How do you make anyone understand what makes Arizona so special among states? Maybe one can begin by extolling the benefits of dry, arid heat that attracts so many for health reasons. We can praise the spectacular views, standing at a precipice of the Grand Canyon, sensing the immensity of creation. Hiking along the trails of the red rocks in Sedona, one can feel a transcendental spirituality, calmness, and at once be one with nature. The native peoples knew this about the land. Wise were the Apache Indians who called the magnificent White Mountains their own. The beauty that abounds here is mine for I am an Arizonan in my heart.
It is remarkable to me that I get to live in one of the best places I have ever known. I was born in San Bernardino, California, today considered one of the 18th deadliest cities, a dangerous place to live. When I was very young, however, my family moved from there to California’s high desert. We lived in a location just south of Death Valley, a small town named Newberry Springs. Newberry has what I call three seasons: hot, cold, and windy. It is extremely isolated and desolate; not a day goes by I thank the Lord for my escape east to Kingman, Arizona.
I started my sophomore year of high school in Kingman not knowing a soul. It was a little scary at first, I must admit. Mother helped keep my spirits up by buying me a trick BMX bike and rode with me all around the streets of Kingman. We would travel Andy Devine Road down the steep grade of Beale Street into old downtown Kingman, Mohave County’s seat, like tourists we would gape at the old courthouse, the Santa Fe Steam Engine, and the wagon trails from pioneer days. Sometimes late at night, at midnight, with the full moon shining incandescent light, she would wake me from a sound sleep. Excited about the wonderful magic that was outside slipping away, she would wake me to join her in a bike ride–just the two of us. Anyone would have thought she lost her mind, but I arose from my bed, shrugging off the sleep to enter the cool desert night.
Now when I think of it, I think something inside of me will always anticipate the thrill of a quiet desert night. Let me tell you how glorious the stillness and the quiet are of an Arizona desert night. How exquisite it all seems as the full moon casts light and shadow over the awesome mountains, projecting their silhouette against the skyline, their distinct outline as majestic as they stand guard over the town. How the moon plays among the ghostly clouds, sometimes hiding, and then peeking out from beneath, how the starry diamonds twinkle in the inky darkness while the streets of the neighborhood take on mysterious shades of whites and grays.
Pedaling along the avenues in these weary morning hours, the cool crisp air whistles past our cheeks. We are conscious that others sleep while we frolic. Traveling along, we listen to the winding rubber wheels crunch along the asphalt. We hear the rooster’s crow; tricked by the moonlight they think it is morning. Dogs’ blocks away are barking and crickets in the grass are chirping, filling the nightly emptiness with sound. Cycling along, feeling the wonder of strength in our muscles, blasts of fragrant aromas–honeysuckle and jasmine–suddenly assault our senses. Off in the distance, the sound of a long, whistle blow from a freight train rumbling through town is on its way to Winslow. This magic is my Arizona.
As time went by, I began to make friends at school. They told me about a park called Fireman’s Park that was made of smooth poured concrete with jumps for skateboards and bicycles. I began to ride over there and learned how to do tricks on my bike. Riding into kidney shapes of unfilled swimming pools, I would exit the other side doing 360-degree spins. It was exhilarating! I was able to show off a little, attracting friends at the park who invited me to play baseball. Kingman has ten ball fields–they really like their ball. At last, I got a taste of competitive sports in an uncontrolled environment, just us teens, and it was fun!
I took a job at Safeway the summer of 2003, and was learning from my managers and coworkers about the many changes occurring around town. It started first on Northern Avenue with the reinforcement and widening of the wash. It spread quickly to Stockton Hill. Business was moving in at lightening speed. I remember thinking that they were ruining this beautiful mountain town. That all this open land, surrounded by these mountain ranges, was a sleeping giant, awakening to the pace of the 21st century. It distressed many who witnessed the growth. Construction was ubiquitous, disrupting the flow of daily living. Broad boulevards narrowed into traffic lanes governed by concrete islands, new signals popped up in unseeming places, intersections became right turn only lanes. Traffic congestion was so chaotic that locals would avoid driving into town.
As fast as it had happened, however, I discovered that it impressed me. The efficiency with which the engineers and the construction crews worked at expediting their vision was impressive. Kingman is a town subject to flashfloods since it is a basin situated between three mountain ranges: The Walapais’, The Cerbats’ and The Peacocks’. When the monsoons hit, the streets flood within hours of the rainfall. Streets could be navigated by kayak or canoe. Thunderstorms in Arizona are a remarkable sight. The electrified air crackles as bolts and volts crisscross throughout the sky. It is truly a marvel to observe how the engineers and construction workers step in to tame that energy. This is something I admire deep in my core being; it is something I want to learn and be a part.
Observing the development of Kingman has influenced me greatly. It has motivated me to seek higher education at Northern Arizona University in Flagstaff. My desire to be involved in the process of building structures with aesthetic value propels me in that direction. At the university in Flagstaff, we boast of an Olympic size swimming pool that athletes from all over the world come to for high altitude training. We have professional ball teams such as the Phoenix Cardinals train on our campus. We have a World Class Observatory, and I have the San Franciscan Peaks for gliding down, weather permitting.
Flagstaff is one of the finest cities in the country. It has stretches of pine forests that for the most part are protected by its inhabitants. The whole town has a wonderful bohemian feel and is home to humans as well as mountain lions, elk, deer, bear, beaver, coyote and eagles. One could say I am a very lucky fellow. I am a full-time student, studying mechanical engineering at an Arizona University, making new friends, and working part-time at a Starbucks kiosk in Safeway. Could life be any better than this? I have to say I am quite content; however, money is a short commodity. I could stand a little assistance. Either way, I for one am proud to say, “I would stand on the corner in any town of beautiful Arizona. Arizona is my home.”