Dan North - Growing up in Biggs
Updated: Dec 3, 2019
Local historian and author Dan North has been an integral part in sharing Biggs memories of times gone by online. His roots run deep in our little community and he is a wealth of information about the history of Biggs! Enjoy!
In 1906 my grandfather, Willard Webster North came to Biggs with his father, mother and siblings by train from Neosho, Missouri. My great grandfather, Daniel Streeter, my grandmother’s father came to Biggs in 1860. So my grandmother, Mabel Streeter North was born in Biggs in 1900. Then she gave birth to my dad, Willard F. North in 1928 also in Biggs. In 1956 I was born in the Gridley hospital.
Daniel Streeter heard that John Bidwell was selling Mexican land grants. In a few years he ended up with three sections of land just west of Biggs. Four years after he arrived in Biggs he married Louise Sliger. So with that as our heritage my family ended up farming rice. Our farm was bordered on the north by Ferris Road and on the east by the West Biggs Gridley road and included 800 acres.
The sights and sounds of growing up on our farm has remained special to me my entire life. Our play ground was about an acre of grass that included mainly large black walnut and Fruitless Mulberry trees. The trunk of some of the Fruitless Mulberry have grown to a size that I don’t think I’ve seen anywhere else. I guess the rich valley river loam soil agrees with them.
The farm was worked by my dad, my uncle Floyd North and the rest of their family. When I was 12 my dad began to let me drive Catepillar tractors pulling ground working equipment. In high school they were paying us $5 an hour which was decent money in the early 1970’s as a teenager. Back then I didn’t wear a watch but used the Biggs rice mill as a makeshift sundial. Dad said he also could tell what time it was by seeing a few Biggs folk coming home from work in Gridley.
I think you have to grow up in a rural farming community like Biggs to appreciate the lifestyle of such a community. As a teenager driving a tractor which usually topped out at 5 miles an hour was not my idea of fun. One of our fields that was an 200 acre piece and when you started that plowing, stubble disc, etc., you might make only two times around the field in an 8 hour day.
Dad didn’t want us to be rice farmers because he said it was too hard to make money, at least at that time. So when my uncle Lee Cox offered me a construction job in Santa Cruz I jumped at the chance. Not only was it a beach town but it was so much larger than Biggs and for me that held many exciting prospects.
To my chagrin, Uncle Lee sold his house in the Santa Cruz area 3 months later and moved the whole construction crew to the Auburn, California area. Talk about having your parade rained on. Back in 1976 Auburn was still a fairly small rural town in Placer county and I’ve resided in this area now for almost 43 years.
In 1979, being newly engaged to be married we decided that I would look for work outside the construction industry. So in June I got a job with United Parcel Service and in September married Pam Collier of Penryn, Ca. After 28 years I retired from UPS. Since then I’ve done several retirement jobs including my own handyman service. At age 63 I’ve pretty much hung it up as far as employment is concerned. Occasionally I do small remodel jobs for friends but that’s about it.
Besides my wife Pam of almost 40 years, our two dogs are my constant companions. We live in Penryn on an acre of land where we take care of Pam’s 90 year old mother and the property which is a part time job in itself. We like to pack up the dogs and take the RV to Dillon’s Beach especially to escape the heat of the valley during the summer. We’re pretty involved with Bayside church of which I volunteer at different events occasionally. I also do some data input for them on a weekly basis.
I wouldn’t trade my childhood in Biggs for anything. Enjoying the rural lifestyle of farm life surrounded by family, I feel is priceless. In fact those experiences helped prompt me to write a fictional novel that was based on the Biggs area. It has seemed to be received well and some are asking for a sequel of which I have started.