Chasing Rainbows and Similar Acts of Foolishness
W. D. "Arizona" Kennedy (2008)
It would be impossible to describe a somewhat uneventful lifetime in any kind of sequence. But I will try to describe some of the events that I remember best.
I was born in the Cochise County Hospital in Douglas, Arizona in 1940, number five in a family of eight. I don't remember much about that event. My parents were Bill and Phyllis Kennedy, and were living on my late (maternal) Grandpa Stoner's place in Hereford, AZ. Grandpa was killed by lightning in 1939. I think we lived there for a year or two, until they could settle the estate, but I'm not sure. When I was a year or two old we moved to a parcel of land on Frontier Road, between Bisbee and Elfrida, in the Sulphur Springs Valley. My Grandma Stoner had homesteaded this land, with the help of Momma and her sister, Mary Rowena, in the late 1920's. She let my folks build a livable home on the south half of her eighty acre homestead. This eighty acre homestead still belongs to several of my siblings, except for one five acre lot which was sold to outsiders.
We lived in the original house until 1952 or 1953, at which time my Daddy, with Momma's help, built the existing house. The lumber that went into building the new house came from Johnson Addition in Bisbee, where homes had to be moved to make way for the Lavender Pit. Daddy made all the adobes that went into the walls out in our back yard. He built this house when he was supposed to be bedridden with a heart attack. (1)
We, as a family, spent several seasons in the Double Adobe area, helping to harvest vegetables, as there were several small truck farms in the area. We all made what little spending money we had doing this. For about ten years we helped Frank Murphy harvest his onions. One year he had a lot of silver dollars that he paid us with. Later that fall, when we were getting wood for our heating and cook stove, we found a wooden box not too far from his house, with coin imprints in it.
It seems there was a post office robbery about thirty years before this and there were four people involved. Three of the outlaws were caught, and the fourth was never apprehended. We just figured Murphy was the fourth man, cause the other three had lived in the same area. A few years later, another kid and I found where one of the other caches had been dug up. I found one 1903 Indian head penny, and a 1909 Lincoln head penny. This was about the time the other outlaws were released from prison. (4)
In the story I have in mind, (Daddy was about ten or twelve years old at the time) he and his daddy had taken a load of turkeys to Bowie to sell. They were on their way home, when a Mexican climbed up on the back of the wagon with a big knife in his hand, ready to do business. I guess my dad saw him coming and gave warning. I guess Grandpa always had a loaded 44-40 rifle beside him in the wagon, and wasn't afraid to use it in self-defense. Daddy said Grandpa just eared back the hammer of that old rifle and shot that Mexican dead on the spot. He just dragged him over behind some bushes, and threw a few rocks and brush on him, and they went on home and never looked back. Grandpa told Daddy not to tell anyone about it, and he probably never did, until his Daddy was dead and gone. That was one Mexican that made the mistake of bringing a knife to a gunfight. (5)
Another story happened several years later when Daddy was working for a dairy farm, peddling milk, up in Ray, Arizona. It seems like he was pouring milk into a bottle on some feller's doorstep, and talking to the feller, when an ex-deputy sheriff stepped around the corner of the house, and shot this feller right through the cheeks. I guess it took out a few teeth, but didn't hurt the guy too much. He never said what happened to the shooter.
Later on, in Douglas, Arizona, he got into a shooting scrape of his own. He was peddling milk this time, also. He never gave too many details to the story, but I guess a storekeeper on his route where he had been selling milk, thought Daddy was a little too friendly to his wife. One day when Daddy stopped there on his milk route, this feller came out of the store with a rifle in his hand and threatened to kill Daddy. Daddy happened to have his own rifle in the car and didn't want to die without a fight. He reached up behind the seat of his Model-A roadster, and got his rifle out. The gun was a model 95-30-40 Winchester. When he levered a shell into the chamber, the gun went off, and the bullet went real close to the old store-man's head. The man died a few days later, possibly from the concussion. Daddy spent the night in jail for disturbing the peace, and went back to peddling milk the next day. He never did say if the old man's concerns were justified or not. Knowing Daddy, they could have been. (6)
Along in early 1953, when my older brother, Charlie, was working on a farm not far from Willcox at Kansas Settlement, a black man and another young feller went in a little store up there and killed the widow-woman that owned and operated the place. I guess they took all the money they could find, and then tried to burn up the evidence. I guess it didn't take the sheriff's department long to figure out who did the job. I heard at the time that the cowboys who caught the older feller roped and dragged him for a distance. They were thinking about hanging him, I guess, but they couldn't find a tall enough tree, or possibly cooler heads prevailed, and he lived to stand trial. I understand that he was executed legally several years later. I'm not sure what happened to his accomplice.
