Saturday, May 16, 2009

Laments of neophyte desert dweller

I knew there would be regrets when I moved to rural life in Arizona, but I am still having a hard time adjusting.....

*Not having a rhubarb plant…I miss homemade rhubarb custard pie in the spring…

*Ditto - fresh picked asparagus

  • A daily paper delivered to my door

  • The regrettable exercise of driving my car 100 miles to get sushi

  • Should have invested in Johnson and Johnson-I have never seen so much dust.

  • Scarcity of animal assistance groups in rural area-I guess it is the Old West-people out here forget animalss are human!!!

  • Mojaves and diamondbacks-Snakes not on a plane…..but should be and get the hell off my property....

  • Scorpions and brown recluse- ok I must admit I almost ever see these guys-but I know they are out there...

  • Speeding ticket on 191 near Safford-so if everyone gets fined there-why didn't anyone tell me?

  • Sneaky emissions from power plants-you wouldn't know unless you get up early

  • Tarantula hawks …the name is scary enough-get the idea

  • No holly jolly feelings in December-

  • Hunter harassment laws-don’t get me started on this one-$300 for defending our property

  • Fish and game -no more Macho-B…Ken Salazar come and kick these assholes butts-

  • …available signs-adopt a highway please

  • Temperatures over 94 degrees…really it is a dry heat until it hits 95. Then it is too damn hot!

  • Long lines at Safeway Pharmacy……Walgreens? CVS? -you could make a fortune here.

  • Dairy Queen addiction……having lived 20 years without a DQ I am making up for lost time…chocolate truffle Blizzard anyone?

  • Antiquated meeting formalities which waste time…uh excuse me…what is the point of this protocol?

  • Abandoned dogs in Bowie-please contact Best Friend Animal Shelter Kanab, Utah..maybe they can do something, or if you have any extra goes for abandoned ad abused animals all over.

  • Bees, honeybees, yellow jackets, bumble..killer…You can hear them humming the theme from the Godfather as they pass overhead

  • Cows on the road-it’s a Bar-B-Q- tonight….I’ll bring the beef…

  • Canyon wrens disguising themselves as chattering monkeys in the early a.m.

    fights over shady parking spots

  • burning trash in barrels-uh are you reading this John?
  • Mail delivery four miles away

  • Here comes the monsoons, there goes the road!!!

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

I want a gun!!

I want a gun! Not an Uzi or Luger or anything automatic..but a colt 45 with a mother of pearl handle. I see myself as a modern day Annie Oakley, a pistol in one holster; my Blackberry waiting in the other.

Almost every week I see an ad extolling the virtues for women to sign up for a concealed weapons class. And almost every week I think "hmm maybe I should sign up" and I picture myself on my horse with my gun hidden in a saddlebag waiting for that moment when I defend myself from a rabid bobcat, or fierce pack of coyotes, or a herd of rattlesnakes refusing to move, not allowing my horse to tiptoe around them..

For a brief time I almost had my husband convinced. I told him of all the women I knew in Cochise County who carried guns. Finally one weekend he loaded his 22 and we shot at cans and bottles. I didn't do too bad, if I am ever threatened by a diet Coke can or a Coors Light bottle, there is a good chance I will win the fight .Encouraged by my sharpshooting skill, the next day I took his Beretta and shot up our NO TRESPASSING signs. I scared the horses with the loud blasts and had to wear apple treats to get them to come near me for the next week.

The following weekend I dragged my reluctant better half to three pawn shots in Tucson and perused their weapons. None of them had pearl laden pistols. When I got home I called my brother in Wisconsin remembering he had inherited a lady like pistol-maybe I could convince him it should be mine.

On the phone I reminded my brother I had take riflery class in college. He reminded me I supported the Brady Bill. I reminded him I had joined the NRA when I was 18. He reminded me I was thrown out of an animal rights group for being so militant. I told him I needed the gun to protect myself from rattlesnakes and rabid coyotes. He relented and said he would send me just what I needed.

