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OTHER ITA SITES:
How Do They Make Them Hollow?
The mining, ranching, and farming town of Franklin, in the Gila (pronounced Hee-Luh) Valley of eastern Arizona, is just six miles from where Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O’Connor was raised. Everyone in town knew her father, Charlie Day. Charlie had a cattle ranch, the Lazy B, south of town, toward Lordsburg, New Mexico. This story was related to me by my older cousin.
Charlie Day was on his way to Lordsburg, New Mexico. As he drove along the vast nothingness of eastern Arizona, he came across a family of urchins surrounding a man butchering a cow. Curious, Charlie stopped and inquired what the man was doing. The man replied that he was broke, homeless, jobless, his family was starving, and he had been fortunate to find this cow just in time to ease his family’s suffering. Charlie helped the man finish the job and then said: “Since that is my cow, why don’t you just cut off that hind quarter for me and you can have the rest for your family.”
Charlie Day continued his journey to Lordsburg, having just forgiven a cattle rustler and provided aid to a starving, destitute family.
I was born in the depths of the Great Depression, the second son of four boys and one girl. Jobs were scarce. People with families were lucky to have food, let alone a roof over their heads, or even shoes. Nevertheless, I never went hungry, was never shoeless, or without some kind of shelter.
Whenever you ask someone how their family happened to chose to live in the Gila valley, they usually replied that they were on their way to California when their wagon broke down, or they ran out of money, so they just stayed where they were. My father’s family was like that, except dad’s father came to the Gila Valley to build cotton gins. My dad arrived with him in 1923, when he was eleven years old.
My father only went to the 6th grade but he always had a job at the “PD” (Phelps Dodge Copper Company) in nearby Morenci, Arizona, because he had two particularly useful talents. He was good at arithmetic and he spoke fluent Spanish. The “PD” always gave him a job as foreman of the “Bull Gang,” a group of Mexican laborers with picks, shovels, and wheelbarrows. They did not use power tools or complicated machinery. They would dig ditches, trenches, install pipe, pour concrete, build structures, lay rock walls, or anything requiring pure manual labor.
We were also cotton farmers, and as the cotton was picked, and weighed, dad kept a list of the weights on a sheet of notebook paper tacked to the side of the cotton wagon. At the end of each day, he could scan the column of numbers and write down the total almost instantly. He did not recognize this as any particular talent and expected everyone else to be able to do the same thing – an expectation that brought me no end of grief.
Working along side my dad, handing him tools and stepping-and-fetching materials, without warning, he would suddenly say: “What is seven times nine?” It always caught me off guard and would blow me completely away. One kind old neighbor lady (Well, she was old to me because she was going on thirty-something.) noticing the discomfort these spot quizzes were causing me, called me aside and said: “Wash you hands and come to tea, seven times nine is sixty three.” That kind lady saved my life! To this day, I do not know what nine times seven is, but whenever I need to know “what is seven time nine” that little rhyme goes through my mind in a nanosecond and I know it is sixty three. For nine times seven, I reverse the numbers and follow the rhyme.
When World War II started I was 8 years old, and in the third grade. As soon as school was out for the summer, my Dad would take the entire family to California's San Jouaquin Valley.
Dad (with our help) built a four wheeled wagon from an old automobile chassis. It had a wooden platform bed, wooden sides, and a "covered wagon" canvas top with bows fashioned from curved pipe. It looked like a Conestoga wagon with rubber tires. I wondered what all the people passing us found so interesting. Everything we owned was in that wagon - stove, refrigerator, utensils, canned food, bedding, clothing, spare parts, and tools.
We pulled that wagon behind our 1936 Chevrolet 4-door sedan at the sizzling speed of 30 miles per hour. The speed was sizzling because the temperature in places like Needles and Desert Center, California was a sizzling 115 degrees Fahrenheit in the shade. Other than your own shadow, there was no shade. We envied the cars that passed us with their new-fangled evaporative coolers protruding from the passenger-side window. When we were fortunate enough to have air conditioning, it was a 25 pound block of ice sitting in the floor with the vent open to blow down on the ice. Ice was scarcer than water, which was five cents per glass in Desert Center, California.
When we arrived in California, we became migrant farm workers, but I did not know that at the time. That term was not invented yet. We often lived in an army tent. Now, I feel a kinship with John Steinbeck's "Grapes of Wrath". Then, I thought we were in heaven. Peaches, plums, apricots, grapes, pecans, walnuts, cherries, apples, tomatoes, wild geese, green grass...my favorite was the prune plum – it tasted like a Dr. Pepper.
There was clean, clear, cool water in the canals for swimming. (Well, that is what we thought it was there for.) We would dive into the canal, pass underneath the head-gate boards, squirt through the sluice, and out the other side. We did not have the slightest idea that it might be dangerous.
The down side was mosquitos. In the evening we would gather cow chips, arrange them in a circle, light them, and play our childhood games in the protective smoke.
I never wanted to leave, but as the summer closed, dad would pack us up and we would return to Greenlee County, Arizona just in time to get back in school and for him to return to the PD and the Bull Gang.
The things we saw and experienced were priceless (no pun intended). We saw General Patton practicing desert warfare tactics in the desert west of Blythe, California. We saw the giant dams which provided irrigation water for the San Jouaquin Valley. We saw the mighty Colorado River at Blythe. Our favorite things were lemonade stands shaped like lemons or oranges, watermelon stands shaped like watermelons, hot dog stands shaped like a hot dog, coffee shops shaped like a coffee pot, motor courts shaped like Indian tepees, and cider stands shaped like little brown jugs. Wow! Greenlee County had nothing like that!
Between Phoenix, Arizona and Globe, Arizona, way out in the desert we came upon a lonesome roadside stand selling cast plaster animals. I knew they were cheap and not particularly art-worthy, but they fascinated me because they were hollow. I always wondered how they made them hollow. I could understand plaster since that was what they used to splint my broken arm (from “bombing Tokyo”), but how do you make plaster hollow?
That curiosity finally led me to making bronze sculpture. I explain the mold making process in my website Art Gallery if you would like to learn more about it. I mingle the process with some of my artwork for your viewing pleasure.
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