It was late in October, the weather had turned cold, at least late in the night and early in morning. Compared to the temperatures of the past summer, with the hot wind blowing in from the east… whereby lies Death Valley. Climbing up to 3600 feet with the frost still on the road is a welcome change. It beats the thermometer pushing 116 degrees Fahrenheit, at 11 in the morning.
I was near the end of another property survey in the Kennedy Meadows area of California. In the movie Wild starring Reese Witherspoon, the Kennedy Meadows store plays a prominent part, making it now famous. The real Kennedy Meadows store is unique, not necessarily movie set ready. The surrounding area is mountainous and tree covered with the average elevation between 6200-6800 feet above sea level. Part of the Sierra Nevada Mountains. There is little or no work locally, the store being about it most of the time. There is a local telephone company and each property has telephone service and internet access. A large percentage of the landowners are absentee owners, most of them from the Los Angeles area.
Some of the vacation cabins are nicer than others, some small camp trailers, and some decaying plywood shacks showing years of neglect. However, the attention to detail and the sophistication of some of the outhouses is worthy of a photographic article in a monthly motorized magazine of the mountainous west. Rumors of stained glass windows, water misters to be used during the brutal summer months, and just two years ago the rumor that a local two holer was stocked with scented french toilet paper both skid and puncture proof. Hollywood… go figure.
My current client, a recent property buyer from south of Los Angeles, bought two adjacent parcels with a wood cabin and storage shed painted forest service green. The original property corner monuments that were recovered, were 3/8″ x 12″ iron pipes set mostly flush with the ground. Image the metal equivalent of the paperboard drinking straw. Most had metal fence posts set vertically nearby.
Not one of the corners was tagged. The state law requires that the registration number of the surveyor or civil engineer establishing the monument be permanently affixed to the monument. However, the 40 acre corners, known to surveyors as the 1/16 corners within the section, were established and tagged by L.S. 2386. The recorded maps at the county recorder’s office reveal that Land Surveyor No. 2386 was issued to Mr. Newton J. Richard of Ontario, California.
This license was issued prior to 1951. The client had purchased two adjacent but separate parcels within the Pinon Valley Tract as platted in 1959. The questions that these facts invite would leave a bottomless pit of panic in the court of Judge Judy similar to leaving with three large bags of money in the back of the armored-car and arriving with two.
Driving up the canyon at about one hour before sunrise, I shifted the survey truck into 2nd gear and was setting the cruise control at 35 when it happened. This part of the canyon is the steepest, with the road grade at 10% and maybe more. There are two narrow asphalt lanes climbing the canyon with a faded white line in the middle of the road at interesting intervals. On the inward side of the road is a shear rock wall climbing 12 feet or more in height, and on the outer side almost shear vertical slopes down to the distant creek below. The old surveyors would have said that if you fell over the edge, you would have starved between bounces.
A rabbit exploded out of the brush on my left at the edge of the asphalt road. I didn’t want to hit the scruffy guy, so I tapped the brake pedal and the truck began to slow down. The rabbit ran right in front of the truck and stopped in the middle of the road. I was almost on top of scruffy, almost at a complete stop, when I realized that the headlights must have blinded the rabbit, and he or she was unsure how to proceed. Just as the truck came to a complete stop, the rabbit turned away from the truck and started running uphill in the middle of the road. Again I thought that the rabbit was blinded by the headlights and was running wildly trying to get away.
I was hoping that if I went to the left slowly, I could persuade him or her to continue on across to the other side of the road. So… I ventured out into the opposing lane and up to 10 miles per hour. The rabbit stayed right in front of the truck and made no move to leave the road on one side or the other. After about 2 minutes of this with the rabbit in the middle of the road, the truck about 10 feet behind the rabbit, and all moving at 10 miles per hour uphill, I began to laugh and shake my head at the almost ghostly Poe like story line of the events that were unfolding.
It was at this point that I realized, like being hit with a savage line drive right up the middle, that what I was seeing was a game as played by a wild animal. The rabbit was running from side to side between the headlights on the asphalt road, uphill at 10 miles per hour. This went on for about one mile, the rabbit playing at running between the headlights of the truck, while staying about 10 feet in front of the truck, all while running uphill. About this time the road straightens out far enough that I could stay in the opposing lane and pass scruffy. I was truly mindless at the strength of the rabbit during this entire performance, but thought that 35 miles per hour would put me past the rabbit, and bring down the curtain on this most assuredly gladiator style performance.
So… in the opposing lane I brought the truck up to 35 miles per hour and started looking to the right to meld into that lane, when I saw the rabbit. The rabbit was running along the extreme right edge of the asphalt, and the nose of the rabbit was even with the front bumper of the survey truck at 35 miles per hour. Laughing anew, I feared to see Rod Serling of the old television program The Twilight Zone standing off to the side of the road, with his charcoal grey suit, his hands folded in front saying coyly to the audience… that evil glint in his eye… that this evenings story would be about a rabbit with a great game.