we felt it wasn't, though it was a beautiful stream, it was too wide and too deep in those places and there weren't the pools, it more was ... it proceeded more through a meadow like ... area, you know. It didn't-it didn't have the ... I love the pools and to fish where the water would ... where you had big rocks that would form a backwater ... flow, pools, and this sort of stuff. And that was all just ... almost straight bank to bank fishing in there. Although they tell me it was quite good. I didn't, it didn't appeal to me for some reason.

INT: How, how deep was ...

RC: It looked like it could have been good. Maybe in those days if ... if they used lures more in there it would have been better for lures and things. I was out ... to get as many as I could as fast as I could.

INT: Sure. What did, I'm not sure when they put the Con Edison Plant in? But ... the power plant, but was there much fluctuation in the flow on Lee Vining Creek?

RC: Yes, there was. That ... that ... it never was cut off absolutely. And you know, it never was, but ... particularly in ... well, I ... I was trying to ... probably affected it more between the 395 and what was at that time the intake or very close to the ... ranger station, there's a ... I don't know whether they've taken that intake out or not yet? There was an intake just for that power house there!

INT: Yeah, I think the intake later became the ... sort of used for the Lee Vining water supply? And now it-it's still the structure's still there, if it's the same one, but it's ... you know ...

RC: It's not on a main road! You know. So I haven't been by that for ...

INT: Sure.

RC: I don't know whether ...

INT: Yeah, it's still there. Now it kind of acts as a ... there's a lot of sand built up ... on the upstream side of it but it's not closed off or ... the water just ...

RC: Used to be good fishing in there! I used to fish that in there.

INT: Oh well! Gosh, now, it's not so good, 'cause it's like you said, a straight drop, it doesn't really do any ... there's no pools because they don't have it, they don't have the intake closed.

RC: I see.

INT: But just upstream up there, there's some ... nice pools, like near the ranger station.

RC: I remember seeing ... standing below and water coming, seeing the water coming over the spillway there and ... and when it wasn't falling too much, the fish trying to swim up through that, I guess they were spawning or something and they would come up the stream and they'd try ... and they'd go up almost to the top, they'd ... they'd kind of like swim up the ... up where the water was coming over and ...

INT: Oh, so they'd almost like jump the ...

RC: They wasn't jumping, they were swimming more.

INT: Wow! They must have been pretty strong!

RC: Yes. It wasn't coming that fast, you know, it wasn't running that fast. But yes, in fact the water was ... the flow vary-varied from ... between-in particular between that intake and ... and it depended on how much water there was up above. Of course, they, there was two streams-there was two power houses up there and they'd try to work together. And ... although it was never cut off at all, I don't think we ever had you know, at times it would be ... the water would be lower and actually, the fishing was better when it was a little bit lower!

INT: Interesting. So it would never go dry?

RC: Oh no, no, no. I don't recall it ever going dry. I don't.

INT: What about other kinds of wildlife on Lee Vining Creek? You know, were there ever ducks or ... was it too fast?

RC: No. There wasn't to that point, the ducks down at the mouth there was a lot of ducks around the mouth, although ... And geese in that area. I don't know ??? Seem to ... it was a difficult area probably to hunt for ducks - you didn't have much cover and you know, you have to sneak up on them ducks, they're very wary, you can't ... You can't, you have to either have blinds or ... to work in, or you know, you can't just walk up to them and shoot them. They don't like that!

INT: Yeah, I bet! Also as a birdwatcher I'm ...

RC: Funny part is I look back and ... at this point, I wouldn't shoot an animal for ... love or money!

INT: Oh really?

RC: I don't even fish anymore! I you know I got ... at that point of course, being at that age and ... I was such a hero when I brought in food for the ... and it wasn't wasted you know! You know it was ... we never shopped or killed stuff for fun. But ... nowadays, I, you know, I've entirely lost that, in fact the fact is that I-I respect animal life and all this almost too much to kill it, for any other reason. You know for, I guess if I was starving to death I would, but I'd have to be ...

INT: And plus, there's just ... so many fewer ducks and ... even fish!

RC: Yeah.

INT: These days. It's sort of frustrating ...

RC: They're sure scarce now, alright!

INT: Yeah. So what else? Like at the mouth of Lee Vining Creek was it, did it just flow straight or was there sort of a marsh at all?

RC: No, there wasn't very much ... maybe out as you got ... I never did get right to the ... as I recall ... to the ... where it actually met the lake. I was talking to a lot of ... people and they said it was ... you know, it was-it was very accessible, the rest of the kids. We could have(??) ... in that area, there was just no reason for us to go right down it, you know. But it was ... I'm sure it broadened out ... I-I don't have a recollection, a reckoning of what it was like. Right where the water entered in the lake, or that area.

INT: What was the ranchers were by the bridge?

RC: Pardon me?

INT: Who were the, what was the name of the ranch?

RC: I can't remember the name. It was a pretty nice ranch! It was a beautiful ... beautiful spot ... And ... offhand I can't recall the ...

INT: I can look it up I'm sure. I'm just curious.

RC: Yeah, I can't recall the name. But if you said it, I would know it. I have a hard time remembering my own name too!

INT: Well that makes two of us! Was there livestock? A lot of grazing on any part of Lee Vining Creek?

