Tag Archives: Ajo

Cabeza Prieta Visitor Center

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The Cabeza Prieta Visitor Center is located at 1611 North Second Street (Highway 85) in Ajo, Arizona. The refuge’s website (http://www.fws.gov/refuge/Cabeza_Prieta/visit/plan_your_visit.html) says,

It is open Monday through Friday from 8am to 4pm. Here, refuge staff and volunteers are available to provide you with maps, brochures and checklists and let you know what’s happening on the refuge.

I visited the Cabeza Prieta Visitor Center in early May, when it was already hot outside. I spent most of my time looking at the inside exhibits, but I looked around outside a bit too.

First of all, according to https://www.fws.gov/refuge/Cabeza_Prieta/about.html,

Cabeza Prieta, Spanish for “dark (or dirty) head,” refers to a lava-topped, granite peak in a remote mountain range in the western corner of the refuge.

Secondly, the Visitors Center is just a tiny piece of what Cabeza Prieta is for and about. The IMG_6104aforementioned website says,

Cabeza Prieta National Wildlife Refuge encompasses 860,000 acres, a portion of which are open to the public for wildlife related activities including wildlife watching and photography, primitive camping, limited hunting, and environmental education and interpretation.

Almost all of the refuge is designated wilderness and it is part of the National Wildlife Refuge System, a national network of lands and waters set aside for the benefit of wildlife and you.

…Today, the refuge’s management priorities are primarily focused on the endangered Sonoran pronghorn, bighorn sheep and lesser long-nosed bat.

There are two main indoor exhibits at the visitor center, both in a room to the right of the entrance. When I visited, the room was dark, and I had to turn on the lights so I could have a look around.

The first attraction is a video about the refuge. When I stepped into the tiny theater, the video was not playing. A remote control sat on the bench next to me, but despite pushing the power and play buttons, I could not get the video to come on. I went through an open door to the front of the office area. No one was sitting at the main desk, but there was a bell there, so I rang it. A young woman came from the back, and I told her I wanted to watch the video but could not get it to play. She helped me, but acted mildly irritated, as if I were keeping her from her real work.

The video was informative, but I felt as if maybe it had picked up in the middle of the action. The weirdest part of the video was when some government employee guy talked about how the crust on the desert floor is a living organism while he plunged his knife into it and pulled up a piece of the crust to display to the camera. Ouch! I’m a living organism too, and I hope no one ever does that to me.

(Well, ok, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Biological_soil_crust says

[b]iological soil crusts are communities of living organisms on the soil surface in arid– and semi-arid ecosystems

so maybe what the guy did was not quite as bad as plunging a knife into me.)

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This big cat was once alive, but now it’s dead. The sign says, “A Haven for Wildlife.” Well, this room is the opposite of a haven for wildlife. This room is more like a wildlife graveyard.

The other indoor exhibit is a display of desert creatures. The problem is that these desert creatures were once alive and now they are dead. I presume someone killed those animals so they could be displayed, then handed them over to a taxidermist to preserve them. I didn’t much like looking at animals that were once alive but now weren’t. It kind of gave me the creeps, especially the big, dark eyes of the dead pronghorn. I would rather look at photographs of desert creatures instead of their preserved remains.

I walked around a bit outside the Visitor Center. There are several trails to walk on, a few informational signs, and lots of cacti. There’s also a pond where Quitobaquito pupfish live, but that’s a story for another day.

 

 

 

I believe there is a senita cactus.

I believe this cactus is a senita.

There is also a bird hide in the back of the visitor center. Wikipedia (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bird_hide) says

[a] bird hide (or hide, also known as a blind or bird blind in North America) is a shelter, often camouflaged, that is used to observe wildlife, especially birds, at close quarters. Although hides or hunting blinds were once built chiefly as hunting aids, they are now commonly found in parks and wetlands for the use of bird watchers, ornithologists and other observers who do not want to disturb wildlife as it is being observed.

A typical bird hide resembles a garden shed, with small openings, shutters, or windows built into at least one side to enable observation.

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This is the scene viewed from the bird hide a the visitor center.

The hide at the visitor center does look like a shed, and it has sliding panels over the windows. It overlooks a small pond. I went into the bird hide and opened one of the windows and looked out, but didn’t stay long. I was hot and hungry by that time, and I’m not all that excited about birds. The bird hide overlooks a small pond, so I’m sure it is a great place to watch birds taking a drink or having a bath.

The Cabeza Prieta Visitor Center was a fine place to spend some time. I was probably there a little more than an hour. Of course, I appreciated the lack of admission fee. I don’t know if I will ever visit the actual wilderness area, but the visitor center offers much information about the Sonoran Desert.

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I took all of the photos in this post.

Night of the Lepus

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As I mentioned in yesterday’s post, this mural is painted on the side of the building housing Roadrunner Java in Ajo, Arizona. (Roadrunner Java is located at 932 North 2nd Avenue.  North 2nd Avenue is the same thing as Highway 85, so this cafe is on the main drag, on the east side of the street.) I was told the mural was painted by Ajo muralist Mike “DaWolf” Baker.

