A couple of weeks ago I went to the Bodie Hills on National Public Lands Day to volunteer in a stewardship project to help protect natural and historic resources at Bodie State Historic Park. The arrival of 3 inches of fresh snow during the night didn’t chill or dampen the spirits of the 30 or so hardy volunteers plus various state and federal agency and NGO staff who came together at Bodie this day.
Signing in at the picnic area just east of Bodie.
Welcome, introductions, and safety talk … but enough
standing around—we’re ready to work!
We split into two groups. One went into Bodie (with State Park rangers and archaeologists) to clear sagebrush and rabbit brush that was growing too close to the walls of several historic buildings. But me, I joined the group going off to play with barbed wire.
Looking northwest from the cattle guard on Cottonwood Canyon Road.
A barbed-wire fence runs northwest-southeast between cattle guards on the two main roads entering Bodie: Bodie Road from Highways 270 and 395 to the west, and Cottonwood Canyon Road from Mono Basin to the south.
The fence is “redundant” now, because other fences keep livestock out of the larger Bodie Bowl area. It’s also a potential hazard to wildlife—particularly sage grouse who form leks in this area (leks are aggregations of males that perform strutting displays in early spring to compete for the attention of females).
So all we had to do was cut the barbed wire every 3rd or 4th post, roll it up, and carry the rolls back to trucks waiting at both ends. Three strands, each half a mile long, adds up to a lot of barbed wire.
There’s some technique involved in rolling up barbed wire. You begin by leaving a short “tail” of uncoiled wire to use in tying the coils together at intervals and at the end. You also alternate the wrapping of coils left and right to further lock the coils to prevent potentially injurious unraveling. You wear thick work gloves to keep the barbs from puncturing your own hide.
Our goal was to remove the T-stakes as well as the wire, using simple but strong stake-extraction tools. But the ground was still so hard after a long summer of drought (despite last night’s snowfall), that only a few of the stakes could be removed. Maybe next spring.
By early afternoon our task was completed and we headed back to Bodie for lunch and a private tour of the town.
A tasty barbeque for hungry volunteers.
Mildred Hoover (a.k.a Chris Spillerwill), wife of Standard Mill superintendent Theodore Hoover, gave us a private tour of the mill. She even offered us jobs paying $4.00 a day (12-hour shifts, 6 days a week)—running the stamp mills, painting mercury on the amalgamation plates, handling cyanide solutions, pushing rocks into jaw crushers, etc.
She said her brother-in-law, Herbert, who was also a mining engineer, would probably become president of his own company some day.
Thanks to the following for helping to organize a great event on National Public Lands Day!
Tim Messick Photography • Graphics
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