One of the most colorful characters in Nevada Irrigation District’s history is the legendary “Mad Russian” of Texas Creek. The solitary but likeable emigrant loved his vodka and garlic, talked to the animals and even kept a pet skunk during 13 years as a ditch tender at the isolated mountain station.
Born in Russia, Walter Proscurin found his way to the Gold Country and held a few odd jobs before he hired on with NID in the early 1950s. He worked summers in the mountains repairing canals and flumes.
Walter’s unusual life in the high country was traced through interviews with NID retirees Jason Davis, Frank “Snowshoe Fritz” Plautz, Lee Droivold and Kent Pascoe.
A year around employee was needed at Texas Creek, four miles southwest of Bowman Reservoir, and it was at the onset of the record setting winter of 1952 when Walter began his career as a high country ditch tender.
“I remembered him calling for help because there was so much snow pushing against his house. He thought the snow would push it into the creek,” said Davis. Davis used to pack supplies into NID’s remote mountain stations.
Asked what he remembered most about the Russian, DAvis lauged, ” He used to take garlic with his vodka. You couldn’t get within six miles of him”
“He ate garlic like we eat bread,” added Plautz, who retired after 22 years as NID’s Bowman lake tender. “He was serious. He wasn’t much for joking. But he was a good-hearted guy. He always wanted to do something for your”
Frank’s wife Ramona, said Walter was very eccentric and may have gained his nickname of the Mad Russian because of the way he would wave a rifle and chase hunters out of the Texas Creek area.
Walter lived alone in a stone and wood cabin on the bank of the Bowman-Spaulding Canal near its crossing at Texas Creek. A foundation is all that remains of the cabin today.
The stout naturalized U.S. citizen, stood about 5′ 10″ and weighed 220 ponds, was responsible for keeping the water flowing through several miles of canals and old wooden flumes from Windy Point to the Clear Creek Tunnel.
Pascoe said the Russian was a big hit during his ventures into Nevad City. “He used to throw himself birthday parties at a Nevada City bar. One year, he must have spent $500 to $700 buying everyone drinks.
He loved animals and he would feed the coyotes. He had a bear coming up there for a few years. He always kept a salt lick for the deer.. He fed the birds and kept a pet skunk und the house.
The 63 year old Russian died on March 24, 1968. The cause of death was listed as heart problems and pneumonia and died alone. He is buried in the Pine Grove Cemetery in Nevada City.
Source: NID Waterways, Summer 2016
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