Granddaddy’s Overalls

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He’d dress in the quiet darkness of the early morning, as the bobwhite made its final call from the tree tops and the sun had not yet begun to lift the dew from the branches of the pine trees behind the house.

Draped across the wooden chair next to the window, his outfit had been carefully picked out the night before: overalls and a collared shirt, his unlaced boots resting underneath.

The overalls were black and white with narrow stripes, as straight and precise as the rows of dirt he plowed in the fields that surrounded him. By the looks of them, you’d wonder if he earned his living as a train conductor rather than a carpenter. My granddaddy — a builder of houses, a humble man that smelled of sweat, sunscreen, and hard work. He’d been wearing the same style since the days when he’d go to town to order them from Walter Jarrell at Cooliks.

As a child, I’d balance on his knee or sit beside him on the benches on the deck of the fishpond and reach for his breast pocket. Inside, he kept a pocket watch, as if his overalls had a beating heart of their own. Attached to a chain that dipped down the front of his chest, I’d hold the watch to my ear and listen. “Tick….tick….tick…” Quiet and steady, just like him. It became a game, my chubby fingers clinched tightly around his watch, and we’d both smile. He let me listen as long as I wanted to and when I was through, I’d slip it back into his pocket until the next time I needed reassurance that time was still passing by.

He wore them for the pockets: a walking toolbox, so to say. The uniform of a man who knew hard work and had known it all his life. They had an apron on the front, where he’d keep his folding ruler, nails, or screwdrivers. The breast pocket held his watch and a carpenter’s pencil. The pocket of his pants leg housed his knife – used to peel peaches, dig out splinters, and everything else in between. And on the side, a loop for his hammer, although by the time I entered the world, he was done slinging nails.

On Saturday nights, I’d follow Nini into the closet in the bedroom where the old living room used to be back before I came along and changed the house plans. Together, we’d pick out the outfit he was to wear the following day, Sunday, the one day of the week he didn’t wear overalls because that was back when people still dressed up for the Sabbath. Each time, I’d pick out a light blue shirt with shadows of birds with their wings outstretched. Nini would chuckle and say, “Not that one,” although one day he overheard us and wore it to please me or to spite her, I’m not sure which.

Over the years, his overalls became tattered and worn through, and my mom — bless her heart, the only one of us brave enough to try to buy him clothes, would scour the stores looking for overalls that might possibly pass his approval. Each birthday or Christmas, he’d pull the crisp overalls from the bag and look them over, kindly thanking us and telling us, “them’s nice” and “I thank ya for them.”

Yet months would pass and the overalls would stay folded up in the back room on the chest of drawers, untouched, in the same bag we wrapped them in because they just didn’t fit like the rest. He’d emerge each morning, wearing the same threadbare overalls.

Because Granddaddy didn’t wear overalls to impress. Plus, what does a pair of clean overalls with the crease still running down the leg say about a man’s work ethic?

He wore them for the things they carried – the tools he could take from his pockets and turn over in his hands or the knife he’d run along the edge of his fingernails while telling a story from his childhood. But above all else, Granddaddy wore them for the things they carried that couldn’t be picked up and held in his hands: the specks of paint that formed constellations on the rough fabric, tiny reminders of every house he’d ever built. Small, worn holes and splotches of Clorox stains, left over from a wife who would beat the dirt out of the pockets and wash them clean in time for another day of work. And the pocket on his chest that had been worn bare, a bit more faded than the rest, by a little girl who would reach inside, pull out his watch, and press it to her ear.

Batting Practice

Back before we had Apple, we had pears. Lots and lots of pears.

Catch the pear tree on a good year and you could find dozens of pears scattered beneath its limbs, pushed off the branch to make room for new ones. Nini and Granddaddy liked pears, but too many meant a queasy stomach and no matter how many they ate, stored away in jars, or gave away to visitors, they simply couldn’t keep up with the generosity of that pear tree in the corner of the yard.

“I’m bored, Granddaddy.”

I usually used that phrase around 2:00 in the afternoon. It was far enough after dinner that Nini’s soap operas were on – I wasn’t allowed in the room while they were playing – but far enough away from supper that the meat Nini had set out hadn’t yet had time to thaw for our 5:30 dinner bell. Granddaddy would usually busy himself outside, a master of the art of piddling – while watching the mailbox intently, like a dog watches a human eat at the table. He needed to get his hands on the newspaper that, according to him, never told any news at all.

