Posts Tagged ‘Paradise Valley Nevada’

Paradise Valley Ranger Station.

We moved shortly after I started Kindergarten. It seemed like our new home was miles and miles and miles away – probably across country! It was, in reality, just another county over and up US Highway 95 from Winnemucca, then 20 miles off to the east. It is close to where we tossed our father to the wind in 2012, on the 4th of July. Mom was already at rest in the Santa Rosas.

The new house was the same as the previous three: white clapboard with green trim. The log cabin structure right next door was the Ranger Station, but it didn’t have bears living under the foundation. Maybe I was older, or maybe the addition of a little sister cum best friend had eased the terror.

There was enough other scary stuff around, like the white steepled church next door that boasted “Katty Kissin'” lessons. The house we lived in was haunted. There was a huge swimming pool in the middle of the yard that we couldn’t see in to or go swimming in.*

*It was a water reservoir for the pumper trucks and only used in case of a fire. Later, it would be empty and would be the final corral for Smokey, Dad’s favorite bronc. But that’s another story.

Denny and I clung to each other in the move. Terry moved on, making friends with the local ranch kids as easily as ever. I honestly have no remembrance of his transition (he will have to post a comment). I know he got his own bedroom upstairs and Denny and I got the other bedroom. I believe? there was a bathroom between us. There was a stair case to the living room with a long bannister and I sometimes hid on it, just out of sight of my parents, listening to the movie they were watching and afraid to go back to bed. I’d wet the bed or had a nightmare, or the ghost had awakened me. Sometimes, Denny sat on the stairs with me.

Caught, we were offered no sympathy. Only punishment from exasperated parents.

Once, I remember catching mom sitting up in the kitchen nook in the middle of the night. She was alone and teary. A 2-way radio was turned on beside her. I crawled into the booth with her and cuddled, asking why was she upset. I think Terry came down, too. Dad was off fighting fire. Mom was scared and worried for him. I was too little to understand the capriciousness of a wildfire. Later, when I read Young Men and Fire by Norman MacLean, I understood.

Hallowe’en came. There was a huge to-do in town, and one of the ranch mothers took all of us trick-or-treating in her car. It was so dark out and the roads were so long and straight! You could see ranch house lights twinkling in the distance and when we arrived, dogs would bark as children piled out of the car with paper bags in hand and little masks on their faces. I think mine was a teddy bear face. Then we’d get back in the stuffy car and make another long drive, until we’d exhausted all the ranch houses.

It was not fun. It was scary. It was long, lonely, and I think I was getting motion sick. I don’t remember getting ill, but I’m pretty sure the nausea began to play into my late night soiree.

The big party in town had a cake walk, booths to play in, and all the pumpkin pie you could eat (or so it seemed to almost-five year old me). I wanted a piece of that pie so badly! Dad told me I could not have it: last year, I didn’t like pumpkin pie and had refused to eat it.

Of course, I couldn’t remember the previous year and I was certain he was wrong, so I whinged. Pleeeeease. Pretty pleeeeeeease. I’ll eat it all this year.

I ate it all to spite him. (To this day, I love pumpkin pie.)

I turned five in the haunted house. I don’t remember my birthday (a cake and candles).

Best memory:

We were ballerinas. We had a little stool we could stand on and twirl on. The ceiling was low, with one of those old-fashioned light fixtures in the middle. Denny went first, but she couldn’t reach the ceiling and she was clumsy, at best. Me – I was a regular ballerina-diva-talented dancer. I pressed my finger against the little brass knob on the glass fixture and twirled away on the stool. Around and around and around. We sang. LALALALALA.

The brass knob came off and clattered to the floor, followed by the heavy, ornate, light cover. There was a crash and the sound of shattering glass. I looked down from my perch to see my sister, her legs sprouting bloody streaks. She shrieked in pain and fear. Dark blood spurted and dribbled. I stood, transfixed by the awful sight.

Mom burst into the room with Terry. DO NOT MOVE! She shouted at me as she grabbed my sister and rushed her down the stairs, wrapped in a towel. My dad was working in the log cabin and moments later, I heard him coming up the stairs. He took one long look at the room, at me in my make-shift tutu, the blood on the floor. Then he stepped through the glass and lifted me off of my pedestal, at the same time landing a hefty slap to my rear end.

I didn’t understand! I was being spanked?! I’d only been dancing! I didn’t make the fixture fall! I didn’t men to hurt my sister! I didn’t understand! My cries mixed the air with my sister’s pain-filled cries drifted up the stairs.

Denny and I laughed about it, years later: how I tried to kill her with my ballet routine. She carried scars in her legs from the shards of glass. Mom and Dad never did think it was very funny.

Oddly – they later paid for ballet lessons for the pair of us. Maybe they wanted me to learn how to pirouette without unscrewing a light fixture. Ya think?

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I’m skipping ahead a little.

On July 4th, 2012, we took a little drive from Reno to Winnemucca, and from Winnemucca to Hinckey Summit in the Santa Rosa Mountains.

My mom’s ashes were scattered on Hinckey Summit by my brother some time after her death in 1995. Terry and I decided that we should reunite our parents, and the 4th of July was a very good day to do it.

