I Smell Golf!

Many years ago I bought a set of golf clubs from my next door neighbor during his family’s big garage sale. The set came complete with a bag, clubs, an odd assortment of golf balls and tees. The golf shoes were a size eleven. I wear a size 9 1/2 and a 10 feels really good so an eleven must be even better. So now I’m suddenly a golfer!

In my late teens some friends tried to get me into the golf game. At the time I was into camping, hunting and fishing. I would always respond to their request with the same reply. The day the make a shotgun barrel big enough to hold a golf ball, I may consider taking up the sport that is if I could use the shotgun in play. Well, that didn’t happen so I didn’t become a golf bum, or should I say enthusiast? Now that I think about it, I did play on a specialized course. My biggest problem in tournament play was getting by the big wind mill on the first try. The hole with the draw bridge was a piece of cake.

So here I am with my first set of golf clubs for a total investment of $35.00. That hot, summer evening would become my first outing with my new golf set. Where could I go to play and not be embarrassed? Well. the vacant field beside our house would be a good test range. Sound like rocket science doesn’t it? I did happen to hit a few balls with the largest club in the bag that I remembered my neighbor calling a -hot driver.” Summer time in the Valley produces many hot drivers, but they all don’t hit balls. This experience was an interesting one, but as fate would have it, my other neighbor had a garage sale and my bag of clubs found their way to a spot closest to the sidewalk You couldn’t miss them; they had a big $30.00 sign on with some fine print at the bottom. It read, -complete with comfortable golf shoes, especially if you wear size 9 1/2.

Years passed, and I thought that getting into golf again might be fun. Several of my friends play golf and my Son in law is an avid golfer. Also, our church has golf tournaments from time to time to raise money for specials projects. That sounded like fun, so I decided to take up golf again that is if I really had taken it up before.

So my good friend, Willie heard about my new found interest in the sport and encourages me to play with him. I didn’t have any golf clubs of my own, so he loaned me a set to use, as he had several sets. His sons all played golf with him and on occasion, his wife Caryn would join in on the sport. But I think he saw me as a real challenge, but I don’t think he knew how much of one. So now I’m golfing again, but this time he started me out on the driving range. With a few pointers, I began contacting the ball in such a way that it almost would appear that I knew what I was doing, and then suddenly that vision would evaporate but not the worry sweat on my brow. I found out that stress is a big part of the game and overcoming it is the springboard to success. But overcoming it, is an on going process, for me anyway. The next step for me was to buy a set of golf clubs. I had great success in buying my first set of dubs at a garage sale, so I thought I would try it again. One of our current neighbors has one of the annual Kiwanis Club garage sales to benefit their charitable organization. And wouldn’t you know it, their set a set of golf clubs, bag and assorted balls and tees. I bought this set for less and $50.00. So now I was official, I had my own clubs. When I took them out for the first time. I found all kinds of things stuffed into the pockets of the bag. There were several score cards, stubby scoring pencils, and pink Kleenex. Pink? Some of the golf tees were pink mixed in with other pastel colored tees. Then it dawned on me. This set of clubs belonged to a female. I bought female clubs. Well, they were a bargain. I invested a little more money and purchased man size grips and re-gripped all the clubs. Now they are masculinized. Let’s play golf.

Oh, by the way. I have never player in the Church Tournaments. Since the time I have taken up golf, they have become few and far in between. Last year I got excited about one that was to benefit a Mission in Mexico. As it turned out, it was scheduled for a Friday morning. I question my friend Chip who is on the Church Staff about the Friday schedule. He asked if Friday morning was a bad time for me. I told him it kind of messes with my day job. One sunny, Sunday after noon, Willie called me to see if I want to join he and Caryn in playing the Executive Nine Hole Course at Painted Mountain Golf Club. That sounded like great fun and it was. It was only because I took being outplayed by Caryn very well and I was just happy to be out enjoying the day. I think it Mark Twain the said “Golf is a walk in the park, spoiled.” But the walking in the park is always great! Golf is fun!

During the winter months, Willie would imitate a golf swing after our Saturday Night Church Service and then would signal he would call me latter to set up a round for the next morning. This is a time when the snowbirds settle in for their season in the Valley and of course would time up all the restaurants, shuffleboard courts and golf courses. Willie had found the perfect time to get out on the links. He would pick me up in the wee hours of the morning, long before the sun would come up. We would have our morning coffee on the way to help offset the chill of winter. That chill sometimes would be 35 to 45 degrees. We would arrive along with the golf course pros and managers anywhere between 30 to 45 minutes before they open to the public. Willie knows these guys very well and made a deal with them. We would take all of the golf carts out of the basement garage after being on the battery charger all night. It was almost like go cart racing even though we experienced a little wind chill effect as the carts did not have windshields. Then we would back inside for a little more coffee and conversation and wait for the go a head from the City of Mesa Park Official go the go a head to play, after he has determined that the morning from was clearing up enough to play without damaging the grass. We would then be the first ones out and beat the rush.

Sometime Willie would try to help me overcome the pressure and stress of playing golf by inviting golf pros to place with us. Or did he do it just for the pure joy of watching me sweat out each drive in the frigid morning temperatures. But it was fun and I became hooked!

