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!

Monday, December 12, 2016

Memoir Monday

Installment 1—The Summer of 1951

Do you ever have to kind of con yourself to get things done that you know you need to do, maybe even want to do but can’t seem to fit them in? That’s my problem. This time of year it is harder than normal since I get a seasonal spell of the blahs and have to work to pull up my socks every day and go walk with my dogs.  So I came up with a small gimmick to get myself back on a more regular schedule of posting to this blog and maybe a bit will spill over to my others. 
Every Monday I will post a memory from years gone by with some photos.  I know I have posted memoir tales before but I am going to approach this a bit differently. I’ll take a small slice of time and go into more depth with it. I’m not sure how this will work but here we go!

Gaye, summer 1951
lookout tower in background
The first summer that I can recall as a unit was the summer of 1951, between my second and third grade years. Before that, I can remember incidents and vignettes but time began to take on a different dimension that year.  That summer was unique and a special adventure!
1951 was the year we spent in the North Kaibab. My parents took a summer job operating one of the forest service fire lookouts.  I know there were at least two or three others, perhaps more, but we made our home for ten or twelve weeks at the Big Springs Lookout. It was not far from the North Rim of the Grand Canyon although outside of the park boundaries.
Big Springs Fire Lookout

The lookout consisted of a tall tower with a metal cabin on the top with big windows on all  four sides. It held an instrument like a surveyor’s transit and a spotting scope. These were used to get the exact location of a fire spotted by the person or people manning the lookout. There was also a cabin tent, about ten by fourteen feet or so which provided shelter and a temporary home for the fire watchers. The canvas was stretched over a frame and it had wooden side walls up about three feet. There was a wood burning stove for cooking and heat, if needed. I had a cot and I think there was a double bed my parents used. We had an outhouse, had water hauled in, and used Coleman lanterns for light.
I was allowed to go two flights up the tower by myself and climbed the stairs with no fear. I’m not sure why the two flight limit for a fall from even that high would have likely been very serious if not fatal but that was the rule. My mother scampered up and down with little problem although she was three to six months pregnant with my future sibling. There were no ultra sounds at that time so we had no idea whether I’d have a brother or a sister. I suppose the exercise and active life was healthy since she had the baby in November and both she and my new brother were fine!
A circular drive ran around the base of the tower and past the door of the tent-cabin. I remember drawing elaborate ‘floor plans’ in the dirt which became houses, castles and stables for my solitary games. I was used to playing by myself and never lacked a vivid imagination which apparently served me well.  The specifics of my games are forgotten but I know I had a good time and was never bored or lonely.
Some days when the fire danger was low—after a good rain, mostly—we could take off and go exploring. The family car was a Universal Jeep, not much different from those the military had developed in WW II and were then using in Korea. It had four wheel drive and could handle almost any dim track out through the forest so we visited many of the more remote view points of the Grand Canyon such as Toroweap and others. I am sure Dad took pictures, but for some reason I have not found even any negatives.
Mule deer herd, bucks' antlers
in the 'velvet' stage, actively growing.
We also saw the famous Kaibab mule deer. Herds came out to forge in many of the meadows or cienega areas (seep springs that create more verdant vales) and there were photos of them. They are larger than the average mule deer and have evolved into almost a sub-species due to their isolated location. The bucks have very large antlers and often they are rather deformed or oddly shaped with tines going at strange angles and very asymmetrical. Even the does were fairly large.
Every couple of weeks we went in to Kanab, Utah to get supplies since that was the nearest town large enough to have a real grocery store and other shops with necessary goods. I recall it as a pretty, neat little town with lots of trees and a clean aspect.  I am sure it is much larger and different now.

The experiences of that summer left a mark on me. I did not mind the primitive conditions nor was I fearful to be out in the woods, a number of miles from “civilization” and to this day, I can enjoy an extended period of such a life. It is nice to come back to all the modern conveniences –well some of them at least—but for several weeks, it would still be good to get away from it all! I did so earlier this fall with a stay at a sled dog kennel off the grid outside Fairbanks, Alaska. 

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