330 Truckenmiller Road (6mm - 1:300 Scale) (4459538)
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This is a 6mm scale model of 330 Truckenmiller Rd., in Sonora, California. Or rather, it's a scale model of what that house looked like fifteen or twenty years ago. The wrecked version is closer to how it looks now that it's been abandoned for the better part of two decades. The tweakers have had a field day with this house.
Let me just tell you a little about how crazy this house was.
This house is at the tip-top peak of Truckenmiller Hill (formerly Portuguese Hill) which has got to be one of the biggest, relatively undeveloped chunks of land right smack in the middle of the city of Sonora. It's remained undeveloped probably because it was originally registered as a mining claim by wily old man Lyman Truckenmiller and he built seven houses on the property (without permits) and rented these out for at least 30 years. Lyman also dug countless open-pit mineshafts in the hill looking for gold (at least ten that I saw personally) but didn't mark or seal any of them off. I learned not to run through the woods around there without looking because you could just come up on a huge deep pit all of a sudden and fall in easily, never to be heard from or found again. The mineshafts he dug which were near the fireroad were more accessible and visible and quickly became packed with trash, probably also because of local tweakers. There's so much bureaucratic red tape on the title for this hill that it took at least five years for the inheritors of Lyman's estate to get rid of the hill and put it in the hands of a local developer who evicted all the renters and never developed it.
This house was the best house on the property, and it was the one Lyman built for his mother, probably in the nineteen forties or fifties. All the sockets are two-prong and I'm pretty sure it's all lead paint and asbestos inside, so you know it's pretty old.
This house was built entirely out of cinder blocks with a tin roof and no forced-air heating or cooling system of any kind. In the summer, it was like living in a kiln, and my father and I would sleep outside on the porch to get out of the heat. In the winter, it was like an ice-box, mostly because the firepit it had in the living room was basically just a socket in the concrete wall where you could burn stuff, and it had this massive, single-pane window in the living room that was great for leaking all the heat out.
The ground underneath this house was almost all granite, so if you wanted to grow anything, you had to bring in soil from elsewhere and really break up the land. Of course, if you did that, anything you planted would get devoured by groundsquirrels. Apparently, someone tried to garden up there at some point, and figured the best way to deter groundsquirrels was to bury a bunch of broken glass in the softer soil. That was always fun to find when I was playing in the mud as a kid.
The toilet in this place was also fun. It was tiny and had some kind of fancy laminated hardwood toilet seat with a scuzzy shag rug cover for the lid that had probably once been more pink than brown, but I really can't say for sure. Not only was the line between the toilet and the open septic canal-thing in the side yard (reportedly) constructed entirely from a couple of cases worth of elbow pipes, but the poo literally just trickled out of the house into a big, v-shaped concrete trench that would drain down the side of the hill onto the fire road below when it got full. When waste inevitably clogged the labyrinth of elbow pipes between the toilet and the trench, my father would have to put on fishing waders, climb into the canal and shove a garden hose up the pipe until everything flowed free again.
Which brings us to the unique water situation for this house as well. Technically, the house ran City of Sonora water, but only because it was pumped up the hill from Lyman's house at the bottom of the hill. Basically, you had to open a valve at Lyman's house, wind two bare copper 220 wire leads together by hand (that were just laying on the ground in the woods when not in use) and then flip the breaker connected to them. This would pump water up a tiny water pipe (hopefully steel, not lead, but who knows) that went straight up the hill to the peak. At the peak, there was an underground cistern outside the house made of concrete that had spiders and poison-oak plant roots and dirt and dead leaves and tires and gods-know-what-else in it. That was where the water was stored for drinking, gardening, showering, toilet use, etc. and you always knew when the cistern was almost empty because the water would turn brown and the shower head would start to sputter. All in all, it took the better part of a day to fill that cistern with the pump outside Lyman's house at the bottom of the hill, so you had to start early in the day, then go back down and turn the whole mess off before dark. A full cistern would last a few weeks in the winter, and a few days in the summer, especially if you were trying to water anything outside with it.
The water heater was also one of those miniature ones, wired up to a timing box with a button and a red light on it. Basically, if you wanted hot water (for washing dishes, taking a shower, etc.) you had to push the button and wait about half an hour before washing your hands / dishes / body. Often, it was just easier to do everything with cold water in the summer, and try to always plan ahead in the winter.
The driveway up to this place was so rocky and rutted out that most vehicles couldn't make it up the sheer and rough road. If you took it fast, (20mph+) in a truck, you could bounce over the rough spots and get to the top without much trouble, but you also had to be careful how fast you went. Punching an old Ford Taurus up to 50mph on this road was a good way to get a hole punched in your oil pan, gas tank, or worse. I saw this first hand at least once that I remember and it was not fun. Neither was walking up and down this road carrying a backpack full of school books, but that just gave me strong legs, I suppose.
