SOMETIMES WE JUST GET LUCKY, maybe when the “man-made” DUKE Fire started out as a warming fire for illegal crossers it ended up as a 4000 plus acres desert wildfire which scorched the desert floor right up the ridges into the pine leaving no grasses, or ground cover and essentially nothing growing. Which means, no ground cover, no camo or no shade … Just scorched earth. Duke fire burned along the US-Mexico Border.At a time when the desert fauna is posed to take off, all the cactus blooms and wildflowers, a fire comes along and arrests everything in its path—and leaves cleared land which runs right up to the border. The grassland of the San Rafael Valley is some of the sweetest turf in Arizona, rolling hills which are higher and cooler than the low desert, little cactus, wooded providing shade and fuel for fires, it also is home to some of the greatest amount of Homeland Security assets on the ground and in the air. Aerostat ( the spy blimp at Fort Huachuca) scans the horizon from the west, to the east is Rio Rico and the nortorious I-19 BORDER PATROL CHECKPOINT .
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Tucsonan Gary Eichholtz uses a stick to get the nasty grease layered thick over the pistol balls he just loaded into his Army Colt. “Without the grease when you release the trigger and all six loads might fire at once” he says about the black powder pistol he uses as a re-enactor at the annual Civil War in the SouthWest Campaign held each March at Picacho Peak State Park between
Casa Grande and Tucson in Southern Arizona. Chain-reaction firing could damage the pistol and possibly injure the user which makes the single shot black powder musket the most reliable weapon next to the bayonet on the muzzle which is the last line of defense when you are out of lead balls or powder or time. In the early years, the Park celebrated the skirmish as” the most western battle fought in the Civil War” so the Battle of Picacho Peak was re-enacted. It was strictly a skirmish, which lasted an hour, and was totally fluid and nothing was planned just reacted to. Twelve Union Troops looking for Confederates found three lookouts and took them prisoner but failed to notice their seven comrades who blasted them soundly, killing Lt Barrett and two more blue bellies. Union reported two rebels were injured in the shootout but the Rebels apparently failed to notice. In later years, the Picacho Battle Celebration was joined by two more battles, “The Gettysburg of the West” or the Battle of Glorieta (NM) was a Union Victory, the Sante Fe Trail was no longer threatened by Confederates trying to drag the American West into the Battle between the States. Confederates lost 36, 60 wounded and 25 missing, the Union lost 38, had 64 wounded and had 20 missing. Truly a hard fought battle but no less violent than the Battle of Valverde (NM) where 2000 Texans forced marched to Valverde where they tired and cranky engaged 2500 Union and eight cannon with shotguns and a Rebel Yell. The Battle lasted all day and the out-manned Texans had 38 killed, 150 wounded and one missing. The Union had 68 killed, 150 wounded and had 35 run away, oops-go missing inspite of their superior number had their ass kicked by these cranky Texans who had no breakfast and a long walk to meet up with these no account Yankees who had greater number and more cannon but they were weak in spirit and the Rebels just over ran their positions took their cannon and turned it on them. Remember History favors those cranky enough to take the day…
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In the old days the dead seldom died–lot of firing–but as the more severe battles merged, the dying became more professional and today, there are bodies everywhere till taps is played and all are resurrected. This year an injured foot soldier approached the spectator gallery and vomited body parts all over the mothers, toddlers and kids watching from the sidelines, realistic ? Great weather 2011 not too hot, unlike those years with great poppy crops when daily attendance might reach 4000 cars in the park to see the poppies and the battle, this year, Picacho Peak State Park barely got that attendence in both days. The Parks bring a lot of volunteers and borrow help from other State Parks for this weekend each year, they have the passenger shuttle from Kirchner’s State Park, they parked cars with military precision, the burros were good. More than 200 re-enactors participated it was good to see the youth of America jumping into the fray and enjoying the past. Old Timers like Tucsonan Gary Eichholtz has his tent, cot, floor rug, latern, easy chair and work table where he enjoys his comforts but he notes some of his younger comrade in arms are sleeping on the ground. Gary and I agreed sleeping on the ground is not as much fun as it used to be…