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. 

    I have visited the Chiricuahua Monument before, but this was the first time to 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. I could easily see across the plain to The Stronghold and well into New Mexico's Black Range. I 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, I 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.

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Down A Country Road

"Little Tiny" 

Have you ever been sure you were alone, yet had the feeling you were being watched? No, not like "Big Brother" is watching. Like this...

    Everything I needed for a weekend of music was packed in my 2011 Huyndai Sonata, so I locked the house, climbed in the car, and was headed south toward Sahuarita, AZ. I exited my neighborhood, drove a half mile and took the ramp to enter the freeway. About thirty minutes later, near Picacho Peak on I- 10, I got the feeling I was being watched.

     For personal safety reasons, I generally pay very close attention to who is near me no matter where I happen to be. If I am in the gym, I watch the mirrors to see who walks behind me or enters and exits the building. While shopping I make sure I am not in someone's personal space, or they mine, and I keep an eye out in parking lots. While driving, I try to stay out of blind spots and will speed up or slow down to avoid traveling beside another car for any period of time.  Now, here I am on the Interstate with the feeling I am not alone and am being watched. 

   I looked in all my mirrors and out the side windows to make sure I hadn't been daydreaming and allowed myself settle in beside another driver, or they beside me. Nope. Nobody near me. Hmmm...okay. I glanced down to get my drink out of the cup holder nearest the dashboard, and there in the cup holder closest to me, was a little tiny mouse gazing up at me. It was not afraid, merely interested in me.

   "Hey Little Tiny" I said. "How did you get in here?"

   No response. 

    There the little mouse sat, just looking up at me as I drove. Of course I had to keep watching the road, but would see movement now and then and look down. Little Tiny would be on the passenger seat next to me, sitting up as if trying to see out the window. Or, exploring the edges of my purse and some mail on the seat. Then, it was back to curl up in the cup holder. Once I looked down to see Little Tiny coming across the console to my lap. "Oh, no you don't," I said, wagging my finger. "I do not need a mouse in my lap."  Little Tiny went back to the passenger seat and got to nosing around again. 

  Deciding I needed to get proof of my unlikely stowaway, I exited at Red Rock, pulled over and took a couple of photos. Then I reached over and opened the door. "Want out?" Not interested in the least. I got back on the freeway again, not thinking about my traveling companion until I arrived at my destination and began to carry in my belongings. I looked under the seats, on the back floorboard and in the cup holder, but neither hide nor hair was to be found.

   Inside, as I stowing away the food I had brought with me, there was Little Tiny in the bottom of the dry food bag, apparently having gotten in but not able to jump out. 

  "You do not belong in here, no matter how cute you are." I emptied the bag of everything but the mouse, carried it to the back of the property and laid it on its side on the ground so the mouse could walk out. It did not, so I tipped the bag to gently slide it out onto the grass, which it did. I turned to go back inside and after a few yards, I looked back to see Little Tiny jumping along after me, trying to keep up. It made me think of the childhood story book, "Are You My Mother?" about the baby bird who goes looking for its mother and questions all kinds of other critters, farm equipment and even a large backhoe. I picked up the pace and made it to the porch steps ahead of Little Tiny, who chose to go under the porch instead climbing the stairs. And, that's it. The story of Little Tiny, a mouse's adventure.

Tell a story to someone today. A story does not have to teach, have a moral, or drive home a point, it can be merely delightful. The teller tells, the listener listens, and something wonderful happens. You can count on it.

The Lincoln 

The Lincoln

    In 2005 my parents bought their first new car ever - A Lincoln Signature Town Car. That fall, when they flew out to visit me, Mom was so excited to tell me all about it. As I recall, the story goes like this.
     After sixty two years of marriage and buying only used cars they decided it was high time to treat themselves to something brand new, and off they went to a local dealer.  Mom spied  a pretty spiffy Buick, Dad made the deal, and they headed to the bank so Dad could get cash to pay for it. 
    However, as they were re-entering the car lot,  Mom saw a baby blue Lincoln she hadn’t noticed before and wanted to take a look. She said that as soon as she opened the door, she was sure the Lincoln was the car for her, and when she sat in the driver’s seat, it was confirmed. The powder blue, leather seats were soft as butter and smelled wonderful. The adjust able brake and gas pedals were perfect for a 5'2" lady. It was solid, the doors closed with authority, and she felt so safe driving it, even on the Interstates. 
    “Just so you know, I left it to you in my will. But, don’t tell your brother, you know he will start shit over it.”  My mom was every inch a lady, and so she knew just exactly how and when to cuss - irregularly enough so that it startles folks and they pay attention to what you say. 
    My response was, “Okay.” So I didn’t. I never told anyone in or out of my family and, actually forgot about it right away, never giving it another thought. Until...
    The October of 2013 my father passed away at 90 years old. I loaded up and drove to Ohio for the funeral and my daughters flew out to meet me there. My eldest and I were just today talking about Dad’s funeral, and how it seemed so surreal, something out of a movie even. It was raining and dismal all day. The Scottish Rite gave a service. As the bagpipes played “Amazing Grace” and “Going Home”, their call rattled our bones and broke our hearts even further.  
    That night, back at Mom and Dad’s house, we girls, being my daughters, my two sisters, my nieces and their daughters, and my sister-in-law, were all up in Mom’s room “tucking her in.” Mom asked me to go get my guitar and sing “Inseparable From My Heart” for her. I did, but really struggled through. My girls rescued me by asking for some silly songs, then in between tunes, Mom looked right at me and said, “You still want the Lincoln, don’t you.” It was not a question, but nonetheless I startled. First, I hadn’t thought about it since 2005, and second, no one was supposed to know about it. Instantly she realized what she had done and said, “Well, I guess I let that cat out of the bag, didn’t I ?”  I looked around the room and saw that everyone was looking at me with a “Whaaat?” expression. Everyone except my brother’s wife,  who was looking quite upset. 
    Let’s say that my parents had an estate plan because it was and is a smart thing in regard to protecting any real assets one might have. Also, let’s say that, if one person were going to get everything in my parent’s estate, that “one person” would not be even close to retiring. There was not that kind of money in their estate. And, so, I didn’t think about it at all after that night. Not one whit. But, the “trouble” Mom spoke of started before I left the house to come home, followed me all the way to Arizona, and stayed quite a while. 
    Someday, I may tell that entire story. Maybe, maybe not. For now, I will say it was quite traumatic, in that my brother, in his infinite executor power trip, declared me a danger to my mother and I was not allowed in the house or to see her again before she died. But, in the spring, Mom followed Dad home, and that fall, when I flew to Ohio to pick up the Lincoln, it had merely 22K miles on the odometer. It was an interesting trip to say the least. I got to visit with my eldest sister, and together we sorted through what entitlements that had been put into storage for me.  Afterwards, I swung down through Tennessee to see another sister there, cut through Nashville where I wrote  “Cold Night In Nashville,” and then on through Oklahoma where I wrote the words to “A Crazy Horse.”

