Love, Laughter, and Life

Adventures With a Book Lover


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Throwback Thursday: Horses in the Desert

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Hello, friends. Allow me to introduce you to Royal Blaze, my scrappy and rotten Appaloosa filly. Blaze for short.

Mom and Dad surprised me, the lover of all things horses, with a four-month-old filly when we lived in southern Arizona between Huachuca City and Tombstone. Talk about hard to wait! I couldn’t ride her for quite some time. We had friends nearby with horse breaking experience, so they had Blaze for about a month. And poof, she came back and we started riding together. Not to say that we didn’t have moments of extreme excitement when we miscommunicated or she decided to make her own choices, but for the most part, we enjoyed our time together.

In this picture, probably taken between 1976-1977, I am in 8th or 9th grade. We lived, literally, in the middle of nowhere. The closest “town” was Vernon. I think that was a six mile drive, but I’m not positive. Vernon had a gas station/mini mart, post office, and maybe one church. Dad worked in Show Low to the west and we took the a little bus over a pass to the east to Springerville/Eager. Our bus driver lived right in Vernon. The bus stayed at her house. I have no idea what she did during the day while we were at school. But we all lived for snow storms and school announcements calling all Vernon kids to leave early to get over the pass.

You can see the mountain lion tree. That huge scrubby tree to the right. Our collie, Jody (Princess Josephine-hey, we had royal animals in our family), went ballistic one night. The next day, we found the huge paw prints. Mind you, this tree is in our front yard. I am sitting on Blaze IN the front yard. Mom is probably on the steps of the trailer taking this picture, due to the angle. That cat was very close to us, probably scoping out little kid or cat snacks.

You can also see the old car in the background, hood open, dad leaning over the engine. Good thing he was a great mechanic, since we owned cars needing regular attention. I wish I could ask my parents about this picture. I think the car belongs to my grandparents on my dad’s side. They made one trip to visit us out in the sticks. Actually, my grandmother or grandfather probably took the photo.

Now. Back to Blaze. In the White Mountains (named for the snow in winter, since they are obviously NOT white in this picture), we roamed far and wide. I shudder to think of the dangerous situations we avoided. I know God was protecting me at all times.

Our property bordered forest land. That meant plenty of wide open spaces for us to roam. Sometimes Jody went with us, sometimes not. She loved to find dead stuff to roll in, and was happiest when she came trotting home stinking to high heaven. The times she wasn’t allowed to go, I had to sneak into my boots and out the door. This did not always work. She was crushed when I left without her.

Timber Knoll was south of our trailer and Blaze and I explored the land on all sides. Once, a HUGE something was causing a ruckus in the underbrush. Loud. Scary. Both of us were skittish and beat a retreat off the knoll. I’m guessing it was a bear, judging by Blaze’s reaction and size of movement. Other times we avoided rattlesnakes and scary shadows. That horse. What a nut. She loved to spook and if I wasn’t paying attention, off I went. And off she ran to home. Or to the neighbor’s barn, which she deemed nicer than our place. I did spend quite a bit of time walking home and looking for that horse. I eventually learned to reflexively hold the reins if she spooked. That frustrated her but kept me in possession of a ride.

We had grand adventures, just me and the horse. Blaze was willing to tackle pretty  much anything except water and steep hills. I’m sure my mother had a heart attack every time I left. The area was pretty much wilderness with neighbors far and wide. And I’m sure she prayed for me and uttered words of thanks when we (or the horse, followed later by me) trotted up the driveway.

How about you? Did you have any special pets or adventures when you were growing up?


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Throwback Thursday: Kids & Nature in the Arizona Desert

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I was probably in first or second grade in this picture. And I can tell you, we had no nature deficit disorder in my family. We were always outside. Either the kids were out, by choice or by mom’s choice, or the entire family was off and exploring.

