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Morning in Prescott

It’s another beautiful morning in Prescott, Arizona, the mile-high town in the mountains that is my home. It’s a school day, so I’m up early. Who am I kidding, I would be up early, anyway, because the dogs have some kind of internal Greenwich Mountain Time atomic clock that causes them to wake me – no one else, just me – up at 6:30 every day. On a weekend, if I’m lucky, I can go back to sleep.

The day starts, as always, with the delightful and incredibly satisfying sound of a lightsaber battle. There are no Jedi here (these aren’t the droids you’re looking for, either)… No, it’s hummingbirds at our feeders.  When hummingbirds zoom past you with their little wings flapping as fast as they can, they make a buzzing sound. It used to scare me to death: I thought it was a giant bee coming to take me away. Now, I’m used to it, and it just makes me happy.   Plus, I think about Obi Wan and Anakin before he went over to the dark side.

Josh and I have been doing a lot better with our time management in the mornings, and we are in the car at 7:40, which gives us a comfortable margin of time to get to Mile High Middle School.

Josh in the car, check.

Backpack, check.

Water bottle, check.

Molly the Chocolate Lab at her post in the back seat, check.

Sunglasses deployed. We’re cleared for takeoff.

I am backing out of the garage and what do I see in my rear view mirror? It’s the unmistakable and surreal image of a mountain lion coming out of the woods on one side of the driveway and crossing into the woods on the other side.   Our house backs up to Willow Creek, which is a real wildlife magnet.

But this is a big freaking zoo animal in my back yard. Several inches taller than Molly, and at least a foot longer. Slightly more golden than Stanley, our mighty, buff-colored Cocker Spaniel. Muscular shoulders and haunches. Long, sinuous tail, not unlike that of Shere Khan in the “Jungle Book” movie (but probably without the cultured English accent of George Sanders). We haven’t seen any coyotes or javelinas lately; this large dude is probably the reason why.

“Oh, my God!” I shout. This part is not actually a regular feature of a morning in Prescott.

This is the second time I have seen a mountain lion in our driveway. The first one I saw a couple years ago, and it was at about the same time – except then I had just come home from taking Josh to school. I had just gotten out of the car and just let Molly out and thank goodness, Molly was facing me. That mountain lion was even longer than the one I saw today, and it looked right at me as it crossed the driveway – about 50 feet away from us – and went back into the woods. Molly never saw it, thank God.

I am not digging this up-close and personal look at predators.

But we’ve got to get to school, so off we go.

We make it onto Williamson Valley Road and then turn onto Iron Springs, and we’re back in our routine. There she is, the lady who’s always walking down the sidewalk as we’re going to school. She has graying, reddish hair, a light blue jacket – when it’s cold, she upgrades to a thicker black jacket – and she’s always smoking. I worry about that.

This is a small town, so there are some regulars I see fairly often. I’ve talked to a couple of them before.

There’s Mark, who used to sit in his wheelchair, wearing his big cowboy hat, at the corner of Miller Valley and Fair Street and collect money for a house. I stopped a couple times and talked to him. A local group was going to help him move into a house, but he needed to come up with some money first, he told me. A couple weeks later, he said that it was all up in the air now, because there was a judgment against him in Nebraska. I didn’t know what that meant, but he was still out there collecting money, so I gave him a couple bucks. Then I didn’t see him for a while, and when I was at Rehab Fry’s, across the street from where Mark usually sits, the cashier told me that he had a stroke and was down in Phoenix. Mark was not there again today.

There’s another lady, who has a lot of gray hair that may be in dreadlocks, and she wears it up on top of her head in a distinctive dome shape. I haven’t talked to her, but Josh has, when we were with his youth group from Prescott United Methodist Church at the Granite Creek Hunger Potluck, which has served up a big free meal every Saturday morning since 1998.   It’s at Granite Creek Park on Saturday mornings if you ever want to come. I think she’s doing okay.

There’s an older gentleman who walks around downtown very slowly. I usually see him on Gurley Street. I have talked to him before, but I don’t know his name. He wears a Korean War veteran hat, and he pushes a walker. There he is, coming by the Leap of Faith Tattoo shop.

