mitten_treeWhen I first moved to Bisbee, I had this crazy idea to tell people my name was Cobban.  I was ready for a change and Bob, my first name, was nothing but a boring old monosyllabic palindrome.  Bisbee was an artist’s community and Cobban, my mother’s maiden name and my middle name, seemed fitting for someone who was struggling with a deeply repressed artistic side.

I remember the first time I introduced myself as Cobban.  I had gone to Hot Licks BBQ for a drink and struck up a conversation with someone at the bar.

“I’m Cobban.”
“No, Cobban.”
“Cobban. Caah-bin.”
“How do you spell that?”
“C O B B A N.”
“Hmmm, that’s weird.”

People were having a strange reaction to my new name that somehow incorporated a furrowed brow so I chickened out and returned to boring old Bob.

As I was settling into my new job with the county, I was introduced to a woman named Carrie Mitten.  Upon being told my name was Bob, Carrie said, “Oh yikes, another gay guy in Bisbee named Bob?  Ugh, what’s your middle name?”

I reluctantly told her it was Cobban.

“Cobban??” she blurted.
“Here it comes.” I thought.  I knew she was going to poke fun.
“That’s so cool!” She squealed.

The next morning, the name plate on my office wall had been changed to Cobban.  My phone extension and email eventually changed too.  Every time I was with Carrie and someone new came along, she’d proudly say, “This is Cobban.”

Carrie and her husband Kevin seemed to know everyone in Bisbee — and everyone in Bisbee knew them right back.  Anytime there was a social event, fundraiser, potluck, barnraising – you name it, Carrie & Kevin were there.  They were like some sort of unit.  A matched set bound by an ampersand.  Seals & Crofts, Bonnie & Clyde, Sonny & Cher, Carrie & Kevin.  Because of those two, Ray and I became indoctrinated into the Bisbeeland community.

Kevin was one of those guys who could make/fix anything.  Welding?  No problem.  Automotive?  Vroom vroom!  Woodwork?  Where’s the hammer?  Hell, let’s break out the chainsaw!  He had what I call a Man-Garage.  A testament to testosterone, fully equipped with a beer-filled fridge, drum set and every tool imaginable.  You just wanted to hang out there forever.  There was one very cool thing about Kevin; he didn’t give a shit about gay people.  I felt at ease in his presence.

In honor of Stolen Horseshoe, Kevin welded a wind chime out of old rusty horseshoes and gave it to us as a housewarming present.  It weighed a ton and didn’t exactly chime.  It was more like a wind clunk.

There is an annual period when our wind clunk clunks.  It’s right around March/April. (Bisbee folks know exactly what I’m talking about.)  I told Carrie, “You know it’s windy season when you can hear that thing clunking.”

About a year later when I got my first motorcycle, Kevin was there to inspect the engine before I agreed to take it.  He was kind enough to ride it to my house for me too (I had not ridden in years and the bike had an impressive 1100cc engine – way too big for me on the twenty-mile ride to my house.)

After I registered the bike, I got a new license plate in the mail.  Kevin had been making birdhouses using automobile plates for a “tin roof” and jumped at the chance to make a little teeny birdhouse with the motorcycle plate.  I hung it on the mesquite tree in the backyard near the wind clunk.  It was so small!  We were quite surprised when a little bird took residence in it one Spring.  After finding an old automobile plate in the garage, I took it to Kevin and had him make another bigger birdhouse for the tree.

Near the front of our house was a baby mesquite tree.  During the construction, I used to imagine what it would be like when it matured and how it would look next to the house.  (I have a thing for big trees.)  Right before we moved in, the construction crew completely leveled it.  I was heartbroken.

A short time after we moved in a miracle occurred, the tree started growing back! (OK, now I know that it’s nearly impossible to actually kill a mesquite tree.  No real miracle there but back then I was so amazed).  I told Carrie about it and she said, “Well, you just need to call that tree Lazarus.”

