Want to know what chaps my hide beyond mere annoyance? Vandalism.
OK, so I’ve gone gray in the beard and I’m not as forbearing of youthful indiscretions as I once was (although I’ve yet to tell kids to get their football off my lawn). I nonetheless have found I’ve reached the point of zero tolerance when it comes to wanton damage of someone’s property.
With that in mind, a recent case of mindless vandalism gives me the feeling of chewing on tinfoil. Here’s the story.
As we know, this last winter was a nice soaker thanks to El Niño, and the ranches around Creston got their fair share.
So when a couple of teenagers came knocking on a Creston ranch house door one dark night, telling the woman they didn’t know where they were and asking to use a phone to call friends to help them get their four-wheel drive Polaris unstuck, the woman at the door thought it odd but helped them out.
She connected the teens with a nearby relative, who gave them a ride to Creston. They came back with friends.
By now, the woman’s husband (who is a correctional officer) was home and told them their vehicle was stuck on private property and that they had trespassed. He told them to walk the mile-and-a-half to Mike Willer’s ranch to ask him permission to get their Polaris unstuck.
Willer is the managing partner of Blue Sky Ranch in Creston, a 3,000-acre spread that’s basically a pristine recreational/residential ranch that has the distinction of having a granite ridge running through it. Among the granite features is a geological phenomenon called “Balancing Rock.”
About three days later, after the teens had come to his door, the correctional officer noticed that Balancing Rock was ... gone. In disbelief, he talked with Willer about it.
It’s not easy getting to Balancing Rock; it takes a four-wheel drive vehicle to get there. So Willer set off and took pictures of tire treads around the rock, as well as the tire treads from the two teens who had been stuck, and filed a report with the Sheriff’s Department.
After an investigation, it was decided that there may have been enough evidence to cite the teens for trespassing, but vandalism charges with regard to tipping a millennium-old rock from its perch was something else. Had the rock ripped through a fence or into a barn as it cascaded down the hill, well, that would have been a different scenario entirely. The boys involved with the stuck Polaris were reportedly given a stern talking-to about trespassing and the rights of others. Case closed.
So here we have a piece of granite that had been scoured by freeze and thaw cycles for thousands of years — most certainly since the last Ice Age — now sitting about 50 yards downhill from where it had sat on a first base-sized umbilical plinth for eons. It was a landmark of enough significance that pioneering and present day families have had their pictures taken on it. Gone.
And it couldn’t have been an easy act to dislodge the rock. Willer figures, by taking the height of people in historical photos sitting on it, then calculating the weight of granite according to their sizes, the rock weighs somewhere around 25 tons.
Willer knows who did the damage but, like you and me, he doesn’t know why.
“They got up there with tire irons and shears and a 4-by-4 and levered and pried that thing,” he says. “It could have come down on them; it was a miracle they weren’t killed.”
The case was investigated by the sheriff’s office with the possibility of going to the district attorney for prosecution, but that seems to have faded since this incident occurred last March.
Although there’s no way to feasibly put Balancing Rock back on its perch, I’ve got a suggestion for dealing with the perps: Get out your handy crowbars, boys and, like Sisyphus, start rolling that boulder back up the hill.
Bill Morem can be reached at bmorem@thetri bunenews.com or 781-7852.