In a recent interview I was aksed why my fascination with the American southwest runs so deep. That list is a lengthy one but topping it are the western skies.
At night, nestled deep into a sleeping bag in the back of the truck, the starlit desert skies are truly awe inspiring. I have had times where the sheer brilliance and majesty of those skies has left me breathless.
Then there are the towering clouds of summer that rise from the rugged landscapes that dominate the horizons. Majestic comes closest to describing such scenes though that word fails to capture the stunning grandeur of such scenes.
After days spent polishing and worrying over the text for Ghost Towns of the Southwest like a dog with a bone the time has come to say enough, send it to the publisher and move on. I will finish the legends for the maps, send them with photos for illustrations and breathe a sigh of relief.
For this project this is the end of the road, almost. I know in a few months there will be weeks spent with the final edit, captions, and then a run through the galley proofs but for the most part it is over. As always when I get to this point there is excitement and relief.
The challenge with every book I write is to take a common, well worn subject and find a new perspective. With Route 66 Backroads I chose to profile overlooked locations in the hope it would encourage folks to think as explorers.
With Ghost Towns of the Southwest my goal was to break the preconceived impressions of the western frontier and, again, encourage exploration. Yes, Tombstone is featured in my new book but so is Hachita (another place added to my list of potential relocation spots), White Oaks and Chaco Canyon.
In these pages Wyatt Earp and Doc Holiday again walk the dusty streets but not of Tombstone, this time they are in Castle Dome City. I also introduce readers to larger than life men such as Jeff Davis Milton.
The next project simmering on the back burner is Backroads of New Mexico. This too is a pet project as for me this is truly the land of enchantment.
In the mean time I have two more weeks of hard push before getting any kind of a break. Arizona Backroads is about to go into a second printing and there will need to be some changes made. I have a great deal of work to do on the early promotion for Route 66 Backroads, a book that has me very excited with the attention it is generating.
I have several meetings looming, each of which requires preparatory work. Then there is the possibility of a trip to Suapi to help rebuild that community.
Most important of all is the milestone that is a quarter century of marriage. Of the lessons learned during that time none are as important as not blaming others for decisions I make and learning to be quick to forgive. I am so grateful for my wife’s patient tutelage.
This valuable lesson has saved my marriage and given me a healthier, more productive way of living. I know of no other way to loose control of life and descend into bitterness with stunning rapidity than to be an unforgiving person incapable of accepting the responsibility that comes from making a decision. Simply put I have little control over the crap that is tossed my direction in this life but have full control over my response.
These photos of Barney were taken a few months ago. They are, however, symbolic and that is why they have been on my desk this past week.
With the completion of this project I feel mud spattered and worn but eager to go again. To that end the plan is to have a new project within a few weeks. Then I can take a breather with a trip to Bisbee, enjoy the company of my dear wife and hit the ground running on my return.
I am truly a fortunate man. My list of reasons for making that statement is a lengthy one but it includes living in Kingman in Arizona and along old Route 66. All three have played a key role in the ability to add photographer to my resume. In turn this has provided new opportunities for sharing some of the things that make my corner of the world a special place. This might seem like shameless self promotion but instead I hope it will serve as encouragement. The photo of the old Ford truck under neon on Route 66 has been accepted by a major magazine for publication. The forlorn Model A Ford will be featured on the cover of my newest book, Route 66 Backroads. The other photo will also be included in that book. The moral of the story is dare to dream, seek out the wonders of where you live, find beauty in them and then find a way to brighten someones day by sharing it. Now, on to new business. Last evening I attended the first formal meeting in an effort to revive the Kingman Route 66 Association. The excitement as we discussed the things that make Kingman a one of a kind place was palpable and gave me real hope for the future. Sometimes we take for granted the things we see everyday and need the excitement of those seeing it for the first time to reawaken the senses. It was really good to hear so many new voices talk animatedly about the wonders that make Kingman unique. I really needed this spark as the multitude of changes in recent years has left me discouraged. Few who whip through Kingman on I40 or even those who poke along on Route 66 realize what a fascinating international community this is. My small circle of friends and close acquaintances includes a family from Turkey that has a intriguing store, Import Corner, filled with all manner of imported items, a born and bred, rough edged Texan married to a cultured lady he met in Japan, and a couple from Germany that are quite excited about becoming US citizens. Today I met a delightful fellow from the Philippines who worked in Saudi Arabia for a number of years. Last week I was introduced to a former citizen of Lebanon, who married a Japanese lady he met while working near Tokyo. They recently moved here from Australia! Even our restaurant scene is reflecting this change. In recent months we have added an authentic Pakistani and Japanese restaurant. Many bemoan these changes and though I miss old Kingman there is an excitement that can not be denied. Ironically many of these changes reflect the west as it was a century ago, something I learned in gathering material for Ghost Towns of the Southwest. Here is some quick trivia. The oldest continuously operated restaurant in Arizona is in Jerome and specialized in Chinese food, the owner from Hong Kong opened the establishment in 1899. One of the most successfull stage lines in southern New Mexico was co owned by a women from London. A German immigrant made one of the largest gold discoveries in the Arizona Territory. A Bedouin played a key role in laying the route for US 66. An Irishman in the employ of the Spanish established the presidio at Tucson. As one author so aptly penned – it was the best of times and it was the worst of times. It was true and is certainly true today. What an amazing adventure is this thing we call life on planet earth!
Okay, my education on using the new camera is incomplete. This photo is of a moon rise over the bluffs that loom over the old Mohave-Prescott Toll Road.
As I sat in the ruts of the old road waiting for the moon to clear the ridge I listened to the coyotes howl and gave the imagination free reign. There was nothing to break the illusion that it was the 19Th century or that I was miles from civilization instead of a few blocks from Kingman and Route 66.
Counted among the many things I treasure about the deserts of the southwest are the summer evenings, warm with a soft breeze and skies so clear you often feel as though you can touch the stars.
For those motoring west on the old double 6 across the deserts I highly recommend taking part of the drive at night, stopping under the canopy of stars, and listening to the silence. Remember, watch for snakes as they like the cool evenings as well!
The Fuller brothers of Kalamazoo, Michigan, made a better than average living with the manufacture of washboards and similar products. Joining forces with the Blood brothers, owners of Kalamazoo Cycle, they diversified into automobile production in 1903.
The resultant Michigan was a short lived endeavor with about one hundred cars sold by late 1904. Counted among the one hundred owners was Buffalo Bill Cody.
One of the most overlooked epochs in American history is the period between 1895 and 1905, an era when the future was overshadowed by the past. Icons of the frontier were learning to drive automobiles, stagecoaches still operated in Arizona, outlaws on horseback were pursued by posses in automobiles, and blacksmith shops and livery stables became garages.