Friday, September 26, 2014

Pole Canyon

Last Sunday afternoon I took the opportunity to go on a short hike, starting my trek west of Monticello on the northeastern flank of what locals call Blue Mountain. The day was a bit wet for such an outing, but it was not cold and I felt good about going out. As we all know, moist air improves engine performance and the additional moisture felt good in my lungs. Because of the heavier than normal rainfall earlier in the day, the exposed areas of the mountain looked darker and richer in color. The green leaves of the oak brush seemed more vibrant, as did the gold foliage of the quaking aspen. The mountain peaks were shrouded in masses of rolling gray and black clouds, and thunder rolled about the crags above the tree line. The return of precipitation seemed assured, but the slopes were inviting and the warm weather made the possibility of a successful hike more inviting than dangerous. Since I was wearing but a light sweatshirt, I grabbed an oversized trash bag and a cigarette lighter from my pick-up truck, just in case I needed a shelter and heat. At any rate, I would not be going far and a rain shower would feel invigorating.

Skirting the edge of the mountain, I discovered a fairly wide watercourse with a lazy trickle moving slowly down the rocky channel. I could tell that not long ago there had been heavy runoff. I was drawn by the music of the stream, so I moved uphill and followed it into the thicker timber. My memory of the Google Earth maps associated with this area caused me to believe that if I maintained my present heading I would soon intersect an unpaved road. I did not. My memory was assuredly faulty. I was, however, so entranced by the natural peace and quiet of the place that I continued upward. I knew where I was in the larger scheme of things, because when I came to a small clearing I could see Monticello five or six miles below. When I came to a large valve cover I was a bit confused, because I knew there were such things in Pole Canyon but, thought I should be south of there. This was my first visit to the narrow valley, so I was unfamiliar with the road or trail situation further up the mountain. As I climbed higher, I realized I was traveling in a slightly southwesterly direction.

Looking around, I listened to the sounds of birds chirping, squirrels barking and the creak of trees in the wind. I was seeing deer at every turn, and recognized the footprints of a fox and a weasel on the muddy banks of the stream. I breathed in the sweet, fragrant aroma of the forest and felt it was far too early to leave this place. I trekked upward and discovered a head gate, which was more proof of where I trod. This must be Pole Canyon, one of the main watersheds for Monticello. If I remembered correctly there would be an age-old trail connecting the Gold Queen mine, situated between South Peak and Abajo Peak, which wandered across the top of this canyon and made its way into town. I soon came to a large clearing edged by ponderosa pine and white trunked quaking aspen leaved in bright yellow crowns. The mostly perpendicular park was carpeted in long stalks of grass with green shafts crested by golden heads that ebbed and flowed like tides in the breeze. I stopped to take in the clean, clear beauty of the place. Walking to a perfectly formed blue spruce, I drew in its perfume and knew I was getting closer to heaven. It is no wonder early Native cultures considered mountains sacred dwelling places of the Holy People.
Navajo Paiute Water Star Basket - Fannie King (#87)

A misty rain passed through, cooling me after the exertion of my upward ascent. I looked to the peaks. Drawn by their towering beauty, I wanted to finish my climb, to search-out the trail and follow it back to my point of origin. Just then lightning flashed and thunder rolled. The storm up there at the peaks was building fast and this boy’s mama didn't raise no fool. Being struck by lightning was nothing to brag about. I turned on my heel and hoofed it back the way I had come. As I traveled, I scanned the northern border of the creek because I thought there should be a trail running south from the base of the dilapidated ski slope. If my assumption was correct I would discover an old water pipe that would lead me home. A short time later I found it and turned north. Soon thereafter I came upon a garden-like metal gate with a sign on the opposite side that read, "Private property, no motorized vehicles beyond this point.” Another round of thunder and lightning sent me scampering once more.

