The Cattle Drive
The Coughlan Ranch House (back-center), in North Columbia, is one of the few remaining ranches on the San Juan Ridge and is a hub of activity due to the historic schoolhouse across the street (Now the North Columbia Schoolhouse Cultural Center. See The Cultural Center), and the public water supply furnished by the Coughlans. This tapestry conveys this colorful aspect of our community and the generosity of the Coughlan family.
The school bus and orange VW Beetle actually did get stuck in a cattle drive. The orange VW Beetle was driven by an employee of nearby Malakoff Diggings State Park. It is a strange sensation to be sitting in a car frozen in a sea of cattle, hearing hooves clicking on the pavement, cows mooing, and herders hooting.
The bottom border is the scene at the Coughlan ranchhouse in Big Oak Valley near Spenceville where the cattle spent the winter months. The house there was identical to the one in the middle background of this tapestry. This part of the Coughlan land was lost to the government during World War II. Beale Air Force Base and the Spenceville Wildlife Area now occupy some of that land. Note the delicate Blue Oaks leafing out in the upper left of the scene.
The map in the bottom border shows the site of Coughlan winter and summer pasture and the cattle drive route between the two areas. The winter grazing is in the lower foothills on the south side of the South Yuba River. The cows are collected near Smartsville and driven along Highway 20, Mooney Flat Rd. and Pleasant Valley Road the first day, crossing the Yuba River and overnighting at French Corral. The second day continues on Pleasant Valley Road to Birchville Rd, and Tyler Foote Rd. to North Columbia. For many years the cows wandered up country foraging as they went, the calves learning the route from their mothers. They grazed all summer in the Snow Tent/Cherry Hill area. In the fall, the cows began their migration back to North Columbia on their own. Once gathered, the cattle were driven back to the Spenceville area.
In front of the ranch house is a man standing on a pickup truck filling his water tanks. Legend has it that the Coughlans had to haul water from a distance as they did not have a good well on their own property. After they were able to buy a spring and pipe water to the house, they set up the public faucet to share with those in need.
Kim Coughlan, the current family matriarch, and her partner, Jake Zannoco, on their favorite horses, watching their dogs work the cattle.
The bottom border shows summer grazing in the high country.