Many of you have been to or read about Arizona, mostly the central part which consists of the Phoenix / Scottsdale metropolitan area where over 4.5 million citizens of the state’s 7 million population reside or the Northern part of the state with Sedona and Flagsttaff; But, have you visited the Southeastern part of the state?
As you head south of Tucson on Interstate 19 which runs from the east side of Tucson to the border of Mexico where you’ll encounter a border town named Nogales, AZ, population 20,000 on the US side and right across the border is Nogales, Sonora, Mexico which is over 15 times the population of the community north of the Mexico wall.
Nogales, Arizona is a quiet, clean community of which most of its business deals within the trucking and shipping business with lots of fruit and vegetable storage. Nogales, Sonora on the other hand is dirty, loud, bustling city with a railroad that runs right smack through the middle of town which does not separate the town, it just causes school children, working moms and dads, shoppers and retirees to cross the railroad tracks, sometimes several times a day, adding to the danger of living in a border town on the Mexico side.
In Nogales, Arizona there is an upscale steak, seafood restaurant also serving traditional Mexican dishes named Mr. C’s Supper Club of which I’ve enjoyed lunch with the delicious carne asada a couple of times. I’ve never spent the night there except for the time back in 1985 when on a Spring Break trip from Boise State University, other students and I slept in a park in our sleeping bags about 4 blocks north of the International Entry.
After spending the night at the Hilton in Tucson and meeting up with my Amigos Char and Chad Lynn at Hops for happy hour of Tequila that evening, I then drove the next morning to Tombstone, “the town to tough to die” or “Home of the OK Corral gunfight.” I walked the boardwalk and dirt roads of about 5 blocks of the main street and a couple adjoining streets where the Birdcage Saloon and Doc Holiday’s Bar and Restaurant awaited me and my parched throat from that warm day at the end of November. Too, I strolled into a shooting arena and fired a Ruger revolver with paint bullets at a human, metal silhouette and had a nice firing cluster of blue surrounding the heart of the lifeless, standing victim which was about 15 yards away. I practiced my fast draw, pretending to side with Wyatt Earp and his brothers against the bad dudes: Tom and Frank McLaury, Billy and Ike Clanton and trouble maker Billy Claiborne, severing all of their hearts with my six shooter and then received a high five from Mr. Doc Holiday himself after bringing the last of these bad boys to their death which would lead their bodies to a burial on Boothill.
I then mounted my Chevy Silverado and the horsepower carried me another 40 miles or so to Bisbee, an old mining town with a huge, open pit mine near the center of town. Thanks to a recommendation from Chad I inquired at the Copper Queen Hotel about spending the night in this historic, haunted establishment which holds the distinction of being Arizona’s longest continually operated hotel. This magnificent four story building was built from 1898 to 1902 by the Phelps Dodge Corporation to serve their mining investors and dignitaries during their visits to Bisbee, at one time the 2nd most populous city in the West, second only to San Francisco which became famous and overgrown during the rush of 1849. The young clerk gave to me the room key 315, that room was marked Julia Lowell when I arrived. I unlocked the door and chills came over me and darkness enveloped my psyche. I walked the grand staircase back to the main floor and lobby and inquired, “Who is Julia Lowell? Her name is on the door.” The answer which came from the lad’s lips explained of why the extreme and cold uneasiness I had I witnessed. “Julia Lowell is perhaps the most famous ghost in these parts of Arizona, she was a woman of the night, in her thirties and she was also the daughter of the proprietor of Copper Queen at that time. Ms. Lowell used the hotel for her clients and had the room nearest the bad stairs for easy, unnoticed entry into her prostituting world. After professing her love to one of her clients, he rebuked her and she became overwhelmed with grief and depression and hung herself outside her room.” I noticeably shaken, drew the key from the pocket of my Levis and laid it on the counter. He continued, “Guests and staff here at the hotel have said that they feel her presence on the second and third floors of the west side of the building. Male staff and guests have actually heard a female voice (Julia’s) whispering in their ear.” Uh, I don’t sleep very well to begin with so I sure as heck don’t want to be bothered by a whore ghost!” I replied emphatically to which his response was: “We’ve had a few paranormal ghosts tv shows done here and You are very lucky to have the opportunity as it is the most requested room at the Copper Queen.”
I saw on the second floor, room 211 is John Wayne’s room, is that available?” I was given the key and put my belongings in the “Duke’s” room where he stayed while filming westerns in the area. There are 13 photos of the Marion Robert Morrison, his birth name before Director John Ford gave him his famous acting name of John Wayne. The reason that John Wayne choose this as his room is because it is next to the elevator and the closest room to the bar downstairs. One night after heavy drinking, a shot was fired from Mr. Wayne’s room, but no one hurt, just a bullet to the wooden floor, seems the Big Cowboy had a loaded round in the chamber and didn’t realize it when taking off this gun belt and accidently fired the bullet into the hardwood. It created quite a ruckus that night and eventually everyone settled in again for the night without need of disturbing the law of Bisbee that late night.
There is also a room named after Arizona Author J.A. Jance as she writes several mystery novels about Arizona and has had a couple with locales in the Bisbee area. Must admit I’ve never read any of her books even though I have met her a couple of times. I have so many books that authors have given me that I try to find the time to read these before seeking out others of which are not given to me as gifts. The clerk told me that sometimes Ms. Jance comes to Bisbee to write and they give her the room of which she spends many hours of seclusion. I do hope someday I’ll have a hotel room named after me or with my name hung on the door for all to wonder what the real story is behind the closed door.
That evening I listened to some music by a great guitarist who played a 12 string and an 18 string guitar beautifully – Mr. Johnny Bencomo who has a voice like the late, great Marty Robbins. While in the bar of Copper Queen, I sat and lounged on the white, vinyl couch and chairs which were at one time in John Wayne’s room, but after making the room much smaller to accommodate more guests, Mr. Wayne donated the furniture to the hotel and in the bar it landed to be enjoyed by many generations of future guests. I purchased two of Johnny’s CDs as Christmas gifts for my wife and walked over to St. Elmo’s Bar where a hard rock band Kaustic was playing. The next morning I arose, looked at the deep mining pit in the center of town and drove to my next stop in Douglas, Arizona.
I pulled in front of the glorious Gadsden Hotel in the center of town and walked around where Pancho Villa had ridden his horse some hundred years ago up the marble steps where there is a chunk of marble missing where Pancho’s horse’s back hoof caught the edge of the seventh step and tore the marble off, just narrowly slipping and falling to the bottom.
I then drove to Portal, AZ near the New Mexico border, a very lovely, mountainous retreat with a small post office and a library of which I donated a copy of each, My Bad Tequila and BAJA LOCO to the Myrtle Kraft Library for others to enjoy.
My travels then took me to the cotton fields and more Copper mining pits of the Safford / Morenci community where I took a few photos of cotton being picked by machinery and getting hauled to the gin.
Lastly, I cruised slowly through Miami and Globe, Arizona which too are mining towns just a hundred miles East of Phoenix and then back home to my beloved Scottsdale / Cave Creek home.
Rico's fine books can be purchased at Amazon.com or BarnesAndNoble.com;
Please visit his website at www.ricoaustin.com
Downtown Tombstone Courthouse established 1882
Tombstone, AZ - fast draw target practice by Author Rico Austin
John Wayne's room had a total of 13 different photographs of the Duke himself including the bust on the Cowboy on the dresser, above Rico Austin's head!
A very young John Wayne pictured here in the room!
the Gadsden Hotel in downtown Douglas, AZ - border town in Arizona!
Gadsden Hotel marble stairs of which Pancho Villa on his horse rode!