Tuesday, July 25, 2017

Monkey Business in Early Arizona

That Arizona has no indigenous monkey species should surprise no one. What is surprising is that in July, 1915, an entrepreneurial few of the just under a hundred residents of tiny Parker banded together in what they named the "Colorado River Monkey Company" to trap and sell monkeys captured in a rugged nearby canyon.

In 1882, a gold rush of sorts attracted miners and the usual cast of mining-town characters to the area.    Mining hubs brought not just the soiled doves we all know and love from westerns, but a unique and very ethnic blend of laborers as well as many who saw potential to part the mining fools from their money. Among them were Chinese launderers and cooks; Cuban cigar makers; Irish miners; gamblers; and assorted entertainers. The 1880 census of the territory reads like a credit list of an old episode of Gunsmoke. The stereotypical organ grinder of the time - an Italian man generally of low social status - was commonplace in old Arizona as he was of the large eastern cities.  The organ grinder would frequent street corners in towns, playing tunes on his hand-organ while a trained monkey, typically outfitted in a velvet jacket and a fez, danced and entertained the crowd while collecting the coins thrown his way.

Loved by some, despised by others, the humble organ grinder nonetheless took his business seriously. In 1887, they paid between four and five dollars just to have new tunes installed in their instruments.  That year, a hand-organ vendor in New York offered the latest hits:  "Cricket on the Hearth," "White Wings," "When Love is Young," and "Rocking the Baby." The old standbys - "Denny Grady's Hack" and "Baxter Avenue," among them - continued to draw in the street crowd, but "Mikado" was already fading. In the big cities of the east, an organ grinder could make upwards of $3.00 a day plying his trade.

In 1910, the Arizona Republic spoke with delight of an organ grinder who stopped by the corner of Main and Macdonald in Phoenix. The monkey, described as red-hatted and red-coated, entertained passersby with antics such as climbing onto spectators' shoulders and taking their hats to put on his own head, or hugging children. The organ grinder tipped his hat to those who tossed at least a nickel, and the change flowed freely into the monkey's paws.

An organ grinder visiting Bisbee in the spring of 1912 didn't fare as well. There, the Bisbee Daily Review wrote disparagingly of him.  "The organ grinder in the employ of the Monkey was an Italian. He was a big, strong, brawny Italian, and it was to laugh to see him turn the little crank that released the notes. Even the monkey, essence of foolish mirth, appeared as dignified as a United States senator compared with the big strong man and the little music box." The paper continued on:  "There are man Italians in Bisbee, and some of them are numbered among the city's best citizens. The spectacle of one of their countrymen working for a monkey for one hundred per cent of the cup receipts conflicted with national pride, and an indignation meeting was called. They indignated to a fare-you-well, and passed resolutions to the effect that no Italian should shame Italy's traditions by forming a co-partnership with a monkey."  The city's proud Italians apparently intimidated the organ grinder; the paper described it as being "said in a convincing manner," and the organ grinder took the afternoon train to Douglas.

It may have been a reception of this sort that greeted a much earlier organ grinder who visited Phoenix in 1883. The Weekly Republican wrote:  "Two organ grinders were in our city Saturday. We also noticed several men with guns. Our readers are capable of drawing their own inferences." The papers of the time were coy and occasionally cryptic; the western towns were then small enough that if everyone didn't already know what was going to be in the papers, they at least knew the general plot lines and characters.

Apparently the organ grinder who entertained the miners in the Parker valley in 1882 lost his pair of monkeys. They took to the hills and bred, spawning what would, by 1915, be a colony of several hundred monkeys.  The monkeys frequented Cunningham Pass, and it was there the Colorado River Monkey Company proposed to trap them for sale.  Monkey shops were not unknown in Phoenix, back then, and - in the absence of drunken sailors - it was the young women of high society who often boasted a pet monkey.

