Cancer Circus and Me
By Leonard William Zajicek
After this operation, the next 16 months consisted of seeing the doctor for follow-ups. Every 3 months I was scheduled for cystoscopy. He found small tumors. Three to four days later, I was back in the hospital where they were removed. After the third repeat of this, I was given chemotherapy which was unsuccessful. It was repeated after my eighth operation and again unsuccessful. I now had had 10 operations, 2 chemotherapy's and the unsure future of my life. It was then I retired with 80% social security, a pension of $ 127.00 per month and a most important decision ahead of me.
I gave away all my worldly goods to my kids, bought a trailer and truck, picked up a map and left for a small town in Arizona, where my youngest son and circus spent the winter months. I have always been an organized individual with security uppermost in my life. I now set all that aside and headed for the open roads.
Now I felt the freedom of complete, total abandonment of a normal life. I felt as though I went into a second childhood and ran away to join the circus. As I crossed the roads, my thoughts of an unpredictable future lay ahead. Had I done the right thing? Time would tell.
This was the first time I had ever pulled a trailer and the new experience made me wonder if I had done something foolish. Everything I owned was on wheels now and doubt crept in on occasion. Each day brought new sights to my eyes and new adventures into my life. As I stopped to eat, I would look at all the faces and wonder what their lives had been. I'm sure each held a story, as some had a look either of contentment or despair. I looked at the hitchhiker with all he owned rolled up in a crummy sleeping bag or a much used blanket. His thumb was his wheels, his destination unknown, his future insecure. I thought my own life now was the same, only a hell of a lot more comfortable.
My eyes took in the truck drivers, those men who deliver the goods we use each day and make life possible with all our imagined needs. These knights of the road, on the whole a pretty decent lot, they always gave me a feeling of security at night when I would pull into a rest area and park my "home" between the tractors and trailers. No words were spoken between us, yet I felt good as I was among the folks of the road. In the morning when I saw them, I could read the silent thoughts they had of me and my "rig". Just another old fart using up the road space and slowing them down.
Each day brought me closer to the spot in the desert that would be home four months out of the year, the place where the circus, with paint and needle would prepare for next years' shows. All the trucks and trailers would receive their new bright colors from the paint brush and the needle would mend the scars of wind and rain, put ups and tear downs so the big top could again be the arena of dreams. The candy wagon that had it's roof opened by a low underpass and an inattentive driver in Chicago would be replaced.
As I pulled into a campground in Holbrook, Arizona, I knew just one more day and I would be there. The morning was cloudy and cool, for it was November 3rd, 1990. As I checked my map, I would take Highway 77 through "Snowflake" and continue to "Show Low" where I would pick up Highway 60 to "Globe". I didn't know it at the time, but I would drop 7000 feet into the Salt River Canyon. As I left Holbrook, with an inner excitement within me, I drove forward with a grin. Having lived in the midwest all my life, I was not prepared for what lay ahead.
As I headed for "Snowflake", it was appropriate to run into light snow. As I drove slowly, not being experienced in pulling a trailer on snow, I wanted to stop and take pictures of the tall pines which lined the road with their dusting of snow. My thoughts of getting stuck told me not to stop. I'm sorry I didn't take those pictures, for the beauty of it cannot be put into words. When I got to "Snowflake", I did stop for coffee and to get ready for what might lie ahead. The "locals" in the coffee shop pegged me as a "snowbird", a winter visitor to the Arizona desert, and with their western hospitality told me what to pay attention to on the road down to the canyon bottom. Signs of "shift to low gear", "emergency pull off 500 ft. ahead", falling rock area" were all new to me. When I got to "Show Low", I would pick up Highway 60 and start my descent. The tall pines were behind me now, and no snow. As I looked across the prairie with their barbed wire restraints to let the cattle know their limits, my thoughts of being a city slicker turned shit kicker came to mind. I always wanted to be a cowboy and any thoughts of doing the wrong thing now were gone, thinking, "the next stop I make I'll go into the trailer and put on boots and cowboy hat, jeans and snap button shirt and find some cow shit to step in. As I drove down the mountain road, their magnificent, glamorous beauty overwhelmed me. Each pull off, I would stop and let my eyes and spirit feast upon the view. Never before have I been so impressed with the natural accomplishments of nature. As I traveled down the 6 degree asphalt ribbon, I realized what those signs meant. Now, at the bottom, my eyes looked up at these mountains that tower above and I'm sure with mouth open, I said silently, "Holy Buckets" a term I use to replace profanity. Climbing into the truck, I shifted to lower gear to give me and mine the torque to move us to the top and the road to Globe.
Outside of Globe, with 60 miles to go, I started to see what lie ahead. Soon the vegetation was of cactus, called Joshua Tree, organ pipe, century, cholla and the tall saguaro with arms reaching to the sky as if in prayer. I didn't know then what they were called but their places on the sandy ground were married perfectly for all time.
I reached Apache Junction and took the road to winter quarters as my son's directions told me and I was "home".