Monday, December 7, 2009
As with all things my dad did, going to the Sanchez Ranch for a weekend camping trip would mean taking an entire group of people. I don't suppose it would be much fun if it were just our family anyway, or maybe it would be, but I never had the chance to experience a trip to the ranch that way. I suppose that my dad being 1 of 9 children, simply didn't know how to do anything alone. I remember mom telling me they never went anywhere alone when they were dating. I doubt that it had anything to do with not wanting spend time with just her, it was simply that he was accustomed to running in a pack.
So, our trips to the ranch were planned way in advance. One year my dad got a big truck and loaded it with a sofa, area rug, a refridgerator and various other pieces of furniture. The Sanchez were probably half freightened to death when they saw us coming thinking we were moving in on them but these are people whose families crossed the Mexican boarder into the United States, if they could make that trip and survive, certaintly they could survive Dan Leonard and his pack.
As a kid, I of course wanted to do kid things. You know, climb on rocks, go on hikes, take a ride at night with the Sanchez boys at the wheel who would drive like crazy in old trucks without doors. And then in the middle of a winding road where you could fly off the side, as in a CLIFF, hello!, they'd turn the lights off and laugh like mad men while we all screamed at the top of our lungs thinking death was surely knocking at the door.
I recall one trip when my brothers brought a few friends along. They were in high school at the time and thought they were invincible and decided to hike to the top of "Boney". Boney got it's name because it was a hill that was mostly rock at the top. From where the campground was, it looked like a hop, skip and a jump so the boys being brave or dumb as I prefer to think, took off with little else but some smokes and a lighter. We'd had breakfast (a group breakfast of course) so their bellies were full and they thought sure they'd be back by lunch.
During the day there would be different groups going out on short hikes up through the unpaved roads or to the grotto where there were beautiful trees lining the path. It was fairly safe so as long as we went out in a group, which almost all did, there were rarely any problems.
Lunch came and went and no sign of the boys. Mom being ... mom ... began to worry. It's what she did. For a living. I believe my Aunt Camille paid her to worry for her too so that she wouldn't have to do it herself. Dad assured her the boys were fine, not to worry, they'll be down before long with a huge appetite. Pepe (one of the Sanchez brothers) tells her not to worry, "the kids love to hike up to Bone". Pepe can call it "Bone", because he lives there. He's earned the right. They're on familiar terms he and Bone-ey.
After a few hours appetites start to build and the whole camp begins preparing for another meal. Not all the meals are group meals but you know when you're around that many people with food, you just kind of slip your hand across the table and devour a bag of chips while in conversation which gives them the right to kinda slip they're hand across the table and slip a steak off your plate during dinner. Whaddya gonna say "hey! I only ate your chips, leave my food alone". So either you share or you sit across the table from a friend and drool while they eat ambrosia salad when all you have is raisins. I don't know...maybe it's just my thinking.
Dinner has passed and the sun is starting to go down and you know who is worrying enough for herself, my aunt and anyone else who wants to get in on the gig and they're not even paying mom. My dad, who is Mr. tough guy, is "concerned". He'd never admit to "worried". Ever. For "mom's sake" he goes over and talks to Pepe about the boys not having returned and Pepe says he could get one of his earth movers and start up the side of the hill to see if maybe he can find them but then with the sun going down, it might not be the best time to be driving up.
A small group of men get together and start hiking up while yelling "Rusty, Greg, Barry" and whoever else went on this up and down, be back in five hike. The men are a little smarter though, they only go so far because even with flashlights, hill climbing is not wise when you can only see a few feet in front of you. The women have stayed down at the campsite and they're all calling out the boys names too thinking that if they can hear and they're lost, at least they'll know what direction to go in, even if we are in a canyon and the sound bounces all over the place.
I still remember the second we saw the first flicker. There was a huge roar from the crowd as if the torch runner was coming to open the first day of the Olympics. Which ever one of the bone heads took the lighter, even though they didn't smoke..wink, wink.. was using it to light their path. They must have been moving at a snails pace but that little flame, it turns out, was a life saver. Luckily they didn't actually start a fire and burn the whole canyon down because my guess is, long time family friends or not, the Sanchez may not have invited us back.
The boys finally make it back starved, thirsty, scared and exhausted. My mom and all the other ladies make a big stink over them. Pampering them, bringing them food, wiping their mouths as if they were the Prodigal sons. Brats. They do something that dumb and they get babied. I remember thinking they were just plain dumb.
So that was the highlight of that trip. We talked about it for weeks on end half way rubbing it in to make them feel rediculous and the other half because, it was a dumb thing to do but they got back alive. I don't think they ever hiked up to Boney again. Big Chickens!