Saturday, March 28, 2015

Terror On Alt 95

Terror On Alt 95

At the crossroads of Silver Spring, I pulled into a gas station to get my daughter, Shannon, a soda.  She had been demanding a coke for over fifteen minutes.  She was only three years old, but knew what she wanted. The afternoon was warm and we had no air conditioning in our car back in the early 70’s.  I was thirsty too.  We were going to visit my mother in Yerington about thirty-three miles away. Silver Springs was a true crossroad. East was Fallon, West led to Carson City, North was Fernley from which we had just passed through from Reno where we lived, and South lead to our destination, Yerington and then to Las Vegas. For thirty miles, give or take, in any direction from Silver Springs was mainly desert with no services.  To this respect Silver Springs was a little oasis for travelers.

I was in no hurry this day.  I took Shannon to the restroom and got her a Coke and her favorite “potato chips with windows” - pretzels.  She was delighted.  In those days we did not have car seats for children or seat belts. I stood her in the passenger seat - her favorite way to ride, so she could see everything.  I had to wait for two other cars to pass before I pulled from the gas station.

I was reminded of a time a few years back, when at this very crossroads, I picked up a skinny bare-chested, bare-footed hippie in work overalls, who had only a large family-size Bible clutched to his chest. “Where are you headed?” I yelled at him through the open passenger window.  “Las Vegas.” he replied. “Well come on, I can take you as far as Yerington.” I motioned to him.  We visited and talked about the Lord and when we arrived in Yerington, I offered to buy him something to eat, but he refused as he was anxious to get to Las Vegas. I figured he was fasting and on a mission from God. I dropped him on the corner of Main & Goldfield.  I always wondered how he made out.

Even though Silver Springs had very few buildings and businesses, it had a 25 mile per hour speed limit that went for miles.  It alway irritated the hell out of me.  Nevadans were use to driving fast as there were no speed limits outside of city limits. “Why does Silver Springs have such a large city limit?” I would cursedly question every time I went through it.  Most the time the further from the crossroads, the faster I would go.  However, this afternoon I was behind a California tourist in a black Buick, who was following the speed limit exactly.  Every time I tried to pass, oncoming traffic prevented me.

I impatiently tapped my fingers on the steering wheel, whistled in the air and cursed under my breath, “son of a bitch!”.  I was looking ahead for the speed limit to change, so I could pass this “jerk”.  The road from here to Yerington was only a two-lane highway, one lane for each direction.  Everyone in Nevada knew the rules and politeness of driving these kind of roads. Don’t keep your brights on at night for oncoming traffic, always keep a watch out for deer and cattle in the open range, slow down when someone tries to pass in both directions, leave plenty of space to pass and don’t pass on a double line. Additionally, be careful not to hit the soft shoulders as you could get into a car roll with nothing to stop you.  People have been known to roll up to twenty times over the flat sagebrush-covered desert before coming to a stop.

Finally, we reached the end of the speed limit and began to accelerate.  Still there were a few oncoming cars.  When they passed I looked ahead and saw a large oncoming semi-truck very far ahead.  I had plenty of room and time to pass. I put on my blinker and increased my speed to overtake the Buick.  To my surprise, the Buick accelerated to match my speed.  I accelerate more and so did he.  I stepped on it to 90 miles per hour.  He matched me.  “What the hell is he trying to do?”  I yelled into the air.  “Kill us?”  I was eyeing the semi getting closer and so decided to back off and pull back in behind him.  As I slowed, so did he.  “He is trying to kill us!” I exclaimed.

I looked at the driver in the Buick.  He was a 30ish man with black hair and an evil smirk. His girlfriend was beside him and she was laughing.  This was great fun for them. I looked across at the man and hand signaled him to let me in.  His eyebrows lifted into a murderous arch. Now I was getting really scared.  My mind was racing.  What to do? In split-second thinking, I viewed my three options.  I could have a head-on with the truck, I could turn into the Buick on the right, or I could veer to the left and try and hold the car upright across the desert. All options were disastrous.

As the truck drew nearer, I knew I must make a move.  I yelled, “You may kill us, but this is what I think of you!” and violently flipped him the bird.  At this point, he slammed on his brakes to let me in.  I slide to the right in front of him just seconds before an inedible head-on collision could have occurred.  I was still shaking when we reached my mothers house.  It began to sink in how close we had come to dying that day.  The personification of evil for delight has puzzled me since that event.  I cannot conceive it.  I did learn one thing. When all our options are explored, there may still be one more option - a miracle.

Monday, March 9, 2015

Rumble At Anaconda Lockout

Rumble At Anaconda Lockout

The 1965 Saturday night dances in Yerington,  Nevada became my responsibility quite by accident.  

My best friend, Sue, was a dynamic personality and had a powerful voice. She and four other high school classmates formed a band called the Sabras , but they had no place to practice. Our living room just happened to be very large, and so it became the band practice spot and hangout. My mother worked late, so at first I neglected to even tell her of my afternoon activities, but when she did find out, to my surprise she was supportive.  

