Posts Tagged ‘Greenback Lane’

Tribute to Uncle Clinton Samuel King, Jr., Self-Made Man

April 29th, 2016

In Celebration of the Life of My Uncle, Clinton Samuel King, Jr., May 4, 1928 to November 2, 2012

Written at home at Rough Rock, March 6, 2016

The Story of the Life and Love of a Self-Made Man and How to Die at Peace

Dawn, American River From Fair Oaks Bluffs, Fair Oaks, California, 2012 by David Leland Hyde. This photograph was made at Uncle Clint's House the day of his Celebration of Life.

Dawn, American River From Fair Oaks Bluffs, Fair Oaks, California, 2012 by David Leland Hyde. This photograph was made at Uncle Clint’s House the day of his Celebration of Life. (Click Image to See Large.)

My mother, Ardis King Hyde, descended from early Northern California pioneer families. Her parents, Clinton S. King and Elsie Van Maren King both had grandparents who owned large ranches in the Sacramento area. The Van Maren ranch consisted of 640 acres of what is now Citrus Heights. Van Maren Boulevard is a familiar Sacramento thoroughfare.

During the Great Depression, my great, great grandfather named Greenback Lane, another major artery in that part of Sacramento. Greenback Lane originally was the ranch road into the main house, which stood where a shopping mall does now. My great, great grandfather said at the time that because his paper dollars were worth so little he might as well use them to pave the lane. “I could just as well call it my Greenback Lane,” he said, and the name stuck.

Mom’s Dad was actually Clinton Samuel King the second, or Junior, but he never went by Junior. Mom was the oldest of four children, three of which were boys. Mom’s oldest brother, Clinton S. King, truly was the third, but he went by Junior. Clinton S. King, Jr. was three years younger than mom, Nick was five years younger and Van was 13 years younger. My mother passed on at age 74 in 2002, which was a surprise. We all expected her to live much longer. Same goes for two out three of my uncles who both passed on in 2012: Nick in April and Clint in November. Van King is my mother’s only sibling left, my only living uncle.

I wrote a tribute to my Uncle Nick in 2012, but I have not had a chance to write one for my Uncle Clint. For a while it did not fit into the flow of blog posts. For longer I was not sure what I wanted to say. We all had a family disagreement over the family cabin at Lake Tahoe and Uncle Clint and my parents were on opposite sides of it. Grandma left the cabin to her four children to keep in the family and enjoy in perpetuity. However, two of the four siblings, Uncle Nick and my mother never used the cabin and paid part of the expenses. Eventually we all agreed Uncle Clint would buy out his three siblings.

After Grandma, Grandpa and my mother passed on, Uncle Nick and Dad needed the money from selling the cabin. Uncle Van was torn on whether to sell his portion or not, but finally did. Uncle Clint was irate with us for wanting to sell and for forcing him to buy us out. From our perspective, paying for even a small portion of the expenses and having the extra headache was draining. Dad and I were looking at possibly spending $4,000 to $6,000 a month for a live-in caregiver or to place him in a home.

In the end, it turns out that Uncle Clinton S. King, Jr. was the “bigger man” of all of us. He also could fortunately afford to be the bigger man. He worked extremely hard his entire life so as to have enough money to pay for what was important. To him, family was everything, as was the shared family cabin with so much family history. Even after the dispute over the cabin, we kept in touch with Uncle Clint precisely because family was important to all of us. In the end, Uncle Clint was right not just about the importance of family, but about the cabin as a meeting place for the family. The ownership of the meetup space now no longer shared, the family has dispersed.

This has been the saddest outcome of the dispute. Uncle Clint was angry about the cabin for some time, but he never quit treating us like family if we called him on the phone or otherwise needed to communicate with him. Some people in our family and others profess to rate family as a high priority, but at the same time seem to be almost looking for a reason not to keep in touch. Some people dislike their families, or rather, they are put off by the traits in themselves they do not like that run in the family. Some people mistakenly believe they can leave behind their own flaws in common with others of the same blood by cutting all ties. Some people may need to do this in some families to avoid further wounding, but many only make wounds deeper by disavowing their families rather than looking inward to work on themselves. Every flaw I have seen in family members, when I look closely, I have found in myself. Similarly every character trait other family members find unattractive in me, I notice they have in themselves, sometimes in a more severe form. The goal in life is not to change family members or even ultimately the world, but for each of us individually to improve the world by changing ourselves. When I change the world changes.

