It was thirty years of fierce battle on American soil; but in 1841 the Russians finally left for good.
There wasn’t a drop of American blood spilled. And no, we didn’t sneak in under cover of darkness to poison their Vodka stash, either.
Nope: the California Russian Invasion was defeated by two mighty forces which could neither be blown to bits nor compromised. Yeah, I’m talking gophers … and California’s notorious North Coast Fog.
Frankly, I know JUST how the Russians feel. There’s a black hole of gophers here in Bloomfield and an infinite replicator at the other end of said hole. Kill one and the only apparent difference is that a twin pops out of the ground one hole (i.e. 1 inch) away to thumb its nose atcha (likely trying to ‘kill with cute’.) Kill a hundred and a hundred memorial gopher mounds spring up in your favorite garden patch the next day: both a service for the bereaved and the answer to apparent genocide in a massive retaliatory effort.
Now, the Russians came to Northern California with high hopes. Their motives were pure: they merely wished to plant crops to feed their starving Alaskan colonies – and a neato place to offload some 41 cannons from das boat didn’t hurt either (…and who packs a boatload of cannons for an extended vacation?? Inquiring minds wanna know…) – which is why the coastal refuge of Fort Ross was SOOO appealing. They didn’t even enslave their newfound Native American neighbors: they married ‘em (there must’ve been some heavy vodka partying on all sides after THAT idea!)
It’s ironic to think that instead of placing their cannons outward, the Russians would’ve been better off had they attempted a shelling of the soil where the REAL enemy lie in wait.
I can just picture the first struggling plant shoots making their way through the soil, the impromptu Vodka party and Russian kick-dancing which resulted that night – and the ‘WTF’ moment the next morning when they found ALL 1,000 shoots sucked down into black holes overnight. I’m sure half a day was spent recovering from the last evening’s hangover and blaming this sordid event on hallucinations or too much partyin’ before they finally realized the REAL obstacles to success lay deep underground (likely chuckling, and with full tummies, as they welcomed the Russian ‘invasion’ – which at that point, to Mr. Gopher, was likely synonymous with ‘full larder’).
A side note: leader Ivan Kuskov had also thoughtfully brought a raft of otters, intending to raise otters by the shores and export their profitable furs to Mother Russia. ( Ed.’s note: Wow. Between 41 cannons and a raft of playful otters onboard, that ship was PACKED. ) Guess what?? A mere 30 years later there were NO otters (methinks the Gopher Brigade likely had underwater hideyholes for when the garden veggie raids just weren’t enough….)
Indeed, Russia’s greatest coup may have occurred in 1841, when they gave up the good fight and sold their fort to one John Sutter, turned their pigs loose in a final spasm of revenge (it’s where California’s notorious modern feral pigs come from!) and took their Pomo Indian wives back home to Mother Russia (the Kashaya Pomo are STILL trying to locate their distant kin in Russia. (Ed.’s note: After generations in warm California, likely they froze to death upon hitting the frigid shores of their new Siberian home…)
And the fog which also caused much Russian angst? (Ed’s note: you’d THINK peoples from a perpetually-frigid Arctic world would merely chuckle at a leetle fog…)
It, too, was Left Behind.
So today here on the Northern California rural coastline we enjoy: lovely views (on the few days fog permits such – which always prompts a plethora of real estate agents to QUICK get out the signage and get those sales contracts in blood before the fog returns to claim said view!), sad Russian history, the annual Feral Pig Hunt, and the restored remains of a grand ole’ fort that proudly proclaims Russians DID indeed land on California soil with high hopes.
All they left with was our Pomos.
They DID leave behind a few extra cannons, however. Some 41.
And on the Gopher Issue: me, I’m all for SHELLING, myself…make use of this wayward artillery!