Author: Karsemeyer, John

Thousands Of People Disappear In Grass Valley

Sarah Bellum is a graduate student at California State University, Sacramento. She lives in Grass Valley, California. Her thesis project for her Masters Degree involves a strange phenomenon that occurs every year in Grass Valley, always during the middle of June.

A child prodigy, Sarah was always good at inventing things. As a university student, she invented a global positioning satellite that tracks automotive vehicles. With the cooperation of the Department of Motor Vehicles, she is able to track all the vehicles of Grass Valley residents, as well as the visitors and tourists.

This is done by a special coding system on each license plate. She stumbled on to this coding, which has been done for years by the DMV, to track cars and owners all over the United States. The coding system allows certain people who “have-the-need-to-know” to be able to track not only which vehicle is registered to which person, but where that vehicle is located, any place at any time.

That information is exactly what Sarah needs to know. The goal of her thesis is to look at the trends of how many resident vehicles there are in Grass Valley year round, how many leave and don’t come back, and how many come for a short time and then leave. The goal of the whole thing is to plan ahead for how many services need to be provided to accommodate all the people who reside in Grass Valley, and for all that visit. Services like gas stations, restaurants, shopping centers, and others that help the city thrive.

Sarah started tracking all this stuff years ago, while in her first few years of college. It was based on a statistical formula that predicted what trends were occurring, and it was fairly accurate. So much so, because of her efforts, a couple of shopping centers are now in existence in Grass Valley that were not there thirty years ago.

Her GPS (Global Positioning Satellite) project is 100% accurate, almost. The only draw back is that it cannot track a vehicle if it goes into a large group of trees, or a forest. Still, her system provides data that is statistically accurate, plus or minus five percent.

While involved in her project over the last few years, Sarah started noticing an interesting trend. Every year, around the middle of June, a large number of vehicles start appearing in Grass Valley. These vehicles are not identified as permanent, or semi-permanent. It starts out as a dozen or so vehicles, and grows and grows as the days go by, and finally numbers around five thousand after a little over a week has gone by.

What puzzled her is that almost as soon as the vehicles appeared in town they would disappear. Her GPS system would indicate that a vehicle had appeared, but within a few minutes to an hour they would disappear. Sherlock Holmes type investigation revealed that about one week after the vehicles disappeared, they would reappear for half an hour to an hour, and then disappear again.

Sarah didn’t really believe in alien abductions, but she was beginning to entertain the thought that there might be some basis for truth regarding paranormal activity.

One day she was telling her cousin, Ima Shyman, about this. Falling victim to an uncontrollable impulse, Ima decided to investigate this occurrence on her own. Now it just so happens that Ima is an ambidextrous, multi-instrument player of bluegrass music (which at first has nothing to do with this story, but later does).

Ima had migrated from a small town in Arizona (legally) to Grass Valley only a year ago, and even though she was a bluegrass musician she didn’t play music with other people. It wasn’t her fault. The “culprit” was a family-autism thing, genetically transmitted to her existence in the form of a renegade gene from a distant uncle who had the same problem (who got his gene from, well, never mind, it’s not that important to this story).

But after a dozen sessions of pro bono therapy by a local therapist/barber, Ima was starting to kick some of the autism thing. In fact, during the last year or so she actually began playing bluegrass music with one of the locals, even though she could only handle that situation for 15 minutes. As fate would have it, this one person convinced her to join a weekly twelve-step program for bluegrass musicians who are addicted to oneness. At every meeting she had to muster up enough courage to stand and say, “My name is Ima, and I’d rather play bluegrass music by myself than with other people.”

It was at one of these group meetings, coincidentally, that Ima brought up the vehicle appearing-disappearing-reappearing-disappearing phenomenon that perplexed her cousin Sarah (doing the vehicle tracking thing). She hadn’t talked about it to others outside of the group. This was due, no doubt, to the fact that Ima was a loner, and didn’t hold conversations of any length with most people she encountered. When she brought it up, the only response from one of the group members was, “Wow!”

At one of these meetings, her sponsor, a 5-string banjo player, by the name of J.D. Raven, set a long range goal for her. In front of the whole group he announced, “Your long range goal, Ima, is to be able to join and play successfully, for at least thirty minutes, in a bluegrass jam where a minimum at fifteen players are present.”

Ordinarily when Ima was faced with an anxiety provoking situation like this she had to call on pharmacological assistance, but she was okay this time because she knew of only five other bluegrass musicians in Grass Valley, and they were all in this support group. She was newly arrived in Grass Valley, and also had a great denial system, so it didn’t even enter her mind that she really had to meet this goal. “Five plus me is six, not even close to fifteen, so I have no worry,” her cognitive process informed her.

“Sure, that’s fine,” Ima fired back at her sponsor. J.D. confidently returned the fire with, “Good. Let’s see, tonight is Wednesday, June 17th, so I want you to meet me at my house this Saturday, June 20th, at ten o’clock in the morning.” Ima still was not worried as she thought to herself, “Okay, the worst thing that can happen will be that J.D. will have fifteen life-size cardboard images of musicians in his living room, and then I’ll just play an instrument and sing for half an hour.”

Saturday came around, and Ima drove over to J.D.’s house, arriving two minutes early, feeling confident, with no anxiety accompanying her that was detectable at a conscious level. She rang the door bell, armed with her D-18 guitar and biggest smile of the month. J.D. promptly opened the door, walked onto the front porch, closed the door behind him, and said to Ima, “Come on, you and your guitar get into my car, we’re going someplace.”

They arrived at Gate 4, Nevada County Fairgrounds (Grass Valley) at 10:21 am, the Saturday before Father’s Day. Ima had never been here before. She was fairly new in town, and besides, she didn’t like crowds. With eyes as wide as the fullest of full moons, and mouth gaping wide enough to accompany an overcrowded hive of honey bees, Ima gasped, “What in the world? Where have you taken me J.D.? Where am I? This must be one of those natural hallucinations, because I don’t do drugs and don’t drink this early in the day!”

What lay before Ima was way too much to take in all at once. As the car drove slowly into the forest that is the trees, her eyes thirstily tried to take in the endless numbers of people, young and old, who were walking around, or sitting in small circles. At least fifty-percent of them were playing an instrument, or singing, or both.

“J.D., J.D., what is this?” Ima shouted. “This is the annual California Bluegrass Association’s Fathers Day Bluegrass Festival, which has been held every year for the last 34 years,” J.D. explained. “Wow, there must be at least 1,000 people here,” Ima said surprisingly. “Actually,” J.D. answered, “this is Saturday, the third day of the four-day Festival, whic
Posted:  5/8/2010

Copyright © 2002 California Bluegrass Association. All rights reserved.
Comments? Questions? Please email