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Archive for May, 2011


SAN DIEGO 12 pose on the boardwalk of Tombstone AZ…

For the second time in two years, the WYATT EARP LOOK-A-LIKE COMPETITION “was scratched” because no one signed up. What happens when you throw a four day event no one shows up to compete as the reigning “WYATT EARP” at the premier OLD WEST location with all the bragging rights, TOMBSTONE, AZ, Home to the ShootOut at the OK Corral, Boothill, Crystal Palace, the Birdcage, Kevin Costner’s “Wyatt Earp” and Val Kilmer’s Doc Holiday in “TOMBSTONE”. Hundreds of people come from all over the world to walk in Wyatt Earp’s footstep, to follow Earp, Doc Holiday, brothers Virgil and Morgan strutting into the OK Corral and telling the bad guys to throw down their guns and throw up their hands, “They’re under arrest and goin to jail.” Its possible folks feel Earp’s footstep may be too large and haunting to settle in for an entire year because there was many EARP want-a-be who enjoyed getting out for the long weekend and living the past for four days, perhaps they thought “walking on water” for an entire year might be too much. Still for two years running, the competition was scrapped while the competition for dance hall girls, specialty entries like 1992 Tombstone Movie Actor, and town folks were very competitive and had the judges pulling on their beards and squinting in the late May glare of day. In the crowd, I found a “dance hall” mother with her “cowgirl” daughter, a Pinkerton Agent, the Duke was there, Johnny Ringo, Ike Clanton, John Behan, Curly Bill Brocius, Big Nose Kate, Johnny Rebs, Mexican Bandiditos (one was really ugly) and Charros and yes, Morgan, Vigil and Wyatt were there so were there wives and they strolled the boardwalks and occasionally would pause and reflect the scene in “TOMBSTONE” when Kurt Russell lines up the family in a window reflection and marvels at life’s blessings. “We’re from San Diego!” for the past four years the group of twelve has been coming to Tombstone and “living the dream”. For many they just love the old west and the legends, and for some specifically the antics of one person at a time and place in history. How does did this group get its’ start? “It all started with a vest”, says Vinny Skandunas. “He made one for himself, the next year he made another, and a third vest was made the year following and the rest, the boots, jackets, sidearms, knives, hand fans, corsets, dresses just followed and here we are again, Esther Skandunas says.specialitycatagoryjudging

I tapped one cowpoke’s shoulder one year to ask a question and found he spoke no English, strictly German, but looked like he belonged and was born there. The bartender at the Crystal Palace remembers one very slow night when ten cowpokes wandered into the bar and quietly settled at the bar. He didn’t know a one of them, but they looked the part, it wasn’t til the third round when they started getting loud and very German. “‘It was great” says the bartender, “they had a great time til closing, so did I and as they left they said they’d be back, but they haven’t been back yet. The APACHE SPIRIT RANCH, three miles north of Tombstone, opened its door last fall and was already completely booked in April. Early on it catered strictly to Europeans, mostly Germans and Swedes, who like the owner grew up on tales of the American West and the Indian. Wanting to build a bridge between the noble Redman and White man, the Apache Spirit Resort has a couple Chiricahua Apache, a Blackfoot, a Hopi and some World-class Hoop Dancers who visit the ranch and teach the Europeans their ways of life. The last week in September and the first week in Octobers, the Resorts will celebrate the Native American’s contribution to the Old West, with different programs each night. While the Resort’s nightly stay is over $200 a night, that does include all meals, campfires, gunfights and programs, including the horseback outings both morning and evening and you get to meet real indians. The seventeen rooms lineup with old west fronts like the Post Office, the Newspaper, Kittie’s Bordello, with the multi-room suites going for between $400-$500 a day. The onsite Trappmann Saloon has a glass floor highlighting the old ranches root cellar where its residence reportedly hid from raiding APACHES and a bare bulb illuminates the supply room and a skeleton. “It’s an Ebay skeleton ! It came in pieces and took forever to piece together.” Last week, the Resort held a horseback wedding for a Minnesota couple, they can do it all, wifi anywhere for laptop packing guests, even the pool area. Still Americans are welcome, “Americans are so easy going! says the very perky German office manager, Germans complain so much. We enjoy the Americans visits so much, Germans are always so picky and always complaining about the service, she adds, “Americans are so laid back.”
So TOMBSTONE, AZ is at a crossroads. Since the shooting at the OK CORRAL, the town has depended upon volunteers (Lion’s Club) to run the show, local Gunfighter groups participate and the Arizona Rangers have provided security and traffic control and apathy has slowly eroded the OLD WEST Experience probably because more and more is asked of fewer and fewer (thirteen, I’m told) people. This year some folks were doing four jobs, daily programs were nowhere to be found, phone calls in advance assured callers that locals were clueless, no ads in local newspapers and the website was dated. The question is Why Kill the Golden Goose? You have the franchise on something folks come from all over the world to see, to participate in and to hear and feel. They love TOMBSTONE, AZ ! Make it a good experience and they love it and return. Make it a bad experience and slowly nobody comes back. It’s an easy choice, and the time to choose has come.