Before long I came to a large, metal trough overflowing with water and coated in dark green algae. Standing there briefly, I congratulated myself on my Jedidiah Smith-like path finding qualities. I would have to explore the upper portion of Pole Canyon on a later date. I climbed up to the nearby rocky road and traveled down it until I discovered another less traveled dirt track pointed in the direction I needed to go, so I took it. The path led me to within a hundred yards of my Toyota. It was now 4:45 p.m. and Grandma Washburn, along with her feisty daughter Laurie, would serve dinner promptly at 5:00. It would be a HeeHaw, "Grandpa what's for dinner?" spectacular. There was promise of fire grilled shush-kabobs of beef and chicken interspersed with garden grown mini bell peppers and white onions, along with a vegetable medley, garden fresh red potatoes and wheat rolls with homemade jam. This would be followed-up with handcrafted peach pie topped with whipped cream for dessert. Boy howdy! It was most definitely time to beat a path to that front door.

With warm regards Barry Simpson and the team;
Steve, Priscilla, and Danny.

Friday, September 12, 2014

Leave the rabbit be!

It was late in the day at Twin Rocks Trading Post, after 5:00 p.m., and the evening was coming on lovely. One of those infamous mid-August thunderstorms had just passed through town and left our high desert landscape looking rubbed and scrubbed of its, generally, dust laden mantle. The air was fresh and golden; sunlight filtering through scattered clouds left us feeling good about our recently weathered condition. The light breeze blustering about the wide-open Kokopelli doors smelled and felt as if there might be a seasonal change in the air. Could fall be near at hand? Not for a while now would be my guess. Surely Mother Nature was just teasing us with her tempestuous tendencies.

Just then a bright and bouncy British couple who appeared to be in their late thirties to early forties, bopped into the shop. The woman was tall, close to six feet, she wore her sandy colored hair short. On her perky nose rested large framed glasses, which highlighted her big brown smiling eyes. She was dressed for summer in a sleeveless, boxy, polyester blouse with a flashy flower print. The lady also wore Khaki shorts and brown sandals. The man, who was dressed for hot weather, was a good 3" shorter than his wife. He too wore his light brown hair cropped, had hazel eyes and gold-rimmed glasses. His Hawaiian looking shirt was colored in muted tones of brown and cream. Tan Khaki shorts and brown sandals completed his attire. To my surprise, tucked under his left arm, he embraced a raggedy purple, stuffed rabbit.
Navajo Turquoise Bead Rabbit Carving - Ray Lansing (#212)

The Brits were light hearted and funny, easily displaying the dry wit our friends across the pond are famous for. Noticing the lagomorph, Priscilla eyed me cautiously, knowing from past experience I was likely to make a saucy remark concerning this guy packing around a rascally rabbit. Noting her concern, I held my tongue and waited for a child to join the couple, which would explain the hapless hopper. After twenty minutes of banter and no youngster appearing, I about made a comedic comment concerning a grown man and his comfort toy, but my timing was off however, and I missed my chance when Laurie telephoned to ask if I would be on time for dinner. At that moment, the couple slipped out and disappeared into the brilliant evening light. Priscilla laughed merrily at my missed opportunity; relieved I had failed to poke fun at, what seemed, a rather obvious security blanket.

To my delight, the couple returned the following morning. A turquoise pendent they saw the previous day bothered the lady in her dreams and they had returned to retrieve it. Joy upon joy, there, tucked securely under the man's arm, was the object of my obsession. As I spoke with the couple, and fought to restrain myself, my sarcastic mind refocused on less than appropriate commentary relating to that well-worn rabbit. Just as I opened my mouth to spout, a tall, thin boy of approximately fifteen years walked into the store. The youth was followed closely by a girl of ten or twelve and another child no bigger than a biscuit. The tiniest child approached the man, kissed the well-secured bunny on the head, patted her "Pappi" on the arm and went to lean lovingly on her "Mumsi."

