The Great War was a ghost that haunted Ralph. In New York Harbor he saw the great monsters of ships towering over him, too many to count, hundreds, perhaps thousands. They swallowed him and took him to Europe where he was intended to die in a ditch. War had changed. Ralph sat in trenches that had not moved in years, gas was an unseen threat, and the earth would not stop shaking from massive bombs. The sky was filled with machine gun bullets, smoke, planes, bombs, rotting smells, waste, and death. All of the buildings destroyed under the foot of new machines far beyond the imaginations of the men steering them. Harsh noises, harsh smells, harsh cold of the bottom of the trench. Old generals forced him to run into the field of debris at the oncoming bullets and bombs for someone else’s glory.
Ralph outlasted the war and ran away from the clutter of death and killing machines to the desert outside of Phoenix. “Outside” was a relative term when he moved there. There was only a few houses and a general store in Phoenix when he arrived. The sky was always empty, bright and blue, the air was quiet and breezy and the earth too hot and hard to dig even the shallowest of trenches. Over the next 30 years Ralph’s thin body went from youthful to stringy, his face smooth to cracked and darkened, he moved as well as he used to but he no long stood as straight.
His parcel north of the mountain gave Ralph a life of quietness after the war. He was able to buy his land on the cheap after the miners that had staked a claim on the mountain gave up after they were all driven mad by the mercury they had been extracting, giving the area the name “Dreamy Draw.” The mercury was gone by the time Ralph moved in and the plants he grew on his little plot of land thrived year round.
By the time the next war ended, other men had the same thoughts to hide from the same ghosts as Ralph. Phoenix became more populated, but the area near Ralph’s farm was hidden from much of this expansion by the mountain. It was a quiet, solitary, life until Ralph’s nephew George came to visit in 1947.