Welcome to Colfax, California. While the heat today in Fair Oaks - elevation about 300 feet – was a balmy 100 degrees plus (at 11:15 p.m. as I write this, it is still hovering around 80), in downtown Colfax – just under 3,000 feet - it was about ten degrees cooler. I spent the better part of the afternoon there “working.” I was interviewing locals about how they feel Colfax should grow, and enjoying the company and the weather. After I thought I had enough quotes and opinions, I decided to go downtown to get a couple more interviews and start writing.
I got to town just before noon and started interviewing at the local supermarket that is in a newer part of town. I tried to intercept customers on their way in so that their groceries wouldn’t have to endure the heat while I questioned them. I didn’t bother with the tourists; their opinion was not what I was after. Many of those who identified as locals were too busy to talk, but they were all very nice and polite – except one. And then there were a few that were happy to answer my questions, about half of which had read part one of my story.
After I spent enough time harassing the grocery store’s customers, I moved to the oldest part of town, South Main Street. The buildings there have survived two big fires in their 100-year plus (plus a lot) lifetime. Camp 20 is a coffee house that, like my favorite coffee shop in Sacramento, has free WiFi for its customers. They make a mean cup of coffee as well. My intent was to begin writing my stories in the warmth of the summer shade on the sidewalk outside the coffee shop.
So much for making plans. I was not there more than five minutes when a local walked by and struck up a conversation with me. Soon he was sitting with me at the table and I was getting schooled on the ins and outs of Colfax. Fascinating. Over the course of the next one and a half to two hours – I got nearly nothing written, but I learned so much. I spoke with several locals about the past, the present and the future.
Although much of the conversation has little to do with today, it has everything to do with how we got here. And I’m not talking just about Colfax. The technology, the growth, the railroad and the Lincoln Highway, Old Highway 40 and Interstate 80 and so much more that went into making Northern California what it is today. There is living history in those hills and I could listen to it all day.
As much as they volunteered, they asked as well. Where do I hail from? What brings me to little Colfax? How do I like working here? What do you hope to do with your degree? That last one is a very good question – one I have not thought about recently. And… recent experience has not necessarily changed the response; it has deepened it; in some respects clarified it and in others perhaps expanded it.
This little three unit internship has lived up to everything I had hoped it would and so very much more. I owe much of it to the little town of Colfax, its newspaper and most of all, to the people who live in and around this “sleepy little mountain town.” It’s so much more than meets the eye.