A couple of cats

A few days ago I walked up into the park north of the house as I do about once a week.  It was there, by the lagoon, that I saw the black cat and spoke to it.  Something like, “Hey, baby, what ya doing?”

On my return, walking the same route, I came across the same cat. It was laying in the parking lot dead.  Run over by a car.  I later wrote this in my notebook in ink and pen and now wonder what provoked me to spend, what, 15 minutes? writing about it.

“I had spoken to it not an hour before as it stalked a bird hidden from view.  The cat, so full of life then, knew not that it had only about an hour to live. Flies gathered on it now, around the eyes and the tail. It was a blessing, though, to not know the coming moment of death.

“Nearby, maybe 25 yards away, another cat, a young one, lay with its back up against the curb, the hot day sucking the life out of it. It was black too only with a little brown.  It was lethargic and did not move as I approached, emitting only a feeble mee-ow.

“I walked home and drove back with tuna and water.  The cat hadn’t moved. I placed the bowls close to it and walked back to the car to watch.  It headed for the tuna first and then drank.  It repeated this several times. As I drove off I saw the cat had lain down again.  I wondered if I had done nothing more than put it out of death’s way for only a few more days.  I’ll come back tomorrow and may take the cat home.  At the end of it all, I felt depressed.”

I did go back the next day with food and water again.  I found it this time laying under a car in the shade.  It made me shudder.  I stopped to tear off a piece of paper and wrote a note to the driver:  “There may be a cat under your car. Please watch for it before you back up.”  I placed the paper under the windshield wiper on the driver’s side.

Finding the cat under the car provoked me to pick it up and place it in my car.  I would take it home where I have two outside cats and an inside one named Ares. But it put up such a howl and was in such apparent distress that I gave up, let it trot away to some palm trees.  I placed the food, hard food this time, and water close by.  Then I left.  I came by the next two days but did not see it.

I’m still trying to understand my motives for feeling as I do.  The only thing that comes to mind is innocence.  Unlike people, animals live in the moment. I don’t think that even a snake or an alligator has a mean bone.  Sometimes, I think I care more for animals than human beings.




My life in sketching

I like to draw with pencil and paper.  It is an inner need that has a long history.

I remember drawing as a child during WWII.  At one time, I drew war cartoons showing Japanese and German planes being shot down by U.S. pilots.  I folded up the cartoons like newspapers and sent them sailing into people’s yards from a tricycle.  I can’t remember if anyone liked them.  But I didn’t get any complaints for the litter.

As a college sophomore, I took an art class. I recall standing before an easel with a charcoal pencil in my right hand.  The instructor watched me for a few moments, then readjusted the way I was holding the pencil.  Since I knew more than the instructor and possibly even more than Da Vinci himself, I thought he was crazy.  I soon dropped out.

If you would look now in my chest of drawers, you would find old sketchbooks buried beneath the underwear and t-shirts.  Some of the sketches go back to 1980 (see photo).  All are crude and unimpressive.  I was in my 40s then, but I give myself credit.  I wanted to learn.

Now,here I am years later — having led a life that clearly shows I was nowhere as smart as I thought — wanting to learn to sketch.

By departing with about $50, I ordered a video lecture series from The Great Courses. The course is called “How to Draw.”  I hope to write how things progress.  Or don’t. Given my poor record with authority figures, I may drop out of this one too.

So far, things are going nicely.  But it is early. The instructor, Professor David Brody, has yet to tell me how to hold my pencil.

“Death,” The Second Time Around

This morning I began rereading “Death in the Afternoon,” Hemingway’s studied look at all aspects of the bloody sport of bullfighting.  This time I am reading it as a travelogue.  The book is set in Spain, a country we plan to visit in the fall.

Travelogue, yes.  But there will be no escaping the deaths of matadors, fighting bulls and innocent horses. I will get through it somehow, putting aside my evolved sensitivity to the art of killing innocent animals for human pleasure.

I was in my 20s the first time I read “Death,” inspired by news the charismatic actor James Dean, with his alleged fascination of death, literally devoured the book.

Not only did Dean read the book, he marked passages in colored ink:  Red for death, yellow for degradation, blue for disfigurement and green for disability.  So the story went.

Like star, like star-struck, I purchased “Death” through the mail,  an unused hardback, the one with the exotic dust jacket of a matador passing a bull under his cape.  And, though never fascinated with death, I marked it just as Dean supposedly had.  And I managed to learn much about bullfighting, though to this day I have never witnessed one in person.

To read “Death” is not simply to read of the bull fight.  In passing Hemingway offers advice to writers and expresses his philosophy of how things work in this world.  So, in addition to my reading, I will post my own thoughts.

I hope to rediscover how reading a book when you’re young is never quite like reading it when you’re older.




Flag man of the mountains

Flag Man on North MountainI had just settled in on a flat rock atop North Mountain and bitten in to a turkey sandwich when a man marched up from the steep National Trail hoisting an American flag. It was a strange sight to see, even in this urban wilderness of Phoenix.

He said his name was Larry, and described himself as the Flag Man. He was tanned and trim. Even in what appeared to be his 50s, he looked in excellent shape and boasted of running a recent marathon.

