Different Dances

Dancing is an activity enjoyed around the world. And for the dances of the world, diversity is a descriptor that springs to mind. The word “diversity” is a noun that denotes or means the state of being diverse; variety.” The connotation for that word these days, especially in the press, is narrowly limited to trigger points of ethnicity, gender, race, political and sexual preferences. But the broader connotation of “variety” is much more helpful.

When I think about diversity, friends and family come to mind. In my immediate family, there are physical characteristics that mark us as being kin, yet the talents, interests and outlooks represented are much broader. And although my extended family and friends include racial and ethnic diversity, the differences that bind us together go way beyond that.

JTK-4Take a look at this photo of 1st graders at a Fall school festival and think of the amazing range of talents, sizes, skills, experiences and families represented in the group. The kids in the class were circled, singing and cheering in their face-paint and flower garlands. There were high voices and low voices, some with obvious musical talent and others who seemed to be tone-deaf or, at least, equipped with ears untrained to distinguish various pitches.  Some exuberant, others shy and tentative. Some were clearly leaders who will likely mature into leadership positions in life. Others will become artists, mathematicians or scientists, business leaders, teachers, engineers, etc.

Narrow the group to two individuals with very different personalities who, nonetheless, are very close friends. Who knows what they may someday be and do? JTK-6Both of equal human value, both with definite inclinations and abilities that already show, yet both accepting and ENJOYING each other. That’s how friendship works.

Break it down to an individual level, and one may begin to see the potentials represented in each small human. Or do we really only see the tip of an iceberg that gives small hints of reality yet to be? There’s much yet to be discovered about individual personalities, talents, interests and development.

JTK-7Diversity is a wonderful — and wondrous  — consideration that goes way beyond the dumbed-down concentration on the physical traits of gender and skin color. We cannot begin to fathom the range of differences that each child or person brings to the table until we get beyond the surface and spend lots of quality time in interaction with, and appreciation of, each person’s unique gifts, qualities, thought patterns, physical and mental skills, emotional makeup, and preferences in an infinite number of realms and qualities. How do they see their way to meaning in life? What do they like to do most? Least? What do they like? Aspirations? The list goes on and on.  JTK-8

I think about so many amazing people I’ve met in life — children, school friends, neighbors, colleagues at work, artists and musicians, politicians, clients, students, professors and teachers, and family members — with such a huge array of differences, yet all enjoying and, more importantly, CONTRIBUTING to make life and the world a better place to live.

Here’s to my friends and family who make my world a better place each day; who challenge me to change for the better, to be a better friend and family member, to offer what I can offer to the world without hesitation, knowing that I am enhanced by the sharpening effect of those around me. THANK YOU!

Carpe diem. Vita brevis!

© September 25, 2017, by Michael E. Stubblefield. All rights reserved.

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Leaning

So much to say
Why shouldn’t I say it?
Things need to be said
Why not leave them alone?
Things sure need doing
But I don’t want, can’t do them
That thing should be done
Why not go it alone?
Have skills to do it
But never enough, see?
By gosh, I’ll not do it
But who, if not me?
Fact is, I’m some nice
‘Cept when I’m selfish
And I could sacrifice
‘Til it feels self-defeatish
So where now, what’s up?
What if I leave it alone?
If I avoid the pain
And skedaddle on home?
© July 18, 2017, by Michael E. Stubblefield. All rights reserved.

A Steadying Hand

“His mind had no horizons. He was interested in everything.” ~ John Steinbeck, About Ed Ricketts

In response to my expressed hope of remaining healthy for years to come, a friend remarked, “And relevant!” He’s about my age, and we share both desires. Conversation followed among a group of longtime friends whose company we particularly enjoy, not only for the joie de vivre that accompanies, but also the far-ranging topics, by turns dead-serious and lighthearted, sometimes simultaneously and always at length.

I was immediately transported in mind to another of John Steinbeck’s eloquent descriptions of his good friend, Ed Ricketts, marine biologist. He put it like this:

“Although his creativeness lay in receiving, that does not mean that he kept things as property. When you had something from him, it was not something that was his that he tore away from himself. When you had a thought from him or a piece of music or twenty dollars or a steak dinner, it was not his – it was yours already, and his was only the head and hand that steadied it in position toward you. For this reason no one was ever cut off from him. Association with him was deep participation with him, never competition. hdbd-1

“I wish we could all be so. If we could learn even a little to like ourselves, maybe our cruelties and angers might melt away. Maybe we would not have to hurt one another just to keep our ego-chins above water.

