Petroglyphs, Flowers and Rocks That Ring

Aleksandra Kolosowsky | Saguaro National Park

By Karen E. Peterson

The ancient Hohokams of Central and Southern Arizona saw an otherworldly meaning in our state’s radiance: in the springtime explosion of bright yellow flowers on paloverde trees; in the carpeting of purple lupines and orange poppies; in crimson cactus blossoms; in hummingbirds, butterflies, even the glint of minerals in the desert sand. For those who lived here first, these were visual thresholds through which they could glimpse the Flower World — the glimmering, iridescent land of the spirits.

The Flower World is a belief system that arose from Mesoamerica many thousands of years ago and spread to Central America, Mexico and the American Southwest. It did not fade with time but became rooted in the spiritual expressions of 30 modern Native cultures, including the Hohokams' descendants, the Tohono O’odhams and Akimel O’odhams.

You can see its influence even today, in celebrations like November’s spectacular Día de los Muertos, the Day of the Dead celebration, and in the mesmerizing Yaqui Deer Dance performed at Pascua Yaqui communities in Tucson and Guadalupe, outside Phoenix. The beauty and athleticism of the Yaqui Easter ceremony is downright “flowery,” in the sense of what the word means in Flower World terminology — masculine strength and courage.

Once you know about the Flower World and live in Arizona, its flower metaphors pop up practically everywhere, which is one reason these volunteer petroglyph sleuths are balanced this late autumn day like so many mountain sheep on the upper slopes of a 200-foot pile of rocks and boulders — a cone of stones known as an inselberg, or “rock island.” They're just weeks away from completing what they began two and a half years earlier: a painstaking, physically strenuous, bottom-to-top identification — hand-recorded and tabulated, photographed and GPS-coordinated — of the multitude of images on this aerie canvas 30 dusty miles from Tucson, near the Tohono O’odham Nation.

The hill was the last and smallest location in a multi-year investigation of the Flower World’s presence among the early Hohokams by rock art researchers Janine Hernbrode and Peter Boyle, not by way of conventional archaeological means — finding representations on pottery, for instance — but by closer examination of where people gathered: petroglyph sites like this one.

By late December 2017, the work of Hernbrode, Boyle and their 15 hardy volunteers, collectively the “Rock Band,” was completed, and the overall exploration of petroglyph sites in the Tucson valley at its end, save for crunching the data, Flower World-related and otherwise. Final results notwithstanding, as the work progressed on this little hill, Hernbrode remembers thinking, “Something special is going on here.”

Flowers Everywhere

The remote inselberg on privately owned and fenced ranchland was the culmination of a quest that began in 2012, following an encounter with a rock art specialist from Texas. She pointed to a glyph at a Hohokam site in the foothills of the Santa Catalina Mountains, north of the city, where Hernbrode and Boyle were working on another project, and remarked that it looked like a flower.

“She asked if I’d heard of the Flower World. I hadn’t,” Hernbrode says. She remedied the gap by turning to the work of Jane H. Hill, retired anthropology professor at the University of Arizona, whose specialty was linguistics.

In her groundbreaking 1992 study, The Flower World of Old Uto-Aztecan, Hill explores the emergence of what she terms the “Flower World Complex,” from its Mesoamerican origins to its spread into the Southwest. A belief system grounded in nature, the Flower World found a welcoming home within the Ancestral Puebloan culture of Chaco Canyon in New Mexico.

“If you wanted to endow something with a sacred quality, you would call it ‘flowery,’” Hill elaborates. “Flowers represent the idea of what a beautiful, sacred holy world would be like.” This world had no barriers — it could be experienced by anyone, shaman or not, by way of faith, song and flowers.

What is less well known is the Hohokam’s embrace of the Flower World during the same timeframe as the Ancestral Puebloans, roughly 1,000 years ago.

The Hohokams' Sonoran Desert homeland was within the path of migration from Mesoamerica, and fieldwork at Hohokam settlements uncovered artifacts from other cultures, indicating a trading route. But more conclusive evidence was needed to confirm the Flower World Complex within early Hohokam spiritual practice.

It could be, too, that the ephemeral nature of how the Flower World was expressed by the Hohokams and their descendants — by song, primarily — made it more difficult to trace. The word “music” in the language of the Tohono O’odhams, Hill notes, translates to “flowers for ears.”  

