The date was May 23, 1907. The place was Lowell, Arizona Territory, a small community just outside of Bisbee. Around 6:00am, a shotgun blast shattered the silence of a quiet street near the Palace Livery Stables. R. G. McBride stood looking at George Cason lying in a pool of his own blood before turning on his heel and returning home. At first glance, it appeared to be a random act of violence. Why would this well-respected citizen walk up to George Cason and shoot him in a public street like a mad dog?
Residents of the neighborhood rushed out to see what was happening and found the macabre scene. The police were called and presently the fatally-wounded man was hauled away to the Calumet and Arizona Hospital. Doctors took one look at the man whose face was blown half away and told the police the victim wouldn’t last the day. Nothing could be done to save him. He would later die around 4:30 that afternoon.
Meanwhile, McBride was taken to the jail by officers. The man was stoic about the whole affair and it wasn’t but a few minutes later that Mrs. Hattie Lee swept into the place, announcing she was pressing charges against McBride. She swore she’d been an eyewitness to the crime and that McBride had assaulted Cason with the intent to murder him. She was unaware of Cason’s grave condition. For good measure, she charged Mrs. McBride with threatening to kill her. Mrs. McBride was consequently brought to the jail and arraigned after being told her rights. She was immediately released by posting a $500 bond. Mrs. McBride was not to be trifled with and upon her release, she turned around and accused Hattie Lee of arson and threatening to kill her. Judge Greer had his hands full with defendants that day.
Hattie Lee was hastily arraigned and remained in a cell in Bisbee since she was unable to post the $1500 bond required for her freedom. It was soon discovered, Mrs. Hattie Lee was at the center of the whole mess which had started back in November of 1906.
Hattie Lee was married to J. D. Lee. Both had reputations of violence. Neighbors regularly heard fighting in and out of the Lee residence. When J.D. was drunk, he was jealous, mean, and vicious. He may have been the same without the alcohol. Hattie was no slouch in a fight and the neighbors were heartily sick of the couple’s constant domestic battles. At some point, J.D. Lee went to Globe, Arizona to work, leaving Hattie to her own devices in Lowell. Upon returning home, November 6, 1906, J. D. found Hattie “entertaining” J. L. Davis. Grabbing his Winchester, J.D. killed Mr. Davis then and there. This led to Lee’s arrest for murder. He made bail and wasn’t arraigned until May 2, 1907 at which time he pleaded not guilty.
Although not certain, it seems likely that J.D. went back to Globe or somewhere out of town to work after he was released on bail. Hattie was once again in the market for a man and took up with George Cason. According to Hattie’s neighbors, George Cason was a man of despicable reputation. He was a drinker and brawler—a man of bad character, quite similar to J. D. Lee. He’d been arraigned on the charge of assault with intent to murder at the Tombstone courthouse the same day J.D. Lee had been there. The noise and fighting continued with Cason keeping company with Hattie, which appalled and angered the neighborhood. A few days before Cason’s murder, there was a ruckus at the Lee house. Two unidentified men and Hattie ran from the house, which was suddenly in flames. Arson was immediately suspected by everyone as the hose company came to put out the blaze.
From the time of Davis’ murder, Hattie was on a mission to see her husband convicted of murder. She wanted to be rid of him once and for all. Once she hooked up with Cason, they began a plot to ensure that conviction. R. G. McBride, her neighbor was to be a witness for the prosecution and she cajoled and pleaded for him to change his testimony. What exactly she wanted McBride to say isn’t known, but it would have meant he’d perjure himself. When McBride proved uncooperative, Cason and Hattie employed intimidation tactics against Mr. and Mrs. McBride which included threatening their lives. In apparent desperation, Cason insulted Mrs. McBride to terrible heights of profanity in public, which sealed his fate.
McBride had had enough of Cason, and he was determined to put an end to the reign of terror that morning of May 23rd. On the 24th, the coroner’s jury found that Cason had indeed been killed by McBride and his shotgun. Bond was provided for McBride upon the recommendation of the coroner’s jury. Hattie was able to get her bond covered and was released that day as well. She went to the undertaker to view Cason’s body and it was reported that she wept upon seeing him. The undertakers made inquiries as to next of kin in an attempt to get Cason out of town. After much telegraphing, a brother was finally located, who told the undertakers to bury his brother in Bisbee. He wasn’t coming to get him. The funeral was held at the Palace Undertaking Company on May 29.
It wasn’t until December of 1907 that two unusual murder trials took place in Tombstone. On December 7, McBride was finally tried for Cason’s murder. After a short deliberation, the jury returned a verdict of not guilty. R.G. McBride was a free man. After months of uncertainty, his life could go on.
