My visual, audio and literary stuff is free here, but my hold-in-your-hands books, prints, and CDs cost real money. If you want to buy something tactile from me, contact me at stujenks at gmail dot com, or message me on Facebook. If you simply want to look and read for free, that's fine too, but don't hesitate to send me your sofa change. My snail mail address is P.O. Box 161, Tucson, Arizona 85702. Keep those cards and letters coming. And sofa change too. Love and light, Stu.
[Pages from the uncorrected proof of the novel Step Zero. To purchase the limited illustrated hardbound edition of this novel go to The Stu Store at Squareup.com. To purchase the non-illustrated ebook, go to those places where ebooks are sold.]
Image: "The Death of Self, Emmerton, Virginia" (c) 2016 Stu Jenks.
William “Bill” Monroe Wednesday, March 4th, 2076: 8:15 p.m. Downtown Alano Club Tucson, Arizona.
What in GGATI’s name is that newcomer talking about? OK, Bill. Just calm down. Remember you’re here to help and be helped, not judge and be judged, and remember what Larry used to say to you: ‘All those newcomers going on and on, and not making any sense? Well, it may be what keeps them sober tonight.’ Yea, Larry, you were right, like you were so often. I miss you Larry. Rest in peace, brother. That girl’s kind of cute. Ain’t seen her before, and she looks around my age. Wonder if she’s a newcomer. Hope not. Maybe she’s a visitor who just got off the train. We do get some cute sober women traveling from California from time to time. Now, Bill, you ain’t here to get laid. You’re here to stay sober and help others to get sober. She is pretty though. God, I can’t remember the last time I made love to a woman. Good to see so many new faces tonight. Must be three new men and maybe that pretty woman if she ain’t visiting. I love my home group, the Wednesday night God/Not God group of Alcoholics Anonymous. I love these people. And there’s Michael and Craig chuckling over there, and Joy and Sammy holding hands, and Josh and Melissa by the door and Roy and Robbie, and Tony leading the meeting tonight. Oh my. I’m being such a judgmental prick. Newcomers never make sense. Did you, Bill? Hell no. You didn’t stop shaking for three days and all you did was scream about fucking jarheads for your first month. And what did these people do? They loved you, Bill. They loved you. So love them back. And there’s Artie, one of my sponsees. Good kid. I was too hard on him the other day. I need to make amends to him after the meeting. Tell him I wasn’t really angry at him going to California. I’m just scared for him is all. And he’s going to get his grandfather’s harmonium. That’s pretty cool. Well, maybe I’ll share next. Sweet God, those newcomers are so full of shit. Now, now, Bill. Love and tolerance of others is our code. Love and tolerance, Bill. Sounds like Roy is winding up. “Thanks for letting me share,” says Roy. “My name is Bill and I’m an alcoholic.” “Hi, Bill,” says the group. “It’s been over ten years since I’ve felt it necessary to take a drink and for that, I’m truly grateful. And if you’re new, keep coming back. I remember when I was new. I wanted this so bad, but I was so full of shit, I even scared myself.” Chuckles. “But that was OK,” I say. “I was here. I was sober. I went to a meeting every day. I got a sponsor on day three. My first sponsor, Larry. Many of you all remember Larry. He taught me a lot. He had me working the Steps immediately. ‘You think you’re an alcoholic,’ he asked me after my fourth or fifth meeting. ‘I know I am,’ I said. ‘Do you believe that a power greater than yourself can restore you to sanity?” he asked me? ‘I hope so,” I said. ‘Are you willing to turn your will and your life over to the care of God, as you understand him or her or it?’ ‘I don’t know,’ I said. Larry paused and then said with a big grin his face: ‘That’s OK.Two out of three ain’t bad’ Everyone laughs. “God, I miss that old son of a bitch,” I say. I can’t talk. I start to cry. I didn’t realize how much I still missed Larry. He’s been dead a year now. I don’t know if I can share anymore. Just one more thing. “Larry helped save my life,” I say through the tears. “If you’re new, let us help you get and stay sober, like Larry and many people did for me. We are rooting for you to live. We’re rooting for you. That’s all I’ve got. Thanks for letting me share.” “Thank you, Bill,” say many in the room. I look over at Artie. I see he’s crying too. He knew his grand-sponsor Larry. I smile at Artie. He smiles back. I wipe the tears from my eyes and look down at my hands. I look up. Other people are wiping away tears too. Larry was a hell of a man. His love saved my life.
Georgia “G” Swann Thursday, March 5th, 2076: a little after Midnight Her and Artie’s House Armory Park Tucson, Arizona
Artie’s sleeping but I can’t sleep. I hold a glass of iced tea in my hand. A slight breeze blows down our street. Tabitha, our cat, rubs against my leg. I’m worried about this trip and Artie too. Every since he decided to go, his nightmares have gotten worse, and just last night he yelled Bunny’s name in his sleep. He hasn’t done that since he got sober. Fucking Bunny. I take a sip of my tea. It’ll be OK or it won’t, like the Goddess says. And I’ll be going with him too. And we’ve got plenty of ammo. We’ll be fine or we won’t. Can’t let fear keep us from living. To the east, I see an Almost-Full-Moon rise over the Rincon Mountains. At least we’ll have the Moon with us. His granddad used to love these nights, or so Artie tells me. Artie too. Me, not so much. I like New Moon nights with the Milky Way shining overhead. Not Artie. He likes the bright nights before and after the Full Moon. He walks the streets on Full Moon nights. Must run in the family. I’m worried. He’s not walking with the Moon tonight. I hear a moan from inside. Must be having another dream. I rub Tabitha’s head then head back to bed.
Michael Dollaride Monday, March 9th, 2076: 7:51 a.m. San Agustin Train Station Downtown Tucson, Arizona
This may not be such a good idea, but I meditated on it and the GGATI inside of me said a single word. ‘Go.’ So I’m going. And Harold, my boss, said go too. Can’t argue with Harold or God. I know I should have borrowed a gun from somebody but I hate guns. If I have a gun, I’ll think about killing and I’ve done enough killing for this lifetime. And the next. Pause when agitated they say in the Meetings. I can do that if I’m unarmed. But I can’t if I’m packing. I’ve proven that. Got my ticket, my backpack and my Martin. Paper cup of coffee in my hand. Twenty people on the platform this morning for the Sunset Limited. The smell of coal and steam in the air. I love the smell of trains. There’s Artie and Georgia. They don’t know I’m coming. Won’t they be surprised. “Hey, guys,” I say. They smile at me, then see my backpack and guitar case. Artie’s smile broadens. Georgia’s mouth falls open. “You coming?” Artie asks. ‘I am,” I say. “Oh man,” he says, and all three of us hug. A nice group hug. “Thank you, Michael,” Georgia whispers in my ear.
Georgia “G” Swann Monday, March 9th, 2076: 8:21 a.m. On The Sunset Limited Near Picacho Peak, Arizona
The boys have broken out the instruments—Artie on uke, Michael on guitar. Michael’s singing an old Gillian Welch song. Strangest lyrics, about how “one monkey don’t stop the show.” I think the men like this song because it mentions slow freight trains and having a purpose. I’m looking out the window of our train car. The old Interstate 10 is vacant of any traffic, just a couple hundred feet west of the tracks. Hundreds of rusty cars, trucks and semis fill both lanes, some spilling onto the shoulder. Only the occasional Flex-truck weaves its way through the abandoned vehicles and they seem to be scavenging for parts and scrap. Every once in a while, I see a white human skull or a pile of bleached bones. I’ve seen this hundreds of times and it doesn’t bother me that much, but I’ve never really gotten used to it. Picacho Peak’s anvil summit rises out of the desert, the morning light hitting its sheer walls, making the mountain shine. Saguaros stand at attention at its base. A Red-tailed Hawk rides an updraft between the train and the Peak. The light’s just wonderful this morning. Goddess is healing the planet. She’s been good to me, to Artie, to Michael, to all our friends. I’m so grateful to Her. I open my handbag and take out a glass water bottle. I take a sip of Sun Tea, handing the bottle to Artie who shares it with Michael. They hand the bottle back to me. The boys are having a time. “You know how all those old-timers in A.A. used to say that behind every skirt there’s a slip?” say Michael. “That you need to not get into a relationship in your first year of sobriety?” “Yeah, I’ve heard Bill use the saying once or twice,” Artie says. “Well, I’ve been thinking. You know most women don’t even wear underwear anymore. So I guess, behind every skirt is...crack.” “You guys,” I admonish Michael. “It’s just a joke,” he says, laughing. “Yeah and not a very good one at that,” I say. I then elbow Artie in the ribs to stop him from laughing. He does and gives me a kiss on the cheek. “You better kiss me,” I say. “Ah, honey,” he says, giving me a squeeze too. “Don’t ‘ah, honey me’,” I say, but I’m just teasing him. Suddenly, Michael stops laughing. He’s looking over at I-10. Artie follows his gaze, as do I. Five men and two woman on horseback canter south toward Tucson on the shoulder of the Interstate. All seven wear the fire-engine red shirts of El Grupo. The last guy in line stops, letting the other six ride on. He turns his horse to face the train. He pull sout his shotgun from its holster beside his saddle, raises the gun above his head and shakes it at the train, smiling a manical grin the whole time. He then turns his horse, and catches up with his partners. “You brought your pistols with you, I assume,” Michael says. “Yep,” I say, craning to see the last of the riders as they disappear from view. “You?” Artie asks Michael. “I don’t own a gun anymore,” Michael says. “I forgot,” says Artie. Artie holds my hand for a while. Michael stares out the window. We don’t talk.
Deputy U. S. Marshal Magdalena “Mags” Gutierrez Monday, March 9th, 2076: 8:27 a.m. On The Sunset Limited near Picacho Peak, Arizona.
