Monday, January 29, 2018

The Death and Gravesite of Sheriff Glenn Reynolds

Tombstone of Sheriff Glenn Reynolds
Copyright (c) 2018 MJ Miller

By five a.m. on a cold November 2, 1889, Gila County Sheriff Glenn Reynolds and his deputy, William A. Holmes, had barely begun the second day of their long trek from Globe to the Yuma Territorial Prison with nine prisoners. Eight of the convicts were Apaches - one of them the infamous Apache Kid, another Pash-Tan-Tah - and the remaining prisoner a Mexican man named Jesus Avott. The prisoners rode in a stagecoach driven by its owner, Eugene Middleton.  Next to Middleton sat Deputy Holmes, riding shotgun, while Sheriff Reynolds accompanied them on horseback.   

On the Globe - Florence stagecoach road about four miles west of the town of Riverside, the travelers arrived at a steep and sandy hill known as the Kelvin Grade.  To ease the burden on the four horses, the lawmen directed seven of the prisoners to exit the coach and walk up the hill, leaving the Apache Kid and another shackled in the coach.  The Apaches, handcuffed but not shackled, managed to overpower 35-year-old Reynolds and 44-year- old Deputy Holmes, seizing their weapons. Deputy Holmes was shot once, an immediately lethal round through the heart. Sheriff Reynolds did not die as mercifully. He was shot in the shoulder and had several buckshot wounds in the face and head, but struggled for his life. For his efforts, he was beaten to death with rocks and the butt of a long gun until his skull was crushed. 

The Apaches shot Eugene Middleton as well. Initial accounts varied, some saying Middleton was shot in the right side of the face, the bullet exiting through the top of his head, but that he was still able to walk to Riverside for help - and arrived after the two-hour walk near death.  Another account said he was shot in the shoulder as well as taking a round to the cheek and sustaining a scalp wound. A third report simply described him as "wounded."  As it turns out, Middleton survived. The round, likely a 40-80 from Holmes' rifle, penetrated his face and somehow missed his vertebrae, exiting his neck at the base of his skull. By November 9th, Dr. Mann of San Carlos deemed he was mending well. 

The Mexican was soon captured but the Apaches, now well armed, headed south. Shortly after the news was reported, a posse led by Deputy Ryan left Globe in pursuit. Another posse left from Florence, led by Sheriff Jerry Fryer - husband to the renowned Civil War spy, Pauline Cushman. (The Florence posse, interestingly, included Peter Gabriel, one of the combatants in the famous Florence saloon shootout.)  By one in the afternoon, the Cavalry commander at San Carlos had received telegrams and dispatched two lieutenants with 30 men from Troop G as well as Lt. Watson with 20 scouts. Arizona Territorial Governor Lewis Wolfley quickly published a "Wanted" notice in the papers announcing $500 reward for the murderers.



Copyright (c) 2018 MJ Miller

The Arizona Silver Belt, a Globe territorial paper, paid flowery tribute to the mens' death. "... While we greatly miss their presence and deeply regret the sudden ending of their useful lives, it is a consolation to believe that while they can no longer enjoy life's alluring cup there is a lighthouse for the soul that beacons to a tranquil home. Then why should we mourn that the shroud and the vault have left a blank in the tome of a busy life? The part of the living is simply to cherish the names and virtues of the loved ones who have passed the boundaries of time."

Sheriff Glenn Reynolds, a Texas native, left behind his widow, Augusta, and four surviving children of the five they'd had. 

Deputy William Holmes, a native of Texas, had arrived in Arizona in 1869.  Known as "Hunky-dory Holmes" he was one of the original settlers of Phoenix and had donated 160 acres to the townsite. 

Eugene Middleton lived to be 66, when in 1929 he succumbed to a heart attack at the apartment building he owned in Globe. 

The Apache Kid was never caught. Having shot famed scout Al Sieber and spent time in Alcatraz prior to the murders of Reynolds and Holmes, his name - unlike those of his more heroic victims - remains a household word to the casual enthusiast of western history.



