The Four Horsemen in Slow Time

Turning on the news, I learn that history begins at breakfast. Four horsemen trumpet apocalypse: conquest, war, famine and death. Yesterday’s news has been eclipsed. “Life is changing fast,” I murmur. “Can’t keep up.”

The Four Horsemen: Conquest, War, Famine and Death

“Four Horsemen of Apocalypse” by the Russian artist Viktor Vasnetsov (1887)

At a vista in Canyonlands National Park, the slow changes that sculpted this wilderness of pinnacles, canyons and rivers were occurring long before the creation of the four horsemen from the last book of the New Testament. The rocks I stand on were once ocean.

The doll'shouse formation was sculpted in slow time

View of the Dollhouse formations from the Golden Stairs in Canyonlands National Park. Photo by Hanna Flagg

In this scale, whatever legacies that ancient races left behind are lost in the detritus of petroglyphs and ruins—symbols of greatness and transience. I feel myself disappearing into the breath of the wind.

To steady myself, I start the slow movements of tai chi. The roots of the juniper and pinon coil downwards, forging pathways into sandstone. In the chalky dirt, I move carefully around the petrified logs of a pine forest that existed some 200 million years ago. The cataclysm that buried it happened quickly; yet the processes that mineralized the wood occurred particularly slowly.

www.nps.gov/cany/

Petrified wood and juniper forest

Petrified wood and juniper forest in Canyonlands National Park. Photo by Hanna Flagg/

Tai chi slows down my internal rhythms and grounds me into this present moment. The twin forests of death and rebirth at my feet remind me about the yin and yang cycles of change and the rhythms of fast and slow time. These will continue beyond any future I can project.

If this wilderness, in its pristine and natural disarray, had not been preserved so that I could visit and quiet myself down, it would be more difficult not to give in to primal bewilderment. History would always begin at breakfast. Visits of the four horsemen would fill me with dread. I would hoard my treasures, arm myself with guns, and guard my larders full of food and water. Greed and loneliness would become constant companions.

Instead, I return home purged of meanness. My enthusiasm and curiosity are restored. I have recovered equilibrium.

I continue teaching tai chi to family and friends to help them stay healthy and quell anxiety. I advise them to consume less; conserve more; seek the wild lands; and shun companies that sell death.

I write what I care about. My heart follows a path of peace.

It’s what I can do.

 

 

Happy Birthday, Katie Lee

Katie Lee will be 95 on October 23.

Activist Katie Lee

Katie Lee is a vibrant, energetic and eloquent 95-year old singer, author and activist. Photo: Katie Lee archives

Ever since Glen Canyon was buried by Reservoir Powell in the nineteen sixties, Katie Lee has sung, stomped, photographed, written about, fought to restore the magic of Glen Canyon and to let the Colorado River run free. She is venerated as the most flamboyant of knights among a growing legion of pro-wilderness activists. She refers to the reservoir as ‘Loch Latrine’ and ‘Rez Foul.’ Her auto license plate reads ‘Dam Dam.’

Katie Lee: Wild Riding Career

Katie had an eclectic and wild-riding career. She began her professional career in 1948 as a stage and screen actress. She performed bit parts in motion pictures in Hollywood; had running parts on major NBC radio shows, including The Great Gildersleeve and The Railroad Hour with Gordon McRae; was a pioneer actress and folk music director on The Telephone Hour with Helen Parrish in the early ’50’s; she left Hollywood to spend ten years as a folk singer in coffeehouses and cabarets throughout the U.S., Canada, and Mexico.

When I met her in 1980, she was the foremost documentarian of cowboys and their songs in western ranching circles.

One of the best histories ever written about cowboys.

“A beautiful job, exact, comprehensive and witty. Should remain a basic history of the subject for many year to come.” – Edward Abbey.

She brings them to life in her book Ten Thousand Goddam Cattle: A History of the American Cowboy in Song, Story and Verse; and in her recording Ten Thousand Goddam Cattle. The book might have been a bestseller among ranchers if goddam hadn’t been part of the title. Ranchers are a conservative and religious lot. My entreaties to change it would be met with angry expletives followed by “It’s the title of a famous cowboy song.”

During the 1980s and 1990s, Katie performed at cowboy poetry gatherings in Ruidoso, New Mexico; Medora, North Dakota; and Elko, Nevada, among others. Those festivals revived the West’s great legacy of cowboy songs, which are different from the songs sung at country western music festivals, which Katie loathes. “Country and Western is neither,” she once told me in an interview for an article I wrote for Sing Out! (a folk song magazine). “Its lyrics are about tight miserable places like phone booths, dingy bars, and stuffy bedrooms and some poor twit whose wife or girlfriend just dumped him.” She dismissed country superstar Waylon “f*#!ing” Jennings, “He wouldn’t know a cowboy from a cow.”

There’s no mistaking what Katie feels about anything. “Tact is a f*#!ing waste of time,” she once told me.

Her books, Glen Canyon Betrayed and Sandstone Seduction and recordings “Folk Songs of the Colorado River” and “Colorado River Songs,” and DVD, Love Song to Glen Canyon are paeons to the magic of a canyon now lost under the waters of Reservoir Powell.

Cover illustration by Serena Supplee, renowned artist of the Colorado Plateau. www.serenasupplee.com

Cover illustration by Serena Supplee, renowned artist of the Colorado Plateau. http://www.serenasupplee.com

“Why Glen Canyon,” I asked her over lunch one day, I was hoping my question would take her by surprise and that she might give me an answer that was not in her books. Without even a pause, she said, “Because Glen Canyon is always present in my mind, it’s hardly ever in my dreams. It’s as if my feet are still stuck in the sand at the edge of the river. It’s where I live. This other life I walk around in all day—well, that’s a passing thing. And in many ways it’s my defense against the sadder mechanisms of life around us. And God knows we all need those mechanisms from keeping ourselves from going crazy in this mad world.”

