- The blog is NOT the book, Home Sweet Jerome: Death and Rebirth of Arizona’s Richest Copper Mining City. Only some vignettes from the blog are included; others served as inspiration for the book; others are only included in the blog. The blog will continue with new stories about Jerome and about author Diane Rapaport’s career.
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 Radio.com streams the same music on the internet, just as it has been doing for over a decade.
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.
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.
“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.
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 www.gulchradio.com.
“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.
Instead, Gulch Radio became Gulchradio.com, 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 Gulchradio.com.
The story was first published in the Verde Independent newspaper.
Marshall Terrill, an author and a reporter for the East Valley Tribune, emailed me and said he loved my book Home Sweet Jerome, a modern Jerome AZ history, and wanted to write something about it. It’s every author’s dream. After I got his email, I looked him up. He is noted for his biographies of Elvis Presley, Steve McQueen and Pete Maravich, basketball great. Wow, I thought to myself, what an honor. Terrill wrote me questions and asked me to write the answers and to please stick to two paragraphs. They were good questions and I thought a long time about how to answer them. The article Terrill posted was wonderful. My answers, way too long, were shortened. Here’s his article, which was generous and praiseworthy: http://eastvalleytribune.com/eedition/page_42427fd9-1903-594e-9f23-e06eb4f4ee05.html#page_a14
For the historical record, here’s the long version of my answers.
Difference between Aboveground and Below Ground Jerome AZ
Terrill: 1.) Give us a taste of what Jerome when it was a thriving copper town before 1953?’
The major boom years were 1895 to about 1930 with a population peaking at about 15,000. Two mines worked full time, employing about 4000 people, and pulling out some of the richest copper ore ever seen in America. Aboveground, Jerome AZ was a rich and glamorous city, the center of Northern Arizona with the finest hospitals and schools; and plenty of social activities, not all savory. Below ground, in the city of 88 miles of tunnels, life was not so glamorous. For the working miner, it was a 12-hour hardscrabble life, with plenty of dust to infect your lungs, and where being able to shower after work on company time was considered a ‘perk.’
In the nineteen thirties, a number of events began to turn Jerome in a downward direction, including the depression, the sale of the United Verde to Phelps Dodge, and the drop of copper prices after World War II.
Environmental Degradation: Mining’s Biggest Insensitivity
Terrill 2) You cite 1953 as a sort of Ground Zero for Jerome when Phelps Dodge discontinued mining. My jaw dropped when I read about how the company not only pulled out of town, but salvaged parts of buildings and took anything of value before leaving Jerome. Was this sort of behavior par for the course with other copper mining towns or was Jerome’s case particularly insensitive?
It was standard operating procedure, however insensitive and cruel it was. You close down a mine and salvage what can be re-used. If you could give employees jobs in your other mines, you did. The rest of the people you forgot about and took no responsibility for. Move or stay was their problem. The Mexican laborers and their families who had built their own houses, pulled them down, salvaging what they could, and went to find jobs elsewhere. The houses that Phelps Dodge built for employees, usually management and middle management, were either torn down or shut down or put on flatbeds and carted away to other towns. The hospital, United Verde apartments and company hills houses were boarded up and the electricity shut off. The 4-story Miller Building, the company store, was pulled down to avoid taxes and potential liabilities from what Phelps Dodge called ‘safety issues.’ Nor was their any expectation that the 140 or so adults and 86 children that stayed behind, would have the wherewithal, the money or the will, to continue living in Jerome and maintain the infrastructure. “Jerome is finished,” one mining official said. “Within a year grass will grow on Main Street.”
Perhaps the biggest insensitivity, if you could put that rather bland word on it, was the immense environmental degradation Phelps Dodge walked away from. Not just in Jerome, but in the Verde Valley. But remember, this was the fifties. There were no environmental laws in place. No law equaled no responsibility.
Terrrill 3.) Jerome was literally a ghost town in the 1950s and 1960s. For the few people who stayed behind, what did they state their reasons were given the poor conditions of homes, sewer, water and power?
First, Jerome was never a ghost town. That was an invention of the Jerome Historical Society as a way of encouraging tourism. Jerome was a village that 220-300 people lived in, with perhaps 100 houses and maybe eight buildings that weren’t being lived in. The high school, with the exception of a few years, was still operating in 1972. If you stayed in Jerome after the fifties, you kept up your house as much as you could. The houses that were not lived—such as those on Company Hill— in deteriorated pretty fast. And the big problem that emerged with advertising Jerome as a ghost town was that many tourists became predators who thought they somehow entitled to the ‘leavings.’ They would wander into houses that obviously looked lived in and become entirely surprised to find someone quite offended.
Virtually everyone that stayed, or moved there in the fifties and sixties, talked about the love they had for Jerome, one that I characterize as a supernatural attachment. They always talked of the superb views. People that left and came to visit told me they always wanted to come back to live there again. And people that did live there in the fifties and sixties told me what how peaceful, enjoyable and quiet village life was. For sure the kids had a superb life, the mines, the tunnels, the empty buildings and homes were just one big massive playground that was entirely open to them.
And then, layered into all that, was the sense that everyone was working towards the town’s restoration, and there was some sense of hope that someday, Jerome would become a history Mecca, and later, an art Mecca—even though towards the end of the sixties, the town needed something of a miracle to stay alive, not just in terms of fixing its deteriorating infrastructure but its very poor economy. In those years, Jerome was one of the poorest towns in the state.
Love, Need and Hope in Jerome, AZ
Terrill 5.) The late 1960s and early 1970s saw an invasion of dissatisfied hippies move into town and had to not only intermingle with the old-timers, but had to come together in planning the future of Jerome. How did that happen?
