Wednesday, June 28, 2017


This photograph is my grandfather's family (he's the second from the right) in front of their home at the time. I visited here for a week when I was fourteen. It was hot. No running water. Outhouse was off to the back on the left side. It did have electricity, though. And a well. My great-uncle Bill lived there then (he's the one alllll the way to the right).

During my visit there, I had several experiences I will always cherish. Drove Uncle Bill's pickup around on the back dirt roads. It was an old Ford with stick shift--and when I say stick shift, I really mean it was a long metal stick spearing up from the floor. Another day, Uncle Bill let me help shear sheep. Boy, what a mess! Little did I know I was storing up memories to use in future stories.

Then there was the swimming in the old moss-covered concrete water tanks. I shudder to think of all the bacteria floating around in there. The creak of the windmill as it lazily turned in the occasional breeze was the only sound for miles around.

I had my first experience with a shotgun, pot-shotting stones on the edge of the reservoir. The first shot put me on my butt, but I was always stubborn so I climbed back to my feet and took another crack at it...and another...and another until Dad pointed out my shoulder was gonna be black and blue for sure.

The homeplace was as barren as it look in this photo. No shade. Did I mention it was August and hot? One of the attractions of the property was a very high hill called Nipple Peak. I'm pretty sure you can figure out why it was named that. Back in the day, folks were a lot more likely to be blunt in their nomenclature. Anyway, one day my Dad and I took a notion to climb Nipple Peak. It was a ways off from the house so Uncle Bill drove us over there in his pickup.

We started up. Abruptly, it turned into a race. I went one way. My dad chose another. I was fourteen, for crying out loud. My dad was thirty-four! Practically ancient--except for Uncle Bill who was seventy-four. Of course, I was gonna win.

It wasn't easy. I scrambled up the mountain, dodging prickly pear and stickers. But finally I reached the sheer high crown of rock at the peak. There was no way up! I edged my way around the entire perimeter and couldn't find a single spot to get a foothold. Then an arm reached down and a hand was offered.

"Need a lift?" Uncle Bill asked.

So I guess he wasn't too old, after all.