November 30,2019

#4   THE ENCOUNTER                               

I set sail for the desert aboard a British Columbia Ferry, and stood on the deck weighted down with canteens, back-packs and canvas boards. I clutched in my hands a tattered copy of Don Quixote. As the ship glided down Long Harbour, away from my home on Salt Spring Island, I whispered into the wind, “I too shall tilt windmills.”
My plan for the fall of nineteen seventy-five, was to crisscross the American Southwest by bus at night and to paint Franciscan missions by day.

            After two months I had perfected my technique, until that October Sunday morning when I got off the bus in Ash Fork, Arizona. The bus pulled away and I was left standing in what appeared to be a deserted town — without a Franciscan mission in sight!

            I crossed the road to a dingy café located beside a vacant pool hall and an old fashioned wooden hotel, which was also vacant. There was a Greyhound sign above the pool hall window and as I neared the café a woman inside locked the door and turned the “open” sign to “closed”. I tapped on the door and called out, “When does the next bus to Santa Fe come through?”

            “Eight fifteen tonight.” She barked.

            I was stunned. I had to wait twelve hours in what appeared to be a ghost town? All I could see around me were closed shops, vacant hotels, caved in roofs, broken store windows, floor tiles scattered on the sidewalk, abandoned gas stations and what might be a café/saloon on a good day. I felt disheartened until my eyes lit on a westbound Route 66 sign — the highway to adventure.

            Vibrant hues enliven my paintings, so I scanned the town for an inspiring subject to paint. However this town had to be the drabbest sight I had ever seen. It had sun-bleached wooden buildings, heaved up grey pavement, slate coloured Santa Fe Railroad water towers, silver railway tracks, hoary leafless trees, dry cracked pinkish-grey earth and dust — dust everywhere. The town did not appear to be alive, yet it lacked the magic of a real ghost town.

            I decided I would stay in sight of the “bus depot,” as it had become my safe place in this ramshackle old town. But I did have to go in search of water, food, facilities and a subject to paint. I looked west. The road passed by the water towers and several strange, little stone houses, before it disappeared around a curve. I looked east and saw the familiar Union 76 orange ball against the blue sky. It looked encouraging, so I headed that way.

            The sidewalk encompassed a variety of hazards. There were potholes, sections of unevenly set flagstone, rocks strewn everywhere, whole sections of sidewalk covered in broken glass and cement steps that went up for no apparent reason — and then back down.

            I stopped at a closed shop and peered through one of its filthy windows. Inside, frozen in time, I saw the interior of a circa 1940’s, fifteen cent store.

            Familiar old labels and tags with antiquated prices hurtled me back to my childhood and to the first time I was allowed to walk alone to the shops, where I purchased a twist of variegated pink wool for my spool knitting.

            I continued on, past a boarded up theatre and to the Union 76 gas station. The front window of the station was solid house plants, all green and thriving — an encouraging sign. Next to the gas station sat a general store with sun faded posters, signs and sun shielding devices covering the windows. I could not be sure if the store was closed or out of business.
What if the entire town is vacant and all these passing vehicles are just driving through? Ithought to myself. Can I go for twelve hours without a drink? No, I’ll have to stop a car and beg for water. I felt a rising panic. The Chicago to L.A. traffic was increasing, but there was no sign of local activity.

            I continued on for several more blocks and was approaching the eastern end of the town. The last relic before the range land and hills was a Shell gas station — my last hope. I passed a junk yard, and hanging on a rope, which stretched from one rusted and wrecked vehicle to another, was an old long-john washing, kicking in the breeze. Issuing forth from one of the old cars was a joy-filled voice, heartily singing a happy old-fashioned song. All this made me smile, and when a west bound trucker honked out a greeting I was able to laugh and wave back. I was not alone in Ash Fork any longer.

            The Shell gas station was open. I walked in and asked the men who were staring at me, “May I paint in your field today?”

            Nobody answered they just stared.

            “Do you have food and pop dispensers?” I asked.

            “We have sodas.” One of the men replied.

            “May I fill my canteens and use your rest room?”

            Again they just stared, so I took that for yes, thanked them profusely and took advantage of the amenities.

            I walked out to the field where I donned a paint covered Hawaiian muumuu, a flower covered sun-hat, and began to wallow in paint. Instead of painting the scenery I finished several paintings I had begun in California – lush and colourful, bougainvillea draped Franciscan missions.

            Off and on throughout the day vehicles which I presumed to be local traffic slowly and repeatedly cruised by me. One in particular, a sleek, new, white Buick Electra, must have driven past ten times. Something about me struck these people as odd.

The gas station closed as the sun began to drop close to the hills. I packed up and trudged back to the “bus depot” where I set up my camp-stool, sat down and looked longingly at the café wishing it would open. To add insult to injury, behind the greasy window I could see the family who ran the café eating their dinner at the counter. As I sat alone and cold I was tantalized by the aroma of their fried onions.

