ghost rider
Cutting through the motionless heat, a breeze. The temperature drops five degrees, breath by breath, to a hundred. Cactus spines whistle, slicing the silence. I wait now, trying to decide. Not yet the how or even the where, but the why.  
   Gold. It was enough of a reason for grandfather. Enough for him and his kind, chasing that promised gleam of the metal deep into Apache land. Enough for thousands of young men to "go west" into this desert to stake claims on the imagined life that might be theirs. Enough even to trade the only life they had for one which might or might not be.
   Years later now, I ride through the heat of traffic out past the city lights, grandfather's map etched on my soul. As the smog thins the gleaming chrome bumpers no longer chase each other, racing from stoplight to stoplight. Cars and trucks and busses give way now to jeeps and the occasional Winneabago like a lost buffalo in search of its herd. I've come to take up the quest...but why? Is it because I too half believe the dream? Or because of the mystery and the map--a clue to another metal...?  
     Silver. Grandmother had never mentioned anything of it. Although she must have read the letter, she never told father before she died what was there, or mentioned the vanished town referenced by those cryptic words I found in an attic trunk. Grandmother, in fact, had long forgotten grandad. Perhaps it was the life he led, leaving her for months on end in Tucson, alone. The document, wrapped in wax paper, was only partly legible, and soiled by a Century of mildew and neglect. But the date survived: 1889. And also part of a paragraph which told of a lost claim--a potential motherlode of high grade ore grandad was staking just before the Indians took him. 
   I'm telling myself it's only to end this mystery that I chronicle my thoughts and actions in this diary. And the question which haunts me now is: With only clues to the terrain, which ghost town might be the one whose name is only a smudge of ink on this withered and oily paper? There's only one way to find out, to make sure...and although there might be nothing left of what was, I must ride to see.  
   This, my best transport across the wastes ... a BMW GS Enduro. Euduro...endure. Will I? Time will tell. And I have plenty of time. The towns I ride to see have waited a Century already. Will there be anything left of them? And what about inhabitants? Perhaps only rattlesnakes, scorpions, tarantulas, Gila monsters. If my map cannot locate the remains of the towns, I may be forced to ask directions of a passing coyote.  
   Now that'll be a howl.  
   Like a silent sentinel, a solitary saguaro cactus is witness to my departure. Perhaps the same saguaro as witnessed granddad descend toward his fate, his hat slanted against the summer sun, a trusty water bag slung over his burrow. 'They live 200 years, some of them,' I remember the curator at the Arizona Historical Society say.
Among these survivors, I ride, looking for clues to the past among what's all but vanished...

Sept. 17, 1 P.M.
First stop, Tombstone. Still the most famous mining town in the West. 1881. Back then there were as many as 15,000 people frequenting the taverns, the schools, the churches. An iron foundry. Two banks. A bottling works. And a paper: the Epitaph. A city that survived two fires only to get bigger. And all because a Calvary man named Ed Schieffelin, while exploring the San Pedro valley, discovered high grade silver ore and staked the Lucky Cuss and Toughnut deposits after being warned he would only uncover his tombstone in the Apaches' domain. The history is rich here. I can feel it, despite the tourists milling about the old Birdcage Theater and the Crystal Palace saloon with their camcorders.
   October 26, 1881... Marshal Virgil Earp, Wyatt, and Morgan, and Doc Holliday attempt to disarm Billy and Ike Clanton and the McLowery brothers. A gunfight, at the OK Corral, leaves Tom and Frank McLowery dead--and Billy Clanton soon dead of wounds.
   March 1884... A robbery in Bisbee which left four dead spurs a posse to ride out and capture the outlaws and jail them in Tombstone. But one of the posse members, John Heath, tries to lead the posse away from the obvious trail, and is jailed also. When Heath is sentenced to life imprisonment, the townspeople riot and break into the jail. They lynch Heath, hanging him from a telegraph pole. The other outlaws are hanged soon after, with one enterprising citizen building a scaffold in an attempt to sell seats for the public viewing.  
   1886... Fire destroys a pumping works, and all the mines are flooded, ending the prosperity and turning nearby processing towns to ghost towns. But in the Boot Hill Cemetery still remains a tombstone with the poem:
Here lies Lester Moore,
2 slugs of a 44.
No Les, No More. 

