Big Creek

For the first decade of my life, my family lived in the area of Big Creek in the Sierra National Forest, where my Dad worked for the Edison Company.

I have wonderful memories of our time living in the mountains, hiking, fishing, swimming in cold mountain pools, and exploring the mountain paths near our home. This was great adventure for me since I imagined the footpaths we followed to be trodden by few white men. Adding to the adventures, it was quite common in those days to find Indian artifacts whenever venturing afield.

While on an outing with our Sunday school class, we once discovered an Indian burial ground. Gravesites in the area were distinguishable by stones piled presumably to prevent wild animals from disturbing the buried remains. I later returned to the site with my sister Peggy, and my brother Ralph, to conduct our own minor archeological excavation.

In fairness, the method of discovery of the Indian burial ground is in dispute since my younger brother Ralph remembers finding the place himself while out exploring with our Collie dog, Teddy. Since Ralph would have been only five at the time, and considering snakes, scorpions and wild animals that populated the woods, it seems unlikely our mother would have allowed Ralph to explore alone so far from home.

Regardless of our method of discovery, we were unaware, in our youthful ignorance, of any prohibition against digging up ancient bones so we selected a grave and proceeded with great energy. Once the covering stones were removed, we dug down several feet and discovered a crude sarcophagus fashioned from irregular pieces of granite slabs.

The tomb was divided into two sections, one compartment containing the remains of a human and a larger adjacent compartment held bones that looked to me like those of a horse. With the human bones, we found small pieces of some kind of white shiny stones buried in a circular pattern as though they had once been trinkets on a necklace. The pieces looked as if they were made by chipping away in the same way Indians made arrowheads. Each piece had a hole in the center, but whatever material they had been strung on, if they were strung, was long gone.

Interestingly, my brother Ralph remembers the human bones but refutes any evidence of horse bones, while my sister Peggy remembers finding trinkets but has no recollection of finding bones. Memory and time does seem to alter the facts of any situation but Ralph and Peggy were both quite young at the time. Since I was the oldest, and since they individually confirm various parts of the adventure, I stand behind my own version as 'factual'.

Years later, I described our puerile adventure to a friend, Dr. Jordan E. Detzer. Dr. Detzer, who was a published author and had an interest in Archeology, told me that to his knowledge, there were no known instances of North American Indians being buried with their mounts. In October of 1980, I received a letter from Dr. Detzer regarding our earlier conversation. The Doctor had discussed our discovery with his son Ronald and they wanted to plan a weekend excursion to the site. Unfortunately, the year passed and we never made the trip.

Finally, the time came for our family to return to the lower elevations of California's Southland. It was distressful, at the tender age of twelve, moving from our mountain home to Gardena, but the move taught me an important lesson in life, to embrace change as an adventure. I soon discovered life in Gardena had its own advantages. Living near the beach communities provided limitless new opportunity for adventure--which for me, has remained a way of life ever since.

Stories of Philip A. Mehan - Written by Scott Dawes © 2005-2009