Baby Rattlesnakes are Hard to See

Last night out, by the dumpster, barely visible until it’s almost too late, too young and too small of nubs to really rattle and warn a predator away. Curled into the usual floppy disc position, a tiny baby rattlesnake.

A rattle snake is born with a tiny nub at the end of its tail. As it grows it sheds its skin. Every time it sheds, a new segment is formed on the rattle. The rattle doesn’t tell how old a snake is. That just shows how many times this snake has shed, plus the rattle can easily break off. Snakes vibrate their tails when nervous. Even my pet gopher snake will do it. But rattlesnakes do it to try to warn you to back away. They don’t chase you. They stay coiled and the rattling becomes serious until they feel threatened enough to rear up and strike a pose . At that point you are in a crap position and need to back away fast.

All rattlesnakes are deadly and need to be dealt with respect . Losing your fingers, hand or life ( let’s not even discuss how incredibly expensive anti venom from any hospital is!!!) is almost certain if you were to try to pick one up. It is a huge NO.

You can NOT let your guard down when you live in the desert and you know you live along with rattlesnakes. So small and at night I am assuming it is a Western Diamondback ( extremely common here) or a Mojave as was suggested to me online.

Temperature, weather , dictates the probability of seeing any snake. It was still in the 80s last night. October 14th. Our heat hasn’t trailed off enough for the snakes to brumate yet. They don’t hibernate like bears do. Look it up.

Be careful and use a flash light! But as you can see, this tiny danger noodle would be almost impossible to see in daylight due to the natural camouflage. #Rattlesnake #babyrattlesnake #desertlife #naturebased #stem #steameducation

…so we created an Art Department

At the beginning of every school year my favorite thing happens, my husband/high school math teacher brings home the questionnaires from his students. These are usually filled with ridiculous answers that completely crack me up. I know me and how I was as a high school student, I can just imagine what I would have said in a questionnaire from my math teacher.

This year, instead of a huge public school, he teaches at a smaller charter school for students  5th grade through 12th. Incredible difference in environments for sure. Total student population for his new school I’m guessing is around 30 instead of the1500- 2000 student populations like the average public schools out here.

I eagerly grab this year’s stack of questionnaires sitting on our table and start reading. The difference is immediate. These answers feel sincere, not hard or sarcastic. Not a cuss word in sight. The voices are coming through.

The question standing out to me the most: “If you could create a new class what would it be?”

For some it was exercise/sports, for some it was computer gaming, but for more than just a few it was art. The answers varied but it all came back to the arts. Drawing, painting, free form, calligraphy, woodshop, they wanted ART.

Their words rang through to my soul.

Art saved me growing up and in school. Having the fun combo of an over active creative mind living in an unstable home, a pencil and a pad of paper was my escape.

My art classes were why I had any motivation to go to school at all. That and socializing were the reason I stood at the bus stop and endured.

By senior year high school I risked life and limb by dropping an AP English class and ignoring the expensive books my middle-income family had purchased for the “over the summer mandatory reading list”. I still say it really wasn’t my fault. Upon arriving to the first day of school I saw no art class on my schedule. There was only one Advanced Art class offered that year and I sure as hell wasn’t going to AP English instead. Nope. Art meant that much to me that I was willing to face those consequences at home and did…oh yes… I did. Trust me my dad was not happy.

I keep reading through this year’s questionnaires. I know I can give you guys the art you want and more. If given the chance…

Ideas are now flooding my brain. How on earth can I explain what all I am capable of teaching or to even explain what I have in my mind? I have years of art back ground in the rattle box of a brain.

I literally raise my hand and wave it at my husband saying “Pick me! Pick me! I got this! I can do the Art!”

Now mind you, I am married to the half of my brain that seldom works. He is a Marine and a math teacher with his masters. I need to write down what I am thinking if I have any hope of making  any sense to him at all and not the noise the cartoon “Peanuts” adults make.

We can create an Art Department. I will volunteer. This cuts through tons of red tape. I write up the basics and offer it. He loves the idea. Let’s throw it by the boss. He loves the idea too.

The second week of school, Wednesday, early afternoon half asleep on the couch, I get a text “Can you be here in an hour to present your Art Department idea to the kids?”

Adrenaline kicks in and I race around gathering up my notepad and the props I had planned on using. Not only have I come up with the idea of a department but I also have a first project ready just to see who really wants this.

I planned on using the Bee poster I created for the museum. Its bright and colorful with my own close up photographs of  local bees surrounding information in the center. I will give the students the same Bee coloring sheet I give out during my Saturday museum animal talks and tell them they have a week to do whatever with whatever they want.

I’m surprised at how nervous I am. I drove trains for the PHX Zoo giving 20- minute unscripted tours. I talk all day on Saturdays at the Museum.  All I seem to do is talk. This is Art.  It’s exciting. There should be no problem at all.

But there I stand, shaking, voice quivering. I am a pro so I take a sip of water but it almost hurts my chest to swallow. I can’t slow my breathing. I’m sweating but that’s in part to it being over 100 degrees outside and me racing my things inside with little time to spare. I try sitting as I speak but it makes it worse. I openly tell the kids I am truly surprised at this but bear with me.