The Gravesite of Miriam Middleton, mother of Eugene Middleton
Copyright (c) 2018 MJ Miller
The Gravesite of William Middleton, Father of Eugene Middleton
Copyright (c) 2018 MJ Miller

The Gravesite of Willis A. Middleton, brother to Eugene Middleton
Copyright (c) 2018 MJ Miller

Copyright (c) 2018 Marcy J. Miller * All rights reserved * No part of this content may be reproduced without the express permission of the author * Links, however, may be freely shared and are appreciated * Thank you for linking, liking, tweeting, sharing, and otherwise helping grow my audience * Most of all, thank you for stopping by and sharing my affection for Arizona history *




Saturday, January 27, 2018

Stumbling onto Phineas "Phin" Clanton's Gravesite

Globe Cemetery, Arizona
(c) 2018 MJ Miller

Historical research is, at its best, full of serendipitous finds and surprising epiphanies. Rarely have I visited a site or buried myself in archives and not had the sudden goosebumps that accompany the discovery of an unexpected and exciting nugget. Sometimes it's the key to unraveling a mystery I've been working on; other times, it's recognizing a connection between places or people; often, it's something as tangible as happening across a grave you weren't looking for, but that's somehow relevant to the search you were on. When you're open to detours and digressions, one line of research always links to another in the most wonderful ways whether you're interviewing an old-timer or turning brittle pages of a dusty document.

I've been trying to verify the details of a relatively unknown 1877 shooting that occurred in Yavapai County for my current book-in-progress. The victim in that shooting had, a few months earlier, killed a man in Globe. After chasing down some worthwhile details last night, the incident was fresh in my mind as we made a trip to a gun show in Globe today. My other-half Russ wanted to look for the grave of Mattie Blaylock, Wyatt Earp's common-law wife; I wanted to look for any familiar names in the less-than-focused, spontaneous, laissez faire method of research I do.  Some might call it haphazard, even. (Some might even be accurate in doing so.)

Short of time after a few side trips, we stopped at the Globe Cemetery rather than verifying which plot of land held ill-fated Mattie's remains. Russ wandered in one direction, I wandered in another, and we found many of the nuggets I'd hoped for. One of the more interesting was Phin Clanton's grave.



Phineas Fay "Phin" Clanton's Gravesite, Globe Cemetery, Arizona
(c) 2018 Marcy J. Miller

The graves the cemetery had determined to be of greatest historical significance were clearly marked with signage - Al Sieber, Glenn Reynolds, and so forth. In contrast, Phin's grave had no additional marker to call attention to it, no sign indicating his relevance to the historian. 

Phineas Fay "Phin" Clanton was one of the seven children of "Old Man" Clanton, Newman Haynes Clanton.  Phin, along with his brothers Ike and Billy, was involved in the conflicts in Tombstone culminating in the gunfight at the O.K. Corral. For those of you who need a brief refresher, Billy (William Harrison Clanton) was killed in the gunfight, while Ike (Joseph Isaac Clanton) was uninjured. Phin and Ike were suspects in the attempted revenge murder of Virgil several weeks after the gunfight as well as the successful murder of Morgan Earp two months after that.

Phin danced in the grey throughout his life. He was known to be a cattle rustler. He also was tried and did time for crimes he was apparently innocent of; on one occasion, he was acquitted of burglary after it was determined he'd been framed by the actual embezzler of the money. On another he completed nearly a year and a half of a ten-year sentence in the notorious Yuma Territorial Prison for larceny until being released when it came to light the star witness had falsely and perjuriously accused him for the reward money. Whether guilty or not, Phin was later arrested in an armed robbery of a Chinese man - and again, Phin was acquitted.



Copyright (c) 2018 MJ Miller

As he approached 60 years old, Phineas Clanton ultimately married and settled down. He never celebrated his third anniversary, contracting pneumonia in January, 1906, and succumbing. Phin left behind a widow and stepson, William.  He was buried in Globe, where he and his friend, fellow outlaw and Yuma Penitentiary alum Pete Spence, raised goats. In an apparent jab at the lawmen who'd fought his family and friends, Phin's grave marker bears the quote, "Not all good men wore badges." 

