Could country music legend Marty Robbins soon get official recognition from his hometown, Glendale, Arizona? Hoping to find out more when I sign my memoir, Some Memories – Growing Up With Marty Robbins, at Krispy Creations, 7013 N. 58th Avenue, next to Murphy Park in downtown Glendale, 1-3 Saturday (June 22nd).

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The format may be digital, but the thrill of seeing one’s work on public display is tangible enough no matter what the medium.

I’m among the creative spirits featured in the Spring 2013 issue of The Blue Guitar, an Arizona-based ezine that takes its name from a Wallace Stevens poem, “The Man with the Blue Guitar”.  

As always, I look forward to reading the work of fellow contributors and hope that they find similar enjoyment in reading the featured excerpt from my novel, Shine Like The Sun.

Sometimes it seems that the book world is altogether too preoccupied with celebrity and sales. Of course most of us want recognition. But a publication like The Blue Guitar is a reminder that the essence of creativity is close to home. The themes may be universal, but the details and the passion are right in front of us. And that’s why local support counts for so much. So thank you editor in chief Becca Dyer and her talented team.

http://www.theblueguitarmagazine.org/resources/Blue+Guitar+Spring+2013_FINAL.pdf

The truth is I’m a reluctant “baby boomer”. As that designation proliferated in the media over recent years, I felt blindsided. I was being cemented into a segment of the population which experience had shown to have a tenuous sense of unity. This is a generation, after all, that has produced Clinton and Bush (George W.), Ted Nugent and Morrissey. Any illusion I had that people of a similar age necessarily share values vanished along with the Woodstock spirit.

It’s the same, no doubt, for any generation. Those Xers and Y-ites, not to mention the Zsters on the horizon, will come to ruminate on their divisions. Time may well reveal that youthful exuberance masks serious, perennial ideological differences.

Anyway, so here I am, an enrollee in a boomer group on the book lovers and book creators site, Goodreads. I ask myself: is all this generational labeling just marketing? Or does an age bracket define us better than I’d like to think?

I’m about to find out. Goodreads’ Boomer Lit group invites authors to post samples of their work for something called a blog hop. I’ll try it. Sounds more my style than hip-hop. Maybe those mid-20th century childhoods have forged a common bond after all.

Here’s my contribution (from my novel Shine Like The Sun):

“Light and a beat. The one so piercing it fogged his eyes with iridescence, the other a heart-churning pulse with no discernible point of origin.

He staggered on to the angular wooden deck extending from the house, and skipped over the cracks between the planks in mimicry of a childhood game. It had been so long since he had moved. Really moved, that is. Would anyone care? Was he even capable?

A tremor rumbled through his torso — his own faltering voice, it dawned on him, self-activated by nervous energy. And then, dazzled by shimmering beams from the east and intoxicated by the moment, he could hold back no longer. Glass clapped loudly on wood as the bottle dropped from his hand. Voice synchronized with steps in a self-absorbed fantasia. Yes, he still had it. He could still rock ’n’ roll.”

 
Trouble_Kindle_Cover
Home for Beaver is a wild river in Arizona, and like Ratty in Kenneth Grahame’s The Wind in the Willows he can think of no better place to live than somewhere surrounded by water.
The snag is that the river seems to be drying up and someone needs to do something about it. The Trouble Upstream chronicles the adventures of Beaver and his friends Skunk and Ringtail as they trek to the river’s source in search of a solution.
In their journey they tangle with a succession of creatures native to the area — each with an impact on their mission. Pack rats, ground squirrels, a rattlesnake, javelinas, coatimundis and a Gila monster are among the more prominent characters.
As in the human world, difficult decisions have to be made and the result will not satisfy everyone. But, in fighting to preserve their homes, the creatures are surely following a justifiable precedent.

http://www.amazon.com/dp/B00AL5RFU2

http://www.amazon.co.uk/The-Trouble-Upstream-ebook/dp/B00AL5RFU2/ref=la_B001HO5RL0_1_7?ie=UTF8&qid=1355261588&sr=1-7

http://www.smashwords.com/books/view/265631

Read about Sav Scatola, who created the cover illustration, at http://www.boxy.co.uk/

One thing you may not read in obituaries of Native American political activist Russell Means, who died today, is that he had a ready sense of humor.

