Part 1 out of 3
ARIZONA SKETCHES by Joseph A. Munk
I. A ROMANTIC LAND
II. MY FIRST TRIP TO ARIZONA
III. THE OPEN RANGE
IV. RANCH LIFE
V. THE ROUND-UP
VI. RANCH HAPPENINGS
VII. A MODEL RANCH
VIII. SOME DESERT PLANTS
IX. HOOKER'S HOT SPRINGS
X. CANON ECHOES
XI. THE METEORITE MOUNTAIN
XII. THE CLIFF DWELLERS
XIII. THE MOQUI INDIANS
XIV. A FINE CLIMATE
A ROMANTIC LAND
A stranger on first entering Arizona is impressed with the
newness and wildness that surrounds him. Indeed, the change is
so great that it seems like going to sleep and waking up in a
new world. Everything that he sees is different from the
familiar objects of his home, and he is filled with wonder and
amazement at the many curious things that are brought to his
notice. Judging the country by what is common back east, the
average man is disappointed and prejudiced against what he sees;
but, estimated on its merits, it is found to be a land of many
attractions and great possibilities.
A hasty trip through the country by rail gives no adequate idea
of its intrinsic value, as such a limited view only affords a
superficial glimpse of what should be leisurely and carefully
examined to be properly understood or appreciated. At the first
glance it presents the appearance of a desert, but to one who is
acquainted with its peculiarities it is by no means desolate. It
furnishes a strong contrast to the rolling woodlands of the far
east, and to the boundless prairies of the middle west; and,
though it may never develop on the plan of the older states, like
California, it has an individuality and charm of its own; and its
endowment of natural wealth and beauty requires no borrowing from
neighbors to give it character or success.
It has grand scenery, a salubrious climate, productive soil, rich
mineral deposits and rare archaeological remains. It also has a
diversified fauna and flora. The peccary, Gila monster,
tarantula, centipede, scorpion and horned toad are specimens of
its strange animal life; and, the numerous species of cacti,
yucca, maguey, palo verde and mistletoe are samples of its
curious vegetation. It is, indeed, the scientist's Paradise
where much valuable material can be found to enrich almost every
branch of natural science.
Hitherto its growth has been greatly retarded by its remote
position in Uncle Sam's domain; but, with the comparatively
recent advent of the railroad, the influx of capital and
population, and the suppression of the once dreaded and
troublesome Apache, a new life has been awakened that is destined
to redeem the country from its ancient lethargy and make it a
land of promise to many home seekers and settlers.
When the Spaniards under Coronado first entered the land more
than three hundred and fifty years ago in search of the seven
cities of Cibola, they found upon the desert sufficient evidence
of an extinct race to prove that the land was once densely
populated by an agricultural and prosperous people. When or how
the inhabitants disappeared is unknown and may never be known.
It is even in doubt who they were, but, presumably, they were of
the Aztec or Toltec race; or, perhaps, of some civilization even
The Pueblo Indians are supposed to be their descendants, but, if
so, they were, when first found, as ignorant of their ancestors
as they were of their discoverers. When questioned as to the
past they could give no intelligent answer as to their
antecedents, but claimed that what the white man saw was the work
of Montezuma. All that is known of this ancient people is what
the ruins show, as they left no written record or even tradition
of their life, unless it be some inscriptions consisting of
various hieroglyphics and pictographs that are found painted upon
the rocks, which undoubtedly have a meaning, but for lack of
interpretation remain a sealed book. The deep mystery in which
they are shrouded makes their history all the more interesting
and gives unlimited scope for speculation.
Arizona is a land that is full of history as well as mystery and
invites investigation. It has a fascination that every one
feels who crosses its border. Paradoxical as it may seem it is
both the oldest and newest portion of our country--the oldest in
ancient occupation and civilization and the newest in modern
progress. In natural wonders it boasts of the Grand Canon of
Arizona, the painted desert, petrified forest, meteorite
mountain, natural bridge, Montezuma's well and many other marvels
of nature. There are also ruins galore, the cave and cliff
dwellings, crumbled pueblos, extensive acequias, painted rocks,
the casa grande and old Spanish missions. Anyone who is in
search of the old and curious, need not go to foreign lands, but
can find right here at home in Arizona and the southwest, a
greater number and variety of curiosities than can be found in
the same space anywhere else upon the globe.
Arizona is a land of strong contrasts and constant surprises,
where unusual conditions prevail and the unexpected frequently
From the high Colorado plateau of northern Arizona the land
slopes toward the southwest to the Gulf of California. Across
this long slope of several hundred miles in width, numerous
mountain ranges stretch from the northwest to the southeast.
Through the middle of the Territory from east to west, flows the
Gila river to its confluence with the Colorado. This stream
marks the dividing line between the mountains which descend from
the north and those that extend south, which increase in altitude
and extent until they culminate in the grand Sierra Madres of
The traveler in passing through the country never gets entirely
out of the sight of mountains. They rise up all about him and
bound the horizon near and far in every direction. In riding
along he always seems to be approaching some distant mountain
barrier that ever recedes before him as he advances. He is never
clear of the encircling mountains for, as often as he passes out
of one enclosure through a gap in the mountains, he finds himself
hemmed in again by a new one. The peculiarity of always being in
the midst of mountains and yet never completely surrounded, is
due to an arrangement of dovetailing or overlapping in their
formation. His winding way leads him across barren wastes,
through fertile valleys, among rolling hills and into sheltered
parks, which combine an endless variety of attractive scenery.
An Arizona landscape, though mostly of a desert type, is yet full
of interest to the lover of nature. It presents a strangely
fascinating view, that once seen, will never be forgotten. It
stirs a rapture in the soul that only nature can inspire.
Looking out from some commanding eminence, a wide spreading and
diversified landscape is presented to view. Though hard and
rugged, the picture, as seen at a distance, looks soft and smooth
and its details of form and color make an absorbing study.
The eye is quick to note the different hues that appear in the
field of vision and readily selects five predominating colors,
namely, gray, green, brown, purple and blue, which mingle
harmoniously in various combinations with almost every other
color that is known. The most brilliant lights, sombre shadows,
exquisite tints and delicate tones are seen which, if put on
canvas and judged by the ordinary, would be pronounced
exaggerated and impossible by those unfamiliar with the original.
The prevailing color is gray, made by the dry grass and sandy
soil, and extends in every direction to the limit of vision. The
gramma grass of the and region grows quickly and turns gray
instead of brown, as grasses usually do when they mature. It
gives to the landscape a subdued and quiet color, which is
pleasing to the eye and makes the ideal background in a picture.
Into this warp of gray is woven a woof of green, spreading in
irregular patches in all directions. It is made by the
chaparral, which is composed of a variety of desert plants that
are native to the soil and can live on very little water. It
consists of live oak, pinion, mesquite, desert willow,
greasewood, sage brush, palmilla, maguey, yucca and cacti and is
The admixture of gray and green prevails throughout the year
except during the summer rainy season, when, if the rains are
abundant, the gray disappears almost entirely, and the young
grass springs up as by magic, covering the whole country with a
carpet of living green. In the midst of the billowy grass
myriads of wild flowers bloom, and stand single or shoulder to
shoulder in masses of solid color by the acre.
Upon the far mountains is seen the sombre brown in the bare
rocks. The whole region was at one time violently disturbed by
seismic force and the glow of its quenched fires has even yet
scarcely faded away. Large masses of igneous rocks and broad
streams of vitrified lava bear mute testimony of the change,
when, by some mighty subterranean force, the tumultuous sea was
rolled back from its pristine bed and, in its stead, lofty
mountains lifted their bald beads above the surrounding
desolation, and stand to-day as they have stood in massive
grandeur ever since the ancient days of their upheaval. Rugged
and bleak they tower high, or take the form of pillar, spire and
dome, in some seemingly well-constructed edifice erected by the
hand of man. But the mountains are not all barren. Vast areas
of fertile soil flank the bare rocks where vegetation has taken
root, and large fields of forage and extensive forests of oak
and pine add value and beauty to the land.
The atmosphere is a striking feature of the country that is as
pleasing to the eye as it is invigorating to the body. Over
all the landscape hangs a veil of soft, purple haze that is
bewitching. It gives to the scene a mysterious, subtle
something that is exquisite and holds the senses in a magic spell
Distance also is deceptive and cannot be estimated as under other
skies. The far-off mountains are brought near and made to glow
in a halo of mellow light. Manifold ocular illusions appear in
the mirage and deceive the uninitiated. An indefinable dreamy
something steals over the senses and enthralls the soul.
Arching heaven's high dome is a sky of intense blue that looks so
wonderfully clear and deep that even far-famed Italy cannot
surpass it. The nights are invariably clear and the moon and
stars appear unusually bright. The air is so pure that the stars
seem to be advanced in magnitude and can be seen quite low down
upon the horizon.
The changing lights that flash in the sky transform both the
sunrise and sunset into marvels of beauty. In the mellow
afterglow of the sunset, on the western sky, stream long banners
of light, and fleecy clouds of gold melt away and fade in the
At midday in the hazy distance, moving slowly down the valley,
can be seen spiral columns of dust that resemble pillars of
smoke. They ascend perpendicularly, incline like Pisa's leaning
tower, or are beat at various angles, but always retaining the
columnar form. They rise to great heights and vanish in space.
These spectral forms are caused by small local whirlwinds when
the air is otherwise calm, and are, apparently, without purpose,
unless they are intended merely to amuse the casual observer.
A cloudy day is rare and does not necessarily signify rain.
Usually the clouds are of the cumulus variety and roll leisurely
by in billowy masses. Being in a droughty land the clouds always
attract attention viewed either from an artistic or utilitarian
standpoint. When out on parade they float lazily across the sky,
casting their moving shadows below. The figures resemble a
mammoth pattern of crazy patchwork in a state of evolution spread
out for inspection.
The impression that is made while looking out upon such a scene
is that of deep silence. Everything is hushed and still; but, by
listening attentively, the number of faint sounds that reach the
ear in an undertone is surprising. The soft soughing of the wind
in the trees; the gentle rustle of the grass as it is swayed by
the passing breeze; the musical ripple of water as it gurgles
from the spring; the piping of the quail as it calls to its mate;
the twitter of little birds flitting from bush to bough; the
chirp of the cricket and drone of the beetle are among the sounds
that are heard and fall soothingly upon the ear.
