Naked, Kickass Katie Lee

Much publicity has been garnered from the beautiful black and white photos of Katie Lee nude in Glen Canyon in the 1950s that were taken by photographer Martin D, Koehler and printed for a special fine arts edition by master printer Richard Jackson of Flagstaff, AZ.


The photos are now part of the Katie Lee archives at Cline Library, Northern Arizona University, in Flagstaff, Arizona, in the special collection “Colorado Plateau.”

At no level did I ever see these photos of Katie as being ‘sexy.’ Katie was as natural in the wilderness as any wild animal, completely unselfconscious, in a manner that very few people are when they are naked.


“The Nymph,” photo by Martin D. Koehler, is part of a poster sold by Glen Canyon Institute.

Yes, she was a remarkably beautiful woman when the photos were taken, but when she was in those canyons, she was part of the sandstone that she said she was born with in her veins. It was as though these canyons were part of her body.

In Katie’s comments about the photos, she said, “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.”

Hiking and Boating with Katie

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.

Nakes katie with guitar.jpeg

Although this photo was taken when she was able to boat down Glen Canyon I had the pleasure of hearing her play her guitar in Gravel Canyon when we backpacked there together many years ago. She was singing in harmony with the coyotes.

Wasn’t she afraid of getting ‘scratched’ someone once asked. I remembered walking naked with Katie and Joey in an absolutely fabulous cactus forest in Southern Baja California. You just had to pay attention, a perfect lesson in ‘being present’ in that silent, but very vibrant world.


The second of Katie Lee's trilogy about a lost eden

The second book of Katie Lee’s trilogy of a lost eden., Cover art by Serena Supplee.

In her book Sandstone Seduction: Rivers and Lovers, Canyons and Friends, Katie wrote: “When I suggested to someone that reveling in that nude world was like taking a bath in awareness, they asked, “Of yourself?”

“Oh no,” Katie said. “Awareness of the earth, the elements, that blue roof up there, the old stone dune with its birthmarks, that fitting hollow, the sound that sometimes comes from the tone when I put my ear to it.” For her, it was the canyons that were sexy: “The luscious sandstones of Glen Canyon began their beckoning call to me after my first year in these sequestered erogenous zones—those deep sinuous paths between Mother Earth’s labia, so private, so impermissible, I’d back away. Should we even be allowed to see such things?” (page 162)
Dandy Crossing

The cover of Katie’s book, Ghosts of Dandy Crossing, featured herself nude, =grinning and pointing a Ruger at her friend and lover, the cowboy-miner Buck.

Book cover of Katie Lee's latest book.

Dandy Crossing was a ferry crossing on the old Colorado River between Hite Village and White Canyon, about three miles downstream from what is now Hite Marina.  The book is still available from her website

Perhaps more than any other book about Glen Canyon that Katie wrote, this one is about the people that lived and worked there before the canyon was dammed—the miners, cowboys, the ferryman, people who explored and settled the west. She felt at home with them and vice versa, whether or not she was nude. Their lives were upended with the building of Glen Canyon reservoir, a sadness some did not recover from, including Katie, who made her life’s work getting rid of the dam and restoring the flow of the Colorado River.

She had no airs in the company of those folk. She always said that the life she led as a performer was only to make money to get her back to her friends in Glen Canyon, exploring its labyrinths and byways.

KT 2 at The Gate

Katie Lee, the glamorous folk singer in the nineteen fifties.

And in those days, that meant performing in places like the Gate of Horn in Chicago or the Hungry Eye in New York.

Perhaps one of the more poignant passages in that book is when Jason, one of her river companions, goes to visit a glamorous Katie when she was singing in Chicago, an awkwardness between them that can’t be bridged, both unable to reach the easy communication with each other that was part of their river journeys, where she was always totally naked.

Do Any Famous Artists Live in Jerome?

Katie was comfortable with her nudity throughout her old age, when her body was full of sags and crinkles, freckles and liver spots. She just didn’t care. Sometimes you’d go to her house, and she’d meet you nude at the door.

I was once asked by a tourist visiting Jerome, “Do any famous artists live in Jerome.” I thought about this and answered, “Katie Lee.” “Oh, isn’t she the woman that rode naked through town on her bike?”

Katie told me she’s likely to be more famous in Jerome for her ride than for her books and music. Sadly, she was right. No stores in Jerome carry her books and music. During the last couple of years, a few Katie-come-lately’s (as my friend Richard Martin put it) laid claim to knowing her, but few have read her books or listened to her music.

An exception is the song written by Katie’s friend Kate Wolf called “Old Jerome, which Wolf wrote while staying at Katie’ house. The song was adopted as the official town song by the Jerome Town Council in the 1990s and is often played and sung by Jerome’s Ukilele Orchestra.

And yes, Katie is famous in Jerome for riding her bike through town naked except for a helmet and boots when she was seventy-seven years old. She howled with laughter as she sailed the mile downhill from Main Street to her house. It was her way to shed the glum, sad feelings she had after a close Jerome friend died.

Katie on her bike

Jane Moore, one of the owners of Made in Jerome, made this plate for Katie for her 93rd birthday commemorating her famous ride

The day she decided to do it was the kind of sticky and hot it gets just before a summer monsoon. “Friends were snapping at each other like loony birds in a tank of toxins and the humidity was a wet, down comforter under a 110-degree heating pad.” (Sandstone Seduction, “The Ride”)

She streaked past bar owner Paul Vojnic as he talked with Ray, the town cop. Paul said, “Well, aren’t you going to arrest her?” “What am I going to arrest her for” Ray said. “Floppy tits?”

