A Castle in the Sand


My grandpa retired from his job as a toolmaker and design engineer, a position he held for many years.  He packed everything up moved from the city and out into the desert.  In a windy, sandy little town on the side of an ancient dry seabed he found a home for his soul.  I was lucky enough to know him for some of this time and share a part of his gentle fade into the peaceful desert earth that he loved so much.


            This place filled me with wonder then and still does.  I spent the summers in that glorious place with my grandpa having the kind of adventures that most kids don’t get to have.  I now know that those times were the best days I would ever spend though I did not know it then.


            Grampa knew how to do lots of things very, very well.  His hands held the vast mysterious majick of experience mixed with the innate savvy and savoi-faire of one who loves the making of things both functional and beautiful.  Beneath his tough, gnarled fingers metal, wood and clay realized their destiny.  Until his final day, those hands never shook or faltered.


            More than this, though, Grampa loved the things of the desert, rocks plants, creatures, even, or perhaps, even particularly the curious people that the desert seems to call with a siren’s beckoning.  It was impossible for me to pick up a rock or a bit of wood or piece of glass on our long walks on what he called “Indian trails” that he was unable to recognize or name.  I suppose that he could easily have made up the things he told me, certainly some of the stories that I heard might have been embellished a tad.  I won’t blame him for that.  I was a discerning and intelligent child and he loved to watch the worlds he only partially invented come to life in my adoring young eyes.


            On one of these adventures we went to a place that absolutely filled me with wonder.  I believe that this one event left a stamp on my soul that would last forever and guide many of my decisions.  He took me on a walk up the hill that stretched up from in front of his house.  He said that we were going to see something especially special, an old Indian pueblo.  Well, as you might imagine, I was thrilled beyond belief.  Images of Cowboys and Indians filled my head, especially Indians.  Grampa had bought a small saddle and a drum from someplace and made me a lamp for my room.  Up until that wonderful lamp was wantonly and willfully destroyed by my cousin, it lit up my life with memories of his stories, and now we were going to see a real Indian pueblo.


            As it turned out, the Indian pueblo had not been built by Hopis, but by an unusual man who was my grandfather’s neighbor.  I was too young to know the relationship that these two old men had, but now that I have lived some life of my own and new facts have come curiously into my awareness, I will venture a guess.  Grandpa liked a goodly tot of fine bourbon whisky. He also greatly enjoyed the company of his imported cigars; he was never without one to my recollection.  He loved to tell and hear tall tales, stories and yarns of all kinds.  His neighbor, a man by the unusual name of Cabot Yerxa liked these things too.  Cabot also like tools and rocks and cactus and quiet desert sundowns.  It therefore seems highly unlikely that these two gentlemen, living as they did in such proximity would not be friends.  It was only much later that this realization would strike me.  It did so powerfully.



 Cabot’s Old Indian Pueblo and Trading Post was a magic place, one that I revisited only recently.  Upon arriving at the Pueblo, a very nice lady showed me around.  It was only her second day on the job, and she only knew what she had read in the guidebook about Cabot’s magic castle in the sand.  There was, however, something about the look in her eyes as she touched the things that rested in the dusty cabinets and shabby shelves that reached out to me.   This strange jumble of Indian pottery, railroad ties, reused windows and wire held a magnetic fascination.  I had the feeling that I was somehow reliving an important event, a strong and strange deja-vu.  The pretty docent reached out for the handle of a very small wooden door in one of the patchwork walls and when she pulled it open the day I spent there with my Grampa rushed out, a ghost of the Old West, laughing for the shear joy of it.  It slammed into my chest and for just an eyeblink of time I smelled the pungent sweet smell of Cuban cigars and I felt my Grampa hold out his hand to me as if to say.  “Welcome home, son!”


            That tour of The Pueblo opened up a whole new chapter in my life, one that continues to unfold as of this writing.  The wonderful, caring people that have restored Cabot’s Castle in the sand have given a gift to a little boy that they could not possibly have guessed the value of.  A huge piece of my own personal puzzle fell into place that day and I had a chance to be there with my Grampa for just a moment.  For us, Grampa and me, that was all we needed.


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~ by ravenjake on January 1, 2008.

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