One Sunday morning a few years back, my wife, Casey, and I saddled up and went for a ride. Like most Tucson mornings, it was a beautiful day to ride.
We went out Bopp Road, a little- known, unimproved section best suited for horses and ATVs at the base of Cat Back Mountain.
As we headed east into Tucson Mountain Park, we noticed a car parked where one is usually not and three hikers headed up Cat Back.
I was riding Josh, a big old Appaloosa gelding who stood maybe 17 hands. He had a wonderful gait that I could sit for hours.
Casey was on Silky, a beautiful Arab. Silky has a haughty little prance and holds her tail high, but is she ever beautiful. Yeah, I think both of them are beautiful.
Tucson Mountain Park is one of our wonderful places regardless of the season. And yes, Virginia, we do have seasons. Our seasons are more subtle, not a Vermont kind of change.
We take a little-known trail, wind in and over a low pass into a small valley filled with saguaro, prickly pear, paloverde and more. The rock outcroppings are beautiful, too.
We discover wildlife now and again. Along with rabbits, doves and cactus wrens, we see an occasional coyote, javelina, a few deer and, less often, thank God, a rattler.
As often as not, Josh and Silky are the first to notice these critters.
They sometimes stop and look, but occasionally they spook. We then find ourselves doing a little balancing act as we calm them while looking for what they may have heard, smelled or seen.
We continue on crossing Mocking Bird Lane and up the San Juan Wash. We ride into the valley behind Cat Back, where on occasion we meet hikers, mountain bike riders and equestrians.
Continuing to enjoy the beauty of the desert, we turn around and head home.
Returning to Bopp Road, we see that the hikers are coming down the mountain and one of the trio is resting against their car.
As I ride by, I say hello and so does Casey. But she, being more gregarious, asks, “Did you make it to the top?”
“Oh, yeah, we made it,” he replies. “My uncle brought us out here. “He used to be stationed at Davis-Monthan.”
“Where you from?”
Pointing to me, she says, “He’s from Ohio, too. Where’s your home in Ohio?”
“In Lexington, near Mansfield,” he replies.
Again pointing to me, Casey says, “He’s from Lucas,” a neighboring village.
This young man takes a double look at me and asks, “What class were you in?”
“I didn’t graduate from Lucas, but I was in the class of ’56.”
“My mom was in that class,” he replies.
“Who was she?” I ask.
“Joy McGugin,” he replied.
“No!” I said in disbelief. “She was the first girl I ever kissed!”
We invited them to the house for a beer and talked for more than an hour.
How small is this world, anyway?
After 10 years working in Mexico, Punch Woods directed Tucson’s Community Food Bank for 25 years, retiring in 2003. He now volunteers with nonprofits and enjoys country life with his wife, Casey. E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org