Even before Katie reached her house, people who saw her started shaking the phone calls with their laughter. “Do you know what Katie Lee just did?”

Years later, friends put together a memorial to that ride on Katie’s maybe 87th birthday, where they rode their bikes, dressed up in fake big balloon boobs and padded bras over their clothes, before congregating on the steps opposite Paul and Jerry’s Bar. Only Katie and I showed up bare-breasted.

Foul-Mouth, Kick Ass Katie Lee

Maybe more than the nude photos, Katie was known for her foul-mouth. “It took me almost 20 years to get used to her saying the word ‘F. . . .K’, a close friend recently told me. The word would just roll out of her mouth—in conversation, but especially at lectures on the loss of Glen Canyon and the bottled up Colorado River.

Although most of our friends knew that Katie in the nude was her natural self, Katie in front of an audience put clothes and words together for shock and awe, including swear words. She was trained as an actress and used that training when she sang and lectured or was being filmed. Her appearances were not only unforgettable, but often brought audiences to tears. She was a fabulous performer. Then, she was happy to be known as a bad ass or a kick ass. It’s what she was going for. (The phrase ‘Kickass Katie Lee’comes from a short film by the same name that is produced by Beth and George Gage and shown at the 2016 Mountainfilm Festival in Telluride.

The only time I saw Katie embarrassed was when she delivered a commencement address at Prescott College to graduating teachers sometime in the 1990’s. It was laced with swear words and rants. Many graduates were Navaho women who were hugely offended. Afterwards Katie said to me, “This is the first time I’ve ever given a speech when absolutely NO ONE came back to tell me how great it was.” “Well, Katie,” I said, “look at your audience, young Navaho women, who had never heard another woman swear like that.“ First time I ever saw her blush.

Katie wouldn’t back off when I suggested she rename her book Ten Thousand Goddam Cattle, A History of the American Cowboy I Song, Story and Verse. She instantly hit red-line anger and screamed at me, “It’s a famous f….king cowboy song, goddammit.” That book might have been a classic hit among ranchers were it not for the title. The famed Western Folklife Center in Elko, Nevada wouldn’t carry the book; and many cowboy poetry festivals wouldn’t hire Katie either.

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

I sure hope the University of Arizona Press, current publishers of the book, will continue to reprint it and keep it alive. Some copies are still available at Katie’s website: (The odd website name, by the way comes from a conflation of the word Katydid, one of Katie’s favorite insects, and the phrase ‘doo dit.’ She couldn’t call the website by her real name because there was a cookbook author and chef by the same name who had taken the website name for herself.

The word tact was not in Katie’s vocabulary. Whatever she said or felt, she told you. I once chided her: “Katie, sometimes it might pay to be more tactful.” Again, full redline scream: “Tact is a f…..king waste of time.” She said that to me when she was just about the same age as I am now (78) and I try to say exactly what I mean, just not using the swear words.

I was fortunate to know most aspects of Katie— at home sewing, making beads, hiking nude, driving, performing—a giant kaleidoscope. And wherever I landed, what I saw is what I got. Inimitable Kick Ass Katie Lee.  I am still immensely sad at her passing on November 1, 2017.

If you want to read more about Katie: My personal tribute:

And a great obituary in The New York Times:

Copyright 2017 Diane Sward Rapaport

People That Moved to Jerome AZ: 1954-1967

Since posting the list of people that moved to Jerome, AZ between 1967-79, many have written me with comments/corrections, which I appreciate. Although these lists are difficult to get completely accurate, the families that once lived here and their children and grandchildren appreciate the effort.

The list of people that were here in 1953, after the mines left Jerome and it became a village, are posted in my book, Home Sweet Jerome: Death and Rebirth of Arizona’s Richest Copper Mining City. The list was amended slightly in the second printing; the third printing will have only a few more corrections. Many of these people continued to live in Jerome until they died. (A few examples would be Ruth Cantrell, Flossie McClellan, John McMillan, the Tamale ladies, Father John).

For sure, Jerome was never a ghost town. It may have looked like it in various neighborhoods, but after 1953, the population never went below 250.

The lists of Jerome residents from 1954 to 1979 will eventually be turned over to the Jerome Historical Society.

Here is the new list. It should be compared to the list of people that moved to Jerome from 1968-1979 (earlier blog). If anyone knows of people that ought to be switched in these lists, please let me know.

Please also add spouse names and or children. This list needs amending,

Sam and Clara Ater

Earl and Betty Bell (when did the kids move here. . .e.g. Patti. . .etc.)

The Blasés ( ? and Edith)

Gene Bollen

Walter and Marcia Brubaker

Leo Buss (Spelling??)

