Oroville Mercury-Register

Runnin’ down a dream on the road to Corning

- By Dale Rasmussen

Yesterday, with the help of my son-in-law, I trimmed the biggest palm tree in my yard. I stood on the 6-foot ladder, gloves off, cutting fronds with my Husqvarna chain saw. Rob stacked them neatly in the bed of my old Ford F-250, trimming them to length with the pruning shears. We filled the whole bed, draped a tarp over it, and put the spare tire on the tarp to keep it from blowing off during the night. Daylight was fading, and I was too tired to tie it down right.

For obscure reasons, Chico’s green waste facility won’t take palm fronds, and the county land fill on Neal Road doesn’t want them either. For situations like these, I have a safety valve, the burn-pile on the family ranch up in Corning.

This morning, I was still disincline­d to tie the tarp down. I decided I would go to Northern Star Mills and buy some alfalfa cubes to feed my cows. The cows live in Corning. The alfalfa cubes come in 50-pound sacks. The sacks would go on top of the tarp, enough to hold it in place and keep the CHP off my back.

I drive down the Esplanade from the north. I do a quasi-legal left turn across the rumble strip adjacent to the storefront, and back my truck in until it bumps hard against the loading dock. It’s nasty cold outside, with the wind blowing past the brick building. I put on my faded brown work coat, peppered with little holes from going through barbed wire. Dirty Carhartt pants and bushy gray hair complete my ensemble. Were she with us today, my mom would say: “You look like a hobo.”

I go into Northern Star, get my feed, throw it on the tarp. Now I’m powering up 99, heading to Corning. It’s a beautiful crisp cold day, with a light north wind. Coming out of Chico, occasional trees are still bearing bright stands of brown and gold leaves. Traffic is light. The truck wants to run, and I push it up to the speed limit, maybe a little over.

This old ’81 Ford is primitive. The heater barely works. There’s no radio. In my head, I’m hearing an old Tom Petty song: “I put the radio on, I was drivin’.” I’ve got no other choice than to start singing it. I have to raise my voice over the engine noise, the tires on the road, the wind whistling past the window.

Coming up into the Vina Plains, I can see the Trinity Alps covered with snow, pushing up from the north 75 miles away. The way the road angles in this particular stretch, Mount Shasta is somewhat off to my right. As Cohasset Ridge sinks into the plain, Shasta begins to demurely emerge. It is all white, all snow. The air is clear and clean. Wind gusts lightly rock the truck, and I move the steering wheel in response. I’ve got to correct hard, because there’s a lot of slop in the front end.

I turn left at the fire station and head on over the Woodson Bridge. There’s a slight hill in between the River and I-5. As I crest over it, the land opens up to the west. South Yolla Bolly Peak looms over the valley, capped with its signature triangle of white. Tomhead is a little more north, not as high, not as snowy.

There’s decent snow in the rest of the Coast Range, accentuati­ng the folds of valley and canyon, making visible the overlappin­g ridges marching westward. I go past the truck stop, through the lights, up and over I-5 on the overpass. It will be my last good view of the mountains before I descend into the orchards. I start to sing “Country Roads” by John Denver.

My eyes seem to be watering for some reason. Must be that damn dry north wind.

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