For several years after this incident, there was a road sign on each end of Willcox stating "BLACK MAN, DON'T LET THE SUN SET ON YOU IN WILLCOX" (That was before political correctness.) (10)
When I started school at Bisbee High it was customary for the freshman boys to give the "B" a new coat of white-wash every year before the big "Turkey Day" football game. This was always played against Douglas to decide who would retain the Copper Pick for that year.
When the day came to do this job, we all gathered at the trail-head to the "B". A group of upper class-men, called the "Drillers", were assigned to keep us all lined out.
I grabbed a water bucket, filled it with water and headed up the hill with fifty or sixty other boys doing similar jobs. When we got up there we mixed some lime and water and started spreading it around the "B". things were going pretty good till I felt the first few drops of sweat. About that time I had a change of plans.
I grabbed a bucket and one of my good buddies and headed down the trail. I can't remember who it was that went down there with me, but I know as soon as we got out of sight of any drillers we male a mad dash to the best thicket we could find. We had us a nice siesta for three or four hours while them other fifty or sixty boys did a bang-up job of painting the "B". When we thought the job was nearly done we went down and got one more load of water and were done for the day. All-in-all it was a good day.
A couple years later I was honored to be a driller myself, and kinda wondered how many freshmen pulled the same trick we did.
We (as Drillers) also had the job of lighting the "B" on fire on Thanksgiving night. We carried tons of old greasy rags up there and outlined the "B" with them and set them on fire. I don't know if they do that anymore or not, but it was a pretty sight to see. Those were some of my good times at Bisbee High School. (11-12)
We had an Okie credit card, and some of the trucks loaded with cotton had to spend the night there. (16)
It was Grandma Turman, and Jiggs, coming back to move the rest of their belongings. They came in the house and stood right beside the bed we were under, and discussed whether to start loading stuff right away, or to wait 'til the next day. Grandma even started to get her broom and start cleaning, but decided against it. They only stayed for ten or fifteen minutes, but that's a long time when you're holding your breath. If any of us had eaten pinto beans that day, or had a cold, we would have probably ended up in front of a judge. But we managed to get by without getting caught. When they finally left, it didn't take us too long to get out of there. And we made sure they were gone for good before we ever went back.
That was the last time I saw Jiggs Gibbons' feet for about fifty or sixty years. He still lives in California, and he came through the country down there when Charlie was on his death bed. We had a nice visit, but you can bet I never told him "the rest of the story." (20)
We got up there and found a full case of dynamite in an old mine tunnel, that some careless prospector had abandoned, probably at least twenty four hours before we got there. There was also a nice roll of fuse, and a nearly full can of blasting caps. We couldn't leave anything that dangerous laying around, so we loaded it up in the rumble seat compartment of that old Ford, and hauled it home with us. I sat on that case of powder all the way home, 'cause I knew it was safe. The blasting caps were up in the front with the older boys.
Anyhow, we made it home with our cargo, and had a bangup good time for several weeks. We blew up a lot of stuff, but I think the only real damage we did was to Daddy's cement water tank.
The families of the community got together on week-ends at the time. We played baseball on some vacant property up the road about a quarter mile from our house. One day while we were up there playing ball, I happened to look down toward the house, and saw a big geyser go up in the air down there. A few seconds later I heard the explosion. It didn't take me too long to get down there, 'cause I didn't want to miss out on the fun. It was Clifford, and we set off a few more charges before Daddy showed up and told us he thought that dynamite might be hard on his pond. We didn't see how it could hurt it because the water went so high. We found out the next morning that the Old Man was right. The pond was empty as my head. We got some cement and tried to patch it, but it it never did hold water very good after that. (21)
Along toward the end of the school year of 1956-1957, I had a run-in with one of my teachers, and it kinda soured me on school. Old Lady Shreve (junior English teacher) gave us an assignment that I was not able to complete. We had to write a theme and typewrite it. I didn't know how to typewrite, and wasn't going to impose on anyone to do it for me, so I handed in an unfinished theme, written in ink.
