Saturday, July 19, 2014

True stories of the Sierra Nevada


Gary Noy was born in Grass Valley in 1951 and, in later years, taught history at Sierra Community College in Rocklin for decades. He is the founder of the Sierra College Center for Sierra Nevada Studies and published, with Rick Heide, “The Illuminated Landscape: A Sierra Nevada Anthology.”

Now he’s taking up his own pen to bring to light some of the lesser-known events and personalities of the area. “Sierra Stories: Tales Of Dreamers, Schemers, Bigots, and Rogues” ($17 in paperback from Heyday/Sierra College Press; also for Amazon Kindle) also includes more than 60 historic photographs.

The book begins in the author’s home town. “There is a curious little street, basically an overgrown alley, dark, shadowy, and exotic, that leads up the hill toward the Empire Mine grounds in Grass Valley. It is called Kate Hayes Street.” It turns out Catherine “Kate” Hayes was born in Limerick, Ireland in 1818 and in 1849 sang for Queen Victoria in Buckingham Palace.

A few years later she toured the U.S., traveling to California’s gold fields in 1851. “With his unerring sense of how to make a buck, the great showman P.T. Barnum sponsored her tour. She was billed as ‘The Swan of Erin,’” competing in fame with Jenny Lind, “the Swedish Nightingale.”

John Bidwell makes a brief appearance or two, but the book focuses more on out-of-the-way stories, like the “1911 Tahoe Tavern Automobile Race” or the story of Scotsman George Anderson, who wanted to climb the slick surface of Half Dome.

He tried to scale the final grade in his bare feet when boots were too slippery, and eventually packed sacking around his feet, covering it with pitch from nearby trees, and then “the pine-pitch-plastered Anderson began drilling holes in the granite and inserting iron eyebolts through which he looped a climbing rope.” He made it to the top in 1875.

Lyon Books in Chico will be hosting a signing and slide show with Gary Noy this Thursday, July 17 at 7:00 p.m.

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