January 26,2020
#24 FIRE! - Part one.

                                              Excerpt from
                                      STONE AND CANVAS©️
                                                Written by
                                Nana Cook and Charlotte Madison
                                             Copyright 2019

 

                 #24 FIRE!© Part one.


  

Excerpt from
STONE AND CANVAS©️
Written by
Nana Cook and Charlotte Madison
Copyright 2019

 

#24 FIRE!© Part one.


The November weekly payroll had to be finished before the mail truck left town but the smell of gasoline distracted me. Outside a gasoline tanker truck was disgorging itself thru its hose that led into the gasoline storage tank under the stone-yard office. Such quantity was required for the trucks and heavy equipment.

            Gasoline deliveries were routine and had been going on for years. I assumed a window was open allowing the fumes to blow in. Having worked at the 76 station for years the smell of gas fumes was so familiar to me and also every time G.B. siphoned gas, I ended up kissing fumes for days, so I did not question my safety.

            It was noon hour and I was alone. The mechanics and cutter crews had stopped work for lunch and were sitting in the shade of the mechanics’ workshop. The forklift driver and Frank, the foreman, had gone home and I figured G.B. was still out at the quarries.

            However in a cloud of pink dust G.B.’s little short bed pick up roared into the yard. Moments later G.B. burst through the door steaming about the problems he had encountered at the quarry . He sat down opposite the immense new desk he had recently purchased for me — a bribe to prevent me from quitting my stone yard job.

            Hoping he would notice my tearing red eyes or the strong smell of gasoline, then invite me out to lunch, I sat quietly listening to him rant. But he was too angry and preoccupied for anything new to register in his inflamed mind. Totally lost in his own concerns he headed off to Alice’s without me.

            I knew finishing the payroll was vital, but I was insulted and felt sad that he had not taken me with him. The fumes became overpowering, but my sulking veiled the urgent warning of danger. The only flash of reason I had, was hoping the doors were locked to prevent someone walking in with a lit cigarette. My decision to stay was not one of my more brilliant choices.

            A few months earlier a portable heater had overheated in the front office and the ensuing fire had partially gutted the little stone building as well as burning off the second story. G.B. had opted to reconstruct only the main floor, and the renovations had only recently been completed. The pipe that had vented the underground gasoline storage tank out through the roof, had been cut, then forgotten during the repairs rushed before any inspector could challenge G.B. . That pipe was open, silently and secretly breathing, behind the fresh new paneling.

            That cool November day, I heard a familiar sound in the wall to my right, instantly I knew it was the gas furnace coming on for the first time that fall. I knew. And the explosion came.
A liquid orange fall of flames engulfed the room and encircled me, filling me with terror and pain. I stood up and softly said, “Oh God.” Saying those words strangely overwhelmed me with shame, thinking I had sworn His name for the first time, at this late stage of my life. As the flames licked my face I turned my head and saw my arm burning. I tried to run, but crashed into the open desk drawer. In my panic I could not get past it so I stood still watched and waited.

            It was different from what I expected fire to be. Objects were not burning , my entire atmosphere was burning and then as abruptly as the flames erupted they disappeared. “Its out!” With a gasoline truck at one end — a gasoline tank at the other end — a gas line in the middle — the fire was out! For a second, frenzied thoughts swirled through my mind. Is the truck going to blow up next?” Will I make it to the door? If I do, will it open? Will fresh air reignite the flames?

            I scrambled around the open drawer and lunged across the room into the hall. Hoping the door would open, I grabbed a searing hot door handle. I needed to open the door on the first try or the pain and panic in me would erupt and render me useless. There were no reserves of adrenaline left in me. I tore open the door and it slammed back against the wall while I bolted up two steps to open safety.

            After orange flame encircling me, the complementary blue of the noontime sky cooled my soul and allowed rational thought to surface, but now my world moved in slow motion. On lead filled legs I attempted to run across the parking area, toward the wide doorway of the workshop where the men stood dumbfounded to see me —covered in burns, my hair singed short and my melted clothes hanging in clumps on me.

            Fearing the underground tanks were about to explode I tried to stay on my feet and get as far away from the office and the tanker truck as possible. One young man broke from the group and raced toward me, followed by the others.

            “DON’T GO DOWN CHARLE!” He hollered as he ran toward me.

            I staggered toward him on my burned feet and legs, I saw the oily gravel below me and I
desperately tried to keep from falling in it.. I begged him to hurry but each movement he made as he bolted toward me had become so s l o w and exaggerated. I knew I could not wait. In those few seconds it took for him to reach me I dropped onto the filthy gravel. I was slumped over my burnt legs propping myself up with my raw hand and feet pressed onto the oily ground.

            Silently the powerful young man lifted me off the ground and placed me onto the front seat of the Buick. and I was thankful that G.B. never allowed anyone to remove the key or lock any of his vehicles

            I was oblivious to all except the young man who slid into the car beside me.

            “GET ME AWAY FROM HERE. NOW!” I commanded.

            He hesitated for one moment, not knowing which direction to take.

            “GET ME AWAY FROM THAT TANKER TRUCK!”

            Obeying the boss’s wife the young man drove out to the road.

            There was no hospital or clinic in Ash Fork — not even a doctor. I could not give into the pain — I had to keep control over my situation until I was safely in the hands of Shirley. I issued more orders in the next fifteen minutes than I have spoken in my life.

            “Take me to Shirley!” I said intensely and the young man headed for the Whiting Brothers Service Station.

            Shirley, one of Ash Fork’s Emergency Medical Technicians, was not at home. She was shopping in Prescott, and knowing the way that woman shopped I would have to write off her help — then I noticed the smell of gasoline. Shirley’s son was pumping gas!

            “GET ME OUT OF THIS GAS STATION!”

            “Charle, you need a hospital. It’s fifty miles either way to Prescott or Flag — Williams — only twenty to Williams— the little hospital there or do you want an ambulance?”

            “I want ice!” I demanded, “Go to the Green Door Saloon, they’d have lots.”

            The young man immediately drove to the other end of town and parked by the Green Door — one hundred fifty feet from our 76 station and more gas pumps!

            “Ask Pat for ice,” I said shakily. “She was a navy corpsman, she'll know what to do.”

            The young man dashed into the saloon and seconds later, instead of Pat, a stranger emerged carrying a package of towels and a tub of ice. The stranger pulled the door partly open and crouched down beside me.

            “Ma’am, Pat’s not here, but please trust me. I work for Arizona Power and Light and I’ve dealt with electric burns. We need to cool your burns and stop them cooking. These towels are clean, still packaged from the laundry. He pocketed ice cubes in a tea towel and gave me a few ice cubes, “Hold this against your right hand and put these cubes against any place that hurts on your face, neck and lips, I’ll take care of your legs feet and arms.”

            A crowd of familiar faces gathered while he talked to me in a calm reassuring way, he described how he had treated power line burns, one of which blew out the bottom of a man’s feet. That story really distracted me from the pain, and I hoped my feet were still intact. Although my new desk and chair had shielded me from my knees up the flames had embraced my feet and legs below my calves.


            “The ambulance has been called and should arrive from Williams in about twenty minutes. I’ll stay with you ‘till it comes. Just stay calm Ma’am.”

            “WHAT THE HAYLL’RE Y’ALL A-DOIN’ SETTIN’ HERE! GET AWAY FROM M’ WIFE, I’M DRIVIN’ ‘ER TO WILLIAMS!”

            G.B. had arrived.

            I had faced the fires of Hell moments before, but nothing terrified me more than the thought of this mad man driving me twenty miles up the freeway to Williams. “NOOOO!” I screamed, then the first tears fell since the explosion.

            G.B did not speak, he just looked at me with frantic eyes wide open and tears flowing down his cheeks. After the calm of the young yardman and the power line man, G.B. appeared like a madman to me. With my raw fingers I snatched the car keys from the ignition, in hope of stopping this new threat to my safety.

            His head snapped toward me, his eyes filled with rage at my audacity, then I saw the realization sweep across his face, he could not holler at this soul that had just seen death beckoning.

            “OH HAYLL!” He wailed as he strode down the middle of Route 66 West, heading home against the flow of traffic.

            It was close to an hour after the explosion when the ambulance finally arrived. As the attendants prepared to extricate me from the car they discovered it was parked so close to the two foot high curb that they couldn’t open the door wide enough to allow close access for the attendants and stretcher. I was in too much pain to consider sliding out the driver’s side, so they decided to move the car, but I had lost the keys. I was crying, the attendants were debating a solution and the crowd was sharing its opinions — then from out of the din a single voice was clearly heard.

            “Ha! Has G.B. finally taken to blowin’ you up?” It was Shirley.

            “Charle, yer gonna be okay, but first you have to get yerself out’a there. The stretcher is right here. That’s as close as we can get it. I’m gonna help you get yer legs out, then we’ll lift you . . . .”

            Just before I was moved into the ambulance I felt Shirley wrap a cool, damp, saline sheet around me, and I asked her with a rush of tears, “What about G.B.?”

            “I saw that damn fool stompin’ down the middle of the road darein’ anyone to hit him. It’s about time you hollered at that man Charle. You’d have been delirious to have ridden with him. One accident a day is enough! But don’t worry, someone’ll drive him up to the hospital.

            “Excuse me Shirley,” The ambulance driver interrupted, “I’m going to put on the siren, you better tell her so she doesn’t get frightened.”

            After being in a gasoline explosion that lifted the roof off the building and after seeing myself on fire, did the driver really think I was in such critical condition that the wail of an ambulance siren, when I knew we were in a hurry, could precipitate a heart attack?

            “Shirley, if I am still alive now, I’ll be hanged if I’m going to scare myself to death at this late stage. Tis said, “laughter is the best medicine,” start administering some — NOW”

            Shirley’s brand of humor is caustic, blunt and quick. When the ambulance reached the hospital and the rear doors were thrown open the sight beheld by hospital attendants was unexpected by all present, The two of us lacking all sense of tragedy were cackling, snorting hooting and guffawing. With that opening I was wheeled into the tiny Willams Hospital — the third patient of the day, ready to compete for attention with a birth and a heart attack – in that order.

            I was able to endure the pain and I was at peace with the world. People would tend to my wounds, I would never look at the burns on my feet or legs, so I would never have to live with the memory of that revolting sight. I knew the worst was over. The doctor would wipe off the gravel and oily residue and any burnt skin, then slather it all with soothing ointment, medicate me and send me on my way to be pampered, tended and loved by all.

            “Where ignorance is bliss ‘tis folly to be wise.”

                                      * * *


Posted by Charlotte Madison at 02:03 0 Comments
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January 25,2020
#23 ON THE ROAD AGAIN

                                         Excerpt from
                                  STONE AND CANVAS©️
                                           Written by
                            Nana Cook and Charlotte Madison
                                       Copyright 2019

 

              #23 On the Road Again


“GOD DAMMIT THE HAY'LL! A man can’t drive his own car in his own God Damn town without y’all treatin’ him like a dawg.