RC: No, there wasn't. There was as far as I'm concerned at that point, there wasn't ANY! And off ... along Lee Vining Crick. Now up above the ranger station, there was! No, the ranch wasn't a working ranch at that time. It was ... it was pretty well, there was people living there, but ... ranching was too tough and there was no need for it, you know, one time they furnished food for all the mines and people like this ... you know you could make a living selling milk and meat and eggs and vegetables to all the mining towns, but ... That just ... it got to be so easy to ... started shortly after we got up there to bringing in ... these things, and there wasn't that many people in there, the ranches started cutting down, I guess. Although we sure enjoyed, I remember just the ...




RUSS CARRINGTON (RC): Yes. I guess, alright, I don't ... recall how, what method we paid for ... we're not ... I don't remember that at all, but ... I wasn't old enough to be in to the, into the financial part of it. I do remember that some of them raised much more than they could sell. Because they were used to sell-you know, used to having much more of a market! You know shortly after we-you know shortly before we got there, you know Bodie pretty well closed down and some of the other ones. So there was no more, you know, no market for the local stuff anyway!

INTERVIEWER (INT): What were some of the other vegetable ranches or hay ranches or ...?

RC: Oh there was ... there was not very many! There was of course, the Conway ranch was going ...

INT: And that was what? Cattle?

RC: That was sheep more and hay! He was into the hay and the sheep business, the Conways were. The Thompson ranch above there had cattle, I recall, and horses! I don't know what they did with the horses, but ... And probably vegetables. And they had ... they had fruit I recall.

INT: I know they still have apple trees there.

RC: Yeah, that and ... Then there was the Scanavino ranch over there, he had some vegetables. The DeChamb-DeChambeaux furnished vegetables.

INT: That was the one that's, that's still standing over by Black Point?

RC: Yes. I think some of those girls are still alive ... some of them in Bridgeport!

INT: Yeah! I tried to talk briefly to Ruth DeChambeau whose an in-law, and did get an address for Alice DeChambeau, whose-spent the winters in Reno! So I'm going to try to track her down as well.

RC: Yeah, I knew-I knew Alice ... Her maiden name was Matros(??). If you need it. I guess I talked to her brother, this morning. Called for something, I was trying to think why, but ... I knew them. She married one of the DeChambeau boys. She wouldn't, she wouldn't know much about the DeChambeau ranch, you would need ... Violet was ... was one of the girls names. And ... I think their only daughter, Violet was her name, was the ... daughter's name, and ... oh two boys, and I think three sons(??) they had ... Off the top of my head I can't remember. I don't know if I had a moment or two I could ...

INT: Yeah! If you happen to think of their ... you know their address or you know their ...

RC: Well, one was ... for a good many years was an attorney in Bridgeport! And I think he got to be a judge, or a justice of the peace for a long time, one of the DeChambeau boys. And he married ... I think he was the man that marr-I don't know, geez. I don't know. Anyway! He got to be the ... one of the DeChambeau boys got to be justice of the peace, and he was in Bridgeport. That's the last one that I recall.

INT: Okay. I will maybe call Ruth DeChambeau up again or ... Alice would probably know where ...

RC: Alice would ... could tell you if there's any of the DeChambeau family alive. They were older than I, so ... you know, it's very iffy if they're still alive. Could be! But they might have you know, something that could ... I'll give you the name of a ... of a boy that could give you a lot more information on Rush Crick at the mouth there, Lou Bergen(??).

INT: Oh okay. Yeah, I did send him something a few days ago.

RC: I-I was thinking and ... two or three things that he could help you with ... I think he has a good recall and he-he lived at the mouth of Rush Crick. He's the boy that we went up to visit, his family, and while we was at Rush Creek. So he was right there for several years. And then he worked for a long time as a surveyor in a surveying party for the City of Los Angeles! So he traveled all through that area, surveying!

INT: Oh heck! He'd be great!

RC: So he would tell you really good I think ... good information on-on Rush Crick ... Lee Vine-maybe not so much Lee Vining Crick but I know Parker, Walker streams ... He surveyed around there, he surveyed around ... well just all over there! The glaciers and ...

INT: Oh yeah! He sounds fantastic!

RC: He's a good friend of mine yet. We correspond, back and forth, and he would-he would I think be outstanding, just because of that, of his ... work as a surveyor out there at that point. In the ... about the middle thirties. Although he lived there, although you know before there. And ... you know he really was out in the open there day after day, all through that area.

INT: Oh yeah! He sounds great! I hope that he ... has some time.

RC: Yeah. I think that would, I think he would help you in some ways better than I can even. He's a little bit younger than I am, but ... 

INT: I think you're doing pretty well! This has really been ... interesting, because you have a good recall and you-you got around a lot too, which ...

RC: I-I was away from there, for awhile, but I never was ... I might have been away but it was-was still home up there, still is home! You know. You know we always had to go up there several times a year, you know we spent ... We have quite a bit of property on Mono Lake now.

INT: Oh really?

RC: Yeah. Act-actually what it is, property that was homesteaded at one time up there. We grew food on it(??), and so we have title to it. Forty acres we have there.

INT: Where? Just out of curiosity, where?

RC: It's close to ... de-the Scanavino Ranch if you know where that is?

INT: Sure do! Yeah.

RC: It's in that area, there.

INT: Oh yeah, beautiful.

RC: ??? that area there. I don't know what we'll ever do with it, but ...

INT: Well ... you know, I would like to have land in the Mono Basin someday, it's just ... Something special about that. Do you ... now you mentioned that you might have some photos?

