Canyon Creek Adventures

Canyon Creek, a real fisherman’s paradise, originates at a spring in one of the many canyons that, when viewed on a topographical map, resembles a ten toed dog paw print in the mud made by a giant canine. The top of the rim is at 7600 feet above sea level and the sheer, solid rock walls drop 1000 feet to their base, in other words, straight down.

The trick is to get down to the creek below when considering that you are only three miles away from your destination, that is, as the crow flies. With the help of the Valentine Ridge’s gradual decline, we near the edge of the rim, where there is a sharp, hairpin curve and then down we go. This dirt road is in pretty good shape most of the year, but becomes a little ragged during heavy rain and snow storms. The view out the cars passenger window, you find yourself looking down on the top of forty foot pine trees that appear to be forming a natural guard rail should your vehicle suddenly leave the roadway.

Canyon Creek’s spring water is supplemented by rain storm run off and snow melt along with additional similar creeks increasing its flow. With this pure, cold spring water supply, it was chosen as a perfect environment for a trout fish hatchery at it origination. The fish hatchery was built at what is called Upper Canyon Creek. Nestled at the base of the Mogollon Rim, it makes for a picturesque backdrop for camping, hunting, hiking and most importantly, fishing.

My first trip to Canyon Creek was with my wife Carol, son Jeremy and nephew Brad. We were traveling in our 1990 Mazda 929 which is another story for another time. In a nut shell, it was totaled, purchased at an auction, repaired and then sold to me by our friend George. It was a great, luxury road car in its prime with the engine in front and real wheel drive. It was a real comfortable ride all the way to the Young road turnoff. This was where the pavement ends and the bumpy, dusty dirt road begins. Just before the descent from the top of the rim down to Young Arizona, we turned due east and follow the small road cut through the pines on the top of Valentine Ridge. At the end of the ridge, we make the sharp hairpin curve and start the steep downward decent. I told Carol and the boys to enjoy the view and I will watch the road. My common saying for this is “You Look, I’ll Drive.” Nobody ever disagreed with this arrangement.

As we head down, Carol commented on the steepness of the grade off the side of the road creating a spectacular view looking down on the tops of the pine trees and the Valentine Canyon below. I reminded her that the trunks of the trees make a good guard rail, but she wasn’t amused as she was clutching the arm rest and overhead hand strap. Well, maybe not that extreme, but she was leaning to the left.

As we continued on the winding trail down into Valentine Canyon the road flattened out into rolling meadows divided by Canyon Creek. There were some camping areas on higher ground a good distance away from the creek. The little hike from the campground to the creek keeps picnickers from invading the stream beds with all of the camp gismos and kids throwing boulders in the trout pools with loud screams of jubilation during the biggest splash contests. You might ask how I would know how they would act like if the stream was more convenient to the campgrounds. Well, I have to admit that in my younger years I have been know to hurl a boulder or two and that, yes, on occasion, still try to skip a flat stone across a waterway or lake, but I would make sure there would be no fisherman near by. We pulled up to a small parking area with a log pole fence separating the parking area from the meadows edge. As I was the only one fishing interested in fishing, I quietly opened the trunk of the car and assembled my fly rod and put on my fishing vest. Carol and the boys were going to sit in the car for awhile, taking in the view. With my gear in place, I crossed over the fence and heading to the creek. It was almost too perfect with the green grass split with the trout waters winding through the meadow and gray, billowing clouds popping over the edge and the rim above. I thought a little rain shower might be nice. Those of us that live in the Valley looking forward to any rain we can get and even celebrate the event.

I spotted the perfect pool to start the art of fly fishing. With my hand tied brown wooly worm secured gently between my thumb and forefinger, I crouched down and slowly made my way toward the brush at the waters edge. Trout can see you coming so being stealth is critical. Downstream I could see some spooked trout heading away from my position evidenced by the “V” w ake they were leaving on the water surface.

Just as I prepare to cast by fly over the water, there was a flash of lightning followed immediately by a crack of thunder. Worse yet, came just a few drops of rain which wasn’t bad but they were shortly followed by a flurry of snow flakes. Snow! Today! How much? When will it stop? Here we are in the bottom of a 1000 foot canyon in our two wheel drive, Japanese Luxury Car. So I did an ·about face” immediately headed hurriedly for the car without even one cast into the water. The boys had gotten out of the car to enjoy the white flakes. I yelled for them to get into the car as I broke down my fly rod, ripped off my vest, slammed the trunk of the car and jumped behind the steering wheel, almost in one fell swoop.

A little U-turn had us heading up the now wet and muddy road. The mud was turning reddish in color and started to get a little slippery. Carol asks •How are we going to get out of this canyon?” I told her we didn’t have to worry how we were going to get out of the canyon. We just need to worry how we were going to get around the next corner and then the next corner and so on. She wasn’t amused. After we got out of the canyon and on the pavement Carol made a strong statement about our next car was going to be four-wheel drive. I told her “No Way!”

My next adventure to Canyon Creek was with Ken Pavkov, his son Richard, and my son Jeremy in Carol’s new Ford Explorer with four-wheel drive. We were on a one day, high country adventure. Our first stop was at Willow Springs Lake where we wanted to give the canoe a try. The boys enjoyed paddling around the lake in the canoe we had with us while Ken and I tried our hand at fishing from the shore. Not much activity here, so we set out toward Canyon Creek.

Before long were heading down the now infamous switch back and hairpin curves winding down toward the grassy meadows. It was late autumn and the road down to the fish hatchery and upper Canyon Creek was closed for the winter. We parked near the locked gates and hiked down to the creek. It was an easy hike going down. We fished the pools with a little success. When you are fishing in an area where you are completely surrounded by shear cliffs and beautiful ponderosa pines, fishing becomes secondary. Catching fish was just an additional bonus. Anyway, that’s what we say when we don’t catch anything. Ken thought he was close to catching the biggest creek trout he had ever seen. It was nestled in clear pool under the large trunk of a fallen tree. You don’t get too many chances once the fish become aware of your presence.

After several hours of fishing, we all met up at a bend in the creek where it came close to the road near. It was a beautiful stretch of water where we fished until the sun started to set behind the rim of the canyon and then worked our way back up the creek to the trail leading up to the car. The Richard and Jeremy beat us back to the car. Hiking in that elevation slows us more seasoned fishermen down. We had to take a few scenic pullouts before we got to the top. That’s another excused we to help catch our breath. If we had a camera, we would call it a Kodiak Moment.

We packed our gear and headed out of the canyon. This time we were not too concerned about getting out. Carol’s Explorer worked like a dream, canoe trailer and all. Halfway back to Payson, we spotted several elk standing on the side of the road. We that it would be great if we could take a picture of them, standing there in all their glory. I made a U-turn while Ken got the camera reading. We passed their location and saw them still standing there waiting for us. One more U-turn and we were heading back to them. There was a fair amount of traffic so would could only slow down for just long enough for Ken to get a quick shot off. All the conditions were just right as we came upon them. Ken squeezed the shutter release, flash goes off and the elk head off over the hill. Secondary to getting the picture, we helped sending these giant creatures back to the forest. Elk are very dangerous in our high country this time of year. When they get hit by a car, it can be real serious.

Back at the Mesa. Ken gets his film developed. No elk in the picture. but he has a great shot of the trees. It was a great day in the mountains anyway.

Dad’s Special Projects

My Dad was a man of many skills he acquired during his years in the air conditioning business. Spin off skills in addition to his metal working skills were his hobby interest in wood working from cabinets, bunk beds, tables, widow ledges, wood paneling of walls. He loved refinishing some antique furniture, buying and reconditioning damaged furniture from damaged freight outlets or he and mother enjoyed going to auctions to find things there that the could us as is or repair. He was also great at repairing things like motors, wash machines and clothes dryers. He was a “Jack Of All Trades” and mastered quite a few.

He also had a mind to construct things like taking salvaged steel beams and structural trusses and building new buildings or expanding others. He was great at planning to buy a industrial building that was to be demolished and move it to the industrial property he and my mother purchased years before. One metal building he had brought in and has set on a new slab that was split into two pieces to make a new 40′ x 50′ building with lights, evaporative cooling and office air conditioning. Another building had the corrugated metal siding removed and the roof section jacked up by a building moving company. Dad laid out and cut lines and torched the steel columns off so that the 40′ x 100′ roof section could be moved to their property. The movers left it on it on wood timber blocking just height enough to work a small tracker underneath the structure. Then he had the concrete floor poured and then the roof section lifted up high enough for the legs to be reattached. After it was set back down and secured, he and his boys finished out with new metal siding, doors, widows, electrical, plumbing and new interior walls and ceiling for offices and restroom. These were amazing feats.

Because of his love for the outdoors and his interest in hunting and fishing, he and I bought some land in the White Mountains. It was a great deal and a good investment. Years latter he found an “A” framed cabin on a farm in Litchfield / Goodyear Arizona, some 200 miles form Lot# 63 at Sky Hi Retreat near Pine Top, Arizona. Dad developed a plan to put additions cross member beams and special fabricated brackets the he had me help fabricate out of.” flat bar steel. We mitered, drilled, welded and painted these pieces and I had no idea what he was going to do with them. Since I was working for his company full time, I wasn’t involved in preparing the cabin to be moved or in the actual move itself. That was the job of Dad and his three youngest sons, Jeff, Phil and Doug.

To make a long story short, he used one set of the metal brackets to brace the front room of the ·A” frame incorporating surplus 4″x4″ wood timbers that came as shipping skids for pallets of metal from the shop. He then removed the cedar shake roof and plywood down to a point 10 feet above the floor. The he cut the top of the •A” frame off and laid it down on the new supports and then secured the entire cabin for its journey to the mountain site waiting for it. He and his younger boys prepared piers and supports for it to rest on, brought in water and electrical service and put it all back together after it was delivered to the site. This was a major accomplishment. Years latter they add on a back room and he built a corner fireplace out of 16 gauge welded black iron with a three piece hinged screen and a trap door and catch drawer for the ashes.

Carol and I own the cabin now because I could not bear to see it get out of the family after my parents passing. I feel it is a monument to them and Dad’s genius in planning and carrying project through.


Practice, Practice, Practice

It is always good to practice when your are planning to do something new or change the way you have been doing it in the past, to be certain when you come down to actually doing it. you will do your best. Sounds like a Boy Scout motto, •Do Your Best”. Or was that Cub Scouts? By the way, not many people know I was a Boy Scout. Never got out of Tenderfoot, which is an entry level of the Boy Scouts. I lasted less than a month when I found out the only reason the other scouts in my squad just wanted me to join was that they wanted to have the weekly meetings at my house because I had three beautiful sisters, or was it because I could already tie a square knot.