As the band improved they started talking about performing. They decided they needed a band manager to help get them some gigs.  Sue at this point volunteered me. I was fifteen years old. I did not have a clue about finding the band engagements, but I was working on the school newspaper that year and so promoted them with little news articles.

It finally occurred to me, to rent the VFW hall and have a town dance.
Because Yerington was a small town where everyone knew everyone and because my mother was the hospital administrator and because I had a reputation of being “a very responsible young lady”, I was able to rent halls, enlist chaperons and get the police to give us their help and blessing.

For two years, the Sabras and another band, the Quids, whom I had started managing,
performed twice a month at town dances, proms, and parties. The Sabras performed at the battle of the bands in Reno, coming in third place and performed on KOLO TV.  Sue “Hot Lips” Hatton had such a powerful voice that when one night at a dance while she was singing “The House Of the Rising Sun” the microphone went out. She kept belting out her song and was still heard over the drums, electric guitars and the shuffling feet of about 75 dancing couples. At a KOLO recording session, when she started singing the sound technicians grabbed their headsets and threw them on the desk. They came running on the set to adjust the mikes and instruct Sue on how to hold the mike far away from her mouth to keep from destroying their eardrums.

As I approached my senior year, I had gotten quite good at arranging town dances and promoting them with fliers and newspaper articles both in the school paper and the local paper, who’s logo was “the only paper that gives a damn about Yerington”. As summer was wearing down, I rented the Eagle’s Roost for a back-to-school dance.  I did my usual promotion and was expecting a good turnout. The turnout was even better than I hoped for.  

About half way through the dance four surprise visitors come in. They were black soldiers from the naval base in Hawthorne located about 60 miles away.  We were at the height of the Vietnam War and there was a large ammunition depot in Hawthorne.  They had read about the dance in the paper and driven all that distance for a little recreation. Now Yerington at that time had only one black person in the town, a lab technician, who my mother had hired. No one in town would rent to her, so the county rented her the apartment above us. She may have been the only black person who had ever lived in Yerington up to that point.  

Needless to say, the farm and miner boys did not take kindly to these black boys asking their dates to dance. Many of the girls did dance with them. They were very good dancers. After about an hour of “tolerance”, the white boys could take it no longer and challenged then to a fight.

The dance came to a halt as everyone grabbed their coats and purses and headed for a well known local spot, the Anaconda Copper Pit Lookout, an open pit copper mine viewpoint, for the fight.  As cars and trucks sped out of the parking lot, I left the chaperons to close up the dance  as I caught a ride to the pit.  I was scared what might happen and felt responsible if someone got hurt since it was my dance.

By the time I arrived at the lookout, there were about forty vehicles parked helter-skelter.  The four black soldiers had their back to the pit with a 200-foot drop. Their trunk was open and they pulled out some chains and a crowbar. One had a small pocketknife and another had a church key with the pointed end out. Slowly approaching them were about twenty-five white boys with their fists up in Cassius Clay style. Some of the football team took their tackling positions.  This was going to be a war of two types of fighting styles: clean vs. street, rednecks vs. rumblers.

My heart was sinking as I realized someone was surely going to get hurt. I was trying to reason with them to stop but to no avail.  As name-calling prevailed the spectators rooted, yelled for action, some girls cried.  

Suddenly a pickup truck roared up the gravel road and came to a screeching dust encasing stop. A sixteen-year-old farmer’s son jumped out and retrieved his 22 rifle from the rear window gun rack and headed to the line of skirmish. “Oh my God, he is going to shoot those black guys!” I panicked.

Before I could take another breath, he discharged his gun in the air and was shouting for everyone to leave before the police came. He really didn’t have to tell them, because at the sound of the gun’s boom, there was a mass exodus to the cars. The jackrabbits could not have out run them as they scurried down the lookout road in a cloud of dust that made the atomic bomb look tame. Thus ended the one and only rumble in Mason Valley to my knowledge.

The black soldiers were never again seen in Yerington. Sue moved to California shortly after the rumble, as did one of the other band members, one joined the Navy and headed for Vietnam, and thus ended my band management career. I was now 17 years old and preparing for college.

Thursday, March 5, 2015

The Yellow Box

The Yellow Box

Brothers -- I had two.  They were as different as salt and pepper. No they were not black and white, but in flavor they were distinctively unique.  The room they shared illustrates their differences. One side was very neat.  The bed was made neatly.  All the clothes were picked up and hung in the closet or folded perfectly in his dresser drawers.  This side belonged to my brother Dan. Dan was eighteen months younger than me and eighteen months older than our youngest brother.  He was a perfectionist from birth and would go bonkers when things were out of place.  That is why sharing a room with his younger brother was pure torture for him.  On the other side of the room was an unmade bed, covers tossed on the floor.  Dirty clothes lay everywhere. Books and a half filled glass of kool-aid and partially eaten ketchup sandwich covered the bed stand.  This side was my brother David’s.

