October 31,2019
PIANO MAN

excerpt from

Ash Fork Madness©️

written by

Nana Cook and Charlotte Madison

copyright 2019 Nana Cook and Charlotte Madison

 

                           Piano Man

Just before January began I realized despite the fact that I was producing a musical — I did not know one musician in Arizona. I began asking around and eventually heard word of three extraordinary talents.
To maintain my anonymity, I told Shirley and Lorraine to ask each of the three musicians to provide an audition tape using one of the show’s songs. Within the week they had delivered the tapes to me.
At the first opportune moment, with the tapes in hand, I sneaked out of the office and headed for the old building. When I had listened to all three tapes my hopes were shattered.
As I was packing up the tapes it occurred to me that the school had a band, therefore it must have a bandmaster. If he was not a pianist, he must play something or be able to suggest someone suitable.
I arranged an appointment with the bandmaster through the school office. Close to the appointed time I was led to the music room and asked to wait. One side of the room was adorned with a bevy of brass, and with a rush of hope, I seated myself beside the piano.
Moments later the door opened and a young man with more courtesy than confidence joined me by the piano and shook my hand. I explained my project and my need, then inquired, “Do you play the piano?”
The young man answered, “Oh gosh, I’m no accompanist.” Then he asked, “Is that the music?”
I held my breath as I passed it to him. He stood over the piano and picked out a few unimpressive notes. Suddenly I recalled my mother once saying to me, “Being a fine accompanist is an art in itself.” And he had used the word accompanist!
I leaned forward and eagerly asked, “Do you play the piano — at all?” I need music. I don’t care whether you’re a skilled accompanist as long as you can play.”
My words gave him the encouragement to make a proper try. He pulled out the stool, sat down, secured the music and instantly Madness came to life as he rattled off a wonderful honky-tonk version of one of the songs. I had struck gold. I had my piano man.


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October 30,2019
'TWAS THE NIGHT BEFORE CHRISTMAS

                                            excerpt from
                                       Ash Fork Madness©️
                                              written by
                                Nana Cook and Charlotte Madison
                        copyright 2019 Nana Cook and Charlotte Madison

          ‘Twas the Night Before Christmas


It was a quiet Christmas Eve day when G.B. told me that eight feral dogs had come to hang out at the stone yard. All eight were stuck with porcupine quills. No one could catch them and no help could come until after Christmas.
Local dogs were repeatedly and frequently rushed off to the vet in Chino Valley or Flagstaff, suffering the agony of such punctures in the tender areas of their noses, eyes, tongues, and lips. I might not be able to catch and help the poor brutes but I could at least feed them.
I hurried over to Zetler’s market and bought out Kenny’s supply of beef liver, and then I spent Christmas Eve cooking it. Pound after pound went into the frying pan until I had eight platesful, enough to fill each of the dog’s bellies. When Christmas morning arrived I stacked the loaded plates on a tray and drove it to the stone yard.
I do not know what I expected, but the sight of those dear sweet bony dogs bolting in fear as I got out of the car was heartbreaking. I uncovered the plates of liver and when the pungent aroma drifted over to the dogs one by one their noses lifted and they hesitantly began to slink toward me, all the while growling and hostile toward the human..
The sight of their faces punctured unmercifully by the longest quills and more than ever I could have imagined or counted – about which I could do nothing – tore at my heart. I wondered, when help does come, will it lead them to the gas chamber?
The dogs would not line up and sedately wait while I served their individual “plates” so I stood there throwing diced meat toward them. With tears pouring down my cheeks and liver bits raining down, the eight dogs gorged, snarled and snapped while I longed to hold them close. I could only sob, “Merry Christmas my sweet sad and wounded little hearts.”


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October 29,2019
Y'ALL BRING HIS LEGS

excerpt from

Ash Fork Madness©️

written by

Nana Cook and Charlotte Madison

copyright 2019 Nana Cook and Charlotte Madison

 

                “Y’all Bring His Legs”

“Wake up G.B. — I heard a noise!”
We had fallen asleep in the living room on a bitterly cold Saturday evening while waiting for the television reception to resume. A snow storm had knocked out transmission from the satellite dish atop Bill Williams Mountain blacking out our three television channels.
“Huh . . . huh . . . what is it Charle?”
Before I could reply we heard a muffled sound coming from the street. A dog in distress?
Without a word G.B. slipped his feet into his house shoes and padded to the front door. He leaned out into the cold night air and scanned the snow covered road.
“Charle, y’all go get an ol’ blanket an’ spread it on the floor.” And out he went without hesitation.”
I concluded that an injured dog was coming into the house, so I quickly spread the blanket as instructed and braced myself for the worst.
“Charle, come out here!” G.B. called through the open door. “I’ll take his top, y’all bring his legs.”
“Is it dead? I inquired, wondering if the poor beast was cut in two.
“Dead Drunk!”
It was not a dog — it was a man, and he was lying in front of the house, half covered in snow, wearing only his shirt, trousers and boots.
“Pick up his feet an’ get to movin’ or y’all’ll freeze us all dead.
“Oh-h-h,” I muttered as I reluctantly grasped the unconscious man’s ankles. “If my kids could only see me now . . . .
We carried the man into the house and placed him on the blanket. As I stared at him he began to quiver and I thought he was waking up, so while G.B. wrapped the man in the blanket I ran to get a pillow.
“No Charle, he’s drunk! He don’t need no pillow. Bring me the newspaper, ‘cause he’ll probably throw up, an’ paper’ll save y’all cleanin’ the rug.”
That comment, combined with the boozy stench exuding from the man in the heat of the room, struck me with a wave of nausea and desperation.
“I’ll call Shirley! She’ll know what to do.”
“No.” G.B. barked, “Call the sheriff.”
“But they might take him to jail.” I argued.
“Charle I know what’s best. If y’all don’t want ‘im fer a houseguest — CALL THE SHERIFF!”
While I made the call, G.B. determined that the man on our floor was a railway track worker.
“Shall I call Shirley now?” I asked, thinking he needed medical attention.
“NO!”
Because the deputy had to drive fifty miles from Prescott in the snowstorm, for better than an hour we sat and stared at the smelly stranger lying in the middle of our living room floor. I secretly hoped the unfortunate soul would waken and leave before the deputy arrived, but instead he moaned and groaned and shivered and shook.
Distasteful as he was now, I knew he had once been a sweet little boy, and I found myself saying “Come on Honey, try to wake up. You need to go home.”
“God dammit Charle, like we ain’t got enough trouble. If he wakes up hearin’ ya’ll callin’ him Honey I’ll have to knock ‘im cold again!”
“If he was one of our kids you wouldn’t say that.” I protested.
“Our kids don’t lie drunk in the gutter half buried in snow! Use y’all’s head Charle!”
When the deputy finally arrived at the house G.B. ushered him in and over to the unconscious man. With great indifference the officer leaned to assess the man’s condition, and then he peeled back the blanket, reached around under the man’s clothes and pulled out a huge gun! In one swift move the deputy handcuffed our visitor, and then he and G.B sat down with mugs of hot coffee and talked. When the coffee was gone the deputy reluctantly rose to depart.
“You’ll have to carry him. He won’t wake up.” I contributed at last to the conversation, but the men totally ignored my comment.
The deputy leaned down to the man and roughly jerked him onto his feet and commanded, “OKAY— OKAY. LET’S GO!”
Something stirred in the man’s mind and he wakened, struggled and howled, as he was dragged from our house into the cold night.


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October 29,2019
THE SKELETIN

                                      excerpt from
                                 Ash Fork Madness©️
                                       written by
                        Nana Cook and Charlotte Madison
            copyright 2019 Nana Cook and Charlotte Madison

 

                   The Skeleton

Inside the old building, atop a seventeen foot high, century plant skeleton, my Park Avenue Pigeons alertly cocked their heads as they watched me work.
I had found the spent agave while G.B. and I had been hunting for a small piñon pine tree we could use as a Christmas tree. I decided we would use the skeleton instead. G.B. smirked in resignation at my peculiar idea and decided to let me discover for myself that its loftiness would exceed our living room’s height.
I began to feel uneasy about my plan when we loaded the Century Plant onto the pick-up. It reached from the tailgate to well beyond the front bumper, so by the time we crossed the tracks into town I had concluded that the skeleton was too tall for the house but too pretty to cut.
“Oh G.B., it’s never going to fit in the living room — but I need it in the old building!”
“You need it?” he queried.
“Yes!” I averred.
So in the enthusiastic spirit of the moment, G.B. carried my new find into the old building and leaned it against a wall.
“I’ll send Wayne over in the mornin’ to secure it.”
“Now, can we go get a tree?” I asked, happy for another outing.


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October 28,2019
THE EAVESDROPPER

excerpt from

Ash Fork Madness©️

written by

Nana Cook and Charlotte Madison

copyright 2019 Nana Cook and Charlotte Madison

 

                   The Eavesdropper

Having been raised to recognize eavesdropping as an ethically depraved act, I recall being astounded after leaving the White Elephant and joining G.B., in town, to sense and detect someone eavesdropping on the stone yard extension of our personal home phone. I knew what my family would think of that if they detected that odd sound, so I headed off in search of G.B.
“Honey,” I said, “know what?”
“No.” G.B. replied without looking up from a blue print.
“One of your employees is eavesdropping on this extension of our phone!” I said carefully, to not cast a shadow of blame on him. He looked up quizzically so I rambled on. “I’ve noticed that open sound before but today I heard someone breathing. Do you want to catch them or should I call Mountain Bell and lodge a complaint,” I suggested to emphasize the outrage.
“Ain’t no one doin’ it, it’s me.”
“What do you mean?” I asked with feigned ignorance, “You wouldn’t eavesdrop.” I spoke with words dripping with contempt for the act, which he flicked off as an insignificant concern.
“I’m only usin’ my own phone. Can’t a man use the phone he pays fer? Do y’all know how much I pay fer these phones in a year – y’all’s calls to Canada an’ Oklahoma?
I cast aside that remark as inconsequential.
As I strolled back home I recalled Cale, my mother, confided in me that country people used to eavesdrop on party lines for entertainment when phones were still a novelty. Then she added the fact that it was a safeguard for those people, living far from neighbours, “Many lives were saved and many emergencies dealt with by the help or knowledge of an eavesdropper. “Of course Darling, no one would do it nowadays.” Lesson heard – lesson learned.
So I realized G.B., as the son of a sharecropper would have had a party line for many years and could never understand my disgust with his habit. But as Cale had so often quoted, “To be forewarned is to be forearmed.”
Thereafter I replied to the opening of the line with “Hi G.B.” And he would happily join into my conversation monopolizing it for fifteen minutes. Then as he prepared to go back to his duties, he would say, “Charle are y’all gonna stay a-cacklin’ on that phone all day?” But as my father used to tell me in my teens, “Agree with everything I tell you and then do what you know is right.”
“I’ll hang up G.B.” I replied to placate him. So he hung up, and I did what I knew was right.


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October 27,2019
ONE WOMAN SHOW

                                  excerpt from
                             Ash Fork Madness©️
                                  written by
                      Nana Cook and Charlotte Madison
             copyright 2019 Nana Cook and Charlotte Madison

 

                ONE WOMAN SHOW   

During the autumn days of nineteen eighty-one, I continued to beg, borrow and steal every possible opportunity to work on Madness. The show was a well kept secret and even Shirley was still not privy to details of my progress.
On Thursdays, “painting day”, I was able to work on the show for the entire day except when I had to: run home at noon to make lunch, or welcome G.B. when he stopped by with the mail, or when he came by to tell me he was going to Williams or to the quarries or home for a snooze, or when he invited me to go . . . .
The rest of the week G.B. kept me running between the stone-yard office, his rentals’ office and the gas station. When I was working in the stoneyard and he was out on short errands I would take the opportunity to type the Madness script, or sketch sets and costume designs.
Thursdays when G.B. went to the quarries I headed for the old building. Once there, alone and uninhibited, I explored the script and became the cast of characters. I sang and danced lost in the familiar delight of the music and took deep exaggerated bows to my feathered audience perched atop the cove moulding.
Occasionally, when I misjudged G.B.’s estimated time of return and he caught me in mid pirouette, belting out a song, or having a many sided conversation with myself. He would stand and stare at me with a concerned, puzzled expression on his face, but expecting the unexplainable from me, he never questioned my fumbling, evasive, yet fairly true replies to his vain inquiries.
As Christmas neared I completed my advance preparations. The script, lyrics and choreography were ready, and the costume, set and prop designs were down on paper. My part of the show was a fait accompli — and G.B. didn’t have a clue.


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October 26,2019
GOOD NIGHT SWEETHEART

excerpt from

Ash Fork Madness©️

written by

Nana Cook and Charlotte Madison

copyright 2019 Nana Cook and Charlotte Madison

 

               GOOD NIGHT SWEETHEART

 

In the first forty-five years of my life I was never an employee, so I never became an early riser. 

My introduction to the day’s first light occurred during the months I spent camped alone in the desert, painting. My Old English sheep-dog London barked at the rising sun each morning and caused me to make an early start on my day. I retired with the setting sun, thereby enjoying a long sound sleep — particularly in winter.
A few months after we married G.B. dragged me from my camp-site, moved me into town and announced, “We go to bed after the news, at eleven. Don’t turn down the heat. I like m’ house warm when I get up. After a good night’s sleep we rise at five o’clock an’ eat breakfast at five twenty. I’ll have a little snooze on m’ sofa while y’all wash the dishes an’ make the bed, then we’ll watch the morning news. Till spring, y’all can open the station at seven. In summer y’all can open at six.”
All that was shocking enough, but then I discovered what a good night’s sleep meant in G.B. Madison’s house of seven unlocked doors.
Despite the fact that G.B. took a high powered sleeping pill every night, at least twice each night I would be dragged from my sleep with an enthusiastic invitation, “Charle, time to get up!”
“What time is it G.B.?” I would moan as I came out of the depths of sleep, and then out we would go.
Sometimes we drove west on the freeway to the Crookton overpass, or east to Devil Dog Road. Once in a while we drove out to the quarries to watch the moon cross the black sky over the Kaibab, but usually we patrolled the little town of Ash Fork, Arizona, one third of which (he regularly reminded me) belonged to G.B. Madison.
Occasionally there would be a rash of robberies at the stone yard. Gas, tires and batteries would disappear from the heavy equipment. With misplaced enthusiasm, G.B. would hide the car behind pallets of stone, then lie in wait with his trusty pick-handle.
In winter, during freezing weather, G.B. checked the water pipes and heat tapes at all of his rentals to make sure the red indicator lights were on. If he could not spot the light from the street he drove over crumbling flagstone sidewalks and across the hard packed caliche yards, right up to the houses or mobile homes until the light came into view.
His tenants often accosted me the next morning, declaring angrily, “Charle, you tell that husband of yours, if he keeps turnin’ his lights into our bedroom, wakenin’ us up, two three time a night — we’re gonna move!”
On the next patrol I would gently suggest to G.B., “Honey, could the car stop at an angle so the lights don’t shine in the window? I think it wakens the tenants.” Thus blaming the car, not the “dear boy.”
“Wall, if they don’t like it — they can MOVE! An’ if they tell me about it — they can go STRAIGHT TO HAYLL, WHILE I PRAY FER ‘EM!
With G.B. owning over thirty houses in town, the wail of the fire alarm in the night was a sound we dreaded to hear. Every time the alarm called out the Ash Fork Volunteer Fire Brigade, G.B. would call me out of bed The first time it happened I said, “We don’t have to go G.B., we aren’t volunteers.”

“But it might be one of m’ houses burnin’, an’ I’ll be damned if I’ll set here while my house burns to the ground!”
“Were you ever a volunteer fireman G.B.?” I asked as we rushed out the door.
“No, but I used to help till the movie house burned down. That night they told me ‘“G.B., shut up and go home!’” Talked to me like I was a li’l kid! Said I was more bother’n help, just cause I told ‘em how to do it — right! They may be able to stop me in m’ own li’l town helpin’ with other folks’ fires, but I’ll be damned if they can stop me if one a’ m’own houses ever burns.”*
I enjoyed the night prowls with G.B., gabbing, planning and dreaming as we circled the sleeping town. But heading out three or four times each night, and then getting up at five a.m. left me exhausted, so I had to decline some of his invitations.
Y’all sure Charle? Ah come on, let’s go.”
“Not again G.B.” I would whine sleepily.
I knew if I could send him off without me, I could sleep in the dark for a while, because G.B. insisted on sleeping with a light on. It was not a small night-light softly illuminating a corner of our bedroom, it was a sixty watt reading light blazing down from the headboard onto our eyelids during our “good night’s sleep.”

*When one of G.B.’s houses eventually did burn — he was out of town.


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October 25,2019
"WAY'LL HEY'LL!"

 

 

excerpt from

Ash Fork Madness©️

written by

Nana Cook and Charlotte Madison

copyright 2019 Nana Cook and Charlotte Madison

 

                      “Wayll Heyll!”