Duke Cannell

Charles and Helen Coppage

Bill and Anna Cram (Janet, Roger, Becky, Phillip) and Uncle Veri

Walter and Gladys Crow

John and Mary Dempsey

Rocky and Cele Driver and daughter Kya

John Duffy

Joan Evans

Frank and Thelma Ferrell

John Figi

Winifred Foster

Paul and wife Gross and daughter Minnie and Dani

Ralph Grummet

Ava and Alfredo Guitterez

Phil and Mary Harris and children Troy and Travis

Joe and Louise Heyer (Antique shop)

Barbara Hogan

Shan and Roger Holt and son David

Ashley (and husband?) Hostetter (Ashley had a gallery on main street)

Mary Johnson

Inez Kelly


Jere Lepley

Harriet LeVerring

George and Rosella Kennedy (had AZ Discoveries)

Ruth Kruse

Peggy Mason and their children Carter and Carietta

Louis and Louise Martinez

Charles and Fran Matheus

John and Kathryn Mathews. John was a painter; and Kathryn a potter

Him and Cheryl McCully and son Brad and daughter Molly

Dick and Esther Meusch (had a bottle shop on lower Main opposite Hotel Jerome)


John and Deanna O’Donnell

Bob Palm

Russ and Esther Parr and children Karl and Terry

Walter (Shorty) Powell (fine art painter lived in High House)

Lynn Rose and son Skip

Tom Scott: (Scotty’s Rock Shop, Jerome)

Minnie Sewell and son Paul

M.E. “Jim” Shaffer (mgr Central Hotel)

Ernest Beach Smith and wife (?)

Levi and Margaret Smull and grandmother Jennie Richards and aunt Mary Smull

Dorothy Stickles

Milo and Jeanne Stoney and her brother Curley)

Max and Helen (Jane) Troyer

Doc and Nellie Wallace

Hazel Williams

Wil(ton) Tifft (photographer and Wood shop

Tom and Frankie Vincent and sons Henry P., and Ed and daughter Maeve


Gulch Radio Rocks Arizona’s Verde Valley

Fans of rock, soul, reggae, blues and R& B can now turn their radio dial to 100.5 FM KZRJ-LP Gulch Radio, broadcasting from the mountain village of Jerome AZ. The 100-watt stereo signal covers the Verde Valley, and listeners report getting the station from as far away as Flagstaff and the Blue Ridge Mountains in eastern Arizona. Gulch streams the same music on the internet, as it has done since 2004.

Gulch Radio poster

KZRJ Gulch Radio Sunday poster created by their art department.

The romance of music on the radio sparked KZRJ co-founder Richard Martin’s soul when he first tuned in to The Mighty 690, a Tijuana/San Diego border blaster beaming such rock greats as Chuck Berry, Little Richard, and Elvis Presley across the American west. “How do all those people get in there to play music?” Richard asked his dad, referring to the shiny chrome, push button radio while sitting on the front seat of the family’s two tone green 1950 DeSoto sedan.

In 2002, Richard Martin and Chuck Runyon, who loved music as much as Richard, co-founded Gulch Radio. Both are long-term residents that arrived during the 1970’s, raised their families and built their businesses. Now they had time to make dreams that started so long ago come true.

Free-Form Radio

KZRJ Gulch Radio is the only commercial-free station broadcasting live in the Verde Valley. The founders describe it as “free form” radio—free from the bonds of playing corporate-prescribed, listener tested-to-death songs. Free from having to push current and potential ‘hits’ from major record labels. Free from advertising and corporate sponsors to answer to. No begging for bucks either.

“Gulch Radio is a haven from over-amped and over-repeated news that is available over so many other radio and television stations,” Richard Martin said. The station’s only news is a daily weather report and hazardous weather reports. The station will also provide news that affects the local population, such as fire or smoke pollution, emergency highway conditions and Emergency Alerts.

Gulch Radio logo

Gulch Radio logo created by their art department.

Old-Fashioned Radio

“It’s all about the music,” Gulch Radio station co-founders Richard and Chuck said. The station is a throwback to old-fashioned radio at its best.

“Nothing presents music better than radio,” says Richard Martin. “Sure you can pack your pod with picks, but after awhile, the ‘random shuffle’ just doesn’t do it. Listeners want programs with live DJs who are passionate about the music they play. The best rivet the listener, shaping mood and memory. It’s like magic when a DJ seems to pluck just the song someone has been yearning for, even when they didn’t know it, maybe one that echoes their most furtive desires or sparks a forgotten memory. But when a DJ gets it wrong, the listener’s attention drifts to other stations. In the radio biz, it’s called a train wreck.”

Programming that Stirs Memories

Richard Martin DJs his “Ric ‘N Roll Show—The Morning Groove” from 5-8 AM weekdays and his “Geezer Rock Show” on Sunday afternoons from 4-6, pulling on his memory of thousands of songs. Richard calls them ‘the good ol’ good ones.’ He has the generous and magnetic personality that grabs listeners right away. They feel as though Richard is talking right to them.

Gulch Radio Ric 'n Roll Show

Gulch Radio’s “Ric ‘n Roll Show” with DJ and co-. founder Richard Martin. Poster created by the station’s art department.

Other locally produced shows, include ‘Gulch Fun’ with Mr. Carsos every other Saturday from 6 until 8 PM. “The Frank Zappa Hour” on Saturday evenings at 8 PM is hosted by local radio pro Jeff Demand. Thursday nights at 7 and Saturday mornings at 5, The Hermit picks the platters on “Stuck In the Psychedelic Era.”

On weekday evenings after 9, listeners can tune into “UnderCurrents” with Gregg McVicar and hear an eclectic mix of Americana mixed with Native American tunes.

