I have a small, rustic log cabin in June Lake. And I do mean small… less than a thousand square ft. Mary and I bought it in the mid-eighties. It was really cheap… we got it for a song and only had to sing half of it. Mary was adamant: she wanted a “get-away” place where she didn’t have to worry about housekeeping and other household chores. We had a deal (still do) with a local resident who checked on it every week or two to make sure nothing catastrophic happened to the cabin. Our times there were almost always idyllic. Care-free hikes, napping by a stream with a fishing line bobbing near the bank, driving the eight miles to Lee Vining and the road to Tioga Pass, (Eastern entrance of Yosemite)… and occasionally going further up 395 to the ghost town of Bodie. The cabin was Mary’s favorite place to be. Fifty yards up the trail from the cabin is a huge boulder. It was at least 25 ft high and you needed to use a bit of care to find a safe climbing route to the top. But once you were there you’d have a magnificent view of Carson Peak and the canyons of the Eastern Sierras. We all called it “Mary’s Rock”, and she could spend hours on end there. BTW… Her ashes are spread there.
During that period of my career, I was working a lot… (it seems I was in every movie made there for a while) but typical of the film business, we’d often have a week or at least a long weekend when I wasn’t needed on the set, and if I wasn’t working you could find us at the cabin… which is a roundabout way of getting to this story.
It is about a 5 hr drive from our house to the cabin. Highway 14 to 395, through Mojave, Red Rock Canyon, Lone Pine, (legendary with over 400 films shot there)… Hell, every Western from my childhood. Whenever I drive through Lone Pine, if I look off to the West at those unmistakable rocks of the Alabama Hills, I could cut the nostalgia with a knife. In fact,
there is a wonderful film museum in Lone Pine and anytime we drive through town, I’m drawn to it like a moth to a flame. Death Valley, the Mojave Desert… to Bishop, Tom’s Place, Mammoth and then June Lake.
So, as you can imagine, I know that road like the back of my hand. About 35 or 40 miles after Hwy 14 becomes 395, there’s a wide spot in the road with a small store, service station and a couple of other buildings that didn’t seem to be occupied. I hear it was once called Cowan Station, but by the time Mary and I started going up there regularly, they had changed the name. Above the store in crude hand-painted letters was…“DUNMOVIN”.
Naturally, Mary and I were always curious… and one day, the car was overheating, as it always did driving through the desert, and we needed gas anyway, so we decided to stop. The proprietors were delighted to see us and anxious to talk… I got the feeling they didn’t get a whole lot of customers. It turns out their names were Henry and Henrietta Johnson. They both called each other Henry. We talked for quite a while as Henry made sure the car got checked for anything that could possibly cause it to overheat and, of course, to fill the tank FULL, check the oil and tires, and wonder if I might need a new fan belt. While he was ministering the car, Mary and I asked the other Henry about the sign. This is what she told us.
They were originally from Arkansas and had been married for over 30 years, and when Henry lost his job they packed up and moved to wherever the next job took them. She said they moved 18 times in 13 years… Henry finally ended up working in the mine at Coso Junction, which is only 4 or 5 miles away. When Henrietta heard that the people running this store were leaving and that they were looking for someone to take over the lease, she scraped up all her savings, contacted relatives and sold her soul to the bank to put up the deposit for the property. She said it took her a couple of days to paint the sign… and she was aware that it wasn’t the most professional looking sign, but, “dammit, I wasn’t about to waste the money for a proper sign”. When she finished it… she waited for Henry to come home and when he walked through the door, she said… “You know that service station down the road? Well, we just rented it”. And with that, she removed the bed sheet she had draped over it. He started to speak…. she said…”Henry, Don’t say nothing… I’ve already signed the papers”. He stood there for a minute or two and finally said… “Henry, that’s wonderful.”
I told this story to my friends Greg Edmonson and Ron Boustead… and we wrote a song about it. It’s on my “Cowboy Savant” album if you’d like to hear it.
- Done Movin' Ronny Cox 3:10