It seems as if I need to get nudged by some of you in order to sit down and bring you up to date. This time it was a friend from California, who e-mailed me a plaintive request for news.
But I have a very good excuse. I have been hostess to a couple of young people from the Czech Republic, in fact my second cousins, one of whom is my godson, John, who came to visit me with his sister Hanna, and we had a marvelous time for the past three weeks.
You realize that when people come to visit you for the first time in their life, it behooves you to make it the best time possible, and I sincerely hope I did that. We had a ball. We went to the Chiricahuas, where it rained (it was the last rain of this miserable dry summer to date); we went to Tombstone, where they posed for a period photo at Madame Mustache’s studio, which is now on display in the Longhorn Room; we visited Tucson’s Desert Museum, where we watched the animals snooze in their comfortable, cooled and well watered natural surroundings; we went to Park Mall in Tucson (which was pronounced to be much smaller than the one in Prague – a quick recovery from communism there!!); we ate Lebanese food, we ate Mexican food, we ate east Indian food, and then, as a finale, we went to the Grand Canyon.
It is not a trip I undertake lightly. Firstly, as it is so darn long, being all of seven hours’ driving, but also because at least four of those seven hours are through busy built up areas, the busiest of which is Phoenix. When I came to Arizona, some 39 years ago, I remember a scenic road called Baseline, as being well out in the country, and Highway 17, which one took to get to Prescott and hence to the Grand Canyon, as being a respectable distance from the metropolis, and thereby easily navigable. No more…. Baseline Road today is well in the maw of the city, and Highway 17 to Prescott has one of those exits where, if you don’t get into the right lane not long after you leave Tucson, you get shunted off to distances in the golden west.
I was understandably nervous about undertaking such a drive. I am, you see, a country hick, and my idea of a long drive is to go to Tucson on some foolish periodic errand. I recalled the last stressful time when I blundered my way through the Phoenix traffic on the way to some gift show or other on behalf of the ranch, and, realizing that some three years had passed since then, I was pretty sure that the high tide of the city would now have reached well beyond my comfort level.
But – help was at hand. Adam has a GPS. Not only a GPS, but one that informs you, in a well modulated female voice, that you will shortly turn right, so be in the right lane – or you will go left, so take up a defensive position and fight your way through the madding throng to the left. And it made the whole trip a snip! Not only does the Lady of the Lamp tell you where to turn, but she also, on being provided with the house number and the street, neatly deposits you, within the advertised time, to the very doorstep. In this instance it was my friend Debbie’s doorstep – she, who unaccountably, has chosen to live in this devil’s hive – and who had offered to put me up for the night. We dropped the kids off at a good motel, and Debbie and I spent a fun evening settling the country’s geo-political and fiscal affairs, and the ranch’s balance sheet. That done, I slept the sleep of the just in her lovely guest room, and feared no evil on the return trip, because the Lady of the GPS was at my service.
The Grand Canyon was, as always, truly grand. I always recall the words of some army officer who was trying to cross Arizona in the mid 1800’s, and whose progress was impeded by the Grand Canyon. He sent a message to Washington telling them that “it is a country so inhospitable and so unattractive that he was sure he was the last white man to set foot near it”. As I don’t have the actual quotation I had to paraphrase it, but that was the essence of his message – and so, wouldn’t he be amazed, could he but see the Tower of Babel it had become.
Note from the webmaster: Here is the actual quote Eve is referring to taken from Wikipedia: A U.S. War Department expedition led by Lt. Joseph Ives was launched in 1857 to investigate the area’s potential for natural resources, to find railroad routes to the west coast, and assess the feasibility of an up-river navigation route from the Gulf of California. The group traveled in a stern wheeler steamboat named Explorer. After two months and 350 miles (560 km) of difficult navigation, his party reached Black Canyon some two months after George Johnson. In the process, the Explorer struck a rock and was abandoned. The group later traveled eastwards along the South Rim of the Grand Canyon.
A man of his time, Ives discounted his own impressions on the beauty of the canyon and declared it and the surrounding area as “altogether valueless”, remarking that his expedition would be “the last party of whites to visit this profitless locality”.
As we had, foolishly, dismissed the directions of the Lady of the Lamp as being in error (!!), we, naturally, took the wrong road and finished up on the east end of the Canyon. It was actually providential, as I had never been to that end, and so I got to see places I had never seen. We looked into several of the look-outs, met a company of friendly crows who naturally expected goodies to eat – welfare is not limited to the human race!! – and who, on realizing that we had none, gave us disdainful looks and flapped off to greener pastures. We encountered people from more foreign countries than I thought existed in the world, and we also overheard several conversations in Czech.