Spence married Phin's widow, Laura, and after his 1914 death was buried beside Phin. There is no marker for Spence's grave. 




Copyright (c) 2018 Marcy J. Miller * All rights reserved * No part of this content, including photographs, may be used without the express permission of the author * Links, however, are enthusiastically encouraged * Thank you for linking, liking, tweeting, sharing, and otherwise helping grow my audience * Most of all, thank you for stopping by!



Monday, November 13, 2017

Unexpected, Unspoiled Main Street Florence

(c) 2017 MJ Miller
Florence's reputation too often precedes her. A prison town in the flatlands, from the highway she boasts backyards of single-wides to the west and the massive correctional complex to the east. Like many, I've ignored her, seen her as a place to pass by en route to my destination, yet her name is one of the most recognizable of the state's small towns.

"He was sent to Florence."  Sentenced - to Florence! Inextricably intertwined with connotations of punishment, execution, and escape, Florence is home to the state's oldest operating penitentiary. Built in 1908 when Arizona was still striving for statehood, it replaced the infamous Yuma Territorial Prison. Prisoners did much of the construction on the new facility, and work programs continue as a valuable part of the correctional philosophy. Now, in addition to various trades and agricultural pursuits, inmate work with the BLM wild horses and burros, taming and training them for their future adoptive homes.

The history of the prison itself is material for volumes, but step away from Florence's shady side for a bit and you'll uncover one of the best preserved, historically significant towns in the state. Charming, tidy, and jam-packed with historic buildings, Florence is an unexpected delight. Unspoiled by flocks of tourists, it is a perfect site for rambling about, unbothered and unhurried, basking in sun and history.


The Old Florence Hotel / Silver King Hotel
(c) 2017 MJ Miller


We visited yesterday, on a Sunday, and were quickly and happily transported back to a slower-paced time. Stores and restaurants were closed, few cars were on the streets, and we had the town to ourselves. When drivers did appear, I was taken aback by their politeness. Two cameras in hand, I invariably had one focused on a structure at any given time. To my surprise, every passing car stopped so as not to ruin the picture by getting between me and the subject, and when I waved with appreciation, I could count on a return wave and a smile. A young woman on a bicycle apologized for 
riding into my picture. Who is possibly that polite in this day and age, people? I was quickly smitten with the town. Sidewalk planters held "usable" plants, such as basil or sweet potato; hunter green park benches - all empty during our visit - were readily available for the tired visitor. Public restrooms weren't just convenient, but so appealingly appointed with talavera tile and hunter-green wood my husband actually called me over to look. 

After my love-at-first-sight reaction, we got to work looking for historical sites. In all honesty, it would have been harder work avoiding them. It seemed nearly every building bore a historical placard. The buildings were largely intact and un-ruined by well-intentioned renovations, and the markers conveniently indicated what major changes had been made. A historian's and photographer's paradise, I suspect Florence will dominate this blog for weeks to come. In this post, you'll get but a sampling of Main Street photographs. I'll offer more in-depth histories in future entries.


The First Pinal County Courthouse / Pinal County Hospital. The one-story section dates to 1877, with the two-store portion dating from 1883. Now a visitor's center. (c) 2017 MJ Miller


Main Street, Florence may well be Arizona's Mayberry. Vintage toys tempt from the windows of the TrueValue Hardware store, formerly the White-McCarthy Lumber & Hardware Co., at 290 N. Main.  I can well imagine Ralphie pressing his nose against the windows, dreaming of a Red Ryder BB gun. The metal sidewalk canopy was added in 1941.


The White-McCarthy Lumber and Hardware Co. Building, 1914.
(c) 2017 MJ MIller



Vintage-style doll, TrueValue Hardware store window.
(c) 2017 MJ Miller



Across the street, the Rexall sign provokes momentary nostalgia. 



(c) 2017 MJ Miller


The Mauk Building at 360 N. Main, designed by architect George Mauk and built in 1925, quite literally reflects a past era in its upper windows. 



The Mauk Building, 1925.
(c) 2017 MJ Miller



Hand-painted advertisements, murals, and traces of past businesses abound.