RC: I was ... I know we have some of Lee Vining, but there not of the town of Lee Vining. And there's some in the family, we have some of our ... some of our old residents in Lee Vining, as well as activities, skiing activities in Lee Vining, the school activities, and things like this. But there not of the ... none that would help you any I think ... to decide or prove what ... so you could determine what the cricks, how they should be repaired or whatever.

INT: Yeah. Well if you happen to run across any that ... you know like a corner ... I was told by the scientist, the hydrologist: Oh! If there was a picture that ... even a family snapshot that had a small ... bit of the stream in the back, even that could be helpful ... you know in figuring out ...

RC: ... I have a clear view in my mind ... of-of that area ... And as I described it to you, Lee Vining Crick from there on you know, particularly, was ... was a beautiful spot in some ways to fish. Hard to get to, all the way from the intake to the lake, and ... I-I wouldn't be too concerned what the mouth of the ... you know, the mouth area and all, because ... of course that could be ... I was so, I was really quite disturbed when I went back to the Sitzes/Sykes(??)' place ... and saw what had happened to the area and all when we lived there the lake was right at the residence and ... and there was just grass everywhere, big meadows, we had a cow there that would go on the meadow and-and ... you know get her food and we'd milk her everyday, right-right close by there, and ... Lots of water, greenery and the lake was sandy shore around, we swam everyday in the lake ... And to go there and not even be able to hardly see the lake and nothing but sagebrush left! You know.

INT: And I understand ...

RC: That's real disturbing to see! For me to see.

INT: I understand it was much more meadowy and less ...

RC: Yes!

INT: Much more willows in there.

RC: Lush meadows! At that point there was sagebrush back from Sykes/Sitzes' back about oh maybe ... four-five ... hundred yards back, or back where the present road is, you come by there, but from ... from there back was sagebrush! But from the road into the lake was nothing but meadowland! You know. Willows and meadowland!

INT: Were there still some springs in that ... general area?

RC: There was one big stream yes, over where the big rocks are, and ...

INT: Where the Hansens had their house ...

RC: A spring, I mean a huge spring! And it ran with ... it ran like ... it-it actually produced water more than Mill Crick did!

INT: Wow! How ...?

RC: Yeah. And there I ... ducks used to always be on that! But ... I could never get to ... they always heard me coming, I could never get them there. There's a real big pond right there, and ... beautiful spot! But ... And a little house there. And ... I never did get a duck off of that!

INT: Was that mallards again that would use that?

RC: Yeah, mallards, yeah. But, what was-what was bothered me really was to see how the lack of ... water or what-whatever going down had caused that ... you know, to revert back to sagebrush. And I'm sure that probably by this time, the mouth of Lee Vining Crick is just one big sagebrush patch.

INT: Well it's ... The other problem is of course it's cut a deep channel as its dropped to meet Mono Lake, so ... There is ... there is some nice wetland in the delta there!

RC: Yeah!

INT: That's coming back. And some willows. It actually looks nicer than the mouth of Rush Creek.

RC: Well Rush Crick was ... I think I told you, there never was that much ... greenery around there. It's ... you know I never saw any big ... you know there were some, but I never saw any big meadowland at all there. Now the ranches were nice. The Comasque(??) ranch particularly. And there was another ranch ... and I don't know who it was. There was two-three ranches from there ... along the lake clear to Lee Vine-or you know, almost to ... you come to Lee Vining, the town of Lee Vining, all along ...

INT: That would be from Rush Creek coming towards ... Lee Vining?

RC: Yes. And there was almost continual ranches and ... water, you know, it was ... most of it was ditched in at that point, it was irrigated! But ... streams as ... you know the water came off of Rush Creek. And some you know ... there.

INT: So it was ... Were they grain-livestock ranches or ...? Hay? Or ...?

RC: They were, they were all vegetable! And hay! There was ... I don't think there was a stock ranch there at all! There was ... the only-the only person that had cattle was Chris Mattly! He had ... oh about a hundred, maybe at times ... And there was ... the Thompson ranch had some. And the rest of 'em I don't recall having any ... The reason I know that, because Chris Mattly once we ... I was in on ... herding them! We used to move them around a lot! We'd move them ... in the wintertime out to ... clear out to what is now called the Sammanns/Simons(??) ranch.

INT: Oh really? How interesting.

RC: Then in the winter you'd ... Believe it or not, in the summertime we would take them up over Tioga Pass! The pass, which was you know, it was a one road is ... a one, you know, it was very narrow all the way up ... you go up to Warren(??) Crick and ... through there, and run them through there, in the summertime, and ... And ... of course around the ranch too, they kept around the ranch at times.

INT: But never really on Lee Vining Creek? Drinking?

RC: No! No that, we never used Lee Vining-there wasn't ... Now the people at one time that lived there maybe ... had ... Lee Vining Creek had cattle ... And I-I couldn't vouch yes or no on that. Whether it was ... adequate for cattle or ... As I said I think I told you that Rush Creek wasn't suitable for cattle. You know the mouth of it was terrible(??). I-I recall that. Or anywhere along there, you know there wasn't ...

INT: Not enough ... meadow ... When they went, wintered Sammanns ranch was that ... were they grazing? Or were they fed hay all winter?

RC: No, there was grazing there! There seemed to be what we called bunch grass in-between ... and then along the shore there was grass and ... we didn't ... That was only in the dead of winter when it was ... Lee Vining town-Lee Vining was pretty well ... you know, snowed in. And, although ... Chris put up lots of hay! You know, they would feed them hay, but when they started running out of hay they'd have to get them out of there. But he did ... they mowed hay! A lot of people, you know, it was ... wild hay!

