Tabatha Deans

Bringing Integrity to the Written Word

This morning began with all of us donning our cleanest dirty clothes and heading to the front of the campground for Sunday services. The way was marked by a line of rocks that directed us to the church service area, which we knew was the right place by the RV parked in front with a large cross plastered along the front of the grill. We packed our own camp chairs and joined the others under the small covered pavillion, where the pastor waited for us wearing jeans, boots, a cowboy hat and a black leather vest with a cross on the back of it. Everyone gathered in their camp chairs, tapping their toes to the music that played in the open air of the great outdoors. The pastor was an older gentleman who was not really polished in his sermon, joined by his jolly wife in jeans, boots and a Jesus Loves Us sweatshirt. We sang and everyone praised the lord for their blessings in life, before lining up to take communion. The desert dwellers are masters of utilizing all of their resources, and as they progressed through the line each one took a small strip of pita bread and dipped it into the goblet of grape juice, before returning to their chairs to say their prayers. Several stood around and visited after the service, sharing stories of faith, miracles and salvation.

We returned to camp to eat lunch and visit with the neighbors, before heading to town for Sunday’s activity—karaoke at the Quartzite Yacht Club. The club was full of people, all over 60, who gathered to share a glass of wine and/or beer and listen to each other sing. Apparently its the only activity in town on Sunday, and dozens of singers lined up to have their chance at sharing their favorite songs. We were gathered with friends of my parents from last year, joined by two new couples they just met this year. Although they have nothing in common other than their age, the conversation flowed easily, and as the canadian put it, they were all “pissed” by the time they left each other and returned to their camps for dinner. I watched as they chatted and sized each other up in a polite manner, but sooner or later each conversation turned to the subject of God, at which point the bonding was cemented.

We prepared dinner and cleaned up the camp area, before sitting down to enjoy a dinner of macaroni and cheese and chicken nuggets, and waiting for the evening’s activities to begin. Each night after dinner is done and the dishes are washed, we sit in the camp chairs outside in the dark and wait for the kit foxes to come devour the leftovers we leave in the bushes out front. We’re not really supposed to feed the wildlife, but after scattering the remains in the desert, we sit with out flashlights and wait for the critters to appear. It doesn’t take long of waiting before the small desert foxes come sneaking around the camper, then eating the treats we’ve left out for them. Last night they about five feet away from me, eating the food and looking at me, wondering if I was going to hurt them, but too hungry to not trust that I wouldn’t. After watching several foxes come and go for the food, one of the foxes stopped and perked up his ears, listening to the wilderness around him. He quickly ran off into the bushes, and out of the bushes came a coyote. Not much larger than the foxes, but apparently a threat to the foxes. The coyote came to the edge of the light of our camp, and took his time eating the remains the foxes hadn’t devoured. I watched as the coyote enjoyed his meal, each of us regarding the other and maintaining a respectful distance from each other. He was close enough I was tempted to reach out and touch him, but I resisted the urge and just watched him until he had his fill…

I should have known it would be a rough day in the desert when I returned from my morning jog, finished my PTA bath and realized I was out of clean underwear. Our next laundry day is still two days away and although I’m wearing my cleanest dirty clothes for the third time, I thought I still had clean underwear. Much to my horror, as I rooted around in the small closet I’ve been alloted for my belongings, there were none. There was however my swimming suit, which thankfully was a two piece, so I made do with wearing my swimming suit bottoms. Mom kicked me down a salmon colored tank top, which is the standard issue with all of the ladies down here, but it was clean so I accepted the offer and after donning my swimming suit bottoms and the salmon colored top, along with my military green shorts that by this time are so worn and stretched out they sag to my knees, revealing my delightful bikini bottoms, I washed my face and decided since it was a travel day it merited putting on some mascara and lipstick. A glance in the mirror revealed that my eyebrows are wildly overgrown and starting to match the wild eyebrows of the senior men down here. Driven by the fact that after we moved camp today we would be in Yuma where I not longer had to endure a PTA bath, but merely the horrors of a public shower, I pulled my floppy hat down on my head and we started out.

