The top of "La Loma" is the top
of the world. We would leave the cabin well before dawn and take
the jeep the rest of the way up the hill. The fog was so thick our
own headlight beams would blind us. Actually, we are in the clouds.
The jeep trails are not for people who do not know the land up here.
The younger ones would take up high positions
and sleep right through the hunt (not that anything ever came our
way). The older generations would walk the crest in further and
disperse into the fog, awaiting the first twilight. Then Fernando
would go down into the canyon with the dogs. We would wait. Down
jackets help, but the cold penetrates when you are not moving. The
fog would begin to thin out, and soon you could see fifty yards
through the gloom, then a hundred.
By the time the sun cleared the horizon,
the mountaintop would be free of fog. We welcomed the warming. The
orange sky fades into blue. There is no sound up here, and will
be none until we hear Fernando begin to work the dogs a mile down
the hill. Hollister, Gilroy, San Jose -- the whole valley below
is filled with a blanket of fog. To the west you can spot the Moss
Landing power plant, at ocean's edge, but only by the giant smokestack
poking through the fog.
"Ha, Queenie!" Fernando is working
the dogs in the brush near the bottom of canyon. It is rough work.
I could not do it. His voice drifts up on the cool morning air ever
so often, and then fades. It will take him another two hours to
get back up here.
There was the year Fernando finally flushed
the biggest forked horn we'd seen in those parts. It bolted into
my sector, headed straight for me. I had him in my iron sights for
100 yards, and I never miss. He bounded right past me and disappeared
into the brush below. No shot was ever fired. Tio Tom asked me,
"Why didn't you shoot, boy?"
I said that the kids were in my line of
fire, which technically was true. My neighbor, who knows I never
miss, asked me later about this. "Buck fever, Neighbor?"
We laughed together. We both know what it is, to just want to let
this one live.
We last went up the hill to Loma Prieta
in about 1982 or '83. Standing by the corral after unloading hay
for the horses, there was a deep subsonic rumbling sound. We watched
a ground wave, an unbelievable advancing sine wave of rippling tree
tops, come roaring up the hill at us. Earthquake! The shock hit
us. One of the horses fell to its knees, and the water slopped out
of its trough. A few dead trees fell on the property over the next
day or two, an eerie precursor of the lethal California quake that
was to put the name "Loma Prieta" on the map forever in
©Alex Forbes 2002