Fire Tower, established 1934 on Sugarloaf Mountain, seems to be keeping an eye on Cochise Head Mountain

Chiricauhua National Monument

     Funny, how angles of light, the way wind caresses my cheek, and the silent antiquity of a place will call up a memory. It happens quite often to me, yet I am always taken aback. Sometimes the memory will be barely, if at all, related to the place which brought it to mind. 

     Bob and I have visited the Chiricuahua Monument before, but this was the first time we walked up Sugarloaf Mountain. The walk was not difficult, a nice slow grade with just enough narrow places to keep things interesting. The environment changes with the elevation, as do the rock formations and the spectacular views. We could easily see across the plain to The Stronghold and well into New Mexico's Black Range. We spent probably an hour with exploring the peak of Sugarloaf and peeking in the windows of the ninety year old tower. 

     Racks of old maps, and is that an ancient compass I see? It looks as if it were once on a sailing ship of old. A bright red pump stand hovers over the sink, and there appears to be a place along the west wall where the Ranger could have had their bunk.

     Done poking around, we sat on the tower's stoop, snacked, then enjoyed the wind, the view, the utter silence. In that silence, framed by moving light and shadow, a memory began to form. 

    Did I send you here? No, I don't think so. But, maybe. It may be you requested a mission number of me for an incident here. May be it was near the same time of year as the incident this place, these lights and shadows and vistas made return to my mind.

    No. No, it could not be the same time of year because I am here at this place, Sugarloaf in the Chiricahuas, in summer, at monsoon, and the memory is from a winter day almost twenty-five years ago. Twenty-five years ago, my friend, and in another place entirely!

     I sent DPS Air Rescue to where a vehicle slid off the side of a very snowy Mt. Lemmon. Because the slide off location was in an out of communication area on an easterly slope of Lemmon, Ranger dropped off my radio for the actual rescue. When Ranger lifted from the scene and back into comms range. I was informed that there were non life threatening injuries, and during the rescue it was decided to leave the medic behind "to enjoy the view" so there would be room for mother and child to fly out together. The pilot assured me he would be back ASAP so as not to leave the medic out in the snow too long - he didn't want him to get lonely and cry.


     EMSCOMM radio, my position that day, always made me feel a bit like Lt. Uhura on the deck of the Enterprise. This semi wrap around radio console had multiple buttons and lights for each radio tower in Arizona, as well as for a good reach into California, New Mexico, Colorado, Utah and Nevada. It measured chin high to me, so I had to stand up to comfortably work the towers on the top banks.
In those days, most all radio was still line of sight, meaning radio towers had to be able to "see" each other in order to transmit communication. Firm knowledge of the state geography and topography made it possible to press the right buttons to connect the right towers so Law Enforcement, Medical, Search And Rescue and Hospitals could communicate critical information to each other. The AZDPS EMSCOMM frequency was known and trusted statewide and by Law Enforcement, EMS agencies and Hospitals in surrounding states. Being a far reaching radio, it was never a surprise when an out of state Deputy, Border Patrol agent, Park Ranger or other LE or SAR cleared Phoenix EMSCOMM because they were off their own home range.
      While on EMSCOMM I worked a Yuma County Deputy chasing bank robbers through the desert; a child abduction headed to Mexico; a fatal motorhome crash in Nevada; notified the agency of and connected rescue to an officer shot in the face-he called it to me himself, by the way-in back country Colorado, to name a few incidents. Once, I worked major snow traffic for an overwhelmed  Flagstaff Radio. That event included LE and Rescue choppers from Arizona, Utah, Nevada and New Mexico, while Flag Air Rescue was snowed in, stuck listening on the radio to the traffic they couldn't get to.
 
     It wasn't me, though, it was  EMSCOMM. I loved that radio, respected what it was capable of and was willing to push it to the unknown. Because I was so willing and interested, one Air Rescue pilot and medic would sometimes challenge me to a few rounds of an Aviation Where's Waldo - they would give me the Lat/Long they were approaching and I had to correctly tell them where they were when they got there, which was often mere seconds away. So, when my pilot said I would not be able to talk to my medic for a while, I didn't set out to prove him wrong, I just had to prove to me that EMSCOMM and I could do it. And, I didn't want to think of my flight medic standing in the snow, on the side of a mountain, alone and crying.


