Thursday, March 3, 2016

Gems In The Desert!!

In the days of the Western frontier, people were looking for real gems in the desert ... gold, silver, malachite, azurite ... things that would make them rich.  Today the gems that are found in the desert are bookstores, museums and the people who keep them open.  Those are the gems I've been trying to locate since I've been in Benson.  Sometimes you have to dig pretty deep to find the good ones.

PS ... don't wear your cowboy boots to the bookstore.  She thought they were motorcycle boots at first.  It took me some time to explain to her they were cowboy boots for riding horses, and I doubt I did a good job at convincing.  Conveniently I forgot about the Harley.

Here's another gem.  The San Pedro Valley Arts and Historical Society was given this building to be used as a museum, which they are still in the process of setting up.  Stop in ... it's free ... and check them out.  By the way, most things around here are only open Wednesday through Saturday.
One interesting thing I have noticed in Arizona ... all the buildings have door hardware like this.  It's beautifully made, but at first I thought it had been hit by a car.  The actual handle is bent over to the right hand side.  This isn't the first one I've found ... every building I've been in has original hardware and they are ALL bent.  When I asked about it, the ladies hadn't even noticed.  Apparently they were made that way.  
This used to be a mercantile store and many of the items on display were found there when it was donated.  Medicine bottles, canning jars, cans of spices and Fairy Crackers are all on display.
The railroad came to Benson first, so loads of ore were hauled from Tombstone to here by mule train, to be loaded on train cars and sent to processing plants.  On the return trip, they carried dynamite from the Apache Powder Company.  This big company kept Benson alive for years.  The gals said they remember as kids hearing big bangs.  That was the company testing their latest batch of powder.

Unfortunately their water holding ponds leached into the surrounding area, causing the EPA to jump right on it.  Apache still makes ammonium nitrate to this day.
Right next door is another building with an infamous past.  Three Mexican men were hung from the rafters for horse stealing and buried on the grounds.  It is said they might have been innocent and their souls never left the site.  Some townspeople got together, located the graves and gave them a decent burial in the cemetery.  No one knows if their souls went with them.
This is Sid Wilson's cowboy gear and boots.  He died at the ripe old age of 102 in Tombstone, having been a rancher, former Mayor of Tombstone and a cantankerous storyteller.  He drove the last stagecoach that ran from Benson to Tombstone ... how cool is THAT!!  ... and died with his boots off.  That was important in the old days ... it meant you lived a long life and died in bed, versus on the dusty streets in a gunfight!!
In back of the museum is an art Gallery, showcasing the work of local artists.  It's all for sale, helping to keep the museum alive.  These are Giclee (printed canvas of the original oil) by Brenda Peo.  I love her work ... she seems to GET animal expressions very well.  These jackrabbits remind me of the hundreds that used to run roughshod over our ranch in California.
When I discovered on the internet that she had some paintings at the Gallery of Dreams in St. David (on route to Tombstone), I had to stop in and see.  Now I have to say, my friends know I don't go in stores that say GALLERY.  They are WAY too expensive for my blood.  As a photographer, I can't imagine someone paying $100 for an image, let alone $300 or more!!
This place is no exception, really ... the prices are pretty high.  Still, it's fun to look at all the stuff made by local people who would probably be thrilled to pieces that you purchased something they made.  This cow by Peo ... Blu is her name ... has been calling MY name for some time.  I've seen pictures here and there of her work, and she has captured the face of many cattle I've moved from pasture to pasture over the years.  

Yup ... Blu came home with me, riding on the empty back seat of the Jeep.  I have the perfect place to hang her in my house, I just have to figure out where to put her until I get home.
Here's another really unique piece.  It's a Thunder Jug ... a little different from the one you're thinking of ... it's a hand painted gourd with a membrane in the bottom, having a piece of long thin spring attached.  If you bump the spring at the bottom, it makes a long thunderously loud noise ... like you were in a huge thunderstorm!!  Very different, to say the least.  From these two purchases, I'm sure I'm keeping that gallery open for another month or two!!
Back at the RV park, it having been a beautiful cloudy day, I parked myself on the back forty waiting for the sun to go down.  It wasn't as spectacular as I expected, but pretty nonetheless.  I had to lay down for this one, hoping there were no snakes or critters to get in my shirt!!
Hey!!!  I have an idea ..... maybe I can have this one printed on canvas and sell it to offset the purchase of Blu!!!!   Hmmmm the wheels are turning!!!
There are lots of gems out there, even if at first look you think there's absolutely no reason to stick around a small town.  Sometimes just driving up and down the streets is enough, like yesterday when I found my dream house in Tombstone!!  That's tomorrow's story!


  1. I treat galleries as museums--just go see the exhibits. Most of the time anyway.

    1. That's a really good idea Linda. It sure keeps more money in your pocket!!

  2. On your last two photographs one never knows until One puts it in a frame and adds a price to it
    Just go to any art fair and you'll see
    Take the photo because you love it,, not because you going sell it,,

    1. Exactly Ed!! I suppose if you put a huge price on one and it sold to some rich guy, you'd be pretty happy, but I just do it for the fun.