I’ve been thinking about “home” lately. Home in the sense of where I grew up and where my family lived for the last 100 or so years, dating back to when my paternal grandmother and the grandfather I never met settled down to farm there. My Dad and uncle took over the farm when they came of age and purchased more and more land in the area. They grew peaches, prunes, walnuts, and kiwi. Most of that land has since been sold, purchased by other farmers and developers who are building houses for the growing population–up to 8,500 or so now.
Although as a teenager I began to loathe living in a small, rural community, but I now look back with a kind of nostalgia for the old days. It wasn’t a perfect place by any means, but as a kid living on a ranch as we call them out west I was free to run with my imagination building forts out of prune bins, rolling out mansions in the wild mustards, and setting up a lemonade business that I was convinced would make me rich. I could get on my bike when the sun came up and ride around the county roads until the sun began to set. No one worried about kids playing in the fields or riding bikes or swimming in the canals. Well, strike that bit about the canals. I got in a heap of trouble for that. Especially the time my friends and I tried to water ski in one of the canals with a car pulling the rope. It was stupid, but damn was it fun.
For me and for so many living there, the mountains to the west, the Sutter Buttes, signaled home. They are the smallest complete mountain range in the world. Originally home to the Maidu, they are now privately owned and home to cattle ranchers and old ranching families.
As a kid I played on these mountains, and as a teenager I drank beer there and made out with boys. As a young adult I hiked the mountains, researched their history and gave conference papers about them and wrote articles for the local historical society.
Now I gaze at a lovely framed picture I have of them, one my sisters gave me when I finished graduate school, and follow various local photographers who seek to capture their ever changing landscape.
Here’s a recent picture whose caption reads: “The Geese are starting to arrive to the Yuba-Sutter area for their annual migration typically Oct-Dec.” It’s a gorgeous shot by Jonathon Beth www.facebook.com/Jonathanbeth.photography.
While the people and the town will change, the Buttes will always be there to remind me this place was home.