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
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.