I am absolutely amazed at how the time flies. It seems as though we just got here and truth is we are rapidly approaching the halfway mark in our stay. In fact, just last night Connie and I were discussing where we should go after we leave San Diego. We think we are going to stay there for a month with a day trip to Pomona, California for the Family Motor Coach Association convention. Then we will start a slow ebb towards Ohio. There is nothing I can find wrong with that plan.
I don’t want to get too far ahead of myself. Our time here at Fort Huachuca has been busy and fun. Now that the skunk issue is behind us (yes, I still keep a close eye out for any movement in the basement area) I can spend a few lines catching up on what we have been up to.
In my last post I failed to mention the Veteran’s Day Parade. Sierra Vista celebrates Veteran’s Day the way I think most small towns do. There was a parade where nearly anyone who could pay the price of admission was allowed to participate. It was probably the longest small town parade I had ever watched. The really impressive thing to me was the quality of the marching bands. Of course there was a marching band from the Fort that was outstanding, but that was expected as they are professionals. The local high school band was really good as well. The really impressive bands were the three junior high or middle school marching bands. I could not believe the quality of their play and the precision of their marching. Besides the bands there were several floats and cars carrying dignitaries. All in all a very well laid out parade with the appropriate respect to our nation’s veterans. I was made to feel proud for my service.
Moving along and filling in some other holes. I mentioned the forced march up Scheelite Canyon, but did not discuss our walk part way up Huachuca Canyon. Huachuca Canyon starts just above the senior officer housing which is in the area of the fort referred to as “the old post” as it was the heart of the original post. You can drive a few miles up the canyon and then you come to an area where a creek runs across and down the road. There is about six feet or so of stream that is deep and rocky enough that I would not feel comfortable taking our Subaru Forester through. So, we parked just below that point and walked from there. The walk along the road above the stream is fairly easy albeit a bit steep in places. There are two trails that terminate at the road, the Lower Huachuca Canyon Trail and the Upper Huachuca Canyon Trail. In addition there are numerous fire break cuts that intersect the road. On our first walk up the road we did not see the sign for the lower trail and we did not walk far enough to get to the second trail head. Our purpose on that first day was to see some birds and get a feel for the terrain for future walks/hikes. We were not disappointed in the bird area. We saw several local species including the Mexican Jay.
A few weeks after that initial walk Connie read a post on Arizona Birds about a couple of sightings of Rufous-backed Robins in an area along the road where we had spent a good bit of time on that first walk. So, we armed ourselves with binoculars, books, food and water and walked up the road a second time. We were fortunate to find the robin, yes only one, and get a pretty good look at him before the threat of rain pulled us back down the mountain. We saw very few other birds that day as the weather was on the turn. We did get to see our Mexican Jay buddies, though. Just for the record, the walk up the road that day had some similarity to the hike up Scheelite Canyon in that I was in sort of a hurry because of the approaching weather. Therefore, my legs were churning and I was not stopping to take pictures or smell any roses. Connie was glad when we got to the area of the sightings where she could rest and get her breath back. The Rufous-backed Robin was a life bird for both of us. Therefore, it was well worth the effort to get up to see it.
We have also been taking in some of the local culture since we arrived. Part way up Ramsey Canyon there is a place called The Arizona Folklore Preserve. This preserve, which is partnered with the University of Arizona, exists for the preservation of the music and tales of old Arizona. The founder and principal musical contributor to the preserve is Arizona’s Official State Balladeer, Dolan Ellis. Ellis moved to Arizona from Kansas in 1959. He fell in love with Southeast Arizona and now calls it home. He was one of the original members of the New Christy Minstrels. Each weekend the preserve hosts regional musicians for two shows.
Connie and I decided to go to the preserve on Thanksgiving Weekend to see Dolan Ellis perform with his longtime friend, Ian Macpherson. Ian Macpherson, a lawyer by trade, is an excellent guitar and banjo player as well as singer. He and Ellis go back more than thirty years together playing and singing in various folk music venues. When Ellis was trying to create the Arizona Folklore Preserve he was met with strong local resistance from a new neighbor in Ramsey Canyon. His friend Ian came to his rescue by providing pro bono legal services which enabled the Preserve to open as scheduled. Judging by the incredibly small footprint and low profile the Preserve has in Ramsey Canyon, I see no reason why anyone in the neighborhood can feel threatened by its existence.
Connie and I had a delightful time listening to the music and the stories. The western cabaret setting meant we were paired up with another couple who relocated to the area some years ago from much busier and faster paced lifestyles in other parts of the country. They are now part of the emerging coalition who would like to see growth in the valley capped somewhat. They were nice people and interesting to talk to albeit a bit hypocritical from my point of view. We also met and talked to the two performers for a few minutes following the show. Both men are down to earth and really love what they do. I had to laugh as there were a lot of short jokes tossed in the direction of the Ian Macpherson who quite frankly is a short man. I told him I never understood short jokes as they always went over my head. He laughed and said he was the same way. For those whom have never met me, I too am short. For more information about the Arizona Folklore Preserve I invite you to checkout their website at WWW.arizonafolklore.com. You can also learn more about Dolan Ellis from his website at www.dolanellis.net. We will see Dolan Ellis again later in our stay here as he and the New Christy Minstrels will be performing in a benefit concert to support the Preserve at the local high school’s performing arts center. We are really looking forward to that performance.
