December 30,2019
#1 MY MASTER

                     

“For my master attacks a hundred armed men like a greedy boy falling on a half a dozen watermelons."

"But I’d like to warn my master of one thing especially: if he’s to take me with him, it must be on condition that he does all the fighting and that I’m not obliged to do anything except look after his person so far as his cleanliness and his feedings go. There I’ll serve him gladly, but if he expects that I’ll put hand to sword, even though it’s only against base rascals with axe and steel cap, he’s imagining the impossible."

 

Miguel Cervantes

 


                                        excerpt from
                                 STONE AND CANVAS©️
                                         written by
                            Nana Cook and Charlotte Madison 

                                       copyright 2019

 


                  #1 MY MASTER



In the mighty stance of youth, my esteemed husband’s height had measured five foot ten inches. A description of him could read that he was a solid man, but neither impressively tall nor conspicuously muscular. G.B.‘s physique was compact, a coiled spring with powerful erratic charge — as was his verbal charge — quick witted and without particular regard for reality.

            As G.B. approached a venerable age conflict continued. Armed with his pick handle he charged young and old, individuals or crowds, with unconstrained wild eyed roaring rage — so loud he won by default. He convinced his opponents, by these spontaneous vociferate explosions that the conflict would surely burst his brain or his heart — mid sentence.

            During one of these encounters his opponent soon cared only to escape this raving wild man.

            Early in our marriage G.B. told me I must stand in verbal defence of him in such moments of conflict. Knowing neither my nature nor my inclination would ever allow such a display. I finally found, in a rare moment of courage, the nerve to speak out and establish once and for all time my limitations.

            “G.B., I love you more than you’ll ever know. For the rest of my life I am content because I have known and loved you and been loved by you.”

            He smiled broadly and fondly, and with that rare courage I continued, “But you are in error if you believe I agree with everything you holler at people in moments of conflict. Many ideas you speak and things you do, seem to me to be the strangest words and acts imaginable. And if you think I will speak an untrue word or raise a hand to defend you, you are sadly mistaken.“

            “I will however stand nearby or behind you, watch you, call 911 or bandage you, drive you home and love you.”

 


Posted by Charlotte Madison at 04:49 0 Comments
Add your own comments.

December 29,2019
P.S.

I WILL START TO BLOG STONE AN CANVAS BOOK 3 OF THE TRIILOGY SHE PAINT ROCKS, ANY DAY NOW.


Posted by Charlotte Madison at 03:30 0 Comments
Add your own comments.

December 29,2019
#42 THE TUNNEL the end


            We drove to the end of the tunnel and stepped out of the pick-up onto the smooth, dry cement floor. G.B. climbed up onto the rocks trying to have a look at what lay beyond.

            As it was so late and we were tired, I assumed we would try to get some sleep in the pick-up until daylight. The water would be gone by then, we could back out of the tunnel and drive home. G.B. had other plans. He was going to drive the little old, short bed Ford pick-up, sixty feet across the top of the rock fall.

            G.B. began to lift huge rocks. If one did not budge, he blasted, “WAYLL HEYLL! ” and charged it like a raging bull. He built a ramp up the pile of rocks, and then roughly leveled an area the length of the pick-up. At the far left corner of the leveled area, he stacked the rocks to form a marker.

            “Y’all keep aside the monument and I’ll drive straight at y’all. Don’t move. I’ll only drive one car length at most. I won’t hit y’all Charle.”

             His last comment was assuring, so I climbed up the ramp. The grit from newly broken sandstone, slippery from the rain, rolled like marbles under my boots and with each step I took, my feet slid and jammed between rocks at bone breaking angles.
Finally I positioned myself, according to his instructions, and G.B. drove straight for me.

            The pick-up surged and lurched as each wheel climbed it’s own path. The thrill of adventure had now become terror and my scream was lost in the roar of the engine. When a front wheel of the pick-up rose onto a rock, the beams of the headlights also rose, leaving me hidden in darkness. Panic let go inside of me, but I could not run or escape. My eyes were blinded by the dark and burned by the light. The tires spun sharp bits of rock in every direction — including mine. It was only a few hours until morning and I was exhausted. I desperately wanted to give up, but to give up was to lie down on a bed of jagged rocks and be run over by my husband! I managed to regain control of myself — even after I realized all this vibration could bring down another rock fall.

            Over and over we repeated the procedure a few feet at a time. Again and again G.B. strained, wrenched free, carried and threw huge rocks into place. Each time he clambered back into his pick-up I hoped he realized that he was risking our lives.

            At last! There he was — standing arms akimbo — the  conquering knight. He looked down at the last lap, surveying the smooth pavement below, while I inched down the rocks to stand with trembling legs on solid ground.

            I backed away as G.B. prepared the last few yards — one last time moving the dead weight of stone. Proudly, he mounted his faithful pickup and drove it down the last stones of the rock fall.

            Exhausted, I stumbled to the pick-up, crawled in beside him and watched G.B. slowly head for home. The rain had stopped, but water still cascaded down the mountain to our right. The ranch land on our left was completely under water with only branches of trees and fence post tops visible in our headlights. We rounded a bend in the road and once again water covered the road.

            “Oh G.B. if we get stuck . . . .” I cried. “If it’s washed out under the water — if the road breaks away under the weight of the truck — oh, if we capsize . . . .”

            “CHARLE! IF — IF — IF! If, If’d had his way — He’d a drowned me in the Washata River when I was a li’l bitty boy!”

            With that remark G.B. ceased to see the water ahead and hit the accelerator.
We neared town as the sun rose. G.B. reached out his strong, beautiful hand, pulled me close and smiled at me.

            “I love y’all Charle. Did y’all have fun tonight?”

            “Oh G.B. I worship you dear little boy.”

            The evidence of the night’s rain storm had all but disappeared by the time we reached Ash Creek. All that remained were full stock tanks and deep scars carved across the red cinder road.

            ”Ah’m all ready fer bacon, eggs, toast an’ coffee.” G.B. stated as we walked in through the back doorway of home.

            I, who had been hoping to sleep in the near future, veered away from the temptations of the bedroom and instead went into the kitchen and sat down at the table. My chin rested on my hands and my eyes closed.

            “Charle, it’s a beautiful day Honey. We’ll sleep later. I need to get a road crew busy an’ we got a lot of rock to ship today. Make us a lunch too, will ya’ll Charle. Charle? Charle? Don’t go to sleep Charle. Y’all make us a lunch. I’ll drive the loader an’ y’all follow with the men in the pick-up."

            While y’all cook breakfast, I’ll gas up the pick-up at the stone yard.”

            “Charle. Charle! Wake up Charle . . . . I can show y’all an early new born calf on the way to the tunnel. Haah! Knew that would getcha.”


Posted by Charlotte Madison at 03:24 0 Comments
Add your own comments.

December 29,2019
#42 THE TUNNEL second half

Well, I wondered, would we wade or breast-stroke out of this predicament? It would be an adventure without danger, unless a rattlesnake swam past. I comforted myself with the thought that hopefully a rattlesnake would be too busy hunting for dry land to bother biting me.
I was ready to get out of the pick-up when in all seriousness, I asked G.B., “Hon, do we open the doors and let the water in or do we go out the windows?”
“Neither!” He blasted.
G.B. put the pick-up into reverse and slowly backed the wheel out of the mud onto the hidden road.
“WHAR’S THE DAMNED TREE?” G.B. shouted.
“What tree?” I inquired.
“Charle, I haven’t time to mess with silliness – DAMMIT! FIND ME THE GOD DAMNED TREE!”
G.B. stared intently into the night until at last he spotted the tree, around which the road
wound to the tunnel. With Okie determination, again he relied on his memory to keep the pick-up on the submerged road. I decided not to tell him there was water coming in at the bottom of my door. Instead I looked out the side window at the lake.
The vast black surface of the water had the luster of an obsidian needle. “It’s so beautiful Honey.” I whispered.
“Mmmm.” He mumbled.
Finally we reached the tree and slowly circled around it. From there it was a straight line to the tunnel.
“You made it G.B.! I can’t believe it. You did it! Let’s have a Pepsi!”
“Charle — the end of the tunnel . . . . Look! Donickers and muck!”
In the cut beyond the tunnel, sixty feet of the road was covered by immense slabs of sandstone and rubble that had washed down from the railway roadbed.
We drove to the end of the tunnel and stepped out of the pick-up onto the smooth, dry cement floor. G.B. climbed up onto the rocks trying to have a look at what lay beyond.
As it was so late and we were tired, I assumed we would try to get some sleep in the pick-up until daylight. The water would be gone by then, we could back out of the tunnel and drive home. G.B. had other plans. He was going to drive the little old, short bed Ford pick-up, sixty feet across the top of the rock fall./
G.B. began to lift huge rocks. If one did not budge, he blasted, “Wayll Hayll!” and charged it like a raging bull. He built a ramp up the pile of rocks, and then roughly leveled an area the length of the pick-up. At the far left corner of the leveled area, he stacked the rocks to form a marker.
“Y’all keep aside the monument and I’ll drive straight at y’all. Don’t move. I’ll only drive one car length at most. I won’t hit y’all Charle.”
His last comment was assuring, so I climbed up the ramp. The grit from newly broken sandstone, slippery from the rain, rolled like marbles under my boots and with each step I took, my feet slid and jammed between rocks at bone breaking angles.
Finally I positioned myself, according to his instructions, and G.B. drove straight for me.
The pick-up surged and lurched as each wheel climbed it’s own path. The thrill of adventure had now become terror and my scream was lost in the roar of the engine. When a front wheel of the pick-up rose onto a rock, the beams of the headlights also rose, leaving me hidden in darkness. Panic let go inside of me, but I could not run or escape. My eyes were blinded by the dark and burned by the light. The tires spun sharp bits of rock in every direction — including mine. It was only a few hours until morning and I was exhausted. I desperately wanted to give up, but to give up was to lie down on a bed of jagged rocks and be run over by my husband! I managed to regain control of myself — even after I realized all this vibration could bring down another rock fall.
Over and over we repeated the procedure a few feet at a time. Again and again G.B. strained, wrenched free, carried and threw huge rocks into place. Each time he clambered back into his pick-up I hoped he realized that he was risking our lives.
At last! There he was — standing arms akimbo — a conquering hero. He looked down at the last lap, surveying the smooth pavement below, while I inched down the rocks to stand with trembling legs on solid ground.
I backed away as G.B. prepared the last few yards — one last time moving the dead weight of stone. Proudly, he mounted his faithful pickup and drove it down the last stones of the rock fall.
Exhausted, I stumbled to the pick-up, crawled in beside him and watched G.B. slowly head for home. The rain had stopped, but water still cascaded down the mountain to our right. The ranch land on our left was completely under water with only branches of trees and fence post tops visible in our headlights. We rounded a bend in the road and once again water covered the road.
“Oh G.B. if we get stuck . . . .” I cried. “If it’s washed out under the water — if the road breaks away under the weight of the truck — oh, if we capsize . . . .”
“CHARLE! IF — IF — IF! If, If’d had his way — He’d a drowned me in the Washata River when I was a li’l bitty boy!”
With that remark G.B. ceased to see the water ahead and hit the accelerator.
We neared town as the sun rose. G.B. reached out his strong, beautiful hand, pulled me close and smiled at me.
“I love y’all Charle. Did y’all have fun tonight?”
“Oh G.B. I worship you dear little boy.”
The evidence of the night’s rain storm had all but disappeared by the time we reached Ash Creek. All that remained were full stock tanks and deep scars carved across the red cinder road.
”Ah’m all ready fer bacon, eggs, toast an’ coffee.” G.B. stated as we walked in through the back doorway of home.
I, who had been hoping to sleep in the near future, veered away from the temptations of the bedroom and instead went into the kitchen and sat down at the table. My chin rested on my hands and my eyes closed.
“Charle, it’s a beautiful day Honey. We’ll sleep later. I need to get a road crew busy an’ we got a lot of rock to ship today. Make us a lunch too, will ya’ll Charle. Charle? Charle? Don’t go to sleep Charle. Y’all make us a lunch. I’ll drive the loader an’ y’all follow with the men in the pick-up. While y’all cook breakfast, I’ll gas up the pick-up at the stone yard.”
“Charle. Charle! Wake up Charle . . . . I can show y’all an early new born calf on the way to the tunnel. Haah! Knew that would getcha.”


Well, I wondered, would we wade or breast-stroke out of this predicament? It would be an adventure without danger, unless a rattlesnake swam past. I comforted myself with the thought that hopefully a rattlesnake would be too busy hunting for dry land to bother biting me.

            I was ready to get out of the pick-up when in all seriousness, I asked G.B., “Hon, do we open the doors and let the water in or do we go out the windows?”

            “Neither!” He blasted. G.B. put the pick-up into reverse and slowly backed the wheel out of the mud onto the hidden road.

            “WHAR’S THE DAMNED TREE?” G.B. shouted.

            “What tree?” I inquired.

            “Charle, I haven’t time to mess with silliness – DAMMIT! FIND ME THE GOD DAMNED TREE!”

            G.B. stared intently into the night until at last he spotted the tree, around which the road wound to the tunnel. With Okie determination, again he relied on his memory to keep the pick-up on the submerged road. I decided not to tell him there was water coming in at the bottom of my door. Instead I looked out the side window at the lake.

            The vast black surface of the water had the luster of an obsidian needle. “It’s so beautiful Honey.” I whispered.

            “Mmmm.” He mumbled.

            Finally we reached the tree and slowly circled around it. From there it was a straight line to the tunnel.

            “You made it G.B.! I can’t believe it. You did it! Let’s have a Pepsi!”
 

            “Charle — the end of the tunnel . . . . Look! Donickers and muck!”

            In the cut beyond the tunnel, sixty feet of the road was covered by immense slabs of sandstone and rubble that had washed down from the railway roadbed.


Posted by Charlotte Madison at 03:01 0 Comments
Add your own comments.

December 29,2019
#42 THE TUNNEL - FIRST HALF

#42   THE TUNNEL -first half

 

Men and women were hired to labor in the Western States Stone Company quarries. Some of the workers were housed in town by G.B., while others occupied old cabins mobles and trailers he and the company provided out at the quarries. There were also quarry workers who independently leased quarries, trucked their stone to town and sold it to the customer of their choice. Many of those workers also lived in the quarries.

            One rainy November day, the matriarch of a family who leased a quarry, came into the stone yard office. She leaned over me and whispered softly, “Mis’ Charle, would G.B. let me fill up the gas on credit at the station? I have my grandson sick, out in the pick-up. I have to get him to hospital in Flagstaff. It’s fifty miles to Flag’ and I’m almost out of gas.”
G.B. spun his big chair around to face the elderly Mrs. Phillips, picked up the phone and called in credit to his station.

            “We’re fixin to come back after supper to do the pay-roll.” G.B. told her, “So we’ll wait here ‘till y’all get back. With this rain, might be best if y’all stay the night at our house.”

            “No,” she replied impatiently, “I can’t. The boy’s mom is sick too and she’s home alone. The rest of the family’s in Phoenix. Besides, I’m bringing back medicine for her. I have to get back to the quarry tonight.”

            “Well, d’rectly y’all get back, come here an’ we’ll drive y’all home. This is a bad night. It’ll be flooded out y’all’s way. I’d worry fer ye to be alone on those roads, so me an’ Charle, we’ll be ready to go soon as y’all get back.”

