Candles of Flame—Blooming Agave Parryi near Jerome AZ

In April and May, thick maroon shafts grow from the wild heart of the Agave parryi, growing inches daily, plumply erotic. They can grow as high as fourteen feet.

Early growth of an Agave parryi stalk

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

The agave parryi stalks can grow as high as fourteen feet

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

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

Agave parryi in bloom.

The candles of flame from the Agave parryi are held by small stalks from the large shaft and resemble candelabras.

When the Agave parryi blooms, you are also likely to their companions: yellow flowering prickly pear cactus and the maroon flowers of the hedgehog cactus.

Life Span of the Agave Parryi

The plant flowers only once every twenty to twenty-five years (longer in colder climates) and then dies, leaving the brown withered central stalk and candelabras, the candles of flame now upright stems. New plants grow from the root systems. Agaves are more commonly called century plants, even though they flower much sooner.

Agave Parryi is a Cultivar 

The Agave parryi is not native to the Verde Valley, but is a cultivar, deliberately planted by the Sinagua (700 to 1125 A.D.) to complement the planting of squash, corn and beans., flax and cotton. The agave plants were brought up from Southern Arizona. The methods of planting and irrigation were learned from their Hohokam neighbors.

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

Roasting Agave Parryi

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

According to an account written by William H. Corbusier, an assistant surgeon with the US Army stationed on the Rio Verde Reservation from 1872 to 1875, the young stalks were sometimes broken off and eaten raw. Most were, however, roasted. Here is the method used by the Yavapai as noted by Corbusier.

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

Other Uses of Agave Parryi

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

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

Musicians in Jerome AZ sometimes made didgeridoos from the stalk. This wind instrument produces a deep, vibrating drone.

Didgeridoos can be made of the stalk of the Agave parryi

Didgeridoo of agave and zebra wood designed by Jeff Lohr

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

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


Jerome, Arizona: Spook Hall and the Ghost City that Never Existed

On May 17 and 18, Jerome, Arizona hosts its 49th Annual Home Tour of historic homes and building. The event is sponsored by the Jerome Chamber of Commerce.  Because Spook Hall is a hub of this tour, I thought readers of this blog might like to know how Spook Hall got its name.

Jerome, Arizona 1953

In 1953, less than a dozen businesses were still open in Jerome, Arizona— two bars, one Chinese restaurant, and two small grocery stores uptown. There was a mortuary near the elementary school, a small grocery store and gas station in the Gulch, and a pig farm out on the hogback.

Jerome after 1953

Fabulous photographs by Art Clark of spooky, ghost town-looking Jerome, Arizona in the 1950’s.

The town was dying. Less than three hundred buildings remained. A population of 15,000 had dwindled to two hundred and nineteen people, 87 of them children, uncertain of what the future would bring. An eerie quiet settled into the town. No more explosions. No smoke wafted up from the Clarkdale smelter. No trains and whistles. Not much traffic, especially at night. No birds sang.

And into that silence came the question, “What now?”

Spooks of Jerome, Arizona

In 1953, the Jerome Historical Society was formed and opened a mine museum, right where it still is on Main Street.

Society members spent their evenings gathered in the “Salt Mine,” their term for the saloon that had been located in the basement of the new museum. They churned out signs and brochures. They joked among themselves that they were a bunch of spooks. Once the word “spooks” was mentioned, the members jumped on it as part of the theme for promoting Jerome.

They made new hand routed ‘spook’ signage. The letters were white on a black background: “Spook’s Crossing” on Main Street across from the Mine Museum and “Luke the Spook,” their adopted mascot. Society members wrapped themselves in sheets and were photographed with the signs. The photographs appeared in newspapers and brochures.

At the August 1953 meeting, society members discussed plans for an annual event. They gave it an official name: “Annual Spooks Homecoming, Potluck, and Dance” and invited present and former Jerome families. The free event was held in the Salt Mine.

Spooks in Jerome, Arizona

Spooks on Main Street in Jerome, Arizona in the nineteen fifties. Photo courtesy Jerome Historical Society

The second Spook Night was held in Lawrence Hall (previously the J.C. Penney store), which the Jerome Historical Society purchased in 1954. The old wooden floor was a wreck and members worked many nights to make new flooring and nail it down. Some of the kids helped strip the old wood. The building became affectionately known as Spook Hall. Although faded, the J.C. Penney sign still remains. Today the hall is officially named the Richard Lawrence Memorial Hall, in memory of Jerome’s postmaster and first member of the society’s executive board, but those of us who live in Jerome call it “Spook Hall.”