I thought about our conversation. There was some kind of cognitive dissonance going on with me. My brother was right I was opposed to guns. I had a bumper sticker on my car saying "Support Our Right to Arm Bears". When I was still teaching college I always lectured to my cross cultural communications classes against guns, revealing the research that more murders occur in Washington D.C. yearly than in all European nations combined where guns are banned.

But now I live where Mohave rattlesnakes creep inches away from my Tevas when I walk ito the house, where a gang of coyotes lounging between our front door and our gate, took a chunk out of my brave dog on Thanksgiving day. I ride my horse alone following a sandy wash and am three hours from the nearest point of civilization. I am in the Old West-I need a gun.

I prematurely put "Janie's got a gun" on my Blackberry's ring tone. My old friends freak out when they leave a message, obviously I have been in the Arizona sun too long. Where is their bleeding heart liberal non-gun toting pal? I call my brother again wondering where my weapon of choice is. My brother says the package has been sent. My husband is starting to worry-a scatterbrained wife and bullets will not mix well. I do have a tendency to scream, then run wildly in circles stuttering when I see any kind of snake. My patient spouse is fretting I will shoot one of the cats, or dogs, or hot tub, or him while stumbling around getting my up up my courage to aim at the evil venomous rattling shaking snake .

At last a package arrived with the appropriate return address from Cheeseland. My brother had came through. I ripped into the brown paper wrapping, and withdrew the weapon my brother had sent.

It was a Walmart slingshot.

I sent it back postage due.

Do they have a gun section on Craigslist?

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Hay 17 dollars a bale, farrier 90 bucks a visit, riding your own horse in the desert-Priceless.

When I retired to Arizona, trading my career, my friends and my home in the Rocky Mountains of Colorado for my life in Arizona-I had one condition for moving to the desert of the Sulphur Springs Valley-my own horse .

I was brainwashed by Misty of Chincoteague in print. I was glued to the TV by shows like Fury and My Friend Flicka. So infatuated by these four legged creatures that people rode in the west I talked of nothing else. Surprisingly it was the Easter Bunny that heard my pleas and in 1961 when I was 6years old that generous old rabbit brought me my own Shetland pony and saddle. I think I might have stayed in the saddle for about 3 minutes. I was terrified. I don't remember the equine's name-I only remember being so very ashamed that I was so afraid of a small fuzzy pony. The fate of my first pony is also lost in the reality and fantasy that muddles in our mind when we grow older.

In high school, I rode my friends' horses any chance I had. I was braver or maybe just more foolhardy in the Age of Aquarius. . By graduate school in the 80's.I enrolled in some class offered by the University of Illinois and drove somewhere outside Urbana twice a week to officially learn to ride. In the mid 80's I was driving 25miles once a week with 3 other friends in our 30's to ride at a stable in Milton, Pennsylvania when I wasn't teaching college classes in Williamsport.

By the time I moved to Steamboat Springs, Colorado in 1991 -I had lost my cowboy boots, but not my passion for horses. Sam, my next door neighbor had two horses and I was soon in the saddle again! It was like Christmas anytime she would ask me to ride. We rode Sarvis Creek trail , crossing the water carefully -each hoof gingerly being put in the water by Maverick and I was on his back praying that he wouldn't slip. We rode along Copper Ridge at sunset and became so emerged in our ride that we hadn't noticed the sun setting. We took a short cut back-no time for timid wading thru the stream. It was hold on and just shut my eyes..Maverick decided to jump it. I held on and felt like I was the wind. I was 45 years old and still wanted my own horse

When we moved to Arizona, I bought Horses for Dummies and almost every book related to horses and their care on I read the Tucson Star ad the local Strange uh.. Range News for horse classifieds. I went on line every day looking for my that was gentle, , smart and wanted me for an owner. My price limit was $2000. I found Smoke on the Internet at Christmas, thought about him until January and when he finally arrived on our 40 acres it was almost February. My husband thought I was crazy and the horse crazier.

Smoke growled at me when I went to pet him; ran in circles bucking in the air, and wouldn't whoa when one of my horse savvy neighbors volunteered to ride him first. I was horrified I had spent $500 on a saddle and tack , 2500 dollars for a trailer (that I still haven't used) ,and I paid the farrier $85 dollars for my equine's shoes and a pedicure. All for a horse that I was afraid of...I was 53 and knew my bones would be slow to heal if I was bucked off, but I was channeling those fears of my 6year old self.