On occasion, I would venture to the driving range to hit a bucket of balls. One late Saturday afternoon I was going through the various clubs in my bag and doing quite well with my short irons. I was working up to my fairway woods and then to my driver. There was a young man next to me that looked like a body builder. He was absolutely smashed the ball with his high tech driver and all the power he could muster. His shots were almost clearing the range. The older gentle on the other side of me was just finishing his last few balls just as I pulled out my driver. He watched me for a few minutes and then said” You don’t need to look up so soon after you hit the ball, it wasn’t that good. Then as he bagged his clubs and prepared to leave he said, •Remember to swing hard just in case you hit it.” He chuckled and gave me a wink. I think he always looked for an opportunity to use those lines. Then this little old lady came walking toward me one club in her hand and a small, junior bucket of balls came over to take the recently vacated space. She put her bucket of balls on the ground and then reached in the pocket of the matronly dress she was wearing that clashed with her sneaker style golf shoes. She gently teed up her ball, sighted the intended line of flight, approached the ball and swung her club. The ball traveled about ten yards on the fly and then rolled another two yards. She turned abound, smiled at me and said, •1 just got out of the hospital a few days ago after having surgery. I just wanted to make sure I could hit the ball and I can!” She picked up her tee, placed in back in her pocket and with a kind smile wished me a good day and headed toward the parking lot. That experience taught me what golf is all about. It doesn’t matter how well you play the game, as long as you can enjoy it. As my old friend Steve White used to say, •we are playing (any sport) just for the fun of it. The more we win, the funnier it gets!”

Willie and my Son-in-law, Kevin, both golf every chance they get. I, on the other hand enjoy the game, but do not play all that often, but enjoy it just the same. As a matter of fact. when Kevin comes to town, getting on the greens is of utmost importance. So Willie and Kevin work plan on when and where they could play. On one of their golf adventures, they were playing at a time I could join them. It was actually my first time playing with Kevin. We had a very enjoyable time the first four holes. Of course they both could play circles around me, but in the game of golf, you actually play against yourself, trying to improve your shots and score. On about the fifth tee, I hit a drive that drifted a little to the right of the fairway. It actually flew over a little knoll near the sixth fairway. Both Willie and Kevin had driven to the left of the green and were waiting for me to hit my shot back toward the green. The player with a ball lying the greatest distance from the hole is said to be •away”, and hits his shot or shots until they are no longer •away•. I was •away” so I climbed to the top of the knoll and picked a spot to target. I choose my nine iron for the chore, approached the ball and let it fly. As I ran up over the hill to see the outcome, Willie yells out that I hit my son in law. What? They were both laughing, knowing that I hit him on the bounce on the shoulder and it did not hurt him. To them, the funny part was how much mileage they would get out of the story at my expense. So goes golf. They don’t seem to invite me to go with them as often as they used too. They probably don’t want me to show them up.

I’m not so bad at golfing. I did get a birdie once golfing with Willie, but he said it didn’t count because it was a real bird that I hit with one of my shots he called a •worm burner” because it travels low and skips on the grass allot. He also refused to give me any credit with I hit a sleeping coyote under a shade tree about 75 yards down field. They love to prey on the rabbits that at times very abundant on the fairways.

Willie and Caryn had invited Carol and I to come up to Prescott for a little R&R. Shopping and Golf were on the agenda. We all arrived Friday afternoon with a clear sky and beautiful view of the Verde Valley. By the next morning, we had cloudy skies and rain in the forecast . But that wasn’t going to stop the slated events of the day. The ladies went shopping and Willie and I took off to meet two of Willies Prescott golfing buddies at Antelope Hills Golf Course.

We arrived at the club house early and found small groups of golfers waiting to see if the weather was going to break. Nobody was out on the course yet, so sharing golfing stories was the next best thing to actually playing. We decided to have a cup of coffee while we waited for the rest of our foursome. Sometimes you can’t beat the forced timeouts that your are given. After we finished our coffees, we decided to check out the Pro Shop for anything that could be used to protect us from the elements if we were fortunate to have the weather break enough to allow us to get out on the course. Willie bough a nice Antelope Hills wind breaker and I found a warm golf vest. I did have a couple of cheap ponchos in my golf bag for days just like this day.

Only one of the guys showed just as the steady rain turned into a light sprinkle. His name was Jim and he greeted us with a Bible verse, as I leaned latter was his standard greeting. He was a very likeable character in his mid sixties and loved to fling jokes and short stories at every opportunity. Jim said that we may be joined by our other member mid course so it was time for the big question. We asked one of the course managers if they were going to allow anyone to play. He had no problem turning us loose and off we went. Willie and I shared one cart and Bob had the second.

The first few holes were played in a light mist. The clouds were scooting by at a fairly good pace and the forecast looked promising. By the third hole, the clouds changed to a solid blue/gray mast and then rain came down as a heavy sprinkle. Jim did not have any rain gear, so I loaned him one of my cheap ponchos. It looked more like a glorified trash bag with a hole cut out of his head. I did have a hood that helped distinguish it from a garbage bag, but Jim was happy to have it. After a few more holes, Jim decided to through in the towel and left Willie and I to fend for ourselves. The rain would pick up from time to time, but not enough to drive us off the course, no pun intended. The occasional lighting strikes punctuated by loud claps of thunder made us consider our options, but we choose to play through.

One of the highlights was a large eagle like raptor fly by with a live fish clutched in its claws sharp talons. It was close enough to see it trying to wiggle free to no avail. It was doomed to be breakfast for the massive creature.

Out on mid course, Willie was demonstrating what not to do near a water feature. His ball landed on the embankment surrounding a small pond. As he addressed the ball, the water seamed to draw his attention and with his swing striking the ball in such a fashion, that it sliced right into the water. He dropped a second ball down on the grass and swung his club with the same result. He now baptized two of his good golf balls. The third made the correct flight probably due to the adjustment attributed to his laughter from the first two. My Bother-in -law Ken has know taken up the gentlemen’s sport of golf. One of the explanations of the word golf is that it means •·Gentlemen Only, Ladies Forbidden. But that is not the case anymore, or hasn’t been in a long time. Ken purchased a new set of clubs when he started playing and loves to bring them out to Arizona to enjoy the great golfing weather we have in the winter when is cold and snowy back east in New Jersey.