            With the early sunset and darkness came unexpected high desert cold. Grimy, hungry and shivering from the drop in temperature — I was not happy.

            Again the white Buick appeared. Slowly it drove up onto the sidewalk and parked beside me.

            “Hello Lady. Y’all waitin’ fer a ride?” asked the man in the Buick.

            “No, I’m waiting for the bus.” I replied.

            “Oh. People most times wait fer the bus at home or in their motel rooms. I never did think a’ anyone bein’ out here in the cold when the café is closed. Well, I’ll just stay with y’all till y’all’s bus comes.” He pondered a moment, and then he asked. “Would y’all like to go to supper?”

            Where? I thought. “No thank you.” I replied.

            “Well, I’ll just stay with y’all, ‘till y’all’s bus gets here.”

            “Oh you don’t have to bother.” I replied. But the man totally ignored my response.

            “Y’all’re a-shiverin’ like a line wash in a wind storm. Get in the car an’ I’ll turn on the heater.”

            “No, I’m fine — thank you.” I stated through clenched teeth.

            He offered me something warm to wear and reached into the back of his car to pull forth his overcoat.

            “No really, I am fine. Thank you.” I did not want some stranger’s coat all over me.

            “I feel responsible fer y’all, ‘cause I own the bus depot.” He announced with pride.

            What bus depot? I snorted in my mind.

            It was obvious that this man was going to wait with me and see me safely onto the bus. There was an earnest sweetness about him, and I found myself thankful to have his company.

            “I’ll tell y’all about me, an’ then y’all can tell me about y’all. My name is G.B., that’s short fer Good Boy . . . .”

            Hours later when the bus pulled into view I thought my           adventure on Route 66 was coming to a close.

            “Won’t y’all stay or stop in on y’all’s way back from Santa Fe? Let me show y’all the places to paint ‘round here.”

            G.B. did not list Grand Canyon, Jerome or Sedona, instead he continued, “Out on the big ol’ ranches ‘round here are rusty ol’ windmills, with chains a-rattlin’ in the breeze.
Y’all could paint them.”

            Windmills! I was halfway to being in love with G.B. Madison.

            Four months after I returned home to Canada, I received a copy of Arizona Highways and a letter that had been wandering about the continent, returned for insufficient postage, mailed again, misdirected here and there, and addressed only to: Charlotte, Ganges, Canada. It was an outspoken letter, ordering me to call him collect.

            I called immediately, filled with joy, and heard a sob in his voice as he said, “Oh Charle, it’s been so long. I’d given up hope that y’all would ever call.”


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November 30,2019


# 3  The Strange Canadian Painter Lady


I keep my head empty — so I can feel the gentle breezes blow through.


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November 28,2019


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November 28,2019



 G.B. and the Strange Canadian Painter Lady©


Charlotte Madison and Nana Cook

 Illustrations by Nana Cook

 ISBN # 0-920225-07-1

 To the beloved children oF Charle and G.B.

The grandchildren and all the little bitty ones yet to come.



I live by the sea and I hear eagles and herons and such.
But oh what I’d give to hear one “com’e

Oh I’d give so much.
I live by the sea and I see rain and clouds and such.
But oh what I’d give for one desert storm.
Oh I’d give so much.

Cottontails, jackrabbits scamper galore.
An antelope pounding the desert floor.
Sweet sound of a coyote in the moonlit night.
But I’m here by the sea.
And it’s right.

I live by the sea and I see whales and seals and such.
But oh what I’d give for the mourning doves.
Oh I’d give so much.
I live by the sea and I hear ducks and sea lions and such.
But oh to hear the diamondback’s rattles!
Oh I’d give so much.

Jimson weed, prairie dogs, cactus in bloom.
The silhouette of junipers against the moon.
“Com’ere.” Says that little bird with heart so light.
But I’m here by the sea.
And it’s right.


TALE # 2       G.B.

“I am what I am, an’ I don’t give a damn! They call me G.B. That’s short fer good boy. Course most folks say its short fer gone bad.”

August 14, 1917, G.B. Madison was born to a share-cropping family in Chickasaw, Oklahoma.

“When I was a li’l bitty boy, had to learn to walk real fast — so’s I could help with the chores. Us boys went barefoot all summer. Couldn’t go to school in September each year ‘till we’d picked cotton ‘nough to buy shoes an’ books. Oh Charle, that cotton tears up a boy’s hands real bad!”

G.B.’s father was an ethical, religious, dominant, stubborn, hard working man who had demanding expectations for his five sons. G.B. said, “My daddy was a hard man. He ruled me an’ my four brothers, but he let our mother favor our li’l sister. I’ve taken many a beatin’ from my daddy, but he was the best man who ever lived. If me an’ my four brothers couldn’t find a friend to fight with we beat on each other, or we teased our li’l sister ‘till ‘er screams brought our mother a-runnin’. Either way we got a whippin’ from my daddy.”

