Wednesday, October 10, 2007



A stranger on first entering Arizona is impressed with the
newness and wildness that surrounds him. Indeed, the change is
so great that it seems like going to sleep and waking up in a
new world. Everything that he sees is different from the
familiar objects of his home, and he is filled with wonder and
amazement at the many curious things that are brought to his
notice. Judging the country by what is common back east, the
average man is disappointed and prejudiced against what he sees;
but, estimated on its merits, it is found to be a land of many
attractions and great possibilities.
A hasty trip through the country by rail gives no adequate idea
of its intrinsic value, as such a limited view only affords a
superficial glimpse of what should be leisurely and carefully
examined to be properly understood or appreciated. At the first
glance it presents the appearance of a desert, but to one who is
acquainted with its peculiarities it is by no means desolate. It
furnishes a strong contrast to the rolling woodlands of the far
east, and to the boundless prairies of the middle west; and,
though it may never develop on the plan of the older states, like
California, it has an individuality and charm of its own; and its
endowment of natural wealth and beauty requires no borrowing from
neighbors to give it character or success.
It has grand scenery, a salubrious climate, productive soil, rich
mineral deposits and rare archaeological remains. It also has a
diversified fauna and flora. The peccary, Gila monster,
tarantula, centipede, scorpion and horned toad are specimens of
its strange animal life; and, the numerous species of cacti,
yucca, maguey, palo verde and mistletoe are samples of its
curious vegetation. It is, indeed, the scientist's Paradise
where much valuable material can be found to enrich almost every
branch of natural science.
Hitherto its growth has been greatly retarded by its remote
position in Uncle Sam's domain; but, with the comparatively
recent advent of the railroad, the influx of capital and
population, and the suppression of the once dreaded and
troublesome Apache, a new life has been awakened that is destined
to redeem the country from its ancient lethargy and make it a
land of promise to many home seekers and settlers.
When the Spaniards under Coronado first entered the land more
than three hundred and fifty years ago in search of the seven
cities of Cibola, they found upon the desert sufficient evidence
of an extinct race to prove that the land was once densely
populated by an agricultural and prosperous people. When or how
the inhabitants disappeared is unknown and may never be known.
It is even in doubt who they were, but, presumably, they were of
the Aztec or Toltec race; or, perhaps, of some civilization even
more remote.
The Pueblo Indians are supposed to be their descendants, but, if
so, they were, when first found, as ignorant of their ancestors
as they were of their discoverers. When questioned as to the
past they could give no intelligent answer as to their
antecedents, but claimed that what the white man saw was the work
of Montezuma. All that is known of this ancient people is what
the ruins show, as they left no written record or even tradition
of their life, unless it be some inscriptions consisting of
various hieroglyphics and pictographs that are found painted upon
the rocks, which undoubtedly have a meaning, but for lack of
interpretation remain a sealed book. The deep mystery in which
they are shrouded makes their history all the more interesting
and gives unlimited scope for speculation.
Arizona is a land that is full of history as well as mystery and
invites investigation. It has a fascination that every one
feels who crosses its border. Paradoxical as it may seem it is
both the oldest and newest portion of our country--the oldest in
ancient occupation and civilization and the newest in modern
progress. In natural wonders it boasts of the Grand Canon of
Arizona, the painted desert, petrified forest, meteorite
mountain, natural bridge, Montezuma's well and many other marvels
of nature. There are also ruins galore, the cave and cliff
dwellings, crumbled pueblos, extensive acequias, painted rocks,
the casa grande and old Spanish missions. Anyone who is in
search of the old and curious, need not go to foreign lands, but
can find right here at home in Arizona and the southwest, a
greater number and variety of curiosities than can be found in
the same space anywhere else upon the globe.
Arizona is a land of strong contrasts and constant surprises,
where unusual conditions prevail and the unexpected frequently
From the high Colorado plateau of northern Arizona the land
slopes toward the southwest to the Gulf of California. Across
this long slope of several hundred miles in width, numerous
mountain ranges stretch from the northwest to the southeast.
Through the middle of the Territory from east to west, flows the
Gila river to its confluence with the Colorado. This stream
marks the dividing line between the mountains which descend from
the north and those that extend south, which increase in altitude
and extent until they culminate in the grand Sierra Madres of
The traveler in passing through the country never gets entirely
out of the sight of mountains. They rise up all about him and
bound the horizon near and far in every direction. In riding
along he always seems to be approaching some distant mountain
barrier that ever recedes before him as he advances. He is never
clear of the encircling mountains for, as often as he passes out
of one enclosure through a gap in the mountains, he finds himself
hemmed in again by a new one. The peculiarity of always being in
the midst of mountains and yet never completely surrounded, is
due to an arrangement of dovetailing or overlapping in their
formation. His winding way leads him across barren wastes,
through fertile valleys, among rolling hills and into sheltered
parks, which combine an endless variety of attractive scenery.
An Arizona landscape, though mostly of a desert type, is yet full
of interest to the lover of nature. It presents a strangely
fascinating view, that once seen, will never be forgotten. It
stirs a rapture in the soul that only nature can inspire.
Looking out from some commanding eminence, a wide spreading and
diversified landscape is presented to view. Though hard and
rugged, the picture, as seen at a distance, looks soft and smooth
and its details of form and color make an absorbing study.
The eye is quick to note the different hues that appear in the
field of vision and readily selects five predominating colors,
namely, gray, green, brown, purple and blue, which mingle
harmoniously in various combinations with almost every other
color that is known. The most brilliant lights, sombre shadows,
exquisite tints and delicate tones are seen which, if put on
canvas and judged by the ordinary, would be pronounced
exaggerated and impossible by those unfamiliar with the original.
The prevailing color is gray, made by the dry grass and sandy
soil, and extends in every direction to the limit of vision. The
gramma grass of the and region grows quickly and turns gray
instead of brown, as grasses usually do when they mature. It
gives to the landscape a subdued and quiet color, which is
pleasing to the eye and makes the ideal background in a picture.
Into this warp of gray is woven a woof of green, spreading in
irregular patches in all directions. It is made by the
chaparral, which is composed of a variety of desert plants that
are native to the soil and can live on very little water. It
consists of live oak, pinion, mesquite, desert willow,
greasewood, sage brush, palmilla, maguey, yucca and cacti and is
mostly evergreen.
The admixture of gray and green prevails throughout the year
except during the summer rainy season, when, if the rains are
abundant, the gray disappears almost entirely, and the young
grass springs up as by magic, covering the whole country with a
carpet of living green. In the midst of the billowy grass
myriads of wild flowers bloom, and stand single or shoulder to
shoulder in masses of solid color by the acre.
Upon the far mountains is seen the sombre brown in the bare
rocks. The whole region was at one time violently disturbed by
seismic force and the glow of its quenched fires has even yet
scarcely faded away. Large masses of igneous rocks and broad
streams of vitrified lava bear mute testimony of the change,
when, by some mighty subterranean force, the tumultuous sea was
rolled back from its pristine bed and, in its stead, lofty
mountains lifted their bald beads above the surrounding
desolation, and stand to-day as they have stood in massive
grandeur ever since the ancient days of their upheaval. Rugged
and bleak they tower high, or take the form of pillar, spire and
dome, in some seemingly well-constructed edifice erected by the
hand of man. But the mountains are not all barren. Vast areas
of fertile soil flank the bare rocks where vegetation has taken
root, and large fields of forage and extensive forests of oak
and pine add value and beauty to the land.
The atmosphere is a striking feature of the country that is as
pleasing to the eye as it is invigorating to the body. Over
all the landscape hangs a veil of soft, purple haze that is
bewitching. It gives to the scene a mysterious, subtle
something that is exquisite and holds the senses in a magic spell
of enchantment.
Distance also is deceptive and cannot be estimated as under other
skies. The far-off mountains are brought near and made to glow
in a halo of mellow light. Manifold ocular illusions appear in
the mirage and deceive the uninitiated. An indefinable dreamy
something steals over the senses and enthralls the soul.
Arching heaven's high dome is a sky of intense blue that looks so
wonderfully clear and deep that even far-famed Italy cannot
surpass it. The nights are invariably clear and the moon and
stars appear unusually bright. The air is so pure that the stars
seem to be advanced in magnitude and can be seen quite low down
upon the horizon.
The changing lights that flash in the sky transform both the
sunrise and sunset into marvels of beauty. In the mellow
afterglow of the sunset, on the western sky, stream long banners
of light, and fleecy clouds of gold melt away and fade in the
At midday in the hazy distance, moving slowly down the valley,
can be seen spiral columns of dust that resemble pillars of
smoke. They ascend perpendicularly, incline like Pisa's leaning
tower, or are beat at various angles, but always retaining the
columnar form. They rise to great heights and vanish in space.
These spectral forms are caused by small local whirlwinds when
the air is otherwise calm, and are, apparently, without purpose,
unless they are intended merely to amuse the casual observer.
A cloudy day is rare and does not necessarily signify rain.
Usually the clouds are of the cumulus variety and roll leisurely
by in billowy masses. Being in a droughty land the clouds always
attract attention viewed either from an artistic or utilitarian
standpoint. When out on parade they float lazily across the sky,
casting their moving shadows below. The figures resemble a
mammoth pattern of crazy patchwork in a state of evolution spread
out for inspection.
The impression that is made while looking out upon such a scene
is that of deep silence. Everything is hushed and still; but, by
listening attentively, the number of faint sounds that reach the
ear in an undertone is surprising. The soft soughing of the wind
in the trees; the gentle rustle of the grass as it is swayed by
the passing breeze; the musical ripple of water as it gurgles
from the spring; the piping of the quail as it calls to its mate;
the twitter of little birds flitting from bush to bough; the
chirp of the cricket and drone of the beetle are among the sounds
that are heard and fall soothingly upon the ear.
The trees growing upon the hillside bear a striking resemblance
to an old orchard and are a reminder of home where in childhood
the hand delighted to pluck luscious fruit from drooping boughs.
A walk among the trees makes it easy to imagine that you are in
some such familiar but neglected haunt, and instinctively you
look about expecting to see the old house that was once called
home and hear the welcome voice and footfall of cherished memory.
It is no little disappointment to be roused from such a reverie
to find the resemblance only a delusion and the spot deserted.
Forsaken as it has been for many years by the native savage
Indians and prowling wild beasts, the land waits in silence and
patience the coming of the husbandman.
I recall with vivid distinctness my first trip to Arizona and
introduction to ranch life in the spring of 1884. The experience
made a deep impression and has led me to repeat the visit many
times since then, with increased interest and pleasure.
During the previous year my brother located a cattle ranch for us
in Railroad Pass in southeastern Arizona. The gap is one of a
series of natural depressions in a succession of mountain chains
on the thirty-second parallel route, all the way from New Orleans
to San Francisco over a distance of nearly twenty-five hundred
miles. The Southern Pacific Railroad is built upon this route
and has the easiest grade of any transcontinental line.
Railroad Pass is a wide break between two mountain ranges and is
a fine grazing section. It is handsomely bounded and presents a
magnificent view. To the north are the Pinaleno mountains, with
towering Mt. Graham in their midst, that are nearly eleven
thousand feet high and lie dark in the shadows of their dense
pine forests. Far to the south rise the rugged Chiricahuas, and
nearby stands bald Dos Cabezas, whose giant double head of
granite can be seen as a conspicuous landmark over a wide scope
of country. The distance across the Pass as the crow flies is,
perhaps, fifty miles. Beyond these peaks other mountains rise in
majestic grandeur and bound the horizon in every direction.
At the time that the ranch was located the Pass country was
considered uninhabitable because of the scarcity of water and the
presence of hostile Indians. No permanent spring nor stream of
water was known to exist in that whole region, but fine gramma
grass grew everywhere. Its suitability as a cattle range was
recognized and caused it to be thoroughly prospected for water,
which resulted in the discovery of several hidden springs. All
of the springs found, but one, were insignificant and either soon
went dry or fluctuated with the seasons; but the big spring,
known as Pinaleno, was worth finding, and flows a constant stream
of pure, soft water that fills a four-inch iron pipe.
When the spring was discovered not a drop of water was visible
upon the surface, and a patch of willows was the only indication
of concealed moisture. By sinking a shallow well only a few feet
deep among the willows, water was struck as it flowed through
coarse gravel over a buried ledge of rock that forced the water
up nearly to the surface only to sink again in the sand without
being seen. A ditch was dug to the well from below and an iron
pipe laid in the trench, through which the water is conducted
into a reservoir that supplies the water troughs.
Again, when the ranch was opened the Indians were bad in the
vicinity and had been actively hostile for some time. The ranch
is on a part of the old Chiricahua reservation that was once the
home and hunting grounds of the tribe of Chiricahua Apaches, the
most bold and warlike of all the southwest Indians. Cochise was
their greatest warrior, but he was only one among many able
Apache chieftains. He was at one time the friend of the white
man, but treachery aroused his hatred and caused him to seek
revenge on every white man that crossed his path.
His favorite haunt was Apache Pass, a convenient spot that was
favorable for concealment, where he lay in wait for weary
travelers who passed that way in search of water and a pleasant
camp ground. If attacked by a superior force, as sometimes
happened, he invariably retreated across the Sulphur Spring
valley into his stronghold in the Dragoon mountains.
Because of the many atrocities that were committed by the
Indians, white men were afraid to go into that country to settle.
Even as late as in the early eighties when that prince of
rascals, the wily Geronimo, made his bloody raids through
southern Arizona, the men who did venture in and located ranch
and mining claims, lived in daily peril of their lives which, in
not a few instances, were paid as a forfeit to their daring.
The Butterfield stage and all other overland travel to California
by the southern route before the railroads were built, went
through Apache Pass. Although it was the worst Indian infested
section in the southwest, travelers chose that dangerous route in
preference to any other for the sake of the water that they knew
could always be found there.
The reputation of Apache Pass, finally became so notoriously
bad because of the many murders committed that the Government,
late in the sixties, built and garrisoned Ft. Bowie for the
protection of travelers and settlers. The troops stationed at
the post endured much hardship and fought many bloody battles
before the Indians were conquered. Many soldiers were killed and
buried in a little graveyard near the fort. When the fort was
abandoned a few years ago, their bodies were disinterred and
removed to the National cemetery at Washington.
Railroad Pass is naturally a better wagon road than Apache Pass,
but is without water. It was named by Lieut. J. G. Parke in 1855
while engaged in surveying for the Pacific Railroad, because of
its easy grade and facility for railroad construction.
I timed my visit to correspond with the arrival at Bowie station
on the Southern Pacific Railroad, of a consignment of ranch goods
that had been shipped from St. Louis. I was met at the depot by
the ranch force, who immediately proceeded to initiate me as a
tenderfoot. I inquired of one of the cowboys how far it was to a
near-by mountain. He gave a quien sabe shrug of the shoulder and
answered me in Yankee fashion by asking how far I thought it was.
Estimating the distance as in a prairie country I replied, "Oh,
about a mile." He laughed and said that the mountain was fully
five miles distant by actual measurement. I had unwittingly
taken my first lesson in plainscraft and prudently refrained
thereafter from making another sure guess.
The deception was due to the rarefied atmosphere, which is
peculiar to the arid region. It not only deceives the eye as to
distance, but also as to motion. If the eye is steadily fixed
upon some distant inanimate object, it seems to move in the
tremulous light as if possessed of life, and it is not always
easy to be convinced to the contrary. However, by putting the
object under inspection in line with some further object, it can
readily be determined whether the object is animate or still by
its remaining on or moving off the line.
Another peculiarity of the country is that objects do not always
seem to stand square with the world. In approaching a mountain
and moving on an up grade the plane of incline is suddenly
reversed and gives the appearance and sensation of going
downhill. In some inexplicable manner sense and reason seem to
conflict and the discovery of the disturbed relation of things is
startling. You know very well that the mountain ahead is above
you, but it has the appearance of standing below you in a hollow;
and the water in the brook at your feet, which runs down the
mountain into the valley, seems to be running uphill. By turning
squarely about and looking backwards, the misplaced objects
become righted, and produces much the same sensation that a man
feels who is lost and suddenly finds himself again.
We immediately prepared to drive out to the ranch, which was ten
miles distant and reached by a road that skirted the Dos Cabezas
mountains. The new wagon was set up and put in running order and
lightly loaded with supplies. All of the preliminaries being
completed, the horses were harnessed and hooked to the wagon.
The driver mounted his seat, drew rein and cracked his whip, but
we didn't go. The horses were only accustomed to the saddle and
knew nothing about pulling in harness. Sam was a condemned
cavalry horse and Box was a native bronco, and being hitched to a
wagon was a new experience to both. The start was unpropitious,
but, acting on the old adage that "necessity is the mother of
invention," which truth is nowhere better exemplified than on the
frontier where conveniences are few and the most must be made of
everything, after some delay and considerable maneuvering we
finally got started.
The road for some distance out was level and smooth and our
progress satisfactory. As we drove leisurely along I improved
the opportunity to look about and see the sights. It was a
perfect day in April and there never was a brighter sky nor
balmier air than beamed and breathed upon us. The air was soft
and tremulous with a magical light that produced startling
phantasmagoric effects.
It was my first sight of a mirage and it naturally excited my
curiosity. It seemed as if a forest had suddenly sprung up
in the San Simon valley where just before had appeared only bare
ground. With every change in the angle of vision as we journeyed
on, there occurred a corresponding change in the scene before us
that produced a charming kaleidoscopic effect. The rough
mountain was transformed into a symmetrical city and the dry
valley into a lake of sparkling water,--all seeming to be the
work of magic in some fairyland of enchantment.
In a ledge of granite rock by the wayside were cut a number of
round holes which the Indians had made and used as mills for
grinding their corn and seeds into meal. Nearby also, were some
mescal pits used for baking the agave, a native plant that is in
great demand as food by the Indians. The spot was evidently an
old rendezvous where the marauding Apaches were accustomed to
meet in council to plan their bloody raids, and to feast on
mescal and pinole in honor of some successful foray or victory
over an enemy.
We next crossed several well-worn Indian trails which the Apaches
had made by many years of travel to and fro between their
rancherias in the Mogollon mountains and Mexico. The sight of
these trails brought us back to real life and a conscious sense
of danger, for were we not in an enemy's country and in the midst
of hostile Indians? Nearly every mile of road traveled had been
at some time in the past the scene of a bloody tragedy enacted by
a savage foe. Even at that very time the Apaches were out on the
warpath murdering people, but fortunately we did not meet them
and escaped unmolested.
The road now crossed a low hill, which was the signal for more
trouble. The team started bravely up the incline, but soon
stopped and then balked and all urging with whip and voice failed
to make any impression. After several ineffectual attempts to
proceed it was decided not to waste any more time in futile
efforts. The horses were unhitched and the wagon partly
unloaded, when all hands by a united pull and push succeeded in
getting the wagon up the hill. After reloading no difficulty was
experienced in making a fresh start on a down grade, but a little
farther on a second and larger hill was encountered, when the
failure to scale its summit was even greater than the first. No
amount of coaxing or urging budged the horses an inch. They
simply were stubborn and would not pull.
Night was approaching and camp was yet some distance ahead. The
driver suggested that the best thing to do under the
circumstances was for the rest of us to take the led horses and
ride on to camp, while he would remain with the wagon and, if
necessary, camp out all night. We reluctantly took his advice,
mounted our horses and finished our journey in the twilight.
Aaron, who was housekeeper at the ranch, gave us a hearty welcome
and invited us to sit down to a bountiful supper which he had
prepared in anticipation of our coming. Feeling weary after our
ride we retired early and were soon sound asleep. The only
thing that disturbed our slumbers during the night was a coyote
concert which, as a "concord of sweet sounds was a dismal
failure" but as a medley of discordant sounds was a decided
success. The bark of the coyote is particularly shrill and sharp
and a single coyote when in full cry sounds like a chorus of
howling curs.
We were all up and out early the next morning to witness the
birth of a new day. The sunrise was glorious, and bright
colors in many hues flashed across the sky. The valley echoed
with the cheerful notes of the mocking bird and the soft air was
filled with the fragrance of wild flowers. The scene was grandly
inspiring and sent a thrill of pleasure through every nerve.
