Saturday, December 29, 2007

Wild Women in Old West Mining Town, Mayer, AZ

A different kind of hanging happens in Mayer, AZ these days. Characters that make history or know history hang out sipping their complimentary coffee at Big Bug Station or heat up a danish in the microwave while listening to a bit of local history unfold. Take for instance, the story about some women all dressed in black who were around nearby Cleator, AZ. I failed to get the exact years they raised a bit of hell but I think it was twenty or thirty year ago. I will be looking into this story a bit more in future. Anyway, The leader of the group wore guns on each hip and a big hat. Nobody to mess with I was told. Rumor has it that one should be careful raking up ground near where she lived in Cleator as locals reckoned she was buried somewhere near by her friends. Boy wouldn't I love to have a photograph of any of the women who called themselves "The Black Widows!" Does anyone reading this have a photo or some stories to tell about this group. I figure some more mornings of "hanging" at the Big Bug Station I will hear more. These old mining towns of Arizona have some great human interest stories to be gleaned from some of the old timers and it is great fun to rub elbows with a few that made history or had kinfolk that did. The old dance hall on Central in Old Town Mayer is not a campfire but tale telling time over coffee sure has the feel of jawing over a campfire. I like it.

Thursday, December 27, 2007

Wells Fargo Express Stagecoach Stop Mayer, AZ

The Phoenix to Prescott stagecoach run in the 1880s stopped at a station on Big Bug Creek hence the name Big Bug Station. Big Bug Creek was the second largest placer gold producing area in Arizona. So the mind boggles at thoughts of what ilk those who were passengers were! GOLD! Starts my heart pounding right here and now.

This morning at Mike Connors' comfy neighborhood hangout, the old dance hall at Big Bug Station, I heard mention of a fellow that was seen strolling the streets of Mayer recently with a gold pan in his hand. Seems Mike stopped him to have a yarn and checked out the pan, gold by golly is what he saw. Little flecks of gold! I think I spoke phrases like, "Crikey" "Dad gum it" and "Shore nuff" for the rest of the day. See how easily one can slip into the feel of the Old West just with a freindly cuppan and yarn at Big Bug Station. Good thing noone sittin' there today had a plug of "chewin' tobacky" on hand!

Thursday, December 20, 2007

Carver in Mayer, AZ

The Tagua Nut is commonly known as "vegetable ivory." So called because of its ivory-like color and texture. Chris Brown brought in a case of his small fetish like carvings of Tagua nut. I marvelled at a walnut sized ram's head necklace. He also had done a mountain lion and a remarkable buffalo head. The detail in his horse's head astounded me. The horse's ears were laid back giving his mouth a formidable look. the detail in the carved horses teeth and tongue are indicative of Chris' talent with detailed carving. The talent one runs into at Big Bug Station in Mayer. A visiting Canadian shared her Northern neighbor stories with us and we all admired the workmanship of a Native American rug brought in from a nearby reservation. I noticed that not only were the gregarious among us enjoying the conversation, but also the more shy patrons were having a good time listening in.

I marvel at how hard "look we are your friendly newscaster hosts" work at making a tv audience tune in and fill the void of friends in the real world. All one really needs to do is find a local coffee house hang out like Big Bug Station to truly enjoy human company with its humor, wisdom, foolishness and fun a group of evolved monkeys can bring one. There is something special about this place in Mayer, AZ where you can get a complimentary coffee or purchase a pre-packaged danish or breakfast sandwich for breakfast. Our host Mike Connors is open and ready to meet you and share the history of this historic western town. I like my new home two doors down. I like that patrons at the Big Bug eventually call you by name. I like that if I want, I can just stroll around the spacious once upon a time dance hall and read Arizona history on its walls. I like being able to use the laptop there to check my email as the place has WiFi. It's fun to watch newcomers faces as they begin to let the charm of the place seep in. Nice, really nice.

Sunday, December 16, 2007

Mayer, Arizona is a Source of Onyx

Some conversation in the Big Bug Station was on Mayer, Arizona's onyx. Just google "Mayer Onyx Quarry" for a bit of information on it. It seems ?Chris' dad had a gear shift knob off a car that had Mayer Onyx imprinted on it and that started the conversation. Another tid bit on this town with a big mining history.

Friday, December 14, 2007

Old Skull Pipe for Big Bug Station Owner

Drove to Phoenix to buy a carved wooden skull pipe from my sister. It was part of her husband's antique pipe collection. I had been promising our host at our complimentary coffee mornings next to the Old Mercantile Store on Central Ave. In Mayer, Arizona that I would get it for him. Mike is an avid collector of odd and/or old things....hmmm and that is reflected perhaps in his collection of people in the morning at Big Bug Station?

