Tag Archives: True West Magazine

A Brief Description of Our Arizona Adventures

20 Feb

We just returned from a trip into the Arizona Territory, which was lucky in one regard. While we enjoyed sunny days in the 80s, our hometown was buried under an ice storm of Biblical proportions. At least, it was the biggest thing witnessed in these parts.

Instead of making a series of posts out of this excursion, I have decided to write about the best thing that we did each day.

Friday – We escaped the freezing blast, but that was not the best part. That came when had dinner on the patio at Scottsdale’s Old Town Tortilla Factory. Enchiladas covered in green chilies. You cannot get better than that.

Saturday – Highlight of the day? Heck, this could be the highlight of the trip. As we drove through Cave Creek, Arizona, I looked to my right and saw a big sign that read True West Magazine Headquarters. This is one of my favorites, and I could not believe that we just happened upon it. Obviously, I had to get a picture.image-22

Sunday – We looked at a lot of art. It is everywhere in the Scottsdale area. On this day, art was purchased. Joe Deru makes bowls, pots and all kinds of things out of wood. This is not just any woodcarving. This is some elaborate stuff. His operation is called Windfall Woods, and everyone should check it out.DSC00378

Monday – This was road trip day, and we made our way to the Red Rock country around Sedona. I delved into some history that needed to be dealt with, but the best thing happened on the way back. We stopped at the Rock Springs Cafe for some of their famous pie.FullSizeRender

My wife got chocolate cream, and I got pecan with a little vanilla ice cream.

Tuesday – Food has been mentioned twice. In other words, we ate quite a bit. That is why the best event of this day was important. We hiked the trail at Squaw Peak. It must be written that peak is the operative word in that sentence. This thing went straight up. Once we got to the top, we had a great accomplishment and a great view.IMG_0637

It was on the way down when we realized that one couple did it twice to our once. Of course, once was enough.

Wednesday – Food has returned. For our last dinner in Scottsdale, we chose Barrio Queen, and it turned out to be the best place of all. My burrito was excellent, and my wife’s choice was just as great. However, neither compared to the fresh guacamole to start things off.IMG_0654

Thursday – It is always good to go somewhere, but it is also always good to return home. We boarded the plane at 70 degrees and landed at 9 degrees. However, that was alright. We had a great time and made it home safely.

Listeria – Inspiration Point

24 May

In the last post, I wrote about the list by True West of historic sites “that will make you weep.” That article contains a couple of secondary lists. One of those is “10 Western History Shrines That Will Inspire You.” Following are the ones that I have visited.

1. The Arch, St. Louis, Missouri – It is impressive to see. Driving into St. Louis, anyone can see that it dominates the skyline. However, I never saw it as inspiring. That could be because I have never been in it. I have been at its base and in the underground museum about westward expansion. However, my dislike of heights has kept me from going to the top. By the way, its real name is the Jefferson National Expansion Memorial.

2. The Alamo, San Antonio, Texas – In the last post, I wrote about my disappointment with the Alamo. Any place where people gave their lives is a place of inspiration. However, I cannot get over my initial feelings about the site.

3. Custer National Cemetery, Little Big Horn National Historic Battlefield – Before you get to the welcome center or the battlefield, you pass the cemetery. Like other military cemeteries, this one makes you think about all of those who gave their lives for their country. Our nation has not always gone into a fight for a just reason, but that does not lessen the sacrifices of those who served.Montana 2012 and Other Stuff 123

4. Yellowstone National Park, Wyoming, Montana and Idaho – The last time I was in the park was with my dad, my brother and my nephews. We did not go into the heart of the park but walked around the Mammoth Hot Springs and the Yellowstone River. The natural wonders are amazing, and the power of the earth is inspiring. Everyone should see Old Faithful at least once.Montana 2012 and Other Stuff 275

