ML Lincoln’s Film Wrenched—The Legacy of Edward Abbey

A hundred people came to Jerome AZ’s “Spook Hall” on Thursday, April 17 to view and celebrate director/producer ML Lincoln’s new film Wrenched. (www.Wrenched-themovie.com).

The film Wrenched is 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.

"Wrenched"-the film

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

Abbey fought with his pen to preserve them against the desecration of industries that care only for the money they produce. Today, profits from pollution are virtually synonymous with big business.

Wrenched is an excellent, well-crafted and gut-wrenching documentary. There’s marvelous archival footage of Ed Abbey; interviews with Doug Peacock, Ken Sleight, John De Puy and Ingrid Eisenstadter—people that were the inspiration for Abbey’s book, The Monkey Wrench Gang—and with many others, such as Robert Redford and authors, Katie Lee, Terry Tempest Williams and Charles Bowden.

There are interviews with many younger activists, such as Tim DeChristopher. What connects all of them is their strong passion and unwavering commitment.

Activism Against the Destruction of Natural Edens

Wrenched shows activists against coal mining on Arizona’s Black Mesa and the rape of the aquifer by transporting coal with large slurry pipelines. Against Glen Canyon reservoir (Loch Latrine, as Jeroman Katie Lee calls it) with archival footage of an Earth First rally that dropped a large black plastic crack down the middle of the concrete to symbolize their protest against the dam.

Peaceful protest by Earth First! at Glen Canyon dam

Earth First! protest rally atGlen Canyon dam dropped a symbolic plastic crack on the face of the concrete dam.

Against oil and gas leases adjacent to national parks and other wilderness areas. Against contaminating the skies and waters. Against the felling of old growth trees.

Earth First! became the rallying cry of the activists and civil disobedience and ‘monkey’ wrenching their tools. Their credo: do no harm to people. As the writer Wallace Stegnar said, “Abbey was a red hot moment in the conscience of this country.”

Many people in Jerome and the Verde Valley can sympathize with many of these causes. The area is a hotbed of activism: citizens may not agree with each other, but they will stand up and fight for the issues they feel strongly about. In these times of grave threats from climate change, we must take whatever stand we can in our communities. Watching a film like Wrenched inspires us to get over our apathy and any feeling of being overwhelmed by current events.

A moving part in the film is the old river runner and wilderness guide Ken Sleight making a plea for people to become active and use whatever creative tools they have: talking, educating, drawing, writing, singing, etc.

Police Action Against Environmental Activism

Part of ML Lincoln’s film Wrenched heralds the souls that braved the cudgels of the police, more and more a reality that faces activists. It sheds light on two disgraceful federal actions to shut the activists down.

One was about the two FBI ‘agent provocateurs’, who were caught on tape being told to persuade four activists in Prescott to ‘do anything’ they could be arrested for. After two years, the activists agreed to cut down the power to some irrigation lines near Aguila, Arizona. The feds supplied the encouragement, the tools and the acetylene torch. Two members of the group were arrested at the site; the others in Prescott. The next day, as though by magic, radio, tv and newspapers headlined that the four were terrorists that were attempting to blow up Palo Verde Nuclear Facility, some eighty miles away.  It was a vry large large fabrication.

Earth First! cofounder Dave Foreman was also arrested in the same sting on charges of conspiracy. He gave a copy of this book, Ecodefense: A Field Guide to Monkey Wrenching, to one of the agent provocateurs signing it ‘happy wrenching’. It was enough for his arrest as a ‘co-conspirator.’

It may sound like something out of science fiction, but it cost tens of thousands of dollars to hire lawyers for the court battle that ensued. The first trial ended in stalemate; those arrested plea-bargained the charges to misdemeanors rather than undergo yet another round and another few years tied up in court. The labels “terrorists” still follow all of them around.What is sad is that the plea bargains clamped down on the activities of Earth First! Dave Foreman’s five-year parole stipulated that he not engage in activist activity for five years.

One of the film’s poignant scenes shows Ilse Asplund, one of the young women arrested, talking about her horror at finding that she trusted Ron Fraizer, one of the agent provocateurs to ‘babysit’ her young children.

The other federal action that grabbed major headlines and was featured in Wrenched was the arrest and two-year incarceration of Tim DeChristopher who bid on some of the 116 parcels on oil and gas leases on public lands tjat were being auctioned. Their sale waw approved by former President Bush at the very end of his term, with insufficient environmental and scientific review.

