Honoring the Women in Jerome AZ: International Women’s Day

Anyone who has lived in Jerome for any period of time knows this to be true:  the women are strong, physically, emotionally, mentally and spiritually, accomplished at what they set out to do and passionately engaged. Many are artists that have served the town politically and are business people. A triple header combo that is hard to beat. And they’re smart. Very very smart.

Here’s an honor role of a dozen, in alphabetical order, who live or have lived in Jerome and some of their contributions.  Most moved to Jerome in the seventies and early eighties and many were, and still are, irreverent hippies!

Anne Bassett, for documenting the town through her intricately detailed illustrations and her service on the Jerome Town Council.  http://jeromeartists-bassett.blogspot.com/ 

Patty Bell, for singing Joni Mitchell’s song, “Pave paradise, put up a parking lot,’ in a particularly rancorous Jerome Town Council meeting

Barbara Blackburn, the wild woman who became CEO of Jerome Instrument Corporation and served on many of the town boards. She helped put together the Jerome Defense Fund to help members of our community that were arrested in 1985.

Mimi Currier, for running for US Senate in the eighties as a liberal Democrat with special interests in the arts, for her long-time service on many boards in Jerome, and for her incredible Netsuke carvings.

Nancy Driver, a wonderful fiber and leather artist, who served on many boards, and helped start the first artists’ cooperative store in Jerome.

Katie Lee, who wears her advocacy for freeing the Colorado River on her license plate (Dam Dam), and speaks eloquently and emotionally about them in her books and in her music. And for bringing a smile to everyone’s face when she streaked Jerome on her bike when she was in her eighties. www.katydoodit.com

ML Lincoln, photographer and producer of the film, Wrenched, honoring the legacy of Edward Abbey and the decades of wilderness activists he helped inspire. www.wrenched-themovie.com/‎

Jane Moore, for her long-time service on the town council (12 years, not all consecutively) and on many boards, with special advocacy for water rights, and her incredibly lovely ceramics and paintings. www.madeinjerome.com

My cousin Deni Rapp, the woodworker, for her lovely cribbage boards and wooden furniture, her courage in dealing with many physical ailments so graciously and positively, and for her service on many boards.

Ivy Stearman, one of the first women midwives in the Verde Valley (against the ire of many doctors) and founder of Nurses Network. nursesnetwork.net/

Sue Tillman for having the gut to start the first AIDs organization in the Verde Valley at a time when even the funeral homes wouldn’t dress someone who died of AIDS.

Sharon Watson, cofounder of Aurum Jewelry, a wonderful designer and jeweler, and long time member of the Fireman’s Auxiliary and board member of the Jerome Historical Society. www.aurumjewelry.com

Kathleen Williamson  for her lifetime advocacy of human rights, including LGBT people, her astute legal head and her musicianship. www.kathleenwilliamson.com

Okay, there are a lot more women, who have started their own business and shops, but I have to go teach tai chi right now. Post your favorites.  Make a list for your hometown. Today’s the day.

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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 3—Jane Moore

Most of this post is written by my ex-neighbor, Jane Moore. She lives two houses down from our previous home at the top of Deception Gulch. She wrote me a few emails commenting on the last two wall posts. She pointed out that she was one of the few women who built hand-stacked rock walls in Jerome. I always looked at her driveway and corral walls when I drove up to Richard’s house and assumed Chuck Runyon, her partner, built them.  I am very embarrassed to find I’m just another male chauvinist.

Here’s what Jane wrote and the photos that accompanied her emails.

“Gig Stearman [Jane’s neighbor down Gulch Road] is another absolutely fabulous wall builder, who uses rocks far larger than anyone else I know! And, perhaps you didn’t know that I’m the person who has done most of the dry stack walls on this property, with Chuck’s help with the bigger rocks.  Not too many people have ever seen them. I’m sending you a few pictures. I don’t know of too many other women who do dry stack walls!

“John Walsh is the person who I got started doing them with—he was in his eighties at the time, I worked for him doing yard work in the early eighties and was helping him rebuild his walls at Villa Contenta. (He was such a fun person to work for! I learned a lot about his life, as well.) Wall building in my yard is still something I am doing 30 years later—holding the hillside back, doing new walls and repairing old ones. Mine may not be as pretty as some of the other fabulous wall builders’ in town, but they last!