“There it is. That’s all I can set down about Ed Ricketts. …”

Marine biologist Ed Flanders Robb Ricketts the man, as known by John Steinbeck. My sense is that “relevant” applied to Ricketts’ life.

From About Ed Ricketts by John Steinbeck, apparently published in the early 1950s as a bio-preface to The Log from the Sea of Cortez.

efrw-humboldt-squid
Ricketts holding a Humboldt Squid

   See also http://www.carmelmagazine.com/archive/13wi/ricketts.shtml

Carpe diem. Vita brevis!

© January 19, 2017, by Michael E. Stubblefield. All rights to my original work reserved.

Can We Talk?…

I am reflecting yet again on the kindness that all of you, my friends, show day to day in your comments on my Facebook posts. Your support, encouragement, your patience and even your challenges sharpen my thinking and attitudes. How could anyone ask more of friendship?

“Social media can be criticized …, but … it enhances freedom and democracy. It puts the 4th Estate* in the hands of the people.”

As I look back over the last year and forward into the full length of this new one, I am struck by what one of my friends, West Doss, articulated so well a few days back. He said, “Social media can be criticized in certain areas, but there is no doubt that it enhances freedom and democracy. It puts the 4th Estate* in the hands of the people.” Great point, as I will show in the next few, short paragraphs. talk-5

2016 was full of surprises and changes some of us could not have imagined before now. The mainstream press was outed as purveyors of “fake news,” half-baked truths and outright lies in their efforts to influence the 2016 election. Many things that should have been reported to the public were not, many things that were relatively un-newsworthy were reported and discussed ad nauseum. But I digress – back to the Internet.

The worldwide web, including social media, is an important channel for all sorts of stories to be ferreted out and reported informally. Even if they’re misreported or fabricated (both inevitable, given the wide range of freedom), the fact that tons of stories and commentary get out means that newsworthy stories will be researched by diligent folks, “commoners” if you will, who will ultimately suss out the truth. By this route, everyone is free to find out the truth without the spin, and without dependency upon a corrupted press. So as West said, we individually become owners of the Fourth Estate.

***

Now turn the corner with me. Today’s January 17, and three respected friends, all of whom I appreciate, have challenged me in one way or other to “move on” from presidential politics because the election is over. Meanwhile, last week I posted short snippets on the about-to-expire presidency of Obama, including concurrent comments on his Chicago farewell speech. One friend characterized my comments as “full of hate” because I took Obama’s remarks to task with facts. I am “hateful” because I question bald assertions made on national TV with facts?!  Is there nothing — not anything — to be learned  from a close-hand review of a presidency about to end?

Another friend said this in response to my post of the Harvard University chart-analysis of Barack Obama’s “economic recovery”:  “It is time to stop looking through a pinhole. We need to swing the door wide open, look farther back and at the same time farther into the future.” Exactly what does that mean — “farther back and farther into the future” — that he’s frustrated because his candidate lost? Looking through a pinhole?  Arguably, that’s all it would take to see the whole of Barack Obama’s positive achievements in the White House, but why should we stop talking about the lessons of his eight years?

We seem these days to have lost the ability, the clarity of mind, to argue politics outside of emotions — i.e., feelings are all that matter. But why are feelings so important, so relevant, when we ignore facts? How is it possible that how one feels becomes more important than actual facts? So one’s feelings about his political party of choice having lost a national election becomes a reason to shut down discussion of an outgoing president’s record in office.

Interestingly, historians and writers still study the working histories of the Founding Fathers, Abraham Lincoln, Teddy Roosevelt, FDR, Calvin Coolidge, Harry Truman et al. Take the writings of Amity Shlaes, a Yale scholar and contemporary author of four non-fiction books, three of which have been New York Times Bestsellers. Of the three, one was about the Great Depression and the New Deal, one about the history of taxes in America, and the third (publ. 2013) was about President Calvin Coolidge.