On December 9, J.D. Lee stood before the judge to be tried for the murder of Jack Davis from the previous November. It took some time to empanel a jury due to a number of men who objected to the death penalty and others had already formed opinions about guilt or innocence. Finally, the trial got underway and the prosecution concluded its case in good time. Defense counsel, George Neale then asked the judge to have the jury excused while he argued a motion. The jury was removed and Neale made his argument to the judge that the prosecution hadn’t made its case and his client should be found not guilty. The judge agreed and the jury was brought back in. They were instructed to the shock of all present to bring a verdict of not guilty which they did.
Apparently, some of the prosecution’s witnesses had lapses of memory about the whole event, which makes one wonder about witness tampering and intimidation. However, it led to the happy verdict for Lee who was now living in Deming, New Mexico with Hattie. The expectation was that the trial would take the entire day, but now Lee could catch the train and make it home that night.
Hattie was counting on her husband's absence the evening of December 9, and invited yet another paramour to visit her while J. D. was safely in Tombstone. When J.D. entered the house, surprising the occupants, he found former Lowell resident, Jonas Harris carrying on with his wife. He’d warned Harris before to stay away from her according to reports. Pulling out his Colt .45, he shot Harris through the neck, severing his spinal cord and killing him instantly. You cannot make this stuff up.
No further information has been found about the Lees and what happened after this particular murder. One can only wonder how many other men met similar fates after succumbing to the questionable and deadly charms of Hattie Lee.
Resources: The Tombstone Epitaph and the Bisbee Daily Review.
Are not two sparrows sold for a penny? Yet not one of them will fall to the ground outside your Father's care. Matthew 10:29
Research for the next book has me plumbing the depths of my hometown’s history in the late 1800s and early 1900s. This exploration of another time has also jarred loose some memories of people who influenced my life in the 1960s. They were quite old at that time—or at least it seemed that way to me. One such person was a tiny, gray-haired lady called Mrs. Norton.
Her hair was parted down the middle and it was scraped back into a bun held in place by hairpins and hairnet. She had a thin face and sharp eyes aided by wire-framed spectacles. Her voice wasn’t what I’d call melodic, but more like an irritated chipping sparrow. Her clothes were old-fashioned; a long dark skirt with a white blouse was often her ensemble. Despite her diminutive size and drab appearance, she was a force to reckon with when it came to storytelling.
My fondest memories of Mrs. Helene Norton were during summer Vacation Bible School at our church or during Released Time on Friday afternoons. Released Time was an hour of religious education on Fridays—probably from 1pm to 2pm throughout the school year. With parental permission, students in grades one through six walked from the school to either the Baptist church or Community church for this hour away from school. Sidewalks on opposite sides of the street were filled with kids trooping down to either the red church or the white church (as the two churches were referred to) in the village whether in sunshine, rain, or snow. It was good to flee the classroom on Friday afternoons.
Mrs. Norton regularly taught at the Baptist church which I attended. She either told us a Bible story full of adventure or a missionary story equally exciting. This tiny woman commanded the attention of all when she began to put flannel-graph figures and elements on the big board. The scene would be set either in the desert, the mountains, a pasture, or on the sea. Then she’d place the animals in the scene along with the people. Sometimes she used colorful cutout figures glued to toothpicks to stick on foam boards for a more 3D telling of a story. Boy, did I love those multilayered scenes! And I listened to every word.
In her reedy, chirping voice she recounted Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden, Jonah, David, Jesus walking on the water, and many more. Even those troublemaker-type boys were mesmerized by her storytelling. Sometimes they got a bit out of line, but Mrs. Norton could bring them back to the fold with a wagging finger and a stern warning without missing a beat. Her warmth and passion in teaching us the most important stories we’d ever hear was evident in her delivery and the care with which she had prepared.
These memories of Mrs. Norton surfaced when I ran across her name and that of her husband in a local history book. I’d never known the details of her background—which was always a bit mysterious and being one who enjoys solving a mystery, I began digging into her past.
The first appearance in official records of Mrs. Norton was when she was eight years old and was Helene Daily. She lived at the Castile Sanitarium, Castile, NY in 1900 with her adopted mother who was employed at the Sanitarium. The Sanitarium is a whole other story, but it was specifically for women who had various ailments (some quite serious). They were under the care of Dr. Cordelia A. Greene and Dr. Mary Greene, who I’ll tell you about another time. They were fascinating people as well.
The census record has Helene Daily born in Canada of a Canadian father and English mother. Her adoptive mother, Jennie Daily was from Ireland and a single woman. Helene immigrated to the United States from Canada in 1897 with her adoptive mother when she was five years old. Time went by and eventually Helene was sent to Smith College in Geneva, NY for her education. She returned to Castile and became the librarian of the Cordelia A. Greene Library which was located right across the street from the Sanitarium. Helene was also an active member of the Castile Presbyterian church and was heavily involved in its activities. It was during her time as librarian that Mr. and Mrs. John Norton arrived in Castile and they became acquainted.