Cousin Gwenn and Uncle Clint, Fair Oaks, California, 2012 by David Leland Hyde. I made this photograph about six months before Uncle Clint passed on.

Cousin Gwenn and Uncle Clint, Fair Oaks, California, 2012 by David Leland Hyde. I made this photograph about six months before Uncle Clint passed on. (Click Image to see Large.)

After my father passed on and I was the last on my side of the family, the wounds were slow to heal, but in time Uncle Clint and I became nearly as close, if not just as close, and in some ways closer than ever. I remember my Uncle Clint, on the whole throughout his life, being supportive, wise, fun and inspirational, more than anything else. He had a strong personality, a powerful will and was a formidable opponent, but he also had a big, soft, generous heart that held a special place for any of his blood kin and for people in general.

Uncle Clint, like my mother and my other two uncles, was hard on his own children, my cousins. He could be critical, and though this was sometimes cutting and hard to take, it was never meant to be malicious or to tear people down, but was motivated by him wanting his offspring and the rest of us cousins to be better people. He was just as hard or harder on himself. Self-discipline was one of his strengths. He was a self-starter and a self-educated man. He was an expert witness for the State of California and in other cases that needed a solid professional engineering opinion. He had a reputation as a pillar of his profession and as a community leader and philanthropist in Northern California.

He graduated from the University of California, Berkeley in civil engineering and served as an officer in the Korean War. As a registered engineer in both California and Nevada, he led studies and construction planning for drainage and flood control that continue to operate and set precedent today. He worked beyond California and Nevada throughout the West in planning military installations and military bases. He was a founding partner of Spink Corporation and later spent 22 years in private practice.

He was always physically active with presidential and other leading roles in such organizations as the South Hills Racquet Club, the Bing Maloney Golf Club, Kiwanis, the Sacramento Swimming and Diving League, Sacramento Pioneer Association, Del Paso Country Club, the Crocker Art Museum, the University of California Alumni Association and the Arden Hills Swimming and Tennis Club.

Uncle Clint started from humble beginnings as we all did, but he became a self-made man. When Sacramento was still a small city, with the old downtown fairly run-down and a little rough as neighborhoods go, my uncle, out of sheer love for old buildings, bought a historic Victorian mansion at a low price. He began to tear out walls, refurbish and refinish the old Victorian that he called “Vickie.” He did all of the work himself, nearly always by himself. He sanded floors, rebuilt historical banisters, moved doorways and remodeled the mansion into seven beautifully appointed, contemporary, yet historically interesting apartments.

At the same time, others began to renovate buildings in downtown Sacramento. Uncle Clint gradually bought a few more Victorian mansions to remodel into apartments. Sacramento was one of the earlier economic turnarounds of a downtown city. Rebuilding downtowns became a trend and then a nationwide phenomenon that continues today. Over the years my uncle gradually moved from middle-class neighborhoods into upper-middle class neighborhoods, until eventually, the last 20 years of his life he lived with his third wife Aunt Charla in a tasteful villa in Fair Oaks on the bluffs overlooking the American River Parkway. He had outlived two other wives: Aunt Shirley, the mother of my cousins, and Aunt Lou. All three of these great ladies were good aunts to us cousins.

