Borderlands – Author Note

Author’s Note:

To my family and friends. I referred to him as ‘the old bastard.’ My contempt held strong when he walked this earth decades ago. But I loved him. I learned a lot from him, too. I was a twisted vine of emotions. His sudden death floored me.

I don’t use biting words as I did then. Mind you, they do come up from time to time. Imagination gets the best of me. The stiletto of sadistic pleasure. The pointed tongue, to tender heart. Each can draw blood back on you. The rent gained on a darkened thought can never make up for the amount of light lost, when you love someone.

I was a precocious pretentious young man. In some ways, I still am. Long ago, my father’s swift departure left me standing by the edge of his bed staring at his dresser stacked with dozens of colorful silk neckties, a few overused tobacco pipes that saluted in a pipe stand, and an brass urn heavy with questions. Life examined. That was some forty years ago.

His rapid exit may well have been intentional. His marriage was turbulent. The July thunderstorms in my hometown of Flagstaff, Arizona. My mother, a stunning beauty, was the stoic Queen of Hearts. Her initials, etched in his soul. It was his certain poison. And, he fought back. The clumsy dagger of a backhand remark and the poorly executed strike of the Eagle Claw of a Shaolin Kung Fu green belt, his moves always returned to him six-fold.

Bad blood settles. It will take it’s own path. With time, the bitter berry has an opportunity to sweeten, given influence. The miracle berry of West Africa will unfold the bitter lemon into a sweet delight. The slow path of time can sweeten a sulfurous fruit.

I’m lazy hiker. I’ve always been. You can’t convince me to change my pace. In this life, I haven’t used a map. Unlike my father, I’ve learned to listen to the trail. There are many paths that we each get to walk in life, given the time. The whisper of the wind and the scent of pine will direct you. Randomly followed paths may lead to a dead end. That’s okay. Other paths bring you to a new beginning. And, that’s okay too. Circular paths lead you to where you first started. And sometimes, that’s okay too. Some paths lack true heart, but most don’t. In every path, there is a story. Some hold onto you, some you hide from and a few, you share.

This is one of the few stories I’ll share. I’ve held tightly to this tale for decades. Like bitter blood, a miracle allowed it to sweeten with time. The overlooks on a hike can provide a rich horizon. Decades can ferment the sour berry. Sweetness can arise. And a thorn can reveal a flower.

I wrote this story for my children and grandchildren. It was also written for my friends and to those folks who I will someday meet.There is always hope beyond loss. The storm cannot last forever, and if the path leads you to a dead end, there is no shame in simply starting over.

In this book, I have mentioned people, places and things. Just so you are fully aware, all of these are real and the events are true, but many are lies. Dig and discover. This is my gift for you. Enjoy the hunt.

Ron McFarland

(c) 2017, Ron McFarland

Ch 6 – Lost

Chapter 6: Lost

She stared in the eye of a dream that slipped away. Mary stopped by the doorway of her art studio. She leaned the mop handle against the old floral papered hallway wall and placed the heavy pail of hot water laced with a solid dose of Pine Sol carefully down on the oak floor. The heavy aroma of pine oil lifted from the steaming aluminum pail against her face. She knew that what is now abhorrent can grow to be agreeable.

She paused and looked at the varnished door. As she prepared to step into her once sanctuary space, she wished to atone for her lustful dreams of being a painter. The challis of the pail and the host of the mop were to sanctify the studio space as her past licentious dreams would soon be washed away.  Her delicate fingers prodded, poked and slid her rebellious blond curls under the red scarf. She double-checked the tightness of the large knot that pressed firmly to her forehead. Like the Samurai who vigilantly prepares and then positions his helmet with care before the next great battle, she had wrapped the scarf around her head with a taut intention of victory. Her Rosie the Riveter look was now complete. And, she was now ready for the most certain of holy battles.

She gripped the door handle. The pitted brass knob was an old rock of certainty. Yet it wobbled against her firm grip. She rotated the knob and the door opened with a pop. Inside the room were monuments of oil paintings, stacked neatly in symmetric rows that leaned against two opposite walls. And, there was her easel. It was the alter, an unwrought stone enveloped by the incense. An apex of unrequited lust.