Back to practice. My dad was planning a weekend trip to Oak Creek Canyon. It’s a great place for all types of outdoor activities like camping, hiking, rock climbing and fishing, my favorite. I had just purchased a new ultra light fishing rod & reel that was going to change my old habits of fishing with the so called garbage baits like cheese, salmon eggs, worms, marshmallows and corn. Almost sounds good to eat, except for the salmon eggs and worms. As a matter of fact, I remember times when would be out fishing for trout and getting a little hungry, we would cut off a piece of the Velveeta Cheese and pop it into our mouth or smelling the kernels of canned corn and couldn’t resist a small hand full for a snack. Anybody can usually catch fish using these baits in the process I called •Garbage Fishing”. My Dad and brothers did it for years along with using different fishing lures. I always did enjoy fishing lures the best. So I decided to go the ultra light, spinner bait route and wean myself off the garbage bates. The theory was that it takes more skill to land a fish, after selecting the right lure, casting at the right place and retrieving the lure at it’s correct speed for the right action and then setting the hook with the right pressure at the instant you detect the strike and then using the flex of the rod. the correct drag of your reel and finally your own knowledge f habits of the fish when hooked. Did I mention luck? With that in mind, I decided to practice my casting.

So there I was, with my brand new Garcia Ultra Light rod and Mitchell 409 Ultra Light Real, ready to give it a test out in the back yard. The reel came with two spools for the fishing line. I read somewhere, that to be a true ultra light sport fisherman, you would want to using the lightest line weight you could find. Line weights, measure in pounds of tests, would normally be in the six to ten pound test for trout and bass, ten to twenty pound test for Junker bass, catfish and carp, and up to the hundreds pound test for deep sea fishing. I read in a Field & Stream article, the inspiration of this Ultra Light kick I was on, that if you take six inches of your fishing line and drop it on the ground or the bottom of your boat and can find it, it’s too heavy and the fish will be less likely to strike your lure. So I decided to purchase two pound test for the shallower, low capacity spool, four pound test for the larger capacity spool for very swift waters or bass fishing, plus the smallest spinning lures I could find, and the smallest swivels I could find to attaches the ultra light lures to the ultra light line on the new ultra light fishing rig. I also purchased a small practice plug which is a piece of molded rubber with an eyelet and no hooks for casting practice. Now it was time for the practice drills. I never practiced my fishing skills before. We just went fishing. Kind of like on the job training. Someone, Dad, showed me how, and I did it. Even caught some fish with the skills he taught me. Did I mention luck?

So following the Field & Stream articles advice, I attached the practice plug to the swivel and set up my target. To simulate fishing my target was a five gallon pail I borrowed from my mother and filled it full of water. The target had two functions. The first was obviously a spot to aim for and secondly, to provide a splash and sound of the plug hitting the target. I started my drills. First the overhand cast, side arm cast and then the underhand cast. In both cast, you use your forefinger to slow down the line speed to help guide the plug to the target. After getting familiar with each different cast and various distances to the target, I practice a combination of cast. alternating from one to another a differ distances and even put the bucket under a try to make the underhand cast more realistic to stream side conditions where it would be beneficial.

Practice, practice, practice. All day long. At about five o’clock, my dad came home from work He saw me out in the back yard through the kitchen window. As he walked out the back door, he asked what I was doing. I don’t think he ever practice casting before. I told him I was practicing casting with my new Garcia Ultra Light fishing rig. He asked to see it. I handed it to him and told him to give it a try. I pointed out the target twenty five feet away. He wound the reel to bring the practice plug up to within six inches of the rod tip. That part was correct. From that point he did everything wrong according to f &S. That was until the plug was on its way toward and into the bucket with a splash. On his first try, and his last try because after batting a 1000, why take another shot at it. If you miss the second shot, you would only be batting 500. If you make it you would still be batting 1000. So he handed me the rig make and said “Mother has dinner ready its time to eat.” Practice, Practice, Practice.

Hooked On Fly Fishing

Fishing for me has been a progression of the various means and ways to get fish out of the water, from a boat or on the shore. I have tried all kinds of baits including worms, salmon eggs, marshmallows, waterdogs, shrimp, stink baits (that’s a story all by itself), dough balls, grubs, corn, baked beans, lunch meats, chewing gum, chicken livers, grasshoppers, crickets, mealy worms, hellgrammites gathered form under rocks at creek side, minnows, crayfish (crawdads), and parts of other fish. I think I have tried them all. But fly fishing is my favorite.

When my brother Rick and I were in our early teens, our Grandfather gave us an old tackle box he acquired with some other junk from a house he purchased. He was more interested in the property for a future retirement home for his church than the buildings on it. The junk he found in a stand alone garage that was filled to the rafters with stuff. The old saying •one man’s junk is another man’s treasure” was again proven correct as my grandfather passed all the junk along to people who would appreciate the treasure. Rick and I were recipients of this old tackle box that was someone’s fly tying kit. To us, it was a treasure. To our Dad, it was junk and he didn’t want to see feathers all over the place. Rick and I fashioned a few flies out of the materials that caught our eye as we probed through the small, brown bags labeled in pencil as to the contents inside. We would clamp a large hook in the kit’s homemade tying vise and started tying. Knowing nothing about the art of tying flies, the products of our imagination looked like something out of an old ·9″ rated, science fiction movie. I could almost imagine the title •Miniature Mutated Birds, with Sharp Stinger On Attack.”

My first real experience with fly fishing was with my friend Mark Tomich. We had been on many fishing and hunting adventures and were both open to any new opportunities to get out of doors. We were planning our next fishing trip when the subject came up about fly fishing. I can’t remember which one of us heard about a class being given by the Arizona Fly Casters Association, but we both agreed to go. It started out as a casting class at one of the local urban lakes in North Phoenix. We both got a kick out of fly fishing the correct way and decided to become members of that organization.

In addition to teaching the techniques of the art of fly fishing, the Arizona Fly Casters were involved in many conservation and reclamation projects around the state in conjunction with the Arizona Game and fish various National forest Service Districts. At our first official meeting they were talking about Canyon Creek and planning a project to improve it for a more suitable habitat for trout and fly fisherman alike. This was to be accomplished by forming pool using natural resources as large & small boulders, rocks and fallen pine tree trunks. Wire mesh, cables, anchor, steel beams and concrete products were also used but normally hidden from view.

It would be a fisherman’s paradise. Some of the creek would have a maximum bag limit and another area would be reserved for artificial lures only and catch and release only. The latter is where you would be able to catch and release large trophy trout. This all sounded exciting.

We also signed up for fly tying classes and both made the investment of buying the tying tools and supplies. Some of the old timers had tying benches and fishing boxes full of hooks, hackle (feathers) and other supplies. Since we would use specials spools of thread, I stopped in at the Singer Sewing Center at a local mall to see what kind of sewing kit boxes they would have. I found the perfect box to begin with a top tray that had spindles to hold the various color and weights of threads, compartments to hold the bobbins made specifically for tying, scissors, tweezers, and other tools. A second tray held the sharp hooks of various sizes and shapes, specialty wraps, foil, head cement, beads and bangles. The bottom of the box held the fly typing vise, a dried rooster neck full of all size of reddish brown hackle, a patch of elk hair, a patch of mink fur, several peacock hurls, and an assortment of loose hackle of various colors, shapes and textures. Our first pattern we were taught to tie was a wooly worm on a number twelve long shank hook and the second was a peacock lady. We were so proud of our accomplishments and couldn’t wait to try them out in the high country.

Our first trip as members of the Arizona Fly Casters was up to Hawley Lake in the White Mountains. Along with us we had Steve White and his friend Dave Fischer (pronounced Fis ch er). On our way through Payson, we decided to take a side trip to the Pine Creek and The Natural Bridge which are up toward the Strawberry/ Pine area. The little Pine Creek created the Natural Bridge by erosion over thousands of years and is a spectacular sight to see.

We didn’t fish there even though it is stocked with trout. After our hike we walked across the top the bridge that is covered with meadow grasses and bordered on the river side by wild strawberries. They were a little tart so we didn’t eat too many. Walking through the grass, we kicked up swarms of grasshoppers. The boys went nuts trying to catch them for bait. They were swinging shirts, jackets and towels trying to knock them out of the air. Somewhere I have film of all this excitement.

After I grabbed the twenty year old kids and threw them back into the van, we were off to Hawley Lake. We found an excellent campsite just past the dam. I was setting up the camp kitchen while the boys set up two tents and gathered fire wood. After we had everything squared away, we did a little fishing. I lead the boys to a special fishing place marked by a large embedded boulder where my wife, Carol, had caught several fish on previous outings. She had discovered this special productive fishing hole on a weekend outing with an old friend, Ken Dotterer and his wife, Ruth who is my second cousin. On that trip, Carol was catching all the fish and had to show Ken and me exactly where to cast our lines. We both were very appreciative of the instruction and did catch fish there.

While the boys were fishing there, I walked over the hill to a spot that had a good crop of reeds from the shore line out ten feet. The tops of the reeds were about two feet above the water which made conventional fishing very difficult. I thought that with my fly rod I could cast my favorite wooly worm, the one I had tied with my new fly tying kit, over the reeds, into the water and right into a lunker trout’s territory. All I needed was a little break in reeds so that if I hooked a fish, I had a place to land it without getting it tangled. After finding the perfect spot, I peeled out about ten feet of line from the end of my fly rod and let it coil up in the water just below my feet. I then peeled out a little more extra line directly from the reel coiled it up on the ground to the right of my feet to be used as I started my dry casting where I would let out the line until my fly was just above the target. But just as I finished the last coil, there was a tremendous splash at the edge of the water. At first I thought it was a big bull frog jumping in the water, or a beaver or a water snake. I looked down to where all the commotion was coming from and saw my fly line coils disappearing. Something grabbed my wooly worm and was heading out with it. I gently grabbed the line in my fingers as it was streaming up from the ground to the first ferrule on my pole. As I tightened my grip on the line slipping through my hand I lifted my pole and set the hook. Whatever took my line was now hooked and the battle was on. I wasn’t in a hurry to bring it to shore especially due to the dense reeds. It did take one jump and I saw it was a nice trout. Gently I let it work against the bow of my fly rod. It started to wear down after five minutes of active fighting. When it was time, I pulled the line in by hand, allowing it to coil up on the water again. With your hand in contact directly with the line you are more in control. A fly reel is just for storing your line, not casting or retrieving fish. It felt great!

