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Ahhh.... THOSE MEMORIES
by Linda Vincent
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   So often I find my mind pulling up an old memory from my lifetime fantasy of planting my feet on the Arizona soil permanently. I cannot remember a single moment of my entire existence that was not spent grieving to be a permanent fixture with the dry soil, odd shaped cactus, unforgettable sunsets, steep mountain drives, and warm climate. Being raised a city kid in Detroit, there was never a doubt I was born and reared in an area very foreign to me, for Arizona was always my true home. As we came out every other year to visit family in Tombstone and it's surrounding area, the 2000-mile trip home never failed to leave tearstains on my heart.

   Always so shy and awkward during my school years I never seem to fit in, but out here the smile never seemed to leave my face, as my cousins were constantly introducing me to new adventures. Whether it be snipe hunting, learning to smoke tree roots down by the San Pedro riverside, which actually had enough water to swim in back then, riding around in wonderful old cars they'd built themselves from the scrap parts littering the ranch, or convincing me to sit next to a sunken grave after dark in the Tombstone Cemetery, telling me frightening stories, turning my hair grey long before my time, as the fear of what may rise from that grave swallowed me alive.

   We rode horses, slopped hogs with the leftover scraps from Sierra Vista school lunches, milked goats, and watched them brand and butcher the cattle... causing my stomach to heave, and creating nightmares that never seemed to end... but ohhh what stories I had to share on my return to Michigan. Even those that otherwise never knew I existed, would lean to listen in on my exciting escapades.

   My goal each trip was to climb to the top of the hugest mountain next to the ranch, which I now realize is no more than a large hill, never even making it all the way across the river to where the mountain began it's incline to the sky. It continues to remain a goal I'd like to someday conquer. Riding cross country in Uncle Louie's jeep, failing to heed his warning of a huge cholla cactus, and being up all night as a pair of tweezers plucked the thorns from my side, like de-feathering next meal's chicken.

   Standing in the back of Aunt Ruthie's jeep pickup as it traveled down the bumpy dirt roads, singing "In 1814 we took a little trip..." or riding on the back of Richie's Cushman motor scooter, a retired mail carrier's ride from the post, set my soul to song, for there was nothing to compare in the big noisy city I was to return to all too soon.

   Sleeping in Grammaw's screened in porch in the summer, and in the summer kitchen when it was cooler, under so many blankets that you couldn't turn over during dreamtime without you and the tower of blankets all hitting the floor. My two uncles, Charlie and Louie, still young and unwed, bringing a bright red blush to my cheeks as they played guitar, and sang songs to me before I would go under cover for the night.

   I felt so grown up helping Grammaw prepare and can the goods she'd actually grown in her own yard, storing them for later use in an underground cellar. Helping her was next best only to watching butter appear in the churn, cottage cheese appear in a jar, and ice cream appear in a bucket.

   Who'd ever imagine making your own lye soap, and then using it on your laundry, before squeezing each piece of clothing through the constant moving ringer, sitting atop the white tub on legs. Battered squash flowers fried crispy brown, toy monkey's made from brown and white stockings, and just to keep us young un's healthy, a teaspoonful of kerosene made to appear yummy with the added granulated sugar, lacking greatly in it's attempt to disguise that wicked taste.

   Grampaw's spittoon safely tucked close to his rocker, in hopes of keeping it from an accidental spill, his nightly hunt for a jackrabbit to feed the dogs, and checking his traps each morning to see if he had captured yet another pesky skunk that sent this young un to a shower more than once. Branding the cattle brought my deepest sympathy for the brandee, so shaving the brand into my dog's fur was plenty good enough for me.

   Plucking pecans right from a tree and eating them on the spot, until your tummy was pleading for a break, and learning how to climb on those very trees, falling flat on my back, causing the adults near heart attacks until I could breathe normally again. Being warned of the dangers such as rattlers, javelinas and gila monsters, placed fear in our minds, but never enough to stop us from taking long walks as my cousins hunted birds, with me in charge of toting their rewards in a plastic bag ... more nightmare's, but more great stories to take home with me for another couple days of popularity.

   My cousin (I won't mention any names...), running and jumping onto a horse's saddle, just like in the movies, and flying right over the horse landing upon the ground. Packing as many bodies as possible in the car or pickup truck for $1.00 a carload night at the Sierra Vista Drive In, and the transport to school nothing more than a station wagon, with a wooden sign stating "School Bus' hanging from each side, the bus driver more a part of the family than just a public servant.

   Refrigerator's kept cold with a block of ice, cook stoves, always simmering a pot of beans, were heated with wood, your clothing was ironed (usually starched stiffly) with a hunk of iron heated on the wood stove, lamps lit with a match, and water pumped in the yard that was drank from a tin cup, re-hanging the cup for the next person in need of liquid refreshment. Water bags hanging from the bumpers of every vehicle you passed, keeping the water cool each time you needed to rehydrate yourself, and phone's hanging from a bag... with a handle you turned once very quickly for each ring, each family with a different amount of rings be it one, two or three.

   Baby ducks swimming in the wishing well at Great Grammaw's house on Toughnut street during Helldorado, and you could always look forward to the best meal in the fall of the year, as it would bring in the closing of summer, and the garden began entering its winter slumber. All the tailings of the harvest were placed in a kettle the size of a washtub, and everyone on the ranch joined in on the feast topped off with the homemade bread and butter, followed with grammaw's handmade pie's (handmade crusts too!), and freshly churned ice cream.

   Different foods, homes, entertainment, pets and weather... different way of life. It never left much time for play for the adults, but such a wonderful way of life for us younger ones. A way of life that will be with me forevermore. The memory may dim with age, but some things just seem to last forever, engraved in the walls of my memory, bringing about a smile with each remembered thought. •

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