Uncle Clint and Aunt Shirley often hosted our Thanksgiving gatherings of the whole family including my mother’s three brothers, spouses and my 10 cousins, later 14 cousins. When Uncle Clint was married to Aunt Lou, the tradition continued. Each of my uncles and my mother took turns hosting the big Thanksgiving gathering, but Uncle Clint and Aunt Lou hosted it the most often. Later when Uncle Clint and Aunt Charla lived on the bluffs in Fair Oaks, we did not have the large family Thanksgiving gatherings as often, but they hosted more than one family get together including a smaller family reunion. When we had big family reunions with all of my second cousins and relatives, we had to rent larger venues because the numbers attending were in the 100s. We went to one big family reunion at the Lewelling Ranch in St. Helena. The Lewellings are semi-distant relatives of the Van Marens and thus the Kings and Hydes.

Uncle Clint told stories at these events and was often in charge of the BBQ or other key aspects of meal preparation. He worked the hardest on any collaborative project. He and Aunt Lou invited us to visit a number of different golf resorts he had shares in. Later he and Aunt Charla bought a golf home on the big island of Hawaii on the Kona Coast where my parents visited them. I remember Uncle Clint most as a good life coach. He always had the best advice and moral perspective on many situations. His business savvy and street smarts made him the kind of man any young man would feel proud to have as an uncle and be happy to spend time with having some of the self-sufficient mindset rub off.

As a boy and as a young man, I was most fortunate to have Uncle Clint for guidance. I remember him talking to me about how to choose a college. He asked a lot of questions before giving suggestions. I remember him being highly interested in my experiences while I was away at boarding school from 10th through 12th grades. I did not see him often during this time period, but he wanted to know all about it when I did see him. He always took an interest in people and his own nieces and nephews in particular. He would ask us questions that nobody else would ever think of that made us understand how much he cared. He would then offer some wisdom regarding his own experience that related to ours. He knew how to laugh and have fun, especially in a gathering of people. All my uncles were fun when we all came together. We cousins had a special bond because during our younger years we saw each other much more than most cousins do. This was good for me as an only child growing up in the mountains.

Cousin Clint Speaking at Uncle Clint's Celebration of Life, Del Paso Country Club, Sacramento, California, 2012 by David Leland Hyde.

Cousin Clint Speaking at Uncle Clint’s Celebration of Life, Del Paso Country Club, Sacramento, California, 2012 by David Leland Hyde. (Click Image to See Large.)

Growing up my parents chose not to have television in our home. I could not wait to get down to Sacramento to visit Grandma or one of my uncles to watch TV. Uncle Clint was generally not much for TV, but he sure liked his sports. He would talk about football, basketball or baseball, whichever was in season with his sons and daughters and our other cousins. Uncle Clint’s son, Clinton Samuel King IV was the oldest cousin, eight years older than me. He also mentored me a lot in life, as well as wrestling me down a few times when I was a bit too much of a smart aleck. Uncle Clint passed his wisdom down to me and to the other younger cousins through his son too. All of us who knew Uncle Clint have a bit we learned from him that we pass along to the world. Uncle Clint helped me learn to be stronger, warmer and more forgiving to people.

Uncle Clint died of cancer. When he became ill, he “mellowed out,” took fewer things personally, forgave people easier and let go of most situations that he did not feel right about. He lived the end of his life surrounded by love and family. This was his greatest wisdom and made it easier to take the pain he endured at times before he passed on. He was not peaceful about dying, he resisted dying until the end, but he was at peace about the people in his life. Now I miss him and think about so many more times I wish I had spent time with him, but I also am grateful we had the good times we did. We could have lost that time if we had not let our differences go. Many families lose each other completely through selfish disputes and arguments over who is right and who has done something wrong. Holding onto grudges ruins lives in many ways, not least of which is making the grudge holder miserable at least subconsciously where it does the most damage to health. Staying angry at a relative is like taking poison and hoping the relative will suffer.

Living The Good Life 5: Agricultural Influences

March 18th, 2016

Living the Good Life with Ardis and Philip Hyde

Part Five: Agricultural Influences

(Continued from the blog post, “Living the Good Life 4: Failure in Carmel.”)

“There are two spiritual dangers in not owning a farm. One is the danger of supposing that breakfast comes from the grocery, and the other that heat comes from the furnace.”

