Monday, July 12, 2010

Bisbee, Arizona

“We like the West. That’s why we travel a lot…”
-- Hannibal Heyes to Lucy Fielding in Six Strangers at Apache Springs

Bisbee, the county seat of Cochise County, doesn’t really have a connection to ASJ but it’s one of those towns that Hannibal Heyes and Kid Curry likely passed through as they roamed the West and certainly would have enjoyed if they ever did spend time there. Located in the southeastern corner of Arizona, Bisbee has a laid-back, funky atmosphere that makes it a nice place to relax for a couple of days (see photo above). I suspect that even if they were recognized, the local law probably would have let Heyes and Curry leave town without being arrested.

Nowadays, Bisbee is known as a center for the arts but back in 1880, when the town was officially founded, it was because of the rich deposits of copper, silver and gold in the surrounding Mule Mountains. The Queen Mine and other mines in the Bisbee area yielded eight billion pounds of copper during their approximately one hundred years of operation. Dynamite was used to blast the rock to obtain the ore (see photo above of miner demonstrating how charges were placed). A tour of the Queen Mine, led by one of the former miners who worked there, offers an excellent introduction to mining in the 1880s.

Although children were not employed in the mines, boys who were fifteen and sixteen years old sometimes lied about their age so they could work there. The pay of $3.50 - $4.50 per day was a decent wage for that period and was sufficient, in fact, to support a family. Miners spent ten hours underground during their shift; they brought their lunches with them and used two-seat commodes (as seen in the photo to the right) to relieve themselves. Maybe Han and Jed, after leaving the Valparaiso Home for Waywards, found their way at some point to Bisbee and got work in the mines. Perhaps that's how they knew what to do when they accompanied Seth to his gold mine in Smiler with a Gun.

Another slight connection to ASJ is that in Bisbee, master hatmaker Grant, at Optimo Hats (see photo of store sign at right), has a website with many styles available for purchase and he can also create a custom-made hat from a photo. After seeing a picture of Kid Curry’s second-season hat, he helped me design a hat that is similar but not exactly the same because the conchas are different. I have searched a long time for conchas that resemble the Kid’s and have not been successful so instead I finally decided to create my own hat, which will be an homage to Kid Curry.

Website about mining in Bisbee, which includes a short video of the Queen Mine tour:
http://www.queenminetour.com/history.php