Talk about “pinholes!”  What could be more boring and out-of-date than looking anew at the presidency of Calvin Coolidge (August 2, 1923 – March 4, 1929)?  Unless, of course, one wants actually to learn something about the man who, upon the death of Warren G. Harding, succeeded to the presidency and restored confidence to the office. Hmmm. talk-6

In summary, each of us has different gifts, talents, points of view, interests, political and social values – and even our own share of biases. Why do I personally write about politics? Why do I post opinions and information gleaned from a variety of sources? Why can’t I “just be a positive good ol’ boy” and stick to posting humor, photographs and what I’m eating tonight?

BECAUSE … I have a vital interest in our nation, our politics, our culture, our future. I like to share, to DISCUSS facts, to hear feedback from varying viewpoints. I love to consider the views of others, but I also appreciate and enjoy the right of all of us to see things differently, to approach matters from a different angle, to engage and chew on the stuff offered by others before reaching conclusions. I urge us as a nation to return toward that model.

That’s the way the cookie crumbles in a free land. Long live that freedom!

Carpe diem. Vita brevis!

© January 17, 2017, by Michael E. Stubblefield. All rights to my original work reserved.

*  The Fourth Estate (or fourth power) most commonly refers to the news media, especially print journalism or “the press.” ~ Wikipedia and Merriam-Webster Dictionary

Wanna Play?

“Three and your toll!  Three and your toll!” said the crier. A nearby competitor offered only two.

marbles_akro-agates-1920-1951
Akro agates, mfd. 1920-1951

“Quick decision, assess carefully,” said your mind. “Lookit how small and shallow the hole is, its slanted sides, number of trenches protecting its perimeter, and how far back the lagging line is.” Skill and derring-do matter, but no more than luck. “Can I do it? Am I good enough? Do I have enough marbles to risk? Can I win more easily at the hole with less reward?”

Ah, the fast-paced child’s game of “lagging” with marbles, and always the go-to at recess. Quick game, quickest way to build up a marble collection – or deplete it. A pretty simple game that nonetheless required some skill and confidence. One enterprising boy would dig a small, cup-sized hole and then offer rewards to those who pitted their skill against his construction. If your marble – your “toll” – tossed from a specific line some paces away (typically 5-10 feet away), rolled into and stayed in the hole, you’d win what he offered – three marbles plus your toll back. He kept everything that missed. So if it took you 15 marbles to find your range, then you needed to hit the jackpot, so to speak, five times in order to break even.  Gambling?

Refinements to the lagging hole included making it smaller — or larger and much shallower — with gentle sides, cutting little trenches in front and alongside the hole as barriers, and trash-talking the participant about his lack of skill.

Girls weren’t prohibited, but I don’t remember any in our elementary school or neighborhood ever playing. Knew better than to sully themselves with rowdy boys’ silly games? You decide.

“Marbles,” the generic category. Ringers, chase, lagging – some of the games; steelies (shiny ball bearings), cateyes, agates and log rollers (over-sized marbles), the tools of art.

marbles-cateyes
Cateyes of the ’50s

Hours and hours spent on knees, wearing holes in our jeans and eventually sporting sewn-on (early days) and then iron-on patches (modern contrivances) over those holes to extend the life of the jeans. And ALWAYS a well-worn bare spot in the front yard of at least one boy’s house in the neighborhood, evidence of serious addiction.

Grimy, earth-stained knuckles on the back of the shooting hand and bulging jeans pockets were also clues of advanced involvement. We’d show up with front pockets loaded with marbles at school (or church, if parents were permissive — or unaware), ready to play before, at recess and lunch, and after. Dare not let them escape your pocket during class or church, though!  In the days of wooden floors in sanctuaries and classrooms, official confiscation was immediate and sure, along with corporal punishment and a note home — guaranteed.

Players’ rules were atop the pecking order in all marble games, though they varied from yard to yard, neighborhood to neighborhood, school to school, even day-to-day, and were based on the players’ skills and previous experience, plus their acquired knowledge of the other players’ reputations. So agreeing on “the rules” usually involved lots of haggling and protests of “not fair,” but if you wanted to play the game, you had to go by the rules, SOMEONE’S rules. If you didn’t like those rules, better use your powers of persuasion to enlist enough guys to start a new game with the critical mass necessary for fun. Not unlike the “game” of business and life in general, come to find out.

