Archive for the ‘ranger station’ Category

We’re getting ready to leave for nine wonderful days of camping. I’ve arranged for the housesitter already and the list of things to take is getting short as we cross off things.

I’m excited for several reasons. the first being: I really need the time off and camping really clears my mind and settles my spirit. The second being: we’re picking up The Dog. And the third being: we might actually drop down into Jarbidge, NV. Don was perusing hot springs we might go to on our way to pick up Fido in Filer, and he saw Murphy Hot Springs. Well, I just happen to know that place well – or I did some thirty plus years ago. It’s just a hop from there to Jarbidge.

I grew up in Jarbidge. That’s not a claim many can make. In 1957 my dad was assigned to the Humboldt National Forest, destination Mahoney Ranger Station (that’s a long O sound). We also stayed at Pole Creek (say crick, not creeeek) RS. In 1959, my little sister was born in Elko, NV, but they printed Jarbidge on her birth certificate. I have vivid memories of Jarbidge and we visited for years after we moved away. I think the last time I was there was in 1970. My dad still owns property there.

My brother and I ran away in Jarbidge. I was actually the unwilling partner, just a toddler sitting in the little red wagon as he huffed and pulled us away from Mahoney. He was mad at my mom and told her we were going to go live with someone else. So she followed us at a respectful distance in the car, eventually going on ahead to wait for us to arrive in town. Me, I was terrified. I sat in that little red wagon and I could hear bells in the aspens and all I had to hold was Teddy. My brother assured me the bells were just the bells on the cows a local owned. I knew he was right, but it scared me anyway.

We kept in touch with neighbors with a crank phone. My mom would crank it a couple times and then talk to the operator. After they finished gossiping, she’d be put through to her party. Yes, I am that old.

I was terrified of the Ranger’s office at Mahoney. I just knew bears lived under it (my dad worked for Smokey the Bear, after all). I should have been more afraid of the rattlesnakes, but I honestly never saw one. Everyone else watched me walk blithely past a few while we lived there, but I never saw them. Our dog killed a few (and rubber boas and bull snakes), but I never saw a live one. I was also terrified of the inside of the barn at Mahoney: my dad kept traps set there and once my brother and I sneaked in and I saw a packrat in the trap. It was far from dead and pretty ticked off (not nearly as mad as my dad was when he found out we’d been in the barn, but at least he didn’t use the .22 on us. Only the packrat).

I was never afraid of the remuda. I remember looking up through the legs and tails of horses into the surprised and suddenly fearful eyes of some hand tossing hay from the loft into the corral. I was probably 2 at the time and I just wanted to be a horse. I never did it again, so I probably got a whalloping.

Pole Creek was another special place. My brother ran into a moose on the trail once (he was just as surprised as the moose and both went the other way rather speedily). We had horses there, too, and my dad’s favorite mustang mount, Smokey. But it was special for more than that. Every summer we’d visit Jarbidge and the surrounding areas and this particular summer when I was 11, there was a reunion of sorts at Pole Creek. One of the rangers got out the horses and started giving kids rides. Of course, I was thrilled. And I stood in line, waiting my turn. But when my turn came, he declared the horses were tired and the fun was over, and I was the only little girl left out. My sister even got a ride!

While the other little girls followed the horses to the other side of the pasture to continue the fun (smart horses: they booked for the far side as soon as they were free). They stood and hand fed the horses and giggled little girl giggles.

Me? I was steamed. I knew it meant more to me to be able to ride than it did to any one of the other little girls (selfish creature that I was), and I felt it highly unfair to decide right before my turn that the horses were “tired.” More likely the dad was tired.

I followed a footpath that led between sites at Pole Creek, losing myself in the aspens and the lighting. I could hear the revelers below and I knew where the other girls had gone, but I was alone in the woods. Then I heard other voices coming down the path. Deciding I did not wish to speak to anyone or to be observed, I slipped off the path into the woody seclusion of the aspens. There, in the filtered light, I could watch people walk by, but they would likely not see me.

And there he was. A big mule deer buck, standing still in the mottled shadows, head up and ears forward, watching me. I froze and stared into his deep eyes. He was taller than I was (I was pretty small at age 11). Probably a three or four point buck, I wasn’t counting. I was only noticing how close we were and the way his sides moved in and out with his breath.

Then he took two steps back into the underbrush and disappeared. It was as if I was watching a magic show and the magician made the lady disappear: the buck vanished into thin air. I blinked. He couldn’t have simply vanished! I let out the air I’d been holding in my lungs and slipped forward to see if there was a track. There was: I had not imagined him.

While my sister regaled about hand feeding the horses that night, I had a better story: I had the encounter with a buck, just feet from me, and just a few more feet from the path. I like to believe he came, just for me.

I don’t know how I can relate all these emotions surrounding Jarbidge to my husband, but I so want to go there. I don’t expect it to be the same. George and Youra are dead, the Murphys have moved on, and the SLOW CHILDREN sign is probably long gone as is the Rocket (a pile of junk on the south end of town), but the memories hover and echo in the ruins of the mining camp. I can hear the clink of chain against a pole at the old abandoned school yard and smell the gas fumes mixed with oil at George’s garage. Butterflies gather around the mud puddles on the street and june bugs rub their legs together to create a raucous noise. As night falls, the bats swoop down.

And somewhere in those mountains, the giant Tshawhawbitts is buried in a cave. Wonder if he was a Bigfoot?

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