Arizona Sketches

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    Arizona Sketches

by Joseph A. Munk

















    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 happens.

    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 Mexico.

    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 twilight.

    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

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