            We worked late as promised, and at nine p.m. G.B. announced, “She’s late. She may have had a flat. We’ll go lookin’ fer her. Y’all go home an’ get a blanket, a thermos a’ hot coffee, an’ bring the Pepsi purse. While y’all do that, I’ll gas up the pick-up here in the yard, so’s I won’t miss ‘er.”

            When I arrived back at the stone yard Mrs. Phillips had returned, but she was alone. Her grandson had remained in the Flagstaff hospital. The day’s events were taking their toll on the elderly woman. She was visibly upset and exhausted.

            G.B. switched off all but one of the office lights and locked the door behind us as we left. The three of us rushed through the rain and jumped into the company pick-up and G.B. said "I'll have the men drive y'all's pick-up out first thang in the mornin' so don't y'all worry."

            Mrs. Phillips and I wrapped a blanket around our legs, then she poured herself a mug of steaming hot coffee and I popped a couple of Pepsis for G.B. and me. We were off on a fifty mile drive to “Hayll” and back.

            G.B. drove the few blocks through town, and then turned onto the road that led to the quarries. It passed by Ash Creek and the Santa Fe railway trestle.

            “Y’all look at this creek!” G.B. said urgently, “It’s a-risin’ fast. I recall one year they moved a Santa Fe engine onto the trestle, to keep the trestle from washin’ away in the flood.”

            We drove through flowing water on the road for a few hundred yards, and then the road began to rise up out of the water as it led toward the first cattle-guard. North of town, in the Kaibab, rain torrents washed down the mountain canyons, rushed into washes and ditches, filled the cattle rancher’s stock tanks, overflowed and washed on down into Ash Creek, then beyond to Hell’s Canyon south of town.

            There were many places where water crossed the road that November night, and I took delight in watching large raindrops hit the water, then bounce and sparkle in the beam of the headlights.

            We progressed steadily along Double A Ranch road and beyond. Just before we reached Truba’s Goldtrap Ranch, we turned right, toward the quarries, and traveled a forest road which endured the constant abuse of stone laden trucks.

            As a driver, G.B. was an ageing, slow rolling hazard on the freeways and a speeding menace in his town. But in the hills, on ice, in snow and in floods he was still a master driver, capable of reacting to any road condition with accurate judgment and lightning speed.

            We fishtailed across mud slick sloping roads and bounced over rocky, pothole ridden stretches. G.B. was in his glory. All went well until we neared the centre of a wide, flooded wash, the engine died and the pick-up rolled to a stop.

            “Oh Hayll.” G.B. growled. “Charle, y’all get out! Open the hood an’ dry the distributor cap.” Then in a very casual way he added, “Y’all listen fer a flash flood. This is a bad spot now.”

            Having lost friends in a flash flood, instinct and common sense told me to run to high ground, but I did not want to walk home, so I decided to move quickly and do as told; besides he asked so nicely. . . .

            Feeling around under the hood, I was grateful for the time spent at the station. Moments later the pick-up started. With me standing calf deep in a flooded wash and Noah and his friends due by at any minute, G.B. gunned the engine, drove to high ground and hollered out his window, “Charle, y’all a-gonna stand out thar all night!”

            When I had splashed back to the pick-up and dumped the water out of my boots, I crawled over Mrs. Phillips to my seat. G.B. gave me an enthusiastic smile, and then plunged the pick-up into several more flooded washes, and on through one of the tunnels the Atchison Topeka and Santa Fe railway company had built in order that vehicles could cross under the tracks.

            It was close to midnight when we dropped Mrs. Phillips at her trailer door. She thanked us warmly and hurried in to her daughter. A light went on and all seemed well, but G.B. did not drive off. He was pondering: hat off —– rub head — hat on — rub chin — rub nose — hat off — then with an air of determination he plunked his hat back onto his head and declared, “We’ll cross the Santa Fe tracks through the tunnel at Eagle’s Nest. It’s still rainin’ so the way we came’ll be worse. Eagle’s Nest is a higher, better road to travel tonight. I’m a little worried about the stretch from the road-bed down, to the tunnel, but if we can get to the tunnel, we’ll be home in no time. Let’s have a Pepsi Charle!”

            “I have a surprise G.B — some Hi Ho’s and cheese cubes!”

            “Oh sounds larrupin’ Sweetheart.”

            G.B. turned up to the railway maintenance road, and we bounded happily along, munching crackers and cheese and sipping and slopping Pepsis.

            The maintenance road and the railway tracks ran side by side along the top of the man-made, in some places, fifty foot high roadbed.

            “Eagle’s nest is over yonder somewhar Charle, y’all help me to see.”

            All I could see was a wall of rain in the headlights. Abruptly G.B. swung the pick-up down an off-ramp to the right, which led to the Eagle’s Nest tunnel, still a good two miles away. As we neared the bottom of the ramp my vision penetrated the raindrops and I realized I was looking out at an ebony lake, where earlier in the day cattle would have been grazing on the scrub. Now even the road was completely under the water.

            G.B. stopped the pick-up, deliberated a moment, then very slowly he drove into the black water. As he inched the vehicle forward, he forced his memory to recall and retrace each curve and angle the submerged narrow road followed.

            “Damn.” He whispered and braked to a quick stop. “We’re off the road . . . .”


Posted by Charlotte Madison at 02:09 0 Comments
Add your own comments.

December 29,2019
OH GAD ! IT IS 2:16 AM

I ENTERED #42 TWICE -AN HOUR AT A TIME - BUT I TIMED OUT BOTH TIMES TOMORROW I WILL REDO AND SPLIT #42 THE TUNNEL INTO  PARTS  IT IS THE LAST TALE OF BOOK ONE. SORRY ABOUT THAT.  IN BOOK 3 I WILL SPLIT LONG ONES INTO 2 BLOGS PER DAY.

 

 

 


Posted by Charlotte Madison at 02:31 0 Comments
Add your own comments.

December 28,2019
#41 HE FLIES THROUGH THE AIR

#41 He Flies Through the Air

 

“Charle, Cale, y’all come! I want to show y’all somethin’.”G.B. paced back and forth, bursting with mischief and impatience. As soon as he had my visiting mother and me in the pick-up, he headed to the stone yard. Skidding to a stop in the gravel he parked in his spot by the office and then hurried us through the pallet maze of patio and flagstone.

            I assumed G.B. was eager to show us the new muck trench on which he had been working.

            It was to be the new disposal area for rubble and muck from the diamond saws and stone cutters. He had told us it was one hundred fifty feet long, fifteen feet wide, seventeen feet deep and sloped at both ends.

            Fork lifts made endless trips all through the working hours, dumping rubble and muck into the trench from huge iron muck buckets. When the trench was full, G.B. marked out another one and then dug it out. First he skimmed off what little topsoil existed within the markings and piled it high. He liked to have a supply ready for fill, when needed to enrich our front garden, to use on hilly and rocky rental properties after excavations for cesspools and holes dug around tree roots in the water pipes.

            Next he dug into the caliche hardpan layer, some of which he used to smooth over the full muck trench. With the remainder of the caliche he filled in the potholes dug out of the quarry roads by the heavy rains and loaded rocck trucks.

            G.B. walked us to the edge of the newly cut trench, “Lookee yonder!

            Old Huff was lying on her side, seventeen feet down in the trench!

            “Did you leave it on a slope Honey?” My mother asked him calmly yet filled with concern. “Did you forget to put on the parking brake?” she added.

            “No Mom. I rode ‘er down — back’erds!” He added with gusto. “The bucket swung over the cab, the whole thang turned over, landed on ‘er tires an’ then flopped over on ‘er side!”

            “Oh Honey.” Mum gasped. “Are you hurt dear?”

            That thought had not occurred to me with him standing beside us fit and frolicsome.

            “No I didn’t get hurt,” he replied, “I just held on and’ figured she’d stop fallin’ when she hit the ground!”

            Word of G.B.’s mishap spread quickly through town and among the first to arrive at the stone yard was Ash Fork’s E.M.T., Shirley. She sat G.B. down, checked his heart and blood pressure, then looked up at me and said, “Charle, that fall did ‘im a world of good. Best readin’ he’s had all year.”


Posted by Charlotte Madison at 12:53 0 Comments
Add your own comments.

December 27,2019
#40 THE AUDITOR

              #40  THE AUDITOR

 

After I had worked in the gas station seventy-five to eighty hours per week for several years, and I had done the company payroll — when I was not busy, I dug in my heels to quit. It was not easy to avoid G.B.’s manipulations and his demands, but eventually a bargain evolved. G.B. promoted me to station manager and reluctantly hired staff to run the 76 station. He hired me part-time as his stone company secretary and part-time as bookkeeper for his house rental business, Madison Rentals. I probably did more work, but I was loose of my cage. I could paint again, shop in Prescott, harvest prickly pears for jelly and gab at the post office — until he found me and shooed me back to work.

            I was preparing a credit card dispatch and gabbing with the morning shift, when a “City Man in a Suit” walked into the gas station and said, “I’m the State Compensation Auditor and I’m here to audit your books.”

            Auditors were G.B.’s specialty, but he was in Prescott, the county seat, doing battle with building inspectors and he would be hollering at them for some time, so I hauled out the books and apologized in advance for my soon to be revealed lack of bookkeeping skills.

            “I’m a painter, not a bookkeeper.” I stated laughingly. He looked at me and appeared somewhat confused by my comment. He did not hear the humour in it nor or the truth in it.

            I was dumbfounded by his phenomenal speed on my adding machine, but its hum was constantly being interrupted by my personally designed bookkeeping methods and my laughter. From time to time he raised his eyes to mine, and his pained expression set forth another burst of laughter from me.

            At last he stood in the doorway with his work completed. I could see the man was thankful to be leaving, and then his face clouded as he said, “I’ll see you next year.”

            I finished the credit card dispatch and headed to my office at the stone yard. Soon after I arrived the door opened and there stood the “City Man in a Suit.” He took one long look at me, let out an audible sigh and said, “I’m still the State Compensation Auditor, and I’m here to audit your books.”

            “G.B. isn’t here.” I said hesitantly, “You can catch him later today.”

            Suddenly the auditor transformed himself into a “Government Official in a Suit” and said again, “I am here to audit your books.
I was more intimidated by him than I was by G.B., so I opened the payroll books.

            Once again this grave man struck a funny bone in me, and as he settled himself beside me at the desk I announced, “I don’t know what I’m doing, I just follow orders.”

            He sighed again, and together we waded through the books to his eventual satisfaction. But the ordeal left the “Perfectionist in a Suit.” wearied by my methods and confused by my laughter. When he finished his audit at two P.M. he left immediately.

            Upon G.B.’s return to town, he exploded through the stone yard office door hollering to me, “ CHARLE! WHERE THE HAYLL ARE M’INDEFEASIBLE TITLES?” Y’all go to the rental office an’ FIND ‘EM!”

            I drove over to the office and began to dig into the files. When I heard the door open and close, I looked up expecting to see G.B., instead, there stood the auditor. He took one look at my grinning face, turned to leave, appeared to change his mind, and then he asked in a weak breathless voice, “You work here too?”

            Behind him the door few open and crashed back against the wall!

            “WHAT THE HAYLL IS A-GOIN’ ON?” G.B. roared. “ . . . AN’ WHAR ARE M’GOD DAMNED INDIFEASIBLE TITLES?”

            I thrust the papers at G.B. and he turned to find the doorway blocked by the auditor.
“MOVE! DAMMIT!” He shrieked.

            The auditor leapt out of his way and stood pressed against the wall as G.B. blew out through the doorway. After the auditor peeled himself off the wall, he headed for the door and said shakily, “I’ll come back tomorrow.”

            The post office across the street caught his eye, and with a flicker of humour the auditor asked me. “I have to drop off some mail over there, before I quit for the day. You don’t work at the post office too, do you?”

            I could tell he expected me to let him off the hook and say no. Instead I replied wide-eyed, “No — but we do own it.”

            After his first audit with us, I came to realize the auditor looked forward to his visits with G.B. and the “Silly Canadian Painter Lady.” We were like a dill pickle after an excess of birthday cake. Shocking, but somehow . . . one craves one more bite.


Posted by Charlotte Madison at 12:23 0 Comments
Add your own comments.

December 26,2019
#39 THE BLONDE

                #39 THE BLONDE 

 

I had noticed a blonde haired woman flying around town in a little red sports car, but she and her husband ran the gas station at the other end of town, so I had never had occasion to speak to her.

            One day the little red car rolled into our station with “The Blonde” pushing it. “I’m out of gas!” She gasped.

            I immediately felt a kinship to her as she called out, “Fill it up. I don’t have any money, ‘cause I just got back from shoppin’ in Presc’tt. Tell G.B. I have to get supper an’ then take pills out to an old rock doodler in the hills, but I’ll bring the money over tomorrow. An’ if that old bat you’re married to give you any crap — call me, an’ I’ll bring the money over to the house tonight.”

            With blonde hair flying in the wind, the little red car sped from the station. I had just met Shirley, the woman who would become an outstanding friend.

            The second time I met “The Blonde” was several weeks later.

            A trip to the town dump was a Saturday morning rite, and this Saturday was no exception. I had just tossed a bag of household garage onto a pile of burning effuse, when over the hill, past the stone dyke came a pick-up truck bouncing and swerving madly. It skidded to a stop, and then backed up into throwing range of the burning pile. Out hopped Shirley. 

            “Hi Charle, havin’ a day on the town?” She called to me.

            I was still laughing when I saw my can of hair spray in the fire. She saw it too — but too late. The can had heated up in the flames, and as it burst the escaping propellant turned the hair spray can into a “Blonde seeking” missile. It took off in hot pursuit of Shirley. She ran screeching between the burning garbage with the hair spray can circling her head.

            When at last her attacker died of exhaustion, I gasped through my laughter, “I’m sorry! I’m sorry!”

            Shirley drew herself up to her slim stately height and with a deadly expression on her face she said, “Just what I need in my life — G.B. an’ you - one with a pick-handle an’ one with a bomb!”

 

 


Posted by Charlotte Madison at 02:11 0 Comments
Add your own comments.

December 25,2019
#38 BOOTS

#38 BOOTS

G.B. wore Red Wing boots and always had a spare pair, well conditioned with Neats-foot oil, waiting for the pair in use to be discarded. I figured they wore out, not from walking on rocks cinder and in gravel, but instead from wear and tear putting them on and taking them off.

            G.B. put on his boots a minimum of eleven times per day. He removed them for every meal, every snack, every time he came home to relax on the couch and every time he came to bed — all though the night.

            For all his impatience with the world, G.B. never revealed any frustration as he went through his ritual of removing his boots or tying them back on again.

            G.B. always settled himself in his comfortable “boot chair” to perform his ritual. Never rushing, he would slip his foot into his boot and firmly tug on each leather thong crossed over his high instep. Next he would crisscross the thongs and loop them around each lace-hook. From there G..B. would wind the thongs twice around his tiny ankle and tie his “shoe string” at the back of his boot. Then, with equal patience he would tend to the other foot.

            Early on G.B. cautioned me, “I’m fixin’ to warn y’all Charle, I can’t love y’all with m’boots on.”


Posted by Charlotte Madison at 12:29 0 Comments
Add your own comments.

