Monday, January 11, 2010


We were getting past Devil’s Canyon, listening to the rocks and mountains telling hundreds of millions of years worth of stories, and entering the Tonto National Forest when I decided to name our rented Ford Escape Jay Silverwheels. Some of you probably don’t get the reference. There was this guy named Jay Silverheels, who played, Tonto, the Lone Ranger’s sidekick . . .

Do you know about the Lone Ranger? How the past slips away. If you’re lucky you become archaeology. If not, you are simply forgotten.

Soon we saw mountains whose characters and legends were smoothed away by strip mining. An awesome sight, but not quite as awesome as the natural hoodooistic landscapes where I spotted a few pairs of panties abandoned in the scenic overlooks along with fallout of fast food consumption. Some people eat their Macfood, others lose their underwear. Still, most Americans don’t appreciate what a fantastic place they live in.

The mining towns of Superior and Globe/Miami are taking on the aspect of ghost towns these days. Video stores, gas stations, motels, restaurants, and houses stand empty. The mines are closing, people are leaving.

I’m reminded of the so-called disappearance of the Maya that is a popular subject as we get closer to 2012. Folks wonder where they went and why they left their cities empty. Theories have them vibrating to a higher plane of reality, or being transported offplanet by UFOs.

That all makes for stimulating conversation, but the reality is a little more mundane. The economic system that kept the cities of the Maya going collapsed. People needed to to go on living -- so they moved.

Ridiculously simple, huh? The river runs dry, you pack up and look for one that’s still wet. There are ruins all over the Southwest near dry rivers. There are also ghost towns where the mines failed, or the new highway system passed them by. Route 66 leads you to lost civilizations.

As for the disappearing people -- there are people everywhere. In the 1300s, settlements all over the continent were abandoned. At the same time, cities sprang up in other places. No UFO motherships were required to bring in new populations. We don’t need theories about sci-fi or supernatural explanations for the ghost towns of Nineteenth and Twentieth Centuries. The people just moved.

It still happens. Where Em and I live in the Metro Phoenix Area, there are a lot of empty houses. The people who used to live in them looked Mayan and spoke Spanish. Our local sheriff waged a public campaign to make them leave. Now the local economy is failing.

When the Maya move, they leave dead cities in their wake. Meanwhile, Mayan-looking people are showing up all over the United States of America. They didn’t come in flying saucers.

Then again, we do see a lot of UFOs in these parts, Kemo Sabe.

1 comment:

  1. It's funny that you brought up the Jay Silverheels information. I was a fan of "The Lone Ranger" when I was a kid, and I mourned for weeks when Silverheels died. These days, though, bringing up any reference to the show or the radio dramas might as well be referring to any of Shakespeare's writer contemporaries. A couple of months back, I referred to a friend at work as "kemo sabe," and I had to spend the next twenty minutes proving to him that I hadn't fatally insulted him. He'd honestly never heard of the show before.