One day Willie called and invited Ken and I to join him for a round of golf. Ken and went out the day before and did a little practicing on the driving range, so we were ready to go. To our surprise, we were joined by one of Willies friends, Scot, who happed to be one of the managers for the Chicago Cubs. He was a beginner at the game of golf and fit right in with Ken and me. Ken was telling him how he was excited-to be in Arizona at the same time the Fiesta Bowl was events were going on as he is an Ohio State Alum and didn’t even care that he didn’t have tickets to the game against Miami. He we want~ to be here to catch the flavor of the atmosphere.

Scot spent allot of time on the telephone in between his shots. It was a busy time for him making arrangements for this or that. It wasn’t till later that we learned part of his cell phone time was spent trying to arrange tickets to the Fiesta Bowl for Ken but he was unsuccessful. Ken appreciated the effort, but Scot said he would try to do better next year.

The night of the ballgame, Ken, Bonnie, Carol and I went to downtown Tempe to roam the streets along with the Ohio State Buckeye Fans and a few Miami fans. The ratio was about ten to one. Ken bought a few souvenirs and then we headed home to watch the game on TV. It was a great game and Ohio State Buckeye won and became the National Champions . The following year, Ken and Bonnie came out for Christmas and low and behold, the Ohio State Football team was in town to play the Kansas State Wildcats in the 33rd Fiesta Bowl for the National Championship. •It’s like deja w all over again”. (Yogi Berra) This time Scot came through with great tickets for the ball game for Ken and Bonnie. Bonnie graciously elected not to ~ to the game, but would stay home and watch it on TV with Carol. She insisted I use her ticket. I was a little reluctant for a good thirty seconds, but then after much persuasion I accepted her offer. This tim~dnstead of roaming with the crowd in downtown Tempe, we were heading inside the stadium to our seats behind the Ohio State Bench, ten rows up. Thank you Scot! Ohio State won!

Willie and Caryn were planning a cruise to Alaska similar to the cruise that Ken, Bonnie, Carol & I took several years before. Willie was interested in the fly fishing adventure Ken and me went on and wanted to learn a little more about fly fishing. I owe him a trip to the White Mountains but we weren’t going to be able to get a fly fishing lessen in up there before the trip, so I had another plan. He and I were going to play Painted Mountain. This was at the same time Sammy Sosa had his bat spit open and cork was discovered. So when Willie and I were out on one of the tees, we started talking about Sammy’s corked bat and I told Willie I had a corked golf club. Sure enough, there was a cork handle hanging out of my golf bag. Willie asked what a cork handle was doing there so I pulled it out and there was my fly rod. I had planned giving Willie a fly fishing lesson on the golf course, and so I did. After about fifteen minutes of show and tell, one of the pros drove out to us from the club house. He sad management heard that there were too guy fly fishing out by the first tee box and they must be stopped. It gives the wrong message. So we all laughed about it and the story is still being told from time to time in the golf shop.

One day Willie called me to see if I wanted to join him and other friend for nine holes at the Painted Mountain Course. I was more than happy to play, so I headed over for our 12:00 noon tee time. We were also expecting one of the Chicago Cubs pitchers to join us, but he was a no show. From the parking lot I spotted Willie on the practice putting green. He introduced me to the third member of our group and another person with a strange looking putter. It was actually a billiard pool queue stick with a half a brick epoxied on the tapered end. Willie said “Watch this!” Just then, while this guy still was talking to me and still making eye contact with me, hit the ball toward the hole twenty feet away. The ball made a little curve just before reaching the hole and then went in. Then he put another ball on the ground and did it again. Evidently he builds these “queue brick clubs·, sells them and then offers putting lessons with them. This particular model even had a clear section in the butt of the handle, filled with liquid and a miniature Eight Ball suspended in it. When he strikes the golf ball, the clear sections would light up and then flash on and off. After this demonstration was over, Willie told him we were short one of our foursome, and asked if he would like to play with us? He agreed and off we went to the first hole. It was a short hole with the cup about 125 yards away. So “Mr. Fancy Club” is invited to hit first. He places his ball on a shot tee, pulls out his nine iron, turns his back to the hole and swings looking the opposite direction. He called it side saddle. The ball rolled up on the green within ten feet of the hole. The rest of us weren’t nearly as accurate. Then as we headed to the green, he said he likes to hit like that because of his hip replacement. Oh boy! We had a trick putter and shooter playing with us. This was going to be a long round. I am glad we don’t bet on these games.

On our last golf outing, by luck we timed our tee time just ahead of a large group of fourteen golfers. It was about 104 degrees in the shade at 1:00 P.M. At that time and temperature we thought the golf course would be all ours. Did I ever mention that golfers are a little nuts? The group behind us wanted all of its sub groups to be foursomes so when they split their players, they were off my two. They asked if we would mind having two of their players team up with us. So we agreed. The two golfers were the youngest in the group, college age and the only two under sixty years old. After our foursome teed off we were of to the races, so to speak. It was a little embarrassing for me when Willie put the pedal to the metal on a jack rabbit start, we heard a strange crash just after we hit a little bump on the fairway thirty yards from the tee. I looked behind to see my golf clubs rolling to a stop. Evidently, the strap securing the club bag bump again the cart frame and the bump release the buckle and the rest is history, all recorded by the twelve golfers behind us.