Not seen today – actually, come to think of it, I haven’t seen him for a while – is the Dark Lord. I’m not kidding, that’s his name.   I often see him later in the day, walking along Miller Valley road, wearing wizard’s robes. Sometimes with a skin-tight red dress underneath. He has long, dark hair and often smokes. He is very striking. One day, I thought, what the heck, I’m going to Google him, so I looked up “man, wizard’s robes, Prescott,” and found a news story featuring coverage of a previous arrest; not his finest moment.

We make it school – once again, not late! Yay!

On the way home, I stop at Rehab Fry’s to get gas. Fry’s is our version of Kroger, and this one is in a neighborhood that has more than its share of drug rehab homes; I like this store a lot. It has a great produce section.

There is a white rehab van at the next pump. We have all these drug rehab group homes in Prescott, for some reason, although there are far fewer now than there used to be, because the city has finally started putting some regulations in place. This is good, because some of those homes were not helping anybody.

I’m not sure how much helping was happening with the guys next to me. This one heavily tattooed guy was talking very loudly to another heavily tattooed guy about what a player he was. In fact, he put it right out there: “You know I’m a player.” Then he added, “Nobody at treatment was into gambling until I got here.”

Yes, just another morning in Prescott, my quirky, beautiful home town.  I feel like Mr. Rogers.  I may not have Henrietta Pussycat, King Friday, or Mr. McFeely of Speedy Delivery, but I’ve got mountain lions, Jedi hummingbirds, players, and a bunch of interesting people.

One more thing: When I got home, I bought two locally made calendars, one for 2017 (even though it’s half over) and one for 2018, from The Whimsical Woodsman. The money goes to a good cause, and the pictures are hilarious. Coy pinup “Dudeoir” (rhymes with boudoir) shots of big, burly lumberjacks who clearly don’t take themselves too seriously, all done to raise money for Books to the Rescue, a Prescott charity that gives books and other items to first responders, so they can help kids in crisis situations. Now, I know what you may be thinking: “I don’t have enough pictures of large, scantily dressed woodsmen.” Today’s your lucky day!

P.S.  I took the picture of the Leap of Faith Tattoo shop from my car!  I was driving by and saw the truck parked out front and thought it was too good to miss.

©Janet Farrar Worthington

 

 

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Meadery Madness

Jeff and Jennifer Herbert chose Prescott because they love this small town in the Arizona mountains.  Jeff is a firefighter who works 56 hours a week in Phoenix, commuting 200 miles every three days. Jen, a talented teacher and endurance equestrian, among other pursuits, does a lot of work in Phoenix, too, but they live here, with their two young sons and two huge black Labs.  It’s a good place to call home.

Thanks to the Herberts, Prescott is on the map for another reason:  Mead.  The drink of Vikings, the nectar of ancient kings.  Jeff Herbert is an artisan mead maker.  Mead is his passion.  It doesn’t take much to get him started talking about it, because he loves it — the art of it, the history.  He loves the idea that you can take things like vanilla, berries, orange juice, mesquite, peach, coriander, Spanish saffron, galena hops, blue agave nectar, and add them to wild-yeast fermented, native Arizona honey and age them in oak barrels and test them and experiment and let nature work its magic, and add a lot of love and tending, and craft a beverage so special that the act of drinking it is an experience in itself.  Tireless and dedicated, Jeff started making hisphoto 13 Superstition Mead, named after Arizona’s Superstition Mountains.  They took their small batches of mead to dozens of tastings and wine festivals and started winning awards.  Seven of the top 50 meads in the world, as ranked on ratebeer.com, are theirs.  Jeff is the editor of the journal, American Mead Maker.  Superstition Mead was even featured on an episode of Two and a Half Men last month.