    I was very pleased and blessed to have the Lincoln given me as a gift. Why Mom chose me, I can only guess and would probably be wrong. Mom did what she wanted and got  what she wanted. The winter of 2012-2013, they came to spend a few months here in Arizona, and Dad often told me he had planned his whole life that he was going to die first, and “this is the one thing your mother is not going to get her way on.”

    As soon as I got home and registered the car in Arizona, I tried to get a specialty plate that said THXMOM, but then and the ten years since, that plate has been unavailable. I have many, many good reasons to say “Thanks, Mom,” and November 4th, 2023 is the goodest reason.
    I was heading to the gym late morning on that day, when I was broadsided by someone who ran a stop sign. I was hit primarily on the driver’s side B pillar and rear passenger door. It was a pretty hard smack, and I didn’t see it coming until the grill of the other car was in my left lower peripheral vision the moment before impact. I did not hit the brake but took my foot off the gas, passing on through the intersection and looking up in my review mirror for the other car. I watched it pass through the intersection and so turned around to follow. Yep, they were trying to get away, but the impact  had damaged the front end of their compact car badly enough they were literally hopping down the road, finally pulling over. I pulled in behind and called 911 who sent Fire and Police. They both arrived before I hung up with dispatch. 
    It took two Firemen to get the driver’s side doors open, having to open the rear door first. I was told I did right by not exiting the Lincoln on the passenger side because of the type of impact. But, as soon as the doors were open, one Fireman gave me his hand to help me out and, before he let go, he pointed to the car and told me, “This car saved your life.” I told him my Mom left me the car when she passed away. 
    The Rescue medics checked me out and afterward I was leaning on the Lincoln, waiting for my turn with the Police. The Fireman came back to me and said he knew I was very upset about my car, that his sister-in-law had inherited a Lincoln from her mother. That Lincoln had tiny Looney Tunes characters dancing all along the side like pin-striping because her whole family was into Looney Tunes. He knew that car meant the world to her. 
    I told him that I always wanted to get a plate that said, “Thanks, Mom.”
           “This car saved your life,” he told me again. 
           “Thanks, Mom. It’s not the first time you saved my bacon, that’s for certain.” Mom gave me the Lincoln for a reason she never revealed. Maybe it was a Mom’s intuition.  And, she always got her way. Well, nearly always, huh Dad?
    
    After a couple of months of trying to find ways to keep my Lincoln, I have had to accept that the insurance companies are in control. I understand. The cost of repair is more than 40% of the value. In this case, even with under 80K miles on it, because of the age of the car, the estimates for cost of repair are as much as 105% of the value. I can’t do that. 
    But, Thanks Mom. Your love and generosity paid off in boatloads. I’ll see you later rather than sooner.


© Nancy Elliott & Sonoran Desert Sage Publishing 2024
email   NancyElliottMusic@gmail.com
Phone 520.705.5901
 

Lightning Woman Danced, the story behind the song 

Lightning Woman Danced, The Story Behind the Song

    “I have always gone to the wilderness,” or some version of that, is a line you will read often in my stories. The wilderness shows up constantly in my songs and poetry, almost without fail. It is the place where I have always gone to rest, to discover and to regain my footing. In my early years I developed an ability to take a place with me where ever I may go: I see the place, hear it, smell it, feel the sun or the wind or snow of it, I can step into its waters and cool my feet. 


    Some have asked me if the wilderness is where I found God. My answer is, “No”. God found me not in the wilderness of the world, but in the wilderness of my soul, and He has never let go and promised He never will. However, God does talk to me through the wilderness places I go. And, perhaps when I am not listening to Him elsewhere, he sends me out to where I will listen. 
    My father died in the fall of 2013 and a few months afterward, in the spring of 2014 my mother followed him. The trouble started shortly after Dad died though, when my brother introduced his executor duties to his best friends, greed and cruelty, and the four of them mounted an offensive against me. Shortly after Dad’s funeral, I was pronounced a danger to my Mom and was not allowed to see her and even my phone calls were screened. I was stunned to say the least and could not begin to understand the reasoning behind this edict.
    I hired an attorney to fight for me to be able to see Mom and this only escalated the situation. In the end the attorney did no good for my cause and Mom died without me getting to see her or visit her in her last days. Because a friend of fifty plus years was one of her caretakers, I was able to speak to Mom on the times my friend could notify me that the coast was clear to call. It was this friend who notified me the night of my Mom’s passing. Other wise I was not notified by family for several days. 
    To say the least, it was a horrible position to be in. To have one’s will paralyzed with no regard for the truth.