They do.

I make it through my presentation more than self- conscious, my teacher/husband has been watching the whole thing and I’m positive it was less than impressive. When I finish, one of the girls comes over to me and tells me not to worry about it, that all of them have issues and laughs.

I go home having no idea if they will do anything with these bee coloring sheets or if they even want my weirdo self being their Art Director.

I insist on going back to school the next day to see what room I will be using and to get a better feel and to relax. On Thursdays, more than half the students don’t attend so it’s a quiet, easier day for those who are there. The room I am given is big and bright and clean. Carpet feels new, bathroom is large and nice. The room has two working refrigerators and a microwave. There is a huge empty desk and plenty of long and round tables to use. I am told any art supplies in the building I am free to move on over.

It was Christmas.

Everywhere I turned were markers and pencils and chalk and scissors and glue stick and crayons in big pretty bins here and there hidden on shelves just waiting to be sorted through. I had landed in free art heaven! There was no need to purchase anything! Just gather it all up and go create!

The few students that were there saw my extreme joy and before you know it I had a table full of kids coloring sheets I had torn from one of my coloring books from home and a helper or two sorting through colored pencils and markers. I learn right away that some of my artists have special needs that may or may not have been identified or diagnosed. Some have and it’s apparent. I will have to take all of this in consideration when I am offering projects and deadlines. My brain goes into overdrive.

Week three I arrive early on Tuesday having no idea if any of the students returned the Bee picture like they were told.

9 of them did.

The envelopes are sitting on the table in a neat stack. I want to cry I am so happy. The art is above and beyond what I had expected.IMG_1310.PNG My plan can go on! I hang their art on the wall. I move tables blocking anyone from getting to close. I create a gallery for our opening.IMG_1309.PNG

I am given only a half hour once a week on Tuesdays for Art Department meetings. I am hell bent to fill it with as much diverse learning as I can offer.

It’s lunch time, in they come, unsure as to what I have done with their pictures, what I have planned in general. I haven’t shown them much except a huge dose of crazy from me at this point so I’m surprised any of them forgo free personal lunch time to hang out with me.

I have written “Respect” in huge letters on the massive white board with the definition underneath. I want them to understand I respect their art and what that means.

I take them to our very own gallery to discuss their art, then we head to round tables for our next projects and ideas.

I am so inspired by the kids and their efforts, I go home and write up a little article I think the local papers would use. I send pictures and the article for approval to the school and get blessing to move forward.

Week four. We have an even larger group for the lunch time meeting. We have multiple projects in the works. I give them a demonstration to inspire them for the Nutrition Art requested  for the school’s kitchen. They are given their next challenge for the week, a race car inspired contest, “The Fast and The Furious” and I head home exhausted.

Half-awake from my nap I see the mail sitting on the end of the couch and reach for the paper. It’s a long shot that I made the deadline, it’s hardly a week later, but it’s worth the look. It’s not my title but it’s in there.IMG_1357

There is no way you can convince me something that magical isn’t happening over there.

have you seen the lady with the donkey?

A friend of mine that usually works up in the main gift shop in the Museum came out to the barn Saturday afternoon and asks “Hey, have you seen the lady with the Donkey? Did she come through here?”  Now horses and mules are no strangers to our place, especially the barn, but this particular friend of mine has a great sense of humor and a poker face so this question came loaded. “No, no…?”

I knew it must be good when she told me “Go ahead, I will cover for you, they are in the Museum.” “IN the Museum?” I ask. “Yeah they are inside… it’s a little donkey”

There are people in this world who have such creativity that it lands on another level completely. One of those magic individuals was now alone inside our Museum with her donkey discussing the displays!

I stood there mesmerized, the imaginary spoon going into my mouth because I could not eat this up fast enough. Not one but two new characters had come to life before my eyes! I had to go meet them.IMG_4823

The attention to detail was amazing. Never breaking character I was welcomed into their world as if this was nothing new. I was introduced to Digger the donkey and Wanda. Honestly she has a “W W” something before her name( wild west wanda?) but I lost it because my mind was way too busy absorbing every nuance of the donkey’s clothing and movements. Then as my attention shifted to Wanda my brain went into overload simply giddy with childlike delight. I was sold. I could write down her name and the details later. Someone give this pair the information to come live here at the Museum permanently please! Ok give them the info to volunteer. Something. My boss already had.

A little while later they came out to the barn. It was so obvious that they would fit in as part of that energy that changes our place from ordinary to extraordinary.

With the Museum already having one of the prettiest back grounds the Superstition Mountain, the Stamp Mill and the men who run it, the amazing train and the team that takes care of it, barn dwellers like me, the Elvis chapel, all the people who maintain the grounds or help build the different structures, a blacksmith, the Superstition Mountain Museum still has plenty of room for more good natured, giving volunteers, especially one with a donkey!IMG_4810.JPG

I look forward to seeing them again. I promise next time I will write down her complete name!

Nice to have met you Wanda and Digger!

Feeling Rattled

It’s about 3 in the afternoon…it’s Saturday at the Museum and we have a wedding in the chapel soon.

