Media Life:Clipper Gap can’t shake monstrous image

Foresthill bluesman's band plays Memphis; Sierra resort shines in commercials
By: Gus Thomson, Journal Staff Writer
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It’s the monster that won’t die. For Clipper Gap residents and others in the know, it’s a cute inside joke – a carved-out section of rock on a railroad cut that looks like something it is not. For others who may have stumbled upon the image in the rock, it’s what appears to be a real discovery. Call it the Clipper Gap dinosaur. Or call it a fraud. It’s s an oddity that’s continuing to create a buzz more than a century after it first was tossed out there for the masses to consume as a genuine monster. Blame an article in a publication with a very short lifespan called the Sacramento Sunday News, said paleontologist Richard Hilton of Sierra College. Back in 1902, its Jan. 19 edition published an account under the headline “Monster in the Rocks” describing “a party of scientific men … engaged for a week or more in cutting out of the solid rocks at Clipper Gap, on the line of the Central Pacific Railroad, the remains of a monster belonging to some extinct species.” The report was of the group pulling out a petrified skeleton 25 feet long that had been exposed when railroad workers in the 1860s cut out the rock to push the Central Pacific Railroad farther up into the Sierra. The Monster in the Rocks story was believable enough for the tale to be published again two days later in one of Auburn’s newspapers of the time, the Republican Argus. It could have been a proclivity for both papers to spread a hoax around. Or perhaps it was just a case of collective naiveté. Hilton, author of “Dinosaurs and Other Mesozoic Reptiles of California,” said he believes the reports surrounding the carved-out fossil shape are little more than attempts at a hoax and the newspapers that perpetuated the fraud created a National Enquirer-type disservice. Logic would say that train passengers and crew members over the more-than-30-year period the line was operating through Clipper Gap before 1902 would have brought it to the attention of the scientific community, he said. The newspaper’s reasoning was that it was “plainly discernible from the passing trains but nobody cared to inquire into the mystery.” Hmmm. Clipper Gap resident Bill Wauters isn’t about to grease the wheels of a potential Loch Ness Monster or Bigfoot-like tale in his neighborhood. “I’ve heard all sorts of fanciful stories – these things have weird lives of their own,” Wauters said. And so it sits on the cut, about 30 yards from the Clipper Gap Road intersection with the track – a Believe It Or Not moment for many that continues to dupe the unknowing and thumb its nose at science. n n n ALL THE WAY TO MEMPHIS Foresthill keyboard player Warren Davis and his Jeff Watson Band gave it their all at the International Blues Challenge in Memphis, Tenn. in a king-sized battle of the bands featuring 100 blues groups from around the world. The Watson Band didn’t return with any titles. In fact, leader and guitar player Jeff Watson said they weren’t able to get through to the finals in their group of 10 bands. A duo from Poland called the Boogie Boys took those honors. But Watson said the band enjoyed playing at B.B. King’s and while many made the pilgrimage to Graceland, he made his to Stax Records’ recording studio. n n n RHYTHM & HUES The aforesaid Davis, a founding member of the Watson band, will be stretching out his keyboard stylings in Auburn on March 6 in a unique teaming with one of the Arts Building Gallery’s artists-in-residence, Traci Owens. While Davis plays, Owens will be painting a canvas in an event titled Image of Rhythm and Hues. Photographer Ciara McCaig will be recording the mix of painting and music on film. It’s part of the debut of the First Fridays event at The Arts Building Gallery in Downtown Auburn, Eight of the building’s artists-in-residence will play host to a free art event from 6 to 9 p.m. showing off their work at 808 Lincoln Way. n n n ADS ADD UP Take a one-of-a-kind scenic setting in the Sierra and add a proactive Placer County film commissioner. For the Resort at Squaw Creek during the past year, that equation has added up to a string of commercial and photo shoots. The year 2008 included visits by film and photo crews to shoot work for Apple, the California Travel and Tourism Commission, American Eagle Outfitters and Disney Travel. Last month, the 405-room resort at Squaw Creek was a featured location for the Australian version of the Today Show. Topping off the past year was a Sony Blu-Ray commercial that transformed the resort’s ice rink into a frozen pond. To add some icing to the cake (or maybe some extra and much-needed snow to the slope), Beverly Lewis, director of the Placer County-Lake Tahoe Film Office presented a special recognition award to the resort as her office’s pick for Business of the Year at the recent North Lake Tahoe Community Awards. Media Life’s Gus Thomson can be reached at gust@goldcountrymedia. com.