Saturday nights also feature “The Grateful Dead Hour,” “Beale Street Caravan,” and “Mountain Stage Live”—quality National Public Radio productions. (Complete program listings can be found in the music pages of the stations colorful website at

KZRJ Grateful Dead Hour.

Poster for Gulch Radio’s Saturday evening show created by their art department.

“The music brings back great memories from when I was young and the world was wide-open and full of promise,” said Susan Dowling, a former resident of Jerome who now lives in Kingman and listens to Gulch Radio on her computer.“ Now, as an old hippy, the music still resonates. Back in the psychedelic era, it’s where I live.”

Gulch Radio’s Slow Build to Success

In 2002, Gulch Radio started up with a very low power AM radio signal that only could be heard in Deception Gulch. The deep canyon blocks most other radio signals. The little transmitter provided music for the artisans that lived and worked there.

But as avid music lovers, Richard and Chuck dreamed for a ‘real’ radio station that could play high fidelity stereo. An AM or FM license was the only way to accomplish that.

In 2004, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) opened applications for AM licenses. Richard and Chuck filed an application, but because they weren’t radio pros, fatal mistakes were made in filings and the application was denied.

Gulch Radio tower

Looking up at the new 100 foot+ radio tower built for Gulch Radio, Jerome AZ.

Instead, Gulch Radio became, an Internet station that an avid following from Brazil to Japan. More importantly it provided a great learning experience for acquiring technical and production skills and the opportunity to build a vast music library. Today the station has 24,000— most of them purchased from i-Tunes.

In October 2013, Gulch Radio applied to the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) for a license for a low power FM radio station that had become available for Northern Arizona. The owners hired an engineer and lawyer to make sure the station would be compliance with all the legalities the FCC required and that the complex application was filled out correctly. In early 2014, The FCC awarded Gulch Radio one of its coveted FM licenses.

A station that started small is now the Verde Valley’s newest giant. It can be heard live over 100.5 FM KZRJ-LP and all over the world on

First published:

Jerome AZ: Tales from the Seventies

Here are more tales from the seventies. They do not appear in my book Home Sweet Jerome, Death and Rebirth of Arizona’s Richest Copper Mining City. Like the tales told in the book, these serve to illuminate the condition of the times and town in the seventies. The book is about how the town was rescued. (

Pat Jackson (early seventies) “When I moved in to the house in the Gulch, I found that the owners had let the chickens roost in there and that they also shucked all their corn for their tamales and left all the shuckings there. It didn’t have windows. In the little tiny kitchen, the sink board was rotted out. Maggots were in the sink board. Here it is, I’m eight months pregnant with Ian and all my friends in Jerome got together and helped me put together that house. Somebody brought a toilet. First they had to put in a new floor in the bathroom because if you sat on the old funky toilet, you’d fall through the floor. Then somebody brought me an old tin shower and installed it. Somebody else put a nice wood sink board in and a piece of nenolium—it was nenolium in those days—over it. And then somebody else found an old window and enclosed the window.“ Pat was the first licensed mid-wife  in the Verde Valley, a round woman with a kind face and a lot of energy. She has children by four husbands, and was a political organizer, mostly on behalf of women. She now lives in Alaska.

Charley Aughe Charley Aughe was a humble man who lived in the gulch sometime during the seventies with his wife Faye and was known as the “Curator of the Sedona Dump.” He was one of the lucky ones who had a county job. When people would leave stuff off, he’s pick out anything useful, and set up rows, like garden rows, and sell it for not much money.

Caroline Talbot Caroline Talbot was Kim’s second wife. When I interviewed her, she wanted to tell me about Kim who moved to the Gulch in 1967. His first wife was Gayle.

“In 1967, things were always getting ripped off from their house. Kim actually saw them take a coffee mug and a shirt and then chased them, but never caught up with them. They turned up a week later with a six-pack and an apology. Someone even tried to steal two gallons of anti-freeze when Kim was under one of the cars changing the oil. The cans had water in them. He moved away and toured Europe as a musician, lived in Phoenix, and then returned to Jerome in 1977. When Kim got here, rednecks ran the town. The hippies were starting to move in. They didn’t want anything to change. They tried to run the hippies out of town. I understood because I grew up in similar small towns in the Adirondacks, so it didn’t phase me. People get at each other’s throats and then later they’re best buddies again. They would fight over their different vision of how something was to go. Build something like this and not like that. It can be real comical.

Richard Flagg, circa 1976 “One of my early dreams was to be a vagabond. I was living in Flagstaff and visited a natural food store there, which turned out to be owned by friends of mine living in Chino Valley (Kit and his wife) right next door to Molly and Gary Beverly (the Chino Valley potters then). I saw a sign: “House for sale in Jerome, $4500.” Holy smokes, I said to myself. I could swing that. I bought it and rented it out. Jeanne Moss lived up stairs; and John Binzley lived down. Jeanne used to shampoo and cut people’s hair from an upstairs porch and the water and hair came drifting down. Then I went vagabonding. River trips down the OMO with Sobel expeditions where I made the cover of the first issue of Outside running a rapid and being chased by hippo. Sailied out of Somalia, traveled in Afghanistan and India. When I came back to Jerome I started an expedition business of my own, called Sacred Monkey Expeditions. Paul Nonnast designed the logo.” Richard Flagg still lives in Jerome but he is still a vagabond, spending some 8 months a year traveling in Cambodia and other countries in Asia.