After landing the fish, I realized I didn’t have my trusty cord stringer with the steel ring of one end and an aluminum spike on the other that I have used many times before. The old fashion, metal stringers were too bulky to carry around and were usually stored in the bottom of my tackle box. When I didn’t have my cord stringer with me, I would select a branch from a tree or bush that split into two smaller branches of just the right size. I would then cut the one of the branches to the length of two inches to hold the fish on while the other long end would be secured under a rock near the waters edge waiting for the next addition. But this time my makeshift stringer would only carry one fish because after the thrill of the catch I was ready to head back to camp. The rest of the guys were sitting around the campfire ring with the remaining embers radiating their last waves of warmth from that morning’s fire, sharing fishing and hunting stories. When I came walking into camp with this nice trout strung up on by make shift stringer, they couldn’t believe their eyes. It was about fifteen and one quarter inches long and fat. They caught a few small ones in fishing hole I showed them, but nothing near the size of my catch. They accused me of putting them at Carol’s favorite spot on purpose while I snuck off to where I new the big ones were. They were not going to let me off the hook, so to speak, and razed me the rest of the trip.

That night instead of hot dogs, we had enough fish to have a great fish and baked bean meal along with some cold pop and Oreo Cookies for desert. I prepared the trout using my favorite camp recipe with the head and tail off. I don’t agree with leaving the tail on and eating it like a potato chip.

The next morning the camp coffee was on as the sun came up. We planned to have breakfast around eight o’clock unless the fishing was really good. At seven thirty we were had our pancakes and bacon, drizzled with the old standby, Log Cabin Syrup. There was plenty of coffee, cold milk and orange juice to go around. The cooking in the out of doors gives others the impression I’m a good cook. That’s why they keep inviting me along on these trips. They also knew that the law of camp cooking was that the cook eats last and gets what’s left over, so he better do a good job on all of the preparation.

The rest of the day, the fishing continues to be slow which gave us a chance to explore below the dam. That was usually a good place to make discoveries and really enjoy the beauty of the White Mountains. This time of year is a good time to kick up an elk, deer or even bear. They all thrive in the cooler temperatures at Hawley Lake are usually not to far away. Also osprey and bald eagles make an appearance.

That evening we were all sitting around the campfire ring that was all prepared for that night’s fire. I was cooking up some Dinty Moore Stew, a staple for my camp grub box for times with we don’t’ cat any fish to eat. As I started buttering a plate full of bread, a small chipmunk came into my territory looking for a hand out. It was eye the plastic bag full of bread. I watched out of the corner of my eye as it would move toward the bag and then run back to the safety under a boulder. It would get a little closer each run. Then suddenly it ran into the bag and grabbed a big piece of bread. At the instant, I reached over a grabbed the end of the bag and picked it up. Then the thought came over me, Why did I do that? We all sat there in amazement watching that little chipmunk tearing through one piece of bread and then another as the bag was filling up with crumbs. I could get the chipmunk out of there fast enough as all the guys were laughing hysterically. When it finally exploded out of the bag and ran to safety, I took inventory. We had just enough bread to go around except my piece was a little ragged on one edge and part of the middle. Remember the law of camp cooking?

Uncle Pete

Everyone should have an Uncle Pete, or a relative like my Uncle Pete. My early memories of Uncle Pete are when he would bring his family over for a visit. With his kids similar in age with me and my siblings, made great family visits.

Uncle Pete seemed to always have a project outside of his work, on the burner. He was an auto mechanic and I know he worked as a carpenter on the Glenn Canyon Dam construction project. But I was too young then to understand what exactly he did there. I remember when my Aunt Hilda would take my brother Rick and me and her boys to the Boy’s Club not far from their home. We had great times there. Uncle Pete would be the one to pick us up when it was time to go home. He always had a smile on his face when he would greet us. ·vou boys had a good timer Not waiting for an answer, we would drive off in his old Hudson.

Sometimes just the ride in his car could be a great adventure. Like when my brother Rick wanted to check out what Uncle Pete had in the trunk of the Hudson while we were driving home. He used the hole in the hat shelf behind the back seat that was contained a radio speaker. Well Rick’s head went into the hole all right, but his ears kept him from taking it out. So there we were, driving down the street with Rick’s head in the trunk. It’s a good thing that Uncle Pete didn’t stop quick or hit something. Rick’s head could have stayed in the trunk without the rest of Rick. Pete Rick with the help of his cousins got his ears tucked in tight and he was rescued.

Then there was the time that on the way home from the club, Cousin Jim was sitting in the front passengers seat when Uncle Pete went around a corner. The passenger door flew open and Jim was hanging on to it for dear life with his feet hooked around the front jamb. He was saved when the car completed the corner and swung back closed.

Uncle Pete was way ahead of his time. One afternoon he picked us up about thirty minutes late. As we jumped in the car he told us he had car trouble on the way. The engine had quit and wouldn’t start. We thought he must have fixed it, but to our surprise, he put the clutch in and the transmission in first gear. He then turned the key and held it in the start position in stead of releasing it as normal. We could hear the starter motor whining as he slowly released the clutch and off we went. We were being powered by the starter and drove all the way to there house like that. It was an electric powered car way ahead of its time. Then there was the time he modified his old truck to get up into the hills for one of his secret projects, crushing mine tailings to extract the remaining gold after it was processed and discarded. His ideas to go thought the mud and sand better, he would weld to tire rims together and mount four tires on his real axle. He had dualies on a small truck long before it was in style.

One Easter morning at an early sunrise service in the desert near a pyramid monument on a hill between Phoenix and Scottsdale, I wash huddling with thirty other early risers all gathered together singing appropriate songs celebrating Christ’s raising from the tomb . Beaming in the distance a pair of headlights was bouncing through the darkness. Up and down and around, like a mouse in a maze. The hum of an engine and the whine of a transmission in low gear broke the silence of the pause between songs. As the headlights came closer to our vantage point. the suns glow could be seen over the horizon. It was getting close to the climax of the service, a truck with dollies pulled up to the parking area below the hill. It was Uncle Pete and my cousins, arriving in time for the traditional last songs first stanza ·up from the Grave He Arose·. This was always so inspirational in this setting and we were all happy to see Uncle Pete and my cousins make it in the nick of time. His big smile, slap on the back and a firm hand shake with greetings in his Canadian accent was also a great tradition with Uncle Pete. He had missed the turnoff to this site and with the help of his dualies; up from the desert he arose to join us on this hill far away. After the service, we all headed to the nearby park to have the traditional breakfast that was held at the same place, at the same time each year. We had all brought our contributions of bacon, eggs, toast, coffee, hot chocolate, juice and sweet breads to our church the night before, so that the cooking crew could have our breakfast ready to go on our arrival. A good time was had by all.

Creek Side Bonanza

Dad took Rick and me on a weekend fishing trip to Christopher Creek when we were both in our early teens. I was thirteen Rick was tenteen. At the time, the trout bag limit was ten for an adult license holder and five for each young fisherman under fourteen.

The creek was flowing like a large irrigation ditch and where we camped was fairly straight for about twenty five yards both upstream and down. Beyond that, it was very rugged with boulder and fallen trees creating rapids and pools. The leaves of the few oaks scattered amongst the ponderosa pines started to turn yellowish orange and red now that the night time temperatures of early autumn were dipping below freezing. There were enough leaves that had fallen to make a quiet walk on the creek side trails a little noisy with the shuffling of our PF Flyers as we worked our way up the stream.

Dad taught us early on, how to sneak up on a fishing hole or bend in the creek where the bank may be under cut and the bottom dug out from the summer monsoon floods that violently recreate Arizona’s water ways each season. These are the best locations to find the cunning, wiry, trout. Our goal would be to quietly position ourselves behind some sort of cover just below these choice trout habitats. We would cast our lines upstream as far as we could without getting hung up in the tree branches covering the creek or on the rocks, bushes or grassy areas above the target.

As we would cast our line, we had to be ready to immediately maneuver our lines to keep the slack out allowing us to feel the hint of the strike and then to set the hook before it was rejected out of the trout’s mouth. This split second timing is what makes trout my favorite fish to catch.

After your bait or lure pass the pools there is one more chance to have success. That is in the area just below the pool but above the barrier of rock, fallen tree limbs, trunks or branches harvested and constructed as a dam by the beavers. This water tends to slow down because of its depth created by the restriction. It gives the fisherman time to catch up with the winding of the surplus line and then wait as the slow drift temps the trout with the bait. The strike happens in the blink of an eye. In this slower water you look for any sign of the take, whether it is the straightening of the curls in your line, the flash of the sleek fish darting toward your hook or what is called the •wink•, which is the opening of the trout’s mouth to take in its prize and displaying the white tongue in inner lining.

On our first day of fishing we caught just enough keepers to have fish for dinner served up with baked beans and bread. On our second day, Dad wasn’t having great success with our usual baits or lures so he tried something unconventional. He tied on a lure that we used on the lakes but was very unusual lure for creek fishing mainly because of the distance you had to work it. It was an Orange #5 Flat Fish with black dots on its body and was rigged with two small treble hooks and connected to his line with a #10 gold (brass) swivel. He had caught his limit in no time at all and then passed the lure on to Rick and then me to catch our limits. I’m not sure if was a special, unique combination of color or action that made this lure so deadly or if it was the just the right lure at just the right time. It was effective to say the least and we appreciated the creek side bonanza.

Walking back to our camp with our stringers full of fish, we drew the attention of another fisherman that wasn’t having much luck catching anything. He asked the standard questions like •Are you having any luck#? Well that answerer should have been obvious. Then “whatsya usin?” Dad told him about the Orange Flat Fish. The guy was kind of discouraged because he didn’t have anything like that in his tackle box. So he offered to buy it. Dad agreed and sold it to him for two dollars. I think he later would regret that sale because he never had one work as good as that one. He has since replaced that lure and tried it on several big lakes that it was designed to be used on and did not even get a strike. And what’s more, it cost him three dollars to replace it. Well, he did help out a fellow fisherman.

Epilogue (use deep voice when reading)

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!”