Larry said he and a friend tended to three planted American flags on peaks in Glendale’s Thunderbird Park a dozen miles miles or so to the northwest.  That was news to me. The last time I hiked in Thunderbird there were only two flags.  So the virus of “patriotism” is apparently metastasizing.

I did not tell the Flag Man of the Mountains that I disliked his idea of being a patriot, that I thought it actually unAmerican to put up unauthroized flags atop public parks. And I also think it a desecration of Nature.  Soon Larry and his flag were off but not gone. I later saw him several times clambering the summit trail along with his flag.

Flat Man at WorkIt should be noted that, in my experience, North Mountain is hiked predominantly by Hispanics, the dark-skinned race so despised by right-wing white people who fear “the others” are taking over their country,

I had asked Larry why he paraded the flag on such neutral territory as a public park.

“God and country,” he said. “For everybody.”

Not quite everybody.




The only thing to believe in

In the Netflix series “Ozark” the male lead, Marty Byrde, is asked, “What do you believe in?” Marty, a well-intentioned money launderer for a drug cartel, replies, “I believe in numbers.”

I’ve often used numbers but never thought seriously about them. I was good in math up until high school when I made a choice between athletics and trig. But it seems true. Numbers make our world go round, make sense out of chaos. Sports, astronomy, politics, healthcare, travel, business, investing, you name it. Maybe even religion. On the 7th day God rested.

The problem with numbers, though, is this.  Are they the right numbers? If you take a fake news figure that 80% of Americans support Donald Trump when the truth is 30%, then you are out on the wrong side of a limb with a saw.

But, since I’m headed for a significant birthday next year, I am going to make a resolution. I’m going to try to emulate Marty Byrde.  Numbers are the only things to believe in.


“Brodie Mansion”

The boyhood home of A. O. Brodie, aka the Brodie Mansion.

I had hoped to eventually get back to Edwards, NY, and find the “Brodie Mansion” that eluded me four years ago. The opportunity arose earlier this month during our second visit to Lake Placid and Adirondacks Park, upstate New York.

The boyhood home of Alexander Oswald Brodie was important but not key to my research on the Walnut Grove Dam Disaster of 1890 in Arizona Territory.  Brodie, a West Pointer and a former Army officer who fought the Apaches, was chief engineer at the dam the night it broke and sent a flood of water downstream to kill dozens of workers in a camp along the Hassayampa River. He did not design the dam or build it and was never held responsible for its failure.  Not that it was essential to my story but Brodie had later served as territorial governor of Arizona, 1902-1905.

We were in the Adirondacks primarily to hike.  But when Sunday, September 3, turned rainy, we decided to travel the 87 miles W to tiny Edwards, population 1,156, just outside the Park.

I had a better idea this time where the home was located.  Thomas Freeman of Edwards had sent me a note describing it and where I would find it.  He should know. His family had owned the “mansion” since the 1880s, he said.

A first stab at a house up Talcville Road seemed a fit, but the owner said it was not the place I was looking for.  But he knew exactly where the “Brodie Mansion” rested.  With his information, we steered north on Gouverneur Road driving toward town,  At one point I looked west and there it was, about 150 yards off the road.  Painted white, four-pillars.  Had to be.

A few vehicles were parked in the driveway as we approached.  I got out of the car and yelled, “Anybody here?”  A man came to the door.  It appeared he was remodeling a room in the interior.  He said it was OK to shoot some photos of the exterior but we couldn’t come inside.  His name was Fuller, I think.  His mother was a “Freeman,” he said.

The man didn’t seem to know much about Brodie.  He seemed surprised when I told him that “Colonel Brodie” was a friend of Teddy Roosevelt and had fought as a Rough Rider with him in the Spanish American War.

It appeared the Brodie family of the 19th Century had been well off.  It was a beautiful site with the languid Osegatchie River behind it, on its way to the St. Lawrence.

I shot three of four photos and we left,  Satisfied at last.







A mystery solved

In the summer of 2013 on our way to the Adirondacks, we drove east of Canton, NY, to Saranac Lake.  At the small town of Edwards we stopped briefly to search for the childhood home of Alexander Brodie.

I wrote about  it on September 8 of that year, “A village, graves and an old house.”  Brodie was a former army officer, a territorial governor out here in Arizona and rode with Teddy Roosevelt and the Rough Riders in 1898 during the Spanish-American War.

I was armed only with a hand-drawn map of where to look.  The map indicated to drive west of Edwards a short distance, past a cellphone tower and the house was there by a pine tree.  I published a photo of the place above a cut-line that read,  “I believe this might be the old Brodie family home.”  It wasn’t.

I received this message today from Thomas Freeman of Edwards:

“Hello there, I wanted to let you know, that my family, The Freeman’s of Edwards have owned the Brodie Mansion since the 1880’s. The house you photographed is unfortunately not the “Brodie Mansion”. You were however close. Had you continued out from town on that same road, past the cell tower on your right at the bottom of the hill, the Brodie Mansion sits far back from the road with a two story pillared porch, it is quite a grand structure. The house is painted white.”

I wrote Mr. Freeman a short reply, thanking him for clearing up the issue.  Mystery solved.  I hope to take another crack at finding the “Brodie Mansion” the next time I’m in the area.