This is a rough sketch of some of the stories that are forth coming. They have not been completely edited or thoroughly thought-out but they are true. The names are real and only used to persecute the guilty. If your name is included therein, well, that is was you get for enjoying nature with the Wagner’s. For now that’s all. As the late, Former Arizona Governor Williams would say to close out his weekly radio address “It’s another beautiful day! Leave us enjoy it!”…
One early autumn morning while sitting near a comforting fire in the little shelter we fondly call the •wagner’s Wooden Tent”, I was enjoying my first cup of coffee. Carol notice my lap top computer was fired up and ready to go. She asked if I was creating a new story. I told her I was actually doing a little editing as these stories just gush out of my mind faster than my fingers can hammer the keys. Using this state of the art computer at my finger tips is of great benefit, but sometimes it will try to out think me and put in words that are not my own. If I misspell a word, it will underline it in red or it will put in the correct spelling of a word that is close to word I intended. I made the statement in one of my earlier stories about going back and editing my work, but that is too boring for me because I already know what it says. Just about everyone who reads these stories, want to help me edit them, but to date, my daughter Heidi has made the biggest contribution to this effort and my son Jeremy did his magic on some of my spelling and grammar. The only problem with her editing is that it is too darn good and it does read like I talk or write. So here is the challenge. As you read these stories, have a pencil or pen handy and put it to work when you come across a misspelling, punctuation error or grammar catastrophe. Let me know of your findings, and I will consider them as long as they aren’t too perfect.
If you find yourself a subject or player in any of these stories, please feel free to jot down any corrections in the story line or your interpretation of the account. People, places, things, events, blame, innocence, etc. are my remembrances of the events or stories and enriched by creative license and bad memory. So, have at it if is your story too! Even expand on it if you dare.
Well, it’s mid morning now and Carol already made the rounds at the portion of the Fall Festival held at the Blue Ridge School. The “Run ForThe Pines” antique auto show is underway at the Pine Top Lakes and there is more art and crafts across …
The gote post assembly was ready for installation. We determined that the best place to install the gate the would lead to our second back yard consisting of 100,000 acres was right in the middle of the pine tree stand above the hammock. The frame materials was purchased with the Home Depot gift cars that Chip and Teri Stauffer left on the kitchen table along with some other tokens of appreciation for using the cabin. The new cork screw was one essential kitchen utensil that was missing from our wares. How did they focus in on our needs for that instrument? I must say that Carol did scold them for leaving the gifts, but we will put everything to good use.
We had been planning a gate to go through the Sitgreaves National Forest, barbed wire fence for some time. Over the last forty years, family and friends have climbed over or through this fence 1,000 times and most of the time without drawing blood. It is about time to make it easy on everyone by putting in a gate. With the contribution of Chip & Teri, we were finally ready to move forward on this project. Since the gate will be installed near the area the elk use to jump over this fence to gain access to the tender grasses of the meadow along with the various neighbors delicious plants and young trees, we decided to call this place •wapiti Crossing”, the name Native Americans use for the North American Elk, which means •white rump” in Shawnee. In other words, get your white rump over this fence and enjoy God’s Creation. When the gate is complete, the sign with the words ·wapiti Crossing” engraved in a slab of wood, will hang over the Stauffer’s gate as a reminder to do just that. The wapiti will still have to go over the barbed wire and the cows will still have to graze on the other side of the fence.
My son Chad mentioned on several occasions when I had need for a particular thing for the cabin, it would come. This weekend we had need for a posthole digger to excavate two narrow holes of the legs of the gate frame. So early Saturday morning we set out to town to see what we could find, but it would have to be right after breakfast. We were open to looking …
Way back in 1979 we were invited by Larry and Cheryl Burleson to take a vacation with them to San Diego. They were official Zonnies and were looking for new converts. I was real busy with work and didn’t think the time would be right to go, but Cheryl and my wife Carol made up my mind for me. So much for my input, we were going to San Diego.