   From my photocopy of what's left of granddad's letter I read:
and on the promontory there's this big rock, like an anvil, and below that three smaller boulders. Under the center of the smaller three there's the ledge where I found some rich ore. Dug a hole there, an' guess what? There's more down there. Lotsa silver, I smell it! Maybe a vein. Maybe a mountain of it, all under this here hill! Soon as I stake it, I'm filing my claim in town, and then I'll come for you in Tucson quicker than a rattler can strike. So don't you worry none, now. We be rich soon, sugar pie. You'll see! 

   I look out across a hilly desert pockmarked by more recent mine tailings. No hill with a rock like that in sight. But it could be out there somewhere, near the towns that supported the mines. The towns are gone now, but maybe...
   It's time to move on. Vanished towns out here which were never rebuilt have mostly succumbed to time and the elements. But I must be sure. I must mark off all possibilities.

3 PM
Nine miles southwest of Tombstone now, at the site of Charleston, a city which for most of the 1880s served the Tombstone mines by milling their ore. Once there were livery stables here, and restaurants, hotels, a church and school. Once, over four hundred residents. Could one of them have been grandfather? Through my binoculars I scan the barren hills nearby, hoping to spot three distinctive boulders.
   There was a rumor of Apache raids once, but what killed the remains was probably WWII, when soldiers from Fort Huachuca used the place as a battleground for war games.
    I'd liked to have seen that church where that bandit Curley Bill Brocius and his drunken gang broke up a service and then demanded a sermon from the preacher...he got the biggest collection ever when they passed the hat among the ruffians.
   I lower my binoculars in disappointment. I'd liked to have seen the saloon where a man named Durkee threw a party for the miners when his profits from freighting ore exceeded his wildest dreams. Seems Durkee ordered all kinds of liquor, an orchestra, and female entertainment. But when everyone got drunk, a fight broke out. Like in the movies... Plate glass shattered, tables and chairs overturned, bloodied noses. It turned into a riot. Luckily, all guns had been collected prior to the party, or it would have been worse. Still, Durkee vowed never to throw another party.
   I pick up a shard of adobe brick. All that's left besides the foundation remains of the old mill up on the hill. There's a cemetery here somewhere too, supposedly. Should I have looked for grandfather's grave? Studying the slowly flowing San Pedro river, I realize it was time to move on. The grave wasn't at Boot Hill, and it won't be here, either. 

Again, no. Fairbank's hills are low, barren. But at least it's no ghost town. It's the site of the San Pedro Reparian Conservancy...and I'm in need of a cold one.
   I stop into the office, and talk to a visiting rancher named George. As I follow George's lead and we sip our RCs, he tells me about the Stiles/Alvord gang attempting to rob the Wells Fargo box from the Southern Pacific Railroad here in 1900.  
   "Oh yeah, they tried, all right," George says. "Stiles, the Owen brothers, and Three-Fingered Jack Dunlap. But they didn't expect a lawman to be waitin' inside the express car! So when Jeff Milton refused to open up, a gunfight broke out, leavin' both Dunlap and Milton injured. And when more shots were a-fired Milton opens the far door of the car to throw out the payroll box key, but then some townsfolk come to the rescue. Oh yeah! The Stiles gang carts off ole' Three Fingered Jack and makes their getaway empty handed. Later abandon him to a posse nine mile from here. And Milton? He's taken to a hospital in San Francisco and told his arm needs ta be amputated. Ol' Jeff, he says whoever does it dies."
   "And so they don't amputate. And he recovers. ...End of that story." Undaunted, George shares others, and then tells me to take a hike.

Roadless, I hike north along the muddy San Pedro for five miles until I come to the adobe ruins of a building, the foundations of a mill, and a tiny cemetery.  
   I lift my hand against the setting sun, doubtfully.
   Here? Must be. And I remembered what George said:
   "Contention City. Place reduced ore for the Tombstone mines, had over a hundred folks...served by two stage lines. John McDermott's saloon was here. The Western Hotel. An' a diary, a blacksmith's shop, a meat market, and a Chinese laundry."
   "Really. But the city lived and died in one decade."
   "And which decade was that?" I'd asked.
   "The 1880's."  
   I scan the low hills now, looking out across the San Pedro to the distant Whetstone mountains. Right time, but wrong place. That was my contention anyway.
In the morning I'll leave these Century-old ghosts behind to bake yet another Century.

