One book leads to another...

Wednesday, May 27, 2015

An Old Padre's Grave

Sprawled in the shade of ageless mesquites in the southwestern reaches of Bear Valley; where scores of rolling hills rich in ore overlook dry washes once flecked with gold, lies the second best-preserved ghost town in Arizona. As with most mining camps, Montana Peak had its share of senseless tragedies. Ironically, no ghosts were left behind but a curse remains. 

Lawlessness and skirmishes are a well-documented component to early Arizona Mining camps and while logic remains in question with regard to law enforcement, there are arguably strong reasons for skirmishes involving territorial rights. But considering that the remote location of the camp afforded very few altercations with Native Americans and the close proximity to Mexico (four miles) was of little concern, lawlessness was widely described as sporadic. 

Certainly only the Mexicans put any stock in the notion of a curse being placed on the general store for being built over an “old padre’s grave”, however the shocking motives behind three double-homicides in the course of eighteen months would put ice in the hearts of a once bustling mining town.

It began in 1912 when Julius Andrews established the first Post Office inside his general store and changed the name of the camp to Ruby, after his wife. By 1920, brothers John and Alex Frazier had taken over the general store, but just a few short weeks into the New Year they were both found dead in the store. Alex had been shot in the back; presumably as soon as the click of safe lock was heard, John was shot through the eye. There were no witnesses and at first no clues until one determined investigator discovered apple cores and cigarette butts on a hill overlooking the general store. There the trail went cold.

By mid-summer of 1921 a relentless draught was taking its toll and even cattle were dropping like flies. But this combined with the unsolved murders at the general store was not enough to dissuade Frank Pearson and his wife, Myrtle from buying the place. They adored the area; taking daily horseback rides to explore all they could. It is speculated that the couple may actually have seen the arrival of the seven Mexican vaqueros; two of whom would murder them when they returned to the store to welcome the incoming visitors. 

In an all too familiar scene, Frank was found shot in the back as he opened the safe, it was determined that Myrtle was still alive when her five gold teeth were bashed out, but a bullet in her forehead actually killed her. Their four year-old daughter, Margaret was found safely hiding with two teenaged aunts. (Margaret later became a school teacher in Tucson!)

This instigated one of the largest manhunts in Arizona history and included the first time an airplane was ever used in the course of a manhunt.  Yet once again, the trail went cold.

Until, acting on an anonymous tip, the determined investigator (remember him?) saddled up to a bar in Sonora just in time to overhear a Mexican vaquero negotiating the sale of five gold teeth to the bartender. 

A second suspect was quickly rounded up in Arizona (astonishingly, near Ruby), along with cigarette butts that substantiated the investigators claims and folks began to rest a little easier; justice would soon be served.

Or would it?

In the waning hours of July 13, 1922 as the two convicted murderers were being transported (shackled together) in the backseat of the sheriff’s car to meet their fate, another tragedy occurred when the car was found belly-up in a ditch by the side of the road to Tucson.  Both the Sheriff and deputy had been ejected from the car, though their fatal head injuries had occurred prior to the crash. The murderers had escaped.

Are you starting to believe in curses yet? Me, I’m just cursing—son of a bug! 


A rather less enthusiastic manhunt ensued as officials and area residents alike still reeled in shock and disbelief and six days later, after a hunter’s dog ran across a detached human foot, both killers were found near death from starvation and dehydration beneath the marginal shade of a stunted oak at the base of the Tumacacori Mountains.

Can’t say as it would matter if there were any ghosts in Ruby, since other than a great little cafĂ© called “Sweat Peas”in nearby Arivaca, it’s been all but deserted since 1941.  Tours are conducted by appointment but it’s still a great day trip. High profile vehicle recommended and (always) beware of illegal crossers and drug and human trafficking.

Until again, Happy Trails!
Ruby schoolhouse and slide

Monday, May 25, 2015

Shouting Out Loud

I took a few moments at daybreak to count the many things for which I have reason to shout and realized I’d have to shorten it into so many segments that it would last the rest of the year! So I’ll just do a few of the more exciting ‘Shout Outs’ today. 

Happy Memorial Day to all of us who honor all those who gave their lives for our freedom!


Is it just me, or is Chrys Fey fast becoming as super-natural as the characters she writes about? In addition to interviews and blog tours and the terrific blogs on her own site; writewithfey , she just released her latest short story Ghost of Death!

In case you missed the Blogging A to Z April 2015 Challenge, Nick Wilford kept us all enthralled with a clever new word each and every day including a flash fiction story involving the meaning of the word as an added bonus. Now if those short stories were any indication, his new speculative fiction collection A Change of Mind and Other Stories releases Today and is bound to be a brilliant success!

