People and Prospects
November 16, 2019 – Gleeson, Arizona
The highways stretch on forever in this part of Arizona, or maybe it’s the desert landscape that makes them seem endless. Dirt roads snake through mesquites and scrub oak, winding their way through history, past old, abandoned mines, through the ghost towns that once supported them. There are stories to be found here in Gleeson, in the old foundations, in the hundreds of glass shards from broken bottles that once held perfume or liquor. Among ghost town buildings, it’s the jails that are best preserved, boxy concrete structures big enough to house two or three inmates, their barred windows a tantalizing reminder of the outside world.
It’s nice to have friends and neighbors to hike with, to advise and support us, though it can be a mixed blessing. They’ve helped us hook up to water from the well, offered us coffee and food, showers and sustenance. My closest neighbor Ed suffers from macular degeneration and has lost 85% of his vision. His daughter has moved in from the Midwest to help him, but I can tell by his increased grumpiness that Ed hates depending on others to get around, understandably so. Yesterday he was angry, something I’ve never seen before in Ed, and it began with a seemingly trivial incident.
Brent and I drove home a couple of times last week after dark, and we noticed as we drove up the hill approaching our property that the power pole housing the transformer seemed to be sparking and arcing. I mentioned the fact to my friend as we were driving to our mine hike, and she immediately called the power company to inform them, though the sun had barely risen. Since Ed was the closest neighbor to the pole, she gave his name as a contact. Later, the power company showed up on his doorstep and informed him he had to pay $100 for a “false alarm.” Turns out the arcing power was simply a reflection from a tag they’d hung on the pole to prevent birds from landing. Since my friend had called before 8:00 am, they charged an additional “emergency” fee, all of which sounded grossly unfair to us since there was nothing on their recording informing us of this fact.
A big fight ensued between Ed and his daughter. I’m not sure if it was provoked by the power company incident, but I suspect that it was. The power company has agreed to drop the charges, but the effects of the argument linger and Ed is still visibly upset.
I’d recently been discussing with Brent how human interactions were the hardest part of life—trying to appease, trying to keep everyone happy, and here was the perfect example. My friend blamed us for mentioning the arcing pole that instigated everything, we blamed her for rashly calling the power company, Ed blamed all of us for getting him involved. I’ve learned through this incident the importance of keeping one’s mouth shut, ignoring snide comments meant to provoke feelings of guilt and in the process avoid making such comments myself. I’ve learned that it’s important to make others feel appreciated, even if they don’t seem to appreciate you.
We’re slowly getting settled—we’ve hooked up to the well, so we now have a source of water. The power hookup has been delayed because of the above incident, but once we can afford a box and meter, we’ll put it in. Our backup source for now (through the car battery with an inverter) is working fine, but we don’t have enough power to use our small refrigerator, so will have to keep using the ice chest, a minor inconvenience. We have a small privacy tent that houses our makeshift shower that runs with a small pond pump, but it’s getting a bit cold to heat the water right now. Temperatures in December, January and February are typically in the mid sixties during the day, but they can fall into the thirties after sunset. We’ll have to start heating water on the stove.
But there’s hope for the immediate future. Yesterday we passed by my friend’s rental property where an old mobile home sat unused next to the highway. The home she’d worked so hard to fix up had caught fire a year earlier, causing extensive smoke and water damage to one side of the trailer. We knocked on the owner’s front door to assess the situation and see if he had any use for the abandoned home.
“If you want to take it, I’ll give it to you. I’d be happy to get it off my property,” he replied, and my hopes soared. “But before you make a decision, go take a look at it. You might decide you don’t want it.”
We made our way through prickly tumbleweeds and entered the “good” side of the trailer. Apart from a bit of smoke damage it was relatively unscathed. It’s a good size, about 40 feet long, and houses a bathroom with shower, two bedrooms, a kitchen, and a living room. No doubt there’s a lot of work to be done to fix it up. Aside from the cleaning, we’ll have to dismantle and replace the ceiling and the insulation under it and remove the shelving in the kitchen to make an entrance to the adjacent bathroom and bedroom.
We made our way back to the owner Dale’s house and told him we were interested. “Take anything you need from the other half of the trailer”, he said.
That would make things a lot easier. We’d need siding to cover the back of the home, but now we could gather it from the damaged half. Ditto for the flat tire—we could take one from the other side and use it. It would cost a substantial amount of money to haul it over to our property, but we’d deal with that later. Meanwhile we could start working on making it haulable. Brent was as enthusiastic as I was about the prospect of a new home, a place with a shower, a sink to wash dishes, a place we could actually stand up and walk around in.
All we need now is money to buy the supplies. The local high school is desperate for teachers, and on Monday I’ll drop off my application for part-time work. I’m not thrilled about working again, but I do love teaching and the prospect of being a positive influence on someone’s life.