Sept. 18
I'm riding back out into the surrounding territory east of Tombstone, now, down a long dirt road. 
   Idling on a hill, I consult my map, looking out across a shallow valley. This town used to be called Turquoise when the Indians mined the mineral...and even after the white man moved in and found silver, copper, and lead in the area. George Hearst, a millionaire from San Francisco, visited the mines that were here in 1882.
   Then a man named John Gleason came from Ireland and discovered the Leonard, sometimes called the Copper Belle, and they renamed the town after him. Biggest find in the area, and overlooked by anyone in Turquoise. Still some people here. Turquoise is gone, but Gleason hangs on-- barely. World War One and the demand for copper then may have helped keep it incorporated until 1940. It would have still be called Turquoise if my grandfather was here, though. A rugged mining camp with your typical rough types and saloons. Still, there's no sight of any anvil-shaped rocks, and it doesn't feel right, either.

11 A.M.
Nineteen miles east, crossing off the still-inhabited town of Gleeson, I arrive at a site which was, and isn't. I recheck my map and yes, this is it...a booming copper town of 2000 souls now reduced to the foundations of one building and the overgrown hulk of a jail.  
   Dubiously, I scan the wastes and the hills.
   "Courtland," I announce aloud as if grandfather were somehow listening. "Once there was a telegraph service here. An ice cream parlor. A way station for the Southern Pacific railroad. And four mining companies--the Copper Queen, Calumet & Arizona, Leadville, the Great Western. Even a horse race and a baseball game on the Fourth of July. Families came here from as far away as Georgia."
   As if on cue a pair of jackrabbits darted out of a thicket, leaping high over a barrel cactus, their zigzags haphazard but purposeful.  
   I check the date in my book, shake my head. Established March 13, 1909. But it's okay. As I restart the engine, I smile into the distance. I just wanted to see.

High Noon
Interesting discovery at lunchtime, talking to some locals. In 1894 Jimmy Pearce got off his horse near his ranch in Sulphur Springs Valley south of present day Willcox. He picked up a rock, tapped it with a hammer, and discovered gold. Quickly staking out his claims, he named his find the Commonwealth--five claims for five members of his family. The Pearces worked the claims until an outsider from New Mexico offered to buy Jimmy out for a quarter million dollars if he could take that much out of the mine in 90 days. It took only 60. The mine was sold. But Mrs. Pearce finagled rights to operate the only boarding house in the area. Later the town grew to 1500. Then in the 30's the mine closed, and people drifted away. There's a museum left, and a country store and school.  Beautiful area. No anvil-shaped rock, though.

Late Afternoon
Endlessly riding, my trusty iron horse heads fourteen miles southeast of Willcox into Dos Cabasas, once home to the Casey brothers mines. In the 1880s there were three stamp mills here to process ore the old way--by pulverizing. A brewery, school, hotel, brickyard, barber shop, grocery store, and over three hundred souls.  
   As I twisted the throttle, my enduro climbs up to the ridge above what's left of the town now--only adobe ruins.  
   Nope, not these rocks either. I've got an image in my mind now of what I'm looking for. I just hope it's the right image.
   Impatiently, I circle, semi-knobby tires kicking up dust. And I think about the Casey brothers, two prospectors who staked their claims here and then turned down $40,000 from a Tombstone lawyer because they'd made a home here.
   Home...a mere dugout in the side of a slanting hill of dirt and rock.  
   Home...with a smelter to melt and separate the ore adding heat to heat, and all of it attended by mules, with sweat, dust, and stench as ever-present companions.  
   Where was grandfather's final home? Was it worth it to him...will it be for me? Or is all gold fool's gold?