            G.B.and I picked up Shirley and Bill for an evening drive. He was headed south along the new i-40 West when a siren and the Sheriff’s Deputy pulled him over for driving too slowly on the freeway.

            “Get out G.B. and do what I say.”

            “Deputy thinks he is drunk. He won’t like that.“ said Bill softly.

            “He hasn’ t been drinking since before I knew him.” I said. “Apparently the last time he had a drink, his car ended up on some elderly woman’s verandah down in Prescott.

            When G.B. had finally “blown” the deputy came to my open window and said, ”Charle, if you don’y stop G.B. driving, next thing I’ll be scraping you off the pavement.”

            Seeing the expression on my face he added, “Alright . . . he has to take a full driving test.” And I could hear Shirley smothering her reaction to that.

            “GOD DAMNED DUMB DEPUTY!” G.B. continued to holler as the deputy escaped along I-40.

            G.B. took a deep breath to refresh himself and then said, “Lets cross the tracks an’ look for moon shadows.” He reached out to hold squeeze my hand and softly remind me, “I love y’all
Sweetheart.”

            “Charle really loves moon shadows.” He told Shirley and Bill as he drove to a ranch road then stopped on the Santa Fe track. “Lookie thar y’all.” and we looked where he pointed for a moon shadow instead we saw a train’s rolling headlight coming straight for us!

            Shirley and I about to bolt, flung open our doors screaming bloody murder. That scared even the Buick, making it take flight in self preservation.

            Other than the first hour, it was a lovely evening’s moon shadow drive.

            Heading south to Prescott I continued to labour with G.B. on the driving book questions, knowing henceforth I would be the family driver, especially when the lady asked his name and with fear and a look of desperation he turned to me for help.

            But to my astonishment and despair, he passed the test.


Posted by Charlotte Madison at 12:43 0 Comments
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January 24,2020
#22 CATS AND THE DAWG.

                                  Excerpt from
                            STONE AND CANVAS©️
                                   Written by
                       Nana Cook and Charlotte Madison
                                 Copyright 2019

 

             #22 Cats and the Dawg©

 

I was hanging aloe and spider plants above the malapai wall at the edge of the carport hoping all frost was over for the year, when I heard tiny sounds. I leaned over the wall, looked at the vacant house and scanned around the abandoned garden next door. A feral cat who frequently wandered through our garden in varying stages of pregnancy was slowly picking her way through the deep grasses and weeds. For the first time she had not bolted at the sight of me. How curious. Then I heard the sweet music of baby kittens plaintively mewing to their mother on this terrifying, momentous, first trip out of the empty, old tumbledown house.

            I watched as they stumbled along fighting their way through the ten inch jungle, falling, rolling then frantically righting themselves and desperately carrying on to the accompaniment of each other’s tiny cries. Three furry little cubes all head and pointed tail. The first was a dark slate gray with several distinct white areas. The second was a continuation of the first but the markings on its face made a fancy design. The third courageous little soul was pure white with an even bigger head than the others. As the three little spiked taIls disappeared into the towering weeds, it was that little white tail that I last saw.

            Apart from pampered pets, as far as I knew, Ash Fork was not seriously overrun by cats nor did it have any number of rodents. Pole cats occasionally strayed from the dump on summer evenings but they were not a problem, they looked so beautiful strolling along under the light of street lamps.

            Two families on south 2nd Street chose to feed the town’s feral and transient feline population. One was Shirley’s mother and father Mr. and Mrs. Nickson and the other was Alice and Tommy who served them café leftovers.

            Sometimes before we headed out to the overpass and ranch land west of town for the sunset, G.B. drove around town and much as he was impatient with cats, he would stop the car at the Nicksons’ and Alice’s house then watch me enjoy the cats as they draped themselves lazily on the verandah railings, leisurely relaxed on front stairs, spooked up a tree and spurting through the grass as they revelled with full tummies in the cooling evening air.

            We would count in vain for a total, and eventually longing to feel the touch of a cat I would sneak out of the car hoping just one would come to me to be stroked. Instead at a certain distance they all bolted and disappeared, as though in all of Ash Fork there was no cat to be seen.

            G.B. would smile at me with tears and compassion. “Y’all really do love cats don’t y’all Charle . . . much as y’all love dawgs.”
One evening he added, “Y’all know I wouldn’t see any cat, dawg, horse or any animal go thirsty, hungry or cold.”

            “I know G.B.” and I knew he was thinking of London. Suddenly my voice was slow, heavy with heartbreak “but London is alive G.B. and Liz found him a wonderful family.” I looked at him with sad eyes, “G.B. I had to make a choice between you and my dog. I promised myself, if I could con my family into taking London, I would keep you—but if he had to die I would choose my dog. It was a husband or a dog. I thought about it for months. I loved you both — I couldn’t part with either of you knowing he loved me more than you do — he needed me more than you do.”

             At that, G.B. - getting more than he ever expected - nearly popped his eyes out of his head.

            “G.B. when you say “Let’s go!” I can’t say “as soon as I find the dog” If you said “Make the dog stop barking!” I couldn’t get mad at him just to please you. Or, what if you said, “Don’t let London in the house.” I couldn’t be happy watching him sad and lonely through a window. You need all the lot. There is no place to fence off and most of all . . . London doesn’t growl without provocation and he does not bite. But nor is he a coward.

            You get terribly angry at the drop of a word and it makes London uneasy. You once kicked at him and barely missed. Your yell was so loud you did not hear him growling at you. If he was in your way when you were angry, and you hit him or kicked him — if he bit you — it would be your fault. London had no one but me and I would always defend him against you, because I know he would always be right. I would stand with him — even if it meant leaving you.”

            By this time I was drowning in tears and racked with sobs, “That’s why I took him home to Liz.”

             “Oh my strange, sweet Charle, com’ere Honey. Y’all’re wrong Sweetheart. I love y’all more than London did, an’ I know I need y’all more than he did.”

Then with a look of surprise, “GOD DAMMIT ALL CHARLE — DO Y’ALL HEAR WHAT Y’ALL GOT ME SAYIN?”


Posted by Charlotte Madison at 12:26 0 Comments
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January 23,2020
#21 G.B.'S SWEET COUNTRY LOVIN'

                                         Excerpt from
                                 STONE AND CANVAS©️
                                          Written by
                          Nana Cook and Charlotte Madison
                                     

                                     Copyright 2019

 

      #21 G.B.’s Sweet Country Lovin’©
                               (and other “thangs”)


As always on Sunday morning G.B. and I were wide awake at five AM. I longed to linger, but G.B.’s melodious voice jolted me onto my feet. “Charle it’s Sunday. Y’all get to movin’”

            While I headed for my shower and he prepared for his bath, that soft southern drawl continued to instruct me from a distance.

            “Take y’all’s shower an’ get dressed, an’ while y’all make us breakfast, fix us a picnic too Sweetheart. Soon as I’m dressed, I’ll gas up the pick-up an’ pack the cooler with ice an’ Pepsis at the station. I’ll be right back, then we’ll eat an’ I’ll take y’all fer a Sunday drive.”

            Spring training in Phoenix was over, but maybe we were going to explore Bumble Bee, Crown King or Sedona. We hadn’t been up to the Grand Canyon for ages. Or maybe we would drive over Mingus Mountain and weave among the tortured mountain roads of Jerome. G.B. could sit and deal with a side by side double headed ice cream cone while I shopped for next Christmas in mysterious, unique shops that continually threatened to cross the road above the honeycombed mine shafts or plunge off the mountain side.

            The day was clear, and the temperature would likely be well into the hundreds so I wore an airy turquoise sundress and white sandals. Knowing G.B. would insist, I grabbed my cowboy boots to put on if he insisted. Some how shoes, boots, hats and gloves made me feel shackled so I hung my tan suede Charro hat around my neck. Besides, the hat steamed the curl out of my hair which I had worn down, long curly and seductive, instead of pinned up in a cool bun. I would wait as long as possible until G.B. ordered me “Charle — put ‘em on! Y’all’ll get y’all’s self sun burnt and snake bit.” Well that ruled out Sedona and shopping at Jerome.

            G.B wheeled onto the freeway and while I was talking enthusiastically, he turned and looked at me with a loving smile.

            “Sweetheart, the sun is lightin’ y’all’s hair — so’s it looks like burnin’ copper, too hot to touch. Oh Charle y’all could set the field afire without a match. Shore do love y’all Charle.” And my heart burst with love.

            I knew before we returned from our desert drive, G.B. would set the field afire and birds would fly from the trees.

            By now you will have realized I am not renowned for my brain power. In regard to cattle tanks, I arrived in Arizona with two gross misconceptions. When someone referred to a cattle tank I immediately concluded that they were referring to a huge, oval, galvanized water tub not unlike an oversized washtub. And those which I later discover to be cattle tanks, I
believed to be delightful desert lakes in which I might, one hot day take a dip.

            Ten miles along the freeway G.B took the off ramp and turned onto a ranch road. He stopped at the first in a long succession of farm gates and patiently waited for me to discern which method had been used to lock it. As I swung open the gate he drove through, then waited for me to pull it closed and secure it.

            Some gates were double, (one on either side of the railway tracks), and some had threatening Charolais or Santa Gertruda bulls standing by. Some had beautiful birds, cactus, wildflower, insects or jackrabbits to distract me and G.B. smiled as he watched my reaction to them all.

            On those drives he was never in a hurry, never impatient, he was filled with dreams he shared with me.

            G.B. drove the old pick-up to the edge of a hot, level plateau, where he stopped. We gazed over the plateau edge and saw below an oasis partially surrounded by a curved sandstone outcrop — horizontal stone pleats hinting at a secret promise. Below the arcing wall lay an immense cattle tank. A cluster of big old juniper trees cast dark, cool shadows, relief and shelter for grazing cattle. The road wound down past the outcrop and on to the canyon floor.

            We drove across bare parched soil where so many cattle hoofs had walked, destroyed weeds and plants and pulverized the soil into a fine sienna dust.

            It had been a seriously long, hot dry spell and as were most tanks, it was almost dry — a puddle in the centre, then out to a circumference ring of dark damp mud which in turn was encircled by a collar of mud cracks - a patterned ring of crust. The edges of the mud cracks curled upward into brittle ruffles creating fascinating textured patterns in the otherwise flat dry surface.

            I noticed a tree branch and asked G.B. to go closer. I wanted to sketch the dead branch sticking out of the mud and later do a painting.

            As we drew near G.B. gasped, “Oh Gawd! It’s a dead cow! We gotta go to tellin’ the rancher!”

            “Oh no G.B., I want to sketch it, please?”

            “No y’all don’t Charle.” He replied knowingly. Despite that assertion he drove closer and I saw the cow standing as though alive, black eyed, knee deep in mud, badly bloated.

             “G.B. it’s dead and it is still standing up! It’s stuck in the mud! Oh the poor sweet baby!”

            The next instant I was screaming, “G.B. PLEASE — GET ME OUTTA HERE — I CAN’T STAND IT! — THAT SMELL — IT’S AWFUL! DRIVE!”

