Will

I met poet Will Inman in maybe 1997, in the early days of the Quarter Moon Coffeehouse where I was a co-owner. 

Will had come to Bisbee to do a reading in the coffeehouse, but he didn’t have a car, so some kindly soul had brought him from Tucson the afternoon of his reading.

August Schaffer made sure he had accommodations for the night, and since I had to head to Tucson the following day, I was charged with driving him home. 

For some reason I don’t recall, I couldn’t take my own vehicle to Tucson, so August said she’d loan me her old VW diesel. 

I showed up early to pick up Will and was ready to head out, but he mournfully told me he was hungry and hadn’t even had a cup of coffee. I semi-grudgingly opened the Quarter Moon, made a pot of the coffeehouse’s excellent brew and toasted us a few bagels, smearing the tops with cream cheese.

As the coffee finished brewing, I was wondering what I was going to talk about with the white-haired, slightly unkempt stranger for the next two hours. He was a good bit older than I, but that wasn’t really a problem. He was also gay, and I was fine with that. 

But the man was a poet. A nationally recognized one. And that was intimidating. I don’t write poetry and am in the group of people who often times doesn’t “get” poetry. So that left me feeling … well, yes, intimidated.

Will Inman, 1976. Photograph by LaVerne Harrell Clark. Courtesy of the University of Arizona Poetry Center. Copyright Arizona Board of Rgents.

We took off up 80, coffee snugged between our legs and munching bagels. We sputtered up the hill towards the tunnel and within a mile of downtown, Will said, “Would you mind if I open the window a bit? That way the diesel fumes might not kill me before we reach Tombstone.”

I laughed and told him the smell of diesel always reminded me of Guatemala. With that, our conversation took off.

We spent the next two hours laughing, talking and sharing stories like we were old friends who hadn’t had the chance to laugh or gossip in a long time. We talked of our past, present, and future lives as we roared up to the interstate and then to Tucson’s west side.

When I pulled in front of Will’s house, I felt quite sorry our time together was at an end. But the time didn’t end then because he invited me into his home.

Startled isn’t even the word I felt as I stepped into his living room. I immediately flashed on the home of a woman I’d worked with at the Tucson Urban League a dozen years previously. 

This woman had kept every one of her newspapers for maybe the last decade. Or longer. Some areas of the house had stacks of papers three and four rows deep, and they were piled up nearly to the ceiling. I remember the horror I felt knowing the house would be an inferno should there ever be a fire. 

Will must have known that woman. She must have been his mentor, for his living room held a similarity in the piles of papers and magazines he kept, with the resultant trails running through them.

Will Inman and Lawrence Ferlinghetti, 1979. Photograph by LaVerne Harrell Clark. Courtesy of the University of Arizona Poetry Center. Copyright Arizona Board of Regents.

The biggest difference was I could see Will’s artistry in his piles of paper. They didn’t merely stack against the walls. He’d created curvy, winding trails, and he kept the piles low enough to allow sun and light to spill into his home and afford him a view of his garden.

This was a sharp contrast to Newspaper Woman. Her piles of papers covered the windows. She had but one narrow path through the living room straight into the kitchen. There she’d left access to the stove, refrigerator and sink plus a tiny section of one counter.

There was another trail into the bedroom. Although the bathroom was next to the bedroom, access was closed by piles of papers and one had to backtrack to the kitchen and follow a different trail to get there. 

So Will’s house didn’t really compare. Thankfully.

I used his bathroom flushing with a bucket next to the toilet. He captured shower water until it reached the right temperature and used the caught water for flushing.

I followed the trail from the bath to the kitchen which thankfully had no piles of paper. There he handed me some iced tea and invited me into the back yard which, in contrast to the house, seemed lovingly tended and groomed.

There he took me through his garden and introduced me, truly verbally introduced me, to each plant. He told me a bit about each, like how long he’d had it and its habits.

He tore off a leafy green for each of us to nibble. He assured me it was full of minerals yet needed little water. It was bitter, but edible.