It seemed like our family spent most weekends in the station wagon or camper, heading off to explore and find what we could find. Though I know we also went to church on a regular basis, so maybe we spent Saturdays traveling and skipped a random Sunday now and then to camp. Life as a kid was always an adventure.

I’m pretty sure this picture was taken at Turkey Creek in Arizona. Turkey Creek was a great spot. I can remember camping there at least 3 different times. Judging by the grin on my face, I loved getting outside. And in Arizona, being outside around water was a treat. Being a desert and all. We four of kids (maybe not James, who was a baby) had a ball splashing in the creek. We did the usual-get muddy, catch critters, drench ourselves, throw rocks, find favorite rocks, go fishing with plain sticks. I remember one trip in particular when I found a snapping turtle. I was, of course, sticking my finger towards its mouth, seeing if it would snap. It did. Pinched my finger hard enough that I wet my pants! I remember crying. Hello. If you poke a wild animal in its mouth, it will bite.

Besides random attacks from snapping turtles, I remember all of us being together. That was important. The mom and dad, the 4 kids, the dog, the cat, the bird. We all crowded into the camper and dad drove us along bumpy dirt roads to get to our camp or picnic destinations. That was back in the good old days when kids rode in the camper while the vehicle was in motion. We played cards, colored pictures, ate snacks, climbed up and down from the over-the-cab bed, and I’m sure, fought like crazy. But somehow, we all made it to adulthood.

Looking back at this picture of myself standing on rocks and my sister collecting nature items, I can remember the beauty of the water, the rocks, the plants, the dirt. I can feel the sun on my back. Just look at those boulders behind me. I mean, they are gorgeous. Plenty of lichen and hiding spots for poisonous desert dwellers. But we didn’t worry too much about those. Stay away from the obvious dangers like tarantulas and rattlesnakes. Leave them alone, they’ll (most likely) leave you alone. Dappled light gives great luster to this photo. I love how the sunlight highlights my braids. And I see I am, even at that young age, wearing one of my lifelong favorite colors. Orange. And stripes. I’m still into stripes. Funny.

I’m so glad my parents instilled in us a love of the outdoors and exploring our surroundings. It doesn’t matter where you live, there are interesting and beautiful nature hot spots just waiting to be discovered. You can go as far as your backyard (welcome, gallon jars of tadpoles) or escape to a different state or country.

Hello, Arizona desert. I miss you.

How about you? Where did you go exploring when you were a child?


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Throwback Thursday: Ready for Church in the 70’s

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What a masterpiece for mom-all 4 kids nicely dressed and AT the car doors, ready for church!

So many things run through my mind when I look at this photo.

The station wagon, the magical vehicle of weekend adventures with the family and the collie, Jody. Wish she was in this picture! A very cool fact about this wagon was the inclusion of fold down facing-each-other seats in the way back. We used to fight over who got to ride there, whether we were headed to church or not.

The outfits. Mom loved to dress my sister and me in the same outfits. Which worked most of the time. But according to mom, I loved the ruffles and frillies, despite the fact that I was chunky and the extra layers did not make me look slimmer. My sister loved the fitted and slim styles but with her slender build she could pull off all of my ruffles and more. The boys, well, suit and tie for the oldest boy, while poor baby boy sported a bib and belly button baring top. Mini Mr. Green jeans.

Notice my straight hair. I don’t know how that happened, but I have very fine curly hair. Does hair change texture as we age? Frizz is my usual style, so long flat locks were an anomaly. Some pictures, which will remain hidden, at least until they are rediscovered in storage, portray my head full of rollers. Lovely for curls, horrid for sleeping.

Desert. Barren. Dry. Unpopulated. As an adult, I’d love to travel back in time and see how undeveloped and sparse the locations we lived actually were. I don’t remember being far from neighbors when we lived here on Hamel Road. With friends just down the dirt road, this was a homey place to live. I know we rode the school bus every day, but I don’t have many memories of even standing in line for the bus. Later years, yes, there are all sorts of images from hours spent on buses, not all of them nice.

