Ma was a church going women but not in the good sense of the word. Hers was the superficial kind that does more harm than good and that is often used to hide a multitude of sins. It was of the hollow facade kind that the rebellion generation of the 1960s took down with a passionate vengeance.
Dad was the flip side of the coin. He wasn’t an atheist but put more stock in his abilities than in God to lend him a hand if the going got tough.
Ma was a sickly women, especially if it served her purpose at the time. Dad was never sick and if he was, you would never know it. The same with injuries but the bleeding usually made that one tough for him to hide.
Ma was tough as nails but did her best to hide it with a very thin veneer of frailty. Dad had a heart of gold but kept it buried under a hide of leather lest someone see him as a softie.
It took me most of thirty years to sort all of this out and another ten or so to learn I did not have to worry about ever becoming my mom and that regardless of how hard I tried, filling dad’s shoes or living up to his expectations was an impossibility. This road to discovery was a long one filled with a multitude of odd and tragic detours, some scenic wonders, and long dusty stretches bordered with vast emptiness.
I was a sickly kid, the proverbial 98 pound weakling. In spite of dad’s best efforts to toughen me up, I preferred long contemplative walks, shady and quiet places to read a book, and the library.
In one of my literary adventures, I learned that legendary tough guy Teddy Roosevelt was a sickly kid but he had pulled out of it with the rigorous life of ranching on the western frontier. So, shortly after leaving home, the decision was made to give it a try, to follow in Teddy’s footsteps. In the process, I learned that dad with his leaving me to find my own way home with a load of hay on an ancient Studebaker truck and other “school of hard knocks” tutoring had toughened me far more than I realized.
I kicked off the John Wayne period of my life by responding to an odd advertisement in the Kingman Daily Miner that gave little information about the job itself but provided long, detailed instructions on how to find the Cedar Springs Ranch where interested applicants could go for an interview. 
So, bright and early one morning, I stopped at the Hobb’s Truck Stop, a portion of which serves as my office today, topped off the tank in my ’42 Chevy truck, topped me off with a large breakfast, and rolled east on Route 66 to Antares Point Road. A restaurant and gas station housed in a towering “A” frame structure stood at the corner. It is still there today but the addition of a giant Easter Island styled head, and closure of the restaurant, gives the place the feeling that cultures and epochs have collided here, something that seems to sum up most of Route 66 today.
I rolled north on Pierce Ferry Road streaming a trail of dust accompanied by the cacophony of rattling fenders, creaking cab, and doors void of weatherstripping rubbing metal on metal.. As per directions, I turned east at the high tension power lines and followed a rutted trail that ran parallel to them for several miles before turning north to cross a deeply sanded wash. From this pint the rutted trail became little more than a cow path around rocks, between bushes, across washes, and over hills.
Doubt and thirst were foremost in my mind when I turned into the narrow canyon, saw the out of place glistening Airstream trailers, the massive pile of building material, and what appeared to be a big sheet metal warehouse. This was Cedar Springs Ranch.
So, I stepped from the truck, shook hands with the owner, Bruno, a barrel shaped immigrant from northern Italy that was rapidly approaching an age when most people consider retirement, and got the job. Apparently, my interview and application was simply showing up as no one else had, even though the advertisement had ran in the paper for a week.
Pretty much everything I owned (an old military sea bag) was in the truck. Always be prepared, a lesson learned from my brief flirtation with the life of a Boy Scout. If you aren’t sure where your going, take everything you own in case you decide to stay when you get there, lesson learned from dad.
Bruno pointed to the second trailer, told me to stow my gear, and then pointed to the kitchen I had mistaken for a warehouse. “See you inside”, he said with a thick accent.
As it turned out Cedar Springs Ranch was to be the fulfillment of a life long dream spawned by watching American westerns in Italy. The road from the sparking of that dream to the point where we stood in a narrow canyon looking across the wide Hualapai Valley slit by a thin sliver of silver that was Route 66 glimmering in the sun was, I later learned, a fascinating one.
Along the way there was a job as interpreter for the German army in World War II that masked resistance activities, capture by the Russians after escaping from the Germans in Poland, escaping from the Russians and making his way to Switzerland, learning to become a pastry chef, immigrating to America, and opening his own restaurant in Los Angeles.
All of this was made a bit easier as he was a man with a dream that was fluent in five languages.
So, there we stood. A squat little Italian, a scrawny American kid unsure of what he was doing and most everything else, and Bruno’s wife who seemed to be a perfect candidate if there was ever a movie made about Heidi’s later years. The rest of the crew consisted of two Mexican kids that spoke little English and that may or may not have been citizens, an ancient old cowboy that stood well over six foot tall and that was so thin he could hide behind a flag pole, and a beat up looking older fellow that gave the impression he was here because it was the perfect hideout.
Cedar Springs Ranch consisted of the trailers, the kitchen with a generator, most of a barn with two cows and a couple of horses, lots of building materials and equipment, lots of books on how to use the equipment, and some very lofty ideas. In exchange for $250.00 per month, plus room and board, I was to assist in fencing the full section Bruno owned, the completion of the generator shed, milk the cows, fetch materials from Valentine as they were delivered, help build farrowing houses and pens for the hogs, help with completion of the barn, and what ever projects Bruno could dream up.
We would have Sunday off and could accompany Bruno to church in Truxton. We would also work three weeks and then have four days off.
In the year or so that I stayed on with Cedar Springs Ranch, I found endless opportunity to apply lessons learned, to learn new skills, and to develop a deep friendship for one the most interesting men I have ever known. That friendship, more than my love for the job, was the source of my sorrow when this chapter closed after Bruno died unexpectedly.
After Bruno died, I stayed on to help his wife clean up and sell the property. Then, just as I had arrived, I tossed my sea bag into the truck, drove down the mountain, and hit Route 66 at its intersection with Anatares Point Road.
This time there was a bit more confidence and a bit more wisdom but that didn’t stop from heading east into the unknown instead of west to Kingman and a security of sorts. That, however, is a story for another day.