Showing posts with label Dixon Hill. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Dixon Hill. 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.

03 June 2018

Hot Spot


I’ve fallen off the grid. Unintentionally. No T-Mobile, No AT&T, no Virgin Wireless, no voice mail, no cell phone. Also no email, no web, no internet access. Neither of my phones nor my computer work. Both fruitlessly scan for radio signals, not picking up even a blip, not even alien static from distant Roswell.
phone, no bars

I didn’t plan it this way. I’m spending five weeks in Arizona. Tomorrow I visit the Grand Canyon, but here in the town of Gunsmoke in Holyshiteitshot County in eastern Arizona, the telegraph bypassed the town, never mind Pony Express and the telephone. When I enquired about a hotspot, bemused residents said, “It’s 109°F in May. How damn hot do you want it?”

109°F… Here F, usually preceded by a plosive ‘holy’, stands for a word other than Fahrenheit, usually heard when sliding into a rental car seat. I never knew leather could melt. Steering wheels appear inspired by paintings of Salvador Dalí. Truthfully, the steel door handle of a downtown restaurant is wrapped with pipe insulation and electrical tape, presumably after a few people involuntarily left skin samples.

Century Link is establishing a presence in the county seat. When I enquired, they said, “Congratulations, you qualify for high-speed internet.” They went on to define ‘high speed’ as 3Mbps, the approximate walking speed of a one-legged dog. Computers think data rates that slow mean the internet is broken. Compare 3Mbps to my suddenly much less despised Spectrum/Brighthouse ISP at 100Mbps or even optional 1000Mbps if that’s too slow.

100-1g Mbps

At 3Mbps, news can take a long time to crawl through copper wires. Folks asked about rumors a black man had been hired in the White House. They seemed politely dubious when I said more like a weird orange.

As for my computer, I plugged it into a socket. The wiring exploded with a shower of sparks, barbecuing my power supply. This is what we call a ‘challenge’.

Knowing I had a SleuthSayers article due, kind people came together to help out. One lent an old laptop. When connected to the internet for the first time in eons, it launched into mass Windows 7 updates taking most of a 24-hour day and burning through the data allocation of that person’s telephone hotspot. At that point, another person stunned me by buying a new cell phone to provide a fresh hotspot. Folks are asking around for an old cell to lend me. Life is good.

But wait, there’s more.

FedEx delivered a new computer power supply. As before, neither of my phones can pick up a signal, this coming from a guy who for years refused to own any phone. The nearest AT&T tower is thirty miles in one direction, fifty in another. An internet solution remains questionable, but I’m not yet out of options. SleuthSayers’ Dixon Hill has invited me to stop in, and Scottsdale definitely has internet and phone service.

Life is good.

31 October 2016

At Last


Today is October 31, 2016--Halloween.  Also known as Allhalloween, All Hallows Eve, and All Saints Eve, Halloween begins the three-day observance of Allhallowtide, the time in the liturgical year dedicated to remembrance of the dead.
To most of us, Halloween is a holiday characterized by the dispensing of candy to costumed young people who threaten, "Trick or treat."  Other traditions include costume contests and parades.  When I taught elementary school, teachers and parents worked together to hold Halloween carnivals for students.  Before my retirement, these changed to Fall Festivals, and scary costumes (such as vampires, werewolves, skeletons, zombies, and this year--clowns) were forbidden because some people felt that Halloween was a celebration of witchcraft.

The traditions of Halloween include decorations such as black cats and pumpkins carved into jack-o-lanterns as well as activities like apple bobbing, pranks,  bonfires, and divination games.  In some parts of the world, Christian observances include church services and lighting candles on graves.

What accounts for the popularity of the non-religious aspects of Halloween? I believe it's because humans like to be scared--so long as what frightens us isn't real.  We might think that fall and Halloween would amplify the appeal of spookiness, but horror is a genre that transcends season.

How does the title "At Last" relate to Halloween and the horror genre?  Recently I've been doing a lot of writers' workshops in South Carolina libraries.  One of my most popular is entitled "A Late Start." The topic is writing as a second career after my retirement including disadvantages of waiting so long to begin writing fiction as well as the obvious advantages of greater maturity and vaster experiences. The workshops include tips on speeding up the process of successful writing and publishing.  The story of my first horror book proves that I don't always follow my own advice when it comes to fast writing and quick publication.

"At Last" would work as well if this blog referred to my first novel in 2007 as it does now to my tenth book released this month, but Leigh Lundin didn't invite me to return to SleuthSayers to summarize the workshop.  I'm here to tell you about my newest book and why "At Last" is a perfect title for this column.

The HORROR of JULIE BATES began several years ago as A Midnight Dreary and morphed into Something to Fear.  Both David Dean and Dixon Hill critiqued the manuscript during one of those phases, and I incorporated several of their suggestions. After numerous rewrites, my agent accepted it, but held back a year before pitching it.  Berkley was interested and made two suggestions.  Pardon my unladylike expression, but I busted my butt to work out the changes and dashed it off back to my agent in two weeks.  I didn't hear anything.

Sure, I wanted to push for a response, but we all know that it's not a good idea to put pressure on agents or editors.  After months and months, I asked the agent to touch base with the interested editor at Berkley.  I almost had another heart attack when I received an apology from my agent because he had forgotten to send her the manuscript revised to her requests.

Meanwhile, there had been major changes in the publishing world. To make a long story short (literally in this case), it was too late.

I began querying new agents and received some requests for the complete manuscript, but when Darren Foster at Odyssey South Publishing said, "Let us have it," I jumped at the chance.  And so, ladies and gentlemen, at last, my first horror novel is now available.  Here's the back copy:

                                 Who knew Columbia, South Carolina, could be so scary?

Julie Bates discovers a corpse in front of the Assembly Street post office.  Arson destroys her home the same day, but Julie's story is not a mystery.  It's horror--southern style.  Police officer Nate Adams thinks the killer who raped and murdered Julie's mother the year before is stalking Julie, but Julie's tormentor is not human.  The well-known ghosts of South Carolina barely skim the surface of the evil that awaits Julie Bates.  Move over, Amityville.  Columbia, South Carolina, is right there with you on the scale of terror.

How does a writer transition from cozyesque to horror? The preface explains:

When a red-haired woman approached me at a book-signing, I expected her to ask me to autograph one of my own cozy mysteries.  Instead, she asked me to write a book for her.  I went into my usual spiel that she could do a better job of putting her story on paper than I, but we agreed to meet in the coffee shop after the signing.  Writers are frequently approached to write or co-write someone else's story. Most of the time, we decline politely, but there was something about this mysterious stranger that made me hesitate to dismiss her so quickly,

The HORROR of JULIE BATES is that woman's story.  I spent many, many hours recording Julie Bates' tale and many more days and nights scaring myself as I wrote her story from her point of view, changing only names. The occasional third-person chapters were added after I was fortunate enough to obtain Richard Arthur's journal.