The jeep. Dad’s love. This vehicle was another magical transport, complete with a winch. Up hill, down hill, over gullies, 4-wheeling. Maybe that’s where my daughter gets it from, her love of wheeling. It certainly passed me, as I’d rather be on a horse. But during those early days, we went all over the state to find roads (or not roads) to use the winch to pull us up or help someone else up. Ah, the good old days.

How about you? What picture takes you back in time? Were the days simpler then? I’d love to hear!

 


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Throwback Thursday: Colors of Desert Sun

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The opposite of sun-bleached, we were sun-drenched.

Long shadows, blinded eyes, rich dense colors.

Yes, this was us in the early 1970’s. I was most likely in 2nd grade, dressed for Arizona heat. My brother was in kindergarten, already pursuing his unique personality and sense of humor. Little sister must have been preschool-age, but back then going to preschool was not a thing families did.

Yes. That was how our yard was landscaped. Gravel, dust, scrappy weeds. The interesting parts were the critters and wildlife we discovered as we played and explored the desert environments. In this location alone, I remember collecting gallons of tadpoles after desert storms, and hunting horned toads, tarantulas, scorpions, snakes, spiders, jack rabbits, and those scary spider wasps. We also rescued a tortoise from the middle of the road and let him burrow around in the back yard. Thaddeus Humperdinck. That was his name. No idea why.

Yes. Windows open. The weather must not have been too drastically hot, and judging from the distant clouds, we might have recently enjoyed rain. We had a swamp cooler on top of the trailer and I remember lying on the floor beneath it during the hottest part of summer days with my coloring book and crayons, cooling off in the damp wind it created. But in this photo, the time of day was when the desert sun was kissing the horizon, ready to give us well-deserved shade and respite.

Yes. This was a very cool station wagon. Not only a wagon, but a magic vehicle capable of transporting us on weekend family treks to historical, dusty, engaging, scary, crowded, isolated, or deserted Arizona hot spots. Haha, “hot” spots. Soda pop bottles, white bread, bologna, and we were ready to roll. Up hill, down hill, across stretching southwest landscapes, stopping for rare shade trees and dusty gullies, drips of streams and gorges filled with flash floods. Life was an adventure. Include: dogs, kids, play pen, stroller, and avid interest.

Yes. A home on wheels. And we used those wheels to move the trailer several times over our life within the metal, possibly uninsulated, walls. We survived desert thunderstorms, lighting shows, freezing temperatures, snow storms, and heat hot enough to cook (insert your favorite food). Home it was. 3 bedrooms, 2 bathrooms, living room, dining room-kitchen, and utility room. Kids lived on the right end, parents on the left. We six (plus critters) crammed a magnificent amount of life into that gorgeous tenement on wheels.

I loved living in the desert, back when heat didn’t bother me and I spent all my days outside, digging in the dirt, catching insects and reptiles, chasing kids in the ‘neighborhood,’ and making up daring adventure stories while riding horseback with my similarly minded friends. The nostalgia of childhood paints beautiful masterpieces in my mind, blotting the difficult times (were there any?) and adding exquisite details to enhance my thankfulness to God for a good, excellent, childhood.

What about you? Which photo takes you back to your childhood?


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1971: Throwback Thursday

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January 1971. My daddy and me, posing in our 70s single-wide mobile home trailer. I just turned 8 years-old.

Purchased brand new, our goldenrod and white 4-mile long mobile sparkled. Shag carpet, wood paneling, avocado/gold/rust colors, 2 bath, 3 bedroom, open concept living room kitchen dining room combo. Family of 6, plus assorted dogs, cats, birds.

It worked, this stylish model. I have so many memories of Christmases, birthdays, meals, chores, crowded rooms. This mobile home was truly mobile, as it moved from the original park in Huachuca City, to Presidential Estates further from town (moved twice while there), and then to the White Mountains. As a kid, it looked fine. But I’m sure the poor thing degraded with every move.