It took me 8 days to get up the courage to get on this underweight Appaloosa that had been salvaged from a drug auction. Armed with apple oat treats I approached my horse talking horse baby talk . I started brushing his back, blowing my breath into his velvet nose, relying on my readings from Parelli and Cameron. I remembered the bond between the Lone Ranger and Silver, Roy Rogers and Trigger, Rex Allen and Koko. Finally I brought out my Troxell helmet, instead of a cowboy hat, a handful of molasses grain,not silver spurs and with bridle and saddle waiting on the corral, I talked to the Appaloosa that was finally mine. I am not sure what transpired but soon I was on my horse's back, singing Happy Trails at the top of my lungs . We have been best friends ever since.

If I forget to tighten the saddle Smoke will refuse to trot until I discover it. When the dogs decide to jump underneath him..he shakes his head at them; smiles knowingly at me. He lets Skippy the alpaca give him a kiss while we are leaving for a ride, and knows to stop when he hears the sizzle of a rattlesnake. Somehow he makes me turn around when a storm is going to approach in an hour and we always make it home before it rains.

So even though hay has gone to $17 a bale, a vet visit is more than I make in a week working for the U of A., riding my own horse into the desert sunset is priceless. I am finally living my childhood dreams.

Desert Journey

An appaloosa of a thousand desert journeys
carries a breathless me.
Through the tracks of quail, and doves we search
of signs before...

Homesteaders, Cochise, Coronado,

legends of lost treasures,
lure me with thoughts of lore.

My husband, even sometime hears, the ghost of Rex
sing in a voice forlorn.

The magenta hue beckons,
a prickly pear explodes.
A Calliope and Rufus
become vibrant in their quarrel.
The loser lights upon the century plant
and I continue to explore...

Down the sandy wash we travel,
my faithful partner and I
looking for chunks of f gold
washed from a Dos Cabezas mine.

My horses’ ears flicker
and I look up towards the sky,
the rush of circling sandhill cranes
whirling on a downdraft to find
crops of corn calling,
and Playa shrimp already brined.

A mesquite maze beckons
with promise of more wings
but dusk is deepening over the Dragoons.
The sunset starts to wane.

Reluctantly I turn my reins ,
but not before I see the raptor
roosting in the walnut tree.

I have not had the wilderness sojourns
of my dedicated horse.
I thrill at the sudden splash

of a crimson tail
hidden with a mouse
not so mighty in the brush.

We tiptoe by the smell of musk
we hear the muffled grunt
of javelina jostling
and selecting which cacti to munch.

We hear the wings of a night hawk
then a great owl hoots goodbye

My horse and I turn toward home
no gold of Coronado,
or Apache arrowheads found
but I have been enthralled
with all the valley’s sounds.

I too have found treasures
not perhaps in Wall street’s worth
but of four leggeds , flying feathers,
and simple pleasures of the earth.

My Mom wears army boots....