~ Aldo Leopold from A Sand County Almanac

About This Series: “Living The Good Life”

Fall Maples, Aspens, Black Oaks and Fresh Snow on Grizzly Ridge From the Garden at Rough Rock, Northern Sierra, California, copyright 2015 David Leland Hyde.

Fall Maples, Aspens, Apple Trees, Black Oaks and Last Sun on Fresh Snow on Grizzly Ridge From the Garden at Rough Rock, Northern Sierra, California, copyright 2015 David Leland Hyde. Scene when I arrived home from the #Heartland. (To see large click on image)

In 2002, two months before my mother passed on, I asked to interview her about her locally popular organic gardening, homemade preserves and all natural cuisine. I also wanted to capture the essence of my parent’s philosophy of living, their low impact lifestyle and long-term sustainability way before the word “sustainability” existed or the philosophy became a trend.

While the tape recorder ran, my mother joyfully began to answer my questions about more than 56 years of vegetable gardening, flower cultivation, ornamental breeding, gardening for butterflies and birds, natural pest control, fruit tree pruning, grafting and much more.

Unfortunately, we only made one tape. She died suddenly while I was 3,000 miles away on the East Coast before the interviews could continue. The afternoon after that fated first taping, she handed me her personal copy of Living the Good Life: How to Live Sanely and Simply in a Troubled World by Helen and Scott Nearing. She first paused to hold the book and look at it for moment, put it in my hands with gravity and said, “This was our Bible.”

The Nearings and their methods as professed in Living the Good Life, spiritually led and inspired the 1950s “Back to the Land” movement. The Hydes were at the early edge of this movement, leaving the Bay Area in 1950 to settle first in Indian Valley among the remote mountains of the Northern Sierra, then on a rocky flat bench of land on a branch of the Feather River Canyon, looking down on Indian Creek and up at Grizzly Ridge towering more than 4,000 feet straight up above the house they carved out of the wilderness.

This series of blog posts examines how Ardis and Philip Hyde, while not on the road or on the trail in pursuit of flora, fauna and photographs, adapted and invented their own version of “The Good Life.”  Part One serves as an introduction, citing sections of the book and how the Hydes applied them. Part Two reviews Ardis and Philip Hyde’s respective childhoods and how their influences brought them together and eventually to their own land in the country. In the third episode of “Living the Good Life with Ardis and Philip Hyde” I reflected on the changing seasons and passing years as their dream home and their way of life continue here. Part four of Living the Good Life, came from my interviews of Dad about defeated attempts to establish a home in Carmel near the photography market as he and my mother were advised to do by his mentors and friends Ansel Adams, David Brower and others. Failure in Carmel surprisingly took them overseas to Morocco in Northern Africa and eventually back to California where they built their dream home in the Sierra. More on Morocco in future articles and blog posts.

Part Five: Agricultural Influences

Before continuing the more or less chronological story of the Hyde’s “Living The Good Life” dream with the construction of their home to include passive solar and other green or passive energy features in Part Six of this series, in this Part Five I will share how my mother’s ancestors helped found part of Sacramento and through their ranch contribute to the agrarian lore of the Great Central Valley. My mother orchestrated at least a start in agricultural knowledge during my childhood.

My father, born and raised in San Francisco, sought out nature all over the Bay Area. His father was an artist, draftsman and furniture designer and maker who also loved nature and loved the Sierra. He descended from a long line of schoolteachers. For more on my grandfather Leland Hyde and Dad’s other early influences, see the blog post, “Photography’s Golden Era 4.”

In contrast my mother’s ancestors were early pioneer families of the California Central Valley. My mother grew up in the greater Sacramento area, spending most of her childhood in the rural outskirts away from the town that is now downtown Sacramento. My mother’s maiden name was King. Ardis King Hyde’s father, Clinton Samuel King, Jr. grew up on the King ranch outside Sacramento. Mom’s mother, Elsie Van Maren King grew up on the Van Maren Ranch. The King’s sold their ranch when my mother was too young to remember. However, my entire life, until my mother passed on, she talked about her vivid memories of the Van Maren Ranch.

