The LA Times Discovers Rural America


Jeff White
August 29, 2004, 07:35 PM
The reporter seems shocked that a place like Modoc County exists in socialist utopia. I wonder if the LA Times realizes that Modoc County is more representative of America as a whole then LA?
Guns are must-have "tools" in Old West California county
Los Angeles Times

ALTURAS, Calif. - Patricia Cantrall, nicknamed the "Annie Oakley of Modoc County," straps her .38 backward on her left hip. "I prefer the cross draw," said the gregarious 65-year-old county supervisor and part-time cafe waitress.

Cantrall and about 270 fellow residents of this sparsely populated corner of northeastern California routinely carry concealed handguns. When it comes to packing heat, legally, no other county in California surpasses Modoc.

According to state Department of Justice statistics, about one in 29 residents here has a concealed-weapons permit. That compares with one in 800 residents for the rest of the state.

A permit allows a person over 21, not previously convicted of a felony, to carry a concealed, short-barreled, loaded weapon anywhere in the state. In counties with fewer than 200,000 residents, the weapon may be openly displayed.

Modoc County issues almost as many permits as Los Angeles County, which has more than 50 times more people. Los Angeles County Sheriff Lee Baca has approved only 377 permits, mostly for

judges, prosecutors, public defenders and retired federal agents.

Modoc County Sheriff Bruce Mix says he feels comfortable with the high number of guns because he knows most of the county's 9,400 residents.

"I pretty much know who is reliable and who is not," said Mix, 57, the head lawman and coroner here since 1988.

Besides, Mix said, he doesn't have enough deputies to adequately patrol the vast reaches of woods, desert and lava fields that cover the county's 3,944 square miles.

Mix said he believes everybody who lives in his county has a constitutional right to self-protection. But bearing arms here appears to have little to do with fear of crime or violent confrontations with humans.

Often, said Undersheriff Mark Gentry, people seek to arm themselves before venturing to large California cities. "Someone will come in," said Gentry, "and say, 'I'm going to San Diego, I need a gun.'"

Originally part of the Utah Territory, and later transferred to the Nevada Territory, Modoc was one of the last areas annexed by what is now California. It can seem as though people are still adjusting to the arrangement.

The motto of Alturas, the county seat, is "Where the West Still Lives."

Alfalfa farmers gather at the Wagon Wheel cafe for breakfast and to complain about the government in distant Sacramento, six hours by car. State anti-smoking regulations targeting bars are almost universally ignored. The county also claims California's lowest median household income, lowest home property values and highest infant mortality rate.

But while an older West lives on here, it's not exactly thriving. Alturas and the surrounding area have gone through several decades of hard times.

The sawmills that used to employ hundreds have shut down. The railroad dropped its payroll from nearly 500 people to just two full-time and several part-time roadbed maintenance workers. Many downtown storefronts are boarded up, and the dilapidated movie theater is open only on weekends.

Without the working-class population that once made this a Democratic Party stronghold, said Modoc Record Editor and Alturas native Rick Holloway, the county has become increasingly conservative.

About half the local jobs today are with the state and federal government, primarily the U.S. Forest Service and the Bureau of Land Management. The decline of the railroad and sawmills, said Holloway, gives the handful of ranchers who run cattle on the federal and state land even more sway in county politics than they had in the past.

In the Surprise Valley, across the Warner range from Alturas, John Estill, 45, is a sixth-generation Californian and owner of the sprawling Bare Ranch. The property, which includes thousands of acres of deeded land in California and Nevada and holds grazing permits to more than a million acres in the surrounding hills and desert, is one of the biggest in the state. "Everybody up here has guns," Estill said. He pointed to a visiting reporter and photographer: "It's just like you have a pen and you have a camera."

Records kept by the state attorney general's office indicate that violent crimes occur here at less than one-third the rate in Los Angeles County. According to FBI statistics, there was only one homicide in Modoc County from 1993 through 2002. Sheriff Mix says the county averages about one "questionable death a year, including suicide."

