Everyone was excited about our plans to stay in Flagstaff, Arizona and our trip to see a real ghost town. We had seen pictures of Diablo Canyon and were thrilled we were finally going to visit the Navajo Reservation. Dad had saved up all year long so we could go somewhere we had never been before. We were tired of the usual mountain and beach trips. This year was going to be extra special.
Within weeks our travel plans were confirmed and we were on our way to the biggest little town in the desert called Page, Arizona. I wanted to visit Diablo Canyon and see the original “Boot Hill” I had seen in the movies. I wanted to see how the people lived back in the day.
It was very hot and we were glad we only packed cool clothes. Our hiking boots came in good as well. When we finally arrived at the little town our eyes were filled with dust. In fact we were pretty much covered in it but it was worth every penny we had invested.
I had read about the town’s earlier life which began in 1882. It was a famous place at one time because of the outlaws and gambling houses. Saloons, brothels, dance halls were a welcome invitation to those passing by. Now I would be able to see the actual place.
I was anxious to see the place whose first marshal was buried within five hours after he took the job. Five more town marshals would follow, the longest lasting one month, and all were killed in the line of duty.
The town was designed with two lines of buildings facing one another. It consisted of fourteen saloons, ten gambling houses, four brothels and two dance halls. It seems the center street in the small town was not named Main Street but Hell Street because it was the most dangerous place for a person to be. I can just imagine all the guns blasting away and the smoking guns right now.
A “Boot Hill” cemetery sprouted up at the end of town, which in less than a decade had 35 graves, all of whom had been killed by way of violent death. The 36th grave was that of former trading post owner Herman Wolf, who died in 1899, the only one to have died a nonviolent death.
We visited so many wonderful sites, such as the Meteor Crater, Navajo Reservation, and of course Hell Street.
What remains today at Canyon Diablo are a few building foundations, the grave marker and grave of Herman Wolf as well as the ruins of the trading post. It appears the old folk were correct when they said “Live by the gun, die by the gun!” Maybe some of our society today should take note of those words. Perhaps all the gangs might listen to wise words once spoken.
Our visit was tremendous and we were on our way out of the town of Page, Arizona when we saw an amazing animal fly over our heads. It was the almost extinct California condor. I was so excited to see such a magnificent bird still alive and flying just over my head.
The California condor is the largest flying bird in North America. They have a wing span of almost 10 feet and they glide on the air currents soaring as high as 15,000 feet.
We watched as the huge vulture landed a good distance away and began feasting on the carcass of a dead animal. He gorged himself so much that he had to lie there for two hours before he could fly again.
During this time we were able to use our binoculars and watch him as if we were inches away from him. What a wonderful opportunity to see something few have ever really seen.
I remembered that the Condors are a very sacred bird to the Navajo Indians and other Native Americans. What wonderful surprises we were given. Few people have ever seen the California condor in the wild like we did.
When we returned to our hotel later we took the time to look up the California condor and found out many interesting facts about them. We discovered that many of them died due to poisons used in that area and others simply flew accidentally into power lines.
We were told by people in the hotel that others were lost because people collected their eggs illegally. Thanks to many organizations and private breeders they are coming out of extinction.
The California condors do not breed until they are six to eight years of age and they only lay one egg every two years. When scientist discovered that if they removed one egg for incubation the condor would lay another, they continued doing this to get extra eggs. They finally discovered the female would continue to lay eggs if they were taken from her. It was because of this that the condors have now been removed from the extinct list of birds.
Today there are about 130 or so birds living in the wild and we got to see one of them. We named the condor we saw Abraham and we took pictures of him so we could show our friends at home.
I hope other people will change their visits from the beach to visit some of the places we did. It will change your life and your respect of the California condor.
Now I have great dreams of the Wild West, the canyons, the deserts, gunslingers like William “Curly Bill” Brocius, James Butler Hickock “Wild Bill”, Jesse James, Annie Oakley, Billy the Kid, The Sundance Kid, Butch Cassidy, Thomas Coleman Younger, Sam Bass, James B “Killer” Miller, Belle Starr, and the massive California condor. You will too.
Question: What caused the California condor to almost become extinct?
Written by Sybil Shearin
All Rights Reserved
Picture of the California condor is used with permission from Mr. Ron Reznick
www.digital-images.net with our thanks. We tip our hats to you!
Charge(s) Horse thief, cattle rustling, train and bank robbery
Conviction(s) Imprisoned in the state prison in Laramie, Wyoming for horse theft
Penalty Served 18 months of 2-year sentence; released January 1896
Occupation Thief (train robber)
Parents Maximillian Parker and Ann Campbell Gillies