Katie Lee 1971

Jerome in 1971 scarcely looked like it does today. Big buildings were in decay. The Little Daisy had no roof and no windows; the old hospital was boarded up; the deterioration of the Victorian houses on Company Hill were symbols of the ghost town Jerome was purported to be. Although the population never dipped below 200, journalists portrayed it as one most famous ghost towns of the West.

Iconic view of Jerome AZ from the old cemetery. Photo by Bob Swanson (www.swansonimages.com)

View of jerome from an old cemetery. Photo by Bob Swanson (www.Swansonimages.com)

Here’s how Katie Lee described moving to Jerome 1n 1971.

“Betty Bell had a gallery uptown and it was her fault I was here. She knew of a house for rent. ‘No way I’m going to live on damaged earth. It’s a dead town.’ ‘Yeah,’ said Betty, ‘but you’ll love the price.’ I went to see it. Ninety dollars a month was way less than the $250 a month I paid in Sedona. There was black and white linoleum in the front entrance, and one wall was painted the most god-awful purple with green trim. It was the most horrible color combo I’d ever seen. The windows faced down the gulch, which looked like an ugly junk pile. I paid the rent, moved my furniture and plants, put my bags down, and handed the keys to the only two guys I knew and asked them to please water my plants. Then I headed to Princeton, New Jersey, to begin another tour of the United States as a folk singer.” (From the book: Home Sweet Jerome: Death and Rebirth of Arizona’s Richest Copper Mining City)

 Katie Lee: Career Milestones in 2014

The year 2014 marks three major milestones in Katie Lee’s career: she’s featured in two major documentaries and published a new book. A special edition of black and white art photographs highlights Katie’s 37-year old nude body in Glen Canyon. No wonder Katie is in a triple tizzy.

Producer ML Lincoln’s film Wrenched is a gut-wrenching documentary about the community of activists that were inspired by the work of Edward Abbey, who wrote so eloquently about the lonesome and beautiful places of the Southwest. (www.wrenched-themovie.com)

"Wrenched"-the film

Cover of the DVD of ML Lincoln’s film Wrenched.

DamNation documents the loss of America’s endangered rivers and the dams that block them. www.damnationfilm.com

DamNation

The film “DamNation” is a documentary about the adverse effects of dams

Katie sings and talks her way into the heart of the films, grabbing viewers emotionally.

Hite Marina before Glen Canyon Reservoir

The Ghosts of Dandy Crossing, published in 2014 by Dream Garden Press, is a triple love story: the characters that lived around Dandy Crossing, now Hite Marina, before the river rose to drown it; the love of the beauty of Glen Canyon that would soon be drowned; and Katie’s love affair with a cowboy/miner that lived at Hite. Katie is one of the few writers whose words can weave us into the magic spell that the canyons of the southwest have—and this book does it very well. The book is one of the few historical documents about the life lived in Hite Canyon before the dam before it was flooded by Glen Canyon dam.

Katie Lee near Dandy Crossing

The cover of Katie Lee’s book published in 2014 by Dream Garden Press (Salt Lake, Utah).

Naked Katie: Classic Portraits

Anyone who has ever hiked or boated with Katie in the wilderness knows she will shed her clothes as quickly as she possibly can, and not put them on again until she gets close to her car. In her words, [I have been]” hiking freely and in tune with nature for at least half of those years. When I met Glen Canyon it was love at first sight— a place far from the inbred taboos of our society— closer to a dreamland than to reality. I have never posed as a model and am not doing so here…only doing what I always did in Glen Canyon—climbing, dancing, walking, touching, talking to the stone, swimming in the river, lying in the shallows, sliding down the falls, crawling through ruins, inching up crevasses, hanging from tree limbs, covering myself with mud, playing, singing, living with the canyon. I can always tell when a model is photographed in a place she’s never seen or experienced before; it’s in body language that can’t be hidden.”

The limited edition of black and white portraits of Katie Lee at 37 years old is now available from Hance Editions, http://katie-lee.hanceeditions.com/about-us.

Naked Katie in Glen Canyon

A black and white photo of Katie Lee nude in Glen Canyon hangs in the Patagonia offices. (www.patagonia.com)

Katie Lee: A Rich Legacy Realized in Her Own Lifetime

Happy Birthday Katie. I’m so glad you are able to feel the effects of your eloquent activism in your lifetime. And I’m so happy to be your friend. www.katydoodit.com

Diane Sward Rapaport is the author of Home Sweet Jerome: Death and Rebirth of Arizona’s Richest Copper Mining City

Leaverites as Art—The Retaining Walls of Jerome AZ

Fifteen hundred retaining walls and fifteen hundred feet of elevation separate the house known as the Eagle’s Nest at the entrance into Jerome AZ from Prescott to its lowest residences—a couple of twisty miles as you follow the highway through town. They are Jerome’s most impressive, and sadly, most overlooked, architectural treasures. Many are works of art.

Artist Paul Nonnast's studio and foundry in Jerome AZ

Built into the hillside, artist Paul Nonnast sometimes described his home as a ‘perforated cave’—a compact L-shaped building of three rooms, entirely by hand. The interior rooms open onto a stone terrace with round, cold pool and serve as an extension of the home’s internal spaces. Inside and out, graceful sweeping curves, flat planes, numerous levels, angles, delicate patterning and tight joints identify Nonnast as a master stonemason. A new home was built in the nineties and the entire property is for sale and is being presented by Denise Lerette of Russ Lyon Sotheby’s International Realty, Sedona. (Photo courtesy Sotheby’s)

Retaining walls knit the town together and keep it from pitching down the steep mountain. They edge highways and driveways. In some parts of town, retaining walls keep homes from toppling into those of their neighbors.