As it turns out, our new home is actually on the edge of the Yuma Proving Grounds, a military installation where they test all manner of military gadgets, weapons and procedures. But they had showers with running, hot water, so after we arrived and set up camp we went to tour the area. We hit the gas station on base and got water and milk, then drove to the small lake to enjoy an afternoon beer. I was sitting at the picnic table jotting in my book of life, and Mom and Dad went to the back of the truck to retrieve the beers out of the cooler. They stood staring into the cooler, perplexed, and when I inquired as to the problem they informed me that we only had two beers left. A nightly couple of beers has become our routine, and as much as retirees love their routines, for a few minutes we didn’t know what to do. But, since my parents really love me, they said I could have the last two beers, and proceeded to pour themselves a glass of wine. We returned to the picnic table just as two beautiful white geese emerged from the water and headed our way, looking for a free handout of food. I watched as they walked toward us, and cooed at them as they came closer. Then they proceeded to walk right up to me and begin pecking at my feet. I jumped up on the bench to escape their advances, and they craned their necks higher to continue nipping at my toes. Soon I was standing on top of the picnic table, trying not to spill the last of the precious beers, and they continued to crane their necks and try to bite my toes.

Dad managed to fend them off by tossing dog food out to divert their attention while we ran back to the truck. Safely back inside, and knowing that a public shower was in my near future, we decided that we really needed our nightly beer. Since it didn’t seem right to indian wrestle my parents for the last beer, we came to the conlcusion that we needed to head back to the military base to buy at least a six pack to get us through the nightly routine. The guard on duty recognized us from being there just more than an hour before, and waved us on through without delaying us to check our ID’s. Mom and I sat in the truck and sent Dad in to get the beer, and waited anxiously as several other patrons went into the station and returned. Soon Dad came out of the gas station, empty handed and red-faced, and hopped in the truck. Much like a teenager who had been caught trying to score booze without a license, he informed us that they turned him down to buy beer because he didn’t have a military ID. We hung our heads like scolded teenagers, and decided to hit the store at the RV resort park, where we knew we would pay more, but we were hell bent on getting our beer. We pulled up to the guard shack at the RV resort, and were informed that the store closed at 4 p.m., it was already 4:44. Damn. No beer in our future, and I still had to endure a public shower. But thankfully, because they’re my parents and love me, I got to relax at camp and finish the last of the beer…I always knew they loved me best.

The past two days have been a whirlwind of activity, beginning with a tour of the Military Museum at Yuma Proving Grounds. It sickened me to be reminded that many wars resulting in the death of tens of thousands of people were started for religious or greedy reasons. Walking through the remnants of the past were depressing, but made me feel lucky for the life that I lead now. We also toured the Yuma Territorial prison, where again I was reminded of the atrocities of our past; people were imprisoned in horrible conditions for crimes such as falling in love with someone. We visited a tiny roadside chapel that was erected by a poor, hard working farmer in honor of his beloved wife, then drove on to see migrant worker bent over picking cauliflower in the fields. (Which we snuck back after dark to pick a head for ourselves.) Then we were on to Los Algodones, Mexico, where Mom haggled the Mexicans until they were nearly in tears, then we enjoyed a beer and margarita before returning back across the border to camp.

Now I sit in my designated camp chair, under the stars, enjoying a beer and listening to a moving Mexican rendition of “The Sound of Silence,” with a few strands of colored Christmas lights shining from our little camp trailer as we wait for the local coyote to come eat the leftover we have left for him. There has been a ring around the moon for the past two nights, not a little one just around the moon itself, but a large one that encircles the entire moon. Circling the ring around the moon at any given time is a continuous circle of military airplanes, executing their nighttime training maneuvers, leaving in their wake a trail of flashing lights and the eerie sound of jets in the dark sky.

