Saturday, February 11, 2006

February 10, 2006
I took off for Wickenburg at 7:40 this morning. Just a beautiful, sunny Arizona day out. Ran into a big traffic jam at Carefree Highway and I-17. Four DPS officers directing traffic. Hundreds of cars trying to make it through there. Five years ago, it was nothing, today it's gridlock with a ton of new homes and shopping centers on the northeast corner.

Got to Wickenburg at about 8:40, drove straight to KBSZ (1280 AM) radio station and walked in. The owner, Pete Pe terson, yelled at me to come in the studio (I love small town radio stations). We did a half hour interview on me coming to town for their 68th Annual Gold Rush Days. After the interview, Pete's friend Tom fired up his truck to deliver us down to the trai n station for the opening ceremonies. As we jumped in Tom's big F-250, Pete got in the middle (even though I didn't call "shotgun") and everything was cool until the radio came on. Pete got really irritated that Tom had another station on. "I was listenin g for some scores," I seem to remember Tom saying in his defense, but Pete was offended and wouldn't let it go. When we got out of the truck, Pete reprimanded Tom one more time about listening to some "good radio." Petty, yes. But, personally, I love this about small towns. It's all personal, and for Pete, his radio station is his all consuming passion. He doesn't work for some big chain. This is his deal and if he's going to ride in your truck, you'd damn well better listen to his radio station!

Had a dece nt crowd gathered in front of the train station (also the Wickenburg Chamber offices). The mayor spoke, a fifteen-year-old from the high school sang the National Anthem (or was it "God Bless America"?), they introduced me and I gave my remarks ("Hang onto your heritage here. Don't become Snottsdale!") and then told them I was going to do a dance for good luck (I was inspired by the dance I did with Joe LaForge in Sheridan a couple weeks ago). I think I did okay because for the rest of the weekend I got re marks like this: "I liked your dance. Was that the Watusi? Or the Frug?" It was actually a bit of surf combined with the Ska and just a pinch of Chuck Berry and Pete Townsend).

After the ceremonies and a book signing, the director of the chamber, Julie, tucked a stipend in my sketch bag of $100. This really impressed me (she didn't have to do that. I was in town to support them!). I decided on the spot that I would not leave town without returning this to the local economy. I walked across the street to the Copperstate Cowboy (a great store that advertises in True West) and asked Ray Arena where the locals eat lunch. He sent me to Rancho Bar Seven, a cafe and bar that I've been driving by for 50 years (I'm not exagerating. We moved to Kingman in 1956 and would come to Phoenix via Wickenburg at least several times a year). I walked right over there and ordered the priciest thing on the lunch menu (The Rancho Bar Seven Steak, $16.95). Classic Wickenburg place with great waitresses who call you "Hon". Co uldn't believe I had never been in there. In high school, the coaches always had us eat at Jean's Cafe across the street (and for a short period The Texas Cafe, a block east). Great food. Left a big, fat tip ($5).

Went to the crafts fair and bought a sign that says, "Hippies Use Back Door—No Exceptions" ($14 cash). Very cool. Going to put it up by my office, or at our front door of the house. Went down to Caballeros Museum and bought at ticket ($6), stopped in front of Ed Mell's painting, and called him on my cell phone. I got the machine, and left this message: "Hey Ed, I'm standing in front of your painting in the Wickenburg Caballeros Museum and even thought this is extremely offensive to the other patrons around me, I had to call you on my cell phone and tell you the painting belongs here." And it was offensive. The guy next to me one of those Muslim-Danish-Cartoon looks.

From there I drove out to the Vulture Mine, founded in 1863 by Henry Wickenburg. Once again, this is a legendary place I've heard about my whole life but have never been to. It's about 12 miles southwest of Wickenburg. Got out there at three and ran smack dab into Jackie Thackery, whose name I recognized immediately because she sends us cartoons all the time and Gus keeps rejecting them (I blamed Gus for this, but he's in Alabama and can't complain. Ha.). Jackie lives on the site six months a year, and in Indiana the rest, where she drives a school bus. She took me on a personal tour of the place. At one time The Vulture Mine was the third largest settelement in Arizona with 5,000 residents. The A-Frames and crushers, with the big Assay buildings Reminded me of Oatman and Goldroad in the 195 0s before scavengers hauled it all away. Can't believe the mining equipment and stuff is still there (although thieves have picked clean other buildings).

On the way back to town, I rolled down the window of my crappy little Ranger and yelled at nature. Okay, I get nutty when I'm by myself out in the wilds of Arizona. I talk to my dad, my grandma, past dogs (Apache, the dog that almost cost me my marriage last weekend). I'm just kind of a goonball out on the desert. But it makes me feel good, so sue me.

Last week I was interviewed by Linda McThrall of Let's Go! the Fountain Hills magazine and she mentioned off hand that she enjoyed reading about my daily details (how much I pay for lunch, etc.). I laughed and told her George Laibe wants me to stop doing that because it destroys the mystique. Linda said, "There is no mystique."

"By learning to discover and value our ordinariness, we nuture a friendliness towards oursleves and the world that is the essence of a healthy soul."
—Thomas Moore

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