No. 9 Vengeance Was She

capay_valley_manzinta_tree
Manzanita Shrub

Folks in town already took up a collection to erect a marker at the site of the shootout. The Riparian Irrigation Club wanted to proclaim the incident “The Capay Valley Stand-Off.” Locals who traded at Black’s Station called it a downright massacre. Big cattle declared war against the homesteaders living on parcels where the sweet-grasses grew. Clashes over land and water rights took place throughout the winter of 1870. The struggle yielded no victors, only heartache.

Marshal Frank Kegan and seven men rode to the Kettner place situated in Hungry Hollow. The Kettner family came overland from Tennessee’s Sequatchie Valley to claim their 160-acre parcel in California, where they raised vegetable garden and a few head of cattle with the “K Dot” brand. The Marshal was out delivering eviction notices petitioned by the Ramage Land, Water & Stock Company. Kegan did not realize he would encounter a funeral that grey February morning.

Mourners gathered from Capay Valley and the nearby town of Esparto to pay their respects to Liliana Kettner, daughter of Carl and Rebecca. The ten-year-old was killed in a stampede set off by a dynamite blast at the Ames Ditch headgate. The ditch belonged to Jarred “Jake” Ames, who diverted water from nearby Cache Creek, to irrigate his Chilean clover fields east of the Kettner’s property. Ames suspected the explosions were part of an intimidation campaign waged by the Ramage Land, Water & Stock Company.

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No. 8 To Bedrock Jim’s Surprise

Illustration by Charles M. Russell
Illustration by Charles M. Russell

Western painter and storyteller Charles M. Russell tells a story about a couple of prospectors he knew. “Bedrock Jim” was working a claim in the Big Horn high country with his partner, “Pick Axe Jack.” And, it dawned on them that they were out of meat for supper. So, they went hunting. Not far from camp, Bedrock caught sight of an exceptional elk with large, pitchforked antlers. He got off a shot with his Henry and dropped the bull.

The two men strode over to admire the prize, leaning their rifles up against a fallen log. Standing over the 800-pound animal, they rolled over on its side. Bedrock could see a spot of blood on its neck. Thinking that its neck was broken, he grabbed a horn to straighten it out so that he could make a proper cut to the throat with his knife.

The elk got to its feet, still very much alive, and went after Pick Axe. The bull was fighting mad, and the two men were at once embroiled in a mighty struggle. To their misfortune, their guns rested on the wrong side of the angry elk.

Exhausted and unable to subdue the beast, Bedrock Jim scampered up a pine scrub growing near a rocky ledge. The small tree was not tall enough to accommodate both men, so Pick Axe Jack found sanctuary in a hole where varments had hibernated. Read more