So then we did this…

Puppet of grandmother
Puppet of grandmother

The eye emergency took us to Tucson earlier than planned but it was on teh agenda so no biggie. Our buddy Turtle housed us while we ran errands and did some minor work for her. She has a new porch shade and we started the process for our Mexican Residency Visas. We also reestablished a banking connection so we can transfer money to Mexico more easily. We hope to build a casita for our later years and we hope to start it this year. Building requires cash.

Turtle is the Northern Jaguar Reserve Coordinator. We met her last year when we went in to the Reserve for a construction scoping trip. Turtle wasn’t with us during the actual buildingĀ  last December but we knew she was out there in the real world ready to help if we needed a hand. We’ve stayed in touch and she was helping with logistics of our aborted Aros River float. Burt had agreed to help her with a minor project during their many email exchanges regarding shuttles and river flows. Once I was reassured I did not have an exploding eyeball we headed over to Turtle’s place.

Despite my aching back and super annoying vision we managed to get a lot of fun and life chores accomplished while simultaneously building a shade structure. Burt and I are have finished step 1 of applying for our temporary resident visas. I compiled a few pounds of paper documentation showing our financial status and marriage license and current photos. We handed it over, and I wasn’t so comfortable handing a stranger a detailed accounting of our financial holdings but I did, and our able and friendly handler, Grace, gave us our visas in return. That was after she made sure we had enough pesos to qualify. We had to prove to Mexico we were not likely to become a burden on them. The temporary visa has lower financial requirements and offers a door to full time residency after four years at those lower standards. The temporary visa also allows us to drive US tagged vehicles in Mexico. If and when we switch to permanent residency we’ll have to formally import a vehicle to Mexico or buy a Mexican tagged vehicle. Mexico (like states in the US) requires its residents to register their vehicles with them.

After the trips to the Mexican Embassy and the copy center we hit our bank and got our on-line banking organized for the great bleeding of pesos we expect this winter. We’re only building a modest place and it will cost peanuts compared to the US but those peanuts (due to US banking laws) are hard to get into Mexico. This is an area the residency will help, too. Now it will be easier to have a Mexican bank account and I can just write a check on the US account and drop it into a Mexican bank. We’re building a redundant system of money moving tools.

One of the highlights of our Tucson spell was the Day of the Dead Procession. Our friend Randy is one of the organizers and founder of this event. He was the Northern Jaguar Reserve ranch manager but has moved on since we spent two weeks out in the wilderness with him last year. The procession welcomes and integrates a mix of cultures and their customs regarding death. It is a beautiful reflection of the complexity of our broderlands. This year’s centerpiece was a silver ‘urn’ where the public placed notes to the departed. At the end of the event the urn was lit on fire. Randy, dressed in red and wearing a mask, pulled the urn through the streets while his attendants placed the paper offerings inside. The quiet, stately parade of costumed participants moved me to tears.

Jaguar mask
Jaguar mask
Jaguar mural
Jaguar mural
Jaguar fans
Jaguar fans
Murals of Tucson
Murals of Tucson
Day of the Dead Procession
Day of the Dead Procession
This geodesic urn receives notes of remembrance and is lit on fire at the end of the event.  I put in hellos to my mom, Burt's mom, and Mimi the cat.
This geodesic urn receives notes of remembrance and is lit on fire at the end of the event. I put in hellos to my mom, Burt’s mom, and Mimi the cat. Randy is in red behind the woman in a crown.
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Whitewater Draw: Sandhill Crane winter roost

There's a killdeer in there.
There’s a killdeer in there.

We were out to Douglas again yesterday. After a morning applying more mud to the office walls we headed to this border town to stock up on vegetables and work stuff. The mud isn’t drying as quickly as it does in summer so Burt can only apply one coat a day. That’s leaving us with some free time. We contemplated crossing into Mexico for fun and food but we forgot our passports and it’s quite cold here. Both of us agree eating at an unheated restaurant in Mexico isn’t a big draw. We deal with that all winter long in Baja. Burt had a bright idea next. We decided to drive out to Whitewater Draw and see the Sandhill Cranes. The only down side was I didn’t have my telephoto lens or real camera. Oh well. We’d just have to enjoy ourselves and live for the moment.

Sandhill Cranes are large gray birds sporting crimson caps. The Sandhill crane has an undulating call that sounds like water spilling over rocks. A babbling brook, if you will. They form enormous flocks in winter. At Whitewater Draw they glide in in flights of hundreds or thousands every late afternoon and evening in winter. The draw is their safe overnight spot. During the day they fly out to feed in fields all around. Some cross over the Chiricahua Mountains each morning to get breakfast in the Animas Valley. The birds as individuals are lovely to see but the heaps of them singing together and flying in formation swell my mind with delight.

Yesterday we watched as group after group circled and landed in the fields around the draw. There are 20,000 or more birds there now. Some winters see more than 30,000 birds. While we wandered the dikes around the draw we saw a number of other beautiful creatures and amazing events. I spotted a new for me species: the marsh wren. Burt found two Merlin at two different times, both dining on some unfortunate songbird. We also spotted a black phoebe, northern harriers, cooper’s hawks, northern shrikes, great blue heron….lots of birds. At one point I said to Burt, “Why aren’t there blackbirds?” Blackbirds love marshes. Five minutes later a fleet of thousands of blackbirds came into view and circled the area. They moved in unison like a school of fish, their yellow heads flashing in the setting sun. What a glorious vision. They took their spots on the rushes and reeds of the marsh. No sonorous songs for them. These birds cackle and caw. Lots of gossip to share among the group. The sun set and we got cold so we headed back home.

The sun sets and we get cold.
The sun sets and we get cold.
Yellow headed blackbirds.
Yellow headed blackbirds.
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John Dillinger

Mimi will have to do. I don't have a picture of John Dillinger.
Mimi will have to do. I don’t have a picture of John Dillinger.

The last two days the Gypsy Carpenters were in Tucson on a major buying binge for our current project. There were things needed for the work ahead that couldn’t be shipped so we drove over and picked it up. This business trip allowed us a night on the town and some determined over eating.

The Olvis canine pair accompanied us so we were constantly alert for do-gooder citizens and the popo despite the fact that the weather was wet and the skies fully clouded. We figure we’re not going to get a second chance to break the canine protection laws in Tucson without prosecution. One more infraction and we’ll be in the hoosegow. Just ask John Dillinger about the efficiency of the Tucson police. They snagged him back in 1934.

John and his gang were laying low in Tucson at the Congress Hotel when the hotel caught fire. The gang fled but left behind their luggage. Some gang members paid the firemen a nice tip and asked them to retrieve their belongings. The curious firemen found $23,816 in cash in the bags plus some accouterments of the bank robbery trade. Later on while reading True Detective magazine the firemen recognized the Dillinger gang members. The Tucson police were notified. The Tucson police set up a stake out and managed to bring in one of the most notorious gangs in American history without firing a single shot. They had done what the combined forces of the FBI and several states had failed to do. At the time of his capture John Dillinger muttered, “Well, I’ll be damned.” The bad guys were returned to the Midwest to face justice but escaped from jail before trial. Dillinger soon met his demise in a shoot out while on the loose.

The Hotel Congress has a very nice restaurant with interesting and scrumptious meals. The Mexican Mocha is a perfectly spicy chocolate coffee drink. I insist you try it the next time you are in Tucson. And stay out of the reach of the law.

 

 

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