Fishing Fineness Doesn’t Guarantee Success

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 happy about it, but did as he was instructed. Rick now was thoroughly bored with his bait straight down below the boat until his line zipped and his pole bent down to the water. Rick had a fish on. He took his time reeling it in as per Dads coaching and landed the biggest bass of the day. and as a matter of fact, the biggest bass Rick ever caught. Then everyone in the boat was putting on dead waterdogs and fishing straight down over the edge of the boat with some success, but nothing like Rick’s fish. It was a whopper!

On another trip, Rick discovered he had lost the nut that hold the handle on his Zebco Spinning Reel. So he had to be real careful to hold it in place when he was retrieving his line. When he was ready to cast his line out, he would take of his reel handle and lay in on one of the interior ribs of the boat for safe keeping. He then would rear back and let the bait fly. After it was settling to the bottom of the lake. he would slide down in the bottom of the boat and take a nap. He would have his pole handle pinned under the life preserver that he was using as a pillow. Rick got a strike and Dad, seeing it first, shouted at Rick ·wake up, you got one!” Rick would grab his line, set the hook and then find his handle and start cranking in the fish. It was a nice bass. After he landed it in the boat, he strung it up on his stringer, re-baited his hook and cast his line back out. He would go through the routine again of placing his handle back on the rib of the boat, placing the rod handle under the boat cushion and then nestled down for a nap. Just as he dozed off, Keith yelled out •Rick, I thing you got another one!” Sure enough, Rick picked up his rod, set the hook and grabbed his reel handle and cranked in the fish. This bass was a little smaller but was a keeper. Everyone else in the boat had been skunked to this point and were all considering taking off their reels handles and sleeping in the bottom of the boat.

One weekend we were to meet one of Dad’s sheet metal workers, Ray Edwards on Lake Mead. Ray was an old timer that wasn’t comfortable wearing his teeth but always wore striped bib overalls and matching railroad hat. He was an avid fisherman and to borrow one of his favorite saying we he was telling a story about someone •He was a good ol’ boy.” We found him launching his small, aluminum fishing boat with his daughter and two of her kids. They were all wearing bib overalls and matching railroad hats but they all had teeth. Ray was a great lover of coffee. As a matter of fact, he was the one the got me hooked on it and drinking black was the only way to have it. On this trip, he had his Coleman single burner stove in his boat, but forgot the coffee pot. He had to use the water dog bait bucket and to top it off he scooped up some lake water to make it. I didn’t accept any when he offered it to me.

Ray’s new boat, which he called his canoe, was a twenty two foot •Mark Twain” which was actually a full sized ski boated in an inboard/outboard motor, plush seats and a built in stove for his coffee. It was a nice boat to say the least.

On one trip that I did not go on, Dad, Ray and Rick went fishing at Pleasant Lake. My fishing pole went along for the ride. When Dad and Rick got home, they gave me some bad news. The story went like this.

They were all bait fishing and Rick was bored with the slow action. He was using my fishing pole and had the line down about thirty feet in clear water. The pole was propped up at about a forty five degree angle and lodged in between a tackle box and the bottom of the boat. He was fiddling around with some old lures when he glanced over the side of the boat and shouted •Hey, there is someone’s fishing pole! Let’s get it!!.” Ray looked over the side of the boat, and sure enough, there was a pole sinking down, very slowly, and turning end over end. Dad was the first to make the observation and said “Rick, that’s your pole!” Rick looked around the area he was sitting in and looked up at Dad and said “Nope, It’s not my pole. It’s Larry’s”. Well he was right. It was mine and I wasn’t too happy about it. This pole was a •hand me down” from Dad and it was the nicest one I ever had up to that time. Rick and I had moved up from Dad’s old steel rods to fiberglass poles. Christmas wasn’t for away and Dad had been getting fishing equipment as presents that last two years. Maybe he will get a new fishing pole and I could have another •hand me down”.

Short Wheel Base Jeep Short Lived

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 on the spot and on foot. They had to hitch kick into Indio and board the Greyhound heading to Phoenix, leaving all behind but there little ditty overnight bags. It took two week to finally get the appropriate paperwork from the California

Transportation Department. Dad went back to Indio and reclaimed the big truck with the Jeep and all of the cargo intact. But there was one little hitch. The ice chilling out the fish in the large ice chest did not last long in the Indio sun. So there was this smell emanating from the little gapes in the lid seal that told my Dad he had an unpleasant chore to handle when he got back to town. Twelve days without ice was a long time for dead fish. What is the saying •Dead Fish and Company stink after three days”.

My Dad’s next shop project was building a new aluminum ice chest. This one was even bigger and had three compartments each with its own lid; one for fish, one for lunch meat, mustard, eggs, bacon, etc. and one for beer, milk and pop. This set up was great on conserving ice. I wonder what inspired this project.

Dad had one of the shop mechanics that new a little about automotive repair work started putting the Jeep together. Did I mention that most of the engine components were lying on the back seat? Well, as the Jeep was taking shape, I had a summer job of chasing parts, working in the stock room and cleaning ash trays and toilets. This is how I started in the air conditioning business.

By the end of the summer, Dad taught me how to spray paint vehicles and I painted all of the old Conditioned Air Trucks and one Navy Jeep Conditioned Air Blue (baby blue) with lettering in a dark blue. They all looked pretty sharp and I learned a new skill. By the end of summer, I was running around town in the Conditioned Air Jeep, chasing those parts. It was a good experience for me.

That fall, it was time to take the jeep out for some real work, deer hunting. Our first trip was to be around the little gold mining town of Crown King in the Bradshaw Mountains, South of Prescott. We had hunted there several times with Joe Savatone. But, alas, we didn’t make it. As were heading down Camelback Road near 32nd Street at four o’clock in the morning, the Jeep quite running. Dad fiddled with it for a little while and then gave up. He hitched a ride to the shop that was only about four miles down the road while Rick and I stayed with the Jeep. Did I mention that I painted it? Conditioned Air Blue? Dad had his car at the shop and pulled a one inch diameter, hemp rope off of the stake bed truck parked in the yard.

We were both happy to see him arrive. Dad did some lashing tricks and the rope was tripled thickness and hooked the two vehicles together. It was now about 5:30 AM and I was behind the wheel of the Jeep and never had driven a towed vehicle before was in for a new experience. The bad thing was that tripling up the rope made it a little shorter than it should have been. As Dad gave me a few instructions, my mind was spinning with •what Ifs”. Then we were off. With our lights on we were slowly moving down the road. Not much traffic at that time on a Saturday morning. We were coming up to the first traffic light which was red. Dad started slowing down and I was moving up a little to close so I stepped on the brakes. They were better than I thought. It jerked Dad’s car slower and then there was slack in the rope so I had to break again, jerking Dad’s car again. So after three or four sets of this stopping action, we made it to the shop and parked the Jeep. We transferred all of the gear and guns in Dad’s trusty station wagon and continue on our trip without further incident. Dad did get a deer that trip which is another story for another time. This story is about the Jeep.

Our next adventure with the Jeep was a deer hunting trip with Dad, Rick, Glenn Keith and me. This time we pulled the Jeep with a newly installed tow bar with Dad’s trusty station wagon as the tow vehicle. We were headed to tall ponderosa forest above Payson on the top of the Mogollon Rim.

The Jeep worked well the first day of deer hunting. We just didn’t see and deer. The second day, we decided to head over to an area just covered with quaking aspens. The white bark bark covering of the tall. straight trunk that supported the golden, fluttering leaves with the blue, cloudless sky beyond. This was like studying a magnificent painting with the sun taking on the job of a spotlight. But again, no deer. As we headed back to the camp we came across an area with a small stand of short ponderosa pines surrounded by aspens. There were several squirrels scampering around, so Dad and Keith decided to do a little squirrel hunting. Keith had a marksman twenty-two pistol with extra thick handles to help steady for accuracy and Dad only had his 8MM Mouser Deer Rife with a 4 Power Weaver Scope. Dad had no problem hitting his target with out damaging any of the meat. Keith used to shoot in competition matches when his eyesight was better. but now has trouble with no night vision and reduced visibility in shady or dark areas in the daytime.

He could see a squirrel running up a tree, but as their natural defense, they would lay flat on a pine branch. hidden fairly well by the pine needles. Rick and I would have to count off the number of branches to the one that support the squirrel. Then after Keith would find the branch, we would explain how the squirrel was lying. He would then aim and shoot. Down would come squirrel. He was still a good marksman.

As we were heading back to the camp with only three squirrels to show for two days of hunting, the Jeep engine rewed up as Dad shifted for first to second gear and did not engage and we lost forward power. Dad rolled the Jeep to a stop and set the parking brake. After examining the underside of the vehicle he determined the clutch rod broke. It was about a quarter inch diameter rod about twelve inches long. We had nothing to replace it with and it was impossible to try to tie or lash it together. Dad fiddled with trying to start the jeep while in first gear which was extremely difficult and conditions had to be just right. But Dad persistence paid off the Jeep starter moved the vehicle fast enough to let the engine start in first gear. At lease we were running and moving down the road but at a very slow pace. It was going to take us hours to get back to camp at that rate.

Dad had me pull out a pair of wire cutter on of the little tool box that used to be a ammunitions container. The plan was that I would run through the forest until I could find a old, deserted barded wire fence or some other source of heady gage wire. cut a piece off and catch up to the jeep. So off I went with pliers in hand. After only about five minutes of searching. I found the wire. whistled to Dad to yell out to alert him of my success. I nipped off the wire and ran to where he stopped the Jeep.

After Dad spent about ten minutes jerry rigging the wire to act like a clutch rod. We were ready to give it a test run. But first we all took an apple break and enjoyed the quite of the forest. Then off we went. Dad had the jeep going in first gear without any problem, then second gear and up to about twenty miles per hour when he went to shift into third gear the wire gave way and there would be no more shifting. Fortunately the Jeep was still in second gear and that would take us back to camp at a good rate of speed just in time for supper as the sun was setting.

The next morning we had a great bacon & egg breakfast, broke down the camp, hood the jeep on the back of the trusty station wagon, and we road hunted our way out of the forest with two or three stops for a walk around. Did see any deer, but we did have a great adventure and created a lot of memories. Isn’t it funny how you remember the trips that have a little usual excitement or events more than perfect trips?

Well, Dad sold the Navy Jeep. Did I mention that I painted it Conditioned Air Blue?

Uncle Ed (Crazy Ed the Overhead) My Dad’s Brother, Edwin Wagner, has been the closest sibling to Dad. His sister Ruth would be the next in line mainly because she as well as Ed moved here to Phoenix back in the late fifties. But Aunt Ruth is another story for another time.