(c) 2017 MJ Miller
(c) 2017 MJ Miller
(c) 2017 MJ Miller
(c) 2017 MJ Miller



From the red, white, and blue festooning the first Pinal County Courthouse to signs in shop windows, patriotism is evident - and I'm always happy to see it.



(c) 2017 MJ  Miller



The well-preserved buildings of Florence represent a plethora of different architectural styles. The William Clark House is an example of the "late transitional" style, featuring a Victorian bay window and a pre-fabricated entryway. 


The William Clark House, 1884.
(c) 2017 MJ Miller

More photos ahead in coming posts! 


Copyright (c) 2017 MJ Miller * All rights reserved * No part of this content, including photographs, may be used without the express written permission of the author * However, links may be freely shared * Thank you for liking, linking, forwarding, Tweeting, sharing, and otherwise helping grow my readership * Most of all, thank you for stopping by!




























Friday, August 25, 2017

Wyatt Earp's Lonely Desert Cottage in Vidal, California

Wyatt Earp Cottage, Vidal, California
(c) 2017 MJ Miller

On a flat expanse of chaparral-dotted dirt in the Mohave Desert near Parker, Arizona - and not a whole lot else - is a tidy white cottage with baby-blue trim. Save for the traditional western design and the historical marker in front, you wouldn't take much note of it. Here is where the legendary Wyatt Earp and his third wife, Sadie, spent their final winters together. Glancing around the "town" of Vidal, California, you're likely to wonder why Wyatt chose this still-remote site to settle down in what the historical plaque informs us was their only permanent home together in their years of marriage. The little house had been site-built in the town of Calzona, where the Earps had lived until 1922 when Calzona met the fate of so many desert towns and burned down. The house survived the conflagration, and the Earps had it moved to Vidal.

Copyright (c) 2017 MJ Miller

Wyatt and Sadie - better known as "Josephine" to the public, but "Sadie" to her friends in a version of her middle name, Sarah - lived in Los Angeles during the hotter months, but traveled to Vidal so Wyatt could work his mining claims. The tiny house there had previously been the home of Wyatt's brother, Morgan.  Wyatt, long weary of curious visitors seeking him out to discuss the Tombstone days, sought the solitude of the lonely place. He maintained a wooden cabin a few miles north of Parker at what was then called "Drennan," in closer proximity to his "Happy Day" copper and gold claims. Sadie and Wyatt were known for taking their four-mule team and wagon out prospecting along the Arizona - California border.

Earp, California
(c) 2017 MJ Miller

The tiny town of Drennan, a former signal station for the Santa Fe Railroad line servicing the Phoenix to Cadiz route, adopted the name "Earp" after Wyatt's death in homage to the elderly miner who'd been a local fixture in his later years. Consisting of not much more than a post office and a couple of local businesses, the community commemorates Earp with his portrait on a building's side and a mock grave in front of the post office. Earp's rustic cabin has long since been razed. 


Faux Grave at Earp, California
(c) 2017 MJ Miller

Wyatt Earp passed away at age 81 on January 13, 1929 at his summer home at 4004 West Seventeenth Street, Los Angeles. His funeral was a who's who of fading western figures. Bill Hart, Major Tom P. Clum (first mayor of Tombstone, and founder of the famed Tombstone Epitaph), William Mizner, and Tom Mix served as pallbearers. Other attendees represented various and distinct phases of Earp's amazing life:  Jack Cochrane, who knew him during Earp's time mining in Alaska; Dr. George B. Calnan, who met him in El Paso; Joe Treest, who knew him while Earp mined in Tonopah and Goldfield (California); Tom Grady, E. A. Speegle, M. C. Beckwith, and Dr. D.K. Dickinson, all of whom knew him during his Tombstone days; and Frank E. Cline, who knew Earp during his twenty years in Los Angeles. Pallbearer Hart knew Earp in Dodge City.

After Wyatt's death, Sadie continued on at the cottage at Vidal for a couple of seasons, summering in Pasadena. She lived at the Grand View Hotel at the river's edge in Parker for two years as well, ultimately returning to Los Angeles where she served as a technical advisor for the film version of Wyatt's Tombstone years. Sadie died December 20th, 1944 at age 75.