Mrs. Norton was seriously ill and was a patient at the Sanitarium for over two years. She was confined to a wheelchair and her bed, but she was known for her cheerful and positive outlook despite her ill health. The Nortons had come from Canada where John had been an organ designer and builder. As you might imagine, he was also an organist. He was a native of England and a member of the Anglican Church.
In May of 1924, Mrs. Norton died and the funeral services were held at the Sanitarium. In September of 1924, the engagement of Helene Daily to John Norton was announced in the paper. By December, 1924, they were husband and wife. This was when a new adventure began for the new Mrs. Norton. John felt a call to become an evangelist and the couple soon left for Moody Bible Institute in Chicago. They both graduated and returned once again to Castile where they made their home on South Main Street. From about 1929 until 1939, the Nortons traveled around the United States and Canada—he to preach and Helene to teach the children with Bible stories and object lessons. John was known for his wit and sense of humor in preaching the gospel and Helene for her teaching ability.
In 1960, when John was 86, he took a fall and passed away a few days later at the Sanitarium. Helene, who was much younger—about 17 years younger, continued to teach children at the churches in Castile throughout the 1960s. The Community church (now Castile UCC which was previously the Castile Presbyterian church) and also the Castile First Baptist church down the street, welcomed her to help with children’s ministries.
She and John never had children and in the late 1970s and early 1980s, the local churches helped her secure healthcare and assistance as her health failed. The Castile community became her family in those difficult years. Mrs. Norton went to meet her Savior in 1985 having lived a long and full life of service to her Lord and to the children of Castile.
I’m oh, so grateful for Mrs. Norton’s humble and faithful retelling of the stories of Jesus and those heroes of the Bible. She made them come alive and I can still see her on the platform, pressing the next figure on the scenic flannel board. She may have been a sparrow in appearance and background, but extraordinary as a daughter of the Heavenly Father.
Got plans in 2020? I do … did … um … maybe. A phone call from our youngest daughter on December 29 allowed us to formulate an orderly, totally in-control plan for when Grandma and Grandpa would come to help out with our two-year-old grandson when she was close to her due date in late January. My husband and I would arrive early enough to help with any last-minute preparations before the baby came and we’d be on hand to take care of our grandson whenever our daughter and son-in-law had to make a trip to the hospital. Sounds great right?
As you might have guessed, that’s not what happened at all. In fact, about eight hours after that conversation, we received another call at 3:40am. “My water broke,” was all I needed to hear. That baby was coming on a different timetable. Instead of leisurely packing and traveling over two days, we were slurping coffee and tossing assorted paraphernalia into our suitcases to make a direct shot to their home 500+ miles away. I have to say it was much more exciting than our staid plan of a few hours before. Kind of invigorating, even.
Our newest grandson made his entrance into the world a couple of hours after we pulled into their driveway and despite his early arrival, was delivered safe and healthy into his mother’s arms on December 30.
In the joyous arrival of this precious new life, there were some things that came to mind as I considered God’s sovereignty over our lives. His timing is always best, even when it seems early or late to us. He is in charge, which is a GOOD thing. He’s God. He also must have a sense of humor—I can imagine the Father chuckling as I spoke with my daughter that afternoon--can't you? I am thankful for the neighbor who came to stay in the middle of night while our daughter and son-in-law took off for the hospital. And thankful for the other Grandma who lives closer who made a similar exciting trip to care for our mutual grandson until we arrived and sorted out the situation. We were blessed with light traffic and good road conditions the whole way, making the trip much more enjoyable. God’s plan was way more dramatic than my original idea and it all came together perfectly.
As Christians, we must learn to hold our plans loosely, knowing that our loving Father may have entirely different and much better ones than we’ve composed, even as we prayerfully make them. James’ warning to believers popped into my head that day:
“Come now, you who say, ‘Today or tomorrow we will go into such and such a town and spend a year there and trade and make a profit’--yet you do not know what tomorrow will bring. What is your life? For you are a mist that appears for a little time and then vanishes. Instead you ought to say, ‘If the Lord wills, we will live and do this or that.’" James 4:13-15 ESV.
As we follow Jesus in 2020, may we find joy in God’s timing and changes to our journey, growing in our trust of the Heavenly Father.
Trust in the LORD with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make straight your paths. Be not wise in your own eyes; fear the LORD, and turn away from evil. Proverbs 3:5-7 ESV.
There are always new and off-the-beaten-track places to explore in Cochise County and we recently took a day to visit one that’s a national landmark, the Slaughter Ranch.
John Slaughter (1841-1922) remains one of Cochise County’s most famous sheriffs and in general a colorful western character. Someone you'd enjoy getting to know. He was tough, honest, and well liked. Not an easy combination to find in the Wild West of the 1880s. He was born on October 2, 1841 in Louisiana, but grew up in Texas which is where he received the nickname “Texas John.” The family business was cattle and John grew up learning the ways of cattle ranching, Indian lore, marksmanship, and tracking. He was a confederate soldier and Texas ranger before relocating to Arizona.