County Supervisor Cantrall, who serves as postmaster in the ranching community of Likely when she's not working at the Likely Cafe, said she first obtained a concealed-weapons permit 22 years ago for protection when she traveled to San Francisco and Sacramento. She said she also carries it when she rides horses in the mountains because, "I do not care to be dinner for a wonderful mountain lion."

George Wistos, 70, owner of the Belligerent Duck, a gun and outdoor goods shop in Alturas, said area residents "were born and raised with firearms."

"To them it's a tool."

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Das Pferd
August 29, 2004, 08:31 PM
This was in the paper a few weeks ago.

August 29, 2004, 08:32 PM
I love that, "I'm going to San Diego. I need a gun." Sad but true.

August 29, 2004, 08:56 PM
mostly for judges, prosecutors, public defenders and retired federal agents
You know, that class of people most susceptible to street crime and most in need of personal protection. That's right... the Special People.

August 29, 2004, 09:51 PM
Los Angeles County Sheriff Lee Baca has approved only 377 permits, mostly for judges, prosecutors, public defenders and retired federal agents.
The sad thing is there was a candidate for sheriff who promised to end this favoritism and he wasn't even considered by the electorate.


August 29, 2004, 11:53 PM
Two things I see here: (1) There is at least one spark of freedom in the PRK; it needs to be fed and fanned to a wildfire (heading west and south). (2) Feeding requires people, money and land; they have the land. They must be sure that when the people come following the money that could be found, they must be sure that those are freedom seekers, else they'll fall back into that trap of too many antis.

Suggestion: Find whatever unused arible/development land there is available, bust it up into parcels, offer it to known freedom seekers (businesses, residents, etc.) for reasonable value with stipulation that the land must be developed, built, and operated for the county's overall benefit.

a. There is in all probability, valuable assets in location, low taxes, and other attractions - these should be wrung out for every drop of capability.

b. There will be naysayers, people who just don't want change. It takes guts to plan growth - AND - carry it out; "growth" doesn't mean highjacking private property, it can be worked when the plan is viable, the funding reasonable, and the folks understand the goals. Just one jewel that would come out of successful growth is the kids won't be leaving in droves, and those already gone may just come back "home". In fact, those potential returnees might just be the nucleus of the effort - they've been away, made contacts, maybe some money.

Marketing the county is a bootstrap operation.


August 30, 2004, 08:36 AM
Modoc County: California's largest shooting range

:) It could work.

August 30, 2004, 03:52 PM
Unfortunately the blissninnies read these articles and say to their fellow flock members, "We can be happy there.":banghead: You know what happens then.:rolleyes:

August 30, 2004, 10:24 PM
Gosh, I hope they don't discover all us armed sheepdogs in the southern neighboring county :evil:

August 31, 2004, 01:17 AM
That compares with one in 800 residents for the rest of the state.I'm guessin' that LA and Marin Counties kinda throw the average a little bit, eh?


August 31, 2004, 05:59 PM
...the head lawman and coroner here...

There's a joke in there waiting to get out.

August 31, 2004, 06:29 PM
MODOC?!!! Hey, places in the Fallout series are real other than Reno/San Fran! Yay!

August 31, 2004, 07:27 PM
Third_Rail... Fallout Series? A private joke - or something real?


4v50 Gary
August 31, 2004, 08:14 PM
Goes to show, you leave the coastal region of CA and you're in the normal world. Just like anywhere else, we're outnumbered 55% to 45%. :(

August 31, 2004, 10:09 PM
Ironbarr, something real. I shall clarify for you, and for anyone else who doesn't know.

The Fallout series is a series of computer games in which the player is treated to the world after WWIII, Mad Max-esque. It's a turn based RPG, low system requirements, and very cheap now, as it's been out for years and years. Here ( is a link that'll clarify further, I hope.

And Modoc is one of the towns in the game, along with Gecko, Vault City, etc. I knew a few were real, but not Modoc. Just surprised, that's all.

August 31, 2004, 10:48 PM
The city folks will be flocking to your county and as soon as they arrive they will say.. We want all the stuff we had in LA county. Roads, Sewers, Police and Fire, welfare and we want it yesterday.

Then they won't be able to understand why the taxes went up


September 1, 2004, 12:01 AM
Thanks for that. I'm not a gamer - didn't know.

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