Archive for the ‘Holbrook Life’ Category



Last Monday night, Jeff and I were watching a movie when the power went out in our house–the whole house. Yet across the street, the neighbor’s lights were shining. Apparently only our house was affected.power failure

Now this wouldn’t have mattered much except that the next morning, since I’d agreed to  serve on the Election Board, I needed to be at the city election headquarters at 5:30 to help get the polls open at 6 am. And we had no power, so no reliable alarm clock. Could you have gotten a good night’s sleep?

I didn’t. I woke at 2:30 am, tossed and flipped in bed until 3:15, then read until it was time to get up. Finally, I climbed out of bed and began preparations for the day. Candidly, I’ll admit that I don’t mind brushing my teeth with a flashlight when I’m camping, but I didn’t much care for it in the inky dark of our master bathroom. Finally I was ready at 5:25.

Jeff needed the car, so he determined that it was best to drive me to the City Hall. We stepped into the garage to climb in our car and suddenly stopped to look at each other, horrified. Because of our electric door opener, our car was effectively locked in the garage. I wouldn’t get to the polls on time–oh, no!

Jeff thought for a moment, then called the police, who sent an officer over to City Hall, and fortunately, the election workers found a volunteer to come and pick me up as we walked toward my destination. Although I was late for the preliminary preparations, I got there before the polls actually opened. Phew!

All of us voted on Monday

All of us voted on Monday

As I’m sure you know, friends, over this past week, our nation recognized the anniversary of Bloody Sunday, the Civil Rights event that happened in Selma, Alabama fifty years ago. Voting rights were at the heart of that march and of the vitriol of those who met it with such cruelty. One side desperately needed the right to vote; the other was determined that they should not acquire it.

Fifty years later, an African American president recounted stories of that event in a moving speech. And fifty years later, this former placard carrying, anti-war, civil rights advocate sat as an election worker and watched my neighbors–black and white, Hispanic and Native American–come into the polls and vote freely and unharmed.

No one was concerned about their safety, everyone chatted and laughed together, then went on about their ordinary business. I wonder if the exciting juxtaposition of our little election and the Selma anniversary even occurred to most of us.

Maybe the biggest achievement is that it didn’t, that we can take that sort of safety more or less for granted today. Not everywhere in the country, of course. Not in Ferguson, perhaps. Not in Madison. Not in many communities still divided by leftover bitterness. But at least here in Holbrook. And that’s something.

To top that off, the power’s back on, too!



Attitude and Altitude in Arizona!

Early-Blooming Apricot

Early-Blooming Apricot

Before we moved to Arizona, I knew that weather will change depending on one’s altitude, but coming from the Midwest, I didn’t realize exactly how much it changed. Yesterday, on Jeff’s day off, we drove over to Flagstaff (7000+ feet in altitude) from Holbrook (about 5000) to pick up our tax papers from the accountant there.

In our yard, despite some rain falling, spring peeked out from garden beds and barrels. Not only flowers but garden herbs had begun to emerge.

New Parsley

New Parsley     





But in Flagstaff, something else was going on. Rain began falling at 3 am and while we were seated in the accountant’s office, we noticed a ‘thickening’ as snow began to fall.

Jeff wanted to visit our neighbors, whose new baby son was hospitalized in Flagstaff with a slowly-improving cold, and another friend, who has been in a care facility there to receive therapy for a stroke. A few hours passed in these endeavors, and then we headed home. Conditions just 90 miles from our home in Holbrook looked like major winter, not spring!

With the base of freezing rain beneath the snow, roads grew more and more slick. Even NAU closed by noon. We passed a pickup in the ditch just outside of Flagstaff. <gulp>

Jeff kept saying, “Just wait til we get down off the mountain. It’ll be fine by Winslow.” Thanks to his driving skills, learned years ago in Northern Michigan, it was, too. And when we got home, sure enough, it was still spring.

