Checking in from Bouse, AZ …
For the last few days, most of my walk has been through McMullen Valley in western Arizona, an 80 mile by 15 mile stretch of desert separating the Vulture, Harquahala and Plomosa Mountains to the south and the Harcuvar and Buckskin Mountains to the north. The majority of the valley looks like just what most of us think of as desert—sand, scrub bush, cactus, heat, lizards and snakes, buzzards, isolation and desolation. For part of the valley, however, a magic ingredient transforms the area. The magic ingredient—water. Where water for irrigation can be obtained, from the Arizona canal system or the nearby Colorado River or from the deep underground aquifer, the desert turns into an oasis that yields three to four crops a year.
Around the towns of Aquila and Wenden, huge fields of watermelons, cantaloupes, honeydew and Crenshaw melons spread across the valley. These fields are dotted with small clusters of beehives for pollination. Haven’t seen that anywhere else across the country but looks like a great idea to me. Salome, the next town to the west, has large groves of flourishing pistachio trees. The desert obviously is really a fertile plain needing only H20 to provide food and employment for the US. There certainly is an abundance of unoccupied land.
Salome was an interesting place where we parked our RV for a couple of nights. It was founded in 1904 as a depot area for the mines that are prevalent in the surrounding mountains. One of the founders, Dick Wick Hall, was a humorist who made the town famous in its early days. From his “Laughing Gas” gas station, his vivid imagination provided ample material for his writings in local, regional and national publications like The Saturday Evening Post, making the fledgling town well known beyond the valley. He entertained with tall tales of imaginary animals that lived in the valley including his pet frog named Putnam who never learned to swim. To this day, the local high school sports teams are nicknamed the Frogs, and the road to the school has a frog Xing. Dick Wick also named the town after his partner’s wife, Salome, who burned her feet when crossing the desert without shoes. The original name of the town was “Salome, Where She Danced, Arizona.”
Just outside Salome, Brenda and I came across a little piece of spiritual inspiration. The Little Roadside Chapel beckoned all travelers to “enter, rest and pray.” We did just that, visiting the little 6 foot by 12 foot chapel which is outfitted with a pulpit, a couple of pews and Bibles for travelers use. Very nice, Salome.
We are currently in Bouse, formerly known as Camp Bouse during World War II, where the US Army conducted desert tank training. Next is the last stop in Arizona, Parker, then across the Colorado River into California.