The night before that wonderful drive up Ramsey Canyon for an early afternoon performance the mountains got their first sifting of snow for the season. We knew that the snow would not last long, so we wanted to take in the clean beauty of it as we drove up the canyon. A few days later the snow was gone, but not the memories. By the way, we were closer to snow than we have said we ever want to be again. Since I did not have to shovel it and was not responsible for ensuring it was shoveled, I was okay with being able to just enjoy the way it made the mountains look.
What we didn’t know about the area prior to the first weekend in December is just how hard the wind can blow and how hard it can rain here. Connie and I spent a very uncomfortable evening and night listening to the wind howl and feeling the motorhome rock and roll as though it was a runaway train car careening down a mountain pass. I was more unnerved by this storm than any of the powerful thunderstorms we had endured in Georgia and Florida. Once again our infamous slide leak reappeared during the height of the rainstorm. I now have a new theory as to where the water actually enters the coach. For the first several months I thought there was a gasket leak somewhere along the sealing area where the slide meets the wall. The initial leak may very well have had that as a source. One of the three trips back to the dealership possibly fixed that leak. When we took the motorhome to the dealership in Houston they could find no path along that seal for water to enter. When we got it back to the RV park we were staying in I took a look at the roof of the slide itself and found a possible place where under the right conditions water could seep through a joint where the sidewall and roof come together. I patched that place and we endured a pretty good storm with no water coming in. I declared success. Well, “not so fast” seems to have been the war cry from the motorhome. So, here is what I currently think the issue is. We can have wind and rain from any direction and not see a leak. But if we are sitting at the dining table while there is a good windblown rain in progress we will get seepage and it starts very high up, probably in the ceiling of the slide. So, what I think is happening is as we load the outside of the slide we are pulling the roof seam away from the flange that forms half of the wall seal. There is just enough of a crack formed that the force of the windblown rainwater is sufficient to penetrate the ceiling and eventually find its way either to the floor or as has been the case in the last two episodes to form a drip at the inner most edge of the slide. I need good weather and the assistance of a heavy sitter to prove my theory. Assuming I am able to prove the theory, repair will not be easy as there is a small awning that stretches across the top of the slide’s roof to keep water and debris off the roof. That awning is not owner serviceable and therefore cannot be removed to apply sealant to the crack that may exist beyond the first several inches. By the way, that is where I applied sealant the last time. So, as well as heavy sitter, I may need some really long arms.
Back to the local culture. Another of the past-times of cowboys is something called Cowboy Poetry. As it turns out one of the more famous Cowboy Poets lives about half way between Sierra Vista and Interstate Ten. He is Baxter Black and he has been described by the New York Times as “…probably the nation’s most successful living poet” Although he thinks that is an exaggeration I can tell you that he was successful at entertaining the two of us. Baxter is one of the great western characters of the time. He was a large animal veterinarian who now writes a column for the Benson newspaper, has had numerous appearances on National Public Radio, public appearances and most recently a television program on the RFD network. For all his fame and use of modern communications venues he has no television or cell phone. In fact he commented during his performance about how difficult it is for his agent to get in touch with him while he is tending his cattle outside the reach of his wired telephone.
Black was preceded on stage by a western band called The Desert Sons. This group has played together off and on for some eighteen years and came back together especially for this show with Baxter Black. For the uninformed I need to clarify the type of music I am talking about. Most everyone is familiar with Country Western Music. Western Music is about as foreign to Country Western Music as Hip Hop is to Jazz. Western music is more of the slow ballads that tell stories of the old west and the hardships and successes of those living the life. Some are funny, some sad, but none are the nasally whinings of the old style Country Western songs. This group came by their hobby honestly. At least most of them did. The lead is a former dude wrangler and pastor. His long time friend and sidekick who came from the Texas panhandle is the least likely member but possibly the most talented and a civil engineer by profession. The guitar and bass players both grew up and live in the area working on the land. There music was wonderful to listen to as it sort of set the tone for what was to come while providing some background into the life of the cowboy.
Baxter Black has an incredible ability to educate and entertain an audience. He spent as much time preparing us for his poetry by telling stories that spawned a particular verse. He writes his poetry around the events of his life and animates them with his attire, the tools of his trade (saddles, ropes, chaps and other cowboy gear) and his physical antics on stage.
We thoroughly enjoyed our evening of music, stories and poetry. We left with sides aching from the intense laughter. I spent five of my teen summers working on a dude ranch in northwestern Wyoming. While I dare not call myself a real cowboy, I certainly lived with a bunch of them and a lot of what they did rubbed off on me. By attending these cowboy performances I have been reminded of those youthful days and all the fun I had growing up so very close to that lifestyle.
Well, this post has been idling away in the computer for a few weeks now. In the interest of timeliness I am going to get it posted and start work on the next post. Here is a preview of what to expect: Trish and Jay visited, Kennon was here on business and dropped by for awhile, and Rich and Lauren came to town in their RV, Harvey, and spent some time just up the way from us here at Apache Flats. By the way all were here at the same time. Christmas came and went and we have been preparing ourselves for the Christmas Bird Count that may happen before I get the next post on the blog.
Even though you should have read this before Christmas, Connie and I hope that you had a wonderful holiday regardless of how you celebrate.