I’m fortunate to be a civil servant. I have a Sat-phone. Well, anyone can get a Sat-phone, but they cost a fortune. The Richie Riches and the Mormon Tea growers have Sat-phones of course, as do all government workers but most Americans only have Flex-phones, which are much cheaper but you can only get coverage in cities and big towns. Most people hate phones, texts, and computers. I need it for my job and lucky me, I got my mama an old out-of-date Sat-phone and we can talk and text each other. Speaking of the devil, it’s a text from my mother in New Mexico. Asks how Stephanie is. Says the river is high and the snow is melting. I miss the Rio Grande, but I don’t mind that they transferred me to Tucson two years ago. Tucson kind of reminds me of Albuquerque except hotter, but the people are just as friendly. But ABQ doesn’t have a huge Tea problem. Some Brigham, but not like here where they grow the damn stuff. No, I miss my family but this is where I need to be. Except today. The Chief is sending me to San Francisco to pick up a prisoner and transport him back to Tucson for trial. Not my favorite job. I could fly but I’m not. The train will add a few days on the trip but no sense using oil resources for some scumbug in the Tea trade. Plus I like trains. No, I love trains. My favorite thing to do is to sit in my backyard at night, drink some iced coffee, and listen to the trains whisper through town. Second favorite thing to do, actually. Favorite thing is to be kissing and touching Stephanie. I put away the Sat-phone and look out my window. Picacho Peak looks pretty this morning. And I get paid for this. Then I see them. Seven of them. Shit. Red shirts. What are they doing here? They’re not doing anything illegal that I can see, but damn. Well, look at that. I think that’s Bunny Ortiz at the head. There’s a warrant out for his arrest. Double murder. Damn it. I’m on this train and there’s no law enforcement on The Sunset Limited, except me and three railroad dicks. And what can I do? Stop the train and then run after them on foot? Well, they’re gone now. Just have to get Bunny when I get home. Like I wish. I open up my Sat-phone again and dictate a quick text to my mother. “Dear Momma,” I say into the phone, “I’m off to San Francisco for a few days to pick up a prisoner. You know I wish I was with you and Papa, looking at the Rio Grande flow, and eating your chile rellenos, but I’m a hard working woman these days. And if Stephanie was here she’d send her love. I gotta go. I love you Momma. Kiss Papa for me. Love, Magdalena.” I send the text and close the phone. I gaze out the window again at Picacho Peak. Then I think of Stephanie’s breasts. I shake my head. Stay frosty, Mags. No time to be thinking about having sex with your girlfriend.
Arthur “Artie” Saum Monday, March 9th, 2076: 10:10 a.m. On The Sunset Limited Outside of Casa Grande, Arizona.
Standing between cars, smoking a clove cigarette. I don’t smoke many. Can’t afford them, but seeing El Grupo messed me up. Actually, it was seeing Bunny for the first time since I got sober that did it. “Mind if I join you,” says Michael exiting his car. “Hey, Michael. Sure. Want a clove?” “Can’t stand ‘em, but thanks.” “I forgot,” I say. “You all right?” “Yeah, sure.” I say, looking at him and wonder why I’m lying. “No, I’m not,” I say. “That was Bunny back there.” “Yeah,” Michael says. I take a long drag off my clove. I need to quit these. “Don’t tell Georgia but I really want to use right now,” I say. “I can taste the Brigham in my mouth. That’s why I’m out here having a clove. I haven’t been this triggered in months. Jesus fuck.” My hand shakes as I bring the cigarette to my lips. “You prayed about it?” he asks. “About what?” “To have God Goddess All There Is remove the obsession to drink and use.” That brought a smile to my face. “I didn’t even think about that.,” I say. “Geez. Do I feel dumb.” “You’re not dumb, Artie,” says Michael. “You’re just an addict. I forget to pray all the time.” “But I bet you didn’t forget to pray when El Grupo rode by just now,” I say. Michael looks down at his feet, then looks out toward the desert barreling by. “No, I didn’t,” he says. “Didn’t think so,” I say. “You’re the most spiritual man I know.” “Well, I don’t know about that,” he says. “I just have a daily reprieve from my addictions, contingent on my spiritual condition or something like that. You too.” “I know,” I say. “Life still sucks sometimes,” says Michael. “I can’t be helped.” I exhale some clove smoke. “I’m glad you came out here,” I say. “I needed to talk with another addict, about how I just want to jump off this goddamned train, steal a horse in Casa Grande, catch up with Bunny, and completely ruin my whole fucking life.” “One addict helping another, and all that shit,” he says. “Yeah, all that shit,” I say. “I do feel better talking with you. Not a lot but a little.” “You’ve listened to me talk about all those murders so many times,” says Michael. “About time I listen to you talk about wanting to leap from a moving train, leaving the love of your life, so you can get high one more time.” “True,” I say. “You have killed a shit load of people, and listening to you talk about that, Michael, plum wore me out.” Michael punches me in the arm. I then grab his shoulder and give it a shake. “Seriously,” I say, “Thanks for coming to look for me.” I take a last drag of my clove, and flick it off the train. Damn it. I forgot to stub it out. I hope I don’t catch the desert on fire.
Jesus “Bunny” Ortiz Monday, March 9th, 2076: 10:15 a.m. On Interstate Ten Near Red Rock, Arizona.
“Chuckie, get your ass up here.” “What do you want, jefe?” says Chuckie, galloping up on his horse. “You fucking pendejo,” I say. “What the fuck were you thinking, shaking your rifle at that train?” “Nothing.” says Chuckie. “Just letting them know we owns this goddamned road.” “Really?” I say “So you were just fucking with them?” “Yea, pretty much, Bunny.” I pull out my .357 Smith and Wesson and shoot Chuckie in the head. He falls from his horse. “Roberto, grab the reins of his horse.” He does. I look down at Chuckie’s body. He’s missing the top of his head. Cool. “Chinga tu madre, asshole,” I say. I turn to the other five. “Let’s get off this road, so none of you find it necessary to screw with any more customers. We’re the good guys remember.” “OK, jefe,” I hear a couple of them mumble. We’re trying to win the hearts and minds of the people, goddamn it. And make some serious dinero for Christ’s sake. Mary save us. I need to get home to Santa Rosa. I look one more time at Chuckie’s body and shake my head. A waste of a perfectly good bullet. I should have just sliced his throat.
Deputy U. S. Marshal Magdalena “Mags” Gutierrez Monday, March 9th, 2076: 11:20 a.m. New Union Station Maricopa, Arizona
Good to stretch my legs, and get a cup of coffee. Interesting assortment of individuals on the platform. Old dirt-poor desert rats. Young people going to California. Of course, government officials, and some business men and women. Funny, you can always tell business people. They don’t wear sensible shoes. Looks like Marshal Piehole over there, from Phoenix. Or what’s left of Phoenix. Guess I’ll have to say hello. He’s such a jerk, always looking at my tits. “Hello, Marshal,” I say. “Why hello, Mags. How are you?” saying this directly to my breasts. “Good. What brings you down to the station?” I ask. “Business, says Piehole. Thanks for being specific. Jerk. “You?” he asks. “Going to California to pick up a convict. How’s life in The Valley of The Sun?” “Same old, same old. Protecting the farmers along the Salt River. Busting some Brigham dealers. The occasional murder.” “Anybody still living in Phoenix?” I ask. “Just a few crazies is all,” says Piehole “Most everyone else lives along the Salt and Gila Rivers you know. Growing corn and beans. Making babies. Making pots and furniture. Some damn fine Mesquite tables and beds being made along the river now.” “I have a Mesquite chair at home, made on the Gila,” I say. “It’s beautiful.” “They are pretty,” says Piehole. Then I see Artie Saum on the train platform. Well, I’ll be. “Got to run, Marshal,” I say. “I see one of my old wards over there. My love to the missus.” “Oh. OK, Mags,” he says. “Safe trip.” “You too.” Pompous ass. “Artie!” I yell. Artie turns his head to the sound of his name. He smiles. “Mags!” he says. He walks up to me and give me a hug before I even ask for one. “Artie, how’ve you been?” I ask. “It’s good to see you. “Thanks,” says Artie. “So who this?” I ask, looking at the pretty blond woman standing next to Artie. “This is Georgia Swann, a very girlfriend,” he says. “Georgia, this is Mags Gutierrez. The Fed who arrested me, and went to bat for me, so I didn’t go to prison. Mags also is a killer harp player. She came into the store just last week to buy two more Marine Bands. A and D, right?” “Good memory, Artie,” I say. “It’s my business,” he says. “Nice to meet you, Georgia,” I say, shaking her hand. “Pleasure’s mine,” she says “And this is Michael Dollaride.” Artie says. “Another good friend. He’s coming with us to California.” “California? What’s in California?” I ask. “My grandmother. My Dad’s mom. She’s in a nursing home in San Francisco. I’ve never met her. Talked on a Sat-phone with her twice and we’ve exchanged lots of letters, never laid eyes on her.” Artie pauses. A weird pause. “I think she is dying, Mags,” Artie says. He looks really sad. His face is so open now. He’s changed so much. “So I want to meet her while I can,” he says, “and she says she has my grand dad’s harmonium, and she wants to give it to me.” “No kidding, an old harmonium. Does it still play?” I ask. “I think so,” says Artie “And if it doesn’t, I can probably fix it. At least I hope so.” “And you’re going right to San Francisco proper?” I ask. “Yep, a little west of downtown in what’s called the Inner Sunset district.” I smile. “What?” Artie asks. “I’m going to the Federal complex, in Downtown San Francisco,” I say. “No shit.” says Artie. “Far out,” says Michael. “Thank God,” says Georgia. All three at the same time. “Yes, sir,” I say. “Hey, want to be one of our road dogs?” asks Michael. “Can we call it something else?” I say. “You can call it anything you like, Mags,” says Artie. “We’re just happy you’re on the train with us.” Georgia lightly places her hand on my arm. “Come sit with us,” she says. “We have some food, some Sun-Tea, and Michael brought his guitar,” she says. “Please tell me, Mags, you brought a few harps,” says Artie. “I did,” I say. Then Artie does a little dance right on the platform. Funny kid.
