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Posted by: Kathleen ( )
Date: November 30, 2018 01:23AM

It is, perhaps, the only Star of David in Masonic Cemetery, Redding, California, and it belongs to Pop, Bodie Lyon, 1904–1992.  He died of cancer.
Despite the engine roar and *slap, slap, slap* of windshield wipers, there was an overwhelming quiet.  The blackness beyond us was illuminated by snowplow lights on whirling snowflakes. The plow heater simmered away. An arc of snow shot from the blower over banks and branches, filling tracks where deer had tiptoed. The snowplow was a luxury vehicle for this kid. Life was luxurious in the 1950s Lassen Park as Pop and I zipped along, clearing the roads lest they become impassible by morning. I was six.  
We lived in Mineral. A tiny volcanic caldera town in Northern California—headquarters to Lassen Volcanic National Park.

Back in the snowplow. I had a red wool coat, and a white muff made of fur.  People don’t use muffs anymore, and nowadays, even I wouldn’t own fur. But I did then.  My hands snuggled deep in the fur muff, while Pop and I snuggled deep in the mountains. Yesterday, I saw a red wool coat at the thrift store. Had it smelled of diesel, I’d have bought it.

Those were the warmest winters.  The coldest winter of my life was 1991 in Redding.  “I bet you don’t remember being cold in Mineral”  Pop said over the phone.  We laughed that we moved away from the snow to nearly freeze to death in the valley !
Terry Brown's house.  During one of our not-cold frozen winters, the Browns’ two story house caught fire.  No hydrants.  Just frozen hoses … and Pop.  He fired up the plow and dispatched a plume of snow over the Browns’ burning house.  Snowflakes pummeled the fire monster that ripped at the roof and clawed for air. Soon, the monster hissed and fell down.  The Browns, already outside, stood crying. When I think about their icy tears, even to this day,  I cry too. I wish I had a picture of that moment. Like in my snapshot gallery of memories, I’m sure folks would stop and say, “Wow!  Look at that!"
Did I mention Pop’s big award?  I’ll get to that later.  
From 1933 to 1968, Pop built National Park roads.  I wish I could remember them all—roads through Bryce Canyon, Grand Canyon, and Zion National Parks.  Those roads were Pop’s careful embroidery. And Lassen Park was Pop’s great escape.  Someday, I’ll go and drive on all of Pop’s roads, but there is so little time anymore.  So many meaningless and mundane things to do—unlike magical rides in the snowplow.  
Now and then, I leaf through the frail black pages of Pop’s photo albums stuffed with sepia-tone photos that fall onto my lap. Ice and tunnels, successes and failures, a finished bridge or a tractor gone over a cliff.  I marvel at the antiquity of the Caterpillars, graders and dump trucks, and, of course, Pop and his crew posing with grins and shovels.   One photo has a handwritten caption:  "Broke down — stuck in canyon two weeks.”  I wonder if tourists motorhoming along Wyoming’s Highway 89, gaze up at the Tetons and think of men cutting the road with picks, shovels, and 1930’s bulldozers that went “chicky, chicka, chic-chic-chic.” 
Craters of The Moon National Monument, Idaho.  They (the vague *they* of my childhood) couldn’t slice through the Craters' near-impermeable sheets of rock.  They called Pop. He drove a long, yellow, praying mantis of a grader up onto a flatbed trailer and towed it from Lassen Park to Craters of The Moon.  We lived there for five weeks while Pop carved roads through that strangely beautiful black landscape.  In 1996, I went there.   At night, I saw people leave their tents and campers to sleep on the ground with their fingers submerged in red and black cinder.  "I don’t want to leave here.” I told my husband.   Perhaps I didn’t want to leave Pop again.  
Pop  had a little sign on the dash of his 1948 International pickup:
Oh yes! Pop’s big award—The Meritorious Service Award from the Department of the Interior for all those roads he built.  

Cancer certainly ruins everything.
Cancer is wolves lurking the frosted meadows of our lives.  During winter of 1965, rabid wolves (they were coyotes, but I called them wolves) attacked the snowplow, which was very unusual and frightening.  Pop was diagnosed with prostate cancer in 1991.  The cancer devoured his strength and brilliance like shingles on the Browns’ burning roof, with nothing cool and white to smother the pain —and left me to ask, where did the wolves come from?

