Arizona desert (image)

Let’s Talk About Arizona

by Peg Matteson, Maverick Arizona Historian

First of all, I need to establish that I came to Arizona in 1952 because I was married to a native Tucsonan and this was to be our permanent home… and I, like so many others, envisioned Arizona as one big sandbox, an arid land filled with nothing but desert. Of course these types of observations are always made from afar by nincompoops (which, of course, in those days included me). Well, sure, Arizona DOES have quite a bit of desert land, but there’s a reason. Arizona’s boundaries encompass 113,956 square miles, and an estimated 46,000 of those square miles are considered desert. That’s only about 40 percent. But – and this is the good part – it’s not just one desert. It’s four. No other state can make such a boast.

Lands sneak into the state from several directions. Each contains elements common to the other three: sparse rainfall, poisonous snakes, creosote bushes, light vegetation, vermin and varmints. The Sonoran Desert occupies the majority of Arizona’s land allotted to desert. It comes up from Mexico and is so big it encompasses two national wildlife ranges, two national monuments dedicated to cactus, and six of the state’s largest cities.

Most of the Mohave is in California and Nevada. The section in western Arizona runs along the Colorado River and is the homeland of the Joshua tree forests and record high temperatures. The Chihuahuan  Desert slips into southeastern Arizona from northern Mexico, and is well known for producing century plants that shoot tall, narrow spikes skyward in remarkably short time periods.

The Chiricahua Mountains rise abruptly from the floor of the Chihuahuan Desert, and about 80 percent  of the nation’s snakebite serum comes from this desert’s wildlife. When the Great Basin Desert wanders into northeastern Arizona, it has already traveled across six other states. Huge petrified trees, Canyon de Chelly, the Painted Desert, portions of the Navajo Nation, and giant sandstone formations mark it’s presence in the state. When people say to you “how can you live in such a desert state?” you can now say to them…. “because we found some secret mountains, aspens, lakes, streams, wildlife including elk and deer, bears and coyotes, and so much more and it is called The White Mountains… and that’s our wonderful home, folks.

Christmas is coming! Now before I leave you, I want to introduce you (if necessary), to a wonderful Christmas present to give “the hims” in our lives and sometimes even the “hers.” First of all, Arizona is the only state in the union where the state legislature (years ago) designated official neckwear – which even holds true today.

It is the bola tie. Now the bola is loved by many, but also scorned by many… It consists of a leather thong and a sliding clasp that adjusts the tie to the wearer’s neck without going through the hassle of tying a knot.

The bola was invented in the 1940’s by Arizona cowboy Vic Cedarstaff of Wickenburg, who hung a fancy hatband around his neck. It was proclaimed the state’s official neckwear in 1971.

Just thought I would give you a tidbit more of Arizona history and an idea for a great Christmas present… and so, dear readers, you now have your dose of Arizona informational history… our beautiful state with a heart… Arizona!

Vintage Arizona postcard (image)