“I recall how after dinner, an’ after my daddy read some from the Bible, he’d get out his fiddle. With us all gathered ‘round, an’ with the least li’l bitty one a-ridin’ his leg, my daddy played his fiddle an’ beat out the rhythm with his foot.”
On special winter nights our mother made popcorn balls — big as softballs they was! Made ‘em with our very own home-grown popcorn an’ parched peanuts. Even had our own home-grown sorghum molasses. Oh Charle, they tasted larrupin’!”

As a young adult, G.B. rose early to milk his cows and drive the full milk cans into town, stopping along the way to pick up his neighbors’ cans, then he put in a full day’s work at his feed and seed store. Each evening, after dinner, he worked a late shift at his “beer joint”. Between marriages he squeezed in two years at the University of Oklahoma. G.B. rapidly learned to channel his quick mind and endless energy into hard work and steady financial growth.
“A full night’s sleep is a downright waste a’ money.”

At thirty-three G.B. left Oklahoma. He sold out, leaving his “beer joint” in the hands of tenants, and then he left everyone he loved and the children he adored. He was fatigued by the quirks of his nature and by the twists of fate that had left him single, cheerless and cash poor. Like many an Okie, G.B. headed west on U.S. highway, Route 66.

“Charle, June sixteen, nineteen and fifty, I stepped off a’ that Greyhound bus in Ash Fork, Arizona — sad, broke, busted an’ mad as HAYLL! I was mad as a snortin’ bull on the wrong side of a barbed wire fence. Got a lift out to my uncle’s flagstone quarry an’ I asked him fer a job. Uncle Frank handed me a hammer, some wedges an’ a pry bar an’ he told me, ‘The rock’s over thar, start a-workin’.’”

“Will someone show me what to do, or will y’all learn me? I asked him.”
“‘Y’all got tools Bremond,’ Uncle Frank told me, “‘an’ I reckon y’all got a brain, an’ I showed y’all the rocks — y’all want me to do y’all’s work fer ye?’”
G.B. learned, earned and saved enough money doodling rock to buy an old rock hauling truck. With that he slammed down his tools and began to haul stone for his uncle. When other flagstone haulers were off for the night or home because of inclement weather, G.B. was still out in the hills driving loads of stone from the quarry into town or digging his truck out of the mud.
G.B.’s bank account began to grow, and with it his knowledge of Arizona’s geology and the business of producing flagstone. He was hired as foreman by Whitey Webster, the owner of Western States Stone Company. When Whitey expanded the company and left Ash Fork to open a sales division in Phoenix, he promoted G.B. to Superintendent of Operations, Ash Fork Production Division.

“I ate in cafes, an’ I worked hard from dawn till late. On week-ends I played just as hard.

I slept in a stack a’ pallets at the stone yard ‘till I got a chance to buy a cheap house fer my kids to come to. I’d be DAMNED if I’d pay rent with my hard earned money, just so’s I could sleep in someone else’s house!”

“I’m a-goin’ an’ a-blowin’, steamin’, dumb ol’ Okie boy. I’m fifty seven an’ I own a third a’ this town. I’m a rich, bald-headed, son-of-a-bitch, stingy ol’ landlord, but I never did work a man cold, thirsty, hungry or without a house to go home to. Oh, I’ve lived a hard life Charle, an’ if any danged renter tries to tell me what to do, why I tell ‘em — DAMMIT — IF Y’ALL DON’T LIKE IT — MOVE!”








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November 25,2019
IF -


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November 09,2019
JANUARY 15 2020

excerpts from


written by

Nana Cook and Charlotte Madison

copyright 2019 Nana Cook and Charlotte Madison







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November 09,2019

excerpt from

Ash Fork Madness©️

written by

Nana Cook and Charlotte Madison

copyright 2019 Nana Cook and Charlotte Madison


                    CURTAIN CALLS

The stage lights rose and the sight I beheld was beyond all my expectations. Under a stand of old juniper trees a father and his two young children were quietly sitting in the moonlight around a flickering camp fire while off in the hills a coyote yowled. From out of the shadowed night three grizzled old rock doodlers appeared and as they began to weave the tale of Ash Fork the tableau came to life.

Apparitions from Ash Fork’s past slowly materialized from amid the junipers and moved close to the fire where the father welcomed them all with song, while a beautiful young Mexican girl danced, her sequined fiesta skirt flashing in the firelight. The songs of the first act drew the audience into the chorus, We’re Friends and Neighbours, lyrics they found in their programs.

The Act Two brought the Mail Order Brides dressed in flower trimmed gowns and veils. They stepped down from the bright red stagecoach and waltzed into the arms of their handsome grooms.

