Showing posts with label Arizona. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Arizona. Show all posts

14 July 2018

Arizona Hills

by Leigh Lundin

Seven years ago, a coterie of writers banded together to launch SleuthSayers. In his first column, Dixon Hill introduced his fedora. I think I met that fedora recently.

Dixon Hill
Dixon Hill
To be sure, I also met the storied Dixon Hill and his equally legendary wife, Madeleine. You may remember reading about her, the very charming lady who drove fuel tankers in Iraq.

Dixon has written about his own military training, parachute jumping, explosives, and special ops. Yet in his writing and in real life, he displays quiet confidence and an utter lack of braggadocio. What you read, what you see, is what you get.

But fair warning: Around him, women get a gleam in their eye, that “Yum, Teddy Bear” look, which the rest of us males envy.

I’ve wanted to meet the man behind the writing. A few months ago, it looked like that might happen, but life intervened. Finally I set foot in Arizona only to meet an elk in the wrong place at the wrong time. Then a death in the family followed. Finally, though, I was free. Dixon squeezed me in.

Despite lack of sleep, he proved the most consummate host. Being raised by a professor shows. A natural teacher, he’s written about the history and geography of Greater Phoenix. I found myself racking up mental notes everywhere we visited.

First, at my request came a brief introduction to automatic sidearms, this from a guy who’s living (in multiple senses of the word) depended in part upon knowledge and skill of weaponry. Who better to learn from?

Hole-in-the-Rock
Hole-in-the-Rock, Papago Park
Dixon followed with a tour of Phoenix. He drove through Papago Park to point out the Hole-in-the-Rock, an elevated cavern open at either end. He named the surrounding mountain ranges. He noted bridges that ran high over dry river beds, waiting like a boxer for that blow that never comes… until it does.

Questions had been gathering in my mind about desert plants, mesquite, ironwood, and especially cactus. With Dixon’s wide-ranging interests, I was almost unsurprised to discover he’s a member of the Desert Botanical Garden. There, they combine education with beauty.

Dixon shared a story about his father and the infamous ‘jumping’ cactus, AKA Teddy Bear cactus. His dad experimented, risking his own flesh. He hypothesized cactus pods store up kinetic energy, until the slightest touch sends them exploding off their host plant. Me, I think that’s a damn clever theory.

Dixon had another surprise up his sleeve, a visit to the Poisoned Pen Bookstore adjacent to Poisoned Pen Press. Loaded with signed mysteries and science fiction, it’s a drool-worthy shop in Scottsdale that seems both packed and airy at once. Independent bookshops could take lessons from them.

I introduced myself to the owner… not too crudely I hoped. Dixon and I made quite the prickly pair.

Setting aside his own fatigue, Dixon showed me his writing cabin set in a corner of the garden. There he retreats to write, coaxing the computer from his arm chair. The fedora there… was it the same Staff Sergeant Hill traveled with around the world? I suspect so.

The visit turned out entertaining and educational, everything and more I expected from a man I learned about through his writing. One day, Dixon, let’s do it again.

The Flight of the Phoenix

So…

At Phoenix airport, I gathered my kit around me, my wits and my tickets. Hot as it was, I found myself strangely reluctant to depart. Turned out United had the same notion.

“Whoa,” said the ticket agent. “You’re too late to board.”

“What? No, I can’t be.” How many times had she heard that story? “Really, I received a confirmation email telling me to check in, like now, I’m on time.”

Anxious to put in her propeller, a United supervisor strolled over. Her snoot lifted into the air like my soon-to-depart plane.

“We closed boarding and no, you could not have received such an email.”

“I did, I did,” I said plaintively, thinking I must have read it wrong. Wait… Although I’d had poor luck finding phone signals in Arizona, five million people populated Phoenix. Surely AT&T had a presence here, didn’t they?

I pulled out my dusty iPhone and… Yes! A signal! Moreover, an email! The right one. I held out the phone like a child showing homework to the teacher.

“Ma’am, here’s the email. It spells out the details and I’m here on time.”

She read it once. Not quite believing it, she peered closer. I could almost hear the chips in her brain going, “Oh crap, he’s right.” Then she glanced at the clock ticking away on her computer terminal and lit up. “NOW,” she said with immense satisfaction, “now you’re too late.”

The counter agent gave me the most carefully neutral look. She managed to convey a measure of sympathy.

“I’ve booked you tomorrow. If you don’t mind a hint, lose a couple of pounds in your suitcase.” Again she gave her patented neutral look. “Thank you for choosing United.”

No hurry. Good company, good food, good night’s sleep. Orlando could wait another day.

Phoenix Rising


The personality of all cities depend upon geography and geology. More than most, the Copper State’s very existence depends upon Mother Nature’s good nature.