Cobblestone streets still exist in Jerome AZ

A few cobblestone and limestone block streets still exist in Jerome. I call them horizontal walls.

Many foundations and building walls are made of native rock, such as the pillars of the old Bartlett Hotel, the only ruin remaining on Main Street.

Woven into these walls are the hearts of the people who built and repaired them, binding them to one another, bridging generations and ethnicities.

“I became a wall builder out of necessity,” said Jerome resident Jane Moore.  “The day I signed the papers from the woman who sold me the house was the day I was underneath the house cleaning some of her stuff out and the rock wall under there completely fell over! There were SO many old walls all over this property in various states of disrepair, that it seems it’s a never ending project! But never mind… it’s a job I enjoy, as long as my back holds out!”

Jane builds hand-stacked retaining walls on her property in Jerome AZ

The walls in the corral barn are ones I did by myself when Chuck was in Nevada mining turquoise. Photo by Jane Moore

Many generations of residents can echo Jane’s words.

Many retaining walls are hand-stacked, one stone over two, much like those built by the ancient Anasazi. Most have no mortar between them. Properly built, the walls “weep” and act as natural drains. They have an elasticity that enables them to gracefully shift and settle.

Retaining wall, Jerome AZ

The retaining wall on the highway going into Jerome have settled and withstood a few rumbles). It’s large graceful wave forms show the wall’s natural capacity to withstand earth movements and the rumbling of highway vehicles. The wall was built in the nineteen thirties as a WPA project. Photo by Bob Swanson (SwansonImages.com

In 1976, a small earthquake shook glasses in Paul and Jerry’s Saloon. Another small one occurred in 1984, just five miles outside of town. I was standing outside my old Verde Street house looking at the first wall we repaired. The earthquake sounded like an underground train ambling through the town’s underbelly. A few rocks tumbled, but the large walls held.

The stone for Jerome’s walls can be found within a seven-mile radius of town, many from the same colorful formations that are dominant in the Grand Canyon—1.8 billion-year old copper colored schist (Cleopatra formation), maroon Tapeats sandstone, grey Martin dolomite (A type of limestone), cherry-streaked Redwall sandstone, ruby-colored Supai sandstone and black lava basalt. The rocks tell of the ancient seas that once covered the area and the tumult of ancient volcanoes and earthquakes.

Jerome park walls facing Main Street.

So many people sit on these limestone block walls facing Main Street and seldom notice how beautifully built and richly textured they are. Above the park is the old Episcopal Church now owned by the Jerome Historical Society and used for offices and archives. Photo by Bob Swanson (SwansonImages.com)

Then there are walls built of coarse caliche (the white cement like calcium carbonate), which are found on the Dundee hogback and make digging there a nightmare.

Not all Jerome’s walls are made of rock. Concrete walls flank the old Mingus High School and a large highway wall flanking the road that does up to The Surgeon’s House Bed and Breakfast and the Grand Hotel. Parts of the large wall on Holly Street is built of giant steel sheets that were used to form up the shaft that goes 4200 feet into the mountain. Other walls are built with railroad ties and old telephone poles.

Mixed media retaining wall Jerome AZ

The retaining walls Holly Street. Sandstone, railroad ties and steel sheets. Photo by Bob Swanson (SwansonImages.com)

Some of my favorites use bedsprings and old car engine blocks, woodstove doors, corrugated tin, pipes, 25-gallon laundry buckets, and discarded refrigerators filled with stones and discarded tires. Old timers knew the term recycling long before it became fashionable.

Laundry bucket walls of Jerome AZ

I love all the quirky walls, though many have been replaced with ones built with sandstone and limestone. Here’s one built with tires and laundry buckets. Photo by Bob Swanson (SwansonImages.com)

Virtually all Jerome’s residents have put their hands to fixing and uilding walls. These walls have a lot to say about the resourcefulness, stubbornness, tenacity, aesthetics and even quirky natures of their builders. My hats off to them—the great leaverite artists of Jerome AZ.

Hull Canyon retaining wall, JeromeAZ

Very near the mining road that led to the entrance of the old Hull Mine, a quarter mile from town, is this spectacular inverted hand-stacked wall made up of small rocks from the canyon schists that are 1.8 billion years old, almost a third the age of the planet earth.

 

 

Leaverite Society of Jerome AZ

In 1982, I showed an interesting rock that I found near Jerome to the President of the Mingus Gem and Mineral Club. “Could you please tell me what kind of rock this is?”

“Young lady, what you have there is a genuine leaverite.”

“What is a leaverite?” I asked.

A smile curved into his lips: “One you leave right there.”

Leaverite bridge by Michael Grab

Oh, what Michael Grab does with leaverites. www.gravityglue.com

The Leaverite Society

In 1985, Dana Driver, Susan Dowling and myself formed the Leaverite Society of America to provide some humorous counter balances to Jerome’s contentious politics.

Before two months went by, The Leaverite Society had 75 paying members, most of them Jeromans. All had a major love affair with rocks. Rocks were fun. They weren’t jealous or possessive, weren’t political, and didn’t talk back! The ideal companion for us leaverite philanderers!

‘Leave No Stone Unturned,’ was the first motto of the Leaverite Society. “Hot Rocks or No Rocks at All” was the second. After the disastrous pot bust of 1985, which led to the arrest of sixteen Jeromans, including two members of the Jerome Town Council, a Leaverite Society member who wished to remain anonymous proposed a third motto: “Everybody Must Get Stoned.”