At some point during the morning, maybe as early as smelling diesel and laughing together, and certainly long before we nibbled bitter green leaves, I understood that this man was important to me and would be for the rest of his life. 

And he was.

Will Inman, 1982. Photograph by LaVerne Harrell Clark. Courtesy of the University of Arizona Poetry Center. Copyright Arizona Board of Regents.

When I left, we promised to stay in touch and became regular letter writers. He’d often send a real letter, but more often he’d send a poem with a note scribbled on the back. I wish I’d kept them all but still have a few.

Several years later, I was attending Arizona Writing Project at the U of A for a six-week session, dorm and meals paid for via a grant. I knew Will had a writing group and met weekly, so I called and asked if I could attend.

Of course, everyone in the group but me was a poet.

The first week I attended, I brought nothing. Will read a poem of his about a wolf and it inspired me to write a piece for the following week.

I read it and got great feedback from everyone, but Will remained silent for a time. All eyes turned to him, and I sat there nervously awaiting his comments.

Finally, he looked at me and simply said, “That’s a poem.”

“No it’s not. I don’t write poetry.”

“It’s a poem,” he repeated. Then he looked away and had the next person share his work. 

Many months later, I pulled my piece out and worked it into a poem. I knew Will had been right, and just had to mull it for awhile before I could shift its form. 

I sent it off to him and got an immediate reply. It was the only time he did not send me a poem, just a message.

His one-line note read: “Told ya.”

Will Inman, 1985. Photograph by LaVerne Harrell Clark. Courtesy of the University of Arizona Poetry Center. Copyright Arizona Board of Regents.

The Streets of Kansas City

In 1985 I left the desert for a job in Kansas City, Missouri, a city that had long been racially divided. I moved to have the chance to live closer to my family in St. Louis and take an interesting job. 

Two years later, I was offered a position as director (and sole employee) of a day drop-in center for street people. Thankfully, I was able to get an assistant about a year later.  

It was a late spring afternoon in 1988, long before the Black Lives Matter movement began.

I was walking from my downtown office at the Homeless Center to a nearby social service agency. 

Suddenly a young Black man dashed across a vacant lot with four policemen in pursuit. Three of those men were white, one I thought might be Japanese. 

Suddenly, the young man’s shoe slipped off, and he knew it was over. He stopped, raised his hands, and turned to face his pursuers.

I’d paused to watch, of course. But I was shocked when the first cop to reach the man began to beat him with his club. The victim covered his head and he was hollering, “No, man! No! I stopped!”

Without even thinking, I ran over and hollered at the cops to stop. They did. Not because I’d told them to but because they were surprised at my interruption. 

One of the white men walked toward me and said I had to leave or I’d be arrested for interfering with police business.

I walked away but continued to watch, standing there as they handcuffed and hauled their captive back across the lot and around a corner.

I didn’t follow them, but today I wish I had.

What I did do was write a letter to the editor describing the event. I told the paper I wanted my accounting printed anonymously, but they refused, saying the paper required that my name be on the letter.

I had to think about that for a bit. Kansas City police were well known at the time for basically doing whatever they wanted to do. But ultimately, I agreed to having my name printed.

The next morning, my assistant opened the Homeless Center and I came in maybe twenty minutes later. There were a dozen or so men already there.

When I walked in, one of them waved the newspaper and they all began to cheer and applaud. One guy borrowed my scissors so he could cut out the article and put it on the wall. Suddenly, I was a hero.

Within an hour, I got a call from the Chief of Police. He wanted to know if my letter was true and I told him that of course it was. He asked if I thought I could identify the policemen, and I said I believed I could.

I walked same route as I had a few days before, this time passing the social service agency and nervously entering the police station. The captain himself met me and escorted me to a room that had a few dozen photos posted.

I identified all four who’d been there, first telling him who’d swung the billyclub and next which one had threatened me with arrest. Then I quickly pointed out the other two. The whole ID process took me under a minute. The men’s faces had burned into my brain.

I was notified about a week later that all four men had been put on leave and the one who’d swung the club had been demoted.

