There was only one house we could see from the ranch where I was
raised, on the next ridge to ours in the mountains of Big Sur. It was the
Oberstrom house, on Partington Ridge, to the south. By day you could hardly see
it, a speck among the trees against the sky on the ridge. But at night when
I was out in the hayfield, I could see a tiny light. It was like the lights of
the rising stars. But I could tell it was the Oberstrom House because it was the
only light that did not rise like the stars. That light was from the copper lamp
over their table, but I did not know that then.
The Oberstroms were like myths to us. I don't think my parents
ever met them. Theirs was simply the only house we could see in that
wilderness. The very name came to represent solitude. That house was
the only sign of human presence we could see. So that name was also the word for
Sometime in the 1930's the Oberstroms moved away. They had always
come and gone but we never knew it. Later I heard Oberstrom was an
engineer, and only came to the house on the ridge between projects. But this
time they were leaving for good. There was only a trail to their house so they
hired my father to pack all their things out on his horses.
The day we arrived it was hot and the grass was dry. Bright sun
streamed into their one room but it seemed desolate and smaller than I had
imagined it. The Oberstroms had already left and boxes lay around the room to be
packed out on our horses. I was sad to see no one there and it was strange to
see a house I had so long imagined.
I don't remember packing their boxes on our horses or riding down the trail to
the highway. I don't even remember anyone ever speak of the Oberstroms again. I
don't even remember ever looking for their light again among the stars rising
over the ridge to the south.