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Monday, September 15, 2014

The Perks of the Middle of Nowhere

The Perks of the Middle of Nowhere-
Jessica Smith
August 2014

               The stranger placed a 24 oz. soda on the counter to buy. “Why DO you live in the middle of nowhere?” The man looked in his late 40s, with a surfer tee shirt and wavy combed back hair. He lowered his rose colored glasses and gave a smug grin, “This IS the middle of nowhere isn’t it?”
               From behind the cash register I couldn’t help but grimace as I scanned the soda. The dank musty smell of his cologne was drifting towards my side of the counter;  it didn’t do much to appease my situation. Bleh, I was doing just fine up until about 10 seconds ago. Why did this man have to stop here? And then I remembered, oh yes; because we are the only gas station and restaurant for miles. Most wayward tourists did stop here. Any person driving from the south of Nevada to the north going into Oregon and Idaho were undoubtedly forced to travel North on Highway 95. The stretch of road was typically long and lonely. When people pass the little town of Orovada, a significant number of them almost always had to use the restroom or needed to stop and stretch their legs.
               “I suppose…” and I diverted my eyes to look at the view of the Sawtooth Mountain outside the window of the store. “…it’s for the wide open spaces and the mountains…and the smell of the sage after a good rain…”
               Not wanting to wait for me to finish, the man rolled his eyes. He acted like someone trapped in an annoying situation. I suppose he was wondering, ‘Why would I even justify living here? Who would want to live in a place like this?’ Most people could never possibly understand, because they had never experienced the joy of a small town like this. They were merely passing through; on their way to and from a better place (in their opinion). What could possibly be in it for them?
               I realized my manager was watching the whole situation. Steve, normally a quiet man of solid disposition, was getting just as annoyed by this man as I was. He turned his back and pushed his tuft of graying hair over his brow. I saw him cross his arms as I went on. “That will be $1.10. You know, I suppose it’s all a matter of opinion. We think this place is wonderful.”
               The man shrugged his shoulders as he swiped his credit card. After it went through he took the tea and left the store.
               The bell dinged as the man exited and Steve, still with his back towards me said, “When I left Oregon all those years ago, I told myself that I was going to take off and find a peaceful place. I wanted a place where I could watch the sun set every night and grow a garden. I wanted a place where I could grow old, have a dog and be happy. A place where…the people were kind and there were farms all around… and by golly! I found it!” He turned around and grinned. “And you know, it takes people like that to make me remember my perspective. Most people don’t realize how good they have it. Or how good they could have it if they just made the choice to be happy.” His blue eyes were shining as he shared his conviction.
               And then I realized that the Middle of Nowhere really was a matter of perspective and opinion. To the man that came in the store, it was a place where he never wanted to be, but for us, it was just the opposite. I don’t know where he had come from or what he knew, but I know that most people don’t like these small towns. Driving through a place where there is not so many amenities or luxuries can be daunting to those who are not used to it, but to those who are, it is liberating. Waking up each morning to the sun over the mountains and the hum of tractors in the fields and the smell of sage right after the rain- that’s what Steve and I like best. And we will tell you all about it on your next trip to the Sawtooth Station in Orovada, NV. Come for lunch, it’s delicious!

Tuesday, May 6, 2014

Song of spring

A song of spring
blossoms in the summer's green
and repeats upon a chorus of the birds.


Nothing persuades my heart to beat
like the thunder underneath a horse's feet.
the rhythm follows me wherever I go
whether it fast or whether it slow. 
All through the night I hear it
when I am trying to sleep
the agony of waiting 

Friday, April 18, 2014

March Community Living

March 2014

What is a claimstaker?