It's been almost twenty five years and no way could I tell you the number of tries it took to find which combination of multiple mountain top towers I had to configure in a crazy, zig-zag line of sight circle from Phoenix into New Mexico and back to the east face of Lemmon, clearing the medic each time. But, I got him to answer up well before the helicopter made it back, and I will always remember his laughing, "You got me just in time! I was getting ready to cry!"

 

#AZDPSAIRRESCUE

#AZDPS

#lightandshadow

#memories

#downadirtroad

#southwesternamericana

#Chiricahua

#Cochisehead

#Arizona

#girlinthewild

#Firetowers

#radio

#dispatcher
 

The Radio Flyer

A True Christmas Story

 

    She went to the window for what seemed the hundredth time that day only to have her suspicions confirmed as many times.  It was still raining.
           The big picture window went from floor to ceiling, and except for a few inches at the bottom, it was nearly fogged over. She leaned forward and pressed her forehead against the cool of the window, then, remembering it was something she would get after the kids for if they did it, she pulled away and smiled at the impression left of her forehead and the snaky squiggles from her wavy hair. Suddenly, two rivulets of moisture ran through the middle of fog-face and raced to the bottom of the window sill to join the puddles already there. She used a washcloth from the laundry she was folding to wipe the fog and evidence of her crime off the window.
    Hearing a door slam she looked up to see one of her neighbors dashing from her car to her house, arms full of packages. She looked down the road the other directions, and it seemed maybe the sky wasn't so grey and maybe there wasn't so much water running down the road.
    It was a week before Christmas, and the weather was typical for the years Elizabeth had lived in the Dallas area. Rain at Christmas and ice for New Years followed by more rain. Plunk...Plunk...Plink...Water dripping off the roof caught her eye and she watched as it fell into the small lake it was forming in the Radio Flyer the girls had left on the porch. In warmer weather, the girls would be splashing their dolls around in the private swimming pool the rain and their imaginations had created. 
    She remembered now the girls hadn’t played out side all week and they hadn’t gone grocery shopping either because of the weather. The kids were fighting the sniffles and the wagon being the closest thing to transportation she had, they had stuck pretty close to home. But, now the cupboard was bare and she hated to ask for a ride, it was embarrassing.

    She kept watch until the rain slowed to a mist, then to nearly nothing. “Get your coats girls! We’ll make a run for it!”
     Just grab a few things before I have to come back and get ready for work, she thought to her self as she dumped the water out of the wagon and brought it inside to dry it out. She spread a trash bag over the floor of the wagon and tucked two more in her coat pocket. Midst excited chatter and clapping of hands they were soon bundled up and ready to roll. With a look to the sky and a deep sigh, she carried the wagon down porch steps and the kids climbed in.
    Cory, with her hopelessly un-tameable hair and deep brown eyes that gave away her secret she was always up to something was the youngest at two years old. Today she managed to get to sit in front. Her sister Shannon was four. Blond hair and the bluest laughing eyes set her apart in appearance from her sister, but they played off each other like a comedy team. Letting them both ride, they could each hold a bag of groceries on the way home.
    They headed down the street for two blocks then turned west for two more to cross the street at the light and into the grocery store parking lot. In the door and dry as a bone! Not a drop of rain!  Bread, milk, eggs, cheese, tortilla flour, chicken and stars and alphabet soup, chicken legs, fish sticks and frozen corn. "I think we have enough for now, what do you say?"
    "Can I get a Pixie Stix, Mommy?" Shannon asked.
    "Me too!" Cory chimed in her head bobbing up and down.
    "Sure, let's go." And that's when they heard the thunder roll and the rain beating on the roof of the store.