Well, that’s the whole book and more, and it’s the question that impelled me to writing it, and what probably makes the book a fascinating read. Love, need and hope make powerful allies. That’s what binds uncommon people together, overcomes antipathy and impels them forward in a common mission. Virtually everyone shared a love of the town, a need to make sure it didn’t fall down the mountain, and a hope that it could become a viable place to live.
“The way I felt about it, I kind of resented it at first, this hippie group moving in,” said John McMillan, one of the most respected of the town elders. “But I found there were some pretty smart kids among them and they got into the politics of Jerome and took over the Town Council and did a pretty good job. I don’t resent that at all because these old timers, they can’t run the damn place forever.” Restoration didn’t happen all at once, but what made it start to happen, is that the hippies became ‘joiners.’ Some joined the fire department; some joined the historical society; some ran for town council, and so on. And it wasn’t so much that there was a plan, but a need to get infrastructure in order, town accounting organized in order to get grants. And the other piece, the one that’s the most controversial, is that the hippies began to grow large marijuana gardens that brought cash into town and enabled everything from artists starting their own businesses to having the money to rebuild their houses. When you add income to love, hope and need, and begin to build a viable economy, then suddenly a future for Jerome became a whole lot more possible.
Riches to Rags: Jerome AZ history
Terrill 5.) What inspired you to research the history of Jerome and make you want to put it all down in book form?
I wanted to know the history of where I had chosen to live. When I moved to Jerome in 1979, several layers of history were entirely visible and wove in and out of each other, but without context. There were large amounts of mining wastes and a big open pit; a denuded mountain; large houses on Company Hill that looked like they were ready to fall apart and were emblematic of what I heard was a ghost town; large, boarded buildings, such as the hospital, or the Daisy Hotel which was windowless and roofless. And because the town was encompassed in about one square mile of real estate and only had about 400 people living there, my first question was how did Jerome swing from rich to decrepit.
Although there was a fair amount written about the boomtown mining days, what happened afterwards was scant. So I started asking. Old-timers and newcomers began telling me stories that edged on preposterous—how Jerome’s mortician flew over the town in the sixties and threw out seeds of paradise trees; how the historical society acquired most of downtown for $10; how the biggest theft in Jerome was money hidden in the church and discovered after the priest died in 1979. So if you were a historian, like me by education and curiosity, you became a detective that was sucked into researching the veracity of those stories. I became hooked. And the more I heard and studied, the more devilishly contradictory and intriguing it all became. It was as though I found myself in the middle of a movie, in which I was playing some role that wasn’t quite clear to me, with a cast of extraordinary heroes and scoundrels that had already been part of many dramas. So there we all were, careening towards a future for Jerome that was not possible to predict, in a falling down town. Better than any novel you could concoct.
Rags to Riches in Jerome AZ: America’s Loveliest Town
Terrill 6.) What is your view of Jerome today, and has it reached its full maturity?
I would use the word restoration instead of maturity. With a few exceptions, Jerome has reached full restoration. Jerome has become the art and history Mecca that residents had hoped for. The town draws more than a million visitors a year. Business is booming. If you visit Jerome in the early morning or even after five when the visitors more or less disappear, what you would see is an astonishing lovely village, perhaps one of the most beautiful in America, surrounded by empty land that is beginning to be reforested and a breathtakingly beautiful eighty mile panoramic view of valleys and canyons that changes with the weather and time of day—“heaven on earth” as photographer Ron Chilston likes to say. Buildings on Main Street, the Grand Hotel, Douglas Mansion, The Little Daisy, have been lavishly restored. Many rebuilt homes are beautiful and comfortable. Those old decrepit Company Hill houses are now jewels on the hill. The whole town has become an oasis—one huge garden of flowers with thousands of pine and fruit trees. A variety of activities can accommodate visitors of every taste and age, from looking for ghosts to sipping wine or cappuccino, to visiting art galleries, to dancing to rock ‘n roll, to visiting Jerome’s mining museums, to going to the quirky museum of old trucks at the Gold King Mine (which was never a gold mine).
But for many residents, there is a downside to success. Lots of cars and motorcycles go up and down the hill daily and with them a lot of noise and low rumble. Quite a few people own homes right on the main highway and noise and fumes from cars creeping into the houses are intolerable. A kind of frenetic people bedlam makes it less pleasant to be uptown or even near it during the day. And then there is some fear that the income that can now be commanded from vacation rentals will mean a decrease in residential population, a decrease in taxes coming into the town, and a degradation of the community spirit that once re-built the town.
Home Sweet Jerome: Death and Rebirth of Arizona’s Richest Copper Mining City by Diane Sward Rapaport
Change unravels many relationships and delivers a future not easily able to be predicted. Perhaps that is why many people fear, deny, and are confused by its portents. The Ghosts of Dandy Crossing, a slice of history barely disguised as a novel, is set at Dandy Crossing, about three miles downstream from what is now Hite Marina in the Glen Canyon wilderness. The reservoir behind Glen Canyon dam is about to fill and irrevocably engulf the lives of people that lived there and the canyons that shaped their souls.
The story weaves in and out of the perspective of Shan Lu (Katie Lee), the book’s heroine, as she too becomes swept into the emotional changes that will be wrought in a wilderness she has often described as being more beguiling than the Grand Canyon. Katie is shown on the book’s cover—playful, utterly unselfconscious and naked (seldom anything else in the wilderness!) goofing off in one of the sandstone canyons. She’s pointing a Ruger pistol at a handsome guy relaxing in a pool. That cover says a lot about a joyful relationship with nature that is not driven by cliché or need to consume or conquer it and her intimate relationships with men that are not driven by sex—though in the emotions of at least two men in the book, ones that are complicated by their own repressed and forcibly clamped down desires.