“GOD DAMMIT THE HAYLL! A man can’t drive his own car in his own God Damn town without y’all treatin’ him like a convict — chasin’ him with y’all’s siren a-goin’! I’m near bein’ an ol’ man but next thang y’all know, y’all’ll be chasin’ me with hound dawgs snappin’ at m’britches!”
Lorraine, Art and I stared frozen and wide eyed knowing he was just warming up. Surely he would find himself in jail this time. Sooner or later an officer would out-holler him, bop him or incarcerate him. My hope was that a Highway Patrol officer would eventually stop him driving, and then G.B. could hire someone to be his driver. Everyone I knew was afraid to drive with him now and his strange driving habits were beginning to create problems for me when trying to protect our children and grandchildren without hurting his feelings or making him angry at all of us.
“Now calm down G.B..” The officer said calmly, “We aren’t in your little town now. We are in my territory, on the freeway, and you were driving fifteen miles an hour in the passing lane. I want you to calm down, get out, come around the back of the car and walk a straight line for me.”
As G.B. slammed the driver’s door shut and stamped to the back of the car, the Highway Patrol officer stuck his head into the car and softly said to me, “Mrs. Madison, if you don’t stop your husband from driving I am going to be coming out here to scrape you off the road. He is a menace.”
Unfortunately G.B. would not only ignore anything I said, but telling him what to do would set him bellowing and driving in a way to scare me to death — just to assert his power.
While the officer frowned and hurried back to G.B., Lorraine, Art and I silently shared a thought, Take away his license!
At the back of the car and amid shouts, insults and arm waving, G.B. flung his straw hat on the ground, stomped on it and then charged down the road to prove he wasn’t drunk. “Y’ALL SATISFIED – NOW?”
While the officer continued to talk to G.B., Lorraine, Art and I discussed our concerns. “He’s right Charle. G.B.’s going to kill both of you one of these days.”
“I know, the other day he came to a highway construction zone and wouldn’t be told what to do by the flagman and he headed full speed at a steamroller or whatever they call them now. He nearly scared the driver off the mountain.”
While everyone talked, I recalled the previous night when he was driving Shirley, Bill and me out into the Kaibab. He stopped on the tracks, looked east, then said with a smile on his face, “Lookie thar Charle.” And there it was, a train headlamp heading straight for us.
“G.B. IT’S COMING! Get off the track!”
“WAYLL HAYLL!” As the car lurched over the tracks he hollered, “WHAT THE HAYLL IS THE MATTER WITH Y’ALL? Y’all’re a-scared a’ ever’ God Damned thang y’all see now..”
As the patrolman glowered at G.B. saying, “I can’t take your license away for going slowly . . . . ”
“Y’all just try, an I’ll sue y’all fer ever’ dollar y’all got!”
“I am going to let you drive home, but you are going to receive a retest notice in the mail. Once you get it you will have to stop driving until you pass a driving test. Charle and the men can drive you around till then.”
“WHY DON’T Y’ALL GET CHARLE TO BUY A LI’L RED PLAY WAGON SO’S SHE CAN DRAG ME ‘ROUND AN’ MAKE A GOD DAMNED FOOL OF ME IN FRONT OF EVER’ONE IN MY OWN LI’L TOWN!” G.B.’s roaring rage was ranging to screams and sobs of frustration.
“G.B. if you don’t calm down I’ll have to ask Charle to drive you home.”
Oh! I thought, That comment won’t do any of us a lot of good.
As we drove home I decided he would find it hard to pass the test now, and I was right.
The next day G.B. was so stressed by the time we arrived at the Prescott motor vehicle office and the woman told him to write his name on a form, he began to write and then looked at me in dire distress and confusion. It was only after I gave him a loving assurance that he was able to write his name.
Twice G.B. failed the test, but his incredible determination held him in good stead. On the third and last chance he managed to scrape through the test and he was on the road again!


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October 24,2019
MURDER IN THE QUARRY

excerpt from

Ash Fork Madness©️

written by

Nana Cook and Charlotte Madison

copyright 2019 Nana Cook and Charlotte Madison

 

MURDER IN THE QUARRY

 

G.B. and I were startled awake by the agitated pounding of a fist on our front door. It burst open allowing two rock doodlers to rush in, an elderly couple, Lena and Wesley.
“Ther’s bin a murder in the Santa Cruz quarry. Chucho shot one of the Mexicans!” Lena gasped.
“Charle!” G.B. called out to me as he ran through the house, “Y’all call the sheriff while I get m’boots on. Tell ‘im we’ll have coffee at Alice’s’, then wait fer ‘im at the track crossin’. I’ll lead ‘em out to the quarry soon as they arrive in town.”
As I completed the call and closed the phone book on Ash Fork’s only page, G.B. and the rock doodlers rushed out into the dark night. G.B. called back to me, “If Chucho comes here a-lookin’ fer money, just give it to ‘im Charle. Don’t make ‘im mad — he’ll be upset.” Seeing the startled expression on my face he added, “Don’t worry Sweetheart, Chucho won’t hurt y’all.”
Suddenly I was alone in the house awaiting the possible arrival of a murderer, yet I didn’t really feel afraid. Chucho was such a sweet jolly man who always came into the gas station with joy riding on his shoulder. He spoke borderline English and I spoke borderline Spanish which resulted in verbal chaos and much laughter when we conversed. Despite his worn work clothes and general quarry grubbiness, Chucho’s appearance at fifty-five was still that of a dashing Latino. No, he would never hurt me. But what if a posse tracked him to town and into our house? Would I find myself in the midst of a Wild West shoot-out?
I went to my chesterfield, feeling less vulnerable there than in bed. Sleep closed around me as I thought about the murdered man and his family, and his mother in Mexico, who would be wakened with the news of her beloved son’s death.
At three A.M. G.B. wakened me with a full account of the night’s events according to the old quarry guard.
“Several rock doodlers were playing cards by their campfire. Because it was payday, they were drinking heavily. The ol’ guard had heard an angry shout that echoed off the quarry wall, an’ then saw a knife flash in the firelight. Chucho jumped up, shot one o’ the men, then turned and scrambled barefoot up the quarry face before he disappeared into the darkness. The sheriff figured he was heading fer Mexico.”
The following morning I called Shirley to confirm our day’s plan to pick prickly pears at the Santa Cruz quarry. We agreed that by now Chucho must have gone south along the railway tracks or down highway 89, so we saw no reason to change our plans.
I drove the camper over to Shirley’s Whiting Brothers station and for once she was ready and waiting. She jumped in with her prickly pear picking paraphernalia, a big grin and a full load of enthusiasm. We were loose! Nothing could have stopped this outing — not even the previous night’s tragedy. Rare were the days we were free to escape — Shirley from her numerous responsibilities, I from G.B.’s endless pushing.
We drove across the tracks and were assailed by the first sweet breath of autumn. Crystal clear mountain air danced with the warm morning sunshine and we had the entire day to laugh, enjoy our picnic, roam the countryside and pick pears for the winter’s supply of jelly — that sweet, glistening magenta, prickly pear jelly.
Seven miles down the valley we crossed my old cattle guard that led into the Kaibab Forest. Instead of turning left along the frontage road to the White elephant quarry and my beloved northern campsite, we drove straight up the forest road and parked just below the rise that led up to the Dog Cabin and the Santa Cruz Quarry.
With ecstatic enthusiasm we unloaded our boxes, forks, tongs, pliers and tweezers to the accompaniment of silly talk and uncontrolled laughter.
“Can you imagine Chucho drunk and barefoot, running on cactus in the dark?” Shirley guffawed.
I glanced up toward the quarry and with a sudden rush of uneasiness I asked her, “What if Chucho is still around?”
With the voice of reason Shirley replied, “Why’d he still be ‘round here? It happened last night.”
I thought about that for a moment. “If he isn’t here . . . why are they all here?” I asked as I pointed toward a posse gathered along the edge of the Santa Cruz quarry.
One young deputy from the posse strutted closer to us, staring intently at every move we made.
Ignoring our spectator I braced myself for plucking the prickly pears. I squeezed my tongs over the darkest purple, prickly pear and secured it with my fork to prevent it struggling free from the tong’s grasp and attacking me while I broke it loose from the mother plant. Then I dropped it into the awaiting box.
Another conniving cactus, the notorious evil jumping cholla, is of course in a class beyond compare. Many times I have felt the wrath of its barbed spines, bristles and hairs, but prickly pears have their own method for torture — they bounce. If a prickly pear escapes from a tong’s grasp they try to land as high as possible on one’s person so they can bounce downward, leaving as many bristles as possible embedded with each hit.
“YOU GALS ARE MAKIN’ TOO MUCH NOISE!’ The young deputy yelled officiously at us. “GO PICK YER PEARS SOMEWHERES ELSE.”
Growling and muttering reckless replies we grudgingly reloaded the camper, left a bumper crop of pears and pitched down the rough forest road.
Below the White Elephant quarry we spotted another prime patch and stopped to pick. But having seen the posse so near made us wonder whether Chucho was still around.
“Are you scared Charle?” Shirley whispered.
“No! Chucho wouldn’t hurt me.” I replied confidently.
Without warning a jackrabbit bolted out from under a piñon tree. We shrieked in panicky laughter and then desperately tried to muffle each other lest the young deputy heard us and came for us again.
As we picked Shirley and I got bolder, giddier and wilder — until we heard something crashing through the trees. Suddenly nothing was funny. We stood frozen in terror as a man astride a horse burst through the juniper boughs and was coming for us at a full gallop! We exhaled our breath in blood chilling screams — which fizzled out when we realized it was only our young deputy. Laughing madly we ran for the camper before he could get us, not realizing that he needed a little word of cheer to recover from the trauma our screams had inflicted on him — and his horse.
We made our escape back along the frontage road, lurching over pot-holes and wheel ruts, while our hoots and cackles drowned out the din and clatter of unsecured chaos breaking loose in the back of the camper.
With my mind once more back on cactus jelly I suggested, “Let’s go to Carl’s old cabin. He has a plenteous prickly pear patch and it’s just down the road. He’s visiting his son for most of September, so he won’t be here to pick them.”
Shirley looked at me as though I had gone mad — maybe as mad as Carl was reputed to be. But when I mentioned how he used to brag about his pears greed overwhelmed her fear of the old desert rat. She did not agree to go to Carl’s cabin — but she did not say no.
“Shirley, you will love his place. He lives up a dead end road in an old shack. It’s made with findings and it’s so interesting. Hanging outside on the walls are antlers and skulls, old cast-iron pans, Dutch ovens and kettles, wash-pans and wagon wheels. Oh I’d love to paint him sitting on his porch sorting his relics.”
To satisfy her obvious curiosity I briefly explained, “G.B. took me there once.”
Anticipating a plentiful prickly pear patch we turned onto Carl’s rough drive. But the closer we got to his old cabin, the more apprehensive we felt. It seemed a long way from the posse and from their help should we encounter . . . . There could be a drifter rooting around in the cabin, or possibly Chucho in hiding. Our qualms grew and we agreed to retreat. However, a dead rattlesnake obviously placed on an old sun-silvered, upturned juniper root indicated we were too late. The cabin lay just ahead. I was hurriedly looking for a place to turn around when Shirley let fly with a blood curdling scream.
“GO! IT’S A BODY IN A RED SHIRT — DEAD ACROSS A ROCK!”
I slammed my foot down on the gas pedal and the camper surged forward, rocking wildly as it climbed the steep rocky track past the old cabin. We circled the loop drive with the wheels churning up heavy clouds of pink dust while Shirley and I screamed long and loud and the camper leapt and bounded again past the cabin, the body and maybe the killer lurking nearby.
“Charle,” Shirley said in a strangely flat voice as she looked back toward the cabin, “Never mind. It’s only a red barrel leaning on a rock.”
I slammed on the brakes and the camper ground to a halt. My quivering hands gripped the steering wheel and my trembling arms felt like they were filled with tiny bursting bubbles. I looked over at Shirley and said, “If I’m about to have a heart attack — at least I have my own E.M.T. with me — even if she did cause it!”
To which Shirley replied caustically, “If you have one, I’m gonna have one too. Ya can’t leave me here with your dead body. If the posse don’t find Chucho, they’ll find us — so their day won’t be a total loss.”
We continued back to the road where I said, “Shirley, I’m not going home without pears, even if it means we have to stop at every cow-munched, prickly pear cactus patch between here and Little Hell’s Canyon!”
Eventually we discovered a large bountiful patch with a perfect place for a picnic. In the shade of an old juniper tree we spread a blanket, and sat down to enjoy our toothsome lunch, all the while discussing our day’s adventure.
We filled our boxes with the soft ripe pears, and then reluctantly returned to town. As I delivered Shirley to her gas station, I saw she was as well groomed as she had been when I picked her up hours before, so I said to her, “Why am I a magenta mess and you are immaculate? Why am I covered in prickles and you aren’t?”
Shirley smiled smugly, then daintily stepped out of the camper holding her box of pears. She reached out to close the door and in doing so tipped the box of needle covered pears against her chest!
Shortly before the murder in the Santa Cruz quarry, G.B. had sold a pick-up truck to Chucho and received the first payment. Three days after the murder the truck still sat at the quarry — and high on a stone ledge a coffee can appeared. Scratched on the outside of the can
were G.B.’s initials. Inside the can were the keys and title to the pick up truck.


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October 23,2019
G.B.'S SONG OF LOVE

 excerpt from

Ash Fork Madness

written by

Nana Cook and Charlotte Madison

copyright 2019 Nana Cook and Charlotte Madison

 

 

G.B.'S SONG OF LOVE

Occasional moments when G.B. felt melancholy he would stare at me and then begin his “song of love.”
“Charle, I know y’all love me or I couldn’t love y’all so much, but I can’t figger out why y’all care. Sweetheart, y’all’re near thirteen years younger’n me an’ a beautiful but strange Canadian painter lady. I’m only a rough talkin’ ol’ Okie boy.”
“Y’all do such strange thangs Charle. Y’all lived like a hermit in the van, paintin’ alone in the desert, an’ y’all’s dawg on the bed – even I wouldn’t do that. But still y’all got fancy ways, dreamin’ up that monstrosity, post and beam Island house. An’ then y’all jes’ let it set thar vacant. Thank of all the rent or interest y’all’re a-missin’.”
The horror of that thought caused him to pause and ponder. Then he continued to speak. “An’ y’all’re too truthful Charle. Y’all follow the rules even when y’all know I’m a-gonna get mad with ye fer doin’ thangs so extreme. Y’all got independent fancy ways Charle.” He spoke with slight annoyance at the thought.
“I get mad with y’all Sweetheart,” he said in soft caressing tones, “an’ I make y’all work, an’ earn me money. I’m a braggin’ stingy ol’ Okie boy. Why do y’all love me so much Charle? I know y’all don’t need m’money.”
“G.B., I love you for all the sweet things you just said and for the funny way you say them. I love you for always and ever my love.


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October 23,2019
HAPPY BIRTHDAY G.B.

Written by Nana Cook and Charlotte Madison

copyright 2019 Nana Cook and Charlotte Madison

 

HAPPY BIRTHDAY G.B.

 

The women in G.B.’s life, beginning with his German grandmother, had provided him with German Chocolate Cake. I was now the woman in his life, and after several years of tapioca, he was desperate for his cake, so I decided to find one for his upcoming birthday.
I went to Zetler’s, to find one but they only had regular chocolate cakes, so I considered the possibility of baking one myself. I half-heartedly checked my cook-book for a German Chocolate Cake recipe to see what the ingredients were, thinking I might be able to doctor up a chocolate cake-mix. I knew I could not get a scratch cake to rise, certainly not at this elevation — even for G.B. The recipe was simply a chocolate cake with ground pecans in it, and the frosting recipe described a buttery blend of coconut and pecans.
Finagling a shopping trip to Williams, I went into Babbitt’s and searched the shelves for an appropriate package of cake-mix. To my surprise and delight they had German Chocolate cake-mixes and coconut pecan frosting. I grabbed several boxes of each and extra bags of shredded coconut. I needed pecans to decorate the cake, so I went to Stuckey’s and bought a pound of their delicious pecan halves and a small pecan log-roll for the drive home.
I was determined to outdo all the previous women in his life — but first I had to borrow cake-pans.
Saturday morning after the breakfast dishes had been washed and put away I laid out my ingredients. G.B. knew I was going to attempt to bake his birthday cake — and he also knew enough to not get too excited about it. As he left for the garbage dump he looked at all the ingredients waiting on the counter and snorted, “Why don’t y’all just throw that in a bag an’ I’ll take it with me now.”
Undaunted I began to create. To the two packages of German Chocolate cake-mix I added a cup of Stuckey’s finest ground pecans. It made a big mealy mess and almost filled my immense lasagna pan.
Due to the five thousand foot altitude of Ash Fork, baking had always been a hit or miss event for me. Incredibly I chose the perfect length of baking time and got the cake out of the oven before I burned it. I slipped the golden brown slab out of the pan onto the cooling rack, and when it had cooled I split it into two layers.
To the butter pecan icing-mix I added a generous amount of chopped pecans and the shredded coconut, then heated it slowly to prevent scorching. When it had cooled I freely slathered onto all the surfaces of the cake a thick coating of the icing. Then to glorify the cake’s appearance I encircled it with pecan halves and inserted yellow candles in the outline of G.B.’s initials. The massive cake was a thing of beauty and incredibly heavy!
After we had finished our dinner and G.B. had opened his gifts, I brought out his birthday cake ablaze with the yellow candles.
“OH CHARLE! Y’all’re so good to me. Well now, that looks larrupin’.” He said with a hint of surprise in his voice. “Charle, we need some cold sweet milk. Y’all get the plates an’ spoons, an’ bring the ice cream Hon. German Chocolate Cake wants a big scoop a’ butter pecan on it.”
“Do you really need ice cream G.B.? This cake is awfully rich.”
“Charle, I’m a-havin’ butter pecan ice cream on my cake.” He stated firmly, as he pulled out the candles and placed them neatly into a lattice woven stack.
G.B. took a long drink of his milk, then took some cake onto his spoon. He maneuvered to get as much ice cream loaded on top of the cake as possible, and then glowing with anticipation, opened his mouth and drew in the sweet delight. He savored it, took another drink, smacked his lips with a sharp sound, looked into my eyes and said, “Charle, this cake y’all made fer me is rich as six inches down in a feed lot.”
I got the drift of his compliment and felt satisfied.
Years later G.B.’s children came to visit and he decided to drive us all to Canada to visit my family. As we drove along a stretch of highway running through central California we passed a feed lot and for the first time I noticed the smell. It was at that moment, with a camper load of people who wakened from their sleep screaming, “WHAT IS THAT STENCH? GET THIS CAMPER OUT’A HERE!” that I realized just how rich six inches down would be.


