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,


Egyptiana VII: The Watcher

The Seventh Part in which Steve enjoys himself at Another’s Expense

Best supporting actor

 With our two-week tour drawing swiftly to a close. We reserved a sleeper on the night train to Cairo and spent the shank of the afternoon lounging in front of the Temple of Karnak, filling up the corners of our memories with mammoth pylons and soaring pillars and the entertaining chaos of tourists and vendors unfolding beneath them. Sweet Apricot left to mail a postcard and my attention drifted to a well-dressed, matronly woman standing about 30 feet away in the temple forecourt. She wore a flowered dress and a frilly, flowered sun-hat and carried a blindingly white purse. She looked for all the world like she’d just come from a ladies auxiliary meeting at First Presbyterian at the corner of Elm and Main. A little Egyptian boy danced and hovered around her like a new puppy. In his upraised hand he gripped a ferret-sized carved stone crocodile. I couldn’t hear a word, but I knew the script by heart.

He excitedly praised the rare quality of the sculpture’s workmanship, the luster of its stone, its impossibly low price. He flattered her dress and her hat and reminded her what great friends are Egypt and America. She thanked him, but, no, she had no need of a stone crocodile. She had no room for it in her luggage, and the price was out of her reach, and anyway she wasn’t fond of crocodiles, and where in the world is that tour guide? Every minute or so she’d make a break for it, gesturing with finality, turning her back and pacing quickly away. Each time she did, he’d bob around in front of her, walking backwards before her retreat and thrusting the object up to her face that she might better appreciate the remarkable detail of its scales and the incredible value she was being offered. As the duel stretched out, minute after long minute, my fascination grew until the crowds, the hawkers, the grand temples, the carriages along the Corniche and the feluccas afloat upon the placid waters of the Nile dissolved away until all that remained were just we three. I couldn’t look away.

After a solid 10 minutes, just about the time I was beginning to feel badly for the harried tourist, the over-matched woman surrendered. She put a hand gently on his shoulder, leaned down until their noses nearly touched, and said something. His face assumed a mask of somber seriousness and he nodded vigorously. A deal struck and sealed, she fished some money out of her purse and exchanged it for the crocodile. The boy immediately took off at top speed, smiling from ear to ear and holding the hard-won cash high above his head as he ran.

The strange little drama concluded, I sat back in my chair, well-satisfied. As people-watching goes, that was good stuff. I played the highlights over in my mind, and may have actually chuckled out loud. Defeated, but at peace, the woman stood there alone holding her crocodile, still waiting for her tour guide to appear, I supposed. Suddenly the little boy streaked up at a dead run, literally skidding to a stop in front of her. He held a carved stone bust of Nefertiti up to her face. I looked away. I couldn’t go through that again. I just didn’t have it in me.

But that wasn’t us. We were better than that. Stronger than that. We were seasoned veterans who’d seen the elephant, saddled the beast, and now rode astride it like warrior kings. We spent our last two days in Egypt knocking around Greater Cairo, and I didn’t lose a thin dime to baksheesh the whole time. My Formica armor was high-grade leather, by then, more than a match for local wiles. Although I’m not proud to admit it now, a good part of our conversation turned around self-congratulation. Egypt’s tough, sure, but we had its number. We moved about at will and were nobody’s fools. How smart we were, and how much to be admired. Now that we’d mastered that land’s exotic customs, there was nothing else for it but to return at our first opportunity and show some folks – the airport greeter figured high on our list – that the American Tourist is a person to be reckoned with.

Stone of contention

We were insufferable.


Next Time: Trapped!