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Down Darby Lane

Small Town, Big Hearts and Unforgettable People

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Main Street, North Fork /Sierra Vista Scenic Byway

North Fork, California, the town that's represented in my mystery novel, The Song of Jackass Creek, was home to 386 residents within its loosely defined boundaries. There were (and still are) about 2000 people living within its greater sphere - some at the end of long dirt roads that wind through the Sugar Pine and Ponderosa, others up a steep gravel drive to a hilltop where they enjoy the high perch and a view that just steals the breath away.

It's the beauty and surprises and challenges of Mother Nature that attract people to remote places that often don't have the amenities we've all come to take for granted. So many of us who lived there had drifted to the mountains for an escape, a new start, or to chase an idyllic lifestyle for which most were unprepared. Some of these flatland settlers made the transition. Others tried and eventually returned to the urban 'devil' that they knew.

I was energized and inspired by living on top of a hill overlooking the logging town. I could see black smoke rising from the rusty teepee burner at the mill from the front steps of the little cabin we'd built in seven (yes, seven) days. It was a curvilinear, board-on-board house, shaped like a soft-letter 'm,' with a sod roof that sprouted wildflowers in the spring.

The 700-square-foot shelter was built without the benefit of a permit by my then-spouse, Marcel, with my help. It was built during bright days over the course of one week in clear sight of anyone driving in or out of North Fork. When I acquired a piano, we just ripped out the vertical boards of the wall, and with the help of neighbors, lifted the highboy in and nailed the two by eights back in place. Eventually, when we were red-tagged for the structure, Marcel pled the case for it being a moveable, temporary structure (that might even appear in the annual Loggers Jamboree Parade) and, therefore, exempt from the bureaucracy of permitting. Remarkably, we won the appeal.

Those were the days when Class K Housing was popping up throughout Northern California. Owner-builders flocked to remote regions to construct homes made of alternative materials from rock to mud to hay bales. A few were brilliant, and others, overly optimistic. Couples lived in tents and the beds of pick-up trucks while they worked (sometimes for years) to literally build their dreams. I wrote many stories on those renegade architects for my newspaper, The Timberline Times.

But the people who interested me most were the old-timers, the stalwarts of the town who watched the flatland dreamers come and go. The locals lived in conventional houses, cabins, and mobile homes. They were fine doing without cable television, big box stores, a nearby hospital, gourmet dining choices, reliable cell service, and with one, two-pump gas station within 30-some miles.

There was the group of men who met daily in the town's one cafe for coffee and conversation. Like a town council, they made frequent proclamations about the state of things. They worried about the future of the sawmill that employed most people in town and suffered with them when layoffs happened. They talked of personal things - like Charlie's two prize mules and the baby lambs that had just been born up the hill. They talked about which of the locals had crashed off the road after the bar closed on Friday night (car always crunched, but driver just fine, thank you!). They were not fans of politics and, predictably, cut from mostly conservative cloth as were most of the long-time residents.

However, when it came to townspeople, they protected folks who, under different circumstances, might have met with their disapproval. I suspect I was in that category - a smart-aleck city girl. But I was happy to write their stories in my newspaper, and they were pleased to see their names in print. When I was visibly pregnant with my son and on the road selling advertising, the owner of the gas station (who was also the volunteer fire chief) gave me gas for free. When I skirted the line with the women of the Assembly of God Church, they had a mass-pray-in for my personal benefit and salvation.

It was a culture of acceptance. A place where what you did counted more than color, or creed, or your choice of a partner. Paupers shared a table at the cafe or the local saloon with the prosperous residents of the town.

With the place and people embedded forever in my memory, it was thrilling to bring them back into my world with the writing of "The Song of Jackass Creek." Readers say, "They seem so real!" That's because they are.


Check out The Song of Jackass Creek reviews HERE…


Friends and Readers,

A note about most of us, for better and worse, in the Arts. I think we long to share our thoughts and creations - and without you, we are lonely. Imagine, you wrote a beautiful piece of music and no one but you (and perhaps your cat) ever got to hear it. Or painted a picture that no one else but you ever saw, or wrote a story that no one but you read. Sharing is everything for people in the arts and your support is fundamental to the continued creativity of all artists. So, Thank you! 

Hey! Check out this awesome article by popular columnist Ed Goldman - it's about moi! Also subscribe to his clever, witty and smart blog!  

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My Mountain Mystery

My book has gotten fab reviews on Amazon! I am so excited readers like the characters, the setting, the plot - minus lots of graphic violence. 

If you are fond of 'cozy' mysteries please read The Song of Jackass Creek. Check out Reviews HERE.

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Short Story Collection 

Twisted is - twisted! And Gypsy's Wedding - well, you just have to be there!  Click on the books to see more ... 

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Sample Amazon Reviews

This is an excellent writer!

Darby Patterson is truly a talented writer. She describes this little town sweetly without boring the reader with unimportant detail, and her descriptions are vivid. She also develops her characters fully through conversation and action so the reader becomes acquainted with the main players and can form pictures of them early in the book. Her characters' thoughts, interactions, and past activities combine to portray the culture of Redbud throughout the story, and the story itself is creative and holds surprises along the way. I too hope Ms Patterson continues to share her talents with us!

Sondra Jensen

Awaiting the next installment

An invitation to linger in this vanishing part of California which has so much history is writ on every page of this book. I've visited places like Redbud with a creek burbling in the background as gentle breezes sough through the pines and cedars. I've found them quaint and rich with fascinating local lore and history. Jesse, as publisher of the local weekly is very nicely sketched, the authors background as a journalist comes through clean and clear in developing him. This small California mining and logging town scrabbling to hang on, I liked very much as a setting. I wouldn't mind sitting down with Jesse and having a beer and help him solve his next mystery. The test of a good book is whether you'd be willing to read it again, later. This book passes that test and I can't wait for the next installment.

Jack Howard


Please let this be the first of a series!

Wonderful book; adult without being ‘R’ rated, complex story and well developed characters. The people of ‘Redbud’ ring true and, as a native Californian, the lumber, real estate and politics are spot on. I hope this is the beginning of a series because the author has created characters you want to know better.

D. Holmes

My other passion
Sculpting for bronze - See more HERE
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