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Apr 12, 2023 | Featured News | 0 comments

Dorothy June publishes book of short stories

Featured News | 0 comments

Written by Tina Botill


Dorothy June (Rogers) Richmond has released a book and it is available on Amazon.

Her book is the collected stories of family life, from the 1800’s to today, Migration from Virginia to California, the Civil War and not-so-civil wars, the Great Depression; all the things that impacted an American family. These snapshots are the memories of “Grandma DJ”, in recognition of 90 years of family story telling.

Dorothy June (Rogers) Richmond has written short stories of her early years spent in Corcoran. and those are included in her memoir. Her book is titled, “Stories by D.J.” and can be found on Amazon when entering her full name Dorothy June Richmond. The book is currently available for $27.83 and she says if three people get together and order a book each they won’t have to pay shipping.

Dorothy June Rogers lived in Corcoran for many years during the 1930’s, after her family migrated here from Wyoming. She was born in Corcoran, the youngest of several children—who were all 16-21 years of age when she arrived! She has written several articles about Corcoran and allowed The Corcoran Journla to publish them. Here is one of them.


What! You live in Corcoran, and you don’t know about The Lake?   Gosh, it doesn’t seem long ago at all-not to me; it was a very significant part of life in Corcoran. No one said “What lake?”  It was simply “The Lake”.  History of the San Joaquin valley is full of references to a lake that stretched from Bakersfield on the south – north to Sacramento.  It was a common way to travel the entire valley.    It was famous for being the largest fresh water lake west of the Mississippi.

One of my friends is 102 years old, and she remembers when the east side of the lake was at Waukena.  She tells of her grandfather trying to dig fence posts for a pasture, and he hit water 8 inches down!  The posts just floated. And, there are fascinating stories told of Indian battles between the foothill tribes and the lake Indians. I realized – with a shock – that the movie called “Ants” told the very same story – hard working tribes being robbed of their harvest by larger tribes. Unfair!   

From the perspective of a four year old standing on the passenger side of daddy’s work pickup, the lake looked like an ocean. The levees were a mile in each direction, and called sections.  Each one had a name, but on a foggy day you could drive five miles past the levee you meant to turn on. None of them were marked with signs anyway. Quite an adventure. Hard to turn around on those narrow levees too.  I think daddy sorta teased momma and me by driving down the slopes to turn around.  Momma screamed, and I tightened my grip on her sleeve.  It was exciting and scary at the same time.

Looking back, every trip with the folks was an adventure.  Momma (Susie) was an interested and appreciative audience.  She especially loved the red-winged blackbirds that flittered among the reeds along the levees.  She compared those reeds to the Bible story of Moses in the Bullrushes.  Years later, I talked with an Indian man who had grown up on the lake.  He said that as a boy, his uncles and cousins wove those reeds into mattress-like floats. As they laid on them, they sank to about three inches under the water. They fished with hooks made by sharpening shells on a rock until they were hook shaped. 

It’s vague, but I remember seeing some big wooden barges with some sort of dredges mounted on them.  No one said it, but I’m sure that Chinese men were conscripted to shape those huge levees using shovels and wheelbarrows.  There are many miles of levees – must have been overwhelming. And, it only took one gopher to cut into a levee – and you’ve got another section flooded.

The lake wasn’t always full of water.  As soon as the soil was dry enough, farmers planted grain.  It was called dry farming.  Until the spring thaw, they could harvest and make money. Most of the grain was threshed and sewed into burlap bags. Then it was time to bale the straw. That was my daddy (Marvin’s) turn. For several years, his hay balers were pulled by teams of horses or mules.  You didn’t pair a mule with a horse – they worked as two of a kind.  If there was an early thaw in the mountains, there was a chance to lose all the equipment to the lake.  Sometimes, it meant taking a horse trailer and crew to pull the hay balers up onto the levee before the flood claimed them.  One of the horses drowned because she was tied to an electric pole, and couldn’t get loose. There goes a team, not just a horse.

In the early 1900’s, steamboats plied the lake and stopped at Corcoran to pick up tourists.  There were huge wooden bins onboard, to hold turtles by the thousands.

They were sent to San Francisco and other cities to be served in fancy restaurants.  The lake reeds were full of empty shells too, and the Indians used them as food bowls and scoops.  Imagine ladies in feathered hats and long skirts on those steamboats; then contrast that with Indian women bending to pick up an empty turtle shell to be used in her home.  The lake served many purposes.        

Our family was not a fish eating one. In the late 1930’s, the lake dried up earlier than usual, and the smell of rotting catfish was overwhelming.  Men were urged to use their pickups to bring them to catfish eaters in town.  Daddy’s grey work truck was so full that the front tires barely touched the road.  Momma said “No thank you”, and it took daddy all afternoon to give them away.  I’ll bet he cheated a little bit and dumped some of them.  I remember him saying “Fish makes very good fertilizer you know”.  

There was a time in the early fifties when the lake came all the way to Dairy Ave.  For years, that had been as far east as it came, but I guess that all the foothill dams had not been built, and snow runoff  just came rushing into the lake.  Corcoran was about to be flooded – business lost – homes flooded.  Hundreds of wrecked cars were sent from towns all along the valley to be used as barriers to shore up the levee.  It worked. But I wonder what happened to those wrecked cars later?

My memories of The Lake are probably romantic and extreme, but they are true memories, and I think it’s a shame to live in Corcoran and not know about “The Lake”.

Dorothy June (Rogers) Richmond

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