Rainbow Trout in the Bullpen
by Calendar Hacksaw
By golly, it’s April again, and I think we all know what that means: baseball season and the Eastern Sierra trout opener! Now let’s see if ol’ Calendar can tie those two seemingly unrelated subjects into a coherent column. No sweat; I got another month off from outhouse humor, so I feel like I can accomplish most anything.
My dad loved baseball, and he used to take me down to the ballpark to watch the local "semi-pro" team play. They were sponsored by Bramlett’s Market, which had a pretty good sporting goods department. I don’t know what the "sponsorship" amounted to, but it sure didn’t extend to uniforms; no two were alike.
The players were great, though. They had mastered the fine and exacting art of the pre-game infield drill like no team I’d ever seen. It was like watching the Harlem Globetrotters warming up. The fellow hitting practice would shout "Get two!" or "Second and home!" and the players would respond in kind, nailing their throws and then going ‘round-the-horn a half-dozen times in such intricate patterns that it was hard to follow the ball or picture them ever losing a game. The sound of horsehide snapping cowhide sticks with me even to this day. It was poetry in motion.
Betty and me lived in San Diego when we got hitched, and one summer we borrowed a tent from John Harley Fox, a great guy whose dad used to be mayor of some town in Wisconsin, but that’s not important. After work, we loaded John’s old tent into our VW and headed up Highway 395 for Tahoe, figuring we’d drive as far as we could on the first night before gettin’ hot and pitching camp.
Darkness fell somewhere around China Lake, but we continued on and didn’t give it up until we reached Olancha, which we’d never heard of before, and spotted a trailer park on the left that had a sign declaring "Transients Welcome." Well, hell, we figured if they’d take transients, they’d take anyone, so we pulled right on in.
I paid the fella $3 and he said "Pitch your tent over there on the dirt by the dumpsters next to the latrine," and that’s just what we did, using the VW’s headlights to illuminate the way as we set up our first camping spot of a lifelong career. So we celebrated, in our own way, bein’ as it was hot.
I awoke early the next morning and crawled outside to meet the day. Imagine my astonishment when I looked over my shoulder and lo and behold, there was the entire southern Sierra Nevada range looking down at me, majestic 14,496-foot Mt. Whitney and all! "Holy cow," was all I could say, and that was an understatement. I was almost speechless dragging naked Betty out of the tent to take a look.
In later years, we began camping at the Lundy Lake Resort, north of Lee Vining, and on the way up we usually stayed at that small motel on the left side of the road in Lone Pine; the one across from the Forest Service office.
The motel was a mom-and-pop operation back then, with a Jacouzzi, and catered to a truly international cast of characters who had come from Switzerland, Germany, Japan and around the world just to climb Mt. Whitney. Many would camp on the lawn across the street in order to secure their climbing permits. Others would join us in the spa for the evening social hour, with or without swimwear, depending on their country of origin. It was delightful. I recall one group of Frenchmen who must have thought they were in Wyoming, because the only part of their conversation I could understand was "Grand Tetons." They sure were attracted to Betty, though.
I usually asked for Room #9; it allowed me to keep a close eye on my truck and trailer, parked out back. To the side of the motel was a pasture with a few friendly horses, and to the rear was the community baseball field.
Lone Pine had a team that played in a league with the likes of Big Pine and Independence, and sometimes we were lucky enough to hit town on game night. Baseball in Lone Pine was spectator sport at its best. All you had to do was back up to the fence along the foul line, set up folding chairs in the bed of the truck, open the cooler, and you were all set for an evening’s entertainment.
But all good things must come to an end, and eventually "mom and pop" sold the motel to one of the many "Patels," who ran it into the ground through indifference. They viewed the spa as an expensive inconvenience, and the customers as a nuisance.
Here’s Calendar’s advice to motel owners: regardless of where you hail from, be it America, India, or elsewhere, your guests do not want to smell what you’re cooking for dinner when they first set foot inside the office. And that goes for burning incense, too, especially if it’s just there to cover up the stink from the kitchen.
When we’d finally reach Lundy Lake, proprietors Ralph and Bambi were always there to welcome us, taking great pains to assign a campsite as far away from the office and general store as possible.
In its time, Lundy had been a boomtown, like Loraine. It’s been said that most of the lumber used to construct the town of Bodie came from Lundy. In fact, at one time a brewery was located at lake’s edge, with guests invited to make use of a small flotilla of brewery-owned sailboats. Needless to say, the Sunday sailors turned drunk, and soon all the boats littered the lake bottom, like so many empty beer bottles. Man, I don’t know why TOGS can’t do something like that.
Each morning, dawn would find me down at the dam pulling out trout with just about every cast. I relied on the "Lundy Lake Cocktail:" a jar full of salmon eggs and bacon rind soaked overnight in cheap beer. That took care of my breakfast; I used floating bait and nightcrawlers for the fish.
On the way back home, we’d overnight in Lone Pine again, room #9. I’d look for a good ball game, content to just pick my teeth with a trout bone, and Betty would scurry off to the spa in hopes of learning more French.
That was a long, long time ago, before I accidentally stumbled into Walker Basin and met the people of Twin Oaks, Paris-Loraine, Back Canyon, Shadow Mountain and the Piutes. Long before ol’ Calendar came to understand how things work.
Calendar Hacksaw hangs out at http://www.calendarhacksaw.com. Sometimes a hungry stranger rolls into town, gets introduced around, asks a lot of questions, shares a few rural laughs with the locals, then slips away, and none too soon, leaving the Zanuttos to clean up the editing, as well they should.