Jerome AZ: Tales from Arriving Hippies

“There were a lot of interviews and stories omitted from Home Sweet Jerome: Death and Rebirth of Arizona’s Richest Copper Mining City, which are included in this blog and many of others on this site.

Barbara  Henley: 1970

“For two summers, Guy [her husband way back then] and I camped out in Sycamore Canyon helping a friend dig out a gold mine that he had a claim on. We never did find gold, but we did have a lot of fun. We went back to California to retrieve a small inheritance of $1500 and decided to move to Mexico. We packed our stuff into a van and stopped in Jerome to see our friend Ed. He offered us three houses that he owned for $500 in Mexican town, just below the post office. We gave him the money, moved in, stuffed the holes in the walls with rags and used an oil drum to heat the house and cook on.”

Barbara lives in Jerome, with her new partner Rick in a home below the Hotel Jerome. 

Baehr: A Hippie Reincarnates Himself Twice

As you walk down Gulch Road, where citizens have now added speed bumps to slow cars and discourage traffic, you can still see a tiny  shack, bramble and weed laden with a sign over the door: ‘Baehr the Painter.’  I always wondered about it and now I do.

Baehr the Painter

The shack, rehabilitated from a wrecked garage, is now covered with vines. Photo by Bob Swanson ( was taken circa 1985.

Quote is not attributed because I can’t remember who commented:  “Baehr was one of Jerome’s earliest hippies, long hair, denim dressed, came in to the Candy Kitchen for coffee barefoot and drank it as he squatted near the booths of the Candy Kitchen. He was one strange hippie in a town full of them. He disappeared from town in the sixties and a few years later I saw him at a wild New Year’s party. He walked in, hair cut short to half an inch and wearing a polyester suit. It was his new incarnation as a cop. He was hardly recognizable. Rumor now has it that he is a truck driver in Texas.”

It turns out this was a garage that was rehabilitated when Pat Jackson lived in the house above it and that the sign came from uptown. Here are the before and after photos.

Baehr the Painter

The ruin of the garage before it got rehabilitated. Photo collection of Richard Martin

Baehr the Painter

After garage was cleaned up.
Dan Ellis, Pat Jackson, Patty Westbrook, Leon Nelson finishing up cleaning of Gulch Rd Shed. Photo collection Richard Martin.

Jane Moore just commented on this new blog (see comments below) for further illumination. The comments on these blogs are often as good as the stories.

Mimi Currier, 1970

Jerome looked like Dogpatch. Hardly anything painted. Lots of sagging wood. Lots of boarded up windows and torn up roofs.

The day we moved into our house in the Gulch, it rained and rained. The only ones who stayed dry were the cats who stayed on the bottom floor under the bed. The support posts were eaten by termites and the whole house sat on its doorposts. Nothing was painted. $25 per month plus fixing. We put up a new roof. We jacked it up and put on support posts. We couldn’t hook up the water because we didn’t have a septic. We hauled water from Hilde’s [Rippel Barber] or the nearby stream. We got three ‘burros,’ from John Dempsey who wanted to get rid of and they always got the first drink. We carted up an old outhouse that still had WPA labels on in the back of our ‘57 blue Chevy Air Force pickup that still had AIR POLICE written on the sides and roof. Little truck. Big outhouse.

Mimi  lives in Jerome and is active on the Jerome Humane Society. Her husband Lew is serving on the Jerome Town Council

Scott Owens, Sculptor
I arrived in 1971 after graduating college with a degree in English. I thought I was on my way to get my master’s degree at a university in Oregon. On the way, I visited my friends Benny and Val and ended up living for a few months in a tiny garage in the Gulch. Jerome was a magical place and I couldn’t leave. A few months later I bought a house for $2000 and started carving pipes from pipestone.”

Scott is a fine arts sculptor, working primarily in marble in part of a warehouse he rents from Freeport McMoran.


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.

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.


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: 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 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

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).


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:

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. 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

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.

Blooming Agave Parryi near Jerome AZ—Candles of Flame

In April and May, thick maroon shafts grow from the wild hearts of the Agave, plump and erotic. The plant resembles a giant artichoke. Agave stalks can grow as fast as two-to-three inches a day and as high as fourteen to sixteen feet.

Young Agave parryi stalk

Photo of a young Agave stalk by Ivette Soler, who calls herself the ‘germinatrix,‘ (a play on the word gemination or spark of creation). She has written many delightful garden blogs.

Agave Parryi near Jerome Arizona

Diane Sward Rapaport standing close to a very large Agave parryi stalk near Perkinsville Road about a mile from Jerome AZ. Photo by JoAnn Braheny.

During May, and early June, the shaft of the agave sends out horizontal stalks that hold blooming candelabras on each end, with dozens of little candles of yellow and red flames on each. You can see hundreds of flowering agave about one mile out of Jerome on Perkinsville Road in the limestone formations above the Gold King Mine and many dozens in the same formations as you drive up to Jerome from Clarkdale on Highway 89A just as you near Jerome.

Candles of fire: Agave parryi in bloom.

The flowering candelabras of the Agave parryi hold dozens of candles of fire.

Agave parryi in bloom

The Agave parryi blooms once every twenty to twenty-five years.