Dad eventually added built-in couches (convenient storage) and a full-size wood stove. Seriously! That stove kept us toasty warm in the White Mountains, come whatever snow and ice and frigid temps the season delivered. By the grace of God, we did not burn up in that mobile.

The girls scored with the bigger bedroom at one end of the trailer, mainly because we were older and bigger. The boys, including baby James, didn’t take up as much room. Both bedrooms connected to a central bathroom. Bunk beds gave us space and plenty of personal area, plus opportunities for causing havoc doing things like kicking up the bed from below or spilling liquids on the lower bunk resident.

One of my favorite memories of the top bunk, besides having Cry (our cat) crawl beneath the covers and sleeping cozied up to me, was looking out one winter night. I don’t remember what woke me, but it was probably coyotes or such. Snow covered the ground and the moon was full. I could read a book in that light! It was gorgeous and I kept the curtains open so I could continue to enjoy the feeling of being right out there in the middle of the night. The windows began just below the level of the upper bunk, so I really was floating out in space.

Others fond memories included my horse, Blaze, wanting to come inside. Why not? After all, the four of us kids, mom, dad, the cat, and the dog were nice and comfy. She just leaned up against the steps, sticking her entire head and neck through the door to see what was what. Whichever animal needed a little TLC was welcomed in. Kids (goats), rabbits, chickens, ducks. Poor mom! I imagine we created a disaster of mud, snow, dirt, footprints, grass, food, poop…

In this picture of daddy and me, he is standing right in front of a painting my parents had done of him. Handsome cowboy! I don’t remember him ever riding a horse – other than the 4-wheeled variety. Engines were his babies. He was a parts man who could rattle off part numbers and outrun anyone else in the department to locate specific items needed to repair vehicles.

Notice our caterpillar (sign of the times) and the record player and complete collection of country western music LPs. We. Were. Stylin.’

What do you remember about the 70’s? Were you even born then? The good old days.


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Throwback Thursday: Mobile Home in the Desert

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Circa 1970, November

Meet my Arizona, mobile-home dwelling, sun-squinting family. No one wants to look at the photographer (my grandparents on my dad’s side who had come for a visit).

My daddy is the tallest in the back (of course), mommy is holding baby James, Tracy Jo is holding something over her eyes, Mark David is totally looking away AND covering his face, and I’m standing in the middle with my gorgeous poncho, making an avoiding-the-glare grimace. Family photos at their finest!

I’m 7 or just turned 8 (my birthday is in November), second grade. The beast of our mobile home towers over us, the desert landscape (dirt and weeds) lends atmosphere, and the white station wagon waits as our trusty steed. This 3 bedroom, 2 bath deluxe model was truly mobile. In this picture, we are living on Hamel Road. But we moved to Presidential Estates further from town and on that property we moved one more time. Then we loaded up again and moved north to the White Mountains. Four total moves and she still held together! Alas, when we finally moved back to Washington state in 1978, the beast stayed south.

I loved living on Hamel Road! Two of my best friends lived on my street. I use the term ‘street’ loosely. Dusty dirt road. We rode our horses all over that area, creating dramas, rescuing invisible persons-in-distress, escaping from the bad guys, setting up picnic lunches, and camping out in the horse pasture.

This Throwback Thursday is sponsored by “Way Back When.”

What “Way Back When” memories do you have? Anyone else wear plaid or ponchos? Or both? (Yes, I once had a warm winter cape that was both plaid and poncho!)

 


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Throwback Thursday: The Horse

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This is me with my third horse, Blaze. Royal Blaze.

Actually you can count her as my first horse, since the other two, Sissy and Lady, were more like family horses. Sissy and Blaze were both quite happy to dump me somewhere along the road and run home like horses on fire. And sometimes Blaze ran home to the fancy barn at the neighbor’s house, just for spite.

