An old saw has it that to a hammer everything’s a nail. To a writer everything’a a story. Since writing is what I’m doing these days, stories abound. Take the the experience of living for a few days with my great niece. There’s a ton of story material right here.
So what do we do with an energetic nine year old?
A possible answer - Zipline! How about that?
Actually the Arizona Zipline Adventure is a story in itself. And behind the Zipline is an Oracle ranching family (the Goffs), also a story. But I digress.
As it happened, our nine year old visitor really wanted to go for it out there in the high desert Catalina foothills just a spit away from Oracle proper. We were excited by her excitement and hoped there was an opening in this busy season. Sure enough Emily Goff paved the way.
So there she is - our nine year old - hanging on a wire ready to go zipping after being trained up by the rugged staff/crew that knows the ropes.
And she’s off! To five zip lines for about two hours.
Of course we watch the kick off and the landing and in the mean time we have an order of really good french fries, enjoy the atmospherics of the place which are beautiful and fascinating and ponder the history of the Arizona Zipline Adventure itself. (When one gets right down to it, it really is an engineering marvel in its own right).
A picture tells the ending to my Oracle Zipline story much better than I can write it.
The Oracle Authors Meetup came off well, meeting or beating expectations for turnout and quality of readings/presentations. At least that's the feedback many of us got. There's a story and hard work behind every book, that's for sure. A special thanks to Jean Wilcox for the photos memorializing the event. Also a big thank you to Susan Schiek pictured to my left for her recognition of deceased Oracle authors who preceded us.
I was drinking my morning coffee at our dining table when Kaz called from the kitchen:
“There’s no water!”
“There’s no water!”
So I get up to investigate - a trouble shooting scheme hatching in my brain.
Double check kitchen valve. She’s right. No water.
I stride purposefully to bathroom and open a tap. Nope. Head for the quonset and turn on valve there. Nope. I conclude we have a big problem.
It’s got to be a burst AZ Water Company main I theorize. I tell Kaz I’m going to take a drive around the hood to check it out. But I never get out of our driveway on to Bonito. There it is - a gusher from the line coming to our house producing torrents of water flowing well down the street.
Now that’s a homeowners “Oh, shit” moment. I tell Kaz what’s up. She suggests I turn the valve off at the main. Good idea! I pull the cover to the meter and close the thing manipulating two wrenches simultaneously calling A to Z Plumbing. Now I’ve known Tim Ragels since he was fetching tools for his daddy at the age of 7 (43 years ago). And I know he’s busy as hell. But he answers my call and happens to be coming down from a job in Aravaipa and will stop by with his side kick Trevor. Great!
15 minutes later he and Trevor show up in Tim’s truck loaded with pipe on the rack, a jumble of tools in the bed and side boxes containing who knows what. Anyway, by then, I’ve got a shovel and revealed the busted joint where old steel pipe joins to plastic. I’ve concluded it would take me at least a day to get the tools and materials required to make the fix,.. presupposing I had the skills to do it - which I most certainly do not.
Tim and Trevor begin digging furiously exposing six or so feet of line and deep enough to get under the failed joint. Tim goes about cutting and measuring, torches the joint to extricate one end of the pipe, glues the new sturdier connector in and there it is. Completed in roughly ten minutes. Water back on. No leak! Trench covered up. Done.
Now I’ve heard complaints about how expensive plumbers are these days and I always nod sympathetically. But the fact is that 43 years experience along with lots of native smarts is worth its weight in gold when push comes to shove and you want water to flow when turning on the tap.
I run up to the house for my check book happy to part with a few bucks for a job well done.
Back in the day, my Uncle Orrin used to cut firewood on his few hundred acre farm in Otisville, NY this way - with a two man crosscut saw (also called a “misery saw” for all the human energy required by the sawyers). That was well before chain saws became widely available.
Shortly after we moved into our Oracle home in 1979 one of our neighbors proposed heading to the San Pedro Valley to cut up some mesquite for fires on cold nights. "OK", I say, having no clue what I’m getting in to. (The two man “misery” saw of course was long obsolete.) Being unfamiliar with chain saws I looked forward to learning. So my generous neighbor (Ted Johnson) showed me what’s what and, when we got to where dead and down mesquite were plentiful, we traded off doing the cutting (well, he did most of it). The power of the chain saw kind of blew me away. In short order the bed of my 1971 Dodge half ton was full up. Its three speed on the column/slant six labored mightily returning up hill to Oracle but we made it safe and sound.
After that, sold on chainsawing, I bought an old one from Darrell Klesch (scrupulously maintained of course) and went about cutting up dead trees and limbs on our property. It turned out there was as much oak as we could possibly burn to heat our living room and enjoy regular fires. (And that was before the wrack and ruin caused by climate change accelerated die back.)
When Darrell’s hand me down punked out I bought a McCullough which did the job for many years then graduated to a Stihl MS 250.
I never thought of chain saws as particularly dangerous until Kaz read me a story about a guy trying to cut a limb over his head who laid his skull wide open instead. He was found dead in a pool of blood by his wife . It was reported that he likely lost control as the saw kicked back and he paid the ultimate price.
There are plenty of ways to get hurt using a chain saw but the closest I came to lethal injury cutting wood was with a pole saw. Not a power pole saw mind you but one of the muscle driven jobs. I was cutting away at a limb over my head with a sturdy step ladder strategically placed to protect some plant life underneath. That’s when a little voice suggested I step back a bit. Which I did. Right then with one more stroke of the saw the oak limb snapped and dropped straight down - all several hundred pounds of it - making a dent in the top of the very robust ladder - evidence of what would have been a knock out blow had it been my head on the receiving end. Nowadays every time I pull that ladder out I’m reminded of what might have happened had that little voice gone unattended.
Sharon Richmond arrived in Oracle about the same time Kaz and I did. She was traveling around the US, came upon Oracle, brought food service experience to the table and decided to purchase Mother Cody’s Cafe in the center of town with her husband George. In addition to her restaurant duties she emerged as partier-in-chief often moving across the street to the Oracle Inn after Mother Cody’s closing time. That was years before the Oracle Inn owner Red Hildreth tripled the size of the place and fitted it out for the gaming bonanza he believed was coming. The OI served as the epi-center of Oracle nightlife. The steaks were great, the bartenders local and convivial, with spontaneous dancing mid bar led by the likes otf Sharon and some of the rest of us.
Sharon was ahead of her time in one respect. Informing any and all who would listen, she predicted that Oracle was the next Sedona (about which she claimed vast knowledge having once passed through the booming Red Rock tourist town). She pitched Oracle’s future as a tourism bonanza waiting to happen.
Pictured below is what Mother Cody's Cafe has evolved into these many decades later - a restaurant, market and (not pictured) The Cook Shack just down the street. Like Sharon Richmond, owners Stacey and David Ranieri bring their own special food and hospitality talents to the enterprise and to the town of Oracle (which no one these days will mistake for Sedona).
Kaz and I moved to Oracle in 1979. The house we bought dated to the late 1940s. With little advance knowledge of the place, we set out to build a new life together, intending to settle in and raise a family.