December 25,2019
#37 FLYING UPPERS

#37   FLYIN' UPPERS

 

A dignified and well-to-do Canadian tourist drove his big black Cadillac up to the inside gas pump by the station office. When he had completed his transaction, we discussed recent happenings back home in Canada, then he and his wife went to the rest rooms.

            G.B. arrived at the station and found an empty car in his spot — and the empty car was not even connected to a pump!

            “What the Hayll is a-goin’ on?” G.B. bellowed.

            “ . . . but they aren’t just using the rest rooms Hon. They filled their gas tank and they’ll be out in a sec’.” I explained.

            “An’ ah’m supposed to stand here a-waitin’ — while they set in thar?”

            With that G.B. was off around the side of the building, hollering at the restroom occupants and battering on both restroom doors.

            “Y’all get out’a thar, an’ move y’all’s tin can right out’a m’station! I’m a-loosin’ business jes’ so’s y’all can rest an’ relax in thar!”

            The dignified man and his wife opened the rest room doors, terrified by the raging old fellow they now encountered in the tiny desert town. They dashed to their car with G.B. in full pursuit. Once behind the wheel with the car door locked, the man somewhat recovered, opened his mouth to speak as he began to open the window, but G.B, well planted in front of the couple’s car began to roar, “Y’ALL . . .” And out flew his upper teeth!

            Being well practiced in shooting off his mouth, G.B, caught his uppers in mid flight and held the tourists frozen, while he rammed them back in and spluttered his upper plate back into suction. With that he continued “ . . . CAN GO STRAIGHT TO HAYLL WHILE I PRAY FER YE!”

            G.B. stomped around to the driver’s side as the man frantically closed his window and G.B. continued to scream at the silent dignified man and his wife. She looked at me with deepest compassion and the man looked at me apologetically, gunned his engine and wheeled the big black Cadillac out of the station into passing traffic and on down Route 66.

            Safely behind him the sixty year old man, in hot pursuit, charged down the middle of the road, bellowing at no one in particular, “GIT THAT DANGED FOOL OUT’A M’STATION!”


Posted by Charlotte Madison at 12:25 0 Comments
Add your own comments.

December 24,2019
#36 PROSPERITY

                 #36 PROSPERITY

 

When G.B. paid his property taxes and insurance for all his holdings. he would come into the station and announce to customers, drifters, locals, anyone present, how much money he had paid. They teased him about being “rich” and having to pay for so many properties, but he always took their comments as compliments.

             Then he would manipulate the conversation to give himself an opening for saying, “i know y’all can’t take it with ye; But i never did know of a place where a li'l money wouldn’t do y’all a li'l good.”

             And as he went out the door he added “So, i plan to bury mine an’ pick it up on m’way down!”

            Oh how I marvelled at his natural born theatrical timing.


Posted by Charlotte Madison at 02:15 0 Comments
Add your own comments.

December 24,2019
#35 THE ALIEN PLANT

              #35 The Alien Plant

 

One dark summer night, I went out the back door to sneak scraps past G.B.’s eagle eye and feed the feral mother cat and her three kittens that seemed to have moved into our car port. As I stepped outside, I noticed a plant out on the driveway I had never seen before. It was a foot high, glowed softly and wafted in the breeze.

            I called to the kittens while I waited for my eyes to adapt to the darkness, and then once more looked at the plant glowing in the driveway. At that point I knew I had never seen it before. Besides, the air was still. There was no breeze whatsoever to waft a plant. An animal would have frozen, then bolted or reacted in some way to the slam of the screen door and my voice, but this thing did not.

            I began to recall stories I had hear about peculiar incidents happening under the Arizona night’s sky. People had claimed to see U.F.O.’s in this area. Movies had been made about meteors falling to earth and hatching out strange blobs. Even the government had a department to investigate odd sightings and occurrences.

            The ferals neared and ignored the “plant,” and it did not react to their presence. I no longer looked at the “plant” expecting it to resolve itself into a familiar form.

            As I stared at the mysterious wafting thing. There was a sudden upheaval and transformation. It began to fade into the darkness. As the glow subsided, it was replaced by a momentary sparkle of green lights. As the green lights disappeared the glow reappeared, and the “plant” drifted toward me. The thing had to be alive! I stood breathless and motionless, frozen with fear, as it moved closer and closer to me!

            Suddenly and without warning the outside lights went on and lit the entire garden.

            “Charle, what y’all a-doin’ out thar?” G.B. called through the screen door in a sleepy voice.

            “I’m looking at a beautiful sight G.B.”

             "There before me was a mother skunk and ten babies clustered closely around her, their white fur glowing brightly and their fluffy tails slowly waving side to side.

            My “plant” on the driveway had been eleven polecats eating their dinner at an ant hill. When Mummy moved, so had the babies and when they turned around, their eyes had caught enough light to sparkle . They ignored the kittens, because apparently they all lived in the same garden and had grown accustomed to each other.

            As for me, I had been inadvertently feeding them. When I put out food and water for the kittens the skunks must have assumed I was not to be feared, ignored me and helped themselves.

            Occasionally that summer a neighbourhood dog would chase one of our skunks across the long porch past our front door and the effluvium that came in through the screen door would send us flying in all directions. But the odor did not last too long — except maybe on the dog

 


Posted by Charlotte Madison at 01:07 0 Comments
Add your own comments.

December 23,2019
#34 THE HOUSE

#34   THE HOUSE

 

The old wooden house looked like a big fat chicken puffed up over her chicks. It had nine rooms and almost as many doors leading outside. The house was cool in summer, but G.B. kept it eighty-five degrees day and night in fall, winter and spring.

            Beneath the house was a mysterious storm cellar supported by adobe covered stone walls. It was dry and still, like a cave, with thick cobweb stalactites.

            The carport on the south side of the house was edged by a chest high “malapai” stone wall. When I asked G.B. what “malapai” was, he replied, “It’s the volcanic rock that Ash fork sets on an’ it’s hard as petrified HAYLL!”

            The driveway on the north side of the house was edged by a dense, ten foot high hedge of feathery tamarisk which produced beautiful pink plumes in summer.

            The rear driveway would one day encircle our pride and joy, a luxuriant vegetable garden edged by a hedge of brilliant multicoloured zinnias and giant golden sunflowers.

            Across the front of the house, in the shade of three large Japanese locust trees, stretched a spacious porch made somewhat private by a tangle of sweet honeysuckle and climbing red roses. On warm summer evenings G.B. and I would sit on the porch and he would hold court.

            One such evening a gentle Mexican rock yard man, hat in hand, appealed for a job for his brother. G.B. told the man to have his brother at the stone yard early the next morning.

            Minutes later a frantic quarry worker arrived and pleaded, “I’m out of gas G.B. and I’m out of money. My wife’s in the car. She’s havin’ the baby, an’ I have to drive her fifty miles to the hospital in Presc’tt.” G.B. reached into his pocket, pulled out his wallet, carefully counted out money and handed it to the young man who thanked him, then dashed back to his car.

            The last visitors that night were a mother and her daughter. They settled themselves on the porch steps and the mother asked, “G.B., me an’ my husband, we’re tired of havin’ her an’ her babies underfoot all the time. She jes’ works part-time at the café, so she can’t afford to rent a house, but have you got a little trailer you could rent her?”

            G.B. pondered that for a moment then grumbled, “Durn it. This is my house — where I come to rest. I’m at the office most a’ the day. Can’t y’all leave a man a little peace in his own house, of an evenin’?” Without waiting for her reply he stood and said to me, “I’ll be back as soon as I get this girl a rental.”

            That evening’s agenda was like so many we had. G.B. found the girl one of his trailers to rent, stopped by Alice’s Café to have a coffee and “a gab” with his cronies, and then he came home to nestle under the protective feathers of the house.


Posted by Charlotte Madison at 12:53 0 Comments
Add your own comments.

December 23,2019
#33 DEBT

             #33   DEBT

 

Because the town did not have a bank, and when it finally got a little one, G.B. would not deal with it. He was forever pulling cash from my till at the gas station in order to loan someone money, send mechanics or carpenters to Prescott or Flagstaff for vehicle parts or rental property repair supplies.

            When I complained that he complicated and confused my already complicated and confused book-keeping, it upset him to think I would dare hold back his cash — just so I could keep the books straight.

“Charle, if I live, I’ll repay ya’ll. An’ shore as HAYLL I’m not about to die to keep from payin’ ye!”

I laughed and he mellowed, and then he asked, “Did y’all know there are two times to pay a debt? The first time is when it’s due, an’ the second time,” he added with a gleam in his eye, “is the first time y’all have the money.”


Posted by Charlotte Madison at 12:31 0 Comments
Add your own comments.

December 22,2019
#32 FOOD


             #32 FOOD

 

I am sure my son Lee, must have said to his wife Wendy, on numerous occasions, “Thank Heaven you don’t cook like my mother does!”

            Judging by G.B.’s attitude toward food served to him in cafés, I sensed he would be a finicky eater. I felt I would really have to cook in order to please him, so on one of my outings to Prescott I visited a book store and purchased a large, white and gold, hard cover edition of “The Joy of Cooking.” In my heart I pitied my new husband, but I was determined at least to try.

            The day I moved into his house G.B. took me to Williams to grocery shop. Until that day he had subsisted on meals at Alice’s Café and the occasional dinner made by his housekeeper. We arrived at Babbitt’s grocery store and he grabbed three baskets. I followed G.B. up and down the aisles while he loaded the baskets with substantial quantities of food, a frightening array of cleaning products and a vast supply of desserts, candy and cookies. I figured when my culinary efforts were unsuccessful there would be only minor delays, because I would have such a vast reserve of food.

            As we passed the frozen food section I exercised my will and snatched several large bags of frozen vegetables from the freezer. G.B. frowned at me then said, “Charle, we eat canned vegetables, there’s no room in the fridge fer frozen food.”

            “Isn’t that what the top of the fridge is for?” I asked incredulously.

            Astonished by my ignorant question, G.B. replied, “No, that’s whar y’all keep the ice-cream an’ ice cubes.”

            “Which flavor of ice-cream do you want?” I asked as I returned the vegetables to the freezer.

            Pompously G.B. announced, “We don’t buy ice-cream in the stores. We have butter pecan delivered to the house by Schwan’s”

             As we made our way to the check-out I tried again. “Do we need Pepsis G.B.?”

            “HAYLL NO! The Pepsi closet’s stacked high as my chest.”

            Believing the shopping was complete, G.B. handed me a fistful of money and strutted out to his car to wait.
As the items were being rung through I whipped over to the dairy section and grabbed a block of cheese, which G.B. had determined was “fit only fer rats” and laid it defiantly on the conveyor belt.

            The following morning I cooked breakfast for G.B. After he swallowed the first bite he said sternly, “Charle, y’all need some lessons on good country cookin’. Y’all call Miz Tolliver. She cooked fer my café, years ago, and Charle, the meals she cooked were larrupin’.” His mood mellowed with the thought of her home cooking and he added, “When y’all see ‘er, tell ‘er to make me a tray a’ glazed doughnuts.”

            “A tray? You mean a dozen G.B.?”

            “Not a dozen, a tray! A big tray!”

            After tasting his next bite of my cooking G.B. threw down his fork in disgust. “I can’t eat this! The egg’s fried hard an’ the bacon wasn’t pressed!”

            “Pressed?” I asked suppressing laughter.

            “Yes pressed.” G.B. growled. “Reckon the press is in the drawer with the pans.” Not to be distracted, he continued, “an’ the toast’s too dark, an’ so’s the coffee — AN’ WHAR’S M’GOD DAMNED JELLY?”

            With that G.B. stomped out of the house and ate both breakfast and lunch that day at Alice’s Café.

After work I rushed home to have a go at cooking dinner. When it was ready G.B. sat down at his place at the table, took one look at his plate and said, “No wonder y’all live like a hermit alone in the desert. Y’all probably poisoned everyone y’all ever fed. The potatoes are boiled alright, but y’all fergot to cut ‘em tiny an’ fry ‘em golden brown. Y’all gave me half a cow fer a steak. I don’t eat like a young man any more Charle. I just want a li’l ol’ piece a’ steak. An’ what the HAYLL is this brown rubber.”

            “Gravy.” I replied meekly.

            “HAYLL! Gravy’s white!”

            “White?” I gasped.

            “Tomorrow y’all go to Miz Tolliver, an’ tell ‘er y’all need to cook Chicken Fried Steak fer dinner. An’ she better tell y’all how, or they’ll be callin’ fer volunteers to dig another hole in the cemetery — fer ME!”

            The next day I arrived early at Miz Tolliver’s house eager for my “good country cookin’” lesson. I stood on her porch and breathed in all the delights of baking day in a big country kitchen, then I knocked and she called out, “Y’all come.”

            I stepped into a warm, sun filled room and saw before me Miz Tolliver glowing pink and white from the oven heat. She wore a crisp, blue and white print cotton house-dress and a large, spotless white apron, lightly dusted with flour. Miz Tolliver was encircled by racks of freshly baked bread, plump raisin buns, iced cinnamon rolls and glazed doughnuts cooling on shelves and counters. She stood with confident majesty at her mighty table, and as she welcomed me she kneaded her bread dough, puffing out whiffs of yeast with each press.

            When I had related G.B.’s instructions to Miz Tolliver, I could see her wondering how a woman in her forties, and a mother at that, could not know how to cook basic meals. But when I asked if I should use chicken breast or thigh for Chicken Fried Steak, she laughed heartily and said, “Land sakes child, it’s beef y’all use! Ask Kenny at Zetler’s to run one a’ his nice steaks through the tenderizer four times — no, for G.B. six times, ‘till it’s like lace. Cut it into steak size pieces, dip ‘em in egg an’ then in flour. They’ll fry up into lovely, golden-brown crusty steaks. Now what else do y’all need to know?”

           That evening G.B. sat down at the table and we locked eyes momentarily while each prayed silently, “Let it taste as good as it smells.” I placed before him the most fattening meal I’d ever cooked — golden-brown Chicken Fried Steak, boiled, then fried-to-death tiny, crusty potato bits, corn bread steaming hot from the oven, sliced and heavily buttered, creamed corn, deep-fried battered okra and stark white “gravy”.

With delight and enthusiasm G.B tasted his repast, and then looked at me with loving elation, he said reverently, “Oh Charle! This supper is real larrupin’”


Posted by Charlotte Madison at 12:43 0 Comments
Add your own comments.

December 21,2019
LIFE IN ASH FORK


Posted by Charlotte Madison at 12:36 0 Comments
Add your own comments.

December 21,2019
#31 THE GAS STATION

            #31   THE GAS STATION

 

G.B. had added the Union 76 gas station to his holdings, and Luisa, the former owner, stayed on to operate it for him.

            When I drove into town to see G.B., I always stopped at the station to visit with Luisa. Before long she began asking me if I would serve the odd customer. One day she needed help with the dispatch, another day she gave me a gossipy detailed explanation of credit, good risks and bad. Soon I had even learned how to operate the antiquated till. G.B. came in from time to time and glowed with pride for all I was learning.

            “What’s the good of it? I asked G.B. “I don’t work.”

            I was fooling myself. No one around G.B. did not work.
One morning when I arrived in town G.B. was waiting for me. He waved me into the station where Luisa handed me two navy blue jump suits with orange stripes down each side and a Union oil logo above the breast pocket.

