Living Under The Gun

A few years ago I was attending one of those typical Nevada City City Council meetings where the topic of discussion was how to make Nevada City a better place to live. Most of the suggestions centered around the usual gripes; homeless persons camping in doorways, smoking, trash on the sidewalks, lack of parking, etc. But one forward thinking woman had a complaint I hadn’t heard before. She seemed to believe that the old monitor cannon that sits in Calanan Park was a detriment to the community and was probably hindering tourism. Why? Because it looks like a gun. She argued that our oversized squirtgun was the first thing that visitors see when they exit the freeway and turn left up Broad Street, and well, it was threatening.

Sometime later I was talking to a group of young progressive-minded citizens who seemed to agree with the notion that we shouldn’t be glorifying our environmentally insensitive mining past. I countered that the monitor and the other relics scattered around the village were actually trophies of the first great victory over hydraulic mining: the Sawyer Act. It was that historical ruling that ended the degradation of California’s rivers and the threat to agriculture and navigation in the valley below.

They smiled in agreement, but underneath it was obvious that if it was within their power to erase every vestige of mineral extraction in the Golden State, they would do it in a New Age second.

Big guns are the issue again after the horrific events that took place in Connecticut. The outrage is understandable in light of the young innocent lives that were snuffed out in a fit of mental illness and the careless storage of lethal firearms. The debate over gun ownership has been raging here in Nevada County as well. Whatever happens at the federal level will no doubt be miniscule compared to new restrictions I expect to see from our representatives in Sacramento, egged on by Senators Boxer and Feinstein.

And locally, perhaps the issue of the offending monitor will come up again, but we have a much bigger problem, which I have brought to light in the crude illustration above. We are living in the biggest gun in California. If people think that the old water cannon will scare enlightened tourists away, think of how they will react when they look at us on a map.

“Holy Gaia, Shirley! That county looks like a big derringer! The place must be overrun with gun nuts. We’d better avoid that place.”

What can we do to improve our geographical image? Perhaps it’s time to break up Nevada County. Cede the barrel to Placer or Sierra County, and leave us with an undistinguishable butt. Truckee has never really fit in with us anyway, and I’m sure they’d be much happier in a county that more resembles a Rorschach blob. Even then, there will probably be those who see something evil in the shape. In modern America it’s become impossible to please everyone.

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31 Responses to Living Under The Gun

  1. Todd Juvinall says:

    I have told people we live in the county that looks like a derringer for most of life. There is no trigger though, maybe we cpould get Placer County to cede some property and put one in.

  2. Ben Emery says:

    The history of the town is just fine as long it stays history. Reopening the mine is idiotic idea. As you said in one of your interviews, your dad or uncle told you the mines treated the mules better than the workers. Nothing to repeat in my opinion. Those who like to romanticize the mining history leave out the human factor in their revision tales.
    I know the book Angle of Repose has Grass Valley roots but another good book about the mining era of the west is Tomboy Bride, focuses on Southwest Four Corner region.

    • rl crabb says:

      While mining (and fracking) are probably best located in unpopulated areas, the idea that we could do without it is ludicrous. Where will you get the materials for the coming fleet of battery powered cars? How about solar panels? Maybe we should just import all those raw materials so we look like we’re being responsible stewards of the planet even if we’re not. And as for revisionist history, keep in mind that the gold and silver mined in the 1800’s helped win the civil war. Money backed by precious metals was much more reliable than the empty promises we currently endorse.

      • Greg Goodknight says:

        RL China will be happy to operate the mines to extract all the stuff Ben doesn’t want extracted here. They’ll also be happy to make all the stuff made with that stuff, and sell it to us.

        That may slow down if they stop lending us the money to buy it.

        In related news, it’s been reported that a mail order sporting goods store has, in one 72 hour period, sold enough large capacity magazines to account for an expected three years of sales. Congratulations, all, Obama, Biden and DiFi may well be the salesmen of the year for all arms manufacturers and winner of the NRA recruitment drive.

    • TD Pittsford says:

      “…the mines treated the mules better than the workers.” This may have been true in the 30’s and 40’s, Mr. Emery, but things are quite different today. Wouldn’t you agree that there is a great deal more oversight now than there was then? Considering that, opening the mines may not be so idiotic after all, but economically beneficial. This county can’t exist on tourist dollars alone especially in this economy. I’m sure you are aware that Nevada County didn’t suffer as much as the rest of the nation during the Great Depression, not because of parking meter revenue, but because the mines were open and producing. Perhaps you may want to reconsider your position?