At our first official meeting, Georgia O’Keefe was given an honorary membership. Once a week she arranged her living room around a special rock.

The Leaverite Society made commemorative hats, held potlucks, complete with rock scavenger hunts, and published two newsletters. The second issue featured a love story by Tikky Trachyte (the inimitable Katie Lee), and an article by Ayers Rock (Joe van Leeuwen’s moniker) on the Cock-of-the-Rock, a bird that inhabits the rocky ledges and shallow caves of South and Central America.

Cock-of-the-rock

The cock-of-the-rock is the national bird of Peru. Jo van Leeuwen of Jerome, Arizona proposed that the bird be adopted as the mascot for the Leaverite Society of America in Jerome AZ. Image is in the public domain. See: http://www.gutenberg.org/files/30221/30221-h/30221-h.htm. From a free e-book, Birds: illustrated by Color Photography first published in 1897 by the Nature Study Publishing Company, Chicago, IL.
Book is on-line and the photographs of birds and their descripts are beautiful.

It also included a fiendish British-type crossword puzzle by Whitecliff (Dana Driver’s Dad) called “100 Arabs-Egyptian Rock Group.” British crosswords are known for containing clues that are both straightforward and cryptic. I couldn’t even guess the straightforward answers to “Seek complaint in first-class rodent,” “Utah resident hunting antelope in Nepal,” or “He takes his half of the road out of the side.” I did not know one Leaverite Society member who solved the puzzle.

Geologists

Geologists you’d expect among the rock lovers of this fabled billion dollar copper camp. They’re serious leaverite hounds.

In the seventies and eighties, dozens of world-renowned geologists roamed the area around Jerome to figure out when and how the super rich massive sulfide ore bodies formed. They’re the ones that turned Jerome into a fabled and very wealthy copper mining city.

Jerome Arizona’s ore bodies are called massive sulfides not just because they are large (some geologists describe roughly shaped spheres that can extend a mile or more down into the earth), but because they are so dense with precious ores, like copper, zinc, gold and silver. The official definition massive sulfide ore bodies are those contain more than 50% minerals to a ton of rock.

The ‘when and how’ answers that geologists came up with are straightforward—the massive sulfide ore bodies are 1.738 years billion years old, and were formed in hot springs vents in deep undersea volcanoes virtually at the same time as the large undersea volcano that hosted them—the copper colored Cleopatra formation that dominates views when people look up at Jerome from the Verde Valley.

Jerome AZ illustration by Anne Bassett

The twin pyramid-shaped mountains that dominate Jerome are the Cleopatra formation. Illustration by Anne Bassett-www.jeromeartistannebasset.com

Incredibly more convoluted are answers to the questions about how the ore bodies remained intact over immense and varied cataclysms over such a long period of time and the dynamic processes that led to a tip of the United Verde ore body being exposed to the air, which enabled its discovery. The geology of the Jerome area is a giant, intricate puzzle with quite a few missing pieces.

According to Verde Valley geologist Paul Handverger, “The Jerome area is one of the most interesting geologic phenomenons of North America. Much more interesting than the big ditch,” (the Grand Canyon.)

One could earn a PhD in geology by studying just this small patch of real estate.

The Quest for Gold

During his quest for gold in Northern, Nevada, John McNerney found a new method for its discovery—and a new use for gold. He designed a mercury detector that used gold film sensors to analyze minute quantities of vapor rising above the soil deeply buried gold deposits. John founded Jerome Instrument Corporation in 1979 to manufacture these detectors.

One irony: although some geologists bought a few mercury analyzers as a prospecting tool, the major market turned out to be the United States Navy. Its submarines needed to instantly know when mercury based instrumentation broke and fouled the air. Mercury is toxic to the nervous system and can turn people into mad hatters.

As an aside, John’s wife Iris was convinced all Jeromans were wacky because of the mercury that exists in the soils underneath Jerome’s feet.

The second irony is that John is now avidly against the opening of new gold mines because of their environmental destructiveness. He helped lead a major movement in Todos Santos, Mexico against a mine that would have likely fouled an area aquifer. ‘Aqua vale mas que oro’ was their rallying cry. (Water is worth more than gold).

Jewelers

While geologists were combing the hills, perhaps many as forty people in Jerome were jewelers, carvers and sculptors. Dana Driver and Susan Dowling, two founders of the Leaverite Society were jewelers. I just liked leaverites. (My husband liked to build retaining walls on our property.)

Flamingo pendant by Dana Driver

Jeweler Dana Driver’s beautiful pendant beach stone and silver pendent. See others at: http://www.danarocks.com

For a few years, Dana Driver, president of the Leaverite Society, became fascinated with beach stone. She polished them, incised them with gold and silver, made them into pendants, flowers and insects. www.Danarocks.com. Dana is among artists that continuously reinvent themselves and stretch artistic boundaries. A few years after her fascination with beach stone, she got into making fine jewelry from bottle caps, tin cans and bits of rusty metal.

Susan Dowling collected malachite and azurite from Jerome’s mines and made rings and pendants.www.foxazhandmade.com

Malachite ring by Jeweler Susan Dowlng

Malachite ring by Jeweler Susan Dowling.

As a child, Jesse Dowling, Susan’s entrepreneurial son, sold leaverites to tourists for extra candy money. (Today, Jesse serves on the Cottonwood City Council.)

I’ve always marveled that Bob Hall, who makes some of the most delicate hand-faceted bead necklaces, has also built some of Jerome’s largest hand-stacked retaining walls, including the wall behind the Jerome fire station and the wall flanking the basketball court, adjacent to the sliding jail. Retaining walls are Jerome AZ’s most overlooked architectural treasure, even though hundreds are in view every day.