Michael Dollaride Monday, March 9th, 2076: 6:40 p.m. Grijalva Station Yuma, Arizona
“Yuma,” yells the conductor through the intercom. “Dinner break. We’ll be resting at the station for a couple of hours. Keep your tickets with you if you decide to get off, even though I’m pretty good with faces.” The conductor laughs, then coughs. Guy’s a comedian. “We’ll be leaving Yuma around 8:45 p.m.,” continues the conductor. “Arriving in San Bernardino around midnight. If you get off the train, be sure to be back in your seats by 8:30. Enjoy your visit to Yuma, the hottest town in Arizona. Temperature-wise, that is.” The conductor chuckles again and then clicks off the mic. Bet he’s used that joke a hundred times. “Want to hit a meeting?” I ask Artie. “Well, I was thinking of just staying on the train,” he says. “Go ahead, honey,” says Georgia to Artie. “I’m going to stay on the train and get to know Mags better. And maybe she’ll tell me some dirt about you guys, from back in the day.” “I won’t say a thing,” says Mags to Artie. “She already knows everything, Mags.” Artie says. “Everything?” I say. “Most everything,” Artie says, shrugging his shoulders. “Don’t worry, boys,” says the Marshal. “It’ll mostly be girl talk. Mostly.” Both women laugh. Wonder what the Marshal knows about my past? Christ, I’m being paranoid. I’m not that damn important. “Let’s hit that meeting,” I say to Artie. “OK,” he says. He gives Georgia a kiss. “Don’t forget. Be back on the train, a little after 8,” says Mags. “The train waits for no one.” “Time too,” I say. “Smart boy,” says Mags. Least she’s a law-woman with a sense of humor.
Grijalva Station is a weird wood and steel thing they built a few years back, since there was no train station left after the 41 Nights. It has an open lobby and new wooden benches, the windows have no glass, only shutters to ward off the sun and rain. A nice wraparound porch and tamale and taco vendors everywhere. It smells like home. Hotels and brothels and mixes of both. Then I see the new St. Paul’s Episcopal Church across the street. I pull out the Arizona M.T.A. schedule from my backpack. Yep. Meeting’s been going on since 6:30. As long as you make it for the prayer at the end, you aren’t late for a meeting. That’s what my sponsor used to say. “Meeting’s over there at the church,” I say. “Cool,” says Artie. A small ‘M.T.A. is here’ sign leans against a door jam to a classroom that faces the street. We walk in. “...I want my wife back, but my sponsor keeps telling me that I need to stay sober for myself. But I miss her so bad. And my kids. My mother-fucking kids...” A large Hispanic man talks. We find our seats. “...she’s a goddamned whore, fucking...” He starts to cry. Artie and I settle into our seats and pay attention. No one touches the man. No one says anything. He has all of our attention. It’s what we give. We give our attention. “...she’s not a whore. She’s a good mom,” continues the Hispanic man. “She just hates me, and for good reason. I was hanging out with El Grupo, running errands for them, making some good money, then I started spending all the money, and she left me and is back living with her mother. She doesn’t want to see me until I have a month clean. I have 15 days today.” A smattering of applause. Neither Artie and I clap. “...so I guess I have to make it 15 more days. Or just tonight. And then another day. One day at a time, right?” No one speaks. Many of us nod. “Yeah, one day at a time,” he says. “Thanks. That’s all I have to say.” “Thanks, Chuy,” a number of people say. About twenty of us in the room. I’ve never been to this meeting, but I feel welcome. It’s always that way. “My name is Sally, and I’m an addict.” “Hi, Sally,” says the room. “I’ve been sober almost a year now,” she says. “I came in here to get my kids back. I didn’t get them back. Jack took them to his folks in Blythe. He went too. I was three months sober when that happened. I miss them so much. I went to visit them around Christmas. It was great. His folks still don’t like me very much. I don’t know. Maybe it had to do with me, stealing their shit. I only did it once.” Laughter. “OK, twice.” Bigger laughs. “All right, three times.” The room erupts. “I gave it all back,” says Sally. “Well, some of it.” Chuckles. “Seriously, I don’t mind that they don’t trust me. I don’t fully trust myself. I only think about using about once a week now. And I pray to have Goddess remove the obsession, or I call my sponsor on the Flex, or I get to a meeting or all three. And it’s a hell of a lot better than it was when I came in. I thought about Mormon Tea all the time then. All the fucking time...” Ridden hard, hung up wet, with mad-dog blue eyes. Easy to love now. Hard to like when she was using. “So I have a good job at the food co-op, and I’m learning to play the banjo...” No one laughs at her learning the banjo. Music was fun before the shit hit the fan, the old timers say, but it wasn’t sacred back then. It’s holy to play an instrument now. “...I have a good teacher. Big Mike from A.A. Y’all know Big Mike? Been sober ten years, works for the Marshal Service as a computer mechanic. Good guy. Hell of a player. He’s teaching me on one of his old Gold Tone banjos. Teaching me now this sweet little old claw hammer tune called ‘More Bad Weather On The Way.’ by Steve Martin. Tells me if I stay sober a year, he’ll give me that old five string....” She starts to cry, not out of sadness or frustration like Chuy, but out of joy. “...I can’t tell you how much I feel GATTI when I play, and when I think about Tea, I just pick up that loaner from Mike, and practice my scales or just play something in G. I’m so grateful to be sober. And I kind of lied before. I think about Tea a lot.” A couple of chuckles. All smiles from us. All of us have tried to pretend we’re more sober, more sane than we actually are. “Yeah, I miss my kids just awful,” she says in the direction of Chuy, “but I have to get myself right, or at least righter than I am if I’m going to be any good to my kids. So I pray, and I talk with other addicts and alcoholics, and I come to meetings and I play that old five-string of Mike’s...” She cries through all of this. She transforms from a middle-aged woman who has been beaten down by about a half dozen things to one of the prettiest girls in the world. She just shines. Makes me smile. She’s my gift of sobriety tonight. “...so if you’re hurting just keep coming back. And maybe pick up the banjo. That’s all I have.” “Thanks, Sally,” says the room.
“That was a great meeting, wasn’t it?” say Artie as we walk back to the station. “That Sally woman talking about the Goddess and her banjo? That’s just how I feel when I play my old Martin, or when we play together. It’s so sacred. Like with each note, we are breathing a little more life into The Earth, that God Goddess All There Is grows with each tune we play. With each note I strum. We’ve talked about this. I know you feel it too.” “I do,” I say. “It’s better than booze, better than Brigham,” he says. “It is,” I say. “Almost better than sex,” Artie says. “I won’t say that,’ I say. “Then again, it’s been a long time since I’ve even kissed a girl.” Artie puts his arm around my shoulders as we walk back to the station. “Well, maybe we can change that on this trip.” “I ain’t looking to get laid, Artie,” I say. “And that’s just when you meet the girl of your dreams,” he says. “Or my nightmares,” I say. “Ah,” he says, and pushes me away.
"Sunset Crater Angel Ghosts, Arizona" (c) 2016 Stu Jenks.
Everything you see here is on the digital RAW negative. No fancy Photoshop was done besides some color saturation changes. And the Angel Ghosts were drawn with a string of battery powered Christmas lights. Enjoy y'all.
"The Ghosts of the Gutierrez Family, The Sonoran Desert, Arizona" (c) 2016 Stu Jenks.
Eduardo and Maria Gutierrez and their ten-month-old infant Jesus died ten years ago while making their way across the Sonoran Desert, walking to Eduardo’s cousin’s home in Phoenix, Arizona from Magdalena, Sonora. Authorities found their bodies not far from where this photograph was taken.
During this Holy Week, pray for their souls and for all the other undocumented immigrants, who make this dangerous crossing every year, looking for a better life for themselves and their families.
"The Hinckley Shoe Tree, Utah" (c) 2016 Stu Jenks.
Driving toward Great Basin National Park on a lonely two lane road a month ago, I came across this dead tree full of shoes. This one tree is not really that close to the small town of Hinckley. Just sitting there, dead, in the middle of nowhere Utah, littered with footwear.
I've searched the internet and found a lot of speculation based on little or no evidence about this particular tree and shoe trees in general. But I think I know a little bit about human behavior and perhaps even less about what bored teenagers do, but I'll give it a go with my own piece of fiction.
A trio of high school kids late on a Friday night are driving around, drinking beer and smoking dope away from their parents in Hinckley, Utah. They are having a pretty good time, bored out of their minds, fucking around, laughing at nothing, but then Guy #1 has to pee and Guy #2 pulls over near this solitary dead tree. While Guy #1 and Guy #3 tap their kidneys, Guy #2 has a stoned idea. He looks in the bed of his pickup, sees his little sister's discarded sneakers, smiles to himself, ties the laces together, and then chucks them up the tree. The three of them laugh, drain their Coors Lights, finished smoking that last joint, then they head back to town. Next week, while driving around Hell's Half Acre, smoking dope and killing another six pack, a second pair of shoes goes up that tree, this time Guy #3 brought with him his own worn-out pair of Keds. Over time, it just became a thing that teenagers did while cruising the flats west of Hinckley.
That's my guess, but the reality is no one knows for sure or they ain't telling.
And I'm just making this shit up.
Personally, seeing this dead old tree festooned with footwear on a cold winter afternoon in February gave me a slight case of the heebie-geebies. A bit of real-life post-apocalyptic Mad Max in the middle of America's Great Basin.
