After more than six months on the road, the Vagabond tour has reversed course and is heading east! We departed the Davis-Mothan Air Force Base family campground in Tucson last week and have made our way to Texas. After visiting family and swapping out cold weather clothes for more summer items at our storage space, we’ll continue east and eventually stop in North Carolina for Nick and Ashley’s wedding! We’re super excited about the wedding and about getting together with family members coming in for the event.

Tucson was a wonderful place to hang out for three months during the winter. Besides enjoying reasonably mild weather, staying in one spot for an extended period allowed us meet many great people and make several new friends. Some people staying on the base campground were part-time campers and the rest were living a Vagabond life full time. We couldn’t tell who was full-time and who was not unless we asked because everyone was so laid-back.

After more than six months on the road, we have to admit that a Vagabond life is liberating. Owning less “stuff” means there less to worry about, and the people we’ve become friends are the genuine article. No one talks about money or social status – there’s no keeping up with the Jones. No one is out to prove anything to anyone. The people we’ve become friends with are comfortable with who they are and have no desire to be around people who have a problem with that. We’re all there living a dream and being part of each other’s dream.

All this probably sounds like Fantasyland to some people. They are, unfortunately, people who think human existence is hopeless. For those folks, I have some relief. There’s a place south of Tucson where you can blow-up half the world (the other half). The Titan Missile Museum south of Tucson is the last remaining Titan missile site on US soil. All others have been imploded. For a modest fee, you can tour the site, see the missile, and may even be selected to “turn the key” in the control room.

Daria had this honor during our tour.  She sat at the control desk and turned one of two keys 90 degree clockwise for 5 seconds. The tour guide didn’t turn the other key simultaneously so there was no missile launch (plus about 10,000 other reasons like no fuel in the rocket). I asked how she felt afterward and could she do it for real? Daria said it would have been very hard to turn the key but that she would follow the President’s orders.

I know how Daria felt about turning that key. Back in 1988, I was one of two pilots in my squadron who was qualified to carry and drop nuclear weapons. Here’s a little about how that worked: we would fly into bad-guy territory very fast and at a very low altitude; when in range, I would pull back on the stick and go vertical, the computer would throw the bomb high into the atmosphere, and I’d perform a split-S maneuver and head for the hills; the bomb would parachute down and explode at altitude, incinerating everything within 25 miles; at top speed our aircraft would put us about 12 miles away. Get the picture?

For all the good we took from our stay in Tucson, we unfortunately left something behind that was near and dear to our hearts. Major, one of our two trusted K-9’s, crossed the Rainbow Bridge into Dog Heaven.

Daria wrote Major a eulogy:

How do I start to talk about Major? It’s so hard to do.

You see, back in 2008, we wanted to get Rocko a friend.  Bandera had a dog and cat shelter called Cowboy Capital Pet Assistance League.  We went to the facility and there were quite a few dogs to choose from.  As we walked around, I saw a little dog cowering in the corner of his kennel. We walked up to his cage to coax him to come but he would have nothing to do with us, so we continued looking.  None of the other dogs gave me that good feeling of our soon to be Major.

Rick was talking with the volunteers when I went back to Major’s cage. I sat down on the ledge and talked to him until he cautiously walked over to me. Then he sat down, looking at me, probably wondering if I was a human that could possibly be good to him.  He came closer so he could smell my hand and I slowly stuck my fingers in and started petting him.  He seemed to enjoy that until I moved to get a little more comfortable…he ran away to his corner.  I was able to coax him back over until Rick walked up and once again he ran away.  I was thinking what abuse did this poor little dog go through before he ended up in this cage.

I told Rick that this is the one that we should adopt. We talked to the volunteers and asked if there was a way we could take him home to meet his new buddy to make sure that they got along. They said that we could foster him and if for any reason the friendship with Rocko didn’t work out, we could bring him back.  I was already thinking there was no way that I could bring back this poor, scared dog.

Long story short, the two dogs got along.  What we didn’t realize is that Major was probably abused by someone in a baseball cap because he ran away every time Rick wore one.  It took a while for Major to understand that we were not going to abuse him.  He wouldn’t go up to strangers for several years, but towards the end of his life that changed and he walked up to most people he met.

Major started retaining fluid and became lethargic.  We took him to the vet and the Doc said that the left side of his heart wasn’t strong and he maybe had 2-3 months left, but not 2-3 years.  By adopting him we gave him the best life a dog could ask for.  He was able to live on 58 acres and roam.

One final note, Angus, our black lab took everything in stride and he’s getting LOTS of attention! That’s all for now.