It’s bedrock is literally laid bare. River beds lace hither and yon, empty and dry… most of the time. Water, when it comes, can rage rapidly, as colleague Susan Slater has expressed in her novel, Flash Flood.

Unlike Eastern states, water rights are bought and sold. So are mineral rights. A few strip mines in the Copper State have left behind unnatural terraced hills, white not from rime but extraction chemicals. Arizona has been fortunate in other metals that begin with the letter A in the periodic table: Au, Ag, Al… gold, silver, and aluminum.

NASA used selected places in Arizona for lunar mission training. It’s not difficult for an outsider to think of Arizona as a beautiful planet in itself, one where pioneering humans have dug in, stubbornly nesting amongst its fabulous rock structures, a landscape hospitable to the hardiest among us.

Just avoid uninsured elk.

01 July 2018

Digital Desert

by Leigh Lundin

Arizona
Before departing southeastern Arizona…

The ’salsa trail’ forms a gastronomical trek between Gunsmoke and Sunstroke, Arizona. Tex-Mex influences all things edible. Families don’t say, “Let’s eat Mexican tonight.” That’s a given unless stated otherwise.

Roadside diners list tamales and enchiladas alongside guacamole burgers. Asian restaurants offer Chinese chimichangas and Japanese burritos. Restaurants might be known for Taco Tuesdays, Fajita Fridays, Salsa Saturdays, and Maalox Mondays.

It affects the whiskey, Fire and Fireball. Overly hot isn’t a problem– guests can pack as much or as little heat as they wish.

Digital Desert

As you know from past dispatches, Gunsmoke’s phone and internet service has varied from non-existent to barely readable. The majority of computer users I met still use Windows 7, including a Tucson hospital. They don’t necessarily want Windows 7, but they’re stuck with it because of lack of internet bandwidth. A Windows 10 upgrade at available speeds could extend from ten to thirty hours.

Based upon library access of about 512 megabytes per hour, I calculated a local bit rate of 1.1-Mbps… reportedly the same ‘speed’ all of Holyshiteitshot County government uses, a tiny percentage of ordinary personal hotspots. If utility lines become too hot, electricity and internet shuts down. Lack of power means the county government shuts down as well.

Hot Spot

It’s not their fault. As everywhere, large cities and heavily populated counties suck up the majority of resources and benefit from economies of scale. While rural roads appear in good repair, lane markings haven’t been painted since the WPA. In the intense Arizona heat, reflective paint temperature differences deteriorate asphalt and cause ‘raveling’. A county that paints lines and turn arrows also means the county must budget for pothole repairs.

Perhaps small electorates vote against their own interest. A library patron felt free internet represented creeping socialism. This sentiment echoed arguments when city water and sewage first appeared.

In previous articles, I teased about Gunsmoke and Sunstroke, Arizona, but residents haven’t strayed far from their pioneer roots. They are deserving people doing their best to eke a living from an unforgiving desert. Doing so in 110° heat takes a lot of damn guts. They put up with haboob sand storms and dust storms, dry rivers, monsoons and flash floods. Why the hell should they put up with poorer communications than Third World countries?

Despite accusations of New Deal communism, REMC brought power and phones to rural America, building an unrivaled infrastructure for its time. Possibly an REMC scheme might work for the Internet. Certainly customers clamor for connectivity and a few are lobbying for it. More power to them.

10 June 2018

Uninsured Caribou

by Leigh Lundin

Here in Gunsmoke, eastern Arizona, temperatures plummeted to a Pleistocene low of 104°F (40°C). Residents claim it’s not real hot yet, but Tripod, the town dog, got stuck peeing on a Jeep tire. Folks now call him Bipod.

Part of Gunsmoke’s Main Street started bubbling. Hot asphalt seeped like syrup into the canyon floor, revealing a full-grown Triceratops or perhaps only a 1927 Ford pickup. No one’s sure because the local fire & ladder truck sent to rescue it sank into the tarpit, providing some sort of metaphor.

Last Drop in the Bucket List

Lest you think Arizona is one huge, silicon-to-glass furnace, it does offer varied terrain. With that in mind, I opted to visit the Grand Canyon. It was then I became a killer.

After pumping a tankful of petro-chemicals, I crossed the San Carlos Apache reservation and threaded the switchbacks to connect with Arizona 188. About 3am with my Hawkeye Pathfinder GPS locked on Flagstaff, I headed north into the Tonto National Forest, where the deer and the antelope play.

Deer and elk were plentiful. I slowed for a doe and fawn here, a couple of yearlings there, and numerous adults. Think of elk as a cross between deer and moose. Bull elks average 700 pounds and top 850 (320/340kg). Cow elk weigh in about 500 pounds and max out at 600 (230/275kg). I mention this because…

There in my side of the road stood a doe. I shifted to the left lane and slowed to 40… 30… 20… As I was about to pass, she leaped dead center into my path, taking out the grill and shattering the windshield.

