Saturday, May 21, 2011


AS KIDS, WE VISITED BUCKS LAKE and stayed in the Greg’s family’s chalet. Greg was a neighbor kid. I hadn’t been to the cabin in forty years. But on a motorcycle ride up into Plumas County, my brother insisted we drop in.

Uncle Wilbur was out front, cutting willows. His deep blue eyes belied any trace of now being in his mid-eighties. With fewer than a couple of hints, Wilbur remembered us.

“How’s your dad?”

“Gone,” as were many of Uncle Wilbur’s contemporaries.

“Oh, well, want a beer?” He walked us up the path to the house past the rock pool fed by ice water from the spring up the hill – the pool in which generations of family and visitors chilled beer and pop and watermelon. Wilbur scooped out two bottles and reached in for a third.

“Thanks, but not if we’re riding.”

“Mind if I do?” he asked, placing two Millers back in the pool and adding with a twinkle: “Champagne of bottle beers!”

INSIDE, GREG’S MOM AND SISTER were preparing to head home after another pleasant weekend at the lake. Inspection of the interior revealed minimal changes. Wood stove still serviceable for cooking. Shiplap pine interior siding stained, or merely aged, nearly golden. Oval woven rug on the floor.

I looked out an expansive window recalling running toward the lake and taking a knee-barking header on the path, as well as my unsuccessful attempt to learn to water ski. I remembered the outhouse that had preceded indoor plumbing and the particular use of the stack of old Reader’s Digests cached therein.

“Where’s the privy?”

“The Forest Service made us take ‘er down.” Uncle Wilber reported with a shake of the head. “We tossed it over there in the willows.”

A glance at a watch. Approaching noon. Miles yet to travel this day.

WILBUR VAUGHAN accompanied my brother and me back down the path toward where our motorcycles waited. Along he way, with the hand not toting the bottle of Miller, he picked up his long-handled loppers as if readying himself to reengage with the willows.

“Pace yourself,” Bill said as we walked down the path to the road, hoping Uncle wouldn’t over-do it trimming the thicket.

“Oh, I’m not going to have another beer until I finish this one.” He set the pruners next to a pile of brush and held up his nearly spent Miller High Life. Then, with blue eyes flashing like the young man he once and always was, he whispered: “Champagne!”


NOTE: Wilbur Vaughan, a California native and lifelong skier who was recognized as the father of Bucks Lake Wilderness, died Tuesday [May 17] of old age, his family said. He was 87.

Read more:

1 comment:

  1. "Not gonna have another 'til I finish this one."
    RIP Uncle Wilber and thanks for Bucks Lake