Early the next morning, we drove over to the apartment where Bobby and his family had moved and then headed out for breakfast. I had them follow us, because there just wasn’t room for them in our van. After we finished eating, I told them to follow me again and led them to our next stop, a miniature golf course. We split into foursomes and practically took over the entire place. The kids had a great deal of fun and no one really paid much attention to the scores. I was impressed watching my boys help not only our smallest members, but also Bobby and his sisters. This fact was also picked up on by Bobby’s parents, who commented about how good the older boys were with all the younger ones. It was a very rewarding and enjoyable experience for all of us.
Once we finished there, we loaded into our vehicles again and they followed me to a gas station, where I filled up both vehicles. I didn’t want anyone to get stranded along the way. Once that was done, we drove to Scottsdale, which is just outside of Phoenix. Since the next activity I had planned wouldn’t take place until noontime, I led everyone to a movie complex. Luckily, there was a cartoon showing, one of those that both the children and adults can enjoy. Bobby and his sisters were extremely excited about this, because they hadn’t seen a movie, or even been able to watch television, for a very long time.
I think we all enjoyed the film, but I got more satisfaction out of watching the kids. Bobby’s sisters were on the edge of their seats most of the time, watching intently and giggling joyfully at the humorous moments. I could tell Bobby was into it too, but every so often he would look over at me and flash me a huge grin, letting me know how much he appreciated being here.
After the movie ended, we loaded up again and pulled up to Rawhide Western Town for lunch a few minutes later. This is a steakhouse with much, much more for the kids to do. The best description I can think of would be, it was kind of like Chuck E. Cheese on steroids. We entered it by walking over a covered bridge, which led us into a facsimile of an old west town. The younger ones thought it was really neat.
Before we ate, we decided to attend the stunt-filled Six Gun Theater first. This was actually held outdoors and was full of cowboys falling down, which included from the top of buildings, getting knocked down in brawls or after losing one of the assortment of shootouts, but it was done well and the kids were enthralled with the action.
The next activity on our agenda was taking a spin on the Rawhide Carousel. This was an old steam-driven merry-go-round, built in the 1880’s, and I reminded everyone that riding this would have been a major event for children of that period. It wasn’t that different from modern carousels, except the sound of the engine running it, which gave this ride a whole new feel, at least for me.
Once these rides were over, since Bobby’s sisters wanted to go on it again, we decided it was time to eat. Entering the dining area, we sat down and began looking at the menu. Immediately, the boys picked up on the Rattlesnake and Rocky Mountain Oysters, the first two items on the menu.
“Ewww, they’ve got rattlesnake on the menu, Daddy,” Graham announced, while making a very sour-looking face.
“Yes, remember you’re out west now and people actually eat that here,” I explained. “They say it tastes like chicken.”
“Then I’ll settle for the real thing,” Cole shot back, noting the irony in eating something that tasted like something else.
“What are Rocky Mountain Oysters, if they’re not seafood,” Pat asked, looking confused. Bobby’s parents and I just looked up at him and grinned.
“I’m not sure you’re ready to know the answer to that,” I told him.
“Why not?” Pat shot back.
“Come on, just tell us, Pop,” Brandon followed. “I think we’d all like to know what that is.” As I looked around, all the boys were nodding their agreement.
“Okay, but don’t say I didn’t warn you,” I told them. I then lowered my voice, so Bobby’s sisters wouldn’t hear what I was saying. “They’re bull testicles.”
“Ewwwww,” Kevin shrieked, as he pictured someone eating something like that. I think it had affected him more, since he’d had one of his own removed.
“Yuck,” Jay added, nearly vomiting over just the thought of trying such a thing.
“Who would eat something like that?” Dustin followed, not believing anyone would have the guts to try such a thing.
“Well, someone must, or they wouldn’t keep it on the menu,” I joked, which drew disgusted looks from my entire clan.
We all did find something more suitable for lunch, and the younger ones, those under eleven, ordered from the Kid’s Menu, which came with activities to occupy them while the rest of us chatted. I was surprised to note that Sammy had also asked for a kid’s menu, even though he reminded me earlier that he had turned twelve before we left home, but I guess that was more to his liking and he was eager to immerse himself in the activities provided with it.