About four miles from the Colorado River, the town of Vidal peaked during the building of the Los Angeles Aqueduct in the 1930s, boasting 435 residents. Wyatt and Sadie were already gone by the boom. The town was originally homesteaded in the 1880s by Anson Brownell. Brownell operated a trading post for local ranchers, miners, and Indians, leaving his estate to his son Charles. Charles ran a poker table in the general store, and Wyatt, lifelong gambler, was known to frequent the table.

Charles sold the property to the Sparling family. In 1931, the Sparlings developed it into 575 individual homesites, building the first houses in 1932. By 1933, the San Bernardino County Sun described Earp and Vidal as two of the four "booming" villages along the aqueduct. Vidal even had a Justice of the Peace court, necessary for the execution of justice in the rowdy town: the town was essentially a large labor camp for the dam builders and aqueduct construction crews, and proved troublesome during the violent union agitation days. The I.W.W. sent agitators to the town, and many were arrested for rioting and tried at the Vidal J.P. court.


The J. M. Heacock Building, Vidal, California
(c) 2017 MJ Miller

By 1935, the area had no less than 28 liquor establishments, the paper describing them as "hangouts for river toughs and equally tough women."  The then-lone law enforcement officer of the area, Deputy Sheriff Hal Oxnevad, had a job referred to by the paper as the "suicide" job of the county.

Across the railroad tracks from the Earp cottage is a desolate cemetery. No doubt on a quiet night you can sense the presence of the Holly Ghost within its barbed-wire expanse.


(c) 2017 MJ Miller


(c) 2017 MJ Miller


Buried within the Holly Cemetery is the man who served as Deputy Coroner of Vidal in the early 1930s, John Harger. 

(c) 2017 MJ Miller

Veterans and prospectors have ample room in the cemetery. Most plots are either unmarked or unfilled. The few marked graves are rendered all the more poignant for the solitude.

(c) 2017 MJ Miller

Prospector Peter Hulsman's marker lovingly depicts his tool-in-trade, a rock-hammer, fashioned of local rock fragments and bits of ore. Pardon the errant photographer's arm in the picture - bear with my inability to add the edited image into the sequence!




Just beyond the cemetery is a vestige of more recent history - a small collection of debris from the mid-1900s comprised of old cans, tobacco tins, and broken glass.

(c) 2017 MJ Miller

The Great Depression destroyed the promising town of Vidal. At some point, Anson Brownell's estate reverted to ownership of his son, Charles. When Charles died in 1943, Hal Oxnevad, the deputy who'd worked the area during its roughest years, bought the 100 acre townsite. Oxnevad, who'd risen to the rank of Undersheriff, may have purchased it with affection for the town's history. Oxnevad kept the land for over 20 years.

In September, 1967, the San Bernardino County Sun enthusiastically wrote of the town's pending revival. At the time it had nearly 35 residents. Most of the houses were already gone, either torn down or moved to other locations. Retired Undersheriff Oxnevad sold the land to two Blythe men who planned to build vacation homes for boaters and fishermen from the fast-growing Los Angeles area. Their plans unfulfilled, the desert oasis of Vidal never came to fruition. By 1970, Vidal had only 15 residents, their age averaging 70.

For those of us who seek out authentic traces of the west we love, it's for the better. Spend time at Vidal and you'll have a sense of the sheer remoteness you won't find in Tombstone, Dodge City, or Wyatt's other more famed haunts. You can appreciate the J. M. Heacock building and its masterful hand-crafted early 1900s stone construction, without skyscrapers or gleaming condominiums to distract from what was certainly then anything but humble. In its ruins, Vidal is arguably unruined.

(c) 2017 MJ Miller


Copyright (c) 2017 Marcy J. Miller * All rights reserved * No part of this content, including photographs, may be used without the express permission of the author * Links to this page, however, are greatly appreciated * Thank you for liking, linking, sharing, forwarding, Tweeting, sending by passenger pigeon, and otherwise helping grow my audience * Most of all, thank you for stopping by!

















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 *