He became a widower after his first wife, Adeline (marriage 1871-1877) succumbed to small pox, leaving him as a single parent of two children. He remarried in 1878, bringing his new wife, eighteen-year-old Viola Howell, children, and family members, along with herds of cattle to the southeast corner of Cochise County. He purchased a massive tract of land—65,000 acres, the majority of it located over the border into Mexico. Eventually, he would own and lease 100,000 acres.
It was a hard life on the ranch, but John and Viola had a vision to make their dreams of a prosperous life possible in the treacherous times of Apache renegades and dangerous border incidents. Constant cattle rustling and outlaw violence kept everyone on the ranch vigilant. The U.S. Army even kept a regular presence at the ranch.
In 1886, five years after Tombstone’s famous shootout at the OK Corral, John was elected sheriff of the county and served two terms. He was determined to clean up the crime which plagued the area with the likes of the Clantons, Earps, the Jack Taylor Gang, and Johnny Ringo. He was also acquainted with the notorious Pancho Villa and helped track Geronimo who was caught on his San Bernardino Ranch. It was common for lawmen to straddle the thin blue line of law and order, but Texas John made no compromises. He hunted down outlaws with a vengeance and made himself judge, jury, and executioner at times. Plenty of tales about Slaughter’s exploits, including poker games with John Chisum are available in book form and a few vintage TV shows.
Now, for the ranch. It’s in the middle of nowhere, where it’s still open range and about fifteen miles from the border city of Douglas. It’s located just off Geronimo Trail which becomes a dirt road and one you don’t want to travel during monsoon season. The international border is visible and is marked by a fence running parallel with a busy Sonoran highway. A beautiful pond is the centerpiece of the ranch grounds which was built by John. The land has an abundance of springs and he capitalized on that with the construction of the pond and a dam. It’s stocked with native endangered fish such as Yacqui chub and Yacqui catfish by the nearby San Bernardino National Wildlife Refuge which borders the ranchlands. The Slaughter’s home is spacious and has several outbuildings including the cook’s residence (a bedroom and they had a Chinese cook) with the commissary (for their neighbors and employees since they were far from town) adjoining it, an ice house, wash house, small garage which houses a Model T, and barns. Horses, a donkey, goats, and longhorn cattle are in the pastures. You’ll find an abundance of birdlife around the pond. We spotted a vermilion flycatcher, Say’s Phoebes, various ducks, a snowy egret, broad-bill hummingbirds, and a few others. One of the park staff also made us aware there was an active mountain lion in the area, but we didn’t encounter any signs of the big cat--a good thing I believe.
The Border Patrol from the Douglas station keeps a presence there with some equipment on site, but mostly they’re on horseback patrol in this remote area. We enjoyed talking with the agents who were resting their horses in the shade of the cottonwoods. It was a relaxing, beautiful, and informative day. If you enjoy Western history and a peek into the past, a visit before or after the monsoon season is well worth the effort. Bring a picnic lunch and you can enjoy the peaceful pond surroundings at a table on the wonderful grass lawn or you can do as we did and get a delicious Mexican lunch at La Fiesta in Douglas on the way back.
Admission to the ranch is $5.00 per person and it’s open Wednesday through Sunday. It receives no federal funds. No pets are allowed. You’ll find it a friendly and peaceful place, where you can step back into time for a bit, and let your imagination roam.
For more information on the Slaughters and the ranch, here are a couple of websites. Check out the slideshow below for photos of the ranch and the neighborhood.
There is no dearth of interesting tales in Cochise County, the land of Wild West legends. One of the fascinating things about the mountains around us is the variety of caves which have some interesting stories attached to them. There were many caves discovered in Bisbee’s Mule Mountains during the heyday of copper mining. They were wonderlands of glorious mineral formations which visitors compared to King Solomon’s splendor. The Masons and the Elks held ceremonies and grand occasions in these massive caverns that are now mostly backfilled for safety reasons.
The Huachuca Mountains have their own secret caves that were used by Apaches, Mexican bandits, soldiers, smugglers, and other nefarious characters. I'm sure they're still used today for illegal activities. There are tales of lost treasure and of Coronado’s trek to find the cities of gold only to wind up somewhere in Kansas. Now that was disappointing. No wonder he gave up exploring upon a humiliating return to Mexico City around 1542.
However, there are a couple of curious incidents that surround the Pyeatt’s Cave located near the west gate of Ft. Huachuca. Let me tell you about one that occurred in May 1888. John H. Slaughter was the sheriff of Cochise County at the time, a legend in his own right. I’ll save his exploits for another day, but you should know that he brought law and order to the county five years after the gunfight at the OK Corral. He also helped track down Geronimo and arrested many outlaws over his four years as sheriff. But, before I become sidetracked, here’s the story of The Dutch Oven Mystery, so named by Sheriff Slaughter.