At one end of their bedroom was a large four drawer dresser.  The top two drawers were Dan’s and the bottom two belonged to David.  A peek inside their drawers revealed the same differences.  Everything in Dan’s was perfectly folded and categorized.  David’s on the other hand were partially bare, because most of his clothes were on the floor or under his bed, unless I had just finished washing and had replenished them.

Their personalities and temperament were also at opposite poles. Both were middle children.  Middle children either learn to negotiate well or become the “lost child” who can never find their place.  Dan had learned to be a great negotiator.  He was industrious and at times a clown depending on the need.  He was popular and was very in tune to the latest fads.  Overall he was pleasant to be around unless you pissed him off.  He had quite a temper.  A temper that would not leave, until pay back had been accomplished.  He was patient in his revenge.  He could wait weeks to
get you back.  He’d wait so long that you would have to ask him “Why did you do that?” and he with great satisfaction would reply, “You remember when,,,?”

David, on the other hand, was a tease, but he didn't know how to stop, so would irritate people.  He was also passive aggressive.  As the “lost child” his response to anger was to shrug you off, ignore you and go about his merry way.  He hated to be “nagged” and the more you did, the more he would continue what ever behavior you were addressing. Of course he did this while smiling and displaying his cute dimples.

With these two personalities in mind I shall continue my story.

When Dan was in high school he was still small for his age.  He eventually grew to over six feet, but at the time of my story he was short and skinny.  This really bothered him, because all the popular kids were on the football team, which he tried out for, but was too small in size and weight.  He was not, however, small in spirit.  He had read the Atlas Body Building ads that were run in all the comic books of our time.  He sent off for this course and someone gave him a set of weights.  He was determined.  True to his nature, he kept these weights neatly in a homemade yellow box that he kept by the side of the dresser.  Dan was somewhat possessive about his stuff and threatened to kill anyone who went in that box or touched his weights.

One evening as I was preparing to cook dinner, Dan came stomping furiously into the kitchen fists clenched and red-faced yelling, “He put a snake in my yellow box.  You had better make him get it out of there, or I am going to kill him”.  “What!” I exclaimed.  “Show me.” I did not want to believe this.  We snuck upon the yellow box in terror.  Dan slowly lifted the lid a crack.  I was expecting a large rattlesnake to strike us, but instead I quickly glanced at a garden snake before Dan shut the lid to prevent its escape.  Now I was mad.  I hated snakes.  “Damn that David!” I exclaimed.  

David had not yet come home from his after school activities.  I returned to the kitchen.  As I pulled out the flour to bread the pork chops I was going to cook for dinner, I was trying to figure out how best to handle this situation.  I knew Dan was going to seriously hurt David, if he didn't get that snake out fast.  Yet, I knew if I asked David more than once, he would consider it nagging and wouldn’t do anything.  About this time David comes bouncing into the kitchen with his dimpled little smile.  As calmly as I could, I said. “David, Dan says if you don’t get that snake out of his yellow box he is going to kill you!”  David’s comeback was, “I can’t. I don’t have anyplace to keep it.”  My response was “Well, you’ll have to let it go then.  You can’t keep it in the house.”  David did his little shrug thing.  A sign that he was going to blow me off.  Now I was pissed off and started yelling, “If you don’t get that snake out of this house NOW, I am going to kill you.”  He looked at me surprised that I had turned into Dan and he was outnumbered and replied simply, ”Fine”.

With that he turned and headed to his room.  I set the cast iron skillet on a hot burner to meld the grease for the pork chops. As I was continued flouring the chops, I saw David with the snake around his arm walking down the hall to the front door.  His jaw was set in anger.  I breathed a sigh of relief.

A few minutes passed and as I lifted the first chop to drop in the frying pan, David startled me.  He was standing directly behind me and when I looked back to see him, he dropped his dead garden snake into my skillet.  I screamed and he laughed hysterically.  With a twinkle in his eye, he said. “If I can’t keep it, I’ll just eat it.”  I was beside myself.  I knew he was punishing me for siding with Dan.  He knew I would feel badly about the poor snake sizzling in my frying pan.  He had won!  No, I couldn’t let him win.  I screamed at him, “You are going to eat it!.  You won’t get any dinner until you do.”  As usual, he just shrugged, “I will!”.
and stormed out of the kitchen.

I fried his snake until it was a nice golden brown and put it on a plate while I cleaned out the pan and finished the pork chops.  When dinner was complete I called everyone to the table.  I served up the plates and set them before my brother Dan and my sister, Lexie.  Our mother was seldom home at dinner time as she worked.  To David, I served his snake.  Everyone looked at me like I was crazy, including David.  “You said you would eat that snake, now eat it” I snarled at him as Lexie gagged and Dan’s eyes bugged out.  In defiance, David cut a piece off the snake and took a bite.  He then got up and carried the fried snake outside to the garbage.  Before he returned from the garbage, I place his pork chop dinner at his place.  The dinner conversation was about how a snake tasted.  By the time dinner ended all tempers had ceased.

Yes, brothers --  I had two!

Lexie (age 3), David (age 5), Danny (age 7) & Chere (age 8)
Picture taken in 1956, Yerington, Nevada
Story occurred in 1964


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