In the headlights of the car, I got out, knelt, and inspected her. She gave a confused little bark and lay quietly. She had to be in great pain. From time to time, she tried to struggle to her feet, not understanding when her hindquarters didn’t cooperate. She was beautiful and brave. My heart broke for her.

elk
photograph courtesy Layna Fields

My rough ’n’ tough, not-so-little brother Glen would have murmured soothing words to her, stroked her, and held her head in his lap, telling her it was okay to let go.

While I'm good with animals, I'm no match for him. Me, I squatted and talked quietly, keeping a healthy distance from elk teeth in case she misinterpreted my words. I needn’t have worried as she poured out her story.

As young bucks are wont to do, her boyfriend had left her. Despondent, she’d thrown herself in front of the train, or rather lacking a railroad, in front of the nearest car.

A couple of hours later, a Coconino County deputy arrived. He combined a good mix of empathy, sympathy, professionalism and practicality. He put down the girl with a solid-slug shotgun. He dragged the elk from the road and down an embankment. “Good meat,” he said regretfully.

The Deerslayer

Following him, I limped toward Flagstaff as daybreak dawned over the forest. A couple of dozen more elk emerged from the woods to glare accusingly at me.

“Damn,” said a friend. “That’s Rambo Bambi.”

“Her name tag said Bambo.”

“My bro asked about the meat, as if a rooftop could carry a quarter-ton elk.”

Providing no night or weekend service, Bo’s Insurance Agency was smaller than average. When finally connected, much parlance ensued about the top priority, glass replacement.”

“Why exactly do you need a new windshield?”

“An elk went through it.”

“There’s no elk in it now?”

“Nope.”

“So it’s not a real emergency since you don’t no longer got an elk in your front seat.”

“The deputy said not to drive until the window’s replaced.”

“Oh. Our job would be a lot easier if police didn’t offer advice like that. I reckon you got to take it to a glass shop and get an estimate.”

“What about a come-to-your-door windshield replacement company?”

“They have those?”

“Sure enough, Bo.”

“You don’t got deer insurance. That’s a $500 deductible.”

“Thanks for reminding me.”

“Listen, you find a game butcher to cut up the meat?”

Without mentioning minor details about the previous car, I rented a another. At Williams, Arizona, I took the train to the Grand Canyon.

Elk of all ages wandered through the Canyon village. They gathered around me and unnervingly stared. Spooked tourists cautiously backed away.

“What’s with you and the deer, buddy?”

“Elk,” I said. “I killed one.”

“He killed Bambi!” screamed a child.

“What calibre you use, buddy? Them’s good eatin’. Where do ya dress the meat around here?”

To my surprise, my phone picked up Virgin and AT&T cellular signals, all the more satisfying when those smug Verizon customers scratched their heads in frustration.

My friend Thrush had suggested I visit Sedona. After four days of waiting for a windscreen, I was free to leave Flagstaff. Knowing its lonely AT&T cell tower would fade at the city limits, I phoned to let him know I was on my way south to Yavapai County. I told him about hitting the elk.

“Don’t ask me about meat,” I said.

“I was just gonna suggest…”

Sedona blew me away. Is it sacrilegious to say its craggy red cliffs and chimneys of Sedona impressed me more than the Grand Canyon? Ignoring all the touristy stuff, God put on a great show. For once, I was able to get elk out of my mind.

The Verde Valley disappeared in the rearview mirror. I turned southeast into open desert toward Gunsmoke in Holyshiteitshot County in the southeast corner of Arizona. Evening set in. While fueling up, an RV owner eyed the car, still with tufts of fur.

“Bear?” he asked.

“Nope. Elk.”

“They make good jerky. What did you do with the meat?”

01 February 2018

Just Another January in South Dakota

by Eve Fisher

I don't know if this made the national news, but the South Dakota media was all over the story of a 72 year old SD man, Daniel Lucas, who snow-birded in winter to Arizona, and who never came back last spring and was missing.  Well, they found him.  He killed himself in his car, they say.  His head was in a box, and his body down in a canyon in Maricopa County.  So how did he get dismembered?  Well, apparently a homeless man, Mattew David Hall. found him in his car, dead, and rather than call the police, he moved the body but kept the head to prove that he hadn't killed him...  And kept it for a long, long, long time...  They say that Mr. Hall has mental issues.  Yah think?  I think the guy kind of looks like Nick Nolte, so there's casting if they ever make a movie of it.

