Serendipity times two

Last week I had an assignment in the foothill town of Valley Springs to photograph local historian and author Terry Beaudoin. He was to show me where thousands of olive trees planted in the area in the early 1900s that still live today. The forecast for the day was for rain. As I left Stockton the skies were cloudy but dry so I held out hope that I could avoid the rain.


I drove out through Highway 12 in Lodi. By the time I got to Lockeford, about 8 miles away, it was drizzling enough to use my wipers intermittently. In another 4 miles in Clements I had to put my wipers on full time. While it wasn’t a deluge, when I reached Valley Springs, it was coming down hard enough to give the area a very good soaking.

I met Beaudoin at the Starbucks in the Valley Oaks shopping center at Highway 12 and Highway 26. He bade me to follow him to get to the olive trees, which I did. Then something miraculous happened. The rain quickly petered out. By the time we got to the trees, which were a few miles outside of the town’s limits, it had stopped completely. Even the asphalt on the roads were dry.

Beaudoin took me to a high point where I could see an overall view of the small valley were the trees were. The clouds parted and the sun shone down. He regaled me on how Stockton pioneer Henry H. Moore planted more than 5,000 olive trees in the late 1800s on land he bought on the cheap. At some point, his business venture went belly up but the trees stayed.

Beaudoin said that olive trees are very hardy and can survive without any formal watering once established. An so the trees have been happily growing there for more than a century. When I was done, I headed back to Stockton via Highway 26. Though it didn’t rain, stormy clouds still swirled in the sky.

About halfway between Valley Springs and Linden I approached the intersection where Ospital Road splits north and Widmer Road heads south. I could see just beyond Ospital a lone oak tree standing against the dramatic clouds on a gently rising hill. There are times when a picturesque scene is missing a certain unexplainable something to make it perfect and this was one of them. Looking for something better, I turned south on Widmer. I drove for about a mile or two and found nothing so I turned back.

I was about to turn onto Highway 26 to head back to the office when I saw that something special. A lone cow was climbing up the hill towards the tree. I quickly crossed the intersection and parked on then shoulder of Ospital Road. I waited until the bovine reached the top of the hill and captured it and the tree against a backdrop of churning storm clouds.

It’s been said that sometimes it’s better to be lucky than good. So twice in one day serendipity graced me with the good fortune to keep me dry and find a a great picture.

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