Granny and the Freight Train Hoppers

In mid-June, my 28-year old grandson Aaron told me he was going to ride the rails for three months—just like the legendary railroad hobos. He and his girlfriend Crystal, her small dog Honey, and their 20-year old friend Diego are freight train hopping from Santa Rosa, California to see Crystal’s mom in New Hampshire and then back.

Hobo Aaron and Granny

Close up of Freight Train Hopper Aaron and Granny at the Black Butte Center for Railroad Culture.

A Working Vacation

Aaron’s game company’s boss told Aaron he could send illustrations while he was on the road. He carries a laptop and smart phone in his backpack. That qualifies Aaron’s vagabond freight train hopper adventure as a ‘working’ vacation, and since the narrow definition of hobo is a migratory worker, perhaps Aaron could even be called a hi-tech hobo.

Aaron has the brains, stubbornness, wits, sweetness, and moral integrity of our family. He feels kinship with the poor, the blue collar and the disenfranchised and he has a terrific loathing of cops.

In riding the rails, Aaron is defying the establishment and courting the wrath of the rail cops. On the one hand I admire his courage; and on the other, fear for his safety. I know that he will learn a lot about how the poor and disaffiliated are treated.

As for me, I’m happy to see the counter-culture traditions alive and well. They were a large part of my life in my music biz days in San Francisco and my time spent living among the hippies in home sweet Jerome, Arizona.

Rendezvous with the Freight Train Hoppers

The freight train hoppers got off the train in Dunsmuir, California, a town near Mt. Shasta, where I picked them up for a short two-day rendezvous. It was serendipitous timing. We were visiting our friends Bob and Sue Swanson in Weed, Ca.

“How about putting up our grandson Aaron and his girlfriend for a few days, “ we asked.

“Sure no problem.” They were immensely gracious when two turned out to be three and a dog.

“So how’s it been so far?” we asked when we were together for dinner that night.

“We spent one of the worst days of our lives cooped up in open box car for ten hours a in 100 degree heat outside of Sacramento. There were rail workers all around so we didn’t dare get out. We kept hoping the train would leave. Finally Crystal had to break for a ‘whiz’. Not too long after, a rail worker came by and told us the train wasn’t leaving at all; and that we’d best beat it. He kinda’ knew we’d hop the next train going north”

“How did you keep the dog from hyperventilating?”

“We kept giving her drinking water and dripped water on her head the whole time.”

The freight train hoppers were icons of good guests. They helped. They weren’t underfoot and disappeared for hours at a time. They kept everyone joyful company when it was wanted. They made some repairs to the porch deck. As Sue said when they finally departed, “I never washed one dish.” They hid a card signed by all of them where Sue would find it along with a beautiful necklace and a lovely stone and crystal flower.

Sue wrote me an email: “It almost brought me to tears.  Please pass on my heartfelt thanks, along with my joy at having the opportunity to meet them all.  Even though I met Aaron as a teenager, it was a pleasure to see the fine young man he has grown into.”

Makes a granny proud!

The Black Butte Center for Railroad Culture

The next day, I took Aaron and the others for an outing to the Black Butte Center for Railroad Culture (BBCRC) near Weed, California. The name is someone a misnomer for what is essentially a hobo museum set up in two refurbished boxcars at a former depot and siding for the Southern Pacific Railroad (now Union Pacific). I knew about the center because when we were in Weed in 2010, Bob and Sue took us to its first art show, a soulful event for this little known subculture,

Interior Black Butte water tower

The Black Butte water tower is a marvel of railroad graffiti. Photo by Aaron Austin

Their web site http://www.bbcrc.org describes their operations in terms that sound like they’re lifted from a Sierra Club brochure. “We combine our core focus on railroad culture with inclusive community-building, local ecological conservation, sustainable food cultivation, and habitat restoration.”

What we saw was a hobo center that is maintained by a skeletal scruffy-looking crew that lives in a few funky trailers. They run a transient commune, have an organic vegetable garden, clean up debris and plant trees. To raise money, they sell t-shirts, patches, zines and stickers.

As we looked around, a woman and a few dogs came out of the trailers to greet us. She told us there was a ‘work’ party in swing and walked us over to the museum, where she turned on the lights. Besides her, we saw was; a scruffy bearded guy that was lying on funky a couch outside one of the box cars; and a few others flitting in and out of the trailers.

Aaron and company offered to come back the next day and pitch in; the person who checks us out nodded and proceeded to leave us alone.

The BBCRC Box Car Museum

We explored the boxcar museum. One car had a photo history of the old Southern Pacific Railroad from 1901-2012 , including one showing a spectacular train wreck at the top of the Black Butte grade in 1901. Most unusual is a neatly arranged library of hobo culture—maybe a hundred books, magazines, videos, CDs—catalogued in a notebook bibliography.

The box car library at the BBCRC

Aaron (left), Diego. Crystal (right), and Honey the Dog. The two boys pick out some of the books from the extensive library of hobo literature. Aaron, far left, is reading American Nomad by Richard Grant, Deigo is engrossed by Rail Road Semantics and Crystal copies out some of the hoboglyphs, the symbols that were part of a written code developed by hoboes and painted on gate posts or telegraph poles to let them know if a place was safe, would provide food, etc. http://weburbanist.com/2010/06/03/hoboglyphs-secret-transient-symbols-modern-nomad-codes/   Photo by Diane Rapaport

I picked up a book called Blackfoot Indian, which was published in 1935 by the Great Northern Railroad. It featured paintings by Winold Reiss, a German born artist. The paintings of Indian culture were the basis of the railway’s advertising for almost 40 years.Rare book at BBCRC