            And to the sound of G.B.’s laughter, the little pick-up sprung away, seemingly as eager as we were, to escape the horrendous stench.

            “Y’all’ll smell ‘im fer a while Hon — he’s in y’all’s nose.

 

 

 

 

 


Posted by Charlotte Madison at 12:57 0 Comments
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January 22,2020
#20 UNDER THE SPREADING WALNUT TREE.

                                        Excerpt from
                                STONE AND CANVAS©️
                                         Written by
                           Nana Cook and Charlotte Madison
                                       Copyright 2019

 

#20 Under the Spreading Walnut Tree.

 

As a child I marvelled that some people could ever have been young, whereas, each of my grandparents and parents had the spirit of youth. One grandmother had sweet innocence and gentle flirtation of an old fashioned girl, the other was a liberated dynamo. One grandfather was a dreamer and playful, the other a charming wit. They survived eighty-three to ninety-one and none of them had become old in my eyes.

            My mother was sweet loving and filled with laughter. My father was a combination of his father’s wit and his mother’s silliness – no old people there.

            So when there are occasional youthful bursts of silliness from me, I refuse to accept blame or praise, and I tend to make the most of it, thankful for sweet gifts.

            In Arizona there are weed seeds encircled by many two inch long “legs.” These legs allow the seed to roll, and bounce along in the wind. When they dash across the road or down
the driveway, one’s first thought is of a tarantula, a horde of tarantulas. As their season passes they lock legs with each other and build up against curbs, fences, anything that stops their wild travels.

            The first year I saw them I told G.B., “I used to hide and play in huge piles of broad golden Maple leaves . . . I would really love to crawl into a big pile of those “tarantulas.” And he silently started at me in puzzlement.

            My opportunity came the next year when the “tarantulas” built up three feet high in a corner of the back garden between the skunks’ shed and a stone retaining wall. They covered an area of over one hundred square feet – three feet high. I had to do it, and when G.B.’s pick-up ground to a stop in the car port, he stared aghast at my face floating 3 feet off the ground, in a pile of tarantula weed seeds.

           “My God Charle!” G.B. sputtered as he leapt out of the pick up and stared into my eyes as though to see into my brain. “The longer I know y’all, the stranger y’all get.”

           “Aren’t you glad, G.B.?” I asked playfully rising up, still covered in tarantulas, and snuggled against him for a kiss. His frown dissolved and he hugged me close and kissed me. I took that for yes.

            But it was under the huge black walnut tree out by the skunk’s shed that I did myself in.

            G.B. told me that it was time to pick up the nuts, so I would have time to pickle them, before I left for a visit to Canada. “Put on rubber gloves Hon, them dang thangs’ll stain y’all’s hands.”

     That was the wrong thing to say. I am not contrary by nature, but for my entire life, my mother (wanting my hands to look white and beautiful) was always passing me gloves for dishes, gardening, painting and for any job that might make my hands look as though I used them.

            As I picked up the walnuts I realized they had an outer husk that I should remove. As with every morsel of black walnuts, they make everything as difficult as possible. By the time I removed the husk from the first nut my fingers were stained purplish black. By the time the job was finished I was stained well above my wrists down to my finger nail tips. It was fascinating and I thought I should stain my face and surprise G.B. Wouldn’t he think that was funny! A purple face.

            I heard the phone ring and hurried inside the house to answer it. Moments later I hung up the phone disappointed, having had no time to stain my face. I went to the sink to wash off the inky stain and never did get the blasted walnuts pickled.

            Several days later in Vancouver, Nana stared at my hands and uttered, “Mother! Your hands! What happened!” I had tried cleansers, abrasives, creams and bleach to no avail, other than, having added tender seared skin beneath the inky stain. From Flagstaff to Vancouver via Los Angeles I faced the world with false pride and forced dignity as I watched puzzled stares fall on my hands. I dreaded my mothers gaze as well and being obliged to admit, that I had not worn gloves working the nuts and on the train trip north, where she knew people would sit and look – at my ugly purple hands.


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January 21,2020
#19 CERAMICS AND DOILIES

                                              Excerpt from
                                      STONE AND CANVAS©️

                                              Written by
                               Nana Cook and Charlotte Madison

                                            Copyright 2019

  

              #19   CERAMICS AND DOILIES

 

When G.B. and I married, I thought about how he would feel if I disposed of his late wife’s possessions and all the memories with which they were filled, just because I did not like them.

            I decided that would be cruel, but Gad! I hate doilies and could not rest easily with the accompanying “décor” My preferences were Chinese and Santa Fe style and yet there I was surrounded by his deceased wife’s treasured possessions.

             In money matters G.B.’s mind clamped onto details like a black iron bear trap but in some areas he was disconnected. As I could not order G.B. to tear up his treasured gold wall to wall rug that covered hardwood floors throughout the house, I decided to capitalize on this weakness in his mind and to make change evolve ever so slowly.

            Because we did not smoke, I could start with the ash trays. Each week I removed one tray. Every month for two years I washed and put away one doily. When they were all stashed in the buffet, I started on two particularly irritating Persian ceramic figure table lamps with overly ornate shades.

            Then I painted the wainscoting, high wooden walls and ceilings all white in the dinning room, bathrooms and den. I did the three bedrooms in pastels, but I determined to leave the office and expensive yet decidedly passé paneled living room walls, until I could devise an exceptionally creative method of accidentally, yet irrevocably damaging the panels.

            I resurfaced the scuffed and scarred mahogany dinning room suite with endless hand rubbed then hand sanded layers of varnish. The table and chairs gleamed with a new pure mahogany luster and a protective surface that would hopefully defend the table from the actions of fourteen grandchildren. Finally I recovered the seats with heavy soft dusty blue, grey and tan that echoed a Navajo pattern.

            The first time G.B. slammed down a sharp edged tool on the glistening table, the surface resisted the abuse, but it was obvious that he considered my efforts a waste of time. No wonder the once cream walls had been allowed to darken to raw umber – over the decades.

Six months after I removed the doily by his sofa, G.B. asked “Where’s the doily fer m’ Pepsi glass?”

            “I washed it.” I replied in a tone that inferred it would return.

            “Oh.” he uttered, a trifle confused. Then he placed his glass on the Arizona Republic newspaper.

            One morning a tenant who had come by to pay his rent lit up a cigarette and that sent G.B.’s eyes glancing around the room. In a dazed voice he muttered, “Charle, get this man an ash tray . . . we used to have ash trays . . . all over the house.”

          His short attention span was my ally. If I had had more free hours I would have taken my method to incredible lengths.

            I knew if he built a house, it would not be much different to the local houses, so I never did encourage him to consider a new house. However after I sold my post and beam house in Canada, I did dream of building a Santa Fe adobe “rental” house just as I wanted it to be, atop a hill out in the desert – and then let G.B. talk us into moving into it.

            On occasion he would see something on TV. or in someone else’s’ house. He would turn to me with a puzzled expression and ask, “Didn’t we have one a them thangs?” And I would reply so truthfully to my dear boy, “Maybe before you married me . . . .”


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January 20,2020
#18 A FLIRTATIOUS MOMENT

       

                                             Excerpt from
                                     STONE AND CANVAS©️

                                              Written by
                               Nana Cook and Charlotte Madison

                                            Copyright 2019

 

           #18 A Flirtatious Moment©

 

I pulled up by the water tap outside G.B.’s big office window, waved to him and returned smiles to the cutter crews who lingered at the tap before beginning the afternoon shift. Every man had a big smile and warm quizzical expression on his face. They appeared to be smothering laughter as I jumped down from the camper, so I gave a conspiratorial smile to them all, thinking G.B. had done something really stupid this time.

            I wandered into the office eager to gather up G.B. and head out for the Verde River campsite when I noticed G.B. too had a silly flirtatious grin on his face. Never one to miss a romantic moment I cuddled up to him and kissed my sweet Okie Boy, giving men in the office as well as the faces at the window something more to smile about.

            “Charle I can’t leave yet, y’all wait fer me at home.” and he lovingly escorted me out the door, past the windows to the camper. I felt that he had an ulterior motive and I was surprised to have him open the camper door for me while he and all the men, Anglos and Latinos alike, including Frank the foreman, smiled so intimately at me. I was quite flattered as G.B. gallantly took my hand with all the fellows sweetly smiling, I stepped into my “coach and four.”

           Monday morning when I arrived at the stone yard my bubble burst. It was going to be work as usual. Eventually G.B. headed out to the hills and Frank made another effort to drum into my head, the company method for weighing diesel trucks.

            “That sure was funny yesterday when you got in and out of that camper.” Frank said as he laughed to himself. I stared at him waiting for him to elaborate. He turned to me with a wild smile and then he asked, “Do you mean G.B. didn’t tell you . . . .”

            I continued to stare horrified wondering what I had done to cause this mass reaction. Seeing my look of frantic anxiety, he rushed through the weighing as he said, “Oh I better not tell you, ask G.B. tonight.”

            That evening, as G.B. finished his desert I innocently broached my carefully worded question. “G.B. why were you all smiling at me so mischievously when I came to the office yesterday?

            “Who told ye?” he replied angrily, “I told them dang fools to keep their big ol’ mouths shut! I didn’t want y’all to get upset.”

           Now I was really anxious “G.B.!”

            “Charle, it was just Robert . . . He’s the stone yard’s ol’ rat catcher. He looks scary but Robert wouldn’t hurt y’all”
And immediately I had visions of a horrible old drifter holding wiggling rats by the tail.

            “Y’all drove over ‘im Charle.”

            My eyes widened and my lips parted as I gasped with fear.

            “God Dammit Charle, I didn’t say y’all killed him. He jus’ lays there in the shade. Ever’one was waitin’ fer y’all to scream when y’all saw ’im. Y’all was steppin’ over Robert, a big ol’ seven foot snake curled up under y’all’s camper


Posted by Charlotte Madison at 12:31 0 Comments
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January 19,2020
#17 COMMUNICATION

                                            Excerpt from
                                     STONE AND CANVAS©️

                                              Written by
                               Nana Cook and Charlotte Madison

                                            Copyright 2019

 

             #17  COMMUNICATION

 

“Oh G.B., I’m so glad you’re home. I’ve tried to tell you something for months but you won’t listen. I am sure there is a small gas leak at the gas station. It must be in the underground lines between the storage tanks and the gas pumps because we know the storage tank isn’t leaking and we know the pumps measure properly but I have proved it out with calculations over and over. I know it is leaking. I try to tell you but you don’t seem to hear me Honey.” I blurted out.

            Tenderly, G.B. replied. “Y’all come on over to y’all’s sofa and I’ll rest here on mine.” After removing his boots he stretched out on his side, with one hand flat under the side of his face and the other hand curled like a great ape’s at his waist.

            With a serene smile he add, “Now y’all tell me y’all’s troubles Sweetheart.”

            At that all I wanted to holler was, it’s your problem, you twit! Instead I took the only opportunity I could foresee, hoping he would not explode before I had completed my tale of woe. With forced courage I began to speak then noticed, he was staring at me, he was not listening.