INT: It would be just around ... sort of where is ... around town! The town of Lee Vining, he'd have hay? I used to live in his house for a year!

RC: What?

INT: I used to live in Chris Mattly's house! A couple of years ago!

RC: You did?

INT: Yeah!

RC: I thought that was ... Is that still there?

INT: Yeah.

RC: Oh no! No! The ranch ...

INT: Not the very first one, the newer one.

RC: Yeah! The newer one, yeah. Well ... the home we built was ... probably was in ... well not too far from that original house. I remember when Chris built that. Is that right, you lived there?

INT: Yeah. Then a friend of mine bought it. So ... who you-you know is very ... fond, interested in the history so ... At least it's still being appreciated.

RC: I don't know whether I'd want to live there or not!

INT: (LAUGHS) Yeah, it's kind of a big drafty house, but ...

RC: Yeah, yeah. But in those days it was quite a mansion! When he built it, as I recall. He got married and ... he married into a family I think with four or five ... five or six children or more and ... they needed that ... for the kids, for all the family! But he had ... what I'm talking about is the ... original ranch house!

INT: Okay. The one that the city took down.

RC: Yeah. It's down more like closer to where the ?? Park is. About there.

INT: It's a shame it's not still there. So, I think this bunch grass thing is really interesting ... 'cause there's been some theories about bunch grass ... So it wasn't ... you're pretty sure it wasn't sedges or ... rushes ... or any of those wetlands kind of things that cattle ...?

RC: No. I-I don't think so! No, I don't think cattle would eat that anyway, would they?

INT: I don't think they do! I mean they'll eat a little bit of that when they're real hungry but ...

RC: Yeah ... I guess they'll eat anything if they're hungry!

INT: I've seen them like on in the Long Valley they'll eat some of that ... it, I don't think they prefer that.

RC: I often wondered what they ate out there myself, to tell you the truth! But ... they couldn't eat anything in there, there's too much snow, so ... They had to get them out of there. And ... they weren't there very long.

INT: Was that long after Sammann(??) was gone?

RC: Yes. No that was ... I think know as ... you know, was known as the Sammanns'(??) ... we-we called it ... When I first went, when I first went there, it was ... occupied and ... you know, considered ... a place where a person-people lived, Indians anyway, or whatever! You know. Did they? I know it was occupied. Two, two big places out there that was ... And I don't know who they were occupied ... They were occupied by ... an Indian family that was fairly considered ... one of the chiefs maybe or big shots of the Indian group, he was known as quite ... a little bit belligerent, he was ... as I recall ... his name was, I'm trying to think of his name, but I don't think I can remember ...

INT: There was Captain John I know ...

RC: I guess Captain John!

INT: Oh, no kidding? He lived there, huh!

RC: That's right. You know I haven't thought about that for a long time, or looked into it ...

INT: Oh sure. Yeah.

RC: When I'm talking to you, you know I get mental pictures of it, some of the situations, how it was then. Looking ... we could look out and you could, you could barely see them, you know you could, you could ... when you were high enough, which we were at times there, you could, you could actually see the location where it was at, that little-some of the buildings.

INT: This is like on the bluff above ...?

RC: No, it was just ... It was on the shore of the lake really! You know, close to the shore, anyway! It wasn't ... All the places were within ... you know within a quarter of a mile of the lake, anyway. Maybe closer, you know. In fact, there was much ... that's where most of the ... what little meadowland there was, was there, and I think it was more like salt meadowland, you know, than it was real good green meadowland! There wasn't ... it never really showed real green! You know like ... regular ... as we know meadowlands. It was ... more brown or more yellow in color. I think that was due to probably not enough water and too much salt in the lake, or something there.

INT: Yeah, there's still a lot of saltgrass in there.

RC: Saltgrass it probably was.

INT: Is there, was there ponds or anything? Or where the streams-the springs were? Or cattails or ...?

RC: I don't recall!

INT: You don't recall any ducks or geese out there?

RC: Yeah, I just recall ... being quite dry at times all through out there. There wasn't any real wetlands through out-that far out, no.

INT: Interesting. 'Cause now there's a big wetland! And maybe those were springs that were, exposed as the lake dropped?

RC: Well maybe the springs at one time were all in the lake? Maybe they're ...

INT: That's right.

RC: Out in the shore now. That's the only thing I can think of.

INT: Yeah. Although it was called Sammanns Springs on some of the maps ... So there might have been some springs.

RC: Yeah. There must have been some water there or they wouldn't have ... And you know we didn't give it much thought, I don't know. Or it wasn't a big thing to us, you know. They were-they were kind of-they were ... you know, they lived way out, they were kind of hotballs, or something like that.

INT: Sure.

RC: They weren't considered ... you know, quite normal somehow or another ...

INT: Yeah, it's pretty isolated.

RC: Isolated, yes. Or something, you know, wasn't ... They weren't in the mainstream at all, you know. What little there was at that time.

INT: Of the mainstream!

RC: We-we were mainstream ... We were pretty rough up there.

INT: Was there ... You were at Sammanns Springs area in the summer? Or was it mostly just the winter or ...?

RC: No, it was more in the wintertime.

INT: Were there ... So there weren't any geese that would hang out there in the winter?

RC: Any what?

INT: Geese?