While thus absorbed by the beauties of nature we heard an halloo,
and looking down the road in the direction of the driver's
bivouac we saw him coming swinging his hat in the air and driving
at a rapid pace that soon brought him to the ranch house. In
answer to our inquiries as to how he had spent the night he
reported that the horses stood quietly in their tracks all night
long, while he slept comfortably in the wagon. In the morning
the horses started without undue urging as if tired of inaction
and glad to go in the direction of provender. They were
completely broken by their fast and after that gave no further
After a stay of four weeks, learning something of the ways of
ranch life and experiencing not a few exciting adventures,
I returned home feeling well pleased with my first trip to the
Arizona is in the arid belt and well adapted to the range cattle
industry. Its mild climate and limited water supply make it the
ideal range country. Indeed, to the single factor of its limited
water supply, perhaps, more than anything else is its value due
as an open range. If water was abundant there could be no open
range as then the land would all be farmed and fenced.
Arizona is sometimes spoken of as belonging to the plains, but it
is not a prairie country. Mountains are everywhere, but are
separated in many places by wide valleys. The mountains not only
make fine scenery, but are natural boundaries for the ranches and
give shade and shelter to the cattle.
There are no severe storms nor blizzard swept plains where cattle
drift and perish from cold. The weather is never extremely cold,
the mercury seldom falling to more than a few degrees below
freezing, except upon the high plateaus and mountains of northern
Arizona. If it freezes during the night the frost usually
disappears the next day; and, if snow flies, it lies only on the
mountains, but melts as fast as it falls in the valleys. There
are but few cloudy or stormy days in the year and bright, warm
sunshine generally prevails. There has never been any loss of
cattle from cold, but many have died from drought as a result of
overstocking the range.
The pastures consist of valley, mesa and mountain lands which, in
a normal season, are covered by a variety of nutritious grasses.
Of all the native forage plants the gramma grass is the most
abundant and best. It grows only in the summer rainy season
when, if the rains are copious, the gray desert is converted into
a vast green meadow.
The annual rainfall is comparatively light and insufficient to
grow and mature with certainty any of the cereal crops. When the
summer rains begin to fall the rancher is "jubilant" and the "old
cow smiles." Rain means even more to the ranchman than it does
to the farmer. In an agricultural country it is expected that
rain or snow will fall during every month of the year, but on the
range rain is expected only in certain months and, if it fails to
fall then, it means failure, in a measure, for the entire year.
Rain is very uncertain in Arizona. July and August are the rain
months during which time the gramma grass grows. Unless the rain
falls daily after it begins it does but little good, as frequent
showers are required to keep the grass growing after it once
starts. A settled rain of one or more days' duration is of rare
occurrence. During the rainy season and, in fact, at all times,
the mornings are usually clear. In the forenoon the clouds begin
to gather and pile up in dark billowy masses that end in showers
during the afternoon and evening. But not every rain cloud
brings rain. Clouds of this character often look very
threatening, but all their display of thunder and lightning is
only bluff and bluster and ends in a fizzle with no rain. After
such a demonstration the clouds either bring wind and a
disagreeable dust storm, or, if a little rain starts to fall, the
air is so dry that it evaporates in mid air, and none of it ever
reaches the earth. In this fashion the clouds often threaten to
do great things, only to break their promise; and the anxious
rancher stands and gazes at the sky with longing eyes, only to be
disappointed again and again.
As a rule water is scarce. A long procession of cloudless days
merge into weeks of dry weather; and the weeks glide into months
during which time the brazen sky refuses to yield one drop of
moisture either of dew or rain to the parched and thirsty earth.
Even the rainy season is not altogether reliable, but varies
considerably one year with another in the time of its appearance
and continuance.
The soil is sandy and porous and readily absorbs water, except
where the earth is tramped and packed hard by the cattle. One
peculiarity of the country as found marked upon the maps, and
that exists in fact, is the diminution and often complete
disappearance of a stream after it leaves the mountains. If not
wholly lost upon entering the valley the water soon sinks out of
sight in the sand and disappears and reappears at irregular
intervals, until it loses itself entirely in some underground
channel and is seen no more.
Many a pleasant valley in the range country is made desolate by
being destitute of any surface spring or running brook, or water
that can be found at any depth. Occasionally a hidden fountain
is struck by digging, but it is only by the merest chance. Wells
have been dug to great depths in perfectly dry ground in an eager
search for water without finding it, and such an experience is
usually equivalent to a failure and the making of a useless bill
of expense.
A never-failing spring of good water in sufficient quantity to
supply the needs of a ranch in the range country is of rare
occurrence, considering the large territory to be supplied. Only
here and there at long intervals is such a spring found, and it
is always a desirable and valuable property. It makes an oasis
in the desert that is an agreeable change from the surrounding
barrenness, and furnishes its owner, if properly utilized, a
comfortable subsistence for himself and herds. His fields
produce without fail and the increase of his flocks and herds is
The isolated rancher who is well located is independent. He is
in no danger of being crowded by his neighbors nor his range
becoming over stocked with stray cattle. His water right gives
him undisputed control of the adjacent range, even though he does
not own all the land, which is an unwritten law of the range and
respected by all cattlemen.
Because of the scarcity of water the range country is sparsely
settled and always will be until more water is provided by
artificial means for irrigation. Even then a large portion of
the land will be worthless for any other purpose than grazing,
and stock-growing on the open range in Arizona will continue to
be a staple industry in the future as it has been in the past.
The range is practically all occupied and, in many places, is
already over stocked. Where more cattle are run on a range than
its grass and water can support there is bound to be some loss.
In stocking a range an estimate should be made of its carrying
capacity in a bad year rather than in a good one, as no range can
safely carry more cattle than it can support in the poorest year;
like a chain, it is no stronger than its weakest link.
A good range is sometimes destroyed by the prairie dog. Wherever
he establishes a colony the grass soon disappears. He burrows in
the ground and a group of such holes is called a dog town. Like
the jack-rabbit he can live without water and is thus able to
keep his hold on the desert. The only way to get rid of him is
to kill him, which is usually done by the wholesale with poison.
His flesh is fine eating, which the Navajo knows if the white man
does not. The Navajo considers him a dainty morsel which is
particularly relished by the sick. If a patient can afford the
price, he can usually procure a prairie dog in exchange for two
The Navajo is an adept at capturing this little animal. The
hunter places a small looking-glass near the hole and, in
concealment near by, he patiently awaits developments.
When the prairie dog comes out of his hole to take an airing
he immediately sees his reflection in the glass and takes it
for an intruder. In an instant he is ready for a fight and
pounces upon his supposed enemy to kill or drive him away.
While the prairie dog is thus engaged wrestling with his
shadow or reflection the hunter shoots him at close range with
his bow and arrow--never with a gun, for if wounded by a
bullet he is sure to drop into his hole and is lost, but the
arrow transfixes his body and prevents him from getting away.
He has been hunted so much in the Navajo country that he has
become very scarce.[1]
[1] This statement is made on the authority of Mr. F. W. Volz,
who lives at Canon Diablo, and is familiar with the customs of
the Navajos.
Much of the ranch country in southern Arizona is destitute of
trees, and shade, therefore, is scarce. Upon the high mountains
and plateaus of northern Arizona there are great forests of pine
and plenty of shade. But few cattle range there in comparison to
the large numbers that graze on the lower levels further south.
What little tree growth there is on the desert is stunted and
supplies but scant shade. In the canons some large cottonwood,
sycamore and walnut trees can be found; upon the foot hills the
live oak and still higher up the mountain the pine. Cattle
always seek the shade and if there are no trees they will lie
down in the shade of a bush or anything that casts a shadow. The
cattle are so eager for shade that if they can find nothing
better they will crowd into the narrow ribbon of shade that is
cast by a columnar cactus or telegraph pole and seem to be
satisfied with ever so little if only shade is touched.
Twenty years ago before there were many cattle on the
southwestern range, the gramma grass stood knee high everywhere
all over that country and seemed to be an inexhaustible supply of
feed for an unlimited number of cattle during an indefinite term
of years. It was not many years, however, after the large herds
were turned loose on the range until the grass was all gone and
the ground, except in a few favored spots, left nearly as bare of
grass as the traveled road. At the present time whatever grass
there is must grow each year which, even in a favorable year, is
never heavy. If the summer rains fail, no grass whatever can
grow and the cattle are without feed. The grass about the
springs and water holes is first to disappear and then the cattle
must go farther and farther from water to find any grass. When
cattle are compelled to travel over long distances in going from
grass to water, they naturally grow thin from insufficient food
and are worn out by the repeated long journeys. A cow that is
thin and weak will postpone making the trip as long as possible--
two, three and even four days in the hottest weather she will
wait before attempting the trip. At last, when the poor creature
reaches water, she is so famished from thirst that she drinks too
much. In her feeble condition she is unable to carry the
enormous load of water which she drinks and lies down by the side
of the friendly water trough to die from exhaustion.
If cattle are turned loose upon a new range they act strange and
are inclined to scatter. Until they become accustomed to the
change they should be close herded, but after they are once
located they are not liable to stray very far.
As they are only worked by men on horseback they are not
frightened at the sight of a horse and rider; but let a stranger
approach them on foot, in a moment after he is sighted every head
is raised in surprise and alarm and the pedestrian is, indeed,
fortunate if the herd turns tail and scampers off instead of
running him down and tramping him under foot in a wild stampede.
Nowhere else can be found a finer sight than is witnessed in the
range country. In every direction broad meadows stretch away to
the horizon where numberless cattle roam and are the embodiment
of bovine happiness and contentment. Scattered about in
irregular groups they are seen at ease lying down or feeding, and
frisking about in an overflow of exuberant life. Cow paths or
trails converge from every point of the compass, that lead to
springs and water holes, on which the cattle travel.
It is an interesting sight to watch the cattle maneuver as they
form in line, single file, ready for the march. They move
forward in an easy, deliberate walk one behind the other and may
be seen coming and going in every direction. They make their
trips with great regularity back and forth from grass to water,
and vice versa, going to water in the morning and back to the
feeding grounds at night.
Cows have a curious fashion, sometimes, of hiding out their
calves. When a cow with a young calf starts for water she
invariably hides her calf in a bunch of grass or clump of bushes
in some secluded spot, where it lies down and remains perfectly
quiet until the mother returns. I have many times while riding
the range found calves thus secreted that could scarcely be
aroused or frightened away, which behavior was so different from
their usual habit of being shy and running off at the slightest
provocation. The calf under such circumstances seems to
understand that it is "not at home," and cannot be seen.
At another time a lot of calves are left in charge of a young cow
or heifer that seems to understand her responsibility and guards
her charge carefully. The young calves are too weak to make the
long trip to water and thus, through the maternal instinct of the
mother cow, she provides for the care of her offspring almost as
if she were human.
After viewing such a large pasture as the open range presents,
which is limitless in extent, the small fenced field or pasture
lot of a few acres on the old home farm back east, that looked so
large to boyish eyes in years gone by, dwindles by comparison
into insignificance and can never again be restored to its former
Ranch life on the open range may be somewhat wild and lonely, but
it is as free and independent to the rancher as it is to his
unfettered cattle that roam at will over a thousand hills. As a
place of residence for a family of women and children it is
undesirable because of its isolation and lack of social and
educational privileges; but for a man who cares to "rough it" it
has a rare fascination. Its freedom may mean lonesomeness and
its independence monotony, yet it is very enjoyable for a season.
Like anything else it may become wearing and wearisome if
continued too long without a change, but its novelty has a charm
that is irresistible.
Ranch life is untrammeled by social conventionalities and is not
burdened by business cares, but is an easy, natural life that is
free from all kinds of pressure. It relieves the tension of an
artificial existence, and worry and vexation are forgotten. Time
loses its rapid flight and once more jogs on at an easy pace; and
its complete isolation and quiet gives nature a chance to rest
and recuperate
"Away from the dwellings of careworn men."
The environment of ranch life is highly conducive to good health.
The scenery is delightful, the air pure and bracing, the food
wholesome and nutritious, the couch comfortable and the sleep
refreshing. Walking and riding furnish the necessary exercise
that nature demands. Indeed, there is no better exercise to be
found than riding horseback to stimulate sluggish organs, or
excite to healthy action the bodily functions. It stirs the
liver, causes deep breathing, strengthens the heart and
circulation, tones the nerves and makes an appetite that waits on
good digestion. An outdoor life is often better than medicine
and is a panacea for the "ills that human flesh is heir to."
The ranchman, if he is in tune with his surroundings, finds a
never-failing spring of pleasure. If he is company for himself
he is well entertained and if he is a lover of nature he finds
interesting subjects for study upon every hand. His wants are
few and simple and the free life that he lives develops in him a
strong and sturdy manhood. He is the picture of health and is
happy and contented as the day is long.
However, such a life does not suit everyone, as individual tastes
differ. Prejudice also exerts an influence and is apt to
estimate all western life as crude and undesirable, being in a
transition state of change from savagery to civilization. Be it
even so; for, if the savage had never existed to furnish the
ancestry that civilized man boasts, civilization would not have
been possible. It is only natural that this should be so as, in
the order of nature, evolution begins at the bottom and works up.
There is perhaps no condition in life that can be called perfect,
yet of the two extremes we choose to believe that civilization is
preferable to barbarism; but an intermediate state has the
advantage over both extremes by avoiding native crudeness upon
the one hand and excessive refinement upon the other, both being
equally undesirable.
Happiness, which we all profess to seek, exists in some degree
everywhere but we are always striving to acquire something more.
In our constant struggle for improvement, progress undoubtedly is
made in the right direction. With refinement comes increased
sensibility and an enlarged capacity for enjoyment. But, such a
state in itself is not one of unalloyed bliss, as might be
supposed, since it is marred by its antithesis, an increased
amount of sickness and suffering, which is the inevitable penalty
of civilization. In such a progression the pleasures of life
become more, but the acuteness of suffering is also increased.
The mistake lies in the fact that in our eager pursuit after the
artificial we forget nature and not until we acquire a surfeit of
that which is artificial and grow weary of the shams and deceits
of the world do we stop and think or turn again to nature to find
the truth.
In the early days the frontier was the rendezvous for rough and
lawless characters of every description. That time has gone by
never to return in the history of the nation, as the rustlers
have either reformed and become good citizens or long ago left
the country by the lead or hemp routes. The change in the times
has been such that never again will it be possible to return to
the conditions that existed in the early settlement of the west
which gave to desperadoes a safe hiding place.
The people now living on what is left of the frontier will, as a
class, compare favorably with those of any other community.
There may be small surface polish, as the world goes, but there
is much genuine gold of true character that needs only a little
rubbing to make it shine.
The population being sparse there is comparatively little
opportunity or inclination for wrongdoing. Whatever anybody does
is noticed at once and everything that happens is immediately
found out. The favorite haunt of vice and crime is not in a
sparsely settled community, public opinion to the contrary
notwithstanding, but in the centers of population, in, our large
cities where temptation to do evil is strong and dark deeds find
ready concealment in the mingling and confusion of the throng.
The ranchman deserves to be correctly judged by his true
character and not by any false standard that is artfully designed
to misrepresent him or to unjustly bring him into contempt. He
may have a rough exterior, not intending to pose in a model
fashion plate, but in real life where he is tried there is found
under his coarse garb a heart that is honest and true which
responds with sympathy and kindness for anyone in distress; and
his generosity and hospitality are proverbial and stand without a
rival. Men from every position in life, including college
graduates and professional men, are engaged in ranching and
whoever takes them to be a lot of toughs and ignoramuses is
egregiously mistaken.
The strength, virtue and intelligence of the nation is found in
its large middle class of laboring people that is largely
composed of farmers and mechanics, men who work with their hands
and live natural lives and are so busy in some useful occupation
that they have no time to think of mischief. In this favored
land of freedom all of our great men have been of the common
people and struggled up from some humble position. A life of
toil may seem to be hard, but it conforms to nature and natural
laws and favors the development of the best that is in man; and
he who shirks toil misses his opportunity. Whatever tends to
wean men from work only weakens them. Luxury and indolence
travel on the downward road of degeneracy. They may make
pleasant temporary indulgence, but are fatal to ultimate success.
Locomotion on a ranch consists almost entirely of horseback
riding as walking is too slow and tiresome and wheeled conveyance
is often inconvenient or impossible for cross-country driving.
When the ranchman mounts his horse in the morning to make his
daily rounds he has a clear field before him. He is "monarch of
all he surveys" and practically owns the earth, since his
neighbors live many miles away and his road leads in any
direction clear to the horizon.
The average ranch is not intended to furnish luxuries, but to
serve the best interests of the business in hand, that of growing
cattle. It is usually a "stag camp" composed entirely of men who
occupy a rude cabin near some convenient spring or stream of
water, where they keep house in ranch style and live after a
fashion. No money is ever expended in unnecessary improvements,
but every dollar spent in repairs is put where it will do the
most good. The house furnishings are all of the plainest kind
and intended to meet only present necessities. The larder is not
supplied with luxuries nor is the cuisine prolific of dainties,
but there is always on hand a supply of the necessaries of life.
Every man has his particular work to perform, but unless it be on
some large ranch where the force of men employed is sufficiently
large to require the services of a chef, he is also expected to
assist in keeping house. It is an unwritten law of the ranch
that everybody on the place must share in this work and if anyone
shirks his duty he must either promptly mend his ways or else
quit his job. It is seldom, however, that this rule has to be
enforced, as the necessities of the case require that every man
shall be able to prepare a meal as he is liable to be left alone
for days or weeks at a time when he must either cook or starve.
The equipment of the cowboy is his horse and reata. They are his
constant companions and serve his every purpose. His work
includes much hard riding, which he greatly enjoys if no accident
befalls him. But dashing on in heedless speed while rounding up
cattle he is ever liable to mishaps, as his horse, although sure
footed, may at any time step into a prairie dogs' hole or stumble
on a loose rock that is liable to throw both horse and rider to
the ground in a heap. He is, indeed, fortunate if he escapes
unhurt, or only receives a few bruises and not a fractured bone
or broken neck.
His work consists in riding over the range and marking the
condition of the cattle; line riding to prevent the stock from
straying; looking after the springs and water holes and keeping
them clean; branding calves, gathering steers for market and
assisting in the general work of the round-up. Every day has its
duty and every season its particular work, yet there are times of
considerable leisure during the year. After his day's work is
done he repairs to the ranch house, or to some outlying camp,
whichever happens to be nearest when night overtakes him, for
every large ranch has one or more such camps posted at some
convenient point that furnishes temporary shelter and
refreshment, where he rests and eats his frugal meal with a
relish that only health and rough riding can give.
If he is at the home ranch in winter he spends the long evenings
before an open hearth fire of blazing logs and by the light of
the fire and the doubtful aid of a tallow dip lounges the hours
away in reading and cogitation; or, if in the company of
congenial companions, engages in conversation and pleasantry or
any amusement that the party may select. At an early hour he
turns in for the night and after a sound and refreshing sleep is
up and out with the dawn. After breakfast he mounts his horse
and in his striking and characteristic costume of broad sombrero,
blue flannel shirt, fringed chaperejos and jingling spurs he
rides forth to his work a perfect type of the gallant caballero.
In the range cattle business it is important for every owner of
live stock to have some mark by which he can tell his own cattle.
It is impossible for any man to remember and recognize by natural
marks every animal in a large herd. On the open range there are
no fenced pastures to hold the cattle, but all are permitted to
run free and mix promiscuously. To distinguish the cattle of
different owners a system of earmarks and brands has been devised
by which each ranchman can identify and claim his own stock.
The branding is usually done during a round-up when every calf
found is caught and branded in the brand of its mother. If a
calf remains unbranded until after it is weaned and quits its
mother, it becomes a maverick and is liable to be lost to its
owner. A calf, if left to itself, will follow its mother for
several months and then leave her to seek its own living.
Occasionally a calf does not become weaned when it should be, but
continues the baby habit indefinitely. If a yearling is found
unweaned it is caught and "blabbed" which is done by fitting a
peculiarly shaped piece of wood into its nose that prevents it
from sucking but does not interfere with feeding.
If a calf loses its mother while very young it is called a
"leppy." Such an orphan calf is, indeed, a forlorn and forsaken
little creature. Having no one to care for it, it has a hard
time to make a living. If it is smart enough to share the
ration of some more fortunate calf it does very well, but if it
cannot do so and has to depend entirely on grazing for a living
its life becomes precarious and is apt to be sacrificed in the
"struggle for the survival of the fittest."
If it survives the ordeal and lives it bears the same relation to
the herd as the maverick and has no lawful owner until it is
branded. If an unbranded calf has left or lost its mother it has
lost its identity as well and finds it again only after being
branded, although it may have swapped owners in the process.
Theoretically, a maverick belongs to the owner of the range on
which it runs, but, practically, it becomes the property of the
man who first finds and brands it.