Common rules included “liners are inners” (or “outers,” alternatively), “no steelies allowed” and “no slippies!” So many times, a boy would poise to shoot, only to have the marble slip and trickle out without any force. If you hadn’t called “no slippies” before the game, then he’d yell “slippies!” and would get another chance at the shot.

Playing “chase” was a way for two or more kids to have fun with marbles. Just shoot your marble off the line and then pursue the other players’ marbles through the grass and dirt. If you were good enough or lucky enough to hit someone else’s marble with your shot, it was “captured’ and you were its new owner.

marbles_concentration_rocco-morabito
Morabito, Rocco. Concentration, a young boy playing marbles – Jacksonville, Florida, 1961. State Archives of Florida, Florida Memory.

Transportation of one’s marble stash was an issue to be reckoned with. With jeans pockets maxed out, the serious marble player found a sack or bag of some sort to tote his treasure. I remember graduating to a canvas bank bag, olive-drab in color, that had a drawstring top, courtesy of First National Bank of Fort Smith. My initials were scrawled by my hand in ink on the top. Large enough to hold about a quart in volume, the bag was originally made to carry coins from business to bank. But ideal, in a kid’s marble world, for toting the rewards of play.

“Ringers” was the game of choice in my circle of friends. We started by scratching out a large circle in the dirt with a stick.  Then each boy would have to drop in the agreed ante in marbles all at once, letting them fall where they would. If they stayed in the circle, they were fair game, but if they fell outside the circle, you had to re-drop them inside. When all players anteed up, the shooting began based upon a predetermined order reached by a separate competition like lagging to see who got closest to another line scratched in the dirt, or odd-manning by drawing straws, flipping a coin, or rock-paper-scissors.

The object: by firing his shooting marble, fixed between thumb and forefinger, from anywhere along the outside of the ring, the player attempted to knock all the marbles out of the ring, one at a time. No “fudging” was allowed –no sneaking your hand slightly into the circle to gain an unfair advantage – and if you fudged, you lost your turn. As long as you knocked a marble out, you got to keep shooting until you missed. And if your shooting marble stuck inside the ring when you knocked another out, you gained the advantage of being closer to your target. We all hoped to “stick,” and certain marbles were believed to have greater stick-ability. If you had a “sticker” and the skill to use it well, you could fill up your marble sack pretty quickly. Your sticker became your “doogie” (not the same definition as the modern Urban Dictionary). Hence, we sometimes invited play by saying, “Hey, wanna shoot some doogies?”

If you missed your shot, the next person in order would shoot, and so on until all the marbles were knocked out of the ring. Any marbles you knocked out became yours, so the object was to “go for all the marbles.”

marbles_by-star1950-on-flickr
Marbles by star1950 on Flickr

All sorts of shooting innovations were imagined and tried, always causing a proliferation of new rules designed to counter them in the next game. One such invention was to stack your shooting hand on top of your non-shooting hand elevated off the ground in spider fashion, in order to be able to shoot downward at a sharp angle with the hope of being more likely to stick in the ring. It didn’t take long for prohibitions like “no steelies” to preempt those who wanted to use shiny ball-bearings as shooters because of their extra heft and durability.

Other difficulties could be introduced through making larger rings (thus requiring harder, better shooting) and putting various trenches inside the circle to deflect shots. But if you created a circle like that, you usually weren’t going to have very many players for very long.

Child-play without electronics, … back in the good ol’ days. Get some kids in the great outdoors today, and they’ll still invent games to engage each other. Just sit back and watch the fun as they “go for all the marbles,” then consider a big reduction in screen time — yours and theirs. Just sayin’ …!

Carpe diem. Vita brevis!

© December 7, 2016, by Michael E. Stubblefield. All rights to my original work reserved.

If I Had a Ship

There’s always a reversionary dimension to our lives, isn’t there?  You surely know those times when fond memories or vivid nightmares come stumbling back from the deep recesses of heart and mind, sometimes called up by the slightest word or sight – things that maybe you haven’t thought about in decades, right?

