Liz Bowen began writing ranch and farm news, published in newspapers, in 1976. She is a native of Siskiyou County and lives near Callahan. Columns from the past year can be found at: Call her at (530) 467-3515.


For several weeks, I have been playing catch-up, because of those 80-plus degree days. My typical May protocol is to hand-water plants, as needed, dig up the flower beds and plant the vegetable seeds as I have time. Not this year. Boom, everything was dry!

Love the May blooms. The lavender lupine and orange Calif. poppies are blooming together. Under the pine tree is a pale multi-colored columbine and the comfrey is already producing its pink bell flowers. The asparagus are growing smaller stems and I am eating one or two every day. (See I can eat healthy!) Had to start harvesting the lettuce as it is nine-inches tall, really thick and did not like the heat.

Started laying out the long vegetable row and dug five holes for the Early Girl tomatoes. I found a six-pack with only five plants and decided that was all I needed! I did get my favorite bright blue morning glory seeds planted along with zucchini, cucumber and pumpkin seeds.

This past week was so busy that I didn’t get the second rhubarb plant harvested and it is huge. So, I am really looking forward to the next few weeks of possible showers and cooler temps slowing things down. I keep checking three different weather forecasts and fully expect a frost this weekend – at my house. Maybe it is because I am by the Scott River and the cold air lowers in the early morning. Temps of 38 degrees can easily drop to freezing, here. I will have boxes or buckets to cover the tomatoes and annual flowers. I had planned on cutting back on my workload this year. Ha!

Dillman family

Every so often, I write a bit of my family history and decided to do so again. I have been thinking about my grandparents, who were encouraged by a relative to move from the dry Arizona desert to Siskiyou County. That relative was Aunt Mary Brumwell, who lived in Yreka.

Since marrying in 1906, George and Rose Ann Dillman had struggled and scraped while expanding their family to nine children. The oldest, a daughter, died as a toddler. After 22 years of marriage, the family was ready to try somewhere new, even though ranching would remain their livelihood.

My dad, Hearst Dillman, was born in 1911. In April of 1928, he was 16 years old. I think Grandpa could drive a vehicle, but he flat-out didn’t like that “damn new-fangled” thing. So Hearst drove the worn-out 1922 Dodge screen-side pickup the entire eight-day trek. The screens were gone and so iron hoops were fashioned over the top with canvas spread to make a pioneer-wagon-type of covering.

There are lots of little stories I could tell that came from dad. But because we just celebrated Mother’s Day, I have also been thinking about Grandma Rose Ann – her courage and tenacity. Life conveniences and travel were very different from today. Because this information was not directly from grandma, you get to read between the lines.

It was April 20, 1928, when the family left Tucson, Arizona. Rose was 39 years of age and her youngest child, Con, was 18 months. The family sold most of their possessions. They did keep several mattresses that lined the bottom of the pickup bed. Rose also needed cooking utensils, pots and pans, because she cooked three meals each day on the side of the road over a campfire.

The roads were hard-packed dirt and, typically, one-lane. George would find the nearby landowner to ask permission to camp for the night. Once they were in California, an orchard owner allowed the family to camp and pick a few ripe oranges. This was a real treat. They surely stopped at stores along the way, but Rose had purchased several giant cans of Campbell’s Alphabet Soup, which the younger kids thought a real treat.

Dad told me the six younger children rode in back with Grandma and they treated the journey as an adventure. I am not sure what Grandma really thought as she was moving away from her sisters and huge extended family. Palm Springs was just a post office and small store. They stopped and purchased gasoline. Soon, there was the San Joaquin Valley bursting with thousands of acres of tall green waving grass. This was amazing for these desert dwellers to see.

Dad drove about 35 miles per hour. Shasta Dam had not yet been built at the North-end of the Sacramento Valley and the narrow winding road above the Sacramento River, climbing into the tall mountains, was daunting.

On their last night, they camped near looming 14,000 ft. tall Mt. Shasta outside of Gazelle having turned-off from Highway 99. As they looked at another formable obstacle of Gazelle Mt., Rose finally broke down a cried. She asked husband, George, where in the world their oldest son, Bob, was sending them? Seven-year old daughter, Katie, recalled it was the first time she ever witnessed her mom cry. Besides the overwhelming uncertainty, I bet she was exhausted.

Yep, I have driven this now-paved, road many times and it is still formidable.

But, taking courage from the rising sun, Rose cooked breakfast over a campfire, cleaned the dishes and loaded-up. The steep dirt road was one-lane with tight switchbacks and wide spots. It was common courtesy for cars going downhill to pull-over and wait for the uphill-bound drivers to pass. Finally, they were up and over the summit with the road providing a softer descent into a lush green valley and then more bright green mountain meadows and soon they were driving through the Parker Ranch – home to over 1,200 head of cattle.

The first person they met was mailman, Burney Tucker, who pulled to the side of the road and chatted. They became good friends. Burney raised Standardbred race horses and several of the horses I rode growing-up were from his bloodline. Soon, the family spotted 19-year old Bob, who was working on an irrigation flume at Masterson Ranch that he had rented having been sent ahead to find a place. Rose was truly shocked to see so much water for irrigation. Right then, the family agreed they had never seen anywhere as beautiful as the south-end of Scott Valley – their new home.

Happy (late) Mother’s Day to all women, who sacrifice much and desire a good life for their family.