Coincidentally (or not), in 1882 - the year the monkeys escaped in Parker - Edward Woods was hunting near the Cerro Colorado Mine in southern Arizona in what is now Pinal County. He and his hunting buddies spotted five white-faced monkeys with ringtails. They shot at them, claiming to have killed three of them; the other two monkeys fled into the mine shaft. Although the newspaper reporter acknowledged the story was incredulous, he wrote that Woods' "veracious character and total abstinence," and the fact Woods and friends offered to swear out an affidavit were a testament to the truth of the encounter. There are, in fact, white-faced new world monkeys that range far south of the United States, but most Arizonans of the time were more likely to see such wonders at the popular "dog and pony shows" or circuses that traveled through.

Professor Gentry's Dog and Pony Show boasted "25 monkey actors" during its 1899 Phoenix appearance, while "The Great Floto Shows" of 1904 brought monkeys, baboons, and apes in addition to Herr Litzen's Funny Dutch Elephants, the Ben Hur herd of Arabian Stallions, and Black Belle, the Smallest Horse Ever Born.  Clearly, the monkey market boomed during territorial years.

But back to Parker.  I can find no record of the success (or lack of it) of the Colorado River Monkey business.  The river-side settlement, originally founded to service the Indian agency on the reservation, is situated in a valley with mountain ranges to three sides.  To the north were the Whipple Mountains, to the southwest, the Riverside range, and - amusingly - to the east, the Gibraltar Mountains. Considering the fame of the Barbary macaque monkey colony on the iconic Rock of Gibraltar on the southern tip of Spain's coast, perhaps the colony of Parker monkeys were just an early victim of bad navigational directions, looking for Gibraltar in all the wrong places.



Copyright (c) 2017 by MJ Miller * All rights reserved * No part of this content may be reproduced without the express written permission of the author * Links, however, may be freely shared * Thank you for liking, linking, sharing, +1ing, tweeting, and otherwise helping grow my readership * Most of all, thank you for visiting and sharing my appreciation for western history! * 


Sunday, May 21, 2017

Payson's Gary Hardt Memorial PRCA Rodeo

(c) 2017 MJ Miller

I unabashedly love rodeo.  It's more than just the pleasure of watching the rough stock riders, barrel racers, ropers, and corny clown gags; it's the value system, the tribute to western history, the lifestyle. It's the pure joy of patriotism and the hearkening back to a simpler time when we all seemed to know which way was up and who the good guys were. It's the rodeo kids and the value of taking a risk and the fact if you're going to win, you've got to stay on the horse - and when you fall, you fall hard, but you get up anyway. And when you get up, everyone in the stands is with you because they want to see you succeed. 

Rodeo Royalty
(c) 2017 MJ Miller

Every rodeo has its own unique flavor and energy. Some are heavy on fanfare, rules, and over-crowded stands; others are small-town events, casual and welcoming.

We headed to Payson last night to the Gary Hardt Memorial PRCA Rodeo - my first visit to that particular event. It's named after Payson native Gary Spillsbury Hardt, who rode bulls for twenty years before competing in roping events. Hardt died in a construction accident in Flagstaff in 1987 when he was only 44 years old, leaving five children behind.

Rodeo's like that. It honors those who've gone before and it faithfully pays homage to those who've earned it. It's heavy on flags and, as announcer Reed Flake reminded us, last night was "Red, White and Blue night" as well as "Armed Forces Day."  As such, in addition to the ubiquitous U.S. flag, singing of the national anthem, and color guard, last night's performance included a display of the flag for each division of the nation's military - and the POW / MIA flags as well.  

Honoring the USMC
(c) 2017 MJ Miller
Larger rodeos don't have the same feel as the small-town events. I'm a fan of the latter. The Hardt rodeo brings the mutton-busting and steer-riding events for the newer generation of competitors right into the prime-time performances. Mutton-busting is for the little ones: kids (both boys and girls) cling to sheep for their score. The older youth ride steers - castrated male cattle, for you sheltered city types - and hone their skills for potential bull riding in the future.

A Top Contender in the Mutton-Busting Contest
(c) 2017 MJ Miller

The two boys below are young "bullfighters" working the mutton-busting event. Adorned with the scarves and colorful socks the professional "bullfighters" wear as they protect riders from the livestock, the boys were quick to console and praise the children competing.