In her paper, Hill suggested that a re-examination of Hohokam artifacts, including petroglyphs, might offer up clues. Intrigued, Hernbrode and Boyle began looking at previously recorded glyphs at the Santa Catalinas location and atop Tumamoc Hill in downtown Tucson, site of a Hohokam settlement. Both had a good number of what appeared to be flowers, when you knew what to look for.

“My mantra is one is nice, two are interesting, three is a pattern,” says Hernbrode, whose pattern here included related Flower World imagery — birds and butterflies — that help make up the full complement of Hill’s Flower World Complex. With sponsorship by the Arizona Archaeological and Historical Society, the two opted to take one more look at a location that included this compact stack of stones.

So Much to Say

The Tohono O’odham call the hill “Chuhl tho’ag,” and say the name likely alludes to the once-running, life-sustaining stream at its base. Flat boulders along the banks are pockmarked with morteros — holes created by grinding mesquite beans for flour gathered from trees lining the waterway.  

An oasis for desert dwellers, the O’odhams consider it a sacred gathering site and a seasonal home in the past for mesquite harvesting. Rock Band volunteer William Gillespie, a retired archaeologist with the U.S. Forest Service, found evidence of a nearby settlement during breaks from glyph hunting.

So while the hill may seem to be (and is) in the middle of nowhere now, back then, it was very much on the beaten path, its bounty of rocks offering up the means for mass communication.

In part, the hill confirmed what Hernbrode and Boyle had hypothesized: The Hohokam’s embrace of the Flower World appears contemporaneous “with its appearance in areas like Chaco Canyon,” Hernbrode says. Confident in their early analysis, she refers to the 900-plus individual Flower World images the team recorded there. Roughly two-thirds are images of birds and butterflies, one-third flowers, among them images that look much like the real thing, from cactus flowers to wildflowers, when photographed side by side.

If that was all the team discovered after years of hard rock labor, the results would be singularly significant, today and for future researchers, who may discover, as Hernbrode suspects, that the Flower World came to the Ancestral Puebloans through the Hohokams first, not vice versa, as assumed.

But the hill had more to impart.                            

To begin, the tidy inselberg is jammed with more than 9,000 images — abstracts to animals, including 900 snake glyphs  — a profusion that may crown the hill as having the largest collection of petroglyphs in Southern Arizona. Hernbrode also suggests that, given its small size, it could have the “densest collection of glyphs” in a state blessed with rock art.

Then there were the “bell rocks” — solid, hefty boulders that when struck with a mallet sound, astoundingly, as clear and joyful as choir handbells. They're found worldwide, but here they counted 40 scattered serendipitously across the inselberg, identified by ages-old strike marks on their surfaces. Tonally ranging over three octaves, each returning a different pitch, some are grouped together to allow for harmonies, notes Boyle, who focused on the bell rocks with volunteer Carl Evertsbusch.  

The relationship, if any, between the Flower World and the bell rocks is unknown, though how special it must have been for congregants — nature’s own music to accompany a belief system delivered in song.

With “beginning” also one of the supposed meanings of Chuhl tho’ag, it is worth musing that the name refers to another intriguing find — imagery of the Hohokam and O’odham origin story. While these images are found throughout the hill, one particular grouping stood out: Glyphs are pecked into a pair of neighboring boulders in such a way that the unformed humans, fashioned as stick-art barbells, emerge from the natural fissure between the rocks to become fully human, though curiously with bowed legs.

“Everyone needs someplace to commemorate their beginnings,” says Hernbrode of the provocative pictorial, adding, “They emerged in groups, holding on to one another.”

What Now?

Hernbrode and Boyle have their work cut out as they sift through the data and begin publishing their latest findings, the first appearing this year in American Indian Rock Art.

As for the remarkably intimate inselberg, it isn’t going anywhere, though all involved are hoping its future is protected. “A sacred site, it is obviously very significant for the Nation,” says Peter Steere, Tohono O’odham historic preservation officer.

Property owner Jesus Arvizu has been happy to share its slopes with the Rock Band researchers. He also allows open access to the O’odhams, as a matter of courtesy and respect. As the hill’s steward, Arvizu receives kudos from Steere, who has walked the rugged area for signs of trespassers — hikers, drug traffickers, vandals — and reports that he hasn’t “even seen a cigarette butt.” As Steere points out, defacing or disturbing petroglyphs in any way is a felony offense under the Arizona Antiquities Act.