Living lately on the Seattle shore, where I take daily rambles along the active waterfront, often under threatening banks of clouds, past marinas and fishing docks dense with working and pleasure watercraft of all sizes, descriptions, purposes and levels of maintenance, and the varying humans and dogs that populate them, I enjoy observing some of the endless detail that sets the boats and their masters and animals apart from each other. Small sailboats and large sailing yachts, catamarans, power yachts and commercial fishing rigs, runabouts, dinghies and dories, rowboats and kayaks. Paint colors, material textures, manners, languages, relationships to others around, big scruffy dogs and small, manicured and coifed lap dogs, all are part of the mix.

slbt-2
Last stop before heading out to sea.

Some of the details come and go quickly, while others stick and draw my thoughts again and again, even prompting re-visits for a second or third look. Reasons aren’t always immediate apparent to me.

bt-4

Take, for instance, this boat (larger one, and that’s her in the header photo). The yellow “for sale” sign caught my eye, but only secondarily. Her sleek lines and curves, her air of utter competence, those were the magnets. Up close, she looked fit for challenging seas, and I was so curiously taken by her that I contacted my seaman brother-in-law, a man with years of sailing experience and a professional captain’s license under his belt. Just to learn, mind you. Didn’t even have her make or model, just her photo and a guess that she’d be a 40-footer or so. Love at first sight!

He advised she’s a Wallace yacht, no longer in manufacture but one of the better makes out there, up near the top of the chart on price, too, depending on equipment and size/class. I dreamt, strains of a familiar old song from my teen years coming front and center, carried by The Kingston Trio, 1965, “Stay Awhile” album.

Stroll down by the sea

Take a stroll down by the bay

Sit and ponder the endless waves

If I had a ship, I’d sail away

(Chorus):

If I had a ship, I’d sail away

If I had a ship, I’d sail away

Leave my sorrows where they lay

If I had a ship, I’d sail away

Stroll down by the sea

Where the windsongs softly play

Lean my back on a driftwood tree

If I had a ship, I’d sail away

Stroll down by the sea

Stand beside her misty spray

Though I know ’twill never be

If I had a ship, I’d sail away

Songwriter: MASON WILLIAMS, one of my faves of the ‘60s and ‘70s; think “Classical Gas,” “Baroque-A-Nova,” “$13 Stella,” “Long Time Blues,” et al.

bts-3I’m afraid seagoing is not in my future, much as I enjoy dreaming about it. Past experience sailing on a large lake in a serious storm reminds that I don’t do well in rough seas. “If you can’t run with the big dogs, better stay on the porch.”

But if I had a ship ….

Carpe diem. Vita brevis!

© December 1, 2016, by Michael E. Stubblefield and StubblefieldImages. All rights reserved.

Arkansas Pastoral

The old gate is rusting in the rain. Children, comin’ home from school, no longer skim their pebbles on the old town creek that just around the bend becomes a pool.

The old house is creaking in the rain. Lovers, comin’ down the hill, no longer stop to linger by the old dead tree they took away for lumber to the mill.

The old world is dying in the rain. The summer, comin’ every year, no longer stops to wonder as it goes along its way, “Did anybody ever live here?”

And we’ve all grown older, come see where we have been, out here rusting in the rain.

~ The Kingston Trio, “Rusting in the Rain,” lyrics by Rod McKuen

I mostly like getting older. Less external pressures to “do the right thing” per another’s standard or be there at all costs because you’re expected. Rearing of family is past – grandchildren now move front-and-center to hawk their achievements and antics.

Downsides of aging are there, but some can be staved off by getting out of one’s own way, as it were. A healthy diet taken in moderation, regular and vigorous exercise, a challenged mind, interesting friends, reading and/or other endeavors. Append adequate sleep and generous blessings from the Creator to help extend the pleasures of life on earth.

Among the pleasures I enjoy are the moments when I can slip back in time – in my head and heart, in reality, or both – to replay or re-explore familiar scenes. Traveling Arkansas backroads; stepping into a languid mountain stream in summer to the insistent droning of cicadas while deftly placing a wet-fly tight against an overhanging shoreline in hopes of snagging a bluegill or smallmouth bass; watching the hot colors of summer wildflowers wave in the breeze like thousands of cheering hands at a ball game. Or seeing old buildings, barns or cellars or churches, and wondering what became of the young- folks-become-old-folks who built them, guarded them, laughed, conversed, studied, worshipped, slept and ate in them, then passed them on to the next generation.