      • Ben Emery says:

        Generally big business or business that has the opportunity to make some big profits generally will cut any corner they can and employees wages, safety, and benefits are usually the first to be cut. Just look at the world’s largest employer, Walmart, and how they treat their employees and nothing more needs to be said.

    • Todd Juvinall says:

      BenE are you depressed? Can you not find anything good to say about things? Sheesh!

  3. Ryan Mount says:

    > that the monitor and the other relics scattered around the village were actually trophies of the first great victory over hydraulic mining: the Sawyer Act.

    That’s exactly correct. But people need (like?) devils. Even if the devils are dead, they’ll resurrect them just to kill them again.

    I suppose it gives well-meaning folk a sense of warrior accomplishment.

    Wonderful commentary RL, as always. Cheers.

  4. When we consider the past through politically correct spectacles, it’s always easy to find all kinds of egregious things that people did and how they behaved when, in a different time, they were building a country out of the wilderness.

  5. TD Pittsford says:

    It seems that there is a tendency, especially these days, to rewrite history or attempt to erase it altogether, all in the name of “political correctness.” This is irresponsible and reprehensible, and in the end, dangerous if not disastrous to the evolution of society. History is history, period. It is be studied, honored, debunked or denigrated, but never denied and certainly never edited. Regarding the hydraulic canon at the “gateway to Nevada City” the controversy is based on people’s perception, their opinions, rather than any educated sense of the significance of the artifact in question. The canon belongs exactly where it is. To remove it is an insult to the history of the Gold Country and the men and women of that era.

    • Judith Lowry says:

      Some folks in our county have proven to be very good at rewriting the history of the Nisenan People of the Foothills. They like to pretend that the “men and women of that era” committed no murders, rapes or theft of homelands during the rush for riches. They like to pretend that the world began in 1849. For the Nisenan People that is when the world, as they knew it for nine thousand years, ended.
      By all means, leave the cannon where it is. We should never be allowed to forget the atrocities against humanity it represents or the environmental toxic legacy we have yet to clean up.

      • rl crabb says:

        As Greg noted, guns and ammo are flying off the shelves right now. I seriously doubt that those people have designs on overthrowing the government. Rather, they see two ideologies that can’t even come to grips with a budget, much less figure out how to exist with each other, and they remember what happened to the defenseless Indians who trusted the Great White Father to protect them. When there’s loose talk about “crushing” the opposition, why would they believe otherwise?

        • Todd Juvinall says:

          I recall the book “Brave New World” where the survivor of the planet’s fiasco’s was a Arizona Indian.

        • Ben Emery says:

          My entire life I have been hearing how the democrats were going to take guns away. The fact of the matter is the D’s held control of the House for 40 straight years and even through the most progressive administrations of the FDR, Truman, Eisenhower, JFK, LBJ, and Carter no real legislation was ever proposed to take guns or ammo away from people. Since the 70’s we have seen a few pieces of legislation to limit what type of guns are available. It is a manufactured issue to get people to vote against their own best interests.

          • rl crabb says:

            You certainly are a trusting soul for someone who constantly complains about the corrupt two-party system. We have entered a new paradigm, one where government eyes and ears can monitor us through our devices any time they choose. Just because they are beneign today doesn’t mean that they will always be so.

    • steve cottrell says:


      Agreed. The people who lived in and around Nevada City during and after the gold rush were products of their time, and to them hydraulic mining seemed an OK way to collect gold. Many of the things they did and said in the 19th century –– including, as Judith correctly notes, their treatment of local Native Americans –– is reprehensible to folks in the 21st century, but I think there’s a way to balance and honor the past without sugar-coating the dark side.

      Take Aaron Sargent, the Nevada City pioneer who, in 1878, introduced the very words that would become the 19th Amendment in 1920. The bronze marker at his home on Broad Street says that he also wrote the nation’s first immigration law. Yes he did, but it became known as The Chinese Exclusion Act.