Sometimes Willie sneaks out for a little golf solo. He is always is looking for an opportunity to practice. He tells me Practice, Practice, Practice. He practices what he preaches. But one time when he came home he was greeted by Caryn at the door and then she exclaimed “I Smell Golf! How do these women zone in on us so easily. We men don’t come home and say, “I Smell Chit Chat” after the girls had a mid morning or afternoon coffee. I know what coffee smells like, but “Chit Chat”?

they must be stopped. It gives the wrong message. So we all laughed about it and the story is still being told from time to time in the golf shop.

One day Willie called me to see if I wanted to join him and other friend for nine holes at the Painted Mountain Course. I was more than happy to play, so I headed over for our 12:00 noon tee time. We were also expecting one of the Chicago Cubs pitchers to join us, but he was a no show. From the parking lot I spotted Willie on the practice putting green. He introduced me to the third member of our group and another person with a strange looking putter. It was actually a billiard pool queue stick with a half a brick epoxied on the tapered end. Willie said •watch this!” Just then, while this guy still was talking to me and still making eye contact with me, hit the ball toward the hole twenty feet away. The ball made a little curve just before reaching the hole and then went in. Then he put another ball on the ground and did it again. Evidently he builds these •queue brick clubs”, sells them and then offers putting lessons with them. This particular model even had a clear section in the butt of the handle, filled with liquid and a miniature Eight Ball suspended in it. When he strikes the golf ball, the clear sections would light up and then flash on and off. After this demonstration was over, Willie told him we were short one of our foursome, and asked if he would like to play with us? He agreed and off we went to the first hole. It was a short hole with the cup about 125 yards away. So •Mr. Fancy Club” is invited to hit first. He places his ball on a shot tee, pulls out his nine iron, turns his back to the hole and swings looking the opposite direction. He called it side saddle. The ball rolled up on the green within ten feet of the hole. The rest of us weren’t nearly as accurate. Then as we headed to the green, he said he likes to hit like that because of his hip replacement. Oh boy! We had a trick putter and shooter playing with us. This was going to be a long round. I am glad we don’t bet on these games.

Sometime Willie sneaks out for a little golf solo. He is always is looking for an opportunity to practice. He tells me Practice, Practice, Practice. He practices what he preaches. But one time when he came home he was greeted by Caryn at the door and then she exclaimed •r Smell Golf! How do these women zone in on us so easily. We men don’t come home and say, •r Smell Chit Chat” after the girls had a mid morning or afternoon coffee. I know what coffee smells like, but “Chit Chat”?


Way back in 1979 we were invited by Larry and Cheryl Burleson to take a vacation with them to San Diego. They were official Zonnies and were looking for new converts. I was real busy with work and didn’t think the time would be right to go, but Cheryl and my wife Carol made up my mind for me. So much for my input, we were going to San Diego.

It was late September and the annual flight of the Summer Zonnies was over. I don’t know if Summer Zonnies travel in flock or herds, but they are normally spotted in greatest numbers in the last two weeks of August and up through Labor Day Weekend. But they were all back home by the time our vacation time was upon us. Besides, the Pacific Ocean is actually a little warmer in late September and early October due to the shift in the ocean currents, or a least that is what Cheryl reported. So our plan was to drive two cars. Larry and Cheryl had their little compact car that would have great gas mileage and Carol and I had our large, nine passenger, Chevy Suburban with dual air conditioning and a 454 cubic inch engine to power us there at the rate of ten miles per gallon.

We meet the Burleson’s at their house early Saturday morning. The anticipation was high and everybody with anxious to get on the road. We had our two youngsters, Chad and Heidi loaded into our car with all our gear and the Burleson’s were packing their three kids, Christian, John and Adam into their car, along with Cheryl’s guitar. With everyone situated, we were off! Or were we? Larry backed his car out of the driveway and then suddenly the engine died. The engine was cranking OK but it wasn’t getting and fuel to the carburetor. After many attempts to get it going, Larry determined that the problem was a direct result of filling the fuel tank the night before with a new kind of gas that would clean up the engine and improve performance. It contained a new additive call ethanol. As it turned out, this additive did dissolve the gunk in the car’s fuel system but unfortunately sent this crud to the carburetor and plug the gas flow. So with the repair too costly in time we decided to pile everyone and their gear into the suburban. With the transfer compete, we were off. San Diego here we come. Even Cheryl’s guitar fit in comfortably and was put in use as we traveled along.

It took us just over eight hours to get to our beachfront apartments. Casa Del Playa was actually in La Jolla and right across the street from a grass park with a little trail that led right down to the beach. What a great place. We had two apartments with small kitchens. The Burleson’s were upstairs and the Wagner’s were downstairs, or was it the other way around? The main thing was that we were on vacation with our friends and on the beach. What’s more, Cheryl and Carol are great cooks and we also had several good restaurants around.

The beach was great! Down from the park there were several, large, private homes and very few people on the beach. When the tide went out, the kids would be exploring the tide pools and sticking their fingers in those little puffy creatures that would suddenly slam closed. At the top of the trail heading back to the apartment, there was a small, wooded bench. It was in a perfect place to what the sun sink into the vast ocean. We made a point to be there at sunset many times as evidence by the number of pictures we took from that spot . Sometimes the kids even got into the scene. It was great!

We ventured away from our little paradise a few times. One time was to a crowed beach where it was difficult to even find a parking place. On another day we went to Old Town where we all dressed up in turn of the century western garb complete with pistols and rifles. Some of us were even dressed like bar maids. Larry and I looked pretty darn good! Don’t take that the wrong way. We were the ones with the guns. Another trip took us to the USS Okinawa that is based there in San Diego. We went on a tour and this time it was our kids that were handling the guns, but under the careful eye of the young sailors. It was amazing to see a glimpse into the life of the Navy Men and Women on this floating home.