My miscreant commentary dissipated like a mirage on the desert and Priscilla gave me a "Man are you lucky you didn't mouth off" look. As the couple completed their purchase the man remarked, "You won." "Won what?” I queried, puzzled at the comment. He explained that he and his wife noticed my reaction when I initially spotted the rabbit and could see that I was struggling not to offer-up a wisecrack. They realized that I did not see their children, whom Buffy the Wonder Dog was entertaining on the porch of the Twin Rocks Cafe. When the couple left last night they had a good laugh at my internal struggle. When they decided to return for the pendant, they felt confident I would loose my emotional battle and come across with a sarcastic remark. "You won because you held your tongue," they acknowledged.

The couple congratulated me on my restraint, and recommended I work on my poker face. Actually the woman said, "What you were thinking was written all over your ruddy mug." That must often be the case because Laurie tells me the same thing all the time. Just before the family left I asked, "So do I get the rabbit as my booby prize?" "Well,” the man said, "you'll  have to take on little Penelope to get it and I wouldn't recommend you try." Looking into that sweet child's hazel eyes made me think of my own wee bairns. Our three children are mostly raised and working hard on becoming independent. We are, however, still deeply committed to them and their well-being. Because this Brit would carry a mangled rabbit around for his small daughter, without considering how his manliness might be questioned, showed me that he too was devoted to his family. "Enough said," I replied, "I wouldn't want to make a little girl cry." "You better not?" Priscilla warned, "leave the rabbit be!"

With warm regards from Barry Simpson and the team;
Steve, Priscilla and Danny.

Friday, September 5, 2014

Old ‘59

Most Sunday mornings I am the designated manager at Twin Rocks Cafe. That is my reward for not attending church on a regular basis. While the cooks prepare breakfast, frying bacon, steaming oatmeal and baking biscuits, I sometimes stand at the south-facing picture windows, waiting for the sun to crest the eastern horizon. When it ultimately does, the sandstone cliffs embracing our small community glow with a stunning pink-coral radiance. It’s enough to take your breath away.

Promptly at 7 a.m., we illuminate the open signs and begin welcoming hungry travelers. Last week as I stood admiring the natural light, a late model pickup turned into the gravel parking lot. Hitched to the truck was a gooseneck trailer loaded with a vintage Ford F-250. The transport came to a stop and a couple in their early 30s hopped out and headed my direction. I could tell by the way they hurried along they were in desperate need of coffee, so I alerted the servers.
Old '59

Once the pair had settled into a booth and placed their order, I asked about the classic car. “It’s hers “, the young man said, pointing to his wife. Pleased I had taken an interest in her truck, she said, “It’s a 1959; has some scratches and dents, a bit of rust; body looks good from afar; not so great up close; not bad for an old one.”

Feeling unexpectedly self-conscious, I surprised myself by declaring, “I’m a 1959.” “Oh, that’s interesting”, the woman said, wholly unaware she had exposed a nerve. For some reason, I could not help thinking that in describing the old ‘59 she had illuminated my own shortcomings; more than a few scrapes and scars, not bad from a distance, but don’t look too closely. All of the sudden I felt a strong affinity for the truck.

Considering the current state of affairs; scratches, dents, worn joints, wiring not working so well, leaky valves and noxious exhaust, I was initially uneasy. Then I began to envision the adventures that old truck might have had in its prime. I thought of it tooling down a country road, feeling the excitement of new power and straining to find its limits, everything working at maximum efficiency. Over the sound of wind rushing through open windows, I could hear Elvis crooning Big Hunk O’ Love and My Wish Come True on the AM radio.

I conceived of projects started and completed; loads of building materials hammered into a beautiful home, rocks for landscaping and bags of leaves raked from lush green lawns as winter approached. I could see children piling into the cab, on their way to camping trips, birthday parties, school events and athletic contests.

The miles sped past, eventually delivering me to the present. There we were, the old truck and me, with all our warts and bumps, monuments to five and a half decades of experience, rooted in the past, but looking ahead. It was then I noticed the young man’s ball cap. “Life is Good,” it proclaimed. “No, life is great,” I thought as the couple finished there breakfast and left to continue their journey.

With warm regards from Steve Simpson and the team;
Barry, Priscilla and Danny.