What is a claimstaker? Well, here’s the shortest description I can give. A claimstaker is what you call a person who gets hired by a mining company to go out to the middle of nowhere to put posts in the ground. As a rule, the job is almost never in a very nice place, and it’s almost never at a pleasurable time of year. It could be up a mountain on the top of a cliff or on the vastness of a dry playa bed. It could be in the heat of the middle of summer or the cold of the snowiest day you have ever seen. Generally, the job involves putting monuments in the ground to establish a physical boundary for mineral prospects and the recording of all of this with the appropriate government offices. There are many different laws and requirements depending on the size and general location of said group of claims. One I can think of is the requirement for a valid claim monument. In Arizona, a person has to have a five foot high 2X2 post sticking out of the ground in order to be valid. In other places, a three foot pile of rocks will suffice, and still in other places yet, one could scratch marks into a tree and that’s a good enough monument as any.
               Once, I can remember spending an entire afternoon looking on a hillside covered in pine trees and rocks. I was looking for a marker placed before the 1930’s which showed the corner of an important claim. Well, given the time difference between then and now and the overgrowth and subsequent variations from year to year, this made the task very daunting. The only thing I had with me was a copy of an old hand drawn map and a set of latitude longitude coordinates. I plugged the numbers into my fancy GPS machine and drove as far as I could up the hill on ATV to the general location I thought it would be. I had to hike another couple of hundred feet up the hill. After scrambling up and getting scratched from the thick growth of pines, I came to the exact location. My GPS showed that I was right on the spot that it was supposed to be, yet there were no significant markings or posts of any kind around. There was just a whole lot of scraggly pine trees, boulders and thick undergrowth. So I wandered around for a while; up and down the hillside. I can remember feeling frustrated because I knew it was something I had to find. After a while I wiped the sweat off my brow and I sat down to think for a moment. 
               It was a dry December day at a cold altitude, but I remember that the sky was clear. I knew I couldn’t leave the job until I found this monument. I had to have the coordinates so that I could draw a new more accurate map, I just couldn’t find it. And then, like a silent prayer, I looked up and thought I saw something on the tree. I moved closer and got my hand up on the tree to peel back the bark. Well, hallelujah, I thought to myself. I could see the markings that someone had etched in the tree. Though it was no longer legible, I could tell that someone had deliberately carved the name of the corner in the deepness of the bark. And on this day, almost 90 years after it was originally etched, I was finding it again.
               And you know, I think this is the best description of a claim staker that I can give. It’s a lot like life in a way, because I find myself lost a lot of the time, but after I sit down and really think about what it is I want to find, it’s usually right in front of my nose. Even if I can’t always understand why or how, usually the question has already been answered. All one has to do is find your marker and put it on your map.   

A Divine Map (finished)

Maps show so many things
Treasures and tales
Of lost golden rings.
Some maps are dirty
And yellowed with age
Some maps are crisp
Some printed on noble page.
Some are folded
Hidden in some corner
And some are rewarded
With county recorders.

Maps are like you-
Maps are like me
Born a blank page
Empty and free.
But as time rattles on
All of us draw our own maps
With pencils of experience
We plot our own path.

Who else but God
Could show you the way
When you have no idea where you are going
And no idea of what to say.
You are not born
With a draftsman’s keen eye
So, how can you tell
The mountains from the sky,
But if you look around on your map
There are a few hidden clues
To the state you were born
And the life you will choose.
One knows not
The roads you will take
Or the mountains you’ll climb
Or the fences of fate
Which cross the designated path
Often when least suspect
Covered in rusty nails and barbs
God draws you a fence.

The map you are drawing
Is unique and intense
And you must always remember
There’s a path around that nasty fence.
Look to the scale bar
To find out how long
An inch is a mile
But I might be wrong. 

But of the drawing of maps
The most important rule is such
That the North Arrow
Must always face up.
Like hands towards the sky
It acts as your guide
No matter the weather
Or if your map leads you awry.

So say a little prayer
And you’ll find your way.
Just look where you are going
And always have faith.

Friday, April 4, 2014

The Senator from Texas

He stood for 21 hours and 19 minutes
In front of a committee; speaking heartfelt
While the house threw him punches
And aimed below the belt.
He spoke for the people
because no one else would.
A stack full of patron's letters
should have shown the good.
'Defund Obamacare?' What a big waste of time!
Said the lead snake in Congress
hissing away with rhyme.
The Senator from Texas
then drew his mighty drawl
And said 'I will not leave this stand'
'I will speak until I can not speak at all!'
And for 21 hours and 19 minutes
the snakes slithered around his feet.
While a lion he became- the truth he did intreat.
For he knew what the snakes meant
about caring for the people
Was just a disguised tax reform
designed from pure Evil.
'You don't care about the people's health!
You'll just change the laws to your own content
that they pay for all this countries debt.
And lose all the wealth!--------------
They'll have to wait in lines
and pay more by the month.
Doctor's won't have time to see
The cancer or the lumps.
But that's OK, it won't matter a bit
to the snakes in Washington-
totally exempt!
They'll take the money and then they'll laugh
 A fraud played at the working man's expense.'
And for 21 hours and 19 minutes
The lion roared of defense
The Senator from Texas
Decided to build a fence.

Monday, March 24, 2014

The Greatest Country

In the unbridled doctrine
of the American foretold
exists a silent humiliation
our leaders have taken hold.
Patronizing the Patriot
who once held with iron and grit;
now fables of the fumbler
and the useful idiot.
A once sound Constitution;
A gold staff melted now and mixed
forming a play-dough
and they are happy because it fits.
The turning of an age
and the technology of the times
become excuses for the change
beloved tyranny of the mind.
Empires crumbled long ago
in this same declaration
but perhaps it is not too late
To change our destination. 

Sunday, February 2, 2014

The horse and her family

The horse didn't know there was a better way to be
and all of the people were convinced she was happy and free.
The horse was alone in a 40 acre lot
with nothing much to accompany her;
 just some chickens and ducks.
 The man that had brought her here
scared her with his stick
 how he had hit her in the face;
this she wouldn't forgive.
 For she never got too close to people
after that day 2 years ago
she'd keep them all at a distance always
an eye on which way they would go.
 But the lady knew this couldn't last because
 Horse's toes were growing and two years
is a very long time to not see a farrier coming.