Sharing the same last name as him, I was long intrigued by the thought that in some distant way we were related. Of course it was highly unlikely. I was born and brought up in England, where my ancestors had lived for generations.

Still, when news of Russell Means and his kin filtered across the Atlantic in 1973, my relatives and I had to wonder. We did have records of an ancestor who emigrated to Wisconsin in the mid 19th century. Could there possibly be an Oglala/Lakota branch of the family?

Through 1973 we followed bulletins of the Native American confrontations at Wounded Knee on the Pine Ridge reservation in South Dakota with more than a passing interest. In my youthful imagination, I have to admit, I even visualized myself trekking into Russell’s encampment with fresh supplies and perhaps reinforcements from the Means’ band across the water.

Years later, having moved to Arizona, I bought Russell’s autobiography and learned how he got his last name. As so often was the case, an Indian boarding school had adapted things to make them conform. In this case, one of Russell’s forebears had had his name changed to ‘Means’ from ‘Mean To His Horses’, which in turn was a mistranslation of ‘Trains His Horses Well’. I had to concede that I had no ancestors with that handle. So much for the English connection.

Still, my speculation was good for a laugh between us when Russell signed my copy at a book signing. “To Andrew Means,” he wrote, “Thanks for being part of the Means World!”

That sentence has stayed with me. A bureaucratic name change had made me feel a bond with a man and a cause and a culture. Russell was a controversial and combative figure who was both criticized and praised. Still, he helped shape my view of life. Thanks, Russell, for being part of my world!

My favorite memory of Star Trek may well be the “Darmok” episode featuring Captain Picard of the starship Enterprise trying to communicate with an alien called Dathon who talked only in metaphors or similes or sayings of one sort or another.

I can’t even remember the details — just that Jean-Luc had to decipher verbal images that made no literal sense, and eventually did so, thus forging contact with a hitherto unintelligible entity.

In doing so, the good captain illustrated one of the delights of language. A native speaker can talk in riddles that make perfect sense to a native listener and, at the same time, might leave many a new student of the language mystified and perplexed.

For a native speaker though, it may not even matter that a saying or a word has been botched. We know what is meant, whether it’s a malapropism or a misquotation. In fact, such mistakes make our exchanges that much more colorful — especially the vocal kind.

One example that deserves a place in linguistic history emanates from an Arizona judge who, embroiled in career setbacks some years ago, announced to the media that he had a bitter pill to carry. Of course, his plight was generally understood — just as surely as it would have been had he complained of a heavy load to swallow.

Just to show that such pronouncements are not confined to the more rough and ready Western  states, I was recently in conversation with a lady in Boston, Massachusetts, who — sympathizing with an exasperating medical situation — agreed that there were too many cooks in the pot.

There certainly are times when placing a few cooks in a simmering cauldron might be a very appealing idea. A few celebrity chefs spring to mind.

But of course there was no need to dwell on this interpretation of her chosen image. We both knew exactly what she meant, and revision was not required. As she might have said, we had found ourselves between a rock and the deep blue sea. A hard place to be, as only the devil knows.

It is an extraordinary thing to have your life suddenly turned upside down.

In our case it happened with a phone call. One evening my significant other came into my home office and said: “I got the result of the CAT scan. I have cancer. I have mesothelioma.”

In that moment, everything changed. Our plans for the future. Our priorities in the present. Perhaps even our perspective on our 30 years together.

Suddenly nothing mattered more than dealing with this prognosis. This word I could hardly pronounce, that I was not even aware of a few days previously, began to envelop our world. In an unsettling parallel to her medical condition, the very name and notion of mesothelioma invaded daily routine.

