pen rainbow

Monday, February 25, 2013

Monday—The Reading Corner

Chapter One — Princeton Street (continued from February 18)  

Click HERE for the beginning of Chapter 1

Introducing Betty's dog, Cindy...

The Colorado River on the way to Nelson, Nevada

The Meadows

Chapter 1 —Princeton Street

The Boulder Canyon Project was part the federal government’s massive economic recovery plan to create jobs and develop the national infrastructure.  New Deal initiatives focused on large-scale construction mainly in the western and southern states, including the federally-owned Tennessee Valley Authority, the Hoover Dam, the Golden Gate Bridge, the San Francisco-Oakland Bay Bridge, Shasta Dam, and the nation’s first freeway in Los Angeles.  

Streets around downtown Las Vegas were named after distinguished U.S. Presidents, like Roosevelt, Hoover, and Jefferson.  They were also given the names of esteemed universities like Stanford, Yale, Harvard and Princeton. These neighborhoods were designed to lift the spirits of depressed Americans and reinforce the notion that hard-working families could restore prosperity to themselves and to the nation.    

Each compact, three-bedroom house on Princeton Street sat on a quarter acre lot with a large yard, two stately elms, and several towering cottonwoods lining the driveway.  The surrounding blocks were laid out in long rectangles with ten houses on each side of the street.  Twenty-seven years after they were built, many of the houses were still painted in their original shades of patio pink, colonial yellow, zenith blue, cypress green, powder white, and mohawk red.     

Troi and Brooke had returned to playing underneath the protective shade of the big elm closest to street.  They were inspecting the transparent husks of Cicadas that were attached to the thick gray bark of the tree.  They examined the delicate papery remains of the mysterious beetles and decided to release the shells from the trunk with small twigs that had fallen from the branches of the elm.  They held their little treasures in their cupped hands and wondered what they could do with them next.  Above their heads, high up in the sturdy branches of the elm, live specimens were singing for their future mates.  Nonstop buzzing cut through the neighborhood at full volume, both comforting and annoying everyone within earshot of the mighty concerto.    

The girls were considering the use of Cicada shells as decorations on top of their mud pies.  Their grandmother’s front yard was an endless source of exploration and adventure.  The long, straight sidewalk was perfect for hopscotch, and the soft, sandy soil was ideal for creating a vast system of miniature dams, rivers, and lakes.  

“Now, go outside and play,” Deanna told them every morning after they’d finished their Cheerios.  

The girls couldn’t wait to go outside.  They would push their bare feet against the chrome legs of the kitchen table, rocket down the narrow hallway, skid into the bathroom, and brush their teeth as fast as they could. Five minutes later, they were dressing themselves in hand-me-down, sleeveless, cotton floral tops and brightly colored cotton shorts.  Shoes were optional during the summer, but if required, they would slide into a pair of well worn, rubber thongs, a footwear staple for all Las Vegas residents.      

After extracting every Cicada shell within their reach and storing them in an old coffee can they’d found in the back yard, the sisters raced up the steps of the front porch, yanked open the screen door, wrestled over the front doorknob, bolted past their great-grandmother who was watching The Today Show in the living room, and bounded into the kitchen to ask for spoons to dig in the dirt.  They were planning to make a river ending in a rather large lake for their mudpies.

As expected, their grandmother, Betty, pulled open a drawer and handed each of them a bent tablespoon.  

“Have fun girls, but don’t bother the raccoons, and leave Cindy alone.  She’s old, and she’ll bite you."  

Cindy was their grandmother’s cantankerous, black and white border collie. 

They had been warned by every adult in the household to avoid the potentially life-threatening hazards in the yard.  Coffee cans full of gasoline, an old refrigerator perched up against the back of the house, rusty nails that protruded from the stack of boards next to the shed, greasy engine parts, a tarp-covered fiberglass boat precariously balanced on blocks, and anything associated with rats.  In addition, there were the usual assortment of desert creatures, including black widows, rabid bats, and rattlesnakes.  Being in close proximity to deadly things made the girls cautious, but also curious and unafraid.  

Their grandmother, Betty, was a endless source of entertainment for them, and they loved her unconditionally.  To them, she was lovable and energetic, funny and patient, and the kindest person they'd ever known.  Days spent at her house were relaxed and full of discovery.  The months they spent playing in the yard on Princeton Street were as joyful and carefree as the girls would ever experience.   

Playing outside was worth the risks.  As they grew older, they would develop a keen sense of observation with razor-sharp attention to details, especially the kind that made the difference between hours of trouble-free play and a trip to the doctor for a tetanus shot.

To be HERE