It’s official: I’m a flatlander

Published 12:00 am Saturday, April 14, 2012

I always laugh when Snuffy Smith in the comics talks about “flatlanders.” I never gave it a second thought until my recent trip to Arizona. When my friend Billie buzzed me around in her powerful Jeep Cherokee in Tucson where mountains appear on almost on all sides, the realization hit me that somewhere through the years, I have evolved into one of “them flat-landers.”

Let me explain. I was born in a mining camp on what I think was a fairly “high hill” in Bibb County. I attended high school in Birmingham. It has Red Mountain, right? OK, I admit I’m familiar with “high hills” and that big mountain in Birmingham. I once clung trembling to the wall in fear of height on the little porch of the tower on top of which Vulcan, Birmingham’s iron man stands. Yes, I could have looked over the city if I’d dared open my eyes.

Truth is, I’ve lived in south Alabama so long that I’m overwhelmed by mountains; especially those five mountain ranges in Tucson. Billie’s house is located in the foothills of the Tucson Mountains in the west. Several times as daylight began fading, we sat outside enjoying pleasant weather and the scenery. From her patio we saw some of those “purple mountains majesties” that reminded me of the song, “America the Beautiful.” What a glorious sight it was. Later I peered out her kitchen window to admire the brilliant moon hanging in the distance.

Tooling around about in the Cherokee during my visit, Billie took me to a fascinating art gallery and a garden featuring native plants. I enjoyed them both, but one of the highlights of my trip was our visit to Mount Lemmon. We participated in an inspirational Easter Sunday worship service and grabbed a bite to eat before we left. We decided to forego dessert until we reached the restaurant at our destination high in the mountains.

We traveled the Catalina Highway through the Coronado National Forest. Along the way stood giant Saguaros (the cacti that reach 75 years old before growing arms), pine trees, and a variety of desert vegetation. It was the mountains and the rock formations that were so striking. As we rounded curves climbing higher and higher, we saw one after another jumping up before us. I kept aiming my camera and clicking. I soon realized there was no way to capture the depth and breadth of those wonders of God’s creation. What a job it must have been for man to construct the road.

We traveled 25 to 35 mph, noting the signs—6,000, 7,000, 8,000, nearing 9,000 ft.—and reached the village where a restaurant and other buildings jutted from the rocks. We ate luscious desserts at the restaurant before starting home.

“I can’t imagine anyone wanting to live up here,” I commented as we rolled away.

“I’d love it,” Billie replied.

While I’m a definite flatlander, I decided Billie must surely be related to a mountain goat.