Heck, I've probably just watched too much damn television is all.
Stony walked out of the whorehouse dissatisfied. He figured that might happen, but he went anyway. It’s just a little before midnight, and tomorrow is his 26th birthday. It’s been a good week at his claim. Good six months, actually. Anyway, he felt like giving himself a present and that present was Crystal. But while he was thrusting into her from behind, watching her breasts sway, he had a passing thought of Henrietta back home. He came quickly, gave Crystal a kiss on the cheek and paid her double her usual rate. Seemed rude that he had thought of Henrietta when he was inside of her. Crystal smiled and kissed him on the neck and told him to come back any time. She pinched him on the ass as he walked out the door.
He’d left Henrietta a year ago in the Valley of Virginia. She still lives with her widowed mother on those fifty-two acres they pretend is a farm. Singing in the church choir every Sunday, so said her letters. Wishing he would call for her, to board that train to Tucson, she written twice already. It just wasn’t time yet, he wrote back.
Henri turned every man’s head on the Saumsville Road when she took the wagon to town. The prettiest girl in the county. Top three at least. Bright smile and full lips, long blond hair the color of straw, cheeks like red apples, a body thin yet strong like a fence rail. The night before he left for Arizona he promised her that if he struck it rich, he’d send for her. They kissed each other long and hard on her front porch, their hands all over each other’s bodies, as if by touching everything, they would forget nothing. He’s made some good money now, but he hasn’t built a house yet. He needs to have that house built before he calls for her.
The muddy street’s filled with cowboys and miners, going from hotel to saloon, spending their week’s earnings on whores, poker and whiskey. The Full Moon’s almost directly overheard. He stops in the street and gazes up at the Moon, thinking about Henri and thinking all he really wants in the world, right now, was a hot bath. He turns and as he’s walking across the street toward the Chinese bathhouse, he hears his name called.
“Stony! Hey, Stony!”
He turns. It’s Merle Johnson. The luckiest, stupidest man in town. He’s also his best friend.
“Hey, Merle. How are you doing this evening?”
“Mighty fine. Hey, are you going to the The Grand tonight, to play cards?” Merle seems a bit agitated.
“I wasn’t planning on it,” says Stony.
Merle looks a little disappointed, then bites his lower lip. He does that when he’s thinking hard. What’s the big deal? He usually only goes to The Grand a couple times a week at most, not every night.
“Can I find someway to persuade you to come play poker with me tonight?” Merle asks.
“Merle, what going on?”
“Hell, Stony. Just come over to fucking Grand tonight, OK?”
“Just tell me what the fuck is going on. I need to get a bath and then I was thinking of turning in. Unless you got something special planned, I think I’ll pass.”
Merle bit his lower lip again, then smiled to himself and shook his head.
“Just like you, Stony, to spoil the fucking surprise. A bunch of us are waiting for you over there. Tomorrow is your fucking birthday, as if you didn’t know, and we thought we’d throw you a little surprise party. Both Bobbys are there, young Bobby Christiansen and old Bobby Lopez! Mexican Bobby came all the way from Fronteras, Stony, to celebrate your goddamn birthday.”
“Bobby Lopez is here in Tombstone?”
“Do I fucking lisp? Yes, Bobby Lopez is here. And Charlie McLean left his claim in Charleston for the night, to raise a drink to you, too.”
Stony’s mouth dropped open.
“Charlie came to town?” Charlie only came to town when he is down to his last pound of flour and his last jug of shine. “Yes, yes, yes, you dumb cocksucker. Charlie’s here and Harry Wood has even closed up shop at the newspaper to see your birthday come in, and he’s brought Millie Benjamin with him too. And Karl Eisenfelder and his wife are there as well. God damn it, Stony! We’ve been waiting a fucking hour for you to come out of Madame Clarice’s.”
Merle bites his lip again.
“I suppose we could invite Crystal, couldn’t we? She is a whore but I don’t that hold against her, and I know you like her a lot,” says Merle.
Stony stood dead still in the middle of the thoroughfare. He looked at the bathhouse. He looked at the whorehouse. He looks down the street toward The Grand Hotel. Bobby Lopez stood on the front stoop of the hotel, his arms crossed, his sombrero silhouetted against the golden light coming from the hotel bar. Stony felt his eyes mist up. He smiled. I’ll be God damned. Bobby’s here. He started walking toward the hotel when he heard a clap of thunder. Little late in the year for a monsoon. Then he stopped walking. He felt short of breath, and oddly warm and wet. He grabbed Merle’s shoulder to steady himself. He then looked down and saw the large red hole that was his stomach. He collapsed in the mud.
Next to the last thing he saw were the tears in Merle and Bobby’s eyes, as they looked down at him in the muddy thoroughfare. The Full Moon shone above their heads.
Then he saw a beautiful ball of purple light being born out of the Moon. The purple ball seemed to come down Fremont Street and surround him, engulf him in its light. He no longer saw Merle or Bobby’s faces. He no longer saw anything or anyone. He felt just fine. Fine for the first time in a long time. Then, suddenly, he was above Tombstone, flying in the night sky, heading fast and true, due east, toward the Valley of Virginia.
Michael had a bad motorcycle accident. It was a miracle he survived. The kickstand of a friend’s bike dropped while Michael was test-driving it at 60 mph on a curvy road north of Oracle, Arizona. The kickstand plunged into the asphalt. He went airborne and corkscrewed himself, head first, into a road bank. Crushed a bunch of vertebrae. A long rehab followed, but afterwards Michael could still walk with a cane.
Now, 23 years later, he’s in a wheelchair due to a slow growing cyst that is squeezing his spinal cord. He meditates to deal with the chronic pain, instead of using drugs. He’s a quiet gentle man with a very dry sense of humor and a deep spiritual side. He’s the best listener I know. He’s one of my best friends.
We have just eaten dinner at El Mineto, a small Mexican restaurant near the Tucson Convention Center. We go outside to visit El Tiradito, an old shrine, supposedly the only holy shrine in America dedicated to a sinner.
The shrine sits in a vacant lot next door to the restaurant, consisting of the ruined remains of a house with only the back brick wall still standing. On this night, as on any night, many candles burn, and tokens, photographs, and gifts are laid on and around the back wall. So many candles have burned here over the decades that the old wax has made a large black sticky pad of the ground.
There are many stories regarding how the shrine came to be, but I tend to believe the story a Yaqui Indian I used to work with told me. Then again, he did have a habit of teaching me Spanish cuss words and telling me they were polite greetings.
The story goes that in the 1800’s, a young man fell in love with his wife’s mother. His father-in-law found out about the affair and killed him at this house. Since he was a sinner in the eyes of the Church, for being in love (and probably having sex) with his mother-in-law, he couldn’t be buried in consecrated ground at the nearby Roman Catholic Church’s cemetery. Legend has it he was buried under the front porch of this house. The house is mostly gone now as is the porch, but he is supposedly still here, presumably completely covered in melted wax by now. Many women of the community took pity on the young man’s soul and came and prayed for him. It’s said it was quite a vigil and went on for years and years. Sometimes I wonder if the prayers of those women were simply: “Please God, don’t have my own son-in-law fall in love with me.” Then over time, men and women came and prayed at this site, not for the murdered lover, but for people that had become lost to them. Maybe they didn’t know where a loved one was physically, or if he was lost to an addiction or darkness of some kind, or if she was just lost because she was lost. No matter. They came and they prayed.
Now, so many years later, people come and pray and bring to the shrine tall votive candles with saints printed on them; small color photographs of those they love; bright red, yellow and green plastic flowers; and little tokens like car keys and Christian medals. It is said that if you bring a candle and pray for something or someone, your prayer will come true if the candle burns all the way down. A gift I and others offer is to go to El Tiradito when we are in the area and relight the blown out candles. It’s not because I’m a great guy. It’s simply that if I had a candle burning, and it had blown out prematurely, I would want someone to relight it for me. Michael and I were taking in El Tiradito, the wax, the candles, the blackened back wall, the little objects, when I brought up my upcoming plans to go back to art school and my doubts about doing it. I was working at the time as a substance abuse counselor at a prison, and to go to photography school would require that I give up my three day weekend (poor baby) and go to school on Saturday. I was concerned that I wouldn’t be able to do both well, for the prison took a lot out of me. But then again, I really wanted to learn how to print black and white film onto black and white paper. Up to that point I was shooting only color transparencies.
I was hemming and hawing when Michael suddenly said, “It will change your life.”
“Pardon me?” I said,
“It will change your life” Michael said again. The same five words.
“It will change my life going and learning how to print?”
Michael and I have laughed often about that night in 1996. Prior to that night, an image of mine of El Tiradito had won a Blue Ribbon at the Pima County Fair, and I had been in a show or two. That’s about it since graduated from art school in 1979. Now, I have a great art representative; I had a one man show in the Spring, and I just got back from Atlanta, where they flew me out to do an art installation of alfalfa, Christmas lights, music and images for a conference on mythology. Taking that black and white photo printing class at Pima Community College in 1997 has, well, changed my life.
“Drink The Same Water, Eat The Same Bread:” Near Council Rocks, Dragoon Mountains, Arizona Fall, 1872 & Summer 2005 & “LSD and Buffalo,” Bear Butte, South Dakota Summer, 1982
Images and text (c) 2016 Stu Jenks and Fezziwig Press.
An excerpt from the e-book The Transpersonal Papers by Stu Jenks.