Right after we moved to Holbrook three years back, a neighbor said, “We have the nicest climate in Arizona here–four seasons, but none of them too severe.” I think he had a point–we’re blessed to be here, that’s for sure.

Just before Winslow

Just before Winslow


Snowy Trees near Walnut Canyon

Snowy Trees near Walnut Canyon

Near Home Depot

Near Home Depot   

A Red Face and then some!

There we are in the photo below, looking respectable and entirely clergy family-ish, right? Okay, so I didn’t realize I had my hand inside the pastor’s shirt, but hey, no big deal. Though we don’t always succeed, Jeff and I try to maintain some level of propriety. But sometimes the ol’ red face is destined to win.

Last Monday, Jeff and I drove to Show Low , where he had some business. I had business, too–shopping. A lovely little royalty check had recently come in, and I needed a couple of items of clothing. While Jeff went off to do his thing, I marched straight for JC Penney’s and the clothing section.

After picking out a pair of trousers, I also saw some dresses that appealed to me. They looked just right for church, and they were my size, too. I picked out two or three of them and went into the dressing room. Alas, the manufacturer had cut those silly dresses much, much too small. Short of a miracle, I wouldn’t be wearing those dresses to church.

My ego had had enough. I packed up my purse and the trousers that still needed to be checked out, hung my jacket over my arm, and gathered the dresses to take back to the return rack. A clerk stepped forward to assist me when I left the dressing room, and we chatted for a moment.

I realized Jeff had probably finished his business already and was waiting at the appointed restaurant. I flew out of the store and trotted across the parking lot toward it. Halfway there, I felt something flutter against my leg. I looked down and saw–gasp!–SALES TAGS! I’d left the store with the trousers lying over my arm along with my jacket.

Had I paid for them? Nope. I’d simply walked out with them. I felt sick, and, to be honest, I even considered just going to my car to avoid the embarrassment of what I knew I needed to do. But could I ever wear the pants later, knowing they were stolen, however accidently? Not a chance. And I needed them.

So back I went, worrying every step of the way that someone would jump out from between two cars and yell, “Thief! I saw what you did!”

Once inside the store, I nearly ran down other customers in my rush to the checkout. Even there, I could have just kept my mouth shut, paid for the pants, and no one would have been the wiser.

They say confession is good for the soul, and maybe it is true. Anyway, I couldn’t help blurting out my tale of accidental larceny to the two women behind the counter. They thought it was  funny to begin with, and when I told them I was a minister’s wife, they thought it was even funnier. They regaled me with similar stories and certainly did their best to make me feel better.

But all the way back across the parking lot, I kept thinking one thing: What if someone had seen me leave the store with those trousers? What if a store security person had apprehended me? What could I possibly have said?

“Yes, I stole them, but I didn’t mean to?” Oh, right. I’d draped my jacket over the pants as if to conceal them. No one would have believed me. I wouldn’t have believed me, either, for that matter. I’d have been charged with shop lifting and probably convicted as well.

I shook my head and groaned every few steps all the way to the restaurant.

“What’s wrong?” Jeff asked when I got there. “Why is your face all red?”

“You’ll never believe what just happened,” I began…..


At Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore near Munising, MI

At Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore near Munising, MI


Out West for Reals

Another Resident of the Real West

Another Resident of the Real West

Sometimes I forget where I live.

Like everyone else, I get busy with church and garden, meetings and work, and I forget that I live in the place my Midwestern parents always called “out West.”

And then something reminds me. The other day, for example, driving home to my ordinary neighborhood, I saw some folks standing out in their yard, talking with a friend who’d ridden up on his horse–cowboy hat, boots and all. He wasn’t acting like a cowboy–he actually was one.  Out West for reals.

This morning I went out in my yard for something, and there was our first daffodil of the season. On February 12. Dorothy, I thought, you are simply not in Kansas anymore!