"Oh, Mommy, it's raining again!" cried Shannon.
    "I know, sweetheart. We'll wait out front for it to slow down."
    But even after waiting in the checkout line and standing on the porch for a bit, the rain hadn't slowed at all. A few minutes later, worried she would be late for work she called her sister. "I can't get away right now. Sorry" She called her brother and got no answer. "I knew that," she said to her self.
    She couldn't be late for work, still had to feed the girls, put away the groceries, get to the sitter....she made one more call to arrange for her taxi ride to work. "Some day, I will get a car and a phone. Suddenly the rain slowed up and they made a run for home. 
    Each of the girls was seated behind a paper bag of groceries and each held a trash bag over her head as an umbrella. It began to rain hard again as they reached the light and waited for the green. Shannon and Cory were having a big time laughing and giggling in the wagon. As the light changed, Elizabeth pulled up on the tongue of the wagon and eased it down off the curb and in to the run off in the gutter. The water nearly rose over the wheels and the kids howled at the thought of it splashing over them.
     They were nearly to the other side when the light changed again. The car near the curb waited only until they had just cleared its bumper then it began to move. Elizabeth waded into the water and turned around to ease the wagon up on the sidewalk. Cars were splashing by at normal speed in spite of the water in the road, and she was irritated at their rudeness and lack of caution around the children. She lifted up on the wagon tongue and felt it start up the curb, then stumbled backward and sat down hard as the tongue and axle came away and the wagon dropped into the rushing water. Cory squealed as it rushed over her in the wagon, soaking her and the groceries in her bag. Elizabeth threw the wagon handle on to the grass and dashed back into the water to grab first one child then the other, one under each arm and place them on the sidewalk. All the while cars were splashing by, sloshing water over them and never slowing down.
She set the girls on the sidewalk then turned back to the wagon and watched her loaf of bread floating away, then the fish sticks, headed for Main Street and the flood ditch. They would end up in Dallas somewhere, finally in the Trinity River. She glared at the passing cars, wondering if they would have slowed any if it had been the children floating away.
    Stepping back into the water she pulled the wagon and what was left of her groceries on to the sidewalk. The girls were standing together quietly, wide-eyed, soaking wet. She knelt down and hugged them both at the same time. "You guys okay?"
     "I'm cold Mommy." Shannon said through chattering teeth.
    "Is it broken Mommy?" asked Cory
    "Yeah, it's broken." Elizabeth was thinking she would have to get the kids home and leave the groceries when someone yelled, "Hey, you need a hand?" She turned to see that a pickup had stopped in the street behind them and without waiting for an answer, the driver got out and began to load wagon parts and soggy groceries into the back of his truck. 
    "Get in the front." He said, closing the camper door. "I saw what happened. Can't believe no one would stop to let you get out of the road. Where do you live?"
    "Go that way," Shannon directed as they all piled in the cab. "Then go six houses on this side," she waggled her right hand. "That's where we live."
    Elizabeth could see he was wearing a work I.D. badge that said "FRED" 
    "Okay," Fred chuckled. "I just don't understand people these days. Is this your house? I'll help you carry this stuff in."
    They all climbed out of the truck cab and into the rain again. Elizabeth took the kids to the door and they ran off leaving a trail of wet footprints in the carpet. She took the groceries from Fred at the door and carried them in while he went back for the broken wagon. She met him on the porch. "Thanks," she said. "Thanks for helping me. I didn't know how I was going to get all this and the kids home too. Thanks a lot!"
    Fred put the wagon on the porch. "It looks like its got a lot of miles on it, but you could probably get it fixed real easy."
    "Yes, I will." She hadn't thought at this point what they were going to do without the wagon. The girls were peaking around her legs. They were wrapped in big towels, their hair tangled dripping messes.
    "It was scary for a minute," said Shannon. "But it was fun getting wet!"
    "Yeah, it was fun!" giggled Cory, still shivering.
    "Thanks again." Elizabeth held out her hand.
    Fred took her hand in both of his and gave it one gentle shake as he smiled. "Merry Christmas!"
    "Merry Christmas!" Shannon and Cory sang together.

They stood in big picture window and waved as they watched Fred drive away.

                ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ 
                    

    It was the usual happy hour scramble when Elizabeth got to work that night. From four 'til seven the bar was full of the manager types from the local Vought aircraft engineering plant. The Dirty Dozen she called them, although they did have one honorary female member that brought their number to thirteen. The good natured cajoling and kibitzing went on until the last one drifted out, turning the bar and the evening over to the cowboy crowd. 
    Week nights such as this were always short lived and by eleven o'clock the staff of seven was reduced to one bartender and two waitresses. Things were slowing down and she kept her self busy by cleaning tables and helping LaVern, the bartender. Sometimes she stopped to watch the band and the few dancers that were still hanging in. With two hours left in the night only about fifteen customers were seated, not counting what Vern had at the bar. 

