People We’ve Met: Billy Two Dogs

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Billy Two DogsPHOTO: (C) RUSSELL JOHNSON

We met Billy Two Dogs in Campo Seco, a ghost town in California’s gold country. Nothing really here anymore except for a few crumbled relics and a boarded up store with a surprise in the basement.

Campo Seco (Dry Camp” in Spanish) has had its runs of successes and hard times. It was founded by Mexican placer miners in the mid-1800. They found gold, then copper was discovered. For a time, it was a workers’ town for the builders of the nearby Pardee Dam. Campo Seco once had churches, hotels, saloons, a Chinese gambling hall. It burned down at least twice.

Campo Seco RuinsPHOTO: (C) RUSSELL JOHNSON

Now? Crickets. Literally. We wander around desperately looking for a photo op, some quaint symbol of the past. Billy Two Dogs appears from out of nowhere.

Billy looks like a cowboy, but not a just-off-the-range after brandin’ doggies cowboy. This hombre is wide-screen and in technicolor.

“Want a beer?” he asks.

“Too early in the day,” I say.

“Come on, take a look at my place.”

With trepidation as we are being led down into the cellar of a seemingly abandoned building by a guy chomping on a cigar, we follow.

We enter a real saloon, which, except for the Kirkland (Costco) brand hooch, looked pretty authentic. He and a friend are nursing beers.

Bill Villegas is a real local. His family lives nearby. Billy says he made quite bundle as a car salesman but now keeps his private saloon for friends and works as a bit-part movie actor.

Campo Seco is a California State Historical Monument just outside of the town of Valley Springs, California. Aside from a plaque, some rubble and what is said to the the largest living cork tree in California, Campo Seco is hardly worth the drive…unless you should be so lucky as to run into Billy Two Dogs.

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