Lost Dutchman II – The West of the Story

Mayberry, Arizona

Apache Junction, Ariz., February, 2010 

Those who know me best – you know who you are, and you’ll keep your traps shut if you know what’s good for you – know that I’m not about personal recognition, or public accolades, or large financial considerations; I’m about tourism, and the tackier the better. After our 12-mile stroll through some of Mama Earth’s least hospitable real estate, we headed down the road to Goldfield, a total surprise to me and one of the cheesiest tourist traps I’ve ever had the pleasure to be taken in by. Apparently, for a brief period in the late 19th century, Goldfield was and honest-to-gosh gold-mining boom-town, although, thankfully, it’s pure, unabashed camp, these days. We quickly set about mining the town for adventure, and immediately got the shaft.

Local color

Here’s a likely tableau in front of Goldfield’s deliciously conventional calaboose. What the hell do these people do in the off season? Or maybe I’d rather not know. Christa says “calaboose” is Chukchi for “stupid,” which I can’t easily refute, as I spent that week of Chukchi 101 camped out for REO tickets.

Authentic goods and services

This is Madame Lily, a Tempe soccer mom who earns a little extra money for gas and Ritalin by playing the lead “Soiled Angel” in Goldfield’s ersatz House of Ill Fame. But make no mistake – Lily’s more than just a flouncy dress and big hair. For the low-low price of $10, she’ll give you an extensive tour of the brothel, scads of fascinating insights into the life of a frontier hooker, and an enduring case of drug-resistant ovine gonorrhea. It’s all part of the show, folks!

It’s so ‘food’!

For lunch, we took an elegant patio table at the swanky Mammoth Saloon, making it doubly embarrassing when Christa’s unspeakable puns brought my entirely forgettable barbecue sandwich back up for a second presentation. And get this – Christa ordered the fish sandwich, and Doug ate half of it. I know, it’s incredible. They ordered one thing, and they BOTH ATE ON IT. It’s like they’re from some totally other planet, isn’t it? Inspired by the view of the peaks we’d so recently conquered, or perhaps by my explosive regurgitation, Doug composed – on the spot – a stirring sonnet about Lost Dutchman that easily stands alongside the best amateur park-related commemorative verse ever produced.

Saguaro reveries

By Douglas Lucian Belle

The trail we took was kind of rock

Y, which made it hard to walk

On, but it’s a good thing I brought extra T

P, because Christa really nee

Ded it after she saw that

Freaking bat

Audentes fortuna juvat!

So stunned by the beauty of his recitation, my ears started bleed profusely, and I scribbled those timeless words on my sham-newspaper menu in my own blood. I’m a great patron of the arts, you know.

An educational interlude

It’s always fascinating to me when people reveal unsuspected layers of tediousness. An avid recreational geologist, seemingly, Christa droned on at some length about how the great mass of Lost Dutchman’s stony crown is, in fact, an ancient volcanic plug that was lifted high about 10 million years ago by the expansion of a vast magma chamber lying far beneath. She also maintained that “magma” comes from the Latin for “stupid,” which I hadn’t heard before. Imagine, for a moment, how much super-heated, highly pressurized stupid was required to raise several million tons of rock nearly 1,000 feet into the air. It’s called science, people.

Group picture

Just outside, it appeared some shady-looking types were filming what I took to be a music video, or some similar affront to the culture. It was very exciting, until the star was arrested for beating his girlfriend, two of his back-up dancers were hauled away for possession-with-intent-to-distribute, and the producer took a half-dozen bullets in a drive-by shooting from a low-riding stagecoach.

Our Sensei

As the son of a Welsh miner, the grandson of a Welsh miner, the maternal niece of a Welsh miner, once removed, and someone who can identify the business-end of a shovel in 1 out of 3 tries, Doug’s got mining in his blood, so I wasn’t surprised when he suggested we let the good folks of Goldfield extract a little more of our hard-earned tourist dollars by touring the Goldfield Mine. It was surprisingly entertaining, starting with a bogus elevator ride, a candlelight soliloquy, and some remarkably inaccurate ad libs by our sturdy tour guide, Big Augie. Of greatest interest to me were the square-set shoring timbers supporting the mine’s lofty roof. According to Christa, “square-set timbers” is Welsh for “stupid”, but then I imagine that just about everything in Welsh is Welsh for stupid. Speaking of curious ethnic coincidences, it turned out that a small boy in our touring party claimed to be a Son of Wales, which is notable because, under normal circumstances, the only other instances when one might expect to encounter two Welshmen together in the same place would be at a police line-up or in the dumpster behind Denny’s at about 2 p.m. on any given Sunday.