Maybe I spent more time walking than actually riding, but I did get better at holding on to the reins for dear life, forcing Blaze to stop so I could get back on. Spooking at ANY little thing. Like a rock, or a leaf, or maybe a butterfly. That was Blaze. Sissy just bucked you off and took off running if your heel came within 12 inches of her ticklish flank.

Though, as I think back, some sounds were spook-worthy. Maybe the giant crashing sounds in the shrubs along the road (bear, cow, mountain lion, elk?). Snake in the road? Check. Barking dog. Check. Shadow. Check.

Perhaps I took my life in my hands each time I headed out riding through the forest and range lands, but God looked out for me and kept me safe. Yes, He did.

This photo was taken sometime between 1976-78. I was probably 14 or 15 and we lived out in the middle of NOWHERE in the White Mountains of Arizona. Going to school was a 35 minute (or so) ride to Springerville/Eager on a mini-bus over a mountain pass. Yes! If snow was in the forecast, we got out of school early and headed home before the pass got bad. No sirree, the school did not want to have us spending the night! Going shopping or to work (Dad) was another 30-40 minute drive in the opposite direction to Show Low. Our mailing address was actually in Vernon, about 6 miles away, and our property ran up against fencing for forest land.

Blaze. How much I loved thee, knothead that you were. Mom and Dad bought her for me when she was about 4 months old. You can’t tell from this photo, but she was a roan Appaloosa. When we picked up ‘Fancy’ from the previous owners, she was the cutest thing! Spots were noticeable along her rump, but only if you looked hard. A sparse tail was the only other clue to her breeding. Her daddy’s name was Royal something (this was a LONG time ago, folks) and she had a blaze down her forehead, so Royal Blaze she became.

This horse provided me with hours and hours of adventures and companionship. Every day I’d head outside with our collie, Jody, tell her to get the horse, and whistle. Within minutes, thundering hooves and joyful barks raced towards me from the nearly 8 acre cedar-covered pasture. If if was a good day (for the dog) the three of us would head out for a couple of hours, exploring and playing. If it was really a good day, the dog would find something dead to roll in and stink to high heaven. If it was a bad day for the dog, I would try to sneak outside without her. This never worked, but sometimes I knew other dogs would be an issue, so she had to stay home. These days always crushed our girl.

Some fun things to remember:

-a broken off piece of salt block in my pocket to lick as we went for rides

-making up adventure stories involving cute boys and big events

-freezing my toes and fingers off (not literally) while riding in the deep snow

-cleaning out the horse tank and taking the first drinks of clean water

-climbing, circling, admiring Timber Knoll

-the cool deserted cabin behind Timber Knoll

-dead stuff

-forgetting I had on my dirty old cowboy boots and wearing them to school

-Poky, the cat, riding atop the horse, playing catch with branches trailing along Blaze’s back as we walked through the pasture

-snakes, lizards, tarantulas. Oh, my!

-surviving exit (of me) attempts by the horse brushing as close to the trunks of trees and shrubs as possible, hoping I would come off

We really did have loads of good times together. One just needed to be prepared for her to pull a trick! Good old Blaze!

What’s a favorite memory of adventures you have?

 

P.S. See the tree on the right side of the photo? That’s the spot the cougar/mountain lion spent the night! In. Our. Front. Yard. The dog was having a fit, but we didn’t let her out.

Middle of nowhere, folks. Middle of nowhere.

 


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The Station Wagon #ThrowbackThursday

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The Hill kids, Mark (blue suit), me (tallest), Tracy (white knee socks), and James (bib), next to the family roadster!

Station wagons and me, we go way back.

In the late 80s, my husband accepted employment with a new company, one benefit being a company car. “Anything would be cool, but please don’t come home with a station wagon. And especially not one with fake wood details.”

Ahem. Yes. He came with a station wagon. Adornment of imitation wood panels? Whew. Dodged that faux grained bullet.