Although the branding is supposed to be done only during a
round-up there is nevertheless some branding done in every month
of the year. The ranchman is compelled to do so to save his
calves from being stolen. Therefore early branding is generally
practiced as it has been found to be the best safeguard against
theft. Either the spring or fall is considered a good time to
brand, but the only best time to brand a calf is when you find
Dishonest men are found in the cattle business the same as in
other occupations and every year a large number of cattle are
misappropriated and stolen from the range. Cattle have been
stolen by the wholesale and large herds run off and illegally
sold before the owner discovered his loss. Calf stealing,
however, happens more frequently than the stealing of grown
cattle and many ingenious devices have been invented to make such
stealing a success. A common practice is to "sleeper" a calf by
a partial earmark and a shallow brand that only singes the hair
but does not burn deep enough to leave a permanent scar. If the
calf is not discovered as an imperfect or irregular brand and
becomes a maverick, it is kept under surveillance by the thief
until he considers it safe to finish the job when he catches it
again and brands it with his own iron.
Different methods are employed to win a calf and fit it for
unlawful branding. Sometimes the calf is caught and staked out
in some secluded spot where it is not liable to be found and away
from its mother until it is nearly starved when it is branded by
the thief and turned loose; or, the calf's tongue is split so
that it cannot suck and by the time that the wounded tongue has
healed the calf has lost its mother, and the thief brands it for
himself. Again, the mother cow is shot and killed, when the
orphan calf is branded in perfect safety as "the dead tell no
The owner of cattle on the open range must be constantly on his
guard against losses by theft. Usually the thief is a dishonest
neighbor or one of his own cowboys who becomes thrifty at his
employer's expense. Many a herd of cattle was begun without a
single cow, but was started by branding surreptitiously other
people's property. It is not an easy matter to detect such a
thief or to convict on evidence when he is arrested and brought
to trial. A cattle thief seldom works alone, but associates
himself with others of his kind who will perjure themselves to
swear each other clear.
The cow ponies that are used in range work are small but active
and possessed of great power of endurance. They are the
descendants of the horses that were brought into Mexico by the
Spaniards, some of which escaped into the wilderness and their
increase became the wild horses of the plains. They are known by
the various names of mustang, bronco and cayuse according to the
local vernacular of the country in which they roam. They are
wild and hard to conquer and are sometimes never fully broken
even under the severest treatment. Bucking and pitching are
their peculiar tricks for throwing a rider and such an experience
invariably ends in discomfort if not discomfiture, for if the
rider is not unhorsed he at least receives a severe shaking up
in the saddle.
The native cattle, like the horses, are small and wild, but are
hardy and make good rustlers. The native stock has been greatly
improved in recent years by cross breeding with thoroughbred
Durham and Hereford bulls. Grade cattle are better suited for
the open range than are pure bred animals, which are more tender
and fare better in fenced pastures. By cross breeding the
quality of range cattle has steadily improved until the scrub
element has been almost bred out.
As a breeding ground Arizona is unsurpassed, but for maturing
beef cattle the northern country is preferable. Thousands of
young cattle are shipped out annually to stock the ranges of
Wyoming and Montana and to fill the feed lots of Kansas, Missouri
and other feeding states. A dash of native blood in range cattle
is desirable as it enables them to endure hardships without
injury and find subsistence in seasons of drought and scant
The general round-up occurs in the fall, just after the summer
rains, when there is plenty of grass and the horses and cattle
are in good condition. The ranchmen of a neighborhood meet at an
appointed time and place and organize for systematic work. A
captain is chosen who is in command of the round-up and must be
obeyed. Each cowboy has his own string of horses, but all of the
horses of the round-up not in use are turned out to graze and
herd together. A mess wagon and team of horses in charge of a
driver, who is also the cook, hauls the outfit of pots,
provisions and bedding.
The round-up moves from ranch to ranch rounding up and marking
the cattle as it goes and is out from four to six weeks,
according to the number of ranches that are included in the
When camp is made and everything ready for work the cowboys ride
out in different directions and drive in all the cattle they can
find. After the cattle are all gathered the calves are branded
and the cattle of the several owners are cut into separate herds
and held until the round-up is finished when they are driven
Every unbranded calf is caught and branded in its mother's brand.
In a mix-up of cattle as occurs at a round-up, a calf sometimes
gets separated from its mother so that when caught its identity
is uncertain. To avoid making a mistake the calf is only
slightly marked, just enough to hurt it a little, and is then
turned loose. A calf when it is hurt is very much like a child,
in that it cries and wants its mamma. As quick as it is let go
it immediately hunts its mother and never fails to find her.
When cow and calf have come together the calf is again caught and
the branding finished.
The pain produced by the hot branding iron makes the calf bawl
lustily and struggle to free itself. The mother cow sometimes
resents the punishment of her offspring by charging and chasing
the men who are doing the branding; or, if she is of a less fiery
disposition, shows her displeasure by a look of reproach as much
as to say, "You bad men, what have you done to hurt my little
A peculiarity of brands is that they do not all grow alike.
Sometimes a brand, after it is healed, remains unchanged during
the life of the animal. At other times it enlarges to several
times its original size. Various reasons are assigned to account
for this difference. Some claim that the brand only grows with
the calf; others assert that it is due to deep branding; and,
again, it is ascribed to lunar influence. But, as to the real
cause of the difference, no explanation has been given that
really explains the phenomenon.
The cowboy's work is nearly all done in the saddle and calls for
much hard riding. He rides like a Centaur, but is clumsy on his
feet. Being so much in the saddle his walking muscles become
weakened, and his legs pressing against the body of his horse, in
time, makes him bowlegged. In addition he wears high-heeled
Mexican boots which throw him on his toes when he walks and makes
his already shambling gait even more awkward.
A cowboy's life has little in it to inspire him with high ideals
or arouse his ambition to achieve greatness. He leads a hard
life among rough men and receives only coarse fare and rougher
treatment. His life is narrow and he works in a rut that
prevents him from taking a broad view of life. All that he has
is his monthly wages, and, possibly, a hope that at some future
day he may have a herd of cattle of his own.
Managing a herd of range cattle successfully is an art that can
only be acquired by long practice, and it is surprising how
expert men can become at that business. All the work done among
cattle is on horseback, which includes herding, driving, cutting
and roping. The trained cow pony seemingly knows as much about a
round-up as his master, and the two, together, form a combination
that is invincible in a herd of wild cattle. The cow or steer
that is selected to be roped or cut out rarely escapes. While
the horse is in hot pursuit the rider dexterously whirls his
reata above his head until, at a favorable moment, it leaves his
hand, uncoiling as it flies through the air, and, if the throw is
successful, the noose falls over the animal's head. Suddenly the
horse comes to a full stop and braces himself for the shock.
When the animal caught reaches the end of the rope it is brought
to an abrupt halt and tumbled in a heap on the ground. The horse
stands braced pulling on the rope which has been made fast to the
horn of the saddle by a few skillful turns. The cowboy is out of
the saddle and on his feet in a jiffy. He grasps the prostrate
animal by the tail and a hind leg, throws it on its side, and
ties its four feet together, so that it is helpless and ready for
branding or inspection. The cowboys have tying contests in which
a steer is sometimes caught and tied in less time than a minute.
It is a comical sight to see an unhorsed cowboy chase his runaway
horse on foot as he is almost sure to do if caught in such a
predicament. He ought to know that he cannot outrun his fleet
steed in such a race, but seems to be impelled by some strange
impulse to make the attempt. After he has run himself out of
breath he is liable to realize the folly of his zeal and adopt a
more sensible method for capturing his horse.
The cowboy who works on the southwestern range has good cause to
fear the malodorous hydrophobia skunk. At a round-up all of the
cowboys sleep on the ground. During the night, while they are
asleep, the little black and white cat-like animal forages
through the camp for something to eat. Without provocation the
skunk will attack the sleeper and fasten its sharp teeth in some
exposed portion of his anatomy, either the nose or a finger or
toe and will not let go until it is killed or forcibly removed.
The wound thus made usually heals quickly and the incident is,
perhaps, soon forgotten; but after several weeks or months
hydrophobia suddenly develops and proves fatal in a short time.
The only known cure for the bite of the skunk is the Pasteur
treatment and, since its discovery, as soon as anyone is bitten,
he is immediately sent to the Pasteur Institute in Chicago for
Ranch life is often full of thrilling incidents and adventures.
The cowboy in his travels about the country looking after cattle,
hunting wild game or, in turn, being hunted by yet wilder
Indians, finds plenty of novelty and excitement to break any
fancied monotony which might be considered as belonging to ranch
life. In a number of visits to the range country during the past
twenty years, the writer has had an opportunity to observe life
on a ranch, and experience some of its exciting adventures.
One day in the summer of 1891, Dave Drew, our foreman, Tedrow,
one of the cowboys, and myself, made a trip into East Canon in
the Dos Cabezas mountains, in search of some large unbranded
calves which had been seen running there. We rode leisurely
along for some time and passed several small bunches of cattle
without finding what we were looking for. As we neared a bend in
the canon, Dave, who rode in advance, saw some cattle lying in
the shade of a grove of live oak trees. Instantly he spurred his
horse into a run and chased after the cattle at full speed, at
the same time looking back and shouting that he saw two mavericks
and for us to hurry up and help catch them. It was a bad piece
of ground to cover and we found it difficult to make progress or
to even keep each other in sight. Tedrow hurried up as fast as
he could while I brought up the rear.
In trying to get through in the direction that Dave had gone, we
tried to make a short cut in order to gain time, but soon found
our way completely blocked by immense boulders and dense thickets
of cat-claw bushes, which is a variety of mesquite covered with
strong, sharp, curved thorns. We turned back to find a better
road and after some time spent in hunting an opening we
discovered a dim trail which soon led us into a natural park of
level ground hidden among the foothills. Here we found Dave who
alone had caught and tied down both the calves and was preparing
to start a fire to heat the branding irons. What he had done
seemed like magic and was entirely incomprehensible to an
inexperienced tenderfoot.
Dave explained afterwards that to be successful in such a race
much depended on taking the cattle by surprise, and then by a
quick, bold dash start them running up the mountain, when it was
possible to overtake and rope them; but if once started to
running down hill it was not only unsafe to follow on horseback
but in any event the cattle were certain to escape. Taking them
by surprise seemed to bewilder them and before they could collect
their scattered senses, so to speak, and scamper off, the work of
capture was done.
Another adventure, which did not end so fortunately for met
happened in the fall of I 887 when the country was yet
comparatively new to the cattle business. I rode out one day in
company with a cowboy to look after strays and, incidentally, to
watch for any game that might chance to cross our path. We rode
through seemingly endless meadows of fine gramma grass and saw
the sleek cattle feeding on plenty and enjoying perfect
contentment. Game, also, seemed to be abundant but very shy and
as we were not particularly hunting that kind of stock, we
forebore giving chase or firing at long range.
After riding about among the hills back of the Pinaleno ranch and
not finding anything we concluded to return home. On starting
back we separated and took different routes, going by two
parallel ravines in order to cover more ground in our search. I
had not gone far until I found the cattle we were looking for
going to water on the home trail. Jogging on slowly after them
and enjoying the beauty of the landscape, I unexpectedly caught a
glimpse of a deer lying down under a mesquite tree on the brow of
a distant hill. I was in plain sight of the deer, which was
either asleep or heedless of danger as it paid no attention
whatever to my presence.
Deer and antelope soon become accustomed to horses and cattle and
often mix and feed familiarly with the stock grazing on the open
range. The deer did not change its position as I quietly rode by
and out of sight behind the hill. There I dismounted and stalked
the quarry on foot, cautiously making my way up the side of the
hill to a point where I would be within easy shooting distance.
As I stood up to locate the deer it jumped to its feet and was
ready to make off, but before it could start a shot from my
Winchester put a bullet through its head, and it scarcely moved
after it fell. The deer was in good condition and replenished
our depleted ranch larder with some choice venison steaks. The
head, also, was a fine one the horns being just out of velvet and
each antler five pointed, was saved and mounted.
The shot and my lusty halloo soon brought my cowboy friend to the
spot. Together we eviscerated the animal and prepared to pack it
to camp on my horse. As we were lifting it upon his back the
bronco gave a vicious kick which hit me in the left knee and
knocked me down. The blow, though severe, glanced off so that no
bone was broken. What made the horse kick was a mystery as he
was considered safe and had carried deer on other occasions. But
a bronco, like a mule, is never altogether reliable, particularly
as to the action of its heels. With some delay in getting
started and in somewhat of a demoralized condition we mounted and
rode home.
Soon after the accident I had a chill which was followed by a
fever and there was much pain and swelling in the knee that was
hit. A ranch house, if it happens to be a "stag camp" as ours
was, is a cheerless place in which to be sick, but everything
considered, I was fortunate in that it was not worse. By the
liberal use of hot water and such other simples as the place
afforded I was soon better; but not until after several months'
treatment at home did the injured knee fully recover its normal
The excitement of running cattle or hunting game on the open
range in those days was mild in comparison to the panicky feeling
which prevailed during every Indian outbreak. The experience of
many years had taught the people of Arizona what to expect at
such a time and the utter diabolical wickedness of the Apaches
when out on the warpath. During the early eighties many such
raids occurred which were accompanied by all the usual horrors of
brutality and outrage of which the Apaches are capable.
When it became known in the fall of 1885 that Geronimo was again
off the reservation and out on another one of his bloody raids
the people became panic-stricken. Some left the Territory until
such time when the Indian question would be settled and the
Government could guarantee freedom from Indian depredations.
Those who remained either fled to some near town or fort for
protection, or prepared to defend themselves in their own homes
as best they could.
What else could the settlers in a new country do? They had
everything invested in either mines or cattle and could not
afford to leave their property without making some effort to save
it even if it had to be done at the risk of their own lives.
They had no means of knowing when or where the stealthy Apaches
would strike and could only wait for the time in uncertainty and
suspense. Many who were in this uncomfortable predicament
managed to escape any harm, but others fell victims to savage
hatred whose death knell was sounded in the crack of the deadly
Some personal experiences may help to illustrate this feeling of
panic, as I happened to be at the ranch during the time and know
how it was myself.
One day in the month of October, 1885, while Geronimo was making
his raid through southern Arizona, my brother and I rode through
Railroad Pass from Pinaleno ranch to the Lorentz Place, a
distance of fifteen miles. It was about four o'clock in the
afternoon that we ascended to the top of a hill to take
observations and see if anything was happening out of the
ordinary. We saw nothing unusual until we were about to leave
when we noticed somewhat of a commotion on the old Willcox and
Bowie wagon road which parallels the Southern Pacific track. The
distance was too great to see distinctly with the naked eye, but
looking through our field glasses, which we always carried when
out riding, we could plainly see three loaded wagons standing in
the road. The drivers had evidently unhitched their teams and,
mounted upon the horses' backs, were riding furiously in a cloud
of dust down the road towards Bowie.
I asked the judge, who was a resident and supposed to be familiar
with the customs of the country while I was only a tenderfoot,
what their actions meant. He admitted that he did not understand
their conduct unless it was that they had concluded that they
could not make Willcox on that day and were returning to some
favorable camp ground which they had passed on their way up, to
spend the night; but the manner of their going was certainly
peculiar. After watching them disappear down the road we rode on
and reached our destination in safety.
The incident was forgotten until a few days later when we were in
Willcox a friend inquired what had become of the Indians which
had lately been seen on our range. We replied that we had not
seen any Indians nor known of any that had been there. He then
related to us how only a few days before three freighters had
seen two Indians ride upon a hill and halt. The sight of Indians
was enough and their only care after that was to get away from
them. They quickly unhitched their horses from the wagons and
rode ten miles to Bowie where they gave the alarm and spent the
night. The next morning, having heard nothing more from the
Indians during the night, they took fresh courage and ventured to
return to their wagons, which they found as they had left them
unmolested, when they continued their journey.
When the freighters were asked why they did not stand off the
Indians they said that they only had one gun and not knowing how
many more redskins there might be decided that to retreat was the
better part of valor. It was my brother and I whom they had seen
and mistaken for Indians.
A few days after this event I had a similar scare of my own and
after it was over I could sympathize with the poor, frightened
freighters. I was alone at the ranch house packing up and
preparing to leave for home. While thus occupied I chanced to go
to the open door and looking out, to my dismay, I saw Indians.
"My heart jumped into my mouth" and for a moment I felt that my
time had surely come. Two men were seen riding horseback over
the foot hills followed by a pack animal. As I stood watching
them and took time to think, it occurred to me that I might be
mistaken, and that the men were not Indians after all. As they
drew nearer I saw that they were dressed like white men and,
therefore, could not be Indians; but my scare while it lasted was
painfully real. The men proved to be two neighboring ranchmen
who were out looking for lost cattle.
In this raid, the Apaches, after leaving their reservation in the
White mountains, traveled south along the Arizona and New Mexico
line, killing people as they went, until they reached Stein's
Pass. From there they turned west, crossed the San Simon valley
and disappeared in the Chiricahua mountains. When next seen they
had crossed over the mountains and attacked Riggs' ranch in
Pinery canon, where they wounded a woman, but were driven off.
The next place that they visited was the Sulphur Spring ranch of
the Chiricahua Cattle Company, where they stole a bunch of
horses. The cowboys at the ranch had received warning that there
were Indians about and had brought in the horse herd from the
range and locked them in the corral. The Apaches came in the
night and with their usual adroitness and cunning stole the
corral empty. The first intimation which the inmates had that
the ranch had been robbed was when the cowboys went in the
morning to get their horses they found them gone.
From the Sulphur Spring ranch they crossed the Sulphur Spring
valley in the direction of Cochise's stronghold in the Dragoon
mountains. Before reaching the mountains they passed Mike
Noonan's ranch where they shot its owner, who was a lone rancher
and had lived alone in the valley many years. He was found dead
in his door yard with a bullet hole in the back of his head. He
evidently did not know that the Indians were near and was
seemingly unconscious of any danger when he was killed.
The Indians were not seen again after entering the stronghold
until they crossed the line into Mexico, where they were pursued
by United States soldiers. After a long, stern chase Geronimo
surrendered himself and followers to General Miles, who brought
them back to Arizona. As prisoners they were all loaded into
cars at Bowie and taken to Florida. The general in command
thought it best to take them clear out of the country in order to
put an effectual stop to their marauding. Later they were
removed to the Indian Territory where they now live.
The rest of the Apaches remain in Arizona and live on the San
Carlos reservation on the Gila river where they are being
inducted into civilization. Since the disturbing element among
them has been removed there has been no more trouble. They seem
to have settled down with a sincere purpose to learn the white
man's way and are quiet and peaceable. They are laborers,
farmers and stockmen and are making rapid progress in their new
Any one who has been in Arizona and failed to visit the Sierra
Bonita ranch missed seeing a model ranch. Henry C. Hooker, the
owner of this splendid property, was born in New England and is a
typical Yankee, who early emigrated west and has spent most of
his life on the frontier.
He went to Arizona at the close of the Civil War and engaged in
contracting for the Government and furnishing supplies to the
army. It was before the days of railroads when all merchandise
was hauled overland in wagons and cattle were driven through on
foot. He outfitted at points in Texas and on the Rio Grande and
drove his cattle and wagons over hundreds of miles of desert
road through a country that was infested by hostile Indians.
Such a wild life was naturally full of adventures and involved
much hardship and danger. The venture, however, prospered and
proved a financial success, notwithstanding some losses in men
killed, wagons pillaged and cattle driven off and lost by bands
of marauding Apaches.
In his travels he saw the advantages that Arizona offered as a
grazing country, which decided him to locate a ranch and engage
in the range cattle business.
The ranch derives its name from the Graham or Pinaleno mountains
which the Indians called the Sierra Bonita because of the many
beautiful wild flowers that grow there. It is twenty miles north
of Willcox, a thriving village on the Southern Pacific Railroad,
and ten miles south of Ft. Grant, that nestles in a grove of
cotton trees at the foot of Mt. Graham, the noblest mountain in
southern Arizona.
The Sierra Bonita ranch is situated in the famous Sulphur Spring
valley in Cochise County, Arizona, which is, perhaps, the only
all grass valley in the Territory. The valley is about twenty
miles wide and more than one hundred miles long and extends into
Mexico. Its waters drain in opposite directions, part flowing
south into the Yaqui river, and part running north through the
Aravaipa Canon into the Gila and Colorado rivers, all to meet and
mingle again in the Gulf of California.
Fine gramma grass covers the entire valley and an underground
river furnishes an inexhaustible supply of good water. In the
early days of overland travel before the country was protected or
any of its resources were known, immigrants, who were bound for
California by the Southern route and ignorant of the near
presence of water, nearly perished from thirst while crossing the
The water rises to within a few feet of the surface and, since
its discovery, numerous wells have been dug and windmills and
ranch houses dot the landscape in all directions; while thousands
of cattle feed and fatten on the nutritious gramma grass. Its
altitude is about four thousand feet above the sea and the
climate is exceptionally fine.