I have already received several emails questioning, "Did you make up this story or did a red-haired woman really tell it to you?"  I can honestly say the story came from a red-haired woman.

Long-time SleuthSayer readers know that I've jumped genre from cozies in the past when I wrote the thriller KUDZU RIVER.  I have no idea where I'll land next, but in the meantime,

Until we meet again, take care of … you!

22 April 2016

New House (and Backyard Writing Studio)


'Screaming Eagles' patch of
101st Airborne Div. (AASLT)
As many of you probably know, I met my wife when we both worked for Military Intelligence, in the 101st Airborne Division (Air Assault).

One off-shoot of this fact, is that we both grew used to an itinerant lifestyle.  She and I lived many of our single-life years in army barracks.  Before landing at the 101st, she spent time at Ft. Huachuca in Arizona, followed by a year in South Korea.  I lived in Monterrey, CA for a year and a half, studying Arabic, then spent several months, each, at Goodfellow AFB, TX and Ft. Devens, Mass.

After my wife, Madeleine, received an honorable discharge, she moved out to where I (by then) was on an A-Team, so we rented an apartment in Fayetteville, NC, outside Fort Bragg, until I received my own honorable discharge.  Arriving in Scottsdale, afterward, we were used to living in places we didn't own, so we continued to rent while raising our family.

A few months ago, though, we decided to use the G.I Bill and buy a house.

Yep!  This is the house.  I know: It's pretty darn green.  And the yard needs work.
But, Mad likes the tree, and I'm not stupid, so the tree is staying.
We like the older houses in South Scottsdale.  'Older,' around here, means they were built in the late '50s or in the '60s.  The house we closed on, yesterday (yep! the day before this post went up online), was built in 1959.

As you can see from the photo, it's ... well ... green.

This has nothing to do with our military background.  We suspect there was a sale on green paint, because several houses in the area are painted the same color.  And, we plan to make some changes to the paint scheme, because -- frankly -- our years in the army provided enough exposure to the color green, as far as we're concerned.  (Though we do like a nice green lawn -- something I'm going to get cracking on, next week, after we're moved in.)

Not Mine
The house may have been built in 1959, but it's solid, built of block, and suits our needs well, with a living room and large kitchen (big enough for the farm table my wife wants), a nice back patio, a fireplace and swimming pool, as well as three bedrooms and a room (where the carport used to be) that my youngest son can set up as a game room.  And, it has one more thing.
Nope, not this one!


Not Mine, either.
There is a large concrete slab in the backyard, which was clearly used for parking an R.V. sometime in the past.  I used to be an SF Engineer, and we did more than just blowing things up.  We also built things.  Out of lumber, rough timbers, even concrete and steel (when we got the chance).  So, I checked out the pad, and realized it was strong enough for what we needed.

The plan is, we're going to put my Backyard Writing Studio on this pad.

If you haven't thought of backyard offices, or studios, let me tell you: There are a lot of folks who have them these days, judging from what I found online.  I've done quite a bit of research -- both in-person and online -- and posted some of the pics (above) that I found, to give you an idea of what's out there.

But, I don't think mine will look much like those.  Not at first, anyway.  We contemplated the idea of my building the thing, but I think there's an easier solution.  We're still not quite sure yet, but I suspect my studio will initially look like this:

"Duratemp Side Utility" building from Weather King.  Interior unfinished.  Priced about $4,000, including delivery.
Those double doors on the front, when removed, leave an opening that measures just the right size to permit the installation of a sliding glass door without extensive adjustment.  The interior is unfinished, but the 2x4 studs, at 16-inches on center, permit easy insulation addition, while the roof 2x8's will handle R-30 insulation.

I don't do electrical work, so I'll hire an electrician to wire the place for plugs and lighting, as well as a window 110V A/C unit I plan to install on the side away from the house (and, an exhaust fan, of course, to get rid of my cigar smoke at times).  I can handle the dry wall and flooring without any problem.  In the future, we can decide if I want to upgrade the exterior, and maybe add a wooden deck around it or a pergola-type shade structure out front.

True, my Backyard Writing Studio probably won't end up looking as nice as those others, but the price is right, and it sure beats sitting out on my apartment balcony as the Arizona summer comes marching in!

See you in two weeks!
--Dixon

12 February 2016

A Second Wind from Television


In The Man in the High Castle, the Axis won WWII,
partitioning the U.S. between Nazi Germany and Imperial Japan.
A certain "banned" media is circulating, however.  This provides a mystery
around which the book is centered. (This pic is used in intro to TV series.)
On a recent trip to my local bookstore, I looked for a copy of Philip K. Dick's alternate history novel The Man in the High Castle, only to discover something that should have been obvious to me.

I couldn't find the book among his others, in the fiction section. Disappointed, I asked if they might be able to order a copy.  The answer surprised me. You see, they had the book in stock, but it wasn't located with the other P.K. Dicks.

It was on the bestsellers shelf!

When the bookstore employee handed me the book, I asked, "Isn't this a pretty old book to be on the bestsellers list?"

"Well, yes," she responded.  "But, then the TV series came out, and now everybody wants to read the book."

I nodded and eked out a chagrined smile.  You see, I like Philip K. Dick and I have for a long time. I've read a lot of his work, both novels and short stories.  While some of it may be a bit too metaphysical for my taste, I really do enjoy his science fiction elements -- particularly those that pose the question: Is this world we perceive around us really the world we inhabit?

Yet, here I was: a man who had schlepped down to my local bookstore to look for a book because I'd seen a television show that told me it existed -- just like the rest of the herd.

And, that herd was sizable.  This book, which won the 1963 Hugo Award for Best Novel, achieved the No. 4 spot among paperback fiction, on the December 13th, 2015 Los Angeles Times Best Sellers List.  And it stayed within the top ten for four weeks.  I'd say that's pretty good for a book more than 50 years old, which most readers probably hadn't heard of before the television show came out.



Which is what set me to thinking about the way TV shows can lend a second wind to author's sales, much in the same way movies do.

A friend of mine recently loaned me Wild Cards 1, a book of linked short stories by several different writers, edited by George R.R. Martin.

For those unaware: Martin is the author of the fantasy book series Game of Thrones, which HBO turned into a hit show.  Some readers may decry the fact that the series doesn't quite mirror the book series, but I don't think that's hurt Martin's bank account.

Though Wild Cards 1 has nothing to do with Game of Thrones, I think it has a lot to do with the manner in which the book came into my friend's (and then my own) hands -- even though Martin didn't write this book.  He edited it, and wrote one of the stories.