It was late September and the annual flight of the Summer Zonnies was over. I don’t know if Summer Zonnies travel in flock or herds, but they are normally spotted in greatest numbers in the last two weeks of August and up through Labor Day Weekend. But they were all back home by the time our vacation time was upon us. Besides, the Pacific Ocean is actually a little warmer in late September and early October due to the shift in the ocean currents, or a least that is what Cheryl reported. So our plan was to drive two cars. Larry and Cheryl had their little compact car that would have great gas mileage and Carol and I had our large, nine passenger, Chevy Suburban with dual air conditioning and a 454 cubic inch engine to power us there at the rate of ten miles per gallon.
We meet the Burleson’s at their house early Saturday morning. The anticipation was high and everybody with anxious to get on the road. We had our two youngsters, Chad and Heidi loaded into our car with all our gear and the Burleson’s were packing their three kids, Christian, John and Adam into their car, along with Cheryl’s guitar. With everyone situated, we were off! Or were we? Larry backed his car out of the driveway and then suddenly the engine died. The engine was cranking OK but it wasn’t getting and fuel to the carburetor. After many attempts to get it going, Larry determined that the problem was a direct result of filling the fuel tank the night before with a new kind of gas that would clean up the engine and improve performance. It contained a new additive call ethanol. As it turned out, this additive did dissolve the gunk in the car’s fuel system but unfortunately sent this crud to the carburetor and plug the gas flow. So with the repair too costly in time we decided to pile everyone and …
Many years ago I bought a set of golf clubs from my next door neighbor during his family’s big garage sale. The set came complete with a bag, clubs, an odd assortment of golf balls and tees. The golf shoes were a size eleven. I wear a size 9 1/2 and a 10 feels really good so an eleven must be even better. So now I’m suddenly a golfer!
In my late teens some friends tried to get me into the golf game. At the time I was into camping, hunting and fishing. I would always respond to their request with the same reply. The day the make a shotgun barrel big enough to hold a golf ball, I may consider taking up the sport that is if I could use the shotgun in play. Well, that didn’t happen so I didn’t become a golf bum, or should I say enthusiast? Now that I think about it, I did play on a specialized course. My biggest problem in tournament play was getting by the big wind mill on the first try. The hole with the draw bridge was a piece of cake.
So here I am with my first set of golf clubs for a total investment of $35.00. That hot, summer evening would become my first outing with my new golf set. Where could I go to play and not be embarrassed? Well. the vacant field beside our house would be a good test range. Sound like rocket science doesn’t it? I did happen to hit a few balls with the largest club in the bag that I remembered my neighbor calling a -hot driver.” Summer time in the Valley produces many hot drivers, but they all don’t hit balls. This experience was an interesting one, but as fate would have it, my other neighbor had a garage sale and my bag of clubs found their way to a spot closest to the sidewalk You couldn’t miss them; they had a big $30.00 sign on with some fine print at the bottom. It read, -complete with comfortable golf shoes, especially if you wear size 9 1/2.
Years passed, and I thought that getting into golf again might be fun. Several of my friends play golf and my Son in law is an avid golfer. Also, our church has golf tournaments from time to time to raise money for specials …
So there we were, hiking behind the cabin on a beautiful Sunday morning. Carol and I were making our way north over some slight, rolling hills. The sun had been up for about an hour and we both already had our morning coffee. Tradition has it that I have the coffee ready to go with the touch of a button at day break. Most of the time I have to lay in bed, waiting for the sun to lighten the morning sky before I can start the process. This particular morning was no different. I was ready to kick the day into gear, so to speak.
The afternoon before, the boys and I were trying to install new fascia boards on the front of the “A· of the cabin. The 4×4 that frames the large, triangle pieces of glass and the front Arcadia door was getting well weathered. It had been oiled and stained several times over the years, but has been giving in to the elements over the last few years. It had lx2 fascia boards that provided some defense again the rains but also lost the battles to the elements. So they were stripped off and discarded and actually became the last exposed wood of the original cabin when it was first erected in Goodyear, Arizona some fifty years ago. The addition Dad put on covered the original back timbers and the cedar shake roof was not part of the original construction but added shortly before Dad purchased it.
Anyway, back to the new fascia boards. After purchasing them at the new Home Depot in Show Low, the boys and I spent a good part of the morning preparing them for installation. We had to custom cut and shape the miters, notch out for the 4×12 x .”th ick, steel splice plates that Dad made to allow the top six foot of the cabin to be removed made necessary for clearance so it could be trucked to the White Mountains.