One fine spring morning in May, 1888, a U.S. Army patrol was making a sweep of the canyon near Pyeatt’s Cave. As always, they were on the lookout for bandits, Apaches or any sort of troublemakers. There were plenty to be found in those days. The canyons afforded excellent places to hole up to plan illegal activities and were often bases of operation for outlaws.
The soldiers halted their mounts as they stumbled upon an empty campsite in the mesquites and began looking around for any occupants. A spanking new cast-iron Dutch oven stood out like a sore thumb amid the usual camp equipment, which caught the patrol’s attention. Wondering who might be passing through, the men made a more careful search of the area. Not finding any horses nearby, they continued scanning the nooks and crannies of the rocky area. Something looked out of place under a cut bank where the summer rains had eroded a pathway under a rocky outcropping. The smell might have been their first clue and what they must have suspected was quickly confirmed. Under a pile of blankets and gunny sacks, the soldiers found a decomposing man holding a copy of the Police Gazette dated April 20, 1888 in his hands. He’d obviously been deceased for a time since maggots were present.
Captain W. C. Wyeath, who was also the Assistant Surgeon for Ft. Huachuca reined his horse in near the spot to make his examination of the body. After dismounting, I imagine he covered his nose and mouth with his neck scarf. The decedent's skin was quite dark and alongside the body were several items. A pack saddle and bridle, a tall white felt hat, and several bags of provisions had been cached underneath the blankets as well. After his cursory exam, he gave orders for the soldiers to bury the remains and quickly.
After returning to the fort, the captain hand wrote his official report concerning the unknown man's death and sent it off to Sheriff Slaughter. Now, the sheriff had some serious questions about the death after reading the captain’s account. The captain wrote that because of the darkened skin he expected that the deceased was a Mexican peon and that he had determined the man died from natural causes. There was something entirely fishy about the report in the sheriff’s opinion. So, he swore in a coroner’s jury of five men consisting of J. S. Taylor, J. M. Empey, Frank and Thomas Frary, and W. H. Constable. The men rode out to the Huachucas to take a look at the case for themselves.
The jury wasn't squeamish and wasted no time in disinterring the body from the shallow one foot-deep grave. Despite the poor condition of the corpse, it was quickly determined that the man had died from a skull fracture above the right ear. This method of injury was called “buffaloing” and was used by Wyatt Earp in controlling men he intended to arrest. A quick blow above the ear with a gun barrel quickly dropped the man making the arrest less exciting for Wyatt and more painful for the cowboy. However, too hard a blow and the man never got up again.
There were other things that didn’t add up upon a more careful examination. Mexican peons traveled light, looking for day labor. They outfitted themselves with the bare necessities. A serape, a sombrero that not only kept the sun off them, but was used as a makeshift bowl to mix up cornmeal and water for tortillas. They would then bake the tortillas on a heated rock. The additional provisions didn’t fit the captain’s theory. He was completely wrong about the manner of death. And what really stood out was that nice new Dutch oven. Slaughter remarked that even he didn’t travel in such luxury.
The jury ruled out Apaches as the perpetrators since they certainly wouldn’t have left a perfectly good saddle and blankets, not to mention food supplies, the Dutch oven, and the man’s clothing. Mexican bandits would have taken everything except the man’s clothing and the Police Gazette. Nothing indicated the identity of the murdered man who must have been able to read if he’d brought along a newspaper on his expedition.
Not coming to any further conclusions, the sheriff had the man reburied in a proper grave that was piled with enough rocks to keep predators out. They made a marker inscribed, “Name Unknown, died May 1888.” I wish I’d been able to hear the conversation between the sheriff and the army captain. I suspect the captain got a good dressing down at the very least for his sloppy handling of the case.
So, was the man a prospector looking for gold which was common then, or just a cowboy passing through? Did he have a falling out with a partner or was it a random act of violence? Was it a cover-up of some sort by the army? Unfortunately, we’ll never know. The mystery of the murdered man in the western Huachucas remains to this day, the marker of his lonely grave disintegrated long ago in the Arizona sun.
References: So Said the Coroner by Grace McCool
Fort Huachuca: The story of a frontier post by Cornelius C. Smith, Jr.
Texas John Slaughter: Arizona’s Meanest Little Good Guy by Roger Naylor
A few weeks ago, my husband and I headed out for a birding adventure that has been on our list for quite some time. Less than an hour from Casa Wallace, there are wetlands, yes--in the desert which are a siren call to thousands of migrating waterfowl and other birds.
Whitewater Draw is owned entirely by the Arizona Game and Fish Department and comprises about 600 acres of lake, wetlands, and riparian area. The Audubon Society has designated the draw as an important bird area. With the rise of dairy farming and other agricultural pursuits in the Sulphur Springs Valley located in eastern Cochise County, the population of Sandhill cranes has especially grown in last decade. In other words there's a lot of feed for birds in the harvested corn fields.
