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Coming soon, little sis Melissa, the cutie-pie in pigtails and ribbons who, by age five, will be belting out every word of My Favorite Things and melting any heart she cares to.
All those folks just behind them, they're aunts and uncles, the Turbo Tribe of acrobatic pilots, future Olympic skiers, equestrian champs and multimillionaire land developers that Grandpa Dave and Grandma Roma have reared.
Ready, Stanton? On your mark!...
Hold on. He's such a scrawny little white-haired runt, cautious and hesitant.
Wait a minute. He's having trouble reading. He'll repeat second grade.
Stop. He's not the cocky little rooster and cutthroat competitor that David is. He's so slight and sweet and gentle that his father fears he won't even make it to adolescence. At age five, when Stanton sinks an arrow into the back of a duck on the family's pond with his miniature bow-and-arrow set, he's so distraught that he pulls a lounge chair to the water's edge alongside Zipper, his Rhodesian Ridgeback, and stares sorrowfully at the wounded bird for hours, into darkness, till his father comes home and removes the arrow. Then he bursts into tears. "Mommy," Stanton sobs, "will you call Campus Crusade for Christ and put the ducky on the prayer chain?"
He walks 50 yards up the road to the Rocking K Ranch, where the extended family always gathers to plot that day's X Games, two decades before cable TV invents them. He wanders out Ho-Ho's back door. On the edge of the yard begin hundreds of miles of untouched desert valley. From the earth rise cottonwood trees, mesas and fantastic rock formations—sharks and walruses and monkeys and minarets. To the west Mount Tom and Mount Humphreys loom over the Sierra Nevada foothills. To the southwest jut the Coyotes. To the north, just out of sight, shimmers Mammoth, the leviathan that Swiss engineers deemed too tall, too rugged, too windy, too snowbound and too remote from any road to harness, the mountain for which no corporation offered a red cent when the U.S. Forest Service put a lease up for bid and which fell by default to Grandpa Dave, the solitary dreamer who'd been crisscrossing it for years, measuring snow depths for L.A.'s Department of Water and Power to predict the volume of water it would supply to Los Angeles when the thaws came.
The small boy stares across that majestic sweep. Silence forever ... except for the roar of McCoy and Barrett motorcycles and all-terrain vehicles flying up the foothills and around the four tracks that Ho-Ho has carved into the desert with his land movers from Mammoth. And before the kid's tall enough to see over the sagebrush, he's being tucked between a relative's legs atop a motorcycle or at the wheel of an ATV, or he's perched on Dad's shoulders as Stan drives with no hands, bouncing over berms and off dirt ramps, fishtailing around curves, and Stanton's hanging on for dear life as Dad crows, "Golly! Look at that! Were you scared, Stanton?"