The trees growing upon the hillside bear a striking resemblance
to an old orchard and are a reminder of home where in childhood
the hand delighted to pluck luscious fruit from drooping boughs.
A walk among the trees makes it easy to imagine that you are in
some such familiar but neglected haunt, and instinctively you
look about expecting to see the old house that was once called
home and hear the welcome voice and footfall of cherished memory.
It is no little disappointment to be roused from such a reverie
to find the resemblance only a delusion and the spot deserted.
Forsaken as it has been for many years by the native savage
Indians and prowling wild beasts, the land waits in silence and
patience the coming of the husbandman.
MY FIRST TRIP TO ARIZONA
I recall with vivid distinctness my first trip to Arizona and
introduction to ranch life in the spring of 1884. The experience
made a deep impression and has led me to repeat the visit many
times since then, with increased interest and pleasure.
During the previous year my brother located a cattle ranch for us
in Railroad Pass in southeastern Arizona. The gap is one of a
series of natural depressions in a succession of mountain chains
on the thirty-second parallel route, all the way from New Orleans
to San Francisco over a distance of nearly twenty-five hundred
miles. The Southern Pacific Railroad is built upon this route
and has the easiest grade of any transcontinental line.
Railroad Pass is a wide break between two mountain ranges and is
a fine grazing section. It is handsomely bounded and presents a
magnificent view. To the north are the Pinaleno mountains, with
towering Mt. Graham in their midst, that are nearly eleven
thousand feet high and lie dark in the shadows of their dense
pine forests. Far to the south rise the rugged Chiricahuas, and
nearby stands bald Dos Cabezas, whose giant double head of
granite can be seen as a conspicuous landmark over a wide scope
of country. The distance across the Pass as the crow flies is,
perhaps, fifty miles. Beyond these peaks other mountains rise in
majestic grandeur and bound the horizon in every direction.
At the time that the ranch was located the Pass country was
considered uninhabitable because of the scarcity of water and the
presence of hostile Indians. No permanent spring nor stream of
water was known to exist in that whole region, but fine gramma
grass grew everywhere. Its suitability as a cattle range was
recognized and caused it to be thoroughly prospected for water,
which resulted in the discovery of several hidden springs. All
of the springs found, but one, were insignificant and either soon
went dry or fluctuated with the seasons; but the big spring,
known as Pinaleno, was worth finding, and flows a constant stream
of pure, soft water that fills a four-inch iron pipe.
When the spring was discovered not a drop of water was visible
upon the surface, and a patch of willows was the only indication
of concealed moisture. By sinking a shallow well only a few feet
deep among the willows, water was struck as it flowed through
coarse gravel over a buried ledge of rock that forced the water
up nearly to the surface only to sink again in the sand without
being seen. A ditch was dug to the well from below and an iron
pipe laid in the trench, through which the water is conducted
into a reservoir that supplies the water troughs.
Again, when the ranch was opened the Indians were bad in the
vicinity and had been actively hostile for some time. The ranch
is on a part of the old Chiricahua reservation that was once the
home and hunting grounds of the tribe of Chiricahua Apaches, the
most bold and warlike of all the southwest Indians. Cochise was
their greatest warrior, but he was only one among many able
Apache chieftains. He was at one time the friend of the white
man, but treachery aroused his hatred and caused him to seek
revenge on every white man that crossed his path.
His favorite haunt was Apache Pass, a convenient spot that was
favorable for concealment, where he lay in wait for weary
travelers who passed that way in search of water and a pleasant
camp ground. If attacked by a superior force, as sometimes
happened, he invariably retreated across the Sulphur Spring
valley into his stronghold in the Dragoon mountains.
Because of the many atrocities that were committed by the
Indians, white men were afraid to go into that country to settle.
Even as late as in the early eighties when that prince of
rascals, the wily Geronimo, made his bloody raids through
southern Arizona, the men who did venture in and located ranch
and mining claims, lived in daily peril of their lives which, in
not a few instances, were paid as a forfeit to their daring.
The Butterfield stage and all other overland travel to California
by the southern route before the railroads were built, went
through Apache Pass. Although it was the worst Indian infested
section in the southwest, travelers chose that dangerous route in
preference to any other for the sake of the water that they knew
could always be found there.
The reputation of Apache Pass, finally became so notoriously
bad because of the many murders committed that the Government,
late in the sixties, built and garrisoned Ft. Bowie for the
protection of travelers and settlers. The troops stationed at
the post endured much hardship and fought many bloody battles
before the Indians were conquered. Many soldiers were killed and
buried in a little graveyard near the fort. When the fort was
abandoned a few years ago, their bodies were disinterred and
removed to the National cemetery at Washington.
Railroad Pass is naturally a better wagon road than Apache Pass,
but is without water. It was named by Lieut. J. G. Parke in 1855
while engaged in surveying for the Pacific Railroad, because of
its easy grade and facility for railroad construction.
I timed my visit to correspond with the arrival at Bowie station
on the Southern Pacific Railroad, of a consignment of ranch goods
that had been shipped from St. Louis. I was met at the depot by
the ranch force, who immediately proceeded to initiate me as a
tenderfoot. I inquired of one of the cowboys how far it was to a
near-by mountain. He gave a quien sabe shrug of the shoulder and
answered me in Yankee fashion by asking how far I thought it was.
Estimating the distance as in a prairie country I replied, "Oh,
about a mile." He laughed and said that the mountain was fully
five miles distant by actual measurement. I had unwittingly
taken my first lesson in plainscraft and prudently refrained
thereafter from making another sure guess.
The deception was due to the rarefied atmosphere, which is
peculiar to the arid region. It not only deceives the eye as to
distance, but also as to motion. If the eye is steadily fixed
upon some distant inanimate object, it seems to move in the
tremulous light as if possessed of life, and it is not always
easy to be convinced to the contrary. However, by putting the
object under inspection in line with some further object, it can
readily be determined whether the object is animate or still by
its remaining on or moving off the line.
Another peculiarity of the country is that objects do not always
seem to stand square with the world. In approaching a mountain
and moving on an up grade the plane of incline is suddenly
reversed and gives the appearance and sensation of going
downhill. In some inexplicable manner sense and reason seem to
conflict and the discovery of the disturbed relation of things is
startling. You know very well that the mountain ahead is above
you, but it has the appearance of standing below you in a hollow;
and the water in the brook at your feet, which runs down the
mountain into the valley, seems to be running uphill. By turning
squarely about and looking backwards, the misplaced objects
become righted, and produces much the same sensation that a man
feels who is lost and suddenly finds himself again.
We immediately prepared to drive out to the ranch, which was ten
miles distant and reached by a road that skirted the Dos Cabezas
mountains. The new wagon was set up and put in running order and
lightly loaded with supplies. All of the preliminaries being
completed, the horses were harnessed and hooked to the wagon.
The driver mounted his seat, drew rein and cracked his whip, but
we didn't go. The horses were only accustomed to the saddle and
knew nothing about pulling in harness. Sam was a condemned
cavalry horse and Box was a native bronco, and being hitched to a
wagon was a new experience to both. The start was unpropitious,
but, acting on the old adage that "necessity is the mother of
invention," which truth is nowhere better exemplified than on the
frontier where conveniences are few and the most must be made of
everything, after some delay and considerable maneuvering we
finally got started.
The road for some distance out was level and smooth and our
progress satisfactory. As we drove leisurely along I improved
the opportunity to look about and see the sights. It was a
perfect day in April and there never was a brighter sky nor
balmier air than beamed and breathed upon us. The air was soft
and tremulous with a magical light that produced startling
It was my first sight of a mirage and it naturally excited my
curiosity. It seemed as if a forest had suddenly sprung up
in the San Simon valley where just before had appeared only bare
ground. With every change in the angle of vision as we journeyed
on, there occurred a corresponding change in the scene before us
that produced a charming kaleidoscopic effect. The rough
mountain was transformed into a symmetrical city and the dry
valley into a lake of sparkling water,--all seeming to be the
work of magic in some fairyland of enchantment.
In a ledge of granite rock by the wayside were cut a number of
round holes which the Indians had made and used as mills for
grinding their corn and seeds into meal. Nearby also, were some
mescal pits used for baking the agave, a native plant that is in
great demand as food by the Indians. The spot was evidently an
old rendezvous where the marauding Apaches were accustomed to
meet in council to plan their bloody raids, and to feast on
mescal and pinole in honor of some successful foray or victory
over an enemy.
We next crossed several well-worn Indian trails which the Apaches
had made by many years of travel to and fro between their
rancherias in the Mogollon mountains and Mexico. The sight of
these trails brought us back to real life and a conscious sense
of danger, for were we not in an enemy's country and in the midst
of hostile Indians? Nearly every mile of road traveled had been
at some time in the past the scene of a bloody tragedy enacted by
a savage foe. Even at that very time the Apaches were out on the
warpath murdering people, but fortunately we did not meet them
and escaped unmolested.
The road now crossed a low hill, which was the signal for more
trouble. The team started bravely up the incline, but soon
stopped and then balked and all urging with whip and voice failed
to make any impression. After several ineffectual attempts to
proceed it was decided not to waste any more time in futile
efforts. The horses were unhitched and the wagon partly
unloaded, when all hands by a united pull and push succeeded in
getting the wagon up the hill. After reloading no difficulty was
experienced in making a fresh start on a down grade, but a little
farther on a second and larger hill was encountered, when the
failure to scale its summit was even greater than the first. No
amount of coaxing or urging budged the horses an inch. They
simply were stubborn and would not pull.
Night was approaching and camp was yet some distance ahead. The
driver suggested that the best thing to do under the
circumstances was for the rest of us to take the led horses and
ride on to camp, while he would remain with the wagon and, if
necessary, camp out all night. We reluctantly took his advice,
mounted our horses and finished our journey in the twilight.
Aaron, who was housekeeper at the ranch, gave us a hearty welcome
and invited us to sit down to a bountiful supper which he had
prepared in anticipation of our coming. Feeling weary after our
ride we retired early and were soon sound asleep. The only
thing that disturbed our slumbers during the night was a coyote
concert which, as a "concord of sweet sounds was a dismal
failure" but as a medley of discordant sounds was a decided
success. The bark of the coyote is particularly shrill and sharp
and a single coyote when in full cry sounds like a chorus of
We were all up and out early the next morning to witness the
birth of a new day. The sunrise was glorious, and bright
colors in many hues flashed across the sky. The valley echoed
with the cheerful notes of the mocking bird and the soft air was
filled with the fragrance of wild flowers. The scene was grandly
inspiring and sent a thrill of pleasure through every nerve.