A businessman and rancher, Arvizu operates the Cocoraque Ranch and Pavilion, a popular Old West venue for corporate and private events, with its refurbished ranch house, cowboy decor, rodeo corral and plenty of room to dance. He also takes guests on horseback rides to the petroglyph site.

Arvizu has been approached about selling the land, and is willing. Pima County, in whose jurisdiction the hill sits, has the 160-acre property on its open space wish list, but previously secured bond money is gone and all county funding measures were voted down in the 2015 election. Still, county archaeologist Linda Mayro, who said her visit to the site “underscored my goal to see it preserved,” confirms that the county continues to look “for opportunities to ensure the permanent preservation of this exceptional cultural resource."

For now, Arvizu remains its caretaker, visiting frequently as he checks on cattle and fences. While Arvizu admits that he had no idea until recently “how valuable the hill is to history,” he has long understood its allure: “I sometimes sit on the top of the hill. It is so peaceful and quiet. Looking out over the valley, I go back in time and can’t help but wonder how it must have been.”

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Tom Kollenborn: 1938-2018

Tom Kollenborn | Via Facebook

Tom Kollenborn, an Arizona cowboy, author and historian whose work focused on the Superstition Mountains and the legend of the Lost Dutchman gold mine, died in late September. He was 80.

Kollenborn died of cancer, a longtime friend told The Arizona Republic.

Kollenborn's interest in the Superstitions, which are east of the Phoenix area, began early in his life. As he recounted on his website:

In the early spring of 1948, I was introduced to the Superstition Mountains at First Water by my father. We hiked into East Boulder Canyon then over into Needle Canyon near John Pearce’s old camp. We spent the night and hiked out the next day. I was ten years old and this was my first real introduction to the mountains. The story, the rugged mountain and the serenity of region capture my imagination for the rest of my life.

He would go on to write numerous articles and books about the Superstitions, the Apache Trail and the Lost Dutchman legend. (That legend holds that a German prospector named Jacob Waltz discovered a rich gold deposit in the Superstitions, but died before divulging its location. Since then, countless people have tried to find the site.)

Kollenborn lived in the Apache Junction area. He wrote a regular column for the Apache Junction News, and as recently as last year, he was participating in a History Channel documentary about the Lost Dutchman myth.

"The Apache Junction area has lost a local legend with the passing of Tom Kollenborn,'' Apache Junction Mayor Jeff Serdy told The Republic. "He leaves behind a void that cannot be filled by another person, but thankfully we will always have his written word that is larger than life."

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Wright-Designed Phoenix House Now for Sale

Courtesy of the David and Gladys Wright House

Plans to donate a Phoenix home designed by famed architect Frank Lloyd Wright have fallen through, and the property is now for sale for nearly $13 million, according to media reports.

As The New York Times and other outlets reported earlier this month, the David and Gladys Wright House was set to be donated to the School of Architecture at Taliesin, located at Wright's former headquarters of Taliesin West in Scottsdale. That agreement was forged last summer, but fundraising concerns led to the agreement being dissolved this past June.

The plan under the agreement was for the school to use the site for education and events. Now, though, it's going on the market instead, the Times reported.

The David and Gladys Wright House dates to the early 1950s, when Wright designed it for his son and daughter-in-law. Zach Rawling, the current owner of the house, bought it for $2.3 million in 2012 to save it from demolition. Arizona Highways readers might remember the house from Quite Wright, a Matt Jaffe story in our February 2016 issue.

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Scottsdale's History on Display at Exhibition

A golfer at Scottsdale's Ingleside Inn in the 1910s. | Courtesy of Scottsdale Public Art

An exhibition opening today in Scottsdale features photos of life in the city's early days.

Historic Scottsdale: Live, Work and Play in the Early 20th Century runs through October 31 at the Gallery @ Appaloosa Library, located at 7377 E. Silverstone Drive. The exhibition, according to a news release, is timed to coincide with the 50th anniversary of the opening of Scottsdale City Hall and the Civic Center Library in October 1968.