After wending our way over back roads and finally to a dirt road that led down to a parking lot with just a few vehicles, I was eager to take in the sights. We walked the easy trail that borders the wetlands and the lake itself is further off with spectators kept in viewing areas that won't encroach on the cranes.
Serious photographers were setting up camera equipment at one viewing platform with enormous telescopic lenses readied for use. Before settling into watching the arrival of the cranes, we decided to check out the marshlands and found lots of ducks placidly swimming around filling their bills with delicacies from the cold waters. There were American coots and Northern pintail ducks in abundance. Returning to the viewing platform, we saw that the real show was beginning. Overhead, a large flock of snow geese began their elegant descent toward the water. The sunlight glinted off their pure white plumage like snowy diamonds gliding toward the lake. It was breathtaking.
The Sandhill Cranes were making an appearance--just small groups in the beginning. And then, the sky was filled with them. Flocks coming from the Willcox area to the northeast and more from the east and south. They called constantly to one another, the air filled with their "song" which was overpowering. What a choir! It's interesting to note that mated pairs have their own complex duet that is synchronized with the female making two calls for every one of the males. No snide comments now.
And then in the midst of crane arrivals, a male vermilion flycatcher caught our eye as he preened in the branches of a mesquite tree. The photographers scrambled to catch the red bird's antics as he took center stage for a few minutes. A Northern Harrier hawk landing on the ground nearby received his few minutes of fame apart from the cranes, but the stars of the avian show weren't ignored for long. Magnificent and huge, the long-legged gray birds with red foreheads filled the lake, the flocks adjusting their positions as more flew in. They average from just under three feet in height to four feet six inches. Their wingspan can be over seven feet which allows them to be master soaring birds, riding the thermals with nary a flap of a wing. Graceful, beautiful, and noisy.
It was a lovely morning with glorious sights in hidden desert wetlands, off the beaten track in southeastern Arizona. We continue to scout out new adventures in this unique part of the world. Whitewater Draw Website
And God said, “Let the waters swarm with swarms of living creatures, and let birds fly above the earth across the expanse of the heavens.” So God created the great sea creatures and every living creature that moves, with which the waters swarm, according to their kinds, and every winged bird according to its kind. And God saw that it was good. Genesis 1:20-21
There were white flakes in the air when my good husband and I awoke this morning. We stood and gawked as they thickened and began accumulating on the ground and courtyard wall. An unusual occurrence in our neck of the woods. It quickly became apparent that the storm system had made itself comfortable over the Huachuca Mountains and the surrounding area. It was a good day to stay in. Inspired by memories of homemade hot cocoa and toast sticks that my mother would make on wintry days, I stirred up a steaming pan of cocoa. In case you didn't know, plain old toast with butter is magically transformed into something extraordinary when it's cut into sticks. It was so as a child and is still true today as a grandma. I quickly made a batch and settled in to read and drink hot chocolate.
I'm finishing up a new book by a good friend, Brenda Shipman entitled Embracing Hospitality: Help for the Hesitant Host. Brenda's insights, encouragement, and biblical foundation in her debut book is well worth reading. If you're avoiding extending hospitality for whatever reason, or if you're a seasoned hospitality giver, there is wisdom and practical help for all between the covers of this little book. You'll find Brenda's book on Amazon in paperback or for your Kindle.
Now, I read a lot--both fiction and non-fiction. If you're looking for some possibilities for the coming year to challenge and strengthen your faith, here are four non-fiction books to consider:
1. When I Don't Desire God: How to Fight for Joy by John Piper. "God is most glorified in us when we are most satisfied in Him." An excellent read and it's not wrong to pursue joy. Joy in God that is. He is the source of true joy.
2. Prayer - Experiencing Awe and Intimacy with God by Timothy Keller. Practical and energetic instruction in deepening your prayer life. Life changing stuff.
3. Why Should I Believe Christianity? by James Anderson. A foundational apologetics book that is understandable and shareable with those who have serious questions about Christianity and the Bible.
4. Valley of Vision. The Valley of Vision is a classic collection of Puritan prayers and meditations. Now, before you dismiss it as stiff and irrelevant which was my preliminary opinion, it is not. While there are thee's and thou's it is full of gems that encourage and challenge, and warm the heart. It's highly recommended to add to your devotional reading.
All of the aforementioned books are available on Amazon in paperback or Kindle.
In the realm of fiction, historical-fiction mysteries are my current focus ... er ... addiction. Please allow me to recommend a few authors, all of whom I totally enjoy for attention to historical details, clean writing, believable characters and well-constructed plots.
1. Anne Perry - The Thomas and Charlotte Pitt series and William Monk series are set in Victorian England. I've been reading Anne Perry books since the 1980s and she's still writing. Perry weaves intricate plots and creates complex characters. Settle in for a slower read.