            “Luisa’s leavin’ Charle.” G.B. stated enthusiastically. “Y’all’ll be runnin the station tomorrow.”

            The next morning I was pumping gas, checking oil and fluids, filling tires, making change, ordering stock, doing the books, sending dispatches to Union Oil, dealing with credit card customers, selling batteries, snow chains, fan belts, and filters and putting out calls to local mechanics when some desperate customer wanted something in their car repaired.

            Once I almost worked — as a ballroom dance teacher, but running an old gas station on route 66, really had not been in my range of career dreams, possibilities or abilities. I was a disaster — but I was lovable. Besides I was married to the boss (something I would appreciate many times in the future). And no one dared mess with him.

            I was so pitifully ignorant of all I was doing. Locals often said to me, “Miss Charle, you gave me too much money.” Or tourists would say, “Ma’am, here let me do that for you.” After which they would dig into the till and figure out the correct change.

           In contrast to months of solitude in the desert, a month of running the gas station brought me in contact with five hundred locals. I now knew Okies, Arkies, Navajos, Bostonians, Mexicans and real hillbillies. Amongst the townspeople were colonels, teachers, arrowhead hunters, the town drunk, business people, horse drawn wanderers, sheriff’s deputies, gun loving survivalists and Judge Biggons from the Yavapai county seat.

            I met ranchers and cowboys from the thirty thousand acre ranches that lay east and west of town, as well as owners of the forty acre ranches south of town and the five and ten acre ranches out in the Kaibab, below my former campsite. One rancher remarked as we met, “Oh! I know you Red. I watched you on the hill . . . with my binoculars.”

            G.B. never could just “set” in his office. He had to keep “a-goin’ an’ a-blowin,” and often he came roaring into the station calling to me. “Charle, close the station! I want to show y’all somethin”

            G.B. did that every time he spotted something on his runs to the quarries, things he knew I would enjoy seeing. He showed me newborn calves, fiery pink sunsets, Brahma bulls, herds of antelope and Hell’s Canyon in flood. Life was so real, yet we were like characters in an Old West movie.

            On quiet summer days when the sun-warmed gas station office stunned me and I knew I was falling asleep, I would lie down on the cool cement floor between the till and the door to have a snooze. The locals who came in for gas helped themselves, then woke me to pay the money they owed. When big city tourists got tired of waiting in their cars for service, they would eventually come into the office and apologetically ask, “Ma’am, do you think you could wake up and serve me, or would you rather I left?”

            One summer I hurt my back. To keep me operating the station, G.B. put my huge desk out at the pump island where I could sit and take the customer’s money, but he had to bring his men to move the desk each time the sun reached me. Finally he told them to put the desk in the front doorway of the lube-room and to open the rear doors so I would feel any cool breezes that happened to blow through.

            Several days after my desk had been moved I was sitting behind it watching customers pull up. Every pump was being manned by a hot tired driver whose weary wife and sullen kids were washing their own vehicle’s windows and cars were lined up back to the street. Without warning a monsoon “breeze” shot through the lube-room pelting me with grit and gravel. On it’s way through it picked up a stack of Visa forms and every greenback in my improvised till and flew them all down to the Santa Fe railway tracks, one block away! The customers took off in Arizona’s first “Ash Fork $500 Dash.”

            Young, old, rich poor, rustic and citified, they all ran like children, gathering up my flying forms and profits. By the time they got back to the lube-room they were all chums, talking a blue streak and laughing as they emptied their pockets onto my desk, no one really caring whether it was their money or mine.

            At the end of the day, after I subtracted the day’s receipts, I discovered the float, in the darkness of the old till, had mysteriously grown.


Posted by Charlotte Madison at 12:33 0 Comments
Add your own comments.

December 20,2019
#30 THE THIRD WALK

       

        #30 The Third Walk

 

 The third walk to town was in the rain on a mild winter day. It started as a pleasant excursion, but very soon my arms and legs were rubbed sore from my wet clothes, and the charm of the outing disappeared. London and I were too wet to accept a lift from the only car that passed, and the walk became endless. I did not see prairie dogs, cottontails or even jackrabbits. The ranch cattle were forlornly waiting out the rain under the trees, and any insect who ventured out had long since been washed away.

            As in the summer monsoons, the winter rains often filled the ditches, and the water flooded the road by the train trestle at Ash Fork. One never knew whether it was a covering of muddy water over the road or muddy water concealing a pothole or wash-out in the unpaved surface.

            When London and I neared the train trestle I tried to avoid the worst looking area by heading to the high side of the road, but I stepped on a hidden slick spot, lost my footing and seconds later I was lying face down, spread-eagle in the mud!

            I lifted my dripping head, wiped my muddy eyes with my muddy hand and laughed hysterically at my ridiculous situation. I slithered and flailed about in the mud trying to stand without success. I called to my trusty sheepdog, who appeared to experience a brief lapse in his devotion to me, after which he approached reluctantly. I grabbed hold of London’s tail and together we rolled, slipped and crawled our way out of the mud and back onto the cinder surface. As we sloshed the last stretch to town I judged my appearance by looking at London. The sight made me laugh and I wanted to share it. I had made a friend of the woman who owned the Union 76 gas station. Her name was Luisa Mena and she was a warm and joyful being. I knew she would enjoy seeing our appearance, so I headed for her the moment we crossed the tracks.

            When I arrived at Luisa’s station, she took one long penetrating look at us and we simultaneously burst with violent laughter. As I laughed I glanced toward the lube-room and saw my husband, his employer Whitey Webster and Whitey’s guests from Hawaii — a world class special order architect and contractors for the new Hawaiian Hilton Hotel.

            It was immediately obvious that G.B. Madison, proud owner of one third of his town, off times referred to as the “King of Ash Fork,” was totally unable to see any humour, whatsoever, in the sight of his middle-aged wife and her long haired “dawg” coated with and dripping thick red mud, “fer all the world to see!”

            “WHAT THE HAYLL IS THAT!” G.B. blared with the force of an air-horn.

            My days on the mountain were numbered.


Posted by Charlotte Madison at 12:29 0 Comments
Add your own comments.

December 20,2019
#29 THE FULL MOON

#29 Full Moon

Throughout my life, activities in the heavens passed by me relatively unnoticed. But during the months I spent in the desert and on the mountain, the sky became an integral part of my life. Without intent I connected my activities to the positions of the sun, until one day I realized: I knew the precise time of day without the assistance of a time piece. And the moon — the enchanting alluring moon — my nights were interwoven with its magic.

            One midsummer evening, with a full moon due to rise over the mountain, I waited at my trailer for G.B. to arrive. We planned to watch the moon to rise together.

            Risking all things that slithered or crawled, for the sake of romance, I decided to make our bed outside under the stars. I dragged the mattress, sofa cushions and pillows outside the trailer and built our bed above my low retaining wall.

            On a makeshift rock table beside the bed I placed a flashlight, a jar of sweets for G.B. and two cans of frosty cold Pepsi — all things necessary for an evening of romance with my new husband.

            There was a little time before G.B. was expected to arrive, so I cautiously settled down on the makeshift bed. It was deliciously soft but every time I moved, it rocked and tipped like a dingy in the waves. Lulled by the movement I stretched out and looked up through the juniper boughs to the constellations above me. It was a breathtaking sight soon to be shared with my love.

            After a time, I went back to the trailer to wait for G.B., who, true to his word, was racing the moon to our rendezvous.

            Before long the pick-up roared up the road to the trailer in a cloud of dust. G.B. eagerly got out and rushed inside. He saw the cushions and mattress were missing and with a knowing gleam in his eye said, “Okay Charle, I’ll get m’boots an’ britches off. We want to be out there when the moon comes over the mountain.”

            I did not go out first. I wanted to see my love lying under the stars waiting for me. G.B., more than eager to please, gingerly stepped down from the trailer wearing only his blue and white striped boxer shorts and a white undershirt. To reach the bed my eager lover first had to walk barefoot across a small patch of gravel. He suffered as though he walked on hot coals, but was able to turn back and call to me, “Y’all turn out the light an’ hurry Sweetheart, the moon’s a-comin’!”

            I hit the light and stepped out of the trailer to follow him.

            The sudden darkness blinded G.B. and he dove for the bed. My gaze followed his shirt and shorts as he hit the mattress, bounced on the stacked cushions, and flew out of sight over the low retaining wall!

            I stood alone under a canopy of stars as the full moon rose. And in the distance I heard an indignant voice roar, “. . . GOD DAMNED SILLINESS!”


Posted by Charlotte Madison at 12:10 0 Comments
Add your own comments.

December 19,2019
#28 MARRIAGE

 

 

                #28   MARRIAGE 

 

G.B. and I were married for months before we told everyone. My mother and our children knew but when townspeople asked us, “You two aren’t married . . . are you? I would smile and G.B. would snort, “Hayll No!”

            I did not move into town right after we married. I had paintings to finish and we both knew we would never be able to return to this magic time in our lives. I dreaded the idea of living in a house again — being boxed in and having television and people filling my head with thought I did not want.

            Each morning just before dawn, London woke me for the sunrise. I would sit and watch large dust devils in the distance cut through the little town, then swirl along the valley past me, disguising their frenetic power as a whimsical dance.

            At night through my trailer window, I could see the delicate pinpoints of light defining Ash Fork, and I would watch vehicle headlights leaving town. I stared at each one following its progress until it passed by me. When headlights turned onto Quarry Road and crossed over the cattle-guard, I hurriedly poured Pepsis, brushed my hair, put on lipstick, then ran out into the dark night to stand on the road in my white gown and peignoir. If an evening wind was blowing, I’d grasp the sheer fabric and raise my arms out to either side. The silk rose above me like gossamer wings blowing in the moonlight.

          G.B.’s pick-up crunched to a stop part way up the hill. He would lean forward on his steering wheel and with a loving smile stare at me. There he stayed until I ran down the hill in a swirl of hair and silk to my sweet loving Okie boy.

            My days were spent outside with the little bird who cries, “Com’ere — com’ere — com’ere.” I talked to cottontails and jackrabbits, stroked “horny toads,” watched lizards and scorpions, centipedes, ants and beetles that stood on their heads.

            I landscaped my camp-site and built a low retaining wall around two sides of the trailer with the ever present flagstone.

            When it rained, water flowed down the mountain in a network of miniature streams. London would chase around with me while I moved rocks and dug little trenches to divert the water. I tried to prevent washouts around the trailer and on my part of the road. However, by evening the water ended up going precisely where it had originally planned to go. Still, it was always a joy running races with the rain.

            During the last months of my stay at the White Elephant, G.B., London and I hunted cow skulls in canyons and antlers on mesas. We found obsidian needles and arrowheads. G.B. showed me all the survey lines he had cut, the stone monuments he had stacked and brass stobs by bearing trees, and I watched G.B. discover a strange new delight in unproductive play with me.

            Our honeymoon was celebrated high above the White Elephant, beneath the juniper and piñon pine trees. Oh how I love my wild Okie boy.

            After I left the mountain, I never again fell asleep with the sweet sounds of coyote calls and moonbeams on my bed.


Posted by Charlotte Madison at 12:31 0 Comments
Add your own comments.

December 19,2019
#27 THE STORM

#27 The Storm

 

One long winter night I was lying awake listening to the distant thunder. Lightning suddenly lit the trailer window by my bed. London and I rushed to open the door in order to see better what was to be a magnificent display then settled at the table..

             I looked west across the valley and south toward and beyond town. The lightning illuminated Ash Fork with a brilliant flash then all went dark as G.B.’s little town experienced a complete power failure.

             London stopped watching the storm, crawled under the table and placed his chin on my feet.

            I sat transfixed counting the flashes along the valley. In all there were six separate storms and they were moving northeast — we were northeast! The storms were getting closer, louder and more beautiful as they approached. London squeezed up onto the seat from under the table and sat close beside me.

            The winds were moving the storms closer together. As each storm sent flashes of white-hot light bolting to the ground, the clouds above glowed softly in serene contrast.

            I had to brace myself against the terrible density of sound that was bombarding us. London crawled onto my knee, put one paw on each of my shoulders and rested his quivering chin on my head. Frantically and gratefully I clutched his warm furry body close to me.

            The unbelievable cacophony and blinding white-hot light ravaged my senses. The trailer rocked and vibrated from blasts of wind, and with every strike of lightning my nostrils were assaulted by a scent from Hell.

             Six lightning storms converged over me, and I sat surrounded by trees — inside a metal trailer — with propane tanks attached outside! I was barely able to hear my own words as I screamed for G.B.

            He was on his way to us, but he did not arrive before the storm had disappeared over the hills. While I cried out to him and tightly clutched London, G.B. was stumbling around his house in the dark, hunting for a coal-oil lamp, breaking his little toe on the leg of the bed — and swearing up a brand new storm.


Posted by Charlotte Madison at 12:14 0 Comments
Add your own comments.

December 18,2019
#26 SHEEP ARE A-COMIN'

#26 Sheep Are a-Comin’

 

One Saturday morning I was wakened by G.B. pounding on my trailer door.

            “Get up Charle! Sheep are a-comin’!”

            I jumped out of my bed, threw on my shorts and blouse and stood at the door, stunned from sleep and blinded from the rising sun.

            “What sheep G.B.?”

            “Look!” He said. “’Cross yonder!”

            I looked down into the valley, but all I saw were small puffs of dust rising through the junipers.

            “What sheep?” I repeated.

            “Listen Charle, listen . . . .”

            Now fully awake I listened and realized I was hearing bells — hundreds of bells.

            “Lookee thar Charle, in the gap by the big piñon.” G.B. said impatiently.

            Sure enough, sheep were moving past every gap in the foliage.

            “How many are there G.B.? There seem to be so many.”

            “Wa’ll, there are three shepherds, an’ each man starts with twelve hundred head, but at each camp-site some disappear . . . . So maybe a thousand head each?” He calculated.

            “I am looking at three thousand sheep and there are only three men to look after them?” I asked incredulously.

            “Charle, they’re a-goin’ a graze here, so I want y’all to take the shepherds some cold Pepsi. Western States Stone Company feels goodwill is important with the ranchers, an’ when we marry y’all’ll be involved with the company, so y’all might as well start now, doin’ thangs to help me.”

            Somehow it just did not feel right, but after G.B. left I took Pepsis from the fridge and headed down the hill. G.B. had said to be nice to the men.

            As I approached the shepherds, sheep scattered in panic. The men were Basque shepherds who did not speak English and my Spanish was very limited, so my self consciousness scattered like the sheep and with a big smile, I welcomed them and offered them all a cold Pepsi.

            They smiled warmly at me — too warmly, and then they surrounded me and asked if I could take them to Ash Fork because they needed to make a phone call. At least that is what I assumed they asked. G.B. said to be nice, so it was decided I would be ready to drive them at eight p.m. which seemed rather late to me.

           As I walked back up the hill alarm bells joined with sheep bells. I decided to head for town and make sure this was in the range of helping the company. When I told G.B. the plan he exploded. “WHAT THE HAYLL!” He hollered, then said furtively, “Go ahead an’ be ready. I’ll come right after supper.”

