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A rocky pursuit for the elusive SUV boulder
The rock hunter stalks his quarry with a cool, levelheaded calm. He looks completely at peace. His steps are quick and effortless. In a single, fluid motion, he scampers down a hillside and hunkers alongside a scraggly brush, his eyes squinted against the sun. Beads of sweat dot his forehead. His arms appear chiseled from granite, his leathery skin bronzed. He peels back his dry, cracked lips, sucking in a quick breath and savoring the fresh, outside air.
Then, he lights a cigarette.
At this moment, the rock hunter looks intent and menacing. The stones scattered around him lie petrified by his presence.
But this hunter’s not interested in mere pebbles. Too easy. His prey is larger, and bulkier. He’s in this game for the sport, and there’s no sport in plucking marble-sized rocks from the ground. No, he’s seeking out a far bigger prize – one that will bring him fame, awards and money. This hunter is stalking the elusive SUV boulder.
Once thought to be extinct, the SUV boulder inhabits the far reaches of the desolate Great Basin desert. Its numbers are small, and few people have reported seeing them. Many of the purported sightings have later proved to be hoaxes.
But our hunter seeks the real thing. Armed with his trusty rock hammer, which is holstered in his belt, he rises from his spot and strides across the terrain. The heat is brutal and unforgiving. A lone buzzard swoops in circles overhead. The hunter raises an eyebrow, his face steely, and scary. A lizard scurries under a rock, as if frightened by the hunter’s sinister gaze.
The flats soon give way to clumps of dense sagebrush. A single, lonely flower sprouts from the dry, ragged earth. It’s a bright-red Indian paintbrush, which offers a speckle of color against the swaths of gray brush.
The hunter kicks at the flower, uprooting it. Its roots wave like tendrils in the breeze, grasping for a hold that’s no longer there.
The hunter crushes the flower’s petals with the heel of his boot, a wicked snigger escaping his parched lips. He should definitely consider chapstick, but he’s much too tough for that. Especially as he mercilessly grinds the flower’s petals into the sand.
A herd of rocks lies ahead. The hunter can see it. They’re way off in the distance – at least a dozen. They’re not SUV rocks – SUV rocks don’t travel in herds – but they’re beautiful specimens of cherry-red jasper. The hunter moves forward, stealthily.
But the rocks are alert. They raise their heads, sensing a predatory presence. The larger ones instinctively encircle the herd. They’re all fine, beautiful specimens. And because they spend so much of their time rolling, these stones have gathered no moss.
The hunter pauses. He knows the rocks can sense his presence, and he doesn’t want them to scatter. He stands and stares, his palm shielding his eyes. Ever so slowly, he runs his fingers along the handle of his rock hammer.
A moment passes. And another. Then, one of the jasper rocks turns, signaling to the others to start rolling.
And away they go, spreading like startled deer. The hunter unholsters his rock hammer and starts running. He sets his sights on the largest rock – a buck. Though not as valued as the SUV boulder, a chunk of jasper can be broken up and put into a tumbler to create smooth, glittering gems. The rock hunter can then sell them for 25 cents apiece in a Virginia City souvenir shop.
The rocks are rolling faster, barreling toward the edge of a steep canyon. If they can make the canyon, they can escape the hunter. So they roll even faster, tumbling over stones and brush.
The hunter grabs his hammer and throws it like a tomahawk. It grazes the rock’s shoulder and stabs into the ground, protruding like a wayward projectile. The jasper rocks sail into the canyon Thelma-and-Louise-style, bouncing down the cliffs and colliding with one another in the narrow valley below. A few are chipped and bruised, but otherwise, they’re unhurt – and they’ve all gotten away.
The hunter has been eluded, and he knows it. He’s explored this terrain for years, but he forgot about the valley. And that was his undoing. He should have known that provided with such a convenient escape route, the rocks would get away.
The rock hunter has lost some of his cool, but not his swagger. He pauses to catch his breath, then saunters forward to collect his rock hammer. Its cold, hard steel glimmers in the afternoon sun.
The hunter continues his search for the elusive SUV boulder. The sun hangs high in the sky, scalding the forbidding landscape. The hunter passes the bleached remains of a fellow desert wanderer. Perhaps he was a hapless rock hunter who ended up losing his marbles.