Sweet Jesus. I've never been so happy to engage the 4-wheel-drive in all my life. That dirt road out of Tombstone is, by far, one of the worst washboard roads I've ever driven on. Huge standing waves of dirt and rock. And trying to drive on the shoulder, like I do up on the Navajo Rez, just doesn't work here. There is no shoulder, no ditch, no narrow smooth strip of dirt on the far right, to drive on. Just one wide carpet of washboard from edge to edge. But now, after ten miles of teeth-rattling, I've turned onto the smooth, gently rolling Jeep trail that leads deep into the western side of the Dragoon Mountains. Then again, the bumpity-bumpity I’ve just experienced may have had more to do with these very stiff shocks on my very old truck than anything else. I really shouldn’t blame it all on the road. I’ve never been on this side of the Dragoons before, but I've felt pulled to it lately after I started researching Cochise and his Chokonen band of Chiricahua Apaches. On the outside of the Dragoons, on its eastern slope, is Cochise's Stronghold, a place I've been to a number of times over the years, but this Jeep trail on the western slope is brand new to me and that's saying something, given all the dirt roads and jeep trails in Southern Arizona I've driven on over the past twenty-some years. I stop the truck after about a half-mile, grab my Forest Service map and study it. I look in the rear view mirror. No one there. No one in front of me. I take a little time. On the map, there seems to be a place called White House Ruins. Doesn’t look far. And near that to the south, are something called Council Rocks. I wonder what those are? I wonder if any thing significant happened there, back in the day?
A couple of weeks later, I discovered a lot did happen on this side of the mountain, but I didn't know it at the time. Just had an intuition. But in the Fall of 1872, Cochine negotiated a peace near Council Rocks, and a few years early, further north in the Western Stronghold, he meet Tom Jeffords for the first time. Or so the story goes.
A little about Tom Jeffords, the man who will forever be known as Cochise's best White friend. Born in 1832, Thomas J. Jeffords was a tall, thin man with red hair and a long beard. In the 1850's, he sailed on the Great Lakes. He helped lay road in Kansas and Colorado after his stint as a boatman, and he prospected in New Mexico before the Civil War. In the Civil War, he worked as a scout for the Union General Canby, in the area of New Mexico and Arizona.
After the Civil War, things get a little foggy to say the least. It is said that he either started or managed a mail run that traveled between Santa Fe and Tucson. He probably met the Chihennes clan of the Apaches in New Mexico before he meet Cochise and his Arizonan Chokenens. My guess is, it was through his knowing the Chihennes that he learned to speak Apache. After not too long, he quit the mail business and went back to prospecting and trading. Many say he met Cochise in 1869 in Canada Alamosa, New Mexico when Cochise briefly came to that area to talk peace. The peace failed, mostly because the U.S. Army and government wanted Cochise and his clan to move to New Mexico, but Cochise wanted to stay in his beloved Chiricahua and Dragoon Mountains. Anyway, some accounts point toward Tom Jeffords first meeting Cochise there, in New Mexico, but two stories strongly contradict that notion, one of those tales I believe is closer to the truth.
The first story comes from Jeffords' account told to Robert Forbes in 1913 when Jeffords was his eighties, a story that was told again in the movie "Broken Arrow," and in the book "Blood Brother," by Elliott Arnold. Basically, what Jeffords said was that in the early 1860's, when [according to him,] he was running the mail through Cochise's land, he grew tired of getting his couriers killed by Cochise’s men. Seems most riders never made it to Tucson from parts East, with perhaps as many as twenty of Jeffords' employees being killed running the mail on horseback along the old Butterfield Stage road. Tom said he took a big risk and rode alone into Cochise's camp in the Western Stronghold of the Dragoon Mountains. He was armed but he did not show his guns. He just walked right up to Cochise's wickiup and introduced himself. Cochise was so impressed with Jeffords' bravery that he spared his life and through some discussions, Cochise agreed to let Jeffords’ mail pass through his land unhindered.
A few problems with this story. First, only Jeffords tells the story this way. No Apaches, no U.S. troops, nobody, ever heard this story, besides Tom. Secondly, Apache raids on the mail continued until the eventual peace in 1872, and lastly, Jeffords probably wasn't carrying the mail at that time. Many said that after the Civil War, Jeffords was mostly prospecting and a number of good sources say that Jeffords met Cochise while prospecting in the mountains of Southeastern Arizona.
The account that I think is probably closest to the truth is the story told to Mrs. Eve Ball, an historian of the Apaches, by Daklugie, son of Juh. Tom Jeffords didn't go find Cochise, according to her and her sources. Cochise (or his scouts) ran across Jeffords while he was prospecting and due to Jefford's fearlessness, Cochise and his men didn't kill him. Judging from what is often written about Jeffords, he was a straight shooter, didn't bullshit anyone, and told the truth no matter what. He was also fluent in the Apache language. That, I believe, is incredibly significant, for he could talk directly to the Apaches and to Cochise. Also, Apaches, as a people, prized candor and truthfulness as very high virtues. They also believed in just being silent instead of telling a bold-faced lie. (The exception to the rule being, lying to your enemies in order to get him off guard so you can kill them. Makes sense to me.)
I picture Tom’s and Cochise's meeting, something like this. Remember though, I'm just making this up: Tom’s digging a hole, looking for gold or silver or copper, maybe in the Dragoons, maybe in the Chiricahuas. I'm guessing the Dragoon Mountains. He hears a horse whinny, then another. Then through the trees, he sees five to ten Apaches on horseback, slowing riding toward him. He probably thinks he's screwed but you never know.
Perhaps he speaks first:
"Hello, how are you doing?" say Jeffords, in Apache.
A number of warriors flank Cochise. He pulls up his horse. He's surprised a white man speaks his language. His warriors rest their rifles on their laps. They look intently at Jeffords. Only Cochise speaks.
"I'm good. How are you?” replies Cochise.
"I'm good too," says Tom.
"My name is Cochise."
"Mine’s Tom Jeffords. Pleased to meet you."
"So you speak my language?" says the chief.
"Enough to get by."
"You know this is my land, don't you?"
"I sure do," says Jeffords.
"What are you doing?" asks Cochise.
"Looking for gold, but not having much luck. Mostly just digging a hole."
"You also know I've killed a lot of white men."
"Yep, I know that too. Seen your handiwork quite a bit."
"Do you think I'm wrong to kill the white man, to kill the Mexicans?"
"Not my place to say. I would rather you not kill this white man," say Jeffords, pointing to himself.
Cochise smiles again.
"You don't seem that frightened," he says.
"Oh, I'm pretty scared,” say Tom, “But frankly, you'll either kill me or you won't and there ain't a goddamn thing I can do to stop you. But, Cochise, Sir, I'd prefer that you let me live."
"Are you always this blunt?" say Cochise, now laughing.
"Pretty much. At least that’s what my friends say," says Tom.
"I like you, Tom,” says Cochise “I don't think I'll kill you today. By the way, would you like to come to my camp and have some dinner with the wives & me tonight?"
"Thought you'd never ask," says Tom, taking off his hat, wiping his forehead with the back of his arm.
Both Tom and Cochise laugh. Even some of the other warriors crack a smile.
I bet you this is closer to the truth, but hell if I or anyone else really knows for sure, even if they say differently. Daklugie, the prominent elder Apache who told Eve Ball a similar story, was only a boy at the time, and he wasn’t there. He said it was Apache scouts and not Cochise himself, who first found Jeffords, and that Cochise’s men first brought the white man into camp. I took some poetic license making the first meeting between these two men at Jefford’s mining claim. And yes, there is a very strong tradition with the Apaches to pass along stories as accurately as possible, since they had no written language. But everyone, Whites, Mexicans and Apaches alike had their own agendas. Daklugie, I suppose, would have had his too. But I tend to believe what the Apaches say over what the U. S Army officers report, or even Jeffords himself.
But I don't blame Jeffords for sweetening the story when he was an old man. Seems quite a few young women, interested in the Apaches, visited him when he was elderly. He was just trying to impress the ladies, I suppose. Hell, I'll probably be telling people, if I make it to my 80's, that those flame spiral photographs I made in my 40’s and 50’s were actually not created using a Zippo lighter but rather, were the visual records of ghosts I photographed in the desert moonlight.
And as far as agendas go, I have mine too. I want to present the Chiricahua Apaches as good people, who like most other American Indian tribes, got the short end of the stick. They were killed, lied to, made sick and treated like crap, and if I had a magic wand, I would give Apache Pass and the Chiricahua Mountains back to them before today’s sun goes down.
But regarding Cochise and Jeffords, one thing is certain. However they met, they became fast friends. They trusted each other, cared for each other, and neither ever betrayed the other. Ever.
This is interesting land. The huge rocks of the Dragoons seemed to have just tumbled down from the sky, coming to rest on an almost flat plain of tall grass and Mesquite trees. No foothills to speak of at all, in this part of the mountains. A little rising and falling through the shallow arroyos, but the driving’s mostly flat and smooth. Campers are here and there, hidden in the trees, but not too many. Maybe three bunches in the hour I've been on this road. I've just past camper number three, when up ahead I see a majestic cluster of boulders, rising to at least a thousand feet or more. Even from the distance of a mile, I can see how I might be able to bushwhack-hike, if not to the top, damn close to it. I drive a bit faster now, and within minutes, I've crossed that mile. I take a right on a side road and quickly find a place to park.
I gaze up at the rocks. I wonder if these are the Council Rocks? Are the White House Ruins nearby? I suddenly don't care. I'm here. Those boulders are there. I want to climb as high up as I can. I stow my Kodak Brownie and my 35mm Pentax in my Camelbak water pack, shoulder the pack and head for the base of those rocks.
By 1872, Cochise was ready to stop fighting the Americans. Many of his warriors were dead. His women and children were tired and hungry and so was he. Yet, two U.S. Army Generals, who jockeyed for power in the Southwest, had greatly opposing ideas on how to solve the ‘Indian Problem.’ First, there was General George Crook, a man who had been fighting the Apaches all across Southern Arizona for the last year. He was not for the placement of Indians on reservations. He wanted to defeat them and kill them. But then another General arrived in 1872 who outranked Crook.