Originally released in 1987, however, the book is back on store shelves -- along with other installments in the series.  And, if you think the editors aren't trying to capitalize on Martin's HBO-associated fame, just take a look at the print size and fonts on the book cover in the pic to the right.

Not that I think this is a bad thing.

Which is actually my point.

I wanted to read The Man in the High Castle for several reasons:
  1. It's a Philip K. Dick novel, and I've learned that many consider it his best.  I wanted to read it, because I like much of his writing.
  2. The plotline intrigued me.
  3. In the TV series, the banned media is a collection of 16mm movies, which show the Allies winning WWII.  I had a feeling that this had been changed, because the medium had been changed: from print media (a book) to visual media (TV).  And, sure enough, in the book: the banned media is a book that describes how the Allies won the war.
  4. I get the idea that Philip K. Dick would have understood the idea and accompanying actions of paranoia.  And, paranoia is pretty close to what an underground organization has to practice, in order to stay alive.  I get a kick out of the lax security practiced by members of the Underground Unit in the television show, however, and suspected Dick would have handled it a bit better.  I wanted to find out. 
BUT:  If I hadn't seen that TV show, when would I have realized this book existed?  I'm not sure it was even in print, because I tend to haunt several specific parts of the fiction shelves when I visit the bookstore, and the PK Dick section is one of these.  I don't recall having seen the book in the past.  (On the other hand, it wasn't there this time either.)

I really enjoyed the book.  Yes, it was quite different from the television series, but in a good way I felt.  I'm not sure where the TV series is heading, but the book had a definite conclusion -- posing a question I particularly liked.  I've enjoyed mentally strolling among the juxtaposed possibilities suggested by that conclusion, ever since I finished the story.  If you've read The Man in the High Castle, I invite you to contact me (by email or comment) to discuss the ending's potential ramifications: for both/either the characters or for us "real" people.  If you haven't read it, you might think of doing so.

Meanwhile, here's to hoping some TV producer notices your book or short story and turns it into a hit.  Soon, avid fans might descend like locusts, buying up anything and everything you've ever produced.

It would be nice, wouldn't it?

See you in two weeks,
— Dixon

29 January 2016

Why I had to Be Careful on the Reservation for A While


Map of the Salt River Pima Maricopa Indian Community.
Scottsdale bounds the north (upper map) and west (map left) side,
while Mesa bounds the south (map lower) side.
These days I don't worry too much about driving across the local Indian Reservation outside Scottsdale, but there was a time when I had to keep a sharp eye out for police vehicles while driving to and from school.

And, the real cause of the problem was that I was trying to be a nice guy.

And, because I was ignorant.  I hadn't yet learned that people didn't necessarily read something I'd written, in the manner I had envisioned while writing it.

I made my way toward fiction through the journalism field. My primary goal was to make a living writing fiction, so my first goal was to earn a B.A. that might help convince editors I was a serious writer.

To accomplish this first goal, I decided to attend the Cronkite School at Arizona State.  At that time, at least, an ASU student had to earn the majority of his common core credits during his first two years -- all spent outside the Cronkite School.

Yes. You're seeing it correctly.
SCC is the Fighting Artichokes!
After completing enough credits with an acceptable GPA, a student had to apply for the Cronkite School then had to pass the Cronkite entrance exam before being permitted to apply for the Journalism or Communication Program.

I used the GI Bill to pay for school, but had two kids at home during this time, and another one on the way toward the tail end of my sophomore year. So, I spent those first two years at nearby Scottsdale Community College (SCC) to: save money, run my small pool layout business, and spend more time around the house. Our youngest son was born about the time I entered the Cronkite Program at ASU.

By the time I was admitted to the Cronkite School, I'd worked as a reporter on a small Scottsdale paper for two years, had also spent two school years on the Scottsdale Community College paper, and finally closed my small business to permit me to concentrate on completing my degree.  Two years after entering the Cronkite School, I graduated with a B.A. in Journalism and Mass Communication.

But, the thing that caused me to run afoul of police on the Salt River Pima Maricopa Indian Community (SRPMIC) occurred while I was working on a small human interest story for the SCC paper.

Scottsdale Community College isn't really in Scottsdale at all.  It's actually about a half-mile outside Scottsdale, on land leased from the SRPMIC.  And, the SRRPMIC police patrol the area outside campus, while providing arrest authority on campus when needed.  A person who stole money from the SCC snack bar cash register, while I was on the paper, for instance, was apprehended by campus police, then arrested by SRPMIC police, who booked the suspect into the Maricopa County Jail.  (Yes, that's right.  That's Sheriff Joe Arpaio's jail -- pink underwear, green bologna and all... though these days it serves a vegetarian-only diet with no bologna on the menu [assuming you don't count Sheriff Joe's antics as bologna].)

One day, in the school news room, the faculty adviser for the paper told me she had received permission to have a school reporter accompany an SRPMIC police officer on a ride-along during a night shift.  She thought I might be a good choice, due to my age and military experience.  I happily accepted the assignment.

When that night arrived, I showed up at the police station on the reservation and met the sergeant who would be driving us around in his SUV, while on night patrol.  He was a nice enough guy, if a bit too showy for my taste.  I wasn't worried about that; I'd dealt with showy guys in the army.

He took me out and drove his patrol route, showing me areas of interest -- such as the lawnmower repair business where he'd earned a decoration for his actions during a shootout.  We found a new car sitting empty in the middle of nowhere, which was registered to someone on the other side of The Valley.  After calling for a tow truck, he explained that young people on the reservation sometimes went to clubs in Scottsdale or Phoenix, then stole a car to drive home.  Sometimes they stripped the car after getting it home.  Other times, like this one, they simply abandoned it.  We hunted around for, and found, the keys by the time the time the tow truck arrived.

He took me through "Bunny Acres" a part of the reservation that's pretty empty except for a few houses crouching in darkness.  Elsewhere, he showed me the remains of a house that had been destroyed during a shootout between reservation gang members on one side, and the FBI supported by the SRPMIC police on the other.  He asked me not to write about that house, because standing wisdom held that gang activity on the reservation had been completely wiped-out that night, and the tribal government didn't want potential casino customers to worry about the possibility of gang violence.

Had I been a hard-nosed reporter working on an expose, I'd have countered by asking for his opinion concerning the clear gang problems two friends of mine had encountered while working as teachers on the reservation.  Those two guys, for instance, found it interesting that when they handed out M&M's to their high school students, the red M&M's disappeared from some desks, while the blue ones disappeared from others, depending on whether the kid was a member of the Crips or the Bloods.  Gang tensions influenced the daily lives of those kids in the classrooms.