While thus absorbed by the beauties of nature we heard an halloo,
and looking down the road in the direction of the driver's
bivouac we saw him coming swinging his hat in the air and driving
at a rapid pace that soon brought him to the ranch house. In
answer to our inquiries as to how he had spent the night he
reported that the horses stood quietly in their tracks all night
long, while he slept comfortably in the wagon. In the morning
the horses started without undue urging as if tired of inaction
and glad to go in the direction of provender. They were
completely broken by their fast and after that gave no further
After a stay of four weeks, learning something of the ways of
ranch life and experiencing not a few exciting adventures,
I returned home feeling well pleased with my first trip to the
THE OPEN RANGE
Arizona is in the arid belt and well adapted to the range cattle
industry. Its mild climate and limited water supply make it the
ideal range country. Indeed, to the single factor of its limited
water supply, perhaps, more than anything else is its value due
as an open range. If water was abundant there could be no open
range as then the land would all be farmed and fenced.
Arizona is sometimes spoken of as belonging to the plains, but it
is not a prairie country. Mountains are everywhere, but are
separated in many places by wide valleys. The mountains not only
make fine scenery, but are natural boundaries for the ranches and
give shade and shelter to the cattle.
There are no severe storms nor blizzard swept plains where cattle
drift and perish from cold. The weather is never extremely cold,
the mercury seldom falling to more than a few degrees below
freezing, except upon the high plateaus and mountains of northern
Arizona. If it freezes during the night the frost usually
disappears the next day; and, if snow flies, it lies only on the
mountains, but melts as fast as it falls in the valleys. There
are but few cloudy or stormy days in the year and bright, warm
sunshine generally prevails. There has never been any loss of
cattle from cold, but many have died from drought as a result of
overstocking the range.
The pastures consist of valley, mesa and mountain lands which, in
a normal season, are covered by a variety of nutritious grasses.
Of all the native forage plants the gramma grass is the most
abundant and best. It grows only in the summer rainy season
when, if the rains are copious, the gray desert is converted into
a vast green meadow.
The annual rainfall is comparatively light and insufficient to
grow and mature with certainty any of the cereal crops. When the
summer rains begin to fall the rancher is "jubilant" and the "old
cow smiles." Rain means even more to the ranchman than it does
to the farmer. In an agricultural country it is expected that
rain or snow will fall during every month of the year, but on the
range rain is expected only in certain months and, if it fails to
fall then, it means failure, in a measure, for the entire year.
Rain is very uncertain in Arizona. July and August are the rain
months during which time the gramma grass grows. Unless the rain
falls daily after it begins it does but little good, as frequent
showers are required to keep the grass growing after it once
starts. A settled rain of one or more days' duration is of rare
occurrence. During the rainy season and, in fact, at all times,
the mornings are usually clear. In the forenoon the clouds begin
to gather and pile up in dark billowy masses that end in showers
during the afternoon and evening. But not every rain cloud
brings rain. Clouds of this character often look very
threatening, but all their display of thunder and lightning is
only bluff and bluster and ends in a fizzle with no rain. After
such a demonstration the clouds either bring wind and a
disagreeable dust storm, or, if a little rain starts to fall, the
air is so dry that it evaporates in mid air, and none of it ever
reaches the earth. In this fashion the clouds often threaten to
do great things, only to break their promise; and the anxious
rancher stands and gazes at the sky with longing eyes, only to be
disappointed again and again.
As a rule water is scarce. A long procession of cloudless days
merge into weeks of dry weather; and the weeks glide into months
during which time the brazen sky refuses to yield one drop of
moisture either of dew or rain to the parched and thirsty earth.
Even the rainy season is not altogether reliable, but varies
considerably one year with another in the time of its appearance
The soil is sandy and porous and readily absorbs water, except
where the earth is tramped and packed hard by the cattle. One
peculiarity of the country as found marked upon the maps, and
that exists in fact, is the diminution and often complete
disappearance of a stream after it leaves the mountains. If not
wholly lost upon entering the valley the water soon sinks out of
sight in the sand and disappears and reappears at irregular
intervals, until it loses itself entirely in some underground
channel and is seen no more.
Many a pleasant valley in the range country is made desolate by
being destitute of any surface spring or running brook, or water
that can be found at any depth. Occasionally a hidden fountain
is struck by digging, but it is only by the merest chance. Wells
have been dug to great depths in perfectly dry ground in an eager
search for water without finding it, and such an experience is
usually equivalent to a failure and the making of a useless bill
A never-failing spring of good water in sufficient quantity to
supply the needs of a ranch in the range country is of rare
occurrence, considering the large territory to be supplied. Only
here and there at long intervals is such a spring found, and it
is always a desirable and valuable property. It makes an oasis
in the desert that is an agreeable change from the surrounding
barrenness, and furnishes its owner, if properly utilized, a
comfortable subsistence for himself and herds. His fields
produce without fail and the increase of his flocks and herds is
The isolated rancher who is well located is independent. He is
in no danger of being crowded by his neighbors nor his range
becoming over stocked with stray cattle. His water right gives
him undisputed control of the adjacent range, even though he does
not own all the land, which is an unwritten law of the range and
respected by all cattlemen.
Because of the scarcity of water the range country is sparsely
settled and always will be until more water is provided by
artificial means for irrigation. Even then a large portion of
the land will be worthless for any other purpose than grazing,
and stock-growing on the open range in Arizona will continue to
be a staple industry in the future as it has been in the past.
The range is practically all occupied and, in many places, is
already over stocked. Where more cattle are run on a range than
its grass and water can support there is bound to be some loss.
In stocking a range an estimate should be made of its carrying
capacity in a bad year rather than in a good one, as no range can
safely carry more cattle than it can support in the poorest year;
like a chain, it is no stronger than its weakest link.
A good range is sometimes destroyed by the prairie dog. Wherever
he establishes a colony the grass soon disappears. He burrows in
the ground and a group of such holes is called a dog town. Like
the jack-rabbit he can live without water and is thus able to
keep his hold on the desert. The only way to get rid of him is
to kill him, which is usually done by the wholesale with poison.
His flesh is fine eating, which the Navajo knows if the white man
does not. The Navajo considers him a dainty morsel which is
particularly relished by the sick. If a patient can afford the
price, he can usually procure a prairie dog in exchange for two
The Navajo is an adept at capturing this little animal. The
hunter places a small looking-glass near the hole and, in
concealment near by, he patiently awaits developments.
When the prairie dog comes out of his hole to take an airing
he immediately sees his reflection in the glass and takes it
for an intruder. In an instant he is ready for a fight and
pounces upon his supposed enemy to kill or drive him away.
While the prairie dog is thus engaged wrestling with his
shadow or reflection the hunter shoots him at close range with
his bow and arrow--never with a gun, for if wounded by a
bullet he is sure to drop into his hole and is lost, but the
arrow transfixes his body and prevents him from getting away.
He has been hunted so much in the Navajo country that he has
become very scarce.
 This statement is made on the authority of Mr. F. W. Volz,
who lives at Canon Diablo, and is familiar with the customs of
Much of the ranch country in southern Arizona is destitute of
trees, and shade, therefore, is scarce. Upon the high mountains
and plateaus of northern Arizona there are great forests of pine
and plenty of shade. But few cattle range there in comparison to
the large numbers that graze on the lower levels further south.
What little tree growth there is on the desert is stunted and
supplies but scant shade. In the canons some large cottonwood,
sycamore and walnut trees can be found; upon the foot hills the
live oak and still higher up the mountain the pine. Cattle
always seek the shade and if there are no trees they will lie
down in the shade of a bush or anything that casts a shadow. The
cattle are so eager for shade that if they can find nothing
better they will crowd into the narrow ribbon of shade that is
cast by a columnar cactus or telegraph pole and seem to be
satisfied with ever so little if only shade is touched.
Twenty years ago before there were many cattle on the
southwestern range, the gramma grass stood knee high everywhere
all over that country and seemed to be an inexhaustible supply of
feed for an unlimited number of cattle during an indefinite term
of years. It was not many years, however, after the large herds
were turned loose on the range until the grass was all gone and
the ground, except in a few favored spots, left nearly as bare of
grass as the traveled road. At the present time whatever grass
there is must grow each year which, even in a favorable year, is
never heavy. If the summer rains fail, no grass whatever can
grow and the cattle are without feed. The grass about the
springs and water holes is first to disappear and then the cattle
must go farther and farther from water to find any grass. When
cattle are compelled to travel over long distances in going from
grass to water, they naturally grow thin from insufficient food
and are worn out by the repeated long journeys. A cow that is
thin and weak will postpone making the trip as long as possible--
two, three and even four days in the hottest weather she will
wait before attempting the trip. At last, when the poor creature
reaches water, she is so famished from thirst that she drinks too
much. In her feeble condition she is unable to carry the
enormous load of water which she drinks and lies down by the side
of the friendly water trough to die from exhaustion.
If cattle are turned loose upon a new range they act strange and
are inclined to scatter. Until they become accustomed to the
change they should be close herded, but after they are once
located they are not liable to stray very far.
As they are only worked by men on horseback they are not
frightened at the sight of a horse and rider; but let a stranger
approach them on foot, in a moment after he is sighted every head
is raised in surprise and alarm and the pedestrian is, indeed,
fortunate if the herd turns tail and scampers off instead of
running him down and tramping him under foot in a wild stampede.
Nowhere else can be found a finer sight than is witnessed in the
range country. In every direction broad meadows stretch away to
the horizon where numberless cattle roam and are the embodiment
of bovine happiness and contentment. Scattered about in
irregular groups they are seen at ease lying down or feeding, and
frisking about in an overflow of exuberant life. Cow paths or
trails converge from every point of the compass, that lead to
springs and water holes, on which the cattle travel.
It is an interesting sight to watch the cattle maneuver as they
form in line, single file, ready for the march. They move
forward in an easy, deliberate walk one behind the other and may
be seen coming and going in every direction. They make their
trips with great regularity back and forth from grass to water,
and vice versa, going to water in the morning and back to the
feeding grounds at night.
