Mark D Stephens: Adventurer, writer, photographer, ambassador of the sonoran desert
Hanging With The Arizona Poet and Balladeer:
Verde Canyon Railroad and Wild West Cowboy Fun

Horeshoe bend in the verde river canyonI'm almost afraid to admit that these two things provide me and my friends an exceptionally indulgent, yet totally acceptable level of f-u-n:

1. Live music
2. Tequila

Once again Roger Clyne sings a song that is extremely related, and here's a (long) line from it:

Tell yer momma yer daddy's done quit his drinkin'
Tell yer momma yer daddy done found the Lord
Tell yer momma yer daddy done quit
his cussin,
his fightin,
his carryin' on
But don't you tell yer momma oh no
Don't you tell yer momma oh no
Don't you tell yer momma goddam, yer daddy's bored

Verde Canyon Railroad engineerWhat art. It speaks to this very matter - music and drinkin'. Even though the Verde Canyon Railroad is generally passengered by our elder folk and people with children, the good people who run the train were kind enough to let two young married couples aboard. This in spite of our proclivity to over-consuption and all around too much "carryin' on." To the Verde Canyon Railroad folks, we'd like to say thanks for your faith in the young. We had a nice time, and it seemed the other folks in our car had fun with us as well.

For instance, an older retired couple sat next to a window, and whispered to each other. The two eyed us from time to time, giggled a, I did the only thing that seemed to kae sense: I walked over to the bar, bought another micro brew, gave it to the gentleman and asked where they were from.

The old man grinned. "What's this for? You don't have to do that, son."

"Peace offering, sir. You look like you deserve it."

"Well, thank you. I'll get your next one. My name is George, and this is Claire. We're from the polka capital of the world, by the way."

Verde canyon railroad fun"George!" His wife slapped him on the hand, "That's Wisconsin. He means Wisconsin."

"Hey! The polka capital of the world, Wisconsin! We came up from Phoenix for the day. You know, I hear we might see a bald eagle or two. Should be fascinating. Do you have family out west here?" Obviously, I'd had my share of cerveza already, but I was trying to keep it together. Trying to be respectable and despite an old cowboy saying that goes,

"Never miss a good chance to shut up."

"You sure are talkative...I'll tell you that we've enjoyed over-hearing your conversations, if you don't mind me saying so. You remind me of when we were young and married. Back when I was in the service, after the war, the misses and I did a lot of travelling with my Army buddies. Of course, that was a long time ago. But I remember taking a train trip into the Alps once; kinda like this one here. We were the youngest folks on the train, except for a few children with their parents. We felt so grown up all of a sudden. I think I know how you feel being mid-twenties and newly married. I've enjoyed watching you, son."

Suddenly I felt bad for being nearly drunk.

He continued, "We've been married now for 52 years, would you believe that? I think it gets better with age." George winked at Claire. "You watch TV?"

"No, not much. I prefer doing stuff like this."

"That's good. You're happy, lively. Hell, you're a litte noisy but that's OK. How many lives do you think you'll get to live?" He pointed at me and shook my hand. "Oh, " he continued with a wink, "And don't forget to buy an old man a beer once in a while."

It reminds me of another old couple I somewhat met at lunch one day. The old bald man asked me what the time was, and I apologized that I did not have a watch. "I'd be glad to tell you, sir, but I'm afraid I don't own a watch" is what I told him. He chuckled and said, "What the hell good are you then?" his wife, of course, elbowed him with all the finesse of a classic cliche.

When you're old, it appears you have free reign over the word H-E-L-L. Like you deserve to use what ever language you can; and I presume that's what makes old age fun. Happy and old, that is. When I got up to leave the restaurant, I smiled at the old man, and he put down his fork. "Have a good day, young man." He looked right at me, over the top rim of his glasses. And I don't know why, but I felt so good when he did that.

Arizona cowboy poet and balladeerBefore the train ride, we hung out with the "Arizona Cowboy Poet and Balladeer" - that's what he called himself anyway. His guitar was out of tune - and he sang strangely low - but the "thank you troops" sticker and his "bean money" coffee can painted a beautiful picture I couldn't leave alone.

"So, you kids like The Beatles?" He asked, but started playing Revolution without an answer.

Says Barry Goldwater, "One day the Lord cut about 113,000 square miles out of heaven and let it drop to earth. And we call it Arizona."

Bienvenidos, Amigo

Verde Canyon Railroad Information
This website has all the info . . .

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Mark D. Stephens: Adventurer, Writer, Photgrapher and Ambassador of the Sonoran Desert