Saturday, April 16, 2011


Founded in 1691 as San Cayetano de Tumacacori, this was the first Jesuit mission in Arizona. It was located on the east side of the Santa Cruz River, about 18 miles north of the Arizona-Mexico border. It was one of 24 missions founded by the Jesuit Father Eusebio Francisco Kino(1645-1711). The area of northern Mexico and southern Arizona that he worked in was known as the Pimera Alta, which means “place of the upper Pimas.” The Spanish referred to most of the Indians of this area as “Pima” Indians. They were also called Papago and TonoOdham. Apaches were also present nearby.

Father Kino was born in Italy and educated in Austria. In addition to trying to convert the natives to Christianity he introduced cattle and some European farming techniques and crops. Father Kino became the first rancher in Arizona. His initial herd of 20 cattle grew to 70,000. His cowboys were the natives. Among the missions he founded was San Xavier del Bac, just south of Tucson, still an active church.(See blog entry of 1/22/10).Father Kino has had many schools, roads, etc. named after him in Arizona. For example, our children went to Kino Junior High in Mesa. Arizona has two statues in the statuary hall in the capitol in Washington, D.C., one of which is Father Kino.

Following a Pima revolt in 1751 the mission was moved to the west side of the Santa Cruz. The Jesuits were expelled by the Spanish government in 1767, and the Franciscans came into the area. The mission was renamed San Jose de Tumacacori. Construction of the current church was begun in the late 1700's but was never completed. The mission was abandoned by 1848, because of predations by the Apaches. The roof was removed by settlers to use the timbers on other projects. It has been under National Park Service protection since 1908. The roof has been replaced three times-1921, 1947 and 1978.

The photo below shows a little more detail of the front of the mission. It was built of adobe bricks. The walls at the base of the belltower are five feet thick. There are Moorish and Spanish-Mexican renaissance elements in the facade.

The three photos below show detail of the facade and the bell tower. The bell tower was never finished before the mission was abandoned.

The two photos below are taken from the east side of the church, including one with some detail of the dome over the altar.

This cross of flowers is maintained on the wall behind where he altar would have been.

These graves are behind the church. The most recent grave is from 1916.

This is the remains of a storage building. These pots are like what the Indians and the Spanish would have stored such things as corn and beans in.

This photo shows the cupola of the church above the wall of the storage building.

The ruins of a building to the east(right) of the church are where mission priests and other workers lived. The roof is long gone. The second photo is a view through a window of this building.

This next photo is one of my all-time favorites. This was taken on a trip to Tumacacori in 1974, on Kodachrome, using my first 35mm SLR, a Mamiya Sekor 1000DTL with a 50 or 55mm lens. I have scanned it and done a little color correction. The photo shows a Franciscan(I think) priest approaching the door to the church. It's like I was thrown back in time 150+ years. He was there making himself available to people who were interested in getting the Catholic church's take on Tumacacori.

This last photo is a personal favorite of mine, taken on my most recent trip to southern Arizona. I hope you like it.

Thursday, April 7, 2011

Cowboys--Real Narrow Between the Eyes

After long and careful consideration, much cogitation and deliberation I have come to the conclusion that us cowboys ain't the brightest bulbs in the string. We're not real stupid, just sort of dumb. A few examples follow.

I was helping a friend of mine with cattle on a ranch he leased in southern Arizona. I had horses, and for helping I got to run a few head of my own cattle on the place. It was called Brown Canyon Ranch and the west end of the canyon ended in Baboquivari mountain, which is a sacred mountain to the Tono Odham, (previously known as Papago). This area is slightly higher than Tucson.
The two photos below show the working corrals at Brown Canyon with Baboquivari, the distinctive shaped mountain in the middle, and my little herd. I was well on my way to becoming a cattle baron.

My friend was an old Montana cowboy named Kip Ripley who had moved to Arizona for the health of one of his children. He was in ranch realty which was how he came on to this place. Not long after he started the lease he called me and said he was going to turn some cows onto the ranch but needed to ride fence first and could I help. I said sure and so we agreed to do it that weekend. This was about the first of January. On the appointed day I loaded up a couple of horses and drove down there. This was all well and good but it turned out to be the coldest day of the year with a light snow falling and a wind blowing. I wore a sheep skin coat, chaps, gloves and whatever else I could pile on. I saddled two horses, riding one and leading the other by a halter rope which I held in my hand, the rope not wrapped around my saddle horn. It all seemed like a good idea at the time. That was before the horse I was leading stopped, unknown to me, and the resulting jerk pulled my arm backwards and tore the rotator cuff. Why I was leading that horse is a mystery to me now. He was saddled but wasn't carrying things like wire or fence posts. Dumb.

The photo below shows typical Brown Canyon Ranch country and the very fence I was riding.

When we were living in Sierra Vista I had another friend who had some cattle but no horses. He called me up one day and asked if I could help him check on his cattle and the fence. Being a slow learner I said sure. This was in early December. The area where the cows were was in the foothills of the Huachuca mountains, probably about 5000 feet high. He said how about this Saturday? I said fine and he said this would also get us out of having to go to the Christmas parade. On the appointed day the inevitable happened—cold, wind, sleet and snow. Turned out to be the coldest day of the year. Although there were no injuries we paid a substantial price for missing the Christmas parade.

One day towards the end of June Kip calls me and says we need to brand. Now Kip liked to let the calves get pretty big before he worked them. They were usually yearlings before they were branded, ear tagged, vaccinated and cut(castrated for the uninitiated). He didn't usually sell them until they were about two year olds. Me: “When do you want to do this?” Kip: “ How about the 4th of July?”Me: “Say what? That'll be the hottest day of the year!” Kip: “Gotta be done.” Me: “Okay. See you there.”
The photo below shows typical Brown Canyon ranch country with some of our cattle.

True to form, I'm sure it was the hottest day of the year. I think where we were(Brown Canyon) it was about 105. Compared to Phoenix at 110+ I guess it wasn't too bad. However we built a nice fire to get the branding irons hot, handled wood, fire, hot irons, hot cattle etc. most of the day. We used a branding chute so didn't have to rope and wrestle with the cattle but it was still about as hot as I ever want to be. I have no idea how much water, cold drinks, etc. we went through.

Irons in the fire.

One time we ran onto about a two year old bull that had somehow missed being branded, cut, etc. Since we didn't want him breeding, we managed to herd him into a corral. This corral had no branding chute, but did have a stout pole, sort of like a short telephone pole, in the middle. So we roped the bull, one on the head and one on the heels, and stretched him out on the ground. This is how you brand out on the range where there are no corrals or branding chutes. We snubbed the head rope to the pole. We branded him, ear tagged him, and cut him. This did not endear us to him. In this situation when you are finished you want the head rope to come off before the heel rope. However, this critter slipped the heel rope first and was standing upright pulling back on the head rope still snubbed to the post. We can't just unsnub him and let him go with the rope still around his neck because he might get hung up in brush, trees, cactus, etc. on the range and die a miserable death. Kip being 20 years older than me, I am elected to get this rope off this ex-bull. So I take a knife, get in position to cut the rope around his neck, which puts the ex-bull arm's length from me staring straight at me. I'm hoping that because he is pulling back on the rope he will go backwards when I cut the rope. No such luck. The rope is cut, he runs straight at me, knocks me flat on the ground, some how jumps over me without stepping on me and takes off.
Of course what we should have done was re-rope his heels, take off the head rope and then let the heel rope go loose and everything is cool. But, being cowboys, we do it the hard way. I wasn't hurt, but that wasn't my fault. Dumb.