09 April 2017

Taking of the Rock

Jack says there's a beautiful rock out in the desert in an abandoned quarry he had to leave cause the 4 wheel drive on the Nissan failed, and do I feel like giving him a hand going back and getting it.
Now that sounds like fun.
We meet up in Riverside.
Drive northeast, 30 miles or so. This is Desert, in the Lucerne Valley. I follow him to a lonely and lonelier road and we go and go, till it turns from pavement to dirt, and 10 more miles that way.
Till my two wheel drive can't proceed.
Ride the rest of the way with Jack.
All alone out here. The silence, solitude, plain air and vast nowhere vista is awesome. Now out of the valley and up into hills.
Jack creeps the truck up some gnarly rocky rutted winding road, till we can proceed no farther. Park and get the rock dolly Jack made for just this occasion, using the wheels from my old Yamaha 550cc Seca, welded an axle, a cradle, and a handle. Even tied a little rope to the arm of the brake drum in one of the wheels, so we can stop.

We go up the way, winding around a turn, a hundred or so yards.
Beside a gully where rests the ancient wreck of a big A-frame truck, and then up some more to the Quarry, which looks dynamited outof the hillside. And there's the Rock.
Jack spills some water on it for me to see.
A luster of pale avocado jade, veined with purple, flecks of gold.
Now he taps it with a hammer.
It very purely rings.
That's how you know.
Okay, lets go.
He wants to do a surprising amount of pussyfooting to lift it up straight to fit on the dolly. Its rectangular, about 18" square by about 40" tall.
To use boards and other rocks to leverage it step by step.
As a kid I learned how to lift prone 55 gal drums of stuff much easier. Jack doesn't think so, and it won't do to injure myself.
What you do is squat, grab one end and rise, legs, back and arms into it, just a little wiggly reaching a fulcrum, then its easy, 600 lbs, I guess, straight up.
My technique has prevailed. Not often that happens. Heh heh.
Now he secures it with rope to the dolly.
This is early May and its warming up.
There's also a bowling ball sized chunk of the same stuff.
Very difficult to break the dolly back from vertical to the slightly canted horizontal position we'll need to roll it down the hill.
But we try.
The loaded dolly, as we lift it to aim its downward roll, becomes a catapult when the weight of the rock shifts, suddenly flinging us aside. The string operated Brake is a joke, the cart crashes.
The Armbreaker I call it.
90 yards to go down this rock strewn path.
We have a length of rope.
Wish we had a rake.
I help him tie a harness around the Rock, an immense effort.
He takes his 30 feet of slack in front of it and starts to pull, while
I push behind it, for momentum. We make 20 feet or so.
And then the harness has to be fitted again, which takes a while.
We get another 8 feet.
Eph this, I clear a path, turn the rock from narrow to wide so I can roll it. Jack's shaking his head, saying Dude as in that's wasted energy and that ain't gonna work, but I get it it to tumble - a 20 plus something foot advance.
We try that again.

It goes like that.
Its absurd, but you can't leave behind the efforts taken to get it this far. And it is getting closer to the truck. You think of the pyramids and, two guys ought to be able to figure this out.
Every now and then I roll the balling ball rock in front of us a ways. Till we catch up. At the turn, we're halfway to the truck, but fortunately our decline increases. I toss the little one down and it tumbles off the path, down the hill. Jack is tying the harness together again, and taking a break.

I tromp down for it.
Lift it up.
Audible Shudder - the Willies.
Fling the rock up and scramble up the hill.
Watch it from up there.
About 5 feet long. Sidewinding. Wow.
Wonder and a slightly sick feeling.
Jack gets a chuckle.
That's the last response you want he says.
For one you don't drop the rock. Its a weapon.
Two be still and look around.
Where's the one, there's usually another.
Is that right.
About 5 hours in all, the sun is going down.
We set planks from the hill to the back of Jack's Nissan.
It is a rare unrestrained excitement on Jacks face at our accomplishment.
Big boys with real toys get the good rocks, he proclaims.
I'm envious at the relation of the artist to his material.
I think of my drugstore rolls of film made from the hooves of cows.  He shakes my hand and says
I couldn't have done it without you.
Jack who specializes in not needing help.
Immensely satisfying to see it on his truck.
Drive back to Big Bear, get a hotel and hardly move for 24 hours.
And then very slowly for another day - all beat up.
Jack's geologist friend estimates its weight - 700 lbs.
In the next few years Jack whittles it down to about 90.
Carves the bowling ball chunk into a water bowl for Sasha.

I'm always hoping he's going to offer it to me.
That's alright.
I got plenty of other stuff.
Two months later I'm listening to him tell the story at his 4th of July party.
And somebody says,
- Really, you can just take rocks like that?

I think we shared a grin, thinking

Yeah, you just take em -