You’ll also see the agave’s cactus companions: yellow flowering prickly pear cactus and carmine flowers of the hedgehog cactus. It’s been a bonanza year! The desert is blooming.

The Agave flowers only once every twenty to twenty-five years (longer in colder climates) and then dies, leaving the brown withered central stalk and candelabras, the candles of flame now upright stems. New plants grow from the root systems.

Some species of agaves are also called century plants, even though they flower much sooner than once every hundred years.

In the Verde Valley, the agave is officially called Agave parryi. The genus ‘Agave’ is from the Greek word ‘agavos’ for admirable, noble, splendid and refers to its noble appearance. The genus ‘parryi’ honors the botanist Charles C. Parry (1823-1890), a highly respected doctor, explorer and naturalist, who was highly acclaimed as a collector of botanical plants.)

The Agave Parryi is not Native to the Verde Valley

The Agave parryi is a cultivar that was imported and planted by the Sinagua (700 to 1125 A.D.) to complement the planting of squash, corn and beans, flax and cotton. The agave plants were brought up from Southern Arizona. The methods of planting and irrigation were learned from their Hohokam neighbors.

The Sinagua planted the agave on the outskirts of gardens by making a large hollow in the soil, planting it, then filling the hollow with rocks.  The method had two beneficial effects: it helped retain water and stopped rodents from digging them up. The agave was also planted in the rocky, fast draining, south facing hills surrounding large gardens in such places as Cow Flats (near Henderson Ranch) and Beaver Flat.

Roasting Agave

The Sinagua and the Yavapai that migrated into the Verde Valley from the West around 1600 dug up the agave and roasted the heartas one of their staple foods. They dug up the agave when the stalk was ten or twelve inches high and the outer leaves green and fleshy. This ensured that maximum plant sugars are concentrated in the crown, making for a sweeter, juicier agave heart once cooked.

According to an account written by William H. Corbusier, an assistant surgeon with the US Army stationed on the Rio Verde Reservation from 1872 to 1875, wrote about the method used by the Yavapai as noted by Corbusier.

When a supply if it is needed, the women go in charge of some of the men, or the whole party moves to the mescal fields, and sufficient is cut and baked to last several weeks. They choose those plants which are at least eighteen inches highand cut them close to the ground, then trim off projecting ends of the leaves, so that each plant forms a large ball composed of the thick bases of the leaves, and the crown on which they are crowded.They then carry them in their baskets to a suitable spot in a ravine or a canon where they dig a pit, or if an old one be in the neighborhood, as is frequently the case, they resort to it. The earth taken out is banked up to deepen the pit, which varies from, the size varying from three to ten feet in diameter, and from two to four feet deep, according to the number in the party. A large fire is built in it, on which are thrown basketfuls of stones. When these are hot, the mescal is piled on them in the form of a pyramid and covered with grass and earth. It is allowed to remain undisturbed about forty-eight hours, the women watching the pit in order to repair occasional breaks in the covering. When the mescal is baked, the pit is opened, and each woman takes out her own which she recognizes by her private mark. The plants in baking shrink and turn brown. The fibres [sic], which are coarse in the leaves and fine in the crown, receptacle, become tougher, but the fleshy part is converted into a sweet juicy pulp. Those which are not to be used soon are torn to pieces and spread on sticks in large cakes, which, when dry, are folded up for convenience in carrying. When kept for some time, the mescal becomes hard and tough, and requires soaking in water before it can be eaten. Mescal-water, made by dissolving the pulp in water, is a favorite beverage, and constitutes the exclusive diet of the sick. It frequently acts as a purge, and when dysentery or diarrhea exists often aggravates the disease. If the plant is not well cooked, or if too young, it produces the same effect.” (American Antiquarian, Volume 8, pages 276-84 and 325-39)

There is no evidence that the Agave parryi was used by the Sinagua or the Yavapai to brew mescal.

Other Uses

The leaves yield a very strong fiber from which baskets and sandals can be woven; the thorns can be used for needles and pins; and soap can be made from the leaves.

Musicians in Jerome sometimes make didgeridoos from the dried-up stalk. This wind instrument produces a deep, vibrating drone.

Didgeridoo of agave and zebra wood

Didgeridoo of agave and zebra wood designed by Jeff Lohr

My friend Katie Lee likes to cut down the stalk of a dead agave every year and decorate it as a Christmas tree.


Full Moon Skateboard Ride for Jerome AZ Daredevils 1991

The first time I even heard about them was a comment from Aaron on the story of the drag race between the Jerome chief of police and Zack (“Jerome’s Secret Indy 500”).

I asked Max, as he was holding his 3-month old baby Mykos is his lap, “Did this really happen?”  “Oh, yeah,” said Max. “We’d park one car in Clarkdale and hiked up road from Jerome with our skateboards. When I got scared, I’d sit on the skateboard and use the soles of my sneakers to slow down. That’s how come I went through so many sneakers.”

I thought it was because he was hiking so much. Among some, my nickname in Jerome was Rebecca of Sunnybrook Farms, always so optimistic and cheery, and never suspecting the oh-so-innocent looking Max of his daredevil ways, that are only now coming to light. “Well, how did you get across the cattle guard after you pass Jerome, the one that got Fern on her bike?”

“I used to stop and walk across.  The others jumped it.”

