A Corroded Spike

This summer I’ve been involved in an informal deal — in exchange for a house to inhabit I agreed to do a few tasks. One of these tasks involved pouring concrete, a type of work I’ve more-or-less successfully avoided in recent years.

Part of this work involved digging in the scanty and rocky soil which partially cloaks this Southeast Arizona canyon. I’ve encountered several cast-off human artifacts during this project, mostly items which didn’t interest me, like old bottle-caps and pull-tabs. Yesterday I happened upon something a bit different, a chunk of eroded iron which I picked up and examined. I stuck the chunk into a back jeans pocket and photographed it later.

The piece of iron looks like the younger brother of a railroad spike. It’s just four inches long:

After I shot a few photos of the spike it occurred to me that this miniature spike is most likely a relic of the old shaft-mining days here in Bisbee, a spike which held down the narrow-gauge rails along which ore-carts traveled to and fro, carrying copper ore to the surface from the Stygian depths. This was during the early twentieth century, before open-pit mining became prevalent.

In the above photo the shadow cast by the late-afternoon sun caught my interest. I was reminded of a Hokusai print, one of the series “36 Views of Mount Fuji”.

This wood-block print is called “Great Wave Off Kanagawa”. Fishing boats in trouble can be seen in the foreground, while Mt. Fuji broods in the background. I must confess that graphic artists such as Hokusai, Escher, and botanical illustrators interest me; life is too short to pay much attention to urban artists feted by the insular “fine” arts people. Here are a couple of fine waterfall prints by Hokusai, who was a major influence upon early 20th-century illustrators such as Arthur Rackham and Sidney Sime.




Filed under Arizona, Essays and Articles, Photos, Visual Arts

4 responses to “A Corroded Spike

  1. Joan

    What an eye you have, Larry. The shadow from an old corroded rr. spike evokes a surfer’s dream (or maybe a Tsunami horror ) wave from Hokusai’s painting. Very cool!
    Thanks also for the additional prints. I had not seen those before. The waterfall in that last one looks like roots.

  2. Thanks, Joan. You can see all sorts of Hokusai prints here;


  3. bev

    It is a pretty neat shape rhyme for sure. Made me laugh to see the two images juxtaposed. Neat spike too. When I first looked at it, I thought it almost seemed a little spiraled but on second look, no. There is so much metal in the ground around Bisbee. One of my favourite pieces of scrap metal is the metal frame of an old bicycle seat that is sticking out of the rocks between some agave on the lane going down to the canyon.

  4. Joan

    Larry I was thinking Hokusai must be a contemporary of Van Gogh or Gaugin because of the brilliance of his colors and the resemblance between these particular woodcuts and the paintings by the two european painters. Au contrair! Vice versa. Hokusai was born in 1760 and died before Van Gogh was born. Forgot my art history…as these two painters were influenced by Japanese wood cuts. Now I have a good idea whose. Thanks! I had no idea how colorful and almost abstract these woodcuts were, having just seen the more muted Japanese paintings.

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