I have no idea if the man who’d been beaten was satisfied with the outcome, but I was. I wondered if the Black man had been surprised by my intervention. I also wondered if the police had beat him more later because of it. 

Since it was Kansas City, I was truly uncomfortable for several months afterwards. I never sped. I made complete stops and always used my turn signal. I waited at crosswalks until the light was green and didn’t even consider jaywalking. 

I didn’t want anyone in the department to have even the hint of an excuse to ticket or arrest me for anything.

All was well at the Center until mid-summer when one morning one of the guys came tearing in, running through the big main area and heading out the back. I dashed out of my office to see what was going on and almost collided with a cop in pursuit. I remained in front of him as he screeched to a halt.

I chewed him out for chasing through the Center and told him he was welcome to visit but that our space was off limits for chasing and arresting. 

By then he’d lost whoever he was after, so he just snarled at me and left through the front door. 

There was a good crowd there that day, over twenty guys. They first roared with laughter and then cheered me again. 

That story circulated for days, and guys who came in only occasionally dropped by to thank me. Some gave me a hug. 

Interestingly, after that, the regular beat cop (not the one who’d been chasing a client) came in one day and said he’d like to drop by now and again. He said he wouldn’t be looking for anyone nor be there to arrest anyone. He just wanted an occasional friendly presence.

I about fainted but decided to trust him. I told him it would be okay. The guys weren’t real pleased, but over time, they got to know that cop and true to his word, he never gave anyone a hard time when he dropped in. The guys adjusted and even found they could talk to him, ask him questions.

A simple intervention on a vacant lot and stopping a chase culminated in a bridge-building between the guys I worked with and at least one man, one tiny piece, of the Kansas City Police Department.

Never doubt that one small action can have a profound effect. 

Bisbee Says Black Lives Matter

British colonists arrived on the shores of what is now the United States in 1607. In 1619, a short 12 years later, the first black people were kidnapped from Angola and delivered by a ship known as the White Lion to the shores of Virginia.

Two years later, the Indian Wars began. Over the next few decades, neighborhood patrols were established in some areas to watch for Indians, and in other locations patrols were established to track and capture escaped slaves.

White privilege on this continent had been firmly established.

Privilege can only exist if its lack also exists. Therefore, it’s in the best interests of those with privilege to hang onto it, and that means those who have it must keep denying it to those without.

Four hundred years after that white privilege was established, the first known death of COVID-19 in the US happened on February 6.

About two weeks later, Ahmaud Arbery, a Black man, was out jogging. He was killed by a former policeman and his son. Although there was no protest at the time, there was a large outcry and the men who murdered him were eventually arrested.

The virus began spreading, and on March 16, San Francisco Bay Area’s stay at home order began. Three days later, the order was instituted throughout the state of California.

Just a few days before that, however, on March 13, as the virus was building and spreading, 26-year-old Breonna Taylor of Louisville lay asleep in her bed. Breonna was an EMT. She was shot and killed by the police who burst through her door, executing a no-knock warrant on her boyfriend in search of drugs.

There were no drugs.

Again, there was no immediate protest but there was a large outcry against no-knock warrants.

Black people know they have a 2 1/2 times greater chance of being killed by police than white people do. Black people also know they have died from COVID-19 at three times the rate white people have.

A report by CBS News on May 7 showed 38% of Whites had been laid off from their jobs. 44% of Blacks and 61% of Hispanics had been laid off.

All this frustration was in place when George Floyd was murdered on May 25th in Minneapolis.

George had paid for a pack of cigarettes with a counterfeit $20 bill. I have no idea if he even knew it was counterfeit. But in under 20 minutes, policeman Derek Chauvin had George handcuffed and was kneeling on the Black man’s neck.

George repeatedly asked for help and told Chauvin he was unable to breathe. People observing this called out to the police, telling them George had not even been resisting and was clearly incapable of resisting. Three other policeman stood by and did nothing to stop the murder.

Chauvin knelt on George Floyd’s neck even after he was unconscious. He remained on his neck for 8 minutes, 46 seconds.

High school student Darnella Frazier videoed George’s murder and posted it online.