The other girl had gone home early, even though it was Elizabeth's turn. She couldn't see paying a taxi when the bartender or one of the band would be going that way. Besides, it gave her a chance to make more tips.
    She wrote an order on a ticket  and  placed it in the ticket rack, then began a preliminary count of the evenings profits. The wagon breaking came at a bad time. Too close to Christmas and always so many expenses with two little girls to raise on her own. But, a new wagon would make a good gift for the kids. She knew she needed the wagon, she couldn't afford a car yet. She would just have to find the money. Having a car was the real answer, but it just wasn't possible, not yet. 
    She wondered if she was doing enough for her daughters. She worked all the time, had no car, too many bills. The girls wore mostly hand made clothes and their cousin's hand me downs. The negative thoughts began to roll over her and she stopped them right away. There was always so much to be done, and it was her job to see to it. There was always a way to make things good, make things right. Things always worked out.  Like having a Christmas tree. Last year, they had taped sheets of white typing paper on the wall, then drew a tree on it. Shannon and Cory had decorated it with ornaments cut from colored construction paper. It was hard to take it down after the holidays because it was so pretty.
    Things were getting better all the time, so this year she determined there would be a real Christmas tree, with a new Radio Flyer underneath!
    The wagon that now sat in parts on her porch, had been her Christmas gift to Shannon when she was still two years old,  but it soon became an integral part of their lives, a trusted an reliable friend. 

The bright red wagon was a bed for dolls, stray puppies and kittens, pet Guinea pigs and often for Cory when the kids played house. Shannon had even been known to take her nap in the wagon with plenty of blankets over and under, her favorite stuffed animal at her head and her legs hanging over the end. It was a wheeled laundry basket, hauling hand washed clothes from the bathtub to the line out back. It was even a moving van when they came from the duplex four doors down the street. It was a go-cart and a grocery cart, making several trips each week. When there were too many groceries someone would have to walk, and that was usually Shannon. Cory was too little to walk too far and she got to ride in the baby back pack most of the time anyway. If you had to walk, that meant you had to pull some, too and, to Shannon, there was as much honor in pulling as there was in riding, if not more. 
    Not having a car was a pain. But, Elizabeth made the best of it and tried to make it fun. She was paid each Tuesday, and Wednesday mornings were always full of excitement. They got up early, scrubbed and dressed, the girls in their bonnets. Cory was settled in to the baby back pack and Shannon rode in the wagon all by her self. Then they would start the walk to town, always crossing the tracks just a few minutes before the train, then stopping to wait for it to pass. The engineer and the caboose man would always holler and blow the whistle for the girls. They would laugh and squeal and clap, Cory jumping up and down in the back pack tooting like train. Elizabeth believed the kids made the railroad men's day as much as the railroad men made the kid's day. Then it was on to the bank down town, such as it were, paying bills and running errands, taking their time making the circle to head back home. The walk home was the best, that was treat time.
    Elizabeth never cashed in her change tips. They all went home and got chucked into a Hershey's Cocoa tin. Mad money. It was for Happy Meals at MacDonald's or burger's and a soda at the Drug Store fountain. But, most often it was for the buffet at Pizza Hut where the kids got to eat for only twenty cents for every year they were old. She knew they ate much more than that in chocolate pudding and Cherry Jello, let alone the pizza they consumed, and had to laugh when she thought about how it probably was her kids who were the reason the children's price was raised from fifteen cents. 
    The wagon waited patiently at the door, loaded with the day's bounty of pretty rocks from the fountains at the water company, white feathers from the park, the occasional friendly bug and other odds and ends, all treasures from the trip. Then it would be on to the Five and Dime. The kids would sit contentedly in the wagon parked in front of the hamster cages and goldfish tanks while their mother did her shopping. A trip down the candy and toy isle,  and then it was out the door to home. Empty out the wagon, then head the other way to the grocery. How many miles in two years? 

