Thursday, January 7, 2016

Arizona Ties

My Connection to Henry Clay Hooker and the Sierra Bonita Ranch

Henry Clay Hooker (1828-1907)
Henry Clay Hooker at the Sierra Bonita Ranch in his later years
Born in New Hampshire in 1828, Henry Clay Hooker (Jr.) started life as an entrepreneur at a young age. After first relocating to Hangtown (now known as Placerville) in California and working in the mercantile trade, by the 1860s he had moved West to the Arizona Territory and was engaged in supplying beef and other products to military posts and Indian agencies. He realized the need to expand and stabilize and to concentrate on the southeast corner of the Arizona Territory, where several forts and the new formed Chiricahua Apache Reservation were located.

In 1873, Hooker selected lush grassland near Fort Grant for his headquarters and named it Sierra Bonita for the stunning views of the nearby PinaleƱo Mountains. His investment represented a turning point in the territorial livestock industry brought about by his concentration on purchasing the highest quality livestock of heavier weight and survivability. He introduced Hereford cattle to Arizona. He also reaped financial gains by breeding fine carriage horses and draft animals for the freighting trade. By 1878, the Sierra Bonita was a great ranch covering 620 square miles. With the mining boom at Tombstone, a new market opened up for higher quality beef. His wide ranging businesses were instrumental to the development of Willcox.

Progressive and flamboyant, he wore a suit even on the range and expected his family and guests to dress for dinner. At age seventy-eight, he was still taking an active role in scheduling roundups and looking after cattle sales. Henry Clay Hooker died in 1907. His descendant, Jesse Hooker Davis still operates the Sierra Bonita, Arizona's oldest continuously operated family ranch.

(Note: The preceding paragraphs were taken from Wikipedia and slightly modified)

The Connection - Diana Marie Rockwell

My paternal grandmother, Diana Marie (Rockwell) Ball, was born in Montour, Tama County, Iowa in 1882. At a very young age, she moved with her parents, George Harris Rockwell and Bessie M. (Swift) Rockwell to Willcox, Arizona. After moving to Arizona, Diana’s parents had two more children, Lillia and George Russell, who were born in 1885 in Willcox (making them fraternal twins). My great-grandfather, George Harris Rockwell, was a Horseman and Blacksmith and was the brother of Henry Clay Hooker’s wife, Elizabeth T. (Rockwell) Hooker. Elizabeth’s father was Peter King Rockwell, who introduced his daughter to Henry Clay Hooker while they were living in Placerville (Hangtown), CA. I suspect that my grandmother and her family actually lived on the Sierra Bonita Ranch until their move to California.

In 1901, Henry Clay Hooker wrote a letter to my grandmother Diana regarding a wedding gift of a horse. Diana and my grandfather, Grover Cleveland (Wright) Ball, were married in 1902. My father, Allen Louis Ball had gained possession of this letter after his mother's death and I recall looking at it many times when I was a young girl. Unfortunately, we believe the letter to be lost, although I recall the Sierra Bonita Ranch letterhead with Hooker’s signature and the general content.

For years, I have been fascinated with this story and on a whim in 1980 while in Arizona on business, I made a personal trek to find the Sierra Bonita. I was successful at finding the ranch, but at that time, I had no idea of its significance to Arizona and the cattle industry and that I may somehow be related to Henry Clay Hooker’s wife and children.

Several years ago, I purchased a book on Henry Clay Hooker written by Lynn R. Bailey, and learned of the Rockwell connection. This reignited my interest and in 2009, I joined and began my attempt to finally make the connection between Hooker's wife and my grandmother. At that time I was not able to find substantial evidence. However, I recently renewed my membership and have been able to fill in quite a few of the blank with regards to my paternal family, and happily, on January 4, 2016, I finally made that connection. Thanks to Census records and other reputable sources, I now know that Elizabeth T. (Tewksbury) (Rockwell) Hooker was my great-great aunt and that Henry Clay Hooker was my great-great uncle by marriage, which makes me a distant cousin of the current generation running the Sierra Bonita.