We had two favorite places to eat. One was a restaurant within walking distance of Casa Del Playa. It made for a great, morning walk through a small, quaint neighborhood. We even hit a garage sale on the way where I found a pair of gyros for Larry and I to play with. The kids only acted semi interested. Our most favorite dining was Anthony’s located on the shore line. It had a small pier and dock where you could park your boat or yacht. If your yacht was too big, you would have to come in on your dingy. What was the saying? •Fishermen don’t die; they just get a little dingy.” The kids would enjoy the balloonoligist that would make ocean creatures out of those skinny balloons. The seafood there was great and the view of the ocean was spectacular! One of our favorite, in apartment meals was Cheryl’s Red Snapper. It was only a few balloons short of being equal to Anthony’s.

No San Diego trip is complete without a trip to Sea World. Early one morning about the crack of nine (remember we were on vacation) we loaded into the car and headed to the home of “shammoo”. You know, there were fish and other sea creatures in every nook and cranny. As a mater of fact, when Heidi dropped one of her flip flops in the water as we crossed a small bridge, I reached in and retrieved it in one fell swoop of the hand. Then to my surprise, they told me that was the baby shark tank. I immediately counted my fingers. They were all there and securely attached.

In my opinion, I think we had the best time at our own beach. I bought a pair of Bushnell Binoculars to watch the ships go by. We had fun tossing a Frisbee and walking along the beach at various times of day and tide. One afternoon Larry and I were standing on the waters edge, when a young lady came up to ask for the time of day, or to make small talk or …. or something. What she may or may not have known was that her bright, white bathing suit became a little transparent when wet. I can’t remember any of her facial features, but I do remember she was pleasant to talk to!

All too soon, it was time to going back to Arizona. We loaded up the suburban, said our good byes to the management and the beach. We had perfect weather our entire stay and only hit a little rain while leaving San Diego. It came at the same time the song “I love a rainy day” was playing on the radio. Everyone joined in chorus as the windshield wipers kept the beat. Another favorite song was “Sailing” by Christopher Cross. When the radio signal faded we shared stories and sang songs accompanied by Cheryl on guitar. Where I was once a Man in turn with nature either in the desert or pine forest, I had now become a Son of the Beach.

The trip home seamed allot longer than the trip there. The anticipation of vacation and fun makes the going a lot faster while that the anticipation of work and school made the trip home a long journey. In Yuma we stopped for gas and a little refreshment. While there we discovered a leak in the suburban’s radiator. Being in Yuma, the station had many fixes for car cooling systems. The one I chose was and silty mixture that when poured into the radiator would seep into the crack and plug it up. It was a great $3.00 investment and got us all the way home. The Burleson’s could now crown the Wagner’s as official Zonnies. from that point on, we will all remember this special vacation whenever we would hear those two special songs “I love a rainy night” or “Sailing”. I don’t know about Larry B., but I also think about it whenever I see a white bathing suit.


Years later, our Zonnie family members are all pretty much normal except, I have to say John Burleson. After he married his lovely wife, he moved his family from place to place due to his work. That is OK and understandable. But for a time, his job took him to San Diego. While there, he completely turned his back on all us Zonnies and would even go as far as to cheer for the San Diego Padres, even when playing against the new Arizona Diamond Backs. What’s more, while visiting Arizona, he would sit in the brand new Bank One Ball Park in Downtown Phoenix and root the Padres on against the D-Backs in front of his parents. He had no respect. But alas, he now has come to his senses and moved his family back to Arizona. We forgive him for his past transgressions and hope he has learned his lesson and is now a loyal Diamond Back fan.


Wapiti Crossing

The gote post assembly was ready for installation. We determined that the best place to install the gate the would lead to our second back yard consisting of 100,000 acres was right in the middle of the pine tree stand above the hammock. The frame materials was purchased with the Home Depot gift cars that Chip and Teri Stauffer left on the kitchen table along with some other tokens of appreciation for using the cabin. The new cork screw was one essential kitchen utensil that was missing from our wares. How did they focus in on our needs for that instrument? I must say that Carol did scold them for leaving the gifts, but we will put everything to good use.

We had been planning a gate to go through the Sitgreaves National Forest, barbed wire fence for some time. Over the last forty years, family and friends have climbed over or through this fence 1,000 times and most of the time without drawing blood. It is about time to make it easy on everyone by putting in a gate. With the contribution of Chip & Teri, we were finally ready to move forward on this project. Since the gate will be installed near the area the elk use to jump over this fence to gain access to the tender grasses of the meadow along with the various neighbors delicious plants and young trees, we decided to call this place •wapiti Crossing”, the name Native Americans use for the North American Elk, which means •white rump” in Shawnee. In other words, get your white rump over this fence and enjoy God’s Creation. When the gate is complete, the sign with the words ·wapiti Crossing” engraved in a slab of wood, will hang over the Stauffer’s gate as a reminder to do just that. The wapiti will still have to go over the barbed wire and the cows will still have to graze on the other side of the fence.

My son Chad mentioned on several occasions when I had need for a particular thing for the cabin, it would come. This weekend we had need for a posthole digger to excavate two narrow holes of the legs of the gate frame. So early Saturday morning we set out to town to see what we could find, but it would have to be right after breakfast. We were open to looking in for this digging tool in the little swap meet near the Thai Food Restaurant which also served a great breakfast. Two weeks prior we spotted a nice pitch fork for Carol’s use in rounding up pine needles to keep them from building up around the cabin. But both the restaurant and the swap meet were not open, so we decided to go into Show Low seeing that we already passed our other favorite breakfast stops. Did I ever mention that breakfast is my favorite meal to eat out?

