“What are we going to see today?!” I asked Mom when she stopped the Covered Wagon at the side of a 10-mile-long dirt wagon trail. Dirt wagon trails often lead to plenty of wilder-ness and adventure, and I was glad it was going to be the kind of adventure we have outside the Wagon rather than in it. “We’re going to a ghost town!” Mom announced.
I had never seen a town just for ghosts before. I thought that ghosts just shared the same towns as dogs and people, so that they would have someone to wake up and make run around the house scream-barking in the middle of the night. “Yippee skippee!” I panted as I zoomed around in a circle sniffing for ghost smells. “Where is it?” I looked around at all the empty desert and wondered if ghosts live in invisible houses. “The ghost town isn’t here. It’s about 5 miles that way,” Mom explained, waving her arm toward the mountains that were blocking me from seeing to infinity.
All around us the land was totally empty, without any trees, or big rocks, or even a road or a building. The ground was bald like a human is hairless, but when you get close you can see that there’s a downy scrub of fur that you couldn’t see from far away. In the desert, that fur was made of dry bushes that hid excitement like bunnies and birds, and maybe even a few ghosts living underneath. Some people think this kind of desert is boring, but they just don’t know how to appreciate it. I like sticking my nose in the air and seeing the emptiness that goes on for as far as the nose can smell, and thinking about how the whole world might look like this underneath its clothes of trees, fields and cities.
We started climbing slowly. The trail we were on was just another dirt road for cars stronger than the Covered Wagon to drive on, and it wasn’t very steep at all, but we were more than a mile into the sky and Mom’s breathing is as bad with heights as the rest of her is scared of them. So Mom mixed walking and running, and I mixed running with Mom and startling bunnies and loud birds as I tried to rustle the ghosts out of their dens. “Who would build a town all the way up here?” I asked. “This seems pretty far out even for ghosts.” “There were a lot of mines up here back in the gold rush days,” Mom explained. “People came from all over the world to wander into the desert and look for valuable minerals” That was a lifestyle that I could really get into. “I think that Mark Twain’s silver mine was somewhere around here… or within a couple of hundred miles of here anyway.” “Who? Is he related to Dwayne ’The Rock’ Johnson?” Dwayne ’The Rock’ Johnson is my spirit animal. “He wrote about travel and adventures, just like you,” Mom said, in a tone like I should have heard about this miner guy. “Never mind…”
When we got to the top and found the ghost town, I was underwhelmed (and that’s a lot coming from a dog off his leash). “This isn’t a ghost town, it’s a ghost house,” I pointed out. “And it’s not even ancient like Mark Dwayne. Look, the inscription says Niko was here 2019.” “You’re right,” Mom said. “This seems less like a historical site and more like somewhere people come to get drunk.” “What’s the difference?” “Maybe it’s just how many signs there are outside, and if somebody’s going to get mad at you for being drunk there.” “Do ghosts sleep on mattresses?” I asked, looking at the one piece of furniture in the room. It seemed like if you could walk through walls, sleeping on the hard floor wouldn’t be such an issue.
The miles came easy as we dropped down the 1500 feet back to the valley where the Covered Wagon was waiting. I chased Mom slowly down the hill, and imagined that we were the only 2 souls left in the world… unless you counted the ghosts. For the next few weeks this would be our lives: just Mom and me exploring the wild back country for miles, and then using our wits to solve back country problems like finding wifi to help me tell the world about it.
Oscar the Ghostbuster