As I told the sergeant driving me around, however: "No problem.  Both my editor and our faculty adviser told me to treat this as a human interest story.  I'm supposed to give SCC students a feel for what the cops paroling the streets around school are like -- what you guys go through on a daily basis. I'm not here to dig up any dirt, or get anybody into hot water.  Plus, I spent time in the military and I hold a Top Secret clearance.  So, if you find you just said something you shouldn't have, let me know and we'll talk about it.  My bosses probably won't want it in the story anyway."

We went to a drunk driver arrest, worked a small traffic accident, and drove around some more.  We drove past a house that had a big pack of dogs running around out front.  The sergeant slowed and swung the SUV over toward that side of the street, quietly calling out the window to them.  As the dogs began to stand and prick their ears, he turned to me and said, "These guys always let their dogs out; they never put them inside or put leashes on them.  The law says they can't be out here without leashes, and I could arrest their owner.  But, we try to help people remember to do the right thing, without arresting them if we can."

By then, the dogs were barking and jumping, frantically chasing the SUV as we drove down the road on the right side again.  As the front door opened, and the owner came out, yelling at the dogs, the sergeant called: "They need to be on leashes if they aren't penned up!  Get them inside!"  Then he turned to me as he rolled up his window, saying, "This way, it wakes him up, so he pays the price, but he doesn't have to get involved in the legal system."

A short while later, we got a call about a domestic violence dispute with shots fired.  That was the one and only time the sergeant turned on his flashing lights and siren.  The only time he drove at anything above the speed limit.  Just about the only bit of excitement all night!  (If you don't count a pack of barking dogs chasing your car.)

But, even the domestic violence dispute was over by the time we arrived.  The man with the shotgun had been arrested and everyone else was being assisted by advocates.

When I wrote the story, I aimed for the human interest piece I'd described to the sergeant.  I emphasized the idea that the department practiced what they called "Community Policing," using the sergeant's own parallel about how they tried to police the SRPMIC employing common-sense alternatives to arrest, the way Andy Taylor policed Mayberry on the Andy Griffith Show.  I illustrated this idea by outlining the way the sergeant had dealt with those loose dogs.

I was so proud of the result that I even dropped several copies of the student newspaper at the police station, so the guys could read it.

When I was on the way out, however, a lieutenant stopped me.  "You're the guy who wrote that story in the college paper, right?"

"Yes, sir.  Did you like it?"

His face clouded.  "We got a problem.  That sergeant who took you around is in hot water."

I was horrified.  "Why?"

(Okay, so this isn't a word-for-word recreation of our conversation.  But it is pretty close, I think.  I mean, this happened 16 years ago or so.)

We went into his office.  "Did you really have to compare us to Andy Taylor and Mayberry?  Why did you do that?"

"Well.  He did it.  He explained that was what you were doing.  And I thought it was a great idea!  So I explained it.  What's wrong?"

"It didn't occur to you that folks might read that, and think we were all a bunch of Barney Fife idiots -- shooting ourselves in the foot all the time!?"

I felt like an idiot, myself.  I shook my head.  "I'm sorry.  That never occurred to me.  I just thought I was comparing you to a guy who did a good job of keeping the peace, and gently keeping folks from stepping out of line.  That's why I wrote about the dogs."

His head snapped up.  "That really happened?  Just the way you described?"

I nodded.  He was pretty angry, but it was the truth.  "Yeah.  Just the way I said."

"And he said that stuff, about intentionally making all those dogs bark to wake up the owner?"

"Yeah.  Why?  What did he do wrong?"

"Damn!"  He scanned the story and put his finger on a spot.  "This part here -- where he went to the shooting with red lights and siren -- how fast were you going?"

I shrugged.  "I don't know.  It was dark out, and I couldn't read the speedometer from where I sat." I was pretty sure we'd been doing about sixty, but I knew that was the wrong answer.

"Did you feel in danger when that happened?  Did you think he was driving too fast for the dark conditions out there?"

I shook my head.  "Absolutely not.  What did he do wrong?  What's the problem with the dogs?  He did it so he wouldn't have to arrest that guy."

He laid down the paper and looked at me.  "Well, the problem is: That's a little thing called "Disturbing the Peace."  And it's illegal!  You had a tape recorder with you.  I saw it.  Did you record all this?"

"Yeah.  I did.  But, I didn't mean to get him in any trouble."

"Do you have those tapes with you?"

They were in my car, but I'd had enough basic journalism training to know how to handle that question.  "I always have to give them to my editor.  They belong to the paper."  (Please note: I did not say I had ALREADY given them to my editor, just that I HAD to, and that they belonged to the paper.)

"So you don't have them."

"No."  They weren't on my person.  They were in my car about fifty feet away, in the parking lot.  On the front seat!

"Okay.  I'm going to let you go.  But, you need to bring me those tapes, because we need to use them. And we may need to call you to testify in court.  If you don't bring those tapes back, we can issue a warrant.  Understood?"

I nodded.

Back at my faculty adviser's office, I told her what had happened, and what I'd said to the lieutenant.

"You actually told him the tapes are newspaper property?" she asked.

"That was the advice I got, when that local editor came to speak to one of my classes."

"Give me the tapes."  I handed them over.  "Okay," she said.  "Now they ARE newspaper property.  And he'll need a court order to get them from us."  Then she looked at me.  "But, you'd better be careful when you drive across the reservation to come to class.  They might try to arrest you.  Here's my card; if they arrest you, call me."

Maybe that police officer just wanted to scare me, or something.

But that faculty adviser wasn't joking.  She was worried.

That was over a decade ago, so I don't worry too much anymore.  Heck, I don't even know where I put her card.

But, for a while there . . .

See you in two weeks,

— Dixon

15 January 2016

The Murder of Reporter Don Bolles


For about 14 years, reporter Don Bolles had worked at the Arizona Republic newspaper as an investigative journalist. Those who knew him agree that he was cautious -- often placing a strip of Scotch tape between the hood of his car and the fender, to ensure no one had tampered with the engine compartment. Given that he wrote investigative stories in which he, at one point, even listed 200 mafia members's names, however, he was neither seen as paranoid, nor deemed overly cautious.

Evidently disappointed that few people seemed to care about the corruption he unearthed, he began petitioning his editors for a different assignment around 1975.  By 1976 he was covering the state legislature instead.

But, perhaps his investigative skills just couldn't be resisted.

On June 2, 1976, he typed a note that he left behind in his office. According to that note, he would be meeting an informant, then going to a luncheon meeting, with plans to return  around 1:30 that afternoon.  That evening, he and his wife were planning to see a movie as part of their wedding anniversary.

He never made it to his luncheon, however, nor did he ever return to his office or see that movie with his wife.