Yesterday we drove past Yuma to the All American Canal, a moat of sorts that is supposed to dissuade immigrants from crossing over the border from Mexico to the U.S. We traveled down a deserted dirt road to the canal itself, and in my defense, the barbed wire fence on either side simply said “road closed to motorized traffic.” We stopped at the canal and watched as the setting sun glistened off the water of independence, and I walked to the bottom and washed my hands in the forbidden waters. Shortly after we arrived the sound of a helicopter’s blades whirling in the distance was audible, and it seemed to be getting closer. As I watched the military copter fly overhead, I reasoned with myself that I was being paranoid that they would be watching little ol’ me walking along the canal. I took a few pictures and as we prepared to return back up the dirt road, I traipsed to the top of a hill to get a photo of the canal and the wall that separated us from those on the other side seeking freedome. No sooner did I reach the top of the hill than I saw a border patrol truck speeding up the dirt road toward me. He was traveling at a high rate of speed, and again, I thought it was my own paranoia that believed he was there for me. Then he suddenly stopped his truck directly across the canal from me, and I could see him pull out his binoculars to check me out. It was obvious at that point that he was indeed there for the sole purpose of watching me. In a panic, I started down the hill, then thought perhaps I would look guilty if I hurried out of his way quickly. So, in an attempt to convey that I was simply a stupid tourist, I slowed down my pace and stopped to look over the horizon, hoping he would realize I was simply looking for a photo op. He watched me as I scaled back down the side of the hill and quickly jumped into the truck. I’m not sure what penalties a U.S. Border Patrol officer could impose against one of his own people, but given the desolation of the area we were in, I did not want to find out.

Before I began this journey, I had only dealing with senior citizens within the confines of a city, which included mostly sitting in their homes daily, occasionally venturing out for Bingo, awaiting their terrible future in a nursing home. I was sorely mislead…Since I’ve been here the seniors have led me on daily adventures that rival any I’ve ever experienced before, including karaoke, crossing the border for some spirited haggling and shopping, and declaring their vibrancy and independence as American people. The only rule that governs here, (where they can live for a mere 180 dollars for seven months out of the year) is common courtesy, do as you please, and if you have something to spare you share. I’m greeted on my morning jogs with waves, nods and the occasional sniffing of walking dogs. Everyone lives in harmony, no rules needed, no regulations enforced…

When I first arrived here at YPG, my initial orientation included identifying which trailers had CB antennaes erected from them. “Why” I asked, do I need to know this. Because that is the only communication we have with the outside world, in case of an emergency, I was told. The local military base has a deluxe emergency response system, which includes a declaration of an emergency over the airwaves, followed by an intricate, and effective process of turning on headlights, cars caravaning and flashing their headlights, and eventually a military helicopter landing nearby to tend to whatever emergency there may be. There’s a newsletter called the Boondocks Times, which comes out once a week and informs campers of the local goings on in the area. It also includes a calendar of events.

As we sat in camp last night, looking at the stars and waiting for coyote, a caravan of dozens of cars began driving through camp. We could see them coming, and anxiously and curiously stepped outside to see what the excitement was all about. Dozens of cars were coming by, and we didn’t know what the occasion was. I was directed to run into the camper and get the calendar. Sure enough it was listed in the newsletter, it was a full moon dogburn. The newsletter stated to meet at the sewer dump at six, and in honor of the full moon the campers were following each other to the airport (meaning the model plane airport,) to build a big fire and roast hot dogs. Not to be confused with a regular burn, which just means everyone gathers around a fire to socialize.

Tonight’s agenda listed a parade of lights in honor of the Christmas holiday, again with the instructions to meet at the dump at 6 p.m. I pictured cars gathering to drive through the campground and look at Christmas lights. Much to my surprise, cars began gathering at the dump at 6 p.m., but rather than planning to drive around and look at lights, the cars and trucks themselves were actually decorated with lights. Strands of colored lights were draped across the back of trucks, and some of them sported Christmas trees, snowmen and Santa Clauses on top of their vehicles; all of which were lit up. The caravan of decorated vehicles drove through the campground, giving us a moving view of Christmas decorations. We gathered outside to watch as they drove by, discussing how they actually powered the many lights that adorned their vehicles…

December 24, 2010 - Posted by | Uncategorized

1 Comment »

  1. Very cool! I really enjoy reading your weblog! I wonder how the seniors feel spending Christmas down there after so many years spent watching their children open presents and the smiles on their faces. Now they are in the desert where they have one another for support, likely because their children are too busy watching their children opent Christmas presents to spend Christmas with them. I like your writing. It makes me beleive all is happiness and fun down there, not a lot of sitting around missing family.

    Comment by Timmy | December 29, 2010 | Reply

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