I was lucky to find this old landmark of rural America on a small farm, close to Tombstone, on the left side of Arizona State Highway 80 driving from Tombstone towards Bisbee.
The multi-bladed wind turbine atop a lattice tower made of wood or steel was, for many years, a fixture of the landscape throughout rural America. However I expexted to see more traditional American farm windmills in the Southwest and Texas especially. In reality I could see them on my way only maybe 10 or maximum 20 times during my trip through nine western and southwestern states (over 11,500 miles driven.) I could see more often modern windmills properly called wind turbines or wind generators that generate electricity.
The water-pumping windmills played key role in the farming and ranching on vast areas of North America and later also contributed to the expansion of rail transport systems, by pumping water from wells to supply the needs of the steam locomotives of those early times. Windmills and related equipment are still manufactured and installed today on farms and ranches, usually in remote parts of the western United States where electric power is not readily available. However most of farm windmills, I saw in the USA, had the mechanism connecting the wheel to the pump missed and didn't work.
Sky islands are mountains in ranges isolated by valleys in which other ecosystems are located. As a result, the mountain ecosystems are isolated from each other, and species can develop in parallel, as on island groups such as the Galapagos Islands.
I could easily see something like that driving from Tombstone to Bisbee (only 24 miles = 39 km) through so called the Madrean sky islands that are located at the northern end of the Sierra Madre Occidental, in U.S. states of New Mexico and Arizona, and Mexican states of Chihuahua and Sonora. In pre-Columbian times various tribes of Native Americans were less or more isolated one from another just by these sky islands. Now, I can better understand huge variety of Native American tribes which once inhabited Arizona and New Mexico.
Look at sedimentary rock formations of the sky islands located east of Highway 80, closer to Bisbee. Light brownish, grey and white nude rocks with well marked sedimentary layers are probably limestome and very old as the slopes of these hills are comparatively smooth. I have seen similar rocky ranges in southern Morocco (the Antiatlas Mountains). Well, I am not a specialist on geology, and I put my geology classes at a college among the most boring ones :-)
After going along hills of smooth slopes, Arizona State Highway 80 (Tombstone -Bisbee) close to Bisbee has entered a very rough terrain, with very steep slopes descending into deep canyons. These quite different Madrean sky islands full of sharp rocky formations with the highest peak, Mount Ballard (7,500 feet; 2,300 m) are called the Mule Mountains. The rocks are partly nude, partly covered by various grasses, evergreen bushes and little trees - oaks and pines mainly. This remained me sceneries from a series of Winnetou Western movies I used to watch on TV as a kid. Well, actually they were filmed in former Yugoslavia (Slovenia and Croatia now).
But my foundest memory from Mule Mountais is the single mule deer walking a few meters down the highway 80. Unfortunatelly when I carefully stopped a car on a shoulder to picture him, he suddenly run away :-(. It was the first deer in natural habitat I have seen on American soil. I think the deer I saw was a mule deer as it had, as I noticed, white but black tipped tail and large, mule-like ears.
To differentiate various species of deer (it's sometimes very difficult) always first pay attention to its tail (color of its bottom), ears (size and shape) and surely antlers. But in April deer had no antlers in southwestern USA. Keep in mind that antlers are shed after mating season ( from mid-January to mid-April for mule deer) and regrown each year. Later on I spotted and pictured deer many times, including black-tailed deer with a black underside to tail and similar ears (say, in Olympic NP, Washington State) and a year later Virginia deer (= white-tailed deer, with white underside to tail and smaller ears) in Shenandoah National Park, Virginia.
Another attraction a little distance from the hustle and bustle of Tombstone is the Schieffelin Monument. To get to the monument drive northwest on Allen Street and veer right onto Schieffelin Monument Road. The road turns to dirt and is not well maintained so drive slowly. The monument was designed , as per his wishes, to resemble the pile of rocks miners used to stake their claims. The monument offers beautiful views of the surrounding area, and faces Schieffelin’s beloved town of Tombstone. The park is open 8 AM to 5 PM daily. There is a picnic table on site. Please place all waste in the trashcans provided, and follow the warnings on the sign by the entrance.
