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Game Wardens and Ghost Towns

Out of beer and three sheets to the wind, the three deer poachers turned west on Newville Road and headed northeast toward Paskenta. Rounding the first bend, they passed the ghost town of Newville. Newville had thrived from the early 1850s until 1929, when all but a few buildings burned to the ground. During its heyday, the little pioneer town boasted a general store, two livery stables, two saloons, a blacksmith shop, two hotels, a post office, a race track, and a service station. Now only the ramshackle, two-story Newville Hotel and the falling-down service station remained.

Warden Wally Callan in the ghost town of Newville, circa 1962. Photo by Steven T. Callan
Warden Wally Callan in the ghost town of Newville, circa 1962. Photo by author.

“That place is spooky,” said Dupree. “A bunch of us came out here on Halloween night when I was in high school.”

“Did you go inside?” asked Blunt.

“I started to go upstairs in the hotel, but I heard a strange noise and chickened out. Most of the steps were broken, anyway.”

“What did the noise sound like?” asked Heise, holding back a chuckle.

“It sounded like a voice coming from one of the rooms, saying, ‘Go away.’”

Heise couldn’t hold it in any longer and began laughing hysterically. “That was me, you jackass!”

All that’s left of the ghost town of Newville are the remains of this service station. I remember the old hand-pump gas tank still being out front during the 1960s; it’s gone now. Photo by Steven T. Callan
All that’s left of the ghost town of Newville are the remains of this service station. I remember the old hand-pump gas tank still being out front during the 1960s; it’s gone now. Photo by author.

About 1:15 a.m., I was awakened by the familiar sound of telephones ringing in the middle of the night, one coming from my parents’ bedroom and the other from the kitchen wall. Everyone in the house had come to expect these calls during the winter months. That’s when deer ventured out of the mountains and congregated in the foothills west of Orland.

The countryside northwest of the ghost town of Newville. Photo by Steven T. Callan
The countryside northwest of the ghost town of Newville. Photo by author.

Minutes after the phones rang, my parents’ bedroom door opened and I heard my father’s work boots stomping down the hall toward the kitchen. Dialing the kitchen telephone, he soon had Harold Erwick on the line. As big as a house, Warden Erwick had occupied the adjoining Corning position for many years. The gray-haired veteran wore wire-rimmed glasses and looked exceptionally neat in his uniform. “Harold always looks like he just climbed out of a band box,” my father would say. A man of many talents, Warden Erwick sang opera and photographed weddings in his spare time.

 The old Flood Ranch, as seen from Newville Road. Photo by Steven T. Callan
The old Flood Ranch, as seen from Newville Road. Photo by author.

“Hi, Harold. Sorry to wake you. Shots were fired just south of Fred Cushman’s place. I’ll head out from here and meet you at the intersection.”

Pictured, left to right, are Warden Wally Callan, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Agent Bob Norris, and Warden Harold Erwick, circa 1965. Photo courtesy of Steven T. Callan
Pictured, left to right, are Warden Wally Callan, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Agent Bob Norris, and Warden Harold Erwick, circa 1965, with evidence seized during a pheasant case. Photo courtesy of author.

Warden Wally Callan quietly closed the front door, jumped into his patrol car, and sped away. He drove through the deserted streets of Orland, reached Road 200, and raced west. . . .

Editor’s Note: This is an excerpt from Steven T. Callan’s new book, “The Game Warden's Son.” Steve will be signing copies of “The Game Warden’s Son” at Barnes and Noble in Chico, California, on Saturday, December 17, from 10:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m.

Steven T. Callan is an award-winning writer and the author of “Book of the Year” finalist "Badges, Bears, and Eagles --The True-Life Adventures of a California Fish and Game Warden” (ForeWord Reviews). He is the recipient of the 2014, 2015, and 2016 “Best Outdoor Magazine Column” awards from the Outdoor Writers Association of California. Steve’s sequel, “The Game Warden’s Son,” is now available online, and through bookstores and libraries everywhere. Steve can be found online at steventcallan.com.

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