I had my first overnight guests, Ivan and Jesus, the moving men. They arrived at the gate in the middle of the night, around 12:30 a.m. All the lights were on in the singlewide in the hope it would serve as a beacon. The truck hesitated so I ran outside with a flashlight, stood at my side of the creek crossing and waved like mad. They saw me! At the top of the edge of the crossing, they hesitated again. I told them on the phone that they would have to cross the creek but they didn’t believe me until actually confronted with it. Gamely, the truck moved forward and entered the water. Slyly the creek waited until the truck was fully in the middle before grabbing hold of the front right tire and refusing to let go. The driver, Ivan, tried everything. He spun the tires and rocked the truck back and forth but the sand laughed and pulled harder. For the next ten minutes we yelled back and forth.
“Can you pull us out with your car?” Ivan shouted.
“My car is not big enough to pull a truck! What else can I do?”
“Do you have trash bags?”
“Yes.” I thought that was an odd request but then Ivan yelled for duct tape and I understood. He planned to use the bags to cover his feet so he could enter the water. I ran into the trailer, grabbed a roll of bags and tape. Back outside Jesus opened his door and I heaved the roll of bags right to him followed by the duct tape. I watched as Ivan contorted his body covering himself with plastic. Then he jumped into the water and came over to me.
“Do you have wood?” Ivan asked.
“Yes, in the shed. We’ll drive there in the Explorer.” We climbed in and drove to the shed. The moonlight cast hazy shadows, a soft light that was beautiful to me but spooked Ivan. His eyes were large as he looked around.
“This is a big place! Are there dangerous animals out here?”
“Yes, but they won’t bother us.”
We walked to the shed and I shone the flashlight inside. Ivan seemed reluctant to go in so I took the lead. He followed me and we picked out four pieces of lumber and threw them into the car. Then I drove to the Ranch house to grab another supply of trash bags and more duct tape. Ivan was wearing shorts and a thin cotton shirt. His shorts were wet and the plastic bags had done nothing to keep the water out of his shoes. He took the new bags and wrapped every part of his legs and torso taping everything tight. He looked like a kid dressed up for Halloween, alien space invader style. I drove back to the creek crossing to light up the scene with my headlights. Ivan dragged the lumber into the water and attempted to shore up the tires. The water was fast, cold and unrelenting, the sand soft and sucking.
Around 2:00 p.m. the white flag of surrender was raised, or should I say a white trash bag of surrender. Admitting defeat, the guys waded to shore and stood on the deck of the singlewide to strip off their plastic and tape. Sitting at my kitchen table Ivan made a call to dispatch to get a tow. Dispatch said it would take about 2 hours to get here.
Wiry and dark haired, Ivan spoke with a slight Russian accent and it was obvious that Jesus took his lead from him. A big, beefy kid with a round baby face, Jesus had close cropped dark hair and a soul patch. Dressed in wet shorts and t-shirts, both of them sat shivering at the table, frozen from the cold water. My maternal instincts flared. I heated up some Progresso chicken soup, made toast, peeled oranges and set a bottle of soda on the table. They ate like it was Thanksgiving and cracked jokes about “playing MacGyver.” When Jesus asked Ivan what he would do if they found themselves stuck here forever, he responded,
“I will sweem that creek!”
We all laughed and then I showed them the bunk beds in the back bedroom. They stretched out on the beds but left the light on. I went to my bedroom and did the same. Fully in mom mode, I closed my eyes but didn’t sleep, hearing every snuffle and snore from the back room. Two hours later the phone rang. I jumped to get it. The tow truck driver was at the Ranger Station and feeling lost. I gave instructions to the driver on how to find us then went back to get the boys. I knocked on the door and said their names. Ivan rolled over and Jesus was in full snore. I hesitated to get familiar with these strangers but had no choice. I entered the room and gave them each a shake. They were so deeply asleep it took ten minutes of shouting and shaking to wake them. Jesus woke confused and gave me the “where am I look” and Ivan rolled up into an even tighter ball.
“Get up! Get up! The tow is here!” Using the “mom means business” voice that my own kids knew so well. I shook them each so hard I practically rolled them off the beds.
They moved as if drugged, yawning and unwilling to get up. I kept running to the front window to see the tow truck sitting at the gate then running back to prod them to action. Jesus sat on the edge of the bed and changed his socks. Ivan asked if I had a pair of flip flops he could use.
“My flip flops are in the back of your truck. Here.”
I tossed him a pair of cheap Dearfoam brown slippers. He slipped them on like a pair of mules. Finally, they went outside. I stayed inside, stretched out on my bed wide awake. The two trucks were rumbling and with all the shouting it was so loud I thought sure the noise would carry through the canyon, wake the neighbors and start an avalanche of rocks and mud. There was a lot of splashing going on and I shivered thinking of the ice cold snow melt. It took an hour and half to pull the truck from the creek. But when it was finally out, it was on the other side with my things still in the back. Ivan crossed the creek and came back inside so I could sign paperwork.
“Take those three big tarps. You can unload my stuff on the other side and leave them under the tree. Make sure you cover them well with the tarps.”
“Okay. We are sorry to keep you up all night Kathleen.”
“It’s all right.” An unreasonable dispatch schedule was behind this, I knew it wasn’t his fault.
“Thank you Kathleen. You have been nice.” He looked down at his feet. He had stretched the slippers to fit. His shoes were soaking wet and the slippers were warm.
“They’re cheap. You can keep them.”
“Thank you again.”
I waved good-bye, closed the door and went to my bed. As I snuggled under the comforter the phone rang. The dispatcher wanted to get a status. I told him the truck was out and they were on their way. It was now 6:30 a.m. I raised my own white flag. I surrendered to the task of getting those boxes across the creek and got dressed for the day.
