Saturday, September 19, 2009

Our Summer, Part 2: Arizona & a Blast from the Past



In August, Bill and I headed east on Hwy. 62 to visit my parents in Arizona. We took back roads all the way and loved the open spaces, peace and quiet. Came back the same way and just missed a giant monsoon storm. Bill took this photo of the wild signpost just off Hwy. 62 at Iron Mountain road. I took the picture of the abandoned boot along the same road--I call it "MIA."

We helped my parents pack up for their move to a lovely senior community, and in the process, ended up bringing home some family memorabilia. This included the copper tub my grandmother used to boil sheets, which inspired the poem at the end of this post. We also got reacquainted with the story of my great-grandfather, Walter Macomber, who came out to California in 1899 to work as an engineer at the mining town of Johannesburg (near Ridgecrest). He spent the next ten years in that area, working in Ballarat and Randsburg as well. My grandmother spent her growing-up years in those remote mining towns.



Great-grandfather Macomber made it into the history books for inventing a rotary engine that was successfully tested in a plane and a car. You can read more about the engine here. This photo shows him in the car (he's the fellow with the mustache). He took a cross-country trip in 1917 to demonstrate the car, and we have his photos from that trip. Several of them are included here: the first was taken on the road to Amboy, the second shows a view of "the Needles" for which Needles, CA is named, and the third shows sandstone formations in Arizona's Petrified Forest.





One other interesting note: the road he took through Arizona and New Mexico was originally surveyed in 1857 by Edward Fitzgerald Beale, a 19th century superhero (read more about his amazing life here). Beale used 25 camels as pack animals on the expedition. Descendants of these camels roamed the Southwestern deserts into the early 20th century--another amazing link between prehistory and the present!

Next week--more desert poems!

Sheets

My mother asks if I want
the old copper tub
that her mother used
to boil sheets.

Wash day was Monday.
The tub sat on the stove,
covering two burners,
its load bubbling.

Then Nana would wrap
the sheets on a stick,
lift them to the washer,
hang them on the line
behind her rose garden.

My mother says,
It was a different time.
The sheets had to be white,
and they were white.

I imagine
how fresh they smelled,
how clean they felt,
how their brightness
made the neighbors blink—

and I say yes,
though I’m not sure
where to keep
this piece of the past.

Discolored but intact,
down to the lid
and three smooth
wooden handles,

the tub ends up
by the fireplace,
ready to hold logs
for winter.