Cows have a curious fashion, sometimes, of hiding out their
calves. When a cow with a young calf starts for water she
invariably hides her calf in a bunch of grass or clump of bushes
in some secluded spot, where it lies down and remains perfectly
quiet until the mother returns. I have many times while riding
the range found calves thus secreted that could scarcely be
aroused or frightened away, which behavior was so different from
their usual habit of being shy and running off at the slightest
provocation. The calf under such circumstances seems to
understand that it is "not at home," and cannot be seen.
At another time a lot of calves are left in charge of a young cow
or heifer that seems to understand her responsibility and guards
her charge carefully. The young calves are too weak to make the
long trip to water and thus, through the maternal instinct of the
mother cow, she provides for the care of her offspring almost as
if she were human.
After viewing such a large pasture as the open range presents,
which is limitless in extent, the small fenced field or pasture
lot of a few acres on the old home farm back east, that looked so
large to boyish eyes in years gone by, dwindles by comparison
into insignificance and can never again be restored to its former
Ranch life on the open range may be somewhat wild and lonely, but
it is as free and independent to the rancher as it is to his
unfettered cattle that roam at will over a thousand hills. As a
place of residence for a family of women and children it is
undesirable because of its isolation and lack of social and
educational privileges; but for a man who cares to "rough it" it
has a rare fascination. Its freedom may mean lonesomeness and
its independence monotony, yet it is very enjoyable for a season.
Like anything else it may become wearing and wearisome if
continued too long without a change, but its novelty has a charm
that is irresistible.
Ranch life is untrammeled by social conventionalities and is not
burdened by business cares, but is an easy, natural life that is
free from all kinds of pressure. It relieves the tension of an
artificial existence, and worry and vexation are forgotten. Time
loses its rapid flight and once more jogs on at an easy pace; and
its complete isolation and quiet gives nature a chance to rest
"Away from the dwellings of careworn men."
The environment of ranch life is highly conducive to good health.
The scenery is delightful, the air pure and bracing, the food
wholesome and nutritious, the couch comfortable and the sleep
refreshing. Walking and riding furnish the necessary exercise
that nature demands. Indeed, there is no better exercise to be
found than riding horseback to stimulate sluggish organs, or
excite to healthy action the bodily functions. It stirs the
liver, causes deep breathing, strengthens the heart and
circulation, tones the nerves and makes an appetite that waits on
good digestion. An outdoor life is often better than medicine
and is a panacea for the "ills that human flesh is heir to."
The ranchman, if he is in tune with his surroundings, finds a
never-failing spring of pleasure. If he is company for himself
he is well entertained and if he is a lover of nature he finds
interesting subjects for study upon every hand. His wants are
few and simple and the free life that he lives develops in him a
strong and sturdy manhood. He is the picture of health and is
happy and contented as the day is long.
However, such a life does not suit everyone, as individual tastes
differ. Prejudice also exerts an influence and is apt to
estimate all western life as crude and undesirable, being in a
transition state of change from savagery to civilization. Be it
even so; for, if the savage had never existed to furnish the
ancestry that civilized man boasts, civilization would not have
been possible. It is only natural that this should be so as, in
the order of nature, evolution begins at the bottom and works up.
There is perhaps no condition in life that can be called perfect,
yet of the two extremes we choose to believe that civilization is
preferable to barbarism; but an intermediate state has the
advantage over both extremes by avoiding native crudeness upon
the one hand and excessive refinement upon the other, both being
Happiness, which we all profess to seek, exists in some degree
everywhere but we are always striving to acquire something more.
In our constant struggle for improvement, progress undoubtedly is
made in the right direction. With refinement comes increased
sensibility and an enlarged capacity for enjoyment. But, such a
state in itself is not one of unalloyed bliss, as might be
supposed, since it is marred by its antithesis, an increased
amount of sickness and suffering, which is the inevitable penalty
of civilization. In such a progression the pleasures of life
become more, but the acuteness of suffering is also increased.
The mistake lies in the fact that in our eager pursuit after the
artificial we forget nature and not until we acquire a surfeit of
that which is artificial and grow weary of the shams and deceits
of the world do we stop and think or turn again to nature to find
In the early days the frontier was the rendezvous for rough and
lawless characters of every description. That time has gone by
never to return in the history of the nation, as the rustlers
have either reformed and become good citizens or long ago left
the country by the lead or hemp routes. The change in the times
has been such that never again will it be possible to return to
the conditions that existed in the early settlement of the west
which gave to desperadoes a safe hiding place.
The people now living on what is left of the frontier will, as a
class, compare favorably with those of any other community.
There may be small surface polish, as the world goes, but there
is much genuine gold of true character that needs only a little
rubbing to make it shine.
The population being sparse there is comparatively little
opportunity or inclination for wrongdoing. Whatever anybody does
is noticed at once and everything that happens is immediately
found out. The favorite haunt of vice and crime is not in a
sparsely settled community, public opinion to the contrary
notwithstanding, but in the centers of population, in, our large
cities where temptation to do evil is strong and dark deeds find
ready concealment in the mingling and confusion of the throng.
The ranchman deserves to be correctly judged by his true
character and not by any false standard that is artfully designed
to misrepresent him or to unjustly bring him into contempt. He
may have a rough exterior, not intending to pose in a model
fashion plate, but in real life where he is tried there is found
under his coarse garb a heart that is honest and true which
responds with sympathy and kindness for anyone in distress; and
his generosity and hospitality are proverbial and stand without a
rival. Men from every position in life, including college
graduates and professional men, are engaged in ranching and
whoever takes them to be a lot of toughs and ignoramuses is
The strength, virtue and intelligence of the nation is found in
its large middle class of laboring people that is largely
composed of farmers and mechanics, men who work with their hands
and live natural lives and are so busy in some useful occupation
that they have no time to think of mischief. In this favored
land of freedom all of our great men have been of the common
people and struggled up from some humble position. A life of
toil may seem to be hard, but it conforms to nature and natural
laws and favors the development of the best that is in man; and
he who shirks toil misses his opportunity. Whatever tends to
wean men from work only weakens them. Luxury and indolence
travel on the downward road of degeneracy. They may make
pleasant temporary indulgence, but are fatal to ultimate success.
Locomotion on a ranch consists almost entirely of horseback
riding as walking is too slow and tiresome and wheeled conveyance
is often inconvenient or impossible for cross-country driving.
When the ranchman mounts his horse in the morning to make his
daily rounds he has a clear field before him. He is "monarch of
all he surveys" and practically owns the earth, since his
neighbors live many miles away and his road leads in any
direction clear to the horizon.
The average ranch is not intended to furnish luxuries, but to
serve the best interests of the business in hand, that of growing
cattle. It is usually a "stag camp" composed entirely of men who
occupy a rude cabin near some convenient spring or stream of
water, where they keep house in ranch style and live after a
fashion. No money is ever expended in unnecessary improvements,
but every dollar spent in repairs is put where it will do the
most good. The house furnishings are all of the plainest kind
and intended to meet only present necessities. The larder is not
supplied with luxuries nor is the cuisine prolific of dainties,
but there is always on hand a supply of the necessaries of life.
Every man has his particular work to perform, but unless it be on
some large ranch where the force of men employed is sufficiently
large to require the services of a chef, he is also expected to
assist in keeping house. It is an unwritten law of the ranch
that everybody on the place must share in this work and if anyone
shirks his duty he must either promptly mend his ways or else
quit his job. It is seldom, however, that this rule has to be
enforced, as the necessities of the case require that every man
shall be able to prepare a meal as he is liable to be left alone
for days or weeks at a time when he must either cook or starve.
The equipment of the cowboy is his horse and reata. They are his
constant companions and serve his every purpose. His work
includes much hard riding, which he greatly enjoys if no accident
befalls him. But dashing on in heedless speed while rounding up
cattle he is ever liable to mishaps, as his horse, although sure
footed, may at any time step into a prairie dogs' hole or stumble
on a loose rock that is liable to throw both horse and rider to
the ground in a heap. He is, indeed, fortunate if he escapes
unhurt, or only receives a few bruises and not a fractured bone
or broken neck.
His work consists in riding over the range and marking the
condition of the cattle; line riding to prevent the stock from
straying; looking after the springs and water holes and keeping
them clean; branding calves, gathering steers for market and
assisting in the general work of the round-up. Every day has its
duty and every season its particular work, yet there are times of
considerable leisure during the year. After his day's work is
done he repairs to the ranch house, or to some outlying camp,
whichever happens to be nearest when night overtakes him, for
every large ranch has one or more such camps posted at some
convenient point that furnishes temporary shelter and
refreshment, where he rests and eats his frugal meal with a
relish that only health and rough riding can give.
If he is at the home ranch in winter he spends the long evenings
before an open hearth fire of blazing logs and by the light of
the fire and the doubtful aid of a tallow dip lounges the hours
away in reading and cogitation; or, if in the company of
congenial companions, engages in conversation and pleasantry or
any amusement that the party may select. At an early hour he
turns in for the night and after a sound and refreshing sleep is
up and out with the dawn. After breakfast he mounts his horse
and in his striking and characteristic costume of broad sombrero,
blue flannel shirt, fringed chaperejos and jingling spurs he
rides forth to his work a perfect type of the gallant caballero.
In the range cattle business it is important for every owner of
live stock to have some mark by which he can tell his own cattle.
It is impossible for any man to remember and recognize by natural
marks every animal in a large herd. On the open range there are
no fenced pastures to hold the cattle, but all are permitted to
run free and mix promiscuously. To distinguish the cattle of
different owners a system of earmarks and brands has been devised
by which each ranchman can identify and claim his own stock.
The branding is usually done during a round-up when every calf
found is caught and branded in the brand of its mother. If a
calf remains unbranded until after it is weaned and quits its
mother, it becomes a maverick and is liable to be lost to its
owner. A calf, if left to itself, will follow its mother for
several months and then leave her to seek its own living.
Occasionally a calf does not become weaned when it should be, but
continues the baby habit indefinitely. If a yearling is found
unweaned it is caught and "blabbed" which is done by fitting a
peculiarly shaped piece of wood into its nose that prevents it
from sucking but does not interfere with feeding.
If a calf loses its mother while very young it is called a
"leppy." Such an orphan calf is, indeed, a forlorn and forsaken
little creature. Having no one to care for it, it has a hard
time to make a living. If it is smart enough to share the
ration of some more fortunate calf it does very well, but if it
cannot do so and has to depend entirely on grazing for a living
its life becomes precarious and is apt to be sacrificed in the
"struggle for the survival of the fittest."