 The lady didn't know there was a better way to be
though all of the folks in town were convinced
 she was just ugly and mean.
 But she loved her horse through all of her vices
And she gave her ducks a pond and
Horse would watch them try it.
She would shake her head at the thought
of the man she was with he had hit her too,
and this she would not forgive.
 For she never got too close to people
 even though they were always around
 She never gave them too much credit
 for they made her so unsound.
 But her granddaughter knew this couldn't last
because she loved her grandma so
and two years is a very long time
 to not let any love sow.

 The granddaughter didn't know any better
 when she went out to that horse.
She had brought her a shiny apple
 struggling to push a good day forth.
For in her 10th year she had seen too much
of her mother's bad habits and
 her father's nasty drugs.
 It was only when she went to visit her
 Grandmother that she was allowed any slack
where she could say hello to the horse
 and splash water on ducks
. For she never got too close to people
(they were never around anyways)
She wandered outside to where that lonely horse could be found
And there, much to the surprise of all who were watching
 is where the little girl pet the horse that hadn't been touched in two years.
And Grandmother saw through the window of her house and ran outside in a hurry.
 The horse knew this wouldn't last
as she spooked backwards as if in trance.
And the farrier saw as he pulled up in his truck
A Grandmother holding her Granddaughter back
as the little horse sniffed and showed him her back.
 but that girl stretched out and gave her a hug.
2 years was a very long time Indeed, without any love.

Wednesday, January 8, 2014

Makin' Biscuits

We would put the flour in

and then she'd stir around

baking powder, salt and what not

before I'd cut the butter down

With child hands I squooshed it flat

then ma'd take out that plain old mug.

'Don't need much to makin' biscuits,

Just all the ingredients and love!'

Tuesday, January 7, 2014

Searching for Someone Else's Treasure

Searching for Someone Else’s Treasure - A Claim Staker Story by Jessica Rowe

It was towards the end of a summer day in Colorado at 11,000 feet. We had been there all summer staking mining claims in the La Plata Mountain range west of Durango. The sky was clear and I breathed in that sweet mountain air as I sat at base camp waiting for my dad to finish his line. I remember, the blue birds were chirping in the tall pines and the purple bell shaped columbine flowers were swaying in the cool breeze. It was a good day to be a claim staker.

The man that hired us was probably sitting in some suit somewhere in a building behind a computer. Here we were roughing it, out putting stakes in the ground so they could claim mineral rights and gamble their money. They would find some geological prospect on a map, tap their bony fingers and shout ‘aHA! I know there is gold there, I just know it!’ Then they would give my dad a call and off we would go- searching for someone else’s treasure.

They always called us crazy, too. My dad would take jobs that most people would never dream of. It was always in the worst time of year- the middle of a snow storm in January, or in 120 degree heat in the middle of July. Rain, storm, shine…it never seemed to matter to these suits. When they had the money and the inclination to get a job done, it was our responsibility to see it through. Well, not really me, just my dad.

This time though, on this particular day at 11,000 feet, it didn’t seem so bad. They had at least tapped their finger on a corner of the world with trees and flowers. Colorado was a beauty; a hard, rocky, unrelenting beauty, but a beauty nonetheless. The day before we had done a line up on the ridge above the timber line. I can still remember the view looking out over the vast expanse of land that stretched into Utah. We were on top of the sleeping Ute- what the Ute Indians called the silhouette of the La Plata range looking east from Cortez. And boy was it a view. Up there on those rocks I couldn’t help but feel like the tallest person in the world. We would spend all day huffing and puffing, jumping over boulders and tip toeing across shad scale rocks. The rocks would slip under my feet and I had to strategically hop on wayward grass patches to keep from sliding down the hill. I never knew how my dad did it- he was always like a bighorn sheep walking at those heights. He never slipped and he always knew the way.

Somehow amidst all the slipping and sliding and carrying all our gear and 2X2 posts we would finally reached the top. I would drop everything, sit down and have a drink of water. It’s these moments I remember best. Being stuck between a rock and a hard place was never as bad as it seemed up there, because at least we could feel that cold breeze on our sweaty skin and the air would be fresher than any suit could ever imagine. Well, I don’t envy them anyways. My dad would look over at me and just smile and I knew his soul was happy. There were no words for that beautiful sight.

Finally amidst my daydreaming, I saw my dad stumble out through the trees. I could tell he was successful with his line because there were no more posts on his back. He would wander over to me, sit down and open his canteen.

‘Rough line, Pops?’

‘You betcha.’ And the water would dribble into his beard and he would just smile.

I think those suits are probably crazier than we realize.