Police examining Bolles' car after the blast.
(Parking space is now part of covered parking)
That day, Bolles drove his 1976 Datsun 710 to the Hotel Clarendon (then also known as the Clarendon House, now called the Clarendon Hotel and Spa), located at 401 W. Clarendon Dr. in Phoenix.

After waiting in the lobby for several minutes, Bolles got a call at the front desk.  He reportedly spoke on the phone for only a minute or two, then left the lobby and returned to his car.  While backing his Datsun out of its parking space, he was gravely injured by a remotely detonated bomb hidden beneath the car under his seat area.  The bomb blew his car door open and left him hanging part-way out of the vehicle.  According to some reports, when found, he uttered, "They finally got me.  The Mafia.  Emprise.  Find John."

Though Bolles' left arm and both legs were amputated in the hospital, he died eleven days later.

At his funeral, local citizens turned out en-masse to participate in the procession, as a form of protest against the mafia, which was largely perceived to have perpetrated the killing.

Interior of his car.
Emprise, one of the names reportedly mentioned by Bolles after the blast, was a private company that operated several dog and horse race tracks, and was a major food vendor for sports arenas.  Emprise had been investigated for ties to organized crime in 1972, and six members were later convicted of concealing ownership of a Las Vegas casino.  No specific connection was found, however, between Bolles' death and the Emprise company.

Bolles had not only investigated mafia-related criminal actions around Arizona, he had also written investigative stories about land fraud that led the state legislature to open blind trusts to public scrutiny, a move that was not wholly welcomed by powerful high-rollers in the state.

The question was: Who actually killed him and why?

The then-newly formed organization Investigative Reporters and Editors (IRE), sent a group of volunteer investigative reporters from around the nation to dig into the case.  According to the IRE,  Bolles had gone to the Clarendon to meet John Adamson.  Adamson had called Bolles saying he had information that linked Barry Goldwater and at least one other prominent state GOP member to land fraud perpetrated by organized crime.  On June 2nd, on the desk phone at the Clarendon, Adamson told Bolles his informant couldn't make the meeting.

Thus, the "John" reportedly mentioned by Bolles may have been John Adamson.  Bolles may have been concerned for his informant's safety.

Unfortunately for Don Bolles, John Adamson was evidently not an informer, but was instead luring him into a trap.  Later trial testimony revealed that Adamson had purchased two sets of electronics, similar to those found in the bomb, while on vacation in San Diego.  Adamson, early on that fateful June 2nd, asked the parking garage attendant at the Arizona Republic which vehicle belonged to Bolles, and police later found only one set of electronics in his home.

In 1977 Adamson agreed to a plea bargain, accepting a sentence for 2nd Degree Murder for building and planting the bomb that killed Bolles, while accusing Max Dunlap, a Phoenix contractor associated with wealthy rancher and liquor wholesaler Kemper Marley, of ordering the hit.  (The idea here is that Dunlap targeted Bolles in retaliation for negative news stories he had written about Kemper Marley, which kept Kemper Marley from getting a seat on the Arizona Racing Commission.)

Adamson further accused James Robison, a plumber in Chandler, of triggering the explosive device that killed Bolles.

Adamson would eventually serve 20 years in prison.

Dunlap and Robison were both convicted of 1st Degree Murder in 1977, but their convictions were overturned a year later.

When Adamson refused to testify in the retrial of Dunlap and Robison, he was convicted of 1st Degree Murder and sentenced to death.  The Arizona Supreme Court later overturned this verdict.

In a lengthy procedure that evidently concluded in 1993, Robison was recharged and retried, but acquitted -- though he did plead guilty to soliciting an act of criminal violence against Adamson!  (Gee!  Maybe that's why Adamson refused to testify that second time!)

Dunlap was recharged, and retried, in 1990, when Adamson finally agreed to testify again.  Dunlap was found guilty of 1st Degree Murder.  He died in prison in 2009.

Adamson died in the witness protection program in 2002, after serving a 20-year sentence.

Hmmm.....

Let's see.  We have a reporter who dug up and printed secrets about organized crime and a company involved in dog and horse racing.  But, when it comes time for trial, we have one guy who is "associated" with someone possibly prevented from getting onto the Racing Commission by Bolles's stories.  Plus a plumber who admitted he threatened the witness who said he pulled the trigger.  And a guy who wound up in the witness protection program.

Nope!  No mafia connection with this crime, is there?

See you in two weeks!
— Dixon

18 December 2015

Why I Never Met Bob Crane


On Thursday, June 29th, 1978, not long after my fifteenth birthday, my parents told me I would be getting a late present.

The night before, they had seen Bob Crane (perhaps best known for portraying "Col. Hogan" on Hogan's Heros) in the play Beginner's Luck at the Windmill Dinner Theater about five or ten miles north of our home.  After the play, Mr. Crane came out to meet the audience, shaking hands with those who had stuck around.

My parents -- habitually about the last to leave anywhere -- chatted with him for a short time, during which they mentioned my recent birthday.  Crane told them to bring me by the theater after the play on Friday night (July 1st), so he could shake my hand and give me an autographed photo as a late birthday gift.

No, I don't recall him offering any free tickets.  But that's okay; I thought the idea was kind of neat. My dad insisted it was Crane's idea, telling me, "He actually seemed to be a nice guy, son. He says he's looking forward to meeting you, and he sounded as if he meant it."  Then he joked, "Of course, he could just be a good actor."

I enjoyed Hogan's Heros and looked forward to meeting him -- secretly hoping one of the women who played one of the bar maids on the show might somehow be there too.  (I was a fifteen-year-old boy, after all, and had no idea that he had married one of them.)


Such, however, was not to be.

That evening, the Phoenix Gazette carried a story: earlier that afternoon, Bob Crane had been found murdered in an apartment not far from where we lived.

He was murdered in the early morning hours, his skull crushed by a camera tripod as he lay sleeping in bed, and an electrical cord tied around his neck later -- all this, only hours after speaking with my parents.

His body was found by Victoria Berry, his costar in Beginner's Luck.  She went to find him around 2:00 pm.  When Crane didn't answer her knock on his door, she picked up his newspaper and entered his apartment.  The lights were off, with the drapes drawn, and she had just come in from the bright sun. Nonetheless, she says she closed the door after entering the apartment, then she looked around for him.

His body lay on the bed in apartment 132-A, at the Winfield Place Apartments.  Berry told police: "... At first, I thought it was a girl with long dark hair, because all the blood had turned real dark.  I thought, 'Oh, Bob's got a girl in there.  Now where's Bob?...'  I thought, 'Well, she's done something to herself.  Bob has gone to get help.'  At that time, I recognized blood ... "

Then she looked closer.