Mattew David Hall


Moving on, we South Dakotans have our own Kremlin connection!  We're so proud.  Paul Erickson, of Vermillion, SD, is a long time Republican campaign operative.  He worked in SD for Trump, and in 2016 Erickson claimed he was on the Trump presidential transition team.  Which is why he sent an email during the 2016 NRA convention to then-presidential candidate Donald Trump with the subtle subject:  "Kremlin Connection":
Image result for paul erickson south dakota
Fun Fact:  Back in 1994 Erickson was an entertainment lawyer
who booked John Wayne Bobbitt
on a “Love Hurts," worldwide media tour.
Subtle, he's not.
"Putin is deadly serious about building a good relationship with Mr. Trump. He wants to extend an invitation to Mr. Trump to visit him in the Kremlin before the election. Let's talk through what has transpired and Senator Sessions' advice on how to proceed."
No one knows if that meeting took place:  Sessions told the House Intelligence Committee he didn't remember the request.

Okay, so Erickson is also connected to Russian gun rights advocate Maria Butina, who's worked for the deputy governor of Russia's central bank, Alexander Torshin, and who ran a pro-gun group in Russia supported by Torshin.  Erickson and Butina formed a limited liability company called "Bridges" in South Dakota in 2016 (I don't know if it was before or after the Kremlin Connection e-mail), which has an address in a Sioux Falls apartment building and no known actual purpose.  (Can't even find it on the web, dag nabbit.)  So - according to McClatchy news outlet, the FBI is investigating whether Torshin funneled money (thru Butina, thru Erickson?) through the NRA to help fund the Trump presidential campaign. The NRA spent $55 million on the 2016 election with $30 million of that going to the Trump campaign.
Gentle reminder:  The reason this matters is that it's illegal to use foreign money to influence federal elections.  (Thank you, Angela Kennecke for your investigation!)
BTW:  Check out this post from South Dakota's own Cory Heidelberger, with photos of Ms. Butina speaking all over South Dakota, including the Teenage Republicans Camp in the Black Hills, where a number of past and current South Dakota legislatures were counselors, or just there for the party.  Including Mr. Erickson...

Our South Dakota Legislature is back in session, and the legislation is coming out thick and fast, and piling deeper and higher.  Some of my personal favorites so far:

HB 1144, which makes it easier for city councils, county commissions, school boards, and other governmental bodies to do their business behind closed doors, especially if they're "Consulting with legal counsel or reviewing on communications from legal counsel about proposed or pending litigation or contractual matters.”  (Someone's trying to do something they don't want anyone to see...)

SB 107, which would repeal all regulations and licensing requirements for barbers.  Can't figure that one out to save my soul...
SB 109, which would repeal the licensing requirements for sign language interpreters.  Can't figure that one out, either...  

SouthDakota-StateSeal.svg
THE Official State Seal
HB 1102 started as a bill to require as much as a year in jail and a $2,000 fine for creating any replica of the Great Seal of South Dakota that did not include every detail specified by state law, including the state motto, “Under God the People Rule.” (See image to the right)

Well, the ACLU and most of us South Dakota smart-alecks had a lot of fun with that (google freely), and it's since been amended to ban renditions of the seal that are “greater than one-half inch in diameter and used for an official purpose or a for-profit commercial use” while at the same time making it clear that HB 1102 does not apply to “or limit any artistic or satirical use of the seal.”  More fun is still being had, because how can you resist shooting ducks?  (This is funnier up here, in Ducks Unlimited territory.)  Google freely.

State Representative Drew Dennert wants to make hunting, fishing, trapping and harvesting wildlife a constitutional right, that "shall be forever preserved for the public good" in HJR 1005, and make "Hunting, fishing, and trapping...  a preferred means of managing and controlling wildlife."  Still trying to figure out the "harvesting" part.  I can just see it now - hunters fighting against farmers in combines in the corn fields over the pheasants:
"I'm hunting!"  "But I'm harvesting!"  And shots ring out...

Meanwhile, a Mr. Levi Breyfogle of Rapid City has proposed a new Constitutional Amendment that would make all "victimless" crimes unchargeable:
"(1) A charge of a violation may only be filed by a victim whose person or property has been physically damaged by the defendant. If the victim is incapable of filing a charge of a violation, a family member may, but only if the victim does not object; and  (2) The damages must be physical, quantifiable, and have already occurred."
(Someone's done something they don't want anyone to know about...)

But enough of that, back to the news:

636523968955778979-DUUlef1W0AEUSO1.jpgLocal News:  On January 24th, in an improbably appropriate move, a woman crashed into the Billion Car Care Center.  Meth, not alcohol, and there were also 2 children under three in the back seat, who were unharmed, and are now "in the care of a family member."  Thank God.  BTW, here in South Dakota, if you get arrested, you get to do the walk of shame in jail stripes., which is then broadcast on the nightly news, and she looked shell-shocked, to put it mildly.  Whether it was the situation she finds herself in, or that she hadn't had any meth in over 24 hours, I don't know.