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October 22,2019
DIETIN'

 

 

 

                         DIETIN'

 

G.B. and I had been too busy working, living and loving to notice that we were gaining weight.
One particularly hot and unusually humid day, our friends Cleo and Omar Cotter, ranchers from Texas, arrived in town. They had come to choose stone for the mantle and hearth of their newly built Arizona sandstone ranch house. During the course of building they had visited Ash fork and the quarries several times to select sandstone and shist. On each visit we dined together at Rod’s Steak House in Williams.
In preparation for dinner with the Cotters, G.B. was shaving and I was in my dressing room, showered, perfumed, coiffed with my make-up done — and tears running down my cheeks. To be more precise, I was crying because I had tried on everything in my closet and nothing pretty fit me. I wanted to pout and say I would not go, but I desperately wanted to see Cleo and Omar, besides they were due to arrive at any moment.
Already in a lather, I threw on an old, long sleeved, white satin blouse and squirmed into a plum, knee length, straight velvet skirt — held together with a piece of elastic pinned centre back across the yawning unzipped zipper. I donned the matching velvet jacket despite the fact that it would tint the white blouse pink, as I was steaming from the exertion and frustration of trying on every garment I owned.
I twisted around to look at my back in the full length mirror and saw the open skirt placket showing below my jacket. I ran toward our bedroom intending to throw myself onto the bed and scream I can’t go when I came face to face with G.B.. He was wearing his lovely big Stetson and the Western style sports coat I had given him on his most recent birthday. His shirt gaped open over the rounded curve of his corporation and his slacks were tied on with a piece of rope running through his belt loops”
“G-GOD DAMMIT, CHARLE! I CAN’T GO!”
The more I laughed the louder he hollered. By the time my laughter and G.B.‘s rage had subsided we were both drenched with perspiration and exhausted. With a rare rush of decisiveness I said to him, “We’ll diet later, but we’ll eat tonight! Change your shirt for one you can hang over the gap in your slacks, and never mind if the shirt gapes — the restaurant’s dark.”
“But my damned britches’ll slide off without my shirt tucked in!”
“Well hang on to them then.” I snapped, having no time for tact.
I went to a drawer of scarves, found one with splashes of pink, turned my skirt sideways, hung the scarf over the open placket, and let it float gracefully down below my jacket.
As we waddled into the living room to wait for Cleo and Omar, my panty-hose began to creep down toward half-mast and when G.B. sat down he felt the bite of the cinch and grumbled, “It’s like two danged hogs a-comin’ out’a a fatenin’ pen.”
When the Cotters arrived Cleo reached out to hug me and I deflected her arms up to my shoulders so she would not get a handful of flab swathed in damp velvet. As Omar approached I reached out to shake his hand before he could get to me.
Following the drive to Williams we settled around a table at Rod’s Steak House to enjoy dinner and every moment catching up on one another’s lives, Cleo and I occasionally pausing during our conversation to listen to the men trying to best each other. G.B. was hard put to outdo Omar’s beautiful huge ranch, his cattle, crops, and gas wells but he certainly tried with his town, stone quarries, beer joint, gas station and one oil well.
While Omar was saying, “An early September freeze killed ever’ section of m’wheat deader’n hell.” I silently wished I had used a longer piece of elastic.
We made sure dinner progressed at a leisurely pace in order to draw out the precious time and multiply the pleasure.
At one point Cleo looked from G.B. to me several times, studying our flushed faces. Concerned by our appearance she asked, “Would y’all like to take y’all’s jackets off?” And then added with sweet Texas charm, “Isn’t it awful hot in here for y’all Charle? No?”
“I’m fine thank you Cleo.” I replied with extravagant sincerity. G.B. chose not to hear the question, despite the fact that he and I were adding seriously to the humidity in Rod’s Steak House dining-room.
At home later that evening, as we cut ourselves loose from our clothes, G.B. declared war on himself. “Never did have an extra pound a’ fat under m’hide in my entire life. Put me on a diet Charle.”
Oh good. I thought. We can do it together.
In the following days you could almost hear the fat falling from us. When G.B. consulted his bathroom scale, before each meal, and found daily results to his liking, his pride began to return, until early one morning.
“I haven’t stopped dietin’ Sweetheart, but I weigh the same as I did two days ago.”
He declared frantically.
“Don’t get discouraged G.B.,” I said, “It’s only a plateau. It happens to everyone. Don’t give up Honey.”
“GIVE UP HAYLL!” He screeched. “I AIN’T A-GONNA QUIT DIETIN”! I’M A-GONNA QUIT EATIN’!”
And he did — until he had removed his entire corpulent excess.


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October 21,2019
JUST A BIT MORE . . . MADNESS

                         

excerpt from

Ash Fork Madness©️

written by

Nana Cook and Charlotte Madison

copyright 2019 Nana Cook and Charlotte Madison

 

 

               JUST A BIT MORE . . . MADNESS 

I needed more material for my three, seedy old rock doodlers’ dialogue.
There were many outlandish reminiscences I listened to while I painted doodlers in the quarries, but I hadn’t paid enough attention to register the details and I suspected that the exaggerations were more like lies. I needed to hear true tales about the good old time rock doodlers during the fifties when they were young and wild, powerful quarry bulls. I wanted stories filled with the excitement of booming times in the new stone industry.
Although G.B. spoke with colour, his tales were always true, so I decided to inveigle him into taking a long Sunday drive where I knew he would have time to ramble. G.B.’s storytelling was enhanced by an audience, so I invited a couple of friends to join us. G.B. saw the opportunity to combine work with pleasure, and decided we would drive down to the Mayer quarries.
Sunday morning at eight a.m., with Sheila and Ivan in the back seat, a substantial supply of Pepsi on ice, a pen and pad in my hands and G.B. driving, we left Ash fork and drove south on Highway 89.
“What’s the pen fer Charle?” G.B. asked.
“I want to write to Mum and include some of your old rock doodler stories.” Which was true — more or less. “Will you tell us some as we go along? And I’ll take notes.”
G.B. was extremely flattered by my request. He reared back, swallowed, smacked his lips and took in a deep breath. “Back in the old days, when the railroaders stayed in my hotel an’ ate in my café,” He turned to face our friends in the back seat while speeding down the highway. “The vacant ol’ wooden hotel an’ café where I first met Charle.” he clarified, and then turned to face the oncoming traffic again. “I had friends do the cookin‘ — real good food. Anyhow, ever‘ one was busy with eatin’ lunch when this drunken ol’ rock doodler come in an’ set down at the counter. While he was waitin’ fer his meal, he stuck his foot up on the counter, right beside some ol’ tourist woman’s plate, to show her the new shoe shine he got — on his bare foot! Sure ‘nuff his bar’ ol’ foot was as black as tar, an’ he just set thar admirin’ the shine.”
Before continuing he said, “Pass me a Pepsi Hon, m’ mouth’s so dry I’m spittin’ cotton, an’ ever’ time I swallow my stomach says ”thank ye.””
“I recall one time a bunch a’ the boys was drunk as skunks, out huntin’ they was, out’a’ season too. Well, come time it began to rain an’ they got their danged car stuck in a wash. Couldn’t budge it, so two a’ the men slept in the car an’ one curled up under a tree. Durin’ the night the temperature dropped real low. The one sleepin’ on the ground kept waken’ an’ drinkin’ an’ waken the others fer one more drink, so they was still as drunk when they woke as when they went to sleep. When mornin’ came, the one sleepin’ outside, found his danged hair was froze to the ground. So that dumb doodler took out his pocket knife an’ hacked hisself free. Looked like a quarry dog with the mange! Anyhow a game warden drove up an’ couldn’t pass their car in the wash, so he scooted up to it an’ pooshed. His bumper hit their trunk an’ up flew the lid, an’ thar it was — a fresh killed deer ⎯ out’a season. Afore that was over y’all can bet it was a mess. Judge told me, “‘G.B. I’ll turn these three loose into y’all’s custody if y’all take yer god-damned rock doodlers out thar an’ chain ‘em to a tree ‘till they sober up.”’ An’ I did just that!”
“Ohhh, we was a wild bunch Charle. Y’all a-keepin’ up with me?” He asked with a mischievous grin.
“One Sunday I was a-loadin’ an eighteen wheeler when three doodlers fixin’ fer a fight
told me to give ‘em their pay. Told me — an’ on a Sunday! By the time the truck driver got the deputy into the stone yard I had one tied to the telephone pole, one laid out cold, an’ I was a-beatin’ on the other with m’ pick handle. Deputy said to me, “‘G.B. y’all can’t do that. Y’all should’ve called us sooner.”’ I told him in my most respectful deputy-talk, Y’all can go straight to Hayll while I pray fer ye! Deputy sputtered, “‘G.B. ya’ll can’t talk to me like that. So I stuck my finger in his face an’ just answered him thar an’ then. I already done done it!”
On and on the stories flowed, with a brief interruption at Mayer and another for lunch. By the time we arrived home from our Sunday drive I had my forth act script, and asides for the three doodlers who would introduce each act.


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October 20,2019
THE ANGELS OF HELL

 

excerpt from

Ash Fork Madness©️

written by

Nana Cook and Charlotte Madison

copyright 2019 Nana Cook and Charlotte Madison

 

                   The Angels of Hell


I was accustomed to serving motorcyclists in the gas station, and I learned early on to let the riders pour their own gasoline. They got so emotional and vocal if I spilled even one drop onto their glistening, custom painted gas tanks. When two choppers, followed by a long formation of motorcycles, wheeled into the station, dear Louisa’s last instructions to me flashed through my mind.
“Now Chaully, do not worry, but once a year a big crowd of cycles come into the station. Remember ju cannot operate four pumps, pour oil, make change, and write up the credit card charges for so many people. Just tell them, If ju will pour jor own gas and tell me every thing, I will stand by the till to take jor money. No other customers will come in while they are in the station. Oh, some of them do not dress quite like ju an’ me, but do not be afraid. Smile like ju do to the townspeople and the Angels of Hell will love ju too.”
That sounded easy enough, so her words were soon forgotten — until dozens of shimmering motorcycles began to roar onto the premises two by two.
Within minutes I was surrounded by what seemed like hundreds of grossly tattooed, obscene t-shirt covered, leather encrusted, Harley-Davidson riding Hell’s Angels. But only one individual unnerved me.
I was standing beside the till when he walked into the office and stood too close to me. Wearing a German helmet and thick soled boots, he was at least seven feet tall and about the same measurement in circumference. His sunburned and peeling face sported one glistening red eye that protruded through his coal black, tangled, armpit length hair, and his other eye (or socket) was concealed by a black leather eye patch. His bushy black beard of indeterminate boundaries, had taken prisoner a tarantula hawk, three damselflies, two Red Admirals, and an assortment of wasps, bees and other winged creatures. He unzipped the straining zipper on his greasy, black leather jacket to reveal a jungle of wiry, black chest hair, carnal tattoos, a swastika and skull jewelry. I felt his body heat rush out as his jacket drew open. I chose to breathe through my mouth, in hope of reducing the intensity of his aroma — hoping I would swoon into a deep black abyss if he decided to touch me.
“What kind of oil do you got? He growled.
At that particular moment I could not recall a single brand name, so I led him back through the lube-room, grabbed a deep breath of fresh, sweet smelling, oily air, then led him into the stockroom where he could take his pick of product.
The day G.B. handed me my Union Oil jump suit and put me to work, he said a lot of things to me, and one of them was, “Do not ever let anyone go in the stockroom with ye!
All his orders were quickly forgotten until that moment when G.B.’s instructions smashed back into my head, followed by the thought of him walking into the station in this situation. If G.B. throws himself into this crowd, it will be like throwing a lit match across a bucket of gasoline!
I cowered in a corner of the windowless room while the man’s eye stared at me. With his back to the doorway he moved slowly in my direction. His hand reached out and grabbed —Penzoil 70 weight.
I heaved a great sigh and followed him back out to the office, as one reprieved from death row.
Friends and neighbors driving past the station slowed their cars to wave and call, “Hi! Okay Charle.” Reassuring themselves and me, that all was well. Everyone knowing me for the coward I was. Beldon happened by to admire the bikes, but kept an eye on things outside. Spence casually wandered into the office, sprawled on a chair and asked, “Hi Charle, anything new?”
“You’re kidding,” I replied, “I’m glad to see you, but I sure hope you drove to the stone yard and left G.B. tied to his chair.”
When the “Angels” had finally paid for their gas I expected them to fly away, instead they headed into Zetler’s Market where they cleaned out the snack aisle and beer cooler.
As I watched the frightening cast of characters eating their lunch and drinking beer in the shade of the gas station canopy I checked the till tape and was amazed at the quantity of gasoline and oil they had purchased. The total probably exceeded lost car sales.
Profanities punctuated the laughter and I wondered how much they could drink before they lost control. My thoughts turned to a movie I had seen in which a motorcycle gang terrorized a small desert town . . . .
Soon enough the rest was over. One by one the bikers ignited their engines until all other sound was lost in the rumble and roar. They rolled into position, and moving like the flow of a winding river, they thundered out onto Route 66 while G.B. thundered into the station in their wake.
“Oh Honey!” I called breathlessly as I ran to the pick-up. “I am so glad you weren’t here today. Guess what!”
“I don’t need to guess.” He snapped. “I been settin’ atop Third Street watchin’ ya’ll the whole damned day — with m’gun loaded an’ in m’hand.” Then G.B. added eagerly, “How much gas did y’all sell ‘em?”


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October 20,2019
POVERTY

excerpt from

Ash Fork Madness©️

written by

Nana Cook and Charlotte Madison

copyright 2019 Nana Cook and Charlotte Madison

 

                         POVERTY

Ash Fork received an inordinate number of travelers who misjudged the cost of their trip west to Los Angeles, and I got my share of them in the gas station.
When the occasional traveler filled his gas-tank and then told me he was broke, I would immediately call G.B., and he would make sure the traveler paid his debt with labor, either in our garden, or at the stone yard. If a traveler first explained that he was broke and needed gas, I would give him enough fuel to get to Kingman, plus ten dollars for food. I would then say, “As long as people pay me back I’ll continue to help others, but if you break my trust in you and don’t repay me, I won’t continue to help others.”
Every traveler but one repaid the money they owed within two months of receiving the gasoline. The one individual who did not repay me right away, did so eight years later, after finding the chit in the back of a drawer.
One summer a large family from Arkansas, driving a decrepit old station-wagon, attempted to pull into the gas station. The old car was so weighted down with the family’s possessions, inside and out, that the chassis barely cleared the tires. The laboring engine died with a loud backfire in the driveway and was pushed up to the pumps.
The driver, a dirty, poorly dressed man in his thirties, threw down his cap, “Ma’am, that’s it! Ain’t got no gas, food, medicine fer Granny, nor milk fer the baby, an’ not a nickel in m’jeans. If y’all can’t help me — y’all better call the Sheriff.”
I knew a few gallons of gas and ten dollars would not help this family very much, so I asked the driver, “Are any of you prepared to work?”
“Yes ma’am. Me an’ m’kin — we’ll do anything.” He assured me.
“You’ll be needing a place to live.”
“Yes ma’am. We been sleepin’ out some, but a roof’d be good.”
I called G.B., and within minutes he eagerly arrived at the station.
“Well Sir, what’s y’all’s name?
“Asa Loedecker, Mr. Madison. This here’s m’ son Asa Junior an’ these is m’girls, an’ whar’s m’ol’ lady? Jenny, com’ere an’ meet Mr. Madison
When G.B. returned the wife’s shy smile she said timidly, but proudly, “This here’s Katie, our youngest, an’ this here’s my ma.”
“Soon as Charle fills y’all’s gas tank she can close the station fer a bit. Y’all follow her back to the house an’ she’ll cook fer ye. I never work a man cold, thirsty, hungry or without a house to go home to!”
Twenty minutes after I started cooking the family began to eat. I continued to cook while they continued to eat and I found myself in the vortex of a feeding frenzy. For the first time in my life I saw the hunger of poverty revealed.
At the end of a summer’s day spent swimming at the beach, my three children were ravenously hungry. They would sit on a beach blanket, tear open the layers of newspaper wrapped around steaming hot fish and chips, and then devour the generous portions with the voracious appetite of the starving. But they also never hesitated to leave part of their meal uneaten, because they knew the next morning, they would fill their tummies again.
However, every one of these people was preoccupied with: devouring, every bit of available food that I was prepared to cook or serve — every condiment, beverage, and contents of the fruit bowl and candy-dish, when they were offered.
G.B. chose a mobile home for the Loedeckers, put up their utility deposits, called in a basic food order at Zetler’s, then had me supplement their belongings with our extra dishes, pots and blankets.
The older children pulled weeds from our garden to pay for the tank of gas, and Asa accompanied us to the stone yard where I signed him onto the company payroll. I felt so pleased to have helped such a pathetically needy family.
G.B. watched Asa from an office window as the man was led out to the cutter shed. “They’ll cheat me Charle. Once the wrinkles’re out’a their bellies, they’ll forget what they owe.”
“Oh no G.B. — not that family. They’re so sweet.”
“Not ever’ one enjoys handlin’ rock in the Arizona sun Charle, an’ not ever’ one can hold onto appreciation long enough to repay favors they accepted in need!”
The Western States Stone Company’s employee cheques were processed in California, so ever’ new employee had to wait two weeks for their first paycheck to arrive. That fact necessitated two more food orders on credit for the Loedeckers. When Asa finally received his first cheque, less the money G.B. deducted against their debt, the man worked a few more days, and then in the night bolted with his family, leaving behind a filthy damaged house and a substantial debt.
G.B. had been right, but what added outrage to my disappointment was the fact that they had the gall to take our dishes, pots and my pink blanket.
“Y’all won’t be so surprised when y’all’ve been cheated fer thirty years Charle.”
I digested that remark, then replied, “I guess not, but I’m afraid I won’t be as kind or forgiving as you.”
“Charle y’all gotta give the next man his chance. He hasn’t cheated us . . . yet. An’ what if Asa and his kin show up again hungry an’ broke, an’ needin’ a second chance? Wouldn’t y’all give it?”
I stiffened up with the righteous intolerance of inexperience and snapped, “No G.B., they took my pink blanket. After all you did for them – they stole it! I loved that pink blanket.”
“Charle,” G.B. sighed, “Y’all got a house full of blankets an’ stores waitin’ fer y’all to buy more. Y’all’s pink blanket just reminds ‘em that they’re thieves.”
Three years later the Loedeckers returned to Ash Fork — broke and hungry again. The first person Asa turned to for assistance, approaching like an old friend, was G.B.. Extra men were needed in the stone yard, so once more the man was hired.
Two and one half weeks later, soon after he got his first check, Asa and his family fled town in the night, leaving behind a filthy damaged house and a second substantial debt.


