Beyond The Campfire was created to encourage readers to explore the great outdoors and to observe it close up. Get out and take a hike, go fishing or canoeing, or simply stretch out on a blanket under a summer sky...and take your camera along. We'll talk about combining outdoor activities with photography. We'll look at everything from improving your understanding of the basics of photography to more advanced techniques including things like how to see photographically and capturing the light. We'll explore the night sky, location shoots, using off camera speedlights along with nature and landscape. Grab your camera...strap on your hiking boots...and join me. I think you will enjoy the adventure.

F-4 Phantom

F-4 Phantom
F-4 Phantom

Sunday, September 30, 2012

The Fossil Rock

Growing up in Corona - circa 1960
There’s something positive that comes from growing up in small towns.small town values from the 50’s and 60’s were still focused on God, family, friends, and community…pretty much in that order. I suppose that is why the old black and white television shows from that era were so enduring as they focused on those kinds of values instead of the self indulging hop into bed with anyone values so prevalent on the airways today.

One of the most influential times I experienced was the two years my family spent in Corona, New Mexico back in 1960 and 1961. If you draw an X from the four corners of the state of New Mexico, where they intersect in the middle is just about where Corona lies. On the edge of town during that time was a sign that said…Welcome to Corona...Elevation 6,666 feet.  A little know fact about that location is that the now infamous Roswell UFO incident of the 1940's actually took place closer to Corona instead of Roswell. Roswell it turns out was the closest large town that anyone would recognize, so it was dubbed as the location of that event. No one, it seems had ever heard of Corona which is not surprising as the graduating class of 1960 stood at around twelve.

As small and isolated as it was, it was a great place for a kid. We lived in a pretty much unfettered environment, free to roam as we chose, explore where we may, and experience life around us on the outside. Winter was the greatest time of all as the amount of snow we received was far greater than anything I had ever experienced before. All the kids would gather on top of the hill where the dirt road curved and angled down to the main highway. The snow was so deep it would become packed and hard creating perfect conditions for sledding. We’d spend hours gliding down that snow packed road and the cold never seemed to bother us…we were having too much fun. It was almost like the scenes from ‘A Charlie Brown Christmas’…we’d even go around caroling to all the homes in town…and take hayrides and sing Christmas carols along the way.

It was during that time I first became aware of the importance of presidential elections as Nixon and Kennedy went at each other. It was a new world for me…politics…and even though I was unable to comprehend the magnitude of the issues of the day…I instinctively understood that something big was at stake. To a nine year old youngster, John Kennedy seemed bigger than life…Nixon seemed to be some great sage with a rather dull personality. Little did we know what would transpire in each of their lives, and ultimately our own lives, just a few years further down the road.

Behind our house rose a shallow hill…not so much a hill as it was just a higher part of the terrain. Along its upper edge could be found large exposed rocks. I would often hike up there and look for fossils or arrowheads…never found any arrowheads that I can recall, but I did discover countless fossils. One rock in particular was one I called ‘the fossil rock’ as it was chalked full of intricately detail fossils. It was maybe eight feet across and roughly the same in length and skirted the edge along the top of the rise.

I would sit on this rock for hours and run my hands across the swirls and dips and crystalline structures scattered across its face. I dreamed of dinosaurs and ancient times and wondered what all those fossils were and how they came to be on that single large rock. It was one of the first times I ever dreamed such thoughts and those adventures of the imagination still reside and influence my memories even today.

Corona High School Science Class - circa 1960
Often on a warm day, I would lie back on that rock and watch the clouds drift by and listen to the constant wind as it swirled among the scrubby trees scattered across the landscape. From history lessons at school I dreamed about the ancient peoples who lived in that area so long ago and the explorers who traveled for the first time across that sparse land in search of treasures and riches and grand adventures. For a nine year old, those adventures of the mind were as real as if I had done them myself. 

The entire school system from first grade through twelfth grade was pretty much housed in one or two connected buildings. As a result, even those of us in third grade or fourth grade knew all the high school kids. The place was so small you could not help but know everyone. Athletics was a big deal and even though that school was really small, they were able to wield a football, basketball, and track team…mostly made up of all the same kids. They were actually pretty good too…at least they won more games than they lost. Some of the high school kids became legendary to us grade school kids and we looked up to them with the admiration offered to NFL super stars. Woody Dame, Clint and J.T. Roper were three of the more athletic. I’ll never forget playing a sandlot football game in the front yard, three of us kids against Woody Dame…he played on his knees…we got to run using our legs…he still beat us…but man, was that something to experience…Woody Dame, football hero from high school, actually took the time to play a game of football with us kids.  We were in kid heaven and about as excited as we could get.

Yeah…those were the days, days of exploring our world and our place in it. It was a time that still held a sense of innocence about it, but looming on the horizon were challenges waiting for us that we could never have dreamed of at that age. I do believe it was that time of free spirit thinking that helped us through those challenges.

Somehow through the years we too often allow ourselves to lose touch with the days of our youth. It’s inevitable I suppose as we grow older as responsibility and time take their toll on our lives. Yet even today, even though I rarely see a fossil implanted in its natural state anymore, when I do, my thoughts return to those days. A hammock has replaced the fossil rock as a place to lie back and a place where the nine year old in me resurfaces. As I swing in the breeze, above me across the sky, clouds still drift as they did then, and beneath the rocks and earth of the surround hills, fossils are still there waiting for discovery. Imprinted in my mind are the memories of those carefree days when a young boy not only explored the world around him, he opened his mind and heart for the first time to the magnificent flavor of God’s creation. It’s good for the soul to do such things, not only those, but to remember why we dreamed about those adventures the way we did. It reminds us of who we are.

Our stay in that little community was short lived…but the impact of those two years influenced the rest of my life…it was an amazing influence that still resonates over fifty years later.


1 comment:

joy said...

You have a very nice story, very different from mine and I enjoy reading it. Thanks for that.