            He smiled and interrupted me to say, “Y’all got beautiful eyes Charle, really beautiful aahx… aahx… aahx….” Between one word and the next the man was asleep and snoring.

            Either G.B.’s mind overflowed with his own thoughts or he could not credit me with a viable opinion. I could not bridge the moat to his mind so I began to build my boat. I never could convince him of the leak but eventually I accomplished the impossible! By writing concise letters, to my husband and by passing them to him as he wakened from his snoozes, I broke into his mind! Within a few years I could hold his attention and sometimes convince him of something – without a letter.

            But for every action there is always that reaction, and eventually his reaction was to increasingly depend on me – dumping more problems out for me to solve. Instead of overloading me with physical work, he began to lasso my mind and make use of it – and after I’d spent a lifetime taking such pains to let my mind grow up at rest.


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January 18,2020
#16 A DESERT TREAT

                                           Excerpt from
                                     STONE AND CANVAS©️

                                              Written by
                               Nana Cook and Charlotte Madison

                                            Copyright 2019

         

               #16  A Desert Treat©

 

“Charle, close up the station! I’m fixin’ to show y’all somethin’” I closed up in record time and leaped into the pick up eager to have a break. G.B. drove west through town onto the freeway, he passed the Crookton cut off and then he stopped by the side of the road.

            After exceptionally long, hot, dry months of endless sunshine, on this day I was beaten down at last by a combination of brilliant sun shinning through the station window and extremely oppressive humidity.

            “Get out Charle, an’ start to runnin’. Head fer Los Angeles.” When I hesitated he added, “Get to movin’ I got a surprise fer y’all out thar.”

            I couldn’t see any antelopes . . . just distant rose and lavender hills, cinder cones, a beautiful cloud shadow and the usual foliage, but G.B. said run, so I ran.

            Wearing only a silk shell and shorts, I was instantly refreshed and invigorated by a fine breeze that swept along the freeway cooling my damp skin as wind flowed past me.

            Illogical as it seemed to be, it was wonderful to be running to L.A with G.B. weaving along behind me, then suddenly I felt one — two — three, four five huge cold drops of rain and more! IT WAS RAINING! A monsoon gully washer! A tank rain! And I was running into it with my arms extended as though to embrace it as a gift from home.

            Passing drivers laughed and honked as I turned and ran backward waving to G.B.’s beaming smile, while sweet, cold rain flattened my hair and streamed down my face.


Posted by Charlotte Madison at 02:31 0 Comments
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January 12,2020
#15 G..B. AND THE RANGERS

                                              Excerpt from
                                     STONE AND CANVAS©️

                                              Written by
                               Nana Cook and Charlotte Madison

                                            Copyright 2019 

 

           #15   G.B. AND THE RANGERS©

 

National Park Ranger sand National Forest Rangers are my heroes. I discovered them many years ago. They were friendly, peaceful well-educated individuals who loved the earth and all its inhabitants. Every creature was treasured by rangers, as was every plant, rock and bit of soil.

            Once in the wee hours of night, I roused my three children from their sleep, and told them “Adolf” (the car) was packed. Then I asked if they would like to get dressed and go to Grand Canyon. I did not realize at the time, this would be the first of a succession of such camping trips from Canada, to explore the American Southwest, its national parks, forests, and monuments.

            On these trips we were escorted by rangers on trail walks, delighted by rangers at the nightly fireside talks, and watched over by rangers as we slept in the campgrounds.

            We often traveled during the school year, so I assigned several hours of study time to the children. These hours were spent with the rangers, either in the museums or at the visitors’ centers. The children took notes while the rangers related colorful details of the natural and geological history and the people who dwelt there.

            When the day’s studies were complete, my son Lee would head down Grand Canyon trails and the little girls would clad themselves in bell anklets and chicken feather headdresses to watch the Indian dancers perform in front of the Hopi House, by the rim of the Grand Canyon. After each performance, the rangers would expound on what all had just viewed

            The rangers were our heroes, and for Nana, the baby of the family, they were more than that. She loved the rangers. My little tomboy with her long, blonde curls tousled by the wind, would escape her brother and sister to chase, stop and smile up at every ranger who passed her way.

            When my children were grown, I met and married G.B. Madison, a wild old Okie boy who was superintendent of the production division of Western States Stone Co., in Ash Fork Arizona, the “Flagstone Capital of the U.S.A.” I presumed G.B. would see rangers as I saw them. But I was in for a rude awakening.

            While Nana and her young daughter Morgan were visiting us from Canada, G.B. decided to take us up to Grand Canyon for a day’s outing. When we reached the park entrance, Nana spotted a ranger inside the gatehouse and excitedly pointed him out to Morgan.

            G.B. failed to discern the admiration in Nana’s voice, and as soon as we paid the park fee and received our receipt, map and park newspaper, he began to mumble, “I hate them danged, pooshy Forest Service, government, bloodsuckin’ leeches so bad Charle. Dammit!”

            Nana, Morgan and I turned as one to stare incredulously at him, while the ranger in his gatehouse politely pretended not to hear.

            “G.B. are you talking about the park rangers? We love park rangers!” My voice was high and quivering in disbelief. I could not believe what I had just heard, and in front of Nana, Morgan and the ranger too.

            G.B. seemed not to hear my question or my opinion and carried on with, “Parks, Forests an’ Mines, it’s all the same. Them ignorant self-assertive, bossy government devils stop me cuttin’ new roads into m’ quarries, an’ I have to stand around an’ listen to their Goll danged demands an’ threats an’ then wait fer my master to leave so’s I can finish cuttin’ roads into my very own quarries! An’ if a rock doodler leaves his cabin empty fer a little bit, they have it burned down faster’n a man can scrape gnats of a dead frog!” And off he drove.

            As we passed the cutoff for the East Rim drive, G.B. pointed out curbstones which “I” supplied to the park, then he drove right past Mather Point and Yavapai Point lookouts, because he was “fixin’” to show us something.

            G.B. stopped at the Visitor Centre — not to show us the exhibits, books and Grand Canyon videos, not to get pamphlets or go to the bathroom — he wanted us to examine, in detail, the flagstone forecourt, the stone for which was also supplied by G.B. and the stone company.

            Nana wanted to take Morgan down into Grand Canyon, so we strolled along the rim to Bright Angel Trail, where they began a short decent. G.B. and I sat in the shade of a piñon pine to wit for them, and I gazed out across the canyon . Its jagged opening into the ages was veiled in the soft lavender, blue and dusty pink hues of the noontime light, and I wondered if Canada geese momentarily interrupted their migration flights to frolic and soar in air currents boiling there.
     

            “Y’all have to go down,” G.B. blurted out to a pair of doddering old tourists who were looking over the edge, “even jes’ a li’l ways. Y’all need to feel the true wonder of it, an’ y’all can’t do that, up on top.”

            After a rest and lunch, G.B. sent Nana and Morgan into Hopi House to shop.

            “Y’all graze ‘round in thar an’ get y’all somethin’, Morgan too. An’ take y’all’s time.” He added.

            We sat down on a bench and after a few minutes G.B. grumbled, “How long can they stay in thar? What’re they doin’? Dammit Charle . . . go get ‘em. I got a lot to show ‘em yet today, an’ the day’s near over!”

            Nana and Morgan had left Hopi House, and were in front of it, looking at the old dance platform. Nana was talking and gesticulating to Morgan, and I murmured to G.B., “She must be telling Morgan about the Indian dancers she saw there when she was little.”

            Tears welled up in his eyes as he thought for a moment, then said, “Y’all leave ‘em be Charle, but don’t let ‘em disappear on ye.”

            G.B. finished giving us his tour of the park and headed for home. We had just turned south, when G.B. abruptly stopped the car in the middle of the road and told us to get out. Either the car was going to blow up, or he had spotted a “snattlerake.” But instead he led us to the curb-stones.

            “Girls, while they was a-workin’ on the curb-stones, I came up here one day with a load a’ rock, jes so’s I could check on their progress, an’ I saw they was doin’ it all wrong. It wasn’t enough to tell ‘em how to do it, I had to SHOW the dang fools how to do it."

            As he spoke, vehicles began to stop. Tourists left their cars, campers, vans and motor homes to gather around the man in khaki-colored clothes and a broad-brimmed cowboy hat, thinking he was connected to the Park Service.

            Instead of expected words, they were hearing a talk on curb-stone construction. G.B. spoke with such colour, humour and authority on the subject, that he kept his audience captivated until he finished his spiel. At which time he took a few moments to pose with a Japanese gentleman, while the gentleman’s wife took their picture.

            Then G.B simply walked back to the car — with us in quick retreat, and drove away leaving the crowd to deal with the park ranger approaching in his pickup truck with the flashing yellow light.


Posted by Charlotte Madison at 12:41 0 Comments
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January 11,2020
#14 G.B. WAS A BURNIN"

                        

                                            Excerpt from
                                     STONE AND CANVAS©️

                                              Written by
                               Nana Cook and Charlotte Madison

                                            Copyright 2019

 

            #14   G.B. Was a-Burnin’!©

 


There had been several bad fires in that little Arizona town. One fire occurred while I was still camped on the White Elephant Mountain, below the quarry. Had I wakened I could have seen the flames seven miles south of my trailer window.

            However that night sunset came, and sleep swept over London and me while a fire stormed in G.B.’s little town.

            The day following as I drove Route 66 west through town I saw fire had devoured abandoned and tumbledown shops and the old theatre “anagoglan” from the 76 station. Flames had licked buildings across the street and it was obvious that had wind gathered more force, fire could have whipped out the little town again.

             Men of the volunteer brigade were still damping down the ashes. As Spence Estes guided the stream of water, he deliberately kept his back turned on the shell of his little shop where townspeople’s appliances had stood waiting for repairs.

            G.B. seemed exceedingly morose and then grudgingly told me the details of wind raining fire into that night.

            And then the dam broke loose! “God Damn them pree-tend firemen!” 

“Pretend G.B.?”

            “Yes, pree-tend!” He screeched. “The’r volunteers! Nothin’ but good fer nothin’ pree-tend volunteers!

            “G.B., what would we have, if there weren’t volunteers?”

            “A few more buildin’s in town.” He snorted then continued to rave. “They thank ‘cause they wear them hats and’ fancy suits . . . .” He made a dramatic pause, “them hats an’ fancy suits . . . “ He squinted his eyes in contempt for the fire brigade, then continued. “They – they thank they know more than God hisself!”

            He stewed on that for a while and then added, “Y’all know what they did last night?”

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                          “No.” And I was not sure I wanted to know, but there was no way to escape the telling.

            “That fire was hotter’n hayll an’ I was real scared the wind’d turn. Oh Charle, my li’l town could’a blown and burned to holy hayll an’ taken all the people I love with it.” Not realizing some of those people he loved were firemen, he continued with his tyrade. “I was tellin’ that dang fool fire chief what to do – like always – when he started to holler at me. Me!”

            “Why, I’ve spent my life a’tellin’ folks how to do thangs right an’ he thanks he knows more’n me!”