With that, frustration in the Black community reached its limit.

Protests begin the following night and soon they spread to over four hundred US cities and towns in all fifty states as well as in eighteen other countries.

People were sick and tired of Black people being treated as though their lives did not matter. Black lives matter. And that certainly is not to say that no one else’s life matters. It is a reminder. It is a demand. Black people must be treated as though their lives matter as much as everyone else’s.

On Monday, June 1, a young woman posted in a Bisbee community Facebook page that we should have a protest. Most commenters agreed with her but some said there shouldn’t be a protest because there could be violence and damage done downtown.

As one who has gone to marches and protests in this town for more than forty-five years, that concern sounded absurd. I was delighted a young woman had decided to organize this.

We assembled on Tuesday, most of us masked, at 6 in the evening at what’s called Grassy Park in downtown Bisbee. The official park name is the Copper Queen Plaza Park, but I’ve never known a single person to call it that. It’s Grassy Park.

Members of the local police department had been invited to attend to march with us but none of them showed up. In fact, none of them even showed up to monitor the event because they were as unconcerned about violence as the rest of us.

In Grassy Park, names of Black people killed by police were read, and soon 75 to 80 of us were marching through town a half mile uphill to the Iron Man statue.

I found even the statue was well masked.

As marchers gathered around the Iron Man, a Bisbee man read names of the twenty people who’ve been killed in Arizona by police so far this year. Of that twenty, eight were minority men. That’s 40%, when the minority population in our state is about 23%. Others spoke of racism and privilege and police brutality.

After the speeches, the group returned to Grassy Park.

Photo by Bisbee resident John Allen.
Photo by Bisbee resident John Allen.
Another photo by John Allen

As of today, Derek Chauvin has been arrested on charges of second degree murder. I feel it should be first degree. To me it became premeditated the moment Chauvin stayed kneeling on George’s neck when he was subdued. It certainly became premeditated when he continued to kneel on George’s neck once he was unconscious.

Tou Thao, J Alexander Keung and Thomas K. Lane, the officers who looked on as George died, have been charged with aiding and abetting murder. They watched for the entire eight minutes and 46 seconds Chauvin strangled George Floyd.

George Floyd’s life, taken because of a $20 counterfeit bill.

Photo by Bisbee resident John Allen.

It is time for white-privileged people to understand. Black lives matter.

Pursuing Poppies

Just past dawn, we three intrepid Ladyranchers climbed into my RAV named Luna.

Ladyranch is my acre of land on the Mexican border, and currently, three women live on it.

The morning was cool and overcast but expected to clear.

We were headed from our tiny town on the Mexican border, up through McNeal, Elfrida, and on to just north of Sunsites in search of California poppies. Remembering last year’s display, I wanted to share the beauty with the two women here.

An hour later, we were there, parked across the road from JH Helicopter Service, right at the corner of Wylie Coyote Road and Horse Country Road. Really.

But the poppies were still sleeping. The cool morning and overcast start of the day had left them unable to open yet.

Except for one.

So we waited. We walked a bit and found a few other things to photograph.

But it was quite cool, so we climbed back into the car and ate our snacks. Well, at least I did. I devoured everything I’d brought along: the end of a bag of peanut butter pretzels, a Kind bar with cashews and cherries, and banana.

But eventually, it warmed up and poppies filled the fields.

And not just poppies.

Around 10:30, we decided to head back south making a quick stop to photo remains of an old windmill.

We gassed up in Elfrida because the prices were far lower than in Bisbee.

We passed a field plowed and ready for planting and one already planted.

This part of the county is known for cotton even though it is an absurd crop to grow in the desert. It takes over 5000 gallons of water to produce 1 kg of cotton. No wonder our water table is dropping! And then we saw one field: It looked like a few bales of cotton had exploded before they were picked up.

But soon we were near the turnoff to Whitewater Draw. Why pass it up?

Nest of tent caterpillars

No cranes since they’d all gone north. But there were hundreds of Yellow-headed Blackbirds.

And then the star of the show: mama owl and her babies!

