Just north and east of Yosemite is a little place called Bodie, California. There are no inhabitants of Bodie today, but it was a boomtown during the gold(and silver)rush of the late 19th Century – and the homes, buildings, and old mine that weren’t destroyed by fires in the early 1900s remain, protected by California State Parks. They are relics.
Walking through town is like taking a step back in time, minus the modern tourists (myself included) snapping countless photos with their cell phones [eye roll]. I don’t want to be such a tourist, but I have to admit, I’m really struggling with disconnecting from that…urge. I’m seeing things I’ll quite possibly never see again…and I want pictures. I’m traveling solo, and I want to share stories and sights with my people. Still, I’m admittedly annoyed by the constant pull of my attention away from the present (or, in Bodie’s case, the past).
In one of the old buildings, I watched a film about the rise and fall of Bodie and the lives of its residents. It was fascinating, and I’m glad I took the time to nerd-out a little. At its height, the ratio of men to women and children in Bodie was 10:1. There was much…debauchery, and the town is remembered for its fabled “bad man of Bodie.” It was settings like this that helped earn the region its nickname “Wild West.” And the sociologist in me can’t help but wish I could have been a fly on the wall for all of it!
Driving away slowly, through the Bodie Hills and Mount Biedeman Wilderness, I pulled over to let hurried drivers pass me by. I’d had my eye on this field of rocks, and when I stopped, I realized the “rocks” were moving…and were actually sheep – LOTS of them!! I walked as near I could to their pasture and watched them in awe. As I looked closely, I saw a man out among them and hollered “hello.” “¿Hablas Español?” the shepherd returned, as he and his dog walked toward me. He introduced himself as Eugena and his dog as Layka, and I introduced myself by my high school Spanish name, Isabel, which made him smile.
For the next 20 minutes, he spoke to me in what little English he knows, and I stumbled through as much Spanish as I could recall after twenty years (!!). Often, he wrote in the sand with his shepherd’s hook, helping me to understand, as I spelled words aloud with him, surprisingly recalling the letters of the Spanish alphabet (he tends 1,680 “oveja” in this pasture and lives in a trailer nearby; he returns to his native Peru every three years).
It was absolutely beautiful – two humans connecting with little shared language. We hugged twice as I prepared to go, and he asked me to take a picture with my phone (he must know American tourists well…and I’m so grateful to get to remember his face this way!). I will forever count this chance meeting in the hills of eastern California among the blessings of my trip.
Both Bodie and Eugena remind me of the value of taking time to sloooooow down, to look around, to pay attention, and to really listen. I think this might be a theme. 😉