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October 19,2019
MY GARDEN

excerpt from

Ash Fork Madness©️

written by

Nana Cook and Charlotte Madison

copyright 2019 Nana Cook and Charlotte Madison

 

                        My Garden


“Charle, do ya’ll remember the day y’all decided to have a garden and plant them God damned strawberries?”
Instantly I was filled with memories and recalled the painful birth of “my” garden.
I had hit the soil with a shovel and it had skidded off. The earth behind our house was so hard and dry that I could not penetrate it, so I sat down on the ground and began to chip at it with a trowel.
“CHARLE! WHAT THE HAYLL’RE Y’ALL A DOIN?”
I looked up and met G.B.’s frown with an enthusiastic smile, “I’m planting strawberries G.B.. Shirley gave me some plants.” I added gleefully, “You and I are going to be eating big, red, home grown strawberries before you know it.” I was so excited. “G.B., my parents had a summer cottage on acreage at White Rock. One year Pop planted long rows of raspberries and Mum planted a strawberry patch in a spot they called the peat bog. I learned from watching her how to make a strawberry patch a real success.”
“God damn it Charle! Look at y’all peckin’ at that ground with a trowel and then puttin’ in a plant to be strangled in all that caliche!”
I pouted as I felt my ecstasy wash away. “I’ll add manure G.B.. I just don’t have any right now, but I will get a few bucketsful from the horses out past the first cattle guard. This soil will be really rich!”
“Charle, stop what y’all’re a-doin’. Oh Hayll, don’t cry! Dammit! I’ll do it myself! I’ll make y’all a damned ol’ garden.”
“I don’t want a garden G.B.. I just want to do something myself. I want my own little strawberry patch. I want to do something my way. It isn’t hurting you to let me dig here. Please?”
“Charle I was raised on a farm an’ helped my mother raise food ‘nough for eight people in her garden patch. I know what I am a-doin‘ — an’ we’ll do it right!”
As he walked away I muttered softly, “I don’t want to make a garden. I have enough to do. I don’t want to do it right – I want to do it my way. I just want a strawberry patch. My own little patch where I make all the decisions.” And then I strolled inside the house to make our Saturday lunch.
As G.B. savoured his meal he said thoughtfully, “Tomorrow make us a picnic, Charle. We’re a-goin’ out to Connie and Wayne’s place with the pick up — to get us a truck load a manure. Soon as we finish lunch let’s go get some men an’ a bunch a’ the ties I bought from the railroad. Then I’ll get Huff to diggin’ up some top soil down to the stone yard. Mmm, then I’ll bring li’l Oliver over to work on y’all’s garden.”
Three hours later the ties were laid out in a large rectangle, several ties high, and G.B. was making trips back and forth through town, bouncing along on Huff, the front end loader. On each trip Huff’s bucket was filled with dark, fine looking topsoil which G.B. would dump within the ties’ boundary, and then the men he had recruited would shovel it into place. After supervising the shoveling G.B. would then head off for another load. After the top soil reached to the top of the ties G.B. dumped the last load outside the ties, dashed away and moments later returned on Oliver, a miniature bulldozer. G.B. used his last load of top soil to make a ramp, and then he drove Oliver up and over the ties, leaving it parked and at the ready for Sunday’s duties.
First thing early Sunday morning we headed out into the Juniper, on-loaded more aged
manure, returned to town and rendezvoused behind our house with the “recruits.”
Well, I thought, this isn’t what I wanted, but G.B. has certainly found something to play with. He really is having fun — with my garden. By evening it looked very inviting.
“CHARLE, WHAT THE HAYLL Y’ALL A-DOIN’ WITH THEM BAGS?”
“Oh G.B.,” I replied with a trace of impatience in my voice. “I’m going to start planting the strawberries.”
“Charle, it ain’t ready yet! I have to measure out the rows, an’ dig the trenches an’ run water into ‘em ‘till they won’t hold no more. Y’all get the string an’ tape measure, an’ start to cuttin’ a whole bunch a’ fifteen inch sticks from that pile a’ one by ones.”
A tape measure? The man is a fanatic!
Eventually G.B. completed work on “my” garden and the long, straight, uniform rows of dark and saturated fertile soil lured me out the back door. I was armed with a huge basket filled to overflow with little brown paper bags from which tender green seedlings protruded, net bags through which sprouting onion sets poked and colourful seed bags that declared for all to see wild and wonderful plants that soon would appear.
“CHARLE! WHAT THE HAYLL Y’ALL A-DOIN?” G.B. called out as he ran toward me from the kitchen door. “Charle, what the HAYLL y’all a-doin’?” He repeated with painful restraint.
I threw my face down onto the soil, totally beaten and whined, “I’m planting strawberries G.B.!”
“God dammit Charle, y’all don’t lay down in the manure to plant a garden. Ya’ll’re a-messin’ up m’rows. Y’all bend or squat! An’ y’all don’t start with strawberries! Against the sidewalk y’all need a nice solid hedge a’ green onions. Y’all’ll be runnin’ out the door usin’ a lot of ‘em, so y’all want ‘em handy. Now,” he said with great relish, “Put y’all’s first hole right . . . here. Where’s y’all’s dibble?”
At that I burst out laughing, “I used to call my baby Dibble. What’s a dibble?”
With a great deep sigh he walked off and returned with a stick he had sharpened into a point, “Here’s y’all’s damn dibble. Now poke a hole — thar. Next poke a hole — thar. Use the trowel to measure with, an’ the third hole goes — thar. Now just keep a-goin’ till the row’s filled.”
Every plant and seed had to be perfectly planted, and each planted a different way.
As I began to pour carrot seeds into the soil G.B. began to scream, “GOD CHARLE Y’ALL’RE STUPID! Ever’ one of them li’l thangs is a foot long carrot an’ y’all pour fifty in one spot! Now look, my mother used to get some sand and shake it in with the seeds then gently tap out a little bitty mess at a time.” He smiled, looking hopefully into my face.
G.B. followed me down each row, coaching, reprimanding, nagging, and then writing the name of each seed row, or line of tiny seedlings on a little stick which he then, with artful precision, pressed into the earth at the end of each row.
The new garden was bounded by the driveway along the north, west and south sides, and edged on the south and east side by a flagstone path and three foot high planters made from Sun Valley Pink schist. While G.B. waited for me to finish planting he filled the planters with the soil he had dumped for the ramp, and then announced. “I’m a-gonna make a deal with Cactus’ family fer his manure. I want y’all to get some big Russian Sunflowers an’ put ‘em in this planter. My daddy used always to plant sunflowers by our mother’s cookin’ garden. An’ get ye twelve packs of Zinnias fer a hedge of flowers along the north edge of y’all’s garden, there by the land.”
Twelve packs! And he worried about a carrot seed. What a toot!
Just before dinnertime, arm in arm we looked out the kitchen window as the sun set on our beautiful garden.
“It’s gorgeous Honey. Thank you for all you did G.B.. I thought you were mean and crazy.” To which he frowned in surprise, “But it is beautiful and perfect — just like the Chinese truck gardens at home.”
G.B. smiled devotedly saying, “I like to see y’all happy Charle, an’ do thangs to please y’all. It’s been a lot of work Suguh. I’m real tired but we’ll enjoy to go out in an evenin’, set an’ water it, an’ watch it all growl Won’t be no time till first seeds show, an’ those are good plants we put in. Y’all’s garden is goin’ to be real fine Sweetheart.”
And fine it was. People regularly drove onto our property and past our vegetable garden on summer evenings just to watch the garden’s progress, enjoy the giant waving sunflowers, the quivering hedge of fiery zinnias and the huge lush plants that thrived in the Arizona sunshine.
“My” strawberry patch was surrounded by rows of carrots, peas, corn, squash, beans, tomatoes, spuds, onions, lettuce, spinach, beets, cabbage, okra , broccoli, Brussels sprouts, pumpkins, eggplant, cantaloupes, peanuts, watermelons and peppers galore. In one of the schist planters we had the garden’s first harvest — radishes and tiny cukes.
And on the sneak, out by the burning barrel, in an unused planter, I had thrown a little left over soil and spuds into the hard pink gravely soil. My garden! And that grew well too!


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October 19,2019
ROSES IN THE DESERT

excerpt from

Ash Fork Madness©️

written by

Nana Cook and Charlotte Madison

copyright 2019 Nana Cook and Charlotte Madison

 

                               Roses in the Desert

G.B. turned off the lights inside the camper, we stepped down to dry, gritty, still hot ground, then settled close to each other in camp chairs. Surrounded by soft yet threatening, low desert heat of night, we silently leaned back in our chairs, reached for each other’s hand and gazed up at the blue-black night, the rising moon and the net full of stars flung across the great dark dome above us.

We had come south to this desolate spot south of Phoenix, in order that G.B. could show me a garden in the desert. The only flowers in these hectares of garden were roses – desert roses- dainty white flowers, tinged with the faintest pink – flowers that would never, never wilt or fade away and yet we were able to pick those translucent quartz desert roses scattered across the ground as far as one could see

G.B stared at a falling star following it to the horizon then his gaze trailed across the desert to the nearby fire pit he had dug and surrounded with rocks .

"This ’minds me of pink quartz a man ordered for his big fireplace in Texas. When a fire was burnin’ light came through that pink quartz as beautiful as anythang could be.
Reluctantly he pried himself out of his chair , WALKED over to the camper to fetch matches, newspaper and small cut rounds of juniper woodl “I’m a-gonna make y’all a fire Charle so y’all can smell y’all’s juniper wood a-burnin’”
Moments later with the hypnotic aroma of sweet juniper wood smoke encircling us, G.B. jogged his chair even nearer and pulled me close into embrace.

While the arm of my chair dented my body he said “Y’all look Sweetheart . Them roses a-layin’ an’ a-glowin’ in the moon’s light, look like stars from the sky, reflectin’ an’ a-glowin’ in a mirror

G.B. reached into the cooler he had placed by his chair and pulled out chilled Pepsis and Grasshopper cookies. While we nibbled and sipped, I wondered if there might be a tarantula approaching my bare feet – or maybe a rattlesnake winding it’s way up the tubing of my chair.

I was about to spoil a magic moment with my concern when G.B. asked, “Charle, do y’all remember the day y’all decided to have a garden an’ plant them God Damned Strawberries?”

Instantly I recalled the recent painful birth of our garden . . .


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October 19,2019
GIRL TALK

 

 

excerpt from

Ash Fork Madness©️

written by

Nana Cook and Charlotte Madison

copyright 2019 Nana Cook and Charlotte Madison

 

                            Girl Talk

 

As G.B. slowly cruised past us, patrolling our evening walk, the girls and I continued our conversation.
“But Shirley, I don’t feel my first two marriages were true bonds as both men withheld truths about themselves which, had I known, would have stopped me marrying them. For all G.B.’s fire, I knew the man I would marry before we wed, so I can truthfully say he is the wondrous love in my life.”
I thought the girls were caught up in the romantic spirit as we strolled in the darkness of night, until Shirley snidely spit out, “Good God Charle! If G.B. is the best — what the Hell were the others like!”


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October 18,2019
THE BUICK

 

excerpt from

Ash Fork Madness©️

written by

Nana Cook and Charlotte Madison

copyright 2019 Nana Cook and Charlotte Madison

 

                        THE BUICK


“G.B., I once read, ‘Ne’er should peevish boy speak words that could break the vase his love did make.’” and with a pout I added, “Your mean words could break the vase our love made.”
“What the hayll! Y’all talk so crazy Charle, y’all mess with m’head. I don’t need no word to break a vase. Gi’me one, Dammit, I’ll break it right now – if that’ll shut y’all up!”
I stared unbelievingly at my wild Okie boy, then put my arms around him and with a laugh in my voice I said, “I love you G.B. you’re so funny.”
“Hayll!” He roared and crushed me close with a kiss.
As so often happened, neither one of us knew what the other was talking about.
I had seen and heard G.B. shriek and holler at building inspectors and land registry office staff. I had seen and heard G.B. scream and bellow at sheriffs, deputies and judges. I had seen and heard G.B. verbally attack little old ladies and three year olds and everyone in between – including me.
But now I had scratched the back left fender of the Buick. One could not see his anger coming, it just happened and I got used to that, but now - if he gets that angry at dinner or at me being five minutes late, what might he do if I confess to scratching the Buick. It just wasn’t fair that I couldn’t communicate with him enough to defend my position, so I decided, that fact voided my obligation to confess.
My grandmother used to say to me “Honey it doesn’t pay to be too good.” and confessing about the car would be, being too good, so moments after G.B. arrived home from Prescott, in the Buick, I put down my pruners, ran into the house and said with sweet compassion, “Honey, did you back the car into something? The back left fender is scratched.”
“Wayll Hayll.” he said calmly as he studied the marks then added, taking care not to cast any possible shadow of blame upon himself, “Someone must have backed into me in the parking lot”.


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October 18,2019
CROTCH BITING BLUE and the Macramé Gang

 

excerpt from

Ash Fork Madness©️

written by

Nana Cook and Charlotte Madison

copyright 2019 Nana Cook and Charlotte Madison

 

                CROTCH BITING BLUE

               and the Macramé Gang

Blue, a guard dog, was hired by a succession of Phoenix industrial companies. He did his job well, but due to having an aversion to men he had become known as Crotch Biting Blue. His appointments never lasted long because ultimately he bit the good guys. After a particularly scandalous attack he was given to quarry owner, Howard Grey Sr., who spirited Blue out to a remote location south of Ash Fork, to assume duties once more as guard dog over heavy equipment. However, due to the nature of the beast, it was not long before Blue went for a doodler’s castanets and found himself fired again, and about to be fired upon.
Lorraine was a Good Samaritan and dog lover, who had rescued and adopted Susie, a stone yard stray Black Lab, saving her from a similar fate. When Lorraine heard of the impending execution of Blue she jumped into her snow plow accessorized, pick-up truck, and drove out to Howard Grey’s quarries. Upon her arrival she was confronted by the sight of Blue chained to a loader, lunging and snapping at an armed quarry worker’s nether regions. She stomped over to the men present, chastised them for scaring the poor brute, and then dragged Blue back to her truck, chain and all.
Lorraine had a magic touch with Blue and he willingly accepted her dominance — even after his “operation.” He grudgingly accepted Susie and her puppies, and the two imperious cats, but no other beings on the planet, above all G.B. and Shirley.
G.B. disliked dogs and all dogs hated G.B. at first sight. Maybe he exuded an aroma of arrogance, or maybe it was fear. When he was in the quarries, walking through town or at the stone yard, G.B. was accustomed to being attacked by dogs at large and was oblivious to the fact that dogs were forever furtively stalking him.
Blue was G.B.’s sworn enemy from their many encounters in Howard’s quarry. When Blue moved in with Lorraine, who occupied one of G.B.’s rental houses, Blue and G.B. declared war on each other — Blue having the upper paw. So great was his dominance over G.B. that while attending one of Howard Grey’s “Goat Roasts”, G.B. sat stock still and silent as Blue, having escaped the confines of Lorraine’s pick-up cab, swaggered over to him, gave him a rude sniff, cleaned off every morsel on G.B.’s plate, before moving down the line of guests.
Blue looked like an industrial size pit bull, with the coloring of a speckled grey Australian sheepdog. He weighed well over one hundred pounds and broke every tether hung around his thick neck. All the residents of Ash Fork, Catholics and heathens alike, crossed themselves and said a little prayer each time they walked past “his” property.
Lorraine, a master of macramé, offered to teach the craft in her house two nights a week as a much needed diversion for the locals. Shirley was eager to join as she had a jungle of house plants and longed for plant hangers. Although I was not a macramé person, and tying precise knots was not my forte, I did want to partake in the sociability of the Macramé Gang. I wheedled loose a few hours a week away from G.B., and attended the first class on a sweet summer evening. My first project was a six foot by ten foot, elaborately fringed hammock, and I chose a complex pattern to hide errors and chocolate brown cord to hide grubby hand marks and spilt Pepsi.

As usual, Shirley was late. We were all waiting for her to arrive, watching at the window with our noses pressed up against the glass, when Shirley pulled up, stepped out of her car and spotted Blue dragging his chain and heading in her direction. At the appearance of the huge snarling beast, Shirley, squawking flapping and screeching at Lorraine to control the beast, scrambled back into her car.
Shirley’s fear was warranted for Blue hated her. Later that evening she returned well armed, and at each subsequent class, every time Blue managed to nudge his way out of the kitchen, feathers flew and raucous screams of laughter issued forth from the Macramé Gang as the Shirley-Bird attempted to take flight onto the table in order to escape the horrendous hound.
During our classes we caught up on gossip, updated our Avon with Eva and watched with amusement through the screen door as G.B. slowly cruised by the house every fifteen minutes.
One evening as we diligently attempted to master knots, I mentioned off handedly that Nana was coming for a visit. She was looking forward to joining the Gang and showing us her latest belly-dance costume. My words lit everyone’s fuse and the Blonde lifted off with an idea.
Several weeks later, Nana and I arrived at Lorraine’s house armed with George Abdo and his Flames of Araby music and zills. The Gang was waiting for us clad in gauze shawls, silk scarves and harem pants made from curtains. Within minutes Lorraine’s house was transformed into a desert seraglio where the macramé students became privy to the mysteries of the Middle East.
That evening as G.B. rounded the corner of Lorraine’s house, he was accosted by the sound of laughter, music and song. He could recognize Willie Nelson played on a jukebox, but not what he was hearing through Lorraine’s screen door. He swerved onto the sidewalk, parked in front of the house and watched in bewilderment as silhouettes of “hootchie-kootchie” dancers undulated across the drapes, while Blue, guarding his Harem, sang harmony.