“And yes, I became a wall builder out of necessity myself. The day I signed the papers from Jill, 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!

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

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

“I love doing winding steps, and just funky, organic looking walls. I try to re-use good rocks, but end up having to go hunt for them a lot of times, and I really like to mix rocks—Tapeats sandstone, local limestone, flagstone, volcanic rock, etc.

Curving steps and wall. Photo by Jane Moore

Curving steps and wall, mostly done with stones from my brother’s flagstone quarry near Sedona. Photo by Jane Moore

More steps and wall. Note the lovely way Jane tied in the corner! Photo by Jane Moore.

More steps and wall. Note the lovely way Jane tied in the corner and kept the trees! Photo by Jane Moore.

“Here’s my latest project—a “pony” wall for a ramp that connects one corral to the other. It’s about halfway done. Another wall on the other side of ramp needs to be redone (the one along Richard’s driveway)

Jane's newest poy wall shows how one of these walls gets started at the bottom, with a good lean towards the hillside. Photo by Jane Moore

Jane’s newest  wall shows how one of these walls gets started, good foundation with rocks leaning in towards the hillside. Photo by Jane Moore

“When I first started building walls out of the odd shaped native rocks here, a strange feeling came over me that I had done this before (I don’t really question when that happens, I just accept!), and when the rocks just seem to fit perfectly together like a jigsaw puzzle, it goes so fast and is so much fun. With the native rocks, I like what I jokingly call “turd” rocks—long skinny ones that might only look like the size of a hand or two on the face of wall, but will go back in the wall a couple of feet. I spend a lot of time carefully fitting together other less useful rocks in as backfill, so the wall is actually quite thick, keeping in mind that backfill material and drainage is all important. I always joked that Chuck did the inside work/carpentry, and I did the outside work/”grunt” labor! I know I’ve done a hell of a lot of the pick and shovel work on this property!

“Next is a wall that’s taken 30 years to finish! Will finally be done this year, and i have been out working on it all day today.

Jane next to her latest wall. Really, really nice! Photo, courtesy Jane Moore.

Jane next to her latest wall.  ” The wall above me is the last funky old wall needing to be rebuilt from when I moved into the house. Photo, courtesy Jane Moore.

The wall to the right is mostly sandstone; wall to the left is mostly 'rubble rock,' much harder to build with because they are rough sided and sized. Photo by Jane Moore

The wall to the right is mostly sandstone; wall to the left is mostly ‘rubble rock,’ much harder to build with because the rocks are rough-sided and sized. Photo by Jane Moore

Jane is a potter and painter who has worked in Made In Jerome Pottery—www.madeinjerome.com/ since 1980.

Jane's paintings on pottery are famous and quite lovely.

Jane’s paintings on pottery are famous and quite lovely.

Like many artists that settled in Jerome in the seventies, Jane participated in town politics. Jane, Peggy Tovrea and Debbie Hall started the fireman’s auxiliary in 1976, after Phil Tovrea, one of Jerome’s renegade hippie newcomers was elected fire chief. Jane was head of Planning and Zoning in the 1980s. She was vice mayor from 1982–84, elected to the Town Council from 1998–2008 and was appointed mayor 2004–06. 

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/

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.


Lament for Ghost Town Ruins

Jerome, Arizona’s ruins are slowly disappearing. The grand hulks that became symbols of the ghost town that it became known for—hospital, elementary school, Daisy Hotel and Douglas Mansion—are restored and have become, respectively, the Grand Hotel, Town Hall, a private residence and State Historic Park.

Leigh and Richard weremarried here; kids loved to skateboard here; and the fire department benefits were great. Photo by Bob Swanson (Swansonimages.com)

Leigh and Richard weremarried here; kids loved to skateboard theses floors; and the fire department benefits were great. Photo by Bob Swanson (Swansonimages.com)

The floor of the Bartlett Hotel, the only ruin that remains on Main Street, is filled with coins pitched by tourists at an old outhouse and toilet and rusted mining artifacts. This odd coin toss earns as much as $6500 a year for the Jerome Historical Society.  Behind the shop called Skyfire, the remains of the brick ‘cribs’, home of Jerome’s ladies of the night, were taken down by co-owner Michael Farcas to gain access to the back of the building.  The bricks were neatly stacked.  Then the bricks slowly disappeared.  As Jane Moore commented, it was a ‘crime.’