            “In the middle of the street – in the middle of a fire, an’ thar he is a-hollerin’ an’ tellin’ me to shut up! “Go home G.B. an’ let us put this fire out before it burns down yer hotel, café an’ pool room! Let us put out this fire like we was taught to do or I”ll have the deputy arrest you – right now!”’

            “God dammit Charle, I’ll never help them egotistical smart-allecky, ba-baby, pretend, fire fighters with another fire as long as I live! Even if it’s a row of m’own ol’ houses that’s a-burnin!” He savoured that idea for a moment and then added with relish, “I’ll jes set thar, an’ let ‘em burn!”

            “Ohhhhhh Charle, if ya’ll’s God Damn dawg’ll let me in y’all’s van, take me to Alices. I need cold Pepsi . . . dammit. I surely am a burnin”


Posted by Charlotte Madison at 12:36 0 Comments
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January 10,2020
#13 KISSING

             

                                            Excerpt from
                                     STONE AND CANVAS©️

                                              Written by
                               Nana Cook and Charlotte Madison

                                            Copyright 2019

 

                    #13 Kissing©

 

Kissing was interwoven throughout our days because I was married to one of the emotionally super charged “Madison Boys” and we loved to kiss!

            Even as a young woman I probably kissed a great deal more than today’s young adults do, as I operated with the limits of physical contact before marriage. After each date I arrived at my door steamed, disarranged and weak kneed from hours of frenzied kissing while sitting on a park bench or the front steps of home.

            With G.B.’s first kiss to me in the Arizona cinder pit I was aware of how powerful — unlike any other I had kissed.  G.B. never skid a kiss, pecked, splashed or kissed a cheek. No matter how angry, sad, rushed, distracted, excited or busy he was, the world stopped for that one electric moment when he sealed his lips on mine to declare his love and receive my love.

            Kissing was never ritualistic and yet we rarely left each other without stopping for a kiss — whether from a house, vehicle, café, gas station, on the street or surrounded by stone men, the boss, international architects, his “kin” my mother or our children.

            Kisses throughout the day were a communication that nothing could stop.

            Kisses never became absent minded routine. I tended to sprinkle mine. If I noticed his beautiful hand as he waved it about, I would grab it and kiss it or I would reach over to feel his silky forearm or cheek against my lips as he related some silly tale. It was not at all unusual for him in mid-rage to stop his bellowing, suddenly cock his head and say, “I love y’all Charle” and kiss me with as much intensity as his wedding kiss at the altar. And then he would continue with his tirade.

            Each of us dreamed up snares and surprises like hiding behind the door at the end of a scorching day, reveal at one’s arm length, the hand of which held a tall frosted Pepsi glass gently clinking a newly poured icy welcome — followed by the kiss.

            With each year that passed we treasured and executed more the sweet ability to say I love you with a kiss. And that was only in the daytime.


Posted by Charlotte Madison at 12:27 0 Comments
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January 09,2020
#12 THE RANCH

 

                  

                                              Excerpt from
                                     STONE AND CANVAS©️

                                              Written by
                               Nana Cook and Charlotte Madison

                                            Copyright 2019

 

                  #12   THE RANCH


Several times each year G.B. and I drove out to a cattle ranch north of town. We would greet the family, pet their twelve miscellaneous, purebred dogs, admire their horses, survey their grazing cattle and watch their daughter ride the barrels.

            One day in spring tragedy tore apart the family’s contentment and security. The father was killed when the farm machinery capsized on him and shattered joy the family had taken for granted.

            Eventually the family moved to the city. Buildings sat unused but the buyer, a cold, impersonal corporation, continued to graze cattle on the ranch. Somehow G.B. and I longed to hear, feel and sense echoes of the family’s happiness, so occasionally we visited the now deserted, almost silent ranch.

            On a hot earthy, sun burnt, Sunday morning, G.B. and I crossed the Santa Fe tracks and began a day’s drive into solitude. At the ranch we stepped out of the pick up and strolled across sharp parched golden stubble, then wandered on up the hill, past the house, through a farm gate to the towering barn where G.B. had a serious discussion with an owl perched atop a loft rafter. We passed through the shade inside the barn, and for a moment we escaped the brilliant glare and heat emanating from the sensuous earth and sun.

            “See them rafters Charle? When I was a young big headed kid I jumped down from the loft of my daddy’s barn — back in Oklahoma. I dropped off but my ring caught on a spike. Y’all could hear me holler like a truck full a cattle a-headin’ fer the slaughterhouse. My daddy come a runnin’ an’ thar I was — a-hangin’ by m’ finger. A ring can be a dangerous thang Charle.

            We wandered over to the rambling white farm house. The door was unlocked so G.B. confidently strolled in, “Com’on Sweetheart, we ain’t a-gonna do no harm, just check an’ see if ever’thang’s okay.”

            We strolled through woody rooms uncluttered by any ornamentation or furniture except for, “See that big sandstone fireplace Charle, Shirley’s brothers, Charles and Willie built that — under their dad’s watchful eye. Damn fine use of stone.” He marveled.

            Each window in the rambling house opened onto the beauty of the ranch, rolling golden meadows, sun bleached buildings, whitewashed corral fences, and like a huge reflecting pool, the ebony water of a cattle tank. Encircling it all, junipine forest, brilliant emerald green in the morning sunlight juxtaposed between vibrant red earth and the heavenly blue Arizona sky.

            The kitchen echoed sounds of laughter in our minds. Voices followed us through the abandoned rooms, Christmas laughter, a new baby’s cry. We knew the walls of that house had embraced and cherished its family, but now only wrapped tightly around their rich and joy filled memory.

            G.B. stared at me, “Charle, I’ve always longed to own this ranch Sweetheart. How would y’all feel if I sold ever’thang’ in town and bought it?”

            I was amazed — I never guessed. But immediately my mother’s advice came back to me. “Honey you are used to life in Vancouver’s West End be sure you never let yourself fall in love and marry a farmer dear, the babies and work never ends for a farmer’s wife. Instead of having your hands soft and white and being able to enjoy your appearance, you would just be a drudge.”

            She did not have to tell me that twice, but G.B. put that concern to rest. “We’ll hire a foreman and extra hands when we need ‘em, an’ a woman to do the cookin’ and housework —
fer y’all. Would y’all like that Charle? He asked tenderly.

            “Oh G.B., it would be heaven!”

            Without previous intent I was looking at it all as ours. The earth tumbled away along one side of the house down to the cattle tank. I stared at it, longing for a swim, “G.B. if we didn’t let the cows into that tank, how long would it take for the germs to go away — so I could swim in it?”

            Ignoring my question he asked, “D’y’all miss the ocean Charle? I don’t take y’all out to the steel dam fer a swim often enough, do I Sweetheart?” He sounded so lovable I cuddled into his arms, put my head against his powerful chest and felt the warm morning breeze sweep over us, while he planned a pool for me to enjoy.

            “I’ll need a good horse an’ one fer y’all, an’ we’ll ride out with y’all’s dawg a-runnin’ at their hoofs. We’ll have barn cats fer ya’ll an’ chickens in the yard.

            I wondered about riding out on a horse having seen the new Mexican Brahman bulls grazing by the road and charging at us as we drove past. Under the best of circumstances, whenever I rode a horse, there was no question — the horse was in charge. It nipped, kicked at my feet, went wherever it wanted to go, tried to scrape me off or scalp me under the trees and never missed a chance to bruise my leg on a boulder or rip it on a cactus or thorn bush.

            I decided, I would prefer a burro maybe one from the Grand Canyon. They are so sweet and loud — like G.B., and besides, on a burro one has a much shorter distance to fall. G.B. could ride his charger ``Rozinante” and I would plod along behind him, on a sweet blue gray burro that I could pet like a dog and paint and name.

            I once saw my husband astride a horse — a hostile beast! G.B. mounted with dominant ferocity and authority, ram-rod back, one hand dramatically posed on his thigh as the wild eyed stallion reared and plunged. I saw the contest of omnipotent wills — each of them displaying their ultimate male power. The horse prancing, rearing and shrieking while G.B. bested that power with the silent flamboyant style of El Charro.

            “Oh and our children G.B., think of them all gathered here!”

             “Yes and maybe we could talk some of ‘em into comin’ to live here. We could build houses on the land fer ‘em — as many as wanted to come.

            Servants, a pool and our kids, yet a remote rustic life far from everything. A dream come true.

            I will have to explain carefully to Mum, I thought and be very sure she understands how different life is for “La Patrona” on a cattle ranch to a farm wife’s life. I could paint and G.B. would take care of the books for the tax man, while the staff did all the work. How lovely!”

            We strolled down a lane toward a corral and G.B. spoke softly, “See thar Charle, can’t y’all see our girls ridin’ ‘round those barrels?” And I could, manes, tales and long hair flying in the wind, with hoofs pounding up a red earth cloud.

            We circled the corral scattering a family of cotton tails and breathed in the harmonic scents of juniper, piñon, dry grass and stink bugs. We continued to explore, lured on to each distant gate and structure. It was amazing how far apart they had located the buildings and corrals.

            While we gazed into the distant field, something marred the continuity of golden waving grass — two black tipped grey feathers? No they were the ears of a jackrabbit trembling in silent terror until what might be an imagined danger or a shaggy grey and tan moth eaten coyote, sent him on his jagged zig-zag course through the grass.

            In the heat of noontime we strolled past scrub and brush and set grasshoppers a-clicking. The sound repeatedly faded in and faded out while my ears strained to be sure there was not the rattle of a snake hidden in the sound.

            We rested from the assault on our senses then had our picnic by the water of the tank and watched the occasional maverick cloud reflected there. We leaned close together against the trunk of an immense shade tree, and hours drifted past like the gentle breeze and heat that lulled us into sleep.

            By the time we wakened, dragged back to the pick up and crawled in, I was hot, stiff legged and tired. I muttered to myself, “Mum was right. But it isn’t the work — it’s the distances. I was exhausted and so thankful when I heard G.B. say, “Y’all know Charle, ah’m tired. I’m not the man I uses to be. Guess it’s too late to take up ranchin’ Sweetheart. Let’s go home.”


Posted by Charlotte Madison at 12:44 0 Comments
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January 08,2020
#11 BALANCE OF POWER

           

                                           Excerpt from
                                     STONE AND CANVAS©️

                                              Written by
                               Nana Cook and Charlotte Madison

                                            Copyright 2019

 

             #11 BALANCE OF POWER©


G.B. exerted power over almost everyone and everything he encountered.

            For me, power was the thing that took a car up a hill. For G.B., power was the fuel that kept him running. He introduced me to his power and kept ramming me — a loner who treasured blissful ignorance and my dreamlike thoughts — into new jobs with the expectation of transforming me into an efficiency expert. I learned to devise devious methods to moderate his power over me, and tentatively I began to play with the balance of power.

