The State of Jefferson

In the 1930’s and 40’s, the extreme northern counties of California and the southern section of Oregon joined together to secede from their respective states and become The State of Jefferson.  These rural counties had been getting the dirty end of the stick by state legislatures for years, their resources (namely timber and water) exploited while their needs for infrastructure were ignored.

Unfortunately for my ancestors, the day before the petition to secede was due to be announced, the Japanese struck Pearl Harbor, dropping us smack-dap into the bloody middle of WWII.  Attention was focused elsewhere for a few years and the momentum to secede never picked up speed after that.

That’s, more or less the historical truth.

I grew up in Eureka, spent each summer from 1951 through 1954 with my grandparents who lived a dozen dirt road miles from Peckwan.  For those of you who don’t know the area, that’s God’s country.  Indian Land.  Bigfoot’s stomping ground.

I assure you The State of Jefferson remains alive and well in the heart of occupied territory.

The only thing you need to know to make sense of the following passage from my upcoming novel, Bigfoot Blues, is that the bar (modeled by the way after The Shanty) is called Victor and David’s and known locally simply as VD’s.


10:18 p.m.  Dart Night.

VD’s is spilling customers onto the covered courtyard in back.  We’ve even got six or seven hardcore players huddled under the porch overhang, though two of those are John and Oscar, our resident street people.

“So, like, what’s your…you know, your best drink?”  The speaker is as naively green as Los Angeles grass, fed with water stolen from our northern rivers.

I study the trio at my bar.  College boys slumming, celebrating a first legal drunk.  Two forest-green sweatshirts with HSU in bold, baby-puke yellow.  The leader sports a fluorescent orange hoody with a pot-green marijuana leaf emblazoned on the front.

“I need to see your ID.”

Lord, I do not need this tonight.  These boys are already skating around the edge of Lake Over-Served.  They fumble in pockets for ID, cut their eyes to make sure none of the scary locals are looking at where they’ve secreted their stash of drinking money. The kid on the end keeps adjusting his glasses, as though afraid the plastic frames might slide down his sweat-glazed nose.

I glance at the ID, already know it’s legitimate.  No shifting eyes or shuffling feet, no tell that screams ‘liar’; just the sway and borderline belligerence of too much booze poured on too little common sense. And, yep, all three hail from southern California.

“Mr. Tommy Langley, happy birthday.  You boys been drinking a bit already tonight, huh?”  I draw three Coca-Colas, drop a cherry in each one, slide in a super-duper special flex straw.

“That’s your best drink?”

“Tonight it is.  On the house.”  If they were regulars, I’d serve them another drink.  Maybe another couple of drinks. But this is a local redneck hangout, not a college bar.  These three L.A. transplants, in this crowd of indigenous rednecks, is dry grass waiting for that one small spark.   Half the folks here have been drinking slowly, steadily, since before seven o’clock when the first dart was thrown.  Nobody’s drunk, but most are real happy and a happy redneck loves very little more than thumping on some asshole from L.A.


About Author and Speaker Pamela Foster

Pamela Foster is a speaker and author. Her first book, Redneck Goddess, is available at local bookstores and on Amazon. Her second book, Bigfoot Blues, will be available in August 2012.
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9 Responses to The State of Jefferson

  1. Interesting post, Pam. Do the State of Jefferson folks want to be their own country or simply a new state?

  2. Jan Morrill says:

    I love learning something new about history. Fascinating! And of course, I love the excerpt.

  3. Greg Camp says:

    This is a story that every person in rural areas, the city dude who comes out to the country and complains about how it’s not like the city. To which we rednecks reply, if’n you like the city so dang much, why’d you ever leave it? That used to be followed by a request to see some city backside scooting along the road back, but these days, we can’t offer any .45 caliber encouragement.

  4. Pam, I grew up in southern OR and northern CA (and still miss it so much) but I did not know about the Jefferson State, though I was raised to disdain anyone from south of Salinas. Thanks for the history tidbit and the teaser!

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