Telling friends and relatives was distressing in itself. Bank balances? Credit card debts? Vacation time? Work projects? Forget it. All of it now rendered insignificant. Everything focused on deciding on the best course for treatment.

And when that resulted in a decision to opt for surgery at the International Mesothelioma Program in Boston, then there was a string of logistics to consider. Flights. Accommodation. Housesitter. What to pack. Preparations for surgery. The vagaries of insurance coverage.

My wife is a planner by instinct. She’s the one who, for years, would go to sleep each night scheming about bathroom remodeling and such. Me? I’d just hit the sack and lights out. Now I suspect we both have “mesothelioma” in our minds as we drift off, like it or not.

So we wait during “the phony war” between prognosis and surgery, going over things to do, diverting our thoughts and conversations whenever we can towards non-medical topics.

And, obedient to doctor’s advice, we take a walk every day – something our dogs and I have been trying to get my wife to do for years without much success. In fairness, she’s racked up the miles at work. Still, who’d have thought it would have taken this to get her out on the road?

* * * * *

In watching Roger Waters saunter across the stage during his current presentation of The Wall, perhaps the most striking thing about him is he seems so genuinely affable. Body language, facial expressions and exclamations to the audience suggest he really is pleased to be here and anxious to connect with the masses.

Quite a turn around for a performer/composer who got the idea for this iconic rock opera some 33 years ago after becoming disillusioned with the vast, impersonal, commercialized, egotistic scale experienced by major touring acts. This is a man, after all, who admits to spitting at a fan during a performance back then and who fantasized about lobbing bombs into the auditorium.

The central idea of The Wall — that of alienation, of being constrained by barriers — is permeated with nuance. It’s a psychological statement as well as a political one, sociological as well as personal. And Waters has exploited that flexibility over the years by adding elements. There’s a backdrop, for instance, of portraits and personal details from the never-ceasing roll call of victims of war. Soldiers killed in action, such as his father, are memorialized along with human rights martyrs. Local kids wearing tee shirts emblazoned with “Fear Builds Walls” troop on stage to sing one of The Wall’s perennial anthems, “We don’t need no education, we don’t need no thought control.” A motto-inscribed inflatable pig buzzes the floor seats, reminiscent of the one that hovered over London’s Battersea Power Station all those years ago when Waters was an integral member of Pink Floyd. Who could miss the message? War, what is it good for? And, at the root of that, restrain your socio-political minders.

Despite familiarity (and its transition from a Pink Floyd to a Waters production), The Wall still packs quite an impact. The best of the songs combine mesmerizing riffs, melodies, themes and catch phrases with a power and universality that make The Wall a signature work for this era. Critics may caution that its material is overly juvenile, but who among us is not influenced by childhood experiences? And how often do those authority figures of early years morph into the tyrants of adulthood?

Could this be the final outing for Waters’ rendition? No matter, one can well imagine his creation being a fixture for generations to come.

At its conclusion, the bricks that separate the audience from the musicians tumble down with symbolic finality, and Waters and his accompanists file out of sight for a well-earned rest before assaulting the next arena. The scale of the operation is indeed impressive. Quite a contrast indeed with Floyd’s early years when oily bubbles in a slide projector constituted the state-of-the-art light show.   

Meanwhile, we who watch and applaud filter out to buy our $30 souvenir hats and $40 tee shirts. Underlying it all is a faint suggestion that, as in Waters’ long-ago audience-bombing fantasy, “people getting blown to bits would go absolutely wild with glee at being at the centre of all the action.”

Us and them? Maybe that’s just the human lot.

With all the information there is about factory farming you’d think someone would have come out with dog food that is vetted for humane conditions for the creatures that provide the ingredients.

There are, of course, several vegetarian brands of kibble and cans. But even a vegan canine companion has to admit that dogs sometimes hanker for the taste and smell of meat.