By the time the book ends, the lazy river and the Anasazi ruin at Dandy Crossing that is shown on the book’s back cover will be drowned under a huge reservoir, leaving only the shards of those who once lived there. This reader is grateful that Katie Lee has preserved some of the memories of the people that once knew the river and canyons so well.
Many passages dramatize the difficulty of sustaining relationships out of the context that they were forged in. In one of the great scenes of the book, Jason, the legendary oarsman of the Colorado River with whom Shan has shared many river trips, visits her at the Playboy Club in “Shitcago.” The scene is awkward from the moment Jason steps into the hazy room and sees Katie in her fringed gown that provocatively falls from just below her breasts. It gets increasingly uncomfortable as Shan sings “The Wreck the Nation Bureau” and roils up Jason’s ulcers and becomes unbearable back in the hotel room where Shan utters a mournful lament: “Oh Jason.. it’s so different being here in a hotel room in the lousy city. All of a sudden being here together is wrong. We don’t belong here. We belong out under the stars and moonlight by our talking river in our own place. This dump isn’t ours!”
The Love Affair
Equally dramatic are the ups and down of the love affair between Shan and Buck Watson, the cowboy/miner living in a cabin at the edge of the river. If anyone has inbred clichés about what a cowboy miner is like, they are quickly dispelled by Katie’s description of the interior of Buck’s cabin: “The bookcases—old fashioned Birds-eye maple with tilting glass fronts that covered most of the wall space and held his mining, geology, and engineering books, novels and philosophy—books, books, books—everything from Nietzsche to The Little Prince. The eye-level cases were full of pots, arrowheads, shards, knives and scrapers, stone axes and prices of woven sandals, the bottom ones, crammed with rolls of USGS maps and ore samples.” The room is made comfortable for visitors with two strong leather chairs and a braided rug. This is a guy as equally multifaceted as Shan.
The Desecration of Glen Canyon
The descriptions of the changes wrought by the Colorado River’s rise are unparalled by any books I’ve read the desecration of Glen Canyon. In some passages, Shan rakes the gawkers who snicker at her naked body in the muck near Hidden Passage: “I’m looking—and I see three maggoty-looking slobs in a boat with a tiny-poo awning over it so they won’t get any sun on their white flab, plus several beer cans and candy wrappers floating around, known as litter.”
In a particularly heartrending passage, Jason tells Shan about the dying of the beavers: “They cut every tree and sapling frantically trying to stop the flow…their food rotted and their homes floated on the still water—some of them sitting bewildered on top of the woven sticks.”
Ghosts of Dandy Crossing: The Last of a Trilogy about a Lost Eden
Ghosts of Dandy Crossing showcases Katie’s talents as a gifted raconteur, a grand mimicker of dialogue, and shrewd observer of the hearts of her characters. This book is particularly wondrous because of her artful and dramatic crescendos to many sad disruptions and the surprise of a lovely redemptive ending.
It is a fitting wrap up for Katie’s other books about a lost Eden—Glen Canyon Betrayed and Sandstone Seduction.
Ghosts of Dandy Crossing, published in the Spring of 2014 by Ken Sanders, Dream Garden Press, is available in many Southwest indie bookstores. It is NOT available on Amazon. You can buy it most easily from Katie’s web site (www.katydoodit.com).
And if you have ever wondered why Katie Lee has such an odd website name it is because she is eclipsed on the internet by someone of the same name who married and is divorcing pop singer Billie Joel, is a celebrity cook and owns the KatieLee.com website.
When Scott Kolu sang “Salve Regina,” a traditional hymn to the Virgin Mary, from the balcony of the Holy Family Catholic Church in Jerome a few weeks ago, I was transfixed. I felt as though heaven was singing right through me and down to the beautiful old altar. The church’s acoustics were perfection.
Scott, a baritone, who once sang with the Royal Hawaiian Opera Company, is the cantor, caretaker, historian and advocate for the restoration of the oldest church in Jerome.
He wasn’t always Catholic. He was a renegade from growing up in a family of conservative Orthodox Jews with a Rabbi father and converted to Catholicism eleven years ago. Today, he lives in the Holy Family Catholic Church’s convent, where he can monitor day-to-day restoration.
Holy Family Catholic Church Structural Problems
A year and a half ago, Scott outlined the structural problems of the church and his dreams for renovation to Father David Kalesh, pastor of the Immaculate Conception Catholic Church in Cottonwood. The three-story brick and stone back wall facing Main Street is bowed, its foundation crumbling, mortar for its brick and stone façade in need of repointing.
Not surprising for a building that was built in 1896, burned in the fire of 1898, and was rebuilt as a brick and stone structure in 1899-1900. It was known as the ‘miner’s church.
Father David and Scott Kolu became strong allies.
Together they are bringing Jerome’s Holy Family Catholic Church back to life. Father David conducts Mass on the third Saturday of each month at 8:30 a.m. When long-time and much loved Jerome resident Don Walsh died in late September, a funeral service was held to a packed church of family and friends.
“The church has immense historic value,” Father David told me. “Most important are the memories the church holds for former parishioners and their families who visit Jerome. I would like to help the church become the polished jewel that it once was.”