            At eight p.m., as G.B. sat stewing in my trailer, we heard coyote-like shrieks the shepherds gave as they began their wild evening. Within minutes we saw the flash of headlights crossing through the trees below us.
“Wayll Hayll.” Said G.B. What do they want a ride with you fer when they have their own pick-up?”

            G.B. rushed out the door to move the company pick-up across the road, so the men’s headlights would hit on the company logo as they neared my camp-site.

            When the shepherds turned up toward my trailer their headlights hit the company pick-up. They crunched into reverse and retraced their route — rapidemente!

            “Charle, get in the pick-up!” G.B. barked.

            I was not about to question his orders.

            “All right, now y’all drive an’ follow where y’all saw ‘em go, but no headlights. They’re camped over by Santa Cruz, round the hill. Go slowly.”

            I drove toward the quarry in darkness along an animal run, while G.B. tensed in anticipation.

            “Hit the lights!” He shouted.

            The lights lit on several men jumping up from their cook fire. I slammed on the brakes. G.B. flung open the door and stepped in front of our headlights brandishing his trusty pick-handle. The shepherds froze in their tracks. 


            “Charle, tell ‘em we’re a-headin’ fer town, an’ the men who want to use the phone — COME NOW!”

            The men managed to interpret my mangled Spanish, G.B.’s vocal volume and body language. After a brief exchange of communicating glances, the youngest of the men timidly volunteered and stepped forward.

            As we drove into town, with G.B. steaming on one side of me and a man fearing for his life on the other, I tried to ease the stranger’s panic without provoking G.B., but my inadequate Spanish had never prepared me for this situation.

            G.B. pulled up to the 76 station phone booth, let the man out and said to me, “Watch him Charle, he won’t dial, he’ll just pretend.”

            Sure enough, and a moment later the shepherd returned to the car to tell me he did not need a ride back to his camp-site; he would walk there later — after cerveza.

            For prudence, I did not take the opportunity to paint shepherds and thousands of sheep roaming Arizona’s high desert, Kaibab Forest countryside. The sheepdog in London was exalted by the sight of sheep all around our camp, but his every attempt to herd them was thwarted by the small raw boned dogs who quickly sent him back to our trailer. I too stayed close to home lest I encounter a ram of questionable temperament — or a shepherd of questionable intent.


Posted by Charlotte Madison at 12:33 0 Comments
Add your own comments.

December 16,2019
#25 WILD THANGS IN THE DARK

              #25   Wild Thangs in the Dark

 

“We’re a-gonna have to walk Charle.”

            G.B. and I sat in the cab of a loaded, stone hauling truck, in a dry arroyo. We were out of gas, it was almost dark and we were eighteen miles from town.

            It was not unusual to find a gas tank and reserve tank dust dry. Gas was often siphoned and stolen from equipment which stood idle at night in the stone yard, and in unguarded quarries.

            G.B.’s old trucks had long since shaken loose their gas gauges, and when he raged and hollered at a driver to grab a truck and “get a’goin’”, some would get going without first filling the tanks.

            “We’re a long way from town G.B.”

            “It’s near eleven miles to y’all’s trailer.” He replied.

             "G.B., I can’t walk eleven miles in the dark on a rocky road. Besides I’m tired. What if I step on a snake in the dark? What if a wild cat, javalina, tarantulas . . .?”

            ”Y’all really thank a snake is a-gonna set thar a-waitin’ fer y’all to stomp ‘im? He’ll warn ye. If — if — if — if.” G.B. grumbled. “Grab that Pepsi Charle an’ let’s get to walkin’”

            We set off on a lovely romantic, warm, moonlit walk and watched the sky in delight. As we gazed at the stars, the moon and the Milky Way, we stumbled into the odd pothole, but each time our eyes returned to the dark night sky. Our walk was punctuated by one or another of us gasping: “Look!” as a falling star sparkled an arc of delight.

            “Let’s sit down a moment G.B.” I said.

            “No Charle. Y’all won’t start up again, if ya’ll stop now.”

            On we went at a forced steady pace.

            I began to lag behind, and then noticed he was disappearing into the dark road ahead. Like a child calling out to its mother I wailed, “G.B., wait for me. I am scared G.B.”

            On he plowed, refusing to break his powerful pace. I was forced to run in order to catch up, only to drop back again. Hour after hour, on and on we walked.

I thought I heard something, other than the sound of our boots crunching the cinders on the road. I stopped to listen, and G.B. sternly called back, “Charle. Do not stop!”
But I heard something. I heard something coming toward us. Then my scream tore open the night! Huge beasts were charging down the road — straight at us!

            “Charle shut up! It’s only horses. They see us an’ they sure do hear us. They’re not stupid, they won’t run us down. Keep on a-walkin’.” He ordered.

            Sure enough the herd separated and passed on either side of us. But then they gathered together again, stopped and stared at us. I hoped they would look, and then go their way. They did — but their way was past us again at a full gallop with an abrupt stop in front of us. G.B. marched into the crowd of tall, wild eyed horses, with me in terror, close behind him.

            “G.B., I’m scared — really scared! They might bite us, or step on us, or knock us over!”

            “Charle don’t worry. If they get too pooshy I have a plan.”

            What plan? I wondered. These trees are too narroto hide behind and most would bend if we tried to climb them, and we can’t outrun nine horses in the dark. I am not that stupid. He’s trying to humour me. 

            The horses lunged, neighed, whinnied, shrieked, bolted, sneaked around us with their heads lowered, kicked, scattered then charged back to us. They continued this behaviour while we walked five miles along the dark road. I clung to G.B.’s britches as he waved a branch he had broken off a juniper tree. Like the brave knight meeting a challenge, G.B. lashed his way through his foe. On and on he went, with his “Sancho” clutching his belt and stumbling along behind, in terror.

            “It’s nearly over Charle: I can see the cattle-guard, that’ll stop ‘em.”

            The panic I had held in check began to unravel at the sight of the cattle-guard. I stepped ahead, pulling on G.B.’s belt trying to make him break his steady pace.

            On another ten feet and over the rails and then I let go of G.B. and looked back. Silhouetted against the night sky I saw a nine headed monster shrieking and rearing in rage!

            I turned to G.B. and he was gone! While I forced myself to run on my boot heavy legs, trying to catch up with my wild ol’ Okie boy, he plowed on through the dark night.

            “Oh G.B., let’s stop. We’re safe now, and I’m so tired.” I called to him.

            “Y’all can’t get a-goin’ again if y’all stop now.” He called back.

            “Talk to me G.B. I’m lonely.” I pleaded breathlessly as I caught up to him.

            “Use yer air fer breathin’, not fer talkin’.” He growled.

            Half a mile from my trailer G.B. asked me, “What y’all got to eat in y’all’s trailer?”

            “Nothing much,” I replied, I was not going to start cooking dinner after all that walking.

            “Weyll, “ G.B. instructed, “we’ll climb up the hill to y’all’s trailer, get y’all’s van, y’all’s dawg an’ a couple a’ Pepsis, an’ we’ll drive home to Ash Fork. I’ll make y’all a Madison Stew.”

            I was past caring about food. I was stiff, sore and numb. The last half mile to the trailer would be more painful than the previous ten and a half.

            “I can’t G.B., I can’t go up that hill.”

            “Stay with me Charle.” He urged sweetly. If y’all make it up to y’all’s campsite, all y’all’s life y’all can brag on tonight.”

            One agonized step after another had my mind spinning, and at that point G.B. used his final strategy to keep me moving.

            “One day — Y’all listenin’ Sweetheart? One day me an’ my three brothers left our chores an’ headed fer the Washita River. We pulled off our coveralls an’ ran to a big ol’ band-sprung wagon seat by the water. We each put our hands together, and then one at a time we ran an’ leaped onto the seat an’ flew like a frog through the air a-hollerin’ frog talk — HEEK!”

            “Now me an’ those brothers slept four in a bed, three at the top an’ one across the bottom. That night we was all asleep when suddenly my least li’l brother jumped up at his corner of the bed, put his hands together an’ started to jump up and down. Now me an’ my brothers all knew he was dreamin’ ‘bout playin’ frog, an’ we forgot that all this fuss would wake my daddy, an’ we all began to laugh an’ holler. Suddenly, my daddy threw open the bedroom door! My least li’l brother, still asleep, leaped into the air a-hollerin’ “HEEK,” an’ damn near screwed his head into the floor! Oh Charle, we all got a beatin’ that night.”

            G.B.’s story ended just as we arrived at the trailer. I had made it! London growled as he and G.B. momentarily competed for the front passenger seat. With both of them grumbling I headed the van for town, and then dragged into G.B.’s kitchen.

            “Charle, get me that big ol’ pot an’ lid.” He instructed. “Sit down on the floor there, an’ pull out ever’ tin I ask fer: peas, corn. hom’ny, green beans, yellow beans, lima beans, ochree, ‘sparagus, yams, li’l bitty carrots, zucchini, ranch beans, chili without beans, two or three li’l tomato paste an’ a corned beef.”

            With unexpected chef’s assurance and facility, G.B. drove the can opener around each can and dumped the contents, juice and all, into the big pot. He stirred it about, added the tomato paste and then with loving care he crumbled in the corned beef. He inhaled the aroma and glowed with anticipation.

            I on the other hand, dreaded the meal to come — bean juice, asparagus juice and tomato paste! I shivered at the thought — however; it did not smell half bad.


             “Now,” he said with glee and pride, “Get the Hi Ho’s, the olive cream cheese, the piccalilli, the jalapeños and some cold sweet milk.”

            At last G.B. ladled the stew into two big bowls and placed them on the tiny table for two, in front of the kitchen window.

            “Cut tiny slivers of four jalapeños into your bowl, add some piccalilli an’ put lots a’ that cream cheese on y’all’s Hi Ho’s. Now . . . .”

            G.B. dipped his spoon into the steaming concoction, closed his lips over it, locking in each delicious morsel, then bit into a flaky cracker, covered generously with the olive cream cheese. He smiled with pleasure, and then took a long drink from his tall glass of cold sweet milk.

            “Oh that’s larrupin Charle.”

            And it was.

            Through the kitchen window we watched the rising sun’s rays begin to lighten the dark sky. G.B. leaned across the table and said, “Wash the dishes Charle, before y’all go.
I’ll take a shower an’ get to work. Y’all empty the stew into a bowl an’ put it in the fridge. Go home to y’all’s trailer an’ go to sleep an’ . . . .”

            His orders faded away as he stomped through the big old house. So eager was he to start the new day, having put the night to good use. 


 

 

 


Posted by Charlotte Madison at 12:57 0 Comments
Add your own comments.

December 15,2019
#24 WIND

                     #24 WIND

 

Summer days when the air was still, the temperature in the White Elephant quarry was extreme. The floor and the walls of the white stone ledges pocketed the heat of the blazing sun and glare burned into my eyes as I painted.

            From out of the blue I would hear a hum rising from the base of the mountain. It was Wind coming. I would run to the canyon edge and wait for it there.

            As Wind seduced each dancing juniper and piñon tree, the sound gathered into a roar, coming closer and closer.

            When at last it broke loose from it’s escapade in the trees, white dust rose up in welcome, and cool sweet Wind swept over me.


Posted by Charlotte Madison at 12:54 0 Comments
Add your own comments.

December 15,2019
#23 MY SURPRISE

               #23   MY SURPRISE

 

G.B had told me to expect a surprise. All morning I sat wondering, waiting and watching for him to arrive. Suddenly I heard the pick-up BRRUMM over the cattle-guard. It lurched over, into and around potholes in the frontage road, down below my camp-site. A gap between the juniper trees and there she was — my surprise!

            She stood tall and stately in the open back of the pick-up surrounded by kneeling Mexican men. Like Empress Carlota passing by, she swayed in salute to the trees guarding her new domain. She strained against the hands supporting her, maintaining her dignity and her stance.

            Glowing gold in the noontime sun’s rays, she rode on up the mountain to her rendezvous at the White Elephant camp-site.

            “Thar y’all’re Charle!” G.B. hollered.

            “She’s gorgeous G.B.!” I shouted back.

            “An’ she’s all y’all’s very own outhouse. I had the men make ‘er’ ’specially fer ye, to surprise y’all.”

            I looked at and touched the newly cut, raw, aromatic, golden wood and ran to hug G.B. while I thanked the men who laughed and cheered, “Olé.”

            “Where do y’all want the men to plant ‘er?” G.B. asked.

            I chose the spot I fancied — then he chose a sheltered spot with a fine view and a sturdy prickly pear cactus nearby to beautify the “Grande Dame.” It was an appropriate distance from my trailer, but in a straight line to it, in case I had to escape from a creature in the dark of night.

            I reveled in the flurry of activity guided by G.B.’s rage of enthusiasm, as he roared orders to diggers and helpers, and while he screamed to the fork-lift operator, “DADGUMMIT! Y’ALL WATCH THAT DAMNED PRICKLY PEAR! We gotta save it fer Charle — to make her outhouse look pretty!”

            When at last we all silently backed into a semicircle to admire my beautiful new outhouse nestled amid the juniper-piñon trees.

            To our delight, it was decorated by the great, undamaged blooming prickly pear.

            In celebration G.B. handed everyone a cold can of Pepsi. I stepped forward and walked into the little house, where, with great ceremony, I placed a full roll of deep pink toilet tissue beside the dark gaping hole. I turned to the dear smiling faces and amid shouts of olé, whistles and pig squeals, I raised my Pepsi in a gesture of gratitude.

            It was only at the moment when the men moved toward the pick-up to leave, that I felt embarrassment. I realized every man there knew where I would be the moment they drove out of sight.

 


Posted by Charlotte Madison at 12:56 0 Comments
Add your own comments.

December 14,2019
#22 VICTORIA AND DISRALI

#22 VICTORIA AND DISRAELI        

“G.B., Mum is coming from Canada for a visit. Will you please throw out that horrible old straw hat? It’s beginning to look like a wavy brimmed granny bonnet.”

            “Okay Charle, fer y’all an’ fer y’all’s mother I’ll start a new one, but I can’t throw out the old one, I keep the old ones — fer seed.”

             G.B. brought his camper to the White Elephant camp site for me and I prepared the pink trailer for Mum’s visit.

            One morning after my mother arrived G.B. sent us south to the Phoenix stone yard for blasting cable. We picked it up then headed back to Ash Fork. On the way home I decided to show Mum my butte, at the Sun Valley Pink quarry. I wanted her to feel some of the sensory assault I had experienced while camped alone in the desert’s blessed sunshine and solitude.

            I swung the van off the freeway, drove around Jack Ass Acres, past the Sheriff’s office and the saloon, and then I turned at Coyote Pass. We bounced by three houses, several horses, cats, burros, barking dogs, saguaros, one palm tree and a slate deposit.

            “Okay Mum, this is the road to my “World in the Sunshine.” When you drive this stretch of road it s probably six miles. If you walk this stretch at noon in the summer, it is at least nine miles. If you try to drive this stretch of road in the rain, it’s no where near a quarter of a mile. Because that is how far you are able to drive before finding yourself stuck in the mud gumbo. If you walk this stretch in the rain, it is about three feet, because with your first step, your foot sinks deeply into the mud and you must wrench it free. It comes out like a thick, two foot wide tortilla. On the second step it becomes bucket sized. Two buckets and you are done for. It isn’t easy walking Coyote Pass in the rain.”