ARpast (7)
Trumpet vines herald a new look in barns.
ARpast (8 of 8)-2
Butterfly weed w/foraging honeybees.

Last week offered me a brief window into those pleasures — this, a solo trip. After leaving Fayetteville, Arkansas, on a brutally hot afternoon besot with an ambient temperature of 98° F and a heat index of 107°, I took late-afternoon refuge just north of War Eagle Creek at Withrow Spring State Park, angling the RV into a nice shady spot where I did some pre-dinner prep, then after a lazy walk to the evening warbles of thrushes, robins and cardinals high in the lush oaks, I took a short snooze that ended up lasting all night.

ARpasto (16 of 8)
“Morning After” – hayfield at first light.

Spurred by pangs of hunger, I was up well before daylight the next morning. After eggs and the salmon steak I had prepped for last night’s unconsumed dinner, and with a cup of strong black coffee in hand, I quietly maneuvered over to Highway 21 and turned south, windows open to savor the fragrance of new-mown hay rife with sweet clover. Bales abounded in the meadows along the highway.

Saw “Sugar Booger’s Bar-B-Que and Cold Beer” place along Highway 21, but it was way too early for such goings-on.  ARpast (2 of 8)-2

Onward through Kingston to Boxley and the Buffalo National River for a short, leg-stretching hike, I spotted a plethora of old barns, Boxley Baptist church house and sights that reminded me of my well-spent summers as a hobbledehoy on an aunt & uncle’s farm or Grandmother’s place, wading creeks with my collapsible cane pole and a cage of crickets around my neck, intent on a stringer of bream, or working slowly along a dark pond bank with carbide lantern, a treble hook on a pole and a gunny sack, bound on snagging some croakers for a dinner of legs. My wonderful Uncle Allen Kinyon, now 91 and fighting valiantly with the end stages of life, taught me the skill, and I had the privilege of sharing the reminiscence with him last week. Another familiar scene was just sitting in the dense shade of Arkansas oaks along Lee’s Creek of a still, sweaty afternoon, avoiding the sun and listening to the incessant buzzing of flies, mosquitoes and cicadas while watching a water moccasin slowly troll the channel’s banks, looking for an unsuspecting meal. ARpasto (32 of 2)

As I neared the turn-off to Lost Valley, a young elk cow lazily raised her head from grazing in a field where I had spotted another old human structure I desired to shoot. Too bad she wasn’t a big bullARpasto (31 of 2) in bugling stance with a gi-mongous set of antlers, but “beggars shou’nt be choosers.”  Besides, the roadside colors of Butterfly Weed (Asclepias tuberosa), Cornflowers, Spanish Needle and Queen Anne’s Lace were their own reward. ARpast (7 of 8)-2

Doubling back through Kingston, I enjoyed a fun conversation with a yeoman about his fine old ’53 GMC 5-window Custom Cab pick-em-up while he was putting finishing touches on the roof of a new addition on the Kingston Community Library … Kingston, Madison County, Arkansas.  NewtCo (1 of 1)

Overhead, the sky darkened with noticeable speed as it had threatened all morning, and just as I got my last shots “in the can,” the heavens parted and I was in for a shower in a good ol’ Arkansas thunder-soaker. I had time, too — roadside — to reflect on a still-vivid set of conversations my older sister and I had with our aging uncles, both U.S. Navy veterans of World War II, a couple days earlier. Perfect ending to a perfectly delightful, unhurried tour of the road less traveled.

Enjoy my gallery below (be sure to click on each photo to see it full-size), then find your own time to get out there with open eyes and hearts!  I enjoyed our chat.

Carpe diem. Vita brevis!

© June 30, 2016, by Michael E. Stubblefield. All rights reserved.  

 

 

Up to the Bradshaws

Friday last, we left the Tonto National Forest of cacti – Saguaro, barrel, hedgehog and cholla varieties, mesquite, wildflowers and all those creatures that inhabit their cover – coyotes, owls, White-crowned Sparrows, Curve-billed Thrashers, Cactus Wrens, Gila Monsters, finches, lizards and a variety of rattlesnakes – and turned north on I-17 to join the urban escapees headed for the mountains. Traffic lines thinned as we blew through New River and Black Canyon City into Yavapai County, then started to build again like railroad trains as we jockeyed behind and past the 18-wheelers on the attack of the steep climb past Horse Thief Basin. Past the entrance to the Agua Fria National Monument, then onward toward Bumble Bee and Crown King!

