I have the best part-time job. If you happen to be invited to a wedding at the Patrick Ranch along the Midway, I’ll be there, wearing a badge and making sure the outdoor lights are turned on at dusk. You might see me in the shadows of the redwood trees, or sitting on a wooden bench along the back porch.
If your kids run around without shoes, I’ll politely ask your kiddos to find their sandals.
There’s more to the job than that, but mostly I’m there to make sure that the amazing property is treated with care.
A PLACE LIKE NO OTHER
With my schedule as a student-teacher, working the occasional Saturday is the perfect gig. In the past, I had pitched in as a volunteer during special events. I’d love to brag about my community-minded nature, but frankly being there brings me peace.
I was fortunate to be invited to the property in the early 2000s, soon after the death of the home’s owner, Hester Patrick. She was a collector of family treasures and donated the house and its contents to the community,
On my first visit, people were busy making an inventory of all that the marvel-filled home contained. My host, John Chambers, talked about how the property could be used to teach agricultural history, as well as preserve a slice of local farm heritage.
Time passed and others poured their energy and love into the land.
Today you can tour the meticulously restored Glenwood farmhouse. For garden geeks, the grounds are a showcase. Butte County’s Master Gardeners have carved out a place to teach about local plants and a vintage tractor restoration group leads the tractor parade each year. Blacksmiths and a host of other heritage-loving folks have continued to build upon what was just a to-do list years before. Future plans include an elaborate bee museum.
Like many in the community, I feel like I’ve witnessed the property “grow-new.”
ON THE JOB
Ranch manager Karen Lobach helped me appreciate the place even more during my training for the job. We rode out toward those oak trees, where she let the electric golf cart turn silent. In the still of the evening, she pointed my ear toward a great horned owl. If you know where to look, you can spot owl pellets and dove feathers. As we continued along the pumpkin patch, ground squirrels shimmied across the trail, their rumps swaying back and forth like hula dancers on all fours.
A TOAST TO WEDDINGS
During my evenings on the job, I look forward to the wedding toasts. A father will gush, often tearfully, that his child found someone the entire family can embrace. Sometimes sweet sentiments about first encounters are shared, and invariably the best man or maid of honor teases with stories that will not be told in their entirety.
Musicians play stringed instruments on the front porch. Groups of starlings fly en masse from one oak tree to another, like a winged ballet in the sky. Often, in the hush of the nuptials, you’ll hear the coo of a dove. Doves mate for life.
Usually I cry.
Remember that golf cart I mentioned? It’s also my job to cruise the perimeter of the property.
From a distance, the lights in the farm house give life to the Italianate architecture. I can hear muffled laughter, and the clink of dishes under the white dining tent.
Later at night, when the caterers are mopping, a light haze hovers in the northern sky over Chico. Yet, a patch of clear darkness rests over the Patrick Ranch. The stars shine, perhaps the way Hester saw them decades ago.
Garden enthusiast Heather Hacking can followed on Twitter and Facebook. Send snail mail to P.O. Box 5166, Chico CA, 95927.