The Sierra Bonita ranch is located on a natural cienega of moist
land that has been considerably enlarged by artificial means. In
an average year the natural water supply of the ranch is
sufficient for all purposes but, to guard against any possible
shortage in a dry year, water is brought from the mountains in
ditches that have been constructed at great labor and expense and
is stored in reservoirs, to be used as needed for watering the
cattle and irrigating the fields. The effect of water upon the
desert soil is almost magical and even though the rains fail and
the earth be parched, on the moist land of the cienega the fields
of waving grass and grain are perennially green.
The owner has acquired by location and purchase, title to several
thousand acres of land, that is all fenced and much of it highly
cultivated. It consists of a strip of land one mile wide and ten
miles long, which is doubly valuable because of its
productiveness and as the key that controls a fine open range.
The original herd of cattle that pastured on the Sierra Bonita
ranch thirty years ago was composed of native scrub stock from
Texas and Sonora. This undesirable stock was sold at the first
opportunity, and the range re-stocked by an improved grade of
Durham cattle. The change was a long stride in the direction of
improvement, but, later on, another change was made to Herefords,
and during recent years only whitefaces have been bred upon the
Col. Hooker has a strong personality, holds decided opinions and
believes in progress and improvement. He has spent much time and
money in experimental work, and his success has demonstrated the
wisdom of his course. Just such men are needed in every new
country to develop its resources and prove its worth.
He saw that the primitive methods of ranching then in vogue must
be improved, and began to prepare for the change which was
coming. What he predicted came to pass, and the days of large
herds on the open range are numbered.
Many of them have already been sold or divided up, and it is a
question Of only a short time when the rest will meet the same
When this is done there may be no fewer cattle than there are now
but they will be bunched in smaller herds and better cared for.
Scrubs of any kind are always undesirable, since it has been
proved that quality is more profitable than quantity. A small
herd is more easily handled, and there is less danger of loss
from straying or stealing.
The common method of running cattle on the open range is reckless
and wasteful in the extreme and entirely inexcusable. The cattle
are simply turned loose to rustle for themselves. No provision
whatever is made for their welfare, except that they are given
the freedom of the range to find water, if they can, and grass
that often affords them only scant picking.
Under the new regime the cattle are carefully fed and watered, if
need be in a fenced enclosure, that not only gives the cattle
humane treatment but also makes money for the owner. The men are
instructed to bring in every sick or weak animal found on the
range and put it into a corral or pasture, where it is nursed
back to life. If an orphan calf is found that is in danger of
starving it is picked up, carried home and fed. On the average
ranch foundlings and weaklings get no attention whatever, but are
left in their misery to pine away and perish from neglect. The
profit of caring for the weak and sick animals on the Sierra
Bonita ranch amounts to a large sum every year, which the owner
thinks is worth saving.
Another peculiarity of ranch life is that where there are
hundreds or, perhaps, thousands of cows in a herd, not a single
cow is milked, nor is a cup of milk or pound of butter ever seen
upon the ranch table. It is altogether different on Hooker's
ranch. There is a separate herd of milch cows in charge of a man
whose duty it is to keep the table supplied with plenty of fresh
milk and butter. No milk ever goes to waste. If there is a
surplus it is fed to the calves, pigs and poultry.
During the branding season the work of the round-up is all done
in corrals instead of, as formerly, out upon the open range.
Each calf after it is branded, if it is old and strong enough to
wean, is taken from the cow and turned into a separate pasture.
It prevents the weak mother cow from being dragged to death by a
strong sucking calf and saves the pampered calf from dying of
blackleg by a timely change of diet.
Instead of classing the cattle out on the open range as is the
usual custom, by an original system of corrals, gates and chutes
the cattle are much more easily and quickly classified without
any cruelty or injury inflicted upon either man or beast.
Classing cattle at a round-up by the old method is a hard and
often cruel process, that requires a small army of both men and
horses and is always rough and severe on the men, horses and
Besides the herds of sleek cattle, there are also horses galore,
enough to do all of the work on the ranch as well as for pleasure
riding and driving. There is likewise a kennel of fine
greyhounds that are the Colonel's special pride. His cattle,
horses and dogs are all of the best, as he believes in
thoroughbreds and has no use whatever for scrubs of either the
human or brute kind.
The dogs are fond of their master and lavish their caresses on
him with almost human affection. In the morning when they meet
him at the door Ketchum pokes his nose into one of his master's
half open hands and Killum performs the same act with the other
hand. Blackie nips him playfully on the leg while Dash and the
rest of the pack race about like mad, trying to express the
exuberance of their joy.
In the bunch is little Bob, the fox terrier, who tries hard but
is not always able to keep up with the hounds in a race. He is
active and gets over the ground lively for a small dog, but in a
long chase is completely distanced and outclassed to his apparent
disgust. Aside from the fine sport that the dogs afford, they
are useful in keeping the place clear of all kinds of "varmints"
such as coyotes, skunks and wild cats.
How much Col. Hooker appreciates his dogs is best illustrated by
an incident. One morning after greeting the dogs at the door, he
was heard to remark sotto voce.
"Well, if everybody on the ranch is cross, my dogs always greet
me with a smile."
There appears to be much in the dog as well as in the horse that
is human, and the trio are capable of forming attachments for
each other that only death can part.
The ranch house is a one-story adobe structure built in the
Spanish style of a rectangle, with all the doors opening upon a
central court. It is large and commodious, is elegantly
furnished and supplied with every modern convenience. It affords
every needed comfort for a family and is in striking contrast
with the common ranch house of the range that is minus every
luxury and often barely furnishes the necessaries of life.
Much of the vegetation that is indigenous to the southwest is
unique and can only be seen at its best in the Gila valley in
southern Arizona. The locality indicated is in the arid zone and
is extremely hot and dry. Under such conditions it is but
natural to suppose that all plant life must necessarily be scant
and dwarfed, but such is not the fact. Upon the contrary many of
the plants that are native to the soil and adapted to the climate
grow luxuriantly, are remarkably succulent and perennially green.
How they manage to acquire so much sap amidst the surrounding
siccity is inexplicable, unless it is that they possess the
function of absorbing and condensing moisture by an unusual and
unknown method. It is, however, a beneficent provision of nature
as a protection against famine in a droughty land by furnishing
in an acceptable form, refreshing juice and nutritious pulp to
supply the pressing wants of hungry and thirsty man and beast in
time of need.
Another peculiarity of these plants is that they are acanaceous;
covered all over with sharp thorns and needles. Spikes of all
sorts and sizes bristle everywhere and admonish the tenderfoot to
beware. Guarded by an impenetrable armor of prickly mail they
defy encroachment and successfully repel all attempts at undue
familiarity. To be torn by a cat-claw thorn or impaled on a
stout dagger leaf of one of these plants would not only mean
painful laceration but, perhaps, serious or even fatal injury.
Notwithstanding their formidable and forbidding appearance they
are nevertheless attractive and possess some value either
medicinal, commercial or ornamental.
The maguey, or American aloe, is the most abundant and widely
distributed of the native plants. It is commonly known as
mescal, but is also called the century plant from a mistaken
notion that it blossoms only once in a hundred years. Its
average life, under normal conditions, is about ten years and it
dies immediately after blossoming.
It attains its greatest perfection in the interior of Mexico
where it is extensively cultivated. It yields a large quantity
of sap which is, by a simple process of fermentation, converted
into a liquor called pulque that tastes best while it is new and
is consumed in large quantities by the populace. Pulque trains
are run daily from the mescal plantations, where the pulque is
made, into the large cities to supply the bibulous inhabitants
with their customary beverage. In strength and effect it
resembles lager beer, and is the popular drink with all classes
throughout Mexico where it has been in vogue for centuries and is
esteemed as "the only drink fit for thirsty angels and men."
The agave is capable of being applied to many domestic uses.
Under the old dispensation of Indian supremacy it supplied the
natives their principal means of support. Its sap was variously
prepared and served as milk, honey, vinegar, beer and brandy.
From its tough fiber were made thread, rope, cloth, shoes and
paper. The strong flower stalk was used in building houses and
the broad leaves for covering them.
The heart of the maguey is saccharine and rich in nutriment. It
is prepared by roasting it in a mescal pit and, when done, tastes
much like baked squash. It is highly prized by the Indians, who
use it as their daily bread. Before the Apaches were conquered
and herded on reservations a mescal bake was an important event
with them. It meant the gathering of the clans and was made the
occasion of much feasting and festivity. Old mescal pits can yet
be found in some of the secluded corners of the Apache country
that were once the scenes of noisy activity, but have been
forsaken and silent for many years.
The fiery mescal, a distilled liquor that is known to the trade
as aguardiente, or Mexican brandy, is much stronger than pulque,
but less used. Both liquors are said to be medicinal, and are
reputed to possess diuretic, tonic and stimulant properties.
Next in importance to the mescal comes the yucca. There are
several varieties, but the palm yucca is the most common, and
under favorable conditions attains to the proportions of a tree.
Fine specimens of yucca grow on the Mojave desert in California
that are large and numerous enough to form a straggling forest.
The tree consists of a light, spongy wood that grows as a single
stem or divides into two or more branches. Each branch is
crowned by a tuft of long, pointed leaves that grow in concentric
circles. As the new leaves unfold on top the old leaves are
crowded down and hang in loose folds about the stem like a
flounced skirt. When dry the leaves burn readily, and are
sometimes used for light and heat by lost or belated travelers.
White threads of a finer fiber are detached from the margins of
the leaves that are blown by the wind into a fluffy fleece, in
which the little birds love to nest.
A grove of yucca trees presents a grotesque appearance. If
indistinctly viewed in the hazy distance they are easily mistaken
for the plumed topknots of a band of prowling Apaches,
particularly if the imagination is active with the fear of an
Indian outbreak.
The wood of the yucca tree has a commercial value. It is cut
into thin sheets by machinery which are used for surgeon's
splints, hygienic insoles, tree protectors and calendars. As a
splint it answers an admirable purpose, being both light and
strong and capable of being molded into any shape desired after
it has been immersed in hot water. Its pulp, also, makes an
excellent paper.
Another variety of yucca is the amole, or soap plant. Owing to
the peculiar shape of its leaves it is also called Spanish
bayonet. Its root is saponaceous, and is pounded into a pulp and
used instead of soap by the natives. It grows a bunch of large
white flowers, and matures an edible fruit that resembles the
banana. The Indians call it oosa, and eat it, either raw or
roasted in hot ashes.
A species of yucca called sotal, or saw-grass, grows plentifully
in places, and is sometimes used as food for cattle when grass is
scarce. In its natural state it is inaccessible to cattle
because of its hard and thorny exterior. To make it available it
is cut down and quartered with a hoe, when the hungry cattle eat
it with avidity. Where the plant grows thickly one man can cut
enough in one day to feed several hundred head of cattle.
There are several other varieties of yucca that possess no
particular value, but all are handsome bloomers, and the mass of
white flowers which unfold during the season of efflorescence
adds much to the beauty of the landscape.
The prickly pear cactus, or Indian fig, of the genus Opuntia is a
common as well as a numerous family. The soil and climate of the
southwest from Texas to California seem to be just to its liking.
It grows rank and often forms dense thickets. The root is a
tough wood from which, it is said, the best Mexican saddletrees
are made.
The plant consists of an aggregation of thick, flat, oval leaves,
which are joined together by narrow bands of woody fiber and
covered with bundles of fine, sharp needles. Its pulp is
nutritious and cattle like the young leaves, but will not eat
them after they become old and hard unless driven to do so by the
pangs of hunger. In Texas the plant is gathered in large
quantities and ground into a fine pulp by machinery which is then
mixed with cotton-seed meal and fed to cattle. The mixture makes
a valuable fattening ration and is used for finishing beef steers
for the market.
The cholla, or cane cactus, is also a species of Opuntia, but its
stem or leaf is long and round instead of short and flat. It is
thickly covered with long, fine, silvery-white needles that
glisten in the sun. Its stem is hollow and filled with a white
pith like the elder. After the prickly bark is stripped off the
punk can be picked out through the fenestra with a penknife,
which occupation affords pleasant pastime for a leisure hour.
When thus furbished up the unsightly club becomes an elegant
walking stick.
The cholla is not a pleasant companion as all persons know who
have had any experience with it. Its needles are not only very
sharp, but also finely barbed, and they penetrate and cling fast
like a burr the moment that they are touched. Cowboys profess to
believe that the plant has some kind of sense as they say that it
jumps and takes hold of its victim before it is touched. This
action, however, is only true in the seeming, as its long
transparent needles, being invisible, are touched before they are
seen. When they catch hold of a moving object, be it horse or
cowboy, an impulse is imparted to the plant that makes it seem to
jump. It is an uncanny movement and is something more than an
ocular illusion, as the victim is ready to testify.
These desert plants do not ordinarily furnish forage for live
stock, but in a season of drought when other feed is scarce and
cattle are starving they will risk having their mouths pricked by
thorns in order to get something to eat and will browse on
mescal, yucca and cactus and find some nourishment in the unusual
diet, enough, at least, to keep them from dying. The plants
mentioned are not nearly as plentiful now as they once were.
Because of the prolonged droughts that prevail in the range
country and the overstocking of the range these plants are in
danger of being exterminated and, if the conditions do not soon
change, of becoming extinct.
The saguaro, or giant cactus, is one of nature's rare and curious
productions. It is a large, round, fluted column that is from
one to two feet thick and sometimes sixty feet high. The trunk
is nearly of an even thickness from top to bottom but, if there
is any difference, it is a trifle thicker in the middle. It
usually stands alone as a single perpendicular column, but is
also found bunched in groups. If it has any branches they are
apt to start at right angles from about the middle of the tree
and curve upward, paralleling the trunk, which form gives it the
appearance of a mammoth candelabrum.
The single saguaro pillar bears a striking resemblance to a
Corinthian column. As everything in art is an attempt to imitate
something in nature, is it possible that Grecian architecture
borrowed its notable pattern from the Gila valley?
Southern Arizona is the natural home and exclusive habitat of
this most singular and interesting plant and is, perhaps, the
only thing growing anywhere that could have suggested the design.
Wherever it grows, it is a conspicuous object on the landscape
and has been appropriately named "The Sentinel of the Desert."
Its mammoth body is supported by a skeleton of wooden ribs, which
are held in position by a mesh of tough fibers that is filled
with a green pulp. Rows of thorns extend its entire length which
are resinous and, if ignited, burn with a bright flame. They are
sometimes set on fire and have been used by the Apaches for
making signals. The cactus tree, like the eastern forest tree,
is often found bored full of round, holes that are made by the
Gila woodpecker. When the tree dies its pulp dries up and blows
away and there remains standing only a spectral figure composed
of white slats and fiber that looks ghostly in the distance.
Its fruit is delicious and has the flavor of the fig and
strawberry combined. It is dislodged by the greedy birds which
feed on it and by arrows shot from bows in the hands of the
Indians. The natives esteem the fruit as a great delicacy, and
use it both fresh and dried and in the form of a treacle or
The ocotillo, or mountain cactus, is a handsome shrub that grows
in rocky soil upon the foothills and consists of a cluster of
nearly straight poles of brittle wood covered with thorns and
leaves. It blossoms during the early summer and each branch
bears on its crest a bunch of bright crimson flowers.
If set in a row the plant makes an ornamental hedge and effective
fence for turning stock. The seemingly dry sticks are thrust
into yet drier ground where they take root and grow without
water. Its bark is resinous and a fagot of dry sticks makes a
torch that is equal to a pineknot.
The echinocactus, or bisnaga, is also called "The Well of the
Desert." It has a large barrel-shaped body which is covered with
long spikes that are curved like fishhooks. It is full of sap
that is sometimes used to quench thirst. By cutting off the top
and scooping out a hollow, the cup-shaped hole soon fills with a
sap that is not exactly nectar but can be drunk in an emergency.
Men who have been in danger of perishing from thirst on the
desert have sometimes been saved by this unique method of well
Greasewood, or creasote bush as it is sometimes called on account
of its pungent odor, grows freely on the desert, but has little
or no value and cattle will not touch it. Like many other desert
plants it is resinous and if thrown into the fire, the green
leaves spit and sputter while they burn like hot grease in a
frying pan.
The mesquite tree is peculiarly adapted to the desert and is the
most valuable tree that grows in the southwest. As found growing
on the dry mesas of Arizona, it is only a small bush, but on the
moist land of a river bottom it becomes a large forest tree. A
mesquite forest stands in the Santa Cruz valley south of Tucson
that is a fair sample of its growth under favorable conditions.
Its wood is hard and fine grained and polishes beautifully. It
is very durable and is valuable for lumber, fence posts and
firewood. On the dry mesas it seems to go mostly to root that is
out of all proportion to the size of the tree. The amount of
firewood that is sometimes obtained by digging up the root of a
small mesquite bush is astonishing.
It makes a handsome and ornamental shade tree, having graceful
branches, feathery leaves and fragrant flowers, and could be
cultivated to advantage for yard and park purposes.
Its principal value, however, lies in its seed pods, which grow
in clusters and look like string beans. The mesquite bean
furnishes a superior article of food and feeds about everything
that either walks or flies on the desert. The Indians make meal
of the seed and bake it into bread. Cattle that feed on the open
range will leave good grass to browse on a mesquite bush. Even
as carnivorous a creature as the coyote will make a full meal on
a mess of mesquite beans and seem to be satisfied. The tree
exudes a gum that is equal to the gum arabic of commerce.
The palo verde is a tree without leaves and is a true child of
the desert. No matter how hot and dry the weather the palo verde
is always green and flourishing. At a distance it resembles a
weeping willow tree stripped of its leaves. Its numerous long,
slender, drooping branches gracefully criss-cross and interlace
in an intricate figure of filigree work. It has no commercial
value, but if it could be successfully transplanted and
transported it would make a desirable addition to green-house
collections in the higher latitudes.
The romantic mistletoe that is world renowned for its magic
influence in love affairs, grows to perfection in southern
Arizona. There are several varieties of this parasitic plant
that are very unlike in appearance. Each kind partakes more or
less of the characteristics of the tree upon which it grows, but
all have the glossy leaf and waxen berry.
Arizona has several hot springs within her borders but, perhaps,
none are more valuable nor picturesquely located than Hooker's
hot springs. These springs are located in the foothills on the
western slope of the Galiura mountains in southeastern Arizona,
thirty-five miles west of Willcox on the Southern Pacific
Railroad. The spot is beautifully situated, commanding an
extended view of valley and mountain scenery.
There are a dozen springs, big and little, in the group and
are scattered over several acres of hillside. The temperature
of the water is 130 degrees Fahrenheit and too hot to drink but,
if sipped slowly, it makes an admirable hot-water draught. The
springs evidently have their source deep down in the earth and
the flow of water never varies. When the water from the
different springs is all united it forms a good sized brook. The
water is conducted through pipes into the bath house, where it
supplies a row of bath-tubs with water of any desired
temperature. The surplus water flows into a large earthern tank
or artificial lake and is used for irrigating a small farm that
produces grain, fruits and vegetables.
The water from these springs is in great demand and is not only
sought by the human biped, but is also in favor with the equine
quadruped. Every morning after the stable doors are thrown open
and the horses turned loose they invariably, of their own accord,
proceed to the lake, wade out into shallow water and take a bath.
They lie down and splash the water about like a lot of schoolboys
taking a swim.
The water from all the springs is perfectly soft and pure. It
cannot be called a mineral water, as an analysis shows that it
contains only a trace of any kind of mineral matter. This
peculiarity of the water is no damage to the springs, since
purity is the best recommendation that any water can have. Water
that is heavily mineralized may be medicinal, but is not
necessarily remedial, or even wholesome, notwithstanding the
popular belief to the contrary. Water that is charged with much
mineral is spoiled for drinking. Moderately hard water need not
be injurious to anybody, but is especially beneficial to
children. The assimilative function in the child appropriates
mineral water tardily and sometimes absorbs it altogether too
slowly for the child's good. Its absence in the system causes a
disease called rickets, in which, from all lack of lime, the
bones of the child become soft and yielding. The bones of a
rickety child will bend rather than break. It is slow to walk
and inclines to become bow-legged.