Leveling off after the long climb from Phoenix (elev. 1,086’) toward Prescott (elev. 5,368’), we split from I-17 to SR-69 and rolled on through Spring Valley and toward Mayer, Dewey and Humboldt, crossing Big Bug Creek several times in a few miles as it snakes back and forth under the highway through the rocky draws. Love the colorful names of this region.

Sweat turned to pleasure in this northward migration of 95 miles with the always-dramatic lowering of outdoor temperature. Approaching the Agua Fria National Monument entrance, I turned off the RV’s A/C system and opened windows to a pleasant 67 degrees at noon, a full 18 degrees cooler than when we left Cave Creek less than an hour before. That’s a consistent benchmark difference between the two locations. While the Phoenix metro area sprawls out across a low desert valley, Prescott is nestled 4,200’ feet higher in the Bradshaw Mountains that provide four distinct seasons. That’s part of the reason we’re here. PresAZ-75

Surprised by long-time friends from Fort Smith, Keith and Jill Gibson, who had finished business activities in Phoenix and then made the drive northward close on our heels, we spent a delightful afternoon hour sipping cappuccinos and mochas at “Cuppers,” where with lively conversation we regaled a large patio of empty chairs in the balmy breeze  – always great to rendezvous with good friends and pick up right where we left off days, months or even years before! – then drove downtown for a quick strolling tour of Prescott’s public square, starting with the four historic Nob Hill Victorian homes that overlook the square and, in the distance, Thumb Butte (shown above).  The Goldwater, Lawler, Peter and Marks families were the homeowners of these houses (built 1893-99). All have been restored to varying extents, are listed in the National Register of Historic Places, and anchor a several-square-block expanded Victorian district of Prescott.

Our final stop on the walk was the lovely, historic Hassayampa Inn (ca. 1927), where we reminisced a bit more around an old telephone “central” switchboard in the lobby before the Gibsons’ departure. Such fun!

I love this mountain town with its beautifully restored old buildings that recall its earlier, sweatier and dustier western days as the Capital of Arizona Territory (1864-67), days of ranching, mining, merchandising and banking. Back when men were men, as they say. Captain_Buckey_O'Neill

One such Prescott man was William Owen “Buckey” O’Neill, a “sheriff, newspaper editor, miner, politician, Georgist, gambler and lawyer” whose memory –owing to my love of western history – usually captures my attention for at least several minutes every time I come here. He was a pivotal character in Prescott’s development. According to historical accounts, “Buckey” got his nickname from a tendency to “buck the tiger” (play contrary to the odds) at faro or other card games. But he was so much more than this brief space accommodates.

In his late 30s, O’Neill led almost 300 Arizona cowboys, miners, citizens and politicians on a trail ride to San Antonio, Texas, where they met Teddy Roosevelt and became Troop A, 1st U.S. Volunteer Cavalry (the Rough Riders) of Spanish-American War fame. At age 38, Captain O’Neill was killed in action on 1 July, 1898, in the Battle of San Juan Hill, Cuba and was cited for gallantry on his tomb in Arlington National Cemetery. In 1907, he and his hardy men of Troop A, 1st Cavalry were honored in the dedication of a beautiful and famous equestrian sculpture by Solon Borglum that stands on the lawn of the Yavapai County Courthouse Square in downtown Prescott (shown below in night view).

PresChristmas-7625
Night shot, Bucky O’Neill/Rough Riders memorial sculpture

On earlier visits here (starting five years ago), I’ve posted numerous photographs of the arts, old west culture and the Granite Dells that give the town its singular grace and attraction. Below is an abbreviated gallery including one bit of modern “cowboy” art. (Click on the individual photos for full-size viewing.) Enjoy!

Carpe diem. Vita brevis!

© March 2016, by Michael E. Stubblefield. All rights reserved.

Story Time?

Sometimes a simple walk is what’s needed. Stirs the blood, heats the brain to productive temperatures, invigorates the senses. Take today’s, for instance. Broke out the door earlier than expected, but not too early. Plan was to knock out my five clicks at a good clip, then get back home to dive into the day. You know exactly what I’m talking about … places to go, people to see, things to do.

