My grandfather grew up in the high desert of Arizona shooting rabbits for food during the Great Depression.
I was half-listening to AFN talk radio (::gag:: but it's gotten better recently with more NPR and Dave Ramsey) the other day when my ears perked up because I heard the word "Bisbee". Some of you may know that Bisbee is a wonderful town in almost-Mexico, Arizona that now houses a great mix of artists, older citizens, car-decorating hippies, antique store owners, People Who Wish They Lived in Europe, chocolatiers, restaurateurs, and probably some raconteurs as well. It's been booming recently, but in the the latter part of last century it began to empty out as the copper mining industry died off. Bisbee is home to the renowned Copper Queen underground mine and the huge Lavender Pit, inactive since the 1970s (and still an impressive multicolored gash in the mountainside). The Bisbee area is also home to an impressively-sized hot dog and the oldest baseball diamond still in use in the States, but I digress. See my pictures for more on that.
Both mines now just run tours. I think the area still pulls up some beautiful Bisbee Blue, though. Then the resident artists make it into super-expensive jewelry. My Great Aunt Millie lives in Warren, which was the first neighborhood to spring up just outside of Bisbee when the mines were booming.
Bisbee has always been a melting pot, as its mines were a magnet for immigrants seeking jobs, including a lot of Serbs and Croats. My mom's dad's family were Croats, and the men all worked around the mines at one point or another. Papa Joe used to tell us how they really would take a canary down with them and split real fast if it kicked the bucket, and how he had to watch out for a headless ghost who haunted the tunnels, carrying a little lantern, and how without lights the darkness was so thick you could cut it with a knife. There are other stories too, like how he accidentally burned down a guy's field while playing "crashing airplanes" with matches, or how the football once ended up in the soup (Papa Joe had 3 brothers) and got chopped in half, or how the high school radio club once wired all the school lockers to give shocks, or how in shop class they blindfolded a kid and convinced him they were going to shoot him, or how he and his friends used to "borrow" horses and ride them into the desert, then have to think of an excuse for how one of them could have broken his arm if he was just walking around. I think it's a good thing that Papa Joe joined the Army to channel a little bit of that into becoming a hero. When the Buffalo Soldiers were based at Fort Huachuca, little Joe would watch them patrol the border while the echoes of the Mexican Revolution were still going on.
The modern-day Papa Joe.
Naptime all around!
You're already almost a mile up on the desert plateau when you start climbing through the Mule Mountains into town. The tunnels you drive through were cut in the 1950s, and when you think about it that leaves you wondering about how isolated this place was. Bisbee's always a tad cooler than Tombstone and Sierra Vista, and tends to get snow in the winter. You come around one last corner and see a great big B on a mountain and you're there. The old town is built around a gulch and scrambles up the red sides of the surrounding hills. Some of the houses don't even have roads built to them, just stairs. It's hippie heaven, except the climate just isn't right for growing your own cannabis.
So anyway I was listening to the radio and heard Bisbee and there was this completely juicy story. I missed the dates but I'm sure it was back in the Wild West days when Wyatt Earp philandered nearby and Doc Holliday said that he was your huckleberry. There was a robbery of some sort and a shootout resulted; a couple of bystanders (men) were killed, and also a mom with her baby who were standing in a nearby window. Outraged, the town formed a posse with a certain man whom I'll call Gufus at its head. Gufus led an inept search and did not find the murderous robbers. After they returned empty-handed, a lightbulb clicked on in somebody's head. Turns out Gufus was the head of the robber gang, and his disastrous search was a farce to allow them a real getaway. The vigilantes turned on him, and he was lynched.
This story came from a program called "Chronicle of the Old West." If you can find it, I'd like to know. I did a short search and gave up as the coffee wore off.
Eva and Aunt Millie in front of the Bisbee museum--well worth a visit.