It is entirely different in old age. As the years multiply the
system absorbs an abnormal and ever increasing amount of
calcareous matter. The bones become unduly hard and brittle and
are easily broken. Bony matter is liable to be deposited in and
about the joints, when they become stiff and painful. It also
lodges in the various soft tissues of the body, and ossification
of the valves of the heart and walls of the arteries sometimes
happens. It weakens the blood vessels so that they easily
rupture, which causes apoplexy, paralysis and death. Calcareous
concretions in the kidneys and bladder, also, come from the same
cause, and are called gravel. Such deposits are not only
annoying and painful to the patient, but in time may prove fatal
if not removed by surgery.
Middle-aged and elderly people should never drink anything but
soft water. If a natural supply of soft water cannot be obtained
distilled water should be substituted. If neither natural soft
water nor distilled water are available, and there is doubt as to
the purity of the water that is being used, it should be boiled
and then let stand to cool and settle. Boiling not only destroys
and renders harmless any organic germs that may be present, but
also precipitates and eliminates much of its inorganic salts.
A few drops of a weak solution of nitrate of silver added to a
glass of water will quickly determine its quality. If the water
that is being tested is free from mineral matter no change is
produced, but if it contains mineral it turns the water opaque or
The value of mineral water as a healthful or necessary drink has
been greatly exaggerated. While it may do good in some
instances, it is not nearly as beneficial as is commonly
supposed. Instead of it always doing good the contrary is often
If a mineral water is desired there is no necessity of visiting a
mineral spring to obtain it, as it can be made artificially at
home or at the nearest pharmacy in any quantity or of any quality
desired, with the additional advantage of having it contain
exactly the ingredients wanted. There are nearly as many mineral
waters on the market as there are patent medicines, and both are
about equally misrepresented and deceiving. All classes of
people would undoubtedly be greatly benefited in health, strength
and longevity if more attention was given to the quality of our
domestic water supply. Any one who needs a change, other things
being equal, should seek a resort that furnishes pure, soft water
rather than choose a spring that only boasts of its mineral
properties. Not all of the benefit that is derived from a course
at watering place is due to the virtues of the water, be it ever
so potent. The change of environment, climate, diet, bathing,
etc., are each factors that contribute something towards a cure.
Next to using pure water as a beverage it is important to know
how to bathe properly, such knowledge being simple and plain
enough if only common sense is used. Usually the more simply a
bath is administered the better are the results. Some people
seem to think that in order to derive any benefit from a bath it
is necessary to employ some unusual or complicated process.
Nothing is further from the truth. The plain, tepid bath is the
best for general use. It thoroughly cleanses the body and
produces no unpleasant shock. A hot bath is rarely needed but,
if it is used, enough time should be given after it to rest and
cool off before going out into the open air in order to avoid
taking cold. The good or harm of a bath must be judged by its
A bath is only beneficial when it is followed by a healthy
reaction, which is indicated by an agreeable feeling of warmth
and comfort, and is injurious if the subject feels cold, weak or
depressed. A bath does not affect all people alike; what will do
one person good may injure another. It is never wise to
prescribe a stereotyped treatment for every patient. The
disease, temperament and constitution of each individual must be
taken into account and the temperature and frequency of the bath
must be determined and regulated by the necessity and
idiosyncrasies of each case. The amount of bathing that a
strong, full-blooded person could endure would mop out the life
of a thin, bloodless weakling.
Locally, these springs have become famous because of the
remarkable cures they have effected, and are sought by many sick
people who have failed to find relief by other means. Before the
white man came the Indians used the water for curing their sick.
The water is curative in rheumatism, neuralgia, dyspepsia, blood
and skin disorders and kidney complaint. The water cure is all
right even if it does not always fulfill every expectation.
Hooker's hot springs is a pleasant place to visit for people who
are not invalids. It is off the beaten path of travel and is an
ideal spot for the tired man who needs a rest. It has not yet
been overrun by the crowd, but retains all of the natural charm
of freshness which the old resorts have lost. Here nature riots
in all of her wild beauty and has not yet been perceptibly marred
by the despoiling hand of man.
Aside from the luxury of the baths which the place affords the
visitor can find a great deal to please him. The climate is
healthful and the weather pleasant during most of the year. In
the near vicinity much can be found in nature that is
interesting. Never-failing mountain streams, deep canons and
dark forests wait to be visited and explored, while curiosities
in animal and vegetable life abound. Not far off is a place here
perfect geodes of chalcedony are found.
Mining and ranching are the leading industries of the country and
a visit to some neighboring mine or cattle ranch is not without
interest to the novice. But, if he starts out on such a trip he
must decide to make a day of it, as the country is sparsely
settled and the distances long between camps. If the
accommodations where he stops are not always luxurious the
welcome is cordial and the entertainment comfortable. The new
experience is also delightfully romantic.
The Colorado Plateau, in northern Arizona, is the union of the
Rocky and Sierra Nevada mountains in their southward trend, and
forms the southern rim of the Great Basin. This depression was
once a vast inland sea, of which nothing remains but the Salt
Lake of Utah, and is drained by the Colorado river. The entire
plateau region is remarkable for its grand scenery--abysmal
chasms, sculptured buttes and towering cliffs, which are
"brightly colored as if painted by artist Gods, not stained and
daubed by inharmonious hues but beautiful as flowers and gorgeous
as the clouds." The plateau is an immense woodland of pines
known as the Coconino Forest.
The San Francisco mountains, nearly thirteen thousand feet high,
stand in the middle of the plateau which is, also, the center of
an extensive extinct volcanic field. The whole country is
covered with cinders which were thrown from active volcanoes
centuries ago. The track of the Santa Fe Pacific railroad, clear
across Arizona, is ballasted with cinders instead of gravel that
were dug from pits on its own right of way.
Near the southern base of the San Francisco mountains is the town
of Flagstaff built in a natural forest of pine trees. It is
sometimes called the Skylight City because of its high altitude,
rarefied atmosphere and brilliant sky. It is said to have been
named by a company of soldiers who camped on the spot while out
hunting Indians, when the country was new. It happened to be on
the Fourth of July and they celebrated the day by unfurling Old
Glory from the top of a pine tree, which was stripped of its
branches and converted into a flagstaff. Here is located the
Lowell Observatory, which has made many valuable discoveries in
astronomy. It is a delightful spot and offers many attractions
to the scientist, tourist and health seeker.
One of the many interesting objects of this locality is the Ice
Cave situated eight miles southwest of the town. It not only
attracts the curious, but its congealed stores are also drawn on
by the people who live in the vicinity when the domestic ice
supply runs short. The cave is entered from the side of a ravine
and its opening is arched by lava rock. How the ice ever got
there is a mystery unless it is, as Mr. Volz claims, glacial ice
that was covered and preserved by a thick coat of cinders which
fell when the San Francisco Peaks were in active eruption. As
far as observed the ice never becomes more nor ever gets less,
except what is removed by mining.
The region is unusually attractive to the naturalist. It is the
best field for the study of entomology that is known. But all
nature riots here. Dr. C. Hart Merriam, in his report of a
biological survey of the San Francisco mountains and Painted
Desert, states that there are seven distinct life zones in a
radius of twenty-five miles running the entire gamut from the
Arctic to the Tropic.[2] The variety of life which he found and
describes cannot be duplicated in the same space anywhere else
upon the globe.
[2] Results of a Biological Survey of the San Francisco Mountain
Region and Painted Desert of the Little Colorado, Arizona. 1890.
But the greatest natural wonder of this region and, it is claimed
by competent judges of the whole world, is the Grand Canon of
Arizona, which is seventy-two miles north of Flagstaff.
Thurber's stage line, when it was running, carried passengers
through in one day, but after the railroad was built from
Williams to Bright Angel the stage was abandoned. However it is
an interesting trip and many people make it every summer by
private conveyance who go for an outing and can travel leisurely.
It is a good natural road and runs nearly the entire distance
through an open pine forest.
Two roads leave Flagstaff for the Canon called respectively the
summer and winter roads. The former goes west of the San
Francisco mountains and intersects with the winter road that runs
east of the peaks at Cedar Ranch, which was the midway station of
the old stage line. The summer road is the one usually
travelled, as the winter road is almost destitute of water.
The road ascends rapidly from an elevation of seven thousand feet
at Flagstaff to eleven thousand feet at the summit, and descends
more gradually to Cedar Ranch, where the elevation is less than
five thousand feet and in distance is about halfway to the Canon.
Here cedar and pinon trees take the place of the taller pines.
Cedar Ranch is on an arm of the Painted Desert, which stretches
away towards the east over a wide level plain to the horizon.
From this point the road ascends again on an easy grade until it
reaches an elevation of eight thousand feet at the Canon.
During the long drive through the pine woods the appearance of
the country gives no hint of a desert, but beautiful scenery
greets the eye on every hand. The air is filled with the
fragrance of pine and ozone that is as exhilarating as wine. No
signs of severe windstorms are seen in broken branches and fallen
trees. If an occasional tree is found lying prostrate it was
felled either by the woodman's ax or one of nature's destructive
forces, fire or decay, or both. But the large number of
shattered trees which are encountered during the day give
evidence that the lightning is frequently very destructive in its
work. The bark of the pine trees is of a reddish gray color,
which contrasts brightly with the green foliage.
The winter road furnishes even more attractions than the summer
road on which line a railroad should be built through to the
Canon. Soon after leaving town a side road leads to the cliff
dwellings in Walnut Canon. Along the wayside a signboard points
the direction to the Bottomless Pit, which is a deep hole in the
ground that is only one of many such fissures in the earth found
on the Colorado Plateau. Four miles east of Canon Diablo a
narrow fissure from a few inches to several feet wide and
hundreds of feet deep has been traced in a continuous line over
one hundred miles.
Further on a group of cave dwellings can be seen among the rocks
upon a distant bill. A turn in the road next brings the Sunset
Mountain into view. Its crest glows with the colors of sunset,
which unusual effect is produced by colored rocks that are of
volcanic origin. Black cinders cover its steep sides and its
brow is the rim of a deep crater. Between Sunset Peak and
O'Leary Peak is the Black Crater from which flowed at one time
thick streams of black lava that hardened into rock and are known
as the lava beds. Scores of crater cones and miles of black
cinders can be seen from Sunset Mountain, and lava and cinders of
this region look as fresh as if an eruption had occurred but
A peculiarity of the pine trees which grow in the cinders is that
their roots do not go down but spread out upon the surface. Some
of the roots are entirely bare while others are half buried in
cinders. They are from an inch to a foot thick and from ten to
fifty feet long, according to the size of the tree which they
support. The cause of the queer root formation is not apparent.
The whole plateau country is scarce of water. The Grand Canon
drains the ground dry to an unusual depth. The nearest spring of
water to the Canon at Grand View is Cedar Spring, forty miles
distant. Until recently all the water used at the canon was
either packed upon burros from springs down in the canon or
caught in ponds or reservoirs from rains or melted snow. Since
the completion of the railroad the water is hauled in on cars
constructed for that purpose.
The watershed of the canon slopes away from the rim and instead
of the storm water running directly into the river it flows in
the opposite direction. Only after a long detour of many miles
does it finally reach the river by the Little Colorado or
Cataract Creek.
Now that the Grand Canon is made accessible by rail over a branch
road of the Santa Fe from Williams on the main line, it is
reached in comparative ease and comfort. But to stop at the
Bright Angel Hotel and look over the guard rail on the cliff down
into the canon gives merely a glimpse of what there is to see. A
brief stay of one day is better than not stopping at all, but to
get even an inkling of its greatness and grandeur days and weeks
must be spent in making trips up and down and into the canon.
After having seen the canon at Bright Angel the next move should
be to go to Grand View fourteen miles up the canon. An all day's
stage ride from Flagstaff to the canon was tiresome, but the two
hours' drive through the pine woods from Bright Angel to Grand
View is only pleasant recreation.
Seeing the Grand Canon for the first time does not necessarily
produce the startling and lachrymose effects that have been
described by some emotional writers, but the first sight never
disappoints and always leaves a deep and lasting impression.
As immense as is the great chasm it is formed in such harmonious
proportions that it does not shock the senses. But as everything
about the canon is built on such a grand scale and the eyes not
being accustomed to such sights it is impossible to comprehend
it--to measure its dimensions correctly or note every detail of
form and color at the first glance. As the guide remarked, "God
made it so d-- big that you can't lie about it."
To comprehend it at all requires time to re-educate the senses
and make them accustomed to the new order of things. But even a
cursory view will always remain in the memory as the event of a
lifetime in the experience of the average mortal.
Distance in the canon cannot be measured by the usual standards.
There are sheer walls of rocks that are thousands of feet high
and as many more feet deep, but where the bottom seems to be is
only the beginning of other chasms which lie in the dark shadows
and descend into yet deeper depths below. The canon is not a
single empty chasm, which is the universal conception of a canon,
but consists of a complex system of sub and side canons that is
bewildering. Out of its depths rise an infinite number and
variety of castellated cliffs and sculptured buttes that
represent every conceivable variety of architecture. They have
the appearance of a resurrected city of great size and beauty
which might have been built by an army of Titans then buried and
A trip into the canon down one of the trails makes its magnitude
even more impressive than a rim view. The distance across the
chasm is also much greater than what it seems to be, which is
demonstrated by the blue haze that fills the canon. The nearby
buttes are perfectly distinct, but as the distance increases
across the great gorge the haze gradually thickens until the
opposite wall is almost obscured by the mist.
The myriads of horizontal lines which mark the different strata
of rocks have the appearance of a maze of telegraph wires strung
through the canon.
A ride leisurely on horseback along the rim trail from Thurber's
old camp to Bissell's Point, seven miles up the canon, and back
is easily made in a day. It presents a panorama of magnificent
views all along the rim, but Bissell's is conceded to be the best
view point on the canon. From this point about thirty miles of
river can be seen as it winds in and out deep down among the
rocks. The Colorado river is a large stream, but as seen here a
mile below and several miles out, it dwindles into insignificance
and appears no larger than a meadow brook. The river looks
placid in the distance, but is a raging, turbulent torrent in
which an ordinary boat cannot live and the roar of its wild
waters can be distinctly heard as of the rushing of a distant
train of cars.
A second day spent in riding down the canon to Grand View Point
and back is equally delightful. Looking across a bend in the
canon from Grand View Point to Bissell's Point the distance seems
to be scarcely more than a stone's throw, yet it is fully half
the distance of the circuitous route by the rim trail.
There are three trails leading into the canon and down to the
river, the Bright Angel, Grand View and Hance trails, which are
at intervals of eight and twelve miles apart. They are equally
interesting and comparatively safe if the trip is made on the
back of a trained pony or burro with a competent guide.
The Hance trail is a loop and is twenty miles long. It is seven
miles down to the river, six miles up the stream and seven miles
back to the rim. It was built single handed by Captain John
Hance, who has lived many years in the canon. The trail is free
to pedestrians, but yields the captain a snug income from horse
hire and his own services as guide for tourists who go over the
Captain Hance is an entertaining raconteur and he spins many
interesting yarns for the amusement, if not the edification, of
his guests. The serious manner in which he relates his stories
makes it sometimes hard to tell whether be is in jest or earnest.
His acknowledged skill in mountaineering, and felicity in
romancing has won for him more than a local reputation and the
distinguished title of Grand Canon Guide and Prevaricator.
He relates how "once upon a time" he pursued a band of mountain
sheep on the rim of the canon. Just as he was about to secure
his quarry the sheep suddenly turned a short corner and
disappeared behind some rocks. Before he realized his danger he
found himself on the brink of a yawning abyss and under such a
momentum that he could not turn aside or stop his horse.
Together they went over the cliff in an awful leap. He expected
to meet instant death on the rocks below and braced himself for
the shock. As the fall was greater than usual, being over a mile
deep in a perpendicular line, it required several seconds for the
descending bodies to traverse the intervening space, which gave
him a few moments to think and plan some way of escape. At the
critical moment a happy inspiration seized and saved him. On the
instant that his horse struck the rock and was dashed to pieces,
the captain sprang nimbly from the saddle to his feet unharmed.
To prove the truth of his statement he never misses an
opportunity to point out to the tourist the spot where his horse
fell, and shows the white bones of his defunct steed bleaching in
the sun.
At Moran's Point there is a narrow cleft in the rocks which he
calls the Fat Woman's Misery. It received its name several years
ago from a circumstance that happened while he was conducting a
party of tourists along the rim trail. To obtain a better view
the party essayed to squeeze through the opening, in which
attempt all succeeded except one fat women who stuck fast. After
vainly trying to extricate her from her uncomfortable position he
finally told her that there was but one of two things to do,
either remain where she was and starve to death or take one
chance in a thousand of being blown out alive by dynamite. After
thinking a moment she decided to try the one chance in a
thousand" experiment.
A charge of dynamite was procured and the fuse lighted. After
the explosion he returned to the spot and found the result
satisfactory. The blast had released the woman, who was alive
and sitting upon a rock. He approached her cheerfully and said:
"Madam, how do you feel?" She looked up shocked, but evidently
very much relieved, and replied "Why, sir, I feel first rate, but
the jolt gave me a little toothache."
He tells another story of how he once took a drink from the
Colorado river. The water is never very clear in the muddy
stream but at that particular time it was unusually murky. He
had nothing with which to dip the water and lay down on the bank
to take a drink. Being very thirsty he paid no attention to the
quality of the water, but only knew that it tasted wet. The
water, however, grew thicker as he drank until it became balled
up in his mouth, and stuck fast in his throat and threatened to
choke him. He tried to bite it off but failed because his teeth
were poor. At last becoming desperate, he pulled his hunting
knife from his belt and cut himself loose from his drink.
Different theories have been advanced to account for the origin
of the Grand Canon, but it is a question whether it is altogether
due to any one cause. Scientists say that it is the work of
water erosion, but to the layman it seems impossible. If an
ocean of water should flow over rocks during eons of ages it does
not seem possible that it could cut such a channel.
Water sometimes does queer things, but it has never been known to
reverse nature. By a fundamental law of hydrostatics water
always seeks its level and flows in the direction of least
resistance. If water ever made the Grand Canon it had to climb a
hill and cut its way through the backbone of the Buckskin
mountains, which are not a range of peaks but a broad plateau of
solid rock. Into this rock the canon is sunk more than a mile
deep, from six to eighteen miles wide and over two hundred miles
In order to make the theory of water erosion tenable it is
assumed that the Colorado river started in its incipiency like
any other river. After a time the river bed began to rise and
was gradually pushed up more and more by some unknown
subterranean force as the water cut deeper and deeper into the
rock until the Grand Canon was formed.
Captain Hance has a theory that the canon originated in an
underground stream which tunneled until it cut its way through to
the surface. As improbable as is this theory it is as plausible
as the erosion theory, but both theories appear to be equally
At some remote period of time the entire southwest was rent and
torn by an awful cataclysm which caused numerous fissures and
seams to appear all over the country. The force that did the
work had its origin in the earth and acted by producing lateral
displacement rather than direct upheaval. Whenever that event
occurred the fracture which marks the course of the Grand Canon
was made and, breaking through the enclosing wall of the Great
Basin, set free the waters of an inland sea. What the seismic
force began the flood of liberated water helped to finish, and
there was born the greatest natural wonder of the known world.
There are canons all over Arizona and the southwest that resemble
the Grand Canon, except that they were made on a smaller scale.
Many of them are perfectly dry and apparently never contained any
running water. They are all so much alike that they were
evidently made at the same time and by the same cause. Walnut
Canon and Canon Diablo are familiar examples of canon formation.
The rocks in the canons do not stand on end, but lie in
horizontal strata and show but little dip anywhere. Indeed, the
rocks lie so plumb in many places that they resemble the most
perfect masonry.
The rim rock of the Mogollon Mesa is of the same character as the
walls of the Grand Canon and is an important part of the canon
system. It is almost a perpendicular cliff from one to three
thousand feet high which extends from east to west across central
Arizona and divides the great northern plateau from the southern
valleys. It is one side of an immense vault or canon wall whose
mate has been lost or dropped completely out of sight.
In many of the canons where water flows continuously, effects are
produced that are exactly the opposite of those ascribed to water
erosion. Instead of the running water cutting deeper into the
earth it has partly filled the canon with alluvium, thereby
demonstrating nature's universal leveling process. Even the
floods of water which pour through them during every rainy season
with an almost irresistible force carry in more soil than they
wash out and every freshet only adds new soil to the old
deposits. If these canons were all originally made by water
erosion as is claimed, why does not the water continue to act in
the same manner now but, instead, completely reverses itself as
above stated? There can be but one of two conclusions, either
that nature has changed or that scientists are mistaken.