My first recollection of Uncle Ed was when he and his wife, Nell, would come over to our house when we lived on 3znd Street. They had two sons. Perry & Jerry that were the same age as my brother Rick and me.

One of their first visits after they move here for Dunedin Florida, where my Dad’s family lived, was on July 1, 1958. It was my eleventh birthday and Mom invited them over for cake and ice cream. Uncle Ed was the jokester in my Dad’s family as evidenced by my birthday present from them. The gift was wrapped in a folded brown bag and had a little weight to it. They presented it to me with my family standing around all curious to see what it was because they were making a fuss about it. As I opened the bag and peered in, they all saw my smiles of anticipation transform to the look of bewilderment and disappointment. Because my Dad was pretty hairy and had a tough beard, they thought an appropriate gift for me was a tube of shaving cream. Ed and Nell got a big kick out of it evidenced by what I began to know as his sigMture laugh and her big smile. There wasn’t another present to follow after the gag gift. I don’t know why that memory stands out in my mind. Oh well. Another unusual event of that evening was a magic trick that Uncle Ed was promising. He told us all that he had to go to the bathroom and prepare some magic. For some reason, my little sister Joyce ran into the bathroom before he could get there and crawled in the lower section of the storage cabinets where Mom kept the towels and bathroom supplies. She had a good view of Uncle Ed preparing for his magic trick.

When he came out, she followed shortly after. With everybody gathered around. Uncle Ed stretched out his opened right hand and then started rubbing his thumb and middle finger together. He didn’t have a forefinger, due to a childhood accident where he got his finger pinched off in a wash machine wringer. After about a minute of rubbing, smoke started to rise from his hand. It was magic! Everyone was curious but not overly impressed. The anticipation was greater than the feat. After they left, Joyce shared with all of us his secret preparation. He had taken a razor blade and cut little ridges in his thumb’s thicker skin where he inserted gun powder. With a little friction, it would produce smoke and Luella, magic! That was as good as watching the magic of my face changing for anticipation to disappointment.

Over the years. Uncle Ed and Aunt Nell would drop by or we would make a trip over to their house. With them, nothing surprised us. One evening, they came over to show us a new car they just purchased. It was a bright red, 1963 & ó Ford Galaxy. It wasn’t brand new but was unique because the design changed in the middle of the production and that it had 1/2 year on it. But that wasn’t the biggest news of the evening. Aunt Nell dyed Uncle Ed’s hair red. That sight was worth the price of admission so to speak!

Uncle Ed was a ·Jack of all trades, Master of None”. He went to work for my Dad’s company after he was allowed to buy into the Sheet Metal Union. He was required to take some classes and then be tested before he became a full fledged, card carrying member. At the age of forty five, I think he was the oldest apprentice at that time.

He and I worked on a project together at Arizona State University in the new Science Building. We were installing plastic corrosion resistance duct to carry our dangerous fumes created from the science experiments. We were welding the duct with hot air and then checking the welds with a sparking problem that would pinpoint cracks that were potential leaks. Working off of a rolling scaffold with a platform of 2″xl2″ boards had us climbing up and down a lot. When it was time to move this scaffold section, Uncle Ed when get inside the frame and I would get at the back and we would push this rolling work station along as we would install the hangers, hand the duct, weld the joints and test it for leakage. All was going well and we were making great progress until we made one of our last moves of the day. Uncle Ed gave an extra hard push to clear the wheels over some debris. When he did, one of the big planks slipped of the scaffold frame and bounced off of his head. His hard hat was safe of the top of the scaffold, were he had just taken it off to inspect the inside of duct. Uncle Ed dropped to his knees with the board still resting on his head. I immediately jumped to his aid and removed the board. You could see the bump forming on his crown, but there was no blood. He had to sit down for a few minutes to collect his senses and since it was at the end of the work shift, I gathered all of our loose tools and locked them up in the gang box.

As we left the building, there was some commotion outside. A backhoe operator who happened to be black and standing on the edge of the hole he was digging. His face was actually white. He had thought he had just uncovered a dead body. There was women’s leg protruding out of loose dirt. After further inspection, it turned out to be a manikin that someone buried under loose dirt in the part of the hole dug the day before. The hoe operator wasn’t amused, but Uncle Ed got a kick out of it along with all the other construction workers standing by. I could see that Uncle Ed was getting his senses back, at least his sense of humor.

That following September Uncle Ed was to meet Dad, Rick and I after work for a little evening dove hunting. We were also to be joined by Clarence, Dad’s partner in the ornamental iron business. Dad had just purchased and new 12 Ga. shotgun in the spring. He took Rick and me out to do a little rabbit and quail hunting and found out it had a tremendous kick. He found a big piece of corrugated steel he used to find out the size of pattern the buck shot would have at different distances. This gun kicks so hard, that he had to wrap a towel around the end of it to soften the blow to his now, bruised shoulder. Rick and I were in our early teens and did not have our own guns. We would bird dog and retrieve whatever Dad would shoot. Dad let us shoot his gun, but no mater how well we braced ourselves we ended up sitting on the ground. We both were wearing insulated leather jackets, which softened the blow.

Uncle Ed heard Dad tell of the powerful kick this gun had. He had another trick up his sleeve. We met him out at their favorite hunting spot near 59th Avenue and Van Buren Street. Clarence was coming a little later and would meet us out in the middle of the cotton fields. This area was in a good flight path for the doves as they would head back to their roost. In the mornings they would fly east toward the rising sun and in the evenings they would fly west toward the setting sun.

We had been hunting for a half an hour before Clarence met up with us. After he got settled in, Uncle Ed asked to try Dad’s new gun. Dad handed to Ed. Ed pumped the three shells store in the gun pretending to check its action. He slipped in three shells that he had in his pocket in place of the three that Dad had in the gun. The first shell in would be the last shell out. The first shell in was a high base, magnum shell that was very powerful. The longer the brass base of the shell, the more powder its had which obviously made it more powerful. Then he put in two very low base shells that didn’t have much power at all. Because of the great kick this gun had, Dad had shells in between these two types.

Uncle Ed proceeded in telling Clarence how hard Dad’s gun kicks. Ed with shoot at a dove with the low base shell in the chamber and then act like it really kicked hard. •oh that hurts” he would say. Then he would pump the gun which put another low base shell in the chamber. Bang, •oh man, does that hurt• he shouted. Then Ed ejected the third shell into the chamber. This was the most powerful one that would make any gun kick hard. But in Dad’s shotgun, it would be extreme. Clarence, after seeing Ed’s performance, said •Give me that gun! It can’t be kicking that hard!” Ed handed him the gun, a dove flew over and with the most powerful shell in the chamber, from a kneeling position on one knee he fired. The kick knocked him back and down on his butt. Everyone watching Ed’s performance started laughing. After Clarence learned how he was tricked chuckled himself, but only a little chuckle as his shoulder was still throbbing and his ears still ringing.

Uncle Ed worked for my Dad for many years. He worked at the Cholla Power Plant where he gained the title of ·crazy Ed the Overhead” because he was the boss’s brother. This title was proclaimed in every • J John” on the job site. Because of this known proclamation, the idea of having an annual award given at the companies Christmas Porty was born and he was to be the first recipient. This award was to be bestowed on one of the employees with the most unusual work circumstance of that previous year. Since Uncle Ed was to receive the inaugural award for his nickname being proclaimed in every portable toilet on the Chollo jobsite, the award was created as the ·Prince Award” and the price was to be the seat from the prince’s throne, a toilet seat complete with lid. This seat with Ed’s name inscribed with block Magic Marker was to be given annually at every company Christmas Porty.

Uncle Ed with a few other employees of Dad’s company bought some acreage plots near the new Polo Verde Nuclear Power Plant under construction near Wintersburg, Arizona, west of Downtown Phoenix. This plant was a good forty five minutes away from the shop down Interstate 10. Uncle Ed parked a mobile home on his land and then moved his family out there where he could do a little hobby farming.

At that time I was sheet metal superintendent for the company and part of my job responsibilities was to hire and fire the men plus assign them to work on the projects most suitable to their skills. We had won a contract to do the air conditioning on the Polo Verde Administration Office and Service building. I had assigned a capable crew to do this high caliber work and I had Uncle Ed working on another project in east Phoenix. Every morning as he was driving in to down on the Interstate he would see my Palo Verde crew driving west to the jobsite. This didn’t sit very well with him, but it was the way I had to divvy up my crews. Uncle Ed quite the company without saying anything to me or my Dad. 1-ie went to work at Palo Verde for the general contractor, the Bechtel Corporation, installing metal decking. Because of me, he quit my Dad’s company where he had worked for many years. I want to ensure you that I did not keep him working in Phoenix as revenge for his birthday gift to me in 1958, or did I?

Then Comes Winter

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 so programmed.

Here is another example. My wife Carol and I went to the Fountain Hills art and craft show two weeks prior. We were walking down the path between two rows of vendor and exhibitor displays when I realized we were walking against heavy pedestrian traffic. I looked through a break between to artists’ booths and saw another two rows of displays with the pedestrian traffic going the opposite direction except for a few brave souls bucking the human flow just as we were. So we ducked between the roasted almonds and glass wind chime display and joined the crowd headed the correct direction down the rows to the right, just as if you were in an automobile. Another curious thing, if you ever go early to a theme park like Disney Land, you want to go to the left after you enter the main gate because the majority of patrons will go to the right and all of the rides will be more crowded it that directions.

So where was I? Oh yes, traveling down the path in the more comfortable right lane. What makes this path so unique, is that after it leaves the civilization of Sky Hi Retreat and the barking dog, it runs on a level plane even thought the forest floor is dropping toward Elk Springs Draw as much as forty feet. At the site where the railroad track crossed the draw, it was supported by a wooden trestle bridge. Now there are very little remnants of the bridge and of the track itself. Once in a while you come across a rusty, old spike or iron plates that held the rails in place. Without the bridge, a narrow path leads down to the little stream running through the draw. There are three little ponds or tanks that retain water for cattle or the wild life that abounds in this area. I was in hopes of spotting an Elk or two or maybe some of the turkey that have been eluding us on these hikes over the years. We do see their tracks often at these pools and also down stream around the Grail Tanks. Other critters we may run across in these parts are bear, deer, raccoon, squirrel, and ducks. So with my binoculars around my neck, I’m off and tracking, that is right tracking.

