Today I'll meet a longtime friend at the airport. I've been preparing for her visit over the weekend. Dusting, vacuuming, smoothing fresh sheets on the guest bed, a loaf of homemade bread on the cutting board. It's been a long time since we've spent real time together. Almost 40 years. Yes, that's right--four decades with bare glimpses of our lives shared, now coming full circle to once again have days of conversation. Memories of high school come with secrets kept, whispered dreams and plans for the future. I can't wait. It feels like Christmas. The anticipation creeps higher. I want her to feel at home ... joyfully expected ... and to be comfortable. Everything needs to be ready before I drive to the airport to pick her up.
And then Jesus' words to His disciples quickly come to mind. "Do not let your hearts be troubled. You believe in God, believe also in me. My Father’s house has many rooms; if that were not so, would I have told you that I am going there to prepare a place for you? And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back and take you to be with me that you also may be where I am." (John 14:1-3 NIV)
Isn't it wonderful that Jesus is present in the ordinary? The placing of a bar of soap on the tub and coffee brewing in the kitchen. He is preparing a place for me right now. It's where He lives, in His Father's house where there is lots of room. A special place, just for me. When everything is perfectly ready, He will come and get me--wherever I am to take me home with Him.
My dear friend will leave in a few days to return to her own home. This special visit will be over and maybe we'll already be hatching a plan for other times together. On this earth, we have so much coming and going. Hellos and goodbyes.
Joyfully expected, and a home lovingly prepared by the Savior. He will come back to take those who believe on Him to the Father's house. No delayed flights or highway construction to hinder us. Everything on His schedule. Perfect. Prepared. Days and days and days to spend with Him, forever. Eternity. No goodbyes. One question remains. Are you coming too?
Thomas said to him, “Lord, we don’t know where you are going, so how can we know the way?” Jesus answered, “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me." (John 14:5-6 NIV)
Cochise County is called the "Land of Legends" and the Western history you'll find in its mountains, canyons and towns bear that moniker out. The county is named for the famous Chiricahua Apache chief, Cochise. A legendary chief who was never defeated in battle, he at last made a treaty with the U.S. government in 1872. An excellent article on Cochise is found here. His last home before his death was Cochise Stronghold in the Dragoon Mountains. He and his Apache army raided the area with impunity, killing ranchers, settlers, and Butterfield Stagecoach drivers. Some of his faithful followers took his body back to the Stronghold and buried him in an unknown location. A single white man knew the grave site, but never revealed it.
The Stronghold is about 35 miles as the crow flies from Casa Wallace, but alas, no roads that make it a short trip. Instead, we take the I-10 east and exit at Dragoon Road to make the trip of 1.5 hours to the remote mountain area. After passing the small community of Dragoon, we turn onto Ironwood Road which leads into the Cochise Stronghold campsite and trail head.
There is no water available at the campsite, so bring plenty of your own. The low humidity of Arizona makes you thirstier than you'd think, so be prepared. Bathroom facilities are primitive, as in an outhouse situation and there is no water in the bathrooms either. Nevertheless, the hike is well worth roughing it for a few hours. A nature trail winds around one side of the campsite and will take you to the hiking trail. Be prepared for magnificent views on the way up and back. The rock formations which set this area apart seem like building blocks or pieces of a puzzle that God had a wonderful time putting together for us to enjoy. The trail is well marked and doesn't have the steep switchbacks that some trails have in our area.
About two miles in, you'll see the Half Moon Tank, which was a watering hole for cattle at one time. I can't imagine the effort to build the large concrete structure there. There's actually evidence of cows up in the mountains, so it still may be used. We hiked on and made it to the Cochise Divide. Views of the Sulphur Springs Valley can be seen through the mountains to the west. Manzanita, juniper, oak, and yucca are everywhere. The manzanita was in bloom with bees and flies happily getting nectar from the pink flowers.
Pictures are worth a 1,000 words, so enjoy the slideshow below. Our total mileage was 6.5 miles and the day was absolutely perfect.
If you missed this historical potboiler, read on. This is the Bisbee Massacre, revisited.
The wild West is alive and well where we live. Tombstone is an easy drive for an afternoon of strolling the boardwalks, getting some BBQ, and chatting with cowboys, gunslingers, and "soiled doves." Every self-respecting American knows about the gunfight at the OK Corral. We've romanticized it in film for decades. Personally I enjoy the 1993 version with Val Kilmer and Kurt Russell. There are quite few tales of violence and western justice in our area that are not as well known as the OK Corral incident. Bisbee, which snatched the designation of county seat in Cochise County after the Tombstone silver ran out has some tales of its own. Since winter is upon us and a story is always good by the fire, sit a spell while I tell you the about the Bisbee Massacre.
