I have enjoyed writing articles for The Vidette over the past few years — and I still do, but I am getting a respite from creativity with the help of Charles H. Fattig. Last month he wrote an excellent article about our passing hero, Lauren F. Bruner. If you missed it, do yourself a favor and look it up online.
This month, Charles turned his attention to Wildcat Creek. Rather than feeding me information to create the article, Charles’ storytelling shines through, yet again. In his words:
“Once, many years ago, I was walking home from a hunt in the hills above Mohney’s Prairie. I came down across the meadow along side the middle fork of Wildcat Creek. I saw a great blue heron with something flopping on the bank. As I approached, the blue heron flew off. Momma from Heaven! He had caught a salmon freshly caught in the stream. I didn’t have any venison to take home, but it was my fabulous fortune to acquire a large salmon, thanks to my feathered friend. It was really an odd chance.
“I’ve been walking these hills and creeks for 44 years now. In those years I have seen a lot of wildlife in and along the banks of the Wildcat. I’ve seen otters, beavers, coyotes, ducks, herons, salmon, trout, etc. And twice I’ve have seen sea lions. Both times I saw them from the ol’ abandoned railroad bridge that leads up to the McCleary door factory on the east fork of Wildcat, during flood stage.
“It looked to me like they traveled in groups of three or four. My theory is that they were following and feeding on salmon. They are a very alert animal and will head away from you as soon as they see you, moving swiftly up or down stream.
“Now, in recent years Japanese knotweed has gotten started along the creek. If a small piece of it breaks loose and floats down the stream it will easily take root as it is very prolific. It can be sighted in many locations along the Wildcat between McCleary and Elma.
“The Department of Agriculture has declared it to be an invasive plant to be gotten rid of. I don’t know if their concern is valid. It has been my observations that knotweek blooms in September, just before winter sets in. Honey bees swarm all over it for the pollen as they know cold weather will soon be upon them and they must build up their food supply. The sweet-scented white blossoms and the humming of the busy bees dancing among the stems is pleasing to observe every autumn.
“Also, beaver make use of its tall stalks, often 6 feel long, to build their dams as it is good strong material for them to work with. If their dams wash out the beaver gets right in and rebuilds.
“No, I don’t know if Japanese knotweed is harmful along the Wildcat. Bees and beaver seem to get along fine with it. Perhaps they should be the ones to judge.”
Charles goes on to give a little history lesson: “Norman A. Porter, 1909-1966, was the editor of the McCleary Stimulator. He wrote that McCleary was built in a cedar swamp that gave rise to several meandering creeks loosely called ‘Upper Wildcat.’ Henry McCleary built a cedar shingle mill in the middle of the swamp in 1898 and mill workers and early tradesmen located near the mill. Just beyond the mill there was a large pond that was sort of a community skating rink whenever it froze over. It drained into the creek. Another big pond in those early days was in the yard of the Allen W. Teagle home, Norman’s grandfather. Norman’s mother, Ruth Teagle Porter, could remember one spring when her brothers went swimming by diving out the kitchen window. Another memory was when water was 10 inches deep in the kitchen and she prepared meals with rubber boots on.”
Linda here again — I wish space allowed for the printing of two articles Charles shared with me of Wildcat Creek. One was written by retired school teacher Joseph Hughes Hartough and printed in the East County News on May 8, 1991, as a letter to the editor. His experience as a young boy captivated this reader.
The other story was written by Norman Porter, himself in 1954 on the passing of Bill Grider. It includes Bill’s priceless memories of the waters of Wildcat Creek cleaning the slop off Norman, himself!
Do you want to see these copies in print? Join the McCleary Museum and receive four newsletters annually. No work is required on your part. Call me at 360 495-4569 or email us at email@example.com.
Vidette columnist Linda Thompson can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.