I’ve been telling you about Rick, someone who Lolly, I, and the kids met when we moved from Texas to Phoenix. He was semi-retired by then, but still working as a technician for the large German manufacturer, Siemens, maintaining and repairing specialized hospital equipment.

We took an immediate liking to Rick and his wife, Rosita. Rick was one of the calmest, most even tempered and sensible people I have ever known, and Rosita was warm and friendly. Oddly, Rick had the ability to talk with anyone who was feeling angry or annoyed and get him or her calmed down in no time.

I was always amazed at how well Rick could do things like that. I sometimes wondered how or where he had developed such a wellspring of wisdom and understanding. One day I happened to mention it to him; and I’m glad I did because I learned something that day, and I’ll pass it on to you at the end of this three-part column.

Another thing that made Rick different was a striking love of nature, one which was quite different from the zeal we’ve all seen in some people who get out in the wilds as often as they can, spending happy days fishing, skiing, hiking, or doing something they enjoy. You see, Rick’s relationship with nature was something quite different; it was as though he shared some secret with nature which had been denied to the rest of us.

When Rick learned that I had enjoyed solitary hiking since I was a kid he suggested that I accompany him on one of his trips up to Sedona. I had heard of Sedona and its red rocks, so off we went, and it didn’t take long for me to understand why my mention of solitary hiking had prompted him to invite me to go hiking with him. Like me, he was more interested in seeing the things around him than in chattering about everything under the sun, which used to drive me nuts when I was young because — for one thing — it drove away all the animals.

However, when Rick did say something during the many hikes we went on after that first one it was always something worth hearing. His fund of knowledge concerning the natural world seemed virtually limitless — and was always right on the money. We hiked those canyons up there in Sedona until I came to know doggone near every inch of some of them.

It came as no surprise to anyone after Rick retired that he decided to buy a plot of land at the northern edge of Sedona and build a retirement home there for him and Rosita. However, I don’t know what the other people in our group expected that house to be like, but it sure came as a surprise to me.

It wasn’t that the house itself was large or fancy; it was that the whole thing was built and furnished in a way that I had never seen before. To begin with, Rick did some of the building himself, and as part of it he had the walls filled with some form of semi-solid insulation that swelled to a foam which insulated the house so well that you could have heated it with a candle on the coldest winter day, not to mention how easy it was to air condition it.

And even though I knew Rick was very strong in electronics and such, I had no idea that he was a model railroad enthusiast or a ham radio operator, but there were setups for both of them in his retirement home. His house, unlike most houses built these days, had a full cellar, and Rick had equipped his cellar with workbenches and power tools galore; but what amazed and delighted me the most was a model railroad setup that ran right through the back wall of his cellar.

It was huge! Out it went, through the wall, around his large, still natural property on bridges and tunnels, and back in. What gauge? I don’t know. Big! BIG big!

Next week. How Rick became Rick.

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