636004804435050121-aqua.JPG
The photo that launched multi-
million dollar investments...
The latest scam:  Perhaps because they saw the EB-5 and GearUp! rifling of federal dollars, Tobias Ritesman and Tim Burns (long-time Brookings developer) cooked up a new company, Global Aquaponics which was going to be a high-tech fish farm near Brookings, SD.  (check out their website here!)  They were going to grow fish and shrimp in tanks, and use the "nutrient rich" water to grow vegetables.

And apparently there were quite a few people who weren't bothered by the lack of experience in shrimp farming available in the High Plains, because they managed to raise a few million dollars. (P. T. Barnum was so right.) But a year later, while the ground had been (barely) broken, no tanks were being built, and there was no sign of anything but a nice office downtown in which Mr. Ritesman went slightly off his nut one day and wanted to know about Bitcoins while waving a gun in front of a tech consultant. Let's just say that everyone got ripped off, and Mr. Ritesman and Mr. Burns are facing federal charges.

In the "we should have known" department: Mr. Burns was involved in the EB-5 scandal. (Thanks again to Angela Kennecke at Keloland News)   And Mr. Ritesman claimed to have won the same "Entrepreneur of the Year Award" as Steve Jobs and Elon Musk.  He didn't, but apparently no one checked before investing.
(BTW, this proves that there's a reason why Frank L. Baum made the Wizard of Oz a humbug and a conman in his earthly life back in Kansas and other parts of the Midwest.)

National News:  So, no fish, no shrimp, no vegetables in nutrient-rich water.  But we do have radium, at least in Brandon, SD.  Radium, which is (1) radioactive, (2) killed Marie Curie, (3) can occur naturally, and (4) has been in the city's water for decades. It's also not uncommon across the country. An analysis by EWG (go here for an interactive map) found 170 million people exposed to radium from drinking water in 22,000 utilities nationwide.  Brandon's radium level doesn't exceed federal guidelines.  What's amazing to me is how much (and many) poison(s) you can have in your drinking water before it exceeds the guidelines  Look it up some time.  

Well, that's all from South Dakota, where we talk like Mayberry, act like Goodfellas, and the crazy just keeps on coming.

 

My husband just looked this over and suggested, "Sponsored by the South Dakota Tourism Department".





24 January 2014

MLK and Navajo Voting

by Dixon Hill

The great Martin Luther King Jr.

 Monday we celebrated Martin Luther King Day—even here in the great state of Arizona, which was a bit late on the uptake.

The great Tony Hillerman
 Additionally:  Over the years, I’ve tremendously enjoyed Tony Hillerman’s series of mystery novels set against the backdrop of the DinĂ© people and their Navajo Nation, as well as its surrounding states. Joe Leaphorn and Jim Chee need no explanation here, certainly. And I’m sure you are as impressed by Hillerman’s knowledge of Navajo (DinĂ©) lore and custom as I.

 Thus, at the close of this work week, which kicked off with the celebration of Martin Luther King Day, I think it appropriate to mention—here on Sleuth Sayers—the impact I recently learned Martin Luther King’s work had on the lives of Navajos, and other Native Americans, in my own state of Arizona.

 I was surprised to learn, this week, something I’m ashamed I didn’t already know. And, it’s something I don’t recall having read about in Hillerman’s work (though he may actually touch on it, because, as frequent readers know, my memory can be a bit faulty at times).

 Prior to this week, however, I’m embarrassed to tell you, I didn’t know that Navajos were not permitted to vote in state or federal elections, in Arizona, until 1948. In fact, NO American Indians living on reservations in Arizona were able to vote until then.

 It might be pointed out, incidentally, that this was years after many Navajos and other tribal members had fought for our country in both world wars. Even more unsettling, Navajos did not generally turn out to vote (or even register) in large numbers, until after the 1965 Voting Rights Act was passed.

And, with good reason! 

To understand why, we need to take a quick tour through the history of Native American citizenship.

 Much of the problem stems from the fact that “Indian Reservations” were established in a manner that made them, legally speaking, sovereign nations within the borders of the United States. This is how the phrase “Congress shall have the power to regulate Commerce with foreign nations, among the several states, and with the Indian tribes,” found its way into the constitution.

 For this reason, until 1924, Native Americans living on reservations were not recognized as United States citizens. Prior to this time, American Indians were denied citizenship (including the right to vote) unless the tribe they were part of arranged a special treaty or agreement with the federal government, or they underwent a process of individual naturalization, which required renouncing tribal citizenship, severing tribal ties, and demonstrating that the person in question had assimilated into what one might call “Euro-American” culture.

