(The pretty, colored map above is in reality … redundant!! But, it adds a little “color” to our otherwise blaugh travels!!! FYI – the unmarked space below Bisbee is Mexico)
So after a couple of days of relaxation at the Picacho State Park and the Rooster Cogburn Ostrich Farm, we meandered down the road to Tucson where we wanted to spend a few days exploring the “Big City”. But no such luck!!! There are so many “silver tips” … old, rich, grey haired senior citizens and their damnable RVs everywhere … that all the RV parks were filled-up and there was no “room in the inn” for us. Not to be defeated, we tootled on down the road (I-10) to a small farming community East of Tucson, by the name of Benson (I’m certain it’s named after some Mormon leader back in prehistoric times, as there are thousands of Mormons in this part of the world.) We stopped there because I had traveled these parts 20-30 years ago while working for the Army Hqtrs as an inspector. I knew that the highway going due South, went to an old mining town of Bisbee where there’s s huge copper pit that’s been dug out over the past hundred years and is sitting almost on the Mexico/US border. In addition, the road runs through the “infamous” Tombstone, AZ where Wyatt Earp, his brothers and Doc Holiday “ran amuck” at the OK Corral and killed the Clanston Gang … while getting one of the Earp brothers killed. But then, you’all saw the movie and already knew all this!
In this day and age, the streets are no longer the domain of those bad guys and their “black hats”, but the omni-present tourist and their “selfie-phones”. They have a “reinactment” of the gun fight 4-5 times a day to entertain the tourist. And there are regular stage coach departures to view the city and “Boothill Graveyard.” The Chamber of Commerce enforces the “Wild West” image of the community to enhance the “flow of tourist dollars”… and they’ve done a pretty good job of it! The wood sidewalks, false-fronted buildings, hitching posts, some with horses tied up to them … instead of parking meters, and a l0t of costumed citizen walking the streets … some with white hats, some with black hats! It all looks pretty realistic! Even “boot hill” had some realistic looking head stones with “poetic” epitaphs scrawled on them. We had an ice cream cone and wandered the streets for an hour or so … took the stage coach tour … and headed South to the “big hole” in the ground.
We weren’t disappointed by the sight of the copper pit …. It’s huge and deep!!!
The mine was operated for over a hundred years, but economic conditions makes it too expensive to run and its been closed down for 5-10 years.
When I was in college, I worked in a much smaller open pit mine similar to this … I was a wagon drill helper. There were ten wagon drills and we drilled holes about 20 feet deep and four feet apart. After drilling about a thousand holes, each hole was filled with regular commercial fertilizer (potassium nitrate) soaked with diesel fuel and one stick of dynamite with a long connecting wire. All the wires were connected together and then hooked up to an electric devise. When the switch was turned on … it ignited the dynamite, which caused everything to explode with a muffled roar, and the ground would swell up about 3-4 feet as the rock was fractured. Then the big excavators/power shovels would come crawling in and load the broken rock/ore into the huge “haul” trucks (as shown in the above picture. I was getting ready to tell my supervisor a sad story about my wife not wanting to move out to the Nevada desert to be with me, and so I was going to have to quit my job and move back to the city … (they didn’t know I was a “summer” college kid and it was time to go back to school). Before I could tell him I was quitting, the “pit boss” told me how impressed he was with me as an employee … and would I be interested in training to drive a haul truck??? It was something I’d always wanted to do, and it paid 50 cents an hour more. I was really torn … I hated school, and my GPA was in the toilet … we had some real money for the first time since we’d been married … and … I figured I could be a truck driver for six months and then quit and go back to school….YEAH, SURE!!!! Anyway, my (smarter than me) wife, Shirley, convinced me that it was too risky … that it’d be too hard to quit and I’d never make it back to college. So (with tears in my eyes) I told him my sad story about my “selfish” wife and that I had to quit. He said if I ever changed my mind, he’d hire me back. This was a “defining” crossroad in my life … I have often wondered what my life would have been, had I not gone back to college that summer!!
As we left the mine, we took a side trip into the town where the miners had lived. We never expected to find such a charming “berg”. The streets were narrow and crooked as they made their way up a small, steep sided canyon. The houses were stacked on top of each other in a haphazard way like toy blocks. Most streets were one-way and it was challenging finding your way out of the maze!
We were impressed by the blue, blue sky, with the copper mill and smelter long silenced, air pollution was not a problem!!!
Benson, AZ is a non-descript agricultural community, located out in the middle of “No-Where” on I-10. Not much to see or do here. Unfortunately, the next morning we awakened to this sight, which made it memorable in our travels … SNOW!!!!! Not very much snow, thank goodness, but it was soooooo ccccooooolllllddddd!! … and to think that we were almost in Mexico made it ever harder to accept!! With all my “whimpering and crying” you’d never know that I’d ever lived in Alaska!!!
We only stayed in Benson, two nights and headed out for New Mexico and hopefully warmer weather!