Meanwhile, Blabbin Grammy is running a riveting suspense in progress called ‘Fred’s Dilemma”, Arlee Bird has always got something interesting going on at Tossing it Out and I recently had the good fortune to run across a great new blog, The Misadventures in Candyland! 

As for me, the May issue of Streampebbles published last week, Oh! And I’ve just a little old cover reveal! Actual release date to be announced, but we’re working towards early June!

Catch you all on Winning Wednesday, when we’re back on the road to Arizona’s whispers; ghost towns, legends, facts & fiction!

Wednesday, May 20, 2015

Spiders and Monsters Along the Way...

The Legend of Spider Tower

Rising from the depths of Dead Man’s canyon, soaring spires of weathered sandstone stand as silent sentries to the rugged footpaths along the canyon precipice; worn deep by the soft-soled shoes of thousands of prehistoric North American aborigines, and the windsongs of legends they left behind.
Unknown to even their closest neighbors; the Navajo villagers below, the cliff-dwelling Moqui Tribes kept entirely to themselves with the exception of extremely rare occasions as when a hunter was literally chased up the portentous spire by hostiles and (magically?) assisted in his climb by the silky thread of a spider’s web (thus, the name) and another instance as noted by Dr. Oscar Loew, on one remarkable expedition conducted in 1874.  I kind of like the Moqui style, how about you?

You won’t find any pattern to locales or multitudes of our legends, ghost towns, spooks and spoofs, but given our diverse mixture of landscapes, customs and cultures, Arizona is certainly full of them! And I’m happy to share, so we’ll meander toward the sunset for another ‘shorty’.

Lepsy of Dudleyville

Ask anyone who’s ever hiked or had car trouble in the vicinity and you’ll undoubtedly hear that there are places along Highway 77 so rich in history you can almost smell it. As in the auras at Rattlesnake Canyon, where the stench of pure evil remains and clearly discernable agonized cries are reportedly heard echoing off the ominously charred canyon walls. It seems an unscrupulous rancher by the name of Lepsy hired migrants for work but instead of paying them when the work was done he burned them all to death.  When the only two lawmen available (in those days) confronted the rancher, they too, were killed.    What do you think; fact or fiction? I have to admit I felt a little uneasy in the area, though I had not yet heard this tragic story.

Quicksilver Karma

Wednesday, May 13, 2015

Some Living, Some Not So Much...

Fashioned right into the hillsides, shacks and mansions alike seem to spring forth in the splendorous facets of multicolored wildflowers on an early summer morning.  It should be noted that visiting some of these homes (long as you’ve been invited) could be quite the endeavor as the only access is, often as not, limited to a series of steep stairways originally laid over mule paths worn into the terrain, back in the copper mining days.

Can you imagine a four-story school house with ground-floor entrances on every floor?

By the end of a long day of eventful wandering, a nice, quiet place to relax sounds fabulous, especially when considering the charming turn-of-the-century allure of just about any establishment in the small town of Bisbee, Arizona.

Founded in 1880 by Phelps Dodge Mining Company, the town soon boasted upwards of 24 thousand inhabitants; mostly of the rather flamboyant persuasion. While once considered the largest city outside San Francisco, a 2010 census estimated a population of only 6 thousand including many descendants of the original residents; some living, some not so much.

For instance an overnight stay at the Bisbee Inn might involve a glimpse of a tall handsome cowboy/miner; presumably looking for the husband who killed him (room 11). If you feel like you’re not alone in room 15, it’s just a tired miner wanting some rest after a hard day’s work and residing in room 23 is a purring cat who was never allowed into the hotel until after his death.

Caution is advised after attending the Haunted Pub Crawl if you’re stumbling back to your room at the Copper Queen where the ghost of Billy, a mischievous child, likes to move the furniture around.  However, the wafting scent of lavender is only Julia, Bisbee’s famous “Lady of the Evening” who took her own life, possibly for the love of the elderly, debonair gentleman who wears a top hat and occasionally paces the elegant hallways.

Now that you’ve had a restful night’s sleep, at least another day is required in order to experience all there is to see and feel. You can’t miss the gorgeous Lavender Pit (I’m not kidding, it’s an open pit mine) or the Queen Mine Tour. From the hushed museums, the first-rate restaurants, walking tours (including the annual 1000 Great Stair Climb!), to the distinctly spiritual ambiance of the town itself, it’s an all-around inspiring adventure!

The wonderfully well-preserved historic treasures notwithstanding, and keeping in mind that nearly every establishment in Bisbee is reportedly haunted, I loved it! Would you dare?