Sept 19
As I move into the Chiricahua mountains I see a rocky topography. Giant monoliths of stone towering a hundred feet or more, some house-sized boulders perched precariously on ledges. Rocks and boulders strewn everywhere--fractured, upright, or fallen--the result of ancient upheavals. I'm reminded of a Clint Eastwood movie--The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly. Clint's character knew it was the grave with no name which held the treasure, but his partner only knew which cemetery. Amid so many rocks, now, I know neither. 
   Galeyville this time.
   I roar over the crest of a hill, the hot wind drying the moisture of my eyes, making me blink against the glare off all that granite. there anything left? The book says no--only a sign. Nothing left of a dozen saloons, restaurants, lumberyards, mercantile stores. No trace of the dairy, the jeweler, the shoemaker, the Wells Fargo office, the assayer, the newspaper. Nothing to tell the story of the rustlers who came here to divide their stolen Mexican cattle--Johnny Ringo, and even Curly Bill with his crisscrossed 44s and wide-brimmed sombrero. No legacy of John H. Galey, that oilman and financier from Pennsylvania who was attracted by the high price of silver here, bought a claim, and founded the boom camp of Galeyville in 1881. A broken dream...Galey left in debt, and the wooden buildings of the town were later carted away to the nearby town of Paradise, which was established in 1901.
   I'm too far east now for any two day ride, even by stagecoach, so I've decided to head back west.

Sept 20
After much more riding comes another night filled with stars, thoughts of time, infinity, and the possibility of someone finding my bleached bones out here. I arise at dawn to cook breakfast over a glowing fire inside a tight ring of stones. Canned corned beef hash, instant coffee... Gathering up my bed roll, I try to forget nightmares of a tarantula crawling across my face...of scorpions and rattlers crawling into my tent. I listen to the Silence and realize how far civilization seems from this place now. Is it even there? ...From horizon to horizon nothing but desert and deserted hills...
   I touch the engine of my BMW, wanting to feel its brief and unnatural coolness. I check my gas tank, then crank up, throttling open the carbs like lungs, feeling the machines breathe, alive for the quest. I touch the engine again. Already the coolness is gone, the result of multiple explosions of hydrocarbons deep within the metallic pulsing heart of the machine. Scrubbing camp, I ride out...
   First stop, Sunnyside.  
   Fifteen miles southwest of Fort Huachuca I arrive at Arizona's most unusual mining camp. It was here that Sam Donnelly preached to the Donnellites, as they were called. Once the site of the Copper Glance mine, a community formed around listening to Brother Donnelly read the Bible. And after working the ore, instead of getting drunk and gambling, the people here would sing hymns and pray. Laying up treasures in heaven while they mined them down below? 
   "Imagine that," I remember telling George. "And you say there weren't any gunfights or robberies, or any saloons to bust up?"
   "Nope. Was a communal kitchen, an outreach ministry to help other miners, and music lessons insteada cussin'. Rumor had it before Donnelly rediscovered the mine here in 1887 and got saved, he was big at the bars in Frisco. But after that sure enough--he was a changed man! Donated cash to help students, and always gave to people in need who visited."
   "So what happened to the people?"
   "After he died the mine closed, gradually they left."
   After circling the remains of this serene mountain meadow, so did I.  

Mid Morning
I've ridden into a deserted settlement, an oasis of green ten miles southeast of the tree-shaded town of Patagonia. A creek crosses the road here in Harshaw, which before 1873 was known as Durasno. Along Harshaw's solitary street were once stores, corrals, blacksmith shops, saloons, hotels, and offices of the Arizona Bullion, the local paper. Only one condemned house remains below the cemetery on the hill.  
   At the cemetery I met a 76 year old man named Ernesto, doing some work with his grandson on the crumbling mortar of several graves. He said his mother and father were buried here, and told me where to find the old Hermosa mine, discovered by David Harshaw in 1877 and later bought by the Hermosa Mining Company, which erected a 20 stamp mill. Following a primitive road which forked off further south, I arrive at the site. Old photographs show the Hermosa mill, workmen standing on top of a massive A-frame proudly, others lowering long planks which bend under their weight. Now there is only rubble, rusted bolts, and foundation pilings poking up through heaps of stone. Below the mill the jagged hole of the mine itself is partially hidden among the thickets.
   There must have been much noise and activity here a hundred years ago, but when I kill the engine to rest, I immediately notice the silence. It's only a peaceful meadow surrounded by steep mountains now, no matter how hard the work must have been here then. Experiencing this quiet, it's hard for me to interpret the unsmiling faces on the children standing outside the Harshaw school. Did they guess their future in the mine? Or was it merely awe at the idea of a black box which could preserve their images forever? I look at the spot where they stood, and at the surrounding hills, and finally shake my head. Another town bites the dust. Although the post office persisted here until 1903, when the value of silver declined most of the residents deserted. 
And now so would I.

