Spring is here and in the air. Our Cactus skeleton had four new bird eggs in it and they have all hatched into four fine little peepers wanting food from momma and daddy bird.
Now onto a subject that is really sad: the Old West just came a bit closer to Death out here in Scottsdale, Arizona.
Years ago in Idaho my Dad - Tommie Austin 1940 - 1984 RIP had talked about a place where the Wild West still existed somewhere North of Phoenix, Arizona. I couldn't recall the name of the place; but when I moved to Arizona from Idaho in 1991, it didn't take me long to find the place he had told Cowboy tales of where a man, woman or child could ride their horse in town and tie a steed to the hitchin' post while that person enjoyed a meal or drink and some still wore a holster on their hip with a pistol strapped inside. Never any shootings, just laughter and both boisterous conversations at the bar and quiet whispers of land or cattle deals and horse trading being made at a corner table.
Dad had talked about a man named “Doc” in reverence who was living in Arizona. The only other “Docs” I had ever heard of was John Henry "Doc" Holliday who was an American gambler, gunfighter, dentist, and a good friend of Wyatt Earp. He was a Deputy U.S. Marshal during and after the Gunfight at the O.K. Corral and had lived in Arizona, but further south in Tombstone and he was born in 1851 and died in 1887. The other “Doc” was an old Western Movie Star on Gunsmoke and that wasn’t his real name so I knew it not to be either of these men of which my Dad spoke.
Let’s start at the historic Reata Pass Steakhouse in north Scottsdale. During the Arizona Territory days in 1882 Reata Passwas a welcome stop on the 100-plus-mile stagecoach dusty, rocky trail connecting Phoenix/Scottsdale to Fort McDowell and Prescott (Arizona’s original capital). Reata Pass was little more than an oasis in the desert, a watering hole for thirsty horses, cowboys and stagecoach passengers. As the days of the stage coach passed us by, first by the railroad and then by automobiles, the small trickle of visitors dried up, and Reata Pass looked as if it’s well of water would go without drinkers .
Fortunately, for us who love the Old West, George “Doc” Cavalliere purchased Reata Pass in the late 1950s and turned it into a Western-themed “town” and steakhouse. Last year in 2014, the traditional grub such as “buckin’ burgers” and barbecued “ranch-hand-wiches” was rustled up and no longer served as a big home and condo developer purchased it from Doc’s Children and Grand Children after it was in a mismanaged trust upon Doc’s death on a sad day of September 19, 2009 as Scottsdale’s oldest living born resident had passed on from this life. Had Doc Cavalliere lived another 8 days he would have been 93 years of age. George “Doc” Cavalliere was born in Scottsdale, AZ on September 27, 1916. Doc was a WWII veteran who proudly served with the Army Air Corps in North Africa and Bari, Italy, repairing B-24 Liberator airplanes when they returned from their missions in combat. After the war, Doc returned home to Scottsdale, where he took over and worked in the Cavalliere Blacksmith Shop from 1945 until he passed the family business down to his son, George Allen Cavalliere, in the late 1980s. Doc also served as one of Scottsdale's first Town Council members from 1951-1959, and owned the Reata Pass Steakhouse and Greasewood Flat since 1958. Doc was the last living survivor of Mary Alice and George Sydney Cavalliere's eight children, who were one of Scottsdale's pioneer families.
A knee-high foundation of boulders and mortar supported a wooden one-room stage station built in 1882. The old jailhouse across the road from the now torn down steak house is original and was used elsewhere in the 1880's to hold Indian prisoners. Portions of the adobe walls and old stone foundation still exist.
My wife Connie had the very last birthday party at Reata Pass in 2012 with friends and family from all over Arizona, Idaho, California, New Hampshire, Wisconsin and Minnesota who all raved about the authentic cowboy atmosphere.
