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Heading home

Laugh Tracks in the Dust
Milo Yield
Damphewmore Acres, Kan.

By the time you read this column, ol’ Nevah and I most likely will be back home in the Flint Hills freezing our tails off after our two-month stint in the Valley of the Sun as “snowbirders.”

All in all we’ve had a fun time in the greater Phoenix area. We’ve traveled in every direction from Phoenix and seen sights, and visited with friends or kin in every direction we traveled.

Just this morning, I wuz reminded just how small a world this is. We were in the “spirits” store (about as big as a football field) and a friendly gray haired fellow struck up a conversation with me. He was a snowbirder from Sac County, Iowa.

I happen to be great friends with a farming/ranching couple who live near Sac City, so I asked the feller if he knew my friends. He brightened his smile and said, “Sure, I know everybody. They’re big farmers and livestock operators.” As we ended our conversation I reminded him to tell my friends “Howdy” for me and he promised to do so.

•••

This week we drove west to Tempe to revisit the campus of Arizona State University. Back in the 1980s, when I used to have a bizness meeting in Phoenix every February, the ASU campus wuz just a few miles from the southern edge of Tempe and just a few miles from pure farming country or pure desert.

Whoa! Today ASU is a thoroughly urbanized campus with the only place to grow being straight up or straight down — and it’s doing both. It’s a high-rise university, and in my mind more city than campus. I will say that ASU has one of the most scenic football stadiums in the U.S. The stadium is spectacularly nestled right into the side of a boulder and cactus-covered mountain. I have no idea from driving by the stadium how and where they park cars for the games.

The ASU campus wuz interesting but not a place I’d recommend to anyone to attend for an education.

•••

While I’m on the subject of education, Nevah and I finally found a mutual time to visit with a friend and his wife, whom we knew when they were high school students in Labette County, Kan. Both are teachers here, but I was particularly interested how my friend, ol Ed Jukator, handled his urban FFA program.

Ed’s Highlands High School is one of the biggest in Gilbert. It has more than 3,500 students. So, I wuz floored when Ed told me he and two other teachers have more than 400 FFA students in their chapter. Very few of his students are “traditional” farm kids, but interest in FFA is high. Most students are thoroughly urbanized, so Ed’s program is heavy into the hands-on skills classes — welding, mechanics, wood working, etc. His classrooms seemed to have state-of-the-art equipment and we saw many of the students’ steel and wood projects which Ed sez they are encouraged to sell for profit.

Ed sez he does teach the traditional “crop, livestock, husbandry and rations” classes, but he also branches out into the care and maintenance of all kinds of regular and exotic pets and commercial livestock — from lambs, to guinea pigs, to rabbits and from baby chicks to emus.

His students are active in the Arizona State Fair and the Arizona Junior Livestock Show and all the traditional contests and conventions. Ed emphasized that many of his FFA students take their skills learned straight into the booming Phoenix job market. Others further their educations at technical schools and some go on to fouor-year universities. It was good to learn that urban FFA is alive and well.

•••

As our time in Arizona comes to a close, I will say that we’ve experienced about every kind of restaurant/fast food fare imaginable. Most of it has been good — some not so much. Urban areas attract new and innovative kinds of dining experiences. There seems to be a growing variety of ways to serve up a lot of grub to a lot of people with a minimal of help. Some of the innovative places where we ate breakfast were: Eggstacy, Mickey D’s, The Hen House, The Olive Mill, The Gilbert House, The Wild Berry, Joe’s Farm Grill , Crackers & Company, The Gourmet Cinnamon Roll, Kneader’s and Eggs n’ Joe.

Some of the places we ate lunch or dinner were: Chili’s, P. F. Chang’s, Oregano’s, The Juicy Tomato, Some Burros, Vivace’s, Arriba’s, Joe’s Barbecue, Barro’s Pizza, Potbelly’s, The Organ Stop, The Grubstak, Das Dog Haus & Bier Garten, Jogoya’s Seafood Buffet, Porter’s Biker Bar, Fuddrucker’s, plus a few standard fast food places.

Due to my bum right knee, we didn’t get to play golf as many times as we wanted. However, we played the Springfield Golf Course in Chandler four times, The Links in Queen Creek, and the Sunland Springs in Mesa, plus miniature golf in Sun City West.

We made several hikes into the mountains and in arboretums and botanical gardens, plus around Saguaro and Canyon Lakes. We attended regular movies twice. The last one featured easy chairs and servers to bring food or drink to you. The movie, Call of the Wild, was good, but we got a shock when we got the bill for two big iced teas — $5.50 each, plus tax. Good tea, but not that good.

Eating out is expensive in Phoenix. Eating in costs about the same.

•••

Time for the words of wisdom: “The difference between any politician and any American farmer is that the dirt on a farmer’s hand can be washed off.” Have a good ‘un. ❖


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