I’m in the barn in the General Store ringing up a guest when I hear the screams. I fly from around the counter. A large group mostly of kids but some adults are standing in the entrance of the barn staring at the large rattlesnake making it’s way across the barn floor.IMG_0322.JPG

The train staff is gone. No volunteers roaming the grounds really because we close at 4. If John the Blacksmith is around the corner he obviously can’t hear or would be running to help me so I’m guessing he’s not there.

The snake is moving at a pace quicker than I like and heading towards the old wagons. This is a very old large wooden barn with every crack and hole you can picture. I can’t dial my boss Jeff fast enough.

Pulling out my phone basically gives the audience permission to pull out theirs for this amazing, rare and stupidly dangerous photo shoot.

By the time Jeff and Pete get to me the rattler has gone into a hole directly underneath the General Store. For those of you who have never been there, this store is TINY…size of an average childs room. But the hole goes UNDER not through so really…I’m not that freaked out…

We run around to see if we catch the snake coming out the other side. We wait, but no. Praying it went under the store to nap we all disperse and Jeff (my amazing but now understandably more crispy boss) tells me we are going to close up the store, we (me) have had enough excitement for one day. But a few guests still wanted to buy this or that so we stay.

As we are helping them…more screams. Guess who is not napping under the General Store but back roaming across the barn! Yes…our rattler friend. And we are now heading out around the corner to the Blacksmith. That is NOT the area you want a rattler cozying up.IMG_0329.JPG

Jeff calls 911. Pete has the “snake rope noose on a stick thing” (my words not his) but can’t get a good enough angle at the rattlers now bobbing and weaving head.

Though not rattling at us, it wasn’t pleased and wanted away from this annoyance. It curled back around on itself and wedged in between the concrete and wood.IMG_0340.JPG

With everyone cleared far away, Jeff and I waited and watched.

Well, that spot didn’t last long either and we were back on the move. Sensing it wasn’t getting harassed any longer, the rattler repositioned and headed back into the Blacksmiths Shack.IMG_0343.JPG

After too much time passes with no fire department Jeff calls 911 back…they have sent no one. I’m not about to ask him why at this point.

Our rattler of the day has made it under the Lost Dutchman shed and it’s time for the Museum to close.

No, we did not ever catch this particular rattlesnake. We only relocate anyway, we do not kill.  This is the desert surrounding the mighty Superstition Mountain. Welcome to rattlesnake territory.

so what did you do this weekend?

Have you ever been so tired from talking at work that your face starts to hurt? But you keep going because you still have another hour and a half left. Your head hurts. Your neck hurts. You feel like you have heard yourself say the same thing way too many times?

I volunteer at the Superstition Mtn. Museum. A big part of my role at the museum is helping our guests understand the history behind the Apacheland Movie Ranch memorabilia we have. Apacheland filmed movies, TV shows and commercials from 1960 until it burned down on Valentines Day 2004. The only structures unharmed were the barn and the chapel and they were moved to the museum grounds.img_4250

I work in the barn in the General Store on Saturdays and for the last year I have watched the western movie “Charro!” as I sell ice cream and trinkets. Elvis made “Charro!” at Apacheland in 1969. He plays a gritty cowboy. There is no singing in the movie. Elvis does sing the opening song but you don’t see him. It’s a fun movie. I watch it roughly 2.5 times a shift. I have the t-shirt for it. I am in a unique club of people who have it memorized.  So far, I am the only member I know of but I’m sure there are more of us out there.IMG_0701

This weekend we had a big event at the museum. Amazing artists came for three days to showcase their work.IMG_1402



The museum also has a lecture series on Thursdays while the weather is fabulous. You get to learn all kinds of cool stuff for free. Hundreds of people show up to these lectures.img_8527

I am told this past Thursday they talked about Dia de los Muertos/ Day of the Dead and asked the artists if they wanted to put up a display/altar for this weekend. They did. It is fabulous. It is in the Elvis chapel.

(Side note for any out there not familiar..Dia is celebrated Oct 31, Nov 1 and 2 and this is March 10,11 and 12.)

I said yes to volunteering an extra day, going in on Friday and Saturday. I was told I would be a “wrapper” (…of course I rapped…badly…at my crispy but adorable boss. Apparently, that is the standard response and his blank face at me made me enjoy my stupidity even more.)

I get over to the barn and start sweating profusely when I really realize what they are actually asking me to do. Oh, that hand painted one of a kind pottery people are paying lots of money for? Yeah Stace, wrap it up and bag it while they go pay and make sure you give them the right bags when they come back. Don’t drop, chip, bump…breathe…..!!!!!IMG_1424

The wrapping station is in the barn in an old movie prop Saloon area that is too small for me and the elderly volunteer couple I am assigned with. IMG_4264 (1) (actual space…yes we moved the props, no those are not the other volunteers)

The barn is filled with artists showing original works, some worth thousands.IMG_1399

I’m terrified.

My boss comes back about five minutes later…I am needed elsewhere.

Halleluiah thank you baby Jesus! I can’t get out of there fast enough.

“Where am I going?” I ask but honestly don’t care.