You can see a second baby hiding behind the first.
The shy baby was still hiding behind mama.

One our way home, another old windmill.

Poppies, Whitewater, blackbirds, owls, and two old windmills. We were sated when we headed out on them last twenty-five minutes to home.

Staying Home

So, “Stay at Home” is in order.

I wasn’t really prepared. Who was, really? But I’m a pretty good introvert. Or so I thought.

I used to teach at a community college, with classes, meetings, etc. After long days, I retreated home and rarely went out. I used up all my interaction energy at work.

Then I retired, and I changed. In my head, though, I was still an introvert.

Now I’ve been home the bulk of the time for over four weeks.

First to go was my weekly writing group. Six women, rowdy and sometimes bawdy, all strongly opinionated. We got together weekly to talk, laugh, gripe, eat, and share our writing. I can’t believe how much I miss them.

Then it was the farmers market. My book group. Then my other book group. And then my monthly writing group. And the library. The library!

Coffee with friends. Lunch with friends. Wandering downtown Bisbee and poking into shops. Stopping to chat with friends and even strangers. All gone. 

Short trips are gone. No browsing for plants at Lowe’s. No trips to Tucson, so no Costco, no Trader Joe’s, no Sprouts Market.

Not even my late winter trip to Bahía Kino (on the Sea of Cortez in Mexico), my home away from home.

And it hasn’t helped at all that the bulk of this four weeks has been cool and overcast, not the sunny late winter-early spring typical of southeastern Arizona. I began feeling lonesome. Yeah, isolated. 

But it’s worse for Tricia who was passing through, traveling in her van. She parked in my yard by the barn for a few days. She’s been stuck here for about a month now. She’s chomping at the bit to be able to finish her wanders.

No, the van doesn’t have horns. Those are Italian cypress trees behind my property.

My “daughter” Katie (we adopted each other last year) is up in Denver and wants to visit.

I have a plane ticket to visit my sister and family in Louisville. In June. Can I safely fly in June? Even if I can, I probably wont feel safe. I’ll be canceling next month. 

But there are magical moments.

Emails and phone calls from friends I hadn’t been in touch with for a long time. Web gatherings. Musical groups playing together but separately on the web. 

The occasional visit from a friend. We sit on my patio, far apart.

Random acts of kindness.

And now sunshine is finally here, and days are hanging out in the low to mid seventies. My garden is blooming.

My old girl Chloe loves to sit among the flowers.

There was a killer full moonrise.

The swallows came back to the nest they built last year and even mudded it up a bit before mama laid her eggs.

I’ve made a few visits to Whitewater Draw.

Mama and one of her babies in the barn at Whitewater.

And I made bread for the first time in over twenty years!

So hang in there, folks. Find some fun and beauty right where you are. I guarantee you they’re there.

Preparing for Surgery

I’ve always said I don’t believe in surgery. Or hospitals, actually. And that part alone pretty much eliminates surgery unless I end up having some sort of field surgery where I have to drink whisky to get numb and a guy who says he can do it because it watched a program on operations once uses that same whisky to sterilize the knives.

No new hip for me. No new knee. No shoulder repair. No pacemaker. No stents in my heart. And for sure, no open heart surgery.

I’d made the vow: I will not have surgery. 

But there I was, filling out the online form for Camp Lowell Surgery Center. Oh my god. It was right in the name! 

But after back-to-back to-back sinus infections, the last one needing two different medicines over twenty-two days, I decided I needed to have my damaged sinus area cleaned out.

Over thirty years ago, after major trauma to my face, I’d gone to the doctor and said I was suddenly having sinus infections, that the sinus area of my right cheek was chronically painful, and I knew something was wrong.

I don’t recall if it was an X-ray or what that I had, but I was pronounced fine. I knew I wasn’t, asked for more tests, and was basically told to go along, little girl.

I should have gone to another specialist, but the insurance wouldn’t pay for it and I didn’t have the money.

So thirty-two years later, I found myself facing the “S” word: Surgery. And I was filling out all the online forms. 