If it survives the ordeal and lives it bears the same relation to
the herd as the maverick and has no lawful owner until it is
branded. If an unbranded calf has left or lost its mother it has
lost its identity as well and finds it again only after being
branded, although it may have swapped owners in the process.
Theoretically, a maverick belongs to the owner of the range on
which it runs, but, practically, it becomes the property of the
man who first finds and brands it.
Although the branding is supposed to be done only during a
round-up there is nevertheless some branding done in every month
of the year. The ranchman is compelled to do so to save his
calves from being stolen. Therefore early branding is generally
practiced as it has been found to be the best safeguard against
theft. Either the spring or fall is considered a good time to
brand, but the only best time to brand a calf is when you find
Dishonest men are found in the cattle business the same as in
other occupations and every year a large number of cattle are
misappropriated and stolen from the range. Cattle have been
stolen by the wholesale and large herds run off and illegally
sold before the owner discovered his loss. Calf stealing,
however, happens more frequently than the stealing of grown
cattle and many ingenious devices have been invented to make such
stealing a success. A common practice is to "sleeper" a calf by
a partial earmark and a shallow brand that only singes the hair
but does not burn deep enough to leave a permanent scar. If the
calf is not discovered as an imperfect or irregular brand and
becomes a maverick, it is kept under surveillance by the thief
until he considers it safe to finish the job when he catches it
again and brands it with his own iron.
Different methods are employed to win a calf and fit it for
unlawful branding. Sometimes the calf is caught and staked out
in some secluded spot where it is not liable to be found and away
from its mother until it is nearly starved when it is branded by
the thief and turned loose; or, the calf's tongue is split so
that it cannot suck and by the time that the wounded tongue has
healed the calf has lost its mother, and the thief brands it for
himself. Again, the mother cow is shot and killed, when the
orphan calf is branded in perfect safety as "the dead tell no
The owner of cattle on the open range must be constantly on his
guard against losses by theft. Usually the thief is a dishonest
neighbor or one of his own cowboys who becomes thrifty at his
employer's expense. Many a herd of cattle was begun without a
single cow, but was started by branding surreptitiously other
people's property. It is not an easy matter to detect such a
thief or to convict on evidence when he is arrested and brought
to trial. A cattle thief seldom works alone, but associates
himself with others of his kind who will perjure themselves to
swear each other clear.
The cow ponies that are used in range work are small but active
and possessed of great power of endurance. They are the
descendants of the horses that were brought into Mexico by the
Spaniards, some of which escaped into the wilderness and their
increase became the wild horses of the plains. They are known by
the various names of mustang, bronco and cayuse according to the
local vernacular of the country in which they roam. They are
wild and hard to conquer and are sometimes never fully broken
even under the severest treatment. Bucking and pitching are
their peculiar tricks for throwing a rider and such an experience
invariably ends in discomfort if not discomfiture, for if the
rider is not unhorsed he at least receives a severe shaking up
in the saddle.
The native cattle, like the horses, are small and wild, but are
hardy and make good rustlers. The native stock has been greatly
improved in recent years by cross breeding with thoroughbred
Durham and Hereford bulls. Grade cattle are better suited for
the open range than are pure bred animals, which are more tender
and fare better in fenced pastures. By cross breeding the
quality of range cattle has steadily improved until the scrub
element has been almost bred out.
As a breeding ground Arizona is unsurpassed, but for maturing
beef cattle the northern country is preferable. Thousands of
young cattle are shipped out annually to stock the ranges of
Wyoming and Montana and to fill the feed lots of Kansas, Missouri
and other feeding states. A dash of native blood in range cattle
is desirable as it enables them to endure hardships without
injury and find subsistence in seasons of drought and scant
The general round-up occurs in the fall, just after the summer
rains, when there is plenty of grass and the horses and cattle
are in good condition. The ranchmen of a neighborhood meet at an
appointed time and place and organize for systematic work. A
captain is chosen who is in command of the round-up and must be
obeyed. Each cowboy has his own string of horses, but all of the
horses of the round-up not in use are turned out to graze and
herd together. A mess wagon and team of horses in charge of a
driver, who is also the cook, hauls the outfit of pots,
provisions and bedding.
The round-up moves from ranch to ranch rounding up and marking
the cattle as it goes and is out from four to six weeks,
according to the number of ranches that are included in the
When camp is made and everything ready for work the cowboys ride
out in different directions and drive in all the cattle they can
find. After the cattle are all gathered the calves are branded
and the cattle of the several owners are cut into separate herds
and held until the round-up is finished when they are driven
Every unbranded calf is caught and branded in its mother's brand.
In a mix-up of cattle as occurs at a round-up, a calf sometimes
gets separated from its mother so that when caught its identity
is uncertain. To avoid making a mistake the calf is only
slightly marked, just enough to hurt it a little, and is then
turned loose. A calf when it is hurt is very much like a child,
in that it cries and wants its mamma. As quick as it is let go
it immediately hunts its mother and never fails to find her.
When cow and calf have come together the calf is again caught and
the branding finished.
The pain produced by the hot branding iron makes the calf bawl
lustily and struggle to free itself. The mother cow sometimes
resents the punishment of her offspring by charging and chasing
the men who are doing the branding; or, if she is of a less fiery
disposition, shows her displeasure by a look of reproach as much
as to say, "You bad men, what have you done to hurt my little
A peculiarity of brands is that they do not all grow alike.
Sometimes a brand, after it is healed, remains unchanged during
the life of the animal. At other times it enlarges to several
times its original size. Various reasons are assigned to account
for this difference. Some claim that the brand only grows with
the calf; others assert that it is due to deep branding; and,
again, it is ascribed to lunar influence. But, as to the real
cause of the difference, no explanation has been given that
really explains the phenomenon.
The cowboy's work is nearly all done in the saddle and calls for
much hard riding. He rides like a Centaur, but is clumsy on his
feet. Being so much in the saddle his walking muscles become
weakened, and his legs pressing against the body of his horse, in
time, makes him bowlegged. In addition he wears high-heeled
Mexican boots which throw him on his toes when he walks and makes
his already shambling gait even more awkward.
A cowboy's life has little in it to inspire him with high ideals
or arouse his ambition to achieve greatness. He leads a hard
life among rough men and receives only coarse fare and rougher
treatment. His life is narrow and he works in a rut that
prevents him from taking a broad view of life. All that he has
is his monthly wages, and, possibly, a hope that at some future
day he may have a herd of cattle of his own.
Managing a herd of range cattle successfully is an art that can
only be acquired by long practice, and it is surprising how
expert men can become at that business. All the work done among
cattle is on horseback, which includes herding, driving, cutting
and roping. The trained cow pony seemingly knows as much about a
round-up as his master, and the two, together, form a combination
that is invincible in a herd of wild cattle. The cow or steer
that is selected to be roped or cut out rarely escapes. While
the horse is in hot pursuit the rider dexterously whirls his
reata above his head until, at a favorable moment, it leaves his
hand, uncoiling as it flies through the air, and, if the throw is
successful, the noose falls over the animal's head. Suddenly the
horse comes to a full stop and braces himself for the shock.
When the animal caught reaches the end of the rope it is brought
to an abrupt halt and tumbled in a heap on the ground. The horse
stands braced pulling on the rope which has been made fast to the
horn of the saddle by a few skillful turns. The cowboy is out of
the saddle and on his feet in a jiffy. He grasps the prostrate
animal by the tail and a hind leg, throws it on its side, and
ties its four feet together, so that it is helpless and ready for
branding or inspection. The cowboys have tying contests in which
a steer is sometimes caught and tied in less time than a minute.
It is a comical sight to see an unhorsed cowboy chase his runaway
horse on foot as he is almost sure to do if caught in such a
predicament. He ought to know that he cannot outrun his fleet
steed in such a race, but seems to be impelled by some strange
impulse to make the attempt. After he has run himself out of
breath he is liable to realize the folly of his zeal and adopt a
more sensible method for capturing his horse.
The cowboy who works on the southwestern range has good cause to
fear the malodorous hydrophobia skunk. At a round-up all of the
cowboys sleep on the ground. During the night, while they are
asleep, the little black and white cat-like animal forages
through the camp for something to eat. Without provocation the
skunk will attack the sleeper and fasten its sharp teeth in some
exposed portion of his anatomy, either the nose or a finger or
toe and will not let go until it is killed or forcibly removed.
The wound thus made usually heals quickly and the incident is,
perhaps, soon forgotten; but after several weeks or months
hydrophobia suddenly develops and proves fatal in a short time.
The only known cure for the bite of the skunk is the Pasteur
treatment and, since its discovery, as soon as anyone is bitten,
he is immediately sent to the Pasteur Institute in Chicago for
Ranch life is often full of thrilling incidents and adventures.
The cowboy in his travels about the country looking after cattle,
hunting wild game or, in turn, being hunted by yet wilder
Indians, finds plenty of novelty and excitement to break any
fancied monotony which might be considered as belonging to ranch
life. In a number of visits to the range country during the past
twenty years, the writer has had an opportunity to observe life
on a ranch, and experience some of its exciting adventures.
One day in the summer of 1891, Dave Drew, our foreman, Tedrow,
one of the cowboys, and myself, made a trip into East Canon in
the Dos Cabezas mountains, in search of some large unbranded
calves which had been seen running there. We rode leisurely
along for some time and passed several small bunches of cattle
without finding what we were looking for. As we neared a bend in
the canon, Dave, who rode in advance, saw some cattle lying in
the shade of a grove of live oak trees. Instantly he spurred his
horse into a run and chased after the cattle at full speed, at
the same time looking back and shouting that he saw two mavericks
and for us to hurry up and help catch them. It was a bad piece
of ground to cover and we found it difficult to make progress or
to even keep each other in sight. Tedrow hurried up as fast as
he could while I brought up the rear.
In trying to get through in the direction that Dave had gone, we
tried to make a short cut in order to gain time, but soon found
our way completely blocked by immense boulders and dense thickets
of cat-claw bushes, which is a variety of mesquite covered with
strong, sharp, curved thorns. We turned back to find a better
road and after some time spent in hunting an opening we
discovered a dim trail which soon led us into a natural park of
level ground hidden among the foothills. Here we found Dave who
alone had caught and tied down both the calves and was preparing
to start a fire to heat the branding irons. What he had done
seemed like magic and was entirely incomprehensible to an
Dave explained afterwards that to be successful in such a race
much depended on taking the cattle by surprise, and then by a
quick, bold dash start them running up the mountain, when it was
possible to overtake and rope them; but if once started to
running down hill it was not only unsafe to follow on horseback
but in any event the cattle were certain to escape. Taking them
by surprise seemed to bewilder them and before they could collect
their scattered senses, so to speak, and scamper off, the work of
capture was done.
