January 18, 2024
This morning I really wanted to take a side trip to the Tom Mix Wash, because Stuart Rosebrook and I were at the White Stallion Guest Ranch near Marana, doing a series of podcasts and it's a little out of the way, but, I got my wish.
As I remembered it, from memory there is a slight hill approaching from the east and in my mind, Tom Mix, going 80 mph couldn't see over the rise, and the bridge was out and he came over the hill and saw too late that the bridge was out and tried to stop but careened into the wash and his Cord car flipped over on its side and a suitcase behind him (made by Haliburton!) slammed forward and broke his neck.
As we approached the site this morning, it turned out my memory was not correct. There is no hill. It's a straight shot to the wash.
In the photo above I'm standing on the bridge they were building, or repairing, on October 12, 1940. We are looking east, or technically southeast, on the road Tom Mix was driving on when he crashed. Note the tall saguaro on the right side of the road. By the way, the road wasn't paved. It was dirt back in those days and probably looked more like this:
Upon seeing with my own eyes the approach it beame clear to me that Mix was blasting along at 80 mph and couldn't see the bridge out because it was in a draw. One eyewitness said he "blasted past the first barricade." This presumes the highway department had warning signs out to warn drivers to slow down. I'm not sure I believe this (who would be cruising at 80 in those days?), BUT it is from an eyewitness account so we have to deal with it. Here is the bridge as it appears today.
Remember that saguaro off to the right in the first road photo?
This saguaro is within sight of the Tom Mix wash (see the car going across the bridge, at lower right). So this giant cacti, which is probably more than 250 years old, witnessed the crash. It almost looks like its arms are bowing to the gravity of the incident.
Mix was sixty years old.
"I never claimed to be an actor. I just wanted to put on a good clean show for the young kids, and make a good impression in our coming generation."