Wandering the World
The Ground Beneath my Feet
This post is a part of a collaboration with Blog with Friends. Each month we choose a theme and everyone gives it their own special twist. This month's theme is Boo so stay reading until the end and you will find links for all kinds of scary posts!
When we moved from Los Angeles to a tiny town in the desert, I was too young for my parents to consult with so my opinion of the move went largely ignored. As an adult, I understand why but as a child it seemed terribly unfair. When we drove through the nearest “city”, Bishop, and I remember my parents pointing it out. I didn’t understand where the city was, it only took 15 minutes to drive across from one end to the other and to my eyes, used to seeing only LA, it didn’t even register. Then they announced that that wasn’t even where we were going to live and they kept driving 45 more minutes before arriving at an unmarked sand drive that seemingly disappeared into the dessert, this is where we were going to live. It was hot, it was dry and it was absolutely devoid of human inhabitants, my heart sunk. What was I supposed to do out here in the land of endless sagebrush?
My parents however were enthusiastic and set about becoming a part of the community (it wasn't actually devoid of human inhabitants, it was just that the nearest one was over a mile away) and we soon began to explore the Inyo/Mono region of central California. We started by taking hikes around our new land but soon we were driving to attractions unheard of in the city of angels. One of my favorite places to go was Bodie Ghost Town, an abandoned mining community that once boasted around 10,000 citizens and around 6 killings a week. Apparently it was what you think of when you think of the "wild west". To get there, we had to drive over what my brother and I called “the rollercoaster road”. It was a straight, little used, highway that would send our stomachs up over our heads in a series of ups and downs that were simultaneously thrilling and nauseating. We yelled for my father to go faster and faster absolutely ecstatic when our small bodies were lifted off of the bench seats of our wood-paneled station wagon. In these moments, our father was a hero, capable of making a boring drive into a trip to an amusement park and since safety was not exactly the prevailing concern of the mid-seventies, we were unrestrained by seatbelts or car seats.
Turning off the black top of the freeway, the road to Bodie was at that time unpaved. Our tires kicked up dust as we were rattled along an endless series of curves and straights to the ghost town. I am sure I must have peppered my parents with questions like “Why is it called a ghost town?” “Are there any actual ghosts there?” “What should we do if we see a ghost?”. My mother tells me that I asked so many questions when I was little, my aunt was shocked that she would bother to respond to them at all. She always did her best to answer though, even after I discovered that any answer can be followed up with “Why?”, such is her love of and respect for curiosity.
Finally we bounced into a bare patch that served as a parking lot and proceeded into the old mining town. There were houses, a church, a school and a huge processing plant towering above the town. We were alone most of the time as few bothered to drive all the way out there. We were free to enter abandoned houses, sit in old school desks, and imagine trying to sleep on the dusty, threadbare mattresses.
I especially loved the cemetery where old headstones gave the names, dates of birth and dates of death as well as sometimes providing a bit of information about who they were related too. I still remember a large granite angel hovering protectively over a particularly small grave with a little wooden fence around it. It was the grave of a child. I wondered why she died so young and if she wanted to go to the school I had just been exploring. Maybe she had brother or sisters who went there. She must have walked up and down those dusty streets with her mother before she ended up here on the hillside.
I don't have any photographs of the cemetery but I found some excellent ones here. The article even includes some of the ghost stories about the cemetery and more information about that little girl I always wondered about.
I found this excellent article from the New York Times 1975 about what Bodie was like back then. It is true, things were in total disrepair and if allowed to continue that way there would probably be nothing left of the place today but for the dusty roads.
A few years ago, I took my little family (my husband and daughter) to see this part of my childhood. We went over the same “rollercoaster” road, this time just as a rainstorm was rolling through. It was beautiful and thrilling and just like I remembered it. Then we found the turnoff for the ghost town but this time it was well marked and paved. I kept waiting for the pavement to run out but it never did and we were now deposited into a large, well-maintained parking lot full of RVs. Signs directed us to the visiter’s center where we had to pay an entrance fee. Most of the buildings were locked, we could just look through the windows and walk around the streets. There was a museum now and lots of information. There were plaques full of names, dates and stories from the town as well as park employees on hand to answer questions. Everything was organized and protected.
We enjoyed our trip but not once did I see it spark my daughter’s imagination the way it had sparked mine way back when information was hard to come by and more was unknown than was known. All of those unknowns were blank spaces on which I could paint my own stories. I now have both memories of Bodie to visit in my mind, but more often I go back to the one of my childhood, when my parents were searching for ways to help us love our new strange, home out in the middle of nowhere.
Be sure and check out the rest of the "Boo" posts!!
Karen of Baking In A Tornado
Peanut Butter Brownie Graveyard
Melissa of My Heartfelt Sentiments
Tamara of Part-time working Hockey Mom
A little Halloween Fun in the Shower
Lydia of Cluttered Genius
Boo-tastic Cat House
Dawn of Spatulas On Parade