Tim DeChristopher Arrested for Bidding on Oil and Gas Leases

However, DeChristopher’s actions stalled the sale of all leases until Ken Salazar, the new Secretary of the Interior, took office. He took off the bidding block all the leases that Tim DeChristopher bid on, which were adjacent to National Parks. Nevertheless, his actions led to a conviction of a social justice crime and sentenced to two years in a court action that many deemed a travesty of the system.

Tim De Christopher

Tim DeCristopher at a Peaceful Uprising rally to raise awareness about the effects of .climate change

Another poignant moment of the film shows an almost monk-looking DeChristopher filing books in Ken Sanders Rare Books, a Salt Lake City Utah landmark. After 18 months in prison, DeChristopher was given six months of community service with the proviso that he say nothing abut his views or the circumstances that landed him in prison, nor the organization Peaceful Uprising, that he helped found. www.peacefuluprising.org

A DVD will be available for sale May 4 to people who attend film screenings. A fund-raising campaign to procure the rights for broadcast, video and theatrical showings will be held on Indiegogo. Watch for announcement on the website.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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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.”

Tarantula

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. http://www.desertusa.com/dusablog/tarantulas-on-the-march

 

 

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: www.SwansonImages.com

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: http://www.SwansonImages.com

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.)

Modern Anasazi Wall Builders of Jerome, Part 2—Paul Nonnast

One of the comments from Part 1 of the wall builder stories was from Doyle Vines, a Jeroman that worked for the town of Jerome in many capacities in the eighties. Doyle wrote how much he loved the Holly Street wall.  It’s one of my favorites as well. The head of the crew that rebuilt that wall was Paul Nonnast, who is among my favorite of the modern hand-stacked build wall builders, along with Bob Hall, Richard Martin, Chuck Runyon, and my husband Walter.

The Holly Street Wall. The part built by Nonnast and the Town of Jerome is at the far   left. Photo by Bob Swanson/SwansonImages.com.

The Holly Street Wall. The part built by Nonnast and the Town of Jerome is at the far left. Photo by Bob Swanson/SwansonImages.com.

“I became a wall-builder of necessity,” Nonnast told me in 1990. “With the little money I came here with, I bought an old truck and 3 empty lots out the lonesome edge of town. My house was built with stones I gathered from out on Perkinsville Road, pick-axes, shovels, plumb bob, and a wheelbarrow.

Caption ‘The House on the Edge of Time’ was what Nonnast called that house. I published a story on that house ArtSpace Magazine in 1988. Photos by ML Lincoln

Caption ‘The House on the Edge of Time’ was what Nonnast called his house. I published a story on it in ArtSpace Magazine in 1988. Photos by ML Lincoln

I intercepted Jerome at the end of an era and have a perspective that I wouldn’t have if I turned up in town today. In 1975, many of us were considered bums. We struggled for a living. There were real outlaws living among us. We all tried to get along.  Everyone asked ‘how are you doing’ and cared about the answer. Today, the town bores me. All the talk is money.”

Built into the hillside,  Nonnast sometimes described his home as a ‘perforated cave’—a compact L-shaped building of three rooms: kitchen, bedroom, drafting/fabrication room. Adjacent are smaller rooms for storing tools and materials and a self-composting toilet.  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.

Nonnast follows an ancient tradition of wall building among the ancient Anasazi (early Pueblo peoples of Utah and Arizona).

Some of the great walls at Chaco Canyon.

Some of the great walls at Chaco Canyon.

Paul is right at the top of my list of favorite artists, a visionary that was adept at sculpture, painting and architecture. He also was an industrial designer and designed the instrument case for Jerome Instrument Corporation’s mercury detector.

Paul Nonnast, paint on metal. Photo by ML Lincoln. I am so glad to own a few Nonnast paintings.

Paul Nonnast, paint on metal. Photo by ML Lincoln. I am so glad to own a few Nonnast paintings.

Only a few people in Jerome know that Nonnast received one of four honorable mentions in the prestigious Vietnam War Memorial Design Competition sponsored in Washington D.C. in l981. His memorial was conceived as a 22-foot cast bronze obelisk, counter-weighted and set into a fulcrum to allow motion. The obelisk was centered within a semi-circular polished granite surface textured with graceful spiral forms.

Obelisk maquette, balanced so it would sway in the wind. A smaller version was in Nonnast's home and I liked doing cloud hands with it as it swayed. Photo by ML Lincoln

Obelisk maquette, balanced so it would sway in the wind. A smaller version was in Nonnast’s home and I liked doing cloud hands with it as it swayed. Photo by ML Lincoln

His work was perfectly meticulous, even in what we might think of as ordinary objects. Once while staying at his house on a visit to Jerome, there was an old lunch box out on the dresser.  I had to look inside.  There were 12 dried maple leaves of beautiful colors arranged in an elegant pattern. That was the essence of Paul.