I walked outside to check my options. The crossing was unstable and torn up from the truck. I went downstream to see if I could find a good place to cross with the Little Mule. I was able to make my way across on foot but the banks were too full of large rocks and debris for the Little Mule. The boys had placed one tarp on the ground near the sycamore tree, piled everything on it then covered it all with the remaining two tarps held down with large rocks. The delivery included my deck chairs, my massage table, my leather bound trunk full of linens and a vacuum cleaner. These items were all securely wrapped and taped in moving blankets. Everything else was in boxes, about fifty of them.
I crossed back home, took off the boots and went inside. The crossing was too unstable for the Explorer or the Little Mule. Crossing on foot was my only option at this point. The sand was too soft to use a wheelbarrow but I wondered if I could lay boards across the creek for a path. That was foolish though. The force of the water was still strong and would wash them away. I could call someone but who to call? David was an hour and a half away and working on deadline. Pat was working. Charlie has a bad back and Jerry is 85. Kathy has her husband to care for. I decided to meditate. It came to me to try walking boxes across for now. Do as many as I could and then, when David came out, enlist his help.
I pulled the boots back on, walked downstream, crossed and picked up the first box. The water, though low in that spot, was still strong and the additional weight of a box made for slippery footing. But I made it with the first box, walked up to the back deck and tossed it up. Box one. I set a goal. Move at least ten boxes.
Back and forth, one box, sometimes two depending upon weight, the first ten went rather quickly. The sun was over the mountain now. I took off my jacket and threw it up on the deck. On the third crossing, I managed to get a bootful of icy water. With the next crossing both feet were wet. After a minute, my feet were numb to the cold so I kept going. New goal, ten more boxes and I continued. Several years back I did a charity event to raise money for cancer research. The challenge was to climb the steps inside the Sears Tower, a bit over 2 miles straight up to the top. To train for the event I went to the Swallow Cliff toboggan slides in the forest preserves near Chicago. I climbed the 203 stone steps to the top of the slides over and over. I carried a handful of pebbles and each time I reached the top of the stairs I would place a pebble on the wall. I did this until I had a pile of 25 pebbles for 25 laps. Now I counted boxes instead of pebbles and each box cemented my move to Aravaipa. After hitting 24, I decided to count the number of remaining boxes. There were 28 to go, not even halfway done. I picked up another box, crossed and set it on the deck. Then I sat down to once again consider my options.
I was tired from being up all night. I was tired from flood clean-up and piling up debris for a burn the day before. I had an open blister on my left hand, assorted bruises dotted my body and I had more scratches than I could count. I was paying the price for my inefficiency. What could I do? I looked at the place where the truck had been stuck the night before. Other than that, the crossing looked fine. All I needed to do was fill in the hole, move some sand around. I grabbed a shovel, waded in and started shoveling. The heavy wet sand did not want to cooperate but I was persistent. An hour later I decided I had made the creek road-ready. Confident, I pulled off my watery boots, changed to my third pair of dry socks for the day, slipped on hiking shoes, grabbed the keys to the Explorer and jumped in.
I pulled out the owner’s manual to see what 4WD setting would be best for sandy conditions. After changing to Low 4WD I drove into the creek. The Explorer slipped and slid which scared me. I gave it gas and the tires bit. I made it across. I felt triumphant! I loaded up the Explorer with boxes, careful not to make it too heavy and plunged back into the creek. Storm clouds were rolling in and it began to lightly rain, an incentive to keep going. I managed to get everything across with the exception of the leather trunk full of linens, much too heavy to lift by myself. It would have to wait until the cavalry arrived whoever that might be. I wrapped it up with the tarps to protect it from the weather.
That evening the rain came straight down in buckets but I slept like the dead, or more accurately like Ivan and Jesus. The next morning the creek was roaring and impassable. Again. The rain continued through the morning. Jerry called and I recounted the story of the moving truck.
“Why didn’t you call me?” He asked.
“Jerry, it happened at two in the morning!” I replied.
He laughed as I told him about Ivan and Jesus and their alien attire.
“That’s a good story and certainly a new one for the books!” He said.
“The creek is up again this morning, Jerry. I’m stuck again.”
“It will go down quickly. Don’t worry.” He said.
I thanked him for the call. Two minutes later, the phone rang again, this time it was Pat.
“We’re in for another flood, a bigger one. The warm weather at night in combination with the rain is melting the mountain snow quickly. The water is high at Klondyke above us and the ground is saturated. Are you okay?” He asked. I launched into my story of the movers.
“I had no idea! I was out for the day and missed the whole thing! I wish I had been there.”
“I’m surprised you didn’t hear the tow truck, it was so loud I thought the vibrations would start a rockslide.”
Pat offered to get my trunk for me and store it safely for me out of the weather until I was able to get it. I was relieved! Pat asked about the supplies I had on hand to ride out a second flood. He also walked me through the procedures for safe drinking water in case I lost power and ran out of water. I have come to the conclusion that everyone needs a Pat the Ranger in their life.
I cancelled all the Ranch events for the weekend and left David a message. I called Jane and Steve to update them on the situation. Kathy Larsen called. She heard from Jerry that I had a story to tell and we laughed on the phone for a good half hour.
I feel so blessed. The people here have done more than welcome me; they have embraced me as a neighbor and a friend. When I first came to Aravaipa over a year ago on retreat, a Native American spirit guide came to me. Running Water blessed me in the creek then and she is blessing me now. I am awash in abundance.
The rainy weather forced me to stay inside and unpack. I do not know what tomorrow will bring. But I am ready for it.