     Spring became summer and then fall. My equilibrium was still off, but the concerts, getting to sing for people helped to carry me through. Yet, the fight continued, now over the estate. 
    Way back in 2004 my parents bought their first new car and that winter flew to Arizona to visit me for Christmas. While here, Mom informed me that the brand new 2004 baby blue Lincoln Town Car with the leather interior would be mine when she died. It was already in her will that way. “But, don’t tell your brother,” I distinctly recall saying. “It will only start shit.” I promptly forgot about the car. Little did Mom know just how much shit the Lincoln would start. 
    In 2015 I was tired, exhausted from the estate battle and unsure if I could do a good show, but, I had concerts to play that had been on the book for a couple of years. I had also  scheduled a short two week tour of house concerts from Arizona to Washington State and back during August of that year. I could hear Mom saying, “Go on and go, get away from the mess.”
So, I did. 
    As I headed north out of Arizona via Flagstaff and on to Lee’s Ferry, a storm was looming over the Vermilion Cliffs. I made my ritual stop at Cameron Trading Post to visit with the Weaver see what she had working on her loom. Later, as I approached the turn off to Lee’s Ferry, I noticed that cars not far ahead of me were disappearing into the storm, so I pulled over to wait it out. Even the Navajo traders set up along the highway were packing their goods and getting in their trucks for protection from the driving wind and rain. 
    After the storm passed I took the turn for Lee’s Ferry and Kanab, Utah, a road I had traveled before and was familiar with. The fact that I may not see another car for many miles did not bother me. The Vermilion Cliffs were a favorite place of mine and they were made more beautiful by the remnants of the storm which hung about their tops. All of a sudden, ahead and to my right, a bolt of lightning came from the sky, touched the edge of the cliff and stepped down to the ground. It took another step toward the road then jumped into the sky. 
    The scene was too startling to be scary. I was now looking in the mirror hoping to see another car and thinking they would have had to see what I just saw. But, I was the only one on the road. A minute later the lightning ran past me on the right, as if we were racing. It was take huge, giant steps and leaps that had to be a quarter of a mile or more in stride but were sideways to the right and then the left. I began to laugh. Lightning Woman was dancing. She was going across the road and back again, leaping into the sky then turning back to jab her feet into the ground.
 “Oh, Lightning Woman danced down off the mesa. 
   She danced jabbing toe and heel into the ground. 
   She danced across the road and on the playa.
   She danced into the air and came back down.”

    By the time I made my motel in Kanab I had those words and more. Words about how Lightning Woman was sent to tell me I was doing the right thing, that I was on the right road and to stay with the map printed on my soul. 
    My first show was the next night, and I was excited to see some friends whom I knew cowboyed in Brice Canyon and the Kaibab Plateau for many years. 
    I asked Jeanne, “Have you ever seen such a thing?”    
    “Only once, and I have never forgotten it.”
    “Good, then I know I have not gone nuts!”

    Stay on your right road.  Follow that map printed on your soul. Answer to the wilderness when it speaks to you. God works in the wilderness and He has a purpose for sending you there. 
Step toward the light away from fear and hear all those angles up in heaven stand and cheer.     

 

The Old White Shirt 

 

 

    Weekly, someone tells me, “ I have this shirt ( jacket, pants, dress ),” They laugh and shake their head. “ I know it’s ridiculous, but I really love it. It’s frayed at the cuff (full of holes, too small, too big, not much left of it). I can’t part with it. Why is that?” 
    I laugh with them. I have some of those, too. In particular, a white shirt I bought in 1984. It’s frayed at the cuff, has a big tear in the back, it is so thin you can read the newspaper through it, and I can’t part with it.
           Believe me, I have tried. Every few years I put it in the basket headed for The Home of Hope, only to pull it out at the last minute. One time, I dug it out after carrying the basket inside. Crazy. The girls there pretended not to notice, surely they see it all the time. 
    Every once in a while I wear it. Has to be some place special though. 
    A single mom raising two little girls on a bartender’s wages in 1980's Texas, I was not in the habit of wandering in to expensive department stores just to look around.  I made our clothes, with few exceptions. I spent money on good shoes , however. 
     When my oldest girl was trying to walk at barely eight months old, my mom bought her a pair of  Buster Brown Oxfords. The minute I laced them up Shannon got to her feet and walked across the room. Thirty Dollars was a lot of money to spend in 1980 on a pair of shoes for a toddler who might not wear them for more than a few weeks, but I was an instant believer. Later, when I was working long hours, some times seven days a week on my feet, good shoes were vital to staying in the game. In 1983, I bought a pair of Acme boots on Lay- Away from Leddy Bros Rope and Saddle Company for Three Hundred Dollars. I walked a lot of miles behind the bar in those boots, and rode more. They were re-soled twice in five years, re-heeled once. They have a place of honor in the living room beside my old saddle, but I wear them now and then, even though they no longer keep the water out. And, my granddaughter wears them.
    Back to 1984. I was looking for shoes for my two little girls when I saw the shirt in Dillard’s and stopped to look at it. It was on the sale rack, marked down to Sixty Dollars.  White cotton, loose fitting with one pocket, delicate embroidery on the collar and cuffs. So pretty. I walked away and we went shoe shopping. Passing it on the way out and I looked again, and we left. I didn’t find any shoes for the girls either, but the clerk told me about a sale coming up for the fall and we went back later.  We found shoes that time, and on the way out, I saw the shirt still on the sale rack. It was marked down again to a more doable price and I bought it. 
            The girls and I didn’t go out much other than to a cafeteria they loved, or fishing, to the park, or to the horses. I never wore it behind the bar as it would have been ruined in one shift.  But, over the years, the shirt was a staple of my wardrobe. I wore it dancing, to sing at weddings, and once, at the funeral for friend’s toddler grandson who was murdered. I have never been able to sing “Somewhere over the Rainbow” again after that. 
    The white shirt was my go-to blouse for Church and picnics. When I was called upon to teach a class, go to a meeting, attend an awards ceremony for my girls, the white shirt was the one to wear with jeans, or a skirt. Eventually, the cuffs frayed. I got smaller and had to take it up. Every once in a while it would disappear into the depths of my closet only to re-emerge, months or a years later, as though I got a new shirt!  In the year 2001, while I was tucking it in, my finger went through the fabric. One of those tears that will not be repaired in a presentable manner.  Oh, no! Well, when it’s tucked in, you can’t see it. So I wore it, anyway. 
    Then, the cuffs frayed more, separating at the edge-fold. The embroidery began to come loose. My pretty white shirt became the occasional lounging shirt, something on my shoulders for a cool evening on the porch. One day, it turned up in my closet again and I realized the fabric had thinned to the perfect weight for riding horseback in the summer; my shirt was back in full time use for a few years. It went horse packing to the Wind River Mountains in Wyoming, the Crook Trail, and  Woodchute north of Prescott, into the Bradshaw Mountains and East, all along the Moggollon Rim. Many of my family milestones, daily living, mountain adventures, evening campfires and lyrics to songs are woven into the white shirt.
    It is written into the book “Autumn’s On Its Way.”
    The white shirt hangs in the closet where I can see it. Some day, I may wear it again.  Maybe to my next performance. After all these years, and as worn and frayed as it is, it deserves a real special occasion. 
    So, when a Seamstress Of The Desert visitor asks, “Why is that?”  
    I tell them it is the stories, fun, tears and laughter and memories, that are woven in, and through, like threads of life. That is why. 
 