So I did.

To continue the theme of naming trees, I began to address the one in back adorned with Kevin’s accoutrements as The Mitten Tree.

When I first met Kevin, he worked for County fleet.  He didn’t care too much for the job and decided to make a living as a handyman – a much sought after person in the Old Bisbee region.  Ray wanted the exterior stairs and balcony refurbished at our hundred-year-old rental place in town.  He called Kevin.  We all agreed to meet at the house one afternoon.  Upon arrival, Kevin produced his crisp new business card. It read:

Kevin Mitten
I show up!

Non-Bisbee folks might not have a clue as to how fucking funny that is.  You see, Bisbee, the artist community, has a strange dynamic, for lack of a better term.  Our neighboring town, Tombstone, is the town “too tough to die” and, well, Bisbee is known as the town “too stoned to care” and no, that’s not why we moved here.  Having a reliable handyman in this town is like gold and I have to say, Kevin was 24K.  Aside from showing up and doing great work, Kevin really took pride in his workmanship and it showed.

Originally, Carrie, Ray and I all worked in the same department.  Ray and I would go to the weekly Friday night potluck where we would see Kevin (as well as the other usual suspects).  At the time, it was lots of fun but in the long run, all good things do come to an end.  The Friday night thing dissolved and Carrie and I moved to other departments.  After moving to the new house, we became homebodies and hardly saw anyone.

We did see Carrie & Kevin on occasion – Kevin in one of his many cars rounding the Lavender Pit jutting his hand out the window with a smile and a wave.  Carrie in Building A whenever I went over to see Ray and naturally both of them at any given community event.  We would always strike up a conversation as if no time had elapsed at all.

Last Saturday while perusing my Facebook page, I got word that Kevin and another well-known Bisbee resident, Dave of  Dave’s Electric Beer, had been in a terrible car accident the day before.

They were traveling along HWY 92 just outside of town.  I believe both men were ejected from the vehicle.  Kevin was airlifted to Tucson and Dave was taken to the Copper Queen hospital and then later also airlifted to Tucson.  I can’t really say what happened because I wasn’t there and we’re all still kind of going through the “I heard from a friend who heard from a friend” period.  I have an idea of what happened but prefer to refrain from posting it online without absolute confirmation.  Not to mention, both men were placed in medically induced comas so no one could really say for sure.

Originally, I heard that the car just broke apart and seemed to have crashed for no reason.  Then I heard that Kevin swerved and lost control to avoid someone who had crossed the double yellow line.  Either way, Kevin and Dave were experiencing serious medical trauma.  Our little Bisbee Facebook community was buzzing with what little information we could provide to each other.  Someone had mentioned that Carrie was ready to talk to people so I gave her a call.  She said Dave was doing better but they just couldn’t seem to stabilize Kevin.  He broke both arms, both legs and fractured his spine.  The doctors had already started talking about “never walking again” and, at that point, all Carrie wanted from Kevin was to have him wake up and say, “You better not be spending money for a goddamn hotel room!”

Kevin is quite the lovable curmudgeon.

Over the weekend, Dave’s condition improved.  I heard that he broke all of his ribs and had his spleen removed but at least he was recognizing people and moving his arms and legs.  Sadly, Kevin’s condition continued to deteriorate.  Early yesterday morning, he changed lanes and headed for the great off-ramp in the sky.

Or perhaps an on-ramp?  I guess it depends on how you look at it.  Either way, our little town is devastated by the loss.

Were Kevin and I close friends?  No, but he was one heck of a guy who was torn from the fabric of our community.  A tear that hurts no matter how well you know a person.  You never realize how interconnected we all are until someone gets unexpectedly ripped away in an instant and all you have left is the lingering sound of Velcro and a lump in your throat the size of a hockey puck.