5. The Palace of the Governor’s, Santa Fe, New Mexico – I could have been there this week but had other things to do. It is the oldest government building in the United States. Today, it is a museum, but it has witness great events in history. It has been under Spanish rule and American rule. Heck, it has also been under Confederate rule. Governor Lew Wallace finished his novel, Ben Hur: A Tale of the Christ, within its walls.SONY DSC

6. The Golden Gate Bridge, San Francisco, California – My wife and I drove across the bridge on our honeymoon. It is a cool feeling to drive across one of the most famous bridges in the world. However, I did not expect all of the people walking and cycling across it. Just thinking about the power of the currents underneath is enough to inspire.image-25

8. Mount Rushmore National Memorial, Keystone, South Dakota – This is truly an amazing site. Looking up at George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, Theodore Roosevelt and Abraham Lincoln is an inspiring view. However, I cannot help but think that the Black Hills were taken from the Native Americans to get at its gold.

9. Crazy Horse Memorial, Custer, South Dakota – This one is also in the Black Hills and is the Native American answer to Mount Rushmore. Crazy Horse was a famous warrior, but I wonder what he would think about a mountain being carved into his likeness. There are no known photographs of Crazy Horse, so we have no idea if this looks like him. On top of that, they have been carving the mountain for decades, and it is nowhere near finished. When I see it, I cannot help but think that the Native Americans are getting shafted again.

There is another list called “10 Western Sites That Will Make You Misty.” Next time, I think I will skip that one and move on to another subject. I do not find it very interesting or misty.

Listeria – Heartbreaking Historic Sites

22 May

The May 2014 issue of True West contains a great article about historic sites in the American West. It is titled “16 Historical Destinations That Will Make You Weep”, but that title is misleading. Yes, there is a list of sites that will bring a tear to your eye and a break in your heart. However, there are two other lists that, to me, are just as emotional.

In this outbreak of Listeria, I will describe the sites that I have visited in the weeping category.

16 Historical Destinations That Will Make You Weep

1. Great Plains of North Dakota: The Near-Extinction of the American Bison – The destruction of these beasts is one of the great tragedies of United States history. I tend to focus on the plight of humans rather than animals, but, in this instance, they are intertwined. The massive loss of bisons helped bring the loss of every aspect of life for the Native Americans of the Plains. North Dakota is not the only place this is felt. It can be felt throughout the middle of the continent.Montana 2012 and Other Stuff 302

2. Acoma Pueblo: Acoma Pueblo Battle and Massacre, Acoma, New Mexico – If not for required meetings I could have been at Acoma this week. The article focuses on the conflict between the Pueblo and the Spanish, a conflict that remains in the hearts and minds of the people. However, the sadness continues. Every year, we take students to Acoma and always stop to see Norma Jean, a lady who sells pottery along the side of the street. Last year, we learned that her husband had cancer. When Trader Dave called to check on her, he learned that her husband had died and his family had kicked her out of the house. She owns a house on the mesa and moved there. However, on the mesa there is no electricity or running water.SONY DSC

5. The Alamo, San Antonio, Texas: The War of Texas Independence – In Texas, this site takes on mythic and almost religious importance. I have not visited the site in years, but I remember that it was disappointing. It sits among downtown buildings and has been whittled away through the years. I figured if something was this important, then it would have been taken care of better.

7. Battle of Little Big Horn, Montana – I have written about this site many times and will not repeat myself. However, it is my favorite historic site and a place where the emotions of both sides of the conflict can be felt.Montana 2012 and Other Stuff 126

11. Canyon de Chelly, Arizona – This is a sad and beautiful place to visit, but the surroundings affected me more. Driving through the Navajo Nation to get to the canyon takes you through complete poverty. If anyone wants to see the effect that United States expansion had on Native Americans, then they need to drive through this land. To get through the canyon, you must be guided by a Navajo whose family owns land within its walls. The tour is informative but talking to the guide about reservation life is the real education.

West 2010 214

The next couple of posts will describe places I have visited on the other two lists.

