Thursday was Field Trip Day at Echoing Hope Ranch. Various staff people and ten or so clients piled into four vehicles and headed east for a visit to a historic site known as Slaughter Ranch.
I had vaguely heard of Frank Slaughter, who served as a Cochise County sheriff and was part of the team of lawmen who tracked down Geronimo. He bought the ranch property in 1884 and was one of the first ranchers to run cattle in Arizona.
The ranch today is a marvelous place, blessed with abundant spring water and with well-irrigated grounds dotted with picturesque old cottonwood trees. Restored stone buildings serve as a museum complex. The centerpiece is an acre-sized pond with a stone wall bordering it.
Ramon, one of our ranch’s staff members, took advantage of a propane BBQ conveniently located by the pond and several picnic tables. He cooked the hot-dogs, hamburgers and cheeseburgers for everyone. After we ate my co-worker Mallory and I gathered up several clients and walked up a trail to a lookout butte where supposedly the ruins of an Army fort can be seen.
Before we left Ramon tried to give us additional cheeseburgers. “I just hate to waste food!”, he said. I politely declined but Ramon cajoled Mallory into taking one.
I walked ahead with a couple of clients. Later Mallory and her clients caught up with us. She had a half-eaten cheeseburger in her hand but seemed disinclined to eat it.
“Larry, you won’t believe what just happened! We were walking along and Jim spit tobacco juice on this cheeseburger! So disgusting! I can’t eat this, and I’m full anyway.”
Jim (not his real name) is older than most of the clients, perhaps in his mid-forties. He’s a big slow-moving guy and chews tobacco incessantly. Usually he has a pop bottle to spit in, a bottle which looks quite nasty towards the end of the day. Jim works for the garden crew in the mornings, so we know him well. I said:
“Why don’t you just pitch it into the bushes? Something will eat it!”
“Oh, I hate to just waste it. I know! I’ll wrap it up and tuck it into my cowboy boot! I’ll give it to Copper the pig when we get back.”
She did that; the little parcel fit right in the boot next to her ankle.
I should explain that the ranch has a free-roaming Vietnamese pot-bellied pig named Copper, a friendly beast which knows that a picnic means dropped food.
After looking at the low ruins of the Army fort and appreciating the wonderful view of the thinly-inhabited San Bernadino Valley, we made our way back down to the pond and the rest of the group. As we were packing up to leave I ran into Mallory. I said:
“So, did you give that cheeseburger to Copper?”
“Oh, it was so funny! I had forgotten all about that cheeseburger. Copper found it, though! She was snuffling at my boot and that reminded me of what was in there! Copper ate it in one bite.”
Somehow in the turmoil of getting ready to leave on that field trip I forgot to fetch my camera from my truck. The ranch site offers numerous photographic opportunities, so next time I visit the ranch I’ll be better prepared!