About a week ago, Jeff and I drove out to see the Little Falls of the Colorado River. It isn’t normally very impressive, but this time, it was fantastic because we’d had a good bit of rain and water was plunging over the rocks, roaring like Niagara Falls. Oh, yeah. Seasonal rivers, from torrents to trickles depending on the time of year. Out West for reals.

Great Falls of the Little Colorado River, muddy brown as chocolate milk!

Great Falls of the Little Colorado River, muddy brown as chocolate milk!

And on our way home, we saw a little herd of sheep, grazing, which could of course happen anywhere in the country, except that these sheep were not fenced in. They happened to be on Navajo land, where free grazing is quite common (see steer, above). I didn’t envy them what they were eating, but they looked happy, healthy, and content.

Sheep with lambs, munching on desert plants.

Sheep with lambs, munching on desert plants.

And as we were leaving that area, we looked across the high desert to see the San Francisco Peaks in the distance, one of the sacred corners of Navajo lands. Out west for reals. How glad I felt to remember where I live once again!

San Francisco Peaks near Flagstaff, AZ

San Francisco Peaks near Flagstaff, AZ

The Squirrel Season

One Day's Harvest

One Day’s Harvest

Oops–does my title sound as if I’m hunting for squirrels? I promise that’s not the case, but I am imitating the activity of the squirrels right now. Translation? My garden is coming in in full force. Winter is not far behind, so I’m trying to store up as much food as I can for that time when nothing grows. Just like the Midwestern squirrels I used to watch as a child–I’m getting ready for the days ahead.

It may very well be stubbornness–or something even less flattering–that has caused me to move to one of the driest and least hospitable places for growing crops in the entire Southwest and then take up gardening. But I never had time to do it before. Now I do, and the garden has rewarded us generously.

I love to see pretty jars of canned food lined up in a storage cupboard or on a countertop. You can’t beat the flavor of the fresh tomatoes, corn, and potatoes you harvest at 4:30 and serve at 5 pm. My freezer bulges with loaves of zucchini bread and bags of home grown pumpkin for our Thanksgiving pies. This year, I discovered that our warm Arizona garage is the perfect place to dry herbs, too, so this year’s dill dip will be made with our own dill. It’s kind of fun to be a squirrel after all!

My favorite produce this year came from a peach tree my son Joe and I planted three summers ago. At the time it was not much more than a stick that barely reached our shoulders. This year, despite a late frost that nipped most of the blossoms, the tree (now higher than my head) produced a total of three lush, delicious peaches. Next year, I tell myself, will be the bumper crop. Provided the frost doesn’t get too aggressive, of course.

Our church organist tells me the apples are ready at her house, and we can have all we want. Applesauce, apple butter, apple pie filling–yum! You’ll find me in the kitchen again this week, making like a squirrel. Come on over–I have a peeler with your name on it!

garden 016

Fresh-Dried Dill, Sage, Rosemary, and Parsley. No Thyme, sorry.

Fresh-Dried Parsley, Sage, Rosemary and Dill. No Thyme, sorry.

First Peaches from a Tree we Planted Ourselves. A red-letter day!

First Peaches from the Tree We Planted Ourselves. A red-letter day!


The Pony Express Rides Again

Some of Today's Pony Express

Some of Today’s Pony Express

Have you ever gotten a tardy piece of mail and joked, “It must have come by Pony Express?” Of course, we all learned about the Pony Express in school, right? I remember that I did–and I loved it. It was one of the few bits of history that starred horses! But that’s what it always was to me, and I’ll bet to you, too–history. Until I moved to Holbrook.

 Here’s the background to my story: In the 1880’s,  there was a ranch near Holbrook owned by The Aztec Land and Cattle Company. The brand of that ranch was the hashknife, which, in case you’re interested, was the knife the cowboy cooks used to cut up the leftover meat into small bits for breakfast hash. If you look at the picture on the left, you can see a couple of white mugs on the table in front of the men, and the black or red design on them is the famous hashknife brand. The Hashknife cowboys were known in our area for a lot of things, including–I must admit it–being hell-raisers. But none the less, they were glorious hell-raisers, who left a legend behind. The Hashknife Pony Express and the Navajo County Hashknife Sheriff’s Posse carry their name. 