Now let’s mosey on down the road a mile or two to another Arizona icon, Pinnacle Peak Patio. Sprawling across the base of its namesake peak, this monstrous eatery (seating 1,800 inside and another 2,000 across the ouside patios) delivers an authentic Western experience, right down to the mesquite-grilled, perfectly-greasy steaks that drew rave reviews from BBQ maestro, Bobby Flay. Warning: Don’t order anything well-done or you’ll be served a charred cowboy boot (seriously), by Big Marv Dickson, head chef at Pinnacle Peak Patio Steakhouse. Big Marv has been grilling steaks at Pinnacle Peak Patio since 1961 and has quite a bit of history to share when he leaves the heat of the kitchen to bask in the heat of the Arizona sun. Also, leave your tie at home unless you want it to join the world’s largest collection of clipped ties hanging from the ceiling. (Rumor has it the tradition started when a local businessman refused to remove his tie, so the owner helped do it for him—with a butcher’s cleaver.) I have a tie hanging on the ceiling somewhere. Here’s an interview with Big Marv and showcasing the Pinnacle Peak Patio. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lITzJu5RmS4
On March 28th, 2015 the historic Pinnacle Peak Patio hosted the Scottsdale Rockin West Fest benefiting The Joe Niekro Foundation in helping brain aneurysm patients. The event was at Steakhouse outdoor area - from 10:00 am - 10:00 pm; Live Music by several artists, with Guest Appearances by Jessi Colter, Jerry Riopelle, Jon Chandler, Cyndi Cantrell, Jimmy Brown, a Johnny Cash Tribute & other Western Legends & Hollywood's Film Stars Karl Rove that portrayed Wyatt Earp. Also held, was a special Book Signing by Author Rico Austin including his best seller, award winning, epic adventure & mystery novel My Bad Tequila! We yelled, Come One, Come All – to one of the last Hurrahs at Pinnacle Peak Patio which has been sold and will continue to operate for six to twelve months and then be torn down by a developer.
Connie was ecstatic as she was able to talk a few minutes alone with Jessi Colter and I snapped a picture of them together. The Arizona DUUUDE also made an appearance and we had a photo opportunity. I too, made a new friend with a Smart Ass, who is also a cute little ass that I was able to pick up and hold. Pictures at the end of blog of this cuddly, little ass!
Next on the list is the famous, historic Greasewood Flat began life as an old bunkhouse building in the middle of the sprawling DC Ranch which ranged over thousands of acres of Sonoran Desert in the late 1800’s. Over the last century this desert has developed into one of the most affluent areas of Scottsdale, AZ.
Doc Cavalliere bought 45 acres where Greasewood sits back in 1955 to have a place to get away from “downtown” Scottsdale, 21 miles south. The property came with a little wood and canvas building housing a café known as Pinnacle Peak Patio. He and his wife Marge changed the name to Reata Pass and ran it until 1975. By then they were in their 60s and decided to slow down a bit, so Doc fixed up the old bunkhouse, built some picnic tables, added a dance floor and opened up Greasewood as a little hideaway for his friends.
In typical old west fashion, Doc didn’t consternate too heavily on what to name the place. The area is flat and there are a lot of greasewood bushes – thus Greasewood Flat.
Since then Greasewood has grown into one of the last bastions of Old West Scottsdale, with its outdoor dance floor, corrals full of burros, fire pits, rustic wagons and cast of characters all contributing to an atmosphere that compels you to kick up your heels and toss back a cold one.
While there has been many a celebrity to stop in to whet their whistle, the real celebrities are the locals who have been a part of Greasewood’s unique heritage and main stay throughout the many years.
Last Friday night, March 27th, Connie & I visited Greasewood Flat for the very last time as again We All lose to scamming developers, crooked lawyers & greedy bankers! Last night it celebrated 40 years of a place where a person could feel like they were still in the Old West. I have been coming here since I moved from Idaho in 1991, Connie & I had a very first date here at Greasewood Flat and we were kicked out of our first and only bar together for saying the "F" word! We thought it a joke, but not. We were welcomed back a few weeks later; but, we always warned our friends, “No F-Bombing” at Greasewood. Years later when the New Jersey and New York crowd started visiting, they had to go a little lenient of the “F” word; otherwise, no Northeasterners would ever have enjoyed the Real West and Greasewood Flat or Reata Pass.