Terry drove, Don sat in the passenger seat and I took a back seat with Murphy. I don’t remember the conversations: I spent much of my time staring out at the passing scenery, remembering bits and pieces of my childhood along the Nevada portion of the California Trail. The Humboldt Sink. Lovelock. Ryepatch Reservoir and the innumerable times I weaseled my way into a Thompson Family Outing with my best friend, just to hang out on the barren shores of the reservoir, basking in the sun and imagining the rolling hills as ancient dragons, now sleeping.

My best friend’s dad was a life-jacket Nazi. I remember being bundled up in an orange life jacket as we sped across the water in the Thompson’s motor boat to meet up with Lisa’s Reno cousins. Lisa’s mom always made something called ‘Shipwreck Stew’ what had beans, hamburger and the tomato-y taste of catsup in it.

The old rock and gem tourist trap outside of Winnemucca that my dad would never stop at – because it was a tourist trap.

Alkali, sagebrush, dust devils, geysers. And north from Winnemucca: the Humboldt River and it’s endless horse-shoe curves turning into one another, the Kearns’ Ranch (where Butch Cassidy and Sundance Kid supposedly swapped out horses when they robbed the bank in Winnemucca), sand dunes and barbed wire. Bill Pogue was buried out there, somewhere.

You cannot capture a childhood in a single post. The “ditch” that ran in front of our home on E. Minor Street and the milkweed that grew wild. All the Monarch butterflies that laid eggs that hatched into caterpillars that we raised in jars and watched turn into their chrysalis form, and eventually into Monarchs butterflies. The feel of a Monarch butterfly on your hand as its wings dry and it gets ready to fly.

The ditch has been covered over and lawn planted where the milkweed grew. It was 1968 and I wanted to go lay down in front of the Caterpillars and protest, but my father wouldn’t allow it. “They paved Paradise and put up a parking lot.”

Trudi and Carolyn, my alternate best friends who now live in Heaven with my parents.

The turn to Paradise Valley. There used to be a bar and corrals at Paradise Junction: my parents would stop there for a beer while my sister and I played on the faded wood rails of the corrals. Sometimes they held a rodeo inside those corrals. All gone, now.

My sister and I, wiggling on the back seat, trying to be the first to see the white church steeple that meant we were coming near to Paradise Valley. A tree has grown up in front of the steeple now, and you don’t see it until you are actually in town. It’s the Catholic Church where they held “Kitty Kissings” when I was four years old (catechism). We lived in the Forest Service house right next door.

There’s a “swimming pool” in the yard: a rock-and-mortar structure made to hold water to fill the tanks of water trucks used to fight fires. Once upon a time, my dad’s favorite USFS bronc was penned in the swimming pool: Smokey was 17 years old and they were still afraid he’d jump the rails of the corral.

From Paradise Valley, we took the dirt road up to Hinckey Summit. And at the top, we parked and walked out to a rocky outcrop overlooking all the Santa Rosas and all of the alfalfa fields and sagebrush flats below.

“Do you want to say anything?” Terry asked.

“Just” ‘See you when I get there!'”

Then Don and I stood upwind while Terry scattered Dad’s ashes.

And then the wind turned.

By the time Terry was done, I was covered in Dad’s ashes. It was funny. It was so much like my dad.

We waved at people driving by and then we drove on down to Lye Creek Ranger Station. The gate was unlocked, so we drove in. Once upon a time, we were Forest Ranger kids who camped on the land around the RS. We had to stomp on little mice when our parents shook out the mattresses from the house.

I cried. My dad scolded me. But I could not kill baby mice.

My dad serenaded a good friend here one night. It was one of those group camps with everyone from either the four-wheel club or the square dance club. All the adults were several sheets to the wind. And my dad started a rendition of “Good Night Irene” to send our family friend (Irene) to bed. He was terribly off-key.

And my mother threatened him with death if he should start in “Roll Me Over in the Clover“.  I secretly hoped he would sing the song so I could know *why* my mother didn’t want me to hear it.

Terry and I remember different things. He said he didn’t remember being worried about rattlesnakes when we were on Hinckey Summit. I remember carrying a “snake stick” to rattle the sagebrush with and I remember my mom worrying about Terry exploring “Chocolate Mountain” with his friend when rattlers were active. We both remember the mice babies and me turning into a puddle of tears. We both know where the sheepherder’s cave is above Lye Creek RS (hidden now by brush). We remember the cabins and the people who owned them, the camp-outs with the families we grew up with and the petroglyphs.

I remember a trip out to the petroglyphs with the four-wheel club. We drove over Hinckey Summit and over Buckskin Pass. Somewhere along the way, we saw a mule deer doe that was running all out. She hit the barbed wire fence and it threw her back like a boomerang. My dad stopped and we stared, bated breath and all. The doe recovered, shook herself off and ran at the fence again. This time, she knew where it was and she jumped over it.

I was probably 12.

All those thoughts assailed my brain and more. We drove back to Reno and I thought some more.

But in the end, it was the swirl of Dad’s ashes on the same rocks where Terry scattered Mom’s ashes so many years ago. They’re together now, Mom and Dad. Lovers separated only by death and time. One last step in their dance, one last step in our journey through grief.

Today, they would have been married for 59 years. And today they are together, dancing on the peaks of the Santa Rosa Mountains overlooking Paradise Valley and Winnemucca, Nevada, where most of their happy memories were.

Happy Anniversary, Mom & Dad.

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