the perils of living in the wild

RIP Members of Granite Mountain Hot Shot Crewyarnell

Let no one fool you. Arizona is the wild west. Even if you live in the population centers of Tucson, Flagstaff, or Phoenix, you chance having an encounter with something you would prefer not to run in to. A scorpion, a javelin, a bobcat, an elk, a bear…

A really big difficulty in this state is the end of May through the beginning of July. Mid-June starts monsoon season officially. It is defined as a shifting of the winds. However, as my wife points out, the monsoon rains don’t always show up at the same time. During this time, Arizona is at its driest period of the year before those rains show up. It’s also the hottest period of the year as well. So combine the fact that many people spend their summers outdoors in the more sparsely populated areas of this state (coming from both inside Arizona, outside Arizona, and even outside of the country) with the chance of a random storm cell that is producing a little bit of lightning, you have a recipe for potential disaster.

Last year’s wildfire season was not quite as active as this year’s is turning out to be. Without looking at anything official, I want to say there have probably been at least 7-8 moderate to major wildfires in the state so far. The ones that have hit the news the heaviest are two near Prescott. One is northwest of their by a few miles called the Doce Wildfire. That one was caused by humans. It burned nearly seven thousand acres. However, it is almost fully contained. The other started this weekend and was caused by a lightning strike near the small town of Yarnell. It was only 8 acres in size at first. However, it’s already grown to two thousand acres by the end of the weekend. The town of Yarnell has been evacuated and it is reported that nearly half the town is in flames. The Granite Mountain Hot Shot Crew that led a successful charge to put out the Doce fire ended up getting encircled by the Yarnell fire today and were killed. The worst wildfire tragedy in the state’s history, and the worst in the country in the past 80 years.

Tara and I have often talked about how we do enjoy Arizona. But we have fondly spoken of the possibilities of moving up to higher elevation areas. The temperatures would be cooler, and perhaps the houses would be better insulated! But it does make you think. Are you any more in danger from wildfires if you move closer to the fuel?

2011 09 23 fire smoke sunsetWhen we first got moved out to Arizona, there was already a fire burning on Pinal Peak, which is a mountain located a few miles to the south. The story was that no one was actively fighting that fire because it wasn’t threatening any structures and the terrain was too steep to have crew up there. Driving up there a year later, Tara and I could both tell you that we saw where the burned areas are, and we wouldn’t expect anyone to be able to actively fight a fire on that terrain. But it just goes to show that it can happen anywhere.

That was also the year of the Bastrop County fire in central Texas and a very major fire near Colorado Springs.

Prayers and blessings to the families of those lost today for comfort.


It’s not quite officially my wedding anniversary yet as I start to write this, but it is already in Ohio, Texas, and even New Mexico. That’s good enough for me. Four years of being married. Six years of being a couple. I couldn’t imagine anyone else side-by-side with me.

Our first date, Tara says that when I first laid eyes on her that I just had a blank stare on my face. She didn’t know what to think. What was wrong? Was her fly down? (Her words.) Two mythical creatures came in to existence that evening. The butterfly chicken and the spider pig. We laughed, we talked, and we laughed some more. A year later, we were making a trip through Texas. What I like to call “The Loop”. Hindsight? I guess you can say it was her audition tour with my family. A year later, we were getting married. We whisked off to the Dominican Republic for a week. On our way back home, we saw all the fireworks in the nighttime July 4th sky over Dallas as we came in for a landing at DFW.

The next year, we whisked away to Chicago for a long weekend. It was the paper anniversary. I gave her the paper the plane ticket was printed on. We got to visit with one of my amazing groomsmen who lives in the Chicago area. We were able to stay in an amazing historic hotel right in the heart of downtown. It was kind of fun riding the “L” between O’Hare and downtown. We ate Chicago style deep dish. It is the only time I ever stopped at one piece of pizza ever. We went to the natural history museum, ate at different booths at the annual Taste of Chicago event, had a very wonderful dinner at a Russian restaurant a block from our hotel, and even went to see Blue Man Group. Getting of the “L” to go to that show, it looked like a rough neighborhood. However, once we left the station, the neighborhood was full of revelry from people whom were still in the streets from that day’s annual gay pride parade. (By the way, go see Blue Man in Chicago. The intimate setting of that theatre is just so much more awesome than the huge auditoriums in places like Vegas could ever be.)