"The whole wall was covered from one end to the other with blood.  And I just sort of stood there and I was numb.  Bob was balled up into a fetal position, lying on his side.  He had a cord around his neck which was tied in a bow."

While Victoria Berry was giving her report to the police, inside the apartment, the telephone rang. Police asked her to answer it, but not to reveal that Crane had been murdered. The caller was a video production salesman named John Carpenter.

When Lt. Ron Dean of the Scottsdale Police Department took the phone, identifying himself, he told Carpenter there had been "an incident," but not that Crane was a dead. Carpenter called back, later, and spoke to Lt. Dean again.  The detective was surprised that Carpenter never asked what the "incident" was that police were investigating in Crane's apartment, or if he could speak with Crane.

In 1978 the Scottsdale Police Department did not have a Homicide Unit, something often overlooked in articles about this murder.  However, this fact was very shortly on the mind of everyone in Scottsdale, because the investigation didn't seem to be getting anywhere.  And, at least one piece of potential evidence -- an album of pornographic photographs that Berry had seen when she arrived -- had disappeared!

Surprising evidence also began to surface. Police found about 50 pornographic video tapes or films in the apartment, along with video cameras and film cameras.  A bathroom had been turned into a darkroom with an enlarger, and there were photos of a nude woman on negatives inside.

Reports soon circulated about Crane's fetish of filming himself having sex with multiple women. Police learned that he had obtained the equipment for this hobby from Carpenter, and that Crane had told family members that he planned to break off his friendship with Carpenter on the day of the murder.  The two men were last seen together at the coffee shop in the Safari resort around 2:30 that morning.


Several potential suspects also came to light: Crane's angry estranged wife, husbands angry about Crane bedding their wives, even a fellow actor who had threatened him in Texas.  But, police continued to focus on Carpenter.

Scottsdale's lack of a homicide unit may have made its mark, however, as Carpenter was not put on trial until 1994!  Carpenter was acquitted after a two-month trial, and died four years later, still maintaining his innocence.

The strange upshot?

Sleepy little Scottsdale, Arizona -- my home town -- finally established its own Homicide Department not long after Crane's murder.

As for myself: I never got to meet the guy, because he was murdered the day before I was supposed to.

See you in two weeks!
--Dixon



04 December 2015

The Dutchman Who Won't Die


Those confused to find my two posts about the Legend of the Lost Dutchman, and the Superstition Mountains, on the SleuthSayers blog, may be glad to learn the reason.

As many of you know: this year, I am posting a series of articles about Arizona Crime Scenes. Though it may seem odd to list a mountain range or wilderness area as a crime scene, the fact is: the Superstition Mountains, and the Superstition Wilderness Area have been the unfortunate host for many crimes, including murder. And, the legend of the Lost Dutchman's mine was a major catalyst for many of them.

Even though you can see a picture of that "Lost Dutchman" tomb stone on the right – there may have been no Lost Dutchman at all! At least, not in the Superstitions.

In fact, according to some research, there are as many as 51 versions of the Lost Dutchman legend, many of them having nothing to do with the Superstitions, and some taking place in states other than Arizona.

So, why is this legend so prominent, here in The Valley, that folks die over it?

Lost Dutchman Mine Ride at Legend City Amusement Park
Park was located at border of Tempe and Phoenix in the 1970's.
The Lost Dutchman Mine Ride was the "haunted house" attraction.

'What is so "haunted" about a mine?' you may ask.

Other than the part of the ride where an outhouse door flew open to a startled miner's recorded cry of, "Gee, Miss Mary, ain't there NOWHERE a man cain get a little privacy 'round here?" – which is pretty scary when you think about it – the answer is: A mine can seem pretty spooky if its location is mysteriously unknown and the reason for this is interconnected with murder, mayhem, Apache curses, the ghosts of dead Conquistadors, ghosts of dead Spanish miners, and/or dead Apaches, as well as Apache spirit guardians (evidently not quite the same as the ghosts of dead Apaches) – all of whom are pledged to slay any living soul who sets foot inside the mine shaft.

But, Where Did All These Ghosts Come From?

Long before anyone, from some land that might lead others to say he was 'Dutch,' ever came to Arizona's Great Salt River Valley and perhaps got lost, the Spanish Conquistadors encountered a group of the Apache tribe living not far from the Superstition Mountains, which they (the Apaches) considered sacred.

The Spanish, after evidently deciding there was gold in the mountains, directed the Apaches to help them find it. (Don't ask me how they decided there was gold in the mountains, if they hadn't already found it. It's a Conquistador thing: you wouldn't understand.) The Apaches refused, supposedly saying the mountain was "The Devil's Playground" (whatever that was supposed to mean – I mean, who translated it from Apache into Spanish, and from Spanish into English? I have no idea!), and that this mountain was the home of their "Thunder God," causing the Apaches to warn the Spanish that they would be cursed if they set foot on the land.

So, see: In the beginning, came "The Curse" element. As many a reader will happily realize, we can lay this one firmly at the feet of those nasty Conquistadors – mascot of my children's high school (the Coronado High "Dons"). This Curse Element, imho, lends a sense of magic to the story.

And magic is important, when it comes to fueling dreams.

The Peraltas (or Paraltas, if you wish)

Another part of the reason this legend rests in the Superstitions may be due to the Peralta family – members of which supposedly claimed to have mined both silver and gold in the Superstition Mountain area during the mid-1800's – though they didn't find it easy.

After all, the Apaches still considered the place sacred. And, they weren't exactly willing to look the other way or turn the other cheek when they felt their beliefs were being violated. (Can't say I blame 'em!)

Another shot from Legend City. This is how I always imagined the mine.
Except without wood floor, or a bar. Maybe not even a piano.
At one point, the Peraltas supposedly had to hide their mine and run for their lives, because the Apaches had tumbled to their presence and were not happy about it. This work of hiding the mine didn't help the Peralta miners very much, however. The Apaches caught up with their heavily laden wagon train (gold and silver not being terribly light-weight) and killed most of them, scattering (or, according to some: caching) the gold and silver they had collected on this trip.

Finally, around 1864, after a 16-year hiatus, on the north-west slope of the Superstitions, in an area now known as "Massacre Ground," the last Peralta to lead an expedition here was killed on his way back into the mine area, along with about 400 of his party, by rather angry Apaches, who evidently objected to outsiders again trampling over ground they considered sacred.

So, here we have: (A) the introduction of a hidden gold mine, (B) an expansion of the Curse, and (C) the addition of mass death.

Please note: The above description of the Peralta family's activities is the one shared by a large portion of the Lost Dutchman legends. And, the Peraltas evidently did mine gold from within what is now Arizona. (Though there is a train of belief that says they mined their gold in California – just so you know.)