Young "Bullfighter" Encourages Mutton-Buster #177
(c) 2017 MJ Miller
The Young "Bullfighters" for the Mutton Busting Event
(c) 2017 MJ Miller

Rodeos run in some families the way Ivy League educations run in others. The "pick-up men" at the Payson rodeo were brothers. It's not uncommon to see teams of brothers in the team roping, or family members serving as "hazers" in the steer wrestling. 


A "Pick-Up Man" Assists a Roughstock Rider in Safely Dismounting
(c) 2017 MJ Miller

Small-town rodeos depend on sponsorships from local businesses, many with long-time ties to the community. Roy Haught Excavating sponsored the Saddle Bronc event; the Haught family were pioneers who settled the Tonto Basin. The rodeo queens represent rodeos throughout the state and promote local businesses, carrying their banners into the arena at a dead gallop in between events. 

Saddle Bronc Rider

Saddle Bronc, Sans Rider


Another good thing about rodeo? The clowns aren't scary. They're good-natured, upbeat, and predictable in their down-home humor. At one point I completed one of the jokes before it was delivered. Husband-person turned to me and said, "You've been to too many rodeos."

Idaho Rodeo Clown, Don Landis, Entertains the Crowd
(c) 2017 MJ Miller



Husband's wrong, though. You can never go to too many rodeos. 



(c) 2017 MJ Miller

Copyright (c) 2017 Marcy J. Miller * All rights reserved * No part of this content, including photographs, may be reproduced without the express permission of the author * Links, however, may be freely shared and are greatly appreciated * Thank you for liking, linking, sharing, tweeting, and otherwise helping grow my audience * Most of all, thank you for visiting and for enjoying our great American West.

Friday, April 7, 2017

Klondyke, Bonita, and an Appearance by Billy the Kid




(c) 2017 MJ Miller

In the southeastern part of Arizona, nestled in the Aravaipa Valley and boasting spectacular views of the mountains, is a tiny townsite appropriately called "Bonita." Dad used to tell me I should visit Bonita - Spanish for "pretty" - because of the area's rich history. It took me a few years (decades, actually) but at last I made my way there this week.

(c) 2017 MJ Miller

We took the Klondyke Road from the highway that crosses the San Carlos Indian Reservation, continuing to Thatcher first to fuel up. The boulders and tors on the roadsides made for the type of scenery early movie directors sought for their westerns.  In this corner of the state, the real life western action actually happened: cavalry battles, gunfights, stagecoach robberies, manhunts.

(c) 2017 MJ Miller

Klondyke itself certainly has an element of western romance. Miners, fresh from the Alaskan gold rush, named the town in honor of their northerly pursuits. Not much remains of the town. Though it yielded little gold for its hopeful settlers, in the early 1900s it provided jobs for about 500 men in the molybdenum, lead, silver, and copper mines in the area. When the mines closed, the town closed too.

(c) 2017 MJ Miller


Ranches still operate in the area, but from the looks of the empty Klondyke School grounds, the children no longer study in the one-room schoolhouse. Curious cattle graze behind the school. 

(c) 2017 MJ Miller

Either the dusty road was once surprisingly busy or someone from the Department of Transportation had a sense of humor. 

(c) 2017 MJ Miller

Leaving Klondyke, as so many others did a hundred years before us, we headed southeast toward Bonita.

(c) 2017 MJ Miller

Before reaching the actual town of Bonita, we stopped at Bonita Cemetery, the last stop for local ranchers and cowboys. 

(c) 2017 MJ Miller

(c) 2017 MJ Miller

(c) 2017 MJ MIller

(c) 2017 MJ Miller

(c) 2017 MJ Miller

(c) 2017 MJ Miller

(c) 2017 MJ Miller

In one corner of the cemetery is the un-named gravesite of a child. Family members have fenced in the plot and added heartbreaking mementos and personal effects.

(c) 2017 MJ Miller

(c) 2017 MJ Miller

The three empty swings swayed with the breeze, the bench behind them seemingly holding a ghost watch over the unseen children.


