I’ve always told people that I grew up in one of the most beautiful places this world has to offer. Even though I’m doing my best to move to a city that is able to offer more to me in life, Bishop and the Owens Valley will always be my home no matter where I end up living the rest my life. The Owens Valley has a lot to offer, but not what I need.
I was born on February 27, 1982 at the Long Beach Memorial Hospital in Long Beach, California. I tried to be born in Bishop just like my brother, mom, uncle, grandfather and great-grandmother (Grandma Weezie) were, but that didn’t happen. That’s right, my brother is fourth generation born in Bishop. My great-grandmother and her sister used to tell us stories about growing up on the ranch out in what is now called West Bishop or the Manor Market area, depending on who you ask.
My great-great aunt, Margherite, was an Italian woman you knew not to cross when you saw her. As my mom said (I didn’t know how to spell Aunt Margherite’s name) when I called her tonight, she said that Aunt Margherite had a backbone like no other and a heart of gold. She lived pretty much her whole life in one place. She was born in 1902 and never went past eighth grade. We would get phone calls and she would be there as soon as you picked up, “Come get these peaches.” No matter where you lived, you had better been at her house in less than fifteen minutes or she was calling back. I smile every time I take a bite of a peach because it reminds me of her. She was a feisty woman until the day she died. When my brother became an Eagle Scout with the Boy Scouts, Aunt Margherite was not in the best of health, but I went to get something out of the car and there she was getting out of hers. After I picked my jaw up from the sidewalk, I went back into the building and told everyone that Aunt Margherite was here. I don’t think anyone really knew how to act. She was so proud of my brother like all of us were but coming from her was a real honor. She told people that she couldn’t die until she made something like a thousand quilts. She was the one who taught me that there is no such thing as a perfect quilt. It has to have at least one mistake. That’s what holds the memories. Everyone in town knew who she was and it was considered special to have a quilt made by here. One is on my bed right now. God I miss her.
I think I remember more about her than my great-grandmother, but I think that’s because I had more time with her. Aunt Margherite wasn’t what I intended on writing about tonight but my fingers and brain just took me to the memories of her. Another thing that Aunt Margherite and Grandma Weezie also told me stories about, that I found fascinating when I was a kid, was their trips to Laws, a railroad stop outside of town. Because they didn’t have a car, it took them all day to get there by horse (or maybe even mule), they would stay the night at the hotel, pick up their loved one and it took another day to travel back. Laws is now a museum that I recommend to everyone when they are first visiting Bishop. Most of my family’s history is stored there and is really a neat place to visit.
Everywhere you look in any part of the Owens Valley, there is history lurking around every corner. I’ve always seemed to appreciate local history more than world history. The Owens Valley has not only Laws, but Manzanar (you can see my post here), the Long Valley Caldera, Mt. Whitney (the tallest point in the contiguous US) and Death Valley (the lowest point in the US) and just north of Bishop is one of the entrances to Yosemite National Park.
Growing up in a small town has been nice. Everyone, for the most part, knows each other, or in my case is related to half the town. I just know that I need to leave in order to chase my dreams. I wouldn’t be surprised if I end up back here one day.