A debtor from the 19th century

An investor was trying to collect on a note, and called me to help him out: he and a bunch of strangers had loaned $600,000 to a fellow living in the outskirts of Cambria, California. The fellow had stopped paying, then filed a chapter 12 case being heard in the U.S. Bankruptcy Court in Santa Barbara. The debtor was a seventh-generation landowner in Cambria, near San Simeon; his forebears had owned the land before California became a state. His inherited portion was just shy of three square miles in a patchwork. Every 40 acres held the ruins of a shed (something to do with old homesteading laws, I was told). All his neighbors were cousins, but that didn’t mean that they got along: he had problems driving the dirt road to some of his land because of lawsuits over access. One of his attorneys (he went through five during the whole case) told me “he’s a man of the last century, and I don’t mean the 20th.” He lived by harvesting chanterelle mushrooms…

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