— Balance of chapter not posted. —

(c) 2017, Ron McFarland

The Opening

The Opening

Path to Perniciousness

There is no mystic secret

It is the betrayal of the stars

And the sun that rests over the ocean

Shows only phases of the aging moon


We are barefoot on the path of perniciousness

Uneven footing on rutted brown earth

Sweet whiskey of your soiled lips

Are memories as I lay down on the floor


Last night in the dimly lit bar room

Away from the January noon so long ago

You became unearthly bound

Beyond the stars and stratosphere


I swear at the lies his injustice

Of drying marrow to the bone

I seek to set fire to this truth

Of infinite lies stretching with smiling stillness.

For the seekers. From a doubter. And, from the very beginning. All I have are the memories. Strong recollections that can be touched with lips. A taste, like a grain of salt on the tip of my tongue. On the strength of memories and nothing more, I live as a gatherer. To harvest actualities, truths are tucked away in dreams. They rise, much like tufts of yawing grass stretch their arms for the warm spring sun. Here, truth reaches out like stretching fingers of sun that inch through the deep forest, far from the county roads that gouge the face of this ponderosa forest in Northern Arizona.

In the late afternoon of March 18, 2014, I look away from the computer screen out the window at a late-winter storm. Typical for the southern part of the Rockies. Tender starter flakes toss about by gusting winds. Twenty-eight degrees by the thermometer nailed on the outside wall facing in the window. The wind chill must be lower. This was the start of my journey.

(c) 2016, Ron McFarland,


Chapter 1 from “Happy I Am”

Chapter 1: Opening

Do you hear my whisper?

What does the wind whisper to you?
Listen to the song of the manzanita tree and the desert holly,
As we step down this trail,
Towards the late afternoon spring.

There is a lifting up, of an accord to heaven,
On this wash of red sandstone and hematite;
A distant drumming, together of our heartbeats,
One pulse as we walk along the mesa’s edge.

I catch a glimpse into your eyes,
As the peering sun squints between feathered clouds;
On canyon walls, I hear a subtle song reflected,
From a past long shared, in a distant foreign land.

The whisper of times spent wrapped together,
In a blanket near the fire, on a brisk winter’s evening;
And of moments that we danced slowly together,
In the soft hush of the spring morn.

You searched for me in rainbows that color the sky,
You watched for me in the thousand winds that blew,
You met me in diamond glints in the snow;
When you thought, I was gone.

Turn my way and know;
That I am here, and have always been,
With you.

Do you hear the whisper?

There are moments in this holy place of the Navajo and Hopi, a place of painted orange skies and soft evening breezes that open into gentle melodies arising from waves of purple three-awn and tufted green hair-grass. It is a place where the spirit circulates between the walls of canyons that lift breezes and thoughts upward to honor the skies. Rhythmic tics outline this story of simple truths. Time in this part of the world flutters on feathered wings from stances of Aspen in the high country to the open vistas of the red mesas lands.

I was trekking with my VW minivan several years ago through the Ponderosa pines that surround Flagstaff to the land of mesas where the Gods once reached down to touch the human race. I looked forward to a hot cup of coffee on the blustery first day of jittered travel on the back-roads of the Nava-Hopi lands. My intended destination was the Navajo spiritual place, Canyon De Chelly. According to my projections, I’d be there by that evening.

My plan was to take a few pictures, journal a bit, and move onward by the following day. I had mapped out the course several weeks prior. Earlier, I highlighted each stop on a road map that was now neatly folded up that lay in the passenger’s seat. I also made a list on a smaller piece of paper of places to stop and see, where to eat, and when I would rent a hotel room or stay in the van which I previously folded and tucked in my shirt pocket.

At my first stop was when I first met Ajei (translated: my heart) at the Hubble Trading post near Ganado, Arizona. The trading post rests at the intersection of U.S. route 191 and Indian Road 264.