The Van Maren Ranch was located in the part of Sacramento that is now called Citrus Heights. The Van Marens were one of Citrus Heights founding families. Van Maren Boulevard was named after the family. The main ranch house, roughly in the center of the 1,000-acre ranch, stood on a hill that has now been removed where a shopping mall now sprawls.

One Van Maren family myth had it that during the Great Depression, my great grandfather Nicholas Van Maren exclaimed one day in exasperation that his greenbacks were worth so little that he might as well pave the lane into the ranch house with them.

“I’ll call it my Greenback Lane,” he cried out. From then on the family and their friends called the road Greenback Lane. This was how the familiar Citrus Heights thoroughfare received its name.

The main crops on the Van Maren Ranch were wheat, oats and barley, with a secondary production of grapes, almonds, apples and olives. There were also a number of milk cows, horses, chickens, goats, lambs and pigs to supply the family pantry. My grandmother Elsie had three sisters and no brothers. The four girls grew up doing the farm chores that in those days were usually done by boys, in addition to the household chores as well. My grandmother was a superb cook, who could easily feed a few dozen people. My mother, who had three brothers and no sisters, as the only girl in her generation, was constantly in the kitchen with her mother. Some of my mother’s best recipes were handed down from generation to generation.

My mom remembered trips out from the suburbs to the rural area that is now Citrus Heights to the Van Maren Ranch on weekends one or two times a month. She learned to ride a horse on the ranch as a little girl, milked cows and helped out with all of the tasks on the ranch that her mother had grown up doing. Mom loved visits to the ranch and did not mind pitching in and working with her grandfather around the ranch and grandmother in the kitchen. Mom was quite capable and hard working, even as a child. Her grandparents in turn enjoyed the companionship and help of their eager, inquisitive suburban granddaughter each time she visited. She remembered hauling water from the hand-dug well to the house by bucket the old-fashioned way and making everything in the kitchen by hand.

Both my mother and grandmother were tough as nails. They could out work and out rough-and-tumble any boy or man their whole lives. Part of what attracted Dad to Mom years later was how comfortable and fearless she was in the outdoors, yet how she also carried herself with grace indoors.

Besides being an artist in the kitchen, my mother was what gardeners call a “green thumb.” She could make flowers grow from rocks, which is essentially what she did for close to 60 years at our home in the Sierra Nevada. She had not had her hands in the soil much at all though for many years when my parents finally bought the property in December 1955.

Soon after, Mom and Dad walked the property with their friends Cornell and Pat Kurtz from nearby Lake Almanor, who also were accompanied by their four-year-old daughter Kit. A tangle of branches, decimated small trees and bulldozed piles of dirt and rock, the house site had been a logging staging area. Not much dirt mixed in with the Grizzly Formation igneous andesite rock. Indian Creek over geological time cut down through a giant rockslide that came down off of Grizzly Ridge and dammed up the creek. The bench a few hundred yards above the present riverbed consisted mainly of angular fracturing Grizzly Formation rock with some dirt in between to further wedge in the rock and make it hard to move.

This was more than 15 years before the publishing of Dad’s renowned book, Slickrock with Edward Abbey, but Dad and Mom had traveled much in the Southwest where the name “Slickrock” was common as were other names with “rock” in them such as “Smooth Rock” or “Balanced Rock.” For more about Slickrock see the blog post, “Who Was Edward Abbey?”

Recently Pat Kurtz described that she and Cornell had visited the Hydes in 1956 while they were still living in one of the neighbor, Bill Burford’s houses, before Mom and Dad started building our home in 1957.

“I remember picking up the sharp, pointy rocks on your land,” Kit Kurtz added. “The rocks I were used to at Lake Almanor were rounded. I was already thinking, ‘this is rough rock.’” While showing the Kurtzes the land, Dad mentioned that they could not think of a name for the place.

“Your Dad looked down at Kit,” Pat Kurtz said. “He asked, ‘What do you think?’ and Kit said, ‘Rough Rock.’” Dad and Mom looked at each other and at Kit with smiles of acknowledgement and agreement.