She realized she had been daydreaming when LaVern tapped her on the shoulder. "Last call Hun. I don't know about you, but I'm ready to go home!"
    "You mean we're still here?" Elizabeth waved her hand in a circle over her head to signal the band to wind it up, and made her final rounds as they announced the end of the night from the band stand.
     In another thirty minutes they were all out the door. It had turned cold after the rain had stopped and she was glad LaVern had offered her a ride home. They sky was clear and full of stars, it would be a beautiful day tomorrow. 
    "Do you need to stop at the store?" Vern asked. 
    "No, thanks. We did that adventure this afternoon. Boy, did we get wet, too! The wagon broke on the way home.  Hey, you work at LTV,  don"t you?" LaVern nodded in reply. "Well, this guy stopped to help us get our stuff out of the water when the wagon broke, and he gave us a ride to the house. His name tag said Fred, but I couldn't read the last name because the print was smaller. It was real nice of him. No one else would even let us get out of the way. They just kept driving by, splashing water on us."   
    "If it's the same Fred that works in my crib, he an his wife are real nice people. What he did doesn't surprise me at all. You need to pick up the girls?"
    "No, they are staying over at the sitter's because of their colds. I might even get to sleep in if she brings them home late." LaVern pulled up in front of the house and Elizabeth jumped out. "Thanks for the ride Vern. I'll see you Friday night," she called over her shoulder as she went up the sidewalk.
    It was really cold now, she could see her breath as she stopped at the door to take a look at the winter sky. Her heart was a bit heavy as the turned to go in the door, and her breath hung in a mist about her head as she knelt on the living room floor to light the free-standing gas furnace.  

   The sitter brought the girls home at nine in the morning. She lived behind and kitty-corner from Elizabeth, so she often just handed them over the fence, like this morning. But, it had meant a whole six hours of sleep instead of the usual three or four when the girls would get up at the crack of dawn. She had slept in the big chair in the living room, though because she worried she wouldn't hear them knocking from the bedroom. And, it was closer to the heater. 
    She could hear the girls giggling and chattering in their bedroom as she sipped her coffee and studied the new sewing project. Her sister was a terrific seamstress and made wonderful stuffed dolls and animals. She even did some piecework on custom curtains and bedcovers, and Elizabeth wished she had that kind of patience herself. It might mean a few extra dollars here and there. That thought brought her back to the wagon. What would she do? She decided she was just not going to think about it right now. She had made up her mind last night. And, there was always plenty to do to take her mind off her troubles and she was going to get to it. 
    It was beautiful morning just like she thought it would be. She went out to the still soggy back yard to hang some laundry and noticed the girls at the back window making faces at her. She made a face back at them and turned to hang a shirt, but when she looked back at the window they were gone. Something made her start for the door. Cory met her at the back porch, bare feet dancing on the frozen concrete. 
    "Ooooohhh Mommy! Come see!" She wiggled and squirmed as Elizabeth scooped her up and hurried into the house.
    "What's going on? Where is your sister?"
    "He's here, Mommy! He's here!" Cory had her mother's face in both her little hands, nodding and emphasizing "he".     
    "Who's here?"

   "Him, him. Looook!" As Elizabeth came to the door, she saw Shannon standing on the porch with Fred. She was bouncing at the knees, both hands covering her mouth like she always did when she was excited. Fred looked up at Elizabeth and smiled as she stepped outside to see the cause of all the excitement. 
A bright red Radio Flyer that had to be twice the size of the one that had broken, and it was shiny and new looking.

"Oh," Elizabeth said. She caught her breath and looked up at Fred. "You shouldn't...you didn't.."
    "I told my wife what happened," Fred said. "We had this old wagon in the garage from when our boys used to have a paper route."
    "But, it looks new!"
    "Well, they didn't have the route long, you how kids are sometimes, they lost interest. They were too old to play with the wagon, so it just sat gathering dust in the garage. When I told my wife about what happened yesterday, she said you should have the wagon."
    "Oh, I..." She was watching the girls who were already in the wagon measuring it for size, fussing over who would get to pull first. "Thank you. I never expected this, never at all." She looked at Fred. "I was just so tickled you gave us a ride home."
    Shannon and Cory got suddenly quiet, they were watching their Mom, eyes dancing. She hadn't exactly accepted the wagon yet, but Fred didn't give her a chance to turn it down.
    "Well, there it is," he said to the girls and they bounced out of the wagon to hug his knees. "Merry Christmas, girls!" he laughed as he bent to pat them on their heads. He looked up at Elizabeth and saw the tears in her eyes. "Merry Christmas to you, too!" He smiled at her then turned to get back in his truck. 
    "Merry Christmas," she smiled through brimming eyes as they stood on the porch and watched him drive away.  
     
The End, but not really.....
***************
 

Copyright 1984 Previously published in the Grand Prairie, Texas newspaper in Letters To The Editor.