“I’m bored” was my tactic to get him to play with me. I wasn’t really bored, but making Granddaddy think I was would mean instant gratification. Being bored, like the soap opera that came blaring through the screen in the front door, was off limits at their house.

Granddaddy walked over to their gray New Yorker – an ironic name for a car that would never come within a 3 days drive of the far-off metropolis of New York – and grabbed a short baseball bat out of the boot.

“What’s that for, Granddaddy?”

“I’m ’bout to show ya,” he answered, strutting over to the fallen pears on the ground. I recognized the bat – it was kept in the car at all times for snakes, thieves, and every other danger they might encounter while on a journey eight miles East towards the busy streets of Butler, Georgia. It’d been rolling around in the boot for years, but I’d never actually seen either of them touch it.

He picked up a resting pear, tossed it with ease a few feet into the air, and swiftly swung the bat, causing the pear to explode into a fine mist of tiny pear parts. I got so excited that I immediately got the hiccups.

The rest of that summer and into fall, we hit pears until every blade of grass in that front yard glistened with the sticky residue that rained down from that half-rotten fruit that otherwise would have gone untouched. For the first half hour or so, our German Sheperd would retrieve the larger pieces for us, but eventually, he’d give up and rest in the shade of the oak tree nearby. Sometimes I’d chase the airborne pieces and try to catch them, letting the juice from the pears rain down around me.

“You’re plum sticky,” Nini would remark, as she’d get me ready for my bath. As we settled down for the night, Granddaddy would chuckle and bring a hand up to his shoulder.

“Makes my arm sore, gal.”

______

I look out my window now, years later, and see a ground littered with pears. I never developed a taste for them, but I always consider going outside for a little bit of batting practice, Butler style. I think I’ll power down my Apple and do just that.

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Fall in Butler

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Fall in Butler officially began when Granddaddy announced that it was time to take the window unit out of the living room. This yearly ritual signaled a changing of the seasons – a change that I met each year with mixed feelings. Cooler temperatures meant I’d have to wear shoes whenever I wanted to go outside, less time playing in Little Soakie, having to ride in the cab of the pickup instead of the bed when we went to haul off the trash, and fewer hours of daylight I could spend hunting for broken glass in the fields behind the house with Granddaddy. I watched with ambivalence as Dad and Granddaddy would haul the air conditioner back towards the grain bin where it would rest until we’d need it again next summer.

But there were also things about fall that I anticipated with excitement: getting to wear my dad’s childhood bathrobe and the puppy house slippers Nin had bought for me at Bill’s Dollar Store when I woke up in the morning. The ‘scupnins’ (“Scuppernongs” for those of you who don’t speak country-bumpkin fluently) were ripe this time of year and it would take Granddaddy and me an hour to fill a small bucket full because those we picked rarely made it past our mouths. The leaves of the two sycamore trees in the front yard were beginning to break free from their branches, meaning soon Nini, Mom and I would get to rake them into piles and shove them into large, plastic bags that were made to look like pumpkins and call it ‘yard art.’ No heirloom pumpkins cascaded down the stairs of our front porch.

Fall’s arrival meant windows would soon be shut tight and electric blankets would be distributed and placed on each bed. Instead of listening for the call of a bob-white when I’d startle awake occasionally at 5:00 or 6:00 a.m., the ticking of the propane heater in the hall would lull me back to sleep. I’d wake a few hours later and traipse lazily into the kitchen where Nini would be sitting, just finishing her cereal and instant coffee. I’d need yet another hour or so to fully come alive, and during the cooler months, that hour was spent curled up on the floor in front of the heater in the living room, my head resting on our German Shepherd, Ricky, as we watched cartoons. Some mornings, I’d crawl in bed with Nini and we’d drift in and out of sleep – we had a deal; if I helped her make her bed, she’d help me with mine. Sunday mornings were signaled by the dancing top of the pressure cooker; during the week, we ate sandwiches for lunch, but never on Sunday. Sundays were the days we ate well.

Soon, the house would be filled with ladybugs seeking shelter from the weather. Several times a day, Granddaddy would sweep them from the ceiling with the broom and vacuum them up, while I rushed to gather as many survivors as I could rescue. Granddaddy preferred hot weather, but being inside made him restless. He stayed inside only long enough to read the paper, announcing, as he would pass the ‘funnies’ over to me, that there was nothing to the paper. Somehow it still seemed worth the effort to read each page, though. When he finished, he’d fold it neatly and drop it onto the table between his rocker and Nini’s chair, put on his cap, and head out the back door. Nin would read it later that night and use it to gather food scraps and coffee grounds the next day, throw it in the flower garden to make the flowers grow, or tie it to the fence of the scupnin vine to scare off deer. Nothing went to waste.