Its About the Music  

      By the age of fifteen, that would be the year 1974, I  had been playing guitar for a couple of years or so. Campfires, a friend’s wedding (I still have the charm necklace that was a gift from the newlyweds, and just this winter, a friend replaced the setting that was lost who knows how long ago), the stairwell outside the Library at Beavercreek High School during lunch with friends who played everything from the flute to the Kalimba and would always sing along. But, to this day, I can’t  recall how I found my self at a microphone, in front of a crowd  which seemed hundreds deep, at Riverfest in Dayton, Ohio.
     Perhaps my parents and or friends encouraged me to go sing at the festival - that would have been just like them to do that. Maybe, I just happened to be at the festival and happened upon an open mic taking place and happened to be able to borrow and guitar and took the leap. But, I can tell you for certain that, once I stepped to the mic, I was terrified. I had never sung into a microphone, nor to a crowd the size of what was in front of me, all watching me...and waiting... for me...to start singing. And, I can tell you that I will never forget the friendly faced, rosy cheeked, soft spoken man who came forward and said, “My name is Mick Montgomery, and I’m going to stand right in front of you just an arm’s length away. You close your eyes, and sing the song you know the very best. Don’t open your eyes until you’re ready, and when you do, I will be right there,” he pointed over his shoulder, “in front of you.” 
    I did, and when I opened my eyes, Mick was exactly where he said he would be, and he smiled at me and, he asked me to sing a couple more songs. While I was doing that, I remember seeing him move over and talk with my parents. Over the years, they developed a warm friendship and stayed in touch. 
    It wasn’t much later that Mick had me singing at pig roasts and other events he booked music for that I was legally able to sing for. Later, after coming of age, he booked me at Sam’s On Fifth multiple times. In my Kate Wolf songbook, there is a great black and white photo of Kate with Nina Gerber in front of Sam’s, and I was always inspired to realize I had been on the same stage as those two very powerful woman in music. Sam’s architecture is from the era of shotgun homes and businesses, so it’s long and narrow, and fairly dark inside with the old bar, wood floors, tin plate ceilings, and a stage that was shoulder height to me. The stage curtains were heavy red velvet draperies, the stage lights were bright and hot, hot. One sweated as they played without fail, even in winter.  
    I recall the first time playing Sam’s, I covered Janis Ian’s “Watercolors” and on the final chord a woman rose from her seat and started a standing ovation. I was stunned, sweaty to the core and amazed. Debby Smith was her name, all perfectly curly chestnut hair, red flannel shirt and overalls. We became friends and shared gigs the rest of the time I was in Ohio. If any of you know Debby Smith from Dayton, tell her I lost the words to her song, “High Fly Ball,” and would love to get them from her so I can sing it again. 
    In 1979, I believe it was, Mick bought a place in the Historic District and turned it into a beer, lunch and darts place by day, and concert hall by night. I was honored to be among the other local musicians, including Debby,  who played opening night at Canal Street Tavern. Years later, 1986, I went to work for Mick in the bar and as greeter and liaison to the many great touring acts who played there, Leon Redbone, Doc Watson, Pierre Bensusan, Garnet Rogers, The Original Osborne Brothers (Rocky Top), The Chieftains, Shawn Phillips, Tom Paxton, Rory Block, The Desert Rose Band, Pake McIntyre and more. Mick hosted music most every night of the week with local bands taking the stage and genre focused events. 
    Before every show, Mick got on the house mic and thanked everyone for coming, gave a great intro for the act, and afterwards, without fail, he thanked the audience again for coming. And he encouraged them to continue to come out and support live music and independent music. “Whether you attend concerts once a week, once a month or once a year, make the decision to, on a regular basis, to go support someone you have never heard or heard of. More likely than not, you will be pleasantly pleased and surprised. Buy a ticket, buy their album, register for their newsletter and ask where they are playing next. By simply showing up, you  will have encouraged a solo artist or band to continue in their art, and you will have made a new friend in music. Most of the time all an aspiring artist needs is an audience that has come to listen, to hear, to interact with the music, story and songs. It’s a simple thing to do, to show up.” 
    So, I am asking you now, to choose to go listen to live music. Choose the artists you know and love, but once in a while, choose a new artist you have never heard or heard of. Even if you don’t buy the album, or sign up for the newsletter, the singer-songwriter or band is inspired because you came and you listened. You showed up. 
    Mick is gone almost ten years, and the music of Canal Street Tavern followed him just not long ago. But, I have always remembered what Mick did for music and aspiring artists, and for me, and I have tried over the years to help others along as he did.

