Friday, January 16, 2009

Ramblings 2.0

This week’s theme is Nevada Adventures. The summer before 2nd grade my family moved to the Duck Valley Indian Reservation on the border of Idaho and Nevada. My dad had taken a teaching job there. Even though I was a kid, or maybe because I was a kid, I think those four years shaped my life in a way that no other place has.

(disclaimer: I was a kid during these times so if the facts aren’t exactly accurate, so be it)

Act I: The Reservation

I had just turned seven when we moved to Owyhee, Nevada. We lived in a duplex that was part of a complex of teacher housing. My dad taught art at the local school which had K-12 all together with about 300 students. This was the first time I knew what being the minority meant. I was the only “white” girl in my class. There was one white boy the first two years, and then a set of twins the last two years. I ended up spending a lot of times at recess with boys because they were more welcoming. There were great rows of willows along the football field that led to many fun forts being built even though we lacked an adequate playground. Several times a year we would have pow-wows at school and I loved the beautiful outfits everyone wore and the hypnotic beat of their drum circles.

Other random memories:

-jump rope and hand clapping games at lunch

-dive bombing bats

-Magellan the cat

-finding Magellan after he died

-Oreo the dog


-girl scouts

-stitches in my chin

-pot-luck lunches after church

-5 yr old Britta running the mile in the track and field day, with the high schoolers

-desperately wanting the minks that the girls wore in their hair at the pow-wows

Act II: The Ranch

After the first year of living on the reservation my parents were eager for a new place to stay. I remember them talking about being tired of the fact that my dad was at school all day and then came home and the only people that lived by you were the other teachers, so all you talked about was work. I think my parents needed a little more variety. My dad found an opportunity on a ranch that was about 45 minutes outside of the res. The ranch needed someone to drive a school bus so that the kids on the ranch could get into town. I don’t remember but I’m guessing the school said they would provide a bus, but not a driver. The ranch offered the bus driver a free house to live in. Since my dad had to go to the school everyday anyways, why not get a free place to stay out of it. So we moved out to Petan Ranch. My little sister Keeley was born the week that we moved in which I’m sure made for an interesting experience for my parents.

I think that a ranch is the ideal place for a kid to grow up. I have great memories of catching frogs, running in fields and climbing trees. There was an old chicken coop just past our house that my sisters and I cleaned out one summer. We spent days hauling out crap and sweeping it convinced that we were going to move in for the summer. There were great memories helping the neighbor boy feed the calves and going on horseback rides. Of course the best part of the ranch was the moss factory. There was a large round horse trough that had large amounts of moss growing it. We spend days scooping out the moss and hanging it on the fence to dry. Not sure what we were going to do with the moss, but we thought we found a goldmine. The ranch was a wildlife mecca. The owners had banned any animals from being killed which meant there were coyotes every where, to the dismay of the cattle ranchers. Every night they would come into the orchard behind our house and howl though the night. I fell in love with cowboys living on the ranch.

Other random memories:

-sage brush huts

-lots of ticks


-trying to save the minnows

-realizing they were trash fish and dissecting them

-raccoons on the trash cans

-cool junk yards

-FBI visit

-Pappy’s Puddle

-staying with Waddie Mitchell

-barn owls

-baby red tail hawk

-watching calves being born, some traumatically

-the road being washed out by a large rain storm and not having to go to school for 2 weeks

Act III: Mountain City

After two years of living on the ranch, two of the families with kids moved away. That meant that the only kids that needed to take the bus into town was our family, plus one other boy. So it wasn’t really necessary anymore. Time to move. This area of Nevada wasn’t exactly booming, so the options for housing were pretty limited. There are two houses I remember visiting, which I think were the only two available. The first one was a small two bedroom off the side of the main road. I don’t remember there being anything around it and it was very small. There was a dresser in one of the rooms that was infested with a large nest of mice. (I found out after writing this that it was a joke that my dad took us to look at that house. I never knew that till now.) The second option was in a small town called Mountain City about 15 minutes from the res. It was the town’s haunted house. It had been abandoned several years prior when the tenants moved out and the owner was not able to come out from California and lock it up because of health problems. Most of the windows and doors had been broken, the yard had been completely overgrown with weeds and the basement had cobwebs that were sheets that hung from the ceiling to the floor. The place was a disaster, but it was to be our new home.

