Monday, May 01, 2006

May 1, 2006
Back from an 800 mile odyssey. Took off Sunday morning from Tucson at seven, light traffic on I-10 all the way to Willcox. Got into Safford at nine, had breakfast at Brick’s, a local cafe on the north end of town.

I got gas in Thatcher, plus water, ice and almost-food (convenience market vacuum packed ham sandwiches in the walk-in cooler). Stopped in Pima and took a series of photos of the downtown. By then it was 10:30, so I took off and met True West staffers, Robert McElroy and Rob Bandhauer out on the Klondyke Road, a dozen miles south of Pima, Arizona. They drove out from Phoenix in Robert's jeep. We drove south for another six or seven miles and as we topped a ridge, there it was, the site of the infamous Wham Payroll Robbery! I had driven past this site twice in the past, while out looking for Geronimo and Apache sites, but this time I knew what I was looking for. We parked at a set of corrals and loading chutes at the bottom of Cottonwood wash, loaded up with props, water, my sketch book, notes and cameras, oh, and two Winchesters, and hiked up the canyon to the site.

There is a famous photo of the crime scene, taken the day after the robbery and that was our first stop. I had Robert and Rob pose in the exact positions from the 1889 photo. We then looked around and found most of the other “forts.” The army did a map of the site for the trial and they located and labeled nine forts where the robbers had built fortifications and we easily found most of them.

Posing the guys in various scenes, I shot the three phases of the robbery like a movie, with POV angles both from the buffalo soldiers’ angle and the robbers’ angle. Of course I quickly blew through four rolls of film and when I sprinted down the canyon to the truck to get more film, I spotted a rancher’s pickup parked at the corrals.

Epigmenio “Tex” Salazar, 77, wanted to know if we were “up there” hiking. When I told him our history angle, he said, “You mean the Whambam robbery?” He said it like it was one word, which is ironic because I’m leaning towards the title: “Wham, Bam, Thankyou Uncle Sam,” for my title. He confessed to me he worked this ranch all his life and never knew the draw above us was the site. When I told Tex the payroll was intended for Fort Thomas, Tex said, “They had a fort at Fort Thomas?” At first, I thought he was joking, but I don’t think he was.

When I got back up on the ridge it was one o’clock sraight up, which is the actual time of the robbery. It happened on May 11, so the shadows and the time of year were perfect to match the actual event. I ended up shooting eight rolls of film. Pictures tomorrow.

From the Wham site, we drove to Peridot on the San Carlos Reservation (a fifty mile run) to meet the Apache Tribe’s Official Historian, Dale Miles. He took us down to the old San Carlos camp at the confluence of the San Carlos River and the Gila River. Today, of course, it’s San Carlos Lake and the fort site is usually underwater, but the lake is low and the foundations of the old fort spread out in a row like the bleached bones of a dinosaur. Dale brought two Apache models, his son Levi and a striking Apache girl named Lisa, both were dressed in authentic Apache costumes. I shot another four rolls there.

We’ve got a new poll up: Who was the more dangerous man in the Old West?
Billy the Kid
Jesse James
John Wesley Hardin
Wild Bill Hickok

A Question From Yesterday’s Post
“What did Dr. Bostwick say about the lead swords?”

In the 1920s a heavy lead sword with latin writing all over it, along with the date 600 A.D. was found on Silver Bell Road outside of Tucson. More swords and lead artifacts were found and many thought they were proof that a civilized group of people inhabited America long before the Spanish came. The main problem is they didn't know it was 600 A.D. in 600 A.D. The president of the University of Arizona, and a world famous archeologist believed the swords were real and staked his reputation on it.

As Dr. Bostwick pointed out in his session, fifty pound lead swords were not readily carried by anyone hoping to survive on the Arizona frontier, and, it turns out, there was a kiln on the property owned by a Mexican family, and, according to scholars, the latin turned out to be pilfered from three grammar books (and poorly done at that), and the professor ultimately renounced, or at least backed off the claim of authenticity. But, of course, to this day there are those who believe the finds are authentic. Given enough time there will probably be a religion based on the swords.

The more things change, the more they remain the same, no?

Favorite Onion Headline de Jour
Supreme Court Told To Take Down Tip Jar

“Between two evils, choose neither;
between two goods, choose both.”

—Old Vaquero Saying

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