Year 3 brought some changes for us. We did start it by going to Ohio to visit my sister-in-law and her family. One of my nieces was having a birthday party at the end of that week, and we were invited to come hang out the whole week. On the way up there, we scored a historic Hilton in Bricktown in OKC and got to watch fireworks that they were having nightly the whole week leading up to the 4th. Oh, and there was also severe weather cells with dangerous lightning overhead, too. And we were on top of a parking garage next to the hotel. The next day we explored Joplin just 5 weeks after the devastating EF-5 tornado wiped out a portion of that community. It was a heart-wrenching site. That evening, as we started to pull in to St. Louis, I all of the sudden realized that we would be staying in downtown St. Louis (another historic Hilton, thank you Priceline Name Your Own Price) and would be able to walk a couple of blocks over to watch fireworks under the St. Louis Arch. One of the better unintentional bonuses we’ve run in to. After leaving Ohio, we went out of the way to visit the Biltmore Estate in North Carolina, stayed in some funky retro hotel in Nashville, ate Memphis BBQ on Beale Street, and explored the National Cemetery in Fort Smith, Arkansas.

At the end of that summer, I moved to Arizona for a new job. Yes, I said “I”. By the time I obtained the offer, Tara was already starting summer band and did not feel it would be right for her to leave. So she moved out there the day after Christmas. The snow had dropped so heavy between the Texas panhandle and Arizona that we didn’t know if we would make it out the day we were planning. Thank goodness they opened the roads in the eastern half of New Mexico the morning we left Lubbock. They opened the rest of the roads the next morning prior to leaving Alamogordo. Phew.

The next year, we did go up and spend several days with my parents in Ruidoso, NM. Neither of us had seen any family since Christmas, so it was great to see them and spend some time with them among the pine trees and the cooler air. This year, we will be going to downtown Phoenix and eating at a rotating restaurant that sits on the top floor of one of the downtown hotels. My awesome wife even had the idea to book it for right before the sun started setting.

Yes, my wife and I have had some enjoyable times exploring together, but she has also been the most awesome supporter for me, too. She followed me out to Arizona, living many hours away from anyone that can be called family. Even before then, when I left my last job, one that kind of beat me down at times, she supported the fact that I wanted to expand looking for other employment over a wide swath of area in the western part of the country. I went by myself because she still had a couple more commitments to where she couldn’t. But she probably was thinking as well that it would be good if I distanced myself from that job, even if just geographically. I did get a chance to spend a couple of days looking for opportunities around Portland, which was new for me. I got a chance to see a cousin graduate high school in Utah. I also got a chance to see people surfing the well overflowing its banks Colorado River. Yes, I did say surfing. Then, when I got back to Texas, our quasi-adopted feral cat had her kittens. That was the litter M is from.

My darling wife has also been by my side for some of the most extensive medical issues I have ever had. I’ve always had problems with migraine headaches and with some numbness issues in my arms and hands. They progressed a couple of months after the wedding to include pain, too. I know there have been times she has felt helpless because I’ve been miserable and she can’t do anything to make it better. I visited 7 different doctors in two years in Texas. Only one of them might have been on the right track, but would not have been the doctor to treat me. In Arizona, however, I’ve seen five in the last two years. I’ve gotten doctors who have been willing to act, and a handful of surgeries in, about 50% of my problems are cured, including the awful migraines that would lay me out from one to three days at a time. PTL Lord willing, they will be able to take care of the other 50% in the next year or less. My wife, while absolutely hating that I have to be cut open to get things fixed, knows that the Lord’s hand is coming down on these doctors and allowing me to be cured, slowly but surely. All she has ever wanted is for me to feel 100% all the time, not just part of it.

My wife has also supported my want to pursue my Master’s degree. (Why in the world am I doing that again? I’m a horrible student.) Now we will also be embarking on our latest adventure this fall with the arrival of our first child.

Tara has taken on the role of my wife willingly and with gusto. She is always there to support me (and even poke me in the ribs when necessary). I thank the Lord every day for her being in my life. She has been the perfect companion. I learn more about her every day, whether I realize it or not…and I love her more every day! Happy 4th, babydoll. Here’s to 40 more…and then some!