      Aaron Sargent was a flat-out racist when it came to the Chinese population, but he is seen today as a great progressive for working with his wife, Ellen, trying to give women the right to vote. Any serious historian has to recognize that Sargent had his imperfections. So did the miners who rushed in to the Deer Creek Basin. Miners in search of gold created an environmental nightmare, but, as RL notes, it was the gold of California and silver of Nevada that paid for the Civil War.

      What follows is something I sent to the city council when a Calanan Park Committee was toying with the idea of recommending removal of the monitor a couple years ago. You may not agree with all of it, but I hope you agree with its central theme:

      “I hear rumors that some or all members of the committee would like to remove the monitor because it represents a mining technique that devastated the environment and is not something we should be proud of. But a person coming to that conclusion is, in my opinion, looking at the proverbial half-empty glass of water.

      “Consider for a moment that the monitor also represents the first significant
      court decision ever rendered in this nation to protect the environment. The
      Sawyer Decision of 1884 was a landmark case; a decision that took Federal
      Circuit Court Judge Lorenzo Sawyer 3-1/2 hours to read into the record.

      “That monitor may represent negativity to some, but it also represents a
      positive advance in the progress of this area and the country. And in case some of the committee members didn’t know, Lorenzo Sawyer was a pioneer of Nevada City –– arriving here in 1850. He relocated to San Francisco for a short time, but then returned here to practice law for another couple years.

      “Lorenzo Sawyer was City Attorney of San Francisco; a justice of the California
      State Supreme Court (where he served as Chief Justice for two years); was the
      federal judge who, from 1870 until his death in 1891, headed what is now known as the U. S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit; was an original Trustee of Stanford University; and delivered the 1887 dedicatory speech when ground was broken for the first building on that campus.

      “To some the monitor might represent environmental destruction. To me, however, it also represents the wisdom and courage of a Nevada City pioneer who lived here during the early years of the gold rush but nevertheless had the guts to issue a decision that severely hurt the local economy but effectively ended one of the worst environmental disasters in the history of the United States.

      “Removing the monitor would, in my estimation, be tantamount to removing a
      marker at Manzanar because the camp was used to intern Japanese-Americans during World War II. As a nation, we have learned from our mistakes –– and hydraulic mining is such an example. I strongly urge you and your fellow committee members to retain the monitor as a lasting tribute to environmental progress –– not environmental devastation.”

      • rl crabb says:

        Thanks, Steve, but once again we are getting off the subject, which I originally intended as a metaphor (moniphor?) for some people’s perceptions of guns. While I agree that it’s time to tighten up the eligibility requirements and perhaps do away with massive clips, the idea that it will make any difference whatsoever is only in the minds of those who see guns the way the woman in NC does. It’s an illusion, and a dangerous one to boot. The genie’s out of the bottle, Eve’s eaten the apple, Pandora’s opened the box, and you can’t undo 200 years of guns in this country. Everyone with an ounce of sense knows that there are millions of them out there and that the horror of Newtown will unfortunately happen again.
        I also don’t see arming every yahoo on the street, but that maybe armed security for some high risk schools might help. (I wouldn’t expect that teachers would want to have a piece in every classroom, but a security guard might deter some of the nuts.) Just because it’s the NRA’s idea shouldn’t make it toxic.
        Mental health is the real culprit here, and expanding care might help some also, but where’s that money coming from?
        So until the government decides to confiscate every legal gun in the country and beat them into bulletproof clothing to protect us from every illegal gun in the country, we are stuck with reality.

  6. Ben Emery says:

    You guys might have noticed I was agreeing with you on the PC matter of the post.

    Where we differ in opinion is whether we will still be operating in 19th and 20th century business and economic paradigm or something drastically different. In the late 19th century and even up to 1920’s there was less than 2 billion people occupying the planet. Being reckless and irresponsible didn’t affect as many people directly or indirectly as it does today. In 2012 there is 7 billion people wanting the same finite resources with the developed nations taking a huge chunk of them despite being a much smaller segment of the global population. Within the next century this will not be the case and out of necessity we will forge a completely different operating paradigm. It is not being negative but actually being honest.

  7. Ben Emery says:

    I believe in people not institutions. I will admit that the levels of apathy when it comes to the stripping of our civil liberties has surprised me the last decade but the scare tactics “they” are going to take our guns and we won’t be able to fight back is nonsense. I will go back to this worn out but very true idea, the color of the skin of our sitting President is most definitely a factor for a pretty good chunk of this gun hysteria. For the record my vote didn’t go to Obama in November and it had everything to do with his record on civil liberties and human rights.

