We live in a kind of Narnia, or a Magic Tree House, sort of place. There must be some kind of wardrobe door, or lamppost, or other portal at the bottom of the hill. This is rural Humboldt County, so maybe it’s an…an old tire. The road heading up our mountain doesn’t bring everyone here. If it did, droves of people would ascend en masse. The population would explode, rampant construction would taint the landscape, and the police would have to start patrolling the road. The authorities currently ignore the road as if it didn’t exist, except when they drive trucks full of confiscated weed UP the mountain to burn it at the tiny local airport. Apparently they used to do that down in town, but it drew too many deep-breathing onlookers. Gotta love Humboldt County. On the upside of population growth, someone might open a taco truck…
Our mountain is a magical place, really.
It has trees and prairies and incredible views of mountains and valleys and the Pacific Ocean. There are no shops or gas stations. A few hundred people live here. They are ranchers, farmers, lecturers at a local university, people with businesses in town, dope growers, and weirdos like us, with jobs far away. The non-human denizens of our mountain include black bears, mountain lions, bobcats, and ten million pocket gophers. I’ve had people (far’ners to our mountain) look out our window and ask, “What are you going to do about those gophers?” Are you kidding? Even Sisyphus would have looked at the mounds dotting the landscape, sighed, and proclaimed, “Fuck it. I’m just not doing it.” Plus, Tristan likes to drive his toy bulldozers through the mounds, and sometimes the gophers turn up beautiful arrowheads of various shapes and sizes.
My kids go to the tiny public district school — 27 kids in three classrooms, K-8. The dynamics among the children of different ages in this small school are fabulous: the big kids play with the little ones; help them tie their shoes; pat their shoulders when they’re crying. I remember big kids being mean and scary at my big public elementary school back East. For such a small population, the diversity at the school is huge. There are a bunch of non-white kids, and a whole gaggle of adopted ones. Our not-white, adopted Tomas’ best friend is a not-white, adopted girl with a long black braid. She’s way cool. She wears Carhartt pants and a cap featuring the logo of a tractor company. Tomas and she are attached at the hip.
Grown-up kids we’ve chatted with who attended our little school through the eighth grade say they were well-adjusted to enter the big public high school down in town. This is comforting, as I’m occasionally haunted by images of the high school’s “hick parking lot”, where the cowboy kids park their gigantic jacked-up trucks and adjust their oversized belt buckles. They just don’t look very…sweet. But, somehow our school toughens our mountain kids up enough for the outside world.
The things that are fabulous about our mountain also make it hard. It’s not the Antarctic, but it’s isolated. Mommies in need of some help with the kids don’t just call up a sitter or ask the neighbor to stop in for a bit. I don’t “pop out for diapers”. I’ve had to do some interesting improvisation: Dang, we’re out of salt. Can I use soy sauce in the cookie recipe? Our USPS packages get diverted to a post office 25 miles away. Are you serious? I just drove all this way to pick up a certified mail envelope addressed to some random bud trimmer who once housesat for the previous owners of our place? Arrrggg. And, of course, there’s no taco truck. What I wouldn’t do for a taco truck…I think I’ll head down the hill now, buy my weekly stock of groceries and red wine, scope the store for handsome firemen, and hit the taco truck.