It was a lot of except for this one night. Just as I was cruising into Clarkdale on my skateboard, I saw Aaron and Zach bobbing crazily up and down, like jumping beans, and couldn’t figure out what was going on. I couldn’t stop and then found myself in the middle of a tarantula migration. Hundreds of them trying to cross the road. They were as scare as we were and were jumping on our shirts and jeans tearing at us with their pincers. They weren’t biting, just tearing at us.  We kept brushing them off and kept right on going. There wasn’t anything else to do.  as we were.”


The next day in biology class I asked my teacher about tarantula migrations and told him what we’ve seen.  I just didn’t tell give him too many details. He scoffed —‘oh you boys up there in Jerome most have been on something. There’s no such thing as a tarantula migration.

So I looked it up.  Apparently, durin Fall, male tarantulas go on a march looking for females.



Moving from Jerome AZ to Hines/Burns, Oregon

A lot of people ask me about what it is like to live in Burns/Hines, Oregon, especially after living in Jerome, AZ for thirty years. Although a piece of my heart will always be there, life here is sweet as well. Just different.

In 2008, my husband and I have moved to a community in which we know no one and had little knowledge of the ranching and logging life that dominates its history and politics.

Burns/Hines is an urban island of some 5000 people. The communities are contiguous, separated by a small cemetery. You can drive through both in 10 minutes or less, depending on how long three stoplights hang you up. Burns grew up as the ranch center; Hines was the logging community, until the mill closed in the nineties.

The city is surrounded by ten thousand square miles of wild high desert in Southeast Oregon and about 110,000 cows. The nearest big city is Bend, Oregon, 132 miles to the West; and the nearest freeway is 130 miles east, at the Idaho border.  The distance between ranches in the county is so vast and so far from Hines/Burns that there are still nine one-room schools. Our friends who have visited us always remark on the scarcity of traffic on the roads to just about anywhere.

It's big sky country here and the sunsets are lovely. Lots of empty space to roam. Photo by Hines Lights.

It’s big sky country here and the sunsets are lovely. Lots of room to roam. Photo by Hines Lights.

We live in a cottage in the middle of the city on about half an acre, with eight large pinons, a small grove of Aspens, two crab apple trees, and a lot of deer-proof flowering shrubs and perennials. We have seen as many as a dozen deer in our yard.

A bouquet of iris from my yard. They bloom in June. Photo by Diane Rapapoart

A bouquet of iris from my yard. They bloom in June. One of the ‘doubles’ was given me by one of my first tai chi students. Photo by Diane Rapaport

Just a few miles north is Radar Hill, where I used to take my dog Amanda for walks and practice tai chi. For about three months, I saw no one in these juniper and sage-strewn hills.

But one day, while matching the rhythm of tai chi’s movements with the slow shuffling of juniper branches, I sensed that someone was behind and turned to see an old cowboy on a horse. He’s in his sixties, near my age, with wrinkles woven and set into his face.

“Ya seen my cows?” he rasps through amber, chipped teeth.

My puzzlement and astonishment must have registered on my face, so he asks again, “Ya seen my cows?”

Both of tried to filter what we were looking at through lenses of what is familiar and coming up pretty empty. He was probably pondering the strange behavior of a grey-haired lady dressed in skimpy shorts waving her arms in a slow, dreamy dance. I can only imagine how he was going to describe this encounter with his buddies.

And I’m sure I didn’t know much about the life he led.

“Sorry, haven’t seen your cows,” I say, politely. He touches the brim of his hat and drifts off into the junipers.

The wake of his leave-taking was followed by the thought that since moving here, I had forged no bonds beyond pleasantries. Most of my contacts with people had, like this one, left me standing puzzled and alone.

It took me until about two years ago to begin to feel a comfortable sense of place.

I learned to understand the common vocabulary: guns, llamas, cows, calving, goats, alfalfa, pivots, cheat grass. Hunting is a major recreational activity. In the Fall, it’s common to hear, “Did you get your elk?” My neighbor is a woman who bow-hunts for cougars. My accountant wears starched shirts with rolled collars, pressed jeans with a crease that could cut and snakeskin boots. Mounted on his walls are heads of rare bighorn sheep. At one gathering, in a discussion about rattlesnakes, I announced I was opposed to shooting them. One of the men jumped on that remark. “You wouldn’t think so if you were fifty miles out of nowhere and a snakebite lamed your horse.” I said, “I’d have to agree with you about that.” In acknowledging his point of view, I had just crossed one of the divides to finding common ground.

Teaching tai chi was another. Everyone could agree about the importance of living healthier and more relaxed; my students appreciated being taught how to take care of themselves. They include a woman who raises bulls, another who raises llamas, a farmer in his fifties with creaky joints, veterans with PTSD, nurses, a potter, a woman in her eighties who arrives with a walker and another with an oxygen pack. The woman who raises bulls eases the arthritis of an elderly one with the energy work she has learned from me.

Lisa Wolf, one of my tai chi students, trains  llamas and invited me for a walk. They are lovely animals to take a walk with.

Lisa Wolf, one of my tai chi students, trains llamas and invited me for a walk. They are lovely animals to take a walk with.