The SUV boulder is out there. The hunter is sure of it. He’s spent his whole life pursuing the creature, but he’s never laid his eyes on one. It’s the only specimen he doesn’t have in his yard. The hunter doesn’t want to die without first attaining the ultimate trophy.
The winds whisper across the desert, stirring up the dust. The sun sinks lower in the late-afternoon sky. Another day is passing. Another day with no SUV boulder. Another day of wretched, agonizing failure.
The hunter sits upon a rock outcropping to rest. He gulps from his canteen. His boots, trousers, shirt – and even the roof of his mouth – are all coated with a fine, powdery dust. He leans back his head, pulling his hat low to shade his eyes. The heat can drive a man insane; make him do things he might later regret … like forgetting to put rinse aid in the dishwasher so that his glasses come out all spotty.
As twilight approaches, the hunter gets up to leave. His camp is not too far. He’ll spend the evening cooking beans and dreaming about that prized SUV boulder.
Then later, in his tent, the flap half-open to let out the farts, the hunter will drift off to a deep and restful sleep. He’ll dream about the SUV boulder, that sacred trophy that has eluded him for so long.
And in his dream he’ll be wandering, crossing the rugged miles in boots worn thin from time, as he searches for that holy grail of boulders, leaving no stone unturned.
Allen Coyle is Dennis Cassinelli’s grandson and the author of two books, which are available on Amazon. He’s also the webmaster for denniscassinelli.com.
Ice fishing in Nevada
It has been a Cassinelli family tradition for several years to go ice fishing when the lakes and reservoirs are safe for ice fishing. Ice must be a minimum of 6” thick to be safe. If there is corn snow above the solid ice, it may need to be even thicker. With the use of either a power auger or a hand auger, a 6” – 8” hole is drilled into the ice for each fisherman in the group. Those with a second rod stamp can use two holes.
Usually 4 to 6 or more of us pick a date in January or February and decide which lake or reservoir to try. Some of our favorites are Wild horse Reservoir north of Elko, South fork Reservoir south of Elko or Cave Lake southeast of Ely. We have also been known to go to Red Lake or Caples Lake along Highway 88 in California for day-trip fishing.
Layers of protective clothing must be worn, since the winter weather can be brutal. Waterproof boots with treaded soles, insulated gloves, earmuffs, long johns, and a warm jacket with a hood will help. It is always better to bring extra clothing than be “caught out in the cold.” Children dressed up in winter coats and mittens love to skate and run around out on the ice. Letting them pull out a fish is a treat they will never forget.
A family group will always have an ice sieve to clean snow and ice from the fishing holes when needed. The holes drilled are sometimes 24” or more deep. Some groups (including ours) may set up a portable ice fishing tent, a collapsable table with a propane stove, ice chests with no ice to keep worms and drinks from freezing and plenty of your favorite beverages. Simple wire or PVC rod holders to keep your pole at a 45 degree angle with the ice are nice to have. One year, I even made some wooden balanced and weighted trout decoys to lower down into an ice hole to attract fish to the place where we were fishing.
Every one fishing must have a license, trout stamp, extra rod stamp if wanted, short ice fishing poles, tackle box, worms, power bait, shrimp, jigs or whatever bait or lure you (and the fish) desire. Game wardens do check for licenses and go from group to group on snowmobiles. There should be a folding chair with a drink holder for each person. A trick we learned early on, was to attach a jungle bell or a rattlesnake tail to the end of the fishing rod so you can hear when you have a bite. You can then visit and tell lies to the other fishermen until the bell rings. An ice fishing sled or a large plastic box for your gear can easily be pulled across the ice to the desired place to fish.
A few times when the ice was solid and over 2 feet thick, we have taken the truck out on the ice. This must be done with extreme caution and is not recommended. The NDOW website usually has ice fishing conditions listed for each lake or reservoir. There is a humorous story about prehistoric ice fishing in my novel, Legends of Spirit Cave. Several ancient stone ice fishing picks were found at and near Lovelock Cave by the Humboldt sink, so we know that prehistoric people enjoyed the sport and the fish they caught.