After encouraging everyone to order what they wanted and not worry about the price, we had a very tasty meal, one of the best so far on this trip. Once we’d finished, I suggested we attend a performance of the Rainmaker Comedy Show, to give our meal some time to settle. Everyone agreed that sounded like fun, so we went and laughed away the next thirty minutes or so, listening to cowboy humor.
Once we left there, I talked everyone into going on the stagecoach ride, even though we had to split up in smaller groups to do this. It was quite an eye opening experience for everyone, as the ride rattled the teeth in our mouths as we traveled along. If it was this bad to us, what would it have been like for someone traveling by stagecoach in the 1800’s, since I suspected the shocks on these coaches were better than the originals would have been and the roads we traveled over a touch smoother.
After that, we went to the Native American Theater for a show, where we watched various Native American groups perform ancient dances and impress us with their skills using traditional weaponry. After the show ended, we all hopped aboard the Desert Train Ride, so we could see some of the local scenery. Once that ride was over, we let the little ones go panning for gold, while the older boys went to try their hand at becoming a sharp shooter, among other things, at the Wells Fargo Arcade.
When we all came together again, Bobby’s parents took their girls to ride on the burros, while the rest of us tried the camel riding instead. I was curious as to why such an activity would be included in an old west setting and was surprised to learn that during the mid 1800’s the U. S. Government and the Secretary of War had set up a camel corps, importing over seventy camels to use in the arid southwest. The animals were put to work carrying freight over the desert, between Arizona and California, but the experiment didn’t last very long and was generally considered a failure. I’m not sure why, but it didn’t really work out.
When I finally suggested it was time to leave, everyone seemed satisfied with the great time they’d had there. We actually did some swapping around on the way back, as Ricky, Cole and Graham offered to ride back with Bobby’s parents, when their kids told us they wanted to ride in the van. Since everyone was agreeable to that idea, we made our way back to their new home.
Once we arrived at their apartment, the kids insisted on showing us all around now that the place was furnished. It looked great and was well organized, for the short time they had been in it. Bobby’s father also told me the moving crew actually set up the beds and everything else for them when they delivered it, so it saved him from having to do it. I was also pleased to note all of the beds were made, their personal belongings had been put away and the whole area looked fantastic.
We stayed for about an hour before I had to explain we needed to be on our way. Although they were a little disappointed we would be leaving the area soon, they thanked us again, the kids gave us all hugs and kisses, and Bobby was extra generous with Nick and me. As we bid them all farewell, we also promised them we’d keep in touch. There were more than a few tears evident on both sides, as we hit the highway again, this time heading in the direction of Yuma.
We took I-10 part of the way, before taking a connecting road to I-8, and it was there that we stopped for dinner. It was a fairly brief stop, since boys can eat very quickly, and then we drove a little more. By the time we got to Yuma, it was getting late, so we just checked in to our motel and went to our rooms.
Tonight, Danny, Brandon, Dustin and Kevin were in the ‘sex room’, although I never heard what took place that night. Knowing the four boys as I do, I figured that they probably just spent the evening with their own partner and enjoyed the time being close to one another.
Other than that group, Cole, Graham, Pat and Carlos asked Jordan and Nicky to join them in their room, while Ricky, Jay, Trey and Dion asked Nick to come in with them. That left Sammy and Andrew with me, but the three of us enjoyed a peaceful evening together, with both boys cuddled up on my lap until it was time for bed.
The next morning, after breakfast, we visited the Yuma Territorial Prison State Historical Park. It had been a Wild West territorial prison from 1896 to 1909, and was made of iron and adobe. The overpowering bleakness of what it might have been like to be confined there really hit home with the boys.
“Man, can you imagine being locked up in a place like this for any length of time?” Ricky asked, noting the starkness and small size of the cells. “I think I’d go crazy, if I had to stay there for very long.”
“Too late,” Dustin teased. “You already ARE crazy.” That caused Ricky to take a playful swipe at his larger, much more muscular brother.
“Just the same,” Danny interrupted, “can you imagine what it would be like to spend even a week locked up here. I think I might die of boredom.”
