Saturday, December 1, 2012

The Mark Jefferson Connection

Welcome to December.  It's all downhill from here as Holiday hoop-la looms.  Before you know it, New Year's Eve will be history and we'll be waking up to welcome Twenty Thirteen. The countdown clocks begins.

How about a long story this morning to Mark December.  Yep, this December story will be about Mark--Mark Jefferson, that is.

You see his name in the bright lights of the blog post below.

Who is he and how do we know him?  Good questions, Dear Friends. So, settle in for a really LOOONG Story.  Here goes.

We moved from Indiana to Tucson on Valentine's Day 1979.  We quickly took up with the U of A's "Whitewater Explorers" club and became an avid, addicted kayaker.

In the Spring of 1980, one of the club members invited us to go on an Idaho Middle Fork trip.  We refused since going there would take us through Flagstaff.  At that time, we had made a lifelong personal vow never to set foot in Flagstaff again as long as we lived.

Note the use of the fateful word "never."  It seems whenever people use the word "never" that they are destined to do whatever it is they said they would never do.

Anyway, we resisted mightily, citing our vow as ample evidence that we couldn't be dragged kicking or screaming inside the City Limits of Flagstaff.

You see, back when the woolly mammoth bubbas roamed in Pleistocene Times, we once had a summer job in 1967 at Happy Jack.  We lived with an Apache Indian in a one-room log cabin at Mormon Lake for $30 a month (split two ways, of course).

Anyway, every time we went to Flagstaff that summer, sum dum cowboy always wanted to pick a fight and beat the stuffing out of us.  We weren't well suited to fight cowboys back then and whenever push came to shove (or worse) we always lost.  A visit to Flagstaff was akin to getting a root canal with no pain killer.  That's why we had our personal vow never to go there ever again.

Anyway, our Tucson paddling buddies kept it up and finally tricked me.  They said, "What if we go through Flagstaff at night and you never know you were there?"  Well, we're gullible, no doubt about it, and that really turned the trick.  We agreed to go to Idaho to kayak the Middle Fork.

Trouble was that it actually WAS a trick and they pulled up to a duplex on West Aspen in the middle of the night and we were stuck right smack dab in the middle of the city madder than the proverbial wet hen.

That's the night we met lifelong Dear Friend Gary W.  Gary was the very first person we met in what would become our New Arizona Life.

We met Gary again on the way back south from Idaho and then again when Bryan B. got us onto our first Grand Canyon river trip in September 1980.  After finishing up that life-changing 21-day trip, we had swung 180 degrees and now wanted to move as close as possible to the Grand Canyon, which meant basically Flagstaff.

We went back to Tucson and made our decision to pull up stakes in The Old Pueblo and move to Flagstaff as soon as possible.  The basic trouble with that decision was that we didn't have a place to actually LIVE in Flagstaff.  Small problem.

So, we called up Gary on the landline and asked for a favor.  In typical Gary-fashion, he quickly agreed.  We then called the local newspaper and placed this ad:

"WANTED:  Room to rent on edge of city with athletically-minded roommate.  Call 602-774-GARY."

Gary agreed to field the phone calls and go check out whatever prospects might surface from the ad.  Sure enough, the day the ad came out, some guy called from 912 West Grand Canyon Avenue in Flagstaff.

Gary dutifully went up to check out the place and that's how Gary became the first of many of our Dear Friends to meet Mark Jefferson.  His little house was definitely on the edge of the city there on the flanks of Observatory Mesa.  And Mark was definitely athletically-minded, in like a really Big Time Way.

Gary called me up and told me about the place and said he felt it was perfect.  We called Mark and made a deal sight-unseen to rent a room from him for $100 a month. Back in those days, paying only $100 a month for rent wasn't all that uncommon.  Money was different then.

We packed up our old Hostess Twinkie bread truck and headed north, pulling into Mark's pine-shaded driveway like we already lived there.  Mark and we hit it off immediately.

He was the Perfect Room Mate and Dear Friend.  He was (and continues to be) a Role Model and an Inspiration in so many ways.  Our New Arizona Life began as a result of Gary and Mark getting together to help us find our niche in that Mountain Town named after a ponderosa flagpole.

It would take far too long to begin to tell the many stories of our time together with Mark Jefferson.  Each of those stories should someday be told in separate articles.  The story that appears below from April 12, 1987 is but one of many memorable moments.

You see, Mark was (and is) an incredible journalist.  No, Mark doesn't (and hasn't, as far as I know) worked for a newspaper or other media outlet.  But he is a journalist of the first order.  He keeps incredible meticulous notes on everything he does.  He began keeping such life notes many, many years before we crossed his path.  His keen eye, sharp wit and sense of priorities make his journal notes the finest such personal writings we've ever encountered.  Oh, would that we ourselves could have kept such copious notes over the decades!

Eventually in the late 1980's Mark's life path veered away from Flagstaff and, as the years marched on, we lost contact with each other.  Somehow in the past few days, we were induced to wonder if there was anything as a web domain for Mark's name.  Lo and behold, there was an email address for Mark.  We sent a quizzical note to the address and, POOF, who should appear in Ye Ol' Inbox but Mark himself, just as bright-eyed and bushy-tailed as he ever was.

After exchanging a couple of "WOW, is this really you?" kind of emails, Mark had to leave his computer.  You see, he has a quest to climb all 53 of Colorado's "Fourteeners."  The Fourteeners are mountains whose peaks meet or exceed the 14,000 foot level.  Mark has climbed all but 18 of those peaks and earlier this week, he set out to bag yet another one of them.

He didn't make it to the top but wound up having an epic experience the likes of which would make a great episode in a great HBO mini-series entitled "Mark's Amazing Adventures."

Yesterday, Mark sent along a narrative of his latest scintillating escapade and I shared it with Gary when Gary and Robin came over for the Friday Night Campfire.

Then, late in the evening, Mark transcribed his journal notes and sent along the account of the April 12, 1987 river trip described in the blog post below.

Oh, what a rip tide of emotion Mark's notes sent rippling through my Heart!  All kind of memories just flooded back in big waves of recollections.  We called Gary late in the evening and he read Mark's 1987 story right away.  Gary called back and said he would never forget that day and still carried vivid memories of the vignettes Mark described.

It's so amazing that Mark's life path has crossed ours again here late in Year 2012. We are very pleased.

Thanks, Mark!  Thanks, Gary!

Many Cheers, jp

1 comment:

Wayne Ranney said...

Two GREAT stories by two great people. Wow a twofer. Thank you for these bits of history that enrich our lives!