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October 17,2019
VIVRE LA DIFFERENCE

 

excerpt from

Ash Fork Madness©️

written by

Nana Cook and Charlotte Madison

copyright 2019 Nana Cook and Charlotte Madison

 

                   Vivre La Difference

Somehow I had detonated G.B. again and my eyes flashed to meet his. I wondered if he had discovered Madness.
“What’s wrong Honey? What is it?” I asked with exaggerated innocence.
His bright blue eyes protruded as he felt around in his mouth and hauled out — “A ROCK! A GOD DAMNED ROCK!”
I had always been accused of wild culinary evils, such as the time when a mouse found its way into my oven and was cooked with the roast beef. That time my children accused me of trying to conjure up the Devil! Another time I sinned was when my two teen-aged daughters asked me to make them peanut butter and jam sandwiches. They told me to put peanut butter on one side and jam on the other. Lost in thought I put peanut butter on two slices of bread then with distracted difficulty I turned them over and put the jam on the other side. One daughter laughed and the other one cried.
But cooking rocks was far beyond the range of my sins!
I had cooked a southern dish, hocks, beans and cornbread for my husband, the aroma of which issued forth regularly from every house and trailer in town and every trailer and tent in the quarries.
So with indignant confidence I declared, “G.B. I do not cook rocks. It must have fallen off your hat or shirt. After all you’re surrounded by rocks all day.”
“Charle! I know the difference between a rock an’ a piece of flagstone! THIS IS NOT FLAGSTONE! IT’S A ROCK — A GOD DAMNED ROCK!” He stared at me with turquoise eyes blazing and his voice vibrating with leaking restraint.
“What was y’all thankin’ ‘bout while y’all was a-pickin’ the beans?
“I didn’t pick them — I bought them.”
G.B. froze and stared at me, enraged at what he construed as flippancy, then recovering some composure he blared, “WHAT? CHARLE! CHARLE! CHARLE! Listen to me Sweetheart. Did y’all sort the beans fer rocks?”
“No. Should I have?” I asked.
“Oh Charle!” G.B. flung back his head and lamented, “Who in this God damned world but y’all doesn’t know enough to check beans fer rocks?”
Before giggles consumed me, I choked out “Quite a few people — at least in my family.”
And with that G.B. was headed for Alice’s Café “a-goin’ an’ a-blowin’ an’ a-steamin’” out the door.


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October 17,2019
A PLETHORA OF SHIRTS

 

excerpt from

Ash Fork Madness©️

written by

Nana Cook and Charlotte Madison

copyright 2019 Nana Cook and Charlotte Madison

 

                   A Plethora of Shirts

Every winter G.B. wore long sleeved khaki shirt and pant sets and broke the monotony in summer by wearing pale pastel, short sleeved shirts with his khaki pants. One would assume he had a very sparse wardrobe, but in fact he had a vast accumulation of tailored suits, worn only for funerals and trips to Canada, and drawers filled with winter, summer and dress shirts, as well as innumerable khaki sets, always purchased six at a time.
Each Christmas he was deluged with short sleeved shirts by his Okie kin which he donned each spiring with relish and wore for a a few minutes, until he first rammed his pens and note book into the left pocket and then flung his eyeglass case onto the floor – invariably the right pocket was missing!
Moments later he gathered up a haystack of shirts amid an appropriate succession of curses, he would ‘”tote ‘em” over to Luis and Pauline at Ash Fork’s cleaning establishment, dump them onto the counter and tell them to remove a square from the bottom, centre back of each shirt, with which they could devise a right hand pocket. To fill the hole they created by this radical cut, they would locate and stitch in a similar pastel or grossly inappropriate print square.
And G.B. in regard to his shirts, seemed to follow a philosophy similar to my dear grandfather who, each morning bent down to polish the front and sides of his big high black leather boots. Neglecting the back, he would quote: “A good soldiaah nev-aah looks behind.”

  One day I watched G.B. discussing a special order, with his own charming confident air. He was addressing an immaculate Japanese architect and a pompous contractor, both so citified and expensively dressed.
The gentlemen moved behind G.B.’s chair in order to view the blueprint as he pointed out details. At one point G.B. swished the blueprint onto the floor with one of his extravagant gestures, then bent and stretched down from his big leather chair to retrieve it, thereby revealing to us all – baby pink and blue lambs leaping across his butt.


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October 16,2019
P.S.

P.S.   

I THINK WHEN BOOK 2 ENDS I MAY WAIT UNTIL AFTER JANUARY 1 2020 TO START BOOK 3, SHE PAINTS ROCKSIF I CAN RESIST THE TEMPTATION.


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October 16,2019
CARL

 

excerpt from

Ash Fork Madness©️

written by

Nana Cook and Charlotte Madison

copyright 2019 Nana Cook and Charlotte Madison

 

                            CARL

Carl was one of two men with whom G.B. forbade me to speak. His orders were not difficult to obey with one of the men, whose towering size, vacant expression, forbidding demeanor and wild insane laughter warded me off the first time he meandered into the station. But Carl?
The first time I walked to town from my northern campsite I came upon an old man herding a party of fat little puppies to Ash Fork. The charming old man told me about his exploration of Anasazi ruins, roaming the hills finding skulls, arrowheads and even intact ancient pots. He told me that he took the relics home to “protect them from thieves, pot-hunters and —Forest Rangers.” His reasoning was ironic but well intentioned as he did not sell them, he just accumulated them in his shack. Then he added that the next time he had to kill a rattlesnake, he would dry the skin and bring it to me to paint. I thanked him and said that was not necessary, and then passed on by, leaving him alone to herd his puppies into town.
When I arrived in town I found G.B. and told him about my encounter with the old man on the road. It was then I discovered that I had met Carl.
G.B’s reprimands and reasons why I must avoid the man at all cost were loud and plentiful. Carl was a dangerous individual!
“Charle, he ain’t right, y’all can’t believe any thang he tells to ye. He’s like that ol’ quarry guard; he’d as soon shoot or stab y’all, as say howdy.”
But I was not really convinced because Carl had been so nice to me — and he loved dogs.
That evening, after I arrived back at my trailer, I sat at the table gazing out the door at a wild pink sunset that was tinting everything as though God had poured strawberry juice over the world. A cottontail rabbit hurried past, and I noticed a movement between the trees below my trailer. It was Carl, and he was slowly creeping toward my campsite along the animal run — with a shotgun slung over his shoulder. An armed madman heading in my direction!
I was terrified, but I had the sense and time to drag London inside and lock the door. We peeked out a window and watched as the man slowly made his way up the hill. There was no place for us to hide, so when he reached the trailer I crouched on the floor clutched London closely to me and hoped Carl would not look through the windows and see us.
There was a knock on my trailer door. The door handle turned. My heart stopped and London went berserk attacking the flimsy inner screen barrier as Carl began to hammer on the door.
Did I want this madman angrier by not letting him in? Silently I called, Help me G.B.. Please come.
From outside a strained voice pleaded, “Ma’am — I’m sick. Can I come in? I have a bad heart and I don’t feel well. P lease Ma’am — I’m sick.”
I debated whether or not to obey G.B.’s warning or listen to my instinct. I could not let an old man die, begging for help on my doorstep, so I leashed London and together we opened the door to face Carl. I found him leaning against the trailer, ashen faced and in obvious physical distress.
No one on earth who knew me would choose me to nurse their ailments. The idea of anyone, including myself, having anything inside the skin revolts me, and the whole area of external and internal ailments totally panics me.
“I need a ride to my car. I need my heart pill.” He choked out.
I was relieved that the man was in fact on the verge of succumbing to heart failure, rather than planning to shoot me or needing me to nurse a wound. I helped him to my van and got him to his car and medication in time.
For years I continued to hear wild stories about Carl from everyone, but in all that time he was always gallant, polite and courteous to me and respectful to G.B. — at least in my presence. He was like the old desert rat in Sierra Madre, filled with wise words and amazing tales. I had to suppose all his wonderful stories were true, because somehow they always seemed to prove out
Carl dropped by the station and stone yard most weeks but it was several years after the first encounter with him that he arrived at our house.
“Charle!” G.B. called to me from the verandah, “Come on out Hon, Carl’s got somethin’ fer ye.”
There stood Carl, smiling radiantly. He greeted me with something hanging over one shoulder, the skin of a beautiful diamondback rattlesnake! I felt a shiver of horror while I thought, oh what a painting this will be!
In time G.B. came to trust Carl, and we even entrusted both of my daughters into his care for wondrous explorations out into the hills beyond town. But Carl was never trusted by others in our community. His last act of ferocity in Arizona occurred while he was in residence at a Williams nursing home. He shot up the place while in hot pursuit of another doddering old resident rock doodler who had “borrowed” one of Carl’s beloved pots


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October 15,2019
THE GUN

 

excerpt from

Ash Fork Madness©️

written by

Nana Cook and Charlotte Madison

copyright 2019 Nana Cook and Charlotte Madison

 

                          The Gun


One morning as we sat at the breakfast table G.B. casually mentioned his gun. To a naïve Canadian it was startling to hear that my husband, this volatile man, owned a firearm. I asked him where he kept it and he replied with a mischievous expression on his face, “Well Charle, it’s at home. Maybe.” He added when he saw my startled look. And then he continued, “Or in the car, or in the pick-up, at one of the offices or maybe at the station. Now don’t worry Hon. It’s hidden where no one could ever find it.” Floundering and going under he added, “It’s hidden at the station.” At my horrified gasp he quickly added, “Don’t worry Hon. It’s hidden where no one could ever find it.”
He was right. I had open access to everything including his hiding spots, but try as I might I was unable to find the gun, so I decided it was just bluster.
Soon after, in the middle of the night, G.B. wakened me in a frantic panic.
“CHARLE! CHARLE! I DANG NEAR SHOT DAN! I thought he was a prowler. What the Hayll was he a-doin’ in m’ station in the middle of the night?”
“G.B. he works there! You could have killed him — shattered his entire family — had my husband taken away to prison — all with one shot!”
Not getting the sympathy he expected, he tried to placate me, “Don’t worry Sweetheart — I threw the gun away.” Pleased with his quick thinking he smiled, feeling all was well again.
“What? Where?” I asked in tears.
“Ah . . . in the field, way beyond the tracks” He replied hesitantly.
“Oh no G.B., the children! What about the children? A little one might find it! I’ll get dressed and we can go get it now. We have to find it! Trauma was being heaped upon trauma for G.B. when his wife not only hollered at him but told him what to do.
“GOD DAMMIT CHARLE! OH HAYLL!” He screamed, spitting sparks! “Y’ALL’RE SO GOD – DAMNED . . . STRANGE! I didn’t throw it away! But I shore as hayll will get rid of it now, if it is just to shut you up!” He muttered.
“Where?” I persisted.
“CHARLE!”


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October 15,2019
SCRIPTS AND SONGS

 

excerpt from

Ash Fork Madness©️

written by

Nana Cook and Charlotte Madison

copyright 2019 Nana Cook and Charlotte Madison

 

                   Scripts and Songs


I decided to parallel the five acts of Salt Spring Madness as closely as possible to Ash Fork Madness, but frequently I was cast adrift, as there is only so much an island and a desert town have in common. However, with the rousing music and the original show’s framework, I developed five strong acts, each of which was introduced by three seedy, old rock doodlers reminiscing.


ACT I THE SETTLERS:

It was in the first act that I was best able to parallel the Salt Spring production with a simple opening song that would gradually swell to a rousing crescendo and which would include the voices of the audience.
The curtain rises on contemporary pioneers. A father and his two children sitting in the moonlight tend a cook-fire out in the Juniper ranch land. The little boy is frightened by shrieking coyotes, so his father tells the children the story of Ash Fork: Yavapai Indians who lived on the land, miners from Jerome, the Santa Fe railroaders, ranchers and cowboys who worked the range, Latino and Anglo families who settled the town and worked the flagstone deposits, and finally dust bowl Okies, truckers and tourists who drove Route 66, thus adding much needed income to the little town.
As the father describes the arrival of the succession of original inhabitants they emerge as visions from the darkness and are called over to join the man and his children around the fire.

Songs: Freedom Song, Things for Everyone, Friends and Neighbors*

ACT II THE BRIDES:

In the nineteen-forties, a mail order bride arrived in Ash Fork — by bus. When she discovered that her intended kept pigs in his house the bride left on the next bus out of town. I took poetic license to justify turning the bus into a stage coach and having an excited group of brides dressed for the altar pour out of it.
The stagecoach, brimming with mail order brides, is welcomed by the prospective grooms, the saloon’s habitués and the town’s floozy — boa and all.

Song: Here Come the Brides

ACT III THE HARVEY GIRLS:

After considerable research and interviews with surviving Harvey Girls, I chose to use the strictness of the housemothers who watched over Harvey Girls day and night, juxtaposed against the natural vivacious restlessness of young women.
They appear in camisoles and bloomers, and then change into vintage Harvey Girl uniforms, which were loaned to us by Al White, from Grand Canyon National Park.

Song: Harvey Girls

ACT IV ROCK DOODLERS

This act was a struggle for me. How does one turn the unique rugged breed of rock doodlers into thespians, dancers and singers? In the midst of my struggle I decided to use that very point and have the rock doodlers in the quarry dancing and prancing as they ridicule the townsmen who are appearing in a musical centennial show. The upbeat tempo of the song Ichose for this act was perfect for the raucous rock doodlers, and the lyrics came easily once the theme was set.

Song: Doodlers’ Rock

ACT V THE ASH FORK WOMEN’S VOLUNTEER FIRE BRIGADE:

This act was to be a confrontation at a fire between the ridiculously feminine Ash Fork Women’s Volunteer Fire Brigade and an equally ridiculous group of Arizonians, the Kaibab Women’s Volunteer Fire Brigade, which included a strong retired military presence, and who with their Chief, were willfully pushing to join Ash Fork’s fire brigade.
           I cast a petite, outspoken and effervescent individual, Pat, as Ash Fork’s fire chief, a woman who in reality was ahead of her time. Pat had tried to join our men’s brigade and had been firmly rejected — despite having been a corpsman in the U.S. Navy. I knew Pat would put her heart and soul into her role. When that fire bell rang they appeared in whatever attire they were wearing. As it turned out, a great deal less when Pat dropped her huge bath towel to reveal a hot pink bikini.
           I turned to a tall, powerful and delightfully joyful, retired Lieutenant-Colonel, Sally, for my Kaibab fire chief and for appropriate military commands. Although I had only seen the enthusiastic happy side of her in the gas station, I knew, being a lieutenant-colonel she must be able to belt out orders with authority.
            The two women were perfect antagonists as opposing Chiefs and I decided to have each one cast and direct her own brigade. I had a strong feeling that if any brigade members were introverts to begin with - subordinate to these two women — they would be extroverts by the chorus-line finale.
For the final kick-line, the women grabbed their bucket filled with confetti, held it on one shoulder, and following the last kick, they would throw the contents toward the nearest audience.