            Mum was still laughing when the engine died. Oh, I thought, I guess I have a vapour lock. I  While the car rested I took the opportunity to demonstrate “evil jumping cholla” for my mother.

            I had come prepared in case the occasion presented itself. First I brought forth a left-handed work glove and a dinner fork. I flicked a cholla segment with the fork and it jumped onto the back of my glove. Mum was not impressed.

            “It didn’t jump dear. You did that.”

            Spurred on by my failure, again I flicked a cholla segment with my fork, this time directing it back to its mother plant. Instead of it going where I wanted it to go, it went its own evil way and attached itself onto the skin on the back of my right hand. Now I had my mother’s attention.

            Slowly and precisely, forcing down the panic, I spoke instructions to her for its removal.

           “Mum, put the glove on your hand. Take the fork and pull the cholla out of my skin. Direct it away from us — quickly!”

            She did as I instructed but did not realize she was pulling on barbed spines. My mother was far too gentle in her movement and she succeeded only in rolling more spines into my skin and torturing me. The pain of innumerable burning punctures had me quivering in a frenzy to be loose of it. Now my mother was properly impressed.

           Her next attempt sent the cholla flying into the fabric of my slacks and into the skin of my calf. By the time she had finally torn loose the hateful thing from my flaming flesh, by using pliers from the car’s tool box, and had meticulously removed the countless barbed spines from my hand leg, slacks and two mavericks that found their way to my tongue — I was in melt down.

            I needed a drink of water and the car still would not start. I did not relish a two or three mile walk to the quarry, but walking back to the highway was much farther. I was about to apologize profusely to my mother for putting us in this situation, when I realized she - who was accustomed to a daily four mile walk - was enjoying the adventure immensely. Mum was confident that I knew the right thing to do, so when I told her we were walking to the quarry she set off cheerfully and enthusiastically enjoyed the stroll along the dusty road. She marvelled at the giant saguaros towering overhead, the graceful green-trunk Palo Verdes, meandering cattle and the brilliance of the blue sky and sunshine.

            I however, had many anxieties about our adventure, not the least being the possible danger of the quarry guard!

            No one was working in the quarry that day, so we headed toward a small dented old trailer attached to a tunnel made of pallets. With warranted caution I hollered, “Hello! This is G.B.’s Charle.”

            I called again, and three large dogs ran to us barking defensively. “Oh well, if no one’s here we can drink the dog’s water, unless a pack rat’s drowned in the bucket.”

            Despite my mother’s love for dogs and even though my mother was hot, tired and thirsty, it frightened her that I could think of such a disgusting thing as drinking from the dogs’ water bucket. She did not hear the part about the pack rat.

            “Hello there.” A bearded elderly man appeared before us in the dark tunnel. He was the quarry guard about whom G.B. had cautioned me.

            “I’ve heard about you ma’am. It’s nice to meet you. Would you like a drink of water?”

            The quarry guard did not question our sudden appearance at his door, on foot, in mid-afternoon heat. Instead, like Disraeli leading Queen Victoria to tea, he gallantly offered his arm to my genteel mother and led her through the pallet tunnel into his tiny, smoke blackened trailer, where he seated her amid the dogs on his grimy grey bed.

            He took an old empty soup can down from the shelf, filled it with water and with a slight bow, he placed the can in my mother’s dainty hand.

            She thanked him graciously, lifted the tin can to her lips and drank. Then she looked up at the grizzled old man and said, “Thank you. I don’t believe I’ve ever been so thirsty in my life.” And she drank again.

            Years later my mother was taken ill, before she died she spoke twice of the wonderful drink of water given to her by the charming man in the quarry.


Posted by Charlotte Madison at 02:54 0 Comments
Add your own comments.

December 13,2019
#21 COW PIES


                   #21  Cow Pies

 

I imagine most of the world’s population has seen evidence of bovine bowel movements, I was raised a city child, and I only saw evidence of this spontaneous, splashing occurrence at our annual fall fair, the Pacific National Exhibition. As an adult, many years later driving the freeways, I found myself intrigued when alongside the road a bony bovine tail rose and with malodorous majesty, baked a steaming cow pie.

            When I first roamed the Kaibab Pinyon-Juniper forest, I discovered Arizona ranch cattle apparently took the time to back up onto piles of rock, dry old prickly pear skeletons and fallen trees to deal with this necessity of life. Somehow, when I tried to envision a placid plodding cow or a short tempered bull, taking time to back their hind quarters three or four feet up into the air above rocks, clutter and cactus, it did not seem likely, yet there is was — the evidence - great dry brown whorls sitting atop piles of desert debris!

            I pondered the pies for many months, hoping one day to catch a cow — flagrante delicto and preferably while I had paint brush in hand and canvas at the ready. Ah, what a creative masterpiece that would be!

            As time passed I began to lose hope of ever seeing the curious occurrence.

            One morning as G.B and I walked past a high, cow pie topped rock pile, I turned to him and risking his scorn asked, “G.B. look! See that rock pile? Why do the cows back up there to go to the bathroom?”

            G.B. slowly turned toward me with a stunned angry look on his face.

            “Charle, CHARLE, CHARLE! His anger and volume rose with each mention of my name, “HOW CAN ANYONE BE SO STUPID! he exploded. “WHAT THE HAYLL’S IT LIKE IN Y’ALL’S HEAD? IT’S PACK RATS — PACK RATS — PACK RATS!” he screamed at me. “They stash ever’ dang thang they can find on their nests — INCLUDING COW S- - -!”

            G.B. stomped away from me grumbling as he went, “Now she’s stuck that sight into my head. Ever’ time I look at a dang cow now, I’ll see it bottom up — on a pack rat nest! DAMMIT!”



Posted by Charlotte Madison at 12:29 0 Comments
Add your own comments.

December 12,2019
#20 THE SECOND WALK

           

          #20   The Second Walk

 

The second walk into town was in the heat and the humidity of the July monsoons.

            I was preparing to drive into town to tell G.B. I was out of water. As I walked toward the van I noticed a tire was flat. When I tried to loosen the lug-nuts, I ended up bending the tool I was using. I was stuck.
“G.B., I need you!” I wailed.

            I could not walk to town without a drink and I could not stay without one. Grudgingly I looked into London’s bucket, wondering if I could possibly make myself drink from his water. My throat constricted when I saw a dead rodent floating in it. Even London did not have a drink.


            When all else fails − search the car! I found three quarters, a dime, two pennies(all Canadian) and two cans of tomato juice. The juice will get me to town, but what about London? The dirty dishes! I had not dumped the dish water or used soap. It was just water flavoured by the morning’s tasty meal. I ladled out the flavorful delight into a bowl and let London drink his fill. If we start “spitting cotton” on the way into town, I thought, we could go to one of the ranch houses in the valley and ask for a drink of water.

            I enjoyed the walk to town even though it was long and hot. As soon as we arrived at the stone yard London and I had a cold drink and a rest. I looked forward to the return walk, so I refused a ride home with the men who were driving water out to my trailer.

           “No Charle,” G.B. said, “It’s too far to walk back in this heat.”

            As London and I plodded along, I decided, G.B. had been right. The day was too hot and the walk was much too far in the midday heat of a summer day.

            Four miles from town London found a deep wide puddle, still holding the previous day’s monsoon rain water. He walked to the centre of the puddle, sat down, looked at me, then turned his gaze to the surrounding water. He appeared to be quite pleased with what he saw, like a tenant admiring his new accommodations. Then he gave me the back of his head as if to convey,
"I’m out of your reach and I refuse to move."

            During monsoon season, even at five thousand feet, the nights do not cool as they usually do, so the day heats up quickly. As the clouds begin to build the humidity becomes overpowering, the winds come up and the rain breaks loose in torrential downpours that rush down the canyons. Dry washes flood and ditches overflow, carving their way across the red cinder roads. After a few hours of sunshine, one would never know it had rained — except for a few puddles- and the precious rain water held in the cattle-tanks.

            I nicely asked London to continue with our walk. After a brief hesitation he complied and off we went, continuing on our second, long, hot walk of the day.

            Although we were nearly home (a little more than a mile to go) when we crossed the cattle- guard and turned along the frontage road, I decided I had had enough. I staggered to the shade of a pinyon pine, with London close behind, and planned on staying there until it rained or got dark. I was past caring about a possible rattlesnake to the rear or whether I might be sitting on the route of a centipede, which unlike Canadian cousins reach lengths of over twelve inches. The thought of the climb up the mountain road without water, in the heat and glare of the sun, was intolerable to me, and London was not about to move again.

            Unexpectedly, I heard G.B.’s pick-up roaring over the cattle-guard. He pulled up and looked out at a forlorn pair — too weary to rise. He did not hurry to help us into the pick-up, nor did he even offer us a lift. Instead he got out carrying a huge knife and a bulky object wrapped in the Williams News.

            While London and I had been trudging along the sun baked, red cinder road, G.B had gone to his house, turned on the swamp cooler and dropped into a short snooze, while a “big ol’ green stri-ped” watermelon frosted down in the freezer!

            Carefully G.B. cut open the chilled delight while London and I stared in fascination at the beading pink juice. In his precise way, he cut a half-round slice, stabbed it and offered it to me on the end of the knife. He then cut another slice which he pinched between two rocks, so it would stand, dust and gravel free, for London. A third slice for himself, and we three sat serenely in the shade of the pinyon, wanting for nothing more the world could offer.

 


Posted by Charlotte Madison at 12:48 0 Comments
Add your own comments.

December 12,2019
#19 G.B. AND CHARLE.

 

            #19   G.B. AND CHARLE


The locals had learned to write us off as G.B. and his strange Canadian painter lady. But any passing stranger would have had to stop and watch in wonder, as a man dressed in khakis, his mostly bald head covered by an old straw hat, (around which grew a cloud of curly white hair,) drove a chunky old loader while hollering, “Way'll! Damn Y’all Huff . . . MOVE!”

            It would have been difficult to decide what he was doing as he pushed and pulled levers, raking rocks about an unopened quarry. Just when one saw some logic to his actions he would swerve, back up and plunge Ol’ Huff over the edge of a ledge. The only possible purpose seemed to be to make the woman laugh. For astride the engine, hanging onto his shoulders, was a woman sitting on a huge, grimy gray cushion, riding and bouncing as though astride a galloping camel.

            Her laughter was as wild as her appearance. Bare feet bounced high above the rock and cactus covered ground. Waist length, flaming red hair flew out from under a wide white straw hat, itself almost totally covered by huge multicoloured silk flowers. And there was in the woman one last bloom of her beauty, brought forth by the joy of freedom, by the embrace of the desert and by the love of a wild old Okie boy.


Posted by Charlotte Madison at 12:09 0 Comments
Add your own comments.

December 11,2019
#18 THE FIRST WALK

            #18   The First Walk

 

Three times during our ten month stay below the White Elephant quarry, London and walked seven miles along the valley road into town, twice in sunshine and once in rain.


            The first walk was on a warm day in spring. Each time a car appeared, it stopped beside me and its driver offered me a ride into town, which I declined. Then the driver immediately headed for the stone yard to tell G.B. his “artist” was heading into town — afoot! With each report G.B. traced my progress.

            When we arrived at the stone yard office there were curious staff and visitors waiting for us. G.B. handed me a cold Pepsi, while the yard-men called London to a freshly poured bowl of water.

            “What’s wrong? Y’all have a flat?” G.B. asked.

            “No, I just fancied to see if I could walk to town and back.”

            “Y’all’re a-walkin’ back?” A flash of anger touched his face.

 G.B. paused and he pondered. Then, as was his way, he rubbed his hand around his mouth, over his nose and back down to his mouth. But this needed more pondering. He reared back in his big old office chair, with his elbows out and his fingers splayed at the top of his thighs. In a dramatic gesture he removed his wavy brimmed, old straw hat, held it out high in a commanding pose while he rubbed his other hand around and around his bald pate. He held each person; staff, visitors and me silent and unsure. With a final histrionic gesture, he replanted his old straw hat.

            Unable to find an explanation for my actions, G.B. said in his slow Okie way, “Y’all’re a strange Canadian painter lady Charle.”


Posted by Charlotte Madison at 12:19 0 Comments
Add your own comments.

December 10,2019
#17 THE CENTURY PLANT

             

             #17  The Century Plant

  

Each morning, following behind a pick-up loaded with rock doodlers, London and I hiked up the road to the quarry where I kept my canvas, paint and a water supply in a rock doodler’s empty old cabin.

            As I worked I scraped bees and no-see-ems out of my paint and listened to wild stories told to me by a grizzled old reprobate.

            Every time my four foot by eight foot, masonite canvas was caught up by the wind, it was sent soaring and wafting in flight down to the floor of the quarry. I would scramble from my ledge to rescue it before a second gust could lift it over the edge, float it into the canyon below and dash it into pieces. On days when the wind would not give me peace, I tested painting on flagstone. Although the flagstone did not blow away, the wind blew the paint from my brush.

             At noon as I walked down the steep rocky road to my camp-site drinking in the beauty of the open land below and clear blue sky above, I stopped and checked on the progress of a Century Plant. It had finally received God’s consent to bloom.

            To my delight, and to the delight of hummingbirds in the area, the ceremony took many weeks to complete. As the flowers grew, their colour changed from magenta to scarlet to orange to yellow.

            When at last the flowers and the towering stock were dry and brown, with the dramatic flair of a Shakespearian actor, the Century Plant flung itself to the ground, uprooting its yucca-like base.

            Men can live much longer lives than the Century Plant, but few men die with ritual as beautiful.


Posted by Charlotte Madison at 12:09 0 Comments
Add your own comments.

December 10,2019
#16 WHITE ELEPHANT CAMPSITE


      #16   White Elephant Camp-site

 

My northern camp-site was seven miles north of Ash Fork in the Kaibab National Forest.

            G.B. pulled the pink trailer half-way up the mountain side, below the White Elephant quarry, then settled it under wind twisted, old juniper trees. He filled the trailer’s water storage tank and connected the propane tanks for the fridge, stove and hot water heater. To guarantee ample water for the shower, G.B. had his carpenters build a stand to hold two water barrels behind the trailer. I thought he was carrying my water supply to an extreme when he had the carpenters brace a third barrel in the fork of a juniper tree by my door. But G.B. knew I would run out of water, no matter how much I had.

            The first morning at my new camp-site, for a special treat, I fried bacon in addition to onions, potatoes and an egg.  I carried my plate and a cold Pepsi outside into the cool, early morning sunshine and climbed up onto Huff, a loader G.B. had driven out from the stone yard the day before.

            Slowly I ate my breakfast while scanning the scene below me: Mt Floyd and Picacho also referred to as Ol’ Pocatch, rising above a line of cinder cones along the horizon. I looked north, but the valley soon disappeared behind the skirts of my mountain. South, the valley reached out to Ash Fork and beyond, into the early morning haze.

            My attention was drawn to the ground close below my camp-site by the arrival of a huge long legged jackrabbit. He sat quivering, wide eyed and still, then bolted on his zigzag path at the sound of a passing cottontail.

            I looked up into the deepening blue sky and into the branches above my head, and called to a little bird who replied, “com’ere, com’ere, com’ere.”