Well, if they have to have flesh, at least let it be flesh that comes from an animal or fish that had a tolerable life and at death didn’t suffer more than could be avoided. OK, so I can’t say for sure what is a tolerable life. But I’m pretty sure it doesn’t involve conveyor belts, force feeding, overcrowding and cages and pens too small to allow free movement.

Can I find such a food source? Without scanning the highways for road kill, it’s frustratingly hard. There are several companies that boast of “quality” ingredients, which I’m all for. Who wants their dogs to have to absorb pesticides and growth-enhancing chemicals if it can be avoided?

When it comes down to it though, every company I contacted gave “commercial farms” as the source of their ingredients. By that I assume they mean business as usual. And that’s just not good enough. If these companies put so much emphasis on treating Fido well, then how come none of them are working for better quality conditions for the other creatures that provide their livelihood?

With so much attention paid to celebrity authors, it really deserves credit when a library showcases the local talent. That’s what Lesa Holstine is doing with her Read Local series of appearances at Velma Teague library in Glendale, Arizona.
Styles and topics represented in a recent event ranged from J.J.M.Czep’s pirate adventures to Kris Tualla’s Norwegian romances. Arizona provided rich material for other local writers, including of course my memoir about Marty Robbins.
Read more about it at Lesa’s blog,
Lesa’s Book Critiques http://lesasbookcritiques.blogspot.com/?spref=tw.
Let’s hope this sparks a trend.

As an independent writer with limited financial resources and a desire to take advantage of electronic publishing, a major challenge is coming up with designs for book covers. I’ve managed OK, at least in my opinion, with some short story collections I’ve put on Kindle and Smashwords. But when it came time to publish my rock bio, A Brief History Of Pink Floyd, I was unsure how to do it without running foul of copyright laws.

I didn’t want to risk any conflicts with photographers or music business entities that might result from simply using images from the Internet or from media kits — although, come to think about it, isn’t publicity what those media kits are for anyway?

In any case, I wanted to do something a bit more challenging. The visions in my head were of iconic images from Pink Floyd’s history. The cows on the Atom Heart Mother album cover. The moon, of course, from the title track of The Dark Side Of The Moon. The strange dreamscape from the soundtrack album More, with the windmill as the one defining object.

As a graphic designer, I knew I couldn’t match Storm Thorgerson who, with his company Hipgnosis, did so much to imprint the visual portrayal of Pink Floyd on the popular consciousness. But perhaps I could put together a cover that would strike a chord with fans of the group.

My initial inspiration was a combination of cows, as referenced above, and the sleeve design for the album Ummagumma. Instead of portraying the four group members, as on the original Ummagumma  sleeve, I’d use cows. As on the original, I’d re-arrange the cows for each of four pictures. So, just as guitarist Dave Gilmour moved from the front of the group in the main photo so that he was progressively further back in the other three, so the cows would move from front to back too.

For good measure I threw in an LP sleeve, substituting Syd Barrett for the Gigi soundtrack on the Ummagumma cover, and a glass (actually plastic) bottle as in the original.

In homage to the More cover, I set the cows against a background of rather parched landscape complete with a windmill, and then solarized everything.

The overall concept is undoubtedly better than the execution. As I said, I’m no Thorgerson. But hopefully my book cover will resonate with the group’s fans. And if all it does is generate puzzlement, well it won’t be the first time Floyd-related material has done that.

http://www.amazon.com/dp/B005TPFLLE

Arizona-born singer-songwriter Marty Robbins is the subject of “Some Memories – Growing Up With Marty Robbins”, a childhood memoir related in part by his sister Mamie.

A new version of the book, available through Kindle and other digital platforms, adds family photos collected by Marty’s twin sister, the late Mamie Minotto, to the text of the original print edition available from Booklocker.com

Photos of Marty and Mamie, their parents and also of Marty during his service in the Navy accompany Mamie’s reminiscences about the childhood they shared in and around Phoenix, Arizona, in the 1920s and ’30s.