There was also a shed in the lower backyard (the backyard was terraced into three levels) that was the most mad-max shed I've ever seen. Basically, Lyman's brother acquired just the roof of a full-size school bus (I have no idea how) and he set it up on big posts (maybe railroad ties?) so it was about ten feet off the ground. He then leaned this roofed "shed" against the twelve-foot concrete retaining wall between the upper backyard and the lower backyard and slapped corrugated tin roofing across the posts to make apocalypse-shack style walls. Nearby this "shed," there was a socket in the concrete retaining wall where Lyman had installed the wrong kind of water pump to run water from the poison-oak tainted cistern to the house, and we knew it was the wrong kind of water pump because it would make a sound like an old naval fog horn whenever it was used continuously for any length of time. As a side note, I'm actually immune to poison oak, and I think it's because I grew up drinking that water.
Now, I mentioned early on that this house was / is haunted AF. Living there, I had multiple encounters with paranormal fun, including all the usual footsteps, knocking, lights coming on and off by themselves at night, ominous presences, shadow people manifestations, strange voices so loud even the dog got freaked out by them, etc. but also the less common things like my solid-oak bunkbed (as a kid) swinging out 90 degrees from the wall in the middle of the night, then slamming back against the wall so hard it woke my dad up. I spent the first few years of my life alternately playing with and being freaked out by spirits or something intangible there, so it didn't surprise me when my hedge-witch great grandmother (who was a professional douser that worked in the county to find locations for well-drilling) used a forked stick to locate seven "vortexes" on the property, and one of the most prominent of these was actually in the center of my childhood bedroom.
Oh, and this reminds me that I also had a closet, but I was warned for a long time never to go in there.
Basically, when Lyman built the house, he must have built the closet in my bedroom as an afterthought. It was closet-sized in height, but was also square in layout and small enough that it had about as much interior capacity as an upright coffin. Even better, the floor just ended at the threshold of the door, and there must have been a hole in the foundation there because the floor inside was about six inches below the tile-over-concrete floor of the bedroom and was just made of dirt and worm castings. For better or worse, it provided access to the plumbing for the shower on the other side of the wall, so I have strange memories of being a kid and helping my dad literally dig out the tub drain plumbing so we could pull a clog of hair and fecal matter out of it at like 3am one night. Why was there fecal matter in the tub drain? Because Lyman built the plumbing in such a way that when the sewage backed up, it backed up into the shower before it backed up into the toilet. This design miracle meant that just before the toilet would start exhibiting sluggish behavior, you'd have a big pink bathtub full of liquid poo and buttpaper to deal with.
The closet in my bedroom also wasn't the only coffin-sized socket seemingly randomly built into the house. Lyman stacked the cinderblocks of the walls in such a way that there was a 1x1 square hole with little wooden doors in the hallway between my dad's bedroom and the living room that, I guess, was supposed to be a cabinet, except for the fact that it went about ten feet deep into the wall, with no breaks or breathing holes. Just this smooth, sealed, concrete socket five feet off the ground. When I was a teen and we had sleepovers, inevitably, someone would crawl into that socket with a sleeping bag, close the doors and go to sleep in that claustrophobic space.
Another strange design feature of the house featuring flimsy little wooden doors was a tiny door between the garage and the living room that was next to the fireplace. Again, about 1x1 square, we used to use it like a cat door, and speculated that it may have been for easily shifting firewood from the garage to the living room, but honestly, I have no idea what it was for. I wouldn't be surprised if it was built with house spirits in mind, as it always gave me the creeps growing up.
This house had some great brickwork facades, though, and was built so securely that the only break-in we ever had required the thief to use a cutting torch to take off one of the huge, heavy, steel, crank-operated windows on the house. Strangely enough, I still dream about this house at least three times a week, and I like to think that it's just because I lived there off-and-on (mostly on) for the first twenty years of my life. Either that, or it's something supernatural, which wouldn't surprise me at all. When I dream about this house, it's always just as the setting for whatever wacky weirdness my sleeping mind generates (usually alien invasions, saucers and government choppers landing in the front yard and filling the hill with armed soldiers,) and sometimes the house is bigger or smaller, but it's always the same weird house with its indoor plastic lawnchair furniture and strange alternating blood-red, pink and seafoam green paint scheme. I've written multiple stories with this house in my mind as the setting, and most of them are appropriately apocalyptical in nature. Growing up, I was taught to regard the house as one of the safest places in California, and that when the nukes of the end of the world inevitably fell, I would be able to see the obliterated cities from my hill while the rest of the world died. I even had a pair of dark sunglasses by the door so I could watch the mushroom clouds go up and scorch the grass as far as the city limits, because that's what I was told to expect. The other apocalypse I spent my childhood expecting was the majority of California breaking off and falling into the sea. This event, I was assured, would turn Truckenmiller Hill into beach-front property, and I always kind of liked the idea of my childhood wilderness one day suddenly ending on the shore of a quiet, idyllic beach, as dark as the reality of that would be. These ideas have definitely colored a lot of the stories I've written over the years, especially in series like the Wraeththu Gold Country Trilogy (Whispers of the World That Was, Echoes of Light and Static and Voices of the Silicon Beyond) and my short story anthology "Gold Hills, Rust Valley." It took me a long time to feel safe enough to live in the city and the valley, fully expecting the collapse or the nukes to come at any day. Maybe that's one of the reasons I still dream about the house on Truckenmiller Hill. Maybe it still feels like the only safe haven for me in this crazy world.
- 2021-04-24 16:01:17
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