Water and Walking 

Blog Post Janet and Huffman Prairie
    When my sister, Janet, was hospitalized I flew back to Ohio to be with her. My childhood friends, Carla and Victoria, picked me up at the airport and got me to my sister and later to my hotel room. They took care of me, as friends do. In between hospital visits, we visited a couple of places of our growing up years, and I was reminded of the huge difference in Ohio and the Sonoran Desert - the water everywhere, and the water hard to find. 
    Living in a dry and thirsty land, these places of water are never far from my mind. The creeks where I floated leaf boats and chased them until they escaped me, or capsized. I caught worms and water spiders and gathered tiny drops to put on a microscope slide and watch a secret world unfold. Walking along a creek to find where it started or ended would take me pretty far from home. I never found the source, or the end, except once. Mom would make me peel off the wet and muddy clothes in the garage so she could check for ticks. She never told me not to do it again. She knew I would.
    I walked alone frequently as a child. I needed to walk outside, I craved it. If even for a few minutes before getting in the car for church, I would be in the yard, checking under the forsythia bush for I don’t know what; venturing way to the back of our half acre to a pine tree my father planted after Christmas one year; bent over searching the lawn for signs of clover and other spring blooms. 
    Later, pre-teen years, I would stroll out in the early gloaming, usually to a wooded lane, paralleled by a creek, that lead to an old barn and shed. It seemed a long enough walk, maybe a mile to get to the old buildings that had likely been upright and weather tight during the French and Indian War. Trees lining both sides of the two track created a tunnel of cool air in the summer. In the fall, it was a spectacular walk through bright autumn leaves of Oak and Walnut trees. Winter made the tunnel a wonderland - branches and the last of the barely hanging on leaves were iced over, frozen in time and my memory. 
    The neighborhood where we lived is not huge, but the homes all sit on larger property than most places today, so it seems to sprawl some, and yards were, and still are, tree covered and well-kept. There were three places where farm fields were built around, and two of those fields had horses in them. To jump the fence and ride was worth the not knowing what temperament those horses might have had. Often enough I went over the fences to just be in the company of horses, one hand on a back, the other pulling grass offerings; running my fingers through mane and forelock to remove tangles; resting in that quiet place of horses which slows the heart, clears the mind and lets one believe hopes and dreams will be fulfilled. 
    As a teen I would go alone or with friends to the banks of the Little Miami River, where I, and they, were compelled to walk with reverence; where I could hear the moccasined footfalls of Native runners as they carried news; where, floating in the air above me, were the voices of women and children singing and laughing at the river side. To stand on the bank watching the river tumble to sparkle, and know who stood in the spot before me, hunting, fishing, gathering. 
    This creek in this photo is beside Huffman Prairie, where the Wright Brothers flew their bi-planes and taught aviation school. Orville and Wilbur and their bicycle shop are new History. Yet, there is old History still present in these places. Tecumseh, Blue Jacket, Daniel Boone, Simon Kenton, Cornstalk; they walked here, hunted here, lived here. Look there, through the trees. They are beckoning you, they want to tell you a story.
Go, and listen. 
 

La Jinete  

   I wrote "La Jinete" about 2005 in an attempt to describe my kindred-ship to this Sonoran Desert and her inhabitants. Far more than merely a place to build a house with a view, the desert is a living thing who moves into your dwelling and your soul, without permission. One can not live here and be oblivious to her omnipresence. She demands attention and, if not given, she will spit you out. Or worse. 

   La Jinete is an unfinished work I pick away at as the years pass. There is so much to impart, it may never be all said. 

 

La Jinete

I've been out here since I can remember, since time began it seems 

It's the place where my soul finds comfort, here where only God can intervene 

Life in the desert trims up your soul, for she's exacting, precise and honest 

Lie to her or your own heart, she'll  leave you dead. That's a promise. 

Don't recall when I came here, for I'm a part of this desert landscape 

She's blended me in with the quartz and the sand, for me there is no escape 

As wild as the wind in the monsoon, soft as the coos of a  babe 

Her breath is my life and my solace, her songbirds my hearts serenade 

She keeps me here enchanted with the gifts she leaves at my door 

She showed me my place in a story, a magical piece of lore 

Of spirits unfettered, unconquered, of fierce, unshakeable hearts 

Courage, mettle and nerve, and a souls' unbreachable ramparts    

I'll tell you that story if you'll hear it. It will take a measure of time  

And, you have to hold on tight, for the ride's is over ground that's unkind 

But, perhaps you'll understand then, why this place holds my soul and my heart 

Just why I stay out here in the desert, in my story, to you I'll  impart  

 

Pale blue mists weave and prowl through the pleats of the mesa's skirt 

No animals stir, no morning birds sing in my disturbingly silent desert 

Then, gently at first, moving up thru the earth... a barely perceptible tremble 

Now, stronger, then louder, it soon overwhelms with a pounding, ear filling rumble 

My curious eyes scan the horizon for the source of this frightful rampage  

Then, they're on me, flinging hot breath and foam as they burst thru the silver sage 

They snort and squeal at the sudden stop, bumping, rearing, teeth bared 

But, they dare not run past their mistress, who's astride the blood bay mare 

The wind lifts her hair as she smiles,  and I am breathless to realize 

How can it be?  She is I,  I am her!  Those lucid green orbs are mine eyes! 

She looks in my face as her horse dances there, her face so calm and serene 

And she peers in my soul with a knowing so old, discerning, carving and keen 

Then, a leather gloved hand sweeps from her cloak to the obedient herd in her wake 

She nods at me and signals a mare who moves forward for me to take, 

I rise and drift through the glorious herd of horses this bold woman leads 

She watches me, knowing my heart,  that her very command I will heed. 

I swing aboard a freckled grey back and grasp a handful of mane, 

We move out on the breeze of a winters dawn ore a rugged and ancient terrain 

My heart is bursting with wonder, like a child I'm carefree and wide eyed    

My soul is awakened,  my spirit alive as we gallop along side by side  

Flying thru sage and cactus, bearing south we gather more speed 

Then turn east to the Chiricahuas, a most humbling land indeed 

 

(C) Nancy Elliott Music and Sonoran Desert Sage Pub 2005

All rights reserved, no use or copies of any kind without permission. 

 

