Chapter 1: The End of Something
"Like painted kites, those days and nights went flying by.
The world was new, beneath a blue umbrella sky."
I looked at the closed up cabin in the breaks under the Mogollon rim. It was located at the end of a dirt road, a trail really, only accessible by four wheel drive. It looked to be in fair shape, but I knew there would be a lot of cleanup and maintenance to make it ready for regular visits again. I had planned ahead and loaded the back of my truck with the "necessaries".
It had been a long three years in the Army, and I got out just in time to avoid duty in Vietnam. They gave me a choice of three years of active reserve or one year on call-up standby and two years of inactive reserve. Having had quite enough of military discipline, I chose to stay as far away from any military installations as possible, and chose the inactive reserve. The first year of standby was a risk, since I could be called to active duty at the Army's pleasure. In the end, I skated through with no problem.
Leaving the truck, I walked to a small rise and enjoyed the variegated sky to the west as the sun set over the bend in the Rim. Enjoying the last of the four cigarettes a day I was rigidly holding to, I thought about the article I had seen in the Scottsdale paper that morning:
Canova-Wells Wedding at historic St. Mary's Basilica
Martha Canova and Tom Wells were joined together in Holy Matrimony at St. Mary's Basilica yesterday afternoon. The reception was held at the Phoenix Country Club where many of the old guard of the city's society welcomed the newly married couple. Tom is, of course, the son of Mayor William "Billy" Wells, well known in the Phoenix area as a developer of new home communities.
Tom's new bride is the daughter of Joseph Canova, owner of the historic 6000 acre Canova ranch east of Flagstaff, and is noted for his philanthropic work, particularly his efforts and donations on behalf of the Community Chest, the precursor of The United Way. After a two-month vacation in Europe, the newlyweds will reside in the Wells estate in Scottsdale.
Ahh, Martha, I mused. That article might have had my name, Jerry Kinsolving, in it, except I doubted that they would have made much of my dad's being a History Professor at Arizona State University in Tempe, and living in a thirty year old three bedroom house near the campus. But, no, Martha decided to move on half-way through my thirteen month "sentence" at the US Army headquarters in Seoul. At least, that's exactly what her letter had said. Thank God it wasn't a "Dear John" letter (even though it was a "Dear Jerry" one):
I've decided to move on. I'm sure that after you think about it, you will agree that it's for the best.
Love always, Martha
I thought at the time that always seemed to not be able to withstand the test of time or of absence very well, but I had to admire her conciseness. Though, just for old times' sake she could have written at least a paragraph.
Her loss to me, such as it was, had been more than offset by my assignment to learn the new GE computers installed at the Eighth Army headquarters for Korea. That experience led to my being hired after my separation from Uncle Sam's service by General Electric out northwest of Phoenix on Thunderbird Road.
Now, after only six months with the company, I was being assigned as a troubleshooter at the large GE installation in Pearl Harbor. It was to be a three month assignment, but my boss told me it could be significantly more or less time. I could still hear my division manager's words:
"I'll be frank with you, Jerry. We are in a tight competition with IBM for the next contract there, and we need to reduce the amount of down time we have been having. I don't know what the problem is, but we have to find it and fix it. You report directly to me, and I'm counting on you to take care of this and keep me informed. Go ahead and take two weeks off on me, and I'll have everything all set up for you."
We kicked it around some more and I agreed to stay for up to a year, if necessary. I knew what it was to stay in a hotel indefinitely and wanted to rent a house as soon as possible. If it turned out to be a full year we could figure out then what our mutual needs were. He agreed to work with finance to get me a housing allowance.
The two weeks off was the reason I was here finishing the cleanup of the cabin at ten o'clock that night. The next morning at daybreak I was already hiking up a dim trail east of Payson to the eastern end of Star Valley and up towards the rim. I'd packed food and a lightweight tent for a week's worth of getting lost in a rugged, empty country. On the third day, I was camped on a plateau half way to the top and relaxing with a cup of coffee, thinking about my upcoming trip, and whether or not to have bacon and beans for dinner once again.
I heard a noise, a rustling, and looked up to see a big Tom turkey about seventy-five feet away. My dad had written a book about the Pleasant Valley War (the Graham-Tewksbury Feud), one of the ugliest feuds in American history. In doing the research, he became a good friend of an ancient rancher near Alpine, who, knowing he was on death's door, gave my father an original 1893 Winchester lever action rifle. Dad gave it to me, his only son, and I felt strongly that the best homage I could give to this collector's piece was to use it rather than put it on a shelf or sell it.
When I was twelve I got my first deer, and I never hunted with any other rifle. When I saw that tom pecking around, I took aim without a conscious thought. At that range I couldn't miss, and I knew that there was no better eating than a wild turkey cooked right. Yeah, I ate too much of it, but damn, it was good.
The nights were still cold at that altitude, even though it was officially springtime. It made for good sleeping and pleasant weather for hiking, so I wasn't complaining.