The right gait for retired aerospace engineer, horseman, boy firefighter and poet, Jim Hagen, is living life with a paintbrush in his hand.
At least part of the time.
And neither brain surgery, rotator cuff surgery, nor macular degeneration is going to stop him from creating.
A mountain man rides a trotting paint pony in "Headin' for Town."
"If you have ever ridden horses and you are just loping along, it is just like being in a rocking chair; it's the easiest ride in the world," Hagen said.
He wrote a sonnet inspired by the picture.
The Right Gait For Me
I do not like my horse to trot,
And I will tell the reason why.
It jolts your back, your head and not
A moment do you care to try
To do much more than hold your seat
As up and down you bound.
It simply isn't quite a treat;
This gait can't last with me around.
But when he goes into a lope I grin.
This gait is for me, and I hope to win
This battle of saddle and my rear end.
So here is the answer to you my friend:
If you're to get there in one solid piece,
Then lope him, don't trot, and the pain will cease.
Hagen first discovered the Rim Country when he spent the summer of 1943, when he was just 16, at the Geronimo Boy Scout Camp, when it was across from Kohl's Ranch on the Tonto Creek.
"One day, a man came in and asked that anyone, 16 and older, stand up," Hagen said. "We were conscripted to go fight the forest fire on Boulder Mountain (near Sunflower)," Hagen said.
With no public fanfare, no helicopters or modern equipment, Hagen and his fellow Scouts spent the next 11 days fighting the 20,000-acre blaze.
"Our parents didn't even know where we were," he said.
An article Hagen wrote about the fire appears in the Winter 2007 issue of Fire Management Today.
Hagen has his own website: www.westernfineart.net
Hagen got his start painting when he was living in Riverside, Calif. in 1980.
"The neighbor kids were playing with watercolors, so I joined them one afternoon," Hagen said.
He enjoyed it so much, that his wife Marlene bought him an easel at a yard sale.
"What am I going to do with this," he thought.
Then his daughter brought him some oil paints.
"What am I going to do with these?"
One rainy week in April he painted his Labrador dog, named Daisy, in a field of daisies.
As time went on, Hagen found he liked the feel of canvas, but the strength of boards, so he stretches his canvases over a board.
"My strengths are that I have a good eye for color and I understand how light and shadow work, which is the secret to depth," he said.
His biggest challenge?
"Time," Hagen said.
Name: Jim Hagen
Medium: Oil paintings
Advice to beginning artists: As wildlife artist Gary Swanson once told me - it takes miles and miles of canvas to become an artist. Paint. Paint. Paint. You can study the old masters and other artists' work, but ultimately your own personality will come through your brush.
Motto: Live and Let Live. Love and Be Love.
Award most proud: First Place, oils, George Phippen Memorial Art Show, Prescott, 1981 for "Comin' Home."
Why Christopher Creek? He had camped at, then later worked at, the Boy Scouts' Camp Geronimo, when it was across from Kohl's Ranch. "We built a cabin under a Forest Service lease, but when I retired, I thought, ‘You can't keep a woman in a cabin,' so we bought the lot across the road and built our home."
Upcoming project: Subtly paint an alligator in alligator juniper.
Movie: "The Milagro Beanfield War"
Music: Gospel and Western (not honky-tonk)
Food: Mexican or fried chicken with mashed potatoes and gravy
Points of contact: www.westernfineart.net or call (928) 478-4552