RC: Yeah, there was geese along there! From ... that was a good ... and-and not because of ... that I had anything to do with it, but I remember talking to people that-that was goose country from there all the way into Rush Crick, along the shore there. Water and ... you know, some water comes into the lake. Yeah that was ... probably some of the best ... geese country from ... all the way from there to the ... Sammanns Ranch to ... almost, and along the shore of Mono Lake, to the ... clear up to ... I remember seeing geese up ... close to the highway, along the shore of the lake. You know by Lee Vining Crick, where the highway goes down to the lake.

INT: Yeah. And this is all Canada geese?

RC: Yeah, they were the ... your Canadian type of geese.

INT: And would there be ... I don't know, hundreds, thousands ...?

RC: No, there wasn't ... there weren't that many. They were ... they were you know, just occasionally ... I do recall seeing them fly over Lee Vining in ... It was interesting, in V-formation, quite frequent.

INT: And so maybe several hundred, between there ...

RC: Yeah.

INT: And Sammanns ... ranch.

RC: Yeah.

INT: And was that say, the 1920's then?

RC: Yes, that was in the '20's. 20's to ... you know to the '30's really. I-I don't know why they started ... geese and ducks started from that time on ... I don't know why they ... When we first went there, there were ... it was ... a lot of-a lot of-a lot of ducks and geese that we saw(??) ... or but ... or maybe I just ... didn't hunt much ... I don't know, maybe that might have been it. I finally got ... you know, other things that attracted me(??) besides hunting. So that might have been the reason ... there might have been more there but ... I didn't hear people talk about it much even! So ...

INT: This is the beginning ... when you first got to the lake?

RC: Yeah. When ... when at the earlier ... it was ... it was a big thing for discussion, you know, whether or not you got your goose or your ducks or whatever it was ... a popular subject. And ... we could see them flying over. I've seen big flocks flying right over Lee Vining, in a V-formation, beautiful! That was in the earlier days, and ... from then on, you know, outside of of course, up along Rush Crick, well into the '30's ... we ... lots of-lots of ducks along, as I told you, you know, you had to know how to hunt them though! And ... along the Rush Crick. While I'm talking to you, I recall the professional-not professional hunters but the ... I guess the sports-the real sportsmen hunters ... did do pretty well at Mono Lake, now just from talking to you, they ... I recall them talking about it. They ... on these shores, around Lee Vining Crick, and Rush Crick, and all through there, and this came back to me, you know ... And ... I recall them going out hunting in their boots and dogs, you know they had their dogs, the retrievers, and this sort of thing. And it was, it was quite a deal there for ... up into, well into the '30's.

INT: Would they get like, I don't know, maybe 30 or 100 ducks? Was it, that kind of thing? Or ...?

RC: Yeah, they seemed to get ... the limits! You know.

INT: And would some people come from out of, out of the basin, or was this tourist hunting or ...?

RC: It was-it was tourist hunting, yeah! And ... a few of the hard-diehard locals would, were in the sporting group, and you know, had their dogs, you know that was a big deal to have a retriever dog. You'd hear them talking about ... out shooting on Mono Lake and the dogs going out and bringing them in. Re-just as you know we've been talking, I recall this. It came back to me. And it was quite a deal there! It was quite a big deal! I got, about that age, I got more interested in girls!

INT: (LAUGHS) Well! Sounds like you had your priorities straight anyways! At that time in your life! You know I've been thinking while you're telling me about the mallards ... did they nest there? Did you ever see a lot of them ...

RC: I don't ...

INT: Or was it mostly a Fall ... or Spring thing?

RC: I don't know. I'll tell you one thing I remember is ... on our first trip up here, up there, on our way back, we went by a stream down by Whitmore(??) Hot Springs there and I saw a duck with ... I don't know, eight-ten young ones or more out in this stream, we were so excited about and so on.

INT: Yeah, in fact, they still nest down there in small numbers.

RC: Yeah.

INT: By the fish hatchery. By the ponds, behind ... behind there.

RC: I do recall that, yeah. And I imagine there was up in Lee Vining Crick through there, yeah. But there's so many good places for them to hide up there that ... You know I don't think a human would ever see them.

INT: Yeah, sure.

RC: It must of been ... Of course, we're talking about ducks ... you know, other bird life ...

INT: Yeah, tell me what else you remember ...

RC: FANTASTIC! I recall at times on the lake, it was just UNBELIEVABLE the bird life that ... that was there. And ... I'm not going to try to ... describe all of them, but every conceivable type of ... bird you could think of was all along the shores ... and flying ... and out ... you know out from the-the shore, a half-mile out, in HUGE ... you know, groups! You know, all sizes, shapes, you know ... you could think of.

INT: Did you know the phalaropes, what the phalaropes looked like?

RC: Pardon me?

INT: Do you remember the phalaropes?

RC: Well ...

INT: The little ...

RC: No.

INT: Mono Lake pigeon?

RC: Yeah. There-there were lots of those at that time! Sure. That was a very common. But there was ... so many other kind ... the ... what is it called? The helldivers? Or ...?

INT: The eargrebe. Yeah.

RC: Just thousands and thousands of grebes and the regular ... other kind ... of helldivers, mudhens ... And then the regular ... And then the ruddy ducks, lots of-lots of the ruddy-types. I'm trying to think of another name for those. They're ... they look like ...

INT: Well ruddy duck is the common name, actually. That's what I call it.

RC: It covers a lot of groups of that size, it's a smaller ...

INT: The small one with the ... white cheek patch?

RC: Yeah.

INT: And the little tail that sticks ...