According to the mural Night of the Lepus was filmed in Ajo.

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What in the world is Night of the Lepus? you may ask. You may also wonder, Why do those rabbits look so mean?

According to https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Night_of_the_Lepus,

Night of the Lepus (also known as Rabbits) is a 1972 American science fiction horror film based on the 1964 science fiction novel The Year of the Angry Rabbit.

Released theatrically on July 26, 1972, it focuses on members of a small Arizona town who battle thousands of mutated, carnivorous killer rabbits. The film was the first science fiction work for producer A. C. Lyles and for director William F. Claxton, both of whom came from Western film backgrounds. Character actors from Westerns the pair had worked on were brought in to star in the Night of the Lepus, including Stuart Whitman, Janet Leigh, Rory Calhoun, and DeForest Kelley.

Shot in Arizona, Night of the Lepus used domestic rabbits filmed against miniature models and actors dressed in rabbit costumes for the attack scenes.

Ok, wait. Could we read the last part of that last sentence again?

Night of the Lepus used domestic rabbits filmed against miniature models and actors dressed in rabbit costumes for the attack scenes.

The aforementioned Wikipedia page explains in a bit more detail:

To depict the rabbit attacks, a combination of techniques were used. For some scenes, the rabbits were filmed in close-up stomping on miniature structures in slow motion.[6] For attack scenes, they had ketchup smeared on their faces.[1] For other scenes, human actors were shown wearing rabbit costumes.[1][2][6]

So this movie tried to scare people with regular pet bunnies moving among (and probably knocking over) miniature models? And to make them scarier, the bunnies were filmed with ketchup smeared on their faces! (Oh, that’s scary!) And then when they needed the bunnies to be really, really scary, they put human people in rabbit costumes? I haven’t seen one minute of this movie, but I’m already laughing.

Here’s more from the Wikipedia page:

Originally titled Rabbits, production company MGM renamed the film, using the Latin name for “rabbit” in hopes of keeping the audience from presuming the animals would be non-menacing. To further prevent the audience from thinking of cuddly bunnies in relation to the film, the theatrical posters featured no rabbits, instead displaying only eyes and referencing unnamed “creatures”. The trailers showed no critters, and the press releases only mentioned that the film had “mutants.” The only clue given to the audience was the required acknowledgment on the poster to Braddon’s novel. However, some Night of the Lepus promoters gave away the secret by sending out souvenirs decorated with rabbit’s foot designs.[2]

I was not surprised to learn that this film received a lot of criticism. It seems like John Kenneth Muir summed it up pretty well in Horror Films of the 1970s. He

felt Night of the Lepus was one of the “most ridiculous horror film[s] ever conceived”, with a poor blend of horror and environmentalism that resulted in it being more of a comedy. He criticized the “primitive special effects”, badly done editing and laughable dialogue, and noted that while the rabbits and actors are rarely seen on screen together, the filmmakers used obviously fake rabbit paws and people in rabbit suits for the few scenes calling for human/rabbit interactions. Like most critics, he pointed out that the rabbits were “cute bunnies” rather than “fanged, disease-ridden mutated creatures”, but he felt the actors did the best they could with the material, and praised them for “[keeping] straight faces as they heroically stand against the onslaught of the bunnies”.[16]

Sounds like the mural in Ajo is more artistic and more entertaining than the movie that inspired it.

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I do wish someone would remove the bush blocking the view of the mural. The bush is distracting and makes the building seem abandoned.

I took all of the photos in this post.

More Ajo Murals

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I’ve written about the murals in Ajo, Arizona before, but even in two posts, I wasn’t able to cover them all. (Read my other posts about the murals of Ajo here: http://www.rubbertrampartist.com/2016/04/15/ajo-murals and here: http://www.rubbertrampartist.com/2016/04/24/ajo-copper-news-mural/.) In this post I’ll include photos and information about more murals in the small desert town.

The first mural here is one that didn’t make it in my post about the Art Alley. The day I walked through the Art Alley (the alley immediately to the south of the Plaza) taking photos of the murals, a truck parked right in front of this piece, and I wasn’t able to get a picture of it.

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I believe the next three pieces were all painted by Ajo muralists Mike “DaWolf” Baker. (If I’m wrong about that, someone please correct me.)

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I was told the homeowner commissioned Baker to paint this scene on his house. I was also told this scene is from a movie, but my informant (I’ve always wanted to say my informant) didn’t remember the name of the movie. The crosses symbolize the homeowner’s loved ones who have passed away. This house is at the corner of Solana (Highway 85) and and Cunada streets. The mural is very easy to see when driving south through Ajo, not far after the main drags curves to the left.

The next mural in on a store, the aVita Boutique in the Raven’s Nest, which is located at 801 North 2nd Avenue.

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Did you notice that the spheres on the front of the building are painted in the colors of the rainbow? Yep, there’s good ol’ Roy G. Biv: red, orange, yellow, green, blue, indigo, violet.