Take steps to save the past now and Tombstone’s future. Encourage the traveling Old West re-enactors, trick gunfighters, the folks from Virginia City, Nevada and Lincoln, New Mexico, western bands, beer gardens, let the old west wash over you, drink deep and quench your thirst.


Mt Lemmon SkyCenter is left over Air Force Radar Base with Command Control Communications for Titan Missile Bases deployed during the Cold War in the Tucson Basin.
Hawk Eye Mark Kimble points the way…
Our recent outing to the Mt Lemmon SkyCenter was probably the most refreshing experience I have had in months. After a slide briefing and a tasty light dinner the group moved from the Education Center to the mountains western edge to enjoy the sun set on Northwest Tucson and to look for the amazing “green flash” … As darkness fell we familiarized ourselves with starfinders and exploring the constellations in the sky overhead with binoculars and then moved inside to explore with the 32 inch scope. It continued to get chilly and before the program ended around 10 pm, it was flat out cold. Perhaps, the most amazing view we enjoyed was the large scope’s view of Saturn. We also visited various nebuli edgewise or otherwise, enjoying many age old views dating back to the beginning of the universe …

The SkyNights experience is offered nightly throughout the year. Learn the constellations, observe interesting atmospheric phenomena, and view the wonders of the cosmos from a high-quality astronomical site using an outstanding new 32-inch Schulman Telescope…Arizona’s largest dedicated public viewing telescope !
ASTRONOMER NIGHTS is a Mt. Lemmon SkyCenter program in which visitors observe as professional astronomers for 1 or 2 evenings. As a visitor for this extended observing program, YOU become the astronomer investigating the cosmos and deciding how the night unfolds. This unique astronomical experience for $750 a day includes: observing at a telescope with an astronomer/guide, acquiring high quality data, lodging on site in astronomer dormitories, and data and image processing by astrophotographer Adam Block.
YOUTH OBSERVER NIGHTS SkyCenter provides programs to youth groups (middle school and older) to learn about the night sky. SkyCenter staff will modify our standard program for your group based on your needs. SkyCenter has worked with school groups, girls scouts and boy scouts and clubs. Groups have access to the 20-inch Jamieson telescope or the 32-inch Schulman telescope. These programs can be overnights as well as one evening.
Discovery Days is a summer/fall day-time weekend opportunity to escape the summer heat. UA Science hosts various hands-on and family-oriented activities at the SkyCenter such as investigations of hummingbirds, solar observing, searches for near-Earth asteroids, and tree-rings. During 2011, Discovery Days will open the facility the third Saturday of June, July, August and September from 10 am to 4 pm. Join in various activities and learn about the history of the site while escaping the heat. You can stay for the SkyNights program (separate cost) to complete your investigation of science on the mountain. $8 adult and $5 children (12 and under)
SKY ISLAND CAMPS AND WORKSHOPS explore the science and culture of the unique sky island environment, from the forces that built the mountains to the impact of fires to the amazing night skies. Cost includes use of telescopes and telescope operation, rooms (double occupancy), and all meals. Adult-to-camper ratio is 1:6 with separate accommodations (with supervision) for male and female campers. You’ll leave from the UA early Monday morning and return late Friday afternoon. The exact schedule for the camp is weather dependent, but suggested activities include time on the 32-inch Schulman telescope, a Laboratory of Tree Ring Research project, and exploration of geology, ecology, art, and photography. This is a UA Science program in conjunction with Biosphere 2. For more information, visit http://www.outreachcollege.arizona.edu/youth.
THE SkyCenter’s Astrophotography program is a unique and awe-inspiring opportunity to peer beyond the blue horizons of southwestern skies and explore the astronomical wonders of the Universe. We’ll not only looking through the telescope but also capture the views through a CCD camera. Reknown astrophotographer, Adam Block, will take you through the process of how he creates these amazing images that have earned him worldwide recognition. During this six hour program you will navigate the night sky with binoculars and skycharts then gaze at spectacular planets, galaxies, and nebulae with the 32-inch Schulman Telescope. Cost: $75/person

Saturn Astrophotography by Adam Brock on the Mt Lemmon SkyCenter 24 inch telescope

Pusch Ridge viewed from Tucson NorthWest side is an hour’s drive and at least 35 miles away. Mt Lemmon distant green ridges at left


(from left) Bill Badger, Patricia Maisch, Roger Salzgeber the night before Endeavour launched.