            At forty-six never having worked, I was rammed into the gas station by G.B. and learned alone and in my own way. Next the stone company payroll after one tearful evening of instruction, with the help of a weird old adding machine, erasers and bookkeeping “skills” devised in the gas station, I managed to develop some abilities. To these jobs he added his rental business. That came easily as my parents had reared me amid their buying and renting of Vancouver’s West End Properties

            When G.B. pushed me into the stone yard as his part time secretary, I was not prepared to accept the responsibility for error or the penalty of anxiety. When a customer called or arrived, when Whitey, the boss made his frequent calls from the head office in Phoenix, when Russ the “money man called from California, or when a loaded truck pulled onto the scales, I’d smile sweetly and say, “One moment please. I’ll get the foreman.” Or G.B. or a yardman — or anyone but me.

            I ran around the stone yard calling people to the phone, I took and passed messages, I signed up employees and I did the payroll. But I refused to accept wages from the Stone Company, telling them, “When I make errors, and I am your employee, you have every right to be angry but that would make me cry. So I will help G.B. but I will not accept wages. If i make you angry — you can holler at G.B.” That was my power.

            When I decided I was as accomplished as I was ever likely to be, I signed on the company payroll part time, at minimum wage. By that time they all knew enough to handle me with care. I was a lady, totally trustworthy and ethical, no matter how vague, eccentric or distracted they found me to be. Despite the many erasures and errors they had to contend with, and how many objections or corrections they had to convey to me, they knew if they made me cry — I would quit. That was my power.

            With G.B., I was constantly exerting complex adjustment to maintain some balance of power.

            In the gas station I refused wages. That disoriented G.B. It was beyond the range of his brain’s function to comprehend that someone would work eleven to thirteen hours per day, six or seven days per week, and then refuse wages. That gave me amazing power. The year when my abilities peaked, I grudgingly accepted minimum wage at the station — that added to G.B.'S power.

           Each time G.B. seriously and justifiably complained, I threatened the unthinkable — “If you expect perfection, that would warrant a serious pay hike. Check — my power.

            I took great pains to watch carefully lest I found myself beginning to enjoy the game of business. In that event I was prepared to retire — immediately.

            It was understandable, tolerating a degree of my husband’s power to give him ease, pride and contentment in life, but I could not allow myself to forfeit free thought and be driven by my own self — all for growing stacks of green paper.

            Years later G.B., tried to foist upon me a new interest — in addition to my activity in his businesses. To prepare me for the future of his affairs as he gradually retired and to protect his estate for his children, to prevent sudden forced sales when he passed away, he envisioned me taking on management of his affairs. To “gently” force this plan, G.B. finally overcame every instinct and offered to pay me a large wage and bonus. I refused it and threatened to quit. Checkmate — my intoxicating power.


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January 07,2020
#10 SPEAKING OF MANNERS

                                             Excerpt from
                                     STONE AND CANVAS©️

                                              Written by
                               Nana Cook and Charlotte Madison

                                            Copyright 2019

 

           #10 Speaking of Manners©

 

When G.B. and I were first married, I adhered to all the genteel table manners which were expected by my parents, and which I expected of my children. I hoped G.B. might notice and begin to refine his rather rustic style.

            We had been married for only a few days when G.B. said to me, “Charle y’all use y’all’s fork upside down an’ in the wrong hand. Turn it over — use it like a shovel — in the other hand.”

            “Oh I can’t G.B.” I could and occasionally did, but I could never subvert my conscience enough to convert to his way. Besides, I might like it and never be cured.

            “How the Hayll do y’all keep y’all’s peas on the backside of y’all’s fork?And so it began.

            “Charle, use y’all’s spoon to eat that!”

            “Charle, mop up that good gravy with y’all’s bread.”

             “Charle, stir it all together with y’all’s gravy!”

            “Charle, crumble the last a’ y’all’s cornbread into the bowl an’ pour that cold sweet milk on it.”

            “Charle, just drink out’a’ the bowl.”

            Each time he fussed about the way I handled food and utensils at the table I used the same excuse, “Oh my family wouldn’t approve. I just can’t change.” And I thought it was funny when he continued to lament, “Oh Charle y’all’re such a strange English type Canadian painter lady.”

            G.B. liked his food cooled before it was served to him, because thangs I served him kept burning his mouth. I on the other hand enjoyed a boiling soup searing my tongue.

            As a child of a sharecropper he had been trained to eat every morsel on his plate, and he did so for the rest of his life . . . except when eating my cooking.

            I had been taught to leave a diminutive amount of food on my plate to indicate my appetite had been sated, then I was expected to place my knife and fork together along the side of my dinner plate so that would indicate, it could be removed. When G.B. finished a meal, he propped his elbow on the table, lifted his fork, and with the handle in his right hand — he explored his ear for wax!

            As a boy, G.B. learned to masticate, savor and think about the taste of “that good food” in silence. In contrast, I joined my mother and father in happy talk and laughter during meals.

            One evening G.B. and I were enjoying a chicken fried steak dinner when he told me, “Eat an’ quit talkin’ so much!” He stopped speaking to stare at me. I was insulted and tears filled my eyes as I choked down my dinner. I wanted to tell him all the funny things that had happened that day, so after a time I looked up and hoped his rather odd smile meant I could gab again, when he suddenly roared, “GOD DAMMIT CHARLE, y’all gather up that food like a GOD DAMNED HAY-BAILER!”

            At that image I burst into a collision of tears and laughter. G.B. rose and stomped toward the door, softly grousing as he went. “I’m a-goin’ to Alice’s”

             “G.B. — can I come too?” I called gently.

            “NO! I JUST CAN’T TAKE Y’ALL OUT ANYWHERES!” “I’M TOO ASHAMNED A Y’ALL’S TABLE MANNERS.!” He punctuated that remark by slamming the back door.


Posted by Charlotte Madison at 12:40 0 Comments
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January 06,2020
#9 BROKEN LEG

 

                                             Excerpt from
                                     STONE AND CANVAS©️

                                              Written by
                               Nana Cook and Charlotte Madison

                                            Copyright 2019

 

            #9    Broken Leg©

 

I had been gathering prickly pears below Santa Cruz quarry when I saw the old quarry guard Glen heading my way. I decided to ask him whether or not he would enjoy a jar of pear jelly. As he approached me I noticed he was favouring one leg, “Oh you are limping!”

              “Yeah, I got it froze the year of that big snow when they were dropping food an’ supplies from helicopters to the Navajos and rock doodlers. Let’s see — must a been nineteen and sixty-seven.”

             “Anyhow I went onto the ledge to get my tools before they got snow-covered, slid off and busted my leg. I crawled to a two by four, tied it to my leg and started crawling to town —twenty miles away. Danged if it doesn’t bother me yet.”

            I got the rest of the story from G.B.

            “Hardy was makin’ fer town in the blizzard when he spotted the ol’ guy seven miles from his quarry — tied to a two by four he was, crawlin’ down the middle of the road in the snow — shure ’nuff headin’ fer town.”

            “Hardy stopped and dragged the old guy into the pickup, drove in to town, then headed fifty miles south to Whipple hospital — down to Presc’tt.”

            “Fifty miles, drivin’ through snow in a blizzard, both of’’em hungry, wet, grimy, grizzled an’ grumblin’ . . . “Why me Lord?””


Posted by Charlotte Madison at 01:37 0 Comments
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January 06,2020
#8 HAY

                                              Excerpt from
                                     STONE AND CANVAS©️

                                              Written by
                               Nana Cook and Charlotte Madison

                                            Copyright 2019

 

                                 #8 HAY©

 

G.B. was in the outer stone-yard office reaching for a stamp when a man in the vestibule knocked on the sliding glass window. G.B. reached up and slid it open and said, “Well what y’all want?”

            “Por favor Señor, a chob. Can ju juse me?”

            “Probably,” G.B. admitted grudgingly. “Charle, Come ‘ere, get his Social Security number and get him to sign his T-4.”

            “What’s y’all’s name feller?”

            The man replied and G.B. repeated the name, curiously, and then told me, “Charle be sure y’all double check his Social security card.”
He turned again to the man, “What do we call y’all Hay or Sus?” The man was silent and confused — sensing G.B.’s impatience.

            By the time G.B. was ready to drive the new rock doodler out to the quarry, I.D. had been shown and forms had been filled out and signed. G.B. called out “Hey, Hay!” Then he muttered to himself, “Dammit that just don’t sound right.”

            When G.B. returned from the quarry, he wandered into my office, pulled a chair up to my desk and began to discuss the new employee.

              “Hay don’t have much to say, but he’s a strong man and could be a good worker.” As he spoke to me he finger-fiddled the papers on my desk, then he began to concentrate on the recent paperwork. He stared, his eyes widened, “Wayll God Almighty! I just hired Jesus!”


Posted by Charlotte Madison at 03:46 0 Comments
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January 05,2020
#7 TROOPS A' TROMPIN' T'RANTULAS

 

                                             Excerpt from
                                     STONE AND CANVAS©️

                                              Written by
                               Nana Cook and Charlotte Madison

                                            Copyright 2019

 

#7  TROOPS A’ TROMPIN’ T'RANTULAS

 

Much as I and my children had always leapt to the nearest piece of furniture, and reacted in the extreme to the sight of a Wolf Spider crossing the floor or climbing the wall in his “great muddy boots,” I gave no serious thought to the bite of a bug on camping trips or in the desert.

            Oh my son Lee’s mother-in-law had wakened on a camping trip with a gushy slug crossing her mouth. Then with another slug in her daughter’s swim suit, Virginia reached inside the suit, pacified Wendy saying it was a marshmallow. She followed the sticky trail and retrieved the slug before convulsing with the rest of us.

            Once I wakened to discover a bear eating peanut butter, sitting between me in Adolph my VW bug and my children in the tent. But insects? No they did not worry me. It is only encountering them inside my house that causes me to loose it. On one occasion when pregnant I spent the night on the kitchen table.

            During the months spent alone, camping and painting in the desert, I was somehow at peace with critters and creatures. For the most part they did not enter my trailer nor cross my path. I often enjoyed to watch ants and beetles, stroke horny toads, and once I tried in vain, to feed a scorpion a crumb of bacon. However once G.B. and I married and I moved into the house I did notice centipedes fluttering across the floor by the glow from the television set.

            As I stood balancing on the rocking chair screaming to G.B., pleading with him to put that “thing” outside, he burst forth with; “It’s only a centipede a hundred times smaller than y’all. They don’t do nothin’ an’ that’s the only place y’all see ‘em – comin’ from the office toward the front door."

            "God Dammit Charle, SHUT UP AN’ SET Y’ALL DOWN! A man can’t watch the news in his own house without y’all tryin’ to climb the walls. Hang on the chandelier, why don’t ye. Gaaawd DAMMIT!

            One evening Nana and I were “saved” by the arrival of Spence who gallantly flushed a monster for us but the worst one of all was a huge transparent hairy tarantula on the path through the home office. I could not allow it to hover as it was heading for the two year old, curious Morgan. As I ran, then raised my foot to murder this gushy innocent creature, two thoughts ran through my mind: I have only one chance to do this right and for the first time in my life I am glad my feet are big!