2. Candace Robb - The Owen Archer series set in medieval England. Full of details about medieval life with captivating characters, and clever mysteries.
3. Charles Todd - The Ian Rutledge series and Bess Crawford series set in WWI era England. These are slower-paced plots, but wonderful characters, excellent mysteries, and details about WWI and the post WWI era.
4. Ellis Peters - Brother Cadfael series set in the first half of 12th century England. This series has been around for some time, and is now available on Kindle.
5. Ashley Gardner - Captain Lacey Regency series, set in England of course. Faster-paced plots, colorful characters and excellent mysteries with a bit of romance.
The snow is still falling and it's piling up. Three and four inches at the moment. We've not had such a snowfall since we left Western New York 15 years ago. Wherever you may be, find a comfy chair, a hot beverage, and I hope a good read. Blessings in the New Year.
For those of you who like a good story, especially if it involves the West, I have to share this rather bizarre, but true tale of the early 20th century. It all happened about 30 minutes from from Casa Wallace in the little border town of Naco, Arizona along with its counterpart, Naco, Sonora on the other side of the line.
The year was 1929. It was before the big crash in October, but things weren't so great in Mexico in the spring of that year. The people were fed up with heavy taxation, corruption, and the government in general. Hmmm...has a familiar ring to it already. Well, some rebel forces organized and began giving the Mexican army a hard time. Naco, Sonora was a pretty rough place with lots of saloons and gambling establishments, so more government intervention in their way of life wasn't welcome. The rebels and the army dug in around Naco, Sonora and began to have daily skirmishes. Since there wasn't much happening in Naco, Arizona, which is still true to this day, residents brought out chairs to watch the bullets fly between the Mexican army and the rebel forces for entertainment. Every once in awhile, a stray bullet would come across the U.S. border and send the spectators for cover. In general the Mexicans didn't want the rebellion to get out of hand and have the U.S. Army come in to settle the matter. So it remained a fairly orderly rebellion as rebellions go.
As time went on more gawkers gathered from Bisbee and outlying areas, sitting in wagons, makeshift benches, or vehicles. One of these folks was Patrick Murphy, a pilot with a bi-wing plane sitting idle. Being a good Irishman, he had a few whiskeys in Bisbee and decided to go down to Naco and offer his services as a bomber pilot to the poor under-equipped rebels. He also offered to make some custom bombs and make a run at routing the army. It was all quickly arranged with the rebels who promised some significant pesos for his services.
Murphy went to work assembling homemade bombs with dynamite, nails, scrap iron, and bolts. He stuffed them into old suitcases and iron pipes.On March 31 and April 1, he made two attempts at bombing the army, both of which failed since the bombs didn't explode. On his third attempt, he flew low over the town of Naco, Sonora and let the third load fall. Unfortunately, it hit the customs house and sprayed shrapnel toward the U.S. audience. Undaunted, the pilot hastily flew back to his hangar and made four more bombs. He was getting better, or so it seemed.
He continued his bombing raids and on April 6 he made his most magnificent strike. He managed to kill two Mexican soldiers in a trench and then things really went south or rather north. Murphy grossly miscalculated and continued his raid on Naco, Arizona. He managed to bomb a garage, broke the windows out of the Naco Pharmacy, wrecked a touring car, damaged the Phelps Dodge Mercantile, and the U.S. Post Office. The pilot who sensed he might be in trouble with the U.S. government, parked his plane and slipped into Mexico. The U.S. Army came out and immediately disabled the plane, while Gen. Topete of the rebel forces promised the U.S. there wouldn't be any more bombings.
Now, lest you think Patrick Murphy ended up in Acapulco sipping drinks with umbrellas in them, here's the end of the tale. Mr. Murphy crept back into the U.S. on April 30 when he determined that facing American government officials was eminently wiser than facing a Mexican firing squad. The Mexican troops had by then squashed the rebellion and Murphy was persona non gratis to the Mexican government. He was arrested once back across the border and carted off to the Tucson jail. He wasn't ever prosecuted and was eventually released. And no, he never did get paid for his aerial antics either. But he may go down as one of the worst bombers in history and as the only pilot to bomb the U.S. mainland from the air. His exploits have been immortalized in song entitled "The Bombing of Naco" by Dolan Ellis, Arizona's official balladeer. So there you go, another strange tale from Cochise County, the Land of Legends!
It's springtime at Casa Wallace. Pink salvia and Spanish lavender are blooming; the roses are budded. The rabbits are chasing one another amorously through the mesquites and cacti. Our feathered friends are a warbling choir in the trees--finches, curved-bill thrashers, silver cardinals, black-throated sparrows, and verdins searching for that special someone. And then there are the roadrunners. A pair of them who are in the mood to build a nest. In fact, they've considered the three acres comprising the Casa Wallace territory and decided that the garage is the perfect place to construct their abode.