Paul Nonnast passed away in November 2005.

To view images of his art and rare collectibles, including the obelisk, go to http://www.flickr.com/photos/paulnonnast/

Modern Anasazi Wall Builders of Jerome

Fifteen hundred retaining walls can be found from the historic Victorian-like homes at the top of Jerome, Arizona to the homes at the bottom of Deception Gulch—less than one aerial mile.  They are among the town’s most impressive and enduring architectural treasures.

Many walls are hand-stacked, one stone over two, much like the ancient walls of the Anasazi.

Ruin, Anasazi (ancient Southwest Pueblo people). If you hike extensively Utah and Arizona you will find these ruins everywhere.

Ruin, Anasazi (ancient Southwest Pueblo people). If you hike extensively in Utah and Arizona you will find these ancient wall ruins everywhere.

Most hand-stacked walls have no mortar between them. Properly built, the rocks “weep” and act as natural drains. They have an elasticity that enables them to shift and settle. In 1976, a small quake shook glasses in Paul and Jerry’s Saloon. The epicenter of a 3.2 earthquake in 1984 was located five miles outside of Jerome. It sounded like an underground train ambling through the town’s underbelly. Some rocks tumbled, but the walls held.

Here are photos  of some of my favorites hand-stacked walls.  There are many!  I’d like to hear about your favorites.

One of the first walls that drivers notice on their way up from Cottonwood is right on Highway 89A. It was built by Mexicans and Italian stonemasons in the 1930’s as a WPA project. The limestone rocks are quarried from the Martin formation just outside of town. The rocks have settled and withstood a few rumbles, which accounts for some of their curved lines. Photo by Bob Swanson (SwansonImages.com)

One of the first walls that drivers notice on their way up from Cottonwood is right on Highway 89A. It was built by Mexicans and Italian stonemasons in the 1930’s as a WPA project. The limestone rocks are quarried from the Martin formation just outside of town. The rocks have settled and withstood a few rumbles, which accounts for some of their curved lines. Photo by Bob Swanson (SwansonImages.com)

Most rocks for Jerome’s retaining walls are quarried from within a seven-mile radius of town. The walls contain rocks from the same formations that are dominant in the Grand Canyon—1.8-billion-year-old schist, maroon Tapeats sandstone that holds millions of tiny shells, limestone of the Martin Formation and cherry-streaked Redwall sandstone, the ruby-colored Supai sandstone, and black lava basalt. They tell of the ancient seas that once covered the area and the tumult of volcanoes and earthquakes.

The rocks here are Tapeats sandstone, likely quarried from above the Gold King Mine. Photo by Bob Swanson (SwansonImages.com)

The rocks here are Tapeats sandstone, likely quarried from above the Gold King Mine. Photo by Bob Swanson (SwansonImages.com)

Some spectacular walls take a bit of a hike to get to.  This one that is close to the entrance to the old Hull Mine can be found by hiking up canyon in Deception Gulch.I used to access it from behind my old house by scrambling up to an old drainage ditch that is now a big rock tumble.

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.

One of my favorite walls 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.Photo by Bob Swanson (SwansonImages.com)

Some walls are collages that are made with just about anything that builders found laying around—discarded telephone poles, bedsprings, engine blocks, woodstove doors, corrugated tin, laundry buckets, refrigerators, and discarded tires that were filled with stone. Jerome’s builders recycled almost everything long before it was fashionable.

Wall of Tires and Laundry Buckets. Photo by Bob Swanson (SwansonImages.com)

Wall of Tires and Laundry Buckets. Photo by Bob Swanson (SwansonImages.com)

The last wall that my husband Walter built at our old house was in the back under the mesquite trees.

"I wanted to replicate the feeling of just standing in some of these canyons, and looking at the old Anasazi ruins, especially in Cedar Creek and Sycamore and watching the shifting play of shadows on the walls as the sun arcs, at one with that feeling, completely immersed in it, emotionally sunk in, needing nothing more. It’s a very psychotropic spot back there."Photo by Diane Rapaport

“I wanted to replicate the feeling of just standing in some of these canyons, and looking at the old Anasazi ruins, especially in Cedar Creek and Sycamore and watching the shifting play of shadows on the walls as the sun arcs, at one with that feeling, completely immersed in it, emotionally sunk in, needing nothing more. It’s a very psychotropic spot back there.” Photo by Diane Rapaport

Mining in Jerome AZ after 1953

(Short excerpt from Home Sweet Jerome: Death and Rebirth of Arizona’s Richest Copper City by Diane Rapaport  (to be published by Johnson Books, Boulder, CO., spring 2014.))