            I noticed a puff of dust where the valley road crossed the Atchison Topeka and Santa Fe Railroad tracks into town. The dust traced a vehicle’s progress down the valley. Eventually the vehicle swung onto Quarry Road, crossed the cattle-guard and flashed between the trees along the frontage road. It was G.B. in the company pick-up bringing rock doodlers who did not have transportation up to the quarry.

            In order to open the office at eight A.M. G.B. dropped off the men at seven-thirty, checked their water barrels and equipment, gave them their orders for the day, then roared back toward town.

            On his way down the mountain G.B. skidded to a stop by my camp-site, saw I was gazing at the view below and asked me, “Charle, how can y’all just set thar a’doin’ nothin’? Y’all get yer giddle on up the hill an’ paint some pictures. I’ll be back this evenin’.”

            He was off in a big puff of dust . . . and he was back at noon and at three o’clock and at five o’clock, but he never did come back that evening.

           The next day I learned “evenin’” is any time after twelve noon, and G.B. had come back three times that “evenin’.”


Posted by Charlotte Madison at 12:32 0 Comments
Add your own comments.

December 09,2019
# 15 THE NORTHERN CAMPSITE - THE TEXANS

#15 The Northern Camp-site Located Seven Miles North of Ash fork,

 

                 THE TEXANS

 

I was camped in Ludwig, in the White Elephant quarry, until G.B. could bring the pink trailer north from the Sun Valley Pink quarry, and I was pondering how to use the day. G.B. was busy with special order customers — the Cotters  who were ranchers from Texas. They were building a large stone house on their cattle ranch, and they had come to Ash Fork to order the finishing touches, white schist for the floor to ceiling fireplace and sandstone for their mantle and hearth.

            I felt hot and discomforted. Ludwig was messy, his coat was badly matted, and I was grimy from camping. I decided to clean, so I hauled everything out of the van; my blankets, pillows and the narrow sheet of plywood that served as my bed, the cooler, canteens and clothes. After unloading almost everything I was too tired and hot to continue, so I decided to finish it all in the cool of evening.

            For a change of pace, I settled myself on the shady side of Ludwig and called London over to be groomed. As I pulled the brush through his soft fur, removing burrs, goat-heads, grass, seeds and twigs, I thought, G.B.’s busy for the day, no one’s working in the quarry. It’s a perfect opportunity to dye my hair.

            I lined up the hair dye, shampoo, conditioner and jugs of sun warmed water. When it came to ablutions in the quarry, I was a well practiced expert from the years of camping I had done. I donned an old dye stained shirt (which suggested I had previously cut my throat whilst wearing it) took a deep breath, undid my hair and slathered it with red dye. After waiting the required time, I leaned over and rinsed out the dye by pouring the jugs of sun warmed water through my hair, until it ran clear.

            I squeezed out the excess water, straightened up, pulled my hair back from my face and saw the Western States Stone company pick up quietly rolling to a stop in front of me. G.B. was grinning with mischievous pleasure, and to my horror beside him were the smiling faces of the special order customers from Texas.

            Omar, a tall impressive Texan, wearing a big Stetson hat, western styled clothes and fine, custom made cowboy boots, climbed out of the pick-up. He was followed by his wife Cleo, who was tall, beautiful, slim and chic.

            “Charle, y’all guess who these people are?” G.B. asked with glowing enthusiasm.

            Before I could reply, Cleo hurried over to me saying, “Oh y’all’re G.B.’s Canadian painter lady. It’s so nice to meet y’all. G.B. just talks an’ talks ‘bout y’all.”

            Omar slowly ambled over to me, stuck out his hand to shake mine and said, “G.B. shore is proud a’ y’all.”

            While we all stood talking, “y’alls” flew ‘round and ‘round our heads.

            That evening we all met in Williams, twenty miles east of Ash Fork. G.B. had suggested dinner at Rod’s Steak House and Omar concurred by stating, “The only steaks worth eatin’ — this side a’ Texas!”

            By nightfall we four had started a devoted friendship that could be interrupted only by God.

 

 


Posted by Charlotte Madison at 12:21 0 Comments
Add your own comments.

December 08,2019
#14 LONDON'S TRAVAIL

           

               #14  London’s Travail

 

One day when G.B. popped in to see if all was as it should be, he asked, “Have y’all explored the Indian ruin yet? No? Oh ya’ll would enjoy that. I don’t have time to mess with it now, I’m fixin’ to leave. But it’s just past the big mesa, ‘cross yonder. There’s a trail leadin’ up the next hill an’ it’s on the top. But y’all take the van now, it’s a long walk over yonder on foot, carryin’ water fer y’all an’ fer y’all’s dawg.”

            G.B. lit fires of curiosity with that comment, so the next day, carrying water, London and I headed “‘cross yonder” — on foot. I was accustomed to walking — it would not take long. It was not far as the owl flew, but I was wearing dime store flip flop thongs in the vicinity of a cholla jungle. Necessity demanded a devious route, unless London and I planned on cholla acupuncture.

            “London,  HOT”, but it was too late. He had brushed up against a cholla stem and a segment had caught on his flank and then nestled tightly into his long fur.

            “STAY LONDON, STAY!”

            Instead, he sat. The movement involved in sitting caused the barbed spines to pierce his skin. Abruptly and frantically he swung his head and took the vile thing into his soft fleshy mouth, where countless spines imbedded themselves.

            It broke my heart to see him suffering and confused. Wanting to help, I grabbed a mesquite twig and tried to flick the cholla segment from his flank, instead I only managed to roll it deeper into his long fur. I needed more than a twig to help him. We had to get back to the trailer.

            London endured extreme pain during the long, hot walk home to the butte. Every time I looked at him, with his mouth filled with what appeared to be porcupine quills, I thought of G.B.’s order, “Take the car!”

          As soon as we reached the top of my butte, I sat London in the shade of the trailer with a bucket of water by his side. I settled myself on the ground in front of him, with scissors, a pair of pliers a metal bowl, and spoke incessantly to him. I cradled his head, while I cut fur and cholla from his flank. With the pliers I pulled out spines I could see in the short stubble of newly cut fur.

             I gave both of us momentary relief from the stressful anxiety created by my torturous activity by relaxing my hold on his head and allowing him to intently study lick and soothe the wounded area.

            I didn’t know what to expect when I started on London’s mouth, but he understood I was trying to help him. He whined and we cried while I removed endless barbed spines from his lips, his gums and his tongue.

            After more than an hour and a half, I was almost finished. There were two spines left in his bottom lip. I went for one and as soon as I pulled it out he growled. I reached for the last one and London pulled back his head, looked me in the eye and gave one commanding bark, “NO MORE!”

            London rose, and with his head held high and one large spine protruding from his bottom lip like a badge of courage, he trotted across our butte to take his revenge and “water a cactus.”

 

 


Posted by Charlotte Madison at 12:25 0 Comments
Add your own comments.

December 07,2019
#13 CHRISTMAS DINNER


#13   CHRISTMAS DINNER  

 

One mile from the quarry guard cabin stood a mesa. I decided London and I would climb the mesa and have our Christmas lunch high above the desert floor.

            The climb up, although strenuous, was an exhilarating Christmas morning’s entertainment. At the top of the mesa I sat down with my legs dangling over the edge, feeling the rare noontime breeze against my skin. While London stood at the edge, head low, reaching out and panting as he gazed at this new perspective of our abode. We ravenously attacked our lunch — peanut butter sandwiches, Pepsi and water. London gratefully allowed me to direct a squeeze of bottled water into his mouth and I treasured and savoured every gulp of a Pepsi.

            I settled, as had London, to rest and to enjoy the vista below. I felt if I gazed long enough and hard enough, I would see the mighty Geronimo walking below . . . .

            What an ideal place the mesa would be for a puma or a javalina family, I thought. Then I realized, it could be, and it probably was!

            We were incapable of quickly scrambling down the mountain if we were threatened by local wildlife. It had taken hours testing routes climbing up, and going down would have to be one step and one hand hold at a time. For London, it would involve clawing his hold over every rock he crossed and sliding between them. Those realizations suppressed the urge to explore the mesa top, and we headed for home.

           Two thirds of the way down I saw below us, amid the cholla, London’s herd of cattle and their bull waiting for retribution. I assumed since London had chased his “girls,” El Toro was now waiting to even the score. He would chase London’s “girl” — ME!

            I plunked down to think and jammed my feet between the rocks. London braced his four legs in random directions with all twenty claws dug into solid stone.

            With a puma due to attack any minute from above, an incensed bull waiting below to play “Pamplona,” incidental hazards like rattlesnakes, who would leave the shade of the rocks as the sun began to set, and small annoyances, like scorpions and tarantulas who could crawl over me faster than I could crawl over the next rock, I decided to keep working my way down, sit just high enough to be safe from El Toro, and then wait him out!.

            We sat in open sunshine on hot rocks and looked with longing at the shadows cast by saguaros, mesquite and palo verde. I stared across the desert to my butte thinking of London’s water bucket and my Pepsi cans floating in ice water.

            My legs were tired, and I could see Ludwig in the distance, parked atop my butte. How wonderful it would be if he was right below us, soft seats, gore proof protection and a powerful engine to carry us safely home to the trailer.

            “El Toro” succeeded in terrifying me just by his proximity, occasional snort, hostile gaze and impatient pawing of the ground. As a young woman visiting Mexico, I had attended enough bullfights to recognize “bull threat.” I was sure he could not maneuver the rocks up to us, but might he pretend to leave and instead hide somewhere? Then, while we were crossing the open cholla flat below my butte . . . ?

            After the sunset, in the short afterglow, I realized the “Girls” were moving south. Reluctantly “El Toro” followed.

            London and I climbed down the rocks, while we could still see, and headed toward home.

            As we hurried along I remembered a book I had purchased for my children when they were young. It showed the many critters and varmints that prowl the desert at night. I decided to trust London’s senses and instincts and closely follow him home.

            We reached the base of the butte and dragged ourselves up to the trailer. I called a thank you to the moon for the blessed light it had given us.

            While London ran to his water bucket full of still warm water, I flung open the trailer door and the ice box, plunged my hand into the cool water grabbed a Pepsi and then collapsed into the softness of bed at seven P.M.

            At three A.M. I was awake and frying a festive pan of potatoes, onions and eggs for us, while London stared intently up at me salivating and swallowing.

            “Merry Christmas London.”


Posted by Charlotte Madison at 01:05 0 Comments
Add your own comments.

December 07,2019
#12 CHRISTMAS MORNING

      #12   CHRISTMAS MORNING

 

“Merry Christmas London!”

            In the warmth of the rising sun and in the freshness of a morning breeze, London and I strolled down from the top of my butte toward the desert floor.

            We came to an owl sitting atop a young saguaro. He ignored us and continued to stare intently at a cottontail quivering in terror under a rusted, decrepit old truck body. As the owl tensed to attack I shouted and waved my arms, London bounced and yapped, all to startle and distract the raptor.

             With resignation the owl reluctantly abandoned his prey, lurched into the air and swept down the hillside. The cottontail took the opportunity, bolted and vanished into a nearby hole, thankful to be free of the owl, the dog and the wild woman.

            “Merry Christmas Cottontail,” I called to the rabbit, and to the “hooty-owl”, “Owl . . . I’m sorry.” I had ruined his Christmas dinner.

            At the quarry we approached the tiny, old quarry guard cabin, so wind-blown and weathered. I had saved the exploration of the old cabin as a Christmas treat. A few yards from the door I looked down and saw a stained crumpled paper wedged between two small rocks. I bent down and picked up a typewritten poem — La Patrona.

            Inside the cabin stood a desk made of orange crates and a mattress ravaged by pack rats. The floor was littered with rodent-chewed pages of poetry, stained and almost buried in the huge pack rat nests of cholla and fluffed mattress packing. I gingerly picked out a few sheets and took them outside to read, each one so strange and appealing.

            I would never have read a letter, but the poetry seemed like literature, written to be read by all who enjoy the arrangement of words. Spellbound I read on until one poem, tender and personal, flooded me with shame for having read any.

            Quickly I replaced all but La Patrona. If I left it inside the cabin, touched with new odours, rats would be drawn to it and add it to their poetic nests. If I put it outside buried in the rocks, with time it would surely be destroyed by rain, an animal’s hoof or a rodent’s teeth. I could not and did not want to leave it.

            That Christmas morning I had been enchanted by La Patrona and her Christmas gift to the shepherd, “. . . three oranges and the nice apple.”


Posted by Charlotte Madison at 12:27 0 Comments
Add your own comments.

December 06,2019
#11 DESERT NIGHT

 

                       #11  DESERT NIGHT

 

G.B. was in Oklahoma visiting a new grandbaby while I sat beside London in the darkness, listening to an old “hooty-owl” on a nearby cactus, and breathing the sweet essence of juniper wood burning in the stone fire pit at the edge of my butte.

            I watched the moon rise and etch the outlines of desert mesas and stately saguaros. I saw sparks rise to join stars in the blue-black sky. I heard cattle rustling in the darkness at the base of my butte. I heard the bray of a burro tethered down the pass and the yaps and shrieks of coyotes, who, like London and I, lived this night, in this desert place, on this wondrous
                     Christmas
                            Eve.

            I stared past the fire into the darkness and thought, this must be like the first Christmas. I looked into the dark night sky, not for snow, not for Santa, I looked for an unusually large star.


Posted by Charlotte Madison at 12:51 0 Comments
Add your own comments.

December 06,2019
#10 THE INTRUDER

                #10   THE INTRUDER


One morning, after days of solitude and sunshine, I felt the trailer rock. I turned from the stove to see a man leaning into my trailer, totally blocking the doorway.

            The man was extremely tall, heavy set and appeared to be in his early fifties. He wore a dusty Stetson hat, a Western style shirt, a red neckerchief and faded blue jeans tucked into elaborately tooled, well worn cowboy boots. His thick leather belt held a holster and big gun.

            There was no sign of London, and I was instantly awash in panic. No phone, no quarry guard to whom I could call and my only exit blocked. G.B., my protector, was a hundred fifty miles away. I wanted to scream and run. Instead I stared, unable to move, dreading whatever horror awaited me!

            “Do you know where the jasper deposit is Ma’am?” the man politely inquired. “My rock hound map shows one in this area.”

            Oh Gad! He was only a Snowbird, the harmless, joyous breed that flies south to the Valley of the Sun each winter. They don cowboy boots and hats, guns and turquoise jewelry, then play rock hound, prospector, gold miner, cowboy and golf until spring training, when “Canada Honkers” signal the trip north for the summer.

            I pointed to the yellow jasper deposit down below my butte, but I knew the assessment work had all been stolen. G.B. and I had already hunted in vain for pieces of “his” yellow jasper, with which we planned to have someone make bookends, a bolo tie and belt buckle.


Posted by Charlotte Madison at 12:50 0 Comments
Add your own comments.

December 05,2019
#9 THE OUTHOUSE


             # 9   The Outhouse



During the light of day an outhouse in Arizona gives one pause for thought — especially if it is old, cobwebby and pack rat nested. But in the hot, dark night, one cannot help but dread what might be crawling about . . .

            Each night I set off for my outhouse armed with a flashlight, London and a roll of toilet paper. If I left the roll hanging on its holder a curious updraft would gently send it spinning and eventually floating out the doorway, and the next time I went to the little house I would find it necessary to pull reams of t.p. streamers from the surrounding cholla, barrel and saguaro cacti. If I left the roll of paper sitting by the hole and the wind blew, the paper disappeared into the abyss altogether, buffeted along by gusts coming through the wind-blown slamming door.