Even earlier than the 80s & 90s version of the station wagon work vehicle was the early 70s family models owned by my parents. We had at least 2 different family touring vehicles, blue and white. Those wagons could really hold people and belongings. And pets, groceries, camping equipment, children, toys. Nothing like the little trunks in modern cars.

 

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The family station wagon, mid-trip exploring the Arizona desert.

Some of my fondest memories are the days we spent exploring the southwest. We’d load up 2 parents, 4 kids, and 1 collie dog. The first mandatory stop would be a mini-mart so we could purchase the required bologna, cheese, white bread, and soda for our snacking pleasure. Sometimes we ate hot dogs (always cold) instead of bologna, but either one was a treat. Then we would hit the road.

The Arizona desert is a wondrous place for questing. Forests, rivers, desert lands, mountains, ghost towns, dirt roads, historical sites. My parents loved to haul us around seeing what we could see. I have vivid pictures in my mind of those trips, but I can’t help but wonder if we didn’t drive mom and dad the slightest bit crazy. 4 kids and a dog in a station wagon? Even if we did use the fold-up seats in the way back to separate us.

Horned toads, tarantulas, snakes, spiders, scorpions, cacti, sagebrush, thorns, stickers, heat mirages, dust. Treasure is all in the eyes and heart of the explorer.

What about you? What memories do you have about a vehicle or early days with your family? I’d love to hear your tales on this #ThrowbackThursday.


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Insignificant Events in the Life of a Cactus by Dusti Bowling

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Insignificant Events in the Life of a Cactus

By Dusti Bowling

(Sterling Children’s Books, 2017)

 

I won a copy of Dusti Bowling’s chapter book Insignificant Events in the Life of a Cactus from Literary Rambles.

What first attracted me to this book was the title. I could just imagine what type of events a cactus would stoically attend, though I knew the book was not about those fascinating plants.

What attracted me next were the characters and the setting. Having grown up in Arizona, I looked forward to reading a book set in the starkly dry and hot desert. The book has a captivating cast of diverse characters. I loved reading of friends Aven (born without arms) and Conner (spits at people when he eats) and how they manage their disabilities. The strength and courage of Aven compelled me to cheer for her and will inspire others who struggle with any type of disability. Family issues, a mystery discovered in an old out building, and facing ones’ own fears come together in a nicely written page-turner.

Insignificant Events in the Life of a Cactus is a great read for any young (or old) person. Compassion, understanding, and acceptance of diversity will develop as readers live alongside Aven and Conner. I found that Bowlings’ book gave me the viewpoint of someone living with challenges and how they faced daily life and difficult situations. Readers will see that they can do anything if they put their mind to it!

Well done and great read!


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Daddy and Me: Throwback Thursday

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1970 – and I was stylin’! Most weekends, the Hill family, a complete set of 6 by that year, hit the road touring the historic, interesting, or just plain hot sites and locations of Arizona.

Station wagon, two parents, dog, 4 kids, full gas tank, and off we would go. Funny, I don’t remember seeing any maps. We just seemed to find these fun places. In 1970 I was about 8 and in second grade, so perhaps maps didn’t hit my radar. As long as we made the mandatory stops for pop, chips, a loaf of white bread, and a package of hot dogs, we were happy campers.

I remember Colossal Cave. Not so much the interior, which I am sure was cool and interesting and quite a break from the heat. But the name is clearly imprinted in my memories.

It didn’t matter what we did as a family. The important thing was spending time together, whether we were chasing horned toads (they squirt blood you know!), scaring off rattlesnacks, stopping to pick tortoises off the road (good old Humperdink), or camping at Turkey Creek, we loved hitting the road as much as our parents did.

Or maybe they didn’t enjoy it. With 4 kids and a revolving zoo of pets in a single wide trailer, I bet they HAD to get out of the house on the weekends, for sanity purposes.

Just kidding. We loved exploring. I got that from my dad and my mom.

Excuse me while I grab a loaf of white bread and some hot dogs. Feeling a road trip coming on…