THE GOOD GUYS got their first break January Eight in that Tucson Arizona Safeway parking lot when the deranged gunman aimed at Col. Bill Badger’s head and missed. Bill ducked and felt the bullet graze the top of his head as his blood began to flow, Bill and Roger Salzgeber heroically charged the gunman tackling him to the ground and giving Patricia Maisch the opportunity to grab the fresh clip from the struggling gunman hands. Ending the mass murder of six persons and the wounding of 13 others, including Tucson Congresswomen Gabrielle Giffords. Patricia Maisch says she’s an ordinary person who did nothing more than what anyone else in her position would have done–had they been there. That may be, but I know when I first read of this trio’s deeds I know I got that chill in my spine that I reserve for heroic acts and big doins and I know truly in my heart they are my heroes. Since that day, they have been written about, quoted and ask to comment. They have struggled to return to way things were. For some the spotlight is too bright. Daniel Hernandez, the Gifford’s Volunteer who exposed himself to gunfire giving first aid to the Congresswomen, he was introduced to the nation by President Obama, lent his support to change gun laws has now sought to return to his studies, struggling to be ordinary again. Still others hope interest will fade but Gifford staff member Mark Kimble, sends out an hundreds of updates daily, and fields more than 200 emails a day asking about the Congresswomen recovery. Time Magazine named Giffords “One of a Hundred of the Most Influential People in the World Today”, while in a Houston hospital recovering from her wounds. The Trio was honored by the Pima County Sheriff’s Department in April awarding each Badger, Maisch, Salzgeber the Department’s Citizen’s Medal presented by Pima County Sheriff Clarence Dupnik.
FOUR MONTHS AFTER ALL THIS STARTED…. these folks have worked to make something good and positive come from this common experience and that has drawn everyone every close particularly Badger, Salzgeber and Maisch to each other, as well as, with the Giffords staff themselves. So when Commander Mark Kelly’s Shuttle launch was scheduled the Giffords staff was able to obtain credentials for the Tucson trio to view the launch from the congressional viewing area. Badger, Salzgeber and Maisch agree a real hero Is someone who blasts himself into space with little regard for their own safety for love of country, much like Commander MARK KELLY and the crew of Space Shuttle Endeavour, named after Captain Cook’s ship that sailed first around the world, another heroic journey. But Endeavour’s Launch represented something else for Tucson, news was Gabby would watch the launch and her doctors thought her well enough to travel to see ENDEAVOUR launch into space to visit the International Space Station and return, heroes indeed. The United States needs heroes-so when Gabrielle Giffords watches the golden glow of Endeavour punching through the low hanging clouds and hoots “Good Stuff”, it is good stuff indeed and everyone deserves to get that tingle in their spine that tells us heroes are amongst us and “good stuff” is goin on…


Patricia Maisch and Bill Badger with wife Sally meet Mike Collins, one of a few astronauts who left sub-orbit. in 1969 Collins flew APOLLO 11 into lunar orbit in the Command Module Columbia and patiently circled while Neal Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin went to the surface in the Lunar Module Eagle. After a day on the Moon’s Sea of Tranquility. Buzz and Neil rendezvoused with Collins and he took them back home to Earth. His instructions were to return with or without the lander crew.LIFTOFF ! SPACE SHUTTLE ENDEAVOUR’S LAST WORLD TOUR photo is the NASA official portrait of the crew members of STS-134. The crew members are Commander Mark Kelly, Pilot Gregory H. Johnson and Mission Specialists Michael Fincke, Greg Chamitoff, Andrew Feustel and European Space Agency astronaut Roberto Vittori. All mission specialists. Heroes one and all…NASA PHOTO




The studies of Yuman People by South West Anthropologist Leslie Spier center on interviews of folks in their 70-80’s in the mid-1930’s about their early life, one chapter dealt with Shaman or religious leaders capable of astro-projection, in this tale the leader slept on when and where to attack his enemy and in his sleep he saw his enemy camped behind a mountain and the next days his warriors found the encampment where it was reported.
The Blythe Geoglyphs or Intaglios may have been a prayer to their God and the drawings an intimate communication with a divine figure who they associated with the river. Nearby another man shape is seen near another glyph of an animal, the light shapes were created by moving aside the rock or soil cement covering of the hard landscape revealing the desert floor beneath it, the removed rock, has been covered by a rock varnish or patina, which darkens the desert floor in contrast to the lightly-colored sand. Three different Arizona Tribes have found explanations for the Blythe Intaglios in their origin stories, the Mohave, the Hopi and the Quechan Tribe who said the large figure was one of a evil giant from the Parker area who terrorized folks living along the river and those folks solicited help from the God of the Sea who saw their plight and sent a large octopus upstream to entice the giant stream side and then two tentacles grabbed his legs and two grabbed his arms and dragged him into the stream and finally in a huge struggle drowning the evil giant and taking the body back downstream to the sea. The octopus is seen in the glyph next to the man drawing whereas the other two tribal versions claim that drawing to be one of a mountain lion who assisted their deity in the creation of the world.