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This sign for the store is  closer to the road. It might be what a driver sees first, as the store is set back.

North 2nd Avenue is another name for Highway 85, the main drag through town. Since the store is set back quite a ways from the street, you do have to be on the lookout for it when driving through town.

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I can just about hear the howling coming from that wolf!

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This photo shows the complete image on the south side of the building.

Something I really like about this mural is how the image on the left side wraps around the building. I think the wrapping makes the image quite dynamic. I also really like the bright, vibrant colors the artist used in this piece.

Of course, the Raven’s Nest needs a raven and the artist painted a nice one.

 

 

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I love the rays of energy radiating from this bird.

The last mural is a sneak peak of tomorrow’s post. This mural has enough of a story for its own post, so that’s what it will get.

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Yep, that’s the mural depicting The Night of the Lepus, and it’s painted on Roadrunner Java (932 North 2nd Avenue).

I took all of the photos in this post.

 

Louis Conde Grave Site

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As I walked through the Ajo Cemetery in Ajo, Arizona I saw a large cross which looked as if it were constructed from concrete and stone. I first saw it from the back, so it was initially the size of the cross that caught my attention. The cross was taller than all the other markers around it, and I decided to go over and get a better look.

When I walked around to the front of the cross, I found that it was covered with words. I also found an article IMG_6192(laminated for protection and adhered to the concrete over the grave site) about the cross.

The article was from the August 13, 2014 edition of the Ajo Copper News. (A scan of the page from the newspaper can be found at http://ajo.stparchive.com/Archive/AJO/AJO08132014P10.php.)

By reading the article, I learned that the words on the cross are formed from copper letters. According to http://arizonaoddities.com/2012/11/unusual-grave-marker-for-an-ajo-teacher/,

the inscription on the marker contains about 400 words. Even more unusual than that, each letter and number was manually formed with copper wire. After being bent into the desired shape, the letters and numbers were soldered to nails and embedded into the face of the cross.

The letters form words, and the words form the teachings of Louis Conde, the Lahissa. According to the article in the Ajo Copper News, Conde was born in the 1800s and told people he was from Tibet. He

IMG_6294taught that the human mind had control over everything. “The human mind has all power,” he is quoted as saying. “There is nothing that man cannot accomplish. He can go to the planets.”

…[Conde] had great success as a mystical teacher in Chicago. Listeners flocked to his lectures and hung on every word. He offered his followers health, peace and spiritual grace. They offered him money to fund his Temple of Wisdom.

No one seems to know how he ended up in Ajo.

The aforementioned newspaper article quotes a eulogy written shortly after his death by one of his followers. The eulogy said Conde

 plead to be taken to Ajo, where he lived only one week.

The Copper News says it was Conde’s widow–Ethel Decker Conde–who had this monument built. She hired Frank IMG_6293Randall and Charles Dunn to build it. The men

bought copper wire and fashioned the letters with pliers…

The cross was built in the Phoenix area

of peacock copper rock from the Bloody Basin and Copper Basin.

If you’re wondering what all those copper letters say,

Here’s the full text of the epitaph

thanks to http://joeorman.shutterace.com/Bizarre/Bizarre_Cross.html:

 

The Master Lahissa

LOUIS CONDE — 18__ to 1931
Teacher & helper of humanity
For all races — for all peoples, for all beliefs, — he came and they knew him not.

Actuated by the same spirit that has guided all the teachers, he came to lead human beings into a new era. A new step in evolution and progress the era of man’s full consciousness of the power within him. “Man’s power is unlimited” he said, 50 & 10 years ago. “Mind, intelligence, is God; & Man can reach out and get what he wants from that universal mind. He is in contact with it thru his brain. As it has taken him an eternity of the past — of reincarnative evolution — to develop 1/6 of his brain, just think what he can do when he has unfolded 2/6 and more! He will overcome the so-called laws of nature. He will go around the earth in the flash of a moment, & to the planets.”

“Life is activity; it is eternal” he said “A continuous cycle, never ending, never beginning. — All things are vibrations. There is no wall separating the material & the spiritual; one blends into the other.”

“All beliefs are right” Lahissa taught. “Each one is a spoke in the wheel — leading to the same center.” & “Your God — no matter what you call it — is just but cold — without sentiment or feelings. It is not concerned about you the individual, but works by certain definite laws — and you must obey those laws or pay the price. &” “As you give life and your fellowman, so shall you receive from life and your fellowman: that is the inevitable law of compensation. — Give at all times now, the best there is in you thus will you find happiness and when you are happy, then your God will smile upon you.”

Indeed, Lahissa showed the way. He lived all phases of life and mastered its conditions, — was persecuted and prosecuted, until his earthly career was ended. And his spirit is still guiding into the ‘new’, when the teachings of all great teachers will be the accepted law of life: “Love, tolerance, forgiveness & the seeking of truth and understanding.”

The foundation has been laid. It is left to others to bring into being: The Brotherhood of Man.

