From the Flint Hills to Arizona | TheFencePost.com

Back to: Opinion

From the Flint Hills to Arizona

Well, folks, ol' Nevah and I have covered a lot of ground since I last composed a column on this ol' Apple computer. She and I joined our friends, Mr. and Mrs. Penn Cilpusher, for a 10-day vacation to Arizona and back. What made it an especially fine trip wuz the fact that they did all the driving, which gave us the time to do full-time gazing out the SUV windows at the passing scenery.

We left on Friday, March 3, and returned on Sunday, March 12. As a bonus, I had written several weeks of columns in advance, so I got a "writer's vacation," too.

But, now it's back to the weekly "writing grindstone." So, here goes the Flint Hills to Arizona travelogue:

Ol' Nevah is a big fan of The Pioneer Woman — Ree Drummond, a rancher's wife from Pawhuska, Okla., and host of a cooking and home living show on television. So, we left early and arrived at Pawhuska about noon with intentions of eating at The Mercantile, a store and restaurant affiliated with Ree Drummond.

Alas, we found a line of folks a block long waiting to eat at The Mercantile. So rather than wait, we went a few blocks down the street to another fine eating establishment for an excellent meal. After we ate, we walked to The Mercantile, browsed through the wares and Nevah bought a Ree Drummond cookbook she's wanted for awhile.

It's been a few years since I've been to Pawhuska and I was impressed at how much renovation of old commercial buildings is underway in downtown. Soon, there will be thousands of square feet of renovated commercial space available in the city. I suspect that Ms. Drummond has played a huge role in Pawhuska becoming a tourist destination and the Friday crowd confirmed that suspicion.

We arrived in Oklahoma City near evening to spend the night at our granddaughter's home. We ate at an upscale restaurant on Lake Hefner in Oklahoma City and the food wuz delicious.

The Cilpushers had arrived in OKC from Arkansas on Friday evening and they picked us up on Saturday morning and we headed for Albuquerque, N.M., where we met my old friend and fishing buddy, Albie Kirkie, and his son at the famous El Pinto Mexican Restaurant, where President Bush chose to dine when in that fine city. I always figure that food fit for a President is fit for me. Albie was looking good for someone who'd had his left shoulder joint replaced only days before. I'll bet he rehabs hard so he'll be ready for spring fishing with me.

On Sunday, we headed out early for Phoenix, Ariz., via the interstate west. We took the cutoff at Holbrook and went southwest through Heber, where it wuz 40 degrees with 6 inches of old snow on the ground. From those mountainous heights we headed for Mesa and from there to our Air Bed and Breakfast home we rented for five days. It wuz located in Glendale in a quiet residential area only 2 miles from the Arizona Cardinals pro football stadium — which shined brightly from our upstairs deck. It was a nice, comfortable home owned by a lady in Montana who rents it out most of the year.

Before dark, we headed out to find the spring training facility for the Kansas City Royals in Surprise, Ariz. It wuz only 15 miles away. We found the place, found out when the ticket office opened the next day and ate some tasty burgers at the Five Guys restaurant before heading back to the rental for some relaxing evening drinks and playing cards.

On Monday morning, we went to the Royals training camp and bought tickets right behind the Royals dugout. Then a strange thing happened before we even got started looking around. The Cilpushers struck up a conversation with a couple of ladies our age who were walking in and found out that one of them was from Iola, Kan. A few minutes later Nevah and I arrived and one of the ladies recognized Nevah. Strange as it sounds, the lady was a very close neighbor and one-room schoolmate of Nevah's. They hadn't seen each other in years. What are the chances of that?

The Royals training camp consists of seven practice fields and one game stadium that they share with the Texas Rangers. We went from field to field — for free — and watched the regulars and the rookies doing various drills. That afternoon we went to the actual training camp game against the Arizona Diamondbacks. We were within spitting distance of the Royals players as they used their dugout. They lost the game, but we had a good time nonetheless. We ate at a pasta restaurant before we went home for more card playing.

On Tuesday, we spent most of the day at Turf Paradise, the horse track in Scottsdale. I managed to lose $48 on the nags, but managed to recoup half that amount by winning very modestly at a fancy Indian casino not far from the Arizona State University in Tempe.

Wednesday we opted to skip the Royals training camp and headed for the Desert Botanical Park not too far from downtown Phoenix. I'd been there 30 years ago and the place is much bigger and more informative than it wuz back then. We walked the various cactus gardens and trails, listened to experts explaining the desert environment and wildlife, took in the butterfly enclosure and just plain wore this old relic of a man down to a nub.

On Thursday, we headed home, but I'll save a discussion of the return trip until next week. I'll note that the Phoenix area has a lot of homeless people. At least they looked homeless and they were begging on street corners for handouts. One that I remember for his uniqueness wuz a tough looking old hippie man holding a sign that said, "Too ugly for prostitution. Too honest to steal. Please help." Call me calloused or cautious. He looked fit to work to me so I left my window rolled up.

The temperatures in Phoenix ranged from 75 to 85 degrees and I got used to it being warm. Naturally, when we got home the temperature wuz in the 20s and the wind wuz howling to boot.

•••

An old Texas friend has grandkids in Maine and Florida. On a recent visit to Florida, my friend and his 12-year-old grandson were talking about people being very poor. My friend told his grandson: "Why, when I wuz young in southeast Kansas folks complained about being so poor that they just had dirt for a floor in their home. But, that was nothing. My folks were so poor we couldn't afford dirt. We had to grind up rocks and make our own dirt."

Enuf for this week. Hope you get spring off to a good start. ❖