“Well, it certainly wasn’t a resort or country club, that’s for sure,” I responded. “The prisoners were placed in their nine-foot-by-twelve-foot cell, which was equipped with the two triple-decker iron bunks you saw, one on each side, so the cell could accommodate six. Just that many bodies packed into such a small area, not to mention the smell and uncomfortable conditions created by the summer heat, when it would frequently be 110 degrees or more and there was no air conditioning, were enough to make it unbearable.
“Those who got into trouble were moved to the ten-by-ten dark cell. Once the door was closed on that holding cell, there was absolutely no light in there at all and the prisoner was fed only bread and water. It was reported that a couple of prisoners who had been kept in the Dark Cell went directly from there to an insane asylum. Anyone who tried to escape from the prison would be fitted with a ball-and-chain, which they wore at all times, so I guess you could say there was nothing fun or soft about this place.”
When that discussion ended, we toured the park’s museum, where we learned about some of the criminals who had been housed there. None of them had names we recognized, for being overly notorious or anything like that, and we discovered most of the criminals had been robbers, forgers, bigamists or even murderers. Outside of the bigamists, who loved more people at one time than was allowed, it was hard to feel sorry for them or about what they had to endure. The boys were also surprised to learn that twenty-nine women had also been locked up here, as they didn’t realize some of the women in the old west were as tough as men.
We also saw artifacts from its operational years, which included tools the prisoners used while building this place, a ball and chain, other restraining devices and an old prison wagon with iron bars, which was used whenever the prisoners were transported, including to be brought here in the first place. It was kind of a sobering look at the past and well worth the extra drive.
After leaving the prison, we hopped back on I-8 again, to go back to Tucson. We stopped for lunch about a third of the way there, and then drove straight through to our motel. We settled in, cleaned up and relaxed for a short time, which included a dip in the pool. As it approached dinnertime, I got the boys ready again and we went out to eat. It was nothing fancy, yet still enjoyable, and then we returned to the motel for a quiet evening.
Pat, Carlos, Trey and Dion were next in the rotation for the ‘sex room’, so Ricky, Jay, Dustin and Kevin asked Nick if he would spend the night with them. He agreed instantly and I think I know why. I’ve been watching Nick since he joined us, mainly to get a feel for what he was like and to pick up little signals about him. From what I’ve seen so far, I think he has a crush on both Ricky and Kevin, although I’m not positive. I’ve caught him staring at those two more than at the others and he always seems to try to sit by one or the other at meals, unless he was near me. I think I’ve become a surrogate father to him and sometimes it seems like he’s desperate for a man’s attention and affection. It’s too bad his father didn’t fill that need for him.
That left Danny, Brandon, Cole and Graham in the last room and they asked Sammy and Andrew to join them. That left me alone with my grandsons, which worked out well and gave me an opportunity to spend a little more time alone with them. I hadn’t had much chance to be alone with them since our vacation began, so tonight I decided to give them my undivided, personal attention. We started off by playing some games together and then I gave them their bath. Once they were clean, we sat down and watched the Disney channel for a while, and they both cuddled up on my lap like Andrew was so fond of doing. After watching a couple of shows, I put them to bed and turned in myself. I think we were all satisfied with our evening alone.
The next day we went to the Old Tucson Studios, a theme park just outside of Tucson, where there were rides and shows enough for everyone. I let the older boys split up into groups and do as they pleased, having a meeting place and time established before they left. I kept the four little ones with me, but I did offer Sammy the chance to go off with the others. He thought about it for a minute and then decided he wanted to stay with us, as he preferred being with Andrew and my grandsons.
Seeing that had been decided, we went off and did the kiddie thing, and I let the boys go on all of the rides designed for children their size, which included Sammy. The four had a ball, nearly sprinting from one ride to the next, while I struggled to keep up with them. This made me wonder how much longer, meaning months and years, not days and hours, I’d be able to deal with such young and energetic children.
During our time together, we also watched a gunfight, saw a dance hall revue (which the little ones thought was more comical than sexy), attended a big top show (which meant it was held in a large tent) and listened to some Native American storytelling. When we met back up with the others, even the older boys were satisfied with their day and we were ready to go eat dinner, before returning to our motel for the night.
During dinner, my grandsons excitedly, and animatedly, told their uncles about their day. I think my boys got a thrill out of seeing their nephews so excited and kept them going by asking questions or making comments about what they said. Both Jordan and Nicky ate up the attention and even hammed it up a bit, taking advantage of their moment in the limelight.