Mike's historic 1903 building on Central houses a few antique stores and a custom furniture store. The wonderful old wooden dance floor vibrates happy times when you walk on them. A couple of lovely women who are old time residents of Mayer area and veritable walking history books came into the Big Bug Station several days ago and I overheard, "I remember when one of the cowboys danced so hard he went through the floorboards. Now nobody can say those cowboys couldn't dance!"

I spent the rest of my complimentary coffee sippin' and thinkin' on that picture she painted in my mind's eye.

Monday, December 10, 2007

Laughter in Old Town Mayer, Arizona

My new friend Carol was minding the antique shop/gathering place later than usual this morning while Mike ran errands. Six in the morning till eight is a good time to catch her sitting still (no mean feat) and to get her to tell us some Carol tales. Carol has led an adventurous life. Just for starters…she traveled up the Alcan Highway to Alaska when it was a hundred percent dirt track while carrying her baby in a shoebox in her lap. Her husband worked building the Fairbanks airport. Years later, while her husband managed a big mine in New Guinea, she flew to the mountain head hunting tribes and provided aid to the villagers. And here she is in Mayer, Arizona swapping stories at Big Bug Station, a place both locals and world travelers come to share both personal and historic anecdotes.

Hey, I don’t remember what it was I shared (yes I do but it was some proof of me being a bit nuts so I refuse to go into it here and now) but it caused a big basso laugh, half mellow and half bellow, to fill the old dancehall. The laugh originated from local Don Charles, a talented musician and singer. After I finished banging my forehead on the antique wood bar, he talked to Carol and me of his years managing a ranch nearby. It seems he reveled in the solitude, the closeness to nature his hours of being out alone on his horse “managing” brought him. It was there he met and married the other half of the professional musical duo called D- Squared, Deb Gessner. Check out

Mike arrived So Carol and I left to catch a yummy roast beef open faced sandwhich lunch at the Senior Center for a mere $3.50. Besides as a new person in town I didn’t want too many of those inklings of my being nuts to slip out in conversation so early in my settling into the community now did I? Run away. Run away.

Sunday, December 09, 2007

Old Mayer, Az Historical Buildings

Someone I met in town had a house warming today. Gina's new home was once an outbuilding of the historical Mayer Hospital itself already used as a residence. Gina's son and she took the ruins of four crumbling walls and built her a two story bungalow keeping much of the original base wall made up of river rock in tact. Hey, leave it to Gina not to live in an "ordinary' house. Just another architectural expression of the unique personalities that make up the population of Mayer my new home town.

An Old Coyote in Mayer Az. Ghostown

Saturday the 8thI saw that my morning haunt was open. You can tell cause some times the neon OPEN sign is glowing. The for sure way is to look at the big old rusty hasp near the handle to see if the padlock is unlocked. I longed for the warmth inside. The weather ended up hailing and snowing a bit and the promise of it could be felt as a particular kind of chill seeping in around my sweatshirt collar. Mayer, Arizona is at about the 4500 ft. altitude. The air was higher-altitude-in-December-brisk and I did want to stop at Big Bug Station to check in with my landlord about the “baker’s table” he had promised to put into my kitchen . Topper his usual half rascal, half geezer self shouted to me as I passed his car on my way to the Big Bug Station door. He was trying to get my attention as he untangled himself from his oxygen lines and hauled out his tank on wheels. He likes to talk with his hands and that made his trying to get unwound from the line harder. I just shouted that I’d meet him inside. When he arrived in, Mike called out,” You old coyote you!” And Topper approached him and whipped out a huge ole knife! Thing is, he turned his attention to me with the knife in hand. I hoped I didn’t look too bug-eyed but I know my flinch was visible. Topper said to me, he was addressing me, “You said yesterday that this knife had your name on it.” Stunned, I had to gather my wits. Then I remembered and tried to talk Topper into remembering that it was Mike not I that made that claim yesterday as Topper was describing this knife he owned.. Mike is the knife collector. I’m just the newbie in town trying to get moved in before the snow set in. This particular knife had Chinese letters on it as Topper Said, “Maybe it’s Japanese writing cause they look kinda the same to me.” Topper was real disappointed that I wasn’t interested in the knife. I think he was going to give it to me. Topper seems to be like that. I left he and the Big Bug Station host puzzling over the origins and age and value of it and headed out to unload suitcases of what few mementos of my life that I had not sacrificed to garage sales long ago remained.I regretted having to miss staying and meeting about seven more locals that had gathered there this morning but getting moved in was my priority.