The Aravaipa in southern Arizona is an interesting canon and is
typical of its kind. Its upper half is shallow and bounded by
low rolling foothills, but in the middle it suddenly deepens and
narrows into a box canon, which has high perpendicular walls of
solid rock like the Grand Canon. It is a long, narrow valley
sunk deep into the earth and has great fertility and much wild
beauty. It measures from a few feet to a mile in width and
drains a large scope of rough country. The surface water which
filters through from above reappears in numerous springs of clear
cold water in the bottom of the canon. In the moist earth and
under the shade of forest trees grow a variety of rare flowers,
ferns and mosses.
Where the canon begins to box a large spring of pure cold water
issues from the sand in the bottom of a wash which is the source
of the Aravaipa creek. It flows through many miles of rich
alluvial land and empties into the San Predo river. The valley
was settled many years ago by men who were attracted to the spot
by its rare beauty, fertility of soil and an abundance of wood
and water.
The land is moist and covered by a heavy growth of forest trees,
which will average over one hundred feet high. The trees are as
large and the foliage as dense as in any eastern forest. Being
sunk deep in the earth the narrow valley at the bottom of the
canon can only be seen from above. When viewed from some
favorable point it has the appearance of a long green ribbon
stretched loosely over a brown landscape. The sight of it is a
pleasant surprise to the weary wayfarer who, after traveling over
many miles of dreary desert road, finds himself suddenly ushered
into such pleasant scenes.
The canons of Arizona are unrivaled for grandeur, sublimity and
beauty, and will attract an ever increasing number of admirers.
Ten miles southeast of Canon Diablo station on the Santa Fe
Pacific Railroad, stands the Meteorite Mountain of Arizona, on a
wide, open plain of the Colorado Plateau. It is two hundred feet
high and, as seen at a distance, has the appearance of a low,
flat mountain. Its top forms the rim of an immense, round,
bowl-shaped hole in the ground that has almost perpendicular
sides, is one mile wide and over six hundred feet deep. The
hole, originally, was evidently very much deeper than it is at
the present time, but it has gradually become filled with debris
to its present depth. The bottom of the hole has a floor of
about forty acres of level ground which merges into a talus.
This formation is sometimes called the Crater, because of its
shape, but there is no evidence of volcanic action. Locally it
is known as Coon Butte, which is a misnomer; but Meteorite
Mountain is a name with a meaning.
It is not known positively just how or when the mountain was
formed, but the weight of evidence seems to favor the meteorite
theory, which is that at some remote period of time a monster
meteorite fell from the sky and buried itself in the earth.
Mr. F. W. Volz, who has lived in the country twenty years and is
an intelligent observer of natural phenomena, has made a careful
study of the mountain, and it is his opinion that such an event
actually occurred and that a falling star made the mountain.
When the descending meteorite, with its great weight and terrific
momentum, hit the earth something had to happen. It buried
itself deep beneath the surface and caused the earth to heave up
on all sides. The effect produced is aptly illustrated, on a
small scale, by throwing a rock into thick mud.
The impact of the meteorite upon the earth not only caused an
upheaval of the surface, but it also crushed and displaced the
rocks beneath. As the stellar body penetrated deeper into the
earth its force became more concentrated and either compressed
the rocks into a denser mass or ground them to powder.
The plain on which the mountain stands is covered by a layer of
red sandstone of variable thickness, as it is much worn in places
by weather erosion. Below the top covering of red sandstone lie
three hundred feet of limestone and beneath the limestone five
hundred feet more of white sandstone. This arrangement of the
rocks is plainly seen in the walls of Canon Diablo.
The displaced strata of rocks in the hole are tilted and stand
outwards and great boulders of red sandstone and limestone lie
scattered all about. If the hole had been made by an explosion
from below large pieces of rock from each one of the different
rock strata would have been thrown out; but, while as just
stated, there are plenty of huge blocks of red sandstone and
limestone, there are no large pieces of white sandstone. After
the superficial layers of rock had been broken up and expelled en
masse, the deeper rock of white sandstone, being more confined,
could not reach the surface in the shape of boulders, but had
first to be broken up and ground to powder before it could
escape. Then the white sandstones in the form of fine sand was
blown skywards by the collision and afterwards settled down upon
the mountain. The mountain is covered with this white sand,
which could only have come out of the big hole as there is no
other white sand or sandstone found anywhere else upon the entire
In the vicinity of the mountain about ten tons of meteorites have
been found, varying in size from the fraction of an ounce to one
thousand pounds or more. Most of the meteorites were found by
Mr. Volz, who searched diligently every foot of ground for miles
around. The smaller pieces were picked up on or near the rim,
and they increased in size in proportion as they were distant
from the mountain until, on a circle eight miles out, the largest
piece was found. Meteorites were found upon all sides of the
mountain but they seemed to be thickest on the east side.
The writer first visited the mountain in the summer of 1901 and
it was the greatest surprise of his six weeks' trip sightseeing
in northern Arizona where are found many natural wonders. He was
fortunate enough to find a three pound meteorite within five
minutes after arriving on the rim, which Mr. Volz said was the
first specimen found by anyone in over four years.
Professor G. K. Gilbert of the United States Geological Survey
visited the mountain several years ago to investigate the
phenomenon and, if possible, to determine its origin by
scientific test. He gave the results of his researches in a very
able and comprehensive address,[3] delivered before the
Geological Society of Washington, D.C. The existing conditions
did not seem to fit his theories, and he concluded his work
without arriving at any definite conclusion.
[3] The Origin of Hypotheses. 1895.
After disposing of several hypotheses as being incompetent to
prove the origin of the mountain he decided to try the magnetic
test. He assumed that if such a meteorite was buried there the
large mass of metallic iron must indicate its presence by
magnetic attraction. By means of the latest scientific apparatus
he conducted an elaborate magnetic experiment which gave only
negative results.
He discussed at length the various hypotheses which might explain
the origin of the crater and concluded his notable address as
"Still another contribution to the subject, while it does not
increase the number of hypotheses, is nevertheless important in
that it tends to diminish the weight of the magnetic evidence and
thus to reopen the question which Mr. Baker and I supposed we had
settled. Our fellow-member, Mr. Edwin E. Howell, through whose
hands much of the meteoric iron had passed, points out that each
of the iron masses, great and small, is in itself a complete
individual. They have none of the characters that would be found
if they had been broken one from another, and yet, as they are
all of one type and all reached the earth within a small
district, it must be supposed that they were originally connected
in some way.
"Reasoning by analogy from the characters of other meteoric
bodies, he infers that the irons were all included in a large
mass of some different material, either crystalline rock, such as
constitutes the class of meteorites called 'stony,' or else a
compound of iron and sulphur, similar to certain nodules
discovered inside the iron masses when sawn in two. Neither of
these materials is so enduring as iron, and the fact that they
are not now found on the plain does not prove their original
absence. Moreover, the plain is strewn in the vicinity of the
crater with bits of limonite, a mineral frequently produced by
the action of air and water on iron sulphides, and this material
is much more abundant than the iron. If it be true that the iron
masses were thus imbedded, like plums in an astral pudding, the
hypothetic buried star might have great size and yet only small
power to attract the magnetic needle. Mr. Howell also proposes a
qualification of the test by volumes, suggesting that some of the
rocks beneath the buried star might have been condensed by the
shock so as to occupy less space.
"These considerations are eminently pertinent to the study of the
crater and will find appropriate place in any comprehensive
discussion of its origin; but the fact which is peculiarly worthy
of note at the present time is their ability to unsettle a
conclusion that was beginning to feel itself secure. This
illustrates the tentative nature not only of the hypotheses of
science, but of what science calls its results.
"The method of hypotheses, and that method is the method of
science, founds its explanations of nature wholly on observed
facts, and its results are ever subject to the limitations
imposed by imperfect observation. However grand, however widely
accepted, however useful its conclusions, none is so sure that it
cannot be called into question by a newly discovered fact. In
the domain of the world's knowledge there is no infallibility."
After Prof. Gilbert had finished his experiments, Mr. Volz tried
some of his own along the same line. He found upon trial that
the meteorites in his possession were non-magnetic, or,
practically so. If these, being pieces of the larger meteorite
which was buried in the hole, were non-magnetic, all of it must
be non-magnetic, which would account for the failure of the
needle to act or manifest any magnetic attraction in the greater
Mr. Volz also made another interesting discovery in this same
connection. All over the meteorite zone are scattered about
small pieces of iron which he calls "iron shale." It is
analogous to the true meteorite, but is "burnt" or "dead." He
regards these bits of iron as dead sparks from a celestial forge,
which fell from the meteorite as it blazed through the heavens.
In experimenting with the stuff he found that it was not only
highly magnetic, but also possessed polarity in a marked degree;
and was entirely different from the true meteorite. Here was a
curiosity, indeed; a small, insignificant and unattractive stone
possessed of strong magnetic polarity, a property of electricity
that is as mysterious and incomprehensible as is electricity
Another peculiarity of Canon Diablo meteorite is that it contains
diamonds. When the meteorite was first discovered by a Mexican
sheep herder he supposed that he had found a large piece of
silver, because of its great weight and luster, but he was soon
informed of his mistake. Not long afterwards a white prospector
who heard of the discovery undertook to use it to his own
advantage, by claiming that he had found a mine of pure iron,
which he offered for sale. In an attempt to dispose of the
property samples of the ore were sent east for investigation.
Some of the stone fell into the hands of Dr. Foote, who
pronounced it to be meteorite and of celestial origin.
Sir William Crookes in discussing the theory of the meteoric
origin of diamonds[4] says "the most striking confirmation of the
meteoric theory comes from Arizona. Here, on a broad open plain,
over an area about five miles in diameter, were scattered from
one to two thousand masses of metallic iron, the fragments
varying in weight from half a ton to a fraction of an ounce.
There is little doubt that these masses formed part of a
meteorite shower, although no record exists as to when the fall
took place. Curiously enough, near the center, where most of the
meteoritics have been found, is a crater with raised edges three
quarters of a mile in diameter and about six hundred feet deep,
bearing exactly the appearance which would be produced had a
mighty mass of iron or falling star struck the ground, scattering
in all directions, and buried itself deep under the surface.
Altogether ten tons of this iron have been collected, and
specimens of Canyon Diablo Meteorite are in most collectors'
[4] Diamonds. Wm. Crookes, F.R.S. Smithsonian Report. 1897.
"An ardent mineralogist, the late Dr. Foote, in cutting a section
of this meteorite, found the tools were injured by something
vastly harder than metallic iron, and an emery wheel used in
grinding the iron had been ruined. He examined the specimen
chemically, and soon after announced to the scientific world that
the Canyon Diablo Meteorite contained black and transparent
diamonds. This startling discovery was afterwards verified by
Professors Friedel and Moissan, who found that the Canyon Diablo
Meteorite contained the three varieties of carbon--diamond
(transparent and black), graphite and amorphous carbon. Since
this revelation the search for diamonds in meteorites has
occupied the attention of chemists all over the world.
"Here, then, we have absolute proof of the truth of the meteoric
theory. Under atmospheric influences the iron would rapidly
oxidize and rust away, coloring the adjacent soil with red oxide
of iron. The meteoric diamonds would be unaffected and left on
the surface to be found by explorers when oxidation had removed
the last proof of their celestial origin. That there are still
lumps of iron left in Arizona is merely due to the extreme
dryness of the climate and the comparatively short time that the
iron has been on our planet. We are here witnesses to the course
of an event which may have happened in geologic times anywhere on
the earth's surface.
About a year ago several mineral claims were located in the
crater by a company of scientific and moneyed men. The required
assessment work was done and a patent for the land obtained from
the government. The object of the enterprise is for a double
purpose, if possible to solve the mystery of the mountain, and if
successful in finding the "hypothetic buried star " to excavate
and appropriate it for its valuable iron.
A shaft has been sunk one hundred and ninety-five feet deep,
where a strong flow of water was encountered in a bed of white
sand which temporarily stopped the work. A gasoline engine and
drill were procured and put in operation and the drill was driven
down forty feet further when it stuck fast in white quicksand.
It is the intention of the company to continue the work and carry
it on to a successful finish.
Nothing of value was found in the hole dug, but some of the
workmen in their leisure hours found on the surface two large
meteorites weighing one hundred and one hundred and fifty pounds
respectively, besides a number of smaller fragments.
The Meteorite Mountain is in a class by itself and is, in a
way, as great a curiosity as is the Grand Canon. It is little
known and has not received the attention that it deserves.
It is, indeed, marvelous and only needs to be seen to be
In the canons of the Colorado river and its tributaries are found
the ruins of an ancient race of cliff dwellers. These ruins are
numerous and are scattered over a wide scope of country, which
includes Arizona and portions of Utah, Colorado and New Mexico.
Many of them are yet in a good state of preservation, but all
show the marks of age and decay. They are not less than four
hundred years old and are, in all probability, much older. Their
preservation is largely due to their sheltered position among the
rocks and an exceptionally dry climate.
The houses are invariably built upon high cliffs on shelving
rocks in places that are almost inaccessible. In some instances
they can only be reached by steps cut into the solid rock, which
are so old and worn that they are almost obliterated. Their
walls so nearly resemble the stratified rocks upon which they
stand, that they are not easily distinguished from their
The cliffs are often sloping, sometimes overhanging, but more
frequently perpendicular. The weather erosion of many centuries
has caused the softer strata of exposed rocks in the cliffs to
disintegrate and fall away, which left numberless caverns wherein
this ancient and mysterious people chose to build their eyrie
homes to live with the eagles. The houses are built of all
shapes and sizes and, apparently, were planned to fit the
irregular and limited space of their environment. Circular watch
towers look down from commanding heights which, from their shape
and position, were evidently intended to serve the double purpose
of observation and defense.
In the search for evidence of their antiquity it is believed that
data has been found which denotes great age. In the construction
of some of their houses, notably those in the Mancos Canon, is
displayed a technical knowledge of architecture and a
mathematical accuracy which savages do not possess; and the fine
masonry of dressed stone and superior cement seem to prove that
Indians were not the builders. On the contrary, to quote a
recent writer, "The evidence goes to show that the work was done
by skilled workmen who were white masons and who built for white
people in a prehistoric age." In this connection it is singular,
if not significant, that the natives when first discovered
believed in a bearded white man whom they deified as the Fair God
of whose existence they had obtained knowledge from some source
and in whose honor they kept their sacred altar fires burning
The relics that have been found in the ruins are principally
implements of the stone age, but are of sufficient variety to
indicate a succession of races that were both primitive and
cultured and as widely separated in time as in knowledge.
The cliff dwellings were not only the abodes of their original
builders, but were occupied and deserted successively by the
chipped stone implement maker, the polisher of hard stone, the
basket maker and the weaver.
Among the relics that have been found in the ruins are some very
fine specimens of pottery which are as symmetrical and well
finished as if they had been turned on a potter's wheel, and
covered with an opaque enamel of stanniferous glaze composed of
lead and tin that originated with the Phoenicians, and is as old
as history. Can it be possible that the cliff dwellers are a
lost fragment of Egyptian civilization?
The cliff ruins in Arizona are not only found in the canons of
the Colorado river, but also in many other places. The finest of
them are Montezuma's Castle on Beaver creek, and the Casa Blanca
in Canon de Chelly. Numerous other ruins are found on the Rio
Verde, Gila river, Walnut Canon and elsewhere.
The largest and finest group of cliff dwellings are those on the
Mesa Verde in Colorado. They are fully described in the great
work[5] of Nordenskiold, who spent much time among them. The
different houses are named after some peculiarity of appearance
or construction, like the Cliff Palace, which contains more than
one hundred rooms, Long House, Balcony House, Spruce Tree House,
[5] The Cliff Dwellers of the Mesa Verde, by F. Nordenskiold,
Stockholm. 1893.
He obtained a large quantity of relics, which are also fully
described, consisting of stone implements, pottery, cotton and
feather cloth, osier and palmillo mats, yucca sandals, weaving
sticks, bone awls, corn and beans.
Many well-preserved mummies were found buried in graves that were
carefully closed and sealed. The bodies were wrapped in a fine
cotton cloth of drawn work, which was covered by a coarser cloth
resembling burlap, and all inclosed in a wrapping of palmillo
matting tied with a cord made of the fiber of cedar bark. The
hair is fine and of a brown color, and not coarse and black like
the hair of the wild Indians. Mummies have been exhumed that
have red or light colored hair such as usually goes with a fair
skin. This fact has led some to believe that the cliff dwellers
belonged to the white race, but not necessarily so, as this
quality of hair also belongs to albinos, who doubtless lived
among the cliff dwellers as they do among the Moquis and Zunis at
the present day, and explains the peculiarity of hair just
These remains may be very modern, as some choose to believe, but,
in all probability, they are more ancient than modern. Mummies
encased in wood and cloth have been taken from the tombs of Egypt
in an almost perfect state of preservation which cannot be less
than two thousand years old, and are, perhaps, more than double
that age. As there is no positive knowledge as to when the cliff
dwellers flourished, one man's guess on the subject is as good as
An important discovery was recently made near Mancos, Colorado,
where a party of explorers found in some old cliff dwellings
graves beneath graves that were entirely different from anything
yet discovered. They were egg-shaped, built of stone and
plastered smoothly with clay. They contained mummies, cloth,
sandals, beads and various other trinkets. There was no pottery,
but many well-made baskets, and their owners have been called the
basket makers. There was also a difference in the skulls found.
The cliff dwellers' skull is short and flattened behind, while
the skulls that were found in these old graves were long, narrow
and round on the back.[6]
[6] An Elder Brother of the Cliff Dwellers, by T. M. Prudden,
M.D. Harper's Magazine, June, 1897.
Rev. H. M. Baum, who has traveled all over the southwest and
visited every large ruin in the country, considers that Canon de
Chelly and its branch, del Muerto, is the most interesting
prehistoric locality in the United States. The Navajos, who now
live in the canon, have a tradition that the people who occupied
the old cliff houses were all destroyed in one day by a wind of
fire.[7] The occurrence, evidently, was similar to what happened
recently on the island of Martinique, when all the inhabitants of
the village of St. Pierre perished in an hour by the eruption of
Mont Pelee.
[7] Pueblo and Cliff Dwellers of the Southwest. Records of the
Past, December, 1902.
Contemporaneous with the cliff dwellers there seems to have lived
a race of people in the adjoining valleys who built cities and
tilled the soil. judged by their works they must have been an
industrious, intelligent and numerous people. All over the
ground are strewn broken pieces of pottery that are painted in
bright colors and artistic designs which, after ages of exposure
to the weather, look as fresh as if newly made, The relics that
have been taken from the ruins are similar to those found in the
cliff houses, and consist mostly of stone implements and pottery.
In the Gila valley, near the town of Florence, stands the now
famous Casa Grande ruin, which is the best preserved of all these
ancient cities. It was a ruin when the Spaniards first
discovered it, and is a type of the ancient communal house. Its
thick walls are composed of a concrete adobe that is as hard as
rock, and its base lines conform to the cardinal points of, the
compass. It is an interesting relic of a past age and an
extinct race and, if it cannot yield up its secrets to science,
it at least appeals to the spirit of romance and mystery.
Irrigating ditches which were fed from reservoirs supplied their
fields and houses with water. Portions of these old canals are
yet in existence and furnish proof of the diligence and skill of
their builders. The ditches were located on levels that could
not be improved upon for utilizing the land and water to the best
advantage. Modern engineers have not been able to better them
and in many places the old levels are used in new ditches at the
present time.
Whatever may have been the fate of this ancient people their
destruction must be sought in natural causes rather than by human
warfare. An adverse fate probably cut off their water supply and
laid waste their productive fields. With their crops a failure
and all supplies gone what else could the people do but either
starve or move, but as to the nature of the exodus history is
Just how ancient these works are might be difficult to prove, but
they are certainly not modern. The evidence denotes that they
have existed a long time. Where the water in a canal flowed over
solid rock the rock has been much worn. Portions of the old
ditches are filled with lava and houses lie buried in the
vitreous flood. It is certain that the country was inhabited
prior to the last lava flow whether that event occurred hundreds
or thousands of years ago.
It is claimed that the Pueblo Indians and cliff dwellers are
identical and that the latter were driven from their peaceful
valley homes by a hostile foe to find temporary shelter among the
rocks, but such a conclusion seems to be erroneous in view of
certain facts.
The cliff dwellings were not temporary camps, as such a migration
would imply, but places of permanent abode. The houses are too
numerous and well constructed to be accounted for on any other
hypothesis. A people fleeing periodically to the cliffs to
escape from an enemy could not have built such houses. Indeed,
they are simply marvelous when considered as to location and
construction. The time that must necessarily have been consumed
in doing the work and the amount of danger and labor involved--
labor in preparing and getting the material into place and danger
in scaling the dizzy heights over an almost impassible trail, it
seems the boldest assumption to assert that the work was done by
a fleeing and demoralized mob.