I am elated to finally close the chapter on the mystery surrounding the wedding gift letter that the Arizona Cattle Baron, Henry Clay Hooker, wrote to my grandmother all those years ago. To now realize that my grandmother probably lived and played on the Sierra Bonita Ranch as a young child and was personally acquainted with such an important figure in Arizona history is the stuff of legends. I now resonate with all of those commercials I've seen over the years where people have made similar connections. It really is exciting and satisfying to learn who your ancestors really were. I never knew my grandmother Diana, as she passed away several years before I was born, but thanks to the wonders of the Internet and, I now feel a much closer and more personal connection to her and my Hooker relatives.

Friday, December 25, 2015

To Scale: The Solar System

I'm so glad these two guys had the vision to do this. It really puts things into perspective.

Monday, November 16, 2015

Sunday Drive on the Florence-Kelvin Highway

I love taking Sunday drives, and this morning's proved to be another exceptional one. 

Since moving to Florence earlier this year, I try to get out a couple of times each month and explore the terrain near my home. This morning, I chose the Florence-Kelvin Highway. Arizona Highways has a nice article that highlights what you'll find on this picturesque road. To reach the highway, take Highway 79 south from Florence and turn left at the sign post for Florence-Kelvin Highway.

Florence sits at an elevation of approximately 1500 feet, which is conducive to many species of cactus, most notably, the Saguaro. I found this interesting specimen while heading southeast. The strange growth at the top of the cactus is commonly referred to as "crested" or "monstrose" and usually occurs due to some type of damage suffered by the cactus.
Crested "Monstrose" Saguaro
In the general area, I happened to stumble (literally!!) upon a geocache. My daughter and I are planning on revisiting next week to see what's inside. I have to be honest. With the recent Paris bombings, I had no intention of opening that container without someone else who is more experienced with geocaching to check it out first.
Geocache somewhere on the Florence-Kelvin Highway

I came across this beauty of a ranch gate just west of the Cottonwood Wash. So, are they ranching large black mountain lions on this ranch? >^..^<
Black Cat Ranch
My final stop on the highway was at the boulders located at the intersection of Florence-Kelvin Highway and Cochran Road. If you continue past Cochran, the highway is no longer paved, and it's a bumpy trip to Kelvin from that point on. I'm saving that for another day. We had a big rainstorm heading into Florence and the last thing I wanted was to have to deal with flash flooding.
Boulder Site at the intersection of Cochran and Florence-Kelvin Highway.
Another view of the Boulder site with the Superstition Mountains in the background
I have no idea what type of flower they are, but saw these gorgeous teeny, tiny, yellow flowers near the Stop sign. They're no bigger than a dime and are such a vibrant yellow. The creeping plant near the flowers is a common weed known as "Spurge" or "Sand Mat".

Yellow wildflowers
A suggestion for a place to stay in the area is the Gotno Morgan Ranch Resort. Near as I can tell, the street to access the ranch is Biznaga (there is a sign showing where to turn off of the highway). From their website, it looks pretty interesting. I think I'm going to have to check them out before too long.

I'm looking forward to heading back out next week with my daughter for further exploration. If you find yourself in Florence, AZ, be sure to check out the Florence-Kelvin Highway. You won't regret it.

Sunday, November 8, 2015

The Sky is Falling!! The Sky is Falling!!

Now I know how Chicken Little may have felt. Saturday evening (11/7) at approximately 7 PM (MST), my mother and I were watching the evening stars from my back patio when I noticed a strange light in the sky coming from a Westerly direction. The Taurid meteor shower is currently taking place in the night sky, so I thought we were being treated to another fireball. However, within seconds, the bright light turned into a giant fog-like glowing orb with a bright center. From my perspective here in Florence, AZ, the "orb" appeared to be coming straight at me.

I quickly got my binoculars to get a better look, and could not believe what I was seeing. The "orb" was trailing a bright blueish-green tail when it suddenly changed direction. I could then see what appeared to be a trail similar to a comet from the top of the object, as well as from the bottom. What the heck was it??

