Once described as the "Hell-hole of Arizona," the copper mining town of Silverbell was a place that attracted outlaws and misfits like flies to turds ... the kind of place where "the wild, wild west" was an understatement. In the days before Sam McEvan was sworn in as the new Deputy Sheriff, three murders were committed. Good luck, Sam, you're going to need it.
Miners began scratching around in the soil near Ragged Top Mountain back in the1860's. They discovered rich loads of copper ore, which blossomed the little town of Silverbell. Western mining towns are notorious for attracting "the good, the bad, and the ugly," anyone in need of a buck, a beer, and a brothel. No mining town would be complete without at least a couple saloons; sometimes a guy needs a little hooch to get up his nerve. Therein lies the problem. Hooch makes men feel a whole lot bigger, tougher, faster on the draw, and even better lookin' than reality warrants. Too bad those lessons must be relearned by each and every generation. Just drop by any beer-joint after midnight and look twice at a feller who's been drinking or his lady friend and see what happens. I can speak from experience, unfortunately. Oh boy, some things never change.
Speaking of "change," one thing I pray will change ... needs to change ... is taking back control of our remote National Monuments like Organ Pipe and Ironwood. Not to re-beat this drum, but I could't help drooling over Ironwood as a potential boondocking paradise. That we saw only one pickup truck camper brave enough (or ignorant of the situation) to take advantage speaks volumes.
We all know why. When a Ranger is gunned down by AK 47 toting drug runners in Organ Pipe, and every wash is littered with obvious "articles" left by "traffic," and innocent people as far north as Phoenix are plucked from the streets for ransom, or murdered because they were in the right place at the wrong time... how safe would it be to camp?
As Wiseone's Susan and Maikel and Bobbie and I wandered up the side of Ragged Top, I made the comment that I would give anything to be able to fearlessly boondock in Ironwood. But dare we?
Look, we have waited long enough, endured more than a decade of closings, warning signs, "Keep Out" signs ... and this in spite of ramping up numbers of Border Patrolman such that they seem to be everywhere. But backroads? the very place that the people they seek wander through in broad daylight? few if any.
I want these lands returned to us for their intended use, not as some pipeline for drugs, hoodlums and illegal immigrants! It pisses me off to feel like I need to keep looking over my shoulder in a National Monument... that I am advised to "Take Precautions," use good judgment, and so on. Hell, I might as well live in Obama's home town!
We saw not one single Park Ranger or Border Patrolman after leaving the pavement to wander Ironwood's backroads. Why? It's not like there isn't "work" to do in the boonies of Ironwood. Maybe we could start by securing one section and build from there ... a place where the public could camp, bring their kids and let them wander around and play in washes, a place where RVers could boondock and not worry about every sound outside the rig after dark, wondering if it's trouble, or just a cow or wild burro.
The Wiseone's and Johnsons ignored warnings and "Keep Out" signs in Organ Pipe. To me it was an act of Civil Disobedience, a protest/statement that Organ Pipe belongs to us and we intend to use it as such. You would think that when a Park Ranger is gunned down in cold blood it would stir an effective response. But no, we retreat and close off 70 percent of the Park instead... basically give it back to Mexico to use as a Pipeline.
I would like to tell you I'm going to quit beating this "drum." But I make no promises I can't keep. Someone needs to start taking action to stem the tide... maybe even consider legalizing drugs here in the U. S., then use tax monies to educate our children about the horrors of "using," and fight the "enemy" with what's left over. We need to demand more attention to this matter from elected Govie bureaucrats, lest Cartels rule border states and we submit to fear and lock ourselves indoors.
Off the "stump," now... a few photos of our wanderings in Ironwood, including Silverbell's cemetery.
Just a small amount of some of the traffic "paraphernalia" we found while hiking washes.
We had to commit yet another act of "Civil Disobedience" in order to get this photo of a crested saguaro at the Silverbell Mining Headquarters. How dare they put up "No Trespassing" signs.
Susan thinks saguaro deformities like the ones below are as a result of mining pollution... either water or air.
Copper mine backdrops an old west scene
You will find lots of abandoned cars and bicycles in the desert. Draw your own conclusions.
Silverbell's Cemetery. Most of the grave markers are gone, and only a pile of rocks are left of someone's life and hard times. Someone went to the trouble to put up some lath crosses a while back... but they were pretty sun-rotted and falling apart.
This was only one of three marked graves.
Unmarked graves... one after another. Who were these people? Where were their descendants?
A more recent burial showed loving attention.
Note the small jar with the lid off in the above photo. It was crammed with notes from loved ones and strangers. Below is one of the sweet notes I pulled out to read... a poem written by a granddaughter. Maikel tried to read it out loud but choked on the words and had to pass it to Susan. It watered our eyes for a moment...
Ragged Top Mountain begged exploration...
Bobbie spotted this crested saguaro... odd because it was one of the arms and not the main trunk that was affected. Very rare and cool.