October 12, 2003
Back from Kingman. Got in last night around 9:30 PM. Had a speech at 11 on Saturday morning for the Daughters of Mohave County Pioneers. It was their 45th anniversary luncheon. Lots of familiar faces (including several old girlfriends) and, before I went on, I made a vow to try extra hard not to embarrass them (something I’m just naturally good at).
Had lunch first. At our table, we laughed and laughed. Tom Carpenter, the writer was there. He and Johnny Waters got expelled from Kingman High togther. He wouldn’t tell my why (I’ll find out from Charlie). I was introduced to one of my babysitters, Verna Wright who was 16 at the time and “watched me” at the old McConnico Whiting Brothers’ service station south of town. I never knew that my dad worked in town (must have been 1948-49) at Dunton Motors and when he was gone, my mother ran the gas station all by herself (it was open 24-7). Amazing. When I asked Verna what she remembered about babysitting me, she said, “Your mama was so clean. That whole service station shined.” My mom the super-pump jockey. Funny.
Afterwards I signed books and gave out True West magazines. I sold every book I had and could have sold more. One of my old classmates came up to me and said, “I told them you would be good but they didn’t believe me.” Evidently, there was a faction among the Daughtrers that was afraid I couldn’t, or wouldn’t “behave.” Which explained part of my introduction that included these lines, “after a poem for Mr. Finch we will turn Mr. Bell loose.” I, of course started acting like I was chained to my chair, sliding it around like a caged Seigfreid and Roy cat dying to get at the speaker. Got big laughs for that (Hey, I wasn’t a four-year Class Clown for nothing), but it must have made some of them awful nervous. I was very respectful and didn’t say any bad words, although I almost slipped once and mentioned I had breakfast at the Calico Cafe and looked around the dining room for familiar Kingman faces, like I always do when I go home, and started addressing neighboring tables with: “Excuse me, did I sleep with you?” (nervous laughter) and turning the other way, “Did I try to sleep with you.” (scattered titters). Dropped the part about losing my virginity at White Cliffs (good call Bob!) Now all of this was made even more humorous (to me) when I got done speaking and I’m signing books, and Ollie Bond (you know, Kim Bond’s mother) comes up and when someone asks her if she knew me, she says, “Knew him? I watched the little bastard grow up!” I turned to the women around me and said, “See! That’s my modeling right there.” They didn’t think it was as funny as I did.
Took Kathy on a walking tour of downtown Kingman. Central Commercial: gone. JC Penny: gone. State Theatre: gone. Desert Drugs (where I bought my first True West): gone. The Dime Store: gone. The post office: moved to hilltop. The Methodist Church (where Clark Gable and my parents were married): now a county building.
Ended up at Phyllis Morton Eaton’s beautiful old Kingman house on Oak. June Smith and her mom were there, Bob Burford and his wife, Mickey and Zibby Campa, Michelle Gilpin Bonham, Ollie Bond (even ruder and cruder than at the luncheon, but she makes me laugh), Jerry Eaton and others. Fun talking about how sick we all are (both mentally and physically).
At four Kathy and I walked down to Andy Devine (the street not the actor) and met David Zickl on the roof of the old Beale Hotel for a panorama photo shoot that will appear in Arizona Highways late next year. Cool shot of the Hualapais (pronounced Wall-a-pies) in the background. I’m looking off at Coyote Pass like I wish I could get my past back to do over, but I can’t. Wistful, with a tinge of quiet desperation. David must have shot 200 exposures. As I gazed again and again at those familiar bluffs and spires I realized three words sum up my life so far: Kingman, crazy, lucky.
”Hell, we don’t read the paper to find out what’s going on, we already know that. We read the Miner to find out who got caught.”
—A Kingman Oldtimer (not Ollie Bond)
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