(c) 2017 MJ Miller

 Meticulously tidy, lovingly maintained yet still part of the terrain, Bonita Cemetery has mountain views to die for. A person could do worse than end up in this quiet, lovely place.


(c) 2017 MJ Miller

(c) 2017 MJ Miller
Bonita is but a few miles from Fort Grant, once a cavalry outpost. Soldiers from the post frequented the watering holes at Bonita to blow off steam. Billy the Kid earned the first notch in his gun there when, in 1877, he killed a veteran of Fort Grant, a blacksmith from Ireland by the name of Francis Cahill. Local lore puts the scene of the killing behind the Bonita Store. After killing Cahill (who was known as "Windy" for his blowhard character), the Kid - then going by "Austin Antrim" - walked over to the Hotel de Luna and ordered a meal. The owner, Justice of the Peace Miles Wood, took Billy into custody at gunpoint and turned him over to officials at Fort Grant.  


(c) 2017 MJ Miller
Billy, he of the infamously thin wrists and hands, slipped his handcuffs and escaped from Fort Grant. It was his slender physique and "dandy" city clothes that caused the unfortunate Windy Cahill to mock him and bully him, ultimately leading to Cahill's death. Before succumbing, Cahill said he'd called Billy a "pimp" and when Billy retorted with a profanity, Cahill pinned him down and began beating him. Billy was able to get to his gun and end the struggle. Cahill was buried at the Klondyke Cemetery.

Ironically, the former Fort Grant is now a correctional facility for juvenile offenders. The Hotel de Luna is no longer standing. The Bonita store, also once owned by Billy's captor Miles Wood, hadn't seen the last of its youthful escapees though - nor killings. In 1964, Miles Wood's grandson James DuBois killed a new business partner at the site in a case of mistaken identity. DuBois's wife Dottie found that a sixteen-year-old escapee from Fort Grant "industrial school" had locked their teenage daughter in one of the buildings and was attempting to coerce their other daughter to give him car keys. Dottie screamed for help and as her husband grabbed a gun and ran to her aid, his partner - Ernest Doyal - approached. In the confusion, DuBois shot Doyal, who died about fifteen minutes later.


(c) 2017 MJ Miller

Fenced and vacant, the Bonita Store bears no bronzed plaque to remind the occasional traveler of its fascinating history. The DuBois family no longer greets customers nor proudly shares the site's tales. There are no more area "hog ranches" - the pseudonym Fort Grant's soldiers used for brothels - where once there were several. The once-raucous Bonita is quiet, now.
(c) 2017 MJ Miller




Copyright (c) 2017 MJ Miller * All rights reserved * No part of this content, including photographs, may be used without express permission of the author * Links, however, may be freely shared and are appreciated * Thank you for linking, liking, forwarding, tweeting, sharing, and most of all visiting * For photo purchase or licensing, please contact the author *






Saturday, April 1, 2017

Wildflower Season in the New River Mountains

Update!  Thank you to my friend, John Barto, for catching and correcting my erroneous wildflower identifications.  Corrected as of April 2, 2017.

Just a stone's throw from here on the ranch - that is, a stone thrown by a powerful volcanic eruption, perhaps - on the other side of New River Mesa is the stunning terrain cut through by upper New River along the Table Mesa Road. This time of year, the New River Mountains are swathed in yellow brittle bush blossoms and punctuated by an assortment of less-abundant wildflowers and cactus blooms. With generous rain recently, New River still has water pooled in areas and flowing in others.

New River east of Table Mountain
(c) 2017 MJ Miller
Armed with a new ruggedized pocket camera (not by choice, but because my previous pocket camera wasn't ruggedized and couldn't stand up to being stood on) and a few essentials (including my ubiquitous travel mug of coffee), we took the Jeep east on Table Mesa Road scouting potential access to the north side of New River Mesa in the future.


North Mountain
(c) 2017 MJ Miller
The invasive stinkweed hasn't yet leapt to the north side of New River Mesa. The yellow blossoms covering the slopes of North Mountain are mostly brittle bush blossoms.

