It’s the Mojave’s golden afternoons in total silence that still make me pause and revel in all that light and all those earthy tones. I find, in fact, that this period after the day’s labor and before the evening’s chill is home to many fine moments. Between two and three, Jawbone members might be found enjoying a persimmon over a classic novel, between three and four, a political discussion and an oatmeal cookie. Perhaps as a necessity of our environment, I find that we are a group about our fundamentals. These being: good eats, warmth, and literature. Little else seems of much importance.
It very suddenly became winter in the midst of hitch; twenty degree mornings and darkness settling in before five. Our warmth was threatened. You might now begin to understand our joy at having a lantern for the first time. A rather sad image, Jawbone could be found huddled around the Coleman morning and evening. From the outside, in the dark dawn and dusk, the whitewall tent bloomed with the light of the lantern. Our figures playing on the canvas like a grand shadow show.
One of the few things that could coerce a member from the tent was the harrowing call of the rocket box, our waste disposal system. On the subject, you might remember from last hitch the two artifacts in the red Isuzu that laid claim to sixteen rolls of our toilet paper. Little did we know, our rocket box woes were far from over. On Thursday the eighth the first of the Barstow Boy Scouts of America set up their camp a mere thirty yards from our white wall. Over the next twenty four hours a shanty town of tents and SUVs had spilled out onto the lake bed, encroaching even further on our small encampment. The following afternoon the pistols, rifles, and shot guns began to bark. That night they slept in their cars because of the cold, and the purr of their engines hung in the air. It was also noted that our bath room set up was regularly found oddly altered or not properly shut down, and shadowy suspicions began to cultivate in the backs of our minds. Matt Bristol, in all his genius, set a simple trap of a small stone placed on a corner of each of the three containers. When the next user found the pebbles missing, we had our answer. The scouts drove away the next morning, leaving many a shot gun shell, a dusting of clay pigeons over the lake bed, and seven bitter restorators.
In an effort to rid ourselves of such earthly plagues we looked to sky, and found plenty to marvel at. The desert puts on sunrises and sunsets of particular magnificence, and we had jets from the China Lake Naval Air Weapons Station ever above our heads. Multiple times they flew literally two hundred feet over us, and the thunderous boom of the sound barrier being broken was a daily regular.
Thanks to Jeanne Lemlin’s Vegetarian Pleasures and the Ridgecrest CSA we ate like royalty; crepes with strawberries, polenta with cauliflower, tomatoes, and hot peppers, pumpkin and corn chowder with grilled cheese, and vegetable risotto to name but a few meals.
Such grand fare primed us for MW2-A, the Autobahn of incursions, which we tackled during our last days. The six meter wide site took over fifty vertical mulch installations. The area around this incursion was equally notable; traces of old settlements, massive craters, and perfect circles in the sand featuring strange scripture nearly twenty feet in diameter. What a wacky place.
As we drove across the expanse of the dry lake bed into camp on our second to last evening we spotted a familiar vehicle parked not twenty yards from our whitewall. We stared at the red Isuzu. The two grizzled old men were wandering about the boy scouts old camp salvaging metal bits, that golden afternoon sun drawn to their white and wispy crowns. We steppe d from the cars and stood for a while, waved to each other, and then retired to our tent, persimmons in hand.
By Emlyn Agnew