Wave bye-bye

Taken together, it was a delightful morning and we all learned a lot about Arizona’s rollicking pioneer past, and about ourselves, as well. Christa learned that prickly pear cactus isn’t really edible until you take all the needles off it, and that the best way to make a friend is to be a friend, which I hope she remembers when Augie makes good on her off-the-cuff invitation to stay in her crawl space if he ever finds himself in the Denver area, and you can bet he will. Doug learned that stope-mining originated on the little island of Wales, that (physical evidence to the contrary) Wales is a little island, and that the only stupid question is the one never asked, if you don’t count when he asked Madame Lily how come, in her entire cat-house, he didn’t see a single pussy. For my part, I learned that it takes exactly six hours, nine full day-packs, and one car trunk to transport the storied treasure of Nils Van der Vanderhoof from Lost Dutchman State Park to my capacious suitcase, and that money very assuredly can buy happiness, starting with Professor Lily’s extremely comprehensive tutorial on the world’s oldest profession.

Well, there you have it – natural splendor, violent intrigue, talking rock creatures, barbecue vomit, sex workers…yes, Lost Dutchman had it all, and I hope you found my little account of it instructive, but not legally actionable.

Yours in Jebus,


Lost Dutchman: Our Just Deserts

Apache Junction, Ariz., February 2010

Kats and Kittens,

     It has been by pleasure, nay, my duty, these last weeks, to share the terrors and triumphs of my pilgrimage to the blunted point of our nation’s southern spear. Likewise, it has been your grateful pleasure to receive these humble illustrations, which I present more for your edification than entertainment – to develop, rather than to divert. It is with considerable apprehension that I briefly describe a bizarre episode I recently endured – an episode so utterly lacking any particle of emotional interest, social significance, or academic consequence that it could have been ripped from the pages of last week’s Newsweek. Even so, if my poor travelogue helps you fill the long, empty hours between “The View” and “Late Night,” then I’ll deem my efforts worthwhile.

The mystery!

After almost 20 solid minutes spent applying my mental energies to the problem of restoring southern Arizona’s fast-depleting aquifer (Mission Accomplished, I’m happy to report!) I received the Keys to the City of Tucson, a buy-1-get-1 coupon for Karichimaca’s Mexican Restaurant and Septic, and a used stick of “Big Red” chewing gum wrapped in a scrap of coffee-stained Arizona State Parks brochure. As I coaxed the last suggestion of cinnamon-y goodness from my prize, my attention turned to its wrapping, and immediately resolved to visit Lost Dutchman State Park for three (3) very good reasons. First, (1st), it’s in the “Superstition” Mountains, and I hankered to apply my scrupulously empirical hiking method to those undisciplined peaks. Second, (2nd), it’s in the “Tonto” National Forest, which appealed to love of 1950s pseudo-allegorical TV serials. And third, (3rd), the fabled “gold mine of” loopy 19th-century prospector Nils Van der Vanderhoof is rumored to lie somewhere “in the” vicinity, which just “makes” good economic sense. If anyone deserved those mislaid riches, I thought, it’s “Yours Truly”, and I meant to have them.

Sketchy characters

Can you believe it? These two green-eyed Johnny-Come-Latelys drop in out of nowhere before I’d even finished picking my ass. (Geez, what are you guys, 6 years old? I was selecting a burro! Grow up, already.) Doug gave me some lame booshwah about taking the wrong exit off of the Morris ‘Mush-Mouth’ Udall Memorial Throughway, but I knew only too well that he and the acquisitive Miss Christa were after my gold. Doug’s unlikely story about being in town for a hockey tournament now seemed patently absurd. Hockey…in Arizona! Just what kind of fool did he take me for? There’s a saying in the Southwest – keep your friends close, and your low-down, dad-blamed, claim-jumping sidewinders closer. I smiled warmly, disengaged the safety on the 9mm “Miner’s Helper” in my pocket, and offered myself as their guide. The varmints accepted my kind offer with cruel grins, and set about fashioning nasty-looking garrotes from raw yucca fiber. “After you,” I said.