I was able to keep about a 90% average grade on the rest of my work, but when I got my report card, she failed me. I still had several weeks of school, but I knew I was doomed, so I quit handing in my work. She called me on it one day, and I informed her that I wasn't getting paid for my work, so I wasn't doing it. She sent me to study hall and I never looked back.
Since I knew I was not likely to return to good old Bisbee High School, I decided a few days before school let out,to give them a going-away present.
My brother, Clifford, and Bobby McDonald had a bunch of coon dogs they were trying to train. They used skunk musk in a bottle to teach them not to chase skunks. I just borrowed a little bit of this training fluid, and spread it around the halls of B.H.S. A few people knew who did it, and after that I was known as "the skunk of Bisbee High".
That was the end of my academic achievement, although I did get a G.E.D. Certificate when I was living in Mitchell, Oregon, thirteen years later. (I've never had occasion to use it.) (25)
I worked there a month or two longer and had a chance to go to work for the State Highway Department, and took it. I worked there for almost three years before I got my next wild hair. (53)
Things went along pretty smooth until the fall of 1969, when things happened that shouldn't have happened, and things were a little shakey for a while. We worked things out, and by the time spring rolled around, I was ready for a new adventure. Highway work was a little boring. (54)
A few days later, when they stopped by on their way back to Arizona, they were still on speaking terms. (Really, we all had a good laugh and they went on about their business. None of my family has ever taken life too serious.) (57)
That winter we had several nice trips around the area down there. We went to Tombstone and spent the day once, and I know we all took a trip the mountains to look for "Curly Bill's" treasure at least once. (We have looked for that treasure off and on for close to fifty years.) (60)
The saddest time of my life was in 1992, when I spent three days in the psychiatric ward of the Bend, Oregon hospital, for simply trying to make a political statement (albeit somewhat unorthodox). When I boarded the plane for my R and R, I warned the security guard that a knife in the wrong hands could possibly be dangerous. Maybe I wasn't as crazy as everybody thought I was.
The people of Spray gave us a nice benefit party that raised $1400.00 for us that time. I would like to be able to repay that if I am ever able. (71)
I guess by now you have figured out that I come from a long line of intellectuals. (76)
On her twentieth birthday, January 3, 1933, she had a marriage that lasted a little longer. That is when she married Daddy. That marriage never failed.
They spent their first winter in a make-shift tent made from an old discarded rug, and were happy as if they had good sense. (80)
One day when he was working at the air base, he brought home a flight helmet all covered with blood, and a tip off an airplane propeller. It seems like some pilot had gotten too close to the airplane propeller, and had lost his head, literally. We had those articles around the place for several years. (81)
Charlie even tried to fly on a bicycle one time. He had picked up a bicycle over in Double Adobe that had garden hoses for tires. They were wired on with baling wire, and worked pretty good in a pinch. One day he built him a ramp out of two-by-twelve boards, and I think he just piled up dirt to elevate the high end. He made a few trial runs, and was getting some pretty good distance on his jumps. So he raised the ramp a little. He went up the road (a couple hundred yards to get the maximum speed) and was on his way to a record jump. When he got about twenty feet from his ramp, giving it all he had, his head hit the ground and both wheels went straight in the air. He kept peddling for a while till he figured out that he was losing traction, and then let the bike fall on it's side. I would have had to laugh if it would have killed him, but it was more fun to watch him get up to see what had gone wrong. It turned out that one of the wires that held them garden hose tires on had broken and the hose had hooked up in the front fork of the bike. I think he benched that project till he got better tires. (84-5)
About a year and a half before Charlie died, he cut the first joint off three fingers on his left hand while working on a lawn mower. He thought for a while that his fiddling days were over. It didn't hold him back for long, however.