  Am I too far from Tucson for my grandfather to have made a two-day trek back to grandmother on horseback? Despite my growing frustration, brother, I can't think of giving up yet. A process of elimination, like sifting tons of ore to come up with the nugget you hope is there...
   Five miles further south of Patagonia now, in Santa Cruz county. On May 7, 1866, a post office was established here in a place named by Sylvester Mowry, a Lieutenant in the Union army. Mowry had purchased the Patagonia mine, and erected a smelter. Then, after being arrested for selling lead to the Confederate Army for ammunition, he was jailed at the infamous Yuma Territorial prison. So during the Civil War the Apaches raided the area and reduced both the smelter and Mowry's town to rubble. It didn't come back until 1905, although there was a huge Fourth of July celebration there in 1891, with fireworks, dancing, and speeches. Since 1913 only a small cluster of deteriorating abode buildings remained...and a cemetery. Mowry's grave is not there, though. He died in England after being released from Yuma. 
    After dropping a stone down a mineshaft and counting off six seconds before it hit bottom, I ride out. 

About 3 P.M.
I'm about 17 miles east of Nogales now. This was known as Washington camp in 1880, then as Duquesne in 1890. Two towns, actually. Very close together. A reduction plant in Washington, a mining company in Duquesne. A fine school here. A thousand residents, including, so it's said, George Westinghouse at one time. He had hot and cold running water in his home. 
   Time to head north again. Closer to Tucson.

The 21st
Time is the mystery. My days turn relentlessly toward a seasonless season of more heat and sudden storms which gust and go. Another sunrise, another orange stepladder of clouds slowly raising the sun up from behind low rolling hills. What am I doing out here? I wonder. I should be easy on the couch, watching some Hollywood vision of history.  
   "Help me," I said, and pointed at another point on my map. "Can you tell me where to find this place?"
   "There?" The rancher named Cory scans my map, then looks up in obvious bewilderment. "Why you want to find that place?"
   "That's where a man named John Dillon discovered a silver-lead mine in 1879. When they asked him what he'd name the place he said it looked like a total wreck. Then in 1881 the Empire Mining and Development Company bought the place, and constructed a mill. The town grew up around it."
   "What town?" Cory asked.  
   "I just showed you. Total Wreck. Fifty houses, four saloons, three hotels, a butcher shop, general store, and lumberyard." 
   "You're kidding."
   "Why do you say that?"
   "Well, because there's none a' that there now." 
   "I know that," I replied, exasperated. "Just like I know that no Apaches are gonna be coming down from the cliffs to surprise some Mexicans cutting wood, like they did in 1883!"
   Cory laughed. "That's good, 'cause if you're looking for Geronimo, he's gone too. Only outlaws out there now are drug runners from Mexico."  
   "Few and far between, I trust."
   "If you're lucky. Maybe you heard the one about a guy named Salsig got in an argument in Total Wreck with a man who drew a gun and shot him? Salsig had a thick packet of love letters in his vest pocket stopped the bullet, and he lived to marry the lady who wrote him the letters."
   "Nobody loves me. I better look out. That what you're saying?"
   Cory laughed harder. "If the boot fits." 
   Following his directions, I finally come to the cliffs surrounding the old townsite, making the note: no anvil-shaped rock, no boulders. Could they have been moved? I hadn't considered that possibility. Just to make sure, I recheck the dates. The mine closed in 1884, then the property was sold for taxes. Although the Total Wreck post office wasn't discontinued until 1890...
   I climb the bad road out of there in one long third gear moan.