One year we grew pumpkins; pumpkins so large that the only use we could find for them was to display them proudly on the picnic table. Granddaddy would claim that I grew them, even though I had little to do with the miracle of growing pumpkins so large in the Taylor County sand. We posed by our crop, me sitting on top of the biggest pumpkin, and Nini took our picture on her Vivitar film camera.

Nini loved the reprieve from the sweltering summer temperatures and she’d celebrate by coming outside for something more than running to get meat from the freezer in the block house or watering her plants on the picnic table out back. After dinner, she’d slip on her blue jacket, secure her burgundy headrag over her head, and she’d walk the length of the field on the North side of the house. She’d carry her weapon of choice – a golf club with the head sawed off – and together we’d walk to the woods and back while Granddaddy stayed back to watch the news.

Baths didn’t last as long when the weather got cooler. No matter how hot the water, nothing could take the chill off the porcelain bathtub. Nini would wash my hair for me, careful not to get shampoo in my eyes as she poured water from a plastic Wendy’s cup that sat in the corner. I’d wrap up in a towel and bolt the few feet into the hallway to get dressed in front of the heater. Sleeping with your hair wet wasn’t allowed under any circumstances, so we’d let it air dry in the living room while we watched whatever show the TV would pick up that night.

Nini had the honor of tucking me in bed each night, a ritual neither one of us took lightly. Granddaddy’s hugs were rare, but he’d stand in the doorway of my pink bedroom and wave his finger in the air, “You holler if you need anything, Miss Ash.” Sleep came easier there, and I’d drift off almost immediately. Many times, I’d pat the bed and whisper for Ricky to jump up beside me. He wasn’t allowed on the bed, but if Nini ever found out he joined me up there many nights, she never said anything about it. I was young, but I was still smart enough to brush away the dog hair from the bed each morning.

No matter the season, I never stopped wanting to be under the same roof with them.

_________

Most of these memories are fifteen to twenty years old, and it takes time to remember. But if I quiet myself long enough, they begin drifting down from my mind like the leaves on the trees. Memories as sweet as those ripe scupnins’ straight from the vine, warm as the propane heater that warmed our bedrooms at night, and as crisp as the leaves we piled into those pumpkin bags so many seasons ago.

Diggin’ Sweet Potatoes

Every year, he’d plant. And in the fall, we’d harvest.

One by one, like baby ducklings behind a mother, we’d fall in line behind the blue Ford tractor. Granddaddy would plow, his calloused hands gripping the steering wheel, and we’d pick up – Dad, Mom, and me. Eventually, Baylee joined us in the field.

“Make me a sign, Miss Pucket,” he said one year. “One to put by the road.” So together we painted a makeshift sign from a leftover piece of wood we found in the barn. “Sweet Potatoes for Sale,” in crooked black letters, hand-painted by two of a kind who  happened to be born over six decades apart.

There were only six of us back then, but he’d plant enough sweet potatoes to feed every mouth in Taylor County. He acquired regulars, buyers that returned year after year — some for the sweet potatoes, others just for the company. The sign would disappear once the final bushel of sweet potatoes was sold. “Sold” being a loose term – mostly, he’d give them away to anyone who happened to stop by. “Run in and get me a sack, Miss Ash.” He’d give away his potatoes, but not the baskets.

“Why’s he gotta plant so many?” I’d ask Nini on dig days. I’d break for water every few minutes and search for relief in the kitchen, although without air-conditioning, the outdoors more often than not stayed cooler.

“Have you ever known Granddaddy to do ‘justa little’ of anything?” she’d reply as she slathered me in sunscreen that had expired 6 years prior. “Here, put on this cap.”

Once outside and out of sight from the kitchen window, I’d hang the cap on a limb of the fig tree. The sun was hot on my back and the damp coolness of the turned ground was the only relief for my bare feet. Mom and Dad worked diligently, while I looked for ways to stay hidden from view. The baskets we collected them in were old and would crack under the weight of the potatoes. Eventually, I’d get spotted and called back into the field.

It’d take us the better part of a day, but we’d gather until the last potato bushel was tossed into the bed of his old Dodge Ram pickup. It was my job to inch the pickup through the dusty field while Dad and Granddaddy would load the baskets in the bed. I felt important behind the wheel of that pickup.

A weekend or two after digging, he’d call you to the barn to show off the largest potato dug that year. “Course, it ain’t fit to eat,” he’d say as he’d turn it over in his hands and place it back in the basket with all the other misfits.

