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Capping off another day at Woodfords Station

Record Courier Staff Reports

Neatly pegged around the perimeter of the large room in Woodfords Station and hung from the beam over the hand-crafted wooden picnic tables and benches are hundreds of colorful baseball caps. In fact, there are more than 400 caps with company logos from across the United States and abroad that people have donated.

“My favorite ones are from overseas military personnel,” said proprietor Dave Kirby. “Lynda and I own a country store where good ol’ boys like to hang out, and where nobody is a stranger.”

Near the only traffic light in Alpine County, though it’s merely a blinking yellow light marking the turn off to Markleeville from Highway 88/89, Woodfords Station is the fourth reincarnation of a store in that location. The three former stores burned to the ground.

According to the recently published, “Images of America: Alpine County,” “In 1847, a Mormon outpost called Brannon Springs was established at what later became the junction of Carson Canyon and Markleeville Roads. In 1853, when John Cary erected a water-powered sawmill and later, a flour and gristmill near the site, the name became Cary’s Mills. But in 1849, Daniel Woodford had built a hotel on the river, across the emigrant trail, and in 1869, when a post office was established there, the camp was officially named Woodfords. In the 1860s, Woodfords became an important stage and mail-route station. When ranches, farms, and mining towns developed around the camp, it became the transportation hub of Alpine County.”

Fire destroyed much of Woodfords in 1881, and Willis P. Merrill built a “new” store, which in turn, burned down.

Members of the National Pony Express Association recreate the Pony Express in a Commemorative Re-Run each year, and this June, as in every even-numbered year, riders will once again stop at Woodfords Station. The last California rider will hand over the mochila -leather saddlebag holding mail – to the very first Nevada rider.

The Kirbys, who have owned the store at 290 Old Pony Express Road since June 13, 1983, work together to accomplish the tasks of running a country store.

“Lynda works here three days a week,” explained Dave. “She shops for the food and comes in around noon to help out with lunch. She makes the chili, cornbread, and quiche.”

Dave, Lynda or helper Teri make sandwiches and ladle out soup, as well as selling groceries, snow park permits, fishing licenses, and giving travel advice to often-confused tourists, whose maps don’t explain adequately the winter closure of Monitor Pass and Ebbett’s Pass.

Dave opens his doors every morning at seven for his regular.

In the winter, Woodfords Station is open until 4 p.m., Sunday through Thursday, closing at 6 p.m. Friday and Saturday.

Benny, Skip, Dave, Wayne, Earl, Gary, and others sit at the counter to discuss local, national, and international politics. “We’re an older redneck conservative group who mostly see the world in black and white,” Kirby said.

The wood-burning stove adds its own heat to the discussion as the guys throw the dice to see who gets to pay for coffee.

“Around 7:45 I start getting cranky and tell them that I need my breakfast. I love socializing all day, but by the time I get home I’m pretty quiet, according to my wife.”

n Gina Gigli is a resident of Markleeville.