Big Bug Station in Mayer, Arizona

Friday Dec. 7thAn extremely grey rainy day. A few local denizens came in from the wet. Topper, looking somewhat grizzled and damp, came in. He is an enthusiast of the old and rusted and historical. He is a seasoned and polished barterer. Dragging his oxygen tank with him and proudly introducing his wife Pat to me, he presented with a flourish an old container with a long neck and a fine spout that looked to be a left handed pouring tin of some sort. In his usual manner of trying to suck us all into the fun, he asked those gathered there to guess what it was. “I don’t know, but it looks like an old miner’s midnight pisser to me!” I volunteered. (I didn’t want the locals to think I was a big city girl that knows nothing about rougher lifestyle things) He also waved about a file like tool and some pocket knives. This was the fourth time I had seen Topper here tempting Mike who is in the business of selling antiques. Mr. Conners snapped at the bait and went into the back to consult a book on old tools. I left them to their bartering .Chris Brown, a local sculptor of marble and alabaster sat at my table. He had just been to a resort considering to once again show his work. I was full of questions about his sculptures so he braved the chill drizzle and brought me his portfolio from the car. I was impressed with the great detail in each piece. The pages unfolded his work…elephants, humpback whales, a mountain goat, polar bear, eagles, and a buffalo. His work in progress though is a real beaut. “Started out as a 500 lb. piece of rock and is down to 350 lbs. now,” he said. The incredible detail of the sea turtle’s parts; the shell, its skin, a shiny beak. All his large heavy animal sculptures showed the stress of living in the wild----. damaged shells and hides and bedraggled coats. The alabaster’s colors lend itself to his sculptures showing the stain and strain of fighting to survive both the elements and predators. He spoke of his works as a man speaks of his children, with pride and concern and affection. That conversation and portfolio provided all the warmth I needed to go back out into the rain and unload my car as I continued my move into the small apartment two doors down.

Big Bug Station New Start Mayer,AZ

Thursday Dec. 6th Big Bug Station….the old Mayer, Arizona dancehall a part of a 1902 ghost town building. It is a gathering place of storytellers and lively personalities, and an important part of my new home. Yesterday, I moseyed in (I live in a historic western town now so I mosey instead of walk) and sat my tush on one of the stools that line the antique barroom bar. I mused on the tameness of this “bellying up to the bar” compared to a hundred years ago. Susan my landlord, was killing some time till her friend called to meet her out in the scrub further up Big Bug Creek for a hike in the hidden wilds. Mike Connors, her husband and our host, grinned his welcome and pointed to the fiddle lying on a table nearby. “The Judge is gonna play for my wife in a minute,” he stated with a jaunty nod. John Kennedy presides in his courtroom several buildings over and takes breaks from his day’s work that occasionally lead to a serenade of the lucky few who happen to be here. Just then our fiddler was talking to two international visitors by the big window that overlooks Big Bug Creek out back. He was giving them directions to other historical stops in “them thar hills” around the Prescott area. Don sat down next to me. Susan received her phone call that the hike was on and Kennedy picked up his fiddle and played Away in the Manger for us all. What a lovely Christmas season morning.. Conversation filled the space left by the Germans and Susan. What kind of pet does a de-scented skunk make and how to de-scent it was one topic along with the intelligence of Queensland Blue Heelers and my new acquaintance Don got up and did a pantomime of the movements and hyperactivity of ferrets. I also learned that morning that one of our area’s business men who owns three Liquor Barns calls himself The Beer Whisperer! As I was leaving to begin moving boxes into my new apartment two doors down, a couple of locals, Joe and Jan bustled in proudly waving an antique old flannel bathrobe they found next door and bought. I didn’t get away without a mention of the ghosts in my apartment, three of them. This stopped me in my tracks. I was told they were friendly and one had a peg leg. Sure, they tell me this after I had signed the lease. I left talking myself into thinking they were just kidding me about the ghosts. My new home promises to be interesting.

Wyatt Earp, Ghosts and New Friends

Whoa, the gypsy woman is settling into one spot for a bit. Just rented an apartment that once was a 1902 barber shop across from the old brothel in Old Town Mayer, AZ. Wyatt Earp used to stop there often. They sport a photo of he and his horse in front of the brothel. It has been hinted at that my bedroom used to be where the big tin bathtubs were that the cowboys and dusty travellers could buy a bath. The now bricked in doorway is perhaps where the girls from across the road would slip in after their clients washed off the blood, sweat and steer of the ranching trail.The town of Mayer is situated on Big Bug Creek near Prescott and was originally, as lots of tiny western ghost towns were, a stage station called Big Bug Station. My time in the outback of Australia over these last 25 years makes living in the metropolis of Phoenix a nightmare to me. So this sleepy little town only fifty minutes from Phoenix and twenty minutes from Prescott, appeals to me. Throw in the possibility that Wyatt Earp may have slept here, and whoa horsey, look at me the new cow girl in town! I even hear faint echoes of The Big, The Bad, and The Ugly 's theme song in my ears each time I enter my favorite hang out in Mayer, Big Bug Station.