When we heard the news, Ray and I sat there in silence before he got up to give me a hug.  I couldn’t let go.  Death was reverberating in my head.  It’s so final.  Your heart stops and you don’t breathe.  My brain was trying to process that Kevin was not alive anymore.  I had a vision of Carrie, motionless and alone on a playground swing clutching a tattered ampersand.  The thought knocked the wind out of me.

“I need to run.” I thought, so I got dressed and headed out the door.  The sun was just rising as I started to break a sweat.  I had to run, to feel, to breathe.  I needed to be alive and running was the only thing I could do to validate that my heart was indeed beating.

As I was making my way down the street, morning sunlight illuminated the puffy Arizona clouds.  Everything seemed so vibrant and colorful.  I suddenly remembered that my world was going to contunue turning even if Kevin’s had stopped.

Thank you Kevin.  I’m sorry you had to leave so soon.  Your passing is a reminder that life and living is more valuable than, well, everything…

21 Thoughts on “The Mitten Tree

  1. Zoe Glasscock on 10/09/2009 at 12:36 PM said:

    Kevin is headed for the great on ramp, Cobban, I’m sure. I’m in tears, but what a lovely tribute…

  2. Thank you Cobban. *wipes tears from eyes*
    I didn’t know Kevin, but I feel this community’s loss acutely.

  3. Thanks for that, Cobban.

  4. Wonderfully said Cobban… big THANK YOU.. and big bear hugs to you and Ray….

    you know, you’re one lucky man, you got Ray, the only man in Bisbee to get into Kev’s pants.. 😉

  5. Oh Mike!! Ha ha ha! I had to read that a few times. I forgot that Ray bought Kevin’s old jeans at their garage sale.

    …and you’re right, I am lucky to have Ray.

  6. Jenny Macchione on 10/09/2009 at 6:36 PM said:

    That’s sad and beautiful. You are a wonderful writer; I’m really sorry you had to write this, but it’s truly lovely.

  7. Ryan on 10/09/2009 at 8:13 PM said:


    I remember the whole “Cobban” thing – I remember Carrie remarking the exact same thing – I belive it was at Bob and Jeff’s pot-luck – years and years ago. Didn’t we discuss family and names and such then? I thought so much about Kevin today. I’m very sad about it all….

  8. Wow…thanks Jenny. I’m flabbergasted. Thank you.

    Ryan, yes! It was Bob and Jeff’s potluck. That’s when I first met everyone. What a trip! That was FIVE years ago.

  9. *hugs* to you all.

  10. Ryan on 10/09/2009 at 10:26 PM said:


    Soooo cool

    I remember that soooo well – it was up on the “second level” above the deck – we all talked for a good long time about family and names “etc”

    I miss those days so much

  11. Leanne on 11/09/2009 at 7:07 AM said:

    Dearest Cobban,
    What a wonderful, well-written tribute. I appreciate your willingness to share.

    I love your heart and I look forward to embracing life in Bisbee as your friend. We are lucky to live in a community where friendship means a bond that is important.

    My heart just broke at the beautifully expressed imagery of Carrie alone in the playground clinging to her ampersand. That is a literary image that will stick with me.

    A big hug and kiss for both you and Ray. I am here for you and I care about you. I am happy that you are in my life. I want to practice saying this to people. It needs to be said a LOT more often.


  12. Cobban, you are a very caring and compassionate human being. The world needs more people like you.

    What a lovely tribute indeed. What are the right words to say in a moment like this? You and Kevin may not have been close friends. But he obviously left one big impression on you. I’m sorry for your loss but I’m happy that you’ve known another wonderful person. As corny as it may sound but their contributions always live on in all of us.

    So keep on running, keep on feeling, keep on breathing. Because a human life is worth more than everything else!

    Big hugs

  13. You tell your stories very well–by the time this one ended, I knew that you just why you were so affected by Kevin’s death.