RC: And they have the regular duck bill on ... you know. And the tail that sticks up, but they're small. But there was two or three ... groups that are different types of-of 'em ... of this type at that time.

INT: Was it mostly in the Fall that you ... remember seeing ...?

RC: Yeah. It was more in the Fall.

INT: Yeah. They still come in the Fall. It's nice.

RC: They could be alright. I haven't been there ... that much now in the Fall.

INT: That, you know, that particular kind of duck. The other kinds of ducks cannot tolerate the salt as much so ... That's the one that's common now, the ruddy duck.

RC: Of course the lake was much bigger then and more ... I think more inviting to them. There was more shore and more freshwater going in, and these things attract, more springs that ... was flowing in the ... you know, into the water, and coming up in ... They'd be gathered 'round and you could always tell where there was a spring coming up because there'd be hundreds of these all around this ... congregated in one little area there, you know, where the fresh water was coming up.

INT: Oh, that included ducks? The ducks would do that?

RC: Ah ...

INT: Now the gulls do that a lot, but ...

RC: Yeah. It's all ... And also other type of ... the bird life that was in there, would be the sea life bird type birds. I don't ... that's what I notice more, I don't know ... I guess I've seen a gull, sure, lots of gulls there, but it's usually ... the gulls are only there ... you know, more or less in the spring and ... of course they're there most of the summer.

INT: You know, it sounds like the gulls maybe weren't as common then?

RC: Really? I-I don't recall as many along the shore as ... as I do now even ...

INT: Because ... yeah, some people believe that when they used to gather eggs in Bodie it really cut down on the population, so ... there's actually more gulls now at Mono Lake than there ...

RC: Maybe that's true! I'm just thinking! And ... I-I don't recall seeing that many gulls! At the time.

INT: That's interesting.

RC: Why, I don't know! You know. It wasn't ... I do recall at times there later seeing ... which was very interesting ... I was up on Tioga Pass several-several times and I hear a noise, look up and see hundreds and hundreds of these gulls circling up there, trying to get high enough to get over the mountains. That was quite a sight to see that. They were ... seemed to cross over right at that, for some reason or another right about there, but they were, they-they would just circle and circle and circle. And finally, they'd fly out of there(??) towards the ocean.

INT: Catch-catching those thermals!

RC: Yeah. I, you know, it's just interesting to see birds... I-I love bird life! I'm very interested in birds.

INT: Yeah, I can tell.

RC: Yeah.

INT: Do you ... remember at the ... just in general, like sandpipers? Or any of the other kinds of things, besides the Mono Lake pigeons?

RC: Yeah, there was a lot geese around the shore that had the ... you know, different types of funny bills that would look down, and-and of course, a lot of killdeers(??) all through there. And I haven't seen many ... lately when I was up through there. There was a lots of those. Lots of other bird life! A lot of magpies at that time, and no crows! The crows have all ... No crows in Bishop at that time.

INT: Interesting, yeah.

RC: I think the crows are ... harder on birdlife than anything else!

INT: Yeah, the crows and the ravens are bad.

RC: Yeah, I think they're ... I don't know whether they play a role, if they're natural or not, but ... wherever these crows seem to ... come into, you know I see them around my place here in Bishop, they rob the nests, the young, the egg ... You know they must be very hard on bird life.

INT: Yeah. They've got sharp eyes.

RC: They're smart too! And they recall. You know they'll-they'll spot a place where birds are nesting, they know just when to come! In order to ... rob the nest!

INT: Were there bald eagles sometimes? In the winter?

RC: Yes, there was. I don't know whether they were bald ... I guess they were bald ... There was ... lots of ... large ... eagles and types of birds and ... Big hawks! Lots of-lots of hawks. And big eag-you know, I guess they were eagles ... they looked like eagles to me. And ... I've seen them ... The most spectacular thing I ever saw in my life, and I saw it on the TV and then I saw it in real, one of those dived out of the sky for ... he must have been about ... you know, fifteen-hundred feet in the air! And he closed his wings and he dropped like a bomb ... you know, right down to a fence post and ... I don't know what he got down there.

INT: Sure sounds like you saw a falcon then.

RC: Is that what that would have been?

INT: Well that's my guess. They're the ones that really ... Well did it ... what kind of bird did it ... did it catch a bird or a mammal?

RC: I don't know what it ... He seemed to just land on a fence post. I was out hunting ... the ... I ... you know, looked up and saw him and about that time he closed his wings and ... I was so startled to see this ... He was a big one though! He wasn't a small one!

INT: Well hawks will do that ... So it could have been a hawk. It's just that falcons ... are probably, become really fast from really high. But hawks will do that too.

RC: He was ... eagle size, almost.

INT: Ooh! Wow! Okay. That wouldn't be a falcon.

RC: I was too far away to-to ... I mean when I say far away, I was probably within a quarter, or closer than that, maybe two-three hundred yards, but you know, not close enough to see general features and things like this.

INT: Sure.

RC: That's on the Conway Ranch. I hunted all through there.

INT: Hm. So there were ducks? In there? On the Conway?

RC: No. I didn't ... there was rabbits more, at that point.

INT: How about deer? I haven't asked you about deer ... did you ever hunt deer or ...?

RC: I ... hunted deer and ... we ... that too, but you know there wasn't that many deer up there? I don't know why at that time.

INT: Well that's really interesting, because I talked to someone else that said in the twenties, if someone shot a deer it was so unusual you'd drive to go look at it.

