Tour Guide In Training
I can remember it well. It was back in August of '92. I was just a young fellow, all of 8 months old, actually, and quite fit and trim compared to the potbellied pig of a dog I have become today. Big Dog Jessie, my adopted sister, had just turned 3 years old. Our Mother and Father were tour guides. Big Dog Jessie was a tour guide dog, and I was a tour guide dog in training. We'd been on several day trips in the western Mojave area, so I was already an expert at romping through the creosote bushes with thunderous paw steps to frighten any lizards, rattlers, or tarantulas that might be hiding in them. I also had seen Big Dog Jessie chase after a few jackrabbits, so I figured, I could probably handle that job pretty good, too, when my turn came. I'd gotten over my tendency towards carsickness, and I was learning to get over my fear of miniature humans. I'd learned to lay at my Father's feet as he gave the start of the dirt road lectures before each trip, and did a good imitation of Big Dog Jessie's tummy trick for everybody, as he talked, as well. I even knew how to help my adopted sister as she people herded everyone that went on the tours. We made quite a team, making sure those humans didn't get lost, and got back in there 4x4's safely. I was well on the way to being a good historical 4-wheel drive tour guide dog.
It was one of those hot summer mornings, even at 6AM. Mother and Father grabbed our leashes and led us out of the house into the driveway and to that burgundy Chevy Blazer we had at the time. Big Dog Jessie jumped right in that old Blazer just like she always did, all by herself. Mother had to give me a little boost, as even in those days I was a little bottom heavy. It was harder to move around once we got in there, the Blazer was really packed with stuff. But there were lots of soft cushy places to sit on top of, too, so that was ok with me. We nestled in our individual doggy spots, and were ready for the long ride to Mojave. I couldn't wait to get out there and find my own jackrabbit!
Mother and Father stopped at the old Renos restaurant in downtown Mojave for breakfast, as they often did. Big Dog Jessie and I protected the Blazer from anyone that tried to peer in and look at us as we waited in the parking lot. We also watched the freight trains as they chug-a-lugged down the track, across from the highway. It was a grand time, made even grander, because Mother had saved a fresh baked country biscuit from her breakfast, and Big Dog Jessie and I got to share it. We made sure we licked up every last crumb, so Father wouldn't yell at us for getting his vehicle dirty. Then we realized that the engine was starting and we were back on the highway headed for adventures.
Big Dog Jessie and I watched as we drove past Jawbone and Redrock Canyons. We got very excited as we approached the Opal Mine turn-off. We knew we would be stopping soon, and we couldn't wait for our paws to hit that warm desert sand! Oops! We soon realized, Father missed the turn. and he kept driving and driving and driving ! We passed Joshua trees, and creosote bushes, and more.
Every once in awhile we'd even pass little towns. We'd stop occasionally and get to stretch our legs a bit, but we were never allowed off the leash, the highway was just too close by. And we'd always get back in the Blazer and drive further and further away from home than we had ever been before.
Finally we got to a town, the biggest one we had seen in a long while. Mother and Father took us out, unpacked a few bags, and they showed us their home in this town. It was only one room, with a couple of big beds, and a bathroom. Our old beat up doggie sleeping bag was put on top of one of the beds, while Mother and Father took the other one. We did all go out to dinner, then we came back and spent the night in this one room. Big Dog Jessie and I slept well, being tired from all that lazing around in the back seat of the Blazer for hours on end.
The following morning, it was breakfast, with another big old country biscuit for us, this time from a restaurant called Whisky Creek. Then everything was packed and we were off again on another long drive. This was the longest time that Big Dog Jessie and I had ever spent on a paved road. Where were we going, what were we going to do?
We drove through some mountainous area with some Jeffery Pine trees, We saw some mountain peaks, that Father told Mother were volcanoes - mountains that exploded! There was black shiny rock that apparently spewed out of those mountains when they exploded, and there was gray sand, that wasn't sand at all, it was called pumice, and was real strange to walk on when we were allowed to get out for awhile. That came from those volcano mountains, too.
We came to another town, by a huge lake with a couple of islands in it. The shore of the lake had what looked to Big Dog Jessie and I like salt towers, or salt castles, but Father said it was called tufa, and was protected. We watched seagulls flying around the lake, as we drove past it and past the little town. Then after we'd gotten a ways past the tufa lake, and were driving through some unusual rock formations, we stopped right off the highway and looked down into the remains of a town that we were very excited to find out was called Dogtown. Father and Mother pointed at foundations left where the town had once been, and talked about men who came and mined for gold long ago. Big Dog Jessie and I looked anxiously down in to Dogtown, and back at our parents. Oh how we wished they would take us down there, and let us play! But it wasn't to be. We were piled in the Blazer once again, and drove on until we came to another town.
The Chemung Mill & The Town of Masonic
Instead of stopping at this next town, we drove a bit north, and then, oh thank goodness, Father was turning onto a dirt road at last! "Look, Big Dog Jessie," I remember saying. "We are going to do some 4-wheeling after all! " We drove till we came to the ruins of an old mill, The Chemung Mill. We explored a little bit there, around ramshackle old mining buildings, and old equipment. A couple of the buildings had been severely hit with that old metal eating termite bug, and the cocoons were just everywhere.
The family got in the Blazer once again, and continued on that relatively easy dirt road, the dust kicking up behind us, but no one cared. We came to the remains of another mill, and some well worn log cabins, practically hidden in the high desert growth. Father was slowing down, so we were sure we were going to stop and look here. We did for awhile, and Mother read the words on the rock that described the town of Masonic and its mining heyday. Big Dog Jessie and I ran up and down the nearby road, with a cloud of dust bigger than the Blazer had caused. We were here at last, and there was exploring to be had by all.
Father got in the Blazer and drove it down another little road. Mother called Big Dog Jessie and I, and we followed on foot. We crossed a little stream that muddied the road. I tiptoed across that stream as best I could, for in spite of the Labrador side of my family, I was not much for water or mud, even in my youth. Then I saw it, a clearing with just enough trees for some shade. A ring for a campfire, a big log to sit on next to it, a nearby meadow to play in that led to a hillside with a mine, and more tumbled log cabins.. Father was stopping here, and he was starting to take everything out of the Blazer.
Setting Up Camp
Mother took one of the packages that Father had thrown on the ground, and she began turning into a big fabric dog house. Actually, she called it a tent, and it was just big enough for two sleeping bags for her and Father, and just a space for Big Dog Jessie and I to sleep right between them. This was called camping, my adopted sister, told me. We were going to spend the night right here in this meadow, in the ghost town of Masonic. Big Dog Jessie and I jumped up and down excited, and ran around that meadow chasing each other and rolling in meadow muffins. It was just delightful. And the best news of all was that we wouldn't have to drive and drive afterwards, we would be sleeping in that tent with those sleeping bags and our parents, all night long, right out in the middle of nowhere!
As the sun went down, Father had set up his little outside kitchen. He was cooking something awfully yummy smelling on that antique Coleman stove of his. The entire town of Masonic probably hadn't smelled that good even when the miners were there. Mother sat up some old aluminum lawn chairs for her Father to sit on as they ate their dinner. Big Dog Jessie and I had to suffice with our gourmet tender doggy packets, and a big bowl of water. We were tied to a big long fallen log near the campfire ring where we could keep warm as the night air set in. Once in awhile we were tossed a tidbit from Father's cast iron Dutch oven. It was damned near doggie heaven for Big Dog Jessie and I.