As I am being escorted over to the Elvis chapel I am given the edited, ridiculously shortened, a third of a readers digest version of why. The Dia display combined with the Elvis chapel is making some of our guests brains explode (not exactly my bosses wording but…)IMG_1439

I had no idea what this weeks lecture was about. Bad volunteer me I didn’t go. Spank me. All I knew was we had three days of artists coming and it gets busy.

I am also “half Italian and half some form of English Irish mutt mix” is what my dad used to say, who knows. But I’m not Mexican, so no, I can’t give you a museum level run down on Dia de los Muertos on less than a two minute notice with no prep. Sugar skulls are cool. Dia isn’t in March. It’s a celebration. That’s the extent of my Dia knowledge.

But I sure as hell can tell you about Elvis in Charro! and my boss knew it. Plus, he knows my sense of humor and how shy I am….

Throw Stace into the Dia de Elvis Chapel for two days and see what happens.IMG_1441

Instantly its go time.

About two hours in there’s a lull in traffic and I’m alone. A banana falls from the top of the altar sending fruit and candles tumbling onto the floor. My completely inappropriate response to this is to quietly whisper/yell “fuuuuucccckk!!!!”as I am diving to the floor for the fruit and candles.

I have no clue how to put it back and now of course people are coming in. I hastily put the fruit and candle over to the side, positive both my dead grandma and mother just knocked me upside the head from the grave for messing up an altar and cussing at it.

The “Elvis Chapel” is only in the background of the Elvis movie and the top gets blown up. They did not film inside of it for Charro! but I am told Elvis did go inside during breaks.

Combining Elvis with the fact that this chapel didn’t burn down when practically everything else at Apacheland did, well, you will never convince a die-hard Elvis fan that THAT chapel isn’t special. Add hundreds if not thousands of weddings performed to date in the chapel. It’s a special building.IMG_6237

The outside of the chapel photographs beautifully with the Superstition behind it. The chapel is famous in it’s own right but most of our guests have the facts all wrong. Two days of “ no, Elvis didn’t get married here….”, “no…this is not Apacheland this is the museum….” “…you’re right, today isn’t Dia de los Muertos….”

My face hurts.

Bee Cause

If you play along and are one of those who read my madness on a regular basis, you already know all of my photographs are taken on my iPad mini. Getting a shot of a bee flying means I am up close and personal. I am not using a high-powered zoom from a yard away.


This limitation has allowed me to learn how to relax and be in the moment. To take such intimate pictures I, at the very minimum, must be tolerated in the bees’ space or I will get hurt. Plain and simple. To be honest, I am more afraid of the hummingbirds. Thank goodness they don’t have stingers! I was dive bombed by a seriously angry hummingbird trying to get this shot.img_7692

img_7686The bees I watch have no time nor patience to be bothered by anything. Flowers are in bloom now. Period. They don’t seem to want to share flowers either. I have witnessed midair buzzes, heated discussions on the matter. Basically, its get your own flower.img_7923

And again, if you have been playing along you also know I claim to be nothing more than Desert. I am not the bee expert nor am I trying to be here. I cannot name these particular bees nor am I going to give lectures on them.

I love honey as much as Winnie the Pooh. It’s that simple. Bees are valuable, endangered and get a bad, reputation.

Did you know:

A honey bee dies after it stings.



My purpose has always been to take everyone to the desert with me. To share with anyone who wants to see, hear about or experience the amazing Arizona desert that bumps up against the Superstition Mountain.

This desert is not always brown and dry. We have seasons. When it rains, we bloom. Overnight flowers pop up. The temperatures have been in the upper 60’s to 70’s with mild winds. I giggled when I almost fell over trying to capture a bee flying into a lightly blowing flower.IMG_9764.JPG

I must move slowly. I have to relax and not send off crazy energy at this tiny flying creature. Can you imagine Godzilla hovering over your every move shoving a huge black square towards you? Yes, keep that image of me.

Respect is what I believe allows me to stand there unharmed. Time and again the bees have ignored my presence and worked as if nothing else mattered. Taking these types of photos does not happen in one or two shots…I’m there for a while.

I don’t swat at them or move them or the flowers. I am just there. It’s a form of meditation. I follow the flight. The focus. The persistence. The knowing if you just keep searching there is more out there to find, gather and store.


You’re going the Wrong Way!

“You’re going the wrong way!”

In 1987 this line had us in tears. Planes, Trains and Automobiles.

30 years later…

February 16, 2017 2:30 this morning troopers stopped a wrong way driver on the 60 near Mill avenue after 11 terrifying miles . We have had five incidents of wrong way drivers just in the last week. DPS received 1600 reports of wrong way drivers in 2016.

Out here in Arizona we have also had more than our share of people passing out behind the wheel. December 12, 2016 NFL “star” Michael Floyd was found passed out at a light. Extreme DUI with twice the legal limit, unconscious at a street light.

