Several times, also, have I seen porcupines, one of them, weighing fully twenty-five pounds, on the slopes of Mt. Watson, waddling along as if he were a small bear. They live on the tender bark of the mountain and tamarack pines, sometimes girdling the trees and causing them to die. They are slow-gaited creatures, easily caught by dogs, but with their needle spines, and the sharp, quick-slapping action of their tails, by means of which they can thrust, insert, inject—which is the better word?—a score or more of these spines into a dog’s face, they are antagonists whose prowess cannot be ignored.
Very few people would think of the porcupine as an animal destructive to forest trees, yet one of the Tahoe Forest rangers reports that in the spring of 1913 fifty young trees, averaging thirty feet high, were killed or ruined by porcupines stripping them of their bark. Sometimes as many as ninety per cent. of the young trees growing on a burned-over area are thus destroyed. They travel and feed at night, hence the ordinary observer would never know their habits.
The bushy-tailed woodrat proves itself a nuisance about the houses where it is as omnivorous an eater as is its far-removed cousin, the house rat. The gopher is one of the mammals whose mark is more often seen than the creature itself. It lives like the mole in underground burrows, coming to the surface only to push up the dirt that it has been digging.
THE SQUAW VALLEY MINING EXCITEMENT
The Tahoe region was once thrilled through and through by a real mining excitement that belonged to itself alone. It had felt the wonderful activity that resulted from the discovery of the Comstock lode in Virginia City. It had seen its southern border crowded with miners and prospectors hurrying to the new field, and later had heard the blasting and picking, the shoveling and dumping of rocks while the road from Placerville was being constructed.
It had seen another road built up from Carson over the King’s Canyon grade, and lumber mills established at Glenbrook in order to supply the mines with timbers for their tunnels and excavations, as the valuable ore and its attendant waste-rocks were hauled to the surface.
But now it was to have an excitement and a stampede all its own. An energetic prospector from Georgetown, El Dorado County, named Knox, discovered a big ledge of quartz in Squaw Valley. It was similar rock to that in which the Comstock silver was found in large quantities. Though the assays of the floating-rock did not yield a large amount of the precious metals, they showed a little—as high as $3.50 per ton. This was enough. There were bound to be higher grade ores deeper down. The finder filed his necessary “locations,” and doubtless aided by copious draughts of “red-eye” saw, in swift imagination, his claim develop into a mine as rich as those that had made the millionaires of Virginia City. Anyhow the rumor spread like a prairie fire, and men came rushing in from Georgetown, Placerville, Last Chance, Kentucky Flat, Michigan Bluff, Hayden Hill, Dutch Flat, Baker Divide, Yankee Jim, Mayflower, Paradise, Yuba, Deadwood, Jackass Gulch and all the other camps whose locators and residents had not been as fortunate financially as they were linguistically.