“That’s it,”Dad said. “That’s the name.” Our home has been Rough Rock ever since. I will say with great assurance that to this day it lives up to its name in spades, or despite and intensely in spite of spades, or any other digging implement.

Dad even had to blast or chip a few giant rocks. Tons more he removed to pour the foundation. The rocks taken out of the trenches for the foundation were distributed along the hillside to make terraces. My parents filled in behind them to build the soil for a garden. I was not born until 1965, but the pickup truck hauling program was far from over when I got old enough to wield a shovel or pitchfork. I remember a childhood filled with trips to nearby ranches and farms to clear manure, used hay or combinations of the two out of horse stalls. We made those trips in an old 1952 Chevy Pickup we called the Covered Wagon when it still had a corrugated steel camper shell-like canopy on the back. For more on the adventures of Covered Wagon all over the West see the blog post, “Covered Wagon Journal 1.” We also hauled dirt, sand, grass clippings, straw, wood chips and just about anything else that would make soil. I will write more about the gardens and gardening in future blog posts.

Besides being a laborer and off and on participant in Mom’s gardening efforts, thanks to my mother I was exposed to other agrarian influences. As a very small boy, probably around age three, my mother took me to a nearby dairy farm, introduced me to the farmer and to his dairy cows up close. Mom and I watched while the farmer milked his cows. We tasted the milk and I even took a turn at milking. When I was young we had milk delivered by a milk truck as part of a regular milk route. Later, I would go with my mother to pick up whole milk directly from the dairy farms that sold it. Mom skimmed the cream off the top and used it to make butter or to whip cream. We also made homemade ice cream from local whole milk.

My mother raised me on unpasteurized milk. I lived a highly active, sports-filled life and never broke a bone until I was in my 40s far away from my childhood home. I have never had any allergy problems either. A substantial body of scientific evidence links pasteurization, hormone supplementation and genetic modification of milk and dairy cows to food and pollen allergies.

My mother and my mother’s brother, Nick King, taught me how to care for, prune and organically fertilize our apple trees. For more on my uncle’s nursery, apple farm and beekeeping, see the blog post, “Actor, Photographer, Apple Farmer and 1960s Activist Nicholas King’s Memorial.” Every year Dad and I helped Mom pick apples in our mini orchard of three trees. Mom tried many other types of fruit trees, but few of them bore much fruit in our mountain climate and elevation of 3600 feet above sea level. Just before she passed on in 2002, Mom planted a plum tree in front of the house that just started bearing fruit four years ago. It produced a heavy limb-bending crop of plums one year, but unfortunately the raccoons ate most of them.

Another agricultural, small farm activity Mom instigated at Rough Rock when I was a kid was raising chickens. They were bantam hens named Henny Penny and Peg Leg. They laid a slightly smaller egg than most chickens, but they each produced one to three a day, which was all we needed. Dad built them a chicken wire cage inside our garden shed. They would go in at night and out during the day. I fed them around the same time each day as I fed Pad, our German Shorthaired Pointer dog.

Pad was our primary domesticated animal. Pat Kurtz originally found her for us and named her P. – A. – D. after Philip, Ardis and David. The Kurtzes had a long line of their own German Shorthaired Pointers for many years. Pad would stay with them when we traveled. Pad was also good with the chickens. She hardly even went near them. She ignored them with disdain and distaste. We never knew why. After a few years Peg was taken out one day by what must have been a raccoon, or possibly a Bobcat or even Mountain Lion. All we found were a few feathers. Penny lasted a few months longer before suffering a similar fate.

I am grateful to my mother for introducing me in small ways to farming and ranching. While I did not grow up on an actual working farm or ranch, I had at least enough taste of it to understand what the lifestyle was like and what producing your own food is like. Farming is hard, but highly rewarding work.

(The passive solar, energy efficient, ahead-of-it’s-time construction of Rough Rock will be featured in “Living the Good Life 6.”)