We’d have a side of sweet potatoes with every meal for the next 3 months. They were always placed directly in front of Granddaddy at the supper table and it was his job to pick out a potato for everyone eating supper.

“This is a good ‘un,” he’d say, after carefully feeling of them all and placing the chosen one onto my plate. Only my dad was trusted enough to choose his own.

Halfway through supper, Nini would lean over and whisper in my ear, “put some meat on your Granddaddy’s plate.” After selecting his sweet potato, he seemed to forget there were other things to eat besides a sweet potato.

We are and always have been a family that likes to eat sweet potatoes, because we honestly don’t have the option not to.

_____

A few weeks ago, I was talking to Nini on the phone when I asked her about Granddaddy’s garden.

“He’s not plantin’ one this year,” she said. “He’s tired and his leg bothers him. He’s over there in the chair right now with it propped up.”

“Can’t he just plant a small garden? He don’t have to plant for the entire county like he usually does.”

“Have you ever known your Granddaddy to do ‘justa little’ of anything?” she says, and I can hear her smiling on the other end.

“No, I guess not.”

_____

And so, with the first hint of fall in the air now, I’ve been thinking back lately…back to those days I spent in that dusty field, complaining about the dirt under my fingernails and diggin’ those sweet potatoes, and wishing more than anything I’d have the chance to dig them with my family again one day.

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I Believe I Did

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“You ain’t gonna be able to find that snake by the time he gets here with a gun. Even if you find him, he’ll be too far away to hit ‘em good.”

“He’ll get him, Tom. You don’t know him like I do.”

Our leisurely mule ride in Butler interrupted by a snake making his way across the hot pavement, this one with the obvious signs indicating danger. His coloring and the notorious triangular head send a spastic shiver throughout my body.

“Watch for snakes,” Nini would yell as I’d run out barefoot, the slam of the screen door like a single firecracker interrupting her warning each time. Shoes weren’t something I deemed necessary at their house.

As I race back to alert Granddaddy, I tell myself Tom’s not right. But he’s 92 now. His eyes are slightly clouded from cataracts. And his hands. I love his hands. They tell stories and bear the markings of a man that worked hard every day to support his family. “They bother me more than they used to,” he’ll say as he holds his wrist and tries to stretch his fingers out straight.

“There’s a snake Granddaddy.”

The nightly news is on full-blast in their living room, nearly deafening to me, but he’s got his arm propped to where his hand cups around his ear and he’s reading the text that runs along the bottom of the screen.

He rises from his corner spot on the couch and walks to the back of the house.

“A poisonous one, Miss Ash?” asks Nini from her chair.

“Yes, ma’am.”

A few moments later, Granddaddy re-emerges with his shotgun propped under his right arm. He brushes his hand against the top of the gun and tiny specks of dust are illuminated in the last bit of sunlight streaming in through the storm door. Gone are the days he uses it to turkey hunt; his eyes, ears, and hands don’t bid well for that anymore.

“You ready?”

He asks me to drive and I slide into the driver’s seat of his pickup. We’re the only ones in the family with legs so short that we have no choice but to sit mere inches from the steering wheel. Of course, Granddaddy taught me how to drive in a dusty field beside the house, so I don’t know any different. I’ve always liked to do things the way he taught me to do them.

We pull over when we see flailing hands pointing from the mule.

__

In To Kill A Mockingbird, I’ve always been drawn to the chapter where Atticus shoots the mad dog because it reminds me of Granddaddy. It’s such a simple feat, Atticus shooting the dog, but the admiration Jem and Scout gain from watching their father be the hero makes the scene my favorite.

After Atticus leaves, Miss Maudie exclaims to the kids, who stand perplexed by this skill they were unaware their father possessed, “If your father’s anything, he’s civilized in his heart. Marksmanship’s a gift of God, a talent – oh, you have to practice to make it perfect, but shootin’s different from playing the piano or the like. I think maybe he put his gun down when he realized that God had given him an unfair advantage over most living things. I guess he decided he wouldn’t shoot till he had to, and he had to today.”

“Looks like he’d be proud of it,” I {Scout} said.

“People in their right minds never take pride in their talents,” said Miss Maudie.

__

I think back to the day he taught me to shoot. He taught me to shoot a gun in that same field where I learned to drive, but I wasn’t much bigger than the gun when he decided it was time I learned a thing or two about it. He’d placed an empty milk carton so far that I begged him to bring it closer.