The book takes its title from “Some Memories Just Won’t Die,” one of Marty’s final recordings before his death from heart failure on December 8th, 1982.

Descended from Texas and Arizona cowboys and Utah Mormons on their mother’s side and Polish stock from Michigan on their father’s, Marty and Mamie spent their early years in poverty and domestic strife. What they lacked in material wealth though, they found in the riches of their desert playground.

In anecdotes about the family’s frequent moves and squalid living conditions, Mamie recalls the feisty brother who always seemed able to laugh off setbacks. There are also glimpses of Marty’s developing interest in music, from playing harmonica with his father and uncle to his first gigs as a shy sideman in a local band.

Marty moved to Nashville in the early 1950s, but he never lost his attachment to the Southwest. Stories he heard and the wild open terrain he loved inspired him to write his international hit “El Paso” and other gunfighter ballads.

In 1960, “El Paso” won him the first of two Grammy awards in the Country and Western category. The second followed 10 years later for his composition, “My Woman, My Woman, My Wife.” Among his other 18 Country chart toppers between 1956 and 1976 were “A White Sport Coat (And A Pink Carnation),” “Devil Woman” and “El Paso City.”

In addition to his music, Marty acted in television Westerns and even wrote a short Western novel, entitled “The Small Man.” His great passion outside music and family was stock car racing, and he was nationally rated as a NASCAR driver.

Sadly, Mamie passed away before this account was completed, but the adventures she shared with her brother live on in these vivid and heartfelt descriptions. Much of the material was adapted by journalist Andrew Means from interviews given to him by Mamie. Additional material came from friends and family who knew Marty in his formative years living in Glendale, serving in the Navy during World War Two, and subsequently making a name for himself on the Phoenix entertainment scene.

The 136-page print version of the book (without photos) can be ordered from Booklocker.com, priced at $12.95.

CAFE SOCIETY

Course I remember him now.

Now you mention the camouflage gear. Hard to miss, weren’t he.

We’ve had our share of weirdoes in ’er, but he took the prize, he did.

How did it start? Give me a second. Let me think.

http://www.thestonehobo.com/?page_id=1340

It may be early to prepare for the election after this one, but that’s what I’m doing.

You see, I have a wisecrack that’s been in storage for a while now.

Recently I applied for citizenship and so, assuming I’m accepted—sometime in the new year, I’m guessing—here’s how the wisecrack will go.

“Citizenship has its drawback. Every election up until now, I tell people: ‘Don’t blame me, I can’t vote.’ Now I can’t say that anymore.”

OK, not much of a wisecrack. In fact, considering how abrasive this presidential election has been, not much of a laughing matter altogether.

Citizenship will make me an American, confirming the home I already have here. How I vote will paint me as a certain kind of American. The chances are whatever kind I am will almost surely identify me as a pariah, if not an outright enemy, to a sizeable portion of the nation. Whether blue or red, or even green, I’m going to encounter a continual stream of opinion about why my chosen color beckons towards national ruin. To some, I will almost inevitably be tarred a traitor even before I cast a vote.

As many of us recognize, it will be a gargantuan task for the political hierarchy, and for us all, to overcome these divisions. An emphasis on bedrock values is where I would begin. In a country that prizes values, what about a focus on civil debate, empathy, a hearing for the calmly-stated opinions of those with whom we disagree, an effort to put ourselves in others’ shoes? To differ is certainly part of human nature. To differ with grace and consideration stems, I think, from communal behavior and no doubt from habits learned early in life.

My path towards becoming a certain kind of American seems to me to have been too often decided for me. Let’s start with being a Baby Boomer. Who seriously believes that all people born within certain years, all Baby Boomers, or all yet-to-come Generation Zs, are or will be of the same mind? We may have aspects in common, but as many differences. Ask Hillary and Donald.