Professional golfer Steven Bowditch being the most recent “famous” person to have been found passed out behind the wheel at a light. He was out here for this year’s always amazingly fun Waste Management Open. Thanks for coming.IMG_0280.JPG

We live in a time where travel, even free travel, is available twenty-four hours a day. Uber, Lift, Light rail, Taxis, Buses are all out there so you do not have to drive anywhere after a night of too much. But for whatever reason, any help to get home safely continually gets ignored, most appallingly by those who have the means to never have this type of thing happen.

In a world that is beyond consumed with the idea of secret and not so secret forces terrorizing the innocent, my reality is I am much more likely to get hurt or killed by a fellow citizen pretending to drive.

Ask any motorcyclist in Arizona. Last year I personally saw three separate incidents with motorcyclist laying their bikes down.

Then there’s the shootings. Oh yes, we have road rage but in Arizona we also get to have a serial shooter taking aim while we drive to and from work for about a month solid in 2015. From August 27-September 10 we had 11 incidents on the freeways.

Do I even need to bring up cell phones?

Once you close that door and turn on that engine you are a loaded weapon.

We have watched in horror as trucks are now being used to plow through groups of innocent people.


How about we stop a freeway and cause accidents so we can film a car or truck doing donuts? No, not for a movie…to post online as entertainment.

The reality is, ALL of what I have written about, all the horror on the roads recently, has been done by both men and women. Pick a color. PEOPLE are doing this. People are not doing much of anything safe on the roads at all anymore.

It’s not ok. There is no argument. It’s called Wrong Way Driving!  WRONG!

It sucks… but now quoting “you’re going the wrong way!” just isn’t funny to me anymore.

Charlie and the Guys

Sure, it’s one thing to read about Apacheland being destroyed by a second fire on Valentines Day back in 2004 or hear a third hand story about a friend who was in some old Elvis western way back when. But it is truly something special when you get the chance to hear true stories told in the real settings they happened, especially when they are told by the folks who were there.

The museum I volunteer for, the Superstition Mountain Museum has a free lecture series now while the weather is fabulous. Being a relatively new volunteer I was not familiar with most of the featured speakers so I wanted to make sure to attend as many as I could. Free education!img_4250

The local paper and a local monthly magazine had been gracious enough to print my stories about the museums Stamp Mill and the Train. Not exactly sure of what Charlie Le Sueur’s lecture would be like, I headed over to the museum early so I could get a good spot and hopefully write about it.

As I round the corner, I see the parking lot is full and into the overflow! This is a Thursday at around 1:30. Lecture starts at 2.

Surprised by the few hundred people already there waiting with their fold out chairs, I find a spot on the ground up front.img_8527

For those of you who missed it (and there can’t be many of you, the place was packed!) Thursday January the 12th  2017 the Superstition Mountain Museum’s guest speaker Charlie Le Sueur walked us through the timeline of the movies, actors and stories from Apacheland Movie Ranch. Charlie comes with that wonderful quality that makes you feel like you’ve known him forever. His energy and humor had the crowd at “Does anyone remember Dick Powell?”IMG_8509.JPG

When the lecture turned to questions, I noticed a small group of men gathered off to the side. Men who were more than familiar with these stories. Men who have known Charlie forever. Men whose presence immediately added to the richness and authenticity of the surroundings. Men who Charlie was now generously turning his spotlight towards and including in the discussion.IMG_8542.JPG

As his lecture closed, Charlie was surrounded by fans but I knew if I hung around long enough I could say hello. You must be patient at events like this. Fans come armed with books to sign and stories to tell. So, I waited…

The line for Charlie seemed never ending, but off to my left was a man telling stories that sounded like he knew a thing or two. Only sort of half listening at this point, I hear him say “Elvis” and I leap over and jump smack into the conversation. See, the general store I volunteer in plays Elvis’ western Charro! over and over. (picture of my own t-shirt)img_0181

It was filmed in Apacheland and is the only one Elvis doesn’t sing in. I watch it 2.5 times every Saturday during my shift. Any real info on the King I can give to his army of fans I will take. So far, they have been happy to hear that our very own John the Blacksmith’s mom was an extra in the film. As a kid, he hung around the set and even tried to sit in Elvis chair!

Turns out I’m yakking it up with Hank Sheffer. I don’t know this yet.img_8536

Off to my side I see Charlie is finally free and probably exhausted but still being gracious none the less. I leave my conversation with Hank and his fans as abruptly as I entered and leap over to Charlie afraid I have lost my chance.

I hadn’t.img_8544

The blue sky, the fresh air, the stunning Superstition Mountain and hundreds of people enjoying the afternoon together listening to stories about our history. This was much more than a simple free lecture. This was another gift from our museum.img_8543

Lawrence O’Hara, Hank Sheffer, Charlie Le Sueur, Bob Carney, John Goerger and Larry Motes

For more information on the 2017 Lecture Series go to

…as if nothing ever happened


There is a patch of desert not too far from my home that, I am told, was the original site of Apacheland Movie Ranch. If I am to believe, this is where from 1960-2004, some 44 years, 29 movies, 17 television series and hundreds of commercials were filmed.

But there is nothing out there. Sure, there are trails used by hikers and dirt bikes but nothing else. Nothing that would tell you the self- proclaimed “Western Movie Capital of the World” was here for 40 years.img_4456

The first time I walked down Kings Ranch towards Apacheland it was lightly raining.