Death of Father John
After Father Juan Atucha Gorostiaga (Father John) died in 1979, the interior of the Holy Family Catholic Church was in shabby condition. Some funds for repair came from money that was recovered from the discovery of its theft from the church. The night after Father John died, one of Jerome’s hippie newcomers discovered someone coming out of the church with garbage bags. The thief fled, and the garbage bags, full of silver coin and old bills, were handed over to the police. When they looked inside the church, more money was found. According to Ron Ballatore, one of the policemen, $8000 was recovered. “The Phoenix diocese asked that it be given to three of his loyal parishioners for fixing up the church,” said Ballatore in an interview that I did with him in the 1980’s. “What happened to it after that I don’t know. I do know that Tony [Anthony Lozano, Sr.] spent years repairing that church pretty much on his own.” (A more complete version of these stories are found in my Home Sweet Jerome: Death and Rebirth of Arizona’s Richest Copper Mining City)
Lozano’s work included cleaning the interior of the building, repainting the altar and sanctuary, and making repairs to the antique pipe organ. “Unfortunately, the roof leaks above the organ were neglected, and a big rainstorm in 1981 inflicted a lot of damage,” Scott Kolu said as he showed me the rotten felt and damaged rubber gaskets on each key.
The Pipe Organ
The organ, designed especially for smaller churches, was built by the prestigious Kilgen and Sons Pipe Organ Company in St. Louis in the early nineteen hundreds. Only two others of the same compact design still remain in the United States. (Perhaps the most well known Kilgen church pipe organ is housed in St. Patrick’s Cathedral in Manhattan.)
“We are ecstatic that Mr. Charles Kegg, President and Artistic Director of Kegg Pipe Organ Builders (www.keggorgan.com) is willing to take on the restoration project,” Scott said.
I sent an email to Mr. Kegg and asked him why.
“I would like to restore it to its original condition so that it can remain an example of this almost extinct style of American pipe organ,” he said. “The pipe organ in Jerome is rather unusual. . . It was being sent to a place where electricity probably didn’t exist at all at the time, so this organ was built using methods from the mid-19th century and with the intention that it must play under difficult circumstances with little or no maintenance. This was not uncommon at all for remote locations. . . Jerome must have been an outpost much more remote than other locations that would want a pipe organ. Another thing that makes it unusual is that it has survived, virtually intact.”
Altar and Sanctuary Restoration
Scott is in the process of restoring the altar and sanctuary to some of the glory that Tony Lozano accomplished. During the nineteen-nineties, well-meaning seminarians repainted the altar and painted over the two golden images of The Holy Ghost and All-seeing Eye of God with their white fluffy clouds above them. “You can still see their faint outlines beneath the paint, so they can be redone,” Scott said.
The seminarians also removed the old window paintings of the Twelve Apostles in the sanctuary and The Holy Family that graced the large window in the church’s balcony. “Eventually we will find a way to replace them,” said Scott. “I already have an arrangement with Penelope Davis, who runs the kid’s art program in Jerome, to repaint a more modern holy family in the large balcony window.”
“At least the tin ceiling wasn’t repainted,” I remarked. “In 1984, I walked in to the church to see Tony Lozano painting the blue fleur de lis designs on the ceiling with his fingers. He was a most devout man.”
Theft of Statue: Saint Anthony Mary Claret
“I sorely miss the statue of Saint Anthony Mary Claret that used to stand in the back of the church.” I told Scott. “It was so lifelike that it unnerved me every time I visited. Sadly, the statue was stolen sometime in the nineties.” (St. Anthony founded the Claretian order.)
“The finale of that story is that the statue was returned,” Scott said. “Someone dumped it on the floor of the church, and it broke into pieces. Now only the bust remains. Such a desecration.”
Beauty of Jerome AZ
Scott’s passion for restoring the church is equaled by his love of the town of Jerome.
“I’ve been coming to Jerome since the nineteen eighties,” Scott said. “The beauty of this town isn’t just the view, but like the church, every step you take, you know someone else has taken that same step. I love the fact that I fit in. There’s a belonging that you get here that you don’t find anywhere else.”
I quoted him the line from Kate Wolf’s song “Old Jerome.”
They say that once you live here, you’ll you never really leave,
The town has a hold on you until the day you die.
“I don’t know whether you never really leave Jerome or whether Jerome doesn’t leave you,” Scott replied.
Before I left the church, Scott rang the well-functioning bell, made and smelted by a 17-year old living in Jerome who went on to become a bell maker. Its peals resounded throughout the church and town. “You have to know how to pull it straight for the clobber to hit it decently,” Scott said. I tried. It was too heavy for me to even get a good pull. I thanked him for his time.
The article was first published in the Verde Independent newspaper in Cottonwood, AZ on November 18. The photo gallery of Vyto Starkinskas’ photos are spectacular. http://verdenews.com/main.asp?SectionID=1&SubSectionID=1&ArticleID=63344
(Diane Sward Rapaport is the author of Home Sweet Jerome: Death and Rebirth of Arizona’s Richest Copper Mining City. The blogs are different from the stories that are included in the book.)
Turning on the news, I learn that history begins at breakfast. Four horsemen trumpet apocalypse: conquest, war, famine and death. Yesterday’s news has been eclipsed. “Life is changing fast,” I murmur. “Can’t keep up.”
At a vista in Canyonlands National Park, I see that history began long before the slow changes that sculpted this wilderness of pinnacles, canyons and rivers. The rocks I stand on were once ocean. The four horsemen from the last book of the New Testament hadn’t been created.
In this scale, whatever legacies that ancient races left behind are lost in the detritus of petroglyphs and ruins—symbols of greatness and transience. I feel myself disappearing into the breath of the wind.
To steady myself, I start the slow movements of tai chi. The roots of the juniper and pinon coil downwards, forging pathways into sandstone. In the chalky dirt, I move carefully around the petrified logs of a pine forest that existed some 200 million years ago. The cataclysm that buried it happened quickly; yet the processes that mineralized the wood occurred particularly slowly.