I should note here, however, that the Peralta family may have told folks they were digging in the Superstition Mountains just to throw people off the scent of where their real mine(s) were located. There is a strong belief that the Peraltas actually mined their ore from an area near, or around, the later-established Mammoth Mine or Black King mine, located roughly 4 miles north-east of where Apache Junction now sits. (This location is not literally within "shooting distance" of the Superstitions, but the mountains certainly do dominate the landscape here.) These mines pulled a lot of gold out of the ground during the Nineteenth and early Twentieth Centuries, which might support this theory.

This same belief holds that the Peralta Massacre took place there – not in the relatively near-by Superstition Mountains – while the miners were packing their ore for shipment back to Mexico.

And the Peraltas certainly continue to be deeply involved in many versions of the legend. The photo
on the right shows stones, supposedly discovered in the Superstition Mountains, which provide a map to the Lost Dutchman Mine (though, so far, nobody has successfully found the mine by using said map). These rocks are commonly known as the Peralta Stones, or the Peralta Rocks, or the Peralta Stone Map. Last week, as some of you may recall, I wrote that the Lost Dutchman supposedly created the marks on these stones.

And, in fact, many versions of the tale claim he did. In some, he was a friend of the Peraltas, and thus spoke Spanish (which explains why there is Spanish writing carved into the stones). In others, he carved the stones while working for the Peraltas, which is why he later knew the mine's location. In other versions – he just carved the darn things!

Be advised, however: There is NOT ANY EVIDENCE that the Peraltas ever dug in the Superstitions. Nor is there a single iota of evidence that ANY massacre of Peralta miners ever took place. Anywhere.

But, something else also occurred.

In the 1860's (remember, this is around the time that the Peraltas may have tried to reclaim their mines), people began spreading the rumor that two prospectors had found three dead pack mules somewhere in the desert around the Superstition area. The two supposedly claimed to have liberated $37,000 worth of "Spanish Gold" from the dead mules' saddle packs, which had still been intact. Popular opinion held that these mules must have been pack animals of the Peralta miner group killed when fleeing the mine in the mid-1800's.

After that, prospectors began combing the area for more spoils. They also started exploring the Superstitions, hoping to find the Peralta's mines. Hence: We now add prospectors to the mix, and the sense of magical mystery that has already begun.
From the lobby of Westward Ho hotel.
The peak in background is Weaver's Needle.


Enter the "Dutchman"!

Just who this Dutchman was, depends on who you ask.

One story holds that his name was Jacob Waltz, that he knew the Peraltas and had been told where their mine was. That's his tombstone, in that picture up higher, incidentally.

In another version, this same Jacob Waltz learned of the Peralta mine location from his young wife, an Apache woman he met while working at the Vulture Mine in Wickenburg.

In other versions, he's not Waltz at all, but a mysterious someone else.

What everybody DOES agree on is this:

  1. There may have been a man, who was a prospector, who was somehow involved in all this.
  2. That guy may have come from some place in Europe that caused the local yokels to call him a "Dutchman."
  3. This guy, who might actually have lived, and whom everybody supposedly called a Dutchman, died.
HOW he died (assuming he ever lived) remains in contention.

The folks who say Waltz was the Lost Dutchman, claim he brought several loads of high-grade gold ore out of the Peralta mine in the Superstitions over a period of several years. Before he could reveal his mine location, however, he was (A) killed, or (B) died of natural causes, at home, in bed (B-1) without revealing his mine's location, or (B-2) after whispering the location to someone who died without sharing this knowledge, or (B-3) he died after whispering cryptic clues about this mine's location to the woman nursing him on his death bed, who later was unable to locate the mine, or (B-4) he wandered off in a fever and told somebody else, who later told it to somebody else
just before dying, but that other person didn't quite understand what the dying man had told him. (And, while we're at it, don't forget those Peralta stones he may have been involved in, too.)

Another version of the story, is that a green-horn from Europe, whom local yokels called a "Dutchman" because they had a hard time understanding his poor English and thus lumped him in with those who were rather Germanic, stumbled into an assay office in Phoenix several months after anyone had last seen him around town. This "Dutchman" turned in a load of ore for assay, and was overjoyed to discover it was incredibly "pure." This "prospector" then lives it up all over town, getting folks fired-up to discover where he found his gold. But, he refuses to say, departing in the dead of night, to avoid being followed back to his mine – never to be seen again.

The real Weaver's Needle, plays significant role in the legend.
According to which legend you prefer, he disappeared because he was killed by (A) someone in town who followed him out to the desert, tortured him for the mine's location, and then cut his throat before realizing the "Dutchman" had left out important clues, or (B) by Apaches who were getting really tired of all these white guys digging holes in their sacred mountain, or (C) the ghosts of dead Apache braves who had been killed in the mine so their spirits could protect it from being plundered by others, or (D) by the ghosts of Conquistadors who were entombed with the gold they had abused the Apaches to find and now must guard for the Apache horde in the afterlife, in order to atone for their bad behavior, or (E) the ghosts of Peralta miners who are there for reasons similar to those in choice D, or (F) by Apache 'Spirit Guardians' who protect the mine from interlopers, or (G) by the desert itself, since he was a greenhorn – he might have just died of thirst and evaporated into a desiccated husk-like mummy.

Pure Gold

The "incredibly pure gold" part of the story might be important to note here. This is why some people – many of whom claim the Dutchman was Waltz – say he had discovered, not a vein of gold ore in the ground, but rather the site where the massacred Peralta miner's gold had been hidden (either by the miners, or the Apaches, depending on who's telling the story). The theory here is that the gold was "too pure" to have been simply mined from the earth, but must have already been processed somehow – hence the introduction of the Peralta miners, who must surely have had smelting equipment or something on hand, so the story goes.

At this point, I'm sure the reader has already noticed the easy way in which that rumor of two prospectors discovering dead mules with gold-laden saddle packs sort of fits right in, or perhaps morphs and entwines itself within the "Dutchman's" legend. Which illustrates another factor that I believe keeps this legend so alive: The Dutchman does not stand alone.

Instead, "his" story is combined and en-wrapped by many others, wrapping itself about these stories in return, serving to create a rather thick "cable of legend" created by myriad strands of other legends all twisting together to form a plot-line capable of bearing great weight over a long period of time.

This also helps account for why there are so many versions of the Legend of the Lost Dutchman: Person A is introduced to the legend through one strand, which the teller follows throughout the tale's recounting, while person B is introduced via another legendary strand, which puts a different slant on the main legend, and person C is introduced through a third strand, etc.

In fact, some versions of the story insist on specifying that the Dutchman discovered a vast sum of "Spanish gold." Among these versions, some fail to identify where this "Spanish gold" came from, while others claim it was Peralta gold, and still others claim it was gold mined by Apaches used as slaves by Conquistador overseers.