Previous hospitalizations. Metal in the body. Chipped teeth. Chipped teeth? Yes, chipped teeth.

Medications. Allergies. A long list of potential risk factors. Parents’ medical problems.

And then, there it was. Do you have your will in order?

My will.

What the hell kind of question was that? This “simple surgery” was coming up, and they want to know if my will was in order? 

And then this one: Would you like to sign an advance directive?

A will! An advance directive! Oh my god, they were planning to kill me in that “simple surgery”!

I then noted I could sign an advance directive the morning of the surgery. Good. Off the hook on that one for a few more days. 

But a will. Did I have one in order? Not an easy question to answer. Sure, I had a will. But it was old, and it left everything to my former husband.

That was not going to happen.

It was time to make decisions, and it was time to make them fast. My sister agreed to be executor. The biggie taken care of. Then I had to get a will form somewhere.

Just as I was beginning to stress about finding the form, my sister sent me a link to a brief article on hand-written wills. They’re legal. They’re easy. But mostly, what made me happy is they’re legal.

I wrote out a draft on my computer, fussed with it for the next twenty-four hours, and then hand wrote it. The only problem was I needed a witness to sign it.

It couldn’t be Lee because she was mentioned in the will as my tenant as was my desire to have her stay as long as was practical. 

I was thinking who I could go visit for a signature when my signator appeared at the door: Paloma Díaz.

Paloma was a Couchsurfer who was traveling in her van. I’d agreed to have her park at my house for a few days.**

Poor Paloma. We introduced ourselves and then I said, “Could you watch me signing my will and then sign it as a witness?”

“Sure.”

In a matter of moments, I had a legal Arizona will. Signed.

Two days later I had surgery. I didn’t die, so the will wasn’t really necessary after all. However, I now have it and plan to file it away somewhere safe. 

And knowing me, I’ll pretty quickly forget where that safe place is.

** As is typical here, as of this day, Paloma’s been here nearly two weeks. ¡Que vive LadyRanch!***

***LadyRanch is my on-acre property with a guest house and was so named by Katie Poliquin. She arrived last year for two nights, stayed four months. Immediately after her arrival, Suzette appeared and stayed five months. Katie looked around one day and said, “What we have here is a LadyRanch.” We all (Katie, Suzette, Lee my tenant, and I) all loved the name and it stuck. 

Lee still lives here. Paloma landed here two weeks ago, and Katie reappeared a few days ago. LadyRanch is alive and well!

Journey: Aurora to Taos

Thursday. My last full day in Aurora with Katie. We decided there was only one thing to do: eat pastries.

She took me to a place in the city called Denver Central Market. It was in an old area of the city that is now quite expensive and trendy. So of course, a trendy, expensive market. She had raved about it, but I was prepared to be a little less enthusiastic. How wrong I was!

There were murals on walls of many of the buildings in the area.

While I was distracted by them, Katie snagged a parking spot right next to the market. We entered. Wow, wow, and wow again!

To the left were tables and chairs. To the right was coffee. The internet password for the market was great: buylocal.

We turned right after the coffee and went to the pastries.

Then we got the coffees, and that’s when I saw this sign.

We stuffed ourselves. The. Best. Pastries. Ever. And I mean ever. Suicide by pastries, perhaps.

There was also a stall with handmade chocolates.

And yes, I bought some. We decided to split one. I couldn’t even speak. The taste of rich, dark chocolate with lavender cream filling. I couldn’t believe the decadency.

But hey, need fresh oysters? (We didn’t.)

Veggies, smoothies, meats, bread, sandwiches, tacos, pizza?

We waddled our way to the car, got home, and collapsed. We were worthless the rest of the day.

Friday I bid adieu to Katie (Flower) and Mike (Crash).

I cruised down I-25 (ugh) to Monument and stopped for coffee with a friend, Karen. We have know each other for nearly 70 years. 70 years!!!! We met when my family moved to the Chicago ‘burbs. I was across the street and down just a few houses.

We both look better than this, but the overhead lighting gave our faces odd shadows.