Again, it would be a physical impossibility for a people who were
only accustomed to agricultural pursuits to suddenly and
completely change their habits of life such as living among the
rocks would necessitate. Only by native instinct and daily
practice from childhood would it be possible for any people to
follow the narrow and difficult paths which were habitually
traveled by the cliff dwellers. It requires a clear head and
steady nerves to perform the daring feat in safety--to the truth
of which statement modern explorers can testify who have made the
attempt in recent years at the peril of life and limb while
engaged in searching for archaeological treasures.
Judged by the everyday life that is familiar to us it seems
incredible that houses should ever have been built or homes
established in such hazardous places, or that any people should
have ever lived there. But that they did is an established fact
as there stand the houses which were built and occupied by human
beings in the midst of surroundings that might appall the
stoutest heart. Children played and men and women wrought on the
brink of frightful precipices in a space so limited and dangerous
that a single misstep made it fatal.
It is almost impossible to conceive of any condition in life, or
combination of circumstances in the affairs of men, that should
drive any people to the rash act of living in the houses of the
cliff dwellers. Men will sometimes do from choice what they
cannot be made to do by compulsion. It is easier to believe that
the cliff dwellers, being free people, chose of their own accord
the site of their habitation rather than that from any cause they
were compelled to make the choice. Their preference was to live
upon the cliffs, as they were fitted by nature for such an
For no other reason, apparently, do the Moquis live upon their
rocky and barren mesas away from everything which the civilized
white man deems desirable, yet, in seeming contentment. The
Supais, likewise, choose to live alone at the bottom of Cataract
Canon where they are completely shut in by high cliffs. Their
only road out is by a narrow and dangerous trail up the side of
the canon, which is little traveled as they seldom leave home and
are rarely visited.
To affirm that the cliff dwellers were driven from their
strongholds and dispersed by force is pure fiction, nor is there
any evidence to support such a theory. That they had enemies no
one doubts, but, being in possession of an impregnable position
where one man could successfully withstand a thousand, to
surrender would have been base cowardice, and weakness was not a
characteristic of the cliff dwellers.
The question of their subsistence is likewise a puzzle. They
evidently cultivated the soil where it was practicable to do so
as fragments of farm products have been found in their dwellings,
but in the vicinity of some of the houses there is no tillable
land and the inhabitants must have depended upon other means for
support. The wild game which was, doubtless, abundant furnished
them with meat and edible seeds, fruits and roots from native
plants like the pinon pine and mesquite which together with the
saguaro and mescal, supplied them with a variety of food
sufficient for their subsistence as they do, in a measure, the
wild Indian tribes of that region at the present day.
The Indians of Arizona are, perhaps, the most interesting of any
of the American aborigines. They are as unique and picturesque
as is the land which they inhabit; and the dead are no less so
than the living.
The Pueblo Indians, with which the Moquis are classed, number
altogether about ten thousand and are scattered in twenty-six
villages over Arizona and New Mexico. They resemble each other
in many respects, but do not all speak the same language. They
represent several wholly disconnected stems and are classified
linguistically by Brinton as belonging to the Uto-Aztecan, Kera,
Tehua and Zuni stocks. He believes that the Pueblo civilization
is not due to any one unusually gifted lineage, but is altogether
a local product, developed in independent tribes by their
peculiar environment, which is favorable to agriculture and
sedentary pursuits.[8]
[8] The American Race, by D. G. Brinton, 1891.
The houses are constructed of stone and adobe, are several
stories high and contain many apartments. None of the existing
pueblos are as large as some that are in ruins which, judging by
the quantity of debris, must have been huge affairs. Since the
advent of the Spaniard the style of building has changed somewhat
to conform to modern ideas, so that now some families live in
separate one-story houses having doors and windows, instead, as
formerly, only in large communal houses that were built and
conducted on the communal plan.
Their manners and customs are peculiar to themselves and make an
interesting study. Their civilization is entirely original,
though modified to some extent by centuries of contact with the
whites. They understand the Spanish language, but have not
forgotten their mother tongue. They hold tenaciously to their
old customs and have not changed materially during the past four
hundred years.
During that time the Catholic missionaries endeavored to convert
them to Christianity, but with only partial success. While they
appeared to acquiesce, by giving formal obedience to the
requirements of the new religion, they yet held sacred their old
beliefs and in the privacy of the estufa practiced in secret the
rites and ceremonies of their ancient faith.
The Spaniards undertook to conquer a free and independent people
by teaching them dependence and submission, but signally failed.
After a struggle of two hundred and eighty years Spanish
civilization withdrew and left the Pueblo civilization
Under successive Spanish, Mexican and American rule the Pueblo
has preserved itself intact which fact stamps the Pueblo people
as being eminently valiant, self-reliant and persevering. They
are peaceable, industrious and hospitable and are said to be the
best governed people in the world. As nearly as can be
ascertained they are free from every gross vice and crime and Mr.
C. F. Lummis, who knows them well, believes them to be a
crimeless people.
The Moquis of Arizona are the most primitive of the Pueblo
Indians and are worthy representatives of their race. They are
of the Aztecan branch of the Shoshonean family and probably the
lineal descendents of the cliff dwellers. Their home is on the
Painted Desert in northeastern Arizona where they have lived for
many centuries. It is a barren and desolate spot and has been
likened to Hades with its fires extinguished. Nevertheless it is
an exceedingly interesting region and furnishes many attractions.
The landscape is highly picturesque and the phantasmagoric
effects of the rarified atmosphere are bewitching.
In the early Spanish days Moqui land was designated as the
Province of Tusayan and was shrouded in mystery. The seven Moqui
towns were at one time regarded as the seven Cities of Cibola,
but later it was decided that Zuni and not Moqui was the true
When Coronado, at the head of his intrepid army, marched through
the land in the year 1540, he procured native guides to aid him
in exploring the country, hoping to find fabulous wealth which
failed to materialize. He heard of a race of giants whom he
wished to meet, but instead of finding them discovered a river
with banks so high that they "seemed to be raised three or four
leagues into the air." What he saw was the Colorado River with
its gigantic canon walls and wealth of architectural grandeur and
beauty. The bewildering sight naturally astonished him as it
does every beholder. Think of a fissure in the earth over a mile
deep! But the Grand Canon of Arizona is more that a simple
fissure in the earth. It is composed of many canons which form a
seemingly endless labyrinth of winding aisles and majestic
avenues--fit promenades for the Gods.
The land of the Moquinos is full of surprises and, although they
are not all as startling as the Grand Canon, they are
sufficiently striking to make Arizona a wonderland that is second
to none on the continent.
The Moquis live in seven towns or pueblos which are built upon
three rocky mesas that are many miles apart. The mesas are about
seven thousand feet above sea level and from six to eight hundred
feet higher than the surrounding plain. Upon the first or
eastern mesa are located the three towns of Te-wa, Si-chom-ovi
and Wal-pi. Tewa is the newest of the three towns and was built
by the Tehuan allies who came as refugees from the Rio Grande
after the great rebellion of 1680. They were granted permission
to build on the spot by agreeing to defend the Gap, where the
trail leaves the mesa, against all intruders.
Upon the second or middle mesa are the towns of Mi-shong-novi,
Shi-pauli-ovi and Shong-o-pavi; and on the third mesa is
0-rai-bi, which is the largest of the Moqui villages, and equal
to the other six in size and population. The entire population
of the seven Moqui towns numbers about two thousand souls.
In 1583 Espejo estimated that the Moquis numbered fifty thousand,
which, doubtless, was an over estimate, as he has been accused of
exaggeration. However, since their discovery their numbers have
greatly diminished and steadily continue to decrease, as if it
were also to be their fate to become extinct like the ancient
cliff dwellers.
The Moqui Pueblos are well protected by natural barriers upon all
sides except towards the south. Perched upon their high mesas
the people have been safe from every attack of an enemy, but
their fields and flocks in the valley below were defenseless.
The top of the several mesas can only be reached by ascending
steep and difficult trails which are hard to climb but easy to
defend. The paths on the mesas have been cut deep into the hard
rock, which were worn by the soft tread of moccasined feet during
centuries of travel, numbering, perhaps, several times the four
hundred years that are known to history.
The houses are built of stone and mortar, and rise in terraces
from one to five stories high, back from a street or court to a
sheer wall. Some of the remodeled and newly built houses have
modern doors and windows. The upper stories are reached from the
outside by ladders and stone stairways built into the walls. The
rooms are smoothly plastered and whitewashed and the houses are
kept tidy and clean, but the streets are dirty and unsanitary.
In these sky cities the Moquis live a retired life that is well
suited to their quiet dispositions, love of home life and
tireless industry. The men are kind, the women virtuous and the
children obedient. Indeed, the children are unusually well
behaved. They seldom quarrel or cry, and a spoiled child cannot
be found among them. The Moquis love peace, and never fight
among themselves. If a dispute occurs it is submitted to a peace
council of old men, whose decision is final and obeyed without a
They are shy and suspicious of strangers, but if addressed by the
magic word lolomi, their reserve is instantly gone. It is the
open sesame to their hearts and homes, and after that the house
contains nothing too good to bestow upon the welcome guest. They
are true children of nature, and have not yet become corrupted by
the vices of white civilization. The worst thing they do is that
the men smoke tobacco.
Their industries are few, but afford sufficient income to provide
for their modest needs. They are primarily tillers of the soil,
and as agriculturists succeed under circumstances that would
wholly baffle and discourage an eastern farmer. Several years
ago a man was sent out from Washington to teach the Moquis
agriculture, but before a year had passed the teacher had to buy
corn from the Indians. They make baskets and pottery, weave
cloth and dress skins for their own use and to barter in trade
with their neighbors. They like silver and have skilled workmen
who make the white metal into beads and buttons and various
trinkets for personal adornment. They care nothing for gold, and
silver is their only money. Chalchihuitl is their favorite gem
and to own a turquoise stone is regarded as an omen of good
fortune to the happy possessor.
Just how the Spaniards got the notion that the Moquis loved gold
and possessed vast stores of that precious metal is not apparent
unless it be, as Bandelier suggests, that it originated in the
myth of the El Dorado, or Gilded Man.[9] The story started at
Lake Guatanita in Bogota, and traveled north to Quivera, but the
wealth that the Spaniards sought they never found. Their journey
led them over deserts that gave them but little food and only a
meager supply of water, and ended in disaster.
[9] The Gilded Man, by A. F. Bandelier, 1893.
The mesas are all rock and utterly barren, and their supplies are
all brought from a distance over difficult trails. The water is
carried in ollas by the women from springs at the foot of the
mesa; wood is packed on burros from distant forests; and corn,
melons and peaches are brought home by the men when they return
from their work in the fields. A less active and industrious
people, under similar circumstances, would soon starve to death,
but the Moquis are self-supporting and have never asked nor
received any help from Uncle Sam.
In the early morning the public crier proclaims in stentorian
tones from the housetop the program for the day, which sends
everyone to his daily task. They are inured to labor and do not
count work as a hardship. It is only by incessant toil that they
succeed at all in earning a living with the scanty resources at
their command, and the only surprise is that they succeed so
well. There is scarcely an hour during the day or night that men
and women are not either coming or going on some errand to
provision the home.
The men travel many miles every day going to and from their work
in the fields. If a man owns a burro he sometimes rides, but
usually prefers to walk. What the burro does not pack, the man
carries on his back. He often sings at his work, just as the
white man does in any farming community, and his song sounds
The burro is the common carrier and, because of his sterling
qualities, is a prime favorite in all of the pueblos. If he has
any faults they are all condoned except one, that of theft. If
he is caught eating in a corn field he is punished as a thief by
having one of his ears cut off; and if the offense is repeated he
loses his other ear in the same manner.
The area of tillable land is limited and is found only in small
patches, which cause the farms to be widely scattered. The soil
is mostly sand which the wind drifts into dunes that sometimes
cover and destroy the growing crops. The peach trees are often
buried in sand or only their top branches remain visible. There
are no running streams of water and rains are infrequent.
Corn is the principal crop and support of the Moquis. If there
is a good crop the surplus is stored away and kept to be used in
the future should a crop fail. The corn is planted in irregular
hills and cultivated with a hoe. It is dropped into deep holes
made with a stick and covered up. There is always enough
moisture in the sand to sprout the seed which, aided by an
occasional shower, causes it to grow and mature a crop. The corn
is of a hardy, native variety that needs but little water to make
it grow. The grain is small and hard like popcorn and ripens in
several colors.
It is carried home from the field by the men, and ground into
meal by the women. The sound of the grinding is heard in the
street and is usually accompanied by a song that sounds weird but
musical. The meal is ground into different grades of fineness
and when used for bread is mixed with water to form a thin batter
which is spread by the hand upon a hot, flat stone. It is
quickly baked and makes a thin wafer that is no thicker than
paper. When done it is removed from the stone by the naked hand
and is rolled or folded into loaves which makes their prized pici
bread. It is said to be only one of fifty different methods
which the Moquis have of preparing corn for the table, or about
twice the number of styles known to any modern chef.
The Moqui woman is favored above many of her sex who live in
foreign lands. As a child she receives much attention and toys
galore, as the parents are very fond of their children and devote
much time to their amusement. They make dolls of their Katcinas
which are given to the children to play with. A Katcina is the
emblem of a deity that is represented either in the form of a
doll carved out of wood, woven into a plaque or basket, or
painted on tiles and pottery. There are between three and four
hundred Katcina dolls each one representing a different divinity.
When a doll is given to a child it is taught what it means, thus
combining instruction with amusement. The method is a perfect
system of kindergarten teaching, which the Moquis invented and
used centuries before the idea occurred to Froebel.
When the girl is ten years old her education properly begins and
she is systematically inducted into the mysteries of
housekeeping. At fifteen she has completed her curriculum and
can cook, bake, sew, dye, spin and weave and is, indeed,
graduated in all the accomplishments of the finished Moqui
maiden. She now does up her hair in two large coils or whorls,
one on each side of the head, which is meant to resemble a
full-blown squash blossom and signifies that the wearer is of
marriageable age and in the matrimonial market. It gives her a
striking yet not unbecoming appearance, and, if her style of
coiffure were adopted by modern fashion it would be something
unusually attractive. As represented by Donaldson in the
eleventh census report the handsome face of Pootitcie, a maiden
of the pueblo of Sichomovi, makes a pretty picture that even her
white sisters must admire. After marriage the hair is let down
and done up in two hard twists that fall over the shoulders.
This form represents a ripe, dried squash blossom and means
Her dress is not Spanish nor yet altogether Indian, but is
simple, comfortable and becoming, which is more than can be said
of some civilized costumes. She chooses her own husband,
inherits her mother's name and property and owns the house in
which she lives. Instead of the man owning and bossing
everything, as he so dearly loves to do in our own civilization,
the property and labor of the Moqui husband and wife are equally
divided, the former owning and tending the fields and flocks and
the latter possessing and governing the house.
The Moquis are famous for their games, dances and festivals,
which have been fully described by Dr. J. Walter Fewkes in
various reports to the Smithsonian Institution. They have many
secret orders, worship the supernatural, and believe in
witchcraft. Their great fete day is the Snake Dance, which is
held in alternate years at Walpi and Oraibi, at the former place
in the odd year and at the latter place in the even year, some
time during the month of August. It is purely a religious
ceremony, an elaborate supplication for rain, and is designed to
propitiate the water god or snake deity.
Preliminary ceremonies are conducted in the secret Kiva several
days preceding the public dance. The Kiva is an underground
chamber that is cut out of the solid rock, and is entered by a
ladder. It has but a single opening on top on a level with the
street, which serves as door, window and chimney. The room is
only used by the men, and is, in fact, a lodge room, where the
members of the several secret orders meet and engage in their
solemn ceremonials. It is a sacred place, a holy of holies,
which none but members of a lodge may enter, and is carefully
The snakes used in the dance are all wild, and captured out on
the open plain. Four days prior to the dance the snake men,
dressed in scanty attire and equipped with their snake-capturing
paraphernalia, march out in squads and scour the surrounding
country in search of snakes. One day each is spent in searching
the ground towards the four points of the compass, in the order
of north, west, south and east, returning at the close of each
day with their catch to the Kiva, where the snakes are kept and
prepared for the dance. The snakes caught are of several
varieties, but much the largest number are rattlesnakes.
Respect is shown for serpents of every variety and none are ever
intentionally harmed, but the rattlesnake is considered the most
sacred and is proportionately esteemed. Its forked tongue
represents lightning, its rattle thunder and its spots
rain-clouds. The number of snakes they find is surprising, as
they catch from one to two hundred during the four days' hunt on
ground that might be carefully searched by white men for months
without finding a single reptile.
The snake men are very expert in catching and handling serpents,
and are seldom bitten. If one is bitten it is nothing serious,
as they have a secret medicine which they use that is both
prophylactic and curative, and makes them immune to the poison so
that no harm ever results from a bite. The medicine is taken
internally and also applied locally. Efforts have been made to
discover its composition but without success. If a snake is
located which shows fight by the act of coiling it is tickled
with a snake-whip made of eagle's feathers, which soon soothes
its anger and causes it to uncoil and try to run away. It is
then quickly and safely caught up and dropped from the hand into
a bag carried for that purpose.
Visitors who attend the dance are under no restrictions, but are
free to come and go as they please, either sightseeing or in
search of curios. If the visitor has a supply of candy, matches
and smoking-tobacco to give away he finds frequent opportunities
to bestow his gifts. The children ask for "canty," the women
want "matchi," and the men are pleased with a "smoke."
On the morning of the dance both the men and women give their
hair an extra washing by using a mixture of water and crushed
soap-root. The white fibers of the soap-root get mixed with the
hair, which gives it a tinge of iron gray. The children also get
a bath which, because of the great scarcity of water, is not of
daily occurrence.
To the Moquis the snake dance is a serious and solemn affair, but
to the visitors it is apt to be an occasion for fun and frolic.
Owing to a misunderstanding of its true meaning, and because of
misconduct in the past on similar occasions, notice is posted on
the Kiva asking visitors to abstain from loud laughing and
talking. In other words it is a polite request made by the rude
red man of his polished (?) white brother to please behave
The dance begins late in the afternoon and lasts less than one
hour, but while it is in progress the action is intense. The
snakes are carried in a bag or jar from the Kiva to the Kisa,
built of cotton-wood boughs on one side of the plaza, where the
snakes are banded out to the dancers. After much marching and
countermarching about the plaza, chanting weird songs and shaking
rattles, the column of snake priests, dressed in a fantastic garb
of paint, fur and feathers, halts in front of the Kisa and breaks
up into groups of three.
The carrier takes a snake from the Kisa puts it in his mouth, and
carries it there while dancing. Some of the more ambitious young
men will carry two or more of the smaller snakes at the same
time. The hugger throws his left arm over the shoulder of the
carrier and with his right hand fans the snake with his feather
whip. The gatherer follows after and picks up the snakes as they
fall to the ground.
After the snakes have all been danced they are thrown into a heap
and sprinkled with sacred corn meal by the young women. The
scattering of the meal is accompanied by a shower of spittle from
the spectators, who are stationed on, convenient roofs and
ladders viewing the ceremony. Fleet runners now catch up the
snakes in handfuls and dash off in an exciting race over the mesa
and down rocky trails to the plains below where the snakes are
returned unharmed to their native haunts.
While the men are away disposing of the reptiles the women carry
out large ollas, or jars, filled with a black liquid, which is
the snake medicine that is used in the final act of purification
by washing. When the men return to the mesa they remove their
regalias and proceed to drink of the snake medicine which acts as
an emetic. With the remainder of the concoction, and assisted by
the women, they wash their bodies free from paint. After the men
are all washed and puked they re-enter the Kiva, where the long
fast is broken by a feast and the formal ceremonies of the snake
dance are ended.
The snake dance is annually witnessed by many visitors who gather
from different sections of the country and even foreign lands.
As there are no hotels to entertain guests every visitor must
provide his own outfit for conveyance, eating and sleeping. Even
water is scarce. Local springs barely furnish enough water to
supply the native population; and when the number of people to be
supplied is increased from one to two hundred by the visitors who
attend the dance, the water question becomes a serious problem.
On the lower portion of the road which leads up from the spring
to the gap at Walpi on the first mesa, the trail is over drifted
sand which makes difficult walking. To remedy this defect in the
trail, a path has been made of flat stones laid in the sand,
which shows that the Moquis are quick to recognize and utilize an
advantage that contributes to their convenience and comfort.