Down A Country Road 

                                             Down a Country Road 
                                

    I couldn’t sleep last night. It was nearly morning before I finally drifted off. I had performed all the usual bedtime rituals and crawled under the covers with a good book and a cup of tea at about 8:15. Nodded off while reading then, after setting my book on the night table and turning off the light, was wide awake. 
    A drink of water, brew another cup of tea, read another chapter and I was getting sleepy again. That was when I heard the cow bawling. 
    Now, it bothers me, irritates really, when dogs bark relentlessly and for no reason and the owners don’ shush them. Noisy cows, however, tell a story. They have something worthwhile to say. This cow was upset and really bawling and it struck me like the cry of a child to a mother’ heart.  
    Although I no longer own cows, I am familiar after having spent a few years in their company. These days I walk my country neighborhood and I know who owns cows. I know the faces of the local, back acre livestock and they know me fairly well. And, I notice a new face in the crowd as well as missing faces. This particular cow was loud and close, so it might be a new animal for one of my neighbors.  
    Cows are timely, creatures of habit, expecting  their world and their humans to be timely as well. Most will return on their own from pasture to stand quietly and patiently in their own pen while staring a blazing hole through the gate or door from which their supper bearer appears.  Some begin announcing themselves upon arrival, just to give a heads up I suppose. Perhaps this cow’ human was late to evening chores. 
    As I listened to the persistent and frustrated complaining, I began to hear an edge of fear seeping in. When your child cries you know if it is hungry, tired, thirsty, angry or hurt. You have a parental knowing allowing you to pinpoint a problem right way and with great accuracy. With a cow, you can often guess correctly, but you are guessing purely out of familiarity of the habits of the species in general and of one animal in particular. This cow was very loud and demanding attention.  
    About a half dozen of those pretty Red Limousines live down the road a way. They always come to the fence for a “Howdy” and their babies come, too. Maybe one got out and wants back in. From that thought, my mind shifted into full “Mom” mode and I imagined one of the calves had sneaked out and Momma was calling to her baby to come back and right now! From that point, I feared the calf had slipped into the irrigation canal adjacent to the property and Momma was calling for help.  
   No, that place is too far for me to hear that cow. But, with the cold air, sound does carry.  
   Go to sleep Nancy, you are imagining things. I pulled up the covers, closed my eyes and immediately, Piggy came to mind. 

 

    It was 1985 and I was living in Grand Prairie, Texas, bartending at a Country and Western place called Sweetwater Saloon. I was also working at the barn where the local constabulary kept their horses. I would keep the horses legged up, groomed and ready for patrol, search or rescue. It was a nice enough place, butted against thousands of acres of loamy soil to ride. The adjacent ranch belonged to Pokey Roberts, most of which, if not all, is now under Joe Poole Recreation Area. The parcel leased by the horse patrol had a big turnout, two paddocks, a round pen and an old, drafty barn which mostly just provided protection from the sun.  
    About this time, my brother, a few years out of the Marine Corp and settled into the working class, became a bit bored and decided he wanted to get into the cattle business. He also decided that since I was going out to the barn twice a day anyway, it would be no problem for me to feed a few young cows while there. Hmmm, okay. Plans were made to go to the sale barn.  
    I came home with a new cotton braided headstall and matching reins, a colorful bareback pad and slip on style spurs. My brother came home with four bucket calves.  


    Now, raising bucket calves, or bottle calves if you will, is no easy task with a guaranteed outcome. Day old calves separated from momma do not have much of a chance no matter how you shake it. And, this project was started in the winter so, one is going out multiple times a day and night and in all weather. Sometimes, while I was bottle feeding these little guys very early or very late, my children were sleeping in the back of my compact station wagon with the heater running as sleeting rain blew side ways through the slats of the barn. More than one of those calves was warmed up in the back of that old beat up Corolla,  

    We had three survivors. And after we got them sold or in the freezer, we heard from the old timers we were experiencing real success in the bucket calf industry. My brother, so encouraged, set out to start another herd.  
    We didn’t name these calves, though the kids tried to. We called them by their ear tag numbers. Except this one cow my brother took to for some reason. He called her Piggy, and that was the end of the proper relationship with his intended dinner.

    With the extra attention, Piggy grew quickly, was friendly, playful and curious and she loved her people. The other calves were sold but Piggy stayed, becoming a mascot of sorts. She was pen or stall mate to the occasional sick or injured horse and one wild, crazy, grey roan stallion named Chief. He would hardly let anyone else in his stall except Piggy or me, and no one at all unless she was in there with him.  


