Dirt is dollars in Northern California

Thank you God, for letting me live another day. After that meeting I attended earlier this week, I must say I was in a pretty cranky mood. 

Sometimes you have to turn your crank on, or people will continue to step on your feet. But I have to get myself out of these moods pretty fast, or everything loses it’s taste, life looks bleak all the time. It’s a good idea to remind yourself what life is about – living!

Out in Glenn County the dirt is rolling up in plumes from the valley floor – prune harvest is over, and now it’s time to get the nuts. I think rice harvest is next, I can’t remember. It’s a dusty time of year, but that’s like complaining that your hands get dirty when you count your money. Ag is still King around here.

While total tonnage is expected to be down this year, the prunes look good, and the dry conditions mean the sugar will be concentrated. 


When I was a little kid, we went to prune harvest with our neighbors, who had a daughter our age. They just wanted companionship for Rhonda, but we still had to work or get left at home. We were given buckets and rags tied around our heads to keep the dust out, we’d follow the prune shaker and pick up the prunes the sheet left piled around the trunk of the tree. That was big work for 7 – 8 year olds, we got $1.50 an hour as long as we kept shagging those buckets into that prune box. By 11am, we were shagged out, and Mrs. Rice would drop us off with my Gramma the rest of the day. My grandfather drove the prunes to whichever dryer was paying good, so sometimes we finished the day out in the seat of his old truck. 

The lady at the Colusa dryer would always give us a bag of freshly-dried prunes, still warm from the dryer. Let me tell you something people, you have not had a prune until you have tasted it “fresh off the line.” The smell is enough to make your mouth water, and they just melt in your mouth. My grandma always kept a box of store-bought Sunsweet prunes in the cupboard, she used them in baking, but we never ate them. We would wait for prune harvest to come around every year, and we’d eat ourselves sorry. 

Prunes are good off the tree too, but don’t eat too many of those either. I remember spending a lot of late summer evenings at the kitchen counter, being dosed up with bicarbonate of soda from eating too much fruit off various trees. Ah, childhood!

Prunes are good for throwing too, better and handier than dirt clods. There’s a guy who works at Chico State – hey Lee, I still owe you a prune right in the middle of the forehead Buddy! One of these days! 

My grandparents had a nice stand of English walnut trees, they are shaken like prunes. Same with almonds. We worked nut harvest too – which was more fun, it was social and casual. You’d follow the shaker from ranch to ranch, and the rancher would be giving out little pieces of paper – “chits” – for each full bag you’d bring in. When you were done you’d hand the chits to his wife and she’d pay you cash standing right there. My uncle would load us kids up in the car and off we’d  go to follow the shaker – kept us out from under Gramma’s feet all morning, and we’d have money for the Four Corners for weeks.  My uncle would walk along ahead of us with a rake, rake the nuts into piles. We kids would come along with our little buckets. Each little mob had their own burlap sack to fill, the full sack being worth (are you ready) a whopping 75 cents. Hey, a candy bar was only about 15 cents in those days. 

It was the life of kings and queens, as far as we were concerned.

Another aspect of our culture is Silver Dollar Speedway. My daddy raced stock cars at the speedway when I was a tiny tot. 


This is Gold Cup weekend, a big moneymaker for the city of Chico. Five days of action, and I mean, out-of-towners spending money at hotels, restaurants, bars, liquor stores, Chico Mall, The Tackle Box, etc.  Artoberfest my ass!  The race track is real economic development, and they don’t get a dime of community grant funding, go figure.

This is what Northern California means to me, like a local landscape business says on their commercials: “We work hard so we can play on the weekends!” 










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