What sunstroke looks like

 It was a mild trek, maybe 10 miles straight up and thickly carpeted with Punji sticks. We might have accomplished it in a few short hours if those two tenderfoots had spent as much time hiking as they did belly-aching, grabbing park benches from exhausted elderly hikers, and stealing Flintstones-brand boxed-juice beverages from thirsty Li’l Hombres. They do have a very aggressive style of outdoor appreciation, I’ll give them that, and Christa turned out to be quite knowledgeable regarding south-central Arizona’s geographic nomenclature. The name “Tonto,” she explained, exactly as if she knew what she was talking about, means “stupid” in Spanish, or Quetzal, or maybe Moldavian, or some other equally base tongue. What’s the Moldavian for “let’s do this again some time after you’ve had a chance to shower,” I wondered?

Local hippy

 A particularly nice thing about Lost Dutchman – if you’re a Sonoran Brain-Sucking Bat or Doug – is the abundance of deeply perforated rock features littering the landscape. Never one to neglect the drama in even the most routine endeavor, Doug took several minutes to prepare himself for the rock, carefully crafting hip rock-climbing asides like “this is, like, totally dangerous”, and “if I wasn’t scared, I wouldn’t be human,” and (my personal favorite), “bow down before your God, creeping pismires.” We’d both heard that one before. In his hand-tailored Shao-Lin climbing-hoodie, Christa thought he looked like the nefarious emperor from Star Wars. More generous in my assessment, I reckoned he looked more like Sean Connery in The Name of the Rose. As it turned out, we were both wrong – he actually looked exactly like Charlton Heston’s screen-sister, Miriam, at the moment she’s cured of leprosy at the end of Ben Hur.

An encounter

 Perhaps the single most important thing a climber can do to ensure a successful ascent is understand his opponent. Here, Doug performs a mysterious rite called the “Welshman Mind Meld,” getting inside the rock’s head and sharing its very thoughts. “No climb I,” said the rock, etching the words with sulfuric acid into the side of a comically surprised Gila monster. Strange, I’ve don’t recall ever seeing that happen in Deer Creek Canyon…

The aforementioned Dutchman

Conveniently enough, Doug decided the rock’s enigmatic statement was intended to assure rather than proscribe, and he scrambled up the sheer face as easily as a desert bighorn, assuming that the desert bighorn is in a chemically-induced coma after having all four legs amputated with a field Howitzer. Note that he’s wearing ghetto sneaks instead of his usual climbing footwear. Before Memorial Day. Is there no end to his fashion outrages?

Points to ponder

Yeah, these are definitely imposing rocks, alright, they’re just not the ones that Doug climbed, no matter what he’s already told you. On the other hand, these towering spires aren’t entirely dissimilar to Dgoal’s conquest, both being made of the same igneous material and neither having a “raspado” stand halfway up. In his defense, I thought the rocks Doug climbed were much dustier.

Western exposure

According to Christa Webster, “saguaro” is Flemish for “stupid.” I’m not saying I believe her, I’m just saying that nobody had better call me saguaro from now on, or there’ll be consequences. While Doug posed heroically among the rocks and Christa made a stunning belt and matching clutch out of a slow-moving rattler, I located Van der Vanderhoof’s mother lode cleverly concealed beneath a flat stone upon which were crudely scratched the runes “Here it is – N.V.V. Enjoy!” I was about to reveal the treasure to Dgoal and Hi-C when I chanced to reflect on the warm esteem in which I hold them both. I realized, in my selfless way, that it is their degrading poverty and charming simplicity that endears them to me. That sudden, unearned wealth might change their psychological dynamic in a way less palatable to me, personally, was a risk I could not take, particularly as I know that both Christa and Doug value my good opinion above any amount of material riches. For their sakes, I said nothing and, so, assured their future happiness. Even now, I get misty when I
think of the great kindness I’ve done them, although my natural modesty will forever prevent me from telling them.

 We’ll take a break here, and give each of you a chance to meditate on my good example. When we resume, be prepared to give three reasons why I’m better than Mahatma Gandhi, and use specific instances to support your choices.

Saint Stavros

Next Time: Among the Townies!