SONG: We're the Ash Fork Women's Fire Brigade


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October 14,2019
ELLA

 

excerpt from

Ash Fork Madness©️

written by

Nana Cook and Charlotte Madison

copyright 2019 Nana Cook and Charlotte Madison

 

                              Ella

It was not only curiosity that brought locals in to the gas station to talk with me. When I first appeared there they were already programmed to wander in and chat with the former owner Luisa Mena, whether or not they were buying gasoline. Railroaders gathered around the track truck included me in their happy talk while I pumped their gasoline, rock doodlers with their loaded rock hauling trucks would check with me to discover G.B.’s mood of the moment — before offering him their load of rock for sale, and they too would join the confab. When it was our month for the school bus and water truck contracts, the drivers paused to update me on their news of the day, and the local men, women, teens and children came in on their way to and from school or shopping in Zetler’s Market. Shirley, our E.M.T., arrived most mornings to see what G.B. had done to my blood pressure. The residents of the Kaibab and Juniper dropped in to tell me of their progress “back at the ranch.” But there was one person who came in at least eight times each day.
Ella was an elderly lady of dainty form and finely featured, with a beautiful smiling face. She was the tiniest little thing and always seemed to be slipping around inside her shabby genteel attire.
Not having a car or a family Ella did all her shopping at Zetler’s Market, and being well into her eighties, she got her daily exercise by repeatedly walking the few blocks from her house to the market, and then carrying home one or two objects at a time. At least once a day, if not countless times, she never passed by without stopping in to visit me. She would settle in the chair beside my desk and tell me enchanting tales that echoed out of the nineteenth century and even back to Arizona’s territorial days – tales of pioneers, her family and Ash Fork.
She told me about the “hanging tree” across the tracks and the ice house where, she told me confidentially and in a whisper barely heard, “Sometimes the town kept dead bodies in the ice house.”
During her stories Ella would sit primly with her hands entwined on her lap, and often burst loose with laughter that rang like Arcosante’s copper bells in the wind. She was never crude and never swore, but she gave the railroaders, rock doodlers and everyone else good banter, always leaving me laughing as she hurried away lest the “Devil himself ” (G.B.) catch her wasting my time.
A large number of people in town were quilters, including many of the women working and living in the quarries. As I had always enjoyed sewing dresses, I decided to give sewing a quilt a try. Not being precise by nature meant my squares were messy, but like my paintings, very brightly coloured. Over the weeks Ella watched my quilt squares add up until one day when she told me a story about a quilt made by her mother’s young cousin, Sarah.
“The lovely young Sarah had fallen in love with a handsome young man and they became engaged. During their engagement she worked on a quilt for their marriage bed, sewing into it all the hopes and dreams for their future. Sadly, while Sarah was still only seventeen, her beloved fiancé was killed. Broken hearted and vowing never to marry, she carefully wrapped in white cotton all the quilt squares and all the tiny pieces of fabric which she had so carefully cut. Then she placed the bundles at the bottom of her hope chest, never to work on the quilt again.”
The day following the story about Sarah, Ella arrived at the station carrying a small paper bag that she placed on the ice chest. I decided that she would return for it, so I let it lie. And she was back with a second, a third and a forth bag. Late in the day she finally popped in to sit down and visit.
“Miss Charle, I have something to give you.” She began to open one of the bags as I watched in anticipation — until I had to run out to a customer. As the driver pulled out of the station I hurried back to my desk. Ella has disappeared, but spread out for me to fully appreciate was the young Sarah’s quilt squares: the faded fragile voile, cottons and ginghams, that had never been stitched into the her marriage bed quilt.
On one of my rare days off I strolled along the unpaved lane called Railroad Avenue admiring a hedge of heavenly blue morning glories and a tangle of deep yellow climbing roses. Behind the gas station I scanned the old brick façade of G.B.’s building, and then skipped between pot holes until I noticed some cats behind a low fence at the edge of the lane. They leapt up to prowl alongside me on the two by four at the top of the fence, and I stroked them all as I studied the large, shabby, cobbled together looking house behind the fence. It stretched lengthwise along a very narrow and very long shady lot, and appeared to be deserted, so I was startled when one of its rickety doors opened and from the dark interior a voice called out, “Hello Miss Charle!” It was Ella.
“Oh, I didn’t know you lived in this house.” I said, thinking how odd it seemed for such a tiny lady to live in such a large house.
“Oh I lived here before it was properly born. You see, every time I needed to rent another room I just got some lumber and started building. The rock doodlers and railroaders helped me with ladders and two handed jobs, and then another room was done quick as Bob’s yer Uncle. Oh we’ve had booming times here in Ash Fork. Would you like to look inside?”
“Okay Ella. Thank you. But I can’t stay long. G.B. will start to hunt for me anytime now.”
“How do you stand that man? You should be married to a gentle man who speaks lovingly to you,” she said with great concern.
“He does, when he isn’t hollering.” I said with a smile to ease her concern.
At that we entered the dark, low ceilinged house and began to slowly walk down the very long hallway. On either side, strung out down the hall, were many tiny bedrooms — I supposed for the many boarders she once had. The floor tilted into a room to the right and then it tilted into a room to the left. Back to the right and then to the left, and I began to feel as though I was walking through a sooty old train trying to maintain my balance.
At last, at the the far end of the house we came out of the darkness into a sunlit and shabby old kitchen. I declined a glass of water but we sat chatting for a little. When I left I hurried to find G.B., eager to tell him that I had been to visit Ella.
“Guess what G.B., I was just taken through the longest shabbiest house I have ever seen.”
“Oh did Ella show y’all her home?” When I nodded excitedly he added, “Back when the railroad was real important, this here little town was a rip snorter!”
“G.B., she told me! And she told me how she kept adding on rooms to rent – doing a lot of it herself! And she said how after work the doodlers and trackmen helped her build them. That was so nice of them to help her. I can’t imagine that sweet little butterfly, young and beautiful, flitting about moving ladders and carrying boards to add rooms to her house.”
G.B. stared at me silently, yet his eyes held a wild smile. I frowned and wondered what he was thinking. I usually knew.
“What is it? What are you smiling at?”
“Charle, after livin’ here fer two years, an’ talkin’ to her an’ ever’ person in town most ever’ day, do y’all mean to tell me, y’all don’t know that Ella was Ash Fork’s Madam an’ y’all just toured the old whorin’ house?”
“G.B., what a horrible thing to say about that sweet little thing!”
“GOD DAMMIT CHARLE, Y’ALL’RE SO DUMB! Why do y’all thank rock doodlers an’ railroaders’d start buildin’ fer free after workin’ hard all day?” And then totally puzzled he added, “How the Hayll have y’all walked through this world all these years without noticein’ a few thangs!”
“But she is so gentle G.B., and sweet . . . .”
“Charle ever’ one in town saw her throw big ol’ track workers out her door by the seat of their “overhauls” and suspenders, an’ set ‘em to stumbling ‘cross the yard any time they messed with her! She had ever’ one of ‘em and her “girls” scared a-her.”
I did not have any words or air with which to speak. I walked out into our garden while every impression of Ella and each story told, flashed through my thoughts to be “adjusted” into her new persona.
 I resisted the urge to ask questions that would trigger those tales, because I realized she wanted me to keep her high on the pedestal which I had inadvertently slipped under her.


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October 13,2019
BABY TALE

 

excerpt from

Ash Fork Madness©️

written by

Nana Cook and Charlotte Madison

copyright 2019 Nana Cook and Charlotte Madison

 

                         Baby Tale


The first time my daughter, Nana, stepped off the plane in Las Vegas with Morgan in her arms, she pulled back the blankets on her little bundle and I stared in wonder at the new baby girl, but the new baby girl stared at G.B.. He reached out and took Morgan into his arms and his heart. From that moment on if G.B. was in sight Morgan stared at him and followed his every move.
When Morgan learned to walk she would toddle behind her Ganga wherever he went throughout the house but her favorite trip was to the kitchen. While Western States Stone business waited G.B. would pour a long cold Pepsi and fill his pockets with forbidden sweets to share with her, and then he would pick her up and carry her to his chesterfield. There they would settle themselves, she in his arms staring into his loving eyes, as he told her stories.
“One hot summer day, me an’ m’brother an’ two a’ m’cousins knew where these watermelons was — down by the Washita river. We crossed the river on our horses, jumped off an’ sneaked into Fitzgerald’s melon patch. We was a-thumpin’ an’ a-stealin’ watermelons, an’ suddenly up the melon rows here cum Johnny Burks — a good ol’ boy. ‘Course us kids didn’t like him a whole lot right then.”
“Here he comes! We turn tail an’ run! Ooo-ee! Got up on our horses an’ that mean ol’ man took to shootin’ at us, tryin’ to scare us an’ stop us, but weren’t nothin’ we was a-gonna stop fer now! I was a-ridin’ Skeeter, ‘member m’ li’l ol’ Spanish mustang with the blaze white face?” Morgan wide eyed and just inches from his face nodded enthusiastically, eager for him to continue. “So we was all a-carryin’ watermelons in our towsacks — on our shoulders they was. We rode a li’l ways an’ d’rectly juice was a-runnin’ out’a two holes in m’ watermelon an’ a-drippin’ through m’ sack. He was a-shootin’ at us, to scare us. An’ tha’s how far he missed me by!” And Morgan hung on every word.
“Bo-o-oy! My daddy made us boys go back with him an’ he stood thar while me an’ m’ brothers an’ cousins all told the ol’ guy how sorry we was, an’ then my daddy paid the farmer right thar an’ then, with cash money he couldn’t afford to spend! That evenin’ my daddy made us buck bales, we call it, to work off our debt. Had to earn ‘nough to pay ‘im back before we could do our chores an’ homework. It took two a’ us to load each seventy-five pound bale onto a trailer wagon, an’ then we had to scoot ‘em off the trailer wagon an’ put ‘em on the truck. That was real tirein’ work fer boys. Oohh my daddy was a hard man, but he was an honorable man an’ the best man who ever lived.”
At that point Morgan reached up, gently patted G.B.’s cheek and then softly demanded, “More Ganga, more.”
Many a person had felt G.B.’s wrath for telling him what to do, but when Morgan gave G.B. orders Ganga obeyed — always!


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October 12,2019
CHAW AND SPURS

 

excerpt from

Ash Fork Madness©️

written by

Nana Cook and Charlotte Madison

copyright 2019 Nana Cook and Charlotte Madison

 

                   CHAW AND SPURS

 

Never in my life had I ever been in the company of anyone who partook of chewing tobacco — and for that fact I was exceedingly thankful. I had often noticed the small circular, sun-faded outline of a chewing tobacco tin on the back pocket of blue jeans worn by rock doodlers and cowboys, and I had seen baseball players on TV attend to the revolting necessities of chewing tobacco — and revolting it was!
One day running the gas station, I had been on the job for only a few hours when one of our regular customer, Carl, strolled in masticating and manipulating a large mass in his mouth. “Here’s ten fer the gas.” He said as he reached for the wastebasket, lifted it to his face, and then p’tooied a large brown stream into it. I was horrified, and then my internal organs heaved when I realized that I moments before I had emptied the damp garbage from it with my bare hands.
Eventually one Sunday a cowboy from one of the ranches near town came to our house to speak to G.B.. He settled himself in a chair in the living room and rubbed his spurs back and forth against the weave of the upholstery. I watched entranced hoping he would scar that hateful orange recliner enabling me to pitch it out.
I was about to engage the cowboy in conversation, hoping he would linger and do a really good job on the chair, when I noticed he was building up a bulge in his cheek and casting searching glances around the room.
I panicked instantly, and pleaded silently, not in my home! What can I get for him before he erupts — my waste basket — a mixing bowl — the candy dish?

But the cowboy was a man of artistic talent. He stood up with spurs ringing, opened the front door and P’TOOIED across the verandah, painting a beautiful red rose — chocolate brown.


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October 12,2019
PARK AVENUE PIDGEONS

 

excerpt from

Ash Fork Madness©️

written by

Nana Cook and Charlotte Madison

copyright 2019 Nana Cook and Charlotte Madison

 

                Park Avenue Pigeons

For many years G.B.’s grand old building opposite the post office had stood empty. It had been built in eighteen eighty-two, and was originally located at the north end of town, close to the Atchison, Topeka and Santa Fe railway tracks. In territorial days it had seen action as a saloon and later it became Ash Fork’s first post office.
When I came to know the old building it had been relocated up the hill on Park Avenue, and a pair of snowy white pigeons had taken up residence on an outside ledge.
The facade of the building was characteristic of the nineteenth century Old West. Its paint, most of which had long since blistered, peeled and flaked off in the hot desert sun, still remained in the dried out grain of the old wooden siding. The thirty foot by one hundred foot interior was void of partitions and furniture. Nevertheless it stood in stately dignity, reminiscent of a time gone by. The hardwood floors and wooden walls had darkened over time, as had the seventeen foot high, pressed tin ceiling. Decades of dust had coated the windows, which left the interior a cool dark haven hidden from the brilliant Arizona sunshine.
I hurried from the post office, crossed Park Avenue and rushed into the cool privacy of the old building clutching a newly arrived package. The Newmans had sent Salt Spring Madness. With childlike eagerness I tore open the brown paper wrapping, scanned the familiar script, music and lyrics and wondered what would take me from that moment to curtain calls.
Ray and Virginia had included with the script an audio taped performance of the show, and I impatiently rammed it into my tape deck and turned it on. The tape began with an optimistic message from Virginia, followed by the overture.
As I turned up the volume the two pigeons flew into the old building through a broken pane of glass in the transom. They soared to the distant end of the room and lit on the decorative cove moulding.
On sunny days during my high school years, I sat in math, science and Latin classes staring at the sky through tall windows. I envisioned the firmament as an endless cerulean ballroom, with silver candelabras sparkling in billowing white clouds. In my gown of frothy white and shimmering silver I danced with abandon across the length and breadth of the blue sky.
Something about the look of the pigeon’s flight through the long building, the tarnished light fixtures, and the tall windows triggered the memory of my sky-blue ballroom. With the overture of Salt Spring Madness filling my senses, my paint covered clothes became the silver and white gown, and the dark old building became my ballroom. I stepped into my mental mirage and began to dance the length and breadth of the blue.
The show gradually opened in my mind, like petals of a rose peeling back, revealing facets of plot, dialogue and choreography, sets, costumes and props.
As the finale began I slipped back into my former roll as the Women’s Volunteer Fire Chief, dressed once more in an actual fire chief’s hat and white sequined mini-dress, seductively swinging my whistle. As the music built to its crescendo, I blew a sharp blast on the whistle, and led my brigade of fire-women into a chorus-line kick — with a flying ovation by the Park Avenue Pigeons.


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October 11,2019
P.S.

IN CASE YOU COME DIRECTLY TO THE BLOG, YOU CAN SEE PAINTINGS WHICH RELATE TO PEOPLE, DOODLERS, AND THE POST OFFICE, AMID MY PAINTINGS IN THE ART SECTION OF MyArtClub.Com.


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October 11,2019
THE POST OFFICE

 

excerpt from

Ash Fork Madness©️

written by

Nana Cook and Charlotte Madison

copyright 2019 Nana Cook and Charlotte Madison

 

                   THE POST OFFICE

 

Each morning when Lucia, our dynamic U.S. Post postmistress, stood by the front door of Ash Fork’s post office and pulled on the rope tied there, she lifted the brilliant red, white and blue stars and stripes, up into luminous blue, morning sky. Her ritual signaled the real start to the town’s day.
At the sight of Old Glory rising above the picturesque, little sandstone building, cars parked on Fifth Street and Park Avenue flung open their doors to release the occupants who headed for the post office, while strollers on their way to gather their mail lengthened and quickened their stride. Some folks ran to the top of the stairs or even took the steps two at a time, while others enjoyed the morning ritual at a more leisurely pace, often stopping to chat with neighbours and friends on the way up.
G.B. was proud of his post office, which he leased to the government. While the building was being designed he had had many a contentious disagreement with the government’s architect over the design and construction of his post office. There were disputes G.B. lost, such as when the architect wanted to incorporate into the walls, pieces of dark Supai Red rock amongst the pastel stones.
“Like measles on a kid’s face! Oh Charle, all the stone colors should be soft like the shades of the Grand Canyon.” G.B. pleaded passionately. “Those dark red pieces make yer eye jump like a frog on a hot griddle! They have their place, but not on my GOD DAMNED POST OFFICE WALL!”
And there were debates won, such as when G.B. insisted that there would be ample space at the top of the stairs, outside the post office door, to allow people to stand and read a letter, gossip with friends, or enjoy the high desert view.
Inside the post office the townspeople clustered at their mail boxes. They dialled their combinations and reached deeply into the small black boxes which held letters from family, friends and lovers, mysterious small packages, and catalogues — the only form of recreational shopping available to many residents, which in turn brought more wonders to the post office.
A “too large for box” card meant a gift or a long awaited (often six to eight weeks) treasure had arrived. If the package read “Keep in a Cool Place” it contained plants, trees or shrubs. The new shoots of anxious rose bushes, cardboard boxed Holland bulbs and cellophane wrapped strawberry plants dribbling damp sawdust, were looked upon enviously by those with only bills and newspapers in their hands to take home. Once or twice each year, were we all greeted by the voices of spring — the peep of golden yellow chicks and ducklings, delivered into Lucia’s loving care by the United States Federal Mail.
The only harsh racket ever heard in the post office was G.B. fighting with his combination dial. He fought a lot of inanimate objects which “deliberately disobeyed” him: loaders and fork-lifts which insisted on going backward instead of forward, a particularly devious file cabinet that “hid thangs” that were never to be seen again, adding machines that calculatedly “messed” with him and of course his nemeses — his post office combination lock. Each morning when he was trounced by the “GOD DAMNED LOCK IN M’ VERY OWN POST OFFICE!” he would bellow to Lucia as she patiently and calmly passed him his bundle of mail.
G.B. used to say, “’Cept fer the wanted poster, ever’ face in the post office is a treasure to us Charle. I reckon I know most ever’ one in m’ little town. I know who ran away an’ who they ran with. I know who’s pregnant an’ who made ‘er that way. I know who’s honest an’ who I can’t trust beyond the reach a’ my pick-handle. But when I stand here at the top of my post office steps an’ look at the people ‘round me, I’d do anything fer any one of ‘em. It’s better to trust an’ help the person y’all can’t trust, than to not help him an’ then discover y’all should a’”
G.B. helped many a person at the post office before his day had barely begun: a loan, a job, a house rental, a vehicle fuel, a meal — or he might just tell them to go “STRAIGHT TO HAYLL WHILE AH PRAY FER YE!”


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October 10,2019
SEVEN DOORS

 

excerpt from

Ash Fork Madness©️

written by

Nana Cook and Charlotte Madison

copyright 2019 Nana Cook and Charlotte Madison

 

                       Seven Doors

Our old house had seven doors that led outside, but not one door had a key, despite the fact that seventy-five, rental house keys hung by one of our front doors. The very first time G.B. locked himself out of his house he threw away the seven keys to the seven doors. Without house keys the seven doors stood unlocked day and night, whether we were home or at work, in Phoenix, Oklahoma City or Canada.
At first I was particularly concerned about the house being left unlocked because at that time Ash Fork did not have a bank — just G.B.. At any one time we had hundreds, if not thousands of dollars (income from the rental houses and gas station) in the house. It was money which enabled G.B. to cash pay cheques and make loans to tenants and employees.
I once asked G.B. if he was ever concerned that someone might walk in and steal from him. He bristled at the very idea and growled threateningly, “They wouldn’t dare.”
Nevertheless, before we left on any long trip I stowed away everything I valued — quite sure I would return to a ransacked house with seven doors blowing in the wind.
I soon learned to appreciate the ability to fly through an unlocked door, without having to remember my keys. For a woman who throughout her entire life had regularly locked herself out — G.B.’s method was luxuriant serenity.
So when G.B. hollered, “Charle! Bring the Pepsi purse an‘ — LET’S GO!” I went, and seven doors stood unlocked ready to welcome us home — and ready to welcome anyone else who”‘visited” our house while we were away.
G.B.’s drive churned around the clock, and several times each night, despite taking prescription sleeping pills, his active thoughts wakened and propelled him out onto the dark streets of Ash Fork. As he drove up and down each street he would check on all his rental houses, his gas station, his post office, his old building, his stone building and at the west end of town, the stone yard.
With the nearest sheriff in Prescott, G.B.’s patrols were invaluable, and each one concluded with a visit to Alice’s Café — a twenty-four hour truck stop just past the stone yard. There G.B. would down a cup of coffee and talk to the night shift, then circle the town once more before returning home to sleep.
While G.B. guarded the little Arizona town that straddled Route 66, I slept alone and vulnerable behind seven unlocked doors.