“Granddaddy, I don’t think I can…”

And when I hit it, I still remember the smile that spread across his face.

He never doubted me.

___

And so I refuse to doubt him.

“He’s way over there,” they say. I search hard, but I can barely see the outstretched snake camouflaged within the leaves and sticks along the far side of the bank.

Granddaddy’s face is traced with tiny lines that all come together at the corner of his eyes when he smiles. I notice they do the same as he squints.

“Do you see him?” Tom asks as he points and tries to direct Granddaddy in the right direction. Granddaddy just shakes his head and continues to squint.

Seconds pass. I hold my breath and clasp my hands together tight. Old age can take a lot away from someone, but I don’t want it to take away something Granddaddy has always been able to do better than anyone else.

And then, softly, Granddaddy says, “I see him.”

In a quick, swift motion, he raises the gun with one hand, his curled finger tightens over the trigger, and the blast echoes between the road banks.

It’s the most effortless thing I’ve ever witnessed.

“I THINK YOU GOT HIM,” Tom practically yells in disbelief, and everyone around us laughs at the sarcasm; it was an obvious hit as the snake was in two pieces now.

“Yeah, I believe I did,” he says.

I exhale and look over at Granddaddy, who’s already lowered his gun. He is walking back towards the truck to put it up. And I think to myself how I don’t believe it is possible to love someone more than I love him right there in that moment.

Day 5 // Kingman, AZ to Palm Springs, CA

Since we began our Route 66 experience at a diner, we figured we should end it at a diner, so we found ourselves flipping through our record-shaped menus at Mr. D’z before 9 a.m. on Wednesday. Today was the day we veered off Route 66 to make our own path, one that landed us in Palm Springs, CA.

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At the suggestion of the hotel owner from my previous post, we decided to head south towards Lake Havasu. I was very much in love with this idea because (and I’m a bit embarrassed to admit this) Vicki, from the Real Housewives of Orange County – THE original housewife on the show – used to have a vacation home there before she and her husband Don divorced. So naturally, I felt called to visit the lake where one of my favorite reality stars spent entirely too much time acting 1/3 her age.

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Lake Havasu is odd, just like this entire chunk of the country, because you’re riding along in the desert and you think you’re 150 miles from the nearest civilization and all of a sudden, THERE’S A WALMART. OR A KAY JEWLERS. OR A HOME DEPOT. Towns just spring up out of nowhere out here and it’s weird. It’s so, so strange. I can’t stress enough how weird this part of our country is. Unfortunately, we didn’t bring our swimsuits and we didn’t see Vicki, or Don for that matter.

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We made a VERY last minute decision to go see the Imperial Sand Dunes, which were several hours out of our way. For awhile now, I’ve been enthralled with the idea of sand dunes and we figured now was as good of time as ever. Best decision we’ve made on this trip. The sand dunes are indescribable. You drive into this isolated part of the country, 118 degrees outside, and no one in sight. All you see is sand. And border patrol. And more sand. It is probably the strangest feeling being so isolated out there.

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The best way I can explain parts of this trip would be what the world looks like when I dream. Now, it may be legal out here, but I promised I haven’t smoked any pot, so just stay with me. You know how when you dream, things just look different and many times you’re alone and you feel weird and isolated but fascinated, too, all at the same time? No? Maybe that’s just me. The world that I dream in is wacky and these things Tom and I are discovering as we make our way West…they’re weird. And they don’t feel real. And it’s such a different world from what we’re used to that it’s hard for us to make sense of it. It’s hard for us to comprehend that this exists. Does that make sense? Again, these pictures don’t come close to showing the isolation you feel when you’re out there.

Our detour to the dunes routed us through hundreds of miles of farmland. Cotton, corn, alfalpha, oranges, dates, melons…so many different types of produce or row crops. Tom almost went comatose while driving through all that farmland and seeing how differently they have to do things down here with the lack of water.

Anyway, when we reached Palm Springs, I could have kicked myself for not recording Tom’s reaction to our multi-colored hotel. I’m pretty enamored with Palm Springs, but Tom sticks out like a sore thumb. He’s like a bull in a china shop here and it’s pretty funny to witness. One of my favorite blogs, A Beautiful Mess, recommended Birba for dinner, so of course we had to try it out. They only have patio seating and keep in mind it was 112 degrees last night at 7 p.m. So we’re basically trying to eat dinner in what feels like the pits of hell and Tom is dripping sweat and I’m literally wondering if he’s going to pass our or die right in front of me. He isn’t talking and his cheeks are flushed and he keeps rubbing his eyes, which have sunken to the back of his head. I’m pretty miserable myself, but when someone looks like they’re ill, I panic. So I decide to order a drink to lighten the mood…the girl who never drinks. I might have half a margarita every month or so, so my experience is limited here. Well, I order this (much to Tom’s dismay 15 dollar) fruity little drink that is tiny and tastes pretty good to me, which usually means it doesn’t have much alcohol in it. And in that 112 degree heat, dehydration hits ya quick, so I drink it. All of it. In less than like 3 minutes.

