December 17, 2019 – Elfrida, Arizona
Before leaving Washington, Brent and I got into a heated discussion about Elfrida, Arizona weather.
He tried to warn me. “You know, it does get cold there. Don’t think that because it’s Arizona there’s no winter.”
Cold is relative, I thought to myself. Surely it can’t be colder than Washington’s 45 degree average in the winter—not to mention the dismal rain. I searched on the internet for average winter temperatures in Elfrida and came up with low sixties for December and January. Not bad, I thought. But I overlooked one thing, and that was the nighttime temperature. It gets damn cold here at night! This morning I woke up to 29 degree weather and hid under the covers until the urge to pee forced me to leave my cozy nest. At least we have a generator now, so we can heat the bedroom at night before sleeping. Yesterday, neighbor Ed gave us his pot-bellied stove. It’s small, but it puts out a lot of heat. Now we just have to figure out how to vent it. Last night,as smoke swirled around us, I laughingly told Brent “Wouldn’t it be ironic if we set the trailer on fire after all the work we’ve done to restore it from fire damage?” He wasn’t amused.
For most people, home renovations mean mess and disorder. Their normal routines have been interrupted and they’re dealing with chaos. For us, each step is an improvement over how we lived before. The transition from tent to teeny trailer, to full size home (albeit damaged) means having the ability to stand up and cook, retreat to another room for privacy, and experience the luxury of a bathroom with a door that closes. We began this journey in chaos, so any renovations are a step up for us.
But getting the 60 foot home from here to our property will be a challenge. The last half mile of dirt roads is full of s-curves and gullies. We had a towing company check out the two potential access routes last week and their comments weren’t exactly encouraging. Without even navigating the very narrow end part of the road, they’d already pointed out several spots that would need to be re-done, not to mention widening the area where our new home will eventually rest. It would be much easier getting it into the area on the other side of the wash, the one where we initially camped out with our small trailer, but that would mean a long way to run water and power. But, as I told neighbor Ed, “Where there’s a will there’s a way,” and we’re determined to get it up there one way or another.
A few days ago, we thought we had a solution to all our problems. Ed put us in touch with the owners of an animal sanctuary not far from where the trailer sits in Elfrida. Corky and her husband Bernie started the rescue shelter for horses a year ago—they’re overwhelmed with work and short on funding. While visiting Ed one evening, our neighbor mentioned to them that we were looking for a spot to put our trailer till we could figure out how to get it up to our property. The couple were thrilled at the prospect of getting some help in return for giving us a place to stay, so Brent and I went over to check it out.
They now have fourteen horses, ponies and donkeys, each with its own horrific story of neglect and abuse. There was the mare who endured a month in her barn with no food after her owner committed suicide, another whose owners decided she’d look cute as a dog and proceeded to cut the muscles at the base of her ears, causing them to permanently droop.
Corky and Bernie gave us a tour of the property, pointing out a couple of spots that would be nice for our trailer. By the end of the day, they were already talking about making us a part of their “staff”, Brent would be in charge of the future ranch hands, and I would head the future accounting department. It all sounded great, and we got along famously. Corky treated us like old friends she’d rediscovered…”Come to church with us tomorrow”, “Join us for dinner.” We were excited about being a part of it all. Then the red flags appeared.
Just before they left neighbor Ed’s house, he happened to mention I was looking for a job as a teacher.
“She won’t have time for that,” Corky chimed in.
Really?? Did she expect us to work all day?
Then, the evening after our visit, we returned from a trip to the laundromat, pulled up to our trailer and noticed a black pickup truck parked next to it. Nobody was in sight, and immediately the worst-case scenario popped into my head—we were being robbed. I didn’t know anyone who owned a black pickup truck and we weren’t expecting visitors. Brent headed to the trailer and I exited the truck with Loki in tow, edging towards the property owner Dale’s house, just in case I needed to be rescued. I heard faint voices coming from inside the trailer, but I couldn’t make out what they were saying. After what seemed like an hour, but was probably closer to 15 minutes, Brent emerged from the trailer. “It’s Corky and what’s-his-name from the rescue shelter. Not sure what they were doing in our trailer.”
Apparently they’d shown up after dark and decided to take a tour of our future home, letting themselves in through the unlocked front door. Ok, so they have no respect for boundaries, apparently, and I remembered something else Ed had mentioned.
“I need to talk to them. They keep showing up late at my house after I’ve already gone to bed. They knock on the door until I get up and let them in.”
The following day, I got a text message from Corky:
Good morning…are you guys coming over this morning?
Hmmm. I couldn’t remember telling her we were coming over in the morning. Maybe she was expecting us to attend church with them.
Probably early afternoon, if that’s ok? We’d like to work on the trailer for a bit.
Judging by her next message, she wasn’t happy with my response.
We were hoping to get the wire strung and some of the stalls mucked out this morning.
Really? We haven’t moved over there yet, and already she’s expecting us to work. Let’s see now. The going cost in this area for storing a trailer on someone’s land is something like $200 a month, probably less if the property has no water or power, which theirs doesn’t. At $10 an hour for labor, that equates to a total of 20 hours of work per month, 10 for Brent and 10 for me. I love the idea of rescuing horses, and I don’t mind helping them out, but do we want to put ourselves in a position where we’re expected to work our ass off every day?
We didn’t make it over that afternoon. We found a great deal on a barely-used generator, but had to drive to Tucson to pick it up. As we headed back, I messaged Corky, unsure if we were still invited over for dinner. She replied:
Not at this time of day. We needed help this morning with the horses and fence.
At the risk of sounding sexist, I’ve noticed that much of the drama in my life (including here in Arizona) has been caused by women. Yes, men can be assholes too, but they’re generally straight-forward about it—they rarely talk behind your back and/or gossip. But there are plenty of good women out there too, and I’m sure that as I settle in here I’ll make some life-long friends.