In 1958, the Hashknife Pony Express began carrying the mail between Holbrook and Scottsdale once a year, in January, to correspond with–and lead–Scottsdale’s Parada del Sol, a huge horse-drawn parade. Up here in Holbrook, nobody cares much about the parade at the far end, but the carrying of the mail has an amazing cachet to it. 

The Pony Express riders will be sworn in as official mail messengers of the US Postal Service today at noon, and tomorrow morning will begin their mountainous 200 mile ride from Holbrook to Scottsdale. If you wish, you can mail letters which will have a special cancellation and be carried by the Pony Express. You still have to stamp your letters in the normal way, of course. You have to admit, it’s sort of cool. In fact, people around the world send letters to Holbrook to be carried and stamped in this way. 

The actual ride is still cold, often snowy, and arduous, but made a bit easier than in was in the Pony Express days that we learned about in school. There are horse trailers and relays of horses and riders, but it still takes a couple of days to get from here to the Valley. The riders camp out at night, eat cowboy food, and (I’ve heard), carry on a little in the old Hashknife tradition. But they plan for the ride all year, and they take it really seriously, as does the community.  

Last year, Jeff and I didn’t attend the send-off dinner. It sounded like grown-ups playing Cowboys and Indians to us, uninitiated as we were. But we see it a little differently now and understand it better. You see, for some of the Hashknife membership, who are children, grandchildren, and great grandchildren of area settlers, this isn’t a game to them, it’s living history. Their history. And they feel passionate about keeping it alive. Why not? So last night, we went to the dinner, along with friends, and we enjoyed the cowboy beans, barbequed pork, and cornbread with the Pony Express. When in Rome, after all…Next year, cowboy hats? Who knows?

Our friend and former Navajo County Sheriff's Deputy John May

Our friend and former Navajo County Sheriff’s Deputy John May

There was a Moment…

. Thanksgiving Dinner Ready to Eat

Most of the time, to be honest, holidays don’t turn out exactly the way we’ve planned. Someone is sick, or the food doesn’t turn out as we wanted, or the weather is bad, or Uncle Grumpy sets everyone’s teeth on edge. You know what I mean. We’ve all had high hopes for joy and unity that were dashed at some family gathering.

But it doesn’t always happen that way.We had high hopes this year, ourselves. One of the hardships of missionary life is separation from families at home. We came back from Guam this past year after serving for nine years on that beautiful island. One of the things we pictured about life back on the mainland was having holidays together again.

This Thanksgiving would be our first big one. Our son and daughter-in-law from Colorado decided to stay at home with their four children to be with his parents, since they’ll be here for Christmas. But all three sons, including our youngest, who still lives on Guam, were going to be with us, plus a nephew who teaches here in Arizona a few hours away. Our oldest granddaughter reminded us of how grown-up she is getting to be when she came with her pleasant and helpful boyfriend for the first time.

On Tuesday and Wednesday, I cooked the foods that could be prepared ahead, and then on Thursday, the family gathered here in Holbrook. The turkey decided to be more than cooperative and was done earlier than planned, so we quickly prepared the last minute dishes. Various family members helped with setting the table, dishing up the food, and arranging the serving table. And then it happened.

There was a moment in the midst of the busy-ness, when our son Matt was playing the piano, I was slicing turkey, and Jeff and the others were chatting and helping put things together when I realized we were doing exactly what I’d dreamed we’d be doing at a holiday time–taking joy in working side by side, loving each other, being a family together instead of a family separated. It doesn’t always happen, I know. It won’t always happen for us. But there was this moment, a little perfect glimpse of joy. I don’t know when I’ve ever felt more thankful.

We Gather Together