Welcome to my World

Welcome to the domain different--to paraphrase from New Mexico's capital city of Santa Fe which bills itself "The City Different." Perhaps this space is not completely unique but my world shapes what I write as well as many other facets of my life. The four Ds figure prominently but there are many other things as well. Here you will learn what makes me tick, what thrills and inspires me, experiences that impact my life and many other antidotes, vignettes and journal notes that set the paradigm for Dierdre O'Dare and her alter ego Gwynn Morgan and the fiction and poetry they write. I sell nothing here--just share with friends and others who may wander in. There will be pictures, poems, observations, rants on occasion and sometimes even jokes. Welcome to our world!

Tuesday, October 6, 2015

Another memoir chapter--Characters!

Here is a piece about some of the characters who had an influence on me at a very early age. I feel so blessed that my Dad did collect some of these incredible people and became friends with them. And there I was, the little pitcher with big ears, lurking and listening as much as I could!

Characters Recalled and Collected—Part 1

            Until I started to school I had been around very few kids but I had already met some adult characters who continue to influence me to this day. My dad collected characters. Well, he had been a photo journalist for a time while sporadically attending colleges in Missouri and continued to write a lot after we moved to Arizona. People, I can vouch, are the prime fodder for writers. We borrow this accent, that mannerism, those strange experiences someone relates and so on.           
Also keen on geology,
Mr Goodding looks at a rock.
   While we lived in Jerome, we had a few close neighbors who were exceptional. I recall one elderly couple in particular. The lady was one of a very few people who ever ‘babysat’ me and that was only when Mom and Dad went on an expedition with him. Leslie and Bernice Goodding were probably in their mid sixties at that time, let’s say around 1948. He was a world-renowned botanist and an expert on desert and arid lands flora. In fact he had several plants named for him that he had identified and studied.
            As I remember, he was a slender man of medium height, about the same size as my maternal grandfather. He had the first four wheel drive vehicle in the area, a Dodge “Power Wagon” which had been a military vehicle, I think. Riding in it influenced my Dad to buy a Universal Jeep soon after that time, around a year later. From the knowledge my parents acquired from their association with Mr. Goodding, I can still identify many grasses, weeds, shrubs and trees that grow in the southwestern US.
            Mrs. Goodding I can only picture as a plump, grandmotherly  woman who enjoyed children or at least seemed to. I loved her! She made me a paper doll, kind of a kewpie doll shape, and then cut clothes for her out of gift wrap paper. That small beginning got me into what became a major hobby in time. I am not sure if she had any children or not. If so they were grown by then. I think there may have been a son or daughter, perhaps both, but I do not recall them visiting.
            Another Jerome neighbor was Alex Fields. He worked for the mines but lived in one of the homes I called “the private houses” which were built on leased land but not in the style of the hill’s identical company homes which had been built to house mine employees. It was one of those which we rented as the mines began to slow down after the end of WWII.  Alex had grown up in a remote location in the Tonto Forest area, to the south and east from the narrow south end of the Verde Valley, where Camp Verde had been built. He was an avid hunter and Dad went on several hunting trips with him and learned special tricks for hunting big game in the southwest. Alex’s wife, Helen, was a friend of my Mom’s and gave me some treasures left behind by her grown daughters to include more paper dolls and some ‘play dress up’ clothes including two pairs of real Dutch style wooden shoes her girls had worn in a school or church program.
            Alex was fairly short, perhaps five foot eight or so and husky in build. Although he had little formal schooling, he was an intelligent man and knew a great deal. He had expertise not only in what he did at the mine which I think was electrical work for the machinery but a lot of other practical skills as well. Helen was a tiny, slight woman, even smaller than my mother, who I grew past at about age eleven. The Fields’ had a little Boston Bulldog named Corky. When my first brother came along, he was fascinated with that dog and named his stuffed toy dog Corky, too.  They transferred to Ajo, another Phelps Dodge mine town. about the same time we moved from Jerome down to Clarkdale. He came back to the Verde after retiring and then died of cancer a few years later.
            In about 1952, Dad went elk hunting alone up to the northwest of Flagstaff. There was a big storm that year in November and many hunters were stranded. Dad had killed a trophy-sized elk and managed to get it hoisted into a tree with a powerful pulley-based hoist but then left it and came out of the remote area just as the storm set in. A couple of days later, Alex went with him to fetch it. They butchered the big bull since the carcass was too large and heavy even for two strong men to handle. The elk had been fighting with others since it was that season and had broken a bit off of several tines on his antlers. Otherwise he would have been in the record books at that time. Each quarter weighed over two hundred pounds; the elk was as large as a big steer. We enjoyed that fine meat for months. I know that was a story told many times and fondly remembered whenever Alex and Dad got together later on. My second brother, born in 1959, was named Robert Alexander partly in memory of this friend.
            Several other characters came through our home and lives about the same time although they did not live in Jerome. There are some odd links in this next situation I will share. At that time Arizona had a Fish and Game Commission that was in charge of managing almost every aspect of the wildlife. One project at the time was transplanting beaver from some streams in the White Mountains (North Gila Forest) on the far eastern side of the state into streams along the Mogollon Rim. Dad got involved with this project in order to write about it and took a lot of photos.
           Colorado River around Topock. My memory of him is vague but I do know he came to the house a time or two. Now here is the coincidence. The man who later became my husband was also a summer hire on this project although he worked on a different team. His boss was a guy named Buddy Fox of whom I’d heard but I don’t think he ever came over to the Verde Valley area. Just a few years later, Jim Walton, my future husband, and George Daniels were stationed together in the Marine Corps and served in Korea. Later when Jim lived in Yuma, he often saw George who had gone to work permanently for Fish and Game after his time in the military.
Some of the beaver transplant
crew in Sycamore Canyon
Several local boys worked on the project as a summer job and one of the young men involved was a chap named George Daniels who had come from over by the
            Although it was a bit later, there was another link of acquaintances. About the time we  moved from Jerome to Clarkdale, a man named Don Smith was assigned by the Fish and Game department to be the local game ranger. Of course Dad met him since there were already many connections to employees of that agency. Don and his wife Lucy became at least casual friends and their son Grady, who was Charlie’s age, became pals with him and they were in Cub Scouts together. Eventually Don was transferred to the Yuma area and he also became an acquaintance of Jim Walton’s who by then was out of the Marines and in law enforcement in that town.
            A final Fish and Game man was Ollie Grimes who was an expert trapper. At that time, there was a push to get rid of an excess of coyotes and a few other predatory or nuisance-designated animals. Ollie handled the setting out of poison baits and steel traps to manage this project. He and Dad became friends. Dad had done some fur trapping as a boy in Missouri before the family moved into the city,  so he was not unfamiliar with this kind of effort. Ollie’s wife whose name I cannot recall—Nellie?  It was an old fashioned name, anyway--was a school teacher, and they lived in Camp Verde. They did have some grown children and a bunch of us all went camping once down along West Clear Creek and the Tonto region. The details are very vague but I think it was fun! I must have been maybe six or seven at that time, probably the summer before Camp Wood and the Kaibab adventures.
Ollie Grimes, left, talks to a rancher about predators.

            This is only the first part of characters! Life was to bring many others to cross my path.

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