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February 1980

Hobnobbing with Royalty

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Bob Riddell

With Pertinent Notes as to Dates, Episodes, etc.

Provided by His Mother.

Hobnobbing With Royalty

In 1937, out of a clear blue sky, the folks decided it would be nice to have a “little nest egg” by renting the Homestead for six months or so and take a place in town. It came as a blow to Sis and I since we were so firmly planted in the life on the desert By this time we had graduated to a 1936 Dodge sedan, a bright maroon one, that was certainly a far cry from the “tank.”

An ad was readied for the local papers but, as luck would have it, one afternoon a large black sedan drove up the driveway. A chauffeur got out and opened the rear door. Out stepped a tall woman dressed in white including a white, wide brimmed hat She came to the front door accompanied by a tall, husky and good looking man.

Mom opened the door, and the visitor apologized for the trespassing and for the intrusion. She introduced herself as Lady  Suffolk, and the gentleman as Colonel Gillette. They were both from England. They were invited in. A more charming and handsome woman I, nor the rest of the family, have never seen or met. She had been looking on the outskirts of Tucson, with the Colonel, for a home in private atmosphere for him. They preferred a period of six months for a minimum stay which could possibly last longer. The price was no object: that is within reason. Their search so far had been in vain for a place that suited his taste and hers.

After a tour of the Casa and a walk to the pump area guided by the folks, the two had a private conversation. They returned all smiles. Name a price, fully furnished, and the Colonel would like to take possession within two weeks. The Lady did all of the talking; was very business-like, yet spoke in such a manner it didn’t seem so.

There were three stipulations involved. First, no publicity or announcing to anyone about this venture. The Colonel wanted absolute privacy and would handle any intruders. It seems he had some sort of respiratory problem which required Tucson’s climate but out of the dust and pollen area. The second, was that Dad and I agree to come out once a week to turn on the pump. And the third, believe it or not, was that Jiggs remain. The Lady and the Colonel fell in love with him at once. And the darn cat purred as they stroked his back and whispered sweet nothings into his alerted ears. Could it be felines recognized royalty? We knew Sis would have a fit so  Mom politely refused this request

We found a house near the U of A. and moved in, with a feeling that heaven was left behind. How does one act in civilization? Or react? For sure there was less mileage to contend with. Some consolation for me as the guns were left behind in my closet

There was a terrible time deciding how to tell friends of the move. “Well, let’s see.” Mom smiled. “our great aunt is occupied at the Casa writing a novel.”

“No. this sounds better,” I offered. “How about the place is haunted with ghosts of homebrewers?” Dirty looks came fast.

“We’ll have to think of something,” Sis said, which was true since the Colonel’s privacy must be protected.

“A big help, but no.” Dad replied, “we’ll just say the Homestead is rented and everyone please stay away.”

We had the privilege of calling at anytime. The first visit came a week after being in town. It was not a social visit. Sis was very upset because Jiggs was missing. All searched and called to no avail. The Colonel called from St. Mary’s and said it was urgent to come at once.

Upon arrival there was Jiggs in all of his glory sitting in his favorite chair on the front porch_ The Colonel smiled and pointed to the King of the Homestead. He had arrived the afternoon before footsore, tired and hungry. Sis was happy again. Mom heard cats have the built-in radar to perform this neat trick, but none gave it much thought. The Colonel suggested we take Jiggs back in a burlap sack placed on the floor of the car. We did One week later another phone call. Twice in a row? That’s what the man said.

It didn’t take long to find out why the darn feline traveled the hard way. It was his menu. No twenty-five cent hamburger. No, sir. Only the choicest of sirloin steak which the Colonel cut into small hunks. For a variation it was baked chicken also cut into tasty morsels. This was unbelievable. Just so Jiggs wouldn’t become bored, he was fed fancy canned meat imported from England. He even enjoyed dessert. Imported chocolate cookies which cost one dollar and one half per dozen.

There was no way we could keep Jiggs in town. There was an invitation to stay for dinner. My mouth waters at the thought of the dinner and dessert truly fit for royalty. But us?

Again it was quite noticeable how gracious Lady Suffolk could be. She had returned after a two weeks’ absence for a short stay before returning to England. We wondered if our manners were correct for dining with royalty, and do they use a knife and fork different from our style. Perhaps the Lady could read minds because she smiled when we gathered around the table and said to just be ourselves.

The Colonel was a great story teller and told of his experiences in the English Army and how he loved to prepare various food delights with the help of Arthur “There is nothing quite like a delicious meal,” he laughed, “and not just mutton, warm beer and Yorkshire Pudding.”

Lady Suffolk refrained from talking much about royalty except to give a brief history of her family heritage, which was really at the top of English bloodlines. She preferred to talk about business and predicted a great growth for Tucson and the surrounding area. She was a shrewd student of finance and made a painstaking study of the locale.

“I do not see how Tucson cannot grow forward in the future,” she said in a firm voice with an English accent. “All of the ingredients are here, like climate, beauty. The only thing is when.”

Years later, of course, her predictions came true The Colonel felt much better after his stay on the Homestead and begged the Lady to buy some land and build a home. He had fallen completely overboard with the desert. She refused and finally purchased a vast amount of land in what is now known as Suffolk Hills, located on the western slopes of the Santa Catalina Mountains.

The Colonel and Arthur drove out to the Casa on more than one occasion, and stayed as long as he could, even though the food certainly was a come down for his taste buds. He was very disturbed because he didn’t feel nearly as good since living in the other location.

And what a time we had getting Jiggs “down to earth after returning to the Casa. He refused to eat for two days, and then he reluctantly went back to hamburger. We will never forget the experience nor Lady Suffolk and the Colonel. Our friends never did know until long after who lived in the Homestead for six months.

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