RC: Yeah! Uh-huh. It was very difficult ... to find a deer, and they were around I guess, but they sure weren't plentiful!

INT: Do you think that they could have been hunted by people, hunting for Bodie? Years-years back ...?

RC: No, I don't think so. I just don't think so. I know that I traveled a lot back of Lee Vining Crick and up through which is known as the ... that Lodge up there, you know? That sits behind Lee Vining?

INT: Oh the Tioga Pass ...?

RC: Brandt(??) Lodge? Bill Brandt(??) Lodge? You know where that is?

INT: Oh yes, uh-huh. What we call Berger's Retreat now.

RC: Yeah, well we ... went up there a lot, never saw a deer! All through ... which is the Simpson(??) Mine and all through there? Never saw a deer! I've been back there two-three times in later years ... and ... man, deer just everywhere!

INT: That's right.

RC: At that time, there was nothing. Although, I did find, that one time, very close to there, a set of horns, two of them, that were locked together.

INT: Oh, the deer antlers. Yeah.

RC: They were ... they were probably six points each.

INT: Wow! That's a find.

RC: But that was sitting very close there on a sidehill, it was quite unusual I know. They must of got hooked up, couldn't get 'em apart.

INT: Sad. I know! Back to the lake. I talked to someone who'd spent time at the lake in the '20's and he recalls different kinds of algae washing in ... that was growing in the lake and he thought the ducks might have fed on that.

RC: Now as you speak, yes. There was some. I don't know how much, but it did come in. I-I'm just trying to ... you know, I-I-I recall seeing this. More used to seeing the-the shrimp you know, and what was amazing at that time, flies all along the shore and flies that would-that would go into the water, you know, that would crawl underneath and go under the water, you know! Didn't know much about it, but to see these, and then of course, all the shrimp.

INT: Did, how broad was like the band of flies alongside the lake?

RC: Well at times, it-you know there would be ... you know just ... so thick you couldn't ... see any space between them! Probably ... oh, from the shore on out ... maybe two-three feet, something like that.

INT: Wow! And there might be like a continuous band? Along the lake like that? Or just patches?

RC: Just patches. Yeah. That's all. For a long ways. And then I-I couldn't really, I don't recall them, that far. We swam a lot everyday in the lake, and they were somewhat of a bother at times, but you know, not that much of a bother.

INT: Just tickle!

RC: Yeah. Bother. Of course, maybe other times of the year, I don't think ... of course I think they're more in the spring than summer!

INT: That's right, yes. And then in the winter, they pretty much go dormant.

RC: And we swam mostly in the summertime. We lived two years right on, right on the lakeshore! And of course, Lou Bergen(??) lived right there. We lived ... two houses, they had one, and we had another one there.

INT: Oh this is out by the Sykes/Sitzes(??)?

RC: He could probably advise you a lot.

INT: Sure! Oh, I plan to get in touch with him.

RC: He's a lot of fun to talk to too!

INT: Okay.

RC: He's very funny. Tell him hello if you talk to him.

INT: I certainly will. In fact, you know in case he doesn't write me, is there any chance I can get his phone number from you?

RC: Didn't I put it down?

INT: No. It's just the address. And I could get it through information but ...

RC: I have it here, but ...

INT: If it's hard to get, I'll just call information.

RC: It'd take me a little while for me ...

INT: No, don't-don't worry. No, that's okay. I'll call information.

RC: I got his telephone once by information!

INT: Sure. I can do that.

RC: So I know, I'm sure you can do it.

INT: I'll give him another week to see if he wants to ... fill-in the form and ... then ...

RC: Well hopefully ... Hopefully he can ... help you more than I can!

INT: Oh! You have been fantastic! I mean this is just what I was ... hoping to find someone, especially ... I've met, you know I've talked to a number of people that might have known the lake like say in the forties and fifties, but boy, this kind of information is invaluable.

RC: Well we were fortunate, we got there, just at the time when the lake was at its peak!

INT: Yeah. 1919 I guess.

RC: Well I remember this! I can tell you this ... that ... we were quite amazed, we used to swim there and we had some ... little raft-like things we could float on, we swam, went out way out into the, into the water, and it would be quite clear at times, and ... we could see fence posts from the shore that went back in there that went way out and disappeared into the water!

INT: Gee.

RC: I don't know. The lake must have been down for awhile and then came up for several years, but ...

INT: Yeah, I know that 1919 was one of the high stands.

RC: Was one of the highest? And ...

INT: Except of course in the Pleistocene. But the recent high stands.

RC: But when were these fence posts were put in? Was it low ... maybe 20 years before that?

INT: Well, I think so! I think that, there's all these different stories that people's grandparents, like some of the Pauite peoples' grandparents could ride out to Negit Island. So there had, there is this kind of evidence that the lake did get low for awhile. Maybe in the 1880's or something?

RC: During the ... during the days of Bodie, Bodie was going ... was known to be a lot of storm(?) and actually ... for a good number of years, before we got up there, they had lots of hard winters, just winter after winter, that ... The fact is we got there, it was kind of in, I think in ... close to the Fall maybe and ... they kept telling us, you know, about how much snow we wanted, we wanted the snow to come, and ... how much is it going to be? "Oh, it's going to be way over the fence posts!" And what have you. And kept waiting and waiting. It never did come! And really ... for a good many years after that, we'd be, we had ... probably not anytime over around Mono Lake two feet.

INT: Interesting. I know that there was sort of a dust bowl? When the dust bowls happened sort of during that period?