I then went down the highway and cut off on a rural road to Taos. Ran into some rain and more great scenery.

I spent the night just north of Taos in El Prado. A friend of a friend offered me her shed. Her shed? Well, I was game.

Not a shed! Two rooms, a comfy bed, and I was surrounded by white sage that filled the air with its magical scent.

The woman encouraged me to clip some sage and I did!

Then, a dinner of tostadas de ceviche and back to my sweet little overnight casita.

Journey: Around Denver

Tuesday with Katie was a mixed bag. We started with a croissant binge. One ham and cheese, one almond, and one chocolate.

We then hit a few thrift stores.

Across from one was an old theater called the Mayan. Odd name for a theater.

It first opened in 1927 (or 1930, depending on which site you believe) and is one of only three remaining theaters in the US designed in the Art Deco Revival style. According to Wikipedia, “The well-preserved lobby is called ‘The Hall of Feathered Serpents,’ the auditorium includes a chandelier based on the Aztec calendar stone, and the original fire curtain included images of Mayan jungles and temples.”

My thrift store goal was to find a warm and beautiful, coat. I found some $300-400 furs that were out of the question. And then … wool. Turquoise with a fur collar. Wow. Just wow.

But it was expensive, and I didn’t like the 3/4 sleeves. And it cost a lot. And it was expensive.

We checked a few more places and nada. Zip. We returned to Katie’s house with no coat but still full of croissants. The mixed bag.

Nap time.

On Wednesday, we decided to visit the Rocky Mountain Arsenal National Wildlife Refuge. Arsenal is in the name because it’s located at a former Army chemical weapons manufacturing facility. After a massive cleanup, it became a glorious animal refuge, signed into law by George Bush in 1992.

There’s a ten-mile loop drive. Mostly we saw buff-colored grasses, some rolled into round hay bales. We thought it odd to cut the grass for hay when the animals had acres and acres of grasses. Odd to be in this beautiful, remote-feeling place with Denver in the background.

Mostly there were deer, but at a distance. We saw a plethora of prairie dogs and innumerable birds neither of us could identify. But no bison, which had been the reason we’d wanted to visit.

This boy had beautiful antlers. Sorry the sky was so pale-makes it hard to see where the photo begins.

The bison were all quite far away, dark lumps in the grass. And then this:

And wow!! There were bison! I leave you with these (all cellphone shots.)

Journey: Gunnison to Aurora

I pulled out of Gunnison around 8:30 Monday morning, driving into beautiful tan, hillsides east of town.

I expected to reach Aurora by 3 or so, even with a few stops. More glorious fall colors as I went east.

And then up. And up and up. And up some more to Monarch Pass. I loved the sign because the Forest Service made it in a butterfly shape!

Monarch Pass is the Continental Divide, posted a 11, 312 feet. That gave me pause. Should old people be up at that elevation? The effective oxygen is only 65% that of oxygen at sea level! I live at nearly 5000 feet where the level is 83% that of sea level. Would that difference affect me?

I climbed out of my car. Seemed I could get plenty of oxygen in my breath and my balance seemed fine, so on I went to the visitor’s center which was actually a store with information.

And fudge. It had fudge.

I opted not to hike to the very top, likely a few hundred feet higher. Why take chances with oxygen?

Then down the other side. Lots of mountain baldness and finally, I was back in color.

When I stopped for the color shot (last good color of the rest of the drive to Aurora) I found the remains of a deer.

More baldness followed by a lunch break, then on to the Big City. Below is Mount Antero, elevation 14,269 feet.

The drive into the Denver area was full of traffic on a Monday afternoon! And at 40 miles away I could see the smog.

Finally, almost to Katie’s, I got totally lost. She and her partner weren’t a lot of help when I explained where I was because they’re fairly new to the area they live in. I finally pulled into a lot at a church on a busy highway and told Katie to find me or I was heading to a hotel.

They found me a short time later. I’d transposed two numbers in her address. This getting lost was all operator error, not the fault of Google Maps.

Soon, we were on her deck, snacking away.

And, she’s got a cat, Tracki.