In Show Low, I wanted to treat the boy’s to Patrick’s Restaurant. Carol and I had a great lunch there when we were desperate to find a TV so that we could watch the Ohio State vs. Michigan football game a few years back. We had gone in and seated ourselves at a booth advantageous to seeing the big screen, but as luck would have it, they had on a Norte Dame game. I think they were playing Slippery Rock College or someone. The game was on NBC which is the Norte Dame Broadcasting Company. Nobody was paying any attention to that game as they were intently focused on doctoring up the short stack pancakes, salt & peppering the over easy eggs, and chomping down on the bacon, ham and hash brown potatoes, all being chased by hot coffee or orange juice. Since it was at the end of the breakfast call, we decided to be the first to go with the traditional hamburger lunch which was a treat in itself. The waitress notice our interest in see the football scores that were being marched across the bottom of the TV screen on what I thing the call the creeper . She went up near the cash register and return with the remote control in her hand and presented it to us. She didn’t think anyone would mine if we tuned into the game we were interested in. And so we did, and several others took interest in the game and they finished the last morsels on their breakfast plates. The coffee kept flowing thought.

Needless to say, we all enjoyed our breakfast as it tasted every bit as good as it looked the last time Carol and I were here. As we finished, I slipped over to the community message board to see if there were any calling cards of any services we needed. I did find a few, but the thing that was most productive on the bulletin board was a little news letter that also listed current events. The writers and story tellers fair in Springer Ville coming up the following weekend had some appeal to me. but I don’t know why. But the listing for the swap meet down the road a piece, was just the thing we were looking for. So we decided to head over and see what we could find.

There was all kind of interesting things there, all of which we did not need, but we bought anyway. Then Chad informed me that there was some yard tools leaning against the fence in the back of the lot, but they looked like they were used to construct the fence they were against. I took a look at the line up and spotted just the very thing I was looking for. It was an old fence post digger, once broken and then mended. I went over to what appeared to be the swap meet office and snack bar and ask if anybody new it those tools were for sale or if they were just resting. One elderly gentleman spoke up and offered to go with us to take a look. He asked what we were interested in. I told him a fence post digger. He asked how many holes so we have to dig? I told him two. I thought he was going to loan it to me, but he said five dollars and it’s yours. I took his deal and both of us were happy. He didn’t have to dig and more holes and made five dollars to boot and I was happy that I had a fence post digger and two sons to dig the holes. The boy’s would find out shortly more about the latter later.

Back at the cabin, we came up with a consensus where the best place to install the new gate. It would be in the small group of pine trees near the hammock. not far from Carol and Heidi’s new fire pit. With my Number 10 Vise Grips, I straighten out the damaged cutting edge of our recently acquired posthole digger and we were ready to go. With the holes dug as far as we could go, with the dirt more like hard clay, I realized it was time to show the boy’s a little trick. Putting the gate frame assembly in the freshly dug holes, we marked and then cut off the longest leg to make the frame fit just right. That saved another hour of digging and still be a good, sturdy installation. Armed with a level and little concrete mixed in the wheel barrel, we were ready to pour the holes full while holding the frame plumb. The boy’s decided to go for a bike ride wheel waiting for just the right opportunity to do the traditional •signing and dating” the fresh concrete for posterity. The neck step is to make or find a gate. We had looked at possible sources in our travels but to no avail. We would have to probably make from scratch or find one to modify to fit but it would have to meet certain criteria. Chad reminded us “it will come”.

Labor Day Weekend, two weeks later.

Carol and were going to spend the three day holiday weekend planning the next big project, a new metal roof. There were many things to consider, plan and execute before stripping the old cedar shakes and installing the new metal roof. And it was also a chance for us to unwind a little from the hurried pace we both have been in.

We left Mesa at our regular 5:00 P.M. get away time but this time with a surprise thunder storm. We were not the only ones surprised, but the weather forecasters were completely broadsided by the event. We had a few sprinkles on and off until we hit Globe. Got a little wet as Carol and I dashed into Irene’s Mexican Food Restaurant. After our traditional meal, we headed toward the Salt River Canyon. The closer we to the Canyon, the heavier the rain came along with a tremendous lightning display. I love a rainy night and driving in the rain. I even had been rightly accused of going out of my way to hit it. Must be the Native Arizona Blood that causes that kind of reaction. Just as we hit the safety pull out the rain really started coming down, so much so that many cars were pulling off the side of the road. I thought that as entered the canyon it would taper off a bite, but the rain kept coming. So much so, that at 30 MPH it was difficult to see the highway lines and the little reflectors set into there little divots were under water. Carol persuaded me to pull over and wait out the storm. We did at the next safe pull out. Other cars pulled off also, but none passed us and no cars were coming up out of the canyon. We only had to wait about ten minutes until the rain let up, and we were off and running again. We stopped at Carol’s favorite Chevron gas station on the Indian Reservation for hot chocolate and of course, another Navajo Indian Jewelry purchase. This time it was a sterling silver ring formed with a dainty bow. This time it only cost me $5.00. This is becoming my favorite place to buy this kind of thing . Must be my appreciation of the Native American Arts. Carol says its because I’m cheap. I resemble that statement! The rain did stay with us all the way to Show Low. I bet the weather forecasters were all planning their excuses for the next days news.

We hit the cabin in between the rain showers which made unloading the car a breeze. The cabin only had a few minor leaks where we had placed the temporary roofing, but we were high and dry. The rains impact against the metal and cedar shades was occasionally drowned out by the winds driving the showers against the glass. This chorus made for good sleeping weather. The clouds were also driven by the winds and were very low. You could see them scoot by the tall pine outside our high peak window.