Enter the Fourth Estate

The best explanation I think I've read, concerning the origins of the Lost Dutchman's Mine legend, can be found HERE at the Apache Junction Public Library's website.

Evidently, Julia Thomas, a woman who claimed to have been at Waltz's bedside as he lay dying (with many valuable gold nuggets in a box beneath his bed) supposedly searched the Superstitions after his death, following the directions he had given her. She was unable to find the mine shaft, but did evidently mine some meager profits by selling the story to Peirpont C. Bicknell, who wrote an article that appeared in the San Francisco Chronicle in 1895. And, once the newspapers got hold of the story, it was "Drop the soap and Katy bar the door!"

Whatever the truth behind the "Lost Dutchman" and his "mine" there can be no denying the fact that its influence on some folks' imagination is responsible for many deaths, violent or otherwise. And most of those deaths occurred within the Superstition Mountain Wilderness Area.

The legend was also responsible for bringing a lot of money into The Valley, whether spent by tourists or contemporary treasure hunters. Many tourists enjoy a picnic at Lost Dutchman State Park, while others climb from the trail heads there to explore the inner wilderness area behind the jagged peaks in the foreground.

The Mountains themselves do not stand mute, in my opinion. Walk the trails through them, and I'm sure you'll discover what I mean.

Just watch out for the tourist traps that the Dutchman's legend helps spring up around the area. If you want to take the kiddies on an extremely safe ride into a "mine," see a "shootout," or maybe get a good steak, you might check out Goldfield Ghost Town.

Just be aware: The real Goldfield burned down in the 1940's. When I was a kid, the area looked like the photo on the right. Now, it looks like the one below.





















If you want to see something that really is, basically, a ghost town, however, the Superstition Wilderness holds some of the nicest American Indian Ruins I've ever encountered. Not only are they TRULY old and authentic, but you actually have the opportunity, in some of these ruins, to reach out a hand and lay your fingertips on the very spot on a wall, floor, or roof, where ancient peoples may once have touched their fingers to it.

This is a very powerful feeling, and may ... in the final calculation ... account for the real reason that the Lost Dutchman's story has such a strong hold more than a century later. Touching that ancient place touches a person's heart in return. There can be no denying the deep-seated call of the ancient past – which may well be the same call sounded by that Lost Dutchman.

See you in two weeks!
–Dixon

20 November 2015

Mystery In The Superstitions


As may be plainly seen by looking at the photo below, the Superstition Mountains are quite inviting, and do not appear at all sinister. (He said with a wink.)


Why then, is this small range of jagged peaks, near Apache Junction, Arizona, so swathed in superstition and murder?

And, though lots of those murders are apocryphal, all too many were quite real!

Well ...

This is, after all, the spot on the map marked with a big X, if you're one of those folks looking for the Lost Dutchman's fabled gold mine.  (In fact, I took this photo while standing beside a picnic table at Arizona's Lost Dutchman State Park.)

And, that Dutchman figures pretty prominently in Valley lore around here.


Here is a look at just a few of the Valley businesses trading on the Lost Dutchman for the sake of name recognition.




I'm not sure I'd like to park my R.V. in this place.
I might return to find it missing, and not be able to locate it ever again!









There have been numerous books written on the subject, of course.

















Just as there are plenty of "Lost Dutchman's Mine" maps floating around.




Some with less detail than others.








This map (right) is based on some rocks supposedly found in the area.

Evidently, the idea here is that the
Lost Dutchman, adept at wielding pick and shovel, used them to etch his treasure map on a surface more durable than paper.





       





These are the rocks.









Now, I'm not saying there aren't any mines in the Superstitions.  In fact, there are a LOT of old mines
and defunct mine shafts in the Superstitions.  The place is, after all, a treasure trove of minerals.

HEY!  You can see something that might be the entrance to a mine, in this photo (right).  Of course, it might just be a cave.  But, is it the entrance to the Lost Dutchman's Mine?

I rather doubt it.

The problem is: The Lost Dutchman's Mine brings out tons of treasure hunters every year.


Some contemporary Lost Dutchman occurrences are funny.
But ... others aren't.
Most of the time, of course, they find nothing, and then go back home -- with a story of adventure, and maybe even a gold nugget they bought somewhere else.  (The Gold Field Ghost Town -- built while I was off in the army -- isn't far from the mountains.  And, they sell "gold" there, though the last time I saw it, what they were selling was iron pyrite, otherwise known as "fool's gold."  Perhaps that tells us what the owners think of their customers.)

Some contemporary additions to the tale are rather humorous, such as the one in this clip on the left.

Other would-be treasure hunters, however, wind up lost and out of water, in a desert terrain that does not suffer fools or the unprepared gladly.  Among these folks, the lucky ones get choppered out by the Sheriff's Posse.  The unlucky ones stick around, to add their ghosts, and stories of a good person gone missing, to the litany of the Miner's victims.


Around 2010, for instance, a Colorado man came out to hunt for the mine.  His remains were discovered three years later.  He had apparently become wedged in a vertical fissure while climbing one of the walls.  Thinking about his last days or hours on earth is not a pleasant past-time.

Occasionally, however, that old "Ghost Mine" causes REAL problems.

When I was in high school, folks in The Valley began to notice that a lot of people who had gone hiking or camping in the Superstitions were not coming back.  Search parties were sent out.  The Civil Air Patrol overflew the mountains for several days at a time.  But, no bodies were found.

Finally, one search patrol did find a body or two.  And, that body or two had been shot to death.

To make a long story short: A mother and her two grown sons thought they'd found the Lost Dutchman's Gold mine back up in these mountains.  And, perhaps they'd been back there all by themselves for a little too long.  Add in a strong dose of "gold fever" after they thought they'd found the mine -- which, unfortunately, sat not far from a rather popular trail -- and they found themselves having to fend off a formidable number of "claim jumpers."

The story might have been funny, if they hadn't killed so many hikers.

The fact is, however -- even though you can see a picture of that "Lost Dutchman's" tomb stone on the right -- there may have been no Lost Dutchman at all!  At least, not in the Superstitions.

In fact, according to some research, there are as many as 51 versions of the Lost Dutchman legend, many of them having nothing to do with the Superstitions, and some taking place in states other than Arizona.

So, why is this legend so prominent here in The Valley, that folks die over it?

Well, I'll write about that in my next installment.

Meanwhile, if you're coming out to The Valley, and you want to visit a nice picnic or camping area that has nice hiking trails, you might make the drive to the Lost Dutchman State Park.

Just watch out, if somebody starts shouting: "HEY!  HOLD IT, YOU CLAIM JUMPER!"

--Dixon