STONE AND CANVAS©️
Nana Cook and Charlotte Madison
#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.