And then there are the political tags. Liberal or conservative, never the twain shall meet we’re led to assume. Yet, how many of us cross the lines on an almost daily basis. I support less government, but only to the extent that it still addresses the complexity of modern life. Jefferson, Madison and their peers laid out fine principles, but they could hardly be expected to foresee climate change and techno developments. Oh dear, I suppose that’s going to offend constitutionalists. I’ll be labeled as the kind of American who besmirches the legacy of the founding fathers.

Sometimes it’s hard to decide exactly where an issue fits on the political scale. For instance, I advocate conserving trees. Does that mean I am a liberal subscribing to the insidious threat of environmentalism, or am I conservatively supporting the most precious resource of any nation—its geography? Say what you like about history. Without geography, there’s nothing.

Then there’s defense. There’s a divisive topic I am going to be wary of discussing with people I don’t know well. I am in favor of transferring as much as practical of the world’s nuclear weapons budget to programs that actually make sense. In fact, I’d like to tune in to a political debate in which a candidate treats that as a serious priority. Once again, am I a liberal for wanting to liberate ridiculous funding or a conservative for wanting to conserve life, liberty and the pursuit happiness in a world in which those aspirations are often underfinanced?

And so, as I wait for my date with the Department of Homeland Security, I have much to consider in addition to the usual questions about whom senators represent, what the supreme law of the land is etc., etc. One thing I do know though. Once I take that oath, no one will be able to say with any credibility: “Go back to where you came from.”

Even when they don’t like my wisecracks.

Sonnets take longer to flower

So roses I trust with the power

To troth to my love

That there’s nothing above

The height my devotions now tower

 

Memoirs are all about making connections, and so I couldn’t have been more pleased to see a link on one of my Facebook pages to a blog written by Tad Callin (http://mightieracorns.blogspot.com/2015/02/famous-playmates.html).

When Marty’s twin sister Mamie reminisced for our collaborative book, Some Memories – Growing Up With Marty Robbins, she talked about a school friend named Nancy. I recorded what she related, but it never occurred to me that I’d find out any more about Nancy. After all, so often childhood friends turn out to be ships that quickly pass in the night.

So I was surprised and delighted to read the Facebook comment from Tad, who is Nancy’s grandson.

Apparently he’d come across the book and read Mamie’s anecdotes about Nancy. According to Mamie, their first meeting was not promising. Nancy began by asking Mamie what her name was, and “laughed, saying it was the funniest name she’s ever heard. I happened to agree with her, but nevertheless I started to cry. Later she became my best friend during the years we went to Peoria School.”

Like Mamie, Nancy had a brother who could be intimidating for the girls. While Marty’s teasing and practical jokes reduced Nancy to tears on more than one occasion, Mamie remembered Nancy’s brother Richard as “cruel and scary because he was a bully.” Even Marty couldn’t recover Mamie’s nickel, she said, when Richard took it from her on the school bus.

Tad notes that Richard grew up to be a Maricopa County judge. So perhaps Mamie’s verdict was a little premature.

Time once more for the Local Author Fair at Red Mountain Library, Mesa AZ. Saturday 3/28/15 starting at 1 pm. Thanks to the staff and volunteers for giving authors a showcase.

Ricky tribute photo resizeA few years ago we joined a tradition. Like a growing number in our multi-cultural community, we saw in the Mexican anniversary of La Dia de los Muertos an opportunity to remember our own dearly departed.

In our case it was our pets of yesteryear we wished to commemorate. No slight to our human ancestors was intended. It seemed, however, as if the dogs and cats formerly part of our family were in more need of sustenance in any afterlife. Or perhaps it was more to do with our own need for comfort.

Speaking for myself, I envisage my human forebears well able to take care of themselves in whatever spiritual dimension they now occupy. On the other hand, who takes care of dogs and cats in the great beyond? Is there a class of angels assigned to dog walks and endlessly throwing toys stuffed with catnip? OK, a slightly absurd notion I agree. But if you’ve spent years anticipating canine and feline needs it’s hard to let go.