Another adventure, which did not end so fortunately for met
happened in the fall of I 887 when the country was yet
comparatively new to the cattle business. I rode out one day in
company with a cowboy to look after strays and, incidentally, to
watch for any game that might chance to cross our path. We rode
through seemingly endless meadows of fine gramma grass and saw
the sleek cattle feeding on plenty and enjoying perfect
contentment. Game, also, seemed to be abundant but very shy and
as we were not particularly hunting that kind of stock, we
forebore giving chase or firing at long range.
After riding about among the hills back of the Pinaleno ranch and
not finding anything we concluded to return home. On starting
back we separated and took different routes, going by two
parallel ravines in order to cover more ground in our search. I
had not gone far until I found the cattle we were looking for
going to water on the home trail. Jogging on slowly after them
and enjoying the beauty of the landscape, I unexpectedly caught a
glimpse of a deer lying down under a mesquite tree on the brow of
a distant hill. I was in plain sight of the deer, which was
either asleep or heedless of danger as it paid no attention
whatever to my presence.
Deer and antelope soon become accustomed to horses and cattle and
often mix and feed familiarly with the stock grazing on the open
range. The deer did not change its position as I quietly rode by
and out of sight behind the hill. There I dismounted and stalked
the quarry on foot, cautiously making my way up the side of the
hill to a point where I would be within easy shooting distance.
As I stood up to locate the deer it jumped to its feet and was
ready to make off, but before it could start a shot from my
Winchester put a bullet through its head, and it scarcely moved
after it fell. The deer was in good condition and replenished
our depleted ranch larder with some choice venison steaks. The
head, also, was a fine one the horns being just out of velvet and
each antler five pointed, was saved and mounted.
The shot and my lusty halloo soon brought my cowboy friend to the
spot. Together we eviscerated the animal and prepared to pack it
to camp on my horse. As we were lifting it upon his back the
bronco gave a vicious kick which hit me in the left knee and
knocked me down. The blow, though severe, glanced off so that no
bone was broken. What made the horse kick was a mystery as he
was considered safe and had carried deer on other occasions. But
a bronco, like a mule, is never altogether reliable, particularly
as to the action of its heels. With some delay in getting
started and in somewhat of a demoralized condition we mounted and
Soon after the accident I had a chill which was followed by a
fever and there was much pain and swelling in the knee that was
hit. A ranch house, if it happens to be a "stag camp" as ours
was, is a cheerless place in which to be sick, but everything
considered, I was fortunate in that it was not worse. By the
liberal use of hot water and such other simples as the place
afforded I was soon better; but not until after several months'
treatment at home did the injured knee fully recover its normal
The excitement of running cattle or hunting game on the open
range in those days was mild in comparison to the panicky feeling
which prevailed during every Indian outbreak. The experience of
many years had taught the people of Arizona what to expect at
such a time and the utter diabolical wickedness of the Apaches
when out on the warpath. During the early eighties many such
raids occurred which were accompanied by all the usual horrors of
brutality and outrage of which the Apaches are capable.
When it became known in the fall of 1885 that Geronimo was again
off the reservation and out on another one of his bloody raids
the people became panic-stricken. Some left the Territory until
such time when the Indian question would be settled and the
Government could guarantee freedom from Indian depredations.
Those who remained either fled to some near town or fort for
protection, or prepared to defend themselves in their own homes
as best they could.
What else could the settlers in a new country do? They had
everything invested in either mines or cattle and could not
afford to leave their property without making some effort to save
it even if it had to be done at the risk of their own lives.
They had no means of knowing when or where the stealthy Apaches
would strike and could only wait for the time in uncertainty and
suspense. Many who were in this uncomfortable predicament
managed to escape any harm, but others fell victims to savage
hatred whose death knell was sounded in the crack of the deadly
Some personal experiences may help to illustrate this feeling of
panic, as I happened to be at the ranch during the time and know
how it was myself.
One day in the month of October, 1885, while Geronimo was making
his raid through southern Arizona, my brother and I rode through
Railroad Pass from Pinaleno ranch to the Lorentz Place, a
distance of fifteen miles. It was about four o'clock in the
afternoon that we ascended to the top of a hill to take
observations and see if anything was happening out of the
ordinary. We saw nothing unusual until we were about to leave
when we noticed somewhat of a commotion on the old Willcox and
Bowie wagon road which parallels the Southern Pacific track. The
distance was too great to see distinctly with the naked eye, but
looking through our field glasses, which we always carried when
out riding, we could plainly see three loaded wagons standing in
the road. The drivers had evidently unhitched their teams and,
mounted upon the horses' backs, were riding furiously in a cloud
of dust down the road towards Bowie.
I asked the judge, who was a resident and supposed to be familiar
with the customs of the country while I was only a tenderfoot,
what their actions meant. He admitted that he did not understand
their conduct unless it was that they had concluded that they
could not make Willcox on that day and were returning to some
favorable camp ground which they had passed on their way up, to
spend the night; but the manner of their going was certainly
peculiar. After watching them disappear down the road we rode on
and reached our destination in safety.
The incident was forgotten until a few days later when we were in
Willcox a friend inquired what had become of the Indians which
had lately been seen on our range. We replied that we had not
seen any Indians nor known of any that had been there. He then
related to us how only a few days before three freighters had
seen two Indians ride upon a hill and halt. The sight of Indians
was enough and their only care after that was to get away from
them. They quickly unhitched their horses from the wagons and
rode ten miles to Bowie where they gave the alarm and spent the
night. The next morning, having heard nothing more from the
Indians during the night, they took fresh courage and ventured to
return to their wagons, which they found as they had left them
unmolested, when they continued their journey.
When the freighters were asked why they did not stand off the
Indians they said that they only had one gun and not knowing how
many more redskins there might be decided that to retreat was the
better part of valor. It was my brother and I whom they had seen
and mistaken for Indians.
A few days after this event I had a similar scare of my own and
after it was over I could sympathize with the poor, frightened
freighters. I was alone at the ranch house packing up and
preparing to leave for home. While thus occupied I chanced to go
to the open door and looking out, to my dismay, I saw Indians.
"My heart jumped into my mouth" and for a moment I felt that my
time had surely come. Two men were seen riding horseback over
the foot hills followed by a pack animal. As I stood watching
them and took time to think, it occurred to me that I might be
mistaken, and that the men were not Indians after all. As they
drew nearer I saw that they were dressed like white men and,
therefore, could not be Indians; but my scare while it lasted was
painfully real. The men proved to be two neighboring ranchmen
who were out looking for lost cattle.
In this raid, the Apaches, after leaving their reservation in the
White mountains, traveled south along the Arizona and New Mexico
line, killing people as they went, until they reached Stein's
Pass. From there they turned west, crossed the San Simon valley
and disappeared in the Chiricahua mountains. When next seen they
had crossed over the mountains and attacked Riggs' ranch in
Pinery canon, where they wounded a woman, but were driven off.
The next place that they visited was the Sulphur Spring ranch of
the Chiricahua Cattle Company, where they stole a bunch of
horses. The cowboys at the ranch had received warning that there
were Indians about and had brought in the horse herd from the
range and locked them in the corral. The Apaches came in the
night and with their usual adroitness and cunning stole the
corral empty. The first intimation which the inmates had that
the ranch had been robbed was when the cowboys went in the
morning to get their horses they found them gone.
From the Sulphur Spring ranch they crossed the Sulphur Spring
valley in the direction of Cochise's stronghold in the Dragoon
mountains. Before reaching the mountains they passed Mike
Noonan's ranch where they shot its owner, who was a lone rancher
and had lived alone in the valley many years. He was found dead
in his door yard with a bullet hole in the back of his head. He
evidently did not know that the Indians were near and was
seemingly unconscious of any danger when he was killed.
The Indians were not seen again after entering the stronghold
until they crossed the line into Mexico, where they were pursued
by United States soldiers. After a long, stern chase Geronimo
surrendered himself and followers to General Miles, who brought
them back to Arizona. As prisoners they were all loaded into
cars at Bowie and taken to Florida. The general in command
thought it best to take them clear out of the country in order to
put an effectual stop to their marauding. Later they were
removed to the Indian Territory where they now live.
The rest of the Apaches remain in Arizona and live on the San
Carlos reservation on the Gila river where they are being
inducted into civilization. Since the disturbing element among
them has been removed there has been no more trouble. They seem
to have settled down with a sincere purpose to learn the white
man's way and are quiet and peaceable. They are laborers,
farmers and stockmen and are making rapid progress in their new
A MODEL RANCH
Any one who has been in Arizona and failed to visit the Sierra
Bonita ranch missed seeing a model ranch. Henry C. Hooker, the
owner of this splendid property, was born in New England and is a
typical Yankee, who early emigrated west and has spent most of
his life on the frontier.
He went to Arizona at the close of the Civil War and engaged in
contracting for the Government and furnishing supplies to the
army. It was before the days of railroads when all merchandise
was hauled overland in wagons and cattle were driven through on
foot. He outfitted at points in Texas and on the Rio Grande and
drove his cattle and wagons over hundreds of miles of desert
road through a country that was infested by hostile Indians.
Such a wild life was naturally full of adventures and involved
much hardship and danger. The venture, however, prospered and
proved a financial success, notwithstanding some losses in men
killed, wagons pillaged and cattle driven off and lost by bands
of marauding Apaches.
In his travels he saw the advantages that Arizona offered as a
grazing country, which decided him to locate a ranch and engage
in the range cattle business.
The ranch derives its name from the Graham or Pinaleno mountains
which the Indians called the Sierra Bonita because of the many
beautiful wild flowers that grow there. It is twenty miles north
of Willcox, a thriving village on the Southern Pacific Railroad,
and ten miles south of Ft. Grant, that nestles in a grove of
cotton trees at the foot of Mt. Graham, the noblest mountain in
The Sierra Bonita ranch is situated in the famous Sulphur Spring
valley in Cochise County, Arizona, which is, perhaps, the only
all grass valley in the Territory. The valley is about twenty
miles wide and more than one hundred miles long and extends into
Mexico. Its waters drain in opposite directions, part flowing
south into the Yaqui river, and part running north through the
Aravaipa Canon into the Gila and Colorado rivers, all to meet and
mingle again in the Gulf of California.