In September 2009 Mr. George “Doc” Cavalliere, Scottsdale, Arizona’s eldest, native born resident passed away and now his beloved Greasewood Flat is being destroyed. March 31st was the last day and night being open and I would have loved to been present, but had to travel to Los Angeles for work. Below, at the end of this blog are a few pictures Connie and I took including one of me having one last beer with Amigo “Doc” Cavalliere, a photo of him celebrating his 90th birthday.
A few drops moisture came from my eyes as my memory took me back about ten years earlier on a beautiful, warm Spring day much like it was earlier that afternoon before the sun settled West in that clear Arizona sky.
I lived in the area and frequented Reata Pass and Greasewood Flat whenever the opportunity presented me the free time to walk the grounds and then sit at the bar. I would listen or share in a conversation with strangers, some local and some on vacation, all living the Western Dream.
I had seen Doc a couple three times; but, prior to that day had never felt like I should bother him as he was usually surrounded by either friends and family sharing tales of the past. Too, there were the constant vacationers who would keep him busy with questions while he tried to entertain his guests as his nature was to show great Western hospitality.
That sunny, early afternoon was different, it was quiet and I had arrived after lunch time and before happy hour had hit the magic number of four or five. A beer had been ordered in the old hundred and something year old bunkhouse and I began my slow, methodical pace to look at the old tractor that was covered by an aluminum sheet lean to, the retired, donated license plates from most every state of the lower 48, the rusty farm equipment, the wooden wagons and their amazing steel reinforced wheels, the running windmill, a classic cigarette machine, antique beer signs and an unplugged juke box sitting in a corner of an open barn.
I then noticed an elderly, white haired gentlemen in blue jeans and a plaid shirt watching me as he sat on a picnic bench under one of the giant, shade trees sipping his beer. I waved for I knew it to be the “Doc” of my dad’s tales of which I missed dearly.
Mr. Doc Cavalliere waved back and motioned for me to join him. He told me that he had seen me there at Greasewood Flat and Reata Pass many a time. I then told him of my Father, who was born in Arkansas and moved to Idaho and of the stories he would tell us of his time in Arizona when he was separated from my mother and we boys back in the early seventies.
Doc then said something to me that sent chills through my spine and the light hair on my arms stand at attention. “I remember a Cowboy named Tommie that would ride his horse down here sometimes, I think he was renting a piece of ground near here for his horse and living in a small travel trailer. This guy, Tommie would sometimes bring his guitar with him, play and sing us some songs in the evenings.”
I couldn’t hold back my extreme emotions of excitement and interrupted my elder, something I had always been taught to refrain from, “My Dad’s name was Tommie and he played a guitar and sang Merle Haggard, Johnny Cash and old Hank Williams songs. When he came back to us in Idaho, he had a small white travel trailer and showed us pictures of a horse he had bought in Arizona.”
Doc looked at me and I saw a huge smile develop across his face and a tear form slowly and perfectly from each eye and he asked, “By gosh, You look like your dad, your hair is lighter, but you’ve got his build and strong cheek bones and you grin just like he used to do.” He then asked the question of which the answer surprised him greatly, “How is your, dear old dad doing?”
I looked at the ground and gently kicked some dust to help hide my hurt, “Dad passed away in ‘84’ when I was a young man.”
“I’m sorry son, your dad was a special man that loved the outdoors and the old western lifestyle out here in Arizona. He couldn’t have been very old, hell he was still a kid when he was out here in the seventies, I believe it was.”