They're of course completely wrong about the location. I can see the attraction though. Inside out of the wind--no obvious predators for babies. They're also close to the bags of seed for the bird feeders. It's sort of like room service.
We have no intention of allowing squatters to live in the garage. It just won't work. My good husband has cleared out their construction of mesquite twigs, grasses, and feathers at least three times so far. They tried the top of a cabinet and then decided that the tines of several rakes hanging on the wall was a good idea. Engineering is not their strength. After being foiled once again over the weekend, they've begun another attempt with humble nesting materials situated on top of the cupboards. Now mind you, the usual nesting places of roadrunners is in cacti, trees, and shrubs---outside. These roadrunners have different ideas and seem mostly indifferent to my instructions to vacate. Their beady little eyes stare at me as if to test me or frighten me back in the kitchen. It is a little creepy to see one atop the step ladder or on the raised garage door when I step out to shoo them away. Maybe Hitchcock's The Birds has scarred me.
Roadrunners are part of the cuckoo family which explains a great deal about them. They like to eat a variety of critters including scorpions (YAY!!) and even rattlesnakes (YAY!!). They supplement their diet with seeds and fruits. They are monogamous and usually raise about four progeny in a nest. Their flying ability is dismal, which accounts for the occasional flattened one on the roads. They are rather speedy when running and reach speeds of 20mph. In case you're wondering, coyotes are faster with speeds to around 40mph. They don't beep as a rule, but make an odd clacking sound with their beak accompanied by cooing. Their normal lifespan is seven to eight years.
The ones around Casa Wallace tend to be rather brazen and unafraid of people. They keep us company when raking or working in the garden and now they want to live with us. Oh boy!
Well, the garage door is down--no admittance for Mr. and Mrs. Roadrunner, who really should consider that cozy cactus in the side yard. We are determined to win the war against the feathered trespassers. But I will be watching my back.
Our youngest daughter and her husband are getting ready to move. It's a military lifestyle thing.Their three-year assignment is up and they're moving to a new location. Thousands of miles to travel. There are so many details to arrange and they're trying to prepare. All things we don't like at Christmas. I like my family around, lots of comfort food, and time to slow to a crawl. That's a perfect Christmas - savoring the moments and doing everything the way we've always done it. I think most of us want the familiar traditions of home and hearth for the holidays.
But the first Christmas was nothing like that. A very pregnant Mary was enduring an uncomfortable three or four day trip from Nazareth to Bethlehem. I can't imagine riding a donkey or walking 70 miles from Nazareth to Bethlehem while nine months pregnant. She and Joseph were obeying orders from Caesar Augustus. A decree had gone out for people to return to their hometowns for a census and to pay taxes.
So Joseph also went up from the town of Nazareth in Galilee to Judea, to Bethlehem the town of David, because he belonged to the house and line of David. Luke 2:4
That wonderful night when Jesus was born, shepherds who were outside of Bethlehem received startling news from the sudden appearance of angels in the night sky. They were to leave their sheep and go see the long-awaited Messiah. The journey wasn't far, and they wasted no time in finding the lowly stable and the baby lying in swaddling clothes in the manger.
When the angels had left them and gone into heaven, the shepherds said to one another, “Let’s go to Bethlehem and see this thing that has happened, which the Lord has told us about.” So they hurried off and found Mary and Joseph, and the baby, who was lying in the manger. Luke 2:15-16
There were the Magi (the wise men) who had studied the Scriptures and were watching the skies for one very special star, which they found. Without hesitation they loaded up their camels and headed out to follow that star for probably over a year before they found Mary, Joseph, and the very young Jesus in Bethlehem. They weren't sure where they'd end up or how long it would take, but they came prepared with gifts for the King of Kings. They took a real step of faith.
...they went on their way, and the star they had seen when it rose went ahead of them until it stopped over the place where the child was. Matthew 2:9
The one who made the longest trip of all was Jesus himself. He willingly left heaven's glory and became flesh and blood, man yet God --Emmanuel, God with Us. The Son of God humbled himself to walk in this world, showing us how to live, and laying down His life to save us from our sins.
Who,(Jesus) being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be used to his own advantage;rather, he made himself nothing by taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness.And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to death— even death on a cross! Philippians 2:6-8
None of these moves were about comfort or tradition. They were in fact downright uncomfortable, inconvenient, and even dangerous. But the common thread is obedience which ultimately displayed God's plan for the best move of all--the way to heaven to live with Him forever. When God is getting ready to do a great thing, He starts moving people. Each person who experienced the first Christmas had to step out of his or her comfort zone, trust God, and change locations.
Things to ponder as the New Year approaches.
Trust in the LORD with all your heart, and lean not on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge Him, and He will direct your paths. Proverbs 3:5-6