 

 


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October 09,2019
PRIDE COMETH

 

excerpt from

Ash Fork Madness©️

written by

Nana Cook and Charlotte Madison

copyright 2019 Nana Cook and Charlotte Madison

 

                     PRIDE COMETH . . .

My father's advice to me, when I began to date, was, "Agree with whatever your mother and I tell you—and do what you know is right. That way we can go to sleep each night knowing you'll be safe and home by a proper time. If refreshments are served late or you start gabbing on a park bench, enjoy the evening and don't worry about trying to race home or finding a phone, we'll be asleep." But in reality my proper British father was loath to let loose his daughter on the world.
In December of 1948 I was seventeen, confident and if my parents, friends, relatives and previous suitors were to be believed, beautiful. I was also anticipating a Christmas vacation in Mexico with my mother and father. When my grandmother fell ill, shortly before we were to depart, my mother insisted my father and I make the trip without her, as my mother's conscience would not let her leave her ailing mother or make us forfeit our trip south.
On our first night in Acapulco, while I dressed and primped for the evening, my father chose to wait for me on the hotel's verandah. A pleasant breeze refreshed him and the other patrons of the hotel who sat there. Before long he was deep in conversation, discussing Mexican history with a local man. By the time I had finished preening and made my entrance the two men had established a fine camaraderie.
Arturo, as he was introduced to me, was a dashing, older man of thirty-five. He was tall, broad shouldered, lean and meticulously dressed. His shimmering black hair was parted on one side and carefully combed into place. Following the edge of his top lip was a perfectly shaped, coal black mustache that had been trimmed with the precision of an expert. Arturo's deep brown eyes were penetrating, and when he spoke his English was elegantly flavored with a perfect Spanish accent.
Most evenings, on our way to dinner, my father and I would happen to meet Arturo on the hotel's verandah. On one such evening Arturo invited me to go dancing at the nightclub atop the Casablanca Hotel which overlooked Acapulco Bay. After much negotiating and assurances from Arturo, my father reluctantly gave his consent and I hurried upstairs to change.
I carefully chose a full skirted, navy blue, heavy taffeta, ballerina length gown and a demure bolero, which had a white satin ribbon hand woven into its Peter Pan collar. I tied the ribbon in a tiny bow and let the long ends coyly flutter about my waist. But once I was out of my father's sight I would remove the bolero and reveal a plunging neckline on a form-fitting bodice — and cleavage accentuated by a silver medallion! Short hair was fashionable among my peers, but I wore my long chestnut hair curled into a seductive mane. I did not need to look into the mirror to know how magnificent I looked. I saw the gleam in Arturo's eyes when he saw me return.
My father waved at me as we left and I wondered briefly if he noticed Arturo's driver turn in the opposite direction to the Casablanca Hotel. I was curious about the route we were taking, but not concerned, certain he just wanted to share the romantic sights of the city with me — until we pulled up to a hospital.
We were there only briefly, to take a small electric fan to Arturo's friend, a well known cliff diver of the Quebrada. The unfortunate chap had miscalculated a wave and injured himself.
The rest of our detour took us along the waterfront of Acapulco Bay where Arturo proudly pointed out his sailing yacht tied to its mooring.
We arrived at the Casablanca Hotel and I saw that the roof-top dance floor was open to the stars. It was an enchanted evening I spent dancing the Latin dances I knew so well, in the arms of a magnificently handsome Latino. To a young admirer of Ricardo Montalban, the evening was a dream come true.
Close to midnight Arturo sent for his car to return us to my hotel. As his driver slowly wound his way down the hill, Arturo leaned toward me and whispered softly, "Chula." then he kissed me — again and again. The car stopped in front of the hotel, but before Arturo let me out he passionately spoke to me in words my Spanish course had never taught me, ending with, "Ay Carlotta." One last kiss and I floated out of the car, fancying the drama of the moment and the rustle of my lovely gown.
I alighted on the hotel steps to the stares and murmurings of the hotel's guests and staff who were milling about. "Oh Chardy!" my father wailed as he spotted me and pulling away from the throng, "Thank God you are out of that man's clutches and back safe! We have all been so worried since we saw you leave!"
For a moment I stood indignantly before him and the hoard, and then dramatically I drew a deep breath and shot my father a withering glance. With the force of a Flamenco dancer, and the gall of a teenager, I stomped my heels on the tile floor as I stormed past him and the concerned crowd, leaving Arturo to account to all.
Once in the privacy of my hotel room I ran to the window, trying to salvage the magic of the dream-like evening. As I stared past the palm fronds, out to the black sea and star filled night sky, I slipped back into my enchanted mood. Slowly I turned and danced across the room to the mirror, wanting to enjoy one last look at my image — as Arturo had seen me — as all had seen me. To my horror I discovered not the glamorous beauty I expected. Instead I saw the glamorous beauty all had seen petulantly strutting through the hotel sporting a coal black mustache smeared across her upper lip!


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October 08,2019
SNOW

 

excerpt from

Ash Fork Madness©️

written by

Nana Cook and Charlotte Madison

copyright 2019 Nana Cook and Charlotte Madison

 

 

                            SNOW

G.B. leaned out of the pick-up and peered up at an ominous gray sky.
“Shore ‘nuff gonna come a blizzard ‘fore nightfall Charle. Ain’t nothin’ between us an’ the North Pole but a barbed wire fence — an’ that’s down. Gimme a kiss sweetheart an’ y’all get the station open. We’re late, it’s near six a.m., an’ we got a lot a’ work to do today.”
“Oh G.B., I love the snow. If it comes can I keep the station open late?”
“No, I want my dinner at the proper time, same as usual?”
“But it’s fun to be in the station at night when it snows.” I pleaded.
“Oh Charle, y’all’re so strange. Fact is, if it snows I’ll probably want y’all to close up early, an’ I never do like y’all over here at night.”
Sure enough the snow began to fall late in the afternoon. Fine dry flakes fell on cold ground and accumulated steadily.
The newly constructed, interstate freeway I-40, was no more a match for winter storms that blew in than was old Route 66. Although Ash Fork was one mile high, five miles east of town I-40 rose another two thousand feet in the twenty odd mile climb to Williams. With heavy snowfalls the Highway Patrol often closed that section of the freeway.
On snowy nights many east-bound travelers, who were unfamiliar with and cautious of the road conditions ahead, filled their gas tanks and bought chains before they faced the night’s drive. While the chains were being put on they ate a hot meal at the closest café, and then loaded up on snacks and hot drinks before heading out to encounter the hazards silently waiting for them on the Williams Hill.
People traveling east who knew from experience what lay ahead, immediately booked a motel room for the night and gassed up their vehicle for the morning. Ready to relax, they lingered over hearty fare at Alice’ Café then either turned in early for the night or strolled through the quiet, snow covered streets to the “Green Door” or the “Oasis.”
I wanted to stay open late and wait for the traumatized and terrified, west-bound drivers who would come down off the hill from Williams before the Highway Patrol closed the freeway.
The storm continued and the road was still open when G.B. came in and ordered me to, “Close ‘er up.”
“Oh can’t I stay open? Please G.B.? You could get us burgers and fries, and we could eat them here in the station. Then you could go home and snooze while I stay open a little longer. Please?”
“No Charle.”
“But I’m selling an awful lot of gas and almost every set of chains . . . .”
Before I could finish my sentence my words hit him like a brick. He pulled off his padded snow cap and began to rub his bald head. After a moment of contemplation he pulled his hat back onto his head and relented. “Okay, fer y’all. Y’all can stay fer awhile.”
I hugged him enthusiastically, and he smiled fondly as he added, “Y’all’re welcome Charle.”
As soon as our supper was over, G.B. instructed me to turn up the thermostat, so the office would be a warm and cozy haven from the snow.
Locals who recalled the long road closure the winter ’67, made an evening run to Zetler’s Market. As they trudged home with their shopping bags loaded, they hollered to me, “Time to go home Charle!” and “Hey Red, close her up!”
The tiny town, grayed by winter, was transformed by the deep fall of snow into an enchanted fantasy. Familiar houses, fences, rocks, bushes and trees were transformed into mysterious and beautiful, glowing forms creating a mystic light, and still the snow flakes fell from the dark night sky.
I wandered restlessly out to the sidewalk, wrapped warmly in my Cree parka. Falling snow whispered all around me as I looked east for headlights coming off the freeway, but as far as I could see the dinner lull was still interrupting the flow of traffic.
I turned to the west, stepped into fresh unmarked snow and enjoyed the soft squeak under my feet. Looking up I watched snowflakes flutter out of the darkness and sparkle in the brilliant illumination cast by the station’s flood-lights until at last they touched my face.
My gaze followed the sound of laughter to children of all ages, skimming and spinning down Third Street on toboggans and sleds. I laughed and called out to them as they tumbled and rolled into a barricade the Highway Patrolman had erected to prevent the merrymakers from colliding with what little traffic might find its way onto Route 66 West, through town.
Because each major snowfall was greeted with a bonfire at the top of the Third Street hill (the best sledding hill in town) there were many townspeople clustered at the top sipping hot drinks. I decided, next snowfall I would share a British tradition and roast chestnuts for the revelers.
The lull was finally over and travelers began to arrive at the station. Drivers hurried their passengers into the warm office, eager to share with me all the fear they had felt coming down the Williams Hill, then their effusive comments poured forth.
“Oh thank God you’re still open! Everyone else is closed.” One man said “And it’s warm in here too.”
“Did you know there are three eighteen wheelers overturned on the hill, east of town?” A woman asked, “And two stuck in the median?”
“Everyone on that hill tried to kill me tonight — including my wife.” Growled an elderly man.
A New Yorker shouted, “What the Hell’s this? I’m not spending good money to drive four thousand miles to freeze my ass off in the Arizona desert!”
One man burst through the door, looked me up and down, studied my hooded parka, and then called back to his wife who was scuttling across the slippery driveway, “Mabel, I just found me an Eskimo in the middle of Arizona!”
Suddenly the doorway was filled with a big ol’ Texan who let fly with an explosive sneeze. He took in a couple of deep breaths to regain himself, then in a deep resonant voice that reverberated off the station’s metal walls, he stated, “Suga’ Ah surely would ‘a died’ve exposure if y’all hadn’a bin open on this wild night.”
I was not sure whether he was referring to the station or the town. Either way I enjoyed every move he made and every minor toned, Texan word he spoke, as he added his tale of woe to the stories told by the gathering throng.
All formality, bravado, pomposity, affectation and ego fell away that snowy night in Ash Fork.
Later that evening with the snow still falling, the sheriff’s deputy swung by my door and told me, “Charle you may as well go home now. The road’s closed, and the last car’s come through. Goodnight.” he called as he drove off alone, into the cold night.
I bagged the money and receipts from the till, closed the lube room doors, and then walked into the stockroom, where I flicked off the circuit breakers for the gas pumps, Union 76 sign, floodlights and canopy lights. In the darkness I felt my way back to the office then gathered up the money bag and four padlocks.
I stepped out under the dark canopy and turned the key in the front door lock. Immediately encircled by the silence of snow, I had only the dim night-light glowing in the office to light my way as I began to padlock the pumps.
Unexpectedly a large black car turned in and slid to a stop. The driver flung open the door and ran through the snow to me.
“I’ve been driving ‘round town hunting for a motel, but the rooms are all taken. Would you let me park here by the door tonight, and could you please leave the rest-room door unlocked? We’ll pay whatever you want, but I can’t drive any further. I have my mother and son with me, and I’m afraid to park on the street in case someone skids into my car.”
“Its okay ma’am, you’re welcome here. The office is still warm. Bring everyone in. I’ll call my husband and see what he wants to do.”
I called G.B. for my orders, knowing from past experience how this situation would be handled.
“Y’all gas up their car an’ don’t let ‘em pay fer it. We want ‘a give it to ‘em. Tell ‘em they’re fixin’ to stay the night with us, an’ I’ll be there as soon as I get m’ britches an’ boots on.”
Moments later the gallant knight rode up in his white Buick to rescue the people and their luggage. They were past caring whether G.B. and I could be dangerous and settled back in their seats to let strangers drive them out into the night.
G.B. cursed the reveler’s barricade which blocked his access to our lane and he terrified us all on his detour through the abandoned snowy streets. Finally he pulled up in the car-port and ushered the strangers and myself into the den.
“Y’all take the blue room.” He said to the boy, “Ladies y’all can share the pink . . . . Well it used to be the pink room till Charle painted it some fancy artist color. She’s a strange English-type Canadian artist.” He mumbled in despair for his lost pink walls.
The New Yorkers trailed behind their kindly benefactor as he led the way through the dining room to the living room. With great self awareness G.B. seated himself on his chesterfield and as usual seemingly occupied it all. Our guests settled themselves elsewhere around the room and I sat on my chesterfield beside the boy. I always marveled at how G.B.’s dominant bearing prevented the thought even occurring to anyone in that room, to sit beside him on his long sofa.
G.B. questioned the family about their trip west from the north east coast, but when their details continued too long he interrupted them and took control of the conversation, only stopping long enough to instruct me, “Charle, y’all make some hot chocolate for these people.”
Moments later I carried in G.B.’s snowfall special for all — mugs filled with steaming hot chocolate, each with a foaming dollop of butter pecan ice cream floating on top. We all sat in the warm living room sipping our drinks and listening to G.B.
When he was all talked out, G.B. rose to dismiss his audience saying, “Well, we’ll go from there.” A comment guaranteed to clear the room. And then he added, “Bacon an’ eggs, toast an’ coffee’ll be ready tomorrow mornin’ at five twenty, as usual. Y’all’re welcome to share our breakfast.”
The woman thanked us warmly and as we all rose she asked, “Do you often get blizzards like this in Arizona?”
G.B. got a far off look in his eyes and sat down again — as did we all.
“When I was a boy in Oklahoma, not quite y’all’s age.” He confided said to the boy, “It was cold. While we was at the school house it come a blizzard out’a the North.
I had a li’l ol’ Spanish mustang horse with a blaze white face. Skeeter we called him. He was well known all ‘round fer bein’ real fast in the short distance an’ bein’ a great goat ropin’ horse . . . . Anyhow, Teacher let us loose early on account a’ the weather, so I got up on m’ horse an’ got m’ li’l sister up behind me to ride home through the snow. M’ li’l brother was cryin’ ‘cause he was a-havin’ to walk beside m’ horse, Skeeter, a-holdin’ on to the saddle stirrup. He kept on a fussin’, so I stopped an’ led ol’ Skeeter over to a snow bank. Got my li’l brother up behind my sister, an’ continued home through that blizzard. Oh it was cold. M’gosh that wind was a’blowin’ cold, right out’a the north, an’ we was havin’ to face it straight on. There I was, m’ bare hands holdin’ the reins, an all that snow.”
Time we got home I was a’cryin’.” For a moment that memory of childhood held him transfixed. “Anyhow, my daddy started to holdin m’ hands an’ they hurt so awful bad. My daddy decided m’ hands an’ feet was near froze, so he made me pull off m’ wet shoes an’ socks, an’ he walked me’ ‘round an’ ‘round the yard a’ holdin’ me by the hand. I had to walk in the snow — barefoot — to thaw my feet out! Had to thaw out slow, couldn’t thaw out real fast ‘cause that hurt real bad. Ever time ‘round the yard he’d stop, make me put m’ hands an’ feet in big basins a’ snow. Then he’d rub the snow all ’round my hands and feet, circle the dark yard with me an’ then start all over again.
I thought that was the most meanest thang m’ daddy ever could a’ done to me. Me! M’ feet was froze! M’ hands was froze! An’ he made me walk in the snow — with m’ shoes off!”
Obviously still annoyed, G.B. rose abruptly and exited the room with the dramatic flair and timing of a master thespian. Slightly confused by his story, but too polite to say, our guests thanked me for our hospitality, and still scratching their heads, retired to their rooms
That night snow continued to fall on 212 South Second Street while five people inside our house slept warm, happy, proud, safe and content. But I dreamed of being a little girl again playing in the snow, with a wonderful boy who rode a horse with a blaze white face.