The Santa Fe Pacific is the nearest railroad, which runs about
one hundred miles south of the Moqui villages. The tourist can
secure transportation at reasonable rates of local liverymen
either from Holbrook, Winslow, Canon Diablo or Flagstaff. The
trip makes an enjoyable outing that is full of interest and
instruction from start to finish.
Some years ago the government, through its agents, began to
civilize and Christianize these Indians and established a school
at Keam's Canon, nine miles east of the first mesa, for that
purpose. When the school was opened the requisition for a
specified number of children from each pueblo was not filled
until secured by force. As free citizens of the United States,
being such by the treaty made with Mexico in 1848 and, indeed,
already so under a system of self-government superior to our own
and established long before Columbus discovered America, they
naturally resented any interference in their affairs but, being
in the minority and overpowered, had to submit.
When the object of the school was explained to them, they
consented to receive secular instructions but objected to any
religious teaching. They asked to have schools opened in the
pueblos on the plan of our public schools where the children
could attend during the day and return home at night, and their
home life be not broken up, but their prayer was denied.
The reservation school was opened for the purpose of instructing
the Moqui children in civilization, but the results obtained have
not been entirely satisfactory. The methods employed for
enforcing discipline have been unnecessarily severe and have
given dissatisfaction. As recently as the year 1903 the children
of this inoffensive and harmless people were forcibly taken from
their homes and put into the schools. The time selected for
doing the dastardly deed was during the night in midwinter when
the weather was cold and the ground covered with snow. Under the
orders of the superintendent the reservation police made the raid
without warning or warrant of any kind. While the people slept,
the police entered their houses, dragged the little children from
their comfortable beds and drove them naked out into the snow and
cold, where they were rounded up and herded like cattle.
The indignity and outrage of this and other similar acts have
embittered the Moquis until they have lost what little respect
they ever had for Christianity and civilization. The policy of
the government is to make them do whatever they do not want to
do, to break up the family and scatter its members. The
treatment has created two factions among the Moquis known as the
"hostiles" who are only hostile in opposing oppression and any
change in their religious faith and customs; and the "friendlies"
who are willing to obey the boss placed over them and comply with
his demands.
Religion is the dearest treasure of mankind, and when assailed
always finds ready defenders. Possessed by this innate feeling
of right and rankling with the injustice of the past, is it
surprising that they should spurn any proffered help? They
remember what they have suffered in the past and do not care to
repeat the experiment. To this day the Moquis hold the mission
epoch in contempt and nothing could induce them to accept
voluntarily any proposition that savored ought of the old regime.
Every vestige of that period has been obliterated from the
pueblos that nothing tangible should remain to remind them of
their undeserved humiliation.
They are a highly religious people worshiping after their own
creed, and are sincere and conscientious in their devotions.
Almost everything they do has some religious significance and
every day its religious observance. Their religion satisfies
them and harms no one, then why not leave them in peace? We
believe that we can benefit them, which is doubtless true, but
might they not also teach us some useful lessons? It would
sometimes be more to our credit if we were less anxious to teach
others, and more willing to learn ourselves.
Next to their religion they love their homes most. The rocks
upon which they live, are they not dear from associations? Is it
not the land of their birth and the home of their fathers during
many generations? They cling with stubborn tenacity to their
barren mesas and nothing thus far has succeeded in driving them
away; neither war, pestilence nor famine. Repeated attempts have
been made to induce them to leave, but without success.
Tom Polaki, the principal man of Tewa, was the first man to
respond to the call to come down. He left the mesa several years
ago, and went to the plain below to live. Having captured the
bell wether it was presumed that the balance of the flock would
soon follow, but the contrary proved to be true. At the foot of
the bluff near a spring on the road that leads up to the gap Tom
built a modern house and tried to imitate the white man. But the
change did not suit him, and after living in his modern house for
a number of years, he finally sold it and returned to his old
home on the mesa. A few others at different times have tried the
same experiment with no better success. The man would stay for a
short time in the house provided for him, but never made it a
permanent home for his family.
That the Moquis are changing is best illustrated by reference to
one of their marriage customs. It is the custom when a youth
contemplates matrimony to make a marriage blanket. He grows the
cotton, spins the yarn and weaves the cloth, which requires a
year or more of time to finish. Since the children have gone to
school it is not deemed necessary for a young man to go to so
much trouble and expense as to make a marriage blanket, but
instead, he borrows one from a friend in the village, and after
the ceremony is over returns it to the owner. Even now it is not
easy to find such a blanket, and very soon they will be priceless
as no more such garments will be made.
The only reasonable explanation why any people should select a
location like that of the Moquis is on the hypothesis of choice.
There is much of the animal in human nature that is influenced by
instinct, and man, like the brute, often unconsciously selects
what is most congenial to his nature. Thus instinct teaches the
eagle to nest on the highest crag and the mountain sheep to
browse in pastures which only the hardiest hunter dare approach.
For no better reason, apparently, do the Moquis occupy their
barren mesas; they simply prefer to live there above any other
Safety has been urged as a motive for their conduct but it alone
is not a sufficient reason for solving the problem. Their
position is safe enough from attack but in the event of a siege
their safety would only be temporary. With their scant water
supply at a distance and unprotected they could not hold out long
in a siege, but would soon be compelled either to fight, fly or
Again, if safety was their only reason for staying, they could
have left long ago and had nothing to fear, as they have been for
many years at peace with their ancient enemy the predatory
Navajo. But rather than go they have chosen to remain in their
old home where they have always lived, and will continue to live
so long as they are left free to choose.
The modern iconoclast in his unreasonable devotion to realism
has, perhaps, stripped them of much old time romance, but even
with all of that gone, enough of fact remains to make them a
remarkable people. Instead of seeking to change them this last
bit of harmless aboriginal life should be spared and preserved,
if possible, in all of its native purity and simplicity.
The climate of Arizona as described in the local vernacular is
"sure fine." The combination of elements which make the climate
is unusual and cannot be duplicated elsewhere upon the American
continent. The air is remarkably pure and dry. Siccity, indeed,
is its distinguishing feature. That the climate is due to
geographical and meteorological conditions cannot be doubted, but
the effects are unexplainable by any ordinary rules.
The region involved not only embraces Arizona, but also includes
portions of California and Mexico and is commonly known as the
Colorado Desert. Yuma, at the junction of the Gila and Colorado
rivers, is approximately its geographical center. The general
aspect of the country is low and flat and in the Salton sink the
dry land dips several hundred feet below the level of the ocean.
Only by extreme siccity is such land possible when more water
rises in evaporation than falls by precipitation. There are but
few such places in the world, the deepest one being the Dead Sea,
which is about thirteen hundred feet lower than the ocean.
The Colorado Basin is the dry bed of an ancient sea whose shore
line is yet visible in many places upon the sides of the
mountains which surround it. Its floor is composed of clay with
deposits of sand and salt. Strong winds sometimes sweep over it
that shift and pile up the sand in great dunes. The entire
region is utterly bare and desolate, yet by the use of water
diverted from the Colorado river it is being reclaimed to
The rainfall is very scant the average annual precipitation at
Yuma being less than three inches. The climate is not dry from
any lack of surface water, as it has the Gila and Colorado
rivers, the Gulf of California and the broad Pacific Ocean to
draw from. But the singular fact remains that the country is
extremely dry and that it does not rain as in other lands.
Neither is the rainfall deficient from any lack of evaporation.
Upon the contrary the evaporation is excessive and according to
the estimate of Major Powell amounts fully to one hundred inches
of water per annum. If the vapors arising from this enormous
evaporation should all be condensed into clouds and converted
into rain it would create a rainy season that would last
throughout the year.
The humidity caused by an abundant rainfall in any low, hot
country is usually enough to unfit it for human habitation. The
combined effect of heat and moisture upon a fertile soil causes
an excess of both growing and decaying vegetation that fills the
atmosphere with noxious vapors and disease producing germs. The
sultry air is so oppressive that it is more than physical
endurance can bear. The particles of vapor which float in the
atmosphere absorb and hold the heat until it becomes like a
steaming hot blanket that is death to unacclimated life. All of
this is changed where siccity prevails. The rapid evaporation
quickly dispels the vapors and the dry heat desiccates the
disease creating germs and makes them innocuous.
The effect of heat upon the body is measured by the difference in
the actual and sensible temperatures, as recorded by the dry and
wet bulb thermometers. When both stand nearly together as they
are apt to do in a humid atmosphere, the heat becomes
insufferable. In the dry climate of Arizona such a condition
cannot occur. The difference in the two instruments is always
great, often as much as forty degrees. For this reason, a
temperature of 118 degrees F. at Yuma is less oppressive than 98
degrees F. is in New York. A low relative humidity gives comfort
and freedom from sunstroke even when the thermometer registers
the shade temperature in three figures.
A dry, warm climate is a stimulant to the cutaneous function.
The skin is an important excreting organ that is furnished with a
large number of sweat glands which are for the dual purpose of
furnishing moisture for cooling the body by evaporation and the
elimination of worn out and waste material from the organism. As
an organ it is not easily injured by over work, but readily lends
its function in an emergency in any effort to relieve other tired
or diseased organs of the body. By vicarious action the skin is
capable of performing much extra labor without injury to itself
and can be harnessed temporarily for the relief of some vital
part which has become crippled until its function can be
A diseased kidney depends particularly upon the skin for succor
more than any other organ. When the kidneys from any cause fail
to act the skin comes to their rescue and throws off impurities
which nature intended should go by the renal route. For this
reason diabetes and albuminuria, the most stubborn of all kidney
diseases, are usually benefited by a dry, warm climate. The
benefit derived is due to an increase of the insensible
transpiration rather than to profuse perspiration. The air of
Arizona is so dry and evaporation so rapid that an increase in
perspiration is scarcely noticeable except when it is confined by
impervious clothing. The disagreeable feeling of wet clothes
which accompanies profuse perspiration in a damp climate is
changed to an agreeable sensation of coolness in a dry one.
The atmosphere of Arizona is not only dry but also very
electrical, so much so, indeed, that at times it becomes almost
painful. Whenever the experiment is tried, sparks can be
produced by friction or the handling of metal, hair or wool. It
affects animals as well as man, and literally causes "the hair to
stand on end." The writer has on various occasions seen a string
of horses standing close together at a watering-trough, drinking,
so full of electricity that their manes and tails were spread out
and floated in the air, and the long hairs drawn by magnetic
attraction from one animal to the other all down the line in a
spontaneous effort to complete a circuit. There are times when
the free electricity in the air is so abundant that every object
becomes charged with the fluid, and it cannot escape fast enough
or find "a way out" by any adequate conductor. The effects of
such an excess of electricity is decidedly unpleasant on the
nerves, and causes annoying irritability and nervousness.
The hot sun sometimes blisters the skin and burns the complexion
to a rich, nut-brown color, but the air always feels soft and
balmy, and usually blows only in gentle zephyrs. The air has a
pungent fragrance which is peculiar to the desert, that is the
mingled product of a variety of resinous plants. The weather is
uniformly pleasant, and the elements are rarely violently
In the older settled sections of our country, whenever there is
any sudden or extreme change in the weather of either heat or
cold, wet or dry, it is always followed by an increase of
sickness and death. The aged and invalid, who are sensitive and
weak, suffer mostly, as they feel every change in the weather.
There is, perhaps, no place on earth that can boast of a perfect
climate, but the country that can show the fewest and mildest
extremes approaches nearest to the ideal. The southwest is
exceptionally favored in its climatic conditions, and is
beneficial to the majority of chronic invalids.
Atmospheric pressure is greatest near the earth's surface, and
exerts a controlling influence over the vital functions.
Atmospheric pressure is to the body what the governor is to
the steam engine, or the pendulum to the clock. It regulates
vital action, insures safety and lessens the wear and tear of
machinery. Under its soothing influence the number of
respirations per minute are diminished, the heart beats decreased
in frequency, and the tired brain and nerves rested. It is often
better than medicine, and will sometimes give relief when all
other means fail.
Arizona has a diversity of altitudes, and therefore furnishes a
variety of climates. The elevations range from about sea level
at Yuma to nearly thirteen thousand feet upon the San Francisco
mountains. By making suitable changes in altitude to fit the
season it is possible to enjoy perpetual spring.
Because Arizona is far south geographically it is only natural to
suppose that it is all very hot, which is a mistake. In the low
valleys of southern Arizona the summers are hot, but it is a dry
heat which is not oppressive, and the winters are delightfully
pleasant. In northern Arizona the winters are cold and the
summers cool. There is no finer summer climate in the world than
is found on the high plateaus and pine-topped mountains of
northern Arizona. Prescott, Williams and Flagstaff have a
charming summer climate, while at Yuma, Phoenix and Tucson the
winter weather is simply perfect.
A mountain residence is not desirable for thin, nervous people or
such as are afflicted with any organic disease. A high altitude
is too stimulating for this class of patients and tends to
increase nervousness and aggravates organic disease. Such
persons should seek a coast climate and a low altitude, which is
sedative, rather than risk the high and dry interior. Any coast
climate is better than the mountains for nervous people, but the
Pacific Coast is preferable to any other because of its freedom
from electrical storms and every other form of disagreeable
meteorological disturbance that tries the nerves. The
nervousness that is produced by a high altitude does not, as a
rule, develop suddenly, but grows gradually upon the patient.
Those of a sensitive nature feel it most and women more than men.
After making a change from a low to a high altitude sleep may be
sound for a time, but it soon becomes fitful and unrefreshing.
It has been discovered that altitude increases the amount of
hemoglobulin and thus enriches the blood and is particularly
beneficial to pale, thin people. It also sharpens the appetite
and promotes digestion and assimilation.
Persons suffering from rheumatism, neuralgia, advanced pulmonary
consumption, organic heart disease and all disorders of the brain
and nerves should avoid a high altitude. Patients that are
afflicted with any of the above-mentioned diseases are more
comfortable in a low altitude and should choose between the coast
of California and the low, dry lands of the lower Gila and
Colorado rivers, according to the season of the year and the
quality of climate desired.
The diseases which are especially benefited by the climate of
Arizona are consumption, bronchitis, catarrh and hay fever.
Anyone going in search of health who has improved by the change
should remain where the improvement took place lest by returning
home and being again subjected to the former climatic conditions
which caused the disease the improvement be lost and the old
disease re-established with increased severity.
Most sick people who are in need of a change live in a humid
atmosphere where the winters are extremely cold and the summers
uncomfortably hot, and to be benefited by a change must seek a
climate in which the opposite conditions prevail. The climate of
the southwest furnishes just what such invalids require. The
sick who need cold or damp weather, if there be any such, can be
accommodated almost anywhere, but those who want a warm, dry
climate must go where it can be found. Not every invalid who
goes in search of health finds a cure, as many who start on such
a journey are already past help when they leave home. When a
case is hopeless the patient should not undertake such a trip,
but remain quietly at home and die in peace among friends.
As already intimated the climate of the Colorado basin is ideal
in winter, but becomes very hot in summer. Its low altitude,
rainless days, cloudless skies and balmy air form a combination
that is unsurpassed and is enjoyed by all either sick or well.
The heat of summer does not create sickness, but becomes
monotonous and tiresome from its steady and long continuance.
Many residents of the Territory who tire of the heat and can
afford the trip take a vacation during the summer months and
either go north to the Grand Canon and the mountains or to the
Pacific Coast. Every summer witnesses a hegira of sun baked
people fleeing from the hot desert to the mountains or ocean
shore in search of coolness and comfort.
Life in the tropics, perhaps, inclines to indolence and languor,
particularly if the atmosphere is humid, but in a dry climate
like that of Arizona the heat, although sometimes great, is never
oppressive or debilitating. It has its lazy people like any
other country and for the same reason that there are always some
who were born tired and never outgrow the tired feeling, but
Arizona climate is more bracing than enervating.
The adobe house of the Mexican is a peculiar institution of the
southwest. It may be interesting on account of its past history,
but it is certainly not pretty. It is nothing more than a box
of dried mud with its roof, walls and floor all made of dirt. It
is never free from a disagreeable earthy smell which, if mingled
with the added odors of stale smoke and filth, as is often the
case, makes the air simply vile. The house can never be kept
tidy because of the dirt which falls from the adobe, unless the
walls and ceilings are plastered and whitewashed, which is
sometimes done in the better class of houses. If the house is
well built it is comfortable enough in pleasant weather, but as
often as it rains the dirt roof springs a leak and splashes water
and mud over everything. If by chance the house stands on low
ground and is surrounded by water, as sometimes happens, after a
heavy rain the walls become soaked and dissolved into mud when
the house collapses. The adobe house may have been suited to the
wants of a primitive people, but in the present age of
improvement, it is scarcely worth saving except it be as a relic
of a vanishing race.
In order to escape in a measure the discomforts of the midday
heat the natives either seek the shade in the open air where the
breeze blows, or, what is more common, close up tight the adobe
house in the morning and remain indoors until the intense heat
from the scorching sun penetrates the thick walls, which causes
the inmates to move out. In the cool of the evening they visit
and transact business and when the hour comes for retiring go to
bed on cots made up out of doors where they sleep until morning,
while the house is left open to cool off during the night. This
process is repeated every day during the hot summer months and is
endured without complaint.
The natives, also, take advantage of the dry air to operate a
novel method of refrigeration. The cloth covered army canteen
soaked in water and the handy water jug of the eastern harvest
field wrapped in a wet blanket are familiar examples of an
ineffectual attempt at refrigeration by evaporation. But natural
refrigeration find its best illustration in the arid regions of
the southwest by the use of an olla, which is a vessel made of
porous pottery, a stout canvas bag or a closely woven Indian
basket. A suitable vessel is selected, filled with water and
suspended somewhere in midair in the shade. If it is hung in a
current of air it is all the better, as any movement of the
atmosphere facilitates evaporation. A slow seepage of water
filters through the open pores of the vessel which immediately
evaporates in the dry air and lowers the temperature. The water
in the olla soon becomes cold and if properly protected will
remain cool during the entire day.
The dry air also acts as a valuable preservative. During the
winter, when the weather is cool but not freezing, if fresh meat
is hung out in the open air, it will keep sweet a long time. A
dry crust soon forms upon its surface which hermetically seals
the meat from the air and keeps it perfectly sweet. In the
summer it is necessary to dry the meat more quickly to keep it
from spoiling. It is then made into "jerky" by cutting it into
long, thin strips and hanging them up in the sun to dry. After
it is thoroughly dried, it is tied up in bags and used as needed,
either by eating it dry from the pocket when out on a tramp, or,
if in camp, serving it in a hot stew.
Even the carcass of a dead animal that is left exposed upon the
ground to decompose does not moulder away by the usual process of
decay, but what is left of the body after the hungry buzzards and
coyotes have finished their feast, dries up into a mummy that
lasts for years.
Climate everywhere unquestionably influences life in its
evolution, but it is not always easy to determine all of its
effects in detail. In Arizona, which is but a comparatively
small corner of our country, live several races of men that are
as different from each other as nature could make them, yet all
live in the same climate.
The Pueblo Indian is in a manner civilized, peaceable and
industrious. He is brave in self-defense, but never seeks war
nor bloodshed. Quite different is his near neighbor, the
bloodthirsty Apache, who seems to delight only in robbing and
killing people. Cunning and revenge are pronounced traits of his
character and the Government has found him difficult to conquer
or control. The Mexican leads a shiftless, thriftless life and
seems satisfied merely to exist. He has, unfortunately,
inherited more of the baser than the better qualities of his
ancestors, and, to all appearance, is destined to further
degenerate. The American is the last comer and has already
pushed civilization and commerce into the remotest corners and,
as usual, dominates the land.
As diverse as are these several races in many respects, each one
of them furnishes splendid specimens of physical manhood. The
Indian has always been noted for his fine physique, and is large
bodied, well muscled and full chested. One advantage which the
southwest has over other countries is that the climate is mild
and favorable to an outdoor life, which is conducive to health
and physical development.
No single race of men flourish equally well everywhere, but each
one is affected by its own surroundings; and, what is true of a
race, is also true of an individual. The pioneer in any country
is always an interesting character, but he differs in
peculiarities according to his environment of mountain, plain or
forest. Occupation also exerts an influence and in time develops
distinct types like the trapper, miner, soldier and cowboy, that
only the graphic pencil of a Remington can accurately portray.
The eccentricities of character which are sometimes met in men
who dwell on the frontier are not always due alone to
disposition, but are largely the product of the wild life which
they live, that inclines them to be restless, reckless and even
There is no better field for observing and studying the effects
of environment upon human life than is furnished by the and
region of the southwest.

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