I was mean to my mom yesterday .....and you would think the vibes of Mother's Day would have restrained me. Or that she is 87 years old should have prevented me from wanting to strangle her, but it didn't.
You have to understand, my Mom was a Marine. ( OK, so she really didn't wear ARMY boots-but you get the idea.) My mother was never a General or a Colonel or even a Sargent ...however, she has the ability to make people ask ..."How High?" when she tells them to jump and she tells everyone to jump as often as possible. She does this in a raspy voice laced with venom and syrup as she jabs them with her finger or cane if possible to make her point.
It isn't just my brother, or his new wife, or her grandkids or me that she makes run over, under and through the hoops...she does this to complete strangers and my Dad's relatives as well....She THINKS it makes people feel good to help little old ladies....and my Mom is little and she is old.
She asks the cashier from India at the gas station to put gas in her car. She tells my cousin's wife, to make her a quiche, another sainted cousin is allowed to take her grocery shopping, and the neighbor that mows her lawn, well she lets him plant zucchini for her in her garden which consists of some flowers and a few tomato plants that she makes the cleaning lady plant for her.
Another wonderful attribute is her cheapness. When I was little my Mom hated auctions and thrift stores and would never let my brother or I go to a yard sale...Today she gets everyones' gifts at the local resale shop and then brags that she only spent a quarter on the fiftieth wedding anniversary plate. She recycles the gifts that she is given. I got a great set of steak knives for Christmas my brother had given her the year before.
She would deny that she is selfish , she tithes weekly at church . However , most of the time it is all about her. She doesn't call her grandson and find out about his trip to Thailand or the is about how she was worried to death while he was gone. A few years ago she told my husband he could not have a sopapilla for desert as she was paying the bill. I was not allowed to go to college unless I went to her alma mater, but I rebelled, received a scholarship and went to where I wanted to go. Now forty years later why haven't I learned to tolerate this behavior ?...Why am I surprised by her words or actions?
I thought about turning her ill mannered behavior into a book, but I was afraid Tom Brokaw would find me and beat me up...I wanted to call it "The Rudest Generation". My cousins have assured me my aunts and uncles at times share some of these similar characteristics, and it is not just MY mother that is flawed.
John, my husband says I revert to a five year old around her, so maybe that is why her shrinking brittle five foot frame seems so big and tough and threatening to me.
And how was I so mean? I told her she should be nicer...I told her she should say Thank you to her daughter in law for the thoughtfuless of a facial, not demanding a pedicure instead. I told her she shouldn't yell for others to turn on "Wheel of Fortune" , but should say please. She responded by telling me to "shut up"( a word so evil when I was young that if I ever said it, immediately a bar of bitter soap would appear and be shoved in my mouth). Consequently I hung up the phone on my mom -the octogenaarian plus, the veteran, the wizened school teacher, the widow ,on the day after Mother's Day.
It will be awhile before I am forgiven. I will succumb to guilt. I will send yet another Mother's Day gift and an apology, and maybe I will recieve a "Thank you". Or if she feels guilty, I might get the Red Lobster gift card my brother gave her for Mother's Day.

Desert Dreams

Fifty years ago I had tea parties with my imaginary pals, Cochise and Morningstar, Fury and Flicka, Rin Tin Tin and Sky King; I was always in my cowgirl best - dressed in cowboy boots and a bolo tie, western hat and a fringed vest. The closest neighbor child was five miles away. My friends were the characters from my favorite books and the cowboy TV shows always riding their horses around cactus and boulders somewhere in the Southwest.

Twenty five years later I was drinking mudslides in the same bar as J.F. K. Jr. and Carly Simon, deciding between outfits by Willy Wear and Norma Kamali to keep up with my island friends. I had spent six years in graduate schools and had earned several initials after my name. I vowed never to return to a life without city lights, a Barnes and Nobles down the block or a corner espresso stand.

Today I drink coffee on my balcony with a view of Cochise Stronghold, where the Apache warrior's remains were secretly placed over one hundred years ago. I can see the Dragoon Mountains where the Lone Ranger was filmed. I alternate between a stretched out swim suit and flip flops in summer to the winter wear of worn cowboy boots, faded Levis, and a wide brimmed straw hat , very similar to my togs of fifty years ago.

I don't have tea parties, but I do have many happy hours with visiting friends from other times and places drinking dirty martinis laced with a jalapeno stuffed olives and munching on locally grown pistachios. I don't watch those TV Westerns of my childhood, but I am torn between the horse and rider shows on RFD TV and the Colbert Nation in the evening.

I did not return to the cornfields and wheat fields of Illinois where I grew up , or the beaches of Martha's Vineyard which was my 1980's utopia, but I am in the foothills of the Dos Cabezas with my patient handsome husband, my ex-drug smuggling Appaloosa, my gentle, but spirited Paso Fino, an Australian shepherd smarter than I am, an aloof llama, an inquisitive alpaca, a magical burro, a giant 8 year old pound puppy, a coyote cross canine, and three spoiled cats. The closest thing to city lights is the sparkling of the Milky Way; to get a latte is a thirty minute drive. There are no Borders Bookstores within a hundred miles, but the county bookmobile comes once a month and I can get my best sellers for free. I am living my desert dream.