Soon after I started teaching, I began attending meetings of the Writer’s Guild.  Members listened to some of my early Jerome stories and encouraged me.  I could always tell from their questions what it was they weren’t getting or when they began getting bored. One day, Myrla Dean, a former teacher here, turned to me and asked, “Who are you writing for?” I was stumped. “It’s perfectly okay to just write for yourself,” said Myrla. That broke some dam inside me and I started writing the stories that became this blog, some excerpts of which are included in my new book Home Sweet Jerome: Death and Rebirth of Arizona’s Richest Copper Mining City (due out in late April, early May). Novelist Marjorie Thelan, one of the members of the guild, took me in hand when I was floundering and came over to my house and set up the official book files on my computer. We loaded in all my notes and stories. Then she said, “You start at page one and don’t’ stop until you are finished. Don’t go back and rewrite. And I did. It took me about a year before I had something resembling a manuscript.

I love living in a paradise of birds.

Ross' geese, as far as you can see. Photo by Kelly Hazen.

Ross’ geese, as far as you can see. Photo by Kelly Hazen.

It’s very early Spring and our abundant wetlands draw hundreds of thousands of Ross’s geese, formations passing in large spiraling waves. Thousands of swans and ducks crowd waterways. Bald and golden eagles, falcons and harriers are abundant. Sandhill cranes roam the alfalfa fields. In early April, birders will gather by the thousands for the annual migratory bird festival:

A snowy white owl visited, a rare occurrence, and my friend Kelly Hazen spent about a 150 hours observing it. A wonderful video she took can be seen:

Snowy White Owl. Photo by Kelly Hazen

Snowy White Owl. Photo by Kelly Hazen

Hundreds of quail scurry across the road I live on, scattering like fall leaves when cars approach. One morning, I woke up to see a huge Goshawk devouring a quail in my yard as a few deer watched from the neighbors. Burns/Hines is the quail capitol of Oregon. My biggest treat last Spring was being taken to a lek where male sage grouse were strutting.

When not in strut, the male sage grouse looks quite ordinary and a little like a small prairie chicken.

When not in strut, the male sage grouse looks quite ordinary and a little like a small prairie chicken.

The air is exceptionally pristine, the water out of the tap tastes delicious, and noise and chem trails from jet planes are rare.

By day, birdsongs fill the air. At night, the city is so still that when the Milky Way blooms, you can hear its pulse.

I’m at rare peace with myself in ways that continue to surprise.

Jerome AZ: Secret Indy 500—The Drag Race Between the Camaro and the Mustang

Son Max (now 36) just told me this story. Irresistible to not post.

One of the handsomest teenage daredevils in Jerome was Zack Druen. He was notorious for rides on his skateboard on the steep streets through town and on to Clarkdale. Later he bought himself a hot blue/grey Chevy Camaro. He and our son Max were good friends and he’d often pick up Max to take him to Mingus High. Max said the Camaro was so souped up, he could hear Zack starting up his car from four blocks away.

Generic Chevy Camaro.

Generic Chevy Camaro.

For a few years during the 1990’s, Ray Cleveland was Chief of Police. His cop car was a super-powered Ford Mustang. He was not beloved. He loved the motorcycle gangs and liked to strut around as though he was one of them. And he liked to give the teenagers a hard time, and, truth be told, they needed to be given a hard time. Sadly, some were already addicted to meth and other hard drugs, although none of the kids, or the dealers, names of whom were known to Ray, were ever arrested.

About the mid-nineties, when half of the incredible unmortared stone highway below the Eagle’s Nest collapsed and had to be rebuilt, the road between Jerome and Prescott was closed for quite a few months.

Rebuilding the collapsed highway wall—a technocrat's dream.  Far from the wall to the immediate left which was hand-stacked. Photo by Bob Swanson:

Rebuilding the collapsed highway wall in Jerome—a technocrat’s dream. The wall to the immediate left  was hand-stacked and still stands, a marvelous engineering feat. Photo by Bob Swanson:

One day Ray approached Zack, “Feel like racing me over Mingus Mountain and back” Zack was in disbelief.  ‘You’ll probably arrest me if I say yes,” Zack said. He was in his late teens. “No, no,” said Ray. “Your car is the only possible contender. There won’t be any arrests.”

The drag race was on. It was Jerome’s private Indy 500 race just outside of our home town, only with no audience.

In Zack’s car jumps Max.  Anyone who has driven the 18 miles of that road knows there are many many perilous switchback curves, some with unprotected dropoffs, up to Mingus, and down to Prescott Valley and back.  During popular weekends, there is bound to be at least one accident.

The upside was that there would be no traffic, both lanes open for passing. Max said it was a neck and neck race, with some absolutely hair-raising passes by both Zack and Ray. “Were you scared, I asked Max.  “Oh yeah.”

Finish was a dead heat. No winners.

Thirty-two minutes for a total of thirty-six round trip miles. Incredible. It scares me to figure out the math.

When Ray finally moved on, rumor was that a lot of guns mysteriously disappeared from the property room and were sold by him.

As an aside: Walt said something to Alice Butcher last year about Zack ‘s daredevil ways and she rolled up her sleeve and showed him a scar from a car accident out to Sycamore Canyon.  She said, “There’s a club here of kids with Zack scars.”

OMG. I’m so glad I did not know the half of what these Jerome kids got into as teenagers.

(If anyone knows any more details about this story, please tell me.  I’ll add them in and credit you. For instance, what make/model was Zack’s Camaro. . Max couldn’t remember.)