It’s a lot cooler this week, which is good, because I’m up here  with my brother Nick clearing brush and cutting down trees.

Among my acquaintance, I am known for taking pleasure in work usually relegated by the more inhumane states to prison chain gangs as punishment. Nick makes me look like an idle worthless fop by comparison. He is a machine. He just goes at it hour after hour cutting down little manzanita bushes with the lopers or with the demo saw.

This is passed down to us by our father, whose ashes now rest on the cabin window sill, looking east to Yosemite and the rising sun. If anyone is responsible for our work ethic, it’s Dad.

I remember one time when I was young, like 8 years old, and he told me to go weed this short embankment from our lawn to the sidewalk. So I go out there and putter for a bit then go back in and ask if it was done.

He looked at me and asked “I don’t know, what do you think?”

Okay, busted. So I go back out and languidly pull up some weeds and then go back in and ask if it was done.

“What do you think?”

And so on until the embankment was denuded of all green stuff, and I went back in for the last time and announced, “It’s done.”

To which he shrugged and said “If you say so.”

Crazy making. On the other hand, the work ethic has done us well over the years. We have many failings, but laziness and malingering are not among them.

Another lingering effect of the influence of the old man is the proximity of this place to Yosemite and the Mother Lode gold country. After the folks divorced, when we were “batching it” with my dad for a few years before our mom kidnapped us down to LA, we used to frequent Yosemite and the central High Sierra.

If we were coming along highway 49, we’d head off the road and down some promising dirt wagon track and explore old gold mines and crawl over what I now know to be incredibly toxic tailing piles or, with weak flashlight, a couple hundred feet into crumbling and dripping old mine shafts.

If we were going to Yosemite along the Merced river route, we’d pull over where the road was wide enough, in the canyon outside El Portal, and pan and sluice for gold using the sluice box we made in dad’s wood shop. We’d find a few flakes of gold, and carry them around in tiny glass vials purchased from the Edmund’s Scientific store in Menlo Park (a whole different and glorious story), filled with mineral oil.

By the time I was old enough with money in my pockets, married, with a family, when the 75 acres came up for sale, well, it was already sort of stamped in deep and a done deal before it was even out of the gate.

Some things, some places, some times, are just in the blood, and like the Great Magnet, cannot be denied when they come up in the card pile.

You do what you gotta do where you gotta do it.


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