Octopus vs Mt Lion ? Personally I think it has a tail and not eight arms, but I much prefer the Octopus tale…

side view

Geoglyphs are found elsewhere along the River, Patton’s tanks drove over one glyph their tank tracks run through it damaged in training for WWII. The Fisherman is found on the Arizona side near Bouse north of Quartzite, it shows another man shape, this one with a spear, apparently fishing in the river and the spear’s point is made entirely of quartz, overhead is a fiery sun. There are fish in the stream. THE FISHERMAN, this geoglyph is found 25 miles from the river next to a trail used by natives accessing the stream and is thought to be a prayer to their God to reward their journey with a bounty of fish for their efforts. In recent years many more glyphs have been found and many more protected by fencing, like the Bouse Fisherman. Elsewhere is the Fort Mohave Twin figures, the Parker Rattlesnake, which is 50 meters in length, the Mystic Maze, The Racetrack, The Shaman or the Horse Intaglio thought to be a commemoration of the first meeting of natives peoples with a horse and is therefore historically much younger in age and distinctly more artful horse design. Horse Intaglio Elsewhere we find mounds, interlocking ovals, geometric circles, Vision Quest Circles and Power Circles have been identified and some studied like the Lizard which is 8 meters in length, the Spider is 8 meters square or the Quechan Stickman which is 25 meters by 6 meters and is incorporated into a prehistoric foot trail according to Boma Johnson’s 1986 BLM study of the EARTH FIGURES of the LOWER COLORADO and GILA RIVER DESERTS.. More than two-hundred images have been discovered along the river from Nevada to the Gulf of California. All told, six-hundred-plus geoglyphs have been recorded in the Southwest and nearby areas of Mexico.


Quartzsite Intaglio Earthworks



The Howitzer and the Missile both had a 20 mile range.HONEST JOHN MISSILE
The South West is under attack or it may seem so if you are driving along west of the Colorado River on the California side and
suddenly you brake when you notice Weapons of Mass Destruction stashed in the desert just off CASR 95 near the Yuma Proving Grounds, 32 miles north of Yuma.
A roadside pullout allows you to wander through Vietnam-era self propelled howitzers, World War II tanks, missiles that ended the Korean Police Action and the smallest missile in the US Arsenal capable of delivering a nuke, along with some big brothers, like the Honest John, capable of carrying a 5000 pound payload 20 miles away, hits within 250 yards of target, but with nukes, who cares? All of war machines on display were tested and developed for the US Ground War here at the Yuma Proving Grounds. The testing grounds got its start during WWII when the US needed to develop better bridging capability, so they moved to the desert where the Colorado River stretches 1450 miles across the WEST. Every Year more than 500,000 artillery, mortar and missiles are fired, 36,000 parachute drops take place and 4000 air sorties are flown from YPG which is one of the largest military installation’s in the World, it includes 1300 square miles on both sides of the Arizona and California Line. Yuma Proving Grounds 6000 plus foot runways at Laguna Army Airfield grabbed the hedlines recently when a passing by SouthWest Airlines Jet began to loose its skin covering and the pilot make an emergency landing at Laguna Field. Everyone survived, thankful for Yuma Proving Grounds stuck out in the middle of nowhere, which was there to save them when they needed it. Many troops train in Yuma before shipping out, most all of the equipment they use is developed and tested there before deploying to the troops. Yuma has a stake in the glorious past of the American Military and its Future. As you drive the 200 miles of improved road making up this military reservation you will find our military’s colorful past scattered tastefully along the side of the roadway as if some performance artist ran amuk with a huge crane until running into two big MP’s who took him away quietly… Leaving the past behind…
Old War Horse
closeup of OWH track
“OLD WAR HORSE” or the General Stuart, a light tank which lead infantry with its 37mm cannon, almost 6,000 where built and deployed from 1941 but by 1944 German counterparts outgunned the light tank who found its start in the desert sands of Yuma. Some of the earliest construction on the YPG was done by Italian POW’s captured in North Africa, and who were allowed weekly trips to Yuma, they went home in 1945.

The M107 (right) a Vietnam-era howitzer fired 174 pound 105mm projectiles 20 miles, the M386 Launcher with a 762 mm Honest John Rockets had an early range of 15 miles but with shorter fins and better rifling increased range to more than 30 miles. Manned Honest John Rocket with M386 Launcher