1 P.M.
"Boulders on a cliff? Lots a' rocks round here. Why you lookin' fer them? Got rocks in yer head, have ya?"
   That's what an old timer named Frank told me. Lifted his hand against the sun, cocked his head, and glared at my iron steed--wheels and engine seined with a heavy layer of dust, idling on the slope of a hill. Then he nods, but whether with admiration or a sense of secret confirmation I can't tell. His mind tracks the rails of his recollections like a runaway train in a broken switchyard.  
   "Rugged area, this," Frank declares as a cow blundered by me toward the pasture below. "Yeah, hard ta believe it used ta be a boom town, ain't it? Yup... Placer gold panned outta here back in the 1880's by over five hundred men and women. Jail was a hole dug in the ground. Used ta cart water on burros from yonder Gardner Canyon. Mexicans here liked ta dance, too. Organized a baile once and tried ta lock out the cowboys from the nearby Empire Ranch so they wouldn't steal their senoritas. Cowboys, they poured bullets down the smoking chimney! Girls came a-pourin' out, and they had'em partners fer the next dance! Later on, the cowboys invited the Mexicans over to the Empire to make up for it, though."
   I tell him about why I was there. Then I thank him and circled above the spot, moving outward in wider and wider concentric circles, up and over the surrounding hills, further and further away from what was once Greaterville.  

Thirty miles southeast of Tucson, after skirting that rugged dirt pass across from Greaterville, I stop at a basin at the foot of an impressive cluster of mountains.  
   Looking north into the distant haze from the Santa Ritas, I can see the second largest city in Arizona--the 'Old Pueblo,' as it's called. In that valley surrounded on its other three sides by the massive Catalinas, the jagged Tucsons, and the rolling Rincons the lives of over 900,000 people live to accumulate green pieces of paper which are no longer fully backed by silver or gold. Taco franchises, factories, shopping malls... Compare that with what's left of a vanished town which was abandoned in our rush to the future, this one called Helvetia. Only one building's crumbling adobe walls remains as a token reminder that there were once three hundred people here, living in an assortment of buildings, tents, and shanties. Only a few scattered planks amid the cresote bushes to indicate that this place was once home to humans whose skulls are now cavities somewhere buried in the hot sands. The Old Frijole Mine, the 150 ton smelter, all the investments made by the Helvetia Copper Company of New Jersey...where were they now? 
   Astride my slowly cooling bike I contemplate the date...1885.
   After a solemn walk through the debris I find a tiny cemetery, check for names amid the weeds and barrel cactus. Then I scan the mountains with binoculars, and finally mount my iron steed.
   "Giving up yet?" the wind seems to ask.  
   I can't say, but doubt if my tenacity matches those of such prospectors as grandad. Perhaps it's time to go north of Tucson instead of south.  

22nd, Noon
In 1873 General George Stoneman was constructing a road to Camp Picketpost in the Pinal mountains. One night a soldier named Sullivan returned with some strange black rocks he'd found which flattened when he tried to break them. He showed the rocks to many people, but never said where he found them. Then he disappeared, taken, it was thought, by Apaches... Two years later a rancher named Charles Mason went to Globe with some friends. On their return they were ambushed by Apaches, and one of them was killed. They took the body to Stoneman's camp to bury, and while there one of their mules wandered away toward the foot of Stoneman's Grade--the road the General had constructed for better accessibility to the camp. While retrieving the mule, a man named Copeland discovered the same silver outcropping Sullivan had found. Years later, in 1882, a man appeared at the boom town of Silver King to look for work. It was Sullivan, the same man who'd discovered the strange black rocks in the early 1870s.  
   Perry Wildman, Silver King Store. Begs leave to call the attention of the people to the fact that he is in receipt of largest and best assortment of General Merchandise. Clothing & furnishing goods. Boots & shoes. Hats & caps. Groceries & Hardware. Miners tools, blasting powder. Flour & Grain. Tin & Glassware. Wallpaper, paints, etc, etc... Freighting to Globe. Goods delivered to all the camps. Perry Wildman, proprietor.
   Silver King died in 1888 with the drop of the price of silver. Did grandfather die in 1889 of heartbreak?