Mining activities never stopped in Jerome after the two great mines—United Verde Extension Gold, Silver and Copper Mining Company (UVX) and Phelps Dodge Corporation (successor to the United Verde Copper Company—shut their operations and the city emptied out.

In 1953, speculation ran high that the entire town of Jerome would be razed. A former official of Phelps Dodge Corporation said, “Within a year—grass will grow on the main street of Jerome—Jerome is finished.”[A]

It would have been an easy time for the mining companies to bulldoze the rest of the town. There were not a lot of people. Essential services, such as the hospital and schools, had been relocated to the Verde Valley. The mining companies owned a great deal of buildings and property in Jerome and beneath it.

The open pit just outside of Jerome. Photo by Bob Swanson (SwansonImages.com)

The open pit just outside of Jerome. Photo by Bob Swanson (SwansonImages.com)

The Big Hole Mine

In 1954, new activity at the open pit just outside of Jerome, fueled rumors that big scale mining would someday return.

The small mining division of Phelps Dodge leased rights to mine the slopes of the open pit  to three people that lived in the Verde Valley.[i]

They called it The Big Hole Mine and operated it until 1975.[ii]

Between eight and twelve men were employed at any given time. They scaled the sides of the pit and drilled into the steep walls and dynamited the ore-bearing rocks. “It was dangerous work,” said Robert Sandoval, one of the miners who grew up in Jerome. “The trails were narrow, we were working high up, and the overhangs were large. We’d hide in some of the small caves up there when we blasted.”

Miners would separate waste from the ore-bearing rocks, put them in pickup trucks and load them into a railroad car in Clarkdale that was sent weekly to the Phelps Dodge smelter in Douglas, Arizona.

According to Paul Handverger, a geologist living in the Verde Valley, The Big Hole Mine shipped over 200,000 tons of ore that contained 25 million pounds of copper (12,500 tons), 2,800 ounces of gold, and almost 200,000 ounces of silver.[iii]

It was a profitable small business. Mining was discontinued when the surfaces of the open pit could not be further exploited.

Gold Mining in Jerome: 1980’s

In 1980, geologist Paul Handverger discovered an unexploited source of microscopic gold in the old UVX mine. The gold, perhaps less than .02 ounces to the ton  was part of silica-rich quartz chert that could be used as flux in smelting operations and could become a profitable by-product.[1]

In 1985, Verde Ex, successor to UVX,  leased mining rights to A. F. Budge Mining Limited (Budge), a company located in Scottsdale, AZ. Repair and exploration took about three years and in early 1988, Budge started production. Their goal was to take out 100,000 pounds of chert daily, using five to eight twenty-ton trucks going up and down the hill from Jerome to Clarkdale and to employ about forty people.[2] The mine was located just below the Arizona State Park (Douglas Mansion).

Although most of the nonproduction activity occurred at night, some Jerome residents complained about lack of sleep because of the noise of the air compressor that was used to pump clean air in and out of the mine, the sounds of trucks being filled with rock and truck back-up signals. The problem was exacerbated by dogs barking and whining at night. Most oddly, there were reports of bees acting queerly—by forming in clusters, coming into homes and dying.

Like many issues in a small village, strong arguments from those for and against the mine became increasingly negative and emotionally charged. In one rancorous Jerome town council meeting, one mining geologist stood up and shook his fist shouting, “You’ll see big mining return here in the next century. The biggest zinc deposit in North America is right underneath Jerome.”[3]

Although four different mining companies professed interest as buyers of the chert, contracts for the ore were not forthcoming. Budge shut down in 1989.

Although mining for ores has stopped in the Jerome area, mining activity has not. Phelps Dodge and its successor Freeport McMoRan Copper and Gold Inc., spent millions of dollars in remediating water laden with copper sulfate and other mining wastes from flowing into Bitter Creek and potentially contaminating water resources downstream.

Drop a metal part into copper sulfate water and watch it become coated with copper. After heavy rains, the ditches above Jerome ran blue.

Drop a metal part into copper sulfate water and watch it become coated with copper. After heavy rains, the ditches above Jerome ran blue.

In 2008, exploration for a new copper ore body west of Jerome  heightened fears among Jerome residents that active mining might again return.


[A] News Bulletin, Jerome Historical Society newsletter, 1955.

[i] The owners of the Big Hole Mine were Mark Gemmill, his son Dick, and Gordon Robineau.

[ii] Douglas Mansion geologic display, The Verde Independent, April 15, 1965, and author interview with Paul Handverger, 2011.