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October 07,2019
DAWN OF MADNESS

 

excerpt from

Ash Fork Madness©️

written by

Nana Cook and Charlotte Madison

copyright 2019 Nana Cook and Charlotte Madison

 

                 DAWN OF MADNESS


“Charle,” Shirley declared, “we had such fun the night we worked on the church pageant, why don’t we do a show for the Ash Fork’ Centennial?”
“What centennial?” I asked cautiously.
Shirley knew she had my full attention, so she let fly in rapid fire. “Come June eighty-two, Ash Fork’ll be a hundred years old! The whole town’ll be celebratin’, an’ anyone who’s ever lived here’s invited to come. Fayrene’s organizin’ a celebration everyone’ll be real proud of. She’s even invited Marshall Trimble home to be Parade Marshall. The fun an’ games’ll go on all weekend, with a dance an’ rodeoin’. But,” she added in a conspiratorial tone, “there ain’t no show planned yet. Now wouldn’t you like to put on a show just exactly like you want? Me an’ Lorraine would do anything to help,” she coaxed, “an’ you have lots a time to work on it. Charle, it’d be so much fun! Won’t you please?”
“And where would we put G.B. while I worked on it?” I asked sarcastically. “Really Shirley, I couldn’t. You know how much work and time it would take. G.B. would never sit serenely by while I filled my days and nights with a show.”
“Well, he lets you paint in the old buildin’ on Thursdays now don’t he?”
“Yes.” I replied grudgingly.
“Well if you worked over there, he’d never guess what you were doin’. Then by the time he did find out — it’d be too late. HA!”
“Sure, too late for me Shirley. It just isn’t possible. Besides I’m a designer not a producer or a musician, and it would have to be a musical. Even if I did agree to do it I wouldn’t know where to start. I’m not like the Newmans. I can’t write music.”
Shirley was familiar with Ray and Virginia Newman, my son, Lee’s in-laws, who overflowed with musical talent and creativity. While I was living in Canada they shanghaied my daughters and even me into their original musical production of Salt Spring Madness,* a historical review of the island on which we all lived.
Remembering Salt Spring Madness and all the people who contributed talent and joy to its creation and success, the parallels to Ash Fork’s community and history flashed through my mind.
“What if I adapted Salt Spring Madness to Ash Fork?” I asked Shirley breathlessly.
Silently we stared at each other, stunned by the possibility.
“Charle,” she drawled, “we have a lovely stage with dressin’-rooms an’ lights, up at the high-school.”
“A real stage?” I asked incredulously.
Shirley nodded once, and then added, “Yeaup, with proper lights, right here in Ash Fork!”
“Nineteen eighty-two.” I muttered, “That’s a year and a half. I’ve designed and executed most shows in six weeks and I’ve juggled four plays and an opera all at once. Surely I could produce one show in a year and a half. If the Newmans would let me adapt Salt Spring Madness we could split the profits with the high school in gratitude for the use of their stage, and then use the rest to buy medical equipment for the town’s E.M.T.s and the fire brigade.
“Yeaup!” Shirley agreed with gusto. “We could get Mast pants, a portable oxygen unit an’ a high grade stethoscope. That’d make the Old Fart proud — when he eventually found out!”
Shirley’s caustic comment about my husband sent both of us into peels of laughter.
Probably I could get my hands on Salt Spring Madness. I did have a year to adapt it, six months to produce it, and hundreds of people in town, the Kaibab and the Juniper from whom I could pick cast and crew. Any idiot could do it in eighteen months!
The next day I was on my way and running. I called Shirley from the stone yard and said, “Listen, G.B.’s with a customer so I only have a minute. I’m not going to refer to the show or spread the word about it for one year. During that time I’m going to adapt the script, write lyrics and choreograph the dances. In January, eighty-two I’ll put up posters in town and I’ll place an ad in the Williams News announcing a cattle call for Ash Fork Madness.”
Without warning a voice resonated down the Mountain Bell lines . . . .
“GOD DAMMIT CHARLE! Can’t a man doin’ business use his very own phone without a-havin’ to listen to you two hens a-cacklin’ on the extension? Ain’t bad ‘nough I gotta hear yall laugh at nothin’ day in an’ day out — NOW I GOTTA LISTEN TO BOTH Y’ALL — AT ONCE!” he spluttered.
Just before I dropped the receiver I heard Shirley trying to stifle an evil sounding snicker. We had to finish our conversation, so I stuck my head into G.B.’s office and asked sweetly, “I have to go to the gas station Hon. Is there anything you want?”
To which he calmly replied, “Well now Sweetheart, why don’t y’all bring me back some donuts.”
I dashed to the car and drove to Shirley’s gas station. She was standing in her doorway waiting for me, with a broad grin on her face.
I pulled up beside her and said, “As I was saying Shirley, in January I’ll cast, schedule and design the show. Until then if you tell anyone, and I mean anyone, G.B. will find out and he’ll pull the plug for sure. If I can adapt, choreograph and design it without him noticing, we’ve got a show! The moment we hear from the Newmans, if it’s a go, book the stage for six weeks rehearsal time and two nights for the show. And remember — keep my name out of it! By the way, you’re already cast as a saloon girl!”
“HA!” Shirley exploded as the full impact of Ash Fork Madness registered in her mind.
“Oh I’ll need a feather boa Charle! I’ve always wanted one of them things. Since you’re the producer, phone Fredrick’s of Hollywood an’ get ‘em to send you a catalogue, then get a boa for me”
“You’ll need more than that Blondie.”
“Yeaup.” she agreed insidiously. “An’ when that package arrives at the post office, Red, that hot stuff for Mister Madison’s wife’ll set the whole town afire.”

 

 


* “Salt Spring Madness” written & composed by Ray and Virginia Newman – Lyrics by Lou Rumsey


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October 06,2019
THREE ORANGES AND THE NICE APPLE

 

excerpt from

Ash Fork Madness©️

written by

Nana Cook and Charlotte Madison

copyright 2019 Nana Cook and Charlotte Madison

 

    Three Oranges and The Nice Apple*


It was mid afternoon when G.B. swerved into the gas station and called to me, “Charle I got a surprise fer ye. Close up fer a while, I’m fixin’ to show y’all somethin’.” While he pulled down the lube room door he asked me, “Guess who’s out at the Santa Cruz quarry?”
“My family?” I asked hopefully.
“No,” he growled. “It’s that crazy ol’ quarry guard. The one who wrote the signs at y’all’s butte an’ gave y’all an’ y’all’s mother the drink of water. I’ve moved ‘im into Santa Cruz quarry. We’ve been havin’ a lot a’ trouble out thar — people stealin’ thangs.”
G.B. was speaking of the quarry guard who wrote the Christmas poem I found, La Patrona*, the story of La Patrona’s gift to the shepherd – three oranges and the nice apple.
“When we get thar stay upwind a’ him Charle. His clothes are black an’ greazy, so danged full a dirt, stone, dust and sweat sealed in with soot. They don’t thin out or wear out –—they break and pieces fall out!”
As we drove onto the quarry floor I saw a cobalt blue hulk of an old school bus planted by the canyon rim. The wheels had been removed and the bus was settled amidst the stone rubble and cactus. G.B. got out of the pick-up, and with me in tow, headed for the old bus. He pulled open the door and a heavy stench, which had been held captive inside, rushed out
accompanied by the old quarry guard’s three, dark lavender hued dogs who attacked their master’s benefactor. Ignoring the snapping of teeth, G.B, pushed inside, with me clinging to his shirt and desperately hoping to escape the dogs wrath.
Everything inside the old school bus was permeated or coated by soot from a cobbled old coal and wood stove. In a mound of filthy bedding two eyes opened, their sparkle the only brightness visible as they shone in a soot blackened face. The dogs rushed past us, leapt onto the bedding and proceeded to growl in defense of their beloved master.
The bedding and the dogs were tossed aside and the old quarry guard appeared. He was fully dressed in the same clothes he had donned the previous spring — when he last conducted his annual ablutions and laundry at the local campground. His stringy, shoulder length hair and grizzled beard were stained by soot and smoke and matched the color of the dogs. Hidden in all the dirt was a handsome old man, but a long time lost was the young poet, the soldier, the lover, the teacher, the cowboy and the shepherd. He was well suited living alone guarding the quarry, for as G.B. often said, “He likes his dawgs better’n people, an’ he’d as soon shoot y’all as bother mess with ye.”
“Hello G.B.. Hello Ma’am.”
The old man spoke with the cultured tone of a gentleman. But like so many solitary souls when they encounter another human being, instead of listening, they totally monopolize the conversation then return to their solitude with only their own words to feed their thoughts.
Most of the old man’s monologue related to Hondo, Sister and Carlompio, his three lavender hued dogs.
The quarry guard and his dissertation followed us out of the school bus and back toward the company pick-up. When G.B. had heard all he could endure he interrupted the old man and issued his orders for the day. The guard replied with mild sarcasm, “Si Patrón.” Which escaped G.B.’s notice.
We walked back to the pick-up and climbed in as the guard continued his spiel. The pick-up began to roll so the old man doffed his soot stained cap and bowed deeply.
“Adiós Patrona.” I heard him call out. And I wondered whether that too was sarcasm or whether he envisioned me as his La Patrona.
While we bounced down the quarry road toward town G.B. said, “Come summer, y’all might like to paint him an’ his dawgs. An’ if y’all want, y’all can buy some Christmas cheer fer the crazy ol’ man.”
“How can he afford to feed all those dogs when he’s so poor?” I asked.
“Hayll Charle, he ain’t poor. He’s got it hid! Fact is most folks thank his money’s buried out thar somewhere.” he said, gesturing with a sweeping wave of his arm toward the mountains beyond the canyon.
The quarry guard’s life-style was his choice as money was always available for anything he considered necessary. However, totally caught up in the poem’s portrayal of the benevolent Patrona and the destitute shepherd, I put together a platter of Christmas dinner, mince tarts, a box of chocolates and three pounds of diced fried liver for the dogs. Unable to resist the magic of the poem I added three Christmas oranges and a nice apple.

 

 

*the copywrite for “La Patrona is held by the quarry guard.


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October 05,2019
INDEX


INDEX

Showbiz Rears its Ugly Head
Three Oranges and the Nice Apple
Dawn of Madness
Snow
Pride Cometh
Seven Doors
The Post Office
Park Avenue Pigeons
Chaw and Spurs
Baby Tale
Ella
Scripts and Songs
The Gun
Carl

A Plethera of Shirt

Vivre La Differenc

Crotch Biting Blue and the Macramé Gang

BUICK
Girl Talk
Hair
And In The Quiet of the Forest Above Grand Canyon
Poverty

Desert Roses
My Garden
Angels of Hell
Just a Bit More Madness 
Dietin‘
Happy Birthday G.B.
G.B.’s Song of Love
Murder in the Quarry
“Wayll Hayll!”
“Good Night Sweetheart”
One Woman Show
The Skeleton
“Y’all Bring His Legs”
‘Twas the Night Before Christmas
Piano Man
The School Board
Cattle Call

Mother Lode
The Tortoise
Props and the Stool Pigeon
“Vent Y’all’s Spleen”
Moving Day
The Actor
Curtain Time
Curtain Calls


Posted by Charlotte Madison at 11:26 0 Comments
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October 04,2019
Ash Fork Madness - Showbiz Rears Its Ugly Head

 

 

Ash Fork Madness©️

written by

Nana Cook and Charlotte Madison

copyright 2019 Nana Cook and Charlotte Madison

 

Prologue

Ash Fork Madness is Part 2 of a trilogy. Each book stands alone if it must, because it does not have a plot, it is just a compilation of sequential true tales meant to charm you. However you really do need an explanation of the characters, before you delve in to the midst of it all
These books tell you about two very odd people. Charle is a happy, gentle passive Canadian, artist, an only child of British parentage, born in Vancouver, B.C. There were two brief inappropriate marriages, long over before she moved to an “arty” west coast island. While her children grew she amused herself doing community set prop and costume design as well as fine art

Charle was forty four when all the children had gone out into the world, and it seemed like a good time for her to head out also - in case they began to come back. She went on a painting adventure in her favorite place, the American Southwest Toward the end of the trip, not uncharacteristically she debarked from the bus in the wrong place, a woebegone tumbledown old mining town in Arizona. There she met G.B. Madison.

G.B. was a boiling cauldron of emotion born in Oklahoma, the proud son of a tyrannical sharecropper. G.B.’s mother was from Georgia and his bible thumping hot tempered father was from Louisiana so combined with two years at University G.B.‘s accent had a rare blend of sounds and expletives. Four marriages failed and the fifth left him recently widowed. Through the internal emotional torment of this tragic loss, and the flowing tears, he managed to maintain a hyperactive, workaholic vice grip on his little town.

When he said “his,” town he really did mean it, even though he only owned one third of Ash Fork Arizona. The flagstone company he supervised for the big Boss in Phoenix’ allowed him to hire, rent to, loan to, sell gas to and by a variety of ways, control a vast percentage of the 500 people in town and owners of the outlying ten and forty acre ranches. On the other hand it allowed him to threaten with his pick handle, scream at, fire, evict and demand repayment from anyone, if he was feeling a trifle irritable.

In books of this trilogy we hope you will share the passion and humor of Charle and G.B.’s unlikely love affair and marriage.

Charlotte Madison

 

 "I have seen countless signs that this master of mine is a raving lunatic who aught to be tied up – and me, I can’t be much better, for since I follow him and serve him, I am more of a fool than he."

Miguel Cervantes

 

 

SHOWBIZ REARS IT'S UGLY HEAD         


And like a bull moose giving birth to a baby elephant – G.B. bellowed, “CHARLE! WHAT THE HAYLL IS A-GOIN’ ON?”
There had been a great deal going on – right under his nose. You see, in order for me to be a truthful person, a happy and kind, peace loving wife, it was sometimes necessary for me to be an evasive person – an evasiveness that on rare occasions ran over into deceit. My Grand Deceit began so subtly that even I barely noticed . . . .
One cold wintry night after dinner I was in the kitchen washing the dishes and G.B. had settled in the living room on his sofa to watch the news on T.V.. The calm was interrupted by an impatient sounding rapping on the living room door, so G.B. called through the dining room to the kitchen, “Charle, it’s the door!”
I replied, “I’m in the sink Hon, could you get it?”
He muttered his annoyance at the disruption and moved to the door.
“Hayll!” G.B. blared out at the visitor, “What y’all want with her Shirley? We’re busy.
“It’s my church G.B.. They want me to produce the Christmas pageant this year. I’ve never done a show before, but Charle has – dozens of shows. She’d know how to do sets, props an’ costumes on a shoe-string. I thought if me an’ her could have a session together she could gimmie some ideas, save the church money an’ me time. The Baptists would really appreciate it G.B..”
G.B. admired Shirley, as well as being somewhat intimidated by her. She was deeply involved with her church, on twenty-four hour call as one of the two Ash Fork E.M.T.’s, and she kept the books for several local businesses. With her husband, Bill, they ran the Whiting Brother’s service station and were raising three sons.
G.B. paused while he considered her request, and as I hurried to the living room I called out, “We could do it in the evenings. It would be so much fun!”
G.B. shot me a dark glance, so Shirley jumped in with one more try, “G.B., the congregation would be so grateful to you.”
Shirley knew him well. Pleased and flattered, G.B. reared back on his sofa, and with great benevolence spoke, “Charle I want y’all to tell Shirley everthang y’all know ‘bout shows. Y’all can do it Saturday night – after y’all finish with work, dinner and dishes.”
“Great!” I replied, but thinking, Oh yes cram 5 years into 5 hours, and then I pushed Shirley out the front door before G.B. could change his mind.
The following Saturday night, “the producer” arrived late. We hurriedly took over the den knowing we had to make every second count. While G.B. dozed in the living room we emptied out the congregations’ donated rag bags and unrolled Shirley’s sewing remnants onto the floor. She had old sheets and bedspreads, pieces of burlap, a set of textured drapes and yards of billowy linings.
“Perfect!” I enthused as I began to spread the fabrics on the floor. “Now, tell the shepherds to wear swimming trunks, so they won’t balk at wearing tunics, and don’t let the actors wear their watches on stage! For each tunic take two rectangles of burlap, tack the two pieces together over one shoulder and together along both sides from the waist down. Trim the tunic just above the knees, make a headband out of the scraps, give each shepherd a staff, and use Liquid Sew to prevent fraying.”
“Oh,” volunteered Shirley, “an’ I have a sheep’s pelt. I could drape it over one of ‘em!”
“Perfect!” I agreed. “Now, everyone else in the cast will wear the same pattern – a caftan. Just use different fabrics, colors, trims and accessories. You can dye sheets Madonna blue for Mary, wine for Joseph and ochre for the peasants. And for the Magi, use the linings and brocade drapes. Okay, now the big collars, cuffs, turbans and trim. Shake out those scraps.”
My eyes widened as I watched her unroll lamé, brocade and satin scraps. “Shirley! You struck gold! These are perfect for the Magi.”
Then with a flamboyant gesture Shirley reached deep into her bag of wonders and pulled out jars of glitter, bags of rhinestones, sequins and a large pot of glue. I gasped, “You’ve got it all!”
“Wait!” She said as she held up her tightly clenched fist, and slowly opened her fingers to reveal four gems the size of robin’s eggs lying in the palm of her hand. She was in possession of a “ruby,” an “emerald,” a “sapphire” and an exquisite “diamond”!
“I found ‘em at K-Mart.” She stated smugly.
“Oh Shirley, what a design team we could have been.”
We were totally in our element and gabbling like agitated turkeys. The floor was knee deep in chaos and we were enveloped in reams of fabric and sparkling with glitter. By chance we both glanced up and saw G.B. leaning against the broad archway between the dining room and the den. His mouth hung open as he gazed around the room in fascination, seeing a sight like no other seen in his experience. Shirley and I shrieked with surprise to see him standing there, and then we burst into giddy laughter. Slowly he shook his head from side to side, again and again, then asked softly, “Y’all know what y’all’re a-doin’ Charle?” Without waiting for an answer, he turned away, waving his hand as though to push us out of his thoughts. As he returned to his sofa he muttered, “Y’all’re crazy – both y’all.”
That night I gave Shirley a crash course in theatrical design and the next day I went back to the gas station, thankful not to have the responsibilities and deadlines of a show.
Shirley did an impressive job as producer and her church pageant was a success. But judging by her enthusiasm I concluded that the “Blonde” was a “Showbiz Volcano” waiting to erupt.

 


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Archives
December, 2019
November, 2019
October, 2019
For over forty years, painting related totally to the American Southwest. It was people of the dry hot desert, solid mesas, cacti, stone and canyons that made my heart leap.

When I realized I would never see the desert again, I began a search for something to paint. Nana suggested, B.C, vineyards and took me to Penticton where I did one painting. Nana and Gary then began to take me on Mystery tours of the island and always included a vineyard. But they all were so green! So many leaves so many trees - I don't do trees and I rarely use green - dont really like looking at green, but I got started on a duty series not an inspired series.

I guess it was July or early August when we were driving home from a winery visit. I was grousing about painting the Festive Flying Grape series when Gary said "Start another series, you can work on more than one at a time."

For some reason those words triggered the words "I could paint the Island artists!" Nana and Gary agreed and it was the topic of conversation all the way home

For a while I was afraid I wouldn't get volunteers to pose but it is rolling and each one offers something special to inspire me. And it is lovely to feel all I am doing was sparked by Gary and like all I do, supported by Nana.

April Update 2012 Sixteen fine artists, many of national repute, have posed for Artists of Vancouver Island and many are booked or promised. There will be no poses after June 30,2012. When I have painted all twenty-five I will turn my thought to . . . what next?