We had plenty of room for cargo in the VW van, so we camped in decadence -- we had a big springbar tent, a hide-a-bed mattress made up with sheets slipped into a zipped-together pair of sleeping bags, milk crates for books conveniently at the head of the bed, clothes hung up and munchies stowed, a small dome tent for storage, a folding lounge chair, welcome mat in front of the tent (keeps the tent cleaner), and so on.
It was nice having a cook -- when we got back to camp after hiking half a kilometer into the site, working hard all day, then hiking out, we were EXHAUSTED. It was nice to laze around until dinner time, then take a shower and enjoy the cool of the evening.
Yes, I did say "a shower." One amenity that Dr. Metcalfe brought along was a dozen or so Sunshowers -- they were wonderful. A Sunshower is a heavy-duty plastic bag that will hold three or four gallons of water, with a thin hose, clamp, and small showerhead attached. One side is clear plastic, the other is black plastic. You fill it with water from the water trailer and lay it out in the sun to get hot. Works very well. A couple of A-frame shower stalls were set up. We hung up our bag in a stall and could enjoy a real warm shower. One side of the stall was open but it faced the knoll and people were polite about not walking behind the stalls. The old way to get clean at a dry camp like this was to use a basin of water and a washcloth for a sponge bath. Not nearly as pleasant!
The days were very hot, except the first day when it was overcast (this is the desert in summer, after all). Most afternoons we'd get breezes and gusts of wind. The temperature would drop during the night, and toward morning it could get downright chilly. We'd start out lying on top of our sleeping bag, or opening it up. We'd wake up shivering later on and burrow down into the bag.
Tule Valley is south of the Air Force bombing range and relatively near an Air Force base or two in Nevada. This meant we got daily air shows--F16's dogfighting over and around the valley, and low flying bombers (big things with variable swept wings, B-1's I think) flying nap-of-earth on their way up to the range. B-52's used to fly the same route. Rumor has it that the tail gunners occasionally took pot shots at cows and sheep along the way. The Air Force denies that any such thing took place, but a friend claims to have found 20 mm cannon brass somewhere between Tule Valley and the bombing range.
And there was Club Nissan. Some of the college students took to gathering around a Nissan pickup each night to talk and drink. Much of the talk was by our ultimate frat-brat, the man with no shame. Listening to him was like listening to a non-stop monologue of the worst of Eddie Murphy or George Carlin.
He told us how he embarrassed his girlfriend by taking pictures of his "member" with her camera (he had dozens of bizarre terms for his genitals and used them all often). She went into a quickie film processing shop with two girlfriends to pick the photos up and the girlfriends discovered those photos before she did.
He proudly told us how he regularly used a roommate's toothbrush to scrub the toilet -- and then told the poor guy about it the day the guy graduated. We heard about his favorite teacher -- the fellow that would give men at least a C if they wore a tie every day of class -- and would grade female students down if he didn't feel they were dressing and acting "ladylike."
He found out that one woman at the dig had a teenage daughter and badgered her mercilessly about how he was going to come and see her, and wouldn't Mom just love to have him as a son-in-law. He knew he was a jerk and reveled in it.
Practical jokes, alcohol abuse, frat pranks, drunken bashes, sexist jokes, dirty jokes, bodily functions, -- he stopped at nothing and it went on and on and on.... In at least one respect, we were very glad when the dig was over with: we didn't have to listen to him anymore.
We did join Club Nissan one evening--the evening of the meteor shower. We discussed astronomy while the group sat around on lawn chairs, chaise lounges and on logs, waiting for it to get dark enough to see the meteors. It was astonishing how much these kids didn't know about astronomy. Most of them seemed genuinely interested, and as we scanned the sky, watching for meteorites, we pointed out many of the visible constellations. We left Club Nissan to get ready for bed fairly early--10:30 or so--but then sat on the little rug in front of our tent together, watching the stars while Julia quietly sang space filk. We were so sure the next meteorite was going to be spectacular that we didn't want to go to bed.
|Intro||Getting there||Setting the scene||The crew||Surveying the site||The dig|