So each autumn, as late October darkens desert evenings, we buy marigolds, the flower apparently favored by returning spirits, and retrieve from storage our Day of the Dead paraphernalia. Umpteen framed photos take their place on the temporary altar in our dining room, and dishes of water and treats await the summoned specters. Pride of place in recent times goes to a digital frame which conveniently recalls images of dogs dating back to childhood (which, I should say, was quite a long time ago).

This year’s observation, scheduled as usual for November 1st and 2nd, and as usual extended a few extra days, has been a particularly poignant one. Three weeks ago Ricky, our celebrated Chihuahua/poodle mix, departed this life. Animals, in our experience at least, seem to pass on quickly rather than linger. That’s probably the best way to go, but the shock and distress for their people can be hard to take.

As it happened, we were already embroiled in one critical situation when news of Ricky’s diagnosis reached us. My wife Nancy was recovering from cancer surgery on the other side of the country. One evening our neighbor phoned our temporary digs in Boston to say Ricky wasn’t his usual upbeat, assertive self.  A visit to the vet and then an ultrasound confirmed prostate cancer spread to a lymph node. Nancy and I agreed, I had to return home to care for him.

At first, Ricky wasn’t too obviously ailing. He was still up for a morning walk and I could still tempt him with morsels of favorite foods such as pasta and rice. But gradually over the next two and a half weeks he grew less inclined to eat. His wooly white body, never more than 15 pounds, turned to skin and bones. A rattle of the leash no longer prompted a rush to the door.

In a normal family context, watching a loved one of whatever species lose appetite for food and then for life has to be one of the worst experiences imaginable.

Eventually the options were reduced to what is generally considered the kindest. A traveling vet came to our house, and on my lap, in the familiar surroundings of our patio, with our other two dogs in attendance, Ricky left this world.

Considering the sorrows we hear about every day, it may seem indulgent to mourn a relatively elderly dog. But loss is uniquely personal for those directly affected. No one else suffers quite the same vacant spaces in heart and home, or fleetingly glimpses the ghost where a short time ago there was a curled up bundle of fur and the steady pulse of sleep.

Once a pet psychic told us that Ricky was not a dog who dwelled on the past. We had more than a few chuckles over that. There seemed to be truth in it all the same. Ricky had more reason than most to be affected by early traumas. We first encountered him in a rescue group. Photos from that time show him as a tangled skein, eyes invisible under bedraggled fur. Unseen in the photos were the ticks clamped to his tender parts. He had already been returned by one adoptive family because he didn’t get along with another pet. With us however, he almost instantly became a member of the family.

As cats and dogs come and eventually go in the course of our lives, we’ve tried to avoid favoritism. Each to his or her own, however, and sometimes that means one gets treated differently from others. Ricky’s forte was the outdoors. Age or infirmity or disinclination tended to restrict our other dogs. Ricky, on the other hand, was game for any trail or campground.

Even in the preparation stage, when appropriate clothes and footwear were being selected, he quickly figured out whether he was invited. If a suitcase emerged from the closet, he settled into glum inertia, knowing he wasn’t involved. Let it be a daypack and hiking boots though, and he was waiting at the garage door.

For over a decade there hasn’t been a walk or camping trip that didn’t feature Ricky. He and I followed trails for miles through the Superstition Mountains, kayaked across Canyon Lake, climbed Picketpost Mountain, to say nothing of daily walks in parks and other favorite haunts. In other words, there’s not a place I can go where I won’t be treading in his paw steps.

Dogs have a relatively short lifespan, we know. For that matter, so can loved ones of other species. We love nonetheless, knowing it can’t last forever and yet willing to pay that price. It’s worth it, no question.

Ricky, Canyon Lake edit 2

Big weekend for fans in Arizona. Plaque dedication, Glendale today; anniversary concert Paradise RV Resort, Sun City, 6 9/27