    • rl crabb says:

      Yeah, white people are a problem and we should do something about that. How about deportation?

      • Michael Anderson says:

        Maybe the white people will self-deport? That would save on transit costs.

      • Ben Emery says:

        No, I support the idea on not teaching racism and prejudice to our kids. No deportation needed.

        Those who hold the power in our nation like when poor white folks and poor brown folks teach their kids to fear the other. It makes keeping the masses divided and aimed at each other instead of the power that be much easier.

        The system that has been set up has finally started hitting the white middle aged and so called middle class segment of the population, which has started pushing back and they are called the Tea Party. Unfortunately this segment has been absent from the political injustices taking place over their entire lifetime and still believe the racism and prejudices that were taught to them as youngsters. When blue collar jobs are leaving the nation and middle aged workers are forced to compete with the group of people who traditionally worked low wage grunt labor jobs all of sudden they are hit with the unjust free marketeer/ trickle down reality put in place by the then millionaires and now billionaires, that their middle class lifestyle had more to do with privilege rather than talent. There is just and has always been as much talent in the poorest regions of our nation and world but the system in place doesn’t allow it to flourish without the permission of the powers that be. It is all playing out right before out eyes.

        This is a grim picture I have painted but it is the truth and the truth isn’t always pretty.

        • rl crabb says:

          Isn’t racism defined as painting a specific group of people with a broad brush? Ever been to a Tea Party meeting or talked to them as individuals? I have, and I have yet to meet anyone who fits your description. Oh, there are racists in there, I’m sure, and I don’t agree with many of their proposed ‘solutions’ to the nation’s ills, voter suppression being at the top of the list. By the way, I see a racist Tea Party-backed Governor (Indian-American) has nominated a racist Tea Party congressman (black) to be the next Senator from South Carolina. Sneaky, aren’t they?

          • Todd Juvinall says:

            BenE, please tell us what the Whites and the Reds did to each other in 1917-1921 Russia. Was that racism? They were all white yet murdered each other by the millions. Of course we know the Reds won.

          • Ben Emery says:

            I didn’t say all Tea Party are racists, what I said was racism is taught. Bob, I have at least as many acquaintances in the Tea Party as you do. Many of my close relatives are Tea Party members but once again you are shifting the meaning of my comment to the average person when it was aimed at the institution of the Tea Party and stirring the racist emotions that have been taught, not the members as individuals. I have been annually coaching multiple sports for nearly a decade in the county with 12-15 players on each team. Racism isn’t always overt, aggressive, or negative. Ask those at the Tea Party meetings who are the free loaders on welfare and see what answers you get. Do you know what group is the largest group of welfare recipients? There are plenty of liberal racists but they don’t realize it. A person who will state a stereotype as fact, even if it is meant as a compliment, is racist or prejudice. Or there is explicit racism that is denied. Such as the

            Traavon Martin case. The kid was walking home from a 7/11 with ice tea and skittles but was profiled, stalked, and then killed. Zimmerman’s race doesn’t matter it all has to do with Martin. Say Martin was a white teenager dressed identically behaving in the same way, walking down the street. Would he have been profiled as a threat? Now lets say he was carrying a gun and was dealing cocaine. Would have Zimmerman stalked, called 9/11, and assaulted him or would the white teenager just go on his merry way while Traavon Martin was doing nothing. There are just as many drugs, weapons, and crimes being done in all types of communities but our criminal justice system is log jammed with people of color. But the focus has become about Zimmerman’s right to use deadly force to protect himself. Wrong focus, it is why was Martin being followed in first place. I could give you thousands of examples of this but I know you are a smart man who already understands. But the Tea Party who claims to stand for liberty are silent on the authoritarianism thrust upon non whites in our country, why? Why is the Tea Party 95% plus white middle aged to elderly?

            The other case is Troy Davis who was put to death despite 7 of 9 witnesses recanting their testimonies.