August in Arizona is hot. Random showers during monsoon season bring us relief. I had no problem wandering around in the drizzle to see what I could find. I had walked over alone. I didn’t bring the dogs because I wanted to take pictures. At that time, I thought for sure if there had been a full movie studio and buildings there would be something worth taking pictures of.

There really is nothing out there except for a rock fence that looks like it could have been some sort of corral.img_4418

When I approached this area, I felt this energy then immediately tears welled in my eyes. The only way I could describe it was it felt like someone saying “Finally! What took you so long?”

My reaction surprised me. Why tears? I didn’t feel scared or that I was surrounded by ghosts. I just felt like I belonged there and was wanted.IMG_4391.JPG

It bugged me enough to head over to the museum to see what I could learn.

I learned they needed volunteers and the requirements were easy to meet. I could show up for 3 to 4 hours every Saturday, help sell things in the General Store and watch Elvis pretend he’s a cowboy in Charro! Paid with tons of free reading and education.

Besides, where else was I going to learn about this lost era…for free?img_4272

Born in Las Vegas, raised in the high desert of California and even lived as a kid for a couple of years in BAKER “the gateway to Death Valley”, I can easily say I have desert running through my veins. I had never heard of Apacheland until moving to Gold Canyon Arizona.

A few months and a few hundred viewings of Charro! later, I am meeting people who worked at Apacheland and that can tell actual stories.

The blacksmith John that volunteers at the museum has fun stories. His mom was an extra on the set of Charro! when he was a kid so he was also hanging around the set. Tells me he tried to sit in Elvis’ chair!

The local newspaper The Independent has printed two full page articles about the Stamp Mill and the Train that I have written and photographed for the museum. The monthly Superstition Living printed both articles as well. With my Blog, Facebook, Linkedin and Instagram, I can share what I continue learning about this amazing area. I truly hope to be a part of preserving this little chapter in history.img_4250

The Original Cowboy’s Sweetheart

“I Want to be a Cowboy’s Sweetheart” was one of 25 songs and other sounds chosen to be added to the US National Recording Registry in May 2012. Recordings are selected for the inclusion based on being “historically, culturally or aesthetically significant.”

Released in 1935, the song made Patsy Montana the first female country recording artist to sell more than a million copies. No big deal?

In 1935 the United States was still suffering the depression with 20% unemployment. April 14th Black Sunday, the worst dust storm in US history. War, or at the very least, “unrest” in Europe looms. A loaf of bread cost 8 cents . Parker Bros. releases Monopoly. IMG_0187.JPGMickey Mouse is seen in color for the first time. The American dream, a new home in 1935 will set you back around $4000.

Selling a million copies of a song for a female recording artist in 1935? That’s kind of a big deal.

In 1964 Patsy released an album on the Sims label in Arizona, notable for having Waylon Jennings as lead guitar player before he made his national debut…for Waylon fans, that’s a big deal.

Patsy, along with the other stars of Apacheland Movie Ranch were immortalized in concrete. Patsy, being petite, her boots sank into the concrete and needed help lifted back out of her footprints!img_0172

When Apacheland was destroyed by a fire on Valentines Day 2004, the Cowboy’s Sweetheart’s foot prints were lost along with many other treasured memories.

December 2015, Lawrence O’Hara and some friends spent about 3 hours hiking the trails back behind what once was Apacheland. Lawrence, off the trail and near a dry wash sees a concrete slab. It was face down and appeared to have been moved. It was Patsy’s.

Being far too heavy to get back to the car and the dates not being familiar with what Lawrence knew about Apacheland, he left the slab there… for a few weeks! while he asked around about what to do. Well, Lawrence asked the right guys.IMG_8535.JPG Hank Sheffer and Charlie Le Sueur.

Lawrence went back, this time with a cart to move the heavy slab.IMG_0166.JPG

Patsy’s footprints are now on display at the Superstition Mountain Museum in the Elvis Memorial Chapel.IMG_0171.JPG

First female country artist to sell a million copies. It’s kind of a big a deal.

Calling Cowboy Elvis


33 movies to his credit, over a BILLION records sold, Elvis to this day still has fans combing the globe to see, touch or come anywhere near anything associated with The King of Rock and Roll. I see them. I have met them.I volunteer at the Superstition Mountain Museum, home to the Elvis Memorial Chapel and the Audie Murphy Barn, sole survivors of the 2004 fire that destroyed Apacheland Movie Ranch.

For some, Elvis is glittering, throwing sweaty scarves off a stage in Las Vegas.Image result for Elvis Charro! For others, Elvis wears leather or sings in jail. But out here in Gold Canyon, Arizona, Elvis was a cowboy.

Back in 1969, Elvis filmed his only non-singing role in the western Charro! at Apacheland. He plays the ruggedly handsome Jess Wade. Elvis does sing the opening song over the credits but never breaks out into song during Charro!

At a time when Elvis and those around him were making tons of money from the music in his films, Elvis’s manager wasn’t too excited about putting him in a non-singing role. The film was not a huge box office success giving Elvis’s management every reason to never do it again.