Well, within an hour information became available through Twitter/Facebook/etc., and apparently, The US Navy launched a Trident II (DB5) missile from somewhere off the southern California coast (unarmed thankfully) as a test. The view from southern California was quite different from what I saw, but looking at the photos, I now understand why it appeared to look like a giant glowing, round, fog-like orb.

This morning, I found a great Blog article accurately detailing what I saw:
View of the missile from California

From California, the missile was more visible from the side, but you can clearly see the foggy ring and the blueish-green tail emanating from the center.
View from Arizona

I'm not sure where in Arizona this photo was taken, but the angle is more straight-on than from the side. What I saw was similar but different. This photo was probably taken about 5 minutes after the missile first appeared in the sky as a bright light.

I found another photo taken from Arizona in 2005 that showed another missile launch that took place in California from Vandenberg Air Force base. It's another side-view, but imagine looking at it straight on and you'll understand what it was I saw last night. Strangely, what was missing from last night's launch was the tell-tale glowing "launch line" that typically trails behind a missile.
2005 Vandenberg Missile Launch as seen from Arizona

09nov15 ***Corrected original NASA reference to US Navy***

Saturday, August 15, 2015

Why Can't We All Just Get Along?

I don't know about you, but I have no desire to watch the new movie "Straight Outta Compton". I grew up in North Long Beach, which borders Compton, and remember well the turmoil and racial strife, that for me began with the Watts Riots in the summer of 1965. Until that summer, Compton was where we did a lot of shopping. The closest Sears was located there, and even though I was 10, I had no concerns or worries about being in Compton. After the summer of 1965, that all changed. To this day, I can still recall seeing the smoke from the fires that were set during the riots and the news images on TV.
In 1966, I got my first horse, and boarded her at Coles Stables, which was just on the other side of the LA River from Compton. That river served as a type of "buffer" from what was going on so close by. I remember one time in the late spring of 1969, I was riding in the riverbed with  my sister and her girlfriend, when a group of young boys on bicycles appeared and demanded that we let them ride our horses. When we said "No", they became aggressive and one of them actually threw his bike at us. Fortunately, they were on the "Compton" side of the water and we were on the "Long Beach" side, which deterred them from being able to physically get to us. We got out of there as fast as our horses could go. That was the last time I rode on the bottom of the LA River unless it was West of Alondra Boulevard.
My best friend in junior high and high school lived in Compton. To escape the turmoil, she got an inter-city transfer in 1968 so she could go to North Long Beach schools. The funny thing is, Long Beach had its own issues with racial strife, and in 1971 decided to begin "bussing" students from Poly High School (you may have heard of Poly High, as this is where Snoop Dogg went to school). Not long after, I remember hearing of knife fights and other atrocities occurring on school grounds. My idyllic southern California lifestyle radically changed in just a few years.
By the time I was ready to graduate high school in 1972, Compton was the last place I would intentionally visit. It was just too risky to be there. Personally, I find this to be really sad. As a young person, I didn't understand why people would be treated differently because of the color of their skin. I went to school with kids from Indonesia, Mexico, Japan, and many other diverse and ethnic lands. It never crossed my mind to treat them any differently. We were classmates and friends, why would I be mean to them just because they had a different color skin?
I have no idea what Compton is like today, but I certainly can do without the reminder by watching a movie. Hopefully, the youth of today will not try to replicate what they see. As Rodney King once said "Why Can't We All Just Get Along?" If I knew the answer to that, I would be rich.

Thursday, August 13, 2015

Welsh Tap Dancing Seagull - Puttin' on the Ritz!!

OMG! I laughed so hard when I first saw this that I cried. I love the little pitter patter of his tiny feet!

Tuesday, August 11, 2015

What will Amazon do? Or, Drones -- a bad idea waiting to happen

I am not a fan of Amazon's proposal to use drones to deliver packages. I think this is one of the worst ideas EVER! People are going to use them as shooting practice, planes will collide with them, and what happens if one fails and ends up falling on someone and killing them?
Case in point:

Of course, this didn't happen in the US, but we have eagles, too! And, this was no "collision". That eagle probably felt threatened by that drone and intentionally took it out.