The wind

The Spirit of Tehachapi


My earliest childhood memories are of my lying in bed listening to the Mojave wind hitting the house. That Mojave wind is stronger than our Tehachapi wind. Now, the Tehachapi wind is no slacker (breezy, breezier and darned windy), but the Mojave wind likes to blow motorhomes and trailers over. It means business. During World War II my father operated a gas station/truck stop in Mojave on the corner of Highway 14 and Barstow Highway 58. Customers stopping by to buy gas would ask, "Does the wind blow like this all of the time?"

My Dad's standard answer would be, "No, sometimes it blows harder." Wise guy!

One time it blew the top of the cab off my father's Model T Ford. Never did find it. Our house in Mojave, in the early 1930s, was on M Street and was the last street in town at that time. Somewhere between our house and Barstow was part of a Model T.

One very early memory of mine in early 1933 was during the building of my parents' home in Mojave. My parents built it with the help of my grandfather, a carpenter by trade and various uncles and friends stopping by to pound a few nails. A Depression house built with used lumber for the most part, but it stood for seventy years. Anyway, we moved in as soon as the shingles were on the roof. My father had braced the northwest side of the house extra well knowing it to be the usual direction of the gale force breezes visiting periodically.

As fate would have it, on the first night in the house a strong, EAST wind hit full strength. I recall hearing my father, putting a few more braces on the east side of the house during the night, "just to make sure".

The next morning a layer of fine sand had filtered into the house. My brother made roads with his toy cars all that day until Mom swept it up. Dad sold the house in 1937 when we moved to Tehachapi. He was proud of the home he had built and used to quote a poem by Edgar A. Guest which said, "It takes a heap o'livin' in a house to make it home."

In 1970 my husband's final duty station before retiring was Marine Corps Base Twenty Nine Palms. Once you reconcile yourself to the fact that you're in the desert, it's an o.k. place to live. Well, it gets a little hot in July and August (121 degrees Fahrenheit in the shade). We bought a house off-base located between the town of 29 Palms and the Base. One could see for miles across the desert. The wind (remember the wind?) usually came from the west. It didn't happen very often but one could see this giant cloud of sand billowing towards the house. Close all doors and windows, turn off the air, and "sweat" it out. Still, it was a good place to live; the townsfolk were nice and military wives are always friendly and interesting.

A week or so ago my daughter-in-law and I drove to Bishop. My son (her husband), Jim, and my grandson (her son), Dakota, rode their Harley motorcycles. The Mojave Desert wind was light and in a good mood and agreeable to our passing by. By the time we hit Pearsonville the Owens Valley showed us how it handles people driving through. My car knew it was windy but was moving along well. The trucks and campers were stopped by the police. We didn't know where our Harley riders were and how they were faring. Teri and I drove into Bishop and spent a couple of hours wondering the fate of the "boys". They had stopped many times but made it through. There were many quiet spots but suddenly it would hit again.

My son, Tom Gracey, who lives in Independence, is a veteran Harley rider. When I told him of our ride he gave me a little more "wind" history. He said that riding his 1969 Generator Shovel Head Rigid Frame Harley all over the country, he figured he'd met just about any kind of wind there was. Then he met up with the Owens Valley brand which even has its own name: Katabatic Wind. Can you believe that? Of course, Katabatic winds can appear anywhere in the world but Owens Valley has 'em too. Tom explained the mechanics of the Katabatic. Apparently, in the Owens Valley it originates atop the 14,000 foot Sierra Nevada Mountains and then carries a high density air down a slope under the force of gravity. The wind can rush down elevated slopes at sometimes hurricane force. Its main talent is upsetting campers, trucks and motorcycles in the area. The wind tells a story of its own.

As a child I used to read this poem. You should look it up sometime.

"I saw you toss the kites on high and blow the birds about the sky... Oh wind a blowing all day long, O wind that sings so loud a song..."

"The Wind" by Robert Louis Stevenson.


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