David J. Dukesherer
I was asked at a neighborhood Independence Day block party, why I had not written my column last month. My friend liked the piece regarding The Spruce Goose, but, I dunno, maybe he was the only one that read it.
As it was last spring and summer, June was a very busy business month for me, so there was little time for writing. I traveled over 16000 miles, primarily back and forth from the Mid-West – Chicago, South Bend, and Cincinnati, and through much of Michigan. Finally: Seattle, Portland and Vancouver, British Columbia. Being on the road this much, home only 4 days in 29, can be quite an exigent professional task, (In fact, I am writing this at an airport gate at Seattle-Tacoma Airport.)
We have connected over 73 U.S. airport cities, and thousands of towns and cities beyond, with daily road-feeder service. We also distribute from key U.S. “Gateway” airports, a great deal of the air traffic from Germany, Denmark and Scandinavia, as well as some key European and Asian points. We were the first to offer this type of service to the airlines, between Chicago, South Bend, Grand Rapids, Dayton, Cleveland, and a dozen more Mid-West points. We have now linked all these points at a new terminal at LAX: Westchester, Los Angeles, California, U.S.A., 90045.
When you return home and you finally get back to your own roads and see the road signs announcing your return to Westchester it is a nice feeling. It’s as familiar and good as holding hands with the one you love or a baby’s smile, the morning fog off Playa Del Rey, your kid hitting a Little League baseball homer, and the sounds of your children’s laughter or a full stocking on Christmas morning.
There are several road signs welcoming folks to Westchester: at Lincoln and Sepulveda Boulevards, and up and down Manchester. One sign sits near the Westchester Vietnam Memorial at the corner of Lincoln and Manchester. I learned upon my return that this site has to be moved, as vandals, allegedly high school students, have defaced it. I still am in disbelief that any person could desecrate a War Memorial. They might as well have spit on the American Flag. These are the same type of people that: like to kick dogs, will grow up and beat their children-and teach them to disrespect consecrated public property. You cannot justify this as just the actions of immature thoughtless youth.
The Memorial stands for the many Westchester and Playa Del Rey residents that fought and died in battle: Tet, Operation Deckhouse Five, and Khe Sahn. There are real names: Richard, Victor, Dennis and Robert, and many others, carved into a stone memorial, all dead, and all once airport area residents. They died on maneuvers and on trails and in jungles and in places with no-names with a pack on their back and a rifle in their hand.
The Westchester Vietnam Veteran Memorial
I’d like to call some of my Vietnam Veteran buddies, and invite them to hang around the memorial some afternoon, and see just what kind of inhuman being could do this sort of thing. Maybe that is just what these punk’s need – a visit from an Army Ranger, a Navy S.E.A.L., or Green Beret?
When I leave town on family vacations, we like to end up at a river or lake, and although I enjoy these trips, it is almost always nice to get home too. On these caravans, the morning is best when the rivers and lakes are calm-sitting there with a cup of hot coffee and warming by a new campfire – listening to a still-quiet morning, sometimes watching a river flow over rocks on its timeless-sacred-flowing journey-thinking of my own journey.
On the shorelines of these rivers and lakes, my children, from their very earliest ages, got in the habit of collecting small rocks and stones. At first, they would bring home three or four stones, but as time has gone along, they have become more selective-usually just bringing home one special stone each. My youngest son would stuff so many rocks in the pockets of his river-shorts that he could barely float in the water, but now he searches on and off all day for just a perfect one. In the process, he has again achieved buoyancy.
The stones are quartz and granite-smooth river rocks-some which winter frosts had heaved and broken in two-cut sharply as with the blade of a knife or saw. Many are veined or dotted with microcline and feldspar. Some are smooth – round and others rough and jagged. One is shaped like a small morel-colored russet and blue and copper. Another is jet black and the shape of a saddlebow. I have saved them all-as all of them represent a memory as long lasting as the rocks themselves.
This past May, while preparing for the aforementioned June travels, I collected all of the stones. I had stashed them in different places around the house and couldn’t bear to part with them, although I never had any plans for them either.
In the wilderness, Indians and Frontiersmen would mark a trail by stacking stones with a stone pointing down trail-showing the way for other explorers and pioneers and sometimes military troops-leading them to forts and garrisons. These trail signs had various meanings-for instance, three stones stacked atop each other, means:” Danger, I need help!” Sometimes they would mark a trail by chopping cuts and slices into the bark of trees with an axe or knife: “Trail Blazes,” mindful to cut only the bark-not harming the tree by piercing the wood flesh. Thus the term: “Trailblazing.” These were the first road sings in America, and most followed well-known game and animal migration trails.
After doing my spring planting-tomato and flowers, I collected the stones and made trail signs with them in my garden. My own personal wilderness trail. I have placed blue stones atop red sandstone, and grey-flecked granite below brown and yellow river pebbles and white quartz. They are surrounded by flowers and flowering bushes and vines. It makes a fine display.
Blazes and Trail Signs
Now when I walk the brick-lined path through my backyard, restacking the stones that the winds have shifted, I happily play back these memories in my mind as if looking at a
Kinescope or nickelodeon picture. I am reminded of Lake Naciemiento near Paso Robles and The Colorado River near Needles, and the goldfield streams near Sonora and the mighty Lake Mead. Three are from the barren Southwestern deserts of Nevada and Arizona. Another was plucked from a stream near Rainbow Falls, in Mammoth, while on a 12-mile hike. One is from Orlando, Florida.
Others are from the beaches of Playa Del Rey and Dockweiller Beach, and a few from a meandering stream in the Eastern Sierras near Bishop, and from the coastal foothills above Napa. There are several more from the shore of Bass Lake, just south of Wawona in Yosemite. A large one came from the dirt parking lot aside The Mission Santa Barbara, which we had used to chock our camper tires while we went to Mass there. We have also found a few ancient pottery shards in a stream near Independence.
Rocks and stones were belched from the bellies of the earth, the deep of the ocean and were castoff by the grinding and carving of great glaciers – made hard with the passing of time-washed by rain and pressure strengthened by layer upon layer of rich sediment-silt-sludge. Some have traveled the universe and to our solar system crashing in a ball-of-fire, but finally cooling and becoming a part of our world. They have been chipped from the sides of the highest pristine mountains, and sandblasted by siroccos, and become tiny testaments, remaining to remind us of the greatness and the beauty of the Earth.
They remain proud-strong signs, all on their own.
My trail markers are welcome signs now, but moreover remind me of where we have been-hiked, boated, surfed, swam and made camp, and keep me wondering about when and where we will go next, and like the stones, the new strong memories yet to be made and found.
Finally, though, it is always good to be home again.
©Copyright July 21, 2005 by David J. Dukesherer