Chapter 1: The Long Days of Summer
My name is David Alan McKesson. I can't remember how old I was when I first saw the lines. They were one of those 'peripheral vision' kind of tricks anyway - never where I was directly looking, always at the edges of what I could see. They were faint, shimmering lines, always two or more twisting crookedly vertical, but always parallel to each other, like the edge of a piece of shale. Their appearance was infrequent and peripheral to my awareness as a child, and I did not wonder at what was just a barely noticed part of my world. Later, I learned how to touch them, and where they led me, and the way they changed my life, and allowed me to change the lives of many others remains a true wonder, and the true story of my life.
The summer of my twelfth birthday, I discovered the wonderful word of rock collecting. Mostly it was Ginny Parkin, and her sudden subtle promise of curves and ... differences. Ginny and her blue-eyed sparkle and quick smile who captured my interest, but her dad owned a sporting goods store which included a small rock and gem shop, and I conspired to require frequent trips to the shop to contemplate buying books, tools and supplies. At first of course my sham interest meant I was not really there to buy. I was there to visit Ginny, who worked the gem shop counter while her Dad worked the main counter.
Later it occurred to me that Ginny must have been aware of my true purpose. I discovered within a few years that girls just saw things in ways I didn't, and behavior designed to mystify my fellow adolescent boyhood buddies was, to the girls we grew up with, as obvious and open as a road flare at night. It should have come as no surprise to me then, when after a couple weeks of my 'casual' visits to that back corner of Parkin's Sporting Goods, Ginny asked to see the rocks I'd been collecting.
"What?" I said in what must have been a confused and trapped tone.
"Your rocks?" Ginny giggled. "Will you show me the rocks you've been collecting?"
"Ahh ... okay..." I managed to stammer. Ginny told me a few years later that my deer-in-the-headlights look as I spoke then was one of her favorite memories of me. Only because of the apparent earnestness with which I said "I'll bring some the next time I stop in," after which I spun on my heels like the good little soldier I was and marched out the front door of Parkin's Sporting Goods, never intending to return. I was in full retreat from my first encounter in the war between the sexes. A war it took me several more years to even realize I was engaged in.
As is often the case with boys and young men, as soon as I was halfway home, the strength of my fascination began to outweigh the urgency of my fear. By the time I arrived at my front gate I was determined to make my rock hound facade a reality, score some rock samples worthy of Ginny's attention, and return to the scene of my recent debacle in triumph. All I lacked, after all, was knowledge and skill. These could be acquired. The other ingredients to success were already mine — time and the boundless energy of the young.
As I entered the house, I heard the radio in the kitchen playing. My mother considered the fact that through some trick of space and time, KDFC Classical 102.1 FM managed to make its way from San Francisco through the mountains to us, a gift from her guardian angel, because the local stations were all country music and talk radio. Mom always talked about her guardian angel, but we all considered it her method of dealing with the move to Angel's Camp from San Francisco which, she claims, my father 'brutishly forced' her into undergoing.
"Mom! I'm Home!" I yelled into the kitchen as I kicked my sandals off. I headed to the kitchen without waiting for a response I knew I wouldn't get. When Mom was in the kitchen and classical music was playing on the radio, she claimed to be in the 'serene-a-sphere', and that my hollering was a cruel and rude violation of her calm. Still, I knew better than to approach the 'serene-a-sphere' unannounced, because the last time I had, I had walked up to mom and tapped her on her shoulder, generating a scream of impressive pitch and duration. Seriously, Dad and I have suggested she look into a movie career, it was that impressive.
"Hi Davey!" she smiled and waved from in front of the stove, where she was stirring something steamy and spicy in a large pot. "Italian for dinner tonight."
Puccini was playing on the radio — I blame the corrupting influence of educated and enlightened parents for many things about my life and character, such as my recognition, at the age of 12, of Puccini's opera's. I wondered to myself which had come first the Italian dinner or the aria from Turandot pouring from the radio. "Mom, I need to go to the library after lunch, will you take me?"
What's at the library this time Davey?" she asked.
"I need to learn about rocks." I said, the tone of my voice intended to convey a total lack of importance or significance to my request. Yes, I did later learn that Mothers, being women, were also members of the road-flare-at-night sorority, and I wonder to this day at the number of my boyhood schemes which were actually accomplished with significant amounts of covert maternal collaboration. Of course the odd twist at the corner of her mouth when she smiled and said "Of course, sweetie. Lunch is in the fridge, help yourself." went past me unnoticed. I opened the fridge and grabbed a plate of fruit and cheese that was obviously meant for me. " This sauce will be another 30 minutes, so don't eat too fast."
As I moved over to the kitchen table to eat my meal, my mother actually paused in her stirring, stood stock still for a second and said, looking over her shoulder at me. "Davey, can't you just use your dad's books?"
"Dad's books?" I mumbled, through a mouthful of honeydew melon, "Does dad have books on collecting rocks?"
"Of course Davey." Mom laughed. "He might even still have his tools laying around here somewhere, you know how he never seems able to throw anything away."
And so I owed the initial volley, fired for my side in that still unknown battle, to my Mother's gentle encouragement, and my father's desire upon moving to Angel Camp to prospect for gold.