  14. Lynn on 12/09/2009 at 10:50 AM said:

    Yes, a loss such as this surely does remind us to keep our hearts and our senses alive and open to each and every day. Thank you, Cobban, for putting it so eloquently.

  15. Christina Darling on 14/09/2009 at 12:36 PM said:

    Hi Cobitha,

    I just re-read your tribute and began crying again. It is strange – as with you, Kevin and I were not close friends. Yet there was something enduring there. I never imagined I’d be friends with such a gearhead! I think what I admired most was his straight-up I don’t give a shit attitude in regard to so many things. It was not borne of cynicism, but rather of an independent spirit – and that is something I am always attracted to. I think underneath Kevin did give a shit, at least a little bit.

    Your words at the memorial set just the right tone, and I think you were speaking for a lot of folks. Thanks for generously sharing your articulate-ness! I think it also helped some of us (or at least me) to do some reflective processing and to move toward coming to terms with his death.

    At the wake afterwards I heard a lot of folks talking about the impact your words had on them. Yay Cobban, yay for your spirit, and thanks for touching so many of us!


  16. Jill Beaumont (Mike Jr's ex-wife) on 14/09/2009 at 7:18 PM said:

    Cobban I thought your words where very meaningful and thoughtful! Kevin would have been touched by everyones thoughts, prayers and comments. But ya I know theres a but, Kevin would have said “Quit yur cryin and suck it up twinkie”. I was in ah at all the very loving and caring friends both Kevin and Carrie have made in Bisbee. They are truely blessed. Keep Kevin in your hearts and he will live forever! Thank You again so much we all needed a laugh of two, that’s the way Kevin would have wanted it. Thank You again
    Sincerely Yours,
    Jill Beaumont
    (Mike Jr’s ex-wife)

  17. Lisa Mitten-Aloyse on 14/09/2009 at 8:59 PM said:

    Hi Cobban,
    I just got done reading this aloud to my 8 year-old daughter, Courtney. She loved hearing the story again of “Cousin Kevin”. It made such an impression on all of us when we heard it Saturday. Thank you for the laughs . . .

    You truly captured the essence of Kevin & Carrie (notice the ampersand), and I want to thank you for this tribute to Kevin. He was one of a kind . . . he will be missed by so many.
    –Lisa, Courtney, and Krista (with a K)

  18. Shawnee on 18/09/2009 at 10:32 AM said:


    OMG… I can’t believe the news. Will you please e-mail me with Carrie’s information. I don’t have her address or phone number and I would really like to send her something.

    I am so very sorry for her loss. Some may not know but Kevin and Carrie were my landlords when I lived in the Skyhouse. They helped me through a terrible time and celebrated with me when I met the love of my life- Bear. They were always there for me.

    When I blew a tire at 0500 going towards Phoenix, after Mule Pass Tunnel, it was only Kevin that I could reach and he came out there to change my tire and get me back home (Bear was in Germany).

    They have meant so much in my life and in our lives. I am so sorry for the loss.

    Cobban.. your blog was beautiful..

    Please give Carrie a hug for me.. We will be out there in March (orders came down earlier this week).

    Again.. I am sorry…


  19. That was a lovely remembrance.
    Hugs. x

  20. Pingback: Let’s Have Fun Again In 2010 » Lopaka Lounge

  21. Roy Tiscareno on 12/04/2012 at 10:52 AM said:

    Just read the story and cant stop crying,Thanks for telling people how great Kevin REALLY was. Kevin and I grew up together in High School and we also worked together at a Steak house in Phoenix called the Hungry Hunter on west Indian school rd.The night before I went off to the Marine Corps in 1981,Kevin took me to have our last beers together at Lake Pleasant before I went off to Boot Camp.we were there all night reflecting on our friendship and all the things that we had been threw together.Long story short…Kevin was a great Friend,I’am truly sorry that he is no longer with us,I never got to know his wife Carrie,but Iam sure she has a BIG heart to keep up with My Friend Kevin.

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