My rusty spade split parched desert soil.
The Mojave ground was so depleted of moisture, I had already broken three shovel blades, and we weren't even halfway done with this lousy hole.
Still, the powder magazine needed to be dug. At least that's what El Comandante kept telling us.
I eased back from the pit Juan Miguel and I had been excavating in the noonday Sun. It had to be a hundred and ten out. Almost twice that here at ground level.
We'd been stationed in this godforsaken furnace since 1831. It was already 1833. Having been the best of friends since childhood made our situation almost tolerable.
Juan sat back, using my shadow as the only shade for a mile. I gazed out at the barren land that was eating us alive.
"There has to be a better way," I mused to myself.
"Quieres un poco?"
I turned. Juan offered up his tiny, dented flask. I grabbed the decanter, and gulped.
"Agghh!" I gasped. Vile, American whiskey burnt my bleeding lips, poisoned my swollen throat and devoured my stomach lining.
Juan laughed. He knew I despised everything gringo.
"Donde esta el tequila?" I turned to the man I trusted most in this Sun-bleached oven.
"No hay mas," came my friend's hoarse reply.
"Mezcal?" I quipped.
Juan Miguel just laughed. He sounded like El Diablo, himself, mocking me for getting into this mess. I stared into the nothingness that swallowed us whole. Was this Hell? Would we make it out of here alive?
I cursed myself, took a second pull off the white man's rotgut, and handed the worn canteen back to Juan Miguel. Tucking my hat tightly over my eyes, I prepared to break my shovel blade again.
My trowel crashed hard into solid earth.
"Aye, mi Dios!" Juan leapt to his blistered feet, a spark arcing from my useless digging utensil.
The dirt was hard as stone, but this was the first time we had seen fire emit from our efforts. Juan Miguel and I exchanged glances.
I tentatively lifted the shovel in preparation for a rematch with the impenetrable ground.
"No, no, no!" Juan raised his hand. "Pare ahora!"
He knelt down before me, brushing the soil away at my feet. Beneath his fingertips, something began to emerge. Something not part of the ground. A skull. A human skull.
To anyone else, in any other situation, such a find may have produced a number of heightened responses. Our battalion had run across so many human skeletons out here, though, if an army of the dead were to rise up one night, it would outnumber us three-to-one.
Juan Miguel's sweeping hand made another pass over the dislodged soil, revealing an eye socket the size of a cannonball.
"Madre de Dios!" my friend retreated.
Before the day was through, our regiment would unearth a human cranium larger than any we'd seen before, and a twelve-foot-tall skeleton attached to it. If that weren't enough, the ancient skull we discovered housed double rows of teeth.
The aforementioned may sound like a work of fiction, but a similar account allegedly occurred in 1833, when a group of Mexican soldiers exhumed a colossal human skeleton, in what is now Lompoc, California. Although the find was earth-shattering, the impromptu discovery was reburied by local Native Americans, who deemed it a harbinger of evil. To the best of anyone's knowledge, the enormous remains still reside somewhere beneath Southern California soil.
Such a historical loss may seem tragic. However, the alleged incident in Lompoc was anything but isolated. During an era in which prospectors gouged holes in the Earth, seeking borax, copper, gold and silver, abnormally large, human skeletons were often discovered beneath the continental U.S. In particular, Lovelock, Nevada, and central Minnesota proved to be treasure troves of enormous hominid bones.
Familiar with a giant species of humans that once walked the planet, Native Americans were anything but surprised by these finds. In fact, histories of indigenous inhabitants speak of battles waged against a gargantuan human race.
What is unfortunate is the shoddy record keeping during the 19th century, as well as that era's archaic means of forensic preservation. Both contributed to the loss of almost all gigantic human remains discovered in the 1800s.
Although physical proof of colossal hominids may be missing, written evidence of such a species could have been staring us in the face for over 2,000 years. Thumb through the Old Testament's Book of Genesis to Chapter 6, Verse 4, and you'll find a simple sentence stating "there were giants in the earth in those days."
The town of Lompoc is located in Southern California's Santa Barbara County, north of Oxnard and Ventura. Accessed via Highway 1, this burg is a speck on the map. To the best of our knowledge, none of the community's 40,000 residents stand anywhere near twelve feet in height.
© 2010. Hugh Mungus
Bishop, Greg; Oesterle, Joe; Marinacci, Mike. (2006). Weird California: Your Travel Guide to California's Local Legends and Best Kept Secrets. p. 30. Sterling Publishing Co., Inc. ISBN-13: 978-1-4027-3384-0