After several short stops to survey the surrounding terrain, looking for horizontal lines in a vertical forest which is the best way to spot a deer or elk checking you out, I pull off the track and head east through the forest on a winding ATV path. I really don’t like the noise of the powerful engines on all terrain vehicles, but have a single patch to walk on through the snow covered, rolling hills is nice.

The evening, there was a real change in the weather. The outdoor temperature started warminga nd the snow around the cabin was swiftly melting away. The next day by noon it was almost completely gone. Was that it for winter? We packed the car and headed home. The following week we had another small winter storm in the mountains, but my honey-do’s in the Valley keep us from darting up to enjoy it. It would be another two weeks before Carol and I could make another mountain top journey.

It was our standard Friday afternoon routine. I would get home from work and find the kitchen table covered with the items of survival that we would be throwing in the back of the Explorer shortly. I would go to my little home office to gather by little ditty bag that still contained some of the surplus clothing items that are used as back up like extra socks, underwear, etc. I grabbed a few more articles of clothing, my shave kit, even though I have never shaved up at the cabin, but it did have the other items of toiletries that I use. It is a little more difficult stuffing all my stuff in this little ditty bag ever since Mowgli, our ….. cat, encountered my large travel bag that I inherited from my son Jeremy. I always kept my large, red, multi-compartmented, bag with wheels under my desk in the office where it is very handy for me. One day Carol thought it would be better stored in the walk-in closet in the master bedroom. What she didn’t realize was that the master of the bedroom was Mowglai nd my open bag had now moved into her territory. So to staked claim to it, she positioned herself and sprayed inside my bad. Carol’s keen sense of smell, lead her to my bag and realizing immediately what had happened, hauled it outside. There, she gathered every cleaning aid and went to town scrubbing, spraying, scrubbing some more, pressure washing with the garden hose and scrubbing again. Spraying Lysol didn’t even help. My travel bag was kaput. Did I mention that it had wheels?

So back to my little •gym bag” that I received as a •freebee” from one of the vendors at the shop. Did I mention it didn’t have wheels or even any pockets and that it was yellow and has advertisement on it. Well, as you can tell, I missed by other travel bag but this little ditty bag will have to do.

As I loaded everything on and around the kitchen table in the car, Carol finishes packing the ice chest. We are now ready to go. We head up through Globe where we have a dinner stop Lorain’s Mexican Food Restaurant. The young, cute waitress there is always a little bummed when she doesn’t see the boys with us and her service is not quite a sharp. But the Goyo Burro’s, beans and rice are always consistently good. After dinner, we stop at the Chevron Station and grab a couple of hot beverages and we are off again, heading toward the Salt River Canyon.

Three weeks prior, on the trip with Chad and Jeremy, we traveled the stretch of highway from Globe to the Canyon with snow on the mountain tops flanking us to the North. It was a full moon that night and its bright beams would expose the snow’s whiteness that was gently layered along the uppermost elevations except where the deep mountain crevasses concealed its captive, frozen mass in vivid contrast of the dark shadows. It was a spectacular view that eluded the digital camera Chad was shooting from every angle and setting he attempted. It was one of the moments you had to be there for to appreciate it. On this trip there was no moon which had the starts stealing the show. Jupiter was low in the sky to the North and the Milky Way, Three Sisters, Orion and many other formations we easily seen by Carol to the South. With the snows gone and the absence of the moon, the mountain was in dark contrast to the night sky peppered with pin pricks of light from the heavenly bodies. This was another spectacular sight that you had to see in person to really appreciate.

We dropped over the pine covered rim and down the windy road to the bridge over the great Salt River at desert elevation, 2,000 feet below and then snaked up the other side of the canyon and back into the pines.

We reached the cabin about ten o’clock and chill of the cabin prompted me to fire up the wood stove to help knock the chill off of the cabin. Within the comfort of the sleeping bags we could still see the stars beaming out the front window wall, one of the major advantages of the • A Frame” cabin design.

Early the next morning, we were anxious to get out and hike the forest behind the cabin. As usual, I put on the coffee at 6:00AM and we each had a cup before our hike. I told Carol about how close on elk was to the cabin three weeks earlier and that I believed it was standing there when the boys and I pull up to the cabin. It may have been ready to jump the fence as its tracks led up to the section they have used in the past to gain entrance to the meadow as evidence by previous track sightings and elk hair on the barbed wire.

The still morning air was brisk as the sun just started to lighten the sky as we stepped out of the cabin. Carol and I walked over to the neighbor’s gate two cabins down as it was the easiest was to access the forest. We are planning to put a gate behind our cabin soon. We headed due north to walk by and check on the Wagner’s fort that some of the neighborhood kids had recently remodeled by adding pine branches raising the wall height to about six feet. Chad had carried by Dad’s old fishing chair there for everyone to use as a resting stop along the nearby trail. The weather and taken its toll on the vinyl covered seat and back, so Chad had replaced then with some old scrap plywood pieces that remained from the bathroom remodel. He also put a little nature book in a baggie for anyone that was interested.

Carol and I headed toward the higher end of Elk Spring Draw just below the culvert under the primitive road. We crossed Wagner Draw at its upper end and when Carol saw out of the corner of her eye, something moving just below the ridge ahead. It was a small heard of bull elk, maybe six to eight; it was hard to see exactly. We were not sure if they were coming up from the lower elevations or if they stayed in this area for the winter. We decided to cut a little higher and head toward the culverts where the draw waters pass under the primitive road head north.

As the sun started warming the air, a breeze picked up giving us that wind chill factor, but our brisk walking kept us warm. We crossed the draw where there had been a sheet of ice three weeks before, but no it was soggy, brown grass and mud. We picked our steps carefully and were successful in not getting our hiking boots too muddy. Instead of looping around to the south and heading to the train track bed, we kept walking to the north. It was still early in the morning which gave us enough time for a good five mile hike. We didn’t see anymore big game but the forest was interesting to study as it was changing from winter to spring. There is always something to see in the forest.

When we got back to the cabin, Carol made another one of her great breakfast with bacon & eggs, hash browns and orange juice. I really enjoy a hearty breakfast after a good hike. Breakfast is my favorite meal. It was know time to head to town for building supplies. We like taking the back road to town even though it is primitive and sometimes filled with washboard ruts. We do see a lot of wildlife going that way.

I heated the remnants of the morning coffee in the microwave and headed out the door. I didn’t bright my favorite stainless steel travel mug, so I had to use my old faithful, blue mug with the chip out of the bottom edge. That chip happened when I discovered that my miter box saw would best when I would support the overhanging wood with something three and one half inches tall. Guess what? My blue coffee cup is exactly the height and dose a great job, but don’t let it foll off of the table when you are finished cutting.

As we headed south out of our meadow, we spotted a large eagle soaring around Mullins Mountain. It would disappear in the shadows cast by the mountain but as it soared into the suns rays its shape and colors were highlighted with a back drop of crystal clear, blue sky. So we stopped the car to watch it for a few minutes as it would rise with the currents and glide on the hunt for its breakfast.

Just as we hit the cattle guard at the beginning of the primitive road, the coffee cup in my hand instinctively rose up to prevent its contents from splashing out as I have done so many times before. I was so proud that I didn’t spill a drop. Then as I rested the cup on my leg I hit a washboard and splashed the coffee over my right leg. It wasn’t hot, but was wet, to the tune of a six inch diameter spot. At least I didn’t get very much on the car seat. Carol chided me for spilling it as we continued on our journey. We didn’t see any wild life near the road so we decided to hike a while at the game preserve near the Porter Mountain Game Preserve. This is where the boys and I spotted a dozen or so antelope on our previous trip. We also spotted some fresh bear droppings which always makes the hike a little tenser, especially if I’m not packing.

We parked the car at the edge of the road that ran through a large meadow. Grabbing the binoculars we headed out across the grass lands and headed toward the scrubby pines and cedars two hundred yards in front of us. Carol only had to take five steps before she found bear droppings. We were now alert and had our eyes peeled for any movement in the forest ahead. We were hopping to kick up some more elk, as there was a lot of elk sign around. But in the distance I saw a flash of white. Looking through the binoculars I could see a lone antelope standing near a clump of cedars. I gave the binoculars to Carol so she could study it for awhile. They are so sleek and graceful compare to elk and deer. There black face marking on the surrounding tan background are very striking. It’s a beautiful creature.

We circled around the far edge of the meadow and through the pines where we were hoping to kick up elk or deer. Carol was hoping not to kick up the black bear that was obviously eating a lot of juniper berries. Without any more big game sightings, we arrived back at the car. Interestingly enough, there was a small bird sitting on the windshield wiper. As we opened the car it acted as it wanted to get in the car. We rolled down the windows to let the fresh air in, and it was fluttering in front of Carols face as she watched it from inside the car. I backed the car up and headed up the embankment with the little bird fluttering around the rear window. We figured we were on or near its nest and it was desperately trying to get us to follow it away from its young. It was happy to see us go. My last glimpse of it was it sitting on a small mound of freshly churned dirt. Its nest must have been there.

As we headed into town, Carol notice that the spilled coffee had now dried on my Levis and left a large, brown stain. She said that she did not want to go into home depot with me looking like that, so she was going to wait in the car. I told her it’s Home Depot and half of the men look like this and a few of the women do too. So I finished by Home Depot run and we went back to the cabin to get busy remodeling two front room wall sections.

The next morning we needed to make a early morning hardware run so I offered to buy Carol breakfast in town. I had coffee on early as usual, and we grabbed our cups, filled them up and off we went to town, again taking the primitive road. This time when I hit the cattle guard I was prepared to isolate my coffee cup from the bump and the washboard beyond, but Carol wasn’t. Her coffee spilled all over her jeans this time. As a smart husband, I didn’t say a word but did offer my handkerchief to help in mopping us the mess. As her pants dried, it left a big, brown stain. I wasn’t going to take her into the Hill Top Restaurant looking like that, so it would have to be the Mac Donald’s drive through for breakfast in the parking lot. It was a good breakfast though. Did I mention that breakfast is my favorite meal?

Ann Hiser’s Blue Ribbon Pies

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 the opportunity to do a little trout fishing in Lexington. I had purchased an Ohio fishing license and a collapsing fishing rod & reel set and a few lures. My favorite place to fish was on a little stream just above one of the back road bridges near an abandoned train track. It had a lot of thicket on both sides of the stream and was a little tough to get through to cast my lure. That made it more of a challenge and exciting when I would hook a fish. I would release my catch to let it grow a little bigger for the next time.