            One hot summer morning as I sat on the verandah working on a 4’x8’ painting, I noticed a sweet little finger-thick five inch long lime green thing slowly traveling along the top of my canvas. I decided as it was so slow it would be an arty tale to tell if I let it stay with me as I painted.

            That night I wakened with that “thing” crossing my face - I flung it across the room. By the time we had searched in vain for it, I recovered, G.B. subsided and despite thinking it must have been a dream, he promised he would not leave our bed without me.

            I was able to sleep until G.B. wakened me, by touching my chest. I shall not go into the details of this very personal moment – but it was not G.B. In his words it was “that harmless li’l ol’ wooly worm y’all’ve decided is a-gonna rape an’ kill y’all! Pore li’l thang is jes a-tryin’ to find his way outa the bed covers.”

             Charle, y’all won’t let me kill nothin’- no bug, ner this l’l thang. How the HAYLL can I pertect ya’ll if I can’t smash it? An’ why the Hayll should I hav’ta! Worms! Bugs! GOD DAMMIT ALL CHARLE! GO TO SLEEP!”

            “………stupid wife” he muttered “A man shouldn’t have . . ta . . put up . . . with . . . aahx . . . aahx . . . aahx… ”


Posted by Charlotte Madison at 03:00 0 Comments
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January 04,2020
#6 THE FLYING TRUCK

                                             Excerpt from
                                     STONE AND CANVAS©️

                                              Written by
                               Nana Cook and Charlotte Madison

                                            Copyright 2019

 


                #6 The Flying Truck©

 

As rock doodlers cut into a quarry, they create a floor and terraced ledges. I had been crawling about below the White Elephant floor examining a large rodent cage someone had flung over the edge. It had not dropped into the canyon below and neither had I because juniper, piñon, donickers and prickly pear cactus prevented things falling any distance and as well discouraged carelessness on my part.

            When I saw G.B. moving a truck above me I scrambled up to the quarry floor. He circled the truck, positioned it for loading and then came over to gab with me and a group of rock doodlers.

            The men had just on-loaded a third pallet along the passenger side when the truck silently flashed past us and took off over the edge of the quarry floor.

            Struck speechless we watched trees, rocks, branches and cactus paddles fly through the air in all directions as the truck drove itself down the quarry canyon wall, finally smashing into a large juniper tree trunk growing up from the canyon floor on the opposite side to the quarry.

            Twenty minutes later when we had all arrived at the crash site, we discovered the truck had impaled itself on a low growing branch and while the radiator’s “life’s-blood” flowed onto the ground, the engine still puttered away.

            G.B. had forgotten to engage the emergency brake.

            Men gathered around discussing the unbelievable fact that the truck had not overturned while bouncing down the compound slope of the mountain.

            “She was loaded on the high side and . . .” one of the rock doodlers began.

            “Sí, that worked to keep her on her wheels.” Marcelino interrupted.

            "I can’t believe it! Who did it?” And faces blanched lest they be blamed. “Who was drivin’ last?”

            “El Jefe - Señor G.B.!” Marcelino blurted out with a mischievous smile. With that a wave of relief swept over all the workers. The men broke open into hearty laughs. It is so satisfying to see the authoritarian boss do something stupid. But G. B did not miss a beat.

            “WHAT THE HAYLL’S FUNNY!” he bellowed at them. “It’s rainin’ to the north . . . Y’ALL HEAR? IT’S A RAININ’ TO THE NORTH. THIS CANYON IS A GONNA FLASH FLOOD ANYTIME NOW. GET THIS TRUCK OUT HERE —FAST!”

            He began to issue orders to his men. “Y’all get the fork lift an’ y’all get another truck to load the pallets on and do it quick or the whole dang thang is a gonna wash further on down the canyon. While y’all do that I’m a gonna go hire the county grader — I saw it out on Double A Ranch road. I need to cut a road in an’ pull this Damn thang out’a here — fast!”

            Instead, G.B. returned with an enormous bulldozer. I sat on a huge boulder and watched those macho men planning their attack, having such gusto for the ensuing challenge. But I could not take them seriously, despite all that testosterone.

            Obviously they were having too much fun. Besides, my son Lee, at six years of age, used to play trucks — just like that.


Posted by Charlotte Madison at 01:08 0 Comments
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January 04,2020
#5 POWER OF A WORD

                                             Excerpt from
                                     STONE AND CANVAS©️

                                              Written by
                               Nana Cook and Charlotte Madison

                                            Copyright 2019

 

 

               #5 Power of a Word©

 

In recent years travel and T.V. have familiarized Americans with English words but not G.B.

            Saying I “fancied” something in public always brought me a scowl or nudge from G.B. taking it as something risqué. He knew I never used obscenities, even playfully, but in private I did play with words in a flirtatious and seductive way to tease and tantalize him.

            That is what he thought I was doing, amidst a gathering of his devout Christian “kin” visiting from Oklahoma, people of pioneer stock who held firmly to fundamentalist doctrine.

             G.B. thought I was teasing him when wondering if it was time for refreshments I asked G.B. a question. Chairs stopped rocking, jaws dropped, water-glasses were distractedly placed on the nearest end table, and silence fell as the “kin” waited in expectation.

            G.B.’s expression was instantly transformed into a blend of rage, mortification and shock. He grabbed my hand and conspicuously hurried me into another room.

            “What’s the matter G.B.?” I asked anxiously, “What’s wrong with everyone?”

            “It ain’t them — its y’all. Why’d y’all say that?” he quietly squeaked in a stage whisper.

            “What did I say?” I asked earnestly

            “Charle, I can always trust y’all to be a lady.”

            “That sounds boring.” I quipped flippantly.

            “Charle!”

            “Well I couldn’t have said anything wrong G.B., I never do.”

            “Y’all asked in front of God an’ ever’one . . . .”

            I searched my words spoken moments before then unexpectedly recalled the question. “G.B., are you feeling a little peckish?”


Posted by Charlotte Madison at 12:24 0 Comments
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January 03,2020
#4 HOUSEGUESTS

                                             excerpt from
                                     STONE AND CANVAS©️

                                              Wwritten by
                               Nana Cook and Charlotte Madison

                                            Copyright 2019

 

                   #4 Houseguests

 

A family related to G.B. arrived from Oklahoma to visit us for a few days. They were warm honest Christian folk. G.B. loved and respected the family and always tried to be on his best behaviour when they came to visit.

            One member of the family was a sweet elderly lady in a wheelchair which she required due to stroke damage. She endured a few difficulties, but was enjoying her holiday and of course joined everyone the first night for dinner.

            Before the meal, I saw her inconspicuously remove her dentures and wrap them in a paper serviette. For many years I had wondered why some individuals removed their teeth before they ate, so I was hoping she would mention why she put her’s aside, however I was doomed to disappointment.

           Nevertheless it is surprising how many odd little things one learns from houseguests.

            Earlier that month we had a gathering of our children and numerous grandchildren. As the family rose from dinner’s demolition site and we began to attack the ruins, G.B.’s daughter took the kitchen waste container to the table. When I commended her on the idea she said, “Charle, with casual family dinners it saves endless trips back to the kitchen with trash.”

            Normally I do not take pleasure in housework. I just try to ignore it. If it does not go away eventually, I put out a call for help or grudgingly do it, but I certainly do not enjoy such repetition. However as this was an informal dinner, I was eager to try this labor saving idea, despite the fact that there was a minimum of garbage bound debris. I cleared the dishes and flung trash into the receptacle in fast flamboyant style. I was intoxicated by my efficiency and walked through the kitchen out to the burning barrel at the lane. I lit the rubbish and left it smouldering beneath a fine screen.

            Caught up in my unaccustomed burst of domesticity, I sent everyone out of the kitchen and began to wash the dishes.

            Our guests resettled at the dinning room table and had begun to chat when I heard one say, “Mother’s lost her teeth!”

            “When did y’all last have them dear?” Another asked.

            “Y’all leave them in a café? Now where did we have lunch?”

            I was standing at the sink listening to the conversation going on in the dinning room. Oh dear, Grandmaw’s lost her teeth. Teeth? TEETH! Oh Gad! They were blaming the dear little old soul for carelessness. I dropped my dishcloth and tore out the backdoor, letting the screen door slam behind me. Dashing across the garden toward the burning barrel, I slowed long enough to grab the hose and in the distance I could see it!

            The barrel was silhouetted against the evening sky. A billowing cloud of smoke leisurely twisted its way up toward the few clouds drifting by on that warm summer evening. Beneath the screen, Fire struggled to suck oxygen down into the barrel and into its rare red lungs, then from beneath that screen a torrent of flame broke loose. I ran the last few yards to the barrel, pulled off the screen and thrust the hose into the small inferno.

            Vapor exploded out of the barrel as the fire was extinguished. I kicked the barrel over and immediately plunged my bare hands into the wet, hot and cold ashes. I pulled out every last scrap of ash and charred wet wads and tore through them desperately hoping the teeth would appear miraculously unscathed.

            As I felt about I remembered the many garbage cans through which I had searched in the past.

            My life had been one long process of losing things and only sometimes finding them. There had been lost keys, toys, jewelry, financial reports, wallets and money. Then it dawned on me . . . MONEY! Teeth cost money . . . five hundred dollars? One thousand dollars! I ran back into the house calling out to everyone, now scattered throughout the rooms searching for Grandmaw’s teeth. “I did it! I screeched. “I pitched them out in the garbage. They were in your serviette.”

Our guests returned from the hunt. “Don’t worry dear.” They tried to console me. “We’ll go get ‘em out of the trash.”

            “No, we can’t, I burned the garbage!”

            My confession was followed by a moment of ugly silence, then they all quietly filed out of the kitchen door toward the burning barrel. Left behind were G.B., Grandmaw and me, each isolated in silence. I called G.B. into the kitchen, “I did it G.B., and it was me. I saw her put them in her serviette and then I cleared off the table. She shouldn’t suffer for my carelessness I have to pay for her new teeth.”

            G.B. knew I would not renege. So as everyone trooped in with ash grayed hands, G.B. announced, pompously “We’re a-gonna pay to replace y’all’s teeth.”

            “No Bremond,” They all protested. “There was no sign of melted dentures in the ash.”

            But I had seen Grandmaw remove her teeth at the table and I persevered, “I can’t live with myself if I don’t pay. You have the inconvenience. I must pay.”

            “No dear. If they are truly lost they're insured.” Grandmaw explained.

            “Well, they shouldn’t have to pay either. It was me who threw them out!”

            G.B.’s brow furrowed as he pondered this new solution. “Wayll now. Y’all can’t find any trace in the trash . . . an’ it was an accident, however it happened, an’ y’all may not a-done it Charle. I thank we ought a let the insurance company pay fer ‘em.”
We all watched his transformation begin.

            G.B. did not like insurance companies, their agents or their premiums. Knowing this , I decided to take a seat where I had the best view of our guest’s reaction.

             With the volume of his voice building G.B. said “I’ve paid them insurance devils so many God Damned tens-a-thousands a dollars — AN’ NEVER HAD A FIRE IN ANY A M’HOUSES! AIN’T NEVER HAD A FIRE!”