Fine gramma grass covers the entire valley and an underground
river furnishes an inexhaustible supply of good water. In the
early days of overland travel before the country was protected or
any of its resources were known, immigrants, who were bound for
California by the Southern route and ignorant of the near
presence of water, nearly perished from thirst while crossing the
The water rises to within a few feet of the surface and, since
its discovery, numerous wells have been dug and windmills and
ranch houses dot the landscape in all directions; while thousands
of cattle feed and fatten on the nutritious gramma grass. Its
altitude is about four thousand feet above the sea and the
climate is exceptionally fine.
The Sierra Bonita ranch is located on a natural cienega of moist
land that has been considerably enlarged by artificial means. In
an average year the natural water supply of the ranch is
sufficient for all purposes but, to guard against any possible
shortage in a dry year, water is brought from the mountains in
ditches that have been constructed at great labor and expense and
is stored in reservoirs, to be used as needed for watering the
cattle and irrigating the fields. The effect of water upon the
desert soil is almost magical and even though the rains fail and
the earth be parched, on the moist land of the cienega the fields
of waving grass and grain are perennially green.
The owner has acquired by location and purchase, title to several
thousand acres of land, that is all fenced and much of it highly
cultivated. It consists of a strip of land one mile wide and ten
miles long, which is doubly valuable because of its
productiveness and as the key that controls a fine open range.
The original herd of cattle that pastured on the Sierra Bonita
ranch thirty years ago was composed of native scrub stock from
Texas and Sonora. This undesirable stock was sold at the first
opportunity, and the range re-stocked by an improved grade of
Durham cattle. The change was a long stride in the direction of
improvement, but, later on, another change was made to Herefords,
and during recent years only whitefaces have been bred upon the
Col. Hooker has a strong personality, holds decided opinions and
believes in progress and improvement. He has spent much time and
money in experimental work, and his success has demonstrated the
wisdom of his course. Just such men are needed in every new
country to develop its resources and prove its worth.
He saw that the primitive methods of ranching then in vogue must
be improved, and began to prepare for the change which was
coming. What he predicted came to pass, and the days of large
herds on the open range are numbered.
Many of them have already been sold or divided up, and it is a
question Of only a short time when the rest will meet the same
When this is done there may be no fewer cattle than there are now
but they will be bunched in smaller herds and better cared for.
Scrubs of any kind are always undesirable, since it has been
proved that quality is more profitable than quantity. A small
herd is more easily handled, and there is less danger of loss
from straying or stealing.
The common method of running cattle on the open range is reckless
and wasteful in the extreme and entirely inexcusable. The cattle
are simply turned loose to rustle for themselves. No provision
whatever is made for their welfare, except that they are given
the freedom of the range to find water, if they can, and grass
that often affords them only scant picking.
Under the new regime the cattle are carefully fed and watered, if
need be in a fenced enclosure, that not only gives the cattle
humane treatment but also makes money for the owner. The men are
instructed to bring in every sick or weak animal found on the
range and put it into a corral or pasture, where it is nursed
back to life. If an orphan calf is found that is in danger of
starving it is picked up, carried home and fed. On the average
ranch foundlings and weaklings get no attention whatever, but are
left in their misery to pine away and perish from neglect. The
profit of caring for the weak and sick animals on the Sierra
Bonita ranch amounts to a large sum every year, which the owner
thinks is worth saving.
Another peculiarity of ranch life is that where there are
hundreds or, perhaps, thousands of cows in a herd, not a single
cow is milked, nor is a cup of milk or pound of butter ever seen
upon the ranch table. It is altogether different on Hooker's
ranch. There is a separate herd of milch cows in charge of a man
whose duty it is to keep the table supplied with plenty of fresh
milk and butter. No milk ever goes to waste. If there is a
surplus it is fed to the calves, pigs and poultry.
During the branding season the work of the round-up is all done
in corrals instead of, as formerly, out upon the open range.
Each calf after it is branded, if it is old and strong enough to
wean, is taken from the cow and turned into a separate pasture.
It prevents the weak mother cow from being dragged to death by a
strong sucking calf and saves the pampered calf from dying of
blackleg by a timely change of diet.
Instead of classing the cattle out on the open range as is the
usual custom, by an original system of corrals, gates and chutes
the cattle are much more easily and quickly classified without
any cruelty or injury inflicted upon either man or beast.
Classing cattle at a round-up by the old method is a hard and
often cruel process, that requires a small army of both men and
horses and is always rough and severe on the men, horses and
Besides the herds of sleek cattle, there are also horses galore,
enough to do all of the work on the ranch as well as for pleasure
riding and driving. There is likewise a kennel of fine
greyhounds that are the Colonel's special pride. His cattle,
horses and dogs are all of the best, as he believes in
thoroughbreds and has no use whatever for scrubs of either the
human or brute kind.
The dogs are fond of their master and lavish their caresses on
him with almost human affection. In the morning when they meet
him at the door Ketchum pokes his nose into one of his master's
half open hands and Killum performs the same act with the other
hand. Blackie nips him playfully on the leg while Dash and the
rest of the pack race about like mad, trying to express the
exuberance of their joy.
In the bunch is little Bob, the fox terrier, who tries hard but
is not always able to keep up with the hounds in a race. He is
active and gets over the ground lively for a small dog, but in a
long chase is completely distanced and outclassed to his apparent
disgust. Aside from the fine sport that the dogs afford, they
are useful in keeping the place clear of all kinds of "varmints"
such as coyotes, skunks and wild cats.
How much Col. Hooker appreciates his dogs is best illustrated by
an incident. One morning after greeting the dogs at the door, he
was heard to remark sotto voce.
"Well, if everybody on the ranch is cross, my dogs always greet
me with a smile."
There appears to be much in the dog as well as in the horse that
is human, and the trio are capable of forming attachments for
each other that only death can part.
The ranch house is a one-story adobe structure built in the
Spanish style of a rectangle, with all the doors opening upon a
central court. It is large and commodious, is elegantly
furnished and supplied with every modern convenience. It affords
every needed comfort for a family and is in striking contrast
with the common ranch house of the range that is minus every
luxury and often barely furnishes the necessaries of life.
SOME DESERT PLANTS
Much of the vegetation that is indigenous to the southwest is
unique and can only be seen at its best in the Gila valley in
southern Arizona. The locality indicated is in the arid zone and
is extremely hot and dry. Under such conditions it is but
natural to suppose that all plant life must necessarily be scant
and dwarfed, but such is not the fact. Upon the contrary many of
the plants that are native to the soil and adapted to the climate
grow luxuriantly, are remarkably succulent and perennially green.
How they manage to acquire so much sap amidst the surrounding
siccity is inexplicable, unless it is that they possess the
function of absorbing and condensing moisture by an unusual and
unknown method. It is, however, a beneficent provision of nature
as a protection against famine in a droughty land by furnishing
in an acceptable form, refreshing juice and nutritious pulp to
supply the pressing wants of hungry and thirsty man and beast in
time of need.
Another peculiarity of these plants is that they are acanaceous;
covered all over with sharp thorns and needles. Spikes of all
sorts and sizes bristle everywhere and admonish the tenderfoot to
beware. Guarded by an impenetrable armor of prickly mail they
defy encroachment and successfully repel all attempts at undue
familiarity. To be torn by a cat-claw thorn or impaled on a
stout dagger leaf of one of these plants would not only mean
painful laceration but, perhaps, serious or even fatal injury.
Notwithstanding their formidable and forbidding appearance they
are nevertheless attractive and possess some value either
medicinal, commercial or ornamental.
The maguey, or American aloe, is the most abundant and widely
distributed of the native plants. It is commonly known as
mescal, but is also called the century plant from a mistaken
notion that it blossoms only once in a hundred years. Its
average life, under normal conditions, is about ten years and it
dies immediately after blossoming.
It attains its greatest perfection in the interior of Mexico
where it is extensively cultivated. It yields a large quantity
of sap which is, by a simple process of fermentation, converted
into a liquor called pulque that tastes best while it is new and
is consumed in large quantities by the populace. Pulque trains
are run daily from the mescal plantations, where the pulque is
made, into the large cities to supply the bibulous inhabitants
with their customary beverage. In strength and effect it
resembles lager beer, and is the popular drink with all classes
throughout Mexico where it has been in vogue for centuries and is
esteemed as "the only drink fit for thirsty angels and men."
The agave is capable of being applied to many domestic uses.
Under the old dispensation of Indian supremacy it supplied the
natives their principal means of support. Its sap was variously
prepared and served as milk, honey, vinegar, beer and brandy.
From its tough fiber were made thread, rope, cloth, shoes and
paper. The strong flower stalk was used in building houses and
the broad leaves for covering them.
The heart of the maguey is saccharine and rich in nutriment. It
is prepared by roasting it in a mescal pit and, when done, tastes
much like baked squash. It is highly prized by the Indians, who
use it as their daily bread. Before the Apaches were conquered
and herded on reservations a mescal bake was an important event
with them. It meant the gathering of the clans and was made the
occasion of much feasting and festivity. Old mescal pits can yet
be found in some of the secluded corners of the Apache country
that were once the scenes of noisy activity, but have been
forsaken and silent for many years.
The fiery mescal, a distilled liquor that is known to the trade
as aguardiente, or Mexican brandy, is much stronger than pulque,
but less used. Both liquors are said to be medicinal, and are
reputed to possess diuretic, tonic and stimulant properties.
Next in importance to the mescal comes the yucca. There are
several varieties, but the palm yucca is the most common, and
under favorable conditions attains to the proportions of a tree.
Fine specimens of yucca grow on the Mojave desert in California
that are large and numerous enough to form a straggling forest.
The tree consists of a light, spongy wood that grows as a single
stem or divides into two or more branches. Each branch is
crowned by a tuft of long, pointed leaves that grow in concentric
circles. As the new leaves unfold on top the old leaves are
crowded down and hang in loose folds about the stem like a
flounced skirt. When dry the leaves burn readily, and are
sometimes used for light and heat by lost or belated travelers.
White threads of a finer fiber are detached from the margins of
the leaves that are blown by the wind into a fluffy fleece, in
which the little birds love to nest.
