Saturday, January 10, 2009


A travel guidebook would call California’s far-north picturesque. I could be happy living up there in a small house in a small town, close to where the Trinity Mountains merge with the Cascade Range.

Dorris, near the Oregon border, looked like a nice kind of town to stop in for breakfast, so at the Dew Drop Inn Café I settled myself at the counter, and the slim waitress handed me a dog-eared menu. I ordered scrambled eggs, biscuits, and fried potatoes.

The counter had four stools. There were also five tables, all of them occupied by big men wearing overalls. Every man looked at me when I entered. Not a friendly look, not an unfriendly look. Just a probing look, as if they were collectively thinking, who is this jasper?

So I nodded to them. From my stool I could see into the open kitchen where a woman was sliding a tray of fresh-baked biscuits out of the oven.

The eggs were fresh. The biscuits were fluffy and brown on top. The potatoes weren’t your everyday packaged hash browns, machine-processed to resemble shoestrings, but were honest chunks that had been cut by hand. They were crispy on the outside and creamy inside.

“I’m Loreen,” the waitress said, refilling my coffee mug.

“Hello, I’m Jack.”

“Loreen Larue.”

Larue. That sounds French.”

“I don’t know ‘bout that, hon,” she said, winking. “I think I got a little Indian in me.”

I didn’t wink back.

Loreen had a pretty face, and she was talky. She said when she wasn’t doing breakfasts at the café, she was out working potatoes.

I asked, “How do you work potatoes?”

“That’s mostly what gets grown around here,” she said, waving to the guys at the tables. They stopped watching me.

“Potatoes and then some.” Loreen said.

“I drive a truck from the fields to the sheds, then when they’re not harvesting I drive fertilizer.”

I nodded encouragingly.

“We get our potatoes in the café cheaper than wholesale. And everyone sure eats lots of them.”

He jaw muscles worked in time with mine as she watched me chewing.

“They go everywhere, our potatoes. We even ship seed to Holland and other parts. Good people around here. Couldn’t find much better anywhere. All potato people, clear down to Shasta.”

I told her I had heard of some mysterious individuals who lived on or in the mountains. Some were said to be highly evolved beings superior to humans. Another bit of lore said that Mount Shasta was a vortex inhabited by the spirit chief Skell, who descended from heaven to the mountain’s summit.

“The Numerians, you mean,” she said.

“I thought they were called Lemurians,” I said. “But they can’t be Lemurians because Lemuria was an ancient civilization that existed in the South Pacific.

“Yep,” she said. “Them Numerians are the ones.” She took a deep breath.

“They’re little people. No higher than my hip. They live in caves and tunnels that go all through the mountain, you see.”

I nodded.

“Originally they were outcasts from Indian tribes that lived down in the valley. People thought they had something wrong with them, or had done something wrong, and that’s why they were little.”

“Um,” I said, to keep her going, and because my mouth was full.

“The tribes were afraid of them and cast them out. “So they banded together and dug into the mountains. Once in a while some of them will come down to Weed or Shasta City for supplies. And do you know what?”

I didn’t know what, but I was hooked, and Loreen knew it. I listened attentively.

She leaned toward me conspiratorially, her eyes flicking from my face to the dwindling mound of fried potatoes on my plate.

“They pay for everything with gold. Then they disappear up into the mountain again.”

She sat back, pleased with my awed look.

“Gold.” I said.

“Yep. And that’s not all. A few winters ago a sixty-year-old lady went skiing by herself and got lost. A month later she wandered into town. The clinic gave her a medical exam, and you know what?”


“They said she had the body of a twenty-year old.”

I nodded, and wiped my place clean with the last bit of biscuit.

“You want some more, hon? We do seconds on the potatoes.”

“No thanks. Everything was really good, but I’m full.”

“You see, them Numerians found that old lady lying in the snow, and they took care of her. They know how to do herbs and minerals to make all kinds of medicine and cures.”

I was impressed.

“The body of a twenty-year old,” Loreen said, in a hushed voice.

I finished my coffee.

“A while back there was an eight-year-old boy here named Jesse who went missing up there on the mountain. He was backward, but a real sweet kid. Everyone liked him, even if he wasn’t able to talk. For two years no one ever heard of him. Then one day Jesse showed up in town. Just as healthy and happy as you can imagine. Only he had the intelligence of a forty-year-old man. And he was talking several languages.

I asked what languages.

“The Numerians had found him, and taken him in, and taught him all kinds of things about the mountains.”

“Is the boy still around?”

She shook her head.

“They’re good folks, the Numerians. Don’t bother anyone, and they help people who get into trouble or get lost in the mountains.”

Loreen was interesting, and she seemed to know all the legends of the region. I asked her about Bigfoot.

“Bigfoot,” she said. “You see, there’s not just one but several that wanders around Hayfork, west of Red Bluff. The original Bigfoot was a retarded child that had been turned out to die. But instead of dying he grew to be a giant. Lots of hair all over him, and strong as a bull. One day he kidnapped an Indian girl, and they had some babies together that were huge. That’s why there’s more than one.”

I said that a couple of days earlier I had driven through a tidy company town that had been built for workers at the lumber mill.

“McCloud,” she said.

“Well, in a logging camp over by McCloud some men were pestering a Bigfoot who had wandered in. Why, he chased off those men by picking up some fifty-gallon oil drums and throwing them like they was basketballs.”

“Yes,” I said.

“Bats, too,” she said.


Giant bats. There are giant bats in the area. They come from some underground city. Scientists from the university are investigating them. Two-foot wingspans. Big enough to carry off a baby. They may be vampires, but a live one hasn’t been captured yet, so the scientists can’t be sure.”

I paid for my breakfast, and thanked Loreen for all the information.

“You be careful now,” Loreen said.

As I headed for the door, two of the men at the tables nodded at me.

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