ContentsPutah and Cache: McLaughlin Mine

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Jericho Country

Frances Ransley

It's only squiggles on the map,
Washes of green, tiny lines of blue
Representing the creeks, dotted lines
For the dirt roads that may
Or may not still be there,

A dead car in the creekbed,
A relic of the history
That doesn't show on the map,
Many histories of
Overlapping generations,
Twenty-four years ago
This car was high-centered
On a large rock, and abandoned,
Pushed off the road into the grass,
And years later, some teenagers,
Partying, pushed it into the creek.

The top left square of the map
Is where it begins, but not really;
Go down a few squares, to where
Jerusalem Road comes in, there
You can see Dead Man's Curve,
The tight switchback at the bottom
Of the grade where the brakes went out
In Merle Howard's truck,
The Mexican died and Merle crawled,
Somehow, back up the grade four miles
To Sorensen's ranch,
The place with all the deer horns,
The old man had a phone
Somebody said there was still
Blood on the rock, but
I never stopped to look.

So you go east after you get over
The bridge, along Soda Creek,
And Jim Dollar mountain will be
ahead and to your right,
As you go across that valley
It's flat and you can see the mud tracks
In the winter we parked the truck,
Went and got the horses and packed in,

That's Jerusalem Valley,
A woman from the pioneer family,
Saphonia Copsey, named it, they said
She was religious, that's why you have
Jerusalem, Jericho and Paradise Valleys,
The old people called it the Holy Lands,
There is a spiritual presence out there,
If nothing else, so many ghosts.

The two little creeks coming down to Soda Creek
Don't have names on the map, there's the one
Right before the little switchback,
Where the dotted lines end, a spring flows
Out of the face of the cliff,
Where Michael and Faye tried to drive in
And got stuck,
He didn't get the truck out till May
So there were no more drunk
Trips to town for a while.

And there was our place
At the confluence of Soda and Trout Creeks,
Like I said, Trout Creek didn't
Have a name, really, I don't know who
Called it that, there weren't any trout in it
That I know of, but
It came from a spring way up
Between Petticoat and Jim Dollar mountains
It was cold, colder than Soda Creek.

We found a rattlesnake one day,
The Indians say rattlesnakes
Don't come around a home
Unless there's trouble,
There was trouble
But that came later.

We built the cabin out of sheet tin
And put the walls on horizontally, except for
One space we left open for a window,
That made it look like a hamburger stand,
So I called it that,
There was just room in it
For a tin woodstove and our sleeping bags,
Our clothes and stuff hung on the wall,
The kitchen was a firepit outside

I was making a quilt for the baby and had
A scrap bag hanging on a nail,
One morning after about a week of not
Working on it, I opened the bag
And there was a mouse looking at me
With big scared eyes, nursing her babies,
I took the bag down by the creek,
Hung it in a scrub oak and left it
Till the babies grew up

We had April snow that year
Then spring came and there were
Wild iris in the canyons,
About a month before the baby came
We rode up the other creek by where
Michael's truck was, and through the canyon
To Jericho, where Charlie and Dorothy Grover
Had their ranch, just up the valley
From the Copsey homestead.

The trees were leafed out
Light green, the redbud was blooming
Along the creeks,
And the buckbush in puffs of white
On the serpentine hillsides,
The pony was frisky
And we saw a blue crane standing
Near a deep part of the creek,
I knew then she would be a happy baby.

We took another way back
Through a canyon that opened up
Into a little meadow that I can't find
On the map, a spring
Trickling down from the mountainside,
An old unpainted cabin with a screen porch,
A barn, a corral, all in good repair,
We rested the horses and let them drink,

I said this is where I want to live,
He said there's no road in anymore, besides
This life is too hard for a woman,
You won't be pretty anymore,
I said, I don't care
It's the only life

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