Thursday, July 10, 2014

A Genius Of Sadness

After seemingly endless months of winter, and after a hit and miss spring, and even after some surprisingly cool temperatures in mid June, summer has finally, irrevocably and definitely arrived in the Tiny Tune Town of Atomic City.
The days are now hot and dry.  
The rains that frequently threaten (promise) to fall over our town always miss us.
Always seeming to skirt around the outer edges of our little community.  
Almost mocking the residents of this Idaho desert town.
Seeming to relish in first raising - and then dashing - our hopes.
This is without a doubt my least favorite season of the year.  
That feeling is not exceptional to Idaho.  I felt that way when we lived in Tennessee. And in Wyoming.
Not so much when we were in Alaska, because in Juneau any day that it wasn't raining or snowing was a good day.
Life has been quiet for us these past couple of weeks as we have all stayed in the house too much during the day, in an effort to stay cool.
After taking Kory for an early afternoon walk in town a few days ago and seeing that I was actually dragging my usually athletic and energetic dog around the block, I realized that walks and runs will have to be both early and late in the day for the foreseeable future.
Late one afternoon a few days ago LC, Kory and I ventured out onto BLM land close to town.
Large swaths of land close to town were leased to a would-be farmer early in the spring, and we watched in both disgust and bemusement as he ploughed up hundreds of acres of land.
What could he possibly think that he could grow in this environment without water?  
He was certain that he would be able to dry farm out there, so LC and I continued to watch, fairly sure in how this story was going to end.
It turns out that we did indeed call the ending correctly.
Nothing grew.  And all this fool succeeded in doing was tearing up every sage bush and every blade of drought tolerant natural grass that somehow had managed to survive for eons before a misguided human decided that he would tear it all the pieces.
In the strong winds that we often get (and with a lack of plant life to hold the soil together), he created a mini-dust-bowl that blew across the town (and took whatever seeds he planted with it), blew across the highway and continued its journey up and beyond the Twin Buttes.
Thankfully the natural grasses are slowly beginning to reclaim the land, but it will take a couple of years at least for this section of BLM land to recover.
On our walk the other afternoon I snapped these pictures of a huge piece of farm equipment that was left in the middle of a ploughed field.
The equipment has not moved in many months.................
We have had Kory in our lives for eight months now and I believe that our dog is finally beginning to understand what it is that we expect of her.
After some frustrating trail and error LC and I have finally hit on the right key word and the right tone of voice to stop Kory in her tracks when she falls into the single-minded determination to run hard and fast and far.
It doesn't work 100% of the time, but it works most of the time, and at this stage in our relationship with each other that's more than OK.
Of course...........if she sees a bunny or a cat or a deer.........then all bets are off..............
Two pictures taken in the same place (give or take a few feet).
The first picture was taken in December as I was killing time wandering with Kory across the road from the house, while waiting for LC.
We were getting ready to drive out to Cedar Butte and wander together in the hills and in the snow.
The picture below this one was taken in the same spot only a couple of days ago.
When LC and I first arrived in Atomic City we wondered how there could be so much growth in the desert surrounding us, when the area received so little rainfall.
In the winter we found our answer.
Throughout the winter we were on the receiving end of multiple inversions, which left the area covered in thick, frozen mist.
When the mist finally cleared the end result was tiny ice crystals that covered every surface in town.
The effect was absolutely gorgeous.
White trees.  White fences.  White roof tops.  It was stunningly beautiful.
It also provided continual amounts of melting ice and snow to desert vegetation throughout the winter................
Random pictures taken in town the other day..............
When I first found the box-truck-turned-giant-boom-box not long after we moved here I had to laugh.
It was so random and so totally unexpected, and I found it sitting forgotten and forlorn in the back field of an empty piece of property.
Who would make such a thing?  And why?  And what the heck was it doing sitting in a field in Atomic City, Idaho?
As with many questions in AC, I only ever seem to get partial (and sometimes changing) stories.
It was a promotional item for a radio station at one time.
Some guy who owned this property included it in the sale of the property back a few years ago.
As the story goes, the previous owner eventually bought a failing casino down in Vegas and did nothing but contribute to its eventual demise.
Meanwhile, the new property owner did nothing with the giant boom box, and used the building on the property for storage.
LC and I actually met the current owner a few weeks ago.  We had the opportunity to look inside both the building and the boom-box-truck.
The building was actually more interesting to me before I looked inside.
It had originally been an old school house when Atomic City had hundreds of residents rather than handfuls.
With THAT knowledge, I had imagined remnants of life in a 1950's school.  Maybe old desks or old blackboards or globes of the world.
Maybe a childs' ball cap or text book found laying forgotten in a corner.
Instead, it was a run down, ceiling-less, insulation-crumbling, warehouse-like, completely uninteresting structure.
We also had the chance to look inside the boom box.
Nothing but a place to store junk that apparently holds no value or interest.
So much for my wild imaginings about interesting artifacts from a bygone era
Regardless, the boom box is an interesting and wildly unexpected site in such a small and isolated community.
With tourists who regularly blow through the town curious to see what a place with the pretentious name of Atomic City looks like, the boom box would make for at least an interesting picture if it were placed in a better location.............
The BLM Fire Station.
This station is manned from May through the end of September, which of course is the prime wildfire season for this region.................
At the end of this month, LC and I will have been in Atomic City for a year.
As with so many other things that are carelessly tossed to the side in this town, these three trucks have not moved in all the time that we have been here.
When I looked at them again the other day I wondered how long before our arrival had been the last time anybody had even thought about them?
The desert is a kind environment for metal, so these trucks will not rust away quickly as they would if they had been abandoned in Minnesota for example.
But why not repair them and drive them?  Why not repair them (or not repair them) and simply donate them to a charity (who would be happy to tow them away)?  Why not take them to a scrap yard and put the money in their pockets?
I have no idea why not, why not and why not.  
But (as with the silos that are located just on the outskirts of town) there is something reassuring about these three sturdy old trucks, that sit in a straight line beside one more old silo, while silently watching over the desert..............
Ceder Butte located about 8 miles from town.
Big Butte located about 18 miles from town.............
One evening after a long, hot walk with my pup I found LC sitting on our snowboard bench under the trees in the back yard.
We sat together looking out over our now very green yard that is filled with trees, and after a very long, hot day the yard was finally almost in total shade.
The temperature was finally comfortable.  Finally bearable.
We sat for a long time on our colorful bench made of old snowboards and reclaimed lumber listening to the sound of birds and of nothing else.
I walked day in and day out through the winter with our new dog, and Atomic City is absolutely silent in the winter.
No birds.  Quiet deer.  Little traffic.  And only the muted sounds of my feet crunching on a combination of icy and snowy and gravely roads.
There is a little more traffic in our tiny town through the summer.  There are many birds in this desert town and occasionally the quiet is broken by the sound of a random lawn mower or four wheeler.
Town is not silent through the summer, but it is still quiet.
And I will always like this town for that reason.
Our cool little lawn tractor sprinkler that I bought at a yard sale last weekend.............
She was a genius of sadness, immersing herself in it, separating its numerous strands, appreciating its subtle nuances. She was a prism through which sadness could be divided into its infinite spectrum............Jonathan Safran Foer, Everything Is Illuminated................ 

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