I was driving in to town on Route 66 when it dawned upon that this year is half over. For reasons unknown this revelation usually strikes about time for the anniversary of D-Day. It also serves as a kick in the pants.
This year that kick is sorely needed. The deadline for Ghost Towns of the Southwest is looming on the near horizon and there is much work to be done.
With that thought riding heavy the decision was made to take half of my vacation next week to devote to that project and a few others.
As often happens in the week before a vacation everything that could go wrong went wrong this past week. So, the stress gauge stayed in the red for most of the past five days.
Yesterday afternoon, after a great deal of deliberation, I drove out to an area car show as a kick off for the week away from work. My expectations of finding original cars of merit were not high as the folks hosting the event and most of the supporters lean towards racing, street rods. and custom motorcycles. I am glad my lack of interest in street rods and custom bikes did not keep me away. Though the majority of vehicles on display were the usual
modified Model A ford cars and trucks, deuce coups, and tri five Chevies there were some real surprises.
Two of particular note are featured here. The Chevy is an original car with less than 50,000 miles on the odometer.
The DeSoto has received an extensive restoration thought the car was in fairly decent shape to begin with. The metal flake paint is meticulous as the attention to detail on the interior. The bright work is either re chromed or NOS. This, however, is not a mere show piece. The owner drives it on a regular basis to the tune of several hundred miles per month.
The honorable mention list included a 1973 Charger SE (less than 60,00 original miles, all original down to the window sticker and bill of sale) and a very nice 1964 Impala convertible.
Others included a 1964 Chevy II convertible, a 1965 Jaguar coupe, a 1966 GTO convertible, and a very original 1950s Harley Davidson.
Try as I might it is difficult to find the remotest interest in street rods or custom cars though a few reflect the skills of a true craftsman. Still, there is something that borders on offensive to see a 1930 Chrysler convertible with a modern drive train, air conditioning, and tilt steering. This is especially true when the car was an original, complete vehicle just a year or so ago.
Another that fell into this category was a 1947 Lincoln. After looking at the before and after photos the opinion was a lot of money and time had been spent to lower the value on a perfectly good automobile. On another topic, writing the ghost town book, as with all the features and books I write has been an education. It has really altered my perspective about the dangers of planting our feet to firmly in the past, not looking towards the future with a touch of eager anticipation, and becoming so firmly rooted we miss opportunity for profit as well as a touch of happiness in this troubled world and the flexibility needed for survival.
Bill Kirkland hailed from Virginia but soon learned that if he was to make a successful go of his new life in the southwest the time had come to learn Spanish. This flexibility gave him the edge when the Mexican garrison lowered the flag and moved south out of the presidio at Tucson after the signing of the Gadsen purchase in 1853. To celebrate the moment he hosted the stars and stripes a first in the Arizona territory.
He and another pioneer, Pete Kitchen, established a ranch at Canoa with Kirkland becoming the first American to drive cattle into the Arizona Territory. As it turned out he was a bit ahead of his time as all three herds driven north from Sonora were confiscated by the Apaches. This situation worsened with the withdrawal of troops during the Civil War.
After marrying Ann Bacon, the first Anglo-American wedding in Tucson, he relocated to an are near present day Prescott. As he later said, “I’ve helped bury a lot of men who insisted they had as much right to a place as the Indians did.”
Kirkland Junction, Arizona, is the location where Kirkland established a stage station in 1863. The prosperity of the station as well as his endeavors in farming and mining provided his family with a comfortable living but the rise in Indian attacks prompted him to relocate to the Phoenix area in 1868. His exploits on the frontier are a valuable lesson for those hoping to survive in a world of stunning transition and whirl wind change. As a teamster hauling freight from Yuma to Wickenburg he was attacked by a band of Indians. He survived a severe beating and lance wound to his arm. On another occasion he endured a lance wound to the back in refusal to give up his shirt. All of this earned the respect of the Indians in the area who christened him valiente capitan (brave captain).
In the years that followed the Kirkland engaged in a number of enterprises. His stint with mail delivery was fraught with danger and ended with the abandonment of the mining camps on his route. The explosion of growth in Phoenix swamped others.
In spite of all of this Kirkland lived long enough to see an age when trucks were replacing mules and automobiles crowded horses on the streets of most Arizona towns. He died with his boots off in 1909.