About 4 P.M.
I'm in the middle of some vast valley maybe thirty miles southwest of Casa Grande. I can't go on tonight. I've been out in the desert for over a week, and there's no end to it. Not much left but dirt, sand, rocks. Of course gold is a rock, right?
   Maybe the heat's getting to me. Ahead somewhere's the Vekol mountains, but I feel...wasted. I need a cold bath, a cool hotel restaurant. At least I know what it was like for those prospectors now. I'm even thinking maybe it shouldn't matter what happened to grandfather. Maybe I should just give up, go back to Tucson, eat at the Sizzler, and wonder.

Vekol. It's where two brothers fought over a silver mine back in the 1880s. One of the brothers went to Tucson to get married, and the other tried to get the marriage annulled because he didn't want the wife to inherit part of the $3 million dollar stake. Then a third brother joined in and sent the first to the Napa Insane Asylum, where he died.
   It's so quiet out here, and luckily not as hot today. I wasted a lot of time looking around. Just some adobe walls left standing. Mill ruins. Used to be homes here, a school, boarding house, post office, even a library. A quiet, peaceful town that didn't need a jail, and only had one saloon, and it went out of business. Like Sunnyside, only this mining company was just strict about drinking and crime.
   What a shame. I know they coulda used a cold one too...
   I've decided tonight to chase the tumbleweeds back to Casa Grande for a beer and a room at the local Motel 6 before heading southwest of Tucson for one final search.  

24th, Morning
The Indian was walking beside the fence when I stopped to ask directions to the Cerro Colorado. After I explained my reasons he replied in broken English that I couldn't get there from here. I laughed, thinking it a joke.  
   "Where you want to go is where your grandfather was," he told me. Then he put something into my hand. "I've been waiting to give this to someone," he said. "This for you."
   I looked down. It was the amulet, he explained, of an Indian shaman--his grandfather.
   "It will grant you one wish. Make certain this the right one." 

Near Noon
Cerro Colorado... This is where it was, anyway.
   I roll out past some mesquite, killed my engine. There's nothing but a few crumbling walls here on this barren stretch of mesa some 55 miles southwest of Tucson.  
But somehow I feel it. Something beyond the statistics. This village...this usual assortment of buildings...a town plaza here perhaps...a tower and fortification to protect the mine workings. Something more about it. Something right...
   I've check my book. Cerro Colorado, established in the 1860s. Post office established April 17, 1879, discontinued April, 1911. Yes...Sam Heintzelman of the Sonora Exploring & Mining Company--he's the one they named the big silver mine here after. The Heintzelman. Apaches raided the place a couple times, too. Then after the Civil War a John Poston was left in charge of the mine workings and he caught his foreman heading south to Mexico with a stolen load of silver bullion.
   Poston executed him as an example to his Mexican workers. Only it backfired. More miners stole from the mine, and deserted to Sonora. And a story leaked down there that this guy Poston had executed buried $70,000 in bullion somewhere near the mine. So some Mexican outlaws rode up, ransacked the mine workings, and murdered Poston when he got in the way. But they never found that bullion, and no one ever has. 
I'm staring at some scattered bricks when the weirdest thought hits me: a hundred years ago a man stood out here and wondered what this would look like to someone in a hundred years. Well, I guess this is it, and I'm that "someone."  

Sept. 25, 11 A.M.
Not sure where I am now. My motorcycle died. I don't understand it. I've checked out the engine but nothing seems wrong. And just when I'm seeing what might be two large boulders on the apex of a hill to the left! Something beyond there too--a mirage? No, it's more than just shimmers of light.  
   My God--it looks like a ghost town, but this one's not on my map. I can't be seeing what I'm seeing, can I? Even looks like an old man over there waving to me now. Maybe I'll go ask him where I am. Funny, but he looks like my grandfather.
   Doesn't seem too far over there. I should check the fuses, but I have to investigate this first...
  October 17, First Entry
They found my brother's bike half buried in sand at the edge of this desert valley. Still haven't found his body, just an Indian relic which I've since discovered was once used by a shaman of the Tohono O'Dam tribe. I don't understand this, or know what happened. Maybe he got picked up by someone or was murdered. Maybe this wasn't the place where he was when he wrote his last entry. But I've got to find out.  
   And I'll find the ghost town he mentioned if it's the last thing I ever do...   -0-

© Tucson Guide magazine by Jonathan Lowe

Ghost Rider
ghost rider
© Jonathan Lowe; Originally published in Tucson Guide magazine.