That is always very intriguing to me. We left the country when I was 12 years old, escaping communism, and for years I never heard the language spoken by anyone but my parents and my sister and me. In fact, I used to have a clear mental image of our family of four as floating on a small raft in the middle of a large sea, just us four, being the only people in the world who spoke that particular language. I still remember that image so very clearly – I am sure that a psychotherapist could interpret it for me and tell me it is the source of all my ills, mental and physical. In any case, this image has so persisted that even now, when Czechs travel all over the world in ever increasing numbers, it is still a marvel to me to overhear my own language – my first language – at which I am now not very good, and in which I can’t even write a legible letter. But still, it was once mine. Hanna talked to one of the ladies and it turned out they were from Prague.
But I am sure you don’t want to hear me babbling of my history and mental gymnastics, so what is new at Grapevine??
Well, it still hasn’t rained. It is the more irritating for the fact that when we had a local Tucson television channel doing a weather forecast from here at the end of May, the weather forecaster, a knowledgeable gentleman by the name of Chuck, told us that the weather gurus had prophesied it would be a wetter than normal summer, with heavy monsoon rains. That was such as lovely idea! So then it rained in June, about a half inch – and then … nothing much. The grass that had turned green and happy following that rain is now wilting, and, though we had some much heavier rains in the mountains than here at the headquarters, we still feel cheated. Perhaps God is looking out for us – we don’t, after all, yet have the downspouts so badly need at Grapevine, where that steep new metal roof throws off mega-gallons of water per shower and so makes a mini lake at the entrance, and a river between the Longhorn Room and the Buffalo Room buildings. And, did I but have my brains in place, and the money that the insurance company has yet to pay us (and refuses) to the tune of some $100K, I would have had them dig an underground water storage tank to catch the rainwater there, and use it for irrigation. Ah well – as they say, the plans of mice and men.
Next Sunday my stepdaughter, Sally, and her husband, Craig, arrive from Australia, and I am very much looking forward to their visit. They come every summer – neatly escaping the nasty Melbourne winter – and help us with the August round up.
We always try to do this at some time or other in early August, very uncertainly because of the weather. Riding in the rain is one thing – being caught out in the middle of flat country in a raging thunderstorm is quite another.
It is always a workout – firstly, the cattle are scattered all over seven square miles, and the bulls are with them. Next, it is necessary to get all the bulls in, and that’s the trick. Bulls, you see, don’t particularly want to make you happy. Their idea of a good life is to lie under a mesquite bush, snoozing in the shade, until it is time to go and get a drink and perhaps bother some of the ladies. When you try to flush them out, they get up reluctantly, give you a nasty look, and move over to the other side of the tree. You now have to maneuver your horse over to that side, through the scratchy, stickery branches, whereupon the bull moves over to the original side. After some minutes of this bovine tango, he finally gets the idea that it won’t work, and lumbers out in pursuit of another mesquite bush. To get all of them gathered in one morning is unheard of – mostly we have to go out for at least one more bull, and almost always, he is at the very end of the pasture, the most distance possible from where he needs to be.
The cows also have to come in, along with all their calves. And this year, we have quite a few babies to brand, ones that were not yet born or were too small when we last branded in May. And thereby hangs the problem – they were too small in May, but now, in August, they are very large. They will require not merely a cowboy on a horse, but in fact, two cowboys on two horses, to head and heel them; some of them are too big now to castrate safely, so they will have to stay bulls. When they are sold, this means we will get a lower price; and if one or two are especially good-looking, we may keep them as future herd bulls here – a lot of “ifs”. And you know that it will thunder – and rain – and so wash off the fly spray that we also wish to spray the herd with on the last day. Ah yes, the August round up.
And business wise, we are having an interesting summer. It is one where the guest count is up, it’s down, it’s up, it’s down – mostly European guests – but to our satisfaction, next year is shaping up well, with April being almost filled up already. It would be nice to get to a normal state of affairs where one could more or less plan on busy and less busy!! But we’ll take the “busy” whenever we can get it, and be thankful for it!
We had a turnover of staff in the office, which now seems to have settled down with a good crew again. Those of you calling us will most likely get to talk to Linda, a very efficient front office gal, organized and good at the computer magic, which is so important in that position. If you don’t get Linda, it may be Anne, who has taken on the job of Guest Services and doing a good job with it – or you may get Jen, the office manager and marketing guru, who knows everything and has the right answer to any question. The one person you don’t want to get is me!! I can tell you all the nice, interesting stuff, but I have totally (and intentionally) lost touch with the details. So if you want to chat, call me, but if you want to know anything of substance, best call one of the others!
And now, I have just received an incredible piece of news, one which I don’t like at all!! Those of you who have been here and visited the Chiricahua National Monument may have been badgered by a real estate agent from Sunsites, and here’s what he’s been doing – incredible!! You go to the visitor center, you sign the guest book and – guess what! Every so often he visits the place, copies your name and address, and probably sends you a letter saying something like “Now that you have visited Grapevine, you might like to know we have for sale …” etc. And you probably think we are selling your names to him. I am outraged at this and I do beg your pardon, but it was none of our doing.
So with this, have a lovely summer, what’s left of it, and I do hope that I will get to this again before I have to wish you a happy fall!!