Being Fully Present Matters 

            My time on earth is precious to me - as is yours - and it becomes more precious with each passing day. Whilst I am still here, there is no place I would rather be than with others who are like minded in this respect; those who choose to be more than merely physically present, and who make the decision to be spiritually, emotionally and mentally present in life whether alone or with others.  
    I will never accept that not giving another human one’s complete attention is merely “the times” and “a new way of communicating and sharing,” and that I need to get with those times. From what I see, “the times” and “a new way of communicating sharing” leave not only me feeling disrespected, set aside, alone and left out, but also many other folks. The younger folks are feeling this, even if they cannot name it. That feeling of aloneness, separateness, and being disrespected creates hard edges on people, especially young people. They get tough, indifferent to others (if you can’t beat ‘em, join ‘em) and angry at a world of people who are not treating them right. Today’s 20 and under group was raised in these disrespectful, spiritually barren times, sometimes by emotionally and mentally disengaged parents - often I have seen a child who can not yet walk given an electronic device to entertain itself with. The 20 and unders may not even know what real respect is, or understand the need for face to face, eye to eye conversation and so, they suffer from the lack of what they cannot name or define. They suffer from malnutrition of the soul brought on by human connection deficiency.  It has a real name: Failure To Thrive. 
            And, it is not only the younger generation who suffer. Adult onset failure to thrive is just as real and perhaps more deadly. Speaking from personal experience, when conversation is instantly interrupted by the ding, and people who I am conversing with choose to immediately answer a text message or check how many likes they have acquired on social media, I feel as though my very presence is of such low value that I can be put “on hold” and I fight an overwhelming urge to leave the room.  I say with certainty that an “emergency” text is extremely rare. Is it more disrespectful to delay answering a text - or looking to see who it is - than to disengage with a person who is present in order to respond to someone who is not present, effectively giving the non present person and what they have to “say” more value?  Once, while out for dinner with friends and having what we thought was great conversation, one person backed their chair away from the table and began to engage with their phone. They purposefully and effectively chose to leave the group, but felt as though they still had the right to remark on half heard discussion. That behavior is rude and disrespectful and hurtful.  
    There are so many necessary factors in life which keep us from spending time with our friends and loved ones. Don’t let factors you can control keep you from being fully engaged when in their presence. Time flys so fast, is gone forever and cannot be recovered. I wonder, if after the loss of a loved one or a friendship, how many people regret not paying attention, regret not being fully present, regret being on social media in the presence of or while on the phone with others and not really hearing or properly responding to the last words spoken to them. If the "conversation" took place in person, is there regret for not looking into the eyes, not seeing the facial expressions of the person speaking to them?  Do they wonder what they missed? Do they wonder if the other person noticed their distraction, their obvious preference and deliberate choice, to be mentally elsewhere rather than present? I will answer that, yes, they noticed.  
      I hope that you always choose to be fully present, with every fiber of your being on task. Each moment you choose not to be fully present is a waste of precious time - mine and yours. I promise to make every endeavor to never waste your time.

The Time I Sprung Dad Out Of Jail 

          

     I sprung my Dad from jail.

     That’s what he said, anyway. What really happened was he was unjustly incarcerated in a nursing home where, for all intents and purposes, he was tied to his bed twenty four hours a day except for a wheelchair ride to therapy and a shower. 

 
    He was there for more than a week before I knew about it. Parents develop a habit of not telling their children everything and, when they do tell, it is not always during the course of the event in which they sure could have used a helping hand. I catch myself committing the same offense and know first hand the not telling is because I do not want to intrude on the lives of my children. I do not want to interfere with schedules and jobs, not wanting to become a burden or worry as I get older.  


    By the time I could arrange care for horses and a dog, it was few days before I boarded a plane for Ohio. My always indispensable childhood and now, adulthood, friend, Carla, picked me up that cold and snowy November evening at Columbus Airport and drove me to Beavercreek, where she and I grew up together.  I am sure no one in the nursing home had ever before witnessed the scene we created simply by showing up as ourselves. I am also sure we are now the stuff of much embellished legend, a story told in amaze around nursing home water coolers, or dining rooms, or where ever it is staff and patients share stories about the crazies they encounter daily.  

    Carla, who does not acknowledged the existence of the word “blend” except in relation to her paintings, is blessed with glorious crown of very long, very curly, very red hair always worn loose and flowing. She dresses in brightly colored caftans, throwing on a monk’s hood cape to go out in the cold. Tonight was no exception, with the addition of fur lined moccasin boots and a long, heavy wool scarf wound around her neck.  Carla, like me, has always “walked with a purpose” as Mom used to say. No dilly-dallying, forward movement with intent, like a freight train, so get out of the way.  
   Having flown in from Arizona where I have lived for over twenty five years, and knowing I would be in cold, wet weather, I was wearing hard denim jeans, low heeled Western boots, a grey woolen frock coat and my custom, Bronco Sue felt hat.  
    When we arrived at the nursing home a heavy snow was being whipped a bitter cold wind. The flakes did not melt when they landed on us, instead they accumulated on our shoulders and hats very quickly as walked the fifty yards or so to the main entrance. We burst though the doors carrying snow and cold air swirling in our wake. The wall ahead of us bore the room indicators which we instantly deciphered and hung an immediate left, continuing shoulder to shoulder at that freight train pace. Wide eyed nurses and care givers fell away out of our path, patients in wheel chairs and walkers watched us pass them by, their eyes lit up in surprise. No one stopped us or questioned us. No one followed us to see where we were going. 
    When we blew into Dad’s room and he was lying flat on his back in bed, Mom at his side in a plain, office type chair. He saw us come in, his eyes lighting up with surprise and happiness. I went right to him and bending over his bed, hugged him. When I pulled back he had tears on his cheeks. He still had a grip on both of my arms so I could not stand up all the way. 
     I asked him, “Daddy, are you afraid to be here?” 


     “Yes,” he spoke quietly. “ I am afraid.” 


    “Why, Daddy?” 


    He looked at me for a long moment, choosing his words carefully just like he always did. Finally, “They aren’t mean here, they are just stupid. They are going to hurt someone because they don’t know what they are doing.” 


    “Daddy,” I said. “Mom and I are both here with you now and we will stay until bedtime. The first sunny day, we are taking you home.” 


    He nodded and smiled a little.  
    I turned to hug and kiss Mom who was holding hands with Carla. Carla stayed a few minutes to visit then took her leave to work her way home through the storm, promising to stop by the house when Dad got home. She would love to come and help decorate the Christmas Tree. 


    Dad’s room was small, though there were two beds, the other one empty. I sat on the edge of Dad’s bed and we talked for a long time.  About the snowy weather, about Arizona. About the horses and Cowboy, my Border Collie. About the border issues which always make national news and, even though we talked regularly on the phone, they wanted to hear the latest. Dad told me I should run for office to help straighten that mess out. I said I would never get voted in, that no one really wants to address the border issues and they darn sure don’t want to hear the truth about it, makes for boring evening news. He laughed.  