 

–1934 THE LAHISSA TEMPLE-

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The monument is near the west edge of the Ajo Cemetery.

I took all of the photos in this post.

Cemetry Gates

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IMG_6236I hadn’t been walking through the Ajo Cemetery (in Ajo, AZ)  very long before the lyrics to the song “Cemetry Gates” by The Smiths were running through my head.

While I walked through the Ajo Cemetery I did what Morrissey and Johnny Marr must have done before they wrote the song: I read the headstones and I wondered about those people. Who were they? What were they like? What were their loves and hates and passions? Headstones really tell so little about those who have passed away.

Did anyone living remember the people buried in the ground under me, and if not, were the deceased in any position to care?

 I took photos of some of the headstones I thought were particularly interesting, the ones that made me wish I knew the stories of the people buried beneath them. They were born. They lived. And now they’re dead, but we can remember them, even if we never knew them.
Dude! In 1869, a family named their little daughter Cindarella. How cool is that? I wonder if and how this woman's name shaped her.

Dude! In 1869, a family named their little baby daughter Cindarella. How cool is that? I wonder if and how this woman’s name shaped her life.

 

Why was Virginia Adeline Stevens called The Angel Lady? What did she do?

Why was Virginia Adeline Stevens called The Angel Lady? What did she do? Her headstone is featured on Findagrave.com, but I couldn’t find any information about her.

 

I think Wriston liked guitars. I would guess s/he played. But that's just a guess.

I think Wriston liked guitars. I would guess s/he played. But that’s just a guess.

 

Someone left a beverage for Canuto De La Torre. The Ajo Cemetery was the first place I say offerings of soft drinks left on graves.

Someone left a beverage for Canuto De La Torre. The Ajo Cemetery was the first place I saw offerings of soft drinks left on graves. Canuto is remembered.

 

Marjorie L. Allen is on the road again. I wonder if she was a fan of the song by Willie Nelson or the one sung by Canned Heat. Maybe this memorial reflects her personal philosophy. I think I would have enjoyed knowing her.

Marjorie L. Allen is on the road again. I wonder if she was a fan of the song by Willie Nelson or the one sung by Canned Heat. Maybe this memorial reflects her personal philosophy. I think I would have enjoyed knowing her.

 

This marker looks handmade. I like that. I wonder what Tykie was like and what happened to him.

This marker looks handmade. I like that. I wonder what Tykie was like and what happened to him.

 

I like the "nature loving desert rat." That's that, folks, that's that.

I like “nature loving desert rat.” That’s that, folks. That’s that.

 

 

Listen to The Smiths sing “Cemetry Gates.”

I took all the photos in this post, except the album cover. That’s an Amazon associates link. If you click on the image, it will take you to Amazon where anything you put in your cart and purchase will earn me a small advertising fee.

The Queen Is Dead [Vinyl]

Ajo Cemetery

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I was looking for a garage sale, but I found the cemetery instead.

I didn’t need more stuff, so I decided to walk through the cemetery instead of browsing through the discards of someone’s life. I ended up spending almost two hour there. IMG_6176

One thing I noticed about the cemetery is that based on last names, it seemed to be quite integrated. People with what seemed to me to be Anglo names were buried in close proximity to people with what seemed to me to be Latino/a names.

In addition to many professionally carved headstones, more than a few of the graves were marked by amateur endeavors. I liked the handmade crosses and handwritten signs. They seem more personal and loving than cold stone. Seeing people’s handwriting (sometimes messy, sometimes with letters ever-so-carefully written) made me recognize a real connection between the living and the dead. It’s IMG_6215easy for me to look at graves in a cemetery and think of the people buried there as in the  abstract, but seeing the handwriting on grave markers as a connection between the living and their dead, made the dead seem more like real people.

 

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I saw several things in the Ajo Cemetery that I’d never seen at other graveyards.

The first thing I saw was saguaros! In the cemetery! Saguaros in the cemetery! It wasn’t a huge shock, as the cemetery is in the Sonoran Desert and saguaros grow in the Sonoran Desert, but I was surprised to see the huge cacti. These were some seriously big saguaros, which means seriously old, saguaros. I’m glad they didn’t get pulled up or cut down to make room for the graveyard.

 

I love this photo with the two saguaros presiding over Ajo Cemetery with A mountain in the background. I wasn't even trying to get the mountain in the background, and I didn't realize the Ajo "A" would show up so clearly. This is one of those photos I look at and think, how did I do that?

I love this photo showing the two saguaros presiding over Ajo Cemetery while A Mountain stands in the background. I wasn’t even trying to get the mountain in the background, and I didn’t realize the Ajo “A” would show up so clearly. This is one of those photos I look at and think, How did I do that?

I’d never seen graves covered with painted gravel before, but I saw them at the Ajo Cemetery.  I saw a couple of IMG_6184those, each with the gravel painted different, bright colors. I wonder why. Why gravel, I mean. I sort of understand people who think painted gravel looks prettier than plain gravel wanting to paint it, but why put gravel on a grave site in the first place? Maybe to try to keep the dust down?

