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At last, the folks on the ranch get a long-awaited vacation

Mike Drummond

It is funny how the mind wanders. The county supervisors’ recent waffling on NH 2020 reminded me of the waffle pattern on the bottom of my old Nike running shoes. I doubt Nike makes that model any more: bright yellow with a blue swoosh.

Time was when I’d spend all day threading the maze in the L.A. rat race, jog around the Beverly Hills High School track, catch a steam at the local Y, eat a big meal, fall asleep, and rise before dawn to do it again, and again.

We moved to Clear Creek Ranch to get away from it all, but found we packed a few worrisome things in our baggage. And, of course, there was always “new stuff” that demanded our attention and time. Which explains why my wife and I have just completed our first real vacation in years.

It took us that long to find a reliable housesitter. This was never a problem back in the city. A dinky house, two cats to feed, a few philodendron plants to water – we had many qualified applicants. But out here at the ranch, the cat population is larger, and understanding the water delivery system requires an advanced degree from MIT.

There is the Clear Creek Bed & Breakfast problem too. Since we opened our rustic flop house last fall the beds are never empty, and I’m only counting the human inhabitants thereof. So in addition to watering and feeding the pets and plants, our ideal housesitter must also function as reservations clerk, housemaid, laundress, short order cook, collections agent and traffic cop.

Such a renaissance woman answered our ad, and came to the interview with her daughter in tow. The kid looked relatively clean, tattoo-free, and most importantly, well-fed. After all, we had several finicky cats who dined from different menus on different time schedules, which varied from day to day. But the cats liked her (better than any FBI background check), and the price was right. I called the travel agent.

When we returned from two weeks of tropical bliss, only the daughter was there to greet us. Her mom had “called away on an emergency” the day after we departed and she had been “filling in.” At first I was alarmed, but the cats were healthy and the buildings were standing.

I noticed the trees near the barbecue area were all leaning away from center, like the aftermath of the Mount St. Helen’s blast. Something to do with her boyfriend’s band practice.

And the cats weren’t as finicky at meal times. She hadn’t paid attention during our menu exegesis, and couldn’t figure who were the tabbies, the longhairs, the dowager, the kitten, yadda-yadda-yadda. She fed everybody the same thing at the same time. By the second day, everyone was eating.

Another pleasant surprise: She thought the daily rate on the cottages was an HOURLY rate, and big-city visitors who had just cashed in their condo for eight figures didn’t seem to mind. Paid for our entire trip, plus bonuses for the housesitters, and more.

Although when we turned back the sheets on our own bed that first night we were in for a shock. It wasn’t a matter of “Who’s been sleeping in my bed?” It was more a question of “WHAT!?” On a busy weekend she had rented out our bedroom to overflow guests.

But after I boil the bedding, the toilet seats and the toothbrushes, and sandblast the walls, everything should be back to normal.

Or as normal as it gets here at Clear Creek Ranch.

Mike Drummond is a Nevada County writer whose column appears on Tuesday. You can write him in care of The Union, 464 Sutton Way, Grass Valley, 95945; or e-mail him at


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