O.O. Howard was a deeply Christian man who lost an arm in The Civil War. Howard saw the Indians as people, not as vermin to be exterminated, and he had a mandate from Washington to do anything he could to bring peace to the area and to lead the Apaches onto a reservation.
General Howard arrived in New Mexico and soon found out that a man, a white man, was a close friend of Cochise's. He summoned Tom Jeffords to his camp and employed him to find Cochise and invite him to come to Howard's camp and talk peace. Jeffords was straightforward and direct with Howard, telling him that Cochise would never come to Howard, but he would be happy to take Howard to see Cochise. Jeffords also said that he must not come with force, but to come unarmed. Howard agreed. In the coming days before their journey to find Cochise, O.O. was so taken by Tom Jeffords, that he appointed him to be the agent of the 'Cochise Reservation,’ if and when it was formed. Within a few days, Howard, Jeffords and three other white men began their trek to find Cochise.
With the help of some Apaches along the way and a bit of luck, The Howard-Jeffords party found Cochise in the Western Stronghold of the Dragoon Mountains. Accompanying the party were two of Cochise's relatives, Ponce and Chie. Ponce and Chie burned smoke signals the day before their arrival, to say who they were and why they were coming. Cochise's scouts, high in the hills, had seen the group’s progress for days, plus the smoke signals gave Cochise the knowledge that a couple of his cousins were coming too, which really helped the cause. Jeffords' being there also gave Howard the extra clout he needed.
Jeffords, Howard, Ponce, Chie and the others camped that night near the Western Stronghold, and the next day, Cochise came to see them. Cochise immediately hugged Jeffords and Jeffords then introduced Howard to the chief.
"Do you think the General and his men will be honest and do as they say they will do?" asked Cochise.
"Well, I don't know," said Jeffords, "I think they will, but I will see that they don't promise too much." The two men laughed. After briefly talking with Ponce and Chie, Cochise went to Howard and asked why the General was here.
"I have come from Washington to meet your people and to make peace, and I will stay as long as it is necessary," said Howard.
"Nobody wants peace more than I do,” said Cochise. “I have done no mischief since I came from Canada Alamosa, but I am poor, my horses are poor, and I have but a few horses left. I might have gotten more by raiding the Tucson road but I did not do that."
Howard then proposed his idea of a reservation at Canada Alamosa in New Mexico. "I'll go, but I am sure it would break my band," said Cochise, knowing his people would not go to New Mexico.
Then, to everyone’s surprise, Cochise asked, "Why not give me Apache Pass? Give me that and I will protect all the roads. I will see that nobody's property is taken by Indians. But I need to talk this over with my captains, and most of them are out making a living." (By the way, 'making a living' was the Apaches’ way of saying they were out stealing livestock in Mexico.)
Howard agreed to wait until Cochise had talked with his leadership. Cochise however asked Howard to go to Fort Bowie and tell them a truce was in place and not to fight with his captains as they came to the Western Dragoons. Howard first wanted to send a Lieutenant Sladen but Cochise insisted that Howard go himself. That night with the help of Chie, Howard made his way to Fort Bowie. Howard later talked about the tough crossing of the Dragoon Mountains that night, how the trees and brush tore his coat to shreds in the dark. Howard got to Fort Bowie the next morning, delivered the message of truce, and left the fort around 2 p.m. to make his way back to the Dragoons. The next day, Howard arrived after having traveled 80 miles in just a couple of days.
Then came the long wait until all of Cochise's captains came to the Western Stronghold. Lieutenant Joseph A. Sladen is our best witness of that week in Cochise's camp. Sadly, little was known by most Americans of how the Apaches lived until this particular peace parley. (Thanks, Lieutenant, for keeping meticulous notes.) Not even an accurate physical description of Cochise, post-Civil War, was available, until Sladen’s accounts of this meeting. Many thought Cochise was old and beat down, when in reality, he was still strong, relatively young and the best groomed of all, White and Indian alike.
During that week of waiting, Sladen witnessed Cochise getting drunk and having a fight with one of his wives, and saw Jeffords stepping in to calm down the domestic dispute. Another time, Sladen heard Cochise singing and praying over the severely wounded body of one of his warriors. The lieutenant had medical training and Howard offered Salden’s services to Cochise. Cochise thanked them but refused. He told Sladen the warrior was very ill, and if he died, and his people knew that the lieutenant had worked on him, they might think Sladen had given him bad medicine, hastening his death, and then they would want to kill the officer. Sladen didn't treat the warrior. The warrior died soon after.
One by one, the Apache captains arrived throughout that week, twelve all total, with two absent who were off raiding in Sonora, Mexico. The following day, the captains and Cochise held council to decide if they wanted peace. General Howard wanted to sit in, but Jeffords dissuaded him from this, saying that they would know soon enough by the sounds coming from the council camp. Sure enough, soon Cochise returned to where Jeffords and Howard were camped and stated that they were ready to decide on the specific terms of peace.
The terms were simple. Even though Howard initially wished for Cochise and his people to go to New Mexico, the General changed his mind and agreed to Cochise's terms that the reservation would be on land beloved by Cochise, namely the Chiricahuas Mountains, the Dragoons, and most of Southeastern Arizona, down to the Mexican border. He and the U.S Government also agreed to provide provisions of food and clothing to the Apaches. Cochise agreed to protect the roads and to keep them safe and open to travel. And finally, Tom Jeffords would be the Apaches' Indian agent on the reservation, representing their needs to the U.S. Army and Government. I believe that without Jeffords' willingness to perform this role, peace would have never been agreed upon.
During the negotiation with Jeffords and Howard, Cochise is quoted as saying that "Hereafter, the White Man and the Indian are to drink from the same water, eat of the same bread, and be at peace."
A couple of days later, everyone went home, except for Cochise who was already home. There were great concerns if the peace would last, especially among some of the Army officers, but the biggest concern was Mexico to the south. The Apaches would likely continue raiding across the border, taking cattle however they wished. Cochise himself said that, "The Mexicans are on one side of this matter and the Americans on another. I made peace with the Americans, but the Mexicans did not come to ask peace from me." But that matter would come home to roust later. This peace between the Americans and the Apaches was extremely significant and Cochise and his people would be at peace with the United States for the remainder of his life. Cochise never again fought with the U.S. Army, nor did he himself raid again into Mexico. General Crook was furious when he heard the conditions of the treaty, but he had very little power to change anything for he was outranked. And as the peace continued to hold, General Howard gained support from not only the hostile newspapers in Tucson, but also from the ranchers and miners of Southern Arizona.
Peace had finally come, negotiated by an old trio of men: A one-armed Christian General, a straight-shooting ex-prospector, and a tall fastidiously dressed Apache Indian Chief.
The hike up here wasn't all that difficult but there was a moment or two of some semi-serious bouldering. At one point, I had to force myself to move my legs as I spidered up a steep crevasse between two large granite boulders. I could feel myself freezing up with fear. I literally had to say softly out loud 'Move, Stu. Move your legs.' I moved. I'm OK.
I'm guessing I'm about 800 feet or so above the flat valley floor now. Off a ways, I can see Chesapeake, my truck, parked in a turnaround. Further west rises the gentle silhouette of the Whetstone Mountain range, and to the southwest, the large blue mass of the Huachuca Mountains.
I'm standing in a cradle of space created by more boulders. There is a sheltering feeling to this place. The granite hasn't been worn by cattle hoofs or hiking boot soles. It's still as rough as coarse sandpaper. A middle-aged Juniper tree struggles for purchase in a crack in one of the boulders, the tree wider than its height, gnarled by the westerly winds. There is no real soil to speak of. Only fine granite dust and pebbles, but life does find a way.
To the east stands a tall rock tower, another 800 feet higher than where I sit. That peak was my initial goal. I can picture the route up to the top, up that crevasse, hop that gap between boulders, spider up that side, but I decide not to attempt it. Over the years, I've learned that I sometimes prefer to stop just before a summit, for when I'm on the mountain top, I can't see the mountain top. I’m standing on it. But if I stop just a ways before the top, I can see the peak and feel the summit at the same time. Plus right now, this shelter of stones, these rock hands holding me, feels very healing, and healing is what I need, much more that a summit pitch. I take out the Brownie and squeeze off a couple of diptychs of that three-foot Juniper tree. I also have my Pentax with its 28 mm lenses with me and I take some shots of the tree with it, as well. I look around for some other images but feel a little lost in the moment and decide to put down the cameras.
I begin to wander around my large stone cradle, to those stones over there, then to that ocotillo, then back to the center again. I walk more lightly than I usually do. I'm so aware of how virgin this landscape is, how perhaps a hiker or two over the years has climbed up here, but it isn't really that dramatic of a spot to draw most people. I wouldn't be at all surprised if the last person up here wasn’t Apache.
My wanderings in this space take me to a granite rock that's shaped like those stone megaliths you find dispersed throughout the British Isles. Pointy at the top, wide toward the base, not a standing stone moved by men, but a stone left after all around it has eroded away. And I then see the shot; ocotillos to the left, the stone on the right, a group of even more dramatic granite slabs and boulders far to the north. Now those stones over there would attract the occasional weekend warrior looking to bag a few boulders. Apache sentries from a century ago might want to sit atop them as well. I compose the image. I pop a couple exposures. Then a couple more. I then put down the Brownie and grab the Pentax. I take some shots with the 35mm, but I can tell it won’t be the same as the images taken with the Kodak. The Pentax will create an actual record of the Standing Stone and the boulders in the distance. That’s not bad, but I'm looking to create a bit more of a dreamy image, not just an actual representation of reality. The Brownie’s great for that, with its cheap plastic lens, that’s only in focus in the center of the frame. But the Pentax does its job well too. Both cameras have their strengths and weakness. I love them both.