IMG_6217When I visited the Old Kernville Cemetery (read about that experience here: http://www.rubbertrampartist.com/2015/05/29/old-kernville-cemetery/), I encountered a couple of graves upon which an unopened Bud Light had been placed. In the Ajo Cemetery, I encountered grave sites upon which other beverages had been left. I saw bottles of water, Coca-Cola, and Jarritos. I wonder if this offering for the dead is particular to the dessert.

I saw several creepy things at the Ajo Cemetery.

The first creepy thing I saw was a rather disturbing inscription on the headstone marking a baby’s grave.

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I’m not trying to be snarky or offensive about someone else’s grief or how that grief is expressed. I know that people mourn in different ways. Also, I give this family props for staying optimistic in the face of losing their baby. But I feel freaked out by this sentiment of “my baby’s dead, but God will send me a new baby, and I won’t even miss the old baby.” Let’s just say I don’t think this is the way I would grieve my lost child.

The second creepy thing I saw was a collapsing grave. Yes, I got as close as possible so I could look into the hole. Yes, I stepped gingerly, gauging my weight so I wouldn’t fall in. Yes, I experienced a mild fear of an arm reaching out and grabbing my ankle. No, I didn’t see a coffin or bones. No, nothing grabbed my ankle.

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I hope someone comes along soon and repairs Donald P. Harrison’s grave.

The third creepy thing I saw harkens back to the DIY grave markers. It may be a bit difficult to believe that I actually encountered in a cemetery the grave represented in the next photo, but I promise you, the photo shows exactly what I saw.

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I saw so many graves of children in this cemetery. It seemed like there were more children’s graves than I normally IMG_6198see in graveyards. Maybe Ajo was not only a town with families (as opposed to settlements populated with predominantly hard-living men), but a place where life was rough and survival was difficult. All of those graves of kids got to me, and I felt rather melancholy when I left.

I think cemeteries are making me sadder as I get older.

Ajo cemetery is located at 1181 Cedar Street in Ajo, Arizona.

I took all of the photos in this post.

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Ajo Copper News Mural

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I recently wrote about murals on the walls of an alley in Ajo, Arizona.  In the comments of that post, one of my readers asked me,

Did you happen to see the mural on the bookstore?

Why yes. Yes I did. You can see a photo I took of the mural at the top if this page.

The building with the mural on its side does not only house a bookstore. It’s an art gallery as well, and the home of the Ajo Copper News,

 …a weekly newspaper. It has been serving the communities of Ajo, Why, and Lukeville in Western Pima County since 1916.

Although I did browse in the bookstore (and bought fantastic, reasonably priced postcards with lovely color images of Ajo and Why), I didn’t really know anything about the mural. It was cool. I looked at it. I took a photo. I moved on.

While writing this post, I found more information about the mural on the website of Rocky Point Times newspaper (our of Puerto Peñasco, Mexico). The says,

When the current location of the newspaper and bookstore was purchased, it was the goal of Hop David, (the artist, also the publisher) to have a mural on the front of the building. That dream came to fruition, when in 2012, Hop completed the current mural with the help of another local artist, Mike “DaWolf” Baker as part of ASAP (Ajo Street Art Project).

My reader told me,

Someone saw me ogling and was kind enough to point me to the footprints on the sidewalk that give the oblique (and intended) view of the whole thing.

No kind person saw me ogling and pointed me to footprints! I had not idea. I never saw any footprints, so I guess I looked at the mural all wrong.

The aforementioned article in Rocky Point Times says the mural

is best viewed from the painted footprints on the corner of Pajaro [Street] and Highway 85 by the tiny park in order to get the complete effect of the trick-perspective mural.

I guess I am going to have to go back and take a better look.

I took the photo in this post.

Ajo Murals

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During my first trip to Ajo, AZ, I saw a few murals on the south side of the Plaza when I drove by on Highway 85.

This is the one I saw the most often:

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I love the way the clouds and blue sky in the photo mirror the clouds and blue sky in the painting.

It faces the highway and is quite obvious. I saw it whenever I drove south past the Plaza.

This is the mural I saw as I drove north past the Plaza:

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This is the mural to the left of the one with the coyote and the saguaro. The quote, attributed to Gandhi reads, “The best way to find yourself is to lose yourself in the service of others.”

During my second trip to Ajo, I decided to take photos of these two mural and the one to the immediate left of the one with the coyote and the saguaro, which I could just barely see when I drove by. As I stood at the entrance to the alley, I was quite surprised to see many murals painted on the walls on both sides.

As far as I remember, no one I met in Ajo or Why told me about this collection of murals. The lady in the thrift store didn’t mention it. I didn’t see any brochure about it at the visitor information center. Did Coyote Sue tell me about it and I forgot? I tend to enjoy looking at public art, so it seems to me if someone had mentioned these murals as an Ajo attraction, I would have gone to look at them right away.

When I did a Google search on “Ajo alley murals” (or something to that effect), I found an entry from April 6, 2015 on the Tucson Mural Arts Program blog. The date on this post shows the murals are fairly new.

