Ash Fork Madness©️
Nana Cook and Charlotte Madison
copyright 2019 Nana Cook and Charlotte Madison
During the week preceding Ash Fork’s Centennial celebration we welcomed fifteen house guests into the house of seven doors. One after another G.B.’s children, with their young families, arrived from Oklahoma. Morgan also arrived and brought her parents, Gary, and Nana, a theatrical make-up artist. Like a sponge the big old house absorbed them all, including their luggage, bedding, diapers, bottles, formula, toys and miscellaneous socks.
Liz, Wendy and Lee and their children would have piled in had their jobs NOT kept them home.
Despite G.B.’s love for us all, his fragile disposition was pushed to its limits by the invasion of the “cookie snatchers.” By the second day his mood was off the charts! In the midst of the noontime chaos, G.B. attempted to take his après lunch snooze to the accompaniment of ear drum shattering shrieks and nerve shocking slams of the many screen doors.
After giving up on his snooze he walked to the kitchen for a Pepsi and discovered babies being fed at his table and his way to the fridge blocked by his wife who was reveling in the chaos, gabbing and laughter — oblivious to his desires.
“I’m a-goin’ to Alice’s!” G.B. announced to everyone — none of whom were listening as he left the room.
With one restrained blow he collapsed a fort built on his boot chair by little “Okie outlaws” and with a tremulous smile he poured Morgan’s pink ponies out of his boots. G.B. made a dash for the back door and found it bolted — for the very first time — by little hands! With his temper rising and totally confused he hollered, “CHARLE! OPEN THIS GOD DAMNED DOOR!”
Once outside, G.B. noticed the camper door ajar. Upon investigation he discovered a tea party in progress on the floor under the table and two small children hanging upside down from the top bunk.
“CHARLE! GET OUT HERE!
Leaving me to evacuate the camper, G.B. walked away muttering to himself until he encountered the final threat to his sanity. It was three little dears, on their knees, clustered around something in the gravel driveway — his seventy-five, rental house keys!
However, he never could stay away very long. He always forgot he was angry so rapidly that in no time at all he returned, breezing through the doorway with a broad smile on his face and a happy tale to tell.
Finally Saturday morning, June 18th, 1982 arrived, Ash Fork’s Centennial — the day of Madness and Morgan’s second birthday. With all seventeen of us assembled we went out to enjoy the day’s celebrations beginning with a parade. Front and centre, there she was — the “Blonde”! She was strutting down Route 66 with sapphire satin up to here, black feather boa down to there — and a bee-hive ‘do that reached for the sky. The roar of the townsfolk’s cheers followed her down the road.
The day’s activities also included parachutists, vendors, street games, a rodeo and a cow pie throw. The Atchison Topeka and Santa Fe Railroad gave tours of their locomotives and the Centennial food committee outdid themselves. There were hotdogs and fried onions, chile ranging from three alarm to death by habañero, tacos, tamales, burritos, baked goods from the best kitchens in town, and the tastiest and stickiest — Navajo fry bread and honey.
When G.B. had enjoyed all he could take of the festivities we told the family to meet at the house at three o’clock for Morgan and Brock’s birthday party and the monstrous German Chocolate cake with butter pecan ice cream.
G.B. and I left for home and while we strolled along Park Avenue G.B. decided to check on the old building. While he fumbled with the lock a parade official led an elderly woman to us and introduced her as a former resident of Ash Fork.
“As a matter of fact,” she stated proudly, “My father originally constructed this building down by the railway tracks a hundred years ago.”
With equal pride G.B. escorted the elderly woman inside and showed her his plan for the renovations the building would wear in its second century. Each charmed the other and took away from the encounter a new tale to tell.
We wandered home and while the house was still quiet, G.B. stole a nap on his sofa and I went into the bedroom to organize the admittance tickets, prepare the float and add colour to the small, black and white, photocopied posters I planned to put up around town.
As the family trickled back home proudly wearing their cardboard railroad engineer caps I put them all to work coloring the remaining posters as part of the party games. I told each child if they would use bright colors and stay inside the lines I would put up their posters. When the colouring was completed I gathered up the posters and hurried to our bedroom for my purse, tickets and float, before leaving to make my deliveries.
Upon my return, I drove into the car-port and suddenly felt the first wave of stage-fright surge through my system. With knees of jelly I walked into the house only to discover one of the mothers looking sternly at me and the other mothers smothering laughter behind her. The fathers were conspicuous by their absence!
I glanced from one face to another, waiting for the blast, then the first mother said, “You promised you would use everyone’s poster, and the children found these in the trash.
With that she thrust at me a small pile of scribbled on posters I had deemed not quite good enough while in the privacy of the bedroom.
I was caught like a rat in a trap! I did not want to face my own deceit when in a few hours a cast of fifty would discover that I did not know what I was doing, and then run me out of town with every Madness ticket holder also in frenzied pursuit!
Like an electric shock, that thought snapped me onto the next level of stage-fright. I was unable to think about anything except the morass I had created in Madness. My mounting distress became obvious to all because I was immediately forgiven and handed a piece of cake.
Nana left for the theatre first because she had ordered an early make-up call for the huge cast. When it was time for the rest of us to leave I sent everyone ahead in the camper. I needed a few moments alone to calm myself. I drove to the end of town and parked out of sight under the I-40 off ramp underpass. Instead of the solitude soothing me it allowed the stage fright to expand into irrational panic. It was only minutes until curtain time, but I could not face all the people I had betrayed and was exposing to ridicule.
“I’m going to run away!” I declared out loud, “I just can’t go!” And I began to cry.
In a flash the camper pulled up and G.B.’s daughter, Donna, was beside me saying sweet encouraging words to me.
“Charle if y’all have stage-fright think of the cast without any experience at all. Think how afraid they must be. Y’all can’t abandon them now. Everyone’s worked so hard. I know the show will be appreciated. This isn’t New York. No one has high expectations for anything but a good entertaining try. Do y’all keep a cosmetic bag in the car? Okay. Y’all fix y'all's make-up and I’ll follow you to the school.”
At the theatre she hurried me into the make-up room to reassure me that my offspring wasn’t in the same condition as her mother. Nana glanced at me and smiled a gentle signal to “knock it off Mother” then calmly continued her daunting task of transforming the remaining over thirty cast members.
As we joined our family in the seats reserved for us I realized the crew was bringing in extra seats for those standing at the back of the hall and still more people were coming in through the doors!
The music conductor and his musicians arrived and gathered by the piano and drums. To my delight they were wearing striped shirts with high collars, arm garters and boater hats.
The small orchestra played the first notes of the overture; G.B. smiled at me, took my quivering hand and held it tightly. The lights dimmed to black and the curtains parted on Act I, Scene I — of Ash Fork Madness.