I stepped in the large trading post. It look like it was build in the mid 1800s, was constructed of large heavy pine timbers. I took a few steps on the uneven pine floor towards a counter with a hand painted sign that read “Drinks, Water & Coffee.”

“I’d like a cup of coffee, please.” I asked the older Navajo man behind the counter as he was cleaning up the coffee service area.

He looked around at me and grinned. “Straight-up?”

“Yeah, that’ll do” Assuming that he was talking about ‘no cream or sugar.’

“What’s your name?” This place, the land and the people have always piqued my interest.

“Joe” he grinned. “Figures. I’m an Injun” he grinned wider.

I winced and politely said, “How do I get a tour when I get into the canyon?”

“Ask an Injun when you get there.” He smiled and turned away, again wiping the counter.

Ajei, the beautiful Navajo woman that I met that night who I often think about to this very day was sitting at a small card table to the side of the counter. She wore a thin royal blue blanket as a wrap around her shoulder and blue and white earrings hung from the lobes of her ears softly touching her smooth desert-brown skin. Her straight raven black hair reached far down her back and was decorated on one side with a feather. She softly smiled as I stepped closer to the table. I was caught off-guard by her gentle presence in the midst of the crusty and cold trading post. I stopped to introduce myself.

After introductions, Ajei spoke to me about several generalities that day, like how the Navajos have traded in the Hubble Trading post for well over a century and a half, how the light wind-swept away the dusting of snow from the evening before, and the differences that exist between clans like how many Navajos leave to marry a non-native since non-natives are outside of their clan.

Then, she softly focused and looked deep within my eyes with a gaze warmed with compassion. “We each have a story to share. Our shared stories give purpose to each person on Mother Earth.”

“Your story will be a sand painting of healing. And …” she paused as if she as listening inward to a soft whispered voice, “…and your story will be told in five parts over the next three years.”

I waited for a moment and started to say something, but Ajei continued, “My story will then follow yours. And this is when you will know when to share your story.” She softened and looked down into her open hands.

I drew back slightly. I thanked her, swallowed the last drop of coffee, crumpled the paper cup and pitched it in the trashcan. Smiling at Ajei, I tipped my hat and closed the door behind me.

That was several years ago and this is my story.


(c) 2016, Ron McFarland

Chapter 25: Smugglers

Chapter 25: Smugglers
by Ron McFarland

When trouble comes, hopes and dreams scatter. The sun hammers on the sand. Straggled tufts of ironwood and cholla stretch their spinney arms towards the dry winds. Iron black hills outline the wide desert stances. Into the scorched desert, live the fantasies of men.

Pathways that follow the occasional sandy gully stretch northward. Each is strewed about with sun-scorched cans of Vienna sausage, torn shirts, and trash mixed with the sand, and a few emptied canteens. A straight and long barbed wire fence cuts over an occasional arroyo separating the United States to the north and Mexico to the south. La línea.

The last mid-July monsoon drowned arroyos and gullets with tumbled rocks and mud that flooded over an occasional low spot on Arizona Highway 80 that runs parallel from the border connecting Douglas, Arizona to Bisbee, Arizona to the west. By mid-August, the heat spikes to 110 degrees during the day under the low hanging shade of the occasional yucca.

Border Patrol agents frequently find the remaining frames of Mexican nationals – men, women, children — dried out by the blast of the sun and picked apart by night creatures that roam this part of the Sonoran desert. Delirium can set in from heat stroke and thirst, causing immigrants to strip off their clothes in search of respite. A few would later be found with their heads buried under ironwood tufts or clumpings of yucca in search of shade. A silent stillness lives in the heat of the midday sun with the infrequent sigh of an arid exhale from the hot gust.

Men and women see no amount of misfortune, which could separate them from their dreams northward. Their dreams were too great to be defeated by any man or by any means. This barren land was their last great sand fosse to cross. The hope of respectable work to feed and properly clothe their children drive men into the Sonoran desert, la Fonterra, where the risk is known well by residents south of the border. Some crossers die like road kill.
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(c) 2015, Ron McFarland