At the top of the aforementioned blog post, there is information about the  Tucson Mural Arts Program.

The (TMAP) seeks to create a city wide outdoor gallery of original artworks by matching artists with wall owners. TMAP is a results-based beautification program that involves residents of all ages in the design and painting of murals. We offer a viable solution to social isolation and property damage by working with our community to collaboratively create works of art.

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I’m not sure if this stencil art is an officially sanctioned, but it’s in the alley, and I like it. I’m amazed by the depth of expression in the man’s face.

The blog entry, titled “Ajo Street Art Mural Project,” says,

Muralists from Tucson joined with artists from throughout the border region helped to enliven an alley between two historic warehouse buildings in the heart of the Sonoran Desert, Ajo, AZ.

Artists spent a week painting murals throughout the day and night creating a festival like atmosphere in the once barren alley way.

The blog posts shows “before” photos of the alley, as well as photos of the artists at work.

The post continues,

…Arts Brigade artists had a ton of fun working with the local high school students and their teacher. Students created a series of individual and group murals. TAB [Tucson Arts Brigade] artists taught students the basic tools and techniques needed to make a mural.

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The TMAP website identifies this piece as “Alice Glasser Mural.” Alice’s signature is on the lower left of the piece.

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This is one of my favorite pieces in the alley. I appreciate the way the pipes and the breaker box seem to disappear into the art. I wish I could hear the music these men would create. Who is Don? Is he one of the men represented here? And who is the artist? (I don’t think I cut the artist’s signature out of my photo, but that is a possibility.)

I’m surprised the town of Ajo or the International Sonoran Desert Alliance or TMAP or somebody hasn’t produced a brochure giving information about each piece. This art is beautiful and important and deserves to be seen. Is there such a brochure and I missed it? How could I have missed such a thing?

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This mural made me sad because it’s been sketched out but never completed. What happened to the artist(s) who started this piece? Will it ever be finished?

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I like that not all of the murals show off lofty themes or extraordinary artistic talent. This mural is by and for the people.

In any case, I was glad I stumbled upon the murals. In a way, it was more magical to find them on my own. I found them because I was paying attention, not because I saw it on a list of things tourists should do or because some guidebook or website or brochure recommended it to me.

I documented the whole alley, and now you can have a look at the art and decide on your favorites. (Feel free to write a comment to tell me which piece is your favorite and what you like about it.) I took all of the photos in this post, but of course, my photos never truly do justice to the subjects. IMG_5608

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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I tried to move the piece of metal visible on the bottom right of this photo so I could capture the full mural, but the metal was HEAVY. I enjoy the juxtaposition of the soothing blues and greens of the art next to the utility pole and the old door.

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There is so much to love in this piece: the person composed of the yin-yang symbol, a heart, a peace sign, and the infinity symbol; the landscape with mountains, trees, and cacti; the reminders that “all life is sacred” and “end racism.”

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The edge of this piece is visible on the left of the previous photo. I like the way this piece blends in to what’s around it.

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If you don’t know Spanish, “eres el sueño” means, “you are the dream.”

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Hometown pride…

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I believe this piece represents the of three nations of the Sonoran Desert – the U.S., the Tohono O’odham Nation, and Mexico.

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This piece is equating pre-unification Germany with the the Tohono O’odham Nation, which has been divided by the border between the U.S. and Mexico. From the Tohono O’odham Nation website: “From the early 18th Century through to the present, the O’odham land was occupied by foreign governments. With the independence of Republic of Mexico, O’odham fell under Mexican rule. Then, in 1853, through the Gadsden Purchase or Treaty of La Mesilla, O’odham land was divided almost in half, between the United States of America and Mexico… the new border between the United States and Mexico was not strictly enforced…In recent years, however, the border has come to affect the O’odham in many ways, because immigration laws prevent the O’odham from crossing it freely.

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The TMAP blog post identifies this piece as “Kat’s Mural, ‘Heart of the Desert’.”

 

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The TMAP blog identifies this piece as “Doors of Perception” and says it is “by Valeria and Isabella H. (TAB [Tucson Arts Brigade] youth artists).”

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The TMAP blog post identifies this piece as ‘Flip.” It was painted by Michael Schwartz.

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I find this mural so moving. It depicts the work of The Ajo Samaritans, a humanitarian aid group that works to prevent death in the desert by leaving food and water for travelers walking through the harsh terrain.

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The words in Spanish say, “Take them if you’re thirsty.”

I took all of the photos in this post.

Red Tanks Tinaja Hike

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As soon as I found the Ajo Plaza, I went into the thrift store on the corner. I shop primarily at thrift stores, and even if I don’t buy anything, I like to see what different stores have for sell. I hadn’t been there very long when I started chatting with the two women in the store. They were talking about Hatch, New Mexico, and I told them what I knew about the area. When it was determined that I was visiting Ajo, one of the women told me I needed to visit Quitobaquito.

