Ash Fork Madness©️
Nana Cook and Charlotte Madison
copyright 2019 Nana Cook and Charlotte Madison
Ash Fork received an inordinate number of travelers who misjudged the cost of their trip west to Los Angeles, and I got my share of them in the gas station.
When the occasional traveler filled his gas-tank and then told me he was broke, I would immediately call G.B., and he would make sure the traveler paid his debt with labor, either in our garden, or at the stone yard. If a traveler first explained that he was broke and needed gas, I would give him enough fuel to get to Kingman, plus ten dollars for food. I would then say, “As long as people pay me back I’ll continue to help others, but if you break my trust in you and don’t repay me, I won’t continue to help others.”
Every traveler but one repaid the money they owed within two months of receiving the gasoline. The one individual who did not repay me right away, did so eight years later, after finding the chit in the back of a drawer.
One summer a large family from Arkansas, driving a decrepit old station-wagon, attempted to pull into the gas station. The old car was so weighted down with the family’s possessions, inside and out, that the chassis barely cleared the tires. The laboring engine died with a loud backfire in the driveway and was pushed up to the pumps.
The driver, a dirty, poorly dressed man in his thirties, threw down his cap, “Ma’am, that’s it! Ain’t got no gas, food, medicine fer Granny, nor milk fer the baby, an’ not a nickel in m’jeans. If y’all can’t help me — y’all better call the Sheriff.”
I knew a few gallons of gas and ten dollars would not help this family very much, so I asked the driver, “Are any of you prepared to work?”
“Yes ma’am. Me an’ m’kin — we’ll do anything.” He assured me.
“You’ll be needing a place to live.”
“Yes ma’am. We been sleepin’ out some, but a roof’d be good.”
I called G.B., and within minutes he eagerly arrived at the station.
“Well Sir, what’s y’all’s name?
“Asa Loedecker, Mr. Madison. This here’s m’ son Asa Junior an’ these is m’girls, an’ whar’s m’ol’ lady? Jenny, com’ere an’ meet Mr. Madison
When G.B. returned the wife’s shy smile she said timidly, but proudly, “This here’s Katie, our youngest, an’ this here’s my ma.”
“Soon as Charle fills y’all’s gas tank she can close the station fer a bit. Y’all follow her back to the house an’ she’ll cook fer ye. I never work a man cold, thirsty, hungry or without a house to go home to!”
Twenty minutes after I started cooking the family began to eat. I continued to cook while they continued to eat and I found myself in the vortex of a feeding frenzy. For the first time in my life I saw the hunger of poverty revealed.
At the end of a summer’s day spent swimming at the beach, my three children were ravenously hungry. They would sit on a beach blanket, tear open the layers of newspaper wrapped around steaming hot fish and chips, and then devour the generous portions with the voracious appetite of the starving. But they also never hesitated to leave part of their meal uneaten, because they knew the next morning, they would fill their tummies again.
However, every one of these people was preoccupied with: devouring, every bit of available food that I was prepared to cook or serve — every condiment, beverage, and contents of the fruit bowl and candy-dish, when they were offered.
G.B. chose a mobile home for the Loedeckers, put up their utility deposits, called in a basic food order at Zetler’s, then had me supplement their belongings with our extra dishes, pots and blankets.
The older children pulled weeds from our garden to pay for the tank of gas, and Asa accompanied us to the stone yard where I signed him onto the company payroll. I felt so pleased to have helped such a pathetically needy family.
G.B. watched Asa from an office window as the man was led out to the cutter shed. “They’ll cheat me Charle. Once the wrinkles’re out’a their bellies, they’ll forget what they owe.”
“Oh no G.B. — not that family. They’re so sweet.”
“Not ever’ one enjoys handlin’ rock in the Arizona sun Charle, an’ not ever’ one can hold onto appreciation long enough to repay favors they accepted in need!”
The Western States Stone Company’s employee cheques were processed in California, so ever’ new employee had to wait two weeks for their first paycheck to arrive. That fact necessitated two more food orders on credit for the Loedeckers. When Asa finally received his first cheque, less the money G.B. deducted against their debt, the man worked a few more days, and then in the night bolted with his family, leaving behind a filthy damaged house and a substantial debt.
G.B. had been right, but what added outrage to my disappointment was the fact that they had the gall to take our dishes, pots and my pink blanket.
“Y’all won’t be so surprised when y’all’ve been cheated fer thirty years Charle.”
I digested that remark, then replied, “I guess not, but I’m afraid I won’t be as kind or forgiving as you.”
“Charle y’all gotta give the next man his chance. He hasn’t cheated us . . . yet. An’ what if Asa and his kin show up again hungry an’ broke, an’ needin’ a second chance? Wouldn’t y’all give it?”
I stiffened up with the righteous intolerance of inexperience and snapped, “No G.B., they took my pink blanket. After all you did for them – they stole it! I loved that pink blanket.”
“Charle,” G.B. sighed, “Y’all got a house full of blankets an’ stores waitin’ fer y’all to buy more. Y’all’s pink blanket just reminds ‘em that they’re thieves.”
Three years later the Loedeckers returned to Ash Fork — broke and hungry again. The first person Asa turned to for assistance, approaching like an old friend, was G.B.. Extra men were needed in the stone yard, so once more the man was hired.
Two and one half weeks later, soon after he got his first check, Asa and his family fled town in the night, leaving behind a filthy damaged house and a second substantial debt.
Posted by Charlotte Madison at 03:44
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|For over forty years, painting related totally to the American Southwest. It was people of the dry hot desert, solid mesas, cacti, stone and canyons that made my heart leap.
When I realized I would never see the desert again, I began a search for something to paint. Nana suggested, B.C, vineyards and took me to Penticton where I did one painting. Nana and Gary then began to take me on Mystery tours of the island and always included a vineyard. But they all were so green! So many leaves so many trees - I don't do trees and I rarely use green - dont really like looking at green, but I got started on a duty series not an inspired series.
I guess it was July or early August when we were driving home from a winery visit. I was grousing about painting the Festive Flying Grape series
when Gary said "Start another series, you can work on more than one at a time."
For some reason those words triggered the words "I could paint the Island artists!" Nana and Gary agreed and it was the topic of conversation all the way home
For a while I was afraid I wouldn't get volunteers to pose but it is rolling and each one offers something special to inspire me. And it is lovely to feel all I am doing was sparked by Gary and like all I do, supported by Nana.
April Update 2012
Sixteen fine artists, many of national repute, have posed for Artists of Vancouver Island and many are booked or promised. There will be no poses after June 30,2012. When I have painted all twenty-five I will turn my thought to . . . what next?