No cribs, no more. And where did all those bricks go?  (Photo by Bob Swanson)

No cribs, no more. And where did all those bricks go? (Photo by Bob Swanson)

The Jerome that I moved to in 1979 was still forlorn and decrepit looking, needing rescue. Today, Jerome has become modernized. Spiffed up. Gentrified.

This wreck was in old Mexican town below the post office. (Photo by Bob Swanson)

This wreck was in old Mexican town below the post office. (Photo by Bob Swanson)

Money flows in from tourist veins that are as rich as any gold mine. Over a million visitors a year come to shop, party in the bars, gawk at the views, and hear tales of bordellos, gunslingers, and ghosts. The shops are full of art, jewelry, and handmade clothing, award-winning wines and exotic olive oils.

Can this building be saved? It's the old Cuban Queen, symbol of the mining city bordellos. (Photo by )Bob Swanson

Can this building be saved? It’s the old Cuban Queen, symbol of the mining city bordellos. For those of us who lived in Jerome in the Jade/Rosie days, it was their home and magnet/tile making studio.  I still have some of them.  (Photo by Bob Swanson)

The names of many businesses play on the mythology of ghosts: The Haunted Hamburger, Ghost Town Inn, the Spirit Room bar, Ghost Town Tours, and Ghost Town Gear. The Grand Hotel provides ghosts meters to visitors interested in documenting their contacts. The annual Jerome Ghost Walk is one of the most popular events that the Jerome Historical Society produces. It draws many hundreds of people to its re-enactments of historic events.

Many don’t mourn the loss of ruins. Sometimes tourists fell off the old walls. Shopkeepers complained ruins were fire hazards and dubbed them liabilities. Many homes that once went for under a $1000 have sold for over a quarter of a million dollars. In the ghost town years, they were ripe for pickings and vandalism. Up to the 1980’s, residents would find people wandering through their yards, saying, “I thought this was a ghost town.”

The iconic T.F. Miller building was ordered to be torn down by Phelps Dodge in 1953. "Jerome is finished," a mine official said. Kids were paid a penny a piece to clean the bricks. (Photo courtesy: Jerome Historical Society)

The iconic T.F. Miller building was ordered to be torn down by Phelps Dodge in 1953. “Jerome is finished,” a mine official said. Kids were paid a penny a piece to clean the bricks. (Photo courtesy: Jerome Historical Society)

I never tired of walking among Jerome’s ruins. The shards of Jerome’s fabulous mining past were embedded in its abandoned buildings, crumbling walls, and collapsed roofs. Ruins shared visible histories of this once powerful and fabled city—“the richest copper mining city” in the West.  There were ghosts in those ruins; you could feel them.

The old bakery ovens are still hanging around in the back yard of one of my friends, (Photo by Bob Swanson)

The old bakery ovens are still hanging around in the back yard of one of my friends, (Photo by Bob Swanson)

Before new mine owners forbid walking down to the 500-level, I loved walking around the foundations of the housing units for mid-level employees (plumbers, carpenters, electricians). I loved sneaking into the old mining building known as the “Dry” with its rows of empty lockers and broken-up shower stalls. I could easily visualize 1500 miners simultaneously showering up after their shifts and hanging their clothes to dry on pulleys that hoisted them high into the rafters. Vaporous ghosts.

Interior of the Dry on the 500 level.  (Photo by Bob Swanson)

Interior of the Dry on the 500 level. (Photo by Bob Swanson)

For old-timers who return by the hundreds for the annual town reunion called “Spook Days,” ruins were the roots of their powerful attachment to Jerome. “I was only here from 1928-1948, but I feel a strong attachment to Jerome. No other place I’ve ever lived in have I felt that attachment,” said one old Mexican.

Another said, “I was only three years old when I left Jerome, but I remember things. . . I remember my father’s house. I remember the snow. And I remember sitting on my grandmother’s balcony at night, looking down into the valley. I could hear crickets and it was so peaceful.”

