Highwy 82 goes west toward Arizona and passes through a tiny place called High Rolls. This is where the cherry and apple trees are, and you can pick your own and I will be painting at least one of the trees covered in fruit... It is a lovely little valley and I wanted to live there in a trailer with one of my best friends from school, who taught me how to use a Ouija Board during a sleepover. We scared ourselves silly with it.
But on to High Rolls. It is rocky and fragrant with pinon trees. My favorite view is from the tiny Catholic church or maybe the tiny school, which only has two kindergarten teachers. Yes, there is a spirit body, but also a bear, a flying saucer, and a dust devil. For those of you unfamiliar with the Southwest US, a dust devil is a mini tornado, harmless but fun to spot as you drive through the desert. When we were children we liked to chase them and stand in them. Our mothers were not so happy; we would come home with a fine layer of dirt covering every inch of our bodies. Told to leave our flipflops at the door, we had to go straight to the bathroom and shower. But so what? It was fun.
As to bears. The people who live up here all the time make a great to do about bears. I have seen footprints but no bears. This is the home of Smokey the Bear, a small black bear cub found in a tree during a forest fire. He is the symbol of our National Parks Fire Prevention, and has been for decades. As iconic as he is, I bring in the bird feeders every evening to keep the raccoons and bears from coming around. (As you read in the previous entry, sometimes I forget.) But we also have some rarer, small light brown bears. When I told my dad I was coming up here to work, he warned me that he had gone on the porch to bring in something and come face to face with a bear one morning. They both chose to go back where they had come from as fast as they could. By the time my dad got his camera, the bear was long gone. If you ever do go camping in the US, you really do have to understand this is not like Italy, where they have eaten all their wildlife in the name of exotic quisine. You must hang your food high in a tree at least 100 feet away from your camp, or you will get into serious trouble. In California the bears know the food is in your vehicle, and just pull the door off your car to get to the cooler, whether they can see it or not!
My brother, to become an Eagle Scout, had to supervise a bunch of cubscouts for three nights with his best friend. When they finally got the little boys to sleep, they turned in to their tent, exhausted. In the middle of the night, my brother woke up to hear a bear snuffling at the front of their tent. He poked his friend,who was a notorious candy bar eater.
"What the hell! Do you have a candy bar in here?" he whispered frantically, shaking his friend awake. "Only a Snickers bar," he replied sleepily. My brother grabbed it and threw it toward the front of the tent, which the bear was nowslashing open with its claws.
For his birthday , my brother had been given a beautiful bone handled, dangerous looking Bowie knife, which he loved to sleep with.At the time I found this disgusting/disturbing but: Thank God. He cut a hole out the back of the tent as the bear was coming in and dragged his friend out. They hid behind a car I think, watching to make sure the bear got the candy bar and left.
When my brother told me what had happened I asked him what he would have done if the bear had stuck around with all those little kids sound asleep in their little tents. He just gave me a look which told me he was reliving that very thought. He looked sick to his stomach. Finally he said, "I would have handed over Ben for keeping that stupid candy bar!" I did not think much of Ben at the time, but a few months later he redeemed himself . But that is another story. The point is: we have bears and I never want to see one, but it felt right putting it in the painting and sure enough my son, who is a great tracker, found a bear print behind the cabin while I was working on this painting, so I had to put him in. (News flash, one on the porch last week--ate all the birdseed....)
The flying saucer is because I live near the biggest test site for the fastest planes in the world. Please light a candle for the Spaceport pilots. We do dream of things bigger than ourselves...
The body is of one of the original aboriginal people, the Mogollon, to pay respect to those who loved and tended this land long before the arrival of the Mescalero Apache.
On a practical note, this painting is block stretched so it does not need a frame, it will stick out from the wall 4cm(1.5"). The prices vary from the original to giclee prints which start at 300.00 (price depends on size and if printed on canvas or paper). Just e-mail me for prices
Grumbacher archival oils on canvas