After all the pre-fit preparations were made, Carol stained the new, rough sawn fascia. When it was fairly dry, Jeremy and I dawned gloves and Chad grabbed his hammer and nails and we started the final installation. Just then our neighbors from next door decided to come over for a visit. The other couple strolling down the lane decided to stop in also. The boys and I weren’t …
Well as the days start warming in the White Mountains, large and small creatures change there annual cycle. On an early June outing to Sky Hi Retreat, Jeremy, Carol and I headed up to the mountains after work of Friday afternoon. Our routine refueling stop at Irene’s Mexican food was another great dining experience; well maybe good would be a better definition. It is great when it comes time to pay the bill. Not that I’m cheap or anything, we do have a nice meal at a very reasonable cost. We threaten to stop elsewhere, but at Irene’s our waitresses have our orders memorized.
Our trip from Globe through the Salt River Canyon was extra buggy. I had to stop in Show Low to clean the windshield in case we wanted to take an early morning jaunt down the primitive road behind the cabin.
It was about 10:00 P.M. when we arrived and 10:15 P.M. when we were unpacked. It doesn’t take long to get squared away once we energize utilities. Jeremy unloaded his mountain bike and was going to take it for a little ride around the neighborhood. It was pretty dark out, as the moon wasn’t going to be coming up for another couple hours. I asked him if he had his head lamp with him, but he said he was going to use his night vision. Yea, yea: good story. Off he went. He came back about twenty minutes with exciting news. A half a block down Bonanza he heard something moving in front of him and then suddenly he could make out the silhouettes of three large elk running across the road a few feet in front of him. They were making their way to the tall grasses of the meadow for an evening snack and were not going to let JJ get in their way. We have our routines and I guess they have theirs.
By the time JJ came back with the news of his adventure, Carol had the hide-a-way opened and ready for bed. We noticed that the front room looked like the moon light was streaming in as it does during the winter months, but this was not winter. And what’s more, the moon was due up for two more hours. We looked out the front arcadia door and saw that out neighbor across the way, installed a new area light similar …
Uncle Casper Brenner was my maternal Grandmother’s step brother. He was quite a character and very interesting to visit with. Being a barber by trade, he was a good story teller and had an opinion on everything.
Casper moved to Arizona in the late forties or early fifties from Dayton Ohio. He fell in love with the desert and bought several parcels of land in what is now called the Cave Creek I Carefree area north of Phoenix. One parcel we called Casper’s Mountain was adjacent to two residential lots with old block houses on them. He lived in one and rented out the other. He was never married, but had a girl friend in Dayton named Viola. He named the two dirt roads that went by his property Viola Lane and Casper Lane. He didn’t have a drivers license until Viola have him a car when he was like sixty years old. He drove the car to Dayton and back a couple of times, but only a not more than 40 miles per hour. That mode for a long trip.
Uncle Casper would cut all of his relative’s hair for free. The boy’s hair was easy. He would put on his butch attachment and let the hair fly. Some of our Uncles were easy too! As there were pretty much bald, It didn’t take long to shorten the fringe around the edges. One time when he was cutting Dad’s hair, he thought he would do him a big favor my running the clipper up his hairy back. Dad couldn’t believe Casper did that without asking. I don’t know what was said, but it may have been words from Dad’s limited German vocabulary. One Saturday, all the families were going to have a big picnic at Uncle Casper’s desert home. Dad and Uncle John were going to do a little rabbit hunting while they were out there. Some of us kids tagged along as they went hunting. Suddenly a cottontail rabbit jumped out in front of us and ran into a rabbit hutch. These hutches were quite common in this area and built with small branches and cactus arms like jumping Cholla or prickly pear. They were sometimes three to four feet wide, two feet or so high and built under the low branches of a Mesquite or Palo Verde tree and usually had two or more entrance tunnels so …
Over the years, I had many adventures with family and friends on, in and around the desert lakes in the Valley. Many people are not familiar with our lakes don’t even know they are there. At on time, it was once report that the Valley had more boats per capita than any other major city. How true that was is uncertain, but with the warm water lakes, water sports are very popular.
