Grasshopper Soup: Old is nothing new in Tahoe |

Grasshopper Soup: Old is nothing new in Tahoe

TAHOE CITY, Calif. and#8212; How long has it been since youand#8217;ve seen a lone 49er on foot leading a heavily loaded pack train of mules across Fanny Bridge and through the Tahoe City Wye? I saw the apparition last week, but was completely fooled by my senses. It was not an apparition, it was real. Some of my friends saw it too, which confirms the truth of it. Either that, or all of us who saw it need to have our heads examined.

Possibly for the first time since the 1850s, or maybe the early 1900s, but definitely not since a long, long time ago, a leather-tanned cowboy miner, as skinny as a whip, with no cowboy hat, was seen leading three (or was it five?) mules calmly against summer traffic, cutting through herds of bicycles, splitting clusters of pedestrians, sending everybody this way and that, then disappearing into, who knows, where did they go?

As they ambled along, the mules lazily eyed all the human activity, as if the bicycles, raft buses and broods of people were nothing unusual, just the regular, bizarre hallucinations brought on by fatigue from their long, four-legged (or was it 12 or 20?) trek across the centuries, as if strange phantoms out of place were a common sight in any century. Lost in a daydream, the mules, with snorts and grunts, nonchalantly shook off the ghostly images like typical trail dust and pesky flies.

The mule skinner may have hit the Tahoe Rim Trail or stopped for schnitzel at the Pfeiffer House. We never saw them again. Did you see them?

I chose not to do a Google search. What would I Google, mules? Highway 89 pack train? Ghost riders in the sky? If I found that apparition in cyber space it would have ruined the mystique of the image. The last thing in the world I wanted to do was to find that grinning cowboy and his animals seeking fame and fortune on Facebook. I preferred to think of them heading over the Western States Trail to seek their fortune in the American River Canyon or the 1850 goldfields of Coloma, or Folsom, back when life was tough, and everyone knew it; back when the true nature of reality was common knowledge, especially to cowboys, and children were the only ones naïve enough to think life was supposed to be fair.

Life is pretty fair here in Tahoe. However, there are always exceptions to that rule. At least it appears we have been spared suffocating in the smoke from the Robbers Fire to our west in the steep canyons of the American River. Thatand#8217;s more than fair.

Whether you live in the mountains, the flatlands, or Disneyland, reality has a way of rearing its ugly head. And life doesnand#8217;t always care if you think its idea of fair is good or bad, or whether or not you understand it. Life is old, and knows things we donand#8217;t.

Obexerand#8217;s Market down in Homewood has a good fair of sorts on Saturday mornings, beginning with the 8 a.m. Farmerand#8217;s Market, where Sharon, your host, will have a plump selection of fresh vegetables and fruit presented abundantly for you right outside the store. You can follow up some healthy produce shopping with hanging out on the patio for live music and a barbecue, and watch cars go by that are nearly a hundred years old.

Iand#8217;ll be at Obexerand#8217;s this coming Saturday morning with my acoustic guitar plugged in and singing some of my favorite songs, so come on down on foot, by mule or car, buy some zucchini and peppers, some BBQ ribs and sing along (I could use the help). Thereand#8217;s always room in my tip jar for old or new money, though the lack of legal tender in my tip jar is not necessarily indicative of lack of talent. If all you can do is throw in an ear of corn I will not be offended at all. I like corn as much as any old mule.

Bob Sweigert is a Sierra Sun columnist, published poet, former college instructor and ski instructor. He has a B.A. and an M.A.T. from Gonzaga University. He has lived at Lake Tahoe for 30 years.

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