Whew! (2nd posting)

It’s Tuesday morning. I’m on a flight from Phoenix back home to the Seattle area, and I think saying I’m tired is a bit of an understatement.

On Thursday I flew into Phoenix and had lunch with Jacque Clothier, someone for whom I babysat back when I was still in high school. We’ve stayed in touch all these years, but this was the first time we had met in person in a very long time.

On Friday my wonderful Media Escort, Nancy Stuebe, drove me from Phoenix first to Saddlebrooke where I spoke to a luncheon of some 300 folks, then on to Tucson for the Authors Banquet which is the kickoff event for the Tucson Festival of Books.

On Saturday I was on a panel with Thomas Perry and Craig Johnson. I love being on stage with those guys. We always have fun, and I hope the people seated in the ball rooms do, too. By the way, this year they had installed a ramp leading up to the podium, something for which I was very grateful and I’ll bet Thomas Perry was, too. He’s been to all 15 festivals right along with me. Unfortunately, last year when he was awarded the TFOB Founders’ award, he and his wife came down with Covid and were unable to attend.

On Sunday I did two panels. One of those was with a lady named Donna Rowell, an Oklahoma born Kiowa storyteller. We share a mutual respect for Native American legends and folklore. I have a feeling we’ll be encountering one another again in the future.

Staying at the Arizona Inn is always a treat. The grounds are immaculate, and I love the flower beds. They’re alive with all kinds of color, and I particularly like the snap dragons. When my folks were getting married in 1936, my mother asked my father what kind of flowers he would like in her bouquet. The only flower on the tip of his tongue was snap dragons, so that’s what was in her bridal bouquet. So seeing snap dragons always reminds me of Norman and Evie Busk.

Both Saturday and Sunday I was able to have dinners with friends and relations, but then came Monday. Bisbee is a 100 miles from Tucson, so we were up and out early. We ran into traffic issues. Highway 80 from Benson to Bisbee is a two-lane road. In St. David, where they are replacing the bridge over the San Pedro River, we had a ten minute wait for our turn on the one-way bridge alternative. Then at the top of the Divide outside Bisbee (Yes, that would be the Continental Divide!) they were working on the Mule Mountain Tunnel—another time when two lanes were pinched down to one with another long wait.

Main Street in Bisbee follows the winding path of Tombstone Canyon. It is definitely two lanes, but due to the fire in Old Bisbee a couple of weeks ago, we were detoured from the Iron Man statue, up and over High School Hill, until we emerged down by the Post Office. High School Hill is pretty much a one and a half lane street, built into the edge of a steep hillside. In other words, it’s not necessarily for the for the faint of heart.

The high point of my week was the event in the auditorium at the “New” Bisbee High School which is now well over sixty years old as opposed to the “Old” Bisbee High School in Upper Bisbee. The last time I set foot in the auditorium was for my brother Jim’s funeral in 2000. The auditorium holds 800 people, and for his funeral it was standing room only. Jim had been a fire fighter in Bisbee for years, and remembering the Fallen Officer Memorial the town gave him still warms my heart. There were still cars in the high school parking lot when the head of the funeral procession reached Evergreen Cemetery two miles away. Afterwards, everyone went to the fire house to eat. It was a true loaves and fishes moment. I have no idea where all the food came from, but no one went away hungry.

Oh, wait. That was a digression, but my regular readers are used to those.

There were 800 students in attendance when I was at Bisbee High. Now there are less than 400, so they bussed in a group of 8th graders from the Junior High at Lowell School

My fans—I’m not sure of the number—showed up early and were seated front and center. The kids were in assigned seating farther back. I’d say the room was two-thirds full.

In advance of the event, I had worried if what I had to say would be of any interest to this generation of kids, but they were attentive, polite, and engaged. I talked about my experiences while attending Bisbee High School and told them exactly what I had hoped to say—that just because they’re growing up in a former mining town in the West doesn’t mean they can’t go out into the world and live their dream. And when the talk was over and my somewhat geriatric fans in the front rows—hence forth regarded as TSs (Two Spacers see previous blog) stood up and gave me a standing ovation, the kids in the back did the same thing.

During the signing afterwards, I talked to people who went to school with one set of Busk kids or another. I met a woman I used to baby sit. I had a chance to talk with the guy who served as an usher at my first wedding. All in all, I felt totally at home.

After that, once again with Nancy at the wheel, we drove back to Tucson where I did a second hour long talk followed by a signing at the Stone Mountain Community Center in Oro Valley. The wonderful thing about that event was that I got to meet a whole bunch of people who had never heard of me. Finding a batch of new readers is like finding a vein of gold because, as people have told me for years now, reading my books is like eating Fritos—you can’t read just one.

After that it was another two hour drive from Tucson to Phoenix. That was a three hundred mile day with more than six hours spent in the car. Did I get my 10,000 steps? You’d better betcha! I did it by marching in place in the car, but boy howdy! Today my thighs are killing me. Maybe that wasn’t such a good idea, but it’s no wonder that I’m feeling rode hard and put up wet!

I earned every bit of it.

2 thoughts on “Whew! (2nd posting)

  1. Whew if right! It sounds like it filled your heart thought. Coupeville is going to be a much smaller venue I’m afraid, but maybe we can make up for it by zooming and maybe having a second seating. We’re all sure exciting about having you here on April 21st on Whidbey Island.

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