[iii] Email to author.

[1] Verde Independent, Nov 11, 1987 and author interview with Paul Handveger 2011.

[2] Author conversations with Budge mining foreman Pete Flores and geologist Don White.

[3] Minutes of the Jerome Protection Foundation, Diane Rapaport files.


My Mother Meets Katie Lee

(Copyright 2013. Short excerpt about Katie Lee from Diane Rapaport’s forthcoming book: Home Sweet Jerome,

I was once asked, “Do any famous artists live in Jerome.” I thought about this and answered, “Katie Lee.”

She is famous in Jerome for riding her bike through town naked except for a helmet and boots when she was 77 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.

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.[i]

She rode 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. “For 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?”

Katie says she’s likely to be more famous for her ride than for her books and music.


[i] Lee, Katie, “The Ride,” Sandstone Seduction (Johnson Books, 2004), pp. 185-192

Photo: Katie on her bike.  Ceramicist and painter Jane Moore’s birthday present to singer songwriter and anti-dam activist Katie Lee on her 93rd birthday was a ceramic bowl commemorating Katie’s famous stark naked bike ride through Jerome. Photo courtesy Katie Lee.

Photo: Katie on her bike. Ceramicist and painter Jane Moore’s birthday present to singer songwriter and anti-dam activist Katie Lee on her 93rd birthday was a ceramic bowl commemorating Katie’s famous stark naked bike ride through Jerome. Photo courtesy Katie Lee.

Katie says she’s likely to be more famous for her ride than for her books and music.

Mother Meets Katie

Katie was absolutely unforgettable to my mother after I introduced them at a party at Wylci Fables and Jore Park’s art studio in the old high school.

My mom and Katie were contemporaries. Both were stunning women throughout their lives. Katie was a sensuous and provocative blue-eyed Irishwoman. My mother, a black eyed beauty with a quick smile and a great deal of charm, was crowned Miss Greek America when she was eighteen. They were the center of attention in any room they entered.

Mom grew up in upper middle class Washington, D.C. surrounded by lawyers, bankers and foreign embassy personnel. 8My mother was the only one in our family to get a job. In 1942, she was the first woman lawyer to be hired by the National Labor Relations Board. When Katie met her, mom had just been appointed as an Administrative Law Judge for the same board.

Katie grew up like a Western fox, shrewd at survival and defense against predators. The downturn in real estate was her family’s downfall in the depression. She was western and country, a native Arizonan who grew up near the foothills of Tucson. She shot quail, squirrels and rabbits for the stew pot with her .22 rifle. She camped in the mountains and canyons around Tucson with a couple of cowboys that taught her their songs and took her to the cantinas and brothels of Nogales, Mexico where she learned Mexican border songs.

Katie Lee, activist, singer, songwriter.  Author Glen Canyon Betrayed and soon The Ghost of Dandy Crossing.

Katie Lee, activist, singer, songwriter. Author Glen Canyon Betrayed and soon The Ghost of Dandy Crossing.

They met during my mom’s second visit to Jerome. My mother could not believe that we had settled into this dilapidated town full of pot smokers. She thought smoking pot led directly to heroin and she lectured us about it every time she could. This second visit though, she made a little peace with Jerome. She said it reminded her of the mountainous northern Greek village that her parents had come from.

Nothing prepared her for the party at Wylci and Jore’s. I told my mom she would meet my close friend Katie, whom I described as a well-known published author and singer/songwriter who was about her age. My mother smiled with relief at the possibility of meeting a respectable friend of mine.

Mom walked up the forty-five iron steps to the second floor of the gym. As soon as we were at the top, I handed her the brown paper bag that contained her high heels, which she primly substituted for her walking shoes. As we walked down the corridor, we could hear ripples of music and laughter. Soon we were immersed among fifty rowdy-looking hippies, gussied up in their gypsy best, a wilder and more raucous group than my mother had ever been in. I looked around for Katie so I could introduce them. It was not until I looked up that I found her as she swung upside down on a trapeze. The skirt that hung over her body exposed the white ruffled pantaloons she had sewn for the occasion. She waved her high heels, which were, oddly enough, the same color as mom’s.

It was an irresistible moment for me. I marched my mother up to Katie and introduced them. It was one of the few times I ever saw my mother at a total loss of words. Katie invited her to lunch the next day without missing a swing. Eventually, they became good friends that admired each other for their independent and outspoken natures.

For more info on Katie’s book and music: http://www.katydoodit.com/


[i] Lee, Katie, “The Ride,” Sandstone Seduction (Johnson Books, 2004), pp. 185-192