Act Three In a quarry of real flagstone, my tall brawny rock doodlers sang like Caruso and danced like Gene Kelly.

In Act Four wild young girls, clad in cotton and lace under things sang complaints, passed behind a diaphanous Chinese screen and transformed themselves into starched and stockinged, prim and proper, uniformed young women — the Harvey Girls, dominated by the Housemother. 

I lived each word spoken and every song sung, transfixed by the outpouring of talent.

As Act IV ended a fire-bell clanged and the door to the rear left of the audience was thrown wide open. There silhouetted against the setting sun stood the imposing Kaibab Fire Chief, lieutenantt colonel Sally Carrol. She blew an ear splitting whistle, and with the voice of military authority, shouted commands to her troops. She marched them with tattoo precision, up the steps, into the brilliant lighting of centre stage. For the first time I was seeing our gal Sal in her professional mode — tweaked by Madness. She and her brigade wore their own military uniforms, some in army boots and some in hip-waders, all accented with green camouflage papier-mâché fire-hats — all but the dimwitted Irish foil who wore a paddy green fire-hat trimmed with hot pink, as she felt some allegiance to the Ash Fork brigade She lacked status with the military group, as she was not a veteran herself, only married to a military officer. Because of her low rank she carried in the brigade’s fire hose and the neon red, papier-mâché fire hydrant!

No sooner had the audience recovered from the sight of these women when another whistle blew. This time to the right of the audience. The Ash Fork Ladies Volunteer Fire Brigade in florescent pink papier-mâché fire hats and hip waders ran squealing through the theatre and up the stairs to the stage. They were led by the bath-brush wielding, Ash Fork Volunteer Fire Chief Pat Witted who was wrapped in a bath sheet with a soap ball hanging over her bare shoulders.

She was followed by a succession of women caught “off guard” on a Saturday night — not the least being the “Blonde” who shimmered in silver lame, bell bottom pants and matching, fringed short top. She moved like liquid light and between choruses exchanged slashing repartee with “those pushy military women.

The brigades had kept a few surprises for me and I was totally amazed, as were friends and neighbors in the audience, when Pat, the Ash Fork Chief dropped her bath sheet to reveal a hot pink bikini. As the two brigades drew together for the chorus line kick, a plant in the audience dressed in proper fire-fighting gear and spouting chauvinistic rhetoric left his seat, roared down the centre aisle and stood before the stage — he was one of Ash Fork’s real volunteer firemen!

The women wound up their chorus line kick with:
“We’ll come running to your fire — when you ring our bell.” Bong! They rang a large mission bell as they picked up their buckets filled with confetti and flung the contents at the audience. But it was buckets of cold water that hit the fireman!

The audience went wild and the cast burst forth with the laughter and joy of conquest and achievement.

From a little island kissed by the ocean to a tiny high desert town seared by the sun, Ray and Virginia Newman’s music and creativity had survived the adaptation and exploded on stage once more.
Amid thunderous applause threatening to bring down the walls, the Fire Chiefs called me up on stage to join the cast.

I don’t remember climbing the stairs to the stage, but I remember the cheers, smiles and laughter and my arms overflowing with dozens of long stemmed dark red roses given to me by the loving cast and crew. As the audience continued to applaud, my family joined us on stage. I leaned against G.B. and he kissed me. Looking into his sweet face I remembered our first kiss in the cinder pit and the day I was a stranger in this little town.


                                           THE END


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November 08,2019

excerpt from

Ash Fork Madness©️

written by

Nana Cook and Charlotte Madison

copyright 2019 Nana Cook and Charlotte Madison



                       Curtain Time


During the week preceding Ash Fork’s Centennial celebration we welcomed fifteen house guests into the house of seven doors. One after another G.B.’s children, with their young families, arrived from Oklahoma. Morgan also arrived and brought her parents, Gary, and Nana, a theatrical make-up artist. Like a sponge the big old house absorbed them all, including their luggage, bedding, diapers, bottles, formula, toys and miscellaneous socks.
Liz, Wendy and Lee and their children would have piled in had their jobs NOT kept them home.

Despite G.B.’s love for us all, his fragile disposition was pushed to its limits by the invasion of the “cookie snatchers.” By the second day his mood was off the charts! In the midst of the noontime chaos, G.B. attempted to take his après lunch snooze to the accompaniment of ear drum shattering shrieks and nerve shocking slams of the many screen doors.

After giving up on his snooze he walked to the kitchen for a Pepsi and discovered babies being fed at his table and his way to the fridge blocked by his wife who was reveling in the chaos, gabbing and laughter — oblivious to his desires.
“I’m a-goin’ to Alice’s!” G.B. announced to everyone — none of whom were listening as he left the room.

With one restrained blow he collapsed a fort built on his boot chair by little “Okie outlaws” and with a tremulous smile he poured Morgan’s pink ponies out of his boots. G.B. made a dash for the back door and found it bolted — for the very first time — by little hands! With his temper rising and totally confused he hollered, “CHARLE! OPEN THIS GOD DAMNED DOOR!”

