Growing Up in Midland

Growing up in a desert mining town was a unique experience. I formed an emotional alliance with a harsh, starkly barren, yet beautiful land. My parents learned to love the desert, so I grew up studying the plants, animals and rocks around us. My dad bought a telescope, and we studied the skies. I never saw such beautiful skies, the stars at night, the sunrises and sunsets, as I did in the desert. It is where poetry is made.

Some of my stories are already posted with the pictures my dad took. Recently more pictures were sent to me, as I mentioned on the previous page. Below is a clipped section of the aerial photo to which I and added captions. This is "my" Midland, as I remember it. The view is facing north-west. I don't know when the aerial photo was taken, but I'm thinking it might be an early picture. I can't place the tennis courts. Were they added later?








From left to right you will see the black hills I played on (also shown here, to the right), a bent tree that was my favorite to climb, the two houses we lived in, the school baseball field, the school buildings, and the field I used to run across (where I picked up the Rose Quartz).  An interesting note. The hills were black because of a phenomenon called "desert varnish". These rocks had been undisturbed for so many thousands of years, their upper surface has a black crust. Turn the rock over an it was tan or brown. Plow a road and the earth was scarred "forever". The desert never heals.

Scrolling right, you will see the mine road, where large mine trucks busily lumbered and bounced back and forth between the mine and the plant, laden with huge blocks of gypsum that were blasted out of the hills. Sometimes a block would bounce out of a truck. My mom and I had to cross the mine road any time we walked to the post office or the commissary. The trick was to time the crossing when there were no mine trucks nearby. They stopped for nothing. When I was in kindergarten I had to walk to school, crossing the mine road and continuing all the way to the most northern building in town ( I'm not sure if I have the arrow pointing to the correct building). Later a new building was built next to the school building shown below, which I think held grades kindergarten through 2nd grade. The old kindergarten became the Girl Scout meeting hall. (Note: I don't recall so many buildings in the area west of the plant, so I am not certain which was the kindergarten/Girl Scout building).

You can also see the USG plant, the "ship of the desert", and the building where the culled sheetrock was ejected. This must be an early photo because the are no piles of culled sheetrock south of the plant. There is a train on the tracks. Our water came by train. The road to Blythe is east of the railroad tracks, out of the picture in the foreground. A small airstrip is out of the picture to the left. Once or twice a year a small company plane landed, to the great excitement of all us kids, who ran to greet it, as businessmen in suits sternly warned us not to touch the plane. It was such a pretty blue. I couldn't help it, I had to touch it.

Notice the thin lines of vegetation. These are the washes, or "dry riverbeds". They were never really rivers, but just eroded gullies from thousands of years of sparse rainfall rushing down the hills and mountains. I'm not sure of all the reasons vegetation grew only in the washes, but the soil was sandy, and if you dug your hand into the sand, it was cool, and in the searing 112 to 118 degree summer temperatures, that would be reason enough.

The desert was vast, rocky, hard, empty and void, but the washes were teaming with life. They held treasures --- flowers in spring, desert tortes, lizards, quail, mourning doves, all manner of fascinating life. We learned to cherish the life, and admire the vast desert. But we respected it. We always checked our shoes for scorpions, carried extra water, stayed in the shade, and left no scars or trash.

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