A day at Bowers Mansion

Bowers Mansion became Eilley Orrum’s dream, but she didn’t realize her dream until she had married three husbands. Eventually, she lost it all and finalized her life by telling fortunes in San Francisco. This, however, is tangent to the real reason we are visiting this splendid regional park – we are desperate to see our three great-granddaughters, Lily (8), Rose (6), and Violet (4). It’s bad enough to be separated from four great-grandsons who are scattered around the country, but it is disgraceful to not see our three princesses who live in Reno.

A brilliant idea occurs to me (indeed a rare occasion) and I hatch a plan. I play my hunch and call Bowers Mansion Regional Park and speak with Ranger Rick. (Rick is a Fourth-of-July sparkler.) He tells me there are plenty of picnic tables, acres of open space, and the park is open from 8 a.m. to 7 p.m. Sounds perfect. I call Jenelle (mommy) and daddy (Mark) and broadcast my news. We all feel it’s an oasis of opportunity in a desert of social distancing.

Just beyond Carson City, I dip under the freeway and turn right onto old Highway 395. On the corner is a woman selling chunks of fresh fruit in plastic cups under a shade umbrella. It’s a scene from deep into Mexico. Life immediately slows down as we pass through horse country. Streets with names like “Polecat” are the order of the day.

A Bowers Mansion Regional Park sign tells me to turn right and I pull in to an empty parking lot. “The eagle has landed,” I announce into my cellphone. Too late. Mark and Jenelle pull up next to us. (Divine intervention is at work here.)

We select a picnic table in the shade of three hefty pine trees. Seeing a slope in front of us, Mark offers a shoulder to grab onto, and Orllyene and I make our way up the slope. While brunch is unpacked, the girls scamper off to the swings and climbing apparatus. When they return, Orllyene brings out the tiny gifts for each girl. They are from her collection of miniatures. Orllyene gives each girl their gift and mommy says, “What do we say, girls?” Orllyene smiles as the girls mew “thank you.” The expression on Orllyene’s face is worth the trip.

Looking out on the several acres of freshly-mown grass, and the hillside wedge we are sequestered in, I feel truly blessed. This is a time of much separation in our lives and our spirts need to be nurtured to help us stay human.

Two hours later, it’s time to part. Jenelle, Mark, and the girls return to Reno, and Orllyene and I mosey down to Bowers Mansion and take refuge on a bench on the front porch. A water fountain sprays softly in front of us. Behind us, Tamera opens the front door, peeks out, and says, “It’ll be 10 minutes until the next tour.”

Ron Walker can be reached at [email protected].

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