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Thursday, February 26, 2015

Well Within Reach

Why is Sarah so excited?

Dog and Cats: A friend from Michigan is traveling the West with two cats. When Karen turned up in our yard, Sarah, who loves company, was very happy. Realizing quickly that there was at least one cat aboard (the other stayed out of sight), Sarah was fascinated. But since the cats go everywhere Karen goes, when she and I took off the next day to see the cranes, Sarah had to stay home. A dog and two cats in the vehicle? No, thank you!

Sheep: On our way to Whitewater Draw, we stopped to sheep, the first I’d seen on that road. Did they only arrive within the last couple of days? At the sheep stop, we could hear cranes overhead and were finally able to spot them in formation but flying much too high to be visible as cranes. I could only identify them by their calls.

Cranes: We were not disappointed at the Draw, our day’s #1 objective. There were fewer people than when David and I visited in January and, thankfully, not the fierce wind we’d experienced there. Cranes were gathered in two major areas, one near the parking area and another group out far beyond the paths and water. We went all the way out to the end of the farthest path to see the latter group, highly satisfied despite the fact that no flocks wheeled overhead.

Douglas – and Lunch: Next, the restaurant I’d promised Karen along the way having been closed on Wednesdays, we agreed to drive on to Douglas, a new destination for me, an American town on the Mexican border. Douglas turned out to be quite a lovely town, full of beautiful architecture and palm trees and many houses with that hipped style of roof I so loved years ago in Georgia. There was also a street parallel to the border with small, old-looking adobe buildings that I want to take David back to see. That street looked like the 19th-century beginnings of a town that did not become a ghost town but grew “inland.”

We found a beautiful restaurant, and lunch was inexpensive and delicious. One of the taco plates, called “cabeza,” featured chopped onion and cabbage, so of course I had to order dos tacos cabezas, in honor or my winter digs – but then forgot, in my hunger and eagerness, to photograph them for the blog. Rats!

Karen wanted to walk across the border to buy a bottle of tequila, her #2 objective of the day. Initially I’d said I’d wait for her in the vehicle, with the cats. I had my passport with me but was a little nervous about going across. Then at the last minute I changed my mind. Lots of people were walking across, including plenty of kids, and my friend, a retired airline attendant, is one of the most experienced travelers I know. So why not?

Mexico: The first building that caught our eye was this one. Is it a nightclub? Wow! Talk about an eye-popping fa├žade!

“But this is nothing like Nogales,” Karen said on the other side as we looked up and down the street for a liquor store, not seeing one anywhere in sight. “In Nogales, it’s liquor store, dentist office, eyeglasses, liquor store, dentist office, eyeglasses.” No, Agua Prieta – at least, as much of it as we saw -- is nothing like that. There were several pharmacies just inside the border, which I pointed out as likely destinations for medical tourists (I only photographed this old, closed pharmacy; others looked bright and lively), but other than that, most places looked run-down and faded. We had to watch our steps carefully, too, for changes in sidewalk elevation and crumbling curbs. There were no hordes of tourists in t-shirts, for sure -- maybe no tourists at all? I was the only person I saw carrying a camera -- and no rows of stalls selling tourist items. This was a poor border town, spritzing itself up here and there (one very pretty hotel; another big building going up a block or two away) and struggling along everywhere else.

Note: Others were open, but I couldn't resist photographing this wall

Karen kept apologizing. “It’s too bad this is your first experience of Mexico. You’d really like Nogales. It’s nothing like this.”

Okay, I’m sure it isn’t. On the other hand, having expected a completely tourist experience, I didn’t mind at all seeing an ordinary, more work-a-day town. “It feels more like a real place,” I told her. “I’m not disappointed at all.” And I wasn’t – not in the town or what I was seeing there. The only thing that disappointed me was my own memory! I felt tongue-tied, and my distracted brain kept fluttering with excitement and going into spins as I tried to remember my most rudimentary Spanish. My friend Laurie would have been very disappointed in me, I’m afraid! What, for example, is the verb for ‘to buy’? Karen doesn’t speak Spanish, and I would have liked to be able to say “My friend wants to buy tequila.” No could do.

Two men in a little party store (looking like any little U.S. party store, by the way) spoke English, however, and gave us directions to a liquor store. A block that way, another block that way. Okay, we did it. Then, tequila purchased and in the bag, we were ready to start back north.

Colorful tiles greeted us on the American side of the customs desk, and a fascinating, surprising picture greeted our eyes as we drove away from the border area: dozens of school children, loaded down with bags and backpacks, were streaming towards Mexico. They were born in the U.S., Karen explained to me, so they have the right to attend school here, but they live with their families in Mexico.

Pirtleville: The day included one more surprise, a colorful Arizona cemetery that looked as if it could easily have been in Mexico. We stopped, and I walked around with my camera but could not feel satisfied with the results. Like the desert and the mountains, it is the overall vista that is so impressive, and there was no way I could get my images close enough, far enough, wide enough, and big enough – all at once – to convey the impression of the reality.

Cows: On the way back to Dos Cabezas, we stopped to see some pretty-faced cattle in a feed lot. Sweet though their faces were, I was not moved to outrage by their plight. Why not? Am I becoming insensitive to animals, the more attention I pay to the challenges of farming and ranching, or was it the scenes of poverty in Mexico and those children crossing the border every day in hopes of a better life that had my mind more focused on human struggle?

Coyotes and Deer: It seemed that the excitement of the day was behind us as we reached the north end of the Kansas Settlement Road and turned onto Hwy. 186 toward Dos Cabezas. Then Karen exclaimed, “What’s that?” Something had run across in front of us, up ahead. Then another one! By the time the third one was crossing, we were close enough to see clearly that it was a coyote. No one behind us, so Karen stopped, and we could see all three there beyond the road, looking back at us. They look smaller and brighter in color than our Michigan coyotes. But did they wait for us to pull out our cameras and focus? They did not! Well, anyway, we saw them. “That was great!” David and I have heard coyotes here many nights, but these were the first I’d seen, and I was pleased to be able to add three coyotes to my list of six roadrunners, two mule deer, two javelinas (dead), and many Southwest birds. Then, “Look!” To our left, running along the base of a low mountain, parallel to the road, like animals in a safari film, were a herd of half-a-dozen deer. Mule deer? Whitetail? We were past them, and they were out of sight before I could be sure.

Home and Cat and Dog: David had spent most of the day at home, reading and drawing and painting, enjoying a rare day of solitude but eager to hear about our adventures. Karen and I put together a big taco spread for supper and told him all about it.

Sarah stuck to my side like a burr all evening. “She missed you,” David said. I missed her, too. I kept thinking she was in the van with us and then remembering we had only Karen’s cats with us. (Friendly little part-Siamese Frankie was in and out of my lap all day.) But here’s a question: did Sarah simply want to be close to me that evening or to Frankie’s tantalizing scent, as well?

P.S. Look here for the weather we had on Tuesday evening....


Karen Casebeer said...

What an adventure! But the crane experience was what really caught my eye. To see that many all at once is mind boggling. I especially love the one of the two in flight. Great job of stopping the action. Karen

P. J. Grath said...

Karen, today when I came out of the post office I heard cranes overhead, but David told me I'd missed the main show: he said there were at least a thousand, wheeling in formation in the sky!