Sunday, October 11, 2009


Jim and I decided to poke around the small towns of Big Oak Flat and Groveland. Big Oak Flat was named for a massive Oak Tree on a flat where gold miners decided to settle. While sitting under this stellar tree a miner happened to scrubble around in the dirt and came up with a nugget. The race was on, and the townspeople began digging around the oak until they killed this giant. The great skeleton stood for many years. When I first visited the town about 25 years ago, there was a marker where the tree once stood. We didn't find it. The highway had been widened, it was unkempt and uninviting looking and we probably didn't look hard enough.
We moved on to Groveland which has grown considerably since my last visit. It looks prosperous. The Iron Door Saloon is the oldest continuously operating saloon in the state, since 1857. The building has been occupied since 1852. Colorful and busy, with a ceiling plastered with dusty dollars and a picturesque old bar, its traditional to stop and swill a beer. Good stuff! Some locals still refer to the town as Garrote, after a sensational hanging in the town, followed by a second sensational hanging. Life in this gold town got more sophisticated and they changed the rowdy name to Groveland. I kind of like the historic name better, just because it is historical.
Little gold towns have their pokey, mostly to keep drunks until they sobered up. In this one, so the story goes, the jailer would often leave the door unlocked so the drunk could sober up and walk home when he was ready. Drunkenness rarely required the county magistrate.

The most beautiful building on the street is the stately Groveland Hotel.

We went on to Groveland's Oktoberfest held on a big ranch outside of town. It was decidedly local in flavor, more like a school carnival. They had a tub of huge zuchinnis and we wondered whether they were part of a contest? Or "Please take some home?" (The picture wouldn't load.)

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