Tai chi slows down my internal rhythms and grounds me into this present moment. The twin forests of death and rebirth at my feet remind me about the yin and yang cycles of change and the rhythms of fast and slow time. These will continue beyond any future I can project.
Although change is scarcely in my control, my response to it shapes the person I am.
If this wilderness, in its pristine and natural disarray, had not been preserved so that I could visit and quiet myself down, it would be more difficult not to give in to primal bewilderment.
History would always begin at breakfast. Visits of the four horsemen would fill me with dread. I would hoard my treasures, arm myself with guns, and guard my larders full of food and water. Greed and loneliness would become constant companions.
Instead, I return home purged of meanness. My enthusiasm and curiosity are restored. I have recovered equilibrium.
I continue teaching tai chi to family and friends to help them stay healthy and quell anxiety. I advise them to consume less; conserve more; seek the wild lands; and shun companies that sell death.
I write what I care about. My heart follows a path of peace.
It’s what I can do.
Ever since Glen Canyon was buried by Reservoir Powell in the nineteen sixties, Katie Lee has sung, stomped, photographed, written about, fought to restore the magic of Glen Canyon and to let the Colorado River run free. She is venerated as the most flamboyant of knights among a growing legion of pro-wilderness activists. She refers to the reservoir as ‘Loch Latrine’ and ‘Rez Foul.’ Her auto license plate reads ‘Dam Dam.’
Katie Lee will be 95 on October 23, 2014.
Katie Lee: Wild Riding Career
Katie had an eclectic and wild-riding career. She began her professional career in 1948 as a stage and screen actress. She performed bit parts in motion pictures in Hollywood; had running parts on major NBC radio shows, including The Great Gildersleeve and The Railroad Hour with Gordon McRae; was a pioneer actress and folk music director on The Telephone Hour with Helen Parrish in the early ’50’s; she left Hollywood to spend ten years as a folk singer in coffeehouses and cabarets throughout the U.S., Canada, and Mexico.
When I met her in 1980, she was the foremost documentarian of cowboys and their songs in western ranching circles. She brings them to life in her book Ten Thousand Goddam Cattle: A History of the American Cowboy in Song, Story and Verse; and in her recording Ten Thousand Goddam Cattle.
The book might have been a bestseller among ranchers if goddam hadn’t been part of the title. Ranchers are a conservative and religious lot. My entreaties to change it would be met with angry expletives followed by “It’s the title of a famous cowboy song.”
During the 1980s and 1990s, Katie performed at cowboy poetry gatherings in Ruidoso, New Mexico; Medora, North Dakota; and Elko, Nevada, among others. Those festivals revived the West’s great legacy of cowboy songs, which are different from the songs sung at country western music festivals, which Katie loathes. “Country and Western is neither,” she once told me in an interview for an article I wrote for Sing Out! (a folk song magazine). “Its lyrics are about tight miserable places like phone booths, dingy bars, and stuffy bedrooms and some poor twit whose wife or girlfriend just dumped him.” She dismissed country superstar Waylon “f*#!ing” Jennings, “He wouldn’t know a cowboy from a cow.”
There’s no mistaking what Katie feels about anything. “Tact is a f*#!ing waste of time,” she once told me.
Her books, Glen Canyon Betrayed and Sandstone Seduction and recordings “Folk Songs of the Colorado River” and “Colorado River Songs,” and DVD, Love Song to Glen Canyon are paeons to the magic of a canyon now lost under the waters of Reservoir Powell.
“Why Glen Canyon,” I asked her over lunch one day, I was hoping my question would take her by surprise and that she might give me an answer that was not in her books. Without even a pause, she said, “Because Glen Canyon is always present in my mind, it’s hardly ever in my dreams. It’s as if my feet are still stuck in the sand at the edge of the river. It’s where I live. This other life I walk around in all day—well, that’s a passing thing. And in many ways it’s my defense against the sadder mechanisms of life around us. And God knows we all need those mechanisms from keeping ourselves from going crazy in this mad world.”
Katie Lee 1971
Jerome in 1971 scarcely looked like it does today. Big buildings were in decay. The Little Daisy had no roof and no windows; the old hospital was boarded up; the deterioration of the Victorian houses on Company Hill were symbols of the ghost town Jerome was purported to be. Although the population never dipped below 200, journalists portrayed it as one most famous ghost towns of the West.
Here’s how Katie Lee described moving to Jerome.
“Betty Bell had a gallery uptown and it was her fault I was here. She knew
of a house for rent. ‘No way I’m going to live on damaged earth. It’s a dead
town.’ ‘Yeah,’ said Betty, ‘but you’ll love the price.’ I went to see it. Ninety
dollars a month was way less than the $250 a month I paid in Sedona. There
was black and white linoleum in the front entrance, and one wall was painted
the most god-awful purple with green trim. It was the most horrible color
combo I’d ever seen. The windows faced down the gulch, which looked
like an ugly junk pile. I paid the rent, moved my furniture and plants, put
my bags down, and handed the keys to the only two guys I knew and asked
them to please water my plants. Then I headed to Princeton, New Jersey, to
begin another tour of the United States as a folk singer.”
2014: Triple Career Milestones
The year 2014 marks three major milestones in Katie Lee’s career: she’s featured in two major documentaries; published a new book a special edition of black and white art photographs highlight Katie’s 37-year old nude body in Glen Canyon. No wonder Katie is in a triple tizzy.
Producer ML Lincoln’s film Wrenched is a gut-wrenching documentary about the community of activists that were inspired by the work of Edward Abbey, who wrote so eloquently about the lonesome and beautiful places of the Southwest. (www.wrenched-themovie.com)
DamNation documents the loss of America’s endangered rivers and the dams that block them. www.damnationfilm.com
Katie sings and talks her way into the heart of the films, grabbing viewers emotionally.
