I was usually the first one awake in the mornings. I read for a
half hour or so and then tried to find something to occupy
myself that didn't bother Mary Ann or the boys, still asleep. I
often had to look for something to do that wouldn't make too
We knew we would have visitors later in the summer and sometimes
I would busy myself making simple improvements to little
alleuvial fan. The road from the plateau to our hut followed
erosion that cut into the earth's surface, growing deeper as it
neared the beach, to a depth of about ten feet. Over the final
fifty meters the walls were nearly vertical, with several sharp
turns. The cliffs were so close that there was little room to
negotiate curves. It was a slow drive even in our truck. When
Barsam and his family had helped us find this remote site, in
the spring, we had worried that one place in this gnarly path
would keep his 30-foot motorhome from getting to the beach. One
morning, looking for some activity, I walked out to the road.
The problematic corner was about a hundred meters from the hut,
far enough away that I could use a pick and shovel without
waking everyone up. This was going to be hard, hot work, even
before the sun rose. I'd have to do small amounts of digging
early each day.
On this first morning, I examined the job: the corner was sharp
but was negotiable, even with the overhang at the rear of the
motorhome. The real difficulty was a large chunk of volcanic
rock that blocked the road bed on the right side and prevented a
gradual right turn to enter the S-shaped twist at a reasonable
angle. The lava could not be avoided on either side because the
gully's walls were so close. If I removed this single
impediment, Barsam's motorhome could make it through.
I started this small excavation of some two yards of rock at
about six the next morning. I cleared the loose dirt and rock
from the lava outcropping. I swung the pick a few times to
break away rock in small pieces. After the first few swings I
was drenched in sweat. I removed the debris I had broken loose
only to see no change in the seemingly growing obstacle. I
continued this sweaty effort for another hour when Michael came
running out with a gallon plastic bottle of kool-aid fresh from
the ice chest. We sat on a nearby rock and I polished off about
half the bottle. There is something about drinking from a large
container that I enjoy. It must be that I was really
dehydrated; a small can or soda might not fill the bill and it
was limited by its size. With the large bottle I was able to
consume as much as I wanted with no concern of shortage.
"I want some too. Don't drink it all." Michael yelled. I
handed him the jug and he took a couple of swallows. Kevin came
running up from the hut, wearing only trunks and boots.
"I want some. I want some too."
"Here Kev." Michael handed him the bottle. Kevin threw the
heavy bottle against his mouth, upended it, blew a bubble into
the liquid, swallowed a mouthful and handed the bottle back to
Michael. Red sticky juice was running down his chest onto the
dust of the roadway.
"Why are you digging?" They asked.
"I'm making a corner for Barsam's motorhome. See," I pointed to
the corners of the S curve and showed them it was too sharp for
the motorhome. "So I'm going to get rid of this giant rock in
"OK." they chimed. "That's gonna be a lot of work."
They had had enough of the heat and sun and went running bask to
the hut, yelling.
"Mom! Mom! Dad's building Barsam's corner. Forevermore for us
that twisted piece of ravine in the desert will be called just
Over the weeks I worked on the ravine from time to time and
whenever I did, the boys brought me an icy drink and we would
sit in the skimpy shadows of the early morning in the steep
ravine and talk for a minute before I would go back to work and
they to swim or play in the earth behind our hut. These simple
pleasures continued until I had reduced the lava to a pile of
rubble lying along the sides of the ravine. There was, I
thought, just enough room for the motorhome to pass and make
that sharp turn. We wouldn't know the results of this effort
until our friends arrived, later that summer.