The stories worth telling
June 5, 2003
On a sunny Sunday afternoon there’s nothing better to do than tell stories. And that’s what we did.
Sitting at Miner’s Park half under the shade, four generations of story tellers assembled.
We gathered under the guise of a family picnic to celebrate my cousin’s visit from Ohio. But for me it was really all about the stories.
I learned that my babysitter, whom we’d hoodwinked into thinking Mom made pudding every night before bed, knew how and had in fact hot-wired Pop’s car — twice.
Once to take our aunt home and again when she was headed home with Pop in the car.
Today they’re friends, but I guess there was some bad blood between them for years after Pop yelled at her for the full 3-mile trip home.
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We also learned that someone in one of the four generations had made a peep hole between the boys and girls locker rooms of the D Street gymnasium. The culprit will stay unnamed, mostly because I’m not sure who really fessed up. It was hard to hear amidst all the laughter.
Stories were told all afternoon while the kids ages 2 to 16 played on the grass and beneath the trees that have sheltered only one generation of Muckers so far.
I was just a kid, 10, when my mother got the great idea to build a park around the swimming pool. If nothing else, she’s been known for an idea or two. I don’t remember much about being a little kid, but I do remember laying sod and planting trees at the park with at least half of Virginia City helping out. Mom said it was “the kids’ park because they all helped lay sod and plant trees and bushes.”
The first picnic in the park was July 4, 1976 right after the sod went down.
Today, at least some of the trees are a good 30 feet tall. The others are on their way and the grass is a good place for a game of catch or tag or just a place to flop after the games end.
When I first started playing baseball at the park there was no grass in the outfield. No park, no tennis courts, no shade, but there was lots of wind and thousands of little rocks that kept a ground ball bouncing like a pinball as it made its way to the outfield.
Why any of us who ever played there even like the game today is a mystery. Catching a grounder was like a game of Russian roulette with your eyes. Any one of those ball-launching rocks could mean you’d take one in the face or on the shin. It was a guess at best where to put your glove down. Somehow we managed. And for some reason we still play.
I remember practices and games in the snow and swinging the bat with my eyes closed so I wouldn’t hit the ball because my hands were so cold hitting the ball would be much more painful than striking out. I guess that explains my batting still to this day.
When we didn’t play in town we played at the Grange Hall at the base of Geiger Grade or in Washoe Valley. The hall is a nursery today, the need for a Grange Hall gone as the farms and ranches have long since been replaced by subdivisions and superstores.
I remember going to Reno at least once a year Christmas-shopping and the town beginning to spring up at the Liberty Belle and the Coliseum. I vaguely remember watching a hockey match there once and I think my brothers had a hockey puck rolling around the toy box for years afterward. The Coliseum has been replaced by the Reno-Sparks Convention Center and youth by gray hairs and wrinkles.
But the best parts of it all are the stories. Who knew nearly 30 years later we’d be sitting beneath the trees trying to explain what it was like before the shade of the trees and the grass. Trying not to cry as the stories go on about when the adult skinny dippers jumped out of the pool, caught in the act by the teenaged would-be skinny dippers. Yep, there are some stories that should always be told.
Kelli Du Fresne is features editor for the Nevada Appeal and takes the Fifth on any and all stories and sources contained above.