WINCHESTER ’73, CROCKETT AND JIM – GARRY ARMSTRONG

Our second full day in Arizona and first day out on a photo shoot was blessed by sunshine, missing for nearly a week in Phoenix.

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Our host and old friend, Ben, was showing us the sights. We hit pay dirt with our first sunset in Phoenix. I didn’t have to move much to capture scenes that reminded me of one of the first westerns I saw on the big screen, 1950’s “Winchester ’73”.

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The cactus and looming mountains brought back memories of Jimmy Stewart’s “Lin McAdam” chasing after bad guys like Dutch Henry Brown and Waco Johnny Dean in the austere country that now gleamed in burnt color.

As I slowly made my way through the hardened mud, dodged piles of horse “residue” and other clutter, the echoes of “Winchester ’73” and other beloved westerns raced through my sense memory.

So many images….”The Last Sunset”, “The Bravados”, “Arizona Raiders”, “Ride Lonesome”, “3:10 To Yuma”, and all those other oaters shot where I now roamed.

I could feel the presence of John Ford, Robert Aldrich, Delmer Daves, William Wyler and all those other legendary directors who shot classic westerns here.

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Somewhere in the shadows between the cactus and the mountains were the ghosts of characters played by Duke, Clint, Randy, Mitch, and all the other silver screen cowboys.

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Halfway through this particular “shoot” we met two locals, Crockett and Jim.

Crockett is the lean, four-legged Arizonan who checked out the pilgrims taking pictures before a bond was forged. Crockett probably saw the dog hair and smelled familiar odors on our clothing before deciding we would do.

Jim, Crockett’s pal, was quicker to offer friendship. He spun a few stories, sang some songs and swapped a few lies once we told him about our love of the west. I probably cemented things by telling Jim about my encounter with John Wayne back in the early 70’s.

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We had burned daylight as the sunset presented itself in natural wide-screen beauty.

Garry by Ben Taylor

Then, a long goodbye with Crockett and Jim before we rode away to dinner and plans to see more of Arizona.

WESTWARD HO THE ARMSTRONGS

With trepidation, fear, and associated trembling, our gear was loaded into the jeep and we headed for Logan Airport. Traffic was relatively light, though we could see it building on the outbound side of the Pike. My son was going to have a long, slow crawl home.

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We got to the airport and Jet Blue was, in fact, awaiting our arrival. We sped through check-in and security with the speed of light and I didn’t have to go through the metal detector after explaining that I have a pacemaker and preferred it continue working. And keep my heart beating.

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Everything was going swimmingly well until they found my four-inch folding knife in the bottom of my medicine bag. I had forgotten it was there. I’ve had the knife forever. I keep in the bag to pry open blister packs.

I wouldn’t have brought it at all had I remembered it was there. My bad. And Garry, terrorist that he is, had brought … (gasp) … a bottle of hair gel. To add insult to injury, I had also brought two (small) bottles of PowerZero. Clearly we were planning something big and bad.

I could cope with losing the PowerZero and Garry could easily replace the hair gel, but the knife has a handmade, inlaid, turquoise handle. I have no idea what it might be worth, but it means something to me. I wasn’t about to see it tossed in the trash.

So. Back I went to baggage check-in. For an additional $25, I could check one of the carry on bags and put the hair gel and knife into it. Collect it all at the other end.

But not the PowerZero. Too dangerous. Lord only knows what I might do with two small bottles of sport drink.

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Then, about an hour late, we took off. A bit turbulent, but if you have to fly economy, JetBlue is the way to go. That’s the most leg room I’ve had in an aircraft in more than 25 years. And those leather seats are comfortable.

But. You knew there was a “but” somewhere, right?

It was a long flight. More than six hours. You wouldn’t think that sitting still in comfortable seats could turn your muscles rigid, but it does. And there is nothing to eat. A small drink and a miniature bag of something crunchy at the beginning of the flight, then nothing. Not even a sandwich, not for love nor money.

The plane was hot and kept getting hotter. We were over-dressed. It wasn’t just us. People were shucking clothing all over the place, except for one lady in a ski jacket and ski hat who just sat there huddled up. Drugs? Flu? Just weird?

The JetBlue staff were polite, efficient, entirely pleasant throughout. I think, were younger, and if we had brought our own food, it would have been as good as any long trip by air could be in this day and age. As it was, we got there hungry and thirsty, but all things considered, pretty good.

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Finding the luggage wasn’t bad, except for Garry having forgotten his laptop (he left it on the plane) (I forgot it too) and had to go retrieve it.

A big thank you to JetBlue, for finding Garry in the luggage area and telling him they’d found his computer, so he could retrieve it.

It has been a quiet, rainy day in suburban Phoenix. Pizza is on the way. Life is good.