After a few more minutes, I pack up my gear and plan my descent. I'll go a different route down. I gaze down and kinda-sorta see a way to descend. Slowly, sometimes in reverse spider form, I make my descent. Takes no time really. Before too long, I'm out of the boulders and walking the narrow trail that’s leading me through the waist-tall grass.
Well, not out of all the boulders. To the south, I see in the grassy flat, a small group of twenty-foot high granite rocks, clustered together as if they are trying to stay warm, and I flashback to Bear Butte, South Dakota, 23 years ago. One of those fast visual memories with few words but with huge amounts of feeling and power.
Crazy Horse. Those Council Rocks in South Dakota. These rocks here reminding me of those stones there. I slowly walk toward that huddling cluster of stones and fall in memory. A very spacey, brightly colored memory.
Tom, John and I drove up to Chicago to be part of Bo and Cathy’s wedding. Great wedding: John was best man, Tom played his mandolin and I filmed it all on my 8mm movie camera. Cathy seemed really sweet too, (not like some of the other women Bo has dated.) We are hopeful for them. (Bo and Cathy are still married and their twin boys recently graduated from the University of South Carolina.) Tom and John had to get home to North Carolina another way, for I was taking my second-ever road trip out West. Just me and the Chevy.
My first trip out West in 1977 was more struggle than fun. I hitchhiked from North Carolina to visit friends of friends in Austin, Texas, and then I couldn't get picked up leaving Austin to save my life, and had to take a bus to Colorado. Bob, my old friend from Chapel Hill had transferred to a school in Colorado. Seems there were just too many distractions for him at The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, if you know what I mean. When I got to Alamosa, Colorado, Bob had gotten me a room in an empty college dorm, but since I was hitchhiking and I feared getting arrested, I didn't bring along any dope to smoke and had to bum pot off people in Colorado. That really sucked in about half a dozen different ways. The ride back to Carolina with Bob’s brother, Ray was quite fun actually, drinking Lone Star and Coors as we drove, and the hiking up The Great Sand Dunes in Colorado was fabulous, but when I returned home, I was utterly exhausted, wondering if the trip had been worth the time, energy and money.
But this trip is different, at least I hope it will be. I was with close friends until Chicago and being part of Bo and Cathy’s wedding was a great beginning to the journey. I have plenty of marijuana with me, and a shit-load of acid and mushrooms, as well. I’ve saved up a little money by living at home with my folks, while waiting tables at a Marriott in Raleigh, North Carolina. And I’m in a 1966 Chevy II I inherited from my deceased grandmother, Mama Lillie. Four doors, build like a tank, with a big back seat, that’s great for sleeping and other intimacies. I am filled with hope, false hopes perhaps, of getting back together with Alicia in San Francisco. I’ll call her when I get there. In the back of my mind, I’m considering moving to a new city out West somewhere. I told my friends in Chapel Hill, it was like that Talking Heads song. 'Looking for a city to live in.’ Maybe San Francisco will be that city, or perhaps Tucson where my aunt and uncle live.
I‘m a few days out of Chicago. I dropped some acid after I crossed the South Dakota line. Haven’t peaked yet, but I’m feeling a little overly connected. The hum of my tires matches the hum in my head. I exit Interstate 80 east of Wall and drive on a two-lane farm road for a few miles. I pull off onto the shoulder. I step out of my Chevy and watch, for about an hour, the wind blowing across the top of these huge fields of wheat that surround me. Grey rain clouds race overhead. Some rain falls, then it stops, then it starts to rain again, but always there is the constant wind through the wheat. They are waving at me. Hello, wheat. So these are the amber waves of grain they sing about? It’s so pretty. I’m sure glad I dropped this acid. But I wonder if it’s like Bo says, “You don’t really need dope when things are already beautiful. Dope just messes with the high that’s already there.” Maybe. Too late now. That night, I collapse in a fleabag motel in Wall, South Dakota. The next morning, I’m up early, pay the bill, get a cup of coffee, load a bowl, smoke it, and I’m back on I-80 West. My goal for the day is to make it to Mount Rushmore, timing the LSD I will soon drop, so I will peak right when I see the four presidential faces.
The morning light amazes me. I have never seen light like this back in North Carolina. Too much humidity I guess. Each blade of grass seemed alive, shining in the early morning light. Could be the pot. Could be the residual of yesterday's LSD. Could be the grass itself. Could be all three and a fourth-something I don’t know about. Yea, there does seem to be a fourth-something I’m missing all time. I light the pipe, inhale deeply and hold it.
I’ve been driving a little more than an hour when off to the right I notice a dome-shaped mountain rising alone out of the grassy plains. I exit the Interstate and drive toward the mountain. I know it isn’t in my plans, but Mount Rushmore will just have to wait. I soon discover I’m entering Bear Butte State Park. Through my open driver's side window, I suddenly see a small herd of buffalo eating grass near the roadside. Real live buffalo! I stopped at the first History road sign and read about this place.
Seems Bear Butte is sacred ground to many Native tribes, primarily the Lakota and the Cheyenne. Indians from all over the United States come here to pray. No kidding? They tie medicine bundles to the trees as a form of worship. The sign says that we Whites can hike to the top of the butte too, but to respect the closed areas that are only for the Native People, and to not disturb the prayer bundles. Prayer bundles? What kind of prayer bundles? I get back in my Chevy and quickly drive to the parking lot, next to the trail that leads to the top. I grab some water, some pot, a plastic whirligig to give as my own little prayer offering and head up the trail. Very soon though, the trail splits. Left goes up to the top, right goes to a number of boulders off to my right. I’ll go check out the boulders first before I head toward the summit.
There, I found another historic marker stating that this natural amphitheatre of boulders was a place where Native people would come and discuss the events of the day. Red Cloud, Crazy Horse, Sitting Bull, all stood here, it said, and they spoke to the members of their tribes about the troubled times they lived in. Wow. I walked up to the most obvious rock that looks like a pulpit. I place my hand on it. I’m all alone. It’s the middle of the week. Nobody but me and the buffalo. I looked at the surrounding boulders. I’m not an emotional guy, but I’m close to tears, standing here. I close my eyes. I don’t feel alone. I can almost hear voices. I swear I hear people talking.
These boulders are smaller than those at Bear Butte, but the feel is similar. I walk up to one and place my hand on its side. I close my eyes. I breathe in. That intuition from earlier returns. Something happened here. Maybe not right here but close by. Something important, something big, like Crazy Horse talking at Bear Butte. Maybe as I read more about Cochise, I'll find out. I breathe deep again. I think about taking a couple more Brownie images but reconsider. Isn’t the time for that. My hand on the rock with be my record, not exposed silver on plastic.
I close my eyes.
I breathe in. I connect.
I breathe out. I see a world.
I breathe in again. The world opens up.
I breathe out again. It is beautiful.
[Footnote: Many thanks to Edwin Sweeney and his great scholarly books, “Cochise, Chiricahua Apache Chief.” and “Making Peace with Cochise: The 1872 Journal of Captain Joseph Alton Sladen.” Of all the books I’ve read on the Apaches of Southeast Arizona, his, I believe, are some of the most accurate records of those times. The renowned Apache historian Eve Ball’s marvelous book “Indeh” and others of her writings are also great source materials. Also, thank you to Robert H. Forbes’ “Letters to the Journal of Arizona History”, Jay W. Sharp’s “Cochise and the Bascom Affair”, and Frank C. Lockwood’s “The Apache Indians”. And no, the above circle of rocks that reminded me of Bear Butte was not The Council Rocks. That historic and sacred area lies less than a mile to the north of the cradle of rocks I climbed to, that day in 2005. I’ve visited The Council Rocks many times over the past five years. And I’ve heard the ghost voices of Apaches there. And others have heard them too. And I’m sober as a deacon, these days – Summer, 2010]
“All Because Of A Spring” Apache Spring, Arizona Photos and Text (c) 2005, 2016 Stu Jenks.
(An excerpt from my e-book, The Transpersonal Papers.)
The Pecan store’s closed. A house shaped like a teepee with gray tar shingles and blue bay windows sits along the deserted Main Street of Bowie, Arizona. No one appears to be home in Bowie, except a mutt dog on seemingly every corner.
The wind's blowing hard today. To the east, a dust storm rages. Annie and I choose to get off I-10, here in Bowie, instead of going through the storm. I just got a new windshield for the Pathfinder a few months ago and I don’t want to pit it.
"Do you want to go to Fort Bowie?" I ask her. "I've never been there before myself. Gotten close a couple of times. What d'ya think?"
"Sounds good to me," says Annie.
We turn off Main Street and head south on Apache Pass Road. Just before we leave town, I see a real live human being. A tall elderly white man, dressed in pressed blue jeans, a bright white cowboy hat and a heavily starched white shirt, stands outside of his modified doublewide trailer. He’s smoking a cigarette. He waves at me before I have a chance to wave at him. I wave back.
"Annie, did you see that old cowboy?"
"No, I didn't," she says.
"Like something from another time," I add. I tell her what he looked like.
"I bet his wife doesn't like him smoking in the house," I speculate.
Or maybe he's a widower and has just come outside to see if the sand storm’s heading his way. I love that his shirt was starched and that he waved at me first. Like being back home in the Northern Neck of Virginia.
Annie and I continue out of town. We drive under the Interstate and past a huge grove of Pecan trees. The road becomes dead-eyed straight; a good, paved two-lane road heading toward the northern foothills of the Chiricahua Mountains.
[All because of a spring, that flows year-round.]