            At that thought, G.B. ceased to see his guests, lost all control and scoured the air with his monumental rage. “I’D BE REAL HAPPY FER THEM GOD DAMNED BLOODSUCKIN’ LEECHES TO PAY FER THE GOD DAMNED TEETH!”


Posted by Charlotte Madison at 12:27 0 Comments
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January 02,2020
#3 PAT MCNEILL

                                           Excerpt from
                                   STONE AND CANVAS©️
                                            Written by
                            Nana Cook and Charlotte Madison

                                         Copyright 2019

 

                   #3 PAT MCNEILL  

 

Like a desert pack rat, Pat McNeill spent his life amassing in his memory, images and tales of the American Southwest. From these memories he recreated desert nuances on stone, canvas and moss rock. His paintings were filled with the beauty of Arizona seen and Arizona remembered.

             While his wife Margaret, a school teacher and mother of their five children maintained their family home in Phoenix, Pat pursued his dreams and schemes. Eventually they retired to their forty acre ranch land out in the Juniperwood near Ash Fork. They lived in a unique vertical log house which Pat and his son had built several years previously.

            G.B. first mentioned Pat to me when word came that “Big Deal McNeill” had just refused to leave his gold claim in a flash flood. G.B. and the workers paced the Ash Fork stone-yard office, waiting for word of Pat’s safe rescue. I listened to the men talking about the danger Pat was in, and reminiscing about the man and his wild, wonderful ideas.

            I envisioned Pat larger than life, sitting in a cave high on a mountainside, in the jagged Superstitions. From the colourful anecdotes I was hearing, I could see him already trapped by the rising waters and knowing he would live or die protecting his Lost Dutchman gold mine

            I had the fun of hearing about Pat for years before the day he walked into my office carrying a huge plant pot filled with comfrey. G.B. introduced us and in a burst of enthusiasm Pat told me every recipe he could recall for using the herb in foods, beverages and remedies

            With his verbal presentation completed, he handed me the plant (that would cure anything that ever ailed us,) then gave me precise instructions on how I might propagate, lubricate and medicate with it. True to his reputation he ended with, “This one plant could multiply into hundreds that you could sell in the gas station. You could make a bundle and clean the air at the same time!”

            In mid October before winter weather tore up the ranchland roads and made them often impassible, G.B. and I headed to see Pat and go over details of the art exhibition with him.

            As we bounced along the winding roads, he recalled, “I used to tell a story on “Big Deal Mc Neill.” G.B. took off his old straw hat and carefully placed it on the seat between us. Knowing that he had me hooked and waiting for the next word, he lifted his right hand and rubbed it around his bald head, then dropped it to the steering wheel and repeated the procedure with his left hand circling twice around his dome. With his head tightly wound he began.

            “When I was sent off to put in a new yard at Stockton California, me an’ “Big Deal”, we went together. He painted lots a pictures on days off, but weekdays after work he used to go up to the roof garden to paint. Oh that man loved to paint, even tired as he was at the end of a hard day’s work. Ever’ day he did it. I was real impressed by that rough old boy lovin’ his paintin’s so much.”

            “Come to find out, he’d been lookin’ over the edge, down onto another roof garden. Paintin’ a mess a women, he was — all sunbathin’ with the’r tops off!”

            Before I had even stepped out of the car at the log house Pat was proclaiming the exhibit a success, telling G.B. and me that we would all make a mint.

            He led us down a lattice breezeway along the side of the cabin where already, numerous stone paintings leaned against the log wall. Not knowing they were not newly done G.B. and I were reassured immediately that Pat would be ready for August eighteenth, nineteen eighty four — ten months hence.


Posted by Charlotte Madison at 12:58 0 Comments
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January 01,2020
#2 AN ART EXHIBIT, EH

 

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

                                          Copyright 2019

              #2 An Art Exhibit, Eh


In those rare feats which I accomplish in life, there is always someone nudging, prodding, encouraging or downright shoving me. In the summer of nineteen, eighty-three, the task of propelling me was enthusiastically assumed by Lorraine.

            Ash Fork Madness had been a box office success, and was a not too distant memory when Lorraine asked me, “Charle, apart from painting for Madness, how many paintings have you done since you married G.B. seven years ago?

            “Well, I painted three in the gas station—until I got magenta paint on a white Porsche. Then while I was down by the Santa Fe tracks I painted four little ones on Sun Valley Pink flagstone. Oh, and Judd at Southern Union Gas brought in a stuffed wild turkey to pose and I did an elk on stone for him. I did prickly pears on a large piece of stone for Wendy and Lee, and a special order for Omar and Cleo’s beautiful huge new, stone ranch house.”

            “Charle,” Lorraine interrupted indignantly, “It’s time you picked up the pace. Tell G.B. you’re going to paint more.”

            “Tell G.B.? Lorraine, everyone knows that no one tells G.B. anything! As it is he barely endures having me paint Thursdays at the old building. One moment that man is proud of one of my paintings, showing it off and bragging to anyone who’ll listen, and the next moment he’s angry and bellowing about the waste of time that instead should be spent earning “good money.” That volatile attitude stifles creativity in me.”

            “You just have to stand up to him if you’re ever going to paint more than a few rocks! I don’t care how you do it but when the time’s right, tell him in your own way, but please tell him.”

            I agreed hesitantly and was immediately seduced by the memory of being out in the hills well beyond town, alone and with no schedule, and wallowing happily in paint. I was slapped back to reality by the memory of mistakenly quenching my thirst with a draught of paint water — and the thought of G.B following me and wrangling time away from paint to hunt ruins, old cabins and “thangs y’all need to paint some day.”

            After weeks of Lorraine’s harassment I summoned up the courage and broached the subject to G.B. “Hon, I would really love to head out in the camper once or twice a week to explore and paint your beautiful Arizona.”

            Ever since the success of Ash Fork Madness, G.B. had begun to think about the possibility that there was money in, as he put it — artistic play. Even so, it was much to my surprise and delight when he agreed to the idea. And then he instructed me as to my painting schedule.

            “I want y’all to go paint ever’ Wednesday. That’ll be better fer me than Thursdays, an’ it’ll see the payroll finished fer the week. Load y’all’s supplies in the camper the night before an’ take lots a’ cold Pepsis. Plan to leave by six.” I groaned so he continued. “How do y’all expect to get a day’s work done if y’all sleep half the day away?

            “Now, y’all go ever’ week, an’ have fun paintin’ y’all’s pictures, an’ let me know exactly where y’all’re gonna be.” Then he added, “Take one a y’all’s friends so y’all have a nice visit, but y’all be sure to get home in time so’s I get my supper by five-thirty.”

            Somehow I was still painting only one day a week, but I figured I would accomplish much more being out of G.B.’s range, and I could manipulate another day when I had something accomplished.

            The following Wednesday at six a.m. sharp, Lorraine and I headed out in the camper and drove fifty miles east to Flagstaff. There we had breakfast until stores opened and I could,purchase a four by eight foot sheet of untempered Masonite and a can of primer. Armed with my purchases and paints we drove thirty miles north to Wupatki National Monument, where the San Francisco volcanic field, the Coconino Plateau and the Painted Desert collide.

            I set up my canvas at Wukoki, the ruin of a three-story pueblo built atop a large sandstone outcrop, sometime between A.D. 1100 and 1200. I began my familiar task, in the warm, fragrant morning air. While I worked Lorraine explored the ruin, served our lunch and then strolled out across seemingly endless high desert in the direction of the Little Colorado River.

            Periodically I paused to enjoy the sound of wind, birds and insects that accentuated this haunted silent place.

            All too soon, Lorraine was back at my side huffing, puffing, and perspiring in a most unladylike manner. “Charle, we’re late!”

            I dropped my brush pallet and paints, canvas and picnic supplies were hurled into the back of the camper, to be sorted at a more opportune time. Moments later we made a dash for home.

            The traffic from Cameron and Page was light and we made good time, until at Flagstaff, where we were slowed by the rush hour congestion, then at Williams we were further slowed by the glare driving west into the setting sun.

            G.B. was pacing the veranda upon my return. “DAMMIT CHARLE, Y’ALL’RE LATE!”

            With that — and a bit more — he stomped off to Alice’s restaurant for dinner.

            Each week thereafter was the same routine. In addition to a glorious day of painting, I had discovered a way to avoid cooking dinner one day a week.

            The day I finished my painting of Wukoki Ruin, Lorraine and I packed up early and had time to stop in at the park headquarters to use their facilities before the long drive home.

            As I parked the camper Lorraine said, “Let’s see if they want to buy the painting.”

            “You’re kidding! Lorraine, this is a National Monument. They aren’t going to buy this.”

            “They won’t if you don’t ask.”

            I followed her orders and helped her to carry in the large canvas. Then I sneaked out before anyone could approach us. Half an hour later Lorraine, with a grin on her face, and assisted by a Park Ranger, carried the painting out of the building and loaded it into the back of the camper.

            As we drove off she said excitedly, “They loved it! They wish they had room for it in the museum but they’re putting in new dioramas and enlarging the book department so they won’t have wall space for a painting that big. They said, take it to the new government building in Flagstaff, it doesn’t have any wall art yet — or take it to the Flagstaff Art Barn — they feature local artists.”

            With a name like Art Barn I couldn’t be intimidated, so I chose the latter.

            It was a barn! An immense and beautiful log structure nestled in a forest of Ponderosa Pine trees.

            After we carried in the painting I stayed to watch Lorraine in action. The director and his wife were most encouraging, and I found myself joining into the conversation. When we left, Lorraine had committed us to frame the painting for hanging and she had made an appointment to take in some of my desert and quarry paintings for perusal. If the director approved my work, Lorraine would set up a date for a one woman show — one year hence.

            As we drove home the memory of painting for an exhibit began to penetrate my euphoria.

            “I need fifty paintings . . . .” I mused out loud. “That’s four a month, every month for a year. Let’s see, I manage G.B.’s Union Oil gas station, I’m G.B.’s secretary at Western States Stone Company, I do all G.B.’s books for his rental houses, he gives me one opportunity a week to paint — and I’m supposed to paint fifty paintings in fifty-two weeks?”

            I turned to Lorraine with a touch of panic in my voice, “With G.B. hovering I can’t guarantee to paint fifty paintings in the next year.”

            “Alright,” she paused momentarily, “then let’s make it a two man show. I’ll ask Pat McNeill if he wants to sell some of his moss rock paintings. Then you’ll only need to paint twenty-five. You can’t throw away this opportunity.”

            I had often heard tales about Pat McNeill, his life as a gold prospector, quarryman, foot wanderer and artist. I had seen his work on canvas, stone and moss rock and knew it was lovely and bespoke the essence of the American desert.

            I wasn’t sure if I could do the twenty-five paintings, but I could not resist having an excuse and commitment to paint, so I agreed to the exhibit.

            Lorraine approached Pat and he was more than enthused to participate. The exhibit would be called “Stone and Canvas” and it was booked for August 18, 1984, one year hence.


Posted by Charlotte Madison at 01:25 0 Comments
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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?