My first three miles went better than “clock work,” ahead of schedule and feeling great. Every jogger and walker I met this morning seemed to have an extra spring in their step, faces radiating that distinct “we-love-the-Northwest-on-days-like-this” smile. The world couldn’t have been better.

As I moved along my phone ping’d with a message that our local library had a book ready for me to pick up, one I had reserved and charged to my account online. “Great!” I thought. “This is perfect.” By adding two extra blocks, I’d be there with no extra sweat, fetch the book and be on my way. Save fuel by not having to drive there later. But sometimes a simple walk can get …  complicated.

When I got to the library, there were lots of cars in the parking lot and moms were escorting little munchkins inside. Nothing unusual, because our public library is always chock full of people. And these kids were orderly — another indicator of a wonderful day. I followed right in the main door behind them and headed for the “ST Hold” shelf where my reserved book was waiting with my name on it. As I passed the service desk, I noted two other adults; a man walking three yards in front of me in an official uniform, likely a service employee, and an attendant at the desk to my right. About then I thought the day was continuing its perfection, since the hordes of kids seemed to have disappeared in the back somewhere.  And then ….

“Sir,” she says. JMPh-1

“She’s talking to the other guy,” my mind advised. “Keep going.” But the other guy did, too.

“Sir! … Sir! … SIR!!!!”

Having been a compliant child, I’m still somewhat of a compliant adult. Within reason. The voice had authority in it, so I turned to the woman who had apparently addressed me and said, “Yes?”

“Sir, are you going to Story Time?”

Amused at her question, I asked, “Story time?” I couldn’t see the capitals in her question and hadn’t the foggiest notion of her meaning. My thoughts were on power-walking, the day’s tasks and a library book, not events for munchkins. And then I thought, “Silver-haired, older man — and you ask if I’m going to story time? Am I in a nursing home?”

“Yes. Sir! Are YOU going to Story Time?!” She displayed ever more bombast, impatience.

“No ma’am. I’m just here to pick up my reserve book and leave.”

Maybe it was the southern “ma’am” thing, a lifelong habit instilled by other authority figures of long ago, that got her going? “You can’t do that, SIR, because the library isn’t. Open. Yet. So unless you’re here for Story Time you’ll have to leave!”  She pointed to the door with an emphatic arm stroke that would seriously hurt, were I in range.

I made another crucial error of judgment at this point — stupid me! “All I need to do,” I explained, “is pick up the book held for me — which I just got a text notice of — and leave. I checked it out online. May I do that quickly and be gone?”

“No sir, you may not! The library doesn’t open for another 20 minutes, so you’ll have to wait outside. That’s the RULE!” She was an excessively large woman, but now she inflated to enormous stature as she left her chair.

“Miss Rottenmeier?” I asked myself. But to the Ugly Attendant I said with a straight face and no ire, “Well, rules are certainly more important than people, for sure.”

“No sir, that’s not the point!” she said. Emphatically.

“What is the point?” I asked her, wondering, “Not have breakfast today? Not had your coffee yet? Fight with the hubby?”  I restrained myself.

“Well, if I let YOU do this, then EVERYONE will want to do it!”

“Ma’am, EVERYONE’S not here, only me. And I’m not going to tell anyone.”

“Sir, you have to leave now!”

Out the door I went in compliance, reflecting to myself, mumbling and grousing in my mind — under my breath — about taxes that finance libraries, silly “reasons” given and that are counter-intuitive, and automatons who are apparently not inclined toward productive thought. Why are the people at the bottom of an organization so often the ones who are most difficult to deal with — the gatekeepers who are self-appointed enforcers and who love to say “No”?

Recalling that the library doors had been literally wide open and I had not used force or nefarious means to get into the library, my mind argued with her through my shut mouth. “Never mind good CUSTOMER SERVICE.  Always better to make a customer wait until the exact time of opening than to just let the designed efficiency of the system function with the early bird and move him on out the door as a HAPPY CUSTOMER. Damn sure don’t wanna break any rules!”

See what I mean? It IS complicated. What about the RULES?!

Smile!  And have a great day!

© 2013 by Michael E. Stubblefield. All rights reserved.