Upon a Mountain of Sand
Sometimes I miss Fallon, Nevada. I did a significant portion of my growing up in the little desert-locked hamlet.
I was seven when we moved there, my mother, my younger brother, and I. Dad had finally taken off and left us flat, which was, in reality, better for all four of us at the time.
Anyhow, we spent the first three years living out on an alfalfa ranch owned by a friend of mom's, then moved into town for four years before making our way back to California.
Being so far out in the boonies, and in so small a community, severely limited our options for outings and field trips with the class. Every year we went to Fort Churchill, a tiny frontier Army outpost that was, in all, pretty boring for a kid. There is a power plant nearby, which always sort of rescued the day. I've never had the chance to go back as an adult. I'm sure I would appreciate it far more today.
We also visited the Fairview/Dixie Valley Earthquake Fault. That was also fascinating for about 15 minutes. Striation: very cool. The Southern side of the area being 4 or 5 feet higher than the northern: very cool. The long drive out and back on the same school bus you rode into town on for 40 minutes that morning: very not cool.
The cool field trip, which usually ended our year, was out to Sand Mountain. Two miles long, a mile wide, six hundred feet high, nothing but sand.
The climb was excruciating for our still-growing legs. It's like walking on the beach, but at 20 to 45 degree angles, trudging through the sand to the narrow, dusty summit. Here and there were three and four wheelers cutting grooves in the face of the mountain, only to have the wind cover their tracks while they were still fresh. Mostly there were just hikers, walking along the ridge and up and down the face of the giant dune.
Sand Mountain was one of the challenges of my childhood that was somewhat daunting while never hopeless. Brushing the dirt out of our eyes and putting up with the grit getting stuck in our teeth and nose and hair, we'd make one trip to the summit, then run, dive, and roll down the face until there was more sand in our briefs than on the mountain. Standing up there was like being on top of the world, looking down on the little ants buzzing around the base of the dune just starting their climb. For one day, we were adventurers, conquering heroes, courageous explorers.
There were some things about being a kid in Fallon that bit rocks, but there were some things you can't find nearly anywhere else.
I kind of miss that place.