She said Quitobaquito was in the Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument. She said it was an oasis in the desert, but warned me not take the route given on the tourist information. She said that was the long way around, then gave me some quick directions I didn’t understand, referring to roads I’d never heard of. I assured her I’d make it there if I could. I meant it too, because the place sounded interesting and exotic.

When I asked my friend Coyote Sue–who lives down the road in Why, AZ–about Quitobaquito, she said she’d never heard of it, so she wasn’t able to give me directions.

While planning my visit to the Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument, I found the following listing under ranger programs (http://www.nps.gov/orpi/planyourvisit/ranger-programs.htm):

Location Talk- Quitobaquito Spring: Monday, Wednesday, Friday at 10:30am
Join a ranger at this gorgeous desert oasis and learn about the animals and its rich cultural history. Meet the ranger at Quitobaquito or contact the visitor center to reserve a spot on the van.

I asked Miss M if she wanted to attend this talk. She said yes. Good ol’ Miss M, she’s up for most anything. So I called the visitor center and signed us up for the van ride. (There was no extra charge for the van ride and talk. All of the ranger programs are included in the $12-per-car, good-for-seven-days, admission to the Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument. Because Miss M had the federal land pass for seniors, neither of us had to pay a dime.)

On the morning of the tour, we hit the road plenty early to get to the pick-up spot at the visitor center in time, but when we got out to the highway, we saw a state police roadblock. Oh no.

A female officer approached Miss M’s car. She told us the border was closed. When Miss M asked why the border was closed, she said they had no information. Miss M told her we weren’t planning to cross the border or even go near it. When Miss M said we were headed to the National Monument, the officer said no problem, and the cops let us through. At that point, both Miss M and I knew we probably weren’t going to be able to visit Quitobaquito that day.

See, Quitobaquito is close the the Mexican border…really close. According to https://organpipehistory.com/orpi-a-z/quitobaquito-springs-2/, Quitobaquito Springs is located

a mere two hundred yards from the U.S.-Mexican border.

No way was the National Park Service going to let a small group of tourists traipse around so close to the border while some sort of incident was occurring.

When we arrived at the visitor center and told the ranger about the roadblock and the closed border, he told us he hadn’t heard anything about it. However, over the next half hour, the ranger got word that the border was closed, it had been closed by Mexico, and there would be no location talk at Quitobaquito that day. He offered instead to lead a short hike (about a mile and half round trip) to the Red Tanks Tinaja.

I was disappointed. I’d been really excited to see Quitobaquito. But I knew Miss M wasn’t going to drive out there while an international incident was possibly in progress, and I wasn’t going to go get my van to drive out there on my own, so Red Tanks Tinaja it was.

(I wasn’t the only one disappointed by the cancellation of the Quitobaquito location talk. When the ranger stopped the van at the campground to pick up the other folks who’d signed up for the ride and talk, one woman was obviously angry.  Because Miss M and I were in the van with all of the doors and windows closed, we couldn’t hear anything she said, but her body language announced her displeasure.)

This is what Trails.com (https://www.trails.com/tcatalog_trail.aspx?trailid=HGS226-086) says about the Red Tanks Tinaja hike:

The trail begins as a narrow footpath, but soon merges with an old two-rut wagon trail. The wagon road runs southwest across desert flats studded with tall saguaros. Far to the east, the Ajo Range towers beyond the lesser crags of the Diablo Mountains. The cloud-rending spire of Pinkley Peak crowns conical hills to the north, while the crest of Twin Peaks rises above foothills to the south.

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This is the trail after it merged with the old two-rut wagon road. Several saguaros as well as teddy bear cholla are visible on either side of the trail. The short bushes with green leaves are creosote bushes. I have no idea what direction I was facing when I took this photo.

Never heard of a tinaja? I hadn’t either until I went on this hike. According to https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tinaja

Tinaja is a term originating in the American Southwest for surface pockets (depressions) formed in bedrock that occur below waterfalls, are carved out by spring flow or seepage,[1] or are caused by sand and gravel scouring in intermittent streams (arroyos).[2][3] Tinajas are an important source of surface water storage in arid environments.[2][4] These relatively rare landforms are important ecologically because they support unique plant communities and provide important services to terrestrial wildlife.

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This is the tinaja we hiked to. Our ranger guide was pleased to see the water in the tinaja.

While I was sorry to have missed out on Quitobaquito, I did enjoy this hike very much. Again, the IMG_4854ranger was knowledgeable and informative. I would have enjoyed being out in the desert and seeing new places and plant life, but I found it much better to make the journey with an experienced guide who could explain what I was seeing.

I took all of the photos in this post.