One of my first recollections of boating in Arizona was an outing to near by Canyon Lake that our family was invited to by my Uncle John & Aunt MIJ.ryW. e were to meet them and my Uncles family on the west end of the main beach, just past the steel trestle bridge, on of the lakes many landmarks. Uncle John and his brothers had a brand new, red & white, fiberglass boat that they all shared. Uncle John used it for fishing while his brothers preferred water skiing and sight seeing.
Arrangements were made to borrow an additional boat, a small cabin cruiser, so they could have two boats to provide recreation for all the families they invited to join them. It was a great day for boating and playing on the sandy beach while waiting your turn in one of the boats. The water temperatures were refreshingly cool and the sand was warm. Lying on a beach towel after a quick dip was very therapeutic.
Lunch was served on an as needed basis and consisted of various lunch meat sandwiches, potato chips, cold pop and cookies, but dinner was even better. A seven coarse meal consisting of hot dogs, relish, onions, mustard, ketchup, more chips, and topped off with roasting marshmallow on a stick. All was washed down with cold pop out of a bottle. Canned pop wasn’t readily available then. Cans were reserved for beer in those days and the adults did have a few of them to enjoy while sitting around the fire after watching the sun go down over the mountains ridge. An occasional pop and crackle of the fire would send a flurry of sparks into the night sky. As the lake of the flames would go down, flashlights led the way to our car for trip back to the city. We left the lake with great memories and a little sting of sun burn.
My next trip to Canyon Lake was …
I will always remember the first day my wife Carol, took me to the Hiser’s farm in Lexington, Ohio. She had told me so much about her many visits there over her early years. Remembering the summer days by the lake picking berries; sharing a swim with the Hiser kids and water moccasins; Ron’s adventures with the cows and other creatures; and summer storms. Helping with the hay harvest and exploring the old barn; riding her pony Cinders that she had parked there for years. Carol shared a lot of stories with fond memories as we walked around the fields and strolled down by the lake. The fresh smells of farm life were very refreshing to a boy raised in the desert of Arizona.
As we walked into the Hiser’s farm house, we were greeted there by Robin Hiser with a big smile on her face knowing that her mother, Ann had two of her famous blue ribbon apple pies cooling on the kitchen counter. The aroma was heavenly. Robin new what I was in for and her smile became a grin as we all sat around the table and were served big slices of pie and cold glasses of milk. It tasted every bit as good as it smelled. The flakey crust complemented the fresh, picked apples that had just cooled from the simmer of the baking process. I did feel a little silly chasing the last morsel of crust around my plate with the fork. I did not want to waste it.
After that day at the Hiser’s, I had my own fond memories of Ohio farm life. For years that followed, Ann made sure that she had a pie waiting at Carol’s parent’s house for us when she knew we were in town.
I remember the summer following the passing of Carol’s Dad; I made a trip by myself to Ohio to help Carol’s Mom, Edna with a few maintenance items around the house and at the rentals. I would work around doing some chores during the day and then go to back to Edna’s for dinner. She fussed over me a little too much and always made too much food. There would be no room left for the pie that Ann had dropped by.
As it was day light savings time, the sun would still be up for another three hours after dinner, so I took …
After the snow flies, life in the forest slows down for a rest. Many of the forest creatures hibernate for the cold, winter months, while others migrate to warmer elevations and the vegetation that is their life support.
The trips to the mountains are less frequent but in some ways more meaningful, as it is a time that one can reflect without the hurried pace of everyday life in the valley. You have seasonal limitations put on you high in the mountains that come in the form of winter weather like chilling rains, blustery snow falls, freezing cold and blankets of snow hiding the tools of toil under the cabin. As the snow repeatedly thaws and freezes daily, you have icy sheets over the water puddles, crisp snow where the sun shines and nighttime temperatures freeze and deep pockets of soft snow in the shadows where the fluffy stuff is hidden from the warm melting rays.
An early morning walk down the frozen, rocky road to the abandon railroad track bed that serves as a sidewalk above the forest floor.