We've been hiking a couple hours now, mostly in silence. Fort Bowie National Monument is unusual in that you park your vehicle and then hike a mile and a half to the ruins of the fort. You can’t drive to the fort unless you are handicapped. We just left the fort a few minutes ago beginning our hike back to the truck. We're taking the high ridge trail now, not the low valley trail we came in on. The fort was just OK. Nothing to write home about, just a nice territorial house, some ruins, and a flagpole, but the journey though the valley below, before the fort, caused us to be speechless from the story it told.
The wind's cold and hard now on this high ridge. Some rain clouds rise off to the west. A hump of a mountain to the south, covered in Piñon and Juniper trees, appears to be so close you can touch it, when actually, it’s miles away. And in that valley below? That’s Apache Spring. I can see the graves of soldiers, from up here. I can see the old stage road, from up here. I can see the green trees around the spring, from up here. And I feel very sad and more than a little angry.
This is the northern tip of the Chiricahua Mountains, named after the Chiricahua Apaches who lived here since the 1300's. They hunted, gathered, lived, loved and died here for hundreds of years. They kicked the asses of the Spanish when they first arrived in the 1500's, held their own against the Mexicans in the early 1800's, and finally lost to the Americans, in the late 1880's. They were known for being fierce in battle, and loyal and kind to their own people. They didn't take any shit from anybody, nor did they go out of their own way to cause much trouble. A little trouble maybe; some revenge killings, and some stealing of Mexican cattle now and then. But more often than not, in their last years in these mountains, trouble came to them.
Here at Apache Spring, just east of Apache Pass, trouble came one day in 1861.
Annie's been behind me on the trail, and now she’s just joined me on this rocky peak. We take a little breather on a large set of boulders. Below us, we spy a small stand of trees, brighter and greener than the cottonwoods and the other foliage in the valley.
There is the spring.
The spring is why it all happened here.
All because of a spring that runs year round.
Apache Spring and the whole Apache Pass area were the winter camp of many Apaches for many years, the only water for miles around. Cochise, an Apache chief, was camped here in February of 1861, with many of his clan and family. The whole Apache Pass area was a favorite residence of Cochise and his people. Nearby was a way station for the Butterfield Mail Stage, and its stationmaster and crew lived in the station. Up to this point, most of the Chiricahua Apaches and the Americans got along fine, primarily because the Americans didn't mess with Cochise's people much and, on occasion, gave the Apaches food and supplies. Cochise also had hopes that someday the Americans would help him in his fighting with the Mexicans to the south
. Anyway, here’s how the bloody war between the Apaches and the United States began in Southern Arizona: A drunk good-for-nothing rancher named John Ward had twenty head of cattle and his twelve-year-old, one-eyed, redheaded stepson, (I’m not making this up) by the name of Mickey Free, taken by some Coyotero Apaches. Ward went to his nearest U.S. Army fort at Fort Buchanan (near modern-day Sonoita, Arizona) and complained, mostly about the cows, and said it was Cochise's Chiricahua Apaches who stole his cattle and yeah, the boy too. He mostly wanted his cattle back. He couldn’t have cared less about the boy. Ward was widely known to be a piece of shit, a 'worthless character,' said one man. Anyway, the colonel of Fort Buchanan, distracted and looking more to the east at the impending Civil War than in his own backyard, sent an idiot, tenderfoot Second Lieutenant by the name of George Bascom to find Cochise, to demand the return of the boy and the cattle, and to use whatever force was necessary to accomplish this task.
Full of piss and vinegar and leading 54 greenhorn mounted troopers, Lieutenant Bascom set out for Apache Pass to find Cochise. When he arrived at Apache Spring, he arranged with the stationmaster of the Butterfield Stage outpost to invite Cochise for a parley. Cochise wasn't worried. His lookouts at Apache Pass saw the detachment coming the day before. He knew many U.S. Army soldiers came to the spring on their way to Texas and California. He heard about the invite but made Bascom wait. (Bet Bascom didn’t like that.) After a day or two, Cochise arrived to meet with Bascom. He came with his wife, a couple of his kids, his brother Coyuntura, and only three warriors in escort, two of them probably his nephews. He thought he was being invited for just a little chat and a little dinner too. Army food was pretty tasty.
Cochise and his family and his warriors were escorted into a tent and then things turned bad. First Bascom accused Cochise of stealing Ward's cows and the boy Mickey Free. Cochise denied it, and then after heated words and much yelling (through a translator, mind you,) Cochise figured out from Bascom's accusations, that it must have be a band of Coyotero Apaches who abducted the boy and stole the cattle. Even though Cochise was royally pissed off about being called a liar (Apaches hated being called liars), he agreed to go to the Coyotero band in question and try and talk them into giving back the boy. Bascom would have none of it and ordered Cochise, his wife, his brother, his family and friends held hostage. Soldiers had surrounded the tent. As they attempted to arrest Cochise, he quickly pulled out his knife, sliced the side of the tent open and escaped. Shots were fired, but Cochise got away.
To Apaches far and wide for many years, the incident became known as "Cut Through The Tent,” and hence the war began. Cochise tried to negotiate with Bascom in the days to come to get his wife, brother, nephews, and kids back, but Bascom kept calling Cochise a liar, demanding he give him the one-eyed red-headed boy. One particular parley ended with guns being drawn again and more shots fired. For the next few days and nights, Apache campfires ringed the valley where Bascom and his men were camped, and the drums of war beat loudly down on them at night. Bascom sent for reinforcements from the distant Fort Buchanan. At one point, Cochise captured the stage master of the Butterfield depot and offered him in trade for his family. Bascom still refused. A few days later, Cochise burned a wagon train, killed the Mexicans in the train but captured four Americans and offered them in trade. Still no dice. Cochise then sent the women and children of his tribe south, out of harm's way and called for his own reinforcements. One of those warriors, by the way, was Geronimo.
On February 8th, 1861, Cochise attacked hard at the soldiers at the spring, and drove away all of Bascom's horses and pack animals, as well. They fought throughout the valley and Cochise attacked the stage depot again but it was too well defended now to be overrun. Cochise then heard that Army reinforcements were on the way. Hopeless over getting his wife, brother and kids back, he killed the four Americans he had captured, and left Apache Spring. Army reinforcements did come in a week or so and patrolled the nearby mountains and hills, looking for Cochise's people but without luck. Geronimo was quoted years later saying they laughed at the soldiers from their hiding places in the rocks as the Army blindly groped through the hills looking for them. A few more days later, Bascom found the bodies of the four dead Americans Cochise had killed. In return he hung six of the captured Apaches he had in custody. He hung them from the limbs of the trees near where the dead Americans were found. The six bodies hung there for months, rotting in the sun. Before he left for his home fort, Bascom, without explanation, simply released Cochise's wife and children, unharmed.
But of the six corpses hanging from those trees, two were probably Cochise's nephews
. And one body was his brother Coyuntura.
It is said that Coyuntura went to the hanging tree dancing and singing.
Cochise was enraged at the news of his brother's death. He was very close with Coyuntura. He called for vengeance and vengeance came. Hard and fast.
Thus began many years of war between Cochise and the Americans, a bloody horrid war on both sides. Within 60 days of the "Bascom Affair", Cochise and his warriors had killed 150 whites. The non-Indian population of Southern Arizona dropped from 34,000 in 1860 to under 10,000 in 1870. The roads were littered with headstones reading 'killed by Apaches'. It is estimated that in the years of The Apache Wars, over 5,000 Americans died, hundreds of thousands of dollars of property were destroyed, and uncounted Apache men, women and children were killed.
And the start of The Apache Wars with the Americans happened just below Annie and I in that valley. And as we descend this trail to go back to my truck, we can see some of the landmarks and scars from that time:
The old graveyard of soldiers killed, with new shiny headstones made by the U.S. Park Service.
The worn serpentine trail of the old Butterfield line, still wide and somewhat passable even after all these years.
The ruins of the Butterfield stage depot, with just its stone foundation remaining.
A wide-open grassy field where perhaps the tent that briefly held Cochise was pitched.
And again, to the south, the large grove of bright green trees that grow where Apache Spring flows.
We continue down the trail toward my truck. Annie and I take a few pictures of each other. The sun’s rapidly going down, the wind's still hard, the air turns colder. I see an old wind-knurled Juniper tree just off the path and take its picture in the Magic Hour light. Annie and I say little to each other. I look at the valley of battle below and sigh. I give Annie a weak smile.
"It just makes me so angry and so sad," I say to her.
"This used to all belong to the Chiricahuas,” I say, waving an arm toward the beautiful mountains to the south, “And now they're gone. No Indians live here now. None of them."
Annie nods and sighs too.
We continue down the trail, and say nothing for a while.
Soon, we're in the truck heading back the way we came. Down the laser-straight road past the Pecan trees, under the Interstate as we enter Bowie, past the trailer where the old cowboy lives (He’s inside now) and back on Main Street. We slowly drive through Bowie, remarking on what a sad but great time we had today and how powerful it was to have gone to Apache Spring. We get on Interstate 10. I squeeze Annie's thigh after I shift into fourth gear. It was a good day, but as I turn to look south toward the Chiricahua Mountains, I still feel a slight burning of rage and a small bit of sadness.
In the twilight, I see no Apaches fires on the ridgelines, nor any veil of juniper smoke floating up from the valley.
Just the cold solid darkness of a mountain in shadow, where nobody lives.
[Note: Lt. George Bascom died in the American Civil War, at the Battle of Valverde on the banks of the Rio Grande on February 21st, 1862, leading Company C of the 7th U.S. Infantry against the Confederates. He was killed on a sandbar in the middle of the river. And Mickey Free, the one-eyed redheaded stepchild? Well, he never saw his mother or John Ward again. He was raised by the Coyotero Apaches who kidnapped him in the first place, and due to his fluency in English, Spanish and Apache, later became a scout for the U.S. Army. He was said to have been a hardcore psychopath. He died in 1915. I don’t know how he died.]