Red Mountain
(c) 2017 MJ Miller

Farther to the east is Red Mountain. True to its name, it remained barren of the yellow blossoms covering most of the hillsides around us.

Corral south of North Mountain
(c) 2017 MJ Miller
Once part of the historic upper T-Ranch, the area still shows evidence of its history. An old catch pen thick with hare grass and common mallow begs to be photographed.


New Mexico Thistle
(c) 2017 MJ Miller

An interesting pale pink thistle greeted us in several areas. Below, a thistle poses cooperatively in front of North Mountain. Kudos to John Barto for identifying this as a New Mexico thistle.



New Mexico Thistle
(c) 2017 MJ Miller
Hedgehog Blossoms
(c) 2017 MJ Miller

New Mexico Thistle
(c) 2017 MJ Miller
One of the earlier-blooming cactus, the hedgehog, is already open for bee-business with its fuchsia blooms.  Naturally, having a new toy to play with, I needed to experiment with filters.  

Hedgehog Blossoms
(c) 2017 MJ Miller


Desert Marigolds
(c) MJ Miller

The Indian Paintbrush - firecracker-red blooms popping out of the backdrop - are always a visual treat.






The Coulter's lupine is a toxic beauty, containing alkaloids that can poison livestock. Commercial wildflower seed medleys often contain lupine seeds nonetheless for the sake of their gorgeous purple blooms. Distinctive for their star-like leaves, they line roadsides this time of year. Corrected from "Wyeth's Lupine" courtesy of John Barto, who also tells us that despite toxicity to cattle, the Coulter's Lupine is a favorite of the Sonoran Desert Tortoise.


Coulter's Lupine
(c) 2017 MJ Miller

Below is a type of legume - per John Barto, it is a common pink fairy duster. 

(c) 2017 MJ Miller

During snake season, everything with the slightest serpentine shape gets your attention. The root protruding from the rocks below got my attention. Guitar Guy thought it amusing to make a buzzing noise as I stepped forward to snap a picture.

"Snake Root"
(c) 2017 MJ Miller

Near this distinctive peak, a couple of men on mountain bikes stopped to ask us local information. They'd bicycled from Fountain Hills via Seven Springs. Having driven through to Seven Springs from Table Mesa a couple of years ago, we knew what the road was like. I asked, "How was the road?" The taller rider paused for effect and then simply said, "Gnarly." 

Me, thinking of a cold beer.
Already footsore by the time we met the cyclists, I found increasingly more reason to stop and photograph the landscape as Guitar Guy forged ahead. As I trudged slowly uphill, he called out: "Come up this far and you'll be rewarded!" For a moment, visions of a cold beer flickered into my imagination. Although the beer didn't materialize until we returned to civilization, I was indeed rewarded when I reached the top of the hill and could see a view of Gavilan Peak - which we can see to the west from our own backyard - in the distance. 

Gavilan Peak
(c) 2017 MJ Miller

Gavilan Peak, often referred to by older locals as "Twin Buttes" or "Twin Peaks," once served as a landmark along the old stagecoach road from Prescott to Phoenix - now the Old Black Canyon Highway.


Saguaro Sentinels
(c) 2017 MJ Miller 
Despite the competition of their showier, more delicate wildflower cousins, the saguaro never fail to impress. Today's puffy clouds and bright blue sky made a stunning backdrop.

Cross
(c) 2017 MJ Miller

Atop a peak near the quarry is a cross, barely visible, erected by persons unknown. 


Mariposa Lily
Identification courtesy of Mr. John Barto
(c) 2017 MJ Miller

Interested in learning more about our Arizona wildflowers?  Click here to order a field guide:





Copyright (c) 2017 * This content, including photographs, may not be reproduced without the express permission of the author * Links, however, may be freely shared and are appreciated! * Thank you for liking, linking, sharing, forwarding, Tweeting, and otherwise helping grow my audience * Most of all, thank you for stopping by! * Photographs and licensing are available for purchase: marcyjmiller06@gmail.com