My parents took lots of pictures of the current state and contacted the owner. They worked out an arrangement that my parents would fix up the house and because of the extent of the needed work, they would live there rent free. My older sister Maiken and my dad spent several days cleaning out the worst stuff and hauling it to the dump. Then the rest of the work continued after we had moved in.

(if this was the inside of the house you were going to live in, would you think the previous one your parents had stopped at was a joke?)

There were two small stores in town, a bar and a small motel. The stores were the definition of “general store.” They sold everything including food, some clothes, hunting & fishing supplies and tools. The town had about 75 people if you included the ranches surrounding for several miles.

Other random memories:

-abandoned school playground

-wagon rides down the hill

-tipping over in the wagon rides

-the horse that lived in the guys house

-Britta riding the horse in the back yard and having him start to gallop
-the CAT in the back yard

-playing on the gas tank in the back yard


-stores where you just charged it to your account

-ice fishing

-lots of adventures

I could write a book about all the fun times from those years. I have a lot of great memories from those years in Nevada, but I was most affected by the bad memories. We ended up moving back to Utah because my parents decided that although my dad was paid a lot better there, it was not the best place to raise teenagers. The reservation was a sad, hopeless place. There was an incredibly high teen pregnancy rate and an even higher rate of alcoholism. Along with that there was a high suicide rate. I still remember my younger sister’s friend at school coming in covered with bruises. Her father had pistol whipped her and her mom and then shot himself in front of them. This was not an uncommon type of event. I remember funerals happening what seemed like weekly, and there weren’t that many people there.

Even as a kid I think the most important life lesson I learned from living there was that I feel that hate is something that is taught. It is not something that is innate in us, we learn by example from our parents and others around us. The experiences my sisters and I had in school were a perfect example of this. My younger sister Britta was in Kindergarten when we first moved there. She didn’t have a lot of problems with friends and the other kids in school, although I do remember her being called “white bread.” I was two years older and don’t remember a lot of problems the first year, although I didn’t really have any friends. But as I got older I very clearly remember hearing more and more comments like, “get off our land white trash.” I remember having to ask someone one what being flipped off was after having several of the older students demonstrate it while I was walking the halls. I also had to ask someone what the “f” word was after having it uttered to me by strangers on a regular basis. The older you got, the worse it got. As I grew up I had more and more experiences where I would run out to the playground to play with the girls in my class and have them yell out things about going where I belong and the white trash sentiments. I don’t even think they knew what they were saying, I just think they had heard their parents and older siblings say it.

From what I remember my parents saying, a lot of the adults were just to the point where they didn’t even bother to insult you, they just plain ignored you and acted like you didn’t exist. Of course these sentiments weren’t 100% across the board, but definitely felt. I try to remember that now that I have a child. That my example of how I treat other people will greatly shape how he treats people. I hope that Will will grow up feeling compassion for all people and realizing that all people have something to share with the world, you may just have to look harder in some. I have never felt anger towards the people that lived on the reservation, probably because I never heard my parents express anger. I have always felt sorry for them. I feel bad that they feel so helpless and stuck in their routine. They don’t feel as though they can get away and do something else. I think the youth feel pressure to not abandon their traditions and leaving the reservation is almost seen as a betrayal. I think that it is still an ugly part of our past that the rest of the country has moved on from. Meanwhile they are stuck on the reservation not wanting to abandon their traditions, but living in a place swallowed with despair.

I try to remember the good things about the area though and the wonderful times I had as a child with plenty of room to roam and play, and just be a kid. I hope that some time soon my whole family will be able to go on a road trip back. I would love to experience it all again as an adult and share it with my youngest sisters who either weren’t born yet, or too young to remember. I think we should start planning. We could rent two mini-vans and have an awesome road trip!


Swede_Lady said...

Very well done, Kari!

Memories of Nevada are still strong for me as well. I realize now more things were going on, but at the time I was happy and happy with less; no TV, no movies, no big cities. I had my sisters and I had parents who would take us on adventures. It was more than enough.

Britta said...

I'm in for the road trip! I loved living there - I think it was the best place for us to spend those years, before we moved to The Big City. ;)

Nathan said...


I found your blog today (through Sandy's) and loved reading this. I can remember when you guys lived out there--I remember telling people that my cousins lived on an Indian reservation. What a good idea to write down memories on your blog.

Beth Whisamore