Wednesday, May 31, 2017

Meet the Old West at Wickenburg, Arizona

A "prospector" roams Wickenburg's main street.

Wiclenburg, Arizona, is a pretty town, with old buildings that tell the story of its historic past. It’s located on the northern edge of the Sonoran Desert, along the Hassayampa River. 

It was founded in 1863 by Henry Wickenburg, a German immigrant who was prospecting for gold, though fur trappers roamed the area as early as the 1830s. Before that, it was home to the Yavapai Indian tribe, who didn’t much tale to the intruders. Bloody battles between the Indians and white man ensued, and the tribe was not subdued until late in 1872.

Wickenburg is peaceful today. Life appears slow placed, unlike its neighbor to the southeast, Phoenix, with its five million residents. 
Wickenburg is located on Highway 93. It’s well worth a detour, if only to see the statuary on the city streets. All pay homage to the city’s past. 

But there are plenty of other things to do here. If you’re around on Saturday morning, take a tour of the Vulture Mine, which gave up $30 million in gold. You can visit the
“jail tree” which served as the town jail for almost 30 years; prisoners weren’t locked up, but instead were chained to the tree. And if you make an appointment in advance, you can also tour Henry Wickenburg’s home. 

The chamber of commerce can offer more ideas on things to see and do in this pleasant small town.

Saturday, May 20, 2017

Judge Roy Bean: the law west of the Pecos

Judge Roy Bean's saloon and "courthouse"

If Roy Bean were a judge today, he’d probably be kicked off the bench faster than you could say “the law west of the Pecos.”

He held court in his saloon, the Jersey Lilly, or outside the porch. He would interrupt court sessions to serve customers drinks.  His decisions were often quirky, such as fining an offender $30 and a round of drinks for the house, with the admonition to pay for the drinks first.


Judge Roy Bean

He had one book of Texas statutes in his law library, but rarely consulted it. Instead he made up law as he went along. He nicknamed himself “the law west of the Pecos,” and became a legend in his own time.

After his death, he was nicknamed “the hanging judge,” though he only sentenced two men to hang.  Perhaps the moniker is due more to his almost having been hanged

Lilly Langtry

himself. Prior to landing in west Texas, Bean wasn’t the most law abiding citizen.  Once friends of a man he killed strung him up and then left. The horse didn’t bolt and the bride of the man Bean killed  cut him down.

But Roy Bean also had a softer side. For years he corresponded with the British actress and femme fatale, Lilly Langtry. He named his saloon, Jersey Lilly, after her, He also claimed to have named the town where he lived, Langtry, after her, though other accounts suggest it was named for a railroad employee with the same last name.  He was always inviting her to visit “her” town, but she never made it until a few months after he died.

Bean was born in 1826 in Kentucky and died in 1903 in Texas.

The saloon where he held court can be visited in Langtry. It’s located behind a Texas tourism office and shares space with a garden devoted to Southwest desert plants.  A small museum about Bean shares space with tourism information. The site is open daily; from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Admission is free.

The bar where Roy Bean dispensed booze and justice

Photos by Cheryl Probst and Jon Teal

Sunday, May 7, 2017

Magnificent sculptures showcase Artesia,New Mexico, history

Artesia's Vaquero
Artesia is a town in New Mexico that might better be spelled ARTesia because of its impressive collection of street art. 

 Just driving round the downtown area you’ll see a series of bronze sculptures that depict the history of the city. Murals and other art enhance Artesia’s likeability. 

But it is the bronze sculptures that are the most impressive. They include oil rig workers, a school teacher, a cattle drive boss, rustlers and, my favorite, the Vaquero.  

Vaqueros or Spanish cowboys loomed large in Artesia’s heritage. This magnificent sculpture is the second of three statues in the Cattle Drive series that depicts cattle ranching in the 1880s in the Pecos Valley. The others are the Trail Boss and the Rustler. The Vaquero is located at Second and Main.

Part of the Vaquero sculpture

 The Vaquero was sculpted by Michael Hamby and unveiled in 2008.

Just a short distance away at Second and Texas, the Cattle Rustler plies his trade in a roundabout.It is the final sculpture in the Cattle Drive series.

The Rustler