The sandstorm - it was like something out of T.E. Lawrence, or Frank Herbert, or Anthony Swafford. It blew through the Arizona desert like a malevolent djinn, tumbleweeds and garbage everywhere, the sun reduced to a vague glowing whisper, the howling winds and dust buffeting the car, rattling the occupants. Well, two of us: Lucas slept through most of it. This was outside of Yuma, a town born of the legendary Old West, built by dusty boots and Colt revolvers. What brought us there: we were driving through it on the way home after a Christmas with my parents. The sandstorm was the cherry on the cake on my day; earlier we'd driven through the mountains of northern Arizona, right through a blizzard. Four hours later, we were in a sandstorm. I marveled. The world and how it works.
Yuma had attached itself to us long before this. There's a bit of family history there. My grandmother tells us, as often as she can, that her father - or maybe it was her grandfather? This is a detail that I should remember, but the story's as good as if it were either - was Yuma County's very first sheriff. Dusty boots and a Colt revolver, and a jail cell for the drunks and pugilists and cattle rustlers. Were there cattle rustlers? I hope so. Even if there weren't, it's a fine story. Sheriff of Yuma County in the days of the Wild West. Before Yuma as it was, with horses and those swinging saloon doors, passed into legend. These days Yuma is more akin to Mos Eisley than Dodge City. It's a town of Taco Bells and truck stops, weeds pushing up through cracked blacktop, surplus stores and a Wal-Mart (of course).
She has other stories, of course. Dances at the Hotel Del, long before the Bridge or the skyline. Delivering mail down the dirt road that eventually became the Pacific Coast Highway. Living in a cabin on Palomar Mountain. Train trips. Days and nights spent in a California that had yet to become the semi-autonomous amusement park that it is today. Watching her boys and girls become men and women, and watching their boys and girls become men and women.
Yesterday, via IM. Beth: "Don't freak out. Your grandma had a heart attack." I reeled. It was a gut-punch.
There were phone conversations with my dad and my aunt, her son and daughter-in-law. She's doing ok, was the refrain. We made plans to go and visit this weekend. Meanwhile, Yuma continues to pass into history. The world and how it works.