Friday, May 27, 2005

May 27, 2005
I met Tom Chenal of the True West Airforce at 7:30 at the Cave Creek Coffee Company and after a cup of decaf and a blueberry muffin ($3.60 cash) I followed Tom down to the Scottsdale Airport and we climbed in his single engine airplane and took off for the Wyatt Earp Yonder.

Tom wanted to get an early start because, as he put it, "It gets kind of rough up there in the afternoon." Evidently, the summer heat creates big wedges of unsettled air and strong currents. The takeoff was fine but I was a tad nervous as we fought our way out of the Phoenix metro area (other planes in the sky showed up like mini-tadpoles on our dash radar screen and it was unnerving to try and find them out the window, and then see a plane go under us at 150 knots while a big 707 arced into Sky Harbor airspace up ahead). Finally we cleared Gold Canyon Ranch and skirted the Superstitions, and the ride became quite smooth and wonderful.

Up in the sky, all of those segmented areas I normally drive through, like Superior, Hayden, Pinal (where Mattie Earp is buried) meld together and you can see the Catalinas in the south and the Grahams in the east and Four Peaks and the White Mountains in the north. In topo terms it makes much more sense up there. One range segues into another and you can see the relationship between them so much clearer.

We got over the first target at ten. Redington on the San Pedro is where the Tombstone posse found Luther King, who allegedly squealed on his cohorts, Bill Leonard, Jim Crane and Harry 'the Kid' Head. I asked Tom to swing out wide to the east so I could get a nice shot of the rugged canyons and terrain leading up to Redington Pass, where the outlaws fled, followed by the Earp posse.

Continuing up the San Pedro (the river runs north out of Mexico and drains into the Gila) we sailed over Benson, where I took numerous shots of the Southern Pacific Railroad lines, especially where the Santa Fe lines (1881) broke off to the south (eventually reaching Guaymas, Mexico). This is the line that ran to Contention and Fairbanks, before turning towards Sonoita, Patagonia and Nogales and I was curious to see the current railroad tracks and if any of the previous right-of-ways stood out from the air. Just north of Saint David, they did, with the vegetation giving way to several clearings wide enough to be former train track beds. At my age and temperament this is as good as sex. Let’s just say I was real excited.

We couldn’t go all the way to Charleston because of the restricted airspace surrounding Fort Huachuca, but as we skirted the San Pedro eastward, I caught the conical hills, behind which sat the three mills operating 24/7 across the river from Charleston. I got good images of the road to Tombstone, gathering in Pick-em-up, and then we took a slow 360 around Goose Flats and I got all of the town too tough to die, with special interest devoted to all the mining holes pocking the hills south of town.

The next target was across the Sulpher Springs Valley in Guadalupe Canyon at the south end of the Pelloncillos and this was also a tough shot because we couldn’t go across the border into Mexico without coming back into U.S. airspace, landing, going through customs, etc. Not an enjoyable option. Plus, zig-zagging back and forth across the border at that border location would make a suspicious flight plan to say the least (there are several drug balloons tethered along this stretch). We still managed to get good angles at Cloverdale (just across the line in New Mexico) into Guadalupe Canyon, shooting from the north end towards the south. Then a dash up the Animas to Lordsburg (where my mama was born) and another 360 around to catch Shakespeare, the ghost town where Sandy King and Russian Bill were lynched (Curly Bill skated on a technicality the day before, just missing the noose). At this point I could see all the way from Shakespeare to Stein’s (pronounced Steen’s, not Stynes) Pass. Got the money shot and from there we cruised on to San Simon following I-10. Got a decent shot of the road to Galeyville but the clouds were building over the Chiricahuas and Tom didn’t want to chance it so we didn’t go up over them to Johnny Ringo’s grave site.

Got back to Scottsdale Airport at about 12:30 (flying time 3 hours, forty-five minutes). Once again the hairiest part of the trip was dodging all of the airplanes in the Phoenix corridor, but we landed safely and I dashed up to Foothills Photo to drop off four roles of film.

Got into the office at about 2:30, got a nasty phone message from Pete The Miner. I was quoted in this morning’s Arizona Republic bemoaning the demise of The Mistress Mine and Pete is PO’d because he built the place, and thinks the guy who is running it now is a pervert (not that there’s anything wrong with that). More on this later.

"Time is nature's way of keeping everything from happening at once."
—Old Vaquero Saying

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