Invention of a Ghost City in Jerome, Arizona

One evening, some society member, nobody remembers who, dreamed up a sign that cemented the words “Jerome” and “ghost city” in visitors’ minds. The sign dramatized Jerome’s dwindling population in a sequence of descending numbers, each with a line crossed through it: 15,000, 10,000, 5,000, 1,000. At the end of the sequence were the words, “GHOST CITY.”

Two signs were made and society members placed one on the hogback road that led out of town towards Clarkdale and one at the top of town. From either direction, the town of Jerome, Arizona looked desolate.

The signs were photographed and sent out with a press release that proclaimed Jerome, Arizona as “America’s First Ghost City.” Hundreds of newspapers and magazines picked up the story. Postcards of the image were sold in the Mine Museum.

Jerome Historical Society members that had never worked in an advertising agency had accomplished the most difficult marketing task of all. They branded Jerome as a ghost city.

Magazine and newspaper writers loved the ghost town moniker and readers of their articles never saw the name of the town without it.

Tourists told Mine Museum personnel for decades after that they had come to Jerome because of the ghost town stories. They took photographs of each other next to the signs. The signs disappeared sometime during the 1970s. . .

Thus, the history of a wealthy mining mecca became intertwined with the mythology of a ghost city that never really existed.

Excerpts from Home Sweet Jerome: Death and Rebirth of Arizona’s Richest Copper Mining City (

Diane Sward Rapaport

Jerome, Arizona: A Town too Stubborn to Die

Environmental Activist and Author Katie Lee and her Triple Tizzy

Katie Lee, now 94 years old, may be seeing the edges of her considerable legacy as one of the Southwest’s most outspoken environmental activists and authors. She just returned from Colorado from a screening of award-winning film “DamNation.The Ghosts of Dandy Crossing, her newest book, has just been published by Ken Sanders’ Dream Garden Press.  And Hance Editions in Flagstaff has just released a special edition of a dozen black and white prints taken by Martin D. Koehler of a nude Katie at 37 years old in the canyons she so loved. No wonder Katie Lee is in a triple tizzy.

Glen Canyon Betrayed

Katie Lee is a remarkable woman. Ever since Glen Canyon was buried by Reservoir Powell, Katie Lee has sung, stomped, photographed, written about, fought to let the Colorado River run free. She has inspired many to reconsider the issue of dams, particularly the ‘deadbeat’ dams that are have become obsolete, and to consider the environmental damage they have spawned.  The words “Dam Dams” is the license plate of her Prius.

Katie Lee makes audiences cry when she shows her photographs of the old Glen Canyon and describes what was lost. Her book Glen Canyon Betrayed is a paean to a place perhaps more beautiful than the Grand Canyon. She is one of the few writers I know that can weave you into the magic spell that these Southwest canyons create.

Naked Katie: Classic Portraits

The limited edition of black and white portraits of Katie Lee at 37 years old is now available from Hance Editions,

 'This is a way to truly be in touch with Mother Earth. I swim the pool with tennies, chimney up the crease to the vulva,                                     throw my tennies into the pool and rest here, ten minutes or more—then Marty clicks the shutter. I wedge half way down                            and jump into the pool—no way out the top"-Katie Lee.

‘This is a way to truly be in touch with Mother Earth. I swim the pool with tennies, chimney up the crease to the vulva, throw my tennies into the pool and rest here, ten minutes or more—then Marty clicks the shutter. I wedge half way down and jump into the pool—no way out the top”-Katie Lee.

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.”

A poster of a nude Katie in Glen Canyon hangs in the offices of Patagonia outdoor clothing.

The Films: “DamNation” and “Wrenched”

In 2014, two films show Katie being interviewed and singing about the loss of Glen Canyon—“Wrenched” and “DamNation.” The next showing will be at the Mountain Film Festival in Telluride, Colorado, May 24-27.  Check the schedule around May 15:


The film DamNation is about the environmental damage of dam building,

“DamNation” is about America’s lost and endangered rivers and the dams that block them from running free.  Producers Travis Rummel and Matt Stoecker dub Katie Lee “The Grand Dame of Dam Busting.”  Stoecker recently wrote Katie Lee a letter: “I just wanted … to say how thankful I am to you for all you do and for being the heart and soul of our film. Every time we show it, folks come up after and are just in awe of you and teary eyed about what happened to Glen Canyon. Your description, humor, and pure joy while immersed in that beautify place is inspiring a lot of people to take up the sledgehammer and get ready for battle.”

