Towering over Arco is a gigantic bluff with stone outcroppings that appear that they might fall off at any minute. On these outcroppings are a series of numbers written in big block white paint. At first I thought that perhaps they were the numbers of the high school football team, but ‘2000’ and ‘2002’ convinced me that it was something else.
Michelle Holt, head of ED, told me, “It’s a graduating class tradition that began in 1919 and has been going on ever since. Each class climbs up the mountain, hangs one of their members over the edge in a tire on a rope and they paint the class year on the side. The higher they go, the more macho they are.”
Macho is evidently a big thing in Arco, because there were several of the spots that I wouldn’t have gone on a dare.
She went on, “Several of the older classes, who are too old to climb up there, will pay a class to repaint their class year over for them.”
With only 28 students in the graduating class, Butte County High School doesn’t have a lot of students to pick from to find the macho ones to climb up the mountain with their paint brush.
And, the Bureau of Land Management, which technically owns the hill, has informed the school that they aren’t going to allow the painting to take place after 2019, the 100th anniversary of the first class to put their class year on the mountain. I’m certain that it is not viewed as being very PC in Washington, DC, but I’m also guessing that it will be a tradition that will continue long after that year. It’s going to be tough to police that mountain when those high school students decide to climb up there.
It is the most unusual graduating class identification that I’ve seen in my travels around the USA.