    A year later my brother decided he was done with the cattle business and going to give Piggy to a 4-H or FFA kid by running an advertisement in the classifieds. He got an interested party right away and, instead of explaining the twists and turns of the country lanes to the pasture, he loaded Piggy in the horse trailer she originally arrived in and took her to his house. He had a few acres all, in lawn with Pecan trees for shade and situated near a pretty lake in a nice subdivision. Perfect for an over night stay for Piggy.  
     
    Next morning my phone rings very early. Because I had worked until two a.m. the night before I answered with a groggy, “Hello.” 


    “Nancy,” says my sister in law. “Piggy is gone. 

    “Oh, you met that 4-H kid really early! Good, I am glad she got a new home.” 
     
    “No. She is just gone. We got up this morning and she had walked the fence down. She’ gone. Piggy is missing!” 
    

     Now, mind you, Piggy had never been anywhere but the sale barn as a wobbly legged newborn, the pasture and barn where she lived for nearly two years, and then to my brother’ yard. “She probably just walked down to the lake,” I said. “Did you look there?” 
         
    “We looked, she isn’t there.” 

    “Well, it is a neighborhood of privacy fences. Unless someone found her and put her in their yard, she is wandering the neighborhood.” 

    “We need you to come help find her.” 

    “Okay. I will come over and we can go to the barn and get Chewy. Horseback, I will be able to see over the fences. If some one put her in their yard for safe keeping, we will find her without having to knock on every door and ask if they have seen our cow roaming around.” 


    The process of getting two small children out of bed, fed and dressed to go took a while and, I was sure that by the time I arrived, Piggy would be tucked safely back in the yard, having returned from her gallivant. But, my sister in law was wringing her hands when she met me at their gate and my brother was equally upset. 

    “Maybe you should not give her away,” I observed. 

    We loaded in the truck and headed to the leased pasture and barn. It was about a half mile drive out of the neighborhood to 14th street where we hung a left. 14th Street quickly becomes more of a two lane thoroughfare passing behind a shopping center on the right and running beside a good ole Texas bayou on the left. A mile or so down on the right is an expansive, very nice golf club and estates type subdivision. Past that and down the hill we took a right turn off 14th Street onto Fish Creek Road, a country lane, which runs parallel to I-20 for a mile or so. Fish Creek Road then makes a hard left, over I-20, via a narrow, country lane bridge, then another hard left onto a tree lined, one lane road doubling back, this time, within spitting distance of I-20. We were a half mile or less from the right turn which would take me to my horse when we spied Piggy tied to a tree. 

    “Holy shit!” My brother slammed on the brakes, nearly throwing me into the dashboard.  

    “Well, I’ll be damned,” I said while pulling my self back up in the seat. Then I started laughing. That kind of knee slapping laugh where you snort and suck wind. “She nearly made it,” I said, wiping tears and trying to catch my breath. “A homing cow is worth something, you know. “ 

     He glared at me, not amused. “We nearly lost her.” 

    “No, you did not. You never lost her. She only went home when you were not looking.” 

 

    The lady who captured Piggy demanded a reward.  

     My brother said, “Kiss my ass.” He's friendly like that.  

    He was going to load Piggy in the trailer and take her back to his house but I said, “Turn her loose and let her finish her journey. You go on ahead and I will follow her on foot. Then we will take her back.” 

    The young person who came to see Piggy later that morning was smitten by her sweet face and demeanor. Love at first sight. I warned this youngster to be sure to build a real good fence.  

 

    The unknown cow was still calling plaintively when I returned from my musings. I put on sweats and sneakers, grabbed a flashlight and climbed into the car to go see what I could find. My horse, Mr. Pepper, is gone three years now, so I would not have the advantage of his Thoroughbred height to see over fences.


    I did not find the cow. She must have been deep in the neighborhood, in a back lot where my flashlight would not penetrate. Those pretty red cows were all tucked in their pens, no strays having fallen into the canal.  
    I went home and as I climbed out of the car and walked back to the porch, that cow gave one last bellow and quit. Just like that.  
    I smiled. It had been a pleasant drive down an old country road. 

 

Nancy Elliott @ Sonoran Desert Sage Publishing  2021

Image of my children at the barn taken by me on a Kodak Instamatic circa 1985