Once outside, G.B. noticed the camper door ajar. Upon investigation he discovered a tea party in progress on the floor under the table and two small children hanging upside down from the top bunk.


Leaving me to evacuate the camper, G.B. walked away muttering to himself until he encountered the final threat to his sanity. It was three little dears, on their knees, clustered around something in the gravel driveway — his seventy-five, rental house keys!


However, he never could stay away very long. He always forgot he was angry so rapidly that in no time at all he returned, breezing through the doorway with a broad smile on his face and a happy tale to tell.

Finally Saturday morning, June 18th, 1982 arrived, Ash Fork’s Centennial — the day of Madness and Morgan’s second birthday. With all seventeen of us assembled we went out to enjoy the day’s celebrations beginning with a parade. Front and centre, there she was — the “Blonde”! She was strutting down Route 66 with sapphire satin up to here, black feather boa down to there — and a bee-hive ‘do that reached for the sky. The roar of the townsfolk’s cheers followed her down the road.

The day’s activities also included parachutists, vendors, street games, a rodeo and a cow pie throw. The Atchison Topeka and Santa Fe Railroad gave tours of their locomotives and the Centennial food committee outdid themselves. There were hotdogs and fried onions, chile ranging from three alarm to death by habañero, tacos, tamales, burritos, baked goods from the best kitchens in town, and the tastiest and stickiest — Navajo fry bread and honey.

When G.B. had enjoyed all he could take of the festivities we told the family to meet at the house at three o’clock for Morgan and Brock’s birthday party and the monstrous German Chocolate cake with butter pecan ice cream.
G.B. and I left for home and while we strolled along Park Avenue G.B. decided to check on the old building. While he fumbled with the lock a parade official led an elderly woman to us and introduced her as a former resident of Ash Fork.

“As a matter of fact,” she stated proudly, “My father originally constructed this building down by the railway tracks a hundred years ago.”
With equal pride G.B. escorted the elderly woman inside and showed her his plan for the renovations the building would wear in its second century. Each charmed the other and took away from the encounter a new tale to tell.

We wandered home and while the house was still quiet, G.B. stole a nap on his sofa and I went into the bedroom to organize the admittance tickets, prepare the float and add colour to the small, black and white, photocopied posters I planned to put up around town.

As the family trickled back home proudly wearing their cardboard railroad engineer caps I put them all to work coloring the remaining posters as part of the party games. I told each child if they would use bright colors and stay inside the lines I would put up their posters. When the colouring was completed I gathered up the posters and hurried to our bedroom for my purse, tickets and float, before leaving to make my deliveries.

Upon my return, I drove into the car-port and suddenly felt the first wave of stage-fright surge through my system. With knees of jelly I walked into the house only to discover one of the mothers looking sternly at me and the other mothers smothering laughter behind her. The fathers were conspicuous by their absence!

I glanced from one face to another, waiting for the blast, then the first mother said, “You promised you would use everyone’s poster, and the children found these in the trash.

With that she thrust at me a small pile of scribbled on posters I had deemed not quite good enough while in the privacy of the bedroom.

I was caught like a rat in a trap! I did not want to face my own deceit when in a few hours a cast of fifty would discover that I did not know what I was doing, and then run me out of town with every Madness ticket holder also in frenzied pursuit!

Like an electric shock, that thought snapped me onto the next level of stage-fright. I was unable to think about anything except the morass I had created in Madness. My mounting distress became obvious to all because I was immediately forgiven and handed a piece of cake.

Nana left for the theatre first because she had ordered an early make-up call for the huge cast. When it was time for the rest of us to leave I sent everyone ahead in the camper. I needed a few moments alone to calm myself. I drove to the end of town and parked out of sight under the I-40 off ramp underpass. Instead of the solitude soothing me it allowed the stage fright to expand into irrational panic. It was only minutes until curtain time, but I could not face all the people I had betrayed and was exposing to ridicule.

“I’m going to run away!” I declared out loud, “I just can’t go!” And I began to cry.

In a flash the camper pulled up and G.B.’s daughter, Donna, was beside me saying sweet encouraging words to me.

“Charle if y’all have stage-fright think of the cast without any experience at all. Think how afraid they must be. Y’all can’t abandon them now. Everyone’s worked so hard. I know the show will be appreciated. This isn’t New York. No one has high expectations for anything but a good entertaining try. Do y’all keep a cosmetic bag in the car? Okay. Y’all fix y'all's make-up and I’ll follow you to the school.”

At the theatre she hurried me into the make-up room to reassure me that my offspring wasn’t in the same condition as her mother. Nana glanced at me and smiled a gentle signal to “knock it off Mother” then calmly continued her daunting task of transforming the remaining over thirty cast members.

