On one of our trips to Anderson, Tom and I were driven east towards Mt. Lassen, an active volcano in Northern California. We were told this customer was extra special and so was his piece of property. Apparently, Bing Crosby had purchased the land in the early nineteen fifties hoping to bring a lot of Hollywood’s elite up with him. Bing was convinced this pristine, forested area of California would be a hit with celebrities. Meanwhile, they all followed Bob Hope into the desert to an area called Palm Springs. “Go Figure?” The Rising River Ranch was spectacular in that three rivers came out of the volcanic lava, flowed across about a thousand timbered acres and then disappeared back down into the earth. Clint Eastwood had recently purchased the ranch from the Crosby estate and was building a log home on one of the three islands between the meandering rivers. We got a tour of the original ranch house, which featured a small theater similar to what is now a popular addition in today’s big, custom homes. This high desert area is beautiful and mainly cattle ranching, but had recently become popular with fly fishermen. I’m sure Clint acquired it for the natural beauty and views of the Sierra Nevada’s.
His general contractor had come all the way from New York City to build this story book log home high in the mountains. It wasn’t a big house, around 1600 square feet, but was accented with tons of natural lava rock and two arched wooden bridges to get to it. You couldn’t drive a car right to the front door; you had to cross these two bridges. His plans were to take this new log home and stain it to look old and weathered, just like you’d see in an old western. I always enjoyed his first movies, those famous spaghetti westerns. We never met Clint there, or in Anderson, but considered him a close family friend. If you rent movies like I do, rent “Firefox”, a 1982 film about a hotshot Air force pilot that steals a futuristic Russian jet airplane from the Soviet Union. In the beginning of the movie his character is a down and out retired pilot pushed into a covert operation by the U.S. military. The opening sequence is of him at this same log home surrounded by a couple of helicopters while he is trying to escape their capture. Check it out. “Hey punk, make my day!” Oops, wrong movie.
Now with Clint Eastwood involved building log homes from this company in Anderson, we were getting pretty excited about our new venture and all the money we would be making. I had two more customers who had promised deposit checks the following week and wanted the 5% discount for paying in full. Fortunately, and to our utter disappointment, the home designer from Anderson called to say that her boss had left during the night and taken everything. She told us that no one had been paid in weeks and the business was cleaned out. “Left during the night? There’s probably a simple explanation.” Customers were calling about getting their 100% deposit back or their kit and that we should high tail it down there, ASAP. Dave, Tom and I borrowed the Schrader truck, rented a Uhaul truck and took off the next morning. Sure enough the place was crazy as everybody, customers and employees were scrambling to get something of value. The three of us started loading logs and log siding, it was better than getting nothing, but not nearly what had been taken from us. We even went to the Redding police, but were told it was a civil matter, not criminal. “I guess ripping people off wasn’t criminal?” Someone had seen him heading South down I-5 in a pickup truck pulling a trailer with all the company’s valuables. I’m convinced there were twenty and fifty dollar bills blowing out the back window. We almost went after him, until we realized both of our trucks top speed up hill was about 40 mph. If it had been down hill we were there. Apparently, everything was falling in around the snake man. He couldn’t keep up with the orders and had a big fight with Clint. I think it was all part of a big plan set up way ahead of time. To me he seemed like a person with no conscience and no remorse. Our boss at Schrader was right and we were duped into a grand scheme and didn’t see it coming. “Wow, that really hurt, kinda like gett’n spanked.”