Bra or Antlers?


We who have lived in Arizona for many years and love the forests and meadows of the Mogollon Rim are sickened by the Wallow Fire destruction.  It is  now considered the  largest forest fire in the state’s recorded history.

I am especially fond of Hannagan Meadow, about where this fire started,  and treasure two photos of my younger son (now 46) standing in the same location in the pine trees at ages 4 and 10.   Also, that lodge at Hannagan Meadow is where my parents first met my husband,  the stepfather to my three children. It’s where my husband, before we were married, proved his merit in the kitchen by whipping cream into peaks with a simple fork. We had picked raspberries along the road.

A few years later, our older son was stationed across the road from the lodge at a Forest Service camp used for his helitak crew. He worked as a fire fighter in the summer and sometimes stayed the fall semester.  That’s why it took him six years to graduate from NAU (Northern Arizona University).  The following summer, his sister, on a field trip with a UA (University of Arizona) geography class, told her professor about the helitak camp and for some odd reason he refused to believe her.  When she gave her report on the findings of her group (they were mock-planning a ski resort), she wore Greg’s shirt with the identity and location of the Hannagan Meadow U.S. Forest Service camp. That’s my girl!

The Blue River runs along the east side of the highway up there. One summer, long before my husband and I fell in love, I was hiking with friends from Hannagan Meadow to a wide, shallow spot in the river.  We encountered  a couple living out there at the edge of the woods. They had set up camp, a fire pit, and a scavenged cupboard nailed to a tree for their food.  I’d guess they were in their late 60s.  They told us that during the warm months they salvaged for scrap metal to make a little extra living. They researched and mapped where airplanes had crashed, and climbed up  mountainsides to retrieve parts, even sections of wing.

On the path back our group straggled into a hunting camp and found a pen full of lovely hounds. There were no human beings in sight, but there was a building with an open door, and we were hot and tired. The room was clean-smelling, though empty of furniture. On a windowsill someone spotted a tin of salve typically used on cow’s udders when they got sore — and presumably on the female dogs when they had pups.  One of the guys in our group said it is used by people, too, and suggested my cramped calves might benefit by a little rubbing on of the strong-smelling stuff.  I tried it and could walk painlessly back to our cabin at Hannagan Meadow.

This time the pain won’t go away.  I can hardly stand to think of what’s going on right now. I think of the danger to the firefighters, the stupidity of the people who left a campfire still alive.  While much of that area has been built up and overrun by tourists, the little place where I have these pleasant associations remained pleasant to this year.  I hope it will become pleasant again for generations to come.

POSTSCRIPT: With natural disasters occurring everywhere, there’s one sort-of funny story running through my mind. In this morning’s Wall Street Journal, reporting on the Arizona fire, there is a photo of a pickup truck loaded with trophies a family wanted to save during their evacuation — deer antlers, elk antlers – who knows what else — the souvenirs of killing the natural inhabitants of that  land. Still, it called to mind a St. Louis summer day c. 1957 when  we had a tornado alert in the middle of the afternoon.  Mother, her house guest and I (then a college student) quickly headed to the basement.  Down there in the rec room we looked at each other with merriment.  Mother had brought some cookies.  I took along a book to read (if the lights stayed on.) The guest of ample bosom had grabbed her brassiere.


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