As we joined our family in the seats reserved for us I realized the crew was bringing in extra seats for those standing at the back of the hall and still more people were coming in through the doors!

The music conductor and his musicians arrived and gathered by the piano and drums. To my delight they were wearing striped shirts with high collars, arm garters and boater hats.

The small orchestra played the first notes of the overture; G.B. smiled at me, took my quivering hand and held it tightly. The lights dimmed to black and the curtains parted on Act I, Scene I — of Ash Fork Madness.

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November 07,2019

excerpt from

Ash Fork Madness©️

written by

Nana Cook and Charlotte Madison

copyright 2019 Nana Cook and Charlotte Madison


                         THE ACTOR


As G.B. and I waited for our children to arrive from Canada and Oklahoma we lolled on our chesterfields sipping tall frosted Pepsis and enjoying the rush of chilled air from the swamp-cooler. I listened to him tell one of his stories; thinking how skillfully he told it and what natural theatrical timing and expression he had.

“G.B. you should be in the show!”

He smiled modestly and replied “I know Sweetheart, an’ thank y'all Charle, fer askin’. I’d like to but I’m too busy. I haven’t got time to be an actor.”

I was flabbergasted. Obviously he had pondered the idea.
“Oh G.B., you’re a natural, a master storyteller, and as much a unique character as —Walter Brennan.”

“I knew Walter Brennan, an’ I liked the man. He came here often. I took him down to Mill’s quarries to help him pick out stone fer his house. When he came to town he’d ask fer that “Wild Young Okie Boy.”

“But you wouldn’t even have to rehearse.” I interrupted, “Just stroll over to the rock doodlers and tell the stories you’ve been telling for thirty years.” Busy my foot. My courageous Okie was scared!

“G.B., if you walked out onto that stage and told one of your stories you’d be a hit. Imagine the kids if you did it, they’d be so proud. The tourists would love you, and the locals would crack up seeing you on that stage.”

Oblivious to my last comment G.B. concluded our conversation with gentle words, “Thank y’all Charle. That’s real nice to hear.” He rose pridefully from his sofa, strode to his boot chair and donned his boots. Exiting the house he directed himself to the stone yard where his captive audience of employees were obliged to listen to his soliloquy — “’bout how I was asked to star in Ash Fork Madness!”

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November 06,2019

excerpt from

Ash Fork Madness©️

written by

Nana Cook and Charlotte Madison

copyright 2019 Nana Cook and Charlotte Madison


                        Moving Day

Six days before opening night the Madness crew arrived at the old building and began to remove the flats, stagecoach, screen and Connie’s prodigious prickly pear cactus patch. The crew began loading everything onto the trucks — soon to be en route to the waiting stage.

I still had two weeks to enjoy the old building before G.B. began to renovate it, and I felt a flood of sadness knowing it would be lost shortly after the show’s final night. We had shared so much, the old building and I. And my sweet Park Avenue Pigeons, they would soon be shut out of their home forever and driven away by the construction to come.

My wistful thoughts were shattered by the harsh sound of G.B. arriving and shouting orders to his carpenter, Wayne, who trailed behind. G.B. was also giving orders to my crew, which stopped their progress when he began to describe the details of his new project.
“ . . . An’ I’ll have three apartments an’ two offices downstairs, an’ three apartments an’ two offices upstairs.” Then he interrupted himself to say, “Wayne, y’all be real careful when y’all’re movin’ Charle’s pictures, paints and thangs. Don’t know what y’all’ll do with it but she’s real particular ‘bout that ol’ Century Plant.”

As Wayne passed by me he leaned over and softly said, “I tried Charle, but I just couldn’t stall him any longer.”

G.B.’s long held dream to convert the old wooden structure into a new rental gold mine was about to be realized. 

And like most of G.B.’s tenants — I had been evicted!



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November 05,2019

excerpt from

Ash Fork Madness©️

written by

Nana Cook and Charlotte Madison

copyright 2019 Nana Cook and Charlotte Madison


                  “Vent Y’all’s Spleen”


Once the directors and crew were chosen and work began I expected to supervise Madness, paint sets and occasionally flit about checking on the show’s progress, but it did not happen that way. I had endless details to review, t-shirts to design, posters to create, publicity to determine and an endless succession of duties to delegate. Plus I discovered everything depended on something else preceding it.

As if painting the flats, working at three regular jobs, working with my listless personality, G.B. and Madness were not enough to contend with, I discovered cracks were forming between several of the directors and their casts — and the cracks were widening each day.

“G.B. I can’t do it!” I rushed into his arms and burst into tears.

“Now Sweetheart, this was y’all’s idea, not mine, but y’all have to know — Madisons don’t quit!” Then he added, “Jes’ go out thar, an’ vent y’all’s spleen!”