Once we were in our rooms, things were pretty quiet. The boys were all a little tired and we were nearly finished with our Arizona tour. Ricky and Jay got to share the ‘sex room’ with Pat and Carlos, who just happened to get scheduled in there on back to back nights, but it was a very subdued event. Everyone decided it was best to go to bed early, in preparation for our last full day in Arizona, which I warned would be a fairly full day.
The next morning we drove to the Mission San Xavier del Bac right after breakfast. It’s a Catholic church that was built back in 1783, just a few years after the United States became an independent nation. It is a beautiful, old, Spanish mission that has its own attached museum.
“Why are we stopping here,” Sammy asked.
“Because this is supposed to be one of the most beautiful of all the mission architecture,” I informed him.
“It doesn’t look that special,” Nick observed, looking out at the structure.
“Maybe not to you,” I replied, “but considering the time it was built and the many years it has been here, I think it fits superbly into its surroundings.”
“How come the one tower has a top and the other one doesn’t,” Dion asked, after noticing that discrepancy.
“I’m not sure,” I explained, “but it looks as if, for one reason or another, they never managed to finish it.”
The boys followed me inside and that’s when I think they understood why this mission is considered to be one of the most beautiful. It’s a wonderful blend of Moorish, Byzantine and late Mexican Renaissance architecture, yet it was so well done that it’s hard to tell where one leaves off and the other begins. It is also filled with domes and arches, with many wonderful paintings decorating various spaces, and the high altar is massive, intricate and glorious to behold. We sat in the pews, so we could absorb the magnificence of the place for a short time. After that experience, the boys no longer found a need to question why we’d stopped there.
On the way out, we purchased some Indian fry-bread to try, which is a crispy, fried bread that can be served with a variety of toppings, including red chilis or beans, but we chose the cinnamon and powdered sugar versions instead. It was really pretty good and I was glad we chose the ‘sweeter’ types for the boys to try.
We were now on the road, heading for our next destination, Tombstone, which was about an hour away. It is one of the legendary old west towns that seem to get mentioned in nearly all Westerns and cowboy stories. It was the place where the infamous gunfight at the OK Corral took place, which was a bloody and deadly shootout between the Earps and the Clantons. One of our first stops was where that gunfight took place. The boys were standing next to the nine life-sized replicas, seeing if they thought any of them looked menacing, when we were informed a reenactment of the gunfight would take place. Eagerly, the boys gathered around to watch it.
“Jeez, that didn’t take very long,” Graham complained, when it was over.
“No, it didn’t,” I agreed. “It was my understanding that the whole thing took about thirty-seconds, but when it was over, three of the cowboys lay dead and Morgan and Virgil Earp had been wounded.”
“Dang!” Pat exclaimed “All that happened in thirty-seconds?”
“Yes, with so many guns firing,” I assured him, “it didn’t take much time at all.
During our stay there, we also learned the town got its name because its founder had been had been told by friends that he’d find his tombstone, rather than silver, as he left to seek his fortune. That’s why he named his first claim Tombstone and the city was built around the mining of gold and silver.
After that, we also visited the Tombstone Courthouse, the Boot Hill graveyards, the Bird Cage Theater, the Crystal Palace Saloon and the Tombstone Epitaph, the town’s newspaper. We also had lunch at the Rose Tree Inn. When we left Tombstone, we went back to our motel in Tucson, to spend our final night there. We’d be catching a plane in the morning for San Antonio, Texas, where we would visit Brandon’s family for a few days. The boys didn’t know our destination yet, for all I was willing to tell them was that we were going someplace else, which made them wonder why I was keeping it such a secret. Actually, I wanted to surprise Brandon, not them.
Brandon, Danny, Cole, and Graham shared the ‘sex room,’ but none of them were really into doing much tonight. They were all pretty tired, so they just sucked each other off quickly, before they went to sleep. The thing that made the night special for them was that Graham slept with Danny, while Cole shared his bed with Brandon. The older boys held the younger ones all night long and were almost fatherly in the attention they gave their little brothers. Graham and Cole enjoyed the special attention they got from their older siblings and it was really pretty special to all of them to experience this sort of time together.