For years, they wanted to open a brewery and tasting room of their own.  They found the perfect place, right in the heart of Prescott’s lovely downtown.  It was a ruin of a building, 110 years old, in bad shape, but the Herberts had vision, and faith in the owner.  The owner took a lot longer than expected to fix up the place, but the Herberts hung in there, missing some opportunities to host special events and parties because the building wasn’t ready yet.  In the meantime, they poured their vision into creating the perfect wine cellar.   Jen found an old barn and took that gorgeous wood and sanded it for days, and it became paneling on the wall.  They refurbished tables and chairs they got from an old church and made them elegant again.  They believed, and they waited, and from the day the Meadery opened, it has been packed.  On busy weekends, when the tourists come up from Phoenix and over from California, the Meadery is hopping.  It’s the place to be.  Martha Stewart would call it one of life’s “good things.”

You would think that the Meadery’s landlord would be grateful to the Herberts for making his building a Prescott destination.   I would think that.  I would not expect, instead, that the landlord would do something that not only seems like a slap in the face, but like something that could really hurt their business.  It’s not just biting the hand that has fed you; it’s taking a dump on it, if you’ll pardon the expression.  The Meadery is in the basement of 120 W. Gurley Street.  To get to it, you have to go through an open market that sells things like gourmet sauces.   The owner has applied to get a liquor license so that he can turn the main floor and upstairs into a bar.  So to get to the Meadery, you would have to walk through another bar.  You couldn’t buy any bottles of mead — as you can now — to take home, because according to state law, you’re not allowed to “carry alcohol into another licensed premise.”  The Herberts are very worried, and rightfully so, that this will put them and their nine employees out of business.  I’m no lawyer, so it wouldn’t do me any good to bandy about phrases like “restriction of trade,” but this seems pretty crummy to me.

I’m writing about it because this is a small town, where people look out for each other.  Superstition Meadery deserves better than this, and so do the Herberts.

This post and all blog content Ⓒ Copyright Janet Farrar Worthington.

 

Damn Fine Hot Dogs

So, you have a dream, and it’s not going well.  You not only feel like you’re up that special creek without a paddle, there’s a hole in the boat.  And you can’t swim, and you just saw an alligator.  And you’re having chest pain!  What do you do?

Well, if you’re in the little mountain town of Prescott, Arizona, and your dream is to have your own small restaurant, maybe you try Kickstarter.  You’re not being greedy — you just need $15,000.  That’s not that much, is it?  Just a few pledges.  Instead, you got zero pledges.  Then, the city starts giving you grief, zoning you as a church, delaying permits.  You have put everything you have into this dream.  You’ve got the place, the know-how, a great idea, people hired, and you’re just waiting on the city.  You’re paying electricity and water and rent and bringing in no income.  So you sell your car, and some other stuff.  Through stubbornness, desperation, faith in your dream, and no small amount of true grit, you make it happen.  All because you believed in your dream. What do you do next?

You open up, and start making hot dogs from scratch. Curing your own bacon. Making your own mustard — three kinds.  Making your own buns, and incredibly good cookies.  And South Carolina mustard-based, pulled pork barbecue!  Then, in your first days of business, you charge a dollar extra for your cookies, and you don’t take a cent of it — that money goes into a jar for Wounded Warriors, because you’re that kind of person.  Three people, actually.

I am here to tell you that the dream was worth believing in.  And the potato salad not only has fresh dill, it has a lot of their home-cured bacon.  The Chicago dog is so authentic, you can almost hear Harry Caray singing “Take Me Out to the Ballgame.”  God rest his soul.

The restaurant is named “Nastee Dogs,” and it’s at 232 S. Montezuma Street, a block off the downtown square.  The only thing I’d change about this place is the name.  It should be “Damn Fine Hot Dogs.”

Rudyard Kipling wrote a poem for his son called “If.”  This is part of it:  “IF you can keep your head when all about you
Are losing theirs and blaming it on you,
If you can trust yourself when all men doubt you,
But make allowance for their doubting too;
If you can wait and not be tired by waiting,
Or being lied about, don’t deal in lies,
Or being hated, don’t give way to hating,
And yet don’t look too good, nor talk too wise…

Yours is the Earth, and everything that’s in it.”

Godspeed, Nastee Dogs.

 

This post and all blog content Ⓒ Copyright Janet Farrar Worthington.