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Tag Archives: longevity

Tragicomedy—Canyon de Chelly chapeau

My daughter took this shot of me and my chapeau a few minutes before she disappeared in the distance on Park Avenue in Utah’s Arches National  Park. She is one of three daughters that I claim, the middle one in terms of actuarial longevity, the one that lives, loves, photographs, plans, plants, reaps, parties and publishes and otherwise  stagnates in Virginia while she could be living in The Great State of Texas—not, of course, that I ever bring that up in discussions—never have and never will, neither vocally nor in written discourse. She posted the photo below on her blog and I commented on the posting—my comment is reproduced below. Click here to view her original posting. When you get there you’ll find this photo:

As one can see, I cropped the photo as originally posted—I was a bit uncomfortable  with that gull hanging around overhead, and that cloud could have contained rain, a condition beneficial neither to a straw hat nor to its wearer, hence the cropping.

This is my original comment on her posting, a comment that she used as the subject for a revisit to her original post.

I have been very remiss in not commenting on this posting and I extend my apologies! Obviously I’ve been very busy—too busy to acknowledge the photographic expertise reflected in these photos, particularly in the shot of that handsome chapeau sported by the handsome dude seated directly below said hat.

How I loved that hat! I remember chasing it in Arizona when an unkindly wind removed it from its wearer and sent it rolling and tumbling toward Canyon de Chelly with its wearer in hot pursuit. Had providence not placed a small bush a few feet from the precipice of the canyon, I may have followed that hat to the canyon’s floor, a sheer drop of 600 feet. However, thanks to providence, the hat’s forward progress was stopped by a strategically placed bit of flora, an indigenous plant equipped with thorny branches that stopped my hat in its race and in its tracks—and me in mine. No, I did not run into the bush—I wisely skidded to a stop when I saw the bush reach out and capture my hat.

That hat and I were inseparable for several more years, but one day it became conspicuous by its absence—it had mysteriously disappeared without leaving the slightest hint of how, when, where or why it left me.

I suspect that my hat felt—even though it was a straw hat rather than a felt hat—from the beginning of that windy day at Canyon de Chelly that its future was inextricably intertwined with the canyon floor, that because of its lightness and its ability to drift with the wind, it would wind up undamaged by the 600 foot drop, and would ultimately live a long life, squared securely atop the head of a person of the four-state region, either New Mexico, Arizona, Utah or Colorado, possibly a direct descendant of the greatest chief in Navajo history, or one of the Apache tribes, Geronimo or Chief Sitting Bull or another of the native American Indians immortalized in literature and movies and television, and still living in the tales told by the most respected elders of various tribes in the great Southwest. Tales of their exploits are also told in the great state of Texas, fantastic recitals that dance—precipitously, so to speak—on the rim of the unbelievable.

Please accept my abject apologies for my failure to respond sooner. I would also be remiss if, driven by my use of the word sooner, I failed to say that the word sooner reminds me that there are also many tall tales told in the great state of Oklahoma.

So now I do so say.

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My first port director—my friend and my mentor . . .

I began my career with U.S. Customs as a GS-7 trainee at the port of Progreso, Texas and I was upgraded to the GS-9 journeyman position after one year. During that year I learned more from one officer at the port than from all the others combined. Not that they didn’t help me learn the ins and outs of the job—they were very helpful, but the port director and I became a team, both professionally and personally. Almost from the beginning we were like brothers, respectful of each other and each always looking out for the other’s back.

As a measure of how well the port director taught me, I was awarded an in-grade pay increase in my second year and another in my third year, both based on my duty performance, particularly on my arrest and seizure record. An in-grade pay increase is a pay raise given for outstanding performance, and is in addition to the normal longevity raises given to federal employees based purely on successful duty performances. In-grade pay increases are the gifts that keep on giving!

Some ten years older than I, the port director took me under his wing like a mother hen protects a chick—figuratively, of course. He placed me on the right path for success in my new profession and set me straight when I strayed from that path. He raised hell when I made mistakes, and he lauded me when I managed to do something right, such as making seizures and accurately documenting our various Customs activities. I also was brash enough to submit several suggestions that I felt would improve port operations, and upper headquarters felt impelled to implement my suggestions and provide remuneration for my ideas. How about that!

His most recent assignment was at the port of Eagle Pass, almost 300 miles upriver from Progreso. In the latter part of 1971 Progreso became a separate port from the port of Hidalgo, and he was promoted to the position of port director for the new port. His name was Paul, and he died at Christmas time in 1973. His cancer disease was diagnosed in mid-1972 and a scant eighteen months later he was dead.

Paul, my first port director and supervisor in Customs—my friend and my mentor—was buried in Brownsville, Texas some fifty miles distant from Progreso. I was unavoidably delayed at the port and the casket was closed when I arrived at the funeral home. The funeral director offered to open the casket for my viewing but I declined the offer. I figured that Paul had once again been promoted and was already on the way to his next assignment, that shining port in the hereafter, and I was reluctant to slow him down.

That’s my story and I’m sticking to it.

 

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