Abe Lackow has a voice of Brooklyn, or maybe the Bronx. It’s not a voice I expected to hear with such booming clarity in the heart of the Arizona desert.
I met Abe at on the outskirts of Tucson at a place called the Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum. I immediately noticed his bolo tie and turquoise-silver bracelet. Whatever stickball-playing, outer-borough New Yorker he’d might have once been, had given way to a newer Southwestern self. Abe was clearly thriving in this desert habitat.
I noticed that Abe was wearing a name tag that said “Docent.” He appeared to be some kind of park ranger. I had to find out what he was doing in this outdoor nature center, surrounded by cactuses and rattlesnakes.
Abe is now in his sunset years. He told me he’s always had a passion for “living things, breathing things…even plants.” These weren’t the fodder of his paid career, but that doesn’t matter anymore. Now Abe gets to spend his days talking to people about hummingbirds and snakes. And what could be better than that?
Editor’s note: Another version of this story aired on Arizona Public Media’s “Arizona Spotlight” June 20, 2014. Many thanks as well to Britta Greene for lending her editorial ears to this story.
Music credit: “Desert Love” by Bandana Splits.