On a cold December night in 1883, five outlaws rode into Bisbee and commenced robbing the largest mercantile in town with the goal of snagging the Copper Queen Mine's payroll of $7,000. The Phelps Dodge Mining Company's payroll, however hadn't yet arrived. Once they realized that their plan had been foiled due to bad timing, the scene turned downright ugly. The two outlaws in the store began robbing customers of jewelry, cash, and anything else of value. They forced one of the store owners to open up the safe and they grabbed what little cash was there. They also stole a watch and more cash from the other store owner before leaving. The three who stood guarding the entrance outside lost their cool and began shooting wildly-one shot going through the store's window and killing a customer, J.C. Tappenier. Deputy Tom Smith came charging up the street and was immediately shot dead in his tracks. Another shot took down a man entering his office, while another bullet went through the wall of a boarding house, killing a pregnant woman. The last victim was a man who was shot in the leg as he attempted to flee from the scene. It all happened in less than five minutes.
Amazingly the five outlaws rode leisurely out of town and quickly disappeared. Sheriff Ward in Tombstone was telegraphed and two posses formed to hunt down the killers. Deputy Sheriff William Daniels commenced questioning residents about the murderous rampage. John Heath, the unsavory owner of a sleazy saloon in Bisbee intimated that he probably knew the culprits and could give the lawman an assist. Weeks later the five outlaws were apprehended. Two were in Mexico, another in Deming, New Mexico, and two were still in Arizona. Once interrogations began, the murderers spilled the beans that John Heath had masterminded the robbery. Heath readily admitted his guilt under some intense questioning. It didn't take long for trials to begin. Mr. Heath insisted he be tried separately much to the dismay of Bisbee citizens. They were even angrier when he received a life sentence in Yuma prison rather than hanging. This was on February 20, 1884. An outraged mob of more than 50 decided to rectify the perceived miscarriage of justice and descended upon the Tombstone jail on the 22nd of February. They dragged the convicted murderer into the streets and quickly lynched him at the corner of Toughnut and First Streets, using a telegraph pole as the gallows. The coroner's jury verdict reflected the mood of the public at the time stating "We the undersigned, a jury of inquest, find that John Heath came to his death from emphysema of the lungs--a disease common in high altitudes--which might have been caused by strangulation, self-inflicted or otherwise." As you might guess, the other five were convicted and promptly hanged.
There you have it. A rather gruesome story of the Old West that took place just a few miles away from Casa Wallace, and well over a century ago. Bisbee has reinvented itself into a place full of antique shops, art galleries, and great restaurants. It's a bit quirky and you might feel like you've stepped back into the 60s, but it's a good place to watch the world go by with an excellent cappuccino at the Bisbee Coffee Company or a fabulous breakfast at the Bisbee Breakfast Club. Although outlaws on horses are a thing of the past (maybe), that pervasive independent spirit remains, a true sign of a western town.
Cochise County doesn't have a long history of law and order. From the early days of the Apache wars to wild times in Tombstone, there's a healthy supply of interesting tales. Cattle rustling was one enterprise that the Indians, Mexicans and Americans seemed to enjoy. The terrain is well-suited because of the multitude of canyons, arroyos, and undefined borders which benefited rustlers.
Curly Bill's gang (of the OK Corral shootout fame) headed an active bunch of rustlers whose most famous exploit was killing a group of Mexican smugglers in Skeleton Canyon. After that awful deed, they proceeded to steal 300 head of cattle in Mexico and jubilantly returned to the Tombstone area with their catch. The Mexican vacqueros pursued the bovine bandits back into the U.S. and recovered the cattle and managed to rustle 200 more head on the way back across the Mexican border. This only escalated the whole affair with Curly Bill, who wasn't going to accept defeat. He rushed into Mexico and re-stole the cattle. The vacqueros followed them back into the U.S. and proceeded to kill the new "owner" who was "Old Man" Clanton. Several of his companions met the the same fate in Guadalupe Canyon.
Not all of the rustlers had such a violent reputation as Curly Bill. Black Jack Christian was well liked and known to help with round-ups and shoe horses. Mrs. Hunsaker who ran an outfit in Leslie Canyon was fond of the outlaws who would help with chores and leave their guns outside, unlike posse members who stomped into her house with not one speck of manners, blithely spitting tobacco juice on the floor. Jacob Scherer, another rancher was willing to obstruct justice to give the rustlers a chance to get away. When questioned on Black Jack's whereabouts (the rustler had spent the night at the Scherer cabin) he denied ever seeing the man.
After the complex and bloody incidents in Skeleton and Guadalupe Canyons, things began to change. Law enforcement and the ranchers on both sides of the border took more precautions and reduced rustling significantly. American rustlers stayed on U.S. side for the most part and Mexican rustlers stayed on their side. When John Slaughter became sheriff in 1887, the whole rustling industry was pretty much shut down, although small ranchers were not adverse to appropriating random calves from the larger ranching enterprises. To avoid detection, the rustlers moved the unbranded little dogies up into secluded, natural mountain corrals where they were branded and allowed to heal before freed to the range. The Arizona Rangers were formed in 1901 and finally got a handle on this type of rustling. They made 1800 arrests in the first two years, which was pretty effective in discouraging any others who might consider this as a career or pastime.
Lest you think that we've outgrown stealing cattle, Cochise County still has some notoriety in that department. In 2007, cattle rustling charges were brought against a rancher in Willcox, AZ. In the modern age, DNA was used to prove ownership. Here's the link if you're interested in more information.
The pioneer time period was brief, albeit colorful in Cochise County. For photos and more information that may be of interest click the LINK.