The next morning was overcast with spurts of rain throughout the day. We headed to town for an early breakfast. and then a hardware run. We also stopped off at fencing companying to see if they added anymore stock that might fit our gate frame. In hindsight. planning the size of the gate frame, it probably would have been a good idea to consider what a standard purchased gate would require just incase I would change my mind about building or modifying a gate. As luck would have it. on my second trip to town for more hardware. I found the perfect gate that would fit exactly in my odd sized frame. It couldn’t have been any better. I bet even the boys would like it. Carol loved it! In an hours time it was installed and Carol stepped through the new “Stauffer’s Gate” with the sign over the top of the frame declaring it ·wapiti Crossing”. The rest of the weekend was spent sightseeing by car and boot with much relaxing intermingled with few maintenance type chores and a little planning scattered in between.


If You Are Having Trouble Sleeping. Read This.

One early autumn morning while sitting near a comforting fire in the little shelter we fondly call the •wagner’s Wooden Tent”, I was enjoying my first cup of coffee. Carol notice my lap top computer was fired up and ready to go. She asked if I was creating a new story. I told her I was actually doing a little editing as these stories just gush out of my mind faster than my fingers can hammer the keys. Using this state of the art computer at my finger tips is of great benefit, but sometimes it will try to out think me and put in words that are not my own. If I misspell a word, it will underline it in red or it will put in the correct spelling of a word that is close to word I intended. I made the statement in one of my earlier stories about going back and editing my work, but that is too boring for me because I already know what it says. Just about everyone who reads these stories, want to help me edit them, but to date, my daughter Heidi has made the biggest contribution to this effort and my son Jeremy did his magic on some of my spelling and grammar. The only problem with her editing is that it is too darn good and it does read like I talk or write. So here is the challenge. As you read these stories, have a pencil or pen handy and put it to work when you come across a misspelling, punctuation error or grammar catastrophe. Let me know of your findings, and I will consider them as long as they aren’t too perfect.

If you find yourself a subject or player in any of these stories, please feel free to jot down any corrections in the story line or your interpretation of the account. People, places, things, events, blame, innocence, etc. are my remembrances of the events or stories and enriched by creative license and bad memory. So, have at it if is your story too! Even expand on it if you dare.

Well, it’s mid morning now and Carol already made the rounds at the portion of the Fall Festival held at the Blue Ridge School. The “Run ForThe Pines” antique auto show is underway at the Pine Top Lakes and there is more art and crafts across the street. Clouds are moving in and thunder can be heard in the distance. It may not be a great day for the Fall Festival but Carol already made her contributions to help its success and is satisfied with her purchases. She tries to help out in the community events whenever she can. We also made a stop at Eddies Country Store for a few grocery items. Carol planned doing chicken on the grille if it isn’t raining. She asked if I want wine coolers with our evening meal, but I thought a good beer would be tasty. I used to have beer a month whither I needed it or not, but it has been about ten months since I had my last real beer. I did have an O’Doul’s about a month ago on the golf course with Willie. As I perused the fine beer department with all of the imports neatly placed, I came upon a beer brewed in Flagstaff, Arizona call Wapiti Beer. It came in a large brown bottle with a Picture of a large bull elk standing on the edge of a meadow. What are the chances? I had to have that bottle for the cabin, or should I say •wapiti Crossing”.

Initially this day was to be spent installing making upgrades required by our insurance company. Their fire prevention team made a visit to the cabin back in July. They got around sending a notice of corrections we need to make at the beginning of September and due by the end of the year. Instead of moving forward on out I started installing wood grained, cement board closure panels around the base of the cabin and working out the trim flashing modifications preparation for the new corrugated roofing that will replace the old cedar shake roof. Carol has been weed-eating all the tall, natural grass and wild flowers around the cabin. Carol whacking of the weeds and grass over 4″ was one requirement and closing in under the cabin and front deck was the other. What they did not report is that we have pine trees within one foot from the cabin and we have a 40 year old cedar shake roof. I should complain about what they have us do and tell them that their inspector must be blind not seeing the obvious problems but only the ticky tacky ones. But since we are tacking care of all of these issues, it’s probably a good idea to just conform to their wishes. Maybe I should send them a picture of the grass with 6″ of snow cover on the grass. After a little lunch break, the rain started to come. We decided to take a ride through the woods until the weather clears up a little. The roads were still in pretty good shape except for a little wash board here and there. We did do a little four wheeling on one of the back roads. Got a little mud on the car! Jeremy would be proud.

I noticed elk hoof prints on the side of the road embedded in the fresh mud. We decided to take a little hike in that area and see what we could kick up. The rain had let up a little, but it was still chilly. As we walked through the tall, open pines, perfect place for elk, I spotted something in the distance. I though I saw a white tail deer, but have we put our binoculars on it, it turned out to be an antelope. Then there was another and then another. We finally counted ten, all moving at a fair clip until they saw us. They were about 150 yards away and very curious what we were going to do. They stood there watching us for about five minutes. Then they started moving away. Carol said that made the whole trip worth while. We continued our loop around back to the road. We usually hike the loop method which keeps us turning in a circle until we get back to our car.

The warmth of the car felt comforting as we continued on our adventure. About five miles down the road we came across ten wild turkeys scurrying away form us. They were only about thirty feet from us when we stopped. We decided to get out the car and follow them just for fun. They were headed to a clump of short oaks. They must have high tailed it, because they were no where to be seen. We head a clap of thunder, and thought it would be a good time to get back to the car.