 After Native Americans served in World War I, however, popular opinion led the U.S. Congress to pass the Indian Citizenship Act of 1924. Though this act technically granted U.S. citizenship to American Indians living on reservations, several states still managed to refuse them the vote. Poll taxes and literacy tests were just a few of the ways states accomplished this.

 In Arizona, however, a different method was applied. Shortly after the Indian Citizenship Act was passed, the Arizona Supreme Court, in the case of Porter v. Hall, upheld a state-wide prohibition against Native American voting, stating that American Indians living on reservations were wards of the federal government, making them “persons under guardianship.” Since “persons under guardianship” could not vote, it was a slam-dunk; Navajos and other American Indians living on reservations in Arizona were denied the ballot.

 This embargo would remain in effect until the Arizona Supreme Court overturned the Porter v. Hall decision, in 1948. At which point, the state imposed a literacy test to deter American Indians (among other minorities) from going to the polls.

And, things stayed this way until 1965. 

Though the Voting Rights Act (VRA)—which Martin Luther King was so instrumental in helping to bring to fruition in August of 1965—may certainly be felt to have deep roots in Selma, Alabama, the law also applied to important areas of Arizona that had large numbers of Navajo voters.

 At the time the VRA was passed, only those American Indians who could (1) read the United States Constitution in English and (2) write their names, were eligible to vote in Arizona polling places.

 The VRA, however, included Section 5: a temporary prohibition of literacy tests in certain jurisdictions. Consequently, Navajo, Coconino and Apache Counties, in Arizona became covered by Section 5 of the VRA, and literacy tests were suspended.
If you compare the map of Arizona counties, above, with the map of the Navajo Nation, below, you should get a good idea of how the reservation lands overlap the counties in question.

 But not for long, because the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia soon held that Arizona’s literacy test had not been discriminatorily applied against American Indians in the last five years.

 This ruling would stand until the VRA’s Section 5 was amended in 1970 to include a nationwide ban on literacy tests. And, Apache, Navajo and Coconino Counties—along with five other Arizona counties—once again became covered under Section 5 of the VRA, throwing out the use of literacy tests.


Yet, more struggles were to come.

 In 1972, in Apache County, the first reservation Navajo ran for public office in a non-reservation governmental body in Arizona. Apache County’s population was predominately Navajo at the time. And, when Tom Shirley ran for the District 3 seat on the Apache County Board of Supervisors, he decisively defeated his white opponent—only to find himself blocked from taking office.

 Officials argued that Navajos weren’t really U.S. citizens (that sovereign nation thing again) and thus could not hold office. The court battle dragged on until the Arizona Supreme Court ruled, in September of 1973, that American Indians living on reservations were fully qualified to hold public office. Thus, the first Navajo member of the 3-person Apache County Board of Supervisors finally took office nine months after his term was supposed to have begun.

 Though Shirley did not run for re-election in 1976, he was instrumental in fighting an attempt to gerrymander the county’s districts—a plan clearly designed to limit future Navajo representation on the Board of Supervisors. A federal court finally stepped in, citing the VRA, and Shirley’s fight was won. Consequently, the results of the 1976 election saw two of the thee Supervisor seats filled by Navajos.


 In 1974, federal observers monitoring the election in Apache County, for the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights, noticed a lack of polling places and a greater need for ballot translation. According to the report, these problems resulted in long lines that made people wait hours to cast their ballots, some waiting until after midnight.

 Congress amended the VRA to address these issues in 1975.

 The problems, however, continue. Patty Ferguson-Bohnee, director of the Indian Legal Clinic at Arizona State University’s Sandra Day O’Connor College of Law, was quoted in a recent Arizona Republic article as saying: “It’s not history. There’s still a mentality that Indians need to stay on the reservation.”

 She added that the Arizona Speaker of the House, in 2003, asked the state attorney general if Navajos could legally serve on state commissions. “It’s just a very odd, backward way of thinking,” she said.

 Perhaps the Speaker had never heard of the Arizona Supreme Court decision dealing with Tom Shirley. I’m embarrassed to say I hadn’t either, until this past week—though, as a guy who’s part Choctaw and Chickasaw, I’ve also never thought American Indians “need to stay on the reservation.”

I’ll see you in two weeks!
— Dixon

16 November 2012

The Power of Babeu

by Dixon Hill

Well, the elections are behind us… almost.

In Arizona, as I write this, there are still about 100,000 uncounted ballots. These are a mix of Early Ballots and Provisional Ballots – both of which must be counted by hand for some reason. And, because of this, the fate of a house seat in Tucson still remains too close to call. The difference at the moment: less than 300 votes.

And all those uncounted ballots wait, no one knowing how many will effect this particular race.

Interesting, isn’t it?

I have to tell you: I don’t relish the campaign season.

But, I LOVE voting.

I don’t vote early. I don’t vote often (only once in each election! lol). And

I vote at the polls.