    “So, just how did you get your self in lockup anyway, Daddy?”  Mom had given me the details on the phone but I wanted to hear it from the horse’s mouth.     

    Dad said he had been working in the yard, shoveling five ton of pea gravel around the flower beds surrounding the house. As he quit for the day he fell on the porch at the front door hitting his head on the concrete.  He made it in the house and, insisting he was fine, ate dinner and went to bed.  Later, Mom found him with a high fever and called an ambulance. He spent a few days in hospital and then was sent to the care home to rehabilitate. He didn’t like being there one bit at all. He said the first few days he was there he didn’t have a room. He was in a big room like an emergency room with just curtains separating six beds. Patients were wheeled in and out at all hours of the day and night. One night, he was sure the other beds in the room were being used by the staff to have sex, he hoped with each other and not the elderly patients. Wow! It was unlike my father to say any such thing and, considering his fearful state, and that I never knew him to over react, I believed him.  


    “Did you say anything about it, Dad?” 


    “What’s to say?” he shrugged. “Who would believe a feverish old man without his hearing aids?”  


     When they finally gave him a room he was kept flat on his back. Under him was a pad device to set off all the alarms in the building if he so much as tried to turn over. If he shifted his weight the alarms would go off. He could not sit up. They had him listed as “Fall Risk.” This was nothing new. Dad had been a fall risk most of his life. Some reason unknown caused him to have fainting episodes, lightheadedness. He had tried to enlist and was turned down because of it. Dad had learned to live with it. In all my years I saw him faint only one time. So, I don’t think it was something which happened regularly, just enough to be a concern for the Military.  

    Dad was ready to go home and so was Mom. But, because he had been, and maybe was still sick, and the weather was bitter cold and wet, I could not bring myself to put him in the car that night. Mom and I stayed until after the evening orderly had visited the room, checked Dad’s ostomy bag and given him his night dose of antibiotics. Mom waited in the foyer while I fetched her Lincoln, now covered with snow, and drove it to the door to help her in. She wanted me to drive us home. We pulled in the garage and went in through the pantry. That was the way we kids always ran in and out of the house and it was a warm, welcoming embrace of memories every time I went home as an adult.  
    Mom had gathered Dad’s dirty clothes and brought them home with her to wash and take back in the morning. “Momma, why don’t you go upstairs and get changed, I will start the wash and make us some tea and sandwiches.” 


    “Thank you, sweetie.” she headed up the stairs. I already had a sneaking suspicion about what had been going on. 

 
    When Mom came back down we sat at the kitchen table and ate while she told me again her side of the story about how Dad got sick and ended up in the Hospital. It was the same, pretty close to Dad’s version. She told me she was also very worried about the quality of care he was getting, that no one in the building knew how to change Dad’s ostomy bag and she had to show the care givers how it was done. Several times she had to show them and that was very embarrassing to Daddy.  That is when she started crying and we hugged for a while.

  
      “Mom, are you staying at the care center this late every night?” 


    “Yes, because Daddy is afraid to be there. I usually stay later, sometimes until 11:00 or midnight.”  


    “Do they offer you a bed or feed you?” 


    “Sometimes they offer a foldout bed, and Daddy shares his plate with me.” 


    I was pretty perturbed at that, but tried not to let it show. But, Mom’s know, they know.  “So, then you come home, do his wash, go to bed and get back to the care home by what time?” 


    “Daddy wants me there as early as I can get there. Usually by 7 am.” 


    She had been holding to this routine for at almost two weeks,  probably longer considering the hospital stay. This was going to have to change or Mom was going to be the next one to get sick. I told her the flight and all had worn me out and I would like to go to bed and she asked me to sleep with her. We got tucked in the big master bed, both of us reading and holding hands until Mom dropped off. I turned out the lights.  


    In the morning I called the care center and asked what time Dad went to therapy. They told me at 9a.m. andI asked them to let him know Mom and I would not be there to see him until after his therapy, then reminded Mom that Dad would be busy until after 9:30 so she and I could have a nice, hot sit down breakfast and wait to see if the skies cleared enough so we could bring him home. I think it was the first real breakfast she had eaten in a long time. 


    Dad was already back in his room when we arrived at the care center. He was worried about us since my message had not been delivered. But, when Mom excused her self to “walk down the hallway” I told him my fears about Mom’s late hours and not eating right. “Did you know she was doing that, Daddy?” He did not realize what she was doing, and he nodded at me. I had done the right thing in his eyes.  
    We spent the morning in his room, then I got him to venture to the community room. When he got out of bed and the alarms went off, it was the first time I got noticed. I told the blustery attendant to get rid of that thing or he was going to hear it go off real regular. Off to a great start.  
    In the community room we met some other inmates. There was a woman who poked her head in the door every morning, Dad said. She was always cheery and had a good word for him and Mom. There were others who were sitting around in their wheelchairs watching the T.V. or playing a game, working a puzzle. I asked Daddy why he didn’t come down here every day? Just look at the list of activities they have planned. He shot me the look.  Later, when we were out of earshot of the others, he told me it was a nice enough room, but the hallway was depressing and sad with folks parked all alone in their chairs with nothing to say and blank looks on their faces. Some of them never getting out of bed, always sleeping. He was afraid of dying in that place.  
    One of my sisters and her husband came for a while, but he was fidgety and they didn’t stay long. I ran to Panera Bread Company and brought back hot soup, sandwiches and desserts. Dad ate like he was starving, cleaned his plate. Mom had asked me to bring my guitar that day so I played for them, drawing a little crowd  at the door. Mom pointed out a room across the way where a very elderly woman was bedridden and asked if I would go play for her. Of course. The attendant was in there feeding her. I don’t know if she heard  me or not, but he was smiling and nodding. The music gets folks talking and both Mom and Dad started with stories. A bit later in the evening we were treated to some Carolors who sang their way down one side of the hall and back up the other. When Mom and I went home that night, Dad was much better about it.   


    The next morning, the sun was bright, sparkling off the snow of the last few days. Big, fluffy clouds in the sky, nothing dark and foreboding. 


     “Momma,” I said as we sat with our coffee. “Let’s take Dad’s coat and some warm clothes, we are going to bring him home today.”  