Visitors to the library exhibition will see dozens of historic photographs from 50 to 100 years ago, organizers said. The collection was curated by Wendy Raisanen, curator of collections and exhibitions for Scottsdale Public Art. Subjects include people shopping for groceries, building canals, hunting and riding in early automobiles, according to the news release.

"It's a perfect time to reflect on the history of every corner of Scottsdale and the men and women who comprise our history," community historian Joan Fudala said.

The library is open from 9 a.m. to 8 p.m. Mondays through Thursdays, 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays, and 1 to 5 p.m. Sundays. For more information, visit or call 480-874-4645.

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Reflections of Frank Lloyd Wright's Youngest Apprentice

Vernon Swaback became Frank Lloyd Wright's apprentice when he was just 17. | Emily Balli

In early May, I took a tour of Taliesin West, architect Frank Lloyd Wright’s winter home and architecture school in Scottsdale. Like anyone who has the opportunity to visit, I was in awe of the architecture, beauty and history of the building. During the tour, the guide mentioned that there are only a handful of Wright’s apprentices still living. His youngest apprentice, Vernon Swaback, who worked aside Wright at just 17 years old, is one of them. He’s now in his late 70s and resides in Scottsdale, where he owns his own architecture and planning firm, Swaback Partners.

I got in touch with him and asked if he’d be interested talking about his experiences at Taliesin West. He graciously agreed, and before hanging up the phone, he mentioned that years back, he had written an article for Arizona Highways. I searched the archives and found his November 1988 article, Frank Lloyd Wright: A Personal Perspective. In the piece, he wrote eloquently about his experiences with, and observations of, his beloved mentor, a pioneer and innovator who is often named one of the greatest American architects.

Today, Swaback’s memories of Wright haven’t faded. When asked his experiences as a student at Taliesin West, Swaback lights up and speaks as if it were just yesterday that he was sitting at the drafting table with Wright.

Swaback grew up near Oak Park, Illinois, where Wright also lived for a time. Since high school, he says, he dreamt of one day working with Wright. Having visited and seen many of his buildings in Chicago, Swaback admired his work before he even knew his name. In October 1956, Wright unveiled his rendering of his famous (but never built) Mile High Illinois skyscraper in Chicago. Although Swaback didn’t truly meet Wright at that time, he did get a photo taken with him and the mayor of Chicago.

It was during the unveiling that Swaback had the chance to meet some of Wright’s apprentices. He knew he wanted to become one, and he wrote a letter to Wright, hoping to catch the attention of his architecture hero. Just months later, 17-year-old Swaback interviewed to be Wright’s apprentice at Taliesin in Spring Green, Wisconsin. His parents drove him to Wisconsin for his interview, and upon their arrival, they were ushered into Wright’s private studio.

“When [Wright] came in, it was like … I can’t explain it,” Swaback says. “It was just like, How in the world did an Earthling like me get to be in the same room as this person? I had pretty much assured my parents that I thought there was no way I would ever be selected. That’s not what I was thinking or hoping, but it helped them.”

At the time, he was studying architecture at the University of Illinois, and when Wright asked him why he wanted to leave the university, he answered the question in a way he never had before. “Because they’re beginning to teach preconceived ideas,” Swaback replied. He says Wright looked at his mother, and then at his father, and simply asked, “Where does he get it? From you … or from you?” Swaback says he knew then that he was in.

Later on that day, Wright, Swaback and his parents were outside and Wright stared up at the sky. “I was sure that my father expected him to say something like "e=mc2,” Swaback says, laughing. “And instead he said, ‘I’ve been watching that little cloud. Isn’t that wonderful?’ That was Frank Lloyd Wright. He was the simplest of men … not complicated, but brilliantly connected to the workings of nature, the aspirations of people and the difference between the space within or what something looks like.”

During his first two and a half years studying at Taliesin West, he worked directly with Wright on a number of projects. He slept in a tent outside and worked outdoors constantly. Swaback says every moment of every day with Wright was a lesson. It wasn’t just lessons in architecture. It was about how fragile beauty is, and about the importance of detail.

“From morning until night, it was just filled with meaning,” Swaback says. “There wasn’t anything we did that wasn’t purpose-centered. For example, when I slept in a tent, I would get more of an understanding of the cycles of nature, the climate, the movement of the sun. Walking from there and to breakfast, I would see the incredible creativity of the Sonoran Desert.”