It is an odd feeling when you do something contrary to habit, common sense or custom. for example, as I started walking down the railroad bed, which makes an excellent hiking trail, I had an uncomfortable feeling. The bed had about three inches of snow on it except wheel a four wheel drive vehicle had driven over it a few days before. The sun had melted the snow compressed by its wheels leaving two steaks of exposed lava rock that make ups its base. As I was walking along enjoying the view, my thoughts were jarred by the barking dog that is always there to give you a howling sending off as you head into the forest or welcomes you upon returning if you choose to come by that way. But that wasn’t what made me feel uneasy. It was the fact that I was walking in the left tire track in stead of the right track that you would select if you are driving a car or riding a bike down the street. You should always be on the right side of your line of travel. I tried moving over to the right rut and sure enough, it felt more comfortable. Then moving back to the left side, I noticed the change in feeling. Isn’t that odd? We are …
For years my Dad had a good, old fashion station wagon for a family car and sport utility vehicle. There were a few four wheel drive automobiles around like the International Scout, International Crew Cab, Dodge Power Wagon, Jeep Jeepster, ford Bronco and a few others. But Dad’s station wagons served us well in getting us where we needed to go for the best hunting and fishing spots.
In 1964, Dad and one of his Condition Air Company partners, Paul Enginbritson, made a trip to San Diego to buy some Navy surplus equipment for their company. One of the items they targeted was a Navy Jeep that would be convenient to chase parts and have available for hunting and fishing jaunts. They were successful with the Jeep purchase and some other equipment for the shop.
Dad, one of his employees, Joe Savatone and my brother Rick, age 14, made a trip the following week to pick up the Jeep and equipment. They took the companies two ton Chevy stake bed truck to bring back the treasures. They loaded up their ditty bags and a large, shop made, galvanized ice chest in anticipation that they could find some time to do a little deep sea fishing while they were there and bring back some fresh seafood. Dad built this ice chest ten years earlier.
Well, as it turned out they did catch some Bonita and other salt water varieties and loaded up the ice chest with fish and as much ice as they could pack in for the long drive home. With the Jeep and other recently purposed equipment safely lashed down in the twenty foot long stake bed, they were off, heading back to Phoenix. They made it all the way to Indio without a hitch. Truck was running great. The two-forty air conditioning was working great, which is two open windows and forty miles per hour truck speed. Then came the hitch. It was more like a hitch hike which became necessary after they were pulled over by CHIP, or fondly known as California Highway Interstate Patrol, Just like the on the TV show, CHIP pulled Dad over to check all his documents like drivers license, truck registration, insurance certificate, oh yeah, CDOT transportation of commercial equipment permit which California requires. Whoops. The lack of that little piece of paper moved them out of the truck that CHIP confiscated …
Angling is a sport that has a lot to do with knowing some of the basics and being lucky. Maybe at the right place at the right time has a lot of merit or maybe a combination of all three. Knowing basics, right place, right time, and one more doesn’t hurt, being my brother Rick.
In example, Rick has caught a lot of fish over the years. I remember when we were fishing with our Dad and Glen Keith on a day trip to Canyon Lake. Everyone called him Keith down at the Dad’s shop. He was his chief estimator for as long as I could remember. Nobody was catching anything but there were a few, occasional strikes or what appeared to be so. These bits of excitement would help bring everybody’s mind back from day dreaming or sharing stories to the sport of fishing. Rick and I would loose our concentration faster than the adults. We could not just sit there and watch our line for hours at a time, but had to be casting and retrieving our baits constantly.
Nobody was having much luck. We were using waterdogs, worms and artificials like waterdog bombers, broken minnows, rubber worms and anything else Dad and Keith had in their tackle box. Rick was using waterdogs exclusively. The problem he was having was that he was trying to throw them half way across the lake. I think at times they were going that far, but only because they came off of his hook and were free flying. Waterdogs were the most expensive of all the live baits we used. Minnows were next and worms were the cheapest. But Rick loved fishing with the waterdogs. After Rick was exclaiming how far he cast the last dog, Dad told him that that was all he could use as the supply was running low. He stuck his hand in the bait bucket and handed Rick a dead waterdog that had made several trips down to the bottom of the lake on Dad’s hook. It was not only dead, but it was beat up pretty good. As Rick was threading it on his hook, Dad told him that would be his last waterdog to use and not to cast it, but instead, drop it straight over the edge of the boat an leave it there until he told him to reel it in. Rick wasn’t …