In my district, that means I go to a little church on 82nd Street in Scottsdale, less than a half-mile from my home.

As I approach, I see the front lawn is filled with campaign signs for every party: Republican, Democrat, Libertarian, Green, and a few others I can’t even recall. They sprout like strange vegetation, mixed with signs supporting or condemning certain propositions.

The signs grow so thick I can’t see the grass on either side of the drive as I turn my Jeep into the little church entrance. But they stop abruptly at the “75-Foot Limit” sign.

The campaigning goes right on up to that imaginary line demarcated by those signs.  That far, and no farther. On the other side? Campaign respite. The peace of voting one’s conscience.

When I pass the 75-foot limit, I always feel it. An invisible cloak of Americana, the pleasure of voting at the polls, descends upon me once more. And I’m not the only one.

As I pilot my jeep forward, other folks are walking out. They wear little stickers that proclaim: “I Voted.” I smile at them. They smile at me. Big smiles! bursting with more than a simple greeting. Those smiles they wear are filled with joy, temporary abandonment of strife. Recognition of a fellow traveler. They and I may be voting diametrically opposed tickets – opposites in every category. But, in that moment, it doesn’t matter. We’re united by a bond of fraternity that runs much deeper than politics. A fraternity created by the very Americanism of the practice we’re here to participate in on this fateful day. We– from all walks and all parties– are united, celebrating this distinctly American style of practice, inherent from our forbearers. In that moment– the moment just before and after the act of voting– we’re neither Democrat nor Republican, Green nor Libertarian.

We’re American.   And I LOVE IT! 

I see it and feel it, as I pass those who are finished, as I walk from my parked jeep to the voting line. There is an energy here, a silent buzzing of excitement, of greatness grown from the common person. We stand in line, young and old. The youngest rock back and forth from heels to toes, in anticipation.

I’m telling you, I’m not making this up—it happened! It happened this year. Less than a half-mile from my house.  I saw a young guy, maybe 19 or 20, standing in line at the polls.  And I wasn’t sure his clothing could hold him in because he was so filled with swirling energy, bursting excitement. Silent old ladies, they smiled at him and he nodded and smiled back. Somebody made a small quip, and that was all it took. Laughter rang out up and down the line. Laughter—that pressure valve that lets off the excess energy steaming up inside each of us.

I laughed too. You would have, if you’d been there. I’m sure of it. It wasn’t something a person could help. It just… came out. A great peal of laughter. The designer of the Liberty Bell would have given all he had to craft a bell that made such a sound. But, the hands of man are small, while the excitements of voters are huge. And perfect.

Maybe it didn’t work this way in your hometown, or at your polling place. If that’s the case, I’m sorry to hear it. Because, I know what you’re missing. Thankfully, here in Arizona, it’s easy to register to vote. You can even do it online at the Department of Motor Vehicles website. And, for those who speak Spanish and might not have internet access, tons of small businesses thrive throughout The Valley, where Spanish-speaking shop owners provide DMV services – including voter registration – to anyone who comes through the door. At the polls, the Spanish language ballots are stacked right beside the English language ballots. I know; I got one by accident this year, and had to trade it in for an English language ballot.

The voting I described above – that’s the way it went this year at my polling place. And, that’s the way it’s gone every time I’ve voted at the polls. I really missed that feeling when I was in the Army. Living in another state, I had to vote by Absentee Ballot, and that was a lonely, singular disappointment each time.

That’s why I reveled in hitting the ballots that very first time I was back, after getting out of the Army in 1994. It felt, in some strange and inexplicable way, like coming home again. I was struck by a feeling identical to the one I felt when my U-Haul truck topped that last cactus-studded rise before I dropped down into the great Valley of the Sun, as I made my long way home from Fort Bragg for the last time, and saw Phoenix laid out across the panorama before me. The way I felt when I smelled that scent of desiccated desert dust, the smell of home and hearth, of childhood and all I love about the world rising up to swamp my senses. That feeling rose up from the voting booth floor and engulfed me, all over again.

If problems make it so it doesn’t work this way in your hometown, or at your polling place, I wish you Godspeed in getting things changed! Because everyone deserves the chance to vote his/her conscience.

That’s the thing that counts, in my book.

After over thirty years of voting, I've decided:  The people we vote for? I have to tell you, I don’t think it matters much. Politicians don't run the world; they just think they do.  The people who vote – they’re the one’s who count.

Maybe you disagree.  And, if so, that's fine by me.  It's your business; not mine.  After all, you have your beliefs.  And, I fully support your right to believe what you want.  It's no skin off my nose.  And, it's a large part of the reason I spent roughly a decade of my life dragging an M-16 or M-203 around the jungle or through the bush.

