Sunday, April 03, 2016
By Stephen L. Wilmeth
California Gold Rush days must have been magical.
California before the crush of people period had to have been magical. Pick any time of the year, but maybe springtime is the most impressive. If you have never been to California in the spring, it is a place of wonder. I can remember standing in the San Francisco Airport on a particular early morning spring day looking across the Bay to the Oakland Hills thinking that if God ever made a better cow country he must have kept it for himself. There was probably not another person in the whole city that comprehended what made such an emotional impact on me. It gave me goosebumps.
I suspect it was the same for Henry Miller, California’s Cattle King, when he first saw the San Joaquin Valley from the ridgeline west of Los Banos. He told his guide that he wanted to “own that”. The guide thought he was talking about the immediate nearby view, but Mr. Miller was talking about … the entire Central Valley.
The Jehus cometh
The combination of California gold and spring made even Mark Twain a bit tongue tied.
It was a time of high drama when poor men could become rich men overnight. Entrepreneurial spirit was at feverish pitch and a new and wonderful culture was exploding. Transportation was a necessity in the big western slope country and stage lines quickly filled the voids. From the Gold Country to the Bay and from the Bay in every direction new routes were started and business flourished.
When the stage lines arrived, a cadre of personalities arose to match the mythical surroundings. They were stage coach drivers and became a study of fascination and intrigue. They even developed a statement of fashion. The long linen dusters that became symbolic of spaghetti westerns and urban cowboy pretense were actually the invention of the stage coach drivers. They were very practical and served as head to feet protection not the least of which was dust protection from the well traveled routes.
The drivers adopted a low crown, flat brim hat sometimes referred to as “wide awake” hats. They normally wore their pants tucked into tall leather boots, and their occupation profile was topped off with long gauntlet gloves.
The most famous drivers attained star quality akin to modern day athletes.
Hank Monk was a most famous Gold Country driver. There is a reference about Hank that declared he was “the whitest, biggest hearted, and best known driver in the West”.
George Monroe was known by the outgrowth of a colloquial name, Whip, for the whips used and more specifically the general skill of using them. Monroe drove for the Yosemite Stage and Turnpike Company in the Merced River country. Several presidents including Grant, Garfield, and Hayes were among his most famous passengers. One of them suggested he was “the Knight of the Sierras” and the “greatest of them all”!
Clark Foss was renowned by driving through the 35 turns in the “The Hogback” from Healdsburg in 14 minutes. “Old Foss” contributed to the mystique of the best of his profession that gave rise to the use of the name Jehu for his colleagues and contemporaries.
Jehus indeed suggested the daring and devil may care attitudes and nonchalance of their apparent professional skills, but it also evolved through time to suggest something more condescending. “Jehus”, collectively, became more akin to hoodlums and ne’er-do-wells in modern parlance. It was used fairly regularly in the days of my grandparents when they leveled verbal blasts at us.
“Hey, you Jehus knock that off before you get a whipping” or “You Jehus get in here and wash your hands and face and comb your hair before supper!” they would order us.
If we had only known what the reference actually meant … we would have tried harder to be a bit more flamboyant!
‘Gotch-eyed’ Parkhurst, Phineas Banning, and Foghorn’s Crew
The widening chasm between fame and gutter in the use of the term was best exemplified in the personalities of ‘Gotch-eyed’ Parkhurst and Phineas Banning.
Phineas Banning was a strikingly good looking fellow who drove and eventually owned and operated stages from the Kern River in the south end of the San Joaquin to Yuma. He became not only an astute businessman but an effective political leader. He was a founding director and administrator of the Port of Los Angeles and the city of Banning was named after him. He was the model of success and good fortune.
Charley, or ‘Gotch-eyed,’ Parkhurst was a smooth faced rather rotund driver that was known to be a good hand with horses and a safe if not daring Jehu that drove the Santa Cruz to Watsonville route. Ol’ ‘Gotch-eyed’ would tip one with the lads following a run and then always retire to tend the horses. Charlie was certainly on the leading edge of California history when the signature of Charles Parkhurst appeared on the “Great Register” and the first votes were cast when California became a state. That was all fine and dandy until ‘Gotch-eyed’ succumbed and was laid out on the morgue slab to be prepped for burial.
To the great surprise (and disappointment of several) Charlie turned out to be Charlotte! The fact was confirmed as Jehu and citizen alike traipsed through the mortuary analyzing the exposed evidence. It could not be denied. He was a she. Not only had Charlotte succeeded in hiding her gender she had voted illegally. Women were not allowed to vote in that first California election!
That naturally leads to the matter of Senator Mitch (Foghorn) McConnell and his modern band of partisan Jehus.
They, too, can be identified by their professional attire. The esteemed congress of crows, at least those that can be determined normal male gender countenance, wear dapper custom tailored suits and the most senior have more than an enviable supply of shop made shoes. Their hair is coiffed to perfected stylishness and their built to order shirts are subjected to near heavy starch on a regular basis.
Like their counterparts of old California, they disperse in every direction from the center of the universe, Washington DC, to strut their stuff as Knights of the Sacred Realm for their subjects to observe and admire. As if bookend revelations are repeated historically, though, ‘Gotch-eyed’ and Phineas had nothing on these Jehus that sit on Congressional Chamber pots.
What we see and hear … ain’t what would appear if their entire body of work was laid out on a cold slab to be studied in raw relief.
My Grandfather would wince in spasms of horror if he heard me declare, “These Republican Jehus are losing me!”
Albert Wilmeth was registered in the Cliff precinct in the number two slot among only 16 Republicans on the voting registry. He baptized me in fire when I suggested as a nine year old kid that Everett Dirkson made a good speech at the 1960 Democratic convention.
“You tell me what he said,” he ordered. “He said a lot of words and not a single one made a lick of sense.”
The problem has become the same thing can now be said for the majority party and their fiduciary corruption. Indeed, they have become not visionary leaders but “clever solutionists” trying to maintain pathetic relationships with some make believe higher body of judges. The committee work for the 2017 budget is the case in point.
The party of supposed fiscal discipline is now the party of runaway spenders. They are acting as if the 2014 elections never happened. The matter boils down to a couple of general themes. The first is this hapless majority party is still trying to manufacture conservative ideals through the budget process by attempting to attach riders that are intended to pacify the opposition by allowing more money to be appropriated for liberal programs for the trade of embedded conservative principles.
The second theme is there has been absolutely no altered trajectory for meteoric spending that gravitates back to policies that are absolutely killing the West. New Speaker Ryan and Foghorn are content to legislate steady increases of $50B per year as if the national debt doesn’t exist.
These Jehus are so inept they are ignoring the 2011 Budget Control Act. It would peg the 2017 appropriations bills at $1.04T. Instead, they are electing to placate the liberals with the $1.07T that John Boehner engineered through the 2015 Bipartisan Budget Act debacle.
‘Gotch-eyed’ Parkhurst lived a life of cultural deceit by masquerading as a man in order to vote in the first California election. Foghorn and his crew of Jehus are not even in the same universe. They are masquerading as fiscally responsible leaders blindly overseeing inevitable and catastrophic doom.
Didn’t they get the memo?
Stephen L. Wilmeth is a rancher from southern New Mexico. “These Republican Jehus are once again demonstrating zero leadership in choosing and managing priorities.”