Hite Marina before Glen Canyon Reservoir
The Ghosts of Dandy Crossing, published in 2014 by Dream Garden Press, is a triple love story: the characters that lived around Dandy Crossing, now Hite Marina, before the river rose to drown it; the love of the beauty of Glen Canyon that would soon be drowned; and Katie’s love affair with a cowboy/miner that lived at Hite. Katie is one of the few writers whose words can weave us into the magic spell that the canyons of the southwest have—and this book does it very well. The book is one of the few historical documents about the life lived at Dandy Crossing before it was flooded.
Naked Katie: Classic Portraits
Anyone who has ever hiked or boated with Katie in the wilderness knows she will shed her clothes as quickly as she possibly can, and not put them on again until she gets close to her car. In her words, [I have been]” hiking freely and in tune with nature for at least half of those years. When I met Glen Canyon it was love at first sight— a place far from the inbred taboos of our society— closer to a dreamland than to reality. I have never posed as a model and am not doing so here…only doing what I always did in Glen Canyon—climbing, dancing, walking, touching, talking to the stone, swimming in the river, lying in the shallows, sliding down the falls, crawling through ruins, inching up crevasses, hanging from tree limbs, covering myself with mud, playing, singing, living with the canyon. I can always tell when a model is photographed in a place she’s never seen or experienced before; it’s in body language that can’t be hidden.”
The limited edition of black and white portraits of Katie Lee at 37 years old is now available from Hance Editions, http://katie-lee.hanceeditions.com/about-us.
Katie Lee: A Rich Legacy Realized in Her Own Lifetime
Happy Birthday Katie. I’m so glad you are able to feel the effects of your eloquent activism in your lifetime. And I’m so happy to be your friend. www.katydoodit.com
Diane Sward Rapaport is the author of Home Sweet Jerome: Death and Rebirth of Arizona’s Richest Copper Mining City. The book is widely available at retail shops in Jerome, Clarkdale, Cottonwood, Sedona, Prescott and Flagstaff.
Fifteen hundred retaining walls and fifteen hundred feet of elevation separate the house known as the Eagle’s Nest at the entrance into Jerome AZ from Prescott to its lowest residences—a couple of twisty miles as you follow the highway through town. They are Jerome’s most impressive, and sadly, most overlooked, architectural treasures. Many are works of art. Most are built of leaverites.
Retaining walls knit the town together and keep it from pitching down the steep mountain. They edge highways and driveways. In some parts of town, retaining walls keep homes from toppling into those of their neighbors. Many foundations and building walls are made of native rock, such as the pillars of the old Bartlett Hotel, the only ruin remaining on Main Street. Woven into these walls are the hearts of the people who built and repaired them, binding them to one another, bridging generations and ethnicities.
“I became a wall builder out of necessity,” said Jerome resident Jane Moore. “The day I signed the papers from the woman who sold me the house was the day I was underneath the house cleaning some of her stuff out and the rock wall under there completely fell over! There were SO many old walls all over this property in various states of disrepair, that it seems it’s a never ending project! But never mind… it’s a job I enjoy, as long as my back holds out!”
Many generations of residents can echo Jane’s words. Many retaining walls are hand-stacked, one stone over two, much like those built by the ancient Anasazi. Most have no mortar between them. Properly built, the walls “weep” and act as natural drains. They have an elasticity that enables them to gracefully shift and settle.
In 1976, a small earthquake shook glasses in Paul and Jerry’s Saloon. Another small one occurred in 1984, just five miles outside of town. I was standing outside my old Verde Street house looking at the first wall we repaired. The earthquake sounded like an underground train ambling through the town’s underbelly. A few rocks tumbled, but the large walls held.
The stone for Jerome’s walls can be found within a seven-mile radius of town, many from the same colorful formations that are dominant in the Grand Canyon—1.8 billion-year old copper colored schist (Cleopatra formation), maroon Tapeats sandstone, grey Martin dolomite (A type of limestone), cherry-streaked Redwall sandstone, ruby-colored Supai sandstone and black lava basalt. The rocks tell of the ancient seas that once covered the area and the tumult of ancient volcanoes and earthquakes.
Then there are walls built of coarse caliche (the white cement like calcium carbonate), which are found on the Dundee hogback and make digging there a nightmare. Not all Jerome’s walls are made of rock. Concrete walls flank the old Mingus High School and a large highway wall flanking the road that does up to The Surgeon’s House Bed and Breakfast and the Grand Hotel. Parts of the large wall on Holly Street is built of giant steel sheets that were used to form up the shaft that goes 4200 feet into the mountain. Other walls are built with railroad ties and old telephone poles. Some of my favorites use bedsprings and old car engine blocks, woodstove doors, corrugated tin, pipes, 25-gallon laundry buckets, and discarded refrigerators filled with stones anddiscarded tires. Old timers knew the term recycling long before it became fashionable.
Virtually all Jerome’s residents have put their hands to fixing and uilding walls. These walls have a lotto say about the resourcefulness, stubbornness, tenacity, aesthetics and even quirky natures of their builders. My hats off to them—the great leaverite artists of Jerome AZ.
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 Society of Jerome AZ
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.
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 of Jerome AZ
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 AZ 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.
Incredibly more convoluted are answers to the questions about how the ore bodies remained intact over immense and varied cataclysms over such a long period of time and the dynamic processes that led to a tip of the United Verde ore body being exposed to the air, which enabled its discovery. The geology of the Jerome area is a giant, intricate puzzle with quite a few missing pieces.
