CASA GRANDE — Bob Schrader has it pretty nice in Wyoming. He and his wife, Betty, have a 50-acre ranch about 20 miles east of Cheyenne.
“We spend our summers out there, and vacation time,” Schrader said.
Well, maybe not this summer. He’s one of a number of winter visitors opting to tough it out in Casa Grande a little longer, if not for the entire year.
I know he’s not alone. PinalCentral Features Editor Melissa St. Aude spoke to a couple extending their stay at a Casa Grande RV park. They travel the country in a motor home. They didn’t want to hit the road only to find other parks aren’t taking reservations.
It’s no secret. COVID-19 has tossed a monkey wrench into many a travel plan.
The Schraders spend their winters in a well-kept Casa Grande subdivision. They usually head to the Wyoming ranch in early May. This year, in early April, they decided against the drive.
“It’s a two-day trip. We have to get gas and meals,” he said.
They didn’t want to take a chance their usual stops might be shuttered. And they wanted to avoid possible exposure to coronavirus. They’re both in their 70s. Bob has Parkinson’s, a legacy from his time as an Army medic in the Vietnam War. He was exposed to Agent Orange. Betty has a heart condition. They’re otherwise active and plan to keep it that way.
Bob writes books. Betty edits them. He’s a retired lawyer. He also worked as a deputy sheriff and judge, and in the family funeral business. Betty worked for the state of Wyoming. To date, Bob has published two books about a fictional sheriff in a fictional Wyoming county. Sheriff Jerry Burkley keeps busy tracking bank robbers through the Wyoming wilderness and protecting state secrets.
The real Wyoming sheriffs, I imagine, have other fish to fry. I can see them breaking up crowds of 10 or more. And warning people to keep a social distance.
At least one Wyoming county posted directives for returning snowbirds. Sublette County advises them: Go directly home. Self-isolate for 14 days. No visiting. No visitors. And no shopping. Arrange to have groceries and prescriptions delivered.
In Casa Grande, Bob ventures out to do the shopping. His service dog, Dusty, helps. Bob wears a mask fashioned out of a filter from a CPAP machine, which helps Betty with breathing during sleep.
Sounds like something MacGyver would think of.
Not that Bob has any shortage of face masks, a few states to the north.
“They’re all in my woodshop in Wyoming,” he said. “I’m always looking for a tool or something, but they’re always in Wyoming.”
He has three horses in Wyoming as well. He used to have more. He raised quarter horses on his ranch. Two granddaughters, 11 and 18, own the three horses now boarded there.
Horse No. 3 is a newborn filly. She was born on Easter to Twister, who belongs to Kaitlynn, the older sister. Brynna’s horse is Cheeto. He isn’t the father, but has welcomed the new addition, Schrader said.
Schrader’s son-in-law, Darin, looks after the ranch.
Schrader himself is anxious to check out the new filly. Putter around in his woodshop. Breathe in some country air. He just won’t be hunting like he used to. He once tracked big game in the Wyoming wilderness.
Now he’s mostly on the hunt for toilet paper. He got lucky. His neighbor across the street bagged a few rolls for him.
Tom McCall is from Canada. Since retired, McCall once owned a GMC-Pontiac dealership in British Columbia. He wore a cowboy hat in his advertisements.
Marketing gold, as it turned out.
“A lot of ranchers would buy from me exclusively because I had a western hat on,” McCall said. I spoke to him and Schrader by phone.
Schrader fashioned a character after McCall in his most recent book, “Tunnel Secrets.” You can’t miss the resemblance. The character is named Tom “Cash” McCall. He’s a Wyoming car dealer who wears a cowboy hat.
The real McCall said he and the Schraders share and share alike. He offered them some toilet paper.
“They gave us hand sanitizer,” McCall said.
McCall is not the snowbird he once was. He used to spend summers in Canada. Now he has a green card, allowing him year-round U.S. residency.
He can still get Canadian medical care. No surprise medical bills there.
“I’m completely covered,” he said.
It’s all free. Right, right, right. High taxes and all that. But I’m sure McCall’s paid his share.
Now he’ll summer in the desert.
“Try to see how it goes,” he said.
So will the Schraders, unless the pandemic plays out before summer’s end. Then they might venture north. Maybe even take that planned cruise off the coast of Maine.
Until then, Bob the writer will be sheltered in place with his editor.