Listeria – Cattle Towns, Mining Camps and Other Assorted Outposts

14 Feb

True West magazine came out with their list of the “Top 10 True Western Towns of the Year”, and I had to see what they came up with. As it turns out, other lists were included – “True West Towns to Know” and “True West Towns to Watch”. A quick counting brought the total number of towns mentioned to 30.

I decided to weed that list down to those that I have visited. I have no idea what criteria the people at True West used to compile the list, but here is a little information about the places that I know about.

1. Dodge City, Kansas is, in my opinion, the most famous of all the cattle towns. It was the epicenter of a huge industry and the home of real life lawman Wyatt Earp and fictional lawman Matt Dillon. Dodge City is still a player in the cattle industry, but I do not see it as a tourist mecca. Obviously, any lover of the Old West must go there, but they will be disappointed with the fake western town that sits on the main drag. However, the trolley tour is cool.

Inside a fake saloon on a fake streetfront.

Inside a fake saloon on a fake streetfront.

2. Durango, Colorado is a cool western town that has held on to its past. Historic buildings, such as the Strater Hotel, line the streets. The famous train from Durango to Silverton starts its journey at one end of town. There are restaurants, bars and a bookstore with all of the great western historians.

A couple of cars on the Durango and Silverton Line

A couple of cars on the Durango and Silverton Line

8. Lincoln, New Mexico is a state monument that looks almost like it did when Billy the Kid was roaming around. There are all kinds of buildings and museums, but the best is the old building from which he made his famous jailbreak. Billy the Kid is the most famous of those who participated in the Lincoln County War, but I find myself more interested in John Chisum and some of the others.

9. Tombstone, Arizona which its economic peak during the 1880s and had its growth stunted when the minerals ran out. That circumstance makes it still have that feel of a frontier town. Of course, that could also be because they ripped up the concrete sidewalks and put down wooden ones. The OK Corral is cool. The Birdcage Theater is cool. However, the coolest thing is talking to Ben Traywick, the town historian.

If this building could talk, then it would have some real stories to tell.

If this building could talk, then it would have some real stories to tell.

10. Lewiston, Idaho is a place that I have never been. However, I must mention it because the Cumberland University baseball team has won two national championships in Lewiston. It is a western town, but it is also a baseball mecca.

There is half of the Top 10, but some interesting towns are on the other lists, as well.

Prescott, Arizona is listed as one of the “True West Towns to Know” and, on the surface, looks like any other regular old town. However, a walk around its square gives you an idea of what it used to be like. The square is huge and is bustling with activity, as people venture into the historic buildings.

This statue stands in front of the county courthouse.

This statue stands in front of the county courthouse.

“True West Towns to Watch” lists several places that I have visited.

Juneau, Alaska is the state capital and can only be entered by plane or boat. It is a small place that has a frontier and isolated quality. One of my great memories of Alaska is having a drink with my brother in one of Juneau’s saloons.

Cody, Wyoming is another good western town. The Buffalo Bill Center of the West is one of my favorite places to visit. A few years ago they had a traveling exhibit in Nashville, and I was able to take my students.

Checotah, Oklahoma sits on Interstate 40, and, frankly, I have never been in the downtown area. We have only stopped a few times for gas. Most people probably know it as the hometown of Carrie Underwood.

Custer, South Dakota is one of the less famous mining camps in the Black Hills and is overshadowed by Deadwood and Sturgis. However, it is a good place to stop and look around. Also, it is named in honor of George Armstrong Custer, the man who led the gold-finding expedition into the Black Hills.

Bisbee, Arizona sits several miles down the road from Tombstone and is a place that I like better. Its economic boom lasted into the 20th Century, which means it has a more modern look than other mining camps. It also has a great mining museum operated by the Smithsonian Institute.

Those are the places listed by True West that I have visited. It would be interesting to read if any of you have been to these places. What are your thoughts and stories? What other towns have you visited that you think may be or should be on the lists?