The next day I ran around town venting my spleen, liver and pancreas! The five directors were hunted down and to each one I instructed, “I want you and your cast to love doing this show and enjoy working together. You’ll have some unpopular decisions to make — and so will I. I don’t have time to be nice so eventually everyone will be mad at me. I want you to blame me for everything and protect your relationship with the cast and crew. I’m too busy to care if someone’s angry and not talking to me. As a matter of fact, that would be a nice change!”

Late in May I attended my first and last rehearsal, as I had to abide by the limitations demanded by G.B.. Everyone had learned their parts but Madness desperately needed an expert to fine tune each act and pull all five together.

As I sat in the dark auditorium concerned and disappointed, a new participant appeared on the stage. He was a professional singer, actor and director and he was — the high school principal!  Mr. Hanna asked if he could take over the production as “coordinating director” — and we let him!


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November 03,2019



excerpt from

Ash Fork Madness©️

written by

Nana Cook and Charlotte Madison

copyright 2019 Nana Cook and Charlotte Madison


                  Props and Pigeons

Once G.B. knew about Madness I was free to fly!
Over the next six weeks I painted thirty feet of twelve foot high, masonite scenery flats, created a black lacquer Chinese screen and a life-sized red and gold stage-coach.

Each day as I painted, my Park Avenue Pigeons paced back and forth across the top edge of the flats, occasionally splashing their own medium onto the scenery below. While I painted volunteers worked on papier-mãché fire hats, Connie worked her crafty magic on papier-mâché, and after a few days she had made a fine crop of prickly pear paddles, pears and blossoms.

I was perched atop my ladder painting the gold lettering onto my stagecoach when I heard Connie call down the old building.

“Char-lee, I’m having a problem! Every time I try to attach these darned paddles, I don’t get a cactus, I get a cartoon mouse!”
I crawled down from my ladder and went to see for myself. Connie sat on the floor covered in flour, surrounded by bowls of water and flour paste, sacks of flour, piles of shredded newspaper and dozens of papier-mâché prickly pear paddles.
“Oh don’t worry Connie, you’re too conscientious. Unpainted papier-mâché is always grotesque.” I said reassuringly as I looked at the abomination. “No one will ever notice — once it’s all assembled — and painted green. Well, what if we just . . . .”

It was too late. We had both imprinted on cartoon mouse ears not prickly pear paddles and we were thereafter condemned to see cartoon mouse ears no matter how Connie arranged them. When she finally painted and added the beautiful prickly pear blossoms to her four foot high cactus plants — we had cartoon mice with flowers in their ears.


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November 03,2019

excerpt from

Ash Fork Madness©️

written by

Nana Cook and Charlotte Madison

copyright 2019 Nana Cook and Charlotte Madison



                       THE TORTOISE 


According to Chinese lore a tortoise carries the world around on his back. Occasionally he gives a shake to remind Earth’s people of their precarious position and his absolute power.

G.B often reminded me of that tortoise as he carried Ash Fork on his back, choosing to give it a shake at extremely inappropriate moments.

G.B. could not have discovered Madness on a worse day. I had spent hours going over details with cast and crew and I was worn out.

He stood like a rumbling volcano and stared at me. I felt the vibration of magma rising as his eyes began to bulge and his bald dome flushed from internal flames.

“I did it for you Hon,” I blurted out, “It’s for your town’s centennial. I wanted it to be a surprise for you!” My response did not have the calming effect I had hoped for so I continued very carefully, “You weren’t inconvenienced by it Sweetheart — were you?” And then he blew! I will spare you the details except to say he finished with, “HAYLL! I’M SO GOD DAMNED MAD I COULD SHIP Y’ALL BACK TO THAT GOD FORSAKEN ROCK Y’ALL CALL HOME! GOD DAMMIT CHARLE!”

“Honey, all I need is another twelve weeks. If you allow me to supervise the people I’ve put in charge just until they understand what they’re doing, and then let me paint the sets, you’ll have a Centennial show you can be proud of. We can invite all our kids and have a lovely time. I promise I won’t bore you with gab about it.” I pleaded. “And if you find my minimal involvement disruptive I’ll drop it all the moment you tell me to. I promise G.B.”

Speechless, G.B. sat down to digest the situation and to ponder what I had just proposed. He removed his old straw hat, and then he dragged his left hand across his mouth, up over his nose and around his chin before it came to rest on the left arm of his sofa. He followed this with his right hand which he lifted to rub around and around his bald head. Within moments a gleam of satisfaction appeared in his eyes. The Tortoise having sensed the genesis of my puissance was about to remind me of my precarious position.

“Keep yer’ promises to the town Charle — but pack the camper. First thang tomorrow mornin’ we’re a-goin’ to Oklahoma to visit some of our kin on my side of the house. We’ll stay a week or ten days.”

Without intending to G.B. was handing me the break I had needed for months. As we left his small world, the Tortoise and I were each well satisfied.


