~Flagstaff Mountain~


~I have ridden this ol’ Hawg through clouds~Gods have smiled on me and kicked my ass~a thousand drill bit raindrops~I hit the throttle~howl through to the other side~on the edge and one step further~over the top~

Today, while cleaning the garage, a strange and interesting event occurred. A dust devil, mini tornado, danced up the driveway and across the cement floor. It wandered a bit in its to and fro sway, then dashed forward where it spent itself on the phat black and chrome body of my ol’ Hawg.

Being a man of voice whose mouth has learned to close, the better to listen to nuances of phantom messages, I settled myself in the dust of my new Friend. I contemplated kicking the ol’ Hawg to life, which deed was done before I knew it. Another specific and one-time event as she woke purring on the first stroke. Entranced, I backed ‘er out of the garage, pointed ‘er toward the street and let ‘er have ‘er head.

Rolling West, down Baseline Road, memory took a swipe at me. It dragged me back to the eighties, that same street and new boots, bearded brothers before me and roaring up from behind, the guitar man, Matthew, life-Friend at my side. Up the mountain we rode, to the wedding of Phil Howell to his beautiful Asian, silken-haired lady and their wind faces under the pines. The preacher looked smart in his dark clothes, his words of troth accompanied by the music of creaking leather, the cooling metal of iron horses and darting birds, curious in their singsong quick-eyed way.

Past Table Mesa Boulevard, traffic and Boulder lights fading behind, the road smooths out, single lane, an easy climb through the foothills. For the seasoned Colorado rider, a certain preparedness takes place. Hairpin curves, jackknives await, cool, tree-shadowed paths and startling, sun-splashed views. Motor and cam, heartbeat and blood, fuse in a shift, down shift, tap the brake and throttle forward fluid movement. Sunrise Amphitheater lies just ahead, around this blind curve or that, red stones surrounded by and punctuated by sturdy pine and scrabble bush. I leave my war-worn Hawg, my dragon, on ‘er stand and follow the steep path down.

Memory quick-trips me backward to the seventies and my brothers, before the prison in Canon City stole their hearts. We hauled our band gear up that ol’ mountain, carried amplifiers, guitars, drums, and generators down into the Sun Circle where we established ourselves on that side-o’-the-mountain open stage. I drank Seagram’s Seven, howled my lyrics and played my harmonica into the mountain air and white cloud sky. Boulder lay behind me, a sheer backdrop to a young man on the edge of time and certainly unaware of the audacity of his behavior. No permits, no appointments, just music and the poor-boy Sterner brothers, doin’ that thing they used to do. A group of Jewish People appeared later. Permit in hand, they advised us they had reserved this wondrous place for a very special wedding observance. We played a couple of our songs for ‘em while they performed a precise and circular tribal dance. They applauded our efforts and fed us, sent us back smiling to our West Denver homes.

A smile comes to me slowly, like Harry Chapin said, “It was a sad smile, just the same”. I light my second cigar of the day, feet planted on each side o’ the ol’ dragon, arms resting on her handlebar wings. A sparrow lands on my mirror, gives me a wink and flits away. I wonder its lineage, generations of mountain life past. Did its forbearers hear the poor boys’ noise, witness a certain binding of troth. I swear her stones are the same, each pine needle and chittering chipmunk. Sons born since have carried my music into a new age. It is theirs now and far different somehow. I remain unchanged like the face of Flagstaff. She knows what I might only guess. Time is on her side.

Cigar butt clenched tightly ‘tween my teeth, I give the ol’ War Horse a couple o’ kicks. She coughs and sputters to life. I tickle her throttle, glory in her growl and roar. A dust devil dervish giggles from the path, rises and kisses me on the cheek; how, the mountain, she speaks.

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