Seeing ten antelope and ten turkeys so far, what would be next? We turned back toward the main forest road at the next junction instead of heading to Porter Mountain Road as we normally would. There are several crossing forest road to get us heading back to the cabin which makes this area so interesting to drive. The scenery is always changing with the variations in elevations. Tall pines change to short pine, then cedars, oaks and aspens with stretches of grassy meadows. With each change, the type of wildlife we see changes. We find elk in the tall pines; white tale deer, bear, wild turkey in the scrubby, dense forest and antelope in the meadows.

About two miles down this road we came across two bow hunters outfitted with camouflaged gear and walking in the same direction we were heading. They blended in so well that Carol couldn’t see them right away. She asked if hunters normally wore bright outfits for safety. There aren’t as many bow hunters as conventional rifle hunters, so safety is not a critical and bow hunters have to sneak up allot closer to get an accurate shot off, so mistaking another hunter for game is not as much concern. As we drove up to the two men, they turned to greet us, one on each side of the road, as if they were happy to see us. I rolled down my window as we came to a stop beside them because I had a feeling they wanted to chat. They ask if we had seen their silver truck on the side of the road. When they heard my reply, they seemed a little bewildered. We only passed one camp site a few miles back and there were no other vehicles to be found. I offered them a ride to help them find there truck as we were just joy riding anyway. They happily took the offer since I had already jumped out of the car and was making room for them to ride in the back seat. We had one portion folded down to haul our gear and cleared off the other section of scouting toys like binoculars, million watt search light and of course, out cold weather gear. We drove down the road in the same direction we all were heading just in case there truck might just be over the next hill or around the next corner, but it wasn’t. I found a little place to turn around so we could head back toward the junction. As we chatted we learned these boys came all the way from Utah to hunt here in the White Mountains. They also explained how they think they got lost. As it turned out, they were using a GPS, Global Positioning System unit to keep from getting lost. If they would have been using a map with the GPS indicators on it, they would have been fine. Instead, they took a reading at their truck and then accidentally hit the reset button which replaced the trucks reading for the reading they were standing at. They new then exactly were they were, but they didn’t know where there truck was. So, technically they were not lost, the truck was. After hearing that, I told Carol not to get me the GPS unit for Christmas as she had planned. The hunters didn’t see the humor in that. GPS is a complex technology but understanding it can be quite easy if you take it one step at a time and don’t push the reset button!

At the junction, we turned in the direction of Porter Mountain Road heading north. I could see a smile on their faces in my rear view mirror as the surroundings became familiar to them. About another mile down the road we spotted a silver, ford f 150 pickup truck. Now we had two happy campers so to speak. They thanked us as they climbed out of the back seat and gathered their gear. They asked if we wanted a bottle water or pop, but we declined. We told them we were too far from our cabin and thanked them for their offer and headed down the road.

By the time we-got back to the cabin, the rain had let up. It was now time to go back to work. Carol to her weed whacking and I continued with the closing in around the base of the cabin.

(Writer’s note: As I was finishing this little piece, sitting at the cabin’s kitchen table at 5:45 AM with a fresh brewed cup of coffee resting beside my laptop, I spotted some movement out in the forest. It was a coyote looking for breakfast. I pulled out the cabin binoculars that we keep handy on top of the refrigerator. I think the critter could see me as it stopped and stared in my direction. It would then slither for twenty feet and then stop to look again. It did this routing two more time before it went out of view. It looks very healthy compared to then ones we have in the desert. It must eat well up here. It is now 6:30 A.M. and Carol is up. She likes to sleep in. I told her about the coyote. She looked out the window and saw something move in the forest. It turned out to me a cow, munching its way down toward us. Now there is a whole heard coming our way. I smell cinnamon toast! Got to go!)

After that hearty breakfast, Carol and I headed off, through the ·wapiti Crossing” gate and into the forest. •The clearest way into the universe is through a forest wilderness.” John Muir. At 7:30 AM we could still see the remnants of frost on the neighbors’ roofs and on the grassy meadow. The coyote was long gone but the cows were still lingering around looking for more grass to eat. They don’t do much more than that all day, do they? We decided to head toward the Grail Tanks, as that is where I heard some elk bugling early in the morning. It was another beautiful day for a hike. There were just a few, puffy clouds overhead and the sun was warming us up with the help of the exercise workout. Just as we started, I heard a strange elk bugle. They were normally very high pitched and drawn out. This time it was short and choppy. As we came upon the tanks, we were amazed with the changes in the flora and fauna the colder night temperatures caused in the last two weeks. Even the oak leaves have started to turn in color.

We came up to the old cattle fence that would eventually lead us to a large meadow below the tanks. We followed the fence line because it is easy walking. Sometimes there is a game trail running beside the barbed wire barrier. It is also used by the cattle and fence menders from time to time. Just then we spotted another elk hunter coming toward us on the opposite side of the fence. After we exchange pleasantries, he asked if we had seen a fallen or wounded elk. We told him we had not. His hunting partner shot one about an hour earlier and thinks he hit it a little high and it did not drop right away. They were trying to track it which is the right thing to do. It would be a shame to have it go to waste, let alone the suffering it would go through whether it died or survived. Carol asked if they have come across any elk racks in their travels. They had not, but they did run across two carcasses with out racks that morning. Just as we finished our conversation, we could hear the second hunter coming. We told them that if we found the elk, we would give them several loud whistles and then try to meet up with them again. With that, we continued our hike. We got back at the cabin about 10:00 AM and immediately went about our chores. We try not to make too much noise early in the morning on Sundays.

The rest of the day was more of our normal routine. Got a lot done this trip in spite of the weather. Carol is threatening Flexal 454 for the both of us.

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!”