            Check out this 5 minute documentary. I lived this out. For the record I have didn’t drink alcohol until I was 22, I have never partook in drugs at all due multiple reasons, and never dealt. I was harassed all the time growing up by the police in the Bay Area. Stopped at least 50 times without a single official charge. The routine was get stopped
            -I ask why
            – if in a car I am asked to get out and they rip everything out of the car why they interrogate me
            – if walking handcuffs come out and I am placed in the cop car
            – and after on average 45 minutes I would be told “your lucky we are letting you off with a warning today”. My response was “a warning for what, having friends of color”. I would be told to watch myself because they can do things to me.

            I educated myself on my Constitutional Rights and would push back because I had privileged of being white and could get away with it. Not because my family had money but because my family had been in the region for over a 100 years and we knew many people that were well known lawyers ect.. I was really pursued once on some bs thing and my dad made one phone call and the police bs stopped immediately.

          • Todd Juvinall says:

            RL is imminently smart enough to answer but I have to interject. BenE uses the old tried and true liberal strawman of, well, I never accused ALL the TP of being racist crap. Trayvon mugged Zimmerman and Zimmerman will win the case. Self defense. The Tea Part is not racist but apparently BenE’s relatives who are members are racists. Now we know why he twists the truth and tdoes the racist ropa=dope all the time.

          • Ben Emery says:

            Saying all members are racist would be making a stereotype as a statement now wouldn’t it.

            We are all racists at some levels because it is taught at every level of our lives. What we do with that learned value is what makes the difference. Allowing TP members at rally’s hold signs of President Obama depicted as a monkey is 100% racist and was actually defended. In fact they were sending emails about it.
            Now some will say it was meant to be private and a joke. Once again that is the wrong focus, the bigger picture it is extremely racist and perpetuating inferior themes by being equated with monkeys.

            Proposing and pushing the carry your papers AZ law to those who are brown is about as far from liberty and freedom as it gets. Again many many examples can be given. I know from being a lifelong activists if the group doesn’t condemn the things the radical fringe of the group are doing that fringe becomes the public persona. The national TP groups let the fringe define the national movement, which might be in conflict with the real grass roots groups.

            I will give you a story from my teenage years about some of my close relatives who I considered my second family and I love dearly. I wouldn’t consider them dangerous at all and actually would help just about anybody if they needed it. I would describe it as benign racism as individuals but dangerous when considered as a collective society/ culture. They were visiting family in Santa Clara and Monterey from around Nevada County area when they stopped by our house unannounced. My best friend was black and he literally lived at our house about 5 days a week. His family were crammed in a two bedroom apartment with 6 people, so he basically lived with us all through Jr High and High School. So my relatives knocked and my friend was first to the door. The look on my relatives faces cannot really be described and when I followed within seconds they came in the house and said “when did you guys get a servant”. Now this alone wouldn’t mean anything but one of the same relatives told me once he wasn’t prejudice because he had “nigger” friends. I don’t expect people who grew up in a lily white regions and never really have lived anywhere with diversity to comprehend just as I cannot comprehend daily life in Somalia. That last comment isn’t for RL but some others who post here. It isn’t about intelligence but experience.

            RL here is a cartoon for you on the AZ law.

            An AZ police officer of Navajo descent who speaks with an unfamiliar accent pulls over a SUV with a Tea Party sticker. The driver speaks with a Canadian accent. The officer then asks for the drivers birth certificate. The driver get irate since he is a naturalized citizen and asks the officer where was he born and from. The officer says the just outside of Page, AZ and his family has lived here for thousands of years. Last scene is the driver in a cell watching FOX talking about how unfair the Canadian driver is being treated and the officer needs to be fired.

  8. Ben Emery says:

    As for the being trusting of the corrupt unrepresentative government, what I wrote about the democrats controlling the house with very progressive administrations along with the Supreme Court is true. Most wedge issues are vote generators nothing more. Why didn’t the republicans during the few early years of the Bush administration take on Roe V Wade? They had control of the house, senate, executive, and supreme court but not a peep out of them on the issue. That is an issue that lays the golden egg for voter turnout election after election. I will say the insane Tea Party group in congress right now might actually take the issue on but they will have to win the civil war against the establishment in the republican party first.

    Gay rights was a democrat voter turnout wedge issue but Biden (now part of democratic leadership) in a moment of real honesty forced the democrats to give the wedge issue up and put it on their official platform in 2012. His office made an apology within days to the Obama administration on the remark. Gay rights had ballot victories all over the country this year because of it.

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