But plenty of fans disagree. Had Elvis been given the chance to grow as an actor who knows where it could have led. I’m not saying Charro! is award winning, but it is a fun western with a young Victor French as the bad guy, an eerily sexy Solomon Sturges as his crazy brother and Ina Balin as the luckiest female in the West who gets to kiss Elvis while she is still dripping wet from her bath! Elvis, bay guy trying to go good, smolders as a cowboy. Scruffy, dirty and in need of a shave, that’s MY favorite Elvis.Related image

The chapel in the movie Charro! gets blown up. The actual chapel was not destroyed for that scene, they simply built parts they could blow up. Movie magic. Elvis never sets foot in the chapel nor anyone else in the movie, it just blows up in the background, proving anything even remotely associated to Elvis still, in 2017 draws a crowd.Image result for Elvis Charro!

When Apacheland burned down on Valentine’s Day 2004, the chapel and barn survived. The Elvis Memorial Chapel and Audie Murphy Barn now live over at the Superstition Mountain Museum.img_6237

Through a very generous donation, the chapel has an Elvis statue. Thousands of people have come from around the globe to see where Elvis  played cowboy and to take a selfie with the King, but what we don’t have at the museum is a statue of a COWBOY Elvis.

Now I’m in no way saying replace what we have. Thousands of visitors have group shots, weddings, selfies with the current reigning King of our chapel. It stays. We need a Cowboy Elvis for those whose trek to Apacheland from across the world included a selfie with Jess Wade in the desert where he stayed.Related image

I am positive the simple reason we don’t have one is that all of you out there were not aware we needed one. With the amazing amount of artistic talent and generosity in the world there must be someone who can create, find, make, donate a cowboy Elvis? Free of charge. This is a museum after all.

So, I’m calling Cowboy Elvis! We need you at the Museum!

The Power of the Train

On Saturday November 19 2016 The Superstition Mountain Lost Dutchman Museum held it’s SMM Model Railroad Dedication. More than an hour before the announced 9 am start time the crowds began to arrive. Excited kids dragging parents, parents dragging kids, locals and out of towners, they came eager to see the train.img_7737

You cannot beat the fantastic scenery. As you walk past John the Blacksmith hammering away on a horseshoe and head through the Apacheland Barn you see this amazing, huge, outdoor train set with the incredible Stamp Mill towering behind it, the majestic Superstition sitting in command of it all. Add in the history these buildings hold and it’s almost overwhelming.

The train is a gift to all of us from some of the nicest people roaming the planet. Just imagine for a minute, take your own money and years of your life buying, creating, setting up and maintaining a huge train set then, give it away to the museum, reset it up with hundreds of your hours of volunteered hard work, outside, in the desert, just for everyone else to enjoy for free?IMG_7741.JPG

Yes, that’s what they did.

The train set is huge and filled with fun detail that stays true to size and era minus a little fun here and there. The engine itself truly mesmerizes as it travels past you. I wanted to run after it like I was five-year-old boy and I am a forty-seven-year-old woman. At one point, I was so caught up in watching it I lost all sense and wanted to take the controller from the conductor’s hand so I could run the train!IMG_7707.JPG

Thankfully they know this is a common response and have made sure the controls won’t end up in untrained hands. But guess what? They will take volunteers and train them. I couldn’t say yes fast enough.IMG_7701.JPG

It rained last night and I woke up worried. The train needs an outdoor cover to protect it. The little towns and people and sets can’t possibly withstand too many seasons of our extreme weather. A great Thank You for this incredibly generous gift would be for all of us to now find a way to cover, shield and protect our train from getting destroyed by the brutal Arizona weather so it can continue delighting everyone for years to come.

November Monsoon?

Just spent the last two days getting hammered by wind and rain. We had a very monsoon like storm hit us. I say “monsoon like” because it is November. Monsoon season supposedly ends in September.img_7364

Our heat had started to drop back down into the low 90’s and a few 80’s. So that would be one difference, monsoons are usually during our extreme heat. Storms seemingly pop up out of nowhere and beat the heck out of us from June through September when we reach record setting heat almost every year. Think 110 degrees for days and days. I believe it is one of the reasons people start going crazy out here. Too many days in an oven. We can discuss that another time.img_7376

Nov.3 2016 the valley also saw a haboob roll its way on in along with some serious rain. A haboob is a massive wall of dust blowing across the open and mostly flat desert. When a storm comes up from the south it pushes miles and miles of extremely dry sand into the air and blows on towards PHX until it swallows us up, surrounding us in brown. The valley saw it but we did not because we are kind of tucked into the hills and mountains.img_7386

The radar and most of the weather focus for our news is PHX and the millions who live in the cities surrounding it “The Valley of the Sun”. I would say Gold Canyon is on the far right of the screen where they show weather or traffic. They don’t seem to be as concerned with us and Apache Junction.  We have flooded out here and in AJ before the news even mentions a “possible chance of showers”.

