By Lenny Ackerman
Here in Downieville
I spent last week in the High Sierras visiting with the owner-editor-publisher of The Mountain Messenger, Carl Butz. It was a trip I had planned to take back in 2020 before the pandemic set in. Finally, this spring I was able to comfortably plan a visit with Carl and explore the area I visited briefly some 12 years ago with my good friend Gere, who was celebrating his 70th birthday with a trip to the California National Parks. This time I was motivated to talk with Carl and learn more about the area surrounding Downieville, which is the center of Sierra County, and to explore some of the mountain wilderness. My visit more than met my expectations. Not only did I spend evening time with Carl, but he introduced me to one of his close friends, Bill Copren, who grew up in the area. Bill was tasked with taking me exploring and fishing which we did together for a couple of days with enthusiasm. Not only did Bill give me a history lesson of the area but drove me through some of the most dramatic mountain ranges in North America. I visited Sierra City and Truckee, all of which were within reasonable driving distance of my cabin on the Yuba River. I urge those of you who read the Messenger from afar to visit the Downieville area.
The town is a classic, northern California gold rush town with lots of history. Many of the buildings are historical sites occupied by local retailers of sports equipment, morning coffee, a bar, and a grocery store. Downieville, as county center, brings morning traffic from points north and south. I took away from my trip a better understanding of Carl’s goal in purchasing and bringing back to life the paper. “Nostalgia” responds Carl to my query about why subscribers and readers both local and far away read his weekly paper. Of course, local news is important, but the history of the area prompts readers as well. Carl’s enthusiasm for providing both a service of local interest as well as the historical aspect is palpable. Caffeinating with Carl on the second-floor porch of his office, we spoke of the importance of maintaining a weekly paper with local news. Coming off an election forum about a Supervisorial race in the county, Carl was focused on the positions taken by the candidates. Over 40 locals participated in the session where the candidates answered questions and stated their positions on issues that are similar to those in races throughout our land—gun control, the environment, climate warming and affordable housing. Carl’s reporting in last week’s paper articulated the views of many of the participants. Those of us who cherish the free press and liberties associated with the right to express our opinions are fortunate to still have people like Carl who invest their time and money to preserve a local paper.
P.S. For my readers, including my friend Arnie, who were praying for me to catch a salmon on my last afternoon of fishing the Restigouche in Quebec – I am sorry to report I was “skunked.” I tried Arnie!