Monthly Archives: May 2012

A Bisbee Vignette

There is only one gas station in Bisbee; the Circle K Station enjoys a virtual monopoly. It’s on the north side of town, and the only alternative is to drive past the garishly-colored copper mine wasteland on the south side of town, get on Rt. 92 at the roundabout, and drive a few miles to San José, a commercial strip at the edge of the Sulphur Spring Valley. The Safeway store and the laundromat as well as a hardware and lumber store are out there, so most Bisbee residents make that trip regularly.

The other day I was airing up a leaky rear tire on my truck at the Circle K. I noticed a typical Bisbee character standing a few feet away from me, a ragged-looking man with unkempt long white hair and a long beard. Bisbee seems to be a magnet for old eccentrics and hippies. He looked at me as I fed quarters into the air compressor and I could tell he was nerving himself to approach me.

The man walked up to me just before I got into my truck. He had something in his outstretched cupped palm.

“I got pesos,man! I need a buck — how about I give you these and you give me a dollar?”

I looked at the miscellaneous pile of Mexican change in his hand.

“Y’know, I don’t plan on going into Mexico anytime soon. Sorry, but I just can’t do it!”

The man looked away and scowled. As I drove away I saw him approaching another customer.

I wish I had gotten the back-story! Why did he have all of that Mexican change? How did he end up in Mexico, as he seemed not to have a vehicle? What did he want one dollar for?

I’ll probably see the man around town; perhaps I’ll hear his story one of these days!




Filed under Arizona, Stories

A Rescue Cactus

Well, it’s been a while since I have posted, it seems! I’ve been camping out since Bev and I left Bisbee on March 27th, and the daily efforts to keep myself alive and well have occupied much of my attention and energies.

I spent about ten days living up on Juniper Flats just north of town. A beautiful place for a recluse like myself, but as usual serendipity throws me a curve-ball. I met an eccentric and nomadic viola-player up there one evening. Ed is a fine player; I got out my fiddle and we exchanged a few tunes while a manzanita and yucca-trunk fire provided flickering illumination.

It turned out that he had a couple of carpentry jobs to do for a friend down in Bisbee. Well, I was needing work, so we exchanged contact info and I ended up helping to reinforce rafters and build a cedar arbor at a house only accessible by climbing two steep flights of stairs. There are quite a few houses like that in Bisbee!

Once I started working in town it became apparent that I needed a closer place to park my truck. The road up to Juniper Flats is only a couple of miles, but it is steep, rocky, and winding and can only be negotiated in first gear.

I sleep in the back of my truck sheltered by a shell-like enclosure made of white fiber-glass. I drew on the social capital provided by my distant partner way up in Nova Scotia; Bev introduced me to her friends Kelly and Slim last winter, and the couple very kindly offered me the use of a parking spot under a spreading elm tree in their side-yard.

It’s an ideal spot, and I have access to that holy triumvirate: water, electricity, and wi-fi ‘net access.

I was talking to Kelly the other day, and she told me about finding an Arizona Rainbow Cactus which had been uprooted,probably by javelinas. She took the withering cactus home and planted it in a pot out on a wall in front of the house. The cactus evidently appreciated the attention and perked right up, and even formed flower buds in a ring around the top. Two of the buds opened today and I shot a couple of photos:

The flower buds formed on small spherical offshoots, as you can see, and I suspect that these baby cacti will fall off, roll away from the parent, and hope for rain.



Filed under Arizona, Natural History, Photos

More Juniper Flats

I’ve spent a week now camping on one of the Mule Mountains, a flat-topped eminence which serves as a support for two clusters of cell-phone towers. This enables me to have good 3G phone connectivity, but I’ve found it to be difficult to post reports and (especially) photos to the blog. E-mail is easy, though.

The pinkish granite canyons radiate down from the flat area on top, which has a rough road running down it with several convenient loops and pull-offs nestled in amongst the boulders. Though the name implies a predominance of junipers, the most common tree is the piñon pine, a short-growing species which grows in picturesquely contorted forms, especially in exposed spots. Some look like bonsai trees, patiently surviving and being shaped by the strong winds, more sun than any tree needs, and lack of rain.

I’ve become fascinated by the large agaves which grow here and there, mostly down-slope from the top. One morning at about sun-up I was clambering carefully across cliffs and arroyos (it’s one thousand feet or more to the bottom!)when I happened across two large agaves which were beginning their life’s work. Through the course of the succulent plant’s ten-to-thirty years on this earth the plant accumulates carbohydrate reserves in the central mass from which the leaves emerge. This starchy mass can be the size of a basketball encased in the nest of wickedly-tipped leaves. One year a mature agave will decide to flower, an act which will deplete the hoarded reserves and cause the plant’s death. The flowering impulse responds to who knows what — an internal biological clock, or perhaps certain climatic cues?

The flower-stalk, a massive spear-like growth rather like an asparagus stalk writ large, grows at an incredible rate. The two agaves I watched over a period of several days are growing about six inches every day! I measured this by holding a dead agave-stalk up by the two shoots and making daily marks with a red Sharpie marker. Here’s the taller of the two, with an ocotillo, extending its spidery weird branches next to it, and the Mule Mounains on the other side of the valley:

The shorter agave shoot is fatter, perhaps five inches thick at the base:

I was walking back up another rocky slope as the sun was setting yesterday. I came across this fetching scene of two clumps of Claret Cup cactus growing beneath the spreading branches of a squat pine, which was rooted between two craggy boulders full of sheet-like quartz inclusions. A ray of the setting sun illuminated the flowers nicely:

These photos were taken with a smart phone’s camera but didn’t turn out too bad, considering!



Filed under Arizona, Photos