Ruins revealed oddities about people who used to live here. One of my favorite ruins was the old homestead where Father John used to live. When he died, he left behind a lot of junk: rusting cars, collections of stoves, and a room full of ladies shoes, singles only. Now what would a priest be doing with so many ladies’ shoes? Father John’s home mysteriously burned the night after he was dragged to the hospital. Years later, the homestead was replaced with the new Gold King Mine, which includes a lot of old pre-fifties trucks, a museum of mining relics and old sawmill from Weed, California. There never was a mine there, much less one that mined gold.

A new town has emerged, full of its own colors and legends, a village of little crime and high spirits. The ghost town is all but gone.

One of my all time favorites ruins, now the cover of Rich Town Poor Town. It was in perfect splay when Bob took the shot. Then it fell down. (Photo by Bob Swanson)

One of my all time favorites ruins, now the cover of Rich Town Poor Town by Roberto Robago, a great book. The ruin was in perfect splay when Bob took the shot. Then it fell down. (Photo by Bob Swanson)

But when the oldtimers die, who will share the memories and secrets of old Jerome? And when the ruins are gone, where will the ghosts hide?

The Big Spliff: The Kids That Dared D.A.R.E.

About a year after the pot bust of 1985, the Clarkdale Elementary School set up a precursor to the Drug Abuse Resistance Education (D.A.R.E.) program. Mr. Steele, the fifth-grade teacher, brought in a policeman, whom he introduced as Officer Friendly.

My son Max and his best friend Omar, politely listened and watched the videos and movies about how smoking pot led directly to heroin, meth, crack, and cocaine addictions. Alcohol was seldom mentioned. They tried to figure out how the information presented squared with all the adults they knew that only smoked pot and seemed pretty mellow. Although their parents were not involved in the bust, Max and Omar knew about it and accepted their parents’ position that few pot smokers were ever involved in violent crime.

After every educational program, Officer Friendly invited the kids to rat out their families or friends. “It’ll be a secret between us,” Officer Friendly said. Max and Omar had heard the stories about the snitch and the big bust in Jerome, they knew that a snitch was the worst kind of person.

At the end of the semester, the kids were asked to present skits about what they had learned. Max and Omar paired up and were the last to make a presentation.

They went into the hall to get into their costumes. When they walked back into the classroom, Omar had transformed himself into a cliché of the drug dealer—trench coat, big pockets, hat pulled over his forehead, sunglasses, and gold chains. Even though he was not yet twelve, he was almost six feet tall and his size made kids think he was formidable, and not to be messed with. However, Omar had a very tender heart and never got into fights.

Max had changed into a clean shirt, pressed trousers, the epitome of the kind of clean-cut kid you who would never associate with drugs. He was shorter than Omar by a foot and a half, fair-haired and fair-skinned. He had a beatific smile that made him look, well, maybe not quite angelic, but perhaps trustable; a kid every mom could be proud of. Max and Omar were best friends: Omar was the gentle giant and Max was the offbeat sidekick.

“Hey Max,” says Omar. “I just got some dynamite Panama Red. Want to smoke a joint?”

“Oh no, Omar, but thanks anyway,” Max said.

“How about some ‘Maui Zowie’ that my friend just brought back from Hawaii. You hardly ever see that around any more, Max. It’s awesome.”

“Sorry, Omar, I have to say no to Maui Zowie today.” Max smiled.

Officer Friendly beamed. It was just the way he had taught the kids to respond when someone offered to get them high.

“But Max, Max, here’s something I know you won’t turn down. I got hold of an old Thai stick, and man, is that some heavy-duty pot.”

All of a sudden, from under his shirt, Max whipped out an eight-inch long, cigar-thick spliff, rolled in newspaper, which he pretended to light. “Well, Omar, the thing is, I have some of my own.”

After no more than five shocked seconds, the room erupted in a roar as the kids rocked with laughter. The teacher could not be heard over the pandemonium for quite a few minutes and ordered Max and Omar to go to the principal’s office.

The principal was friendly with many Jerome parents and was known in some circles for his own hell-raising ways.

“Look,” he said to Max and Omar. “We know what goes on up there with you hippies, but you don’t have to parade it around. Try and mellow out.”

Max and Omar became heroes. For years, the kids told the story to one another. After all, Max and Omar had “dared” the powers that be. And, maybe more importantly, they got away with it.