I send my videos in to the T.V station regularly with subjects like “It’s flooding in Gold Canyon!” I don’t expect them to use my videos. I am trying to let them know immediately that in the two minutes of rain they failed to warn us of, we now have dangerous flash flooding. PDR (positive desert reporting)

Flash flooding is just that. It happens in a flash. All that rain hitting concrete like baked earth rolls FAST into the washes and gulley’s. It’s not a day of rain, not even hours of it that causes devastation. It can be as little as a couple of minutes of heavy downpour that turn roads into dangerous riversimg_7536

If you are from a place that it rains a lot, this makes no sense to you. I get it. Go dump a bucket of water down your driveway. That’s what our ground does when it gets hit with a lot of water fast. It doesn’t absorb the water; it almost repels it. Still, all of that water needs to flow somewhere.IMG_7515.JPGimg_7523

We see people all the time out here get stuck in their cars. AZ has a stupid motorist law that if you try to drive through one of these washes and need to be rescued you are in trouble…that is if they were able to  save you. IMG_7553.JPG

We also had extreme wind gusts and thunder and lightning the past two days. Very Monsoon like. But again it is Novemeber and the experts will just say it was just a storm.IMG_7429.JPGNov.4 2016

Today is Nov.7 2016. Most of the water has dried. We have a few spots of muddy and the driveway will need to be raked back into place.


Bird Watching

Have you ever had one of those moments where you question advice you have given?

It’s been about two weeks now that my husband and I hiked the Peralta Trail so we could see Weaver’s Needle. A few months back I introduced some of you to the Peralta Trail and its history but needed to wait for the deserts high temps to break before I could go hiking and get pictures for you. The story is very cool. Go back and read it if you haven’t. I creatively titled it The Peralta Trail.IMG_7074.JPG

Anyways, the weather lately has been fabulous with highs somewhere in the low 90’s. For us desert folk, that Sunday morning felt “chilly” so we waited and left for our hike “late” at 8 am. Peralta is a good four-hour hike, grand total up and back, unless you are running and I’m not going to recommend that ever.IMG_7142.PNG

Peralta is a real hiking trail for sure. It’s far from flat. You are hiking up into the Superstition Mt. over big rocks and boulders to get the spectacular view of Weavers Needle. This spot has so many claims of gold, mystery and death surrounding it not to mention the Apache Indians, their belief this is the home of their Thunder God, and all 200 of Peralta’s men being massacred trying to leave this general area with gold, the Peralta Trail will forever draw visitors from around the world to come and see the view for themselves.

We call our seasonal visitors “Snow Birds”. They come from where ever it is cold and gloomy and enjoy the fabulous weather we have this time of year.IMG_7112.JPG

About twenty minutes into our hike back down from the top of the Mt. we could hear a group coming up. Men, women, probably a few teens too, not really sure, but a good sized group. I didn’t count. What we did over hear as we approached were disgruntled women who had been told this was an easy two-hour hike. Obviously whatever other plans they had for the day were now ruined thanks to whoever had sent them on this sightseeing excursion.

They all are basically lost at this patch of the trail until they see us and that solves their navigation issue. Excited men and a few frustrated women ask us how much further to the top. We answer honestly “about twenty minutes”. With this news most of the group seems ready to run the rest of the way to the top but a few are debating turning around.

(Now mind you at this point they have driven about 6 miles on a lovely bumpy dirt road to reach the start of this trail, hiked about 2 maybe 2 and a half HOURS up into a cactus covered Mt. to see a view, then will have to turn around and get back down for another 2 plus hours! What hateful friend or relative did this to them I don’t know)

Now this is the part of the story I have replayed over and over again in my mind. Should I have…?

I turn to the women and smile and say “You’ve made it this far…you don’t want to miss the view…”

and we hike past.

I guess the size of the group made me feel less concerned about safety or if they really could make it. No one appeared hurt in any way. Also, I figure if you can complain that loud about not wanting to do this anymore then you probably DO have the strength to hike another twenty minutes to the top.

But I should know better. Encouraging tired hikers can be a bad idea. A wonderfully “warm” day to a desert kid like me is not the same to a relative from the East Coast. Strong accents told us at least some of this group was not from around these parts. It is painfully dry in the desert and honestly very few transplants can come out here and hike for 4 hours without feeling seriously dehydrated.

And as I always say, there are no life guard towers out here! No one is going to come rescue you if you flop over. Know your limits.IMG_7328.PNG

The flip side, had I sounded worried or concerned about them making the last twenty minutes they would have assuredly turned around when really the only challenge they were facing was mental. Plus, that just makes for even worse complaining if you didn’t even reach your goal and turned around in defeat because wandering around the mall or watching T.V. seemed like a much better idea for the day. (Admit it ladies, that’s a guaranteed bitch and moan session ALL the way back down the Mt. and no one needs that. Besides, your butt will thank you for this hike later.)

We don’t hear them after a few more minutes and can see up the side of the Mt. they have decided to go the distance. I’m happy for them. I truly am. I almost feel proud. I knew they could do it. Going back down will feel much easier.

I’m reminded it’s that time of year again, our birds are back. We need to watch them. Keep them safe.

(I am also grateful to not know any of the complaining ladies personally so later when they are beyond sore I will have no part in the blame.)