Belch Gulch


Belch Gulch
Creative Non-Fiction

“There’s grandpa comin’ up the hill; ya got your stuff ready?”

Carole and I grabbed our crumply paper bags, stuffed with jeans, tee shirts, toothbrushes—the bare minimum. It wasn’t as though we were going on a spa vacation.

We ran down, hopped on the running board of his ’52 red Ford pick-up and hitched a ride back up the hill to say good-bye to our Moms and pick up the food they had ready for us, then grandpa would give us a boost into the bed of his truck. We’d nest alongside his ’22 rifle and sleeping bags, a couple of bags of cement and a somewhat tattered hammock. Once we settled in, Grandpa would shift the gears and we’d rattle off—northwards toward the Grapevine—the old two-lane one, that is.

The wind would whistle and we’d stick our heads out so as to get the full blast, hair flying wild-like, in defiance of every safety precaution now regulated by overly anxious, tight-assed politicians hoping to prove their worth to their constituents.

After getting over the pass we’d head east to Highway 40-something and follow the twisting, narrow road along the rocky precipice snaking along the course of the Kern River. We’d lurch from side-to-side back there—holding tight to the gun to keep it secure and embracing the cargo, perhaps to feel that way ourselves. We’d plan the weekend—intervals of hard work, building the cabin on the land with the abandoned gold mine that Grandpa had laid claim to, hiking up the mountain behind him to build that pipeline for water that he, a retired civil engineer, had designed. But, especially, target practice—taking out empty beer cans he’d collect from the neighbors throughout the week.

Then Sunday afternoon, exhausted but happy, we’d head back down Belch Gulch, wishing we could avoid the week ahead—the drudgery of another kind of learning—one, perhaps, more suited to the lives we yet had to live.

Shannon, at dVerse Poetics, invites us to share the rhythm of the road this week. This isn’t poetry per se, but the prompt took me back to my growing up years when my girlfriend Carole and I would go with my Grandfather to the cabin he was building in California gold country.

The Summer of 1948

Pepper Grows on Trees!

Image by Randy Son Of Robert via Flickr

The Summer of 1948

I perch in my pepper tree.
Pungent scents, fingered
leaves embrace me.
A lady bug, dressed in red
with black polka dots
climbs my arm, tickles.

Ocean sand, white as the rind
of a watermelon, clings to my
bare toes.
Only hours ago I ran through it,
reaching out, stretching to catch

The smell of hot concrete
dampened by rain showers
lingers along with DDT
sprayed from a can with a
plunger like a bicycle pump.

I slip down the gnarly trunk,
enter the house by the
screen door near the
Bendix with the ringer where
Mama found a black widow

She’s melting a blue cube
of laundry starch
in hot water.

“Did you know I’m four
and a half today?”
I ask. She nods, smiles.
The black fan whirrs
in the background.

“Go on over to Stewie’s,” she says.
“It’s almost time for
Kukla, Fran and Ollie.”

Cross-legged on the floor
I watch the 12” screen,
and understand.

Linked to Gooseberry Garden’s prompt (November 13, 2011) that invites us back into childhood reverie …a poem written many years ago! If you feel like it’s deja-vu all over again, don’t be concerned. This was initially posted last summer. (Guess I’m giving away my age here!)