A grove of yucca trees presents a grotesque appearance. If
indistinctly viewed in the hazy distance they are easily mistaken
for the plumed topknots of a band of prowling Apaches,
particularly if the imagination is active with the fear of an
The wood of the yucca tree has a commercial value. It is cut
into thin sheets by machinery which are used for surgeon's
splints, hygienic insoles, tree protectors and calendars. As a
splint it answers an admirable purpose, being both light and
strong and capable of being molded into any shape desired after
it has been immersed in hot water. Its pulp, also, makes an
Another variety of yucca is the amole, or soap plant. Owing to
the peculiar shape of its leaves it is also called Spanish
bayonet. Its root is saponaceous, and is pounded into a pulp and
used instead of soap by the natives. It grows a bunch of large
white flowers, and matures an edible fruit that resembles the
banana. The Indians call it oosa, and eat it, either raw or
roasted in hot ashes.
A species of yucca called sotal, or saw-grass, grows plentifully
in places, and is sometimes used as food for cattle when grass is
scarce. In its natural state it is inaccessible to cattle
because of its hard and thorny exterior. To make it available it
is cut down and quartered with a hoe, when the hungry cattle eat
it with avidity. Where the plant grows thickly one man can cut
enough in one day to feed several hundred head of cattle.
There are several other varieties of yucca that possess no
particular value, but all are handsome bloomers, and the mass of
white flowers which unfold during the season of efflorescence
adds much to the beauty of the landscape.
The prickly pear cactus, or Indian fig, of the genus Opuntia is a
common as well as a numerous family. The soil and climate of the
southwest from Texas to California seem to be just to its liking.
It grows rank and often forms dense thickets. The root is a
tough wood from which, it is said, the best Mexican saddletrees
The plant consists of an aggregation of thick, flat, oval leaves,
which are joined together by narrow bands of woody fiber and
covered with bundles of fine, sharp needles. Its pulp is
nutritious and cattle like the young leaves, but will not eat
them after they become old and hard unless driven to do so by the
pangs of hunger. In Texas the plant is gathered in large
quantities and ground into a fine pulp by machinery which is then
mixed with cotton-seed meal and fed to cattle. The mixture makes
a valuable fattening ration and is used for finishing beef steers
for the market.
The cholla, or cane cactus, is also a species of Opuntia, but its
stem or leaf is long and round instead of short and flat. It is
thickly covered with long, fine, silvery-white needles that
glisten in the sun. Its stem is hollow and filled with a white
pith like the elder. After the prickly bark is stripped off the
punk can be picked out through the fenestra with a penknife,
which occupation affords pleasant pastime for a leisure hour.
When thus furbished up the unsightly club becomes an elegant
The cholla is not a pleasant companion as all persons know who
have had any experience with it. Its needles are not only very
sharp, but also finely barbed, and they penetrate and cling fast
like a burr the moment that they are touched. Cowboys profess to
believe that the plant has some kind of sense as they say that it
jumps and takes hold of its victim before it is touched. This
action, however, is only true in the seeming, as its long
transparent needles, being invisible, are touched before they are
seen. When they catch hold of a moving object, be it horse or
cowboy, an impulse is imparted to the plant that makes it seem to
jump. It is an uncanny movement and is something more than an
ocular illusion, as the victim is ready to testify.
These desert plants do not ordinarily furnish forage for live
stock, but in a season of drought when other feed is scarce and
cattle are starving they will risk having their mouths pricked by
thorns in order to get something to eat and will browse on
mescal, yucca and cactus and find some nourishment in the unusual
diet, enough, at least, to keep them from dying. The plants
mentioned are not nearly as plentiful now as they once were.
Because of the prolonged droughts that prevail in the range
country and the overstocking of the range these plants are in
danger of being exterminated and, if the conditions do not soon
change, of becoming extinct.
The saguaro, or giant cactus, is one of nature's rare and curious
productions. It is a large, round, fluted column that is from
one to two feet thick and sometimes sixty feet high. The trunk
is nearly of an even thickness from top to bottom but, if there
is any difference, it is a trifle thicker in the middle. It
usually stands alone as a single perpendicular column, but is
also found bunched in groups. If it has any branches they are
apt to start at right angles from about the middle of the tree
and curve upward, paralleling the trunk, which form gives it the
appearance of a mammoth candelabrum.
The single saguaro pillar bears a striking resemblance to a
Corinthian column. As everything in art is an attempt to imitate
something in nature, is it possible that Grecian architecture
borrowed its notable pattern from the Gila valley?
Southern Arizona is the natural home and exclusive habitat of
this most singular and interesting plant and is, perhaps, the
only thing growing anywhere that could have suggested the design.
Wherever it grows, it is a conspicuous object on the landscape
and has been appropriately named "The Sentinel of the Desert."
Its mammoth body is supported by a skeleton of wooden ribs, which
are held in position by a mesh of tough fibers that is filled
with a green pulp. Rows of thorns extend its entire length which
are resinous and, if ignited, burn with a bright flame. They are
sometimes set on fire and have been used by the Apaches for
making signals. The cactus tree, like the eastern forest tree,
is often found bored full of round, holes that are made by the
Gila woodpecker. When the tree dies its pulp dries up and blows
away and there remains standing only a spectral figure composed
of white slats and fiber that looks ghostly in the distance.
Its fruit is delicious and has the flavor of the fig and
strawberry combined. It is dislodged by the greedy birds which
feed on it and by arrows shot from bows in the hands of the
Indians. The natives esteem the fruit as a great delicacy, and
use it both fresh and dried and in the form of a treacle or
The ocotillo, or mountain cactus, is a handsome shrub that grows
in rocky soil upon the foothills and consists of a cluster of
nearly straight poles of brittle wood covered with thorns and
leaves. It blossoms during the early summer and each branch
bears on its crest a bunch of bright crimson flowers.
If set in a row the plant makes an ornamental hedge and effective
fence for turning stock. The seemingly dry sticks are thrust
into yet drier ground where they take root and grow without
water. Its bark is resinous and a fagot of dry sticks makes a
torch that is equal to a pineknot.
The echinocactus, or bisnaga, is also called "The Well of the
Desert." It has a large barrel-shaped body which is covered with
long spikes that are curved like fishhooks. It is full of sap
that is sometimes used to quench thirst. By cutting off the top
and scooping out a hollow, the cup-shaped hole soon fills with a
sap that is not exactly nectar but can be drunk in an emergency.
Men who have been in danger of perishing from thirst on the
desert have sometimes been saved by this unique method of well
Greasewood, or creasote bush as it is sometimes called on account
of its pungent odor, grows freely on the desert, but has little
or no value and cattle will not touch it. Like many other desert
plants it is resinous and if thrown into the fire, the green
leaves spit and sputter while they burn like hot grease in a
The mesquite tree is peculiarly adapted to the desert and is the
most valuable tree that grows in the southwest. As found growing
on the dry mesas of Arizona, it is only a small bush, but on the
moist land of a river bottom it becomes a large forest tree. A
mesquite forest stands in the Santa Cruz valley south of Tucson
that is a fair sample of its growth under favorable conditions.
Its wood is hard and fine grained and polishes beautifully. It
is very durable and is valuable for lumber, fence posts and
firewood. On the dry mesas it seems to go mostly to root that is
out of all proportion to the size of the tree. The amount of
firewood that is sometimes obtained by digging up the root of a
small mesquite bush is astonishing.
It makes a handsome and ornamental shade tree, having graceful
branches, feathery leaves and fragrant flowers, and could be
cultivated to advantage for yard and park purposes.
Its principal value, however, lies in its seed pods, which grow
in clusters and look like string beans. The mesquite bean
furnishes a superior article of food and feeds about everything
that either walks or flies on the desert. The Indians make meal
of the seed and bake it into bread. Cattle that feed on the open
range will leave good grass to browse on a mesquite bush. Even
as carnivorous a creature as the coyote will make a full meal on
a mess of mesquite beans and seem to be satisfied. The tree
exudes a gum that is equal to the gum arabic of commerce.
The palo verde is a tree without leaves and is a true child of
the desert. No matter how hot and dry the weather the palo verde
is always green and flourishing. At a distance it resembles a
weeping willow tree stripped of its leaves. Its numerous long,
slender, drooping branches gracefully criss-cross and interlace
in an intricate figure of filigree work. It has no commercial
value, but if it could be successfully transplanted and
transported it would make a desirable addition to green-house
collections in the higher latitudes.
The romantic mistletoe that is world renowned for its magic
influence in love affairs, grows to perfection in southern
Arizona. There are several varieties of this parasitic plant
that are very unlike in appearance. Each kind partakes more or
less of the characteristics of the tree upon which it grows, but
all have the glossy leaf and waxen berry.
HOOKER'S HOT SPRINGS
Arizona has several hot springs within her borders but, perhaps,
none are more valuable nor picturesquely located than Hooker's
hot springs. These springs are located in the foothills on the
western slope of the Galiura mountains in southeastern Arizona,
thirty-five miles west of Willcox on the Southern Pacific
Railroad. The spot is beautifully situated, commanding an
extended view of valley and mountain scenery.
There are a dozen springs, big and little, in the group and
are scattered over several acres of hillside. The temperature
of the water is 130 degrees Fahrenheit and too hot to drink but,
if sipped slowly, it makes an admirable hot-water draught. The
springs evidently have their source deep down in the earth and
the flow of water never varies. When the water from the
different springs is all united it forms a good sized brook. The
water is conducted through pipes into the bath house, where it
supplies a row of bath-tubs with water of any desired
temperature. The surplus water flows into a large earthern tank
or artificial lake and is used for irrigating a small farm that
produces grain, fruits and vegetables.
The water from these springs is in great demand and is not only
sought by the human biped, but is also in favor with the equine
quadruped. Every morning after the stable doors are thrown open
and the horses turned loose they invariably, of their own accord,
proceed to the lake, wade out into shallow water and take a bath.
They lie down and splash the water about like a lot of schoolboys
taking a swim.
The water from all the springs is perfectly soft and pure. It
cannot be called a mineral water, as an analysis shows that it
contains only a trace of any kind of mineral matter. This
peculiarity of the water is no damage to the springs, since
purity is the best recommendation that any water can have. Water
that is heavily mineralized may be medicinal, but is not
necessarily remedial, or even wholesome, notwithstanding the
popular belief to the contrary. Water that is charged with much
mineral is spoiled for drinking. Moderately hard water need not