            One morning I scrambled halfway down my butte to the outhouse and found the door had come off its hinges and taken flight in a wild windstorm. After cautious exploration I found it nestled amongst a bed of cholla. I dragged it back to the outhouse, but I could not make it stay in place.

            Modesty demanded a solution: just in case a cowboy rode closely by, I stepped into the outhouse holding the door sideways,  then I pulled and leaned it against the doorway of the little building. Delightful! With only my head above the door I could gaze out over an early morning vista, and watch London herding cattle he found at the base of the butte.

            During the day while people stared at porcelain bathrooms, I gazed at cactus and cottontails, coyotes, and whatever else chose to walk, crawl or slither by.

            At night while people stared at light bulbs in their porcelain bathrooms, I watched the rising moon and falling stars, while I listened to owl hoots and coyote calls.


Posted by Charlotte Madison at 12:28 0 Comments
Add your own comments.

December 04,2019
#8 REPLENISHING STOCK

#8  Replenishing Stock

Each Friday morning London and I headed to town for water and food. It was approximately twenty miles from my butte to the thriving metropolis of Black Canyon. And after a week of solitude the two block business district was a delight.

            At the gas station I had the car fluids tended to and the jerry cans refilled with fresh sweet water. In the market I purchased a week’s supply of food, including tomato juice, orange juice, Pepsi, ice, dog food and “bickies” for London. I eagerly checked the post office for mail from Canada and posted letters to my family.

            The only other shop in town was a second-hand store. It wasn’t long before I knew every article in the store, but my only purchase ever, was a week’s supply of western novels which I read, surrounded by the very locale described in the stories.

            Once a month, for a special treat, I swung Ludwig into Rock Springs before I headed back to my butte, via the southbound freeway.

            Rock Springs had been a stagecoach stop back in Territorial days, and little had changed. A battered, old screen door led me from the heat of the desert sunshine into the darkened cool interior within thick adobe walls. As my eyes grew accustomed to the change of light, an old-fashioned general store revealed itself. Grand showcases were loaded with groceries, moccasins, postcards, large jars of stick candy, poke-bonnets and Indian silver and turquoise jewelry. The ceiling beams were hung with antiquated necessities of life from the nineteenth century. There was a side-saddle, cowboy saddles, saddle-bags and cowboy boots — all worn and weathered. There were flat irons, branding irons, Dutch ovens and frying pans — blackened and resting from their labors. Rusted gold pans, rifles and handguns were hung high — as their owners may have been hung, one hundred years before.

            A small doorway led into the store’s hardware room. It catered to Snowbirds, so the stock reflected their tastes with a fine selection of shinning new gold pans, coal oil lanterns, picks, canteens and ten-gallon hats.

            I wound my way between the showcases to the back of the general store where another small doorway opened onto the dining room which boasted tables covered with red and white checkered tablecloths. The room was large, and on the walls were old west relics, pottery bells and Rock Springs T-shirts for sale.

            Whether I chose a chuck-wagon breakfast, Mexican lunch, ranch house steak dinner, sandwich or a good old-fashioned hamburger, I knew it was to be the best rip snorting meal I could eat — at least until my next visit!

            Despite protests of being too sated to walk, after my meal I was led with great ritual to the glass enclosed, towering pie-keep. There I chose a foot high wedge of pie from an incredible selection of berry, fruit cream and custard. Each pie was homemade with the freshest, tastiest ingredients baked to perfection, then placed in the pie keep and illuminated like England’s Crown Jewels.

           Phoenix executives brought New York, London and Tokyo businessmen to this “taste” of the Old West, and locals just brought their appetites.
But ahhh, the trip to the bathroom revealed the piece de resistance.

            In order to reach the “Ladies” I walked to the back of the dining room, edged right through a narrow opening — and there in all its glory, shining through from the long lost past – was the saloon!

            A gleaming brass rail and brass spittoons accented the massive wooden bar where a huge glistening mirror reflected back the amber and green bottles placed before it. Above the heavy oak tables and chairs, hung a candle chandelier crafted from an immense wagon wheel. And the people who breathed life into this echo of the past were local cowboys and gun toting Snowbirds.

            Maybe I didn’t stay until evening because I was afraid of having a flat tire or a breakdown on my way back to my butte, maybe I feared G.B.’s reaction to my being alone at night in a saloon. But I wanted to stay. I wanted to see the candles lit. I wanted to sip Pepsis and watch logs burning in the blackened fireplace. And most of all, I wanted to stay until the piano player pounded the ornate honky-tonk piano back to life.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


Posted by Charlotte Madison at 11:29 0 Comments
Add your own comments.

December 03,2019
#7 THIEVES IN THE QUARRY

# 7   Thieves in the Quarry


One clear moonlit night while I sat inside the little pink trailer, London sat at the edge of the butte listening to coyote calls. Through the window I noticed a pair of headlights winding their way along Coyote Pass. When the lights finally arrived at the base of my butte they turned left into the quarry, and in the moonlight I saw two figures climb out of a car by the stone company’s equipment. Each figure turned on a flashlight and began moving about.

            London stood up and began growling, preparing to bark. But I did not want that. It would draw attention up to the trailer and the prowlers might consider it ripe for the plucking, dog or no dog. I quietly crept outside to grab London by the collar and keep him from barking, but he darted away and started trotting toward the road that lead down from the butte. If I called to him, I could not make my voice sound like a man’s, and hearing a woman’s voice might bring them to me.

            The prowlers opened their car’s trunk and one of them hurried into the darkness. Moments later the figure returned carrying something the size of a truck battery and staggering under its weight.

            If I moved toward London again, he would take it as a signal for a walk and bolt ahead of me. If I whistled to him, the thieves would not know whether I was a woman, alone and vulnerable, or an armed quarry guard signalling an attack dog, so I had one chance to do it right. I licked my dry lips, took a deep breath, and with luck, gave one shrill whistle.

            London came running to me, flashlights went out, car doors flew open and slammed shut and a car engine roared to life. With spinning tires and a cloud of dust glowing in the moonlight, the thieves pealed out of the quarry, straight through the cholla patch, missing the driveway entirely! It wasn’t until they were well on their way down Coyote Pass that I saw red tail lights come on and a flood of illumination from their headlights.

            I felt so proud of myself. I had scared them off, saved the equipment and the thieves were more afraid than I — and without a pick-handle.


Posted by Charlotte Madison at 11:28 0 Comments
Add your own comments.

December 02,2019
#6 THE SOUTHERN CAMPSITE - SIGNS

#6   SIGNS

40 ODD MILES NORTH OF PHOENIX

London and I followed G.B. and Wayne, the carpenter, south to the Sun Valley Pink quarry near Phoenix. When we reached the temporarily inactive quarry G.B. turned left and towed the pink trailer up onto a butte, overlooking the stone company’s holdings.

After a brief debate with him, I reluctantly agreed to a propane hook-up to the stove and to the fridge, but I refused propane to the lights and the hot water. I told G.B. if he foisted them onto me I would move back into Ludwig.
“G.B., I have the niceties of life at home. I’m here so I can get away from them.”

He looked at me with flashes of pride, anger and confusion, then turned to Wayne and asked, “Isn’t she strange?”

Filled with concern for my comfort and well being, G.B. heaved a deep sigh, and then he and Wayne headed north to Ash Fork, the Flagstone Capitol of the U.S.A., hopefully having left London and me safe in the little pink trailer.

London and I camped on the butte at the Sun Valley Pink quarry for six months. While we roamed and I painted amid towering saguaro and evil, jumping cholla cactus, I kept finding weathered old signs bleached by the sun.

The roughly painted words on them were barely legible, and I wondered whether they dated back to Territorial days — and outlaws. The words held a strange combination of Bible-thumping, Hell and damnation quotes, Wild West phrases and evil threats. My curiosity was sparked. If it was wit, it was the blackest of humor. If it was anger — the author was raging!

On one of G.B.’s trips south to the head office of Western States Stone Company in Phoenix, he checked in with me, and I asked him who made the signs.

“Oh that would a’ been Glen, one a’ the quarry guards. Signs can save ‘em the trouble a’ shootin’ people who trespass, but most would as soon shoot y’all as bother talkin’ to ye, especially that one. I worry ‘bout leavin’ y’all here right now — all alone without a guard on duty.”

“Oh G.B., I like this place because I am alone.” I said, all the while grateful some gun toting madman was not guarding the rocks and watching me!

Obviously confused by that idea, he tried to carry on, “Charle, y’all take my pick-handle — to be safe.”

“Oh G.B. there isn’t room to swing it in the trailer, and I have too many other things to carry on my walks.”

With a snort he continued, “That ol’ cabin yonder, that’s where the quarry guards stay. Some are drifters, some are ol’ rock-doodlers an’ some are just hermits. Some like their dawgs better’n people — like y’all.” He looked thoughtfully at me and added, “Y’all’re a strange Canadian painter lady Charle.”

 

 


Posted by Charlotte Madison at 12:25 0 Comments
Add your own comments.

December 01,2019
#5 RETURN TO ASH FORK

 

#5   RETURN TO ASH FORK


Excitement mounted as I drove the last twenty mile stretch from Seligman to Ash Fork, and I mused to calm myself.

            I had seen G.B.’s face, but only in short bursts of light from passing cars, so I had left Arizona with, at most, a vague impression of his head. I did not know if he was tall or short, fat or thin, handsome or homely. I only knew I loved the beautiful music of his slow southern drawl and the tender loving words he spoke each time he phoned me in Canada.

            I decided he would be wearing gorgeous, hand tooled leather cowboy boots, a big Stetson hat and a western style suit.

            Our rendezvous was the “bus depot” at eight-fifteen A.M. When I walked into the café dressed and groomed, I stared intently into each man’s face. They looked, but no one rose to greet me. I turned when I heard the front door open and saw a man of medium height standing in the doorway. He was dressed in khaki work shirt and pants, steel toed work boots and an old straw cowboy hat.

            “Are you G.B.?” I asked the man.

            “Oh,” he replied, “A red-head. I thought y’all was a blonde.”

            G.B. had a fine straight back, but a decided bow to the legs, and I couldn’t see any sign of hair beneath his straw hat. This was definitely not the Adonis for whom my mother was hoping.

“Before I take y’all to y’all’s motel, I’m fixin’ to show y’all somethin’.”

            We left Ludwig (my trusty Volkswagen van) parked at the café, then London, my faithful Old English sheepdog, and I climbed into G.B.’s company pick-up truck. He drove in a westerly direction through town and on down Route 66. I studied his face as he chatted and I thought it looked so used. His face had been split and mended in several places and his nose — was one of a kind. I could not associate my new love with his face.

            G.B. turned off Route 66, drove onto the open ranch land and searched the landscape to the horizon line.“I want y’all to watch fer antelope.” He said with charming enthusiasm.

            I gratefully took the opportunity to turn away from his face and stare through the passenger side window while I listened to the dear familiar voice. Skin stretched over bones isn’t important, I thought to myself. What matters is all the beauty inside.

            I turned back from the window and again I looked at G.B.’s face. This time I saw brilliant turquoise eyes, an eye colour I had never seen. I saw his proud Teutonic neck, and felt compassion sweep over me as I inspected the narrative scars by his mouth and on his chin. Such a nice chin. He may have been quite handsome as a young man. This is a fine strong man, I thought, a protector to stand between me and the world. Then I looked at his hands, such beautiful hands. I wondered. What makes a hand beautiful? Maybe it’s loving the person whose hand it is. I looked back to G.B.’s dear face and he turned to look at me. He smiled. Tears spilled down his cheeks as he said, “I’ve got so much to show y’all Charle.”

            We watched for antelope, and I thrilled to the dusty ride across the Arizona high desert ranch land.

            G.B. stopped the pick-up at a whole lot of black, and then stated, “Charle, this is a black cinder pit. I’m fixin’ to show y’all somethin.’”

            I stepped down from the little old pick-up and gazed at the vast expanse of land which encircled the volcanic wonder. Despite my fascination, a strange thought . . . What if this rather odd man is crazed — kills me, then buries me under the cinders? I felt an adrenalin rush, then I heard again the beautiful music of his voice.

            “Look Charle, ‘cross yonder — at that white scar on the mountain. That’s my quarry, the White Elephant.”

            “Where? I asked, as I scanned the long line of mountains.

            G.B. moved behind me to the right. He reached across my back with his left arm and gripped my left arm with his powerful hand. Then he closed tight around me and pointed to the scar on the mountain. Either this man is going to kiss me or kill me!
We stood alone in the world under a clear blue sky and G.B. kissed me with all the strength, confidence and emotion of his nature.

            “C’mon Charle, get y’all’s dawg into the pick-up, I’m fixin’ to show y’all somethin’.”

            When we arrived back in town G.B. drove me through the stone yard, where he told me he was employed, and then up and down every street in Ash Fork, which proved to be two miles long and five blocks wide. With his left arm out the window as a pointer he told me, “I own this here trailer house an’ I get good rent fer it. I own these three lots, an’ as soon as I do some work on the cesspool an septic field, if that GOD-DAMNED building inspector will keep away from me, I’ll put three mobile homes on them. Now, I own six houses in this block four on the north side.” These were the same strange little stone houses I’d seen on my first visit to the town. “. . . an’ five an’ six there on the south side.” he continued.

            With every corner he turned, G.B. kept his arms waving and the list growing. “If I owned it all Charle,” he said, referring to the town, “I still wouldn’t be a rich man — but I am finaglin’ another old house anagoglan from here. That fool wants four thousand dollars fer it! Wayll he can GO STRAIGHT TO HAYLL before I’ll pay four thousand fer that shack! But I will pay two thousand fer it, an’ I’ll rent it fer twenty-five dollars a month. That’s fifteen percent interest on my money!” He said with obvious relish.

            G.B. traced the history of the oldest buildings in town for me, several of which he owned. In one historic structure he showed me a bullet hole in the ceiling, which dated back to Territorial times, and had something to do with a cowboy, a night on the town, a woman and whiskey.

            He took me to the site of the old Escalante Hotel; a Harvey House built before nineteen ten, to accommodate the Santa Fe Railroad passengers. Some of the original floor and tiles were still intact, and as G.B. related historic facts about the building, I envisioned the elegance of the Escalante encircled by the rugged simplicity of the little cow town.

            Each building had a story to be told and each person I met greeted me with warm familiarity. I even met Moon John, the old fellow who lived in the junkyard, and whose joy-filed voice I’d heard on my first visit to Ash Fork

            The final destinations on the tour were the flagstone quarries north of town. We crossed the tracks and headed for the White Elephant, Geronimo and Santa Cruz. As I glanced back at Ash Fork nestled amid green leaves and blossoms of spring, I began to see beauty in G.B.’s beloved little town.

            A few hours later at the Santa Cruz quarry, G.B. proposed marriage to me. I accepted, and soon after, London, Ludwig and I followed Wayne Hengle, G.B. (who was towing a little pink travel trailer) one hundred and fifty miles south into the low desert where I would paint and camp north of Phoenix.


Posted by Charlotte Madison at 12:23 0 Comments
Add your own comments.

Archives
January, 2020
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?