RC: Yes.

INT: It got very dry, including ... And there's some discussion of ...

RC: I don't know whether(??) the weather's was bad as it is now but ... the last two years, but for ... a good number of years in the thirties ... well '31 was a hard year. I guess after '31 there sometime and in the '20's you could drive ... very few years that you couldn't drive to Bishop over ... through Deadman Pass. There was a few years I recall that ... you know, no one ... '31 was a bad one, there were several other ones that were semi-bad, but most of the years, for a long time there, except when you really got into the '40's and started ... having some winters again. But ... for a long time, June Lake even went down ... down 20' almost! 

INT: Gee! That's interesting.

RC: Yeah, they ... I don't know though, they-they blamed that at the time ... and it could have been true, that it was putting through the Mono Basin Tunnel, and they said that they ... the tunnel went into some water, you know, they ran into where there was a lot of water was and ...

INT: Some groundwater.

RC: Most of that was drained, helped drain ... June Lake.

INT: Interesting. I never heard that story.

RC: Yeah, well, June Lake went down ... it was really way down! And we didn't know, you know we kind of laid it to the ... the winters that were bad, but even, I'm thinking NOW we've had a lots of dry winters and June Lake is still safe for ...

INT: Absolutely! It's never gone down much according to my eye!

RC: It was something else.

INT: Interesting. I'll pass that little tidbit along to our hydrologist. He just ... loves to hear stories like that. That might even explain some aquifer to him that he didn't know about so ...

RC: Right.

INT: It's funny how these little facts, you know, fit together, so people create whole new theories of how these things work.

RC: They ran into lots of water going through that tunnel! And ... and there was some thought that probably played a part in the drain ... or to lower June Lake. But the winters weren't that hard either up there.

INT: You know, back to the algae, because I think that's to me, really an interesting thing, because there's not much algae left at Mono Lake. Do you remember what it looked like? Was it green or pale or bald like or ...?

RC: It-it ... as I recall it was a grey-green colors and ... it didn't look like true algae as we know it today, it was more on the surface of the water ... And ... it certainly didn't penetrate down very deep. It was along the surface of the water, except along the shore.

INT: Was it like in little strings or ...?

RC: Well the-the shore would be lined with it for ... for you know, constant for, you know for ... you know, as long as you, as far as you could see in areas! It would wash up in certain areas. It wouldn't be constant-not throughout the whole lake. It was just in ... I think more in the ... on the ... which would be, I'm trying to think of the west ... west end of it there. But west and ... northwest ... corner there ... what's the ... along the ... over the Sideslip(??) now, in that area ...

INT: Well there's a lot of fresh water coming in.

RC: You're familiar with that area?

INT: Yeah. And it wasn't like in a lot of leaf shape or anything? It was more just ... blops?

RC: No, it was ... More in the heavier, I would say, little kind of round ... dishes about ... sixteenth of an inch in diameter, a little bit more than that. A little bit more than that! Maybe up to an eighth of inch in diameter ... as I recall. And ... I'm just thinking offhand now, you know, of course we had a lot of springs through there, could that be ... you know?

INT: Oh, I think absolutely.

RC: At one time ... these springs ... freshwater would lay right on the top of the, of the lake.

INT: That's a good point, sure.

RC: They were right on top! The reason I know this, is ... in cold weather, Mono Lake would freeze over and-and ... in ... oh, up to about a quarter of an inch deep! And ... people got to checking and that was all fresh, just the fresh water that was freezing!

INT: I know that in 19-, I think '86, it froze. And people skated on it, because that was when the lake was really salty, and then all the freshwater came in, it was like four feet of freshwater!

RC: On the lake?

INT: Yeah. There's pictures of people skating on the west ... the whole thing didn't freeze but the west side where all the freshwater was, did freeze, and ...

RC: Is that right?

INT: And somebody's picture skating pretty far out!

RC: Well we ... the reason I know it was out there, we had a friend that had a boat and we went out to, you know to play in the ... in the ice and we saw it was all covered with ... in areas, just certain ... it wasn't solid anywhere!

INT: You couldn't like stand on it?

RC: No, it was ... maybe a mile square in one area and some routes it wasn't just ... it was generally localized in certain areas.

INT: And was it like one winter? Or several winters?

RC: No, it was just one or two winters. Occasional winters. Not every winter.

INT: Interesting.

RC: The fresh(??)water hadn't been stirred up with wind ... you know a lot of springs bringing water up or ... And that's what, that's what the theory was at that time.

INT: I think it's absolutely correct.

RC: So ... Think of anything else?

INT: Wait. Well I could pester you with more questions, probably about springs and all sorts of things, but you know, I don't want to take up any more of your time now ... 'cause we've been on the phone for over an hour! And ... Been ...

RC: Just left ... and she kind of expects me to get dinner started.

INT: Oh! I better, I better ... I'm not in any rush, but I don't want to pop your ear off!

RC: I enjoy talking to you. And ...

INT: And ... vice versa! I'm beaming! This is ... this is great.

RC: I was just ... as you talk a little bit it helps me recall even the things ... it comes out that ... normally I wouldn't think on my own, but as you bring out questions well ... this refreshes my memory and I ...

INT: Sure.

RC: Recall them better. Of course I'm ... eighty at this time.

INT: Well Mr. Carrington you have not only a fantastic memory but ... a very ... crisp way of speaking ... And I must say, I can barely remember when I was ten or eleven, and that was in ...

End of Interview.

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