Did I mention Death Valley National Monument?  Atom bombs?  
Death Valley National Monument. Our bad fortune.  Bomb tests were conducted in the Nevada desert in the ‘40s, ’50s and ‘60s, and many park service folk were allowed on-site.  The light from atomic blasts was whiter than anything we could imagine. Twenty-six bombs were tested while we were there—some with ominous names like Upshot-Knothole “Dirty” Harry and the 43-kiloton Shot Simon.  

It didn’t take long to become sick.  Men drove to our house with bright orange medicine.  So much iodine and vomiting.  Las Vegas. A hospital with metal cribs. Too weak to cry.

Pop demanded a transfer to anywhere! And, we scrambled away from Death Valley and the mushroom clouds.   He brought us to Lassen Park in 1953, where life was clean with not so many gamma rays to contend with.  Lassen had snowy winters and snowplows and starry nights that were never cold. Stars …

…the Star of David.  Below his name is written, “Master Sergeant, United States Army, World War II.”  It says nothing of the snowplow or the Meritorious Service Award, Bryce Canyon or the Browns’ house.  I need to work on that.  Work is life. Good work is good life.

I give Concrete Zipper and RfM permission to use this story any way they like.


Edited 1 time(s). Last edit at 11/30/2018 01:28AM by kathleen.

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Posted by: babyloncansuckit ( )
Date: November 30, 2018 01:28AM

Looks like a picture of Hell just before TSCC admits to being built on a massive fraud.

Edited 1 time(s). Last edit at 11/30/2018 01:29AM by babyloncansuckit.

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Posted by: Kathleen ( )
Date: November 30, 2018 01:29AM

No, a picture of Heaven.

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Posted by: Nightingale ( )
Date: November 30, 2018 02:23AM

Beautiful, kathleen.

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Posted by: ziller ( )
Date: March 11, 2021 08:11PM

this is why kathleen won the short story contest ~

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Posted by: Done & Done ( )
Date: November 30, 2018 10:26AM

"Yesterday, I saw a red wool coat at the thrift store. Had it smelled of diesel, I’d have bought it."

What a line. What that says about all the past, that is the past we still want to be in the corners of our minds, waiting to do its duty at a moments notice.

Its funny how you can put so much warmth in a story that is all about the cold and even hints at the Cold War. Not hard to see why you love your Pop.

Beautiful story, kathleen. Family doesn't need Mormonism to be beautiful. Quite the opposite. My best memories are like yours without a ward house or a temple anywhere in sight.

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Posted by: rhgc ( )
Date: November 30, 2018 11:12AM

I also had a red wool coat. It was stolen from the rack in Walker Memorial at MIT back in the winter of 1962-63.

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Posted by: Amyjo ( )
Date: November 30, 2018 11:23AM

That reminds me of my uncle, a UC Berkeley grad. He went out to get into his little sports coupe to go to work one morning in Oakland, only to find his car had been stolen out of his driveway. The year was app the same as your red wool coat went missing. That is rather mean nonetheless, to steal someone's coat.

I love the color red. As a little girl it was easily my favorite.


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Posted by: Amyjo ( )
Date: November 30, 2018 10:48AM

I love the way you weave your stories, Kathleen. You invite us in to your world for a moment, and that is endearing.

Your dad was a mensch of the highest order.

So many of the places he's been (and you with him,) I've been too.

I grew up near the Craters of the Moon National Monument. Hwy 89 I drove in 2016 on a family history trip. Some of my pioneer ancestors blasted dynamite on that canyon road between Logan and Bear Lake to make a passageway possible.

Can appreciate the blood, sweat, and toil of making roads where there were no roads in places like Bryce Canyon, Zion, and the other parks your father helped build.

All the while with a good heart matched by his work ethic.

A loving and lasting legacy he left you to remember him by.

A beautiful tribute by you of him.


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Posted by: Elder Berry ( )
Date: March 11, 2021 11:15AM

Great stories need topping.

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Posted by: Lot's Wife ( )
Date: March 11, 2021 02:50PM

Yes, it is a great story.

And it brings to mind Terry Tempest Williams, the naturalist poet and author whose family inherited a legacy of cancers from those nuclear tests.

Nice work, Kathleen.

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Posted by: Kathleen ( )
Date: March 11, 2021 03:27PM

Thank you, Elder Berry and Lot’s Wife ... and everybody who responded back in 2018. :)

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Posted by: Elder Berry ( )
Date: March 11, 2021 06:17PM

You are welcome. It was a great story. I'm glad I lost to it.

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Posted by: CL2 ( )
Date: March 14, 2021 12:04PM

But rereading it is wonderful. I wish I could write like you do, to write about my memories of my parents. I should write anyway so my kids have my memories. I miss my parents so much.

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