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.  Abbey fought with his pen to preserve them against the desecration of industries that care only for the money they produce. Today, profits from pollution are virtually synonymous with big business.  Katie Lee sings and talks her way right into your heart in that film.

DVD cover of the film "Wrenched."

Cover of ML Lincoln’s DVD “Wrenched,” a film about the legacy of Edward Abbey.


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

DVD cover of the film "Wrenched."

Cover of ML Lincoln’s DVD “Wrenched,” a film about the legacy of Edward Abbey.

A hundred people came to Jerome AZ’s “Spook Hall” on Thursday, April 17 to view and celebrate director/producer ML Lincoln’s new film “Wrenched.” (  The film is about the community of activists that were inspired by the work of Edward Abbey, who wrote so eloquently about the lonesome and beautiful places of the Southwest.  Abbey fought with his pen to preserve them against the desecration of industries that care only for the money they produce. Today, profits from pollution are virtually synonymous with big business.

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

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

Activism Against the Destruction of Natural Edens

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

Activism at Reservoir Powell.

The ‘do no harm’ activistm of Earth First! led to members dropping a symbolic plastic crack in the middle of the dam face at Reservoir Powell.

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

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

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

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

Police Action Against Environmental Activism

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

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

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

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

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

Tim DeChristopher Arrested for Bidding on Oil and Gas Leases

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

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

Another poignant moment of the film shows an almost monk-looking DeChristopher filing books in Ken Sanders Rare Books, a Salt Lake City Utah landmark.

Tim DeChristopher helping to raise awareness about climate change through the organization Peaceful

Tim DeChristopher helping to raise awareness about climate change through the organization Peaceful Uprising.

After 18 months in prison, DeChristopher was given six months ofcommunity service with the proviso that he say nothing abut his views or the circumstances that landed him in prison, nor the organization Peaceful Uprising, that he helped found.

A DVD of Wrenched will be available for sale after May 4 to people who attend (or have attended) film screenings. A special DVD extra are thirty-seven interviews with people featured in the film. A fund-raising campaign to procure the rights for broadcast, video and theatrical showings will be held on Indiegogo. Watch for announcement on the website.

Full Moon Skateboard Ride for Jerome AZ Daredevils 1991

Many tourists describe the ride from Mingus Mountain to Jerome and Clarkdale, a distance of about 18 miles, as hair-raising—steep, curvy, narrow, with some unprotected dropoffs.  In 1991, on a Fall full moon, 14-year old Max Rapaport and Aaron Bacharach and Zack Druen, his Jerome buddies, skateboarded down the mountain at 2:30 a.m.  Apparently this was a regular full moon escapade.

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

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

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

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

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


During monsoons, I’d often see tarantulas in my yard and on the streets of Jerome, AZ. Friends would pick them up to show me how harmless they were.

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

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


Moving from Jerome AZ to Hines, Oregon

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

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

Hines, Oregon—big sky country

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

I love living in a paradise of birds.

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

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

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

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

Snowy White Owl. Photo by Kelly Hazen

Snowy White Owl. Photo by Kelly Hazen

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Anyone who has lived in Jerome for any period of time knows that its 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. 

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.

ML Lincoln, photographer and producer of the film, Wrenched, honoring the legacy of Edward Abbey and the decades of wilderness activists he helped inspire.‎

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.

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.

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.

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

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.

Drag Race Between Camaro and Mustang in Jerome AZ

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

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

Generic Chevy Camaro.

Generic Chevy Camaro.

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

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

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

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

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

The drag race between the Camaro and Mustage 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 Hand-stacked Wall Builders of Jerome AZ —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— 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 Hand-stacked Walls—Paul Nonnast

Paul Nonnast was head of the crew for one the loveliest hand-stacked walls built by the hippies in Jerome, AZ in the early 1980’s. Paul was among my favorite of the modern wall builders, along with Bob Hall, Richard Martin, Chuck Runyon, Jane Moore 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/

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

“I became a wall-builder of necessity,” Paul 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, Paul 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.

Paul Nonnast follows an ancient tradition of hand-stacked 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 Nonnast Artist

Paul Nonnast 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 Paul 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