While I was fishing, I would have the thought of that fresh apple pie popping up in my mind. It was amazing that I could even concentrate on the task at hand. About nine o’clock the sun was starting to going down and I was heading to the car. There was a Game Warden waiting there for me. She had a clip board in her hand and I thought she was prepared to write me a ticket. As it turned out, she was a student at Ohio State and worked as a Game Warden during the summer. She was conducting a survey on fishing and was curious how I did on the steam. I told her what I had caught that evening and what I was using for bait. I gave her approximate sizes and where I caught them. She was happy to have an entry in her report as I was the only one fishing on that stretch of the stream. By the way, if you’re curious to the location of the stream, I remember heading down the road to Lexington from Mansfield. Off to the right there are large grass covered fields. In the distance beyond the fields. there is a row of short, scrubby trees on the horizon that flanked the stream. I think I was about two miles below the main bridge in town. It was a great experience! After the survey was completed, I headed to Edna’s looking forward to a piece of Ann Hiser’s blue ribbon pie. Ann did a lot more than just baking and cooking. She was always there for Edna and a good friend to us. Carol and I took comfort in the fact that she would look in on Mom from time to time. Thank you Ann for all that you have done for so many. Happy Birthday! Oh yeah, thanks for sharing the special pie crust recipe!

Now where’s that pie!

Love you,




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 with some friends from our church. I was only about eleven years old, and they were in their late teens. We were to send the day fishing on a rented aluminum motor boat. For bait, they brought along some worms, a few live water dogs and something brand new on the market, an artificial rubber worm. These were pretty expensive, like 50 cents each. Doesn’t sound like much, but a bottle of pop was only 10 cents plus 2 cents deposit on the bottle.

We decided to head to one of the back coves on the many canyons around the lake. I was sitting in the front of the boat to spot any rocks or boulders submerged under the waters surface. It looked like it was clear sailing as we sped along at five miles per hour until I saw what appeared to be murky water ahead. Then suddenly we hit something that stopped the boat immediately, thrusting everybody and everything forward. Whose law is it? •A body at rest, tends to stay at rest and a body in motion, tends to stay in motion”. Well the boat came to rest and everybody proved the law, but no body went overboard, but I came pretty close. When we realized what happened, we all had a good laugh the echoed off the canyon walls. That turned out to be the highlight of the trip, as we did not catch a single fish or even had a single bite.

Uncle John looked for every opportunity to take is little red & white boat out to the lake. Canyon Lake was his favorite, but he would try them all depending on the fishing reports. for awhile, he would call my Mother on Friday morning, to see if I would go fishing with him when I came home from school for lunch at noon. Let’s see, would I like to go back to school or go fishing with Uncle John? That’s what you call a “no brainer”.

On one school ditching Friday, he and I drove all the way to Canyon Lake for an afternoon of fishing. We had an ice chest full of beer,• A-1 Pilsner” and •root•. We backed the boat down the ramp to the waters edge, where we would load all our gear and provisions in the boat, unlash it from the trailer and prepare to launch. I would stand on the tongue of trailer with the coiled rope secured to the bow firmly planted in my hand, as Uncle John would back the rig into the water. Just as the boat would float off the trailer, I would push it away from the shore until it was fully afloat. I would signal Uncle John to slowly pull forward up the ramp until my feet were above dry ground. Then I would get off the trailer and pull the boat back in while Uncle John would park the car and trailer.

Know with everything ready to go, Uncle John goes to start the boat and discovers he forgot the ignition keys. “For Krauts Sake” he said emphatically. He spent the next thirty minutes trying to bypass the ignition circuit and start the motor with make shift rope puller he fashioned from the anchor line. It didn’t want to start. So we reversed our launching procedure and packed everything up. He was so made, he didn’t even want to fish from the shore so we didn’t even wet a line. For me, that was still fun, especially because I wasn’t in class. “The worst day of fishing is still better than the best day in school”!

On another trip with Uncle John, we were joined by my Dad and brother Ricky. It was a warm summer day when the bass would be found closer to the bottom of the lake. In the colder months they would migrate to the shallower waters, but not the day time temperature would be over 100 degrees.

Uncle John and Dad were catching fish, but Ricky and I weren’t. So Uncle John shared the key to his and Dad’s success. He pointed out a saguaro cactus half way up the side of a nearby mountain. He told us to aim our cast at that saguaro and through it as hard as we could. There were not fish on the mountain side, but that target would position our bait over a school of bass when the line drifted down. It worked, and we all catch our limits of fish. That was a fun day but its memory would spoil another trip when the fishing wasn’t that great.

As a matter of fact, the next trip we took with Uncle John was just like that. No fish! When you are young kids, trapped on a hot boat and the fish aren’t biting, you get real bored, real soon. Dad and Uncle John were trying to determine the best place to fish as we sped across the lake. Ricky and I would dangle our hands over the edge of the boat to feel the spray of water. It was warm water, but the spray would hit our face with a refreshing splash. Dad and Uncle John picked out a shady cove to use as shelter from the siring sun. When Uncle John shut the motor off, we glided into the shade and came to a stop. Rick and I were so hot, that we jumped into the water. A sudden shock came over us. The water temperature was so cold, it took our breath away. Our muscles cramped up. Rick had on a life preserver and I grabbed a hold of him. We couldn’t even yell because our air supply escaped our lungs. As Uncle John and Dad fished us out with the boat hook and oar, they could hardly keep from laughing. Ricky and I foiled to see the humor in this situation until we were all dried off and warmed by the suns rays again. ·Look before you leap• was a famous saying before you dive into any water. In this case, it would be better to check the water temperature.

Dad enjoyed lake fishing so much he decided with five sons, he should invest in a good fishing boat. That is another whole series of stories for another time .


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 if a predator would start digging on the one side, it could run out the back. So this time we were the predators poking around the front of the hutch, the rabbit ran out the back and my sister Judy stepped on its foot by mistake and had it pinned. Uncle John and Dad were ready with their shotguns and told Judy to pick up here foot. Well, I don’t remember exactly what happed from that point. We will have to ask Judy. I think her stepping on the rabbit’s foot may have been bad luck for the rabbit but good luck for the hunters.

While walking around the desert fauna, Uncle Casper would point out the various desert plans. When he came upon a jumping Cholla, he would pull out a small box of stick matches and light it on fire. He hated them and loved to see them burn like a torch. That evening after dinner, we had a small bond fire and marshmallow to cook on coat hangers and hot chocolate. It was a great time for all the families.

One weekend, Uncle Casper had invited by Dad, my brother Ricky, Uncle Phil, Cousin Randy and me to spend the weekend at his place and climb Black Mountain with him. He told us he would take care of all the food for the weekend. On Saturday, we hiked around Casper’s Mountain. He showed us various places he had seen rattlesnakes and showed us the roads he was bull dozing around his mountain. He brought along a single shot, 22 caliber rifle that was so old that you had to pry the spent shell out of the chamber before you could put another one in. We all got to take turns shooting it. It was fun kicking around his place. That after noon, after our traditional hair cuts, he took us to the Town of Cave Creek for an ice cream cone. All the people knew him as it was a very small town. He told us how his favorite treat was to order a hot cup of coffee and dip his vanilla ice cream cone in it, and then when he finished the entire cone, the coffee was savored to the very last drop even if it was a little spillage on the saucer. He lived and ate very simply. As a matter of fact his main staple the time we were there was fresh nut juice he had just blended the day before. Because of his diet, he did not have an ounce of fat on him even with the occasionally coffee/ice cream treat. We had another bon fire that night and then retired to his guest house to bed down. The sun and Uncle Casper were both up very early the next morning. We had a European Breakfast that consisted of cheese, lunch meat, Ritz Crackers with milk and orange juice. He stated again that he had snacks and lunch for our hike, and that we didn’t have to bring anything else. So off we went, to conquer Black Mountain!

Black Mountain rises 1,269 feet above the town of Cave Creek at an elevation of 3,398 ASL (above sea level) and we had to hike about a half an hour to get to its true base. Once we started up the trails, the walking sticks we gathered on the way were very helpful, as it was a pretty steep climb. About half way up, Uncle Casper said it was time for a snack. He pulled out a bag of Fig Newtons which was one of his favorites. But there was nothing to drink, not that weren’t thirsty or anything. So we had our snack and then carried onward and upward. After about two hours of climbing we reached the summit. What a view! The sky was what we here call • Severe Clearn. You could see all the surrounding mountains and even glimmers of reflecting sunlight from Phoenix and Scottsdale to the far south. It was really neat. Now for lunch! Uncle Casper new he had a winner for us kids when he pulled out peanut butter sandwiches on now, dry whole wheat bread. And of course, still no water. To this day, I think about his snacks and sandwiches. I love peanuts butter, whole wheat bread and Fig Newtons, but I make sure I have a large glass of milk to go with them.

The trip down Black Mountain was a lot easier than going up. We traveled down the east side toward what is now the town of Carefree. Cousin Randy was not used to hiking as Rick and me, and decided the best was to get down was on the seat of his pants. He actually wore holes in his britches.

Uncle Casper took us by some massive boulders that were teetering on end. He challenged us to push them over which seamed easy but actually not possible without sticks of dynamite or a bull dozer. Even with these implements, the chore would be difficult as we were dealing with a lot of tonnage here.

One sunny Sunday afternoon Dad and Mom took our whole family out to Uncle Casper’s. As usual, hair cuts for all the boys. After hair cuts he took us to Cave Creek, the actual creek. It was an interesting place. We traveled to an old ruin of a military fort. It was mostly just the stone foundations. We spotted a live Gila Monster crawling in between the stone rubble pile. They have vibrant colors of orange, black and white move very slowly. There self defense system is a viscous bite the clamps down on its prey and doesn’t turn loose so it’s not a good idea to pick them up. They are also a protected species.

As we walked the creek, there were pools of cool water fed by a little stream of water. Then the stream would disappear as it flows underground for awhile and then pops back up to the surface. Near one of the pools we came across a large rattlesnake. Uncle Casper killed it and then put a large rock on its head. On our hike back to the car. we came across the spot where he left the snake but it was gone. Legend has it that the rattlesnake doesn’t die unit sunset. I was kind of creepy not knowing where it went. but we did not want to hang around to find out. Uncle Casper would find rattlesnakes in his yard from time to time and scorpions were abundant. He was stung a time or two, but that is what happens when you live in the desert.