If you are tired of the hype in the main historic district of Tombstone go southeast on Allen Street and follow the signs to Landin Park. Landin Park has four or five covered picnic areas with a nice view of the surrounding area. It is a nice quiet place to have a picnic or just relax. Please note that the sign for Landin Park is down, so look for the entrance to the Dog Pound for the entrance to the park. Public restrooms are available on site. The park is open 6 AM to 10 PM daily.
Driving from Tombstone to Bisbee (only 24 miles = 39 km) I could easily notice diversity of landscapes. It's said that the Chihuahuan desert is one of the three most biologically rich and diverse desert ecoregions in the world, rivaled only by the Great Sandy Tanmi Desert of Australia and the Namib-Karoo of southern Africa.
The historic town of Tombstone, Arizona is located at the southwestern portion of the 25 mi (40 km) long range called the Dragoon Mountains. There are no marked tourist trails in the mountains but several ghost towns including Gleeson, 16 miles (26 km) east of Tombstone, and Courtland 5 miles (8 km) futher north. I didn't visit them :-(.
Route 80 soon after leaving Tombstone goes quite steep down the Dragoon Mountains (picture 2). There is a great view over huge grassland space down with the Mule Mountains far south. Well, instead of ban on stopping they should put up a parking lot (lookout) there. After getting down I had wrong impression that I was on a lowland, although I was still at the elevation above 1,000 m (3,300 ft). Haha, generally in the western USA you never know how high above see level you are. Many times I was surprised that after hot or pretty warm day, temperature dropped down a lot at night, that is typical for higher elevations.
I drove Arizona State Highway 80 from Tombstone to Bisbee. I passed through fairy flat grasslands placed between not very high mountain ranges. The region contains a series of basins and ranges and is a part of the Basin and Range Province that covers much of the southwestern United States and northwestern Mexico. It's an area of elongate north-south trending arid valleys bounded by mountain ranges which also bound adjacent valleys.
Despite common conviction the southeastern corner of Arizona is not the Sonoran Desert. It's a different ecoregion located higher in elevation than the Sonoran Desert to the west. It's a northern part of the Chihuahuan Desert that straddles the U.S.-Mexico border. On the U.S. side it occupies the valleys and basins of the southeastern corner of Arizona, central and southern New Mexico and Texas west of the Pecos River; south of the border, it covers the northern half of the Mexican state of Chihuahua and most of Coahuila.
Driving Arizona State Highway 80 from Tombstone to Bisbee across desert grassland I have passed by very ornamental plants called Soaptree Yucca (Yucca elata). In southeastern Arizona they usually grow solitary, rarely in a colony of a few plants and are short - this subspecies with shorter leaves grows exclusively in Arizona.
I've found this abundant evergreen, palm-like shrub or small tree growing 1.2 to 4.5 m (4 - 15 ft) high one of the most characteristic plant of desert areas of Arizona, New Mexico and western Texas. The gray trunk is covered with dead leaves. It is usually unbranched and has very long, narrow leaves. The grasslike leaves are flat and linear. Soaptree yucca grows at height of 1500 to 6000 feet (460 - 1800 m) above sea level, thus must be very cold-hardy, but also needs lots of sunlight.
Native Americans used the fiber of the Soaptree Yucca's leaves to weave baskets. There is a soapy substance high in saponins inside the trunk and roots of the plant. In the past, this was commonly used as a substitute for soap and shampoo. Also, in times of drought, ranchers have used the plant as an emergency food supply for their cattle.
This rugged area was used by the Apache Chief, Cochise, as a base and hiding spot from whence he led numerous raids against the US cavalry and settler in the area during the 1870s. There is a nature trail, a longer hiking trail and an interpretive trail featuring signs explaining the history of Cochise and the Chiraqua Apaches.
Justice was swift and certain in the old West, but not always fair. Poor George Johnson innocently bought a stolen horse and was mistakenly thought to have been the thief. His epitaph would be funny if it were not so terribly sad.
It would be overkill to list every epitaph here. Little is known about some of those buried, and most are listed only by name, date and sometimes a terse statement. Here are just a few examples:
VAN HOUTEN, Murdered, 1879
TOM WATERS, Shot, 1889
Teamster, 1881, Killed by Apaches
ROOK, Shot by a Chinaman
MAY DOODY, 1881, Diptheria
DELIA WILLIAM, 1881, Suicide
3 FINGERED JACK DUNLAP, Shot by Jeff Milton
MIKE NOONAN, Killed by Indians
Two Chinese, Died of Leprosy
THOS. HARPER, Hanged, 1881
Just reading these tombstones and others is a sobering reminder that death - often violent death - was a way of life in the old West.
