06 November 2011

Beauty Around Us

Approaching the ranch and yes, the sky IS really that blue


I had the blessed privilege yesterday to be part of "The Centennial Celebration of the Cowboy" at the historic Empire Ranch near Sonoita, Arizona. Situated amid the rolling grasslands at the feet of the Santa Rita Mountains, this location was used in the movie "Red River" starring John Wayne, and the 70's tv show "High Chaparral". Driving in, the urge to mount up and canter across the flat hit hard. I haven't been on a horse in a decade (at least) but man, you never forget what it feels like to ride in open country.

This is a vanishing way of life in a threatened pristine landscape. Snow dusted the Santa Ritas in the morning like confectioner's sugar. Brisk and cold, the wind held no hint of car exhaust or tar. Alfalfa scented the air when we arrived at the ranch, just to the left of the hill in this photo.

What angers me is the very notion that the Rosemont Minining Corporation of Canada is pushing very hard to build and operate an open pit copper mine just northwest of this ranch. Stripping the mountains down to nothing and poisoning the groundwater with arsenic and other toxic chemicals is only the start of what an open pit copper mine would destroy in this area. There is a petition to stop it, to voice opposition, and if you are a registered voter in Arizona, I urge you to sign it. The "economic boost" this mine would supposedly bring is minimal and transitory at best. We can do better to preserve this land, this lifestyle, this heritage.

Okay, off my soapbox for the moment. The event included mounted Cavalry Troop B who demonstrated with saber and pistol what these Army riders were expected to do. With wind gusts of 40 and 50 mph, it wasn't easy to hit a balloon while riding!
Lots of folks dressed in fancy and not-so-fancy Western duds. The ranch house, which is now uninhabited and in need of restoration, is on the list of National Historic Sites. A silent auction helped raise donations to that cause, with extremely tempting baskets of wine and cowboy gourmet goodies, striking photographic prints, bronze sculptures, jewelry, and more all up for bid. 

Mary Ann Hutchison and her display
Fellow Gecko Gal Ink writer Mary Ann Hutchison and her husband (who made and brought a batch of totally out of this world brownies--yum and thanks, Doug!) joined me and sixteen others in the Authors Pavillion where we writers offered their books for sale, with a portion of our proceeds donated to the Ranch House Fund. We set up early in the morning, completely unused to the chilly temperatures. Thank the stars the Foundation provided good ol' Arbuckles' Cowboy Coffee for free. I must have had eight or ten cups just to warm my hands now and then! Soon an enticing waft of kettle corn popcorn and charcoal wafted over as the food vendors cranked up the grills to offer BBQ beef, beans, hamburgers and other cowboy chow to the hungry masses. There was a good-sized crowd there to partake and listen to Mariachi Apache from Nogales High School, a cowboy balladeer from Sonoita, and a Western band that sounded quite like the Sons of the Pioneers. I learned something from them: Country music is about indoor happenings, Western music is about the outdoors. So "Home on the Range" is a Western song while "Behind Closed Doors" is a Country tune. Hmm, who'da thunk it?

All in all, it was a fabulous day. And yes, I sold some books, which is always the best icing on the cake.
Mary Ann and I at the end of the day. Yee-Haw!
And please, consider signing the petition to Save the Santa Ritas: http://www.scenicsantaritas.org/

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