Seeing red after a two-bit crime against nature, neighbors

By Friends & Neighbors April 25, 2013 13:18
cleanup in progress

Trucking away illegal dumper’s trash

The evidence is in: a crimson 36C bra, Lily of France perfume, a few Kessler whiskey bottles (empty), a lone Earth Spirit sandal, an LA museum’s anthropology magazine, a “Texas Chainsaw Massacre” DVD, an Old Homestead carving knife, and a prescription for Vicodin.

The ingredients for a particularly kinky party?  Choice items from a garage sale? Stuff from Mom’s will, soon to be fought over by the kids?

Not close: These items were instead part of a massive illegal dump. I picked them out of what looked to be about two pickup loads of trash strewn over Bald Mountain Road North, a little-traveled dirt track skirting the side of Telegraph Hill above Columbia. It’s part of a bike ride I do two or three times a week.

This particular stretch comes near the end of a long climb up from Sawmill Flat, and I normally enjoy its spectacular views and chance to catch a breath. This time I gagged, then cursed the idiots who had defiled this particularly beautiful and quiet part of our county.

What if these miscreants had dumped their trash on the first tee at Augusta, at home plate in Wrigley Field or on Centre Court at Wimbledon? Well, on a far more modest standard, that’s what it was like for me when I saw my favorite ride trashed.

The isolation that makes Bald Mountain North so spectacular by day, sadly, makes it irresistible to dumpers by night.

Whoever did this – the March 2013 prescription I found was written out to a guy living in Jamestown – not only offloaded the items listed in my first paragraph, but hundreds of pounds of scrap metal, cardboard, rotting groceries, soiled diapers, bottles, cans of paint, broken glass, cigarette butts, shattered TVs, burnt-out space heaters, scratched-up CDs and much, much more.

The culprits saved $50 by dumping their crap in my neighborhood rather than taking it to the transfer station in Mono Village. I know this because I cleaned up the mess myself, and paid $28 and $22 to dump two pickup loads.

In the process, I collected more evidence: a computer disc with a Don Pedro woman’s name on it, a torn scrap of paper bearing all but one digit of a Sonora-area phone number, and two email addresses, all of which led me nowhere.

Particularly disheartening was a well-worn green-and-yellow biking jersey reading “Sonora Mountain Riders.” Had another cyclist pulled this stunt?  I refused to believe it.

I also dredged from the muck a phone number attributed to “Aunt Sandy,” and when I called, she answered.

Sandy lives in Winton, in Merced County, and was astounded that her number had turned up in a reeking mountain of trash above Columbia. Sandy said she knew none of the names I had found in the mess and wasn’t exactly sure where Sonora was. Her closest nephews and nieces, she added, live in Lancaster.

She was sufficiently surprised and taken aback that I believed her. But even if she had admitted to being the midnight dumper, Aunt Sandy would likely skate.

Sure, put the FBI and Boston Police in charge, give them an unlimited budget and season the case with nationwide outrage, and they’d have arrested and perp-walked these drive-by defilers by now.

But in our hidden neck of the woods, this is a two-bit crime that ranks somewhere beneath shoplifting and mailbox bashing in terms of urgency. The Tuolumne County Sheriff’s Office, I was told, simply doesn’t have the manpower for mess patrol.


36C’s owner is nowhere in sight

That duty falls to Dan Hambrick, the county’s solid waste compliance officer and a guy who’s used to raking through mounds of roadside trash for evidence. When he finds two IDs for the same person, he sends the suspected dumper an “Opportunity to Correct” letter. But in four years on the job he’s so far convinced only four to clean up their messes. That’s out of between 30 and 40 illegal dumps reported annually.

“Unless these people are caught in the act, convictions are virtually impossible to get,” Hambrick  admitted.

Typically, confronted dumpers claim they hired someone else to take their trash to the transfer station. And, of course, they’ve forgotten who they paid to do their dirty work. End of case.

On the plus side, Hambrick is mapping the county’s most notorious illegal dump sites and looking for money to clean them up. There’s also some county cash to cover dumping fees for Samaritans who clean up other people’s messes – as my Big Hill neighbor Jim Grossman has been doing free of charge for decades.  But you have to ask before you haul – which I didn’t.

Hambrick is also working with the U.S. Bureau of Land Management to mount cameras on trees overlooking a few of our more isolated and inviting ravines, roads and hollows.

Sure, this is yet another incursion into what little privacy we Americans have left. But at 3 a.m. in the middle of nowhere? I’m all in favor of no privacy at all for any cretin who is out with a pickup full of trash at that hour. In fact I urge that any incriminating footage be repeatedly aired on Cable 8 and sent to the dumpers’ kindly grandparents.

Meanwhile, my case remains unsolved.

Yes, the fairy-tale prince found his Cinderella with a glass slipper. But this is real life in the backwoods, and I doubt I’ll find her evil, trash-dumping stepsister with a crimson 36C bra.

Chris Bateman, 66, is a journalist based in Sonora, California, where over the past 40 years he has covered everything under the Sierra Nevada sun.

Copyright 2013, Friends and Neighbors Magazine


By Friends & Neighbors April 25, 2013 13:18
Write a comment


  1. al April 26, 00:20

    Hey CB: Thank you for writing so well about such a horrific problem. Here’s hoping the rat that did this crime gets caught!

  2. Nancy April 27, 19:43

    So, Chris, what about the Jamestown guy who you said did this – with the March 2013 prescription written out to him?
    Anyway, what can you say…disgusting…bless you for cleaning it up and paying to take the garbage to the dump.

View comments

Write a comment

Your e-mail address will not be published.
Required fields are marked*