Lester Moore was a station agent for the Wells Fargo Company in the border town of Naco. Hank Dustin showed up to claim a package one afternoon. He received it, but the package was thoroughly mangled. An argument ensued; both Moore and Dustin reached for their six-shooters. When the smoke cleared, Lester Moore lay dead with four .44 slugs in his chest. Dustin also lay dying, a hole blasted through his ribs by a single shot.
There is no record of where Dustin was buried. Lester Moore was given space in the Boothill Graveyard, and an epitaph (pictured) which made him famous.
On December 8, 1883, Dan Dowd, C.W. Sample, Don Kelley, William DeLaney and Tex Howard held up the General Store in Bisbee, Arizona, near the Mexican border. While two of the five robbed the store, the other three shot up the street outside, killing several people. It was discovered that John Heath, a Bisbee saloon owner had mastermined the robbery. Eventually all six men were arrested and wound up in the Tombstone jail. The five robbers were sentenced to hang. However, Heath, who demanded a seperate trial, was given life in the Yuma pen. At this sentence the whole county became enraged.
Early on February 22, 1884, 50 armed men rode up to the Tombstone jail and took the prisoner from Sheriff Ward. Half an hour later the lynch mob departed, leaving Heath dangling from a telegraph pole on 2nd Steet. The other 5 were left in jail to allow the law to take its course. They were hanged on the gallows behind the courthouse, March 8, 1884, and buried at Boothill Graveyard where they share one common epitaph: "Legally Hanged."
Affectionately know as China Mary, Mrs. Lum was married to Ah Lum, co-owner of the Can-can Restaurant with Quong Keel, and "Worshipful Master of the Chinese Masonic Lodge." She was the absolute ruler of "Hoptown" and all its denizens. China Mary not only ruled them but also virtually owned them body and soul. Her word and her decisions were undisputed law, and no one disobeyed.
No Chinese person could be hired except through China Mary; none could be paid, except through China Mary. She also controlled Chinese prostitution and all the opium trade in Tombstone, and owned an interest in most of the Chinese businesses in town.
In spite of her shady operations and the fact she was Chinese, Mary was respected and well-liked in Tombstone. She would lend money to anyone who impressed her as honest and hard working. No sick, injured or hungry person was ever turned from her door. She once took a cowboy with a broken leg to the Grand Central Boarding House and paid the bill until he recovered. At her death a large number of people attended her burial in the Chinese section of Boothill. Her funeral had all the pomp and ceremony of a lavish Chinese extravaganza.
Boothill Graveyard is on US-80, just outside of Tombstone to the northwest. It is not actually all that much much off-the-beaten-path, but I list it here because I want to show a few of the more interesting graves, so I will bunch them together in this section.
Tombstone's Boothill Graveyard is the first of a few cemeteries in the old west to be so named. I have personally visited other Boothill Cemeteries in Dodge City, Kansas and Ogallala, Nebraska. Tombstone's Boothill was laid out as a burial plot in 1878 and first called Tombstone Cemetery. It was the burial place of the town's first pioneers and was used as such until around 1884, when a new community cemetery was opened.
The old cemetery became known as Boothill Graveyard, due to the fact that so many of those interred here met untimely violent deaths; they died with their boots on. The Graveyard is a true symbol of this roaring mining town of the early 1880s. More than 250 people were buried here: outlaws with their victims, suicides, hangings, legal and otherwise, along with the hardy citizens and refined element of Tombstone's early days.
There is a gift shop in front of the graveyard. I highly recommend that you begin there and invest $2.00 in a small guidebook which contains a descriptive list of the graves. The gift shop also has great chocolate fudge.
Poker room in Birdcage theater
Directly below the stage of the Bird Cage, is the Poker room were the longest poker game in western history occurred. It was a house game and players had to buy a $1,000.00 minimum in chips for a seat in the game. The game ran continually for 8 years, 5 months and 3 days. A list was kept with the names of people waiting to play, if a player got tired or wanted out of the game, a runner was sent to get the next person on the list. Today this poker table still stands as it was left, with its chairs on the dirt floor.