Jeff Jardine

Jeff Jardine: Cow gets the shaft, then rescued in Tuolumne County

Molly, a 1,200-pound Brahma cow, is lifted from a 35-foot mine shaft in Tuttletown by Vic’s Towing of Sonora after UC Davis veterinarians worked to safely secure the cow Thursday. Molly had fallen in three days prior.
Molly, a 1,200-pound Brahma cow, is lifted from a 35-foot mine shaft in Tuttletown by Vic’s Towing of Sonora after UC Davis veterinarians worked to safely secure the cow Thursday. Molly had fallen in three days prior. UC Davis

From the emails, voice mails and other sources:

CATTLE CALL – One of the perils left over from the Gold Rush era in the Mother Lode is the number of mine shafts still exposed.

The U.S. Bureau of Land Management in 2011 determined there were more than 47,000 of them statewide and began working with California’s Department of Conservation to seal as many as possible, including mines near Columbia and Big Oak Flat, both in Tuolumne County.

They missed one, or haven’t gotten to it yet, as a 1,200-pound Brahma cow named Molly discovered in Tuttletown last week. Tuttletown is an old mining community along Highway 49, near New Melones Reservoir.

Molly fell into a 35-foot-deep shaft and spent more than three days down there while local vet Dr. Wes Wittman, Tuolumne County Animal Control Officer Jennifer Clarke and UC Davis’ Veterinary Emergency Response Team worked together to extract her Thursday.

It certainly helped that the animal, raised from a calf by owner Antoinette Nichols, is very friendly with people, making it easier for the vets to go down into the confined space and get her into a harness.

Randy Selesia of Sonora’s Vic’s Towing company hoisted her out of the shaft. Miraculously, she suffered only a couple of bruises, he said.

“That was pretty neat, to see her come out of there alive,” said Selesia, who in his 50-plus years in the towing business also has extracted horses, goats and, of course, vehicles from some pretty deep and steep places. “It was one of those circumstances where everybody worked together. That’s what it is all about.”

The veterinary school produced a video of the rescue. Visit

If you are traipsing through the foothills and come across an abandoned mine shaft, call (877) 653-6463.

NOT THE TOUGHEST – While pulling Molly out of the hole took teamwork, Selesia said it ranked as an eight on a scale of 10 in degree of difficulty. One of the most difficult? Years ago, a mountain lion chased a black Arabian horse into a swimming pool. The ice-cold water caused problems for the horse and rescuers alike.

“It went through a sheet of ice,” Selesia said. “The vets had to warm him up a little bit at a time. He had hypothermia. But they saved him.”

IN MEMORIAM – In December 2009, I wrote about how Modesto resident Warren Brown survived the attack on Pearl Harbor because he went to the movies.

On Dec. 7, 1941, the Navy electrician was out at sea aboard the USS Minneapolis conducting gunnery practice for the benefit of filmmakers when the attack on Pearl Harbor began and launched the United States into World War II.

In fact, the footage they shot that day became part of the movie “The Shores of Tripoli,” starring John Payne, Maureen O’Hara and Randolph Scott. The Japanese pilots ignored the USS Minneapolis and three escort ships to concentrate on the battleship row at the base on Oahu.

“I’d just had breakfast – ‘chow,’ we called it – and I went out to sit on the bow,” Brown told me in 2009. “I looked over at Pearl Harbor and saw the smoke. It wasn’t very long before they sounded general quarters.”

Command then sent his ship to hunt for Japanese submarines. When he returned to Pearl a week later, he saw the damage up close.

“There was oil everywhere in the harbor,” Brown said. “All the battleships were sunk. It was horrible.”

Brown went on to serve during battles at Coral Sea, Midway and in the Philippines as well.

“I saw a lot,” he said. “(My ships) didn’t get hit a lot. I feel lucky for that.”

Sad to report that Brown died Jan. 19 at Turlock Nursing and Rehabilitation Center. He was 93 years old.

GETTING TOGETHER – Prescott Junior High grads from 1980 are planning their 35-year reunion March 28. Why a junior high reunion, you ask?

“Many of us just celebrated our 30-year high school reunion but have not seen all our junior high classmates for 35 years due to the fact that we were split up after we left junior high,” wrote Jeff Luna in an email. Indeed, they were sent off to Beyer, Davis and Modesto high schools after leaving Prescott. Contact Luna at

AUTHOR! AUTHOR! – A new book by Modesto’s Michael McGranahan, titled “Silver Kings & Sons of Bitches,” is a novel focusing on William Ralston, the man for whom Modesto was named (Modesto because he was too modest to allow it to be named in his honor). As California’s most powerful banker in the 1850s, Ralston took his battle with Adolph Sutro over Sutro’s Comstock Lode tunnel all the way to Washington, D.C. McGranahan’s work is available on Amazon at $5.40 for an e-book.

Bee columnist Jeff Jardine can be reached at or (209) 578-2383. Follow him on Twitter @JeffJardine57.