Lighten the mood it did. Whether it was the heat, the drink, or a combination of the two, Tom basically had to sling me across his shoulders and carry me out of the establishment. With me giggling. The entire time. Tom says I need to start drinking more because I’m more pleasant that way. I don’t know if that’s his version of a compliment…?

Anyway, he brings me a bottle of water and I chug it and start feeling less tipsy. We decide to go see Jurrasic World and I swear I have PTSD from it and had to walk out of the theater once because I can’t handle friendly dinosaurs in pain. It was too much. Not emotionally strong enough to see friendly animals die.

Overall, it was the perfect day. This is the trip of a lifetime. We are having so much fun. We don’t get very much time together between farming and photography, but it sure feels good to be out here spending time with Tom and seeing things that leave us speechless.

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Day 4 // Flagstaff to Kingman, AZ & Oatman, AZ

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“I think we take for granted how green and fertile everything is in Georgia”

Tom and I can’t get over how difficult it would be to farm here. The entire trip, the temps have been in the mid-seventies; at one point, low eighties. Today, as we drove further west into the state of Arizona, temperatures sky-rocketed. It was 114 degrees at one point today.

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We saw our very first tumbleweed somewhere between Flagstaff and Kingman. We stopped at a tiny general store off of the Orginal Route 66 for a drink. As we pulled up, a dust cloud lingering, we literally saw a tumbleweed bounce across the road and stop at a bright orange car. We both kinda looked at each other like, “did you just see that?”

Route 66 (the accessible part, anyway) is just like you’d envision it, which is crazy to me. It’s so true to its stereotype which delights me. I send my father-in-law photos from my cell phone every time we reach a place with good cell service, and he classified one set of photos as “pure Velveeta” meaning cheesy. It’s so cheesy. And that’s exactly what I was going for on this trip. Don’t you ever just want to get away from the seriousness sometimes?

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We found ourselves face-to-face with black bears, wolves, buffalo, mountain goats, and lots of other wildlife this morning around 9 a.m. We stopped at Bearizona, a recommendation from my friend, Meghan, who drove Route 66 two weeks before us while she and her husband moved to California for his job. Bearizona is a drive-through wildlife park and I spent most of the time complaining that all of the animals were on Tom’s side of the car or comparing each animal to one of our dogs. We enjoyed it, though, and it was something very different from what we’ve been doing this entire time.

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The rest of our day was spent driving the Original 66. Driving is the most fun thing, because the landscape varies so much from what we’re used to. We made a quick stop in Seligman & Hackberry for a few photos of the cars so we could show my dad.

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We made it to Oatman around 2:30 and were instantly greeted by a herd of wild burros, what the town is famous for. I use the term “wild” loosely because they’re anything but wild. They’re basically domesticated donkeys that attract tourists from all over. Never one to pass down the chance to interact with an animal, I knew we had to make the trek through the mountains to Oatman. I mean, we did fly all the way to Exuma for our honeymoon just to swim with pigs. Tom hated Oatman and said we were in good company considering we were surrounded by a bunch of jackasses. We both agreed that the drive up the mountains was, so far, the most scenic part of our trip. Again, this trip leaves me at a loss for words. All I know is the desert is a strange, strange place.

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We checked into The El Trovatore Motel and were greeted by Taco, a minpin who literally is the fattest dog I have ever seen in my life. I sent a picture to my dad and he said he must be a double-stuffed taco. I have to include a few iPhone photos I snapped of Taco, even though, once again, photos just don’t do him justice. Tom talked with the owner of the motel, an ex-farmer from Israel for over an hour, while I stared at Taco in disbelief.

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We were given the John Wayne room at the Trovavtore Motel which delighted Tom to no end. Since we’ve literally eaten Mexican food for every meal since we’ve been out here, when the motel owner recommended a local steakhouse to us, we jumped at the chance for something not coated in chilies. I think the waitress probably thought we hadn’t seen food in two weeks the way we inhaled our steaks (and sweet tea).

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