Frank Bird Linderman, an ethnographer and writer from Montana, who supplied the text for this rare book, wrote: “The Blackfeet instinctively opposed the coming of white trappers and traders.
Nevertheless the fur companies built forts on the upper Missouri in the heart of the
Pecunnie country; and nowhere has the white man stooped so low for gain as in the
fur trade of the Northwest; nowhere has he been so reprehensible as in his treatment
of the plains Indian. The enforced inoculation of a large band of
visiting Indians with the virus of smallpox taken from the pustules on the body of a
stricken white engages at Fort Union, whose blood was known to be otherwise unclean
is revolting enough, especially when one knows that the step was taken wholly in
the interest of the traders who hoped to have the scourge over with before the fall
trading began. It is even more revolting when one learns that all the vaccinated
Indians perished.” http://www.gngoat.org/blackfeet_history.htm

I’m always outraged when an ethnic culture that has been subjugated and murdered becomes advertising fodder.

The BBCRC Work Party

The next day I dropped Aaron and his friends at the center. My husband and I and Bob and Sue took off for a mini vacation in Port Orford on the Oregon Coast.

Black Butte water tower

Aaron and Granny at the water tower of the old Black Butte depot and siding. Photo by Crystal Latsyrc.

Aaron sent an email describing the ‘work’ they did at the BBCRC.

“We built a Cob oven, chopped wood, cooked, dragged some kegs out of a spring fed pond where they were being kept cold and set them up for the punk acoustic show. Some bearded guys kept rudely ordering us around. The harder we worked, the more impolite they got. When the show finally started, the music was great.”

So much for the BBCRC’s claim to ’inclusive community-building.’

The Freight Train Hoppers Journey On

The freight train hoppers jumped a train out of Dunsmuir and made it as far as Eugene, Oregon where they picked up a homeless person named Moriah. A friend drove them all to Portland, where they all hopped a train to Seattle.

Black Butte volcano in central California

Black Butte is a volcanic spur of Mt. Shasta in central California. It is located between Shasta City and Weed,CA

“Beautiful ride to a town near Seattle where we were stranded for a few days. Right after the train stopped, a rail worker found us in the boxcar, told us train wasn’t going any further, and said that he “hadn’t seen us.” So we got into some shade under an overpass by the tracks, in full view of some construction guys. We didn’t think they’d have any reason to care about some bums lounging under a bridge, but they must have called the cops, because they showed up really fast. The overpass was out of the rail yard, so they couldn’t really prove that we’d been trespassing. They gave us written warnings. I assumed they don’t have much to do around here, if they can respond that quickly to some folks sitting under a bridge. Then later our friend Moriah got hassled for begging at a freeway on ramp. The town seemed generally unfriendly to the homeless. But we did find a nice, secluded spot to camp, and I think we’ll be fine, until we are ready to move on. We need to be somewhere else to catch the next train, because if we get caught here and already have written warnings, we’ll get ticketed for sure.

I told Aaron I hoped he was taking notes and photos so he could write a graphic novel. I’ll bet a nickel it would be a best seller.

Maybe they’ll get to the other hobo museum in Britt, Iowa.

Hobo Museum in Britt, Iowa

The Museum started in the 1980’s with a box of artifacts. The reality of a hobo museum took hold when the Chief Theatre was purchased by the Hobo Foundation with money willed to them from an unknown hobo. Collections have come from all over the world. http://www.hobo.com

Updates from time to time on my Facebook page.

Art: The Soul of Jerome, Arizona

The major reason Jerome is an unusual art mecca is because its resident artists are deeply entwined in the collective identity of the town. Artists are the heart of the town’s quirky, and sometimes contentious, soulfulness.

Since 1970, the annual ratio of artists to residents has averaged 25%—at least 100 out of 400 or so of its permanent residents. Few other art towns/cities can claim that high a percentage. Artists nourish and encourage each other, giving rise to a feedback loop that challenges them to improve and flourish.

Artists in Jerome Arizona are Business People

Many artists own successful shops and galleries. They help disprove clichés that artists should starve for the sake of their art and aren’t cut out to be business people. The oldest of the uptown galleries is Made in Jerome, co-founded in 1972 by potter David Hall and two students from Prescott College who were eventually bought out by Hall. Others artist-owned galleries and shops in the main part of town include Nellie Bly II (painter Diane Geoghegan) www.dianegeoghegan.com, Aurum Jewelry (co-owner artist Sharon Watson) www.aurumjewelry.com, Raku Gallery (glass blower and potter Tracy Weisel www.Rakugallery.com, Designs on You (owned by Leigh Hay Martin, a gifted quilter) www.designsonyoujeromeaz.com, and Caduceus Cellars (owned by noted vintner and rock star Maynard Keenan) www.caduceus.org. Artists own and operate all the studio businesses in the high school complex.

Made i Jerome Pottery, Jerome, AZ

Jane Moore’s paintings on pottery, available at Made in Jerome, are famous and very lovely. (www.madeinjerome.com)

Jerome Arizona Artists Participate in Politics

Even more unusual is that many Jerome artists participate in politics. In a town that has at least 110 volunteer positions, artists quickly learned that if they wanted a say in the safety, restoration and future of the town, they needed to actively involve themselves. Artists helped draft Jerome’s Comprehensive Plan and Zoning and Design Review ordinances. Artist have been elected to the Jerome Town Council and appointed to serve on Planning and Zoning and Design Review; voted by members of the Jerome Historical Society to serve as board members; and served on the Jerome Fire Department and fire auxiliary. Their contributions help counter the oft-spoken opinions that the hippies that moved to Jerome were spaced out, stoned-out good for nothings and that artists shouldn’t meddle in politics.