According to Verde Valley geologist Paul Handverger, “The Jerome area is one of the most interesting geologic phenomenons of North America. Much more interesting than the big ditch,” (the Grand Canyon.)
One could earn a PhD in geology by studying just this small patch of real estate.
The Quest for Gold
During his quest for gold in Northern, Nevada, John McNerney found a new method for its discovery—and a new use for gold. He designed a mercury detector that used gold film sensors to analyze minute quantities of vapor rising above the soil deeply buried gold deposits. John founded Jerome Instrument Corporation in 1979 to manufacture these detectors.
One irony: although some geologists bought a few mercury analyzers as a prospecting tool, the major market turned out to be the United States Navy. Its submarines needed to instantly know when mercury based instrumentation broke and fouled the air. Mercury is toxic to the nervous system and can turn people into mad hatters.
As an aside, John’s wife Iris was convinced all Jeromans were wacky because of the mercury that exists in the soils underneath Jerome’s feet.
The second irony is that John is now avidly against the opening of new gold mines because of their environmental destructiveness. He helped lead a major movement in Todos Santos, Mexico against a mine that would have likely fouled an area aquifer. ‘Aqua vale mas que oro’ was their rallying cry. (Water is worth more than gold).
Jewelers of Jerome AZ
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.)
For a few years, Dana Driver, president of the Leaverite Society, became fascinated with beach stone. She polished them, incised them with gold and silver, made them into pendants, flowers and insects. www.Danarocks.com. Dana is among artists that continuously reinvent themselves and stretch artistic boundaries. A few years after her fascination with beach stone, she got into making fine jewelry from bottle caps, tin cans and bits of rusty metal.
Susan Dowling collected malachite and azurite from Jerome’s mines and made rings and pendants. www.foxazhandmade.com. 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.
Jerome Arizona is an unusual art mecca because its resident artists are deeply entwined in the collective identity of the town. Artists are the heart of the town’s quirky, and sometimes contentious, soulfulness. Since 1970, the ratio of artists to residents has averaged 25%—at least 100 out of 400 or so of its permanent residents. Few other art towns/cities can claim that high a percentage. Artists nourish and encourage each other, giving rise to a feedback loop that challenges them to improve and flourish.
Jerome Arizona Artists are Business People
Many artists own successful shops and galleries. They help disprove clichés that artists should starve for the sake of their art and aren’t cut out to be business people. The oldest of the uptown galleries is Made in Jerome, co-founded in 1972 by potter David Hall and two students from Prescott College who were eventually bought out by Hall www.madeinjerome.com. Others artist-owned galleries and shops in the main part of town include Nellie Bly II (painter Diane Geoghegan) www.dianegeoghegan.com, Aurum Jewelry (co-owner artist Sharon Watson)www.aurumjewelry.com, Raku Gallery (glass blower and potter Tracy Weisel) www.rakugallery.com, Designs on You (owned by Leigh Hay Martin, a gifted quilter) www.designsonyoujeromeaz.com and Caduceus Cellars (owned by noted vintner and rock star Maynard Keenan).www.caduceus.org Artists own and operate all the studio businesses in the high school complex.
Jerome Arizona Artists Participate in Politics
Even more unusual is that many Jerome artists participate in politics. In a town that has at least 110 volunteer positions, artists quickly learned that if they wanted a say in the safety, restoration and future of the town, they needed to actively involve themselves. Artists helped draft Jerome’s Comprehensive Plan and Zoning and Design Review ordinances. Artist have been elected to the Jerome Town Council and appointed to serve on Planning and Zoning and Design Review; voted by members of the Jerome Historical Society to serve as board members; and served on the Jerome Fire Department and fire auxiliary. Their contributions help counter the oft-spoken opinions that the hippies that moved to Jerome were spaced out, stoned-out good for nothings and that artists shouldn’t meddle in politics.
Painter Anne Bassett currently serves on the Jerome Town Council said, “People who don’t protect their liberty, lose it. I’ve tried to protect against the developers and further the respect for Jerome’s historic elements. From the beginning of when hippies moved in and became the majority, we have been working against the mainstream. Our high appreciation for diversity is a unifying strength. I’m still a hippie and proud of it.”
Organization of the Community of Jerome Arizona Artists
Just after big mining abandoned Jerome in 1953, the first artists that moved in organized to support each other and draw attention to Jerome art. Roger Holt who had exhibited at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, Corcoran Gallery, and Carnegie Institute moved to Jerome in 1954 and lived there until the mid-1960s. Shan Holt, his wife, started a group called The Verde Valley Artists. Shan found a patron and friend in portrait artist, Lilli Brant, who became president of the group. As the town struggled to survive, Lilli’s husband, the renowned geophysicist Arthur Brant, predicted that someday Jerome would become an art destination. In 1975, The Verde Valley Artist group morphed into a formal nonprofit called the Verde Valley Artists Association (VVAA), which started featuring non-Jerome artists for major Jerome exhibitions. One featured Paolo Soleri, the Italian architect who built the futuristic desert city Arcosanti, which was based on the fusion of architecture and ecology, which Soleri termed arcology. Another show featured Lew Davis, dean of Arizona artists, who grew up in Jerome during its mining days.
The VVAA began a student art show that toured the state and sponsored studio tours. Many artists reported they sold their first pieces of art to people attending those tours. These activities garnered support from many Verde Valley businesses, which had been standoffish and suspicious of Jerome’s hippies and helped place Jerome on the map as an art destination.