At first he tried fiddling left-handed, but knew right away that wouldn't work. As soon as his fingers healed up enough to take the bandages off, he built him some home-made finger-tips out of wood and silicone. He would tape them on to play his fiddle. Less than a year later, he placed eleventh in a group of forty-four fiddlers in his division at the National Championship fiddle contest at Wieser, Idaho, using them home-made fingers. You can't keep a good man down. He was special. (86)
One of the most interesting fellers I went to school with was Tom Hargis. He was a real quiet and nice kid, and I palled around with him some. He always said that he planned to be a veterinarian (horse doctor) when he got through school. His homeroom teacher, Mrs. Woundy, encouraged him to stay with more menial work, like fence building and ditch-digging, (jobs that I later excelled at) but he didn't listen to her. He went ahead with his plans through some adversity. (94)
We had a nice visit and l learned that he had raised a family of four kids (all boys, I think) I think most of his kids are doctors, too, I'm not sure. He had lost his first wife to cancer, and had remarried. The thing that kind of choked me up a little was when he told me that he had had the occasion to operate on Mrs. Woundy before she died. (The teacher that more or less told him that he would never amount to much.) (95)
Sometime while Grandpa was working on the railroad, he and another feller were able to requisition a couple of silver bars. Some mining company had a big shipment of silver on the train, and he and his buddy knew they didn't need all of it. So while they were stopped at a siding, Grandpa and this feller borrowed a couple bars and buried them in the bushes beside the track. Unless the other feller went back and dug it up, (which isn't likely) that silver is still where they buried it. Grandpa told Daddy where it was, before he died, and Daddy told our family where it is, but we've never gotten around to really looking for it. Maybe someday I will go take a look. it would sure be worth finding. (96)
Daddy also mentioned something about a haunted house he lived in in Silver City. It seems like the people that owned the house had been scared out by a ghost of some kind. They just let him stay there for free, if he could get along with the ghost. The ghost was just a big pack-rat up in the ceiling of the house. When he got rid of it, he had a ghost-free, rent-free home for a quite a while. I think he might have even bought the place, I'm not sure. He did buy some property in Silver City, I know. He showed it to me when we went there on a trip many years later. (100)
That little rod was doing just as it was supposed to do. We hadn't gone too far when we found a big rock that we thought must be the treasure marker. Sure enough, when we paced off the right distance, that little rod said the treasure was there. We had our digging tools with us, and it didn't take long to dig a hole six or eight feet deep. We all took turns digging, and I think Daddy, who was only about eighty years at the time, dug more than any of us. We kept checking with a metal detector as we went down, but never did come up with a signal of any kind. Finally, we decided that it was a false alarm, and covered up the hole, and went back to the drawing board. We've had other similar trips over the years, and have always come up empty. But it sure is fun trying. I've met quite a few dowsers over the years, but I haven't met any rich dowsers. (110)
We, as a family, owned several mining claims for more than thirty years, from the early 1960's, till 1993, when the government changed the mining laws to make it harder on the small scale miners. (117)
We got all done with our supper that night, and crawled in our bedrolls to spend the night under the stars. It seemed like I hadn't been asleep too long when David got up and started building the fire to cook breakfast. I allowed as how it seemed a little early, but he showed me his watch, and it showed that it was 6:30. We went ahead and had our breakfast, and settled back to wait for daylight. We waited quite a while and it didn't seem to be getting light. So I decided we should take another look at the Cochise County watch he had on. The watch had a picture of old Cochise on the face, and when we took a closer look, old Chief Cochise was standing on his head. We had gotten up at midnight, instead of 6:30. (121-2)
I don't even know how the lag screws, that were holding the timber that I was standing on, even held. I guess you might say that it just wasn't my time to go, cause I had too many other adventures that needed to be took care of later on. (125)
While I was visiting with the ranch manager that lined me up with the old feller in Animas, he related an interesting story that is worth telling. It seems like one of his relatives ( I think it was his daddy's uncle) had a small ranch over in New Mexico back in the 1930's and 1940's. I guess the old feller was a bachelor, and was not too generous with his money. He did his business in cash, not using the banks. They figured he should have had a little money put away when he died, I guess they searched his house pretty good after he died, and didn't find too much money. They went on and sold his ranch to settle his estate. The old cabin that he had lived in didn't amount to much, so the new owner tore it down to build something better. When they took the floor out they found a hole in the floor with a gallon bucket underneath it. I guess the bucket was almost full of gold and silver coins that he old feller had dropped through that hole in the floor. There was more than enough value in them coins to pay for the ranch. They offered to split the money with the estate of the old man, but they refused it. I guess they figured a deal was a deal. That's what I consider good people. (131)