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November 02,2019

excerpt from

Ash Fork Madness©️

written by

Nana Cook and Charlotte Madison

copyright 2019 Nana Cook and Charlotte Madison


                          Cattle Call

The New Year finally arrived, nineteen eighty-two. I had five and a half months to go until curtain time.
G.B. was tied to his desk for the afternoon, so I sneaked out of the office armed with a stack of small posters which announced the Ash Fork Madness casting call. I put them up in the town’s cafes, gas stations, launderette, K.O.A. and the post office.
The distribution of the posters was timed to coincide with the arrival of our weekly newspaper, the Williams News, which included the first public reference to Ash Fork Madness. The advertisement appeared with a can-can dancer logo and was an open call to: singers, dancers, actor, artists, bookkeepers, carpenters, typists, stagehands, electricians, and helpers — no experience or talent necessary. I expected one third of the town’s population to show up, plus some people from the Kaibab, Juniper and the quarries — maybe two hundred enthusiasts in all.
On the night of the cattle call twenty-one hopefuls showed up. There were seventeen women, with a few more promised. The four men who showed up were: Shirley’s husband Bill, their youngest son Keith, our gas station mechanic and the spirited husband of a mischievous young teacher. Madness was something they were all eager to associate themselves with and two even exuded talent and promise, if not some degree of experience! I told the potential cast to use Shirley and Lorraine’s names, never mine, when referring to the show in order to keep G.B. oblivious to my connection with it. Everyone knew G.B. and fully understood the situation.
A list was made of all who attended, and at the end of the evening I went home to ponder my predicament. I knew how hard it was for amateur theatre groups to attract the necessary men and young people, and I needed to make this venture appealing to at least fifty men, women and children! I thought back to the original Madness and Virginia running out of the family Arty-Crafty shop, hauling strangers off the street to “star in a show.”
Before advertising the next audition I primed the pump by begging and bullying every rock doodler, stone yard worker, local gas station customer and passing stranger to try their hand at Madness. I also decided to approach the school again.
I asked the principal if he could and would give credits for music, drama, art and woodworking to any students who participated in Madness and added, “Of course the teachers would also be most welcome to join.” I made a point of mentioning that we would give a percentage of the profits to the school’s booster club with deepest appreciation — if the school’s staff and students took part.
The principal scanned the script, then settled himself to listen while I described my vision of the show.
“There will be one director for each act. That way the wrong director can’t wreck the entire show — just one act. It would also minimize the stress and panic for novice directors who are unaccustomed to problems they’re going to encounter.”
The principal did not say anything, but he nodded his approval so I continued.
“During the next four months the cast will learn the script and have costume fittings while the crew constructs sets and large props, and the seamstresses sew costumes. As soon as the rehearsals begin May 1st, I start painting the sets and creating the large props. Concurrently the crafts volunteers will create and decorate the hand props. The stage manager will assume his duties and the electrician will plot the stage lighting. Some people will drop out and disrupt the rehearsals if we begin too soon, but learning lines and lyrics in advance will give the cast confidence and compensate for their inexperience.”
Again he nodded his approval.
Before I rose to leave I felt obliged to clarify something, “Mr. Hanna, I love my husband, but I’m neither blind nor deaf, nor do I agree with his manner. I was in the car yesterday when he stopped in the middle of the road, got out and ran up to your car hollering those terrible things at you and about the school board. I cannot go the rounds each evening to apologize for G.B.’s shameless lack of diplomacy, so I’ll just do it now. I’m sorry my husband is a moron.”
I left the school feeling the principal was anxious to help, but I did not know that I had just struck the more gold.

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November 01,2019



excerpt from

Ash Fork Madness©️

written by

Nana Cook and Charlotte Madison

copyright 2019 Nana Cook and Charlotte Madison


                    The School Board

“G.B., why do you hate the school board so much?”
“I don’t hate ‘em Charle. I love ‘em. They’re all my friends, neighbors, employees an’ customers. I think the world a’ ever’one of ‘em.” He said gently. “Oh Charle, I love my li’l town an’ I really do thank the world a’ each person here.”
G.B. stared off into space smiling, enjoying his thoughts. Then unexpectedly, a frown appeared on his forehead and he began to grumble,
“What the Hayll does a li’l town this size want with street lights ‘round the school. Ain’t no one there to need ‘em in the dark! D’y’all know how much money it costs me on m’ ad valorem tax bills each year, fer each house an’ vacant lot I own — fer them God damned lamp posts?”
“No,” I replied guardedly.
“When God was a-makin’ people, he made good people an’ bad people, but that wasn’t good enough. He needed somethin’ to annoy ‘em all real bad, so first He made fools — that was fer practice — then last of all, fer a touch of the devil he made — THE SCHOOL BOARDS!”

Posted by Charlotte Madison at 12:26 0 Comments
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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?