Support of Arts by the Jerome Arizona Community
From 1953 forward, the community of Jerome actively supported the artists. The Jerome Historical Society donated the space to the Verde Valley Artists and rented space to other artists at very low costs; and voted some of their income to buy art, as did the town of Jerome. Both the society and the town have extensive and valuable art collections, as do many of its residents and businesses. Paul Handverger, a board member of Verde Exploration Ltd. (Verde Ex), helped persuade them to purchase Mingus Union High School in 1972 for $25,000 and target artists as renters. The first renter was fine arts painter Jim Rome, who had a gallery uptown and a large following. Clothing designer Ava Guitterez was second and she eventually opened a shop on Main Street. Artists Margo Mandette and Robin Anderson turned one of the buildings into a showpiece gallery and studio. Don Bassett, an artist who made humorous assemblages from iron scrap and bedsprings, was given a small apartment and free rent in exchange for being caretaker.
Aesthetics of Jerome Arizona Draw Artists
Last but not least, the town’s aesthetics draw artists to it like bees to honey, just as they were drawn to other towns with exceptional aesthetics, such as Sedona, Taos, New Mexico and San Miguel de Allende, Mexico. Few other art towns, however, command the spectacular 180-mile panorama view that Jerome has from its steep mountain perch.
Jerome Arizona is arguably the most photographed and painted town in America. Visually, Jerome gets my vote for America’s loveliest small town.
Sometimes you get to meet the ghosts of Jerome AZ—the ones that built the house you lived in; who whispered to you when you buried Whiskers the cat near the apricot tree, “Thanks for giving us a cat to be our companion. We’ve been wishing for one for a long time.”
I was visiting Jerome AZ in May and received a phone call from Barbara Beneitone, one of the children that lived in our home at the end of Verde Street before the mines closed. “My Mom and sister and brother are going to be in Jerome. We’d love to take you to lunch.” I had been corresponding with Barbara through Facebook: she was one my loyal blog readers.
At Grapes Restaurant on Jerome’s Main Street, I met Barbara’s 91-year old mother, Doris and her first-born son Don Schumacher and his wife Mary, Barbara and her sister Suzy and her partner Roy Harbin. Missing were Louis and Debbie, two other children. Doris was a sturdy, lovely woman with a lot of energy and a big heart, much like her children.
After lunch, we went over to the Verde Street house, unlived in since we sold it three years ago, full of foxtails, neglect, and a lot of memories. My husband Walt and I, children Max and Michael, Amanda the dog and Whiskers the cat lived there for 35 years. The house sits sentinel over Deception Gulch.
“The house was built in 1926 by Marguerite and Nikolai Domjanovich, my parents,” Doris told me. “They were Croats from Delnice, Yugoslavia. I was 3-months old when we moved to the house. Mr. Lopez, Sr. helped. He lived in the house below you. Sometimes the kids threw stones to see if they could hit his tin roof.”
Doris and her husband and four kids lived on the bottom floor of that old house. Suzy slept in the closet in the bedroom Louis, Don and Barbara slept in the hallway in bunk beds. Upstairs lived Mitzi Bobbitt, Doris’ sister and her husband. “We were one big happy family in a little house,” Barbara said.
The first house that Marguerite and Nikolai lived in was near the baseball field (now a big, open flat spot near the Gold King Mine). Nicolai’s brother George was accidentally killed by a baseball hitting his chest. The family built the home at the end of Verde Street because they did not want to confront the ghosts of that memory every day.
The family and I walked back to the patio where Walt built his last wall, the one with the drill press embedded in it, and stood under the mesquite tree. It was a particularly tranquil, private spot. The men admired the walls. I told them Walt built ten massive walls to protect the house from tumbling down the mountain. Don showed me the remnants of the walls his father built. I showed him the one Mr. Bobbitt built.
The apricot tree their family had planted just below the patio was still there, barely alive through a few winters of drought and disregard. They made jam from the fruit, Don told me. Just below was the garden his parents kept, full of beets, turnips, cabbage and carrots. Doris made sauerkraut from the cabbages in barrels located in the old shed. She’d serve it with ‘pigs in the blankets.’ The spot was protected from the smoke of copper smelters in Cottonwood and Clarkdale.
“On special occasions, we’d go up to Walnut Springs for a picnic and a swim with pails full of sauerkraut and potato salad,” Don said. The remains of the concrete swimming pool are still up there.
Their father and grandfather were miners, such a different life than the one we led in Jerome. What seemed like plundering the mountain to me was a better job for their grandfather and his brother than ones in the mines in Michigan, where it was brutally cold, and those in the low-ceilinged coal mines of New Mexico, where her grandfather to had to work stooped. He was six feet, nine inches tall and had to work stooped.
Most of the family moved away in 1950. The men helped tear down the interiors of the electrical plumbing and woodworking buildings on the 500-level and recycle tools and materials for mining elsewhere. Doris’ widowed mother stayed behind. She did not want to leave Jerome.
I stood with Doris at the top of the steps. “My grandfather made the copper railings and set them in iron pipes.” It gave us something to hang on to when we went down the two sets of steps. By now they were tipping toward the patio ten feet below the wall. Where my peace roses still bloomed was the location of an old bin for storing coal for the stove her mom and she cooked on.”
I didn’t have much desire to go down those steps with Don, Barbara and Suzy. Neither did Doris. We hadn’t back since we left and we felt sad. We both had tears. Lifetimes had passed, not to be measured in years.
What we had in common is our love of Jerome, the home that meant so much to all of us in our lives, the children that grew up there and scrambled over those craggy cliffs like goats. We understood without words what it was to feel the tug back as we left Jerome for another life in another city, another set of people and circumstances. They had always hoped to move back to that house.
For them, as for me, Jerome was a favored place on earth and we shared an almost supernatural attachment to it. For us this crazy, patchwork town will always be home sweet Jerome.