Jan. 13, 1907
The Times takes a light, humorous look at the destructive wanderings of Eaton Wash: a docile stream, if not entirely dry, most of the year, turned into a churning monster by heavy rains.
â€œThe little river that makes so much trouble lives somewhere in the fastness of Eatonâ€™s Canyon during the summer months,â€ The Times says. â€œIn the rainy season it always comes prowling out for a wild outing.
â€œNot having a respectable bed like other rivers, it comes bursting down from the mountains and goes wherever anyone will let it go.
â€œWhen the rains began this year, it stole trustfullyâ€”undiscouraged by its previous disappointmentsâ€”down from the mountains.
â€œIt sneaked on a pleasant-looking ranch in the valley. And the farmer found it thereâ€”as it covered about half his ranchâ€”and rushed out with shovels and teams and turned it back on someone elseâ€™s ranch.
â€œAnd the ranchman who owns this second ranch on which it was driven came out in a rage and shook his fist, bellowing: â€˜Here, come and take back your old river. It canâ€™t stay on my place.â€™ And he said other things.â€
The engineers of the Southern Pacific railroad built a massive culvert to protect the tracks from washing out. But another neighbor, Annie Adams, hired men to turn the fences on her 36-acre ranch into a barrier.
â€œThe only way for the river to get on Miss Adamsâ€™ ranch was to jump the fence,â€ The Times says.
â€œAnyone familiar with the eccentricities [of the river] can guess readily enough what happened then,â€ The Times says. â€œThat fine and elegant new culvert of the railroad company lasted about a minute.â€
More men and teams of horses built a barrier of sandbags to stop the river. â€œIt went. It rippled forlornly down the side of the high embanked track trying to find a hole through the sandbag dikeâ€”but nothing doing.
â€œThen it came to a long, hard, fascinating looking strip of road leading through the middle of the little town of Savannah. It turned down this road with a little gurgle of joy,â€ The Times says.
â€œAnd the things that it did to that county road is enough to make the county supervisors weep in anguish.
â€œIt was a beautiful oiled roadâ€”smooth and flat and even. The river gouged out chuckholes as deep as a well. It made ruts in which you could drydock a ship. It ruined several hundred dollarsâ€™ worth of highway in less time than it takes to write it.â€
Lawsuits followed and a committee was appointed to pick a course for the river. But none of the ranchers wanted the river on his property.
â€œIn the end, the court will undoubtedly select a straight, direct route, with the proper angle and fall and slope from the canyon to the river, and order a right of way condemnedâ€”let it cross whose ranch it may,â€ The Times says.
Bonus factoid: The story uses the phrase “No. 23 skiddoo,” which I’ve always associated with the 1920s. Apparently the anonymous writer was ahead of his time.
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