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So how much of Dorris Bridge really happened?
 
 

 

The Real Dorris Bridge
There was an actual Dorris Bridge, California. Named after Pressley and James Dorris,
who built the aforementioned bridge, the town was established in 1871. In 1874 it was re-christened Dorrisville, and in 1876, was again re-named to its current version: Alturas.

Alternate Universe of Sorts
So does that mean Dorris Bridge is the pseudonym for Alturas in the novel? No! The map provided in the start of the book situates Dorris Bridge on Highway 395 in between Susanville and Alturas. References to events involving Alturas occur throughout the novel.
So why name this fictitious community after the former name for Alturas, and locate it just one fictitious county below? Perhaps the answer is that Dorris Bridge operates as a sort of an alternate universe to the real Alturas of the 1970's: Dorris Bridge bears similar geography, demographics, and concerns. But there was absolutely no intent for the fictional characters of Dorris Bridge to be modeled after specific real people, save perhaps Kyle Burgess, who draws heavily from the author's own experiences (but even then, bears a number of differences.). Of course, any one residing in Alturas in the 1970s might start to recognize certain situations in the novel. But upon further reading, they will eventually pause, and conclude- 'that isn't the way that happened.'

Rural Legends
Did the rural legends referenced in the book actually circulate in the 1970's? The Lights, as a First Nation Paiute legend, are fictional, although some minor oral history exists  regarding lightning appearing without thunder or a cloud in the sky. Mysterious slaughter of cattle and sheep, often attributed to U.F.Os, are well established rural legend. Legend of a Basque nomad clan in the Black Rock desert also existed as minor oral history. The co-existence of a Mormon Fundamentalist clan in the desert was fictional. And of course, any community with a hill of any size bearing an older, unoccupied multi-story dwelling is bound to possess oral tradition regarding supernatural events occurring therein.

Historical Events
While Dorris Bridge is a novel, numerous passages provide glimpses into actual historical events. How does one decipher what is intended to be presented as reasonably accurate historical information in the book, as opposed to fiction? As a general rule, referenced events that were local or regional in scope, or involving characters from Paiute County are fictional, while events statewide or national in scope, were based on actual history. Specific references to national popular culture and mass media from outside Paiute County including performing artists, movies, television stations and programs, radio stations, books, newspapers and magazines are intended to be accurate. The following further clarifies reference to applicable events and items in selected chapters of the book:

  • Ghost Dancer - The history of the "Ghost Dance" movement is intended to be accurate, until events shift to Paiute County. The battle of Crook's Canyon did occur as described.

  • October 1975- Jerry's Restaurants indeed dotted the map in Northern California and Nevada, although they no longer serve coffee or anything else.

  • Vices in the State of Jefferson- The history of the attempted formation of the State of Jefferson is intended to be accurate, except of course for the involvement of Paiute County. Pat Brown's personal history is intended to be accurate, except for his involvement in eradicating vices from the northeastern counties of California. The actual vices operating in Northeastern California were not documented, and are only the basis of rumor and oral history.

  • The Haunted Mansion of Dorris Bridge- While involvement of characters from Paiute County are of course fictional, the national events leading to Internment, referenced internment camps, camp visit by Eleanor Roosevelt, and internment mortality statistics are intended to be accurate.

  • The Amerikanuak of the Black Rock- The history of the Basque is intended to be accurate, up until introduction of the Black Rock clan, who are fictional. The Mormon Fundamentalist clan is fictional, but the Short Creek Arizona Fundamentalists were real.

  • The Paiute Red Menace- The narrative regarding McCarren and McCarthy is intended to be accurate, except for McCarren's staff interactions with Burl Thompson. McCarren did die from heart failure in Hawthorne, Nevada as described, sans Burl Thompson.

  • Dominoes from the Future- The Niles Hotel and Saloon in Alturas, and the Cascade Theater in Redding, originally operated by T&D Enterprises, are real.

  • A Church for Every Saloon- The Community Church of Cedarville and Sacred Heart Parish in Alturas and Susanville were real, as is the hymnal: Devotional Hymns, a Collection of Hymns and Songs for Use in All Services of the Church, Including Sunday School, Young People's Meetings, Missionary and Mid-Week Services. The San Francisco Chronicle of course could not have run an article on Paiute County.

 

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