Mose Tuzik Mosley
5 min readSep 20, 2020

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One Man’s Mountain — 10.0 — MAGA’S Last Stop, Piece of the Pie, 5th and Defiance, Darwin Heights, Darwin, East California, USA

“But, soft! what light through yonder window breaks?
It is the east, and Moon is the sun.
Arise, fair Moon, and kill the envious stars,
Who are already sick and pale with grief….”
(R&J, Act Two, Scene II, paraphrase)

At some point I knew that I would eventually return to Darwin. What would await me there, however, was unclear.

Well, at least the dog was glad to see me. His name is Riley. He has keen canine intelligence and no-doubt has registered my specific smell in the catalogue of some 100,000 scents that he can accurately delineate. He jumped onto my lap when I opened the door of my truck in his driveway. He likes me, I think, because I consistently feed him table scraps when we are eating steak. This registers well in his canine memory. Smell of Mose: steak after dinner. Positive — positive. I also usually let him lick my plate. It is an easy way to bond with your favorite dog.

My friend Moon, on the other hand, was substantially less enthusiastic.

I can’t blame her. A scant two weeks previous to my arrival she had a terrible accident. Very late at night, after working long and hard all day, she tripped over some construction debris and fell heavily on her left arm. The fall almost knocked her out. She broke (shattered really) her upper arm. She suffered a nasty spiral fracture, a bruised left eye and when she came to she had to call an ambulance. She is currently in splint and sling with a semi-paralyzed left arm. She winces every now and then but is taking it pretty well. Surgery, plates and screws may be in her near future and then a long healing process. It’s enough to make anyone a little stand-offish.

So I came in the front door of her home and gave her a little hug. We had a short history of being sweethearts and naturally my left arm went over her right shoulder (she is short of stature) and my hand, acting on it’s own accord, gave her tush a little squeeze. She quickly stepped back and slapped me solidly with her right hand.

“Well,” I said brightly, “At least we know your reflexes are still good.”

Okay, I’m not the brightest sneaker in the shoebox. Yes, in truth, that was not even slightly amusing. My good natured battle with a semi-crippled Moon seemed to begin from that point on. No relaxing for the weary traveller after setting forth on the wrong (left) foot.

The next day Darwin filled with smoke.

It is futile to try to determine which fire it came from. There are fires practically everywhere. In reality my journey south had an apocalyptic and surreal quality. I left Oregon after a perfect summer. Weather clear and warm, not too hot, blue sky and lots of water and swimming. About two days after I headed south massive dry lightening strikes hit the west side of the Cascades. Heavy westerly winds blew in through the mountains like Oregon’s version of the Santa Annas. Fire roared and spread westward along the Douglas fir-lined canyons. One of my favorite places in the world, Brietenbush Hotsprings Retreat, nestled in old growth, was mostly destroyed. East of Eugene my friends up along the McKenzie River were urgently evacuated. Many homes and several towns were cindered by the raging Holiday Farm fire.

In California, it was hellish. I spent the first night at the Happy Traveler Motor Inn near Susanville. The town was thick in dense smoke, the setting sun a blooded red. It was crazy hot with only thick, abrasive air to breathe. I left before dawn and caught the rising sun in Nevada where it appeared wounded, bloody and ominous, as it rose over Reno.

All the way down Highway 395, there was dense smoke. But crossing over the Coso’s and coming into the little valley depression that cradles Darwin, the air miraculously cleared. It seemed like a good omen. But what do I know of omens good or bad.

The next day the cradle filled with smoke.

Since then it has been a difficult couple of weeks. Against the evidence of my aging and sore carpenter’s body I took on the task of re-framing a very substantial roof over my friend Moon’s house. There is a dearth (more like a vacuum) of labor, skilled or otherwise, in Darwin and I did most of the job on my own. Moon’s broken arm, of course, did not allow her to help though she did heroically supervise. I became the messenger of bad news every time a new carpentry challenge reared it’s ugly head and this, I believe, convinced her that I was a negative person.

Personally I feel that I am just an ordinary person in a negative time. Corona virus, D. Trump, the election, the climate change fires, the death of RBG….am I supposed to be positive about all of this?

Today, Saturday, after a very long day, busting it, while trying to co-ordinate a lovely cadre of volunteer workers, I got a good portion of the roof sheathed in plywood. The smoke partially cleared, the volunteers were fun to work with, the cold beer (Stella Artois) tasted very very good and when everyone left, the gin and tonic (Tanqueray) tasted even better.

Slightly drunk, (it doesn’t take much) I went off for a solo walk around Darwin. My faithful friend Riley (dog and dog’s nose) came with. We wandered empty streets. We walked roads I had never seen. We ended up at Darwin Heights on a bench at MAGA’s Last Stop Piece of the Pie next to an abandoned rusting motorcycle chained to an anchor. Sitting in the quiet while the sun (no longer bloody, but still fire-orange) set over the Coso Mountains, the dog and I had a moment of contemplation while the Eastern Sierra’s dimly faded in the grey-smoke twilight.

From this perspective there is nothing to do but laugh when you look at Darwin. It’s such an odd assortment of scrapped together houses, crumbling trailers, man-caves carved into the hillside and a wild assortment of abandoned satellite dishes.

What did Mark Twain once remark about his home town (Florida, Missouri)? That’s where he wanted to be when the world ended. You can see him smiling through his grey mustache, as he delivers the closer: “Because in Florida everyone knows they are 30 years behind the times…”

So here I am in Darwin. Looking for that same advantage. At least it’s something.

See…I’m being positive, Right?

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