Maybe you didn't even vote.  Maybe you've never voted.  Some folks might condemn you for that.  I won't.  It's your business;  not mine.  Nor anyone else's.  Just yours.

As for me, though --

I love to vote!

My 23-year-old son left the house soon after I arrived home from the polls.  He's young, he has tatoos, and he enjoys skateboarding in the sun.  He rode his skateboard the short distance to that church. And, he came home wearing the same “I Voted” sticker I had stuck to my shirt. He didn’t vote for everybody or everything I did. But, let me tell you something.

I DON’T CARE!

My son is a voter. And that’s what counts, to me.  He's part of the fraternity.

Later, my wife returned from work. She wore the same “I Voted” sticker. She voted a different ticket from mine in many respects. But, let me reiterate.

I DON’T CARE!  It’s the voters who count. And, the act of voting.  Who we vote for pales by comparative importance, in my opinion.  I honestly don't believe it matters all that much.  The fraternity of voters -- they're the ones who count.

On the other hand, if my wife had chosen not to vote, I wouldn't have run her over with our car or jeep.  Voting is a personal decision, in my opinion.  A personal choice.  It has to be, or I believe it's meaningless.  If you're chased to the polls, or forced to pull the lever at gun point -- that's not voting.  It's coercion.  Even if the person forcing you into it, isn't trying to make you choose a certain candidate or cause.

That's the way I see it.

Now, I promised to take some of Florida’s heat off of Leigh…

Maricopa County (in red)
So let me tell you that here in my home county– Maricopa County, a body of land larger than the state of New Jersey – Sheriff Joe Arpaio, the man somebody dubbed “The Toughest Sheriff in America” (and I strongly suspect this sobriquet is emblazoned across the Arpaio’s bed head) was reelected by a whoppingly huge margin, once again, this year. Even though Joe is now 80 years old.

Sheriff Joe wearing his standard expression.
So, all you Sheriff Joe haters can now stop griping at Florida, and turn your attention to Arizona. Because, I can assure you, there is no way on Earth that old man is going to stop rounding up Illegal Aliens. He doesn’t care that the Justice Department sued him over it; he’s not going to stop. Believe me, Ol’ Joe cares a lot more about seeing his face in the papers, than he cares about a DoJ lawsuit. That’s the way he’s built. And, the surest way to keep his face on the front page, these days, is to keep rounding up Illegal Aliens. The only way he’d stop, is if we ignored it. Then he’d have to get his deputies started on some other controversial practice, so he could get press coverage again.

But, on to a more interesting Sheriff – rumored to be just as tough as old Arpaio, but running a county just south of here.

This man is Sheriff Paul Babeu (BAB-you), the sheriff of Pinal County– Arizona's third largest county with an area that's nearly the size of Connecticut.

Babeu, originally from Massachusets, has been Pinal's sheriff since 2008 (the first Republican elected Sheriff in Pinal– ever!).  And, when it comes to illegal immigration, he's just as tough as his Maricopa counterpart– perhaps even tougher.

Pinal County (in red)
Perhaps with good cause, as Pinal County is recognized as one of the most heavily traversed counties in the U.S., when it comes to human or drug smuggling.  Cartels reportedly maintain listening and observation posts in the county to facilitate the flow of narcotics and other illegal goods, while Babeu and his 700 deputies try to stop them.

Oh, and one other thing ....

Babeu's bid for congress, earlier this year, was cut short when an ex-boyfriend claimed that Babeu had threatened to have the guy deported if he outed Babeu.  Babeu denies the claim, saying the only factual part of it is that he is gay, and the fellow was a lover at one time.

That's right. Babeu is gay.

Sheriff Paul Babeu
The guy's a hard-core sheriff in a county that's fighting drug and human traffickers on a daily basis, he was a Major in the Arizona Army National Guard who spent a tour in Iraq, he's Republican, and he's as gay as they come, saying he made no secret of his life style and that, "People who knew me, knew I was gay. I didn't hide it."  

What do I think?  I think having a macho, ass-kicking, hard-charging gay sheriff in my state is GREAT!  If I lived in Pinal County, I'd vote for Babeu in a heartbeat.  I liked him before I knew he was gay, but– and I can't explain why– I like him even better now.  Which is strange, because– as my wife can testify– I'm not necessarily known for going around touting gay rights.  In fact, that's one area where our votes often conflicted on past ballots.  But, discovering that Sheriff Babeu is gay has me reconsidering.

Maybe the next time a gay marriage initiative comes up I'll vote "Aye!"

After all, a hard-charging gay sheriff deserves the state's sanctity, when somebody  kisses him hello at home, after a long day of fighting bad guys.

That's my view, and if it's different from yours . . . well, that's what makes the world a fun place to live in.

So, here's to you, and to wishing you:  Many happy votings in the future!

—Dixon