Painter Anne Bassett currently serves on the Jerome Town Council said, “People who don’t protect their liberty, lose it. I’ve tried to protect against the developers and further the respect for Jerome’s historic elements. From the beginning of when hippies moved in and became the majority, we have been working against the mainstream. Our high appreciation for diversity is a unifying strength. I’m still a hippie and proud of it.”

DeCamp House

The DeCamp house on Company Hill in Jerome AZ. It sits on the edge of Paradise Lane. Illustration by Anne Bassett (www.jeromeartistannebassett.com/

 Jerome Arizona Artists Donate Generously to Benefits

Musicians and artists have raised tens of thousands of dollars in the last few decades by donating services and art for benefiting Jeromans who are sick and needy or to organizations like the library, humane society and fire department. They also donate generously to the Children’s Christmas party every year to ensure there are gifts for every child in Jerome. Thank you artists!

Organization of the Community of Jerome Artists

Just after big mining abandoned Jerome in 1953, the first artists that moved in organized to support each other and draw attention to Jerome art. Roger Holt who had exhibited at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, Corcoran Gallery, and Carnegie Institute moved to Jerome in 1954 and lived there until the mid-1960s. Shan Holt, his wife, started a group called The Verde Valley Artists. Shan found a patron and friend in portrait artist, Lilli Brant, who became president of the group. As the town struggled to survive, Lilli’s husband, the renowned geophysicist Arthur Brant, predicted that someday Jerome would become an art destination.

In 1975, The Verde Valley Artist group morphed into a formal nonprofit called the Verde Valley Artists Association (VVAA), which started featuring non-Jerome artists for major Jerome exhibitions. One featured Paolo Soleri, the Italian architect who built the futuristic desert city Arcosanti, which was based on the fusion of architecture and ecology, which Soleri termed arcology. Another show featured Lew Davis, dean of Arizona artists, who grew up in Jerome during its mining days.

"Morning at the Little Daisy" by Lew Davis

“Morning at the Little Daisy,” by Lew Davis, owned by the Phoenix Art Museum. Davis grew up in Jerome, not wanting to admit to wanting to be an artist in a community of miners. After he moved out of Jerome, Davis painted a series of paintings depicting life in Jerome.

The VVAA began a student art show that toured the state and sponsored studio tours. Many artists reported they sold their first pieces of art to people attending those tours.

These activities garnered support from many Verde Valley businesses, which had been standoffish and suspicious of Jerome’s hippies and helped place Jerome on the map as an art destination.

Support of Arts by the Jerome Community

From 1953 forward, the community of Jerome has actively supported the artists. The Jerome Historical Society donated the space to the Verde Valley Artists and rented space to other artists at very low costs; and voted some of their income to buy art, as did the town of Jerome. Both the society and the town have extensive and valuable art collections, as do many of its residents and businesses.

Paul Handverger, a board member of Verde Exploration Ltd. (Verde Ex), helped persuade them to purchase Mingus Union High School in 1972 for $25,000 and target artists as renters. The first renter was fine arts painter Jim Rome, who had a gallery uptown and a large following. Clothing designer Ava Guitterez was second and she eventually opened a shop on Main Street. Artists Margo Mandette and Robin Anderson turned one of the buildings into a showpiece gallery and studio. Don Bassett, an artist who made humorous assemblages from iron scrap and bedsprings, was given a small apartment and free rent in exchange for being caretaker.

Art studios abound in the old Mingus Union High School

What used to be a high school is now an art focal point in Jerome AZ. Photo by Bob Swanson (Swansonimages.com)

Last but not least, the town’s aesthetics draw artists to it like bees to honey, just as they were drawn to other towns with exceptional aesthetics, such as Sedona, Taos, New Mexico and San Miguel de Allende, Mexico. Few other art towns, however, command the spectacular 180-mile panorama view that Jerome has from its steep mountain perch.

Late afternoon in Jerome AZ

Views from Jerome, AZ are often subjects of photographers and painters, only one of the reasons it is the most photographed and painted town in America. Photo by Ron Chilston (www.ron-chilstonartistwebsites.com)

 

An Art Museum for Jerome AZ—Wouldn’t it Be Great?

Jerome, Arizona needs an art museum that would introduce its numerous visitors to the marvelous art created here by painters, sculptors, photographers, jewelers, potters, etc. during its four major eras: mining days 1876-1953; ghost town years (1950-1960); restoration (1970-2000); contemporary Jerome (2000-present). Many artists, such as Lew Davis and Roger Holt, are nationally acclaimed.

Oil painting by Roger Holt

Oil painting by Roger Holt depicting Jerome in its ‘ghost town’ era.

The town of Jerome owns some art created by Jerome artists and it hangs in some of the town offices, meeting rooms and libraries. The Jerome Mine Museum on Main Street has a small collection of very fine oil paintings depicting mining days. The Jerome Historical Society archives has a considerable photography collection, only a very small portion of which has been printed and is on display. The Jerome State Historic Park has a small collection of photos and paintings. Some of that art owned by these entities is museum quality and should be protected and displayed in one location.

Sadly, however, much of the great art created in Jerome AZ before 1990 is gone—to families of artists that have died, to museums, and to visitors and residents of Jerome and the Verde Valley who had the good sense to buy it.

Three shows that occurred in Jerome within the last fifty years gave residents and visitors glimpses of the greatness of artists that once lived in Jerome.

Lew Davis: The Dean Arizona Artists

During the nineteen seventies, the Verde Valley Art Association in Jerome AZ sponsored a show of the art of Lew Davis, dean of Arizona artists, who grew up in Jerome during its mining days. The show included one of his most famous pieces, “Morning at the Little Daisy.” VVAA Director and musician Pat Jacobson and Arts Coordinator and jeweler Susan Dowling went to Phoenix in Pat’s pickup truck and borrowed all of Davis’ paintings from museums and collectors.