    Her face lit up and she smiled. “You know, they are not going to let us take him out of there without raising a stink,” she said.  


    “Yep, probably. But, it’ll be okay.” I said, thinking, this is going to be a whole lotta fun! 

    When Mom and I arrived the parking lot had been cleared, the snow now heaped up around the edges and under the trees. The sun was warm and there was no wind to speak of, so it seemed quite spring like by comparison to the previous few days. I let Mom out at the entrance and parked the car while she went on to Dad’s room. We had a game plan of sorts. Mostly it was get in there, pack him up and walk out. We knew it would not be that easy but it was a place to start.  
    As I entered Dad’s room, Mom was cleaning out his dresser and closet, his things neatly folded into his suitcase, his coat draped over the end of the bed.  Dad was not in the room so we assumed he was still in his therapy session. Fine, there was less chance of someone coming in the room if Dad was not in there.

      We had all of his things ready to go when Dad was brought back in. The orderly was going to put Dad in his bed, but Dad immediately caught on to our game and told him “No, Thank you,”  and to basically get lost. The orderly buzzed right back out, to tell on us. Within a minute there was a woman at the door, telling us we could not take Dad home without him being signed out by the doctor. I asked when will the doctor come and she said she would find out. I gave her the name of Dad’s doctor and that we would be taking him there right after we left the building, so we were leaving. She asked to see Mom in the office. Mom said she was not going without me. The woman was not happy about that but she had no choice.

  
    The woman asked Mom why she was taking Dad out before he was released. Mom told her because Dad wanted to go home, that none of us felt like he was getting the care he deserved and that we all felt he would be better off at home. Mom told her about no one knowing how to change Dad’s ostomy bag. I told her about no one looking after Mom and about how Dad was basically a prisoner with no rights, tied to his bed and spoken to like he was a child. They were not able to keep track of his medication, Mom had been doing that.  There can be legal repercussions, the woman told us. Let my Mom sign what she needs to sign so we can go, I told her. I am going back to the room so Dad does not think we forgot him. 
    The house rules said Dad had to go out in a wheelchair, so I brought the car to the door and Mom had him waiting there, ready to go. He was already smiling, and he laughed when I asked him if he wanted to drive. Suitcase in the trunk, Momma and Daddy in the back seat holding hands, we drove away.  
     We arrived a few minutes later at Dad’s doctor and walked in. It was mid day but they took him in and with questions all around he was pronounced healthy enough to go home. His doctor had not heard anything from the care center, he did not know Dad was there, only that he had been released from Miami Valley Hospital over two weeks ago. He took me by the elbow to stop me as Mom and Dad left the room.  


     “How long are you staying?” 

    “A couple of weeks, at least, but as long as they want or need me to stay.” 


     “Good. Your Dad is a stubborn man. You know, I just last year got him talked him out of cleaning out the gutters on the house by himself,” he told me and I laughed.  


    “My brother called and was angry, he said to leave Dad in the care home, that he was exactly where he needed to be.  Dad wants to be at home. I didn’t see any reason for him to stay and be scared and miserable.”

 
    “Your Dad needs to be at home, and he is fine. He is old, nothing more.” 


     “Thank you.” 

    We made one other stop for something Mom needed at the drug store and went home to Big Woods Trail. We pulled in the garage and Dad got out first to open the car door for Mom, then we went in the house through the pantry door.       

      As I carried in the suitcase and Mom took our coats to hang up,  Dad stood in the dining room and stretched his back, then he went to the sliding door and opened the curtains so he could see outside into the back yard. Back in the kitchen, he put on a pot of coffee and headed up the stairs to The Library. Mom right behind him on the stairs as if she could catch him if he fell.  
    It was home made beef-vegetable soup and biscuits for supper that night. As Mom and I stood in the kitchen cutting vegetables and mixing dough I looked at Dad in the family room in his blue recliner. His head was back and he was fast asleep, the local paper in his lap. In my childhood days, his pipe would have been resting in the big glass ashtray on the side table, the smell of borhkum riff in the air.  I touched my elbow to Mom’s side and she looked up.  
              He’s right where he needs to be, Mom.  

© Nancy Elliott Music and Sonoran Desert Sage Publishing 2017 ASCAP

                

Waiting On Sunset 

    West of a two lane just prior to and below the freeway entrance lay a run of old, concrete  acequias. They are dry on this section of land, now decades long fallow. Full of dirt and tumbleweeds, they are just beginning to crumble. The gate is missing from the north to south run; the gate at the elbow for the westerly leg is jammed shut by a couple of feet of dried mud and rocks left there by wind and monsoon rain. A mesquite of some good height has taken up residence in the canal about half way down the section. I am waiting for sunset here. 
    Semis whoosh by above me like a startled covey of quail, their noise fading quickly away as they fly to the west. I don’t wonder where they go, what they are hauling and why. Today, I don’t wonder where the cars are headed, or what the passengers inside are like. I am only waiting for sunset. 
    I love to walk and do so often, daily whenever possible. Taking a walk has been a habit of mine since childhood. To not go walking in the rain, snow or wind, or if the day was too hot never crossed my mine then. In my older years now. I tend to avoid a heavy of breeze, rain and freezing temperatures. But, there are those times when the bad old world needs to go away for a while and, regardless of wind or cold, I take a walk. Often, I find my self waiting for sunset. 
    The only trouble I have with taking a walk, is having to turn around and go back. Years have taught me that making a long circle is the best route to get home without having to retrace my path. Taking care to have the long side of the circle on my right or left, and with good timing, I can walk home waiting for sunset. 
    There is a refresh in the sunset. It is not a good habit to miss very many sunsets. A day is put to bed, tucked in behind the mountains, or trees or the sea with a poem, a lullaby, maybe a recitation of the happenings of note, or thankful whispers that nothing of note happened at all. When I go walking early, I am on the front porch, or at the window, waiting for sunset. 
    It is such a simple thing, a good habit to curate and be faithful to. When I have forgotten in the rush of the day, I am reminded of my earthly purpose while waiting for sunset. 
  

(C) 2022 Sonoran Desert Sage Publishing and Nancy Elliott Music ASCAP