On the way back to Casper’s Mountain, we stopped at a few other sites that Uncle Casper wanted to show us. One was Elephant Butte. This was a great landmark and my Sister Kathy was making a report on Cave Creek for school. so she enjoyed the personal and was anxious to write about her findings. When we got home Sunday evening. she had written out her essay and wanted to give it verbally to the family. When she read about Elephant Butte. she thought it was pronounced Elephant Butt and she couldn’t under stand why everybody broke out laughing in right in the middle of it. It was a good thing that she recited it at home before she gave it a school.

Mom always invited Uncle Casper over for Christmas dinner. To show appreciation for all of the free haircuts, she would by him a nice flannel, long sleeve shirt. One year as he opened his gift. Mom asked him if he ever wears the shirts she has given him because he never sees him in one. He said he was saving them for special occasions. She told him that he would look so nice in them; he should wear them all the time. He never came over again without one of his nice flannel shirts on.

When Uncle Casper became ill and was hospitalized. he had a rock next to his bed on the night stand. He told everybody that that was his life. moving rocks around. I think it was a lot more than that. He had family around him and loved living in the desert. Moving rocks just kept him busy.

Chiggers, let’s get out of here!

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 to a street lamp used on an industrial site. We were both so disappointed. The globe on the ceiling fan almost looks like it was on with the light beams hitting it even this distance, 100 feet away. Carol was not happy about it. We couldn’t even see the stars through the upper triangle windows as usually. I was already plotting a way to disable it. It was really a bad situation. Carol suggested we go and gather all the neighbors it is also affecting and go and confront the neighbor, kind of vigilante style. This could be very exciting, but I was still plotting other means to take care of this problem. I knew where the BB Gun is, but where did Chad put the BB’s.

The next morning, while I was stilling plotting and having my morning coffee on the veranda (back porch), I could hear Carol talking to the culprit. I thought that this could become the beginning of •Bloody Feud in Sky Hi Retreat”. I did not rush over in moral support. As a matter of fact, before I could finish my first cup of coffee, Carol was back to fill me in on the confrontation. She was actually all smiles. He was very friendly and even apologized. His high school aged kids were coming home late in the evenings, and he though a little extra light would be beneficial. He did realize that he was lighting up the whole block. Especially when Carol told him we were armature astronomers. He told us to call whenever we were up there, and he would turn them off. Since we do not have a local phone, that wouldn’t work. He then suggested that we could turn them off at the switch mounted on the tree that supported the light. That would be easy enough and so the battle was over.

Carol was now feeling great with the outcome of her skillful negotiations. She was now ready to finish her coffee and head out over the barbed wire fence for a good hike. Since our last trip here three weeks earlier, many of the spring flowers bloomed and then faded. The oak trees are now full of new, deep green leaves adding color to the pine forest floor. The grasses are still dormant as the night time temperature still hit the freezing mark and the summer monsoon rains have not come yet as June is Arizona’s dry month. The day time temperatures are hitting the low 90’s now as there is a heat wave active in the entire southwest.

As we headed north to the •wagner’s Fort” Carol points out the brilliant colors of some of the small flowers that dot the brown forest floor. Columbine and …… are the most prominent. Spider webs spun as hunting snares are shining in the morning sun. They each have a vertical tunnel conveniently located for the occupant to scamper out claim its unfortunate prey that found itself entangled in the finely woven trap. We have found that if you quietly sneak up on the lair and gently poke the edge of the web with a twig or long straw of grass. the spider will scamper out to investigate the signal of success. It doesn’t take long for it to figure this was a false alarm and in a flash it dashes back to the seclusion of its home.

We cross the first heavily used trail near the fort and walk down through Wagner’s Draw. When we hit the second trail, we follow it to the east {right) toward the rising sun in hopes of kicking up elk or other wildlife.

If you keep walking toward the east, you will come upon the primitive road that will either take to back to the entrance of Sky Hi Retreat or to the left, Lake Side which is about ten miles away. Right is better.

If you take one of the trails to the West or left, you will come upon the •Iron Horse” rail way bed. This is an excellent want to get back to Sky Hi Retreat if you head to the left or south. When you near Sky Hi Retreat you will come to a stationary gate where you will cross the forest boundary fence. From this spot, you have a great view of Mullins Mountain. Just beyond the fence you will come up on Bonanza where you will turn left and head up the gradual incline back to the cabin.

On this day, we decided to walk a little further to Elk Spring Draw. We wanted to check out the remaining ponds of snow melt water that are used by the local wildlife as water holes. This time, we found them dry. There were remnants of crayfish probably eaten by the local raccoons and several kinds of wild flowers at various stages of their life cycle.

We decided to cross the draw and head further north. Two miles from the draw is another small mountain similar to Mullin’s Mountain. This is the area that we like to drive the timber trails that circle from the primitive road, out through the forest for a couple of miles and then back to the road. We have spotted a lot of wildlife on these little treks. We walk about a mile beyond the draw and then usually follow a game trail that heads back to the railroad train track bed. By this time in our hike, its nice to be on fairly flat ground with just a little uphill grade to it. The ups and down thought the rolling forest floor is sometimes a little grueling, especially when the ground has be churned up by the forest thinning crews. They not only thin out the trees but they also use bull dozers equipped with the large forked blades to create ruts that help retain the winter snow melt and seasonal rains.

On the game trail we noticed several set of elk tracks and a fore amount of deer track. Deer are much more elusive, light footed and graceful. You may pass several deer without noticing them, but elk find it harder to hide from the two legged intruders.

As we get close to Sky Hi, we pass some of our neighbors that live down the street and around the corner from us. They are full time residence and go hiking down the track bed just about everyday. Some of us folks just like to hike, others are out here jogging, ridding horses or mountain bikes. There are very few ATVs here on most weekends, but they are out in force on three day holiday weekends, but keep pretty much on the back trails and track bed. We make a point not to be up here on those special times. Our regular weekend jaunt work out just fine when we can enjoy the peace and quite.

Back at the cabin, we trade in our hiking boots for our work sneakers. Why did they ever call them sneakers? Are they quite? They’re not tennis shoes unless you are playing tennis; not basketball shoes, unless your playing basketball; Well, I get mine from Costco and wear them as casual shoes. What do you call them then? When they get dirty and grubby, I wear them to work around the cabin. I guess they would be my work shoes. But what if I decide to rest in the hammock? I wouldn’t want to wear shoes that are called •hammock shoes” so I take them off in that case. Oh, does that feel good when they are resting beside the hammock! I like ·resting shoes” the best!

Where was I? Oh yeah. I have my work shoes on now. Got to go! But what is that feeling around the top of my sock. It feels like mosquito bites. Oh no! Got chiggers! That’s a whole story by itself. I think I will do a medical paper on that subject. What do the call them, ·white Papers”?

In a nut shell, an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of Champho-Phenique. The prevention would be any type of mosquito repellant that contains •Deet”.

Chiggers, which are actually mites, are found mostly in places like the Midwest. They are found near tall grasses and where there has been a lot of moisture. Their favorite thing to do is jump on your legs and nestle in just below the top of your sock line or sometimes around your waist band or other tight fitting clothes. They are microscopic in side and usually red in color. To see if there are in an area, you lay out a piece of cardboard and check on it in a half an hour or so. If the cardboard has a pinkish hue, then you’ve found them.

I you suspect you have been attached, then you need to wash the affected areas with hot, soapy water and then start applying one of the remedies that helps prevent itching. This condition may be worse than poison ivy and will last up to a week. I went on two hikes in the tall grass, so I had a double whammy because I had my socks at two different heights, one about one inch above the other.

Two summers ago, I got into chiggers and the lower lake just below the Rainbow Lake Dam. It wasn’t as bad as this last bout.

Chiggers actually go into your hair follicles and secrete a substance that breaks down your flesh so that it can slurp it up. You notice I’m a little light on the medical terms, but that’s what happens. Some suggest that after you clean the affected area, you coat the bite with fingernail polish. I think this idea came from the sales staff at Revlon. This coating is supposed to keep you from itching. I did go that route this time, but I may try if there is a next time. After all the years of being in the forest of Arizona, I get hit twice in three years.

The moral of this story is if you ever hear someone say “Chiggers! Let’s get out of here!!” Make tracks!!


Chiggers Nothing, Bears! Run Forest Run!

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 completely rude, but we did keep working, but at a little slower pace. Carol kept a conversation going with these folks, as I kept working, passing along instructions while keeping an eye on the weather, as we were expected a little monsoon rain shower about 3:00 PM. We were all doing a little “multi-tasking” but visiting took the back seat to the construction effort.

Carol shared the story about Mickey’s cabin just to the east of us. The story keeps getting better and better. Carol is thinking about making it into a romantic novel. Their story to share was about having bears in the neighborhood. Now this was getting exciting. Bears! We sti II have elk jumping our fence just about every night to get to the green grass in the meadow and neighbor’s lawns. But bears like to head for the garbage cans. The smellier the better. We have always made a point to keep our smelly garbage inside because of the local skunks and raccoons. But bears are a lot more exciting.

Got a little side tracked with a little too much background. Where was I? Oh yes. So there we were, hiking behind the cabin on a beautiful Sunday morning. Carol and I were commenting on the new flowers that were popping up after the summer rains gave them a jump start. I told Carol that I did notice new elk hoof prints by the cabin and down across the freshly raked cinders of our drive. This is where our construction from the afternoon before left our lay down area a little disheveled. But knowing how careful Carol placed the rocks lining the drive and the raking of the loose cinders to blend in her handy work in redistributing to fill in thin spots on our lost visit, I was not about to leave it a mess.

Just then I heard a growl. Carol whispered “What was that?• A bear, I calmly said.

No. that’s just a dog. They were barking at various times at night when the elk were heading in, she exclaimed. Then, another growl. It is a bear! she said. Let’s head to the railroad bed. Would you feel better if I were packing? I would prefer pepper spray. Pepper spray has to be sprayed in their eyes. No, just around them. I don’t think so. It’s best right between their eyes. Let’s head toward the RR bed. Why do you want to head there? So we can out run them. Oh, Run Forest Run!

That remind me of the old story of the two guys that were hiking in the woods. They spotted a giant black bear standing on the other side of a meadow sniffing at the air. Then suddenly it started heading for them. One hiker sat down on a log, kicked off his hiking boots pulled out his sneakers from his bock pock, quickly slipped them on and laced thetn tight. The other hiker said, “You can’t outrun that bear”. I don’t have to he replied, I just have to outrun you. And off he went.