"Morning at the Little Daisy" by Lew Davis

“Morning at the Little Daisy,” by Lew Davis, owned by the Phoenix Art Museum. Davis grew up in Jerome, not wanting to admit to wanting to be an artist in a community of miners. After he moved out of Jerome, Davis painted a series of paintings depicting life in Jerome.

Other VVAA art shows featured the work of Arcosanti visionary Paolo Soleri and nationally renowned Verde Valley sculptor John Waddell.

The VVAA shows of Arizona artists and Jerome artists’ studio tours helped place Jerome on the map as an art destination. Shows of Jerome resident artists introduced their art to visitors and gave many artists their first sales.

1999: Images of Jerome

The Jerome Historical Society sponsored an art show in 1999 called “Images of Jerome: A Centennial Retrospective: 1899–1999.” The show depicted the culture of the community during three distinct periods: mining era, ghost town years, and restoration. A collection of more than one hundred paintings, photographs, jewelry, stained glass, tiles, sculpture, and pottery were displayed that were created by artists and artisans that lived in Jerome. The art was of excellent quality.

“Miner Pushing Ore Cart” by William D. White.

“Miner Pushing Ore Cart” by William D. White. This painting was the poster cover for
“Images of Jerome” exhibition in 1999. The painting was part of a series commissioned by Phelps Dodge Corporation in the mid-1930’s depicting copper miners. After the society formed in 1953, The American Legion loaned six of White’s paintings to the Jerome Historical Society and they were eventually accessioned by them.

I produced that show on behalf of the society. It was a propitious time to remind those of us who helped rescue the town of our deep attachments here and our roots into every aspect of its culture. The art was gathered from about 150 homes, studios, and businesses in Jerome and from the society’s collection in the Mine Museum. Curators ML Lincoln and Karen Mackenzie put in more than four hundred volunteer hours. They were astonished to find homes so chock full of Jerome art that they looked like miniature art museums. “These were not wealthy people collecting art as an investment but art to treasure as you would a good friend,” ML said. “Artists traded among each other or bartered their work for carpentry or bookkeeping or another piece of art. It was all very personal.” Lincoln and Mackenzie photographed all the art that they saw in people’s homes and donated the slides to the Jerome Historical Society for their archival records.

Vincent Family Art Exhibit

In 2012, Henry Vincent, a well-known Cottonwood CPA and resident of Jerome AZ had a showing of the art his family had gathered, much of it from Jerome artists at the old Manheim Gallery in Old Town Cottonwood. It was called the Vincent Family Art Exhibit and comprised more than thirty art works that had never been on public display and were not for sale, the majority of it by Jerome artists. Henry’s father Tom and mother Frankie remodeled a home in Jerome and moved into it in 1962. He began collecting art from Jerome artists. Their three children, Ed, Maeve and Henry continued collecting it.

The show included a painting of the Vincent family home called “First Snow” by Jerome artist and resident Robert Knudson and four or five paintings by Roger Holt the celebrated American artist, Roger Holt, who had exhibited at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, Corcoran Gallery, and Carnegie Institute. Holt and his wife, Shan, arrived in 1954 and lived in Jerome until the mid-1960s. They founded the Verde Valley Artists, which morphed into the Verde Valley Art Association in 1975.

Where Could a Jerome AZ Art Museum be Located?

But where could this museum be?” I was asked whenever I mentioned my idea to people in Jerome on a recent visit. No one disputed that it was a good idea; but they did become very dubious that a museum could find a home here.

At some point, Verde Ex could explore the possibility of donating/selling/granting some or all of the old Mingus High School buildings for an art museum. It’s a logical idea: it has the reputation already as an art studio center and has adequate parking. Verde Ex needn’t displace any of its renters, many of them artists, but it could stipulate that whenever the renter gave up the space, it would become part of the new museum.

Would Verde Ex by up for selling? That would have to be explored. Could money to buy some of all of the complex for a museum be raised from donations and grants: no doubt.

OR??????

But Wouldn’t It be Great

If an art museum did exist in Jerome AZ?

Wouldn’t it be great if special shows could be brought up to Jerome by artists that visited or lived here? Like Lew Davis. Or the great Edward Weston who photographed Jerome in the thirties.

An art museum could raise the funds and persuade the Corcoran Gallery in Washington D.C. to help mount an exhibit here in Jerome of some of the collection of William Andrews Clark, the man who started the first of Jerome ‘s great copper mines. Like his collection of rare laces. Or world-renowned collection of majolica pottery.

Wouldn’t it be great for Jerome artists, before they died or moved away, to donate one or two pieces to the museum, instead of it evaporating out of town, never to be seen again. I’m thinking of the great work by artist Paul Nonnast, who died a few years ago, and whose home and studio are on the market. Or stained glass artist Nancy Louden. Or the tiles and magnets of Jade and Rosie? Or some of the work of jeweler Shorty Powell, who lived here in the sixties. I’ve never seen any of his art.

Wouldn’t it be great if some of us who own some of the great art that has been created here in Jerome could leave it as a bequest to the new museum?

Wouldn’t it be great if there was one place our tourists could see the fantastic art that was created here in all eras of Jerome’s fantastic and colorful lives.

Fall in Jerome AZ

“Fall in Jerome” by Mark Hembleben, a plein air artist currently living and painting in Jerome. Hembleben has an art studio in the old Mingus Union High School. This painting would be one of my candidates for a new art museum in Jerome AZ. (www.markhemleben.com).

Wouldn’t it be great if there was one great art museum where visitors could recognize how deeply entwined art was in the history and collective identity of Jerome?