“Yes,” I replied he had just turned 43 in December and passed away in early May of quick pneumonia. He died in Grand Rapids, Michigan while driving truck. His driving partner Elvin told us that Dad was not feeling well and was in the sleeper berth behind the cab. Elvin said that Dad never complained about not feeling well, so he knew it must be serious and they both decided that they would drop their load in Michigan and head back to Idaho “bobtail” style with no load. He said he when he tried to wake Dad there was no response, so he put his right hand back there to try and nudge him awake and he was ice cold, so Elvin immediately pulled the truck over. Dad was already gone.” When I finished telling of my family’s loss my voice was nearly broken and I was slightly shaking.
“Since your Father has passed, I’m sure that he would want me to share a personal story of which I’ve never mentioned to anyone. Seems, there must be a reason why we met, probably GOD’s way of handlin’ things,” said Doc in his easy talking style.
“Your Dad told me all about the five of you boys, of your mother, of his drinking and of other things that need not be discussed. I listened and even though I would have loved to have had him come around for many years to come and he could have played here the rest of his life on that guitar and his beautiful, strong voice; but, I told him that he needs to get back to Idaho and to those five boys of his and work through it with his wife. And, I told him to try and ease off on the bottle a bit, even though your Dad was a great deal of fun when he’d had some whiskey in him.”
I hugged Doc and thanked him for sharing an unbelievable story that many others would try to deny.
We tipped our bottles together and I told Doc in a determined voice, “Someday I’m going to write about Reata Pass and Greasewood Flat. A place You, my Dad and I all love and cherish.”
I never saw Doc again during my sporadic and final few visits that were separated by many months and sometimes years because of business travel, family and life, though it was always my favorite place to visit in all of the Great State of Arizona.
My promise was kept to Doc of writing about the Old West, Greasewood Flat and Reata Pass; but, little did we know on that special day we met, I would be writing of it’s obituary.
Doc Cavalliere, Tommie Austin, Reata Pass and Greasewood Flat RIP!
Did I mention that I’ve finished my new Marketing Book? Yes, “Authors, Artists & Anyone’s Personal Marketing Guide, Financial Success with 11 Proven Promotions including Blogs and Social Media” is now available on Amazon.com or BarnesandNoble.com in paperback or eKindle versions; It is has already received 3 fantastic reviews from Authors Lala Corriere, Dellani Oakes and Bonnie Lee. http://www.amazon.com/Author-Artist-Anyones-Personal-Marketing-ebook/dp/B00U490944/ref=tmm_kin_swatch_0?_encoding=UTF8&sr=8-2&qid=1428905261
I’ve nearly finished writing "Mexico got Lucky," a true story about a kidnapped dog in San Carlos, Sonora, Mexico. I have begun writing "BAJA Crazy, 4 Dusty Days and Wild Nights on the NORRA Mexican Trail" of which I hope to have completed and published by end of 2015. Both of these reads are going to again be "Classic Rico Austin writing" with more twists and turns than ELVIS PRESLEY had in "Son of the KING, an ELVIS Paradox Unveiled."
Pictures at end and below Advertisements & Acknowledgements!
"Lovin' Life & Livin' Large!" - rico austin
Saludos y Vayan con Dios,
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Author, Blogger, Tequila Connoisseur, Co-Songwriter, Part-time Movie Star, CEO, Amigo & One Righteous Dude - MY BAD TEQUILA
Circa 1974, photo by Doc Cavalliere
REATA PASS Legend
REATA PASS Water Tower & Prison - photo by Sheila Webster
"My Bad Tequila"
& his signed copy of "In the Shadow of ELVIS"
at Pinnacle Peak Patio in Scottsdale, AZ
include John Kreese the mean, Karate Instructor in the Karate Kid!
in Rambo: First Blood Part II, TriStar, 1985; Photo by Gallery of History, Inc.
Authors, Artists & Anyone's Personal Marketing Guide,
Financial Success with 11 Proven Promotions including Blogs and Social Media