Stories About Fishing and Cowboys Roping the Devil Sparked Passion for Writing

Posted By Mike Padgett

Jan. 14, 2010


Copyright © photo by Mike Padgett

PHOENIX, Ariz. – I fell in love with writing when I was in grade school. My passion was unleashed by word pictures so powerful, they became mileposts reminding me where my adventure began.

I remember reading an outdoor magazine’s story about a fishing guide on the Great Lakes. The words painted a real-as-rain profile. Reading that story, I felt the adrenaline and sore muscles of catching a big fish. Today, decades later, I still can see the guide’s weathered face in the full-page color sketch with the story.

The guide sits at the controls of his small boat, face into the wind. His eyes were slits. His hair streamed back over this head. Behind him is the wake created by his boat speeding across the deep blue water.

Poet’s yarn

Later, I read a cowboy poet’s yarn about two veteran cowpunchers encountering the devil. Defending their souls, the cowboys roped the devil’s horns and heels. They branded him, sawed off his horns, slit his ears and put a ring in his nose, much as they would any unmarked steer on the open range. They also tied knots in the devil’s pointed tail. The poem ends with the smiling cowboys settling back into their saddles and riding on, their souls intact. They left the stomping, fuming and cursing devil trying to free his bleeding horns from the rope tying him to a large tree stump. Wish I’d kept a copy of that poem. I’d frame it to remind me where my passion began.

I think often about the fishing guide and the cowboy poem, hoping that my writing will linger with readers. That’s why I started a news blog 18 months ago. Two years earlier, after 30 years as a newspaper journalist, I chose early retirement. But any thoughts of settling into a slow lane were erased by a hunger to continue learning, so I launched my news blog, Words of encouragement came from many friends and colleagues.

What I have learned while traveling this creative wilderness of blogs and social media is more than I expected. I have encountered many wonderful people who graciously allowed me to write about them.

Ordinary people, extraordinary stories

They are everyday people, of all ages, with extraordinary achievements or abilities. You might have passed them on the street or in the grocery store. They are just like you, with mortgages and laundry and wondering what to fix for dinner tonight. Some wonder where their lives are headed.

I drove to Tucson to meet troubled teenagers who turned to a nonprofit agency, VOICES Inc., for help in finding their futures. The youths displayed humility and hope by sharing their stories and dreams.

At the presidential inauguration in January 2009, in the sea of humanity on the mall in Washington D.C., I saw hope and dreams in the eyes of many. They stood shoulder to shoulder, braving the temperatures in the 20s. We met a man who traveled from Ireland to attend the historic event. The party of about 1.8 million watched and listened to the ceremony on several Jumbotron television screens on the mall.

During several visits with Dr. Randal Christensen and his medical clinic on wheels, I saw despair in the eyes of the homeless youths he and his team treat on the streets of metro Phoenix.

A father and his vision-impaired son showed me the power of teamwork and setting goals. They also showed me their love for each other. Marc Ashton, his son Max, 13, and others from the Foundation for Blind Children in Phoenix trekked to the summit of Mount Kilimanjaro last summer in Tanzania. Max and others reached the 19,340-foot summit first. When he learned his father had stopped several yards down the mountain to catch his breath, Max went back to help his father. They reached the top of the mountain together.

The director of the Arizona Bridge to Independent Living, Phil Pangrazio, offered me a glimpse into the lives of our neighbors in wheelchairs. Pancrazio regularly plays wheelchair rugby, a game so aggressive it once was called murderball.

Courage, personal strength

I saw the power of courage and the will to live in the eyes of Violet Lopez, Arizona’s first transplant patient. She received her first kidney transplant in 1969.

I saw personal strength and resilience in the words of Regina Fahnestock, a former nurse whose personal challenges sent her life tumbling. She barely avoided living on the streets of Phoenix.

One of the most interesting stories about life and death, and the split-second thinking needed in the medical arena to save lives, came from Dr. Dan Caruso. He’s known as ‘Cop Doc’ because he has treated many law enforcement officers and firefighters in Arizona. Caruso is head of the Arizona Burn Center at Maricopa Medical Center.

Most recently, I met Ann Graham, 93 years young. Her business card says she is the “Office Muse” at Rose Law Group in Scottsdale. Graham, like many other retirees, returned to the workplace because her savings were decimated by predatory shenanigans on Wall Street. Graham displays a positive outlook from which many of us could benefit. She says that for every door that closes in someone’s life, another one opens.

Christensen, the Ashtons, Pancrazio, Lopez, Fahnestock, Caruso and Graham are just a few of the several wonderful people I have encountered in recent months. I hope to meet many more. Each has a story that could add more sparkle to our shared universe.


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Jan 14th, 2010

3 Comments to 'Stories About Fishing and Cowboys Roping the Devil Sparked Passion for Writing'

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  1. Mike — thank you so much for the original story about Phil and for including it here in this retrospective piece. With the freedom and flexibility that comes from writing your own blog, you can pick and choose what is important to you. Hats off to you and here’s to your continued enjoyment and success with Arizona Notebook.

  2. Peggy Hodges said,

    Ordinary people with extraordinary stories – brilliant! Much food for thought in these brief pictures.

  3. Acropora said,

    Very nice article I love your website carry on the good posts

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