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.
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