The New Cornelia Mine (Ajo, AZ)

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Ajo is a town because of mining. According the the Ajo Chamber of Commerce website’s history page (http://www.ajochamber.com/explore/history-of-ajo/),

On the way to silver mines near Magdalena, Sonora, Tom Childs, Sr. and his party chanced upon the Ajo area in 1847 and stopped to mine the ore they found. Soon the Arizona Mining & Trading Company, formed by Peter M. Brady, a friend of Childs, worked the rich surface ores, shipping loads around Cape Horn [and] smelting in Swansea, Wales, in the mid 1850s. The mine closed when a ship sank off coast of Patagonia. Childs and other prospectors worked claims here; long supply lines and the lack of water discouraged large mining companies…

A wily promoter, A.J. Shotwell, enticed John Boddie of Missouri to help set up the St. Louis Copper Company in 1890s. Shotwell organized the rescue [of] Copper Company when bankruptcy threatened. This became the Cornelia, then the New Cornelia, named after Boddie’s first wife.

“Professor” F.L McGahan and Shotwell introduced the so-called vacuum smelter that supposedly channeled each type of molten ore to different spigots and ran perpetually on the initial fuel. Mcgahan [sic] conveniently slipped away from the demonstration model in Los Angeles –it exploded when been [sic] tested.

The first to develop the Ajo area profitable [sic] was John Campbell Greenway…He became general manager of the Calumet and the Arizona Mining Company. Dr. L.D. Ricketts and Greenway developed a leaching method to process the carbonate ore overburden. Greenway also located the well that still provides water to Ajo and directed the construction of the Plaza, the community’s focal point. Calumet and Phelps Dodge merged in 1931 and the mine became the new Cornelia Branch of Phelps Dodge, managed by Michael Curley…

Ajo continued as the quintessential southwestern mining town, with occasional strikes and shutdowns, until 1983. The strike that began in July that year crippled the community with acrimony on both sides. Though the mine struggled on with non-union labor, copper prices plummeted and so did Ajo. Mining stopped in 1985. P[helps] D[odge] remained a presence in the community but sold much of its holdings, including the Plaza and the company housing. The remaining mines [sic] property is now owned by Freeport-McMoran [sic] Gold and Silver, Inc., which merged with Phelps Dodge in 2007.

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is a huge open pit operation  (about 3,000 feet long and nearly 2,000 feet wide) at 750 feet deep. Haulage was by internal railroad installed in the pit. Total production from 1917 through 1972 amounts to some 350,000,000 tons of ore…Higher grade ore was mined in the early years and lower grade ore in more recent years.

I picked up a sheet of “Mine Facts” at the Ajo visitor center. The question and answer format gives a lot of information about the mine.

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Tell us about the open pit?

First, three green hills were leveled from 1916 to 1930. Each bench of the pit is forty feet deep. In all, it is 1 1/2 miles wide and 1 1/4 miles across. Currently it is 1100 feet deep.

And what about the lake at the bottom?

The water, about 90 to 100 feet deep in places, is spring fed…The color is from the copper sulfite.

How does this mine compare with others?

At one time the New Cornelia was the largest producer of copper in Arizona. In 1959 it was the third largest open-pit mine in the United States and the second largest copper producer in Arizonza.

There is a mine lookout and visitor center (open October through May) on Indian Village Road. I went out there IMG_4783early one morning before it got too hot. There was an elderly man standing outside the visitor center. When I asked him if the lookout was open, he told me it was. He told me a lot about himself and the mine.

He first came to Ajo with his father in 1949. He worked at the mine in the maintenance department for over 32 years. He told me that when he worked in the mine, equipment was expensive and men were cheap. He said that’s how thing are in China now, which is why there’s more mining going on in China than the U.S. He said there’s still copper in the mine, but it’s low grade, and right now it’s not profitable for Freeport-McMoRan to extract it. However, Freeport-McMoRan gets tax breaks on the mine, so it’s in the company’s best interest to hang on to the mine until it is again profitable to extract the copper.

Here’s more from the “Mine Facts” sheet:

Is the mine closed?

Yes, mining operations shut down in 1984 and the smelter closed in 1985. At its peak about 3000 were employed.

Did the mine close because of labor unrest?

No. The mine continued operating during and after the strike of 1983. Falling copper prices resulted in the closure of many Arizona mines in 1985.

Can the mine ever be re-opened?

A large quantity of low-grade ore remains. It depends upon the demand for copper and the plans of the owner. When the mine closed it was capable of producing 40,000 tons of copper annually.

The open pit mine is massive. It’s one of those things that is so big, my brain has trouble processing it. (Mine brain seems to have particular trouble with gigantic things made by people. I can look at a mountain or a giant sequoia and think, that’s HUGE, and my brain grasps it, understands it. But when I look at, say, the enormous football stadium at UT Austin or the New Cornelia Mine, I can feel my brain struggling to comprehend how such a thing could possibly exist.)

The wall of each terrace is 40 feet tall. Each “bench” (the flat part of the terraces) is 40 feet wide. When the mine was open, trains chugged around on those terraces.

(From the “Mine Facts” sheet:

How was the ore hauled up?

Tracks were laid down on the terraces, and then ore cars were loaded by steam shovels.)

I cannot put into words how big this mine is. Unfortunately, my photos don’t do justice to massiveness of the open pit. Trust me, it’s fantastic, in an Oh, no, what have we done? sort of way.

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I took all of the photos in this post.