Only One Thing

lady hiker

Hiking in the Terrible High Desert

One of the resident raccoons knocked my homemade platform bird feeder off its post again last night, leaving it in pieces on the ground. The last time this happened was just two days ago around midnight. I was still up and heard the crash, so I grabbed a flashlight and peered out the kitchen window to see if the raccoon was still there. You’d think I’d get tired of shining flashlights on raccoons, having done it so many times, but until you do, you never know exactly what you’ll find. I can report that this one was approximately the size of an Iowa hog. The bird feeder isn’t remotely capable of holding that kind of weight, so down it came. Sigh. The mess from last night is still out there, and as soon as my wife wakes up from her Sunday afternoon nap, I’ll go out with a hammer and pound the feeder back together again. That’s not the thing, of course, but let’s move on.

Yesterday was horrible. Following the usual sort of panic attack, I had another screaming fit about Taos, ugly stupid houses, bridges to jump off of, and the general lack of anything decent to keep me here except poverty, and no idea of where to go instead or having any way to get there. It’s okay, though. When you live outside the box, these things happen. A long time ago a mystical palm reader lady told me that my primary task in this life was “overcoming fear.” That’s probably why I arranged things to be as scary as possible, for maximum motivation.

Interestingly enough, the old man was prone to this same kind of second-guessing and self-criticism (hint: of maternal origin). The incident I remember best occurred at the unplanned end of his Glorious Retirement Tour, which consisted of he and my mother traveling all over the country in a pickup truck pulling a big-ass trailer. This suited him just fine, seeing as how his responsibilities were limited to driving, drinking vodka, smoking little brown cigarettes, and riding his bicycle in search of others, mainly lady bikers, who might be impressed by his stamina and curly permanent—he truly was an athlete in his later years, and I give him extra credit for achieving this in wartime. My mother eventually tired of having nothing to do but read magazines, buy groceries, and cook—never mind the rest—and about the time they reached Tucson brought the whole show to a crashing halt by declaring she wanted to “put down roots” (again).

They ended up buying an older ranch-style house in a close-in east side residential neighborhood, an area of mostly “normal” homes where people either tried to keep their lawns alive or tore them up to lay in gravel. Sometimes they painted it green. You can still find neighborhoods like that in Tucson, though folks have broadened out to pink rocks, Astroturf, and I don’t know what all. At any rate, he soon fell under the influence of an all-female (there’s your angle) xeriscaping outfit and converted the sickly lawn back into the desert from whence it came. Ahead of his time, he was, as far as that’s concerned, which if you knew him was the other hook.

The problem was, he started to wonder if he’d done the right thing. That is, whether the newfangled desert landscaping might lower the resale value of the property. Quite the opposite, I suspect, but this was then, and there might have been a thread of reason to it. The story I heard in bits and pieces, since I was keeping myself as far away and out of this as possible, was that he had a righteous nervous breakdown with late night panic attacks (oh, those), crying jags, the whole nine yards, and for all I know he had them tear the cactus out and put the grass back in again. I don’t recall how this resolved itself, and there was other business going on with sister, brother-in-law, and maybe people heading off to Mexico, but at some point they sold that property and moved to a mobile home development on the other side of town, where there was plenty of fine organic xeriscape placed everywhere by God.

This isn’t the thing, either, but we’re getting there.

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John Hamilton Farr lives at 7,000 feet in Ranchos de Taos, New Mexico, U.S.A. As New York Times best-selling author James C. Moore tells it, John is “a man attuned to the world who sees it differently than you and I and writes about it with a language and a vision of life that is impossible to ignore.” This JHFARR.COM site is the master writing archive. To email John, please see CONTACT INFO on About page. For a complete list of all John’s writing, photography, NFTs, and social media links, please visit JHFARR.ART  

  • Marti Fenton April 4, 2017, 1:02 PM

    It seems that all the possible horribles that lay hidden in the shadows during the day come out to play and prey when the lights go out. I know the feeling well.

    • JHF April 5, 2017, 8:24 AM

      Tells a person to dig deeper into the origins of events in one’s own life in current time. I’m learning.

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