He also says he appreciated how every apprentice at Taliesin West was treated as an equal, no matter where they came from.

“There were people here when I was here that were of royal birth and had a palace back in Italy,” Swaback says. “Others were the decedents of captains of industry and were multimillionaires, and I had nothing like that. The difference between that and a society elsewhere is that no one would know the difference between who was a millionaire and who had nothing. Because the having of things in this atmosphere wasn’t something you owned or were given. It was all about who you were as a human being.”

In 1959, Swaback says, he and his fellow apprentices were shocked to hear that Wright had passed away at age 91.

“I was working directly with him on a watercolor rendering of the plan of Monona Terrace,” Swaback recalls. “He went to the doctor for something that we thought was routine. Because he was lively as a teenager when he left. And he never came back. I am certain that is the way he wanted to leave this world.”

After Wright’s passing, Swaback stayed at Taliesin West for 21 years and eventually became the director of planning there. He left in 1978, at age 38, and started his firm. He’s written several books about Wright and other topics. He says there’s no question that Wright’s work will continue to inspire architects for years to come. However, he hopes to see architecture and the world move in the direction of building communities like the one that existed at Taliesin West back in the 1950s.

“If humanity is to have a future, the lessons reside in the history of this place,” Swaback said. “History is not made by the creation of technology that has the power to remove us from the face of the Earth. There is no history when that happens. For the rest of my life, for as long as I’m able to keep going, I’m far more interested in the architecture of life than the architecture of a building. That, to me, is the greatest lesson to be learned from that man.”

To learn more about Taliesin West, Frank Lloyd Wright or Vernon Swaback, visit or

 — Emily Balli

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Group Seeks Historic Trail Designation for Route 66

Mindy Montoya | Historic Route 66

A national nonprofit group is traveling the country this summer to bring attention to its goal: having America's most famous highway designated a National Historic Trail.

Historic Route 66, which passes through Arizona and seven other states on its way from Chicago to Los Angeles, is the focus of the trip by the National Trust for Historic Preservation, KTAR radio in Phoenix reported. 

The tour is scheduled to be in Arizona July 26-31, although details of the stop had not been worked out. You can visit the National Trust's website for updated information.

It's up to Congress to decide whether something should get the designation. Currently, there are 19 designated National Historic Trails, including the Lewis and Clark route and Alabama's Selma to Montgomery march, KTAR reported.

There's plenty to celebrate about Route 66 in Arizona, as we noted in the May 2015 issue of Arizona Highways. The Grand Canyon State has several surviving segments of the trail that are in use today, including the route from Seligman to Kingman and the drive from Kingman to the Colorado River (via Oatman). Additionally, Petrified Forest National Park is the only National Park Service site that includes a portion of the Mother Road.

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Krazy for Arizona: George Herriman and Monument Valley

Krazy Kat and friends discuss a Monument Valley landscape. | Illustration by George Herriman | Courtesy of Museum of Modern Art

Monument Valley: the setting for epic films, the subject of breathtaking photographs, the cover of our December 2017 issue ... and the inspiration for a laugh?

Yes, for cartoonist George Herriman, the valley's landscape served as both background and comic fodder for his series Krazy Kat. Herriman drew and authored newspaper funnies from roughly 1901 to 1944, but he's best remembered for Krazy Kat, a strip that starred its carefree namesake feline and Ignatz, an angry mouse prone to hurling projectiles at Krazy Kat’s head. Publishing giant William Randolph Hearst was so enamored of the comic, he provided Herriman a handsome lifetime salary to draw the strip for his newspapers.

In 1905, after paying his dues in New York City, Herriman settled in Southern California. From there, he became a frequent visitor to Arizona, especially Northern Arizona and Monument Valley. The trips soon influenced Krazy Kat, and the strip became populated with towering rock spires, Navajo symbols, the word "Coconino" and long, vanishing horizon lines.

While in Arizona, Herriman often lodged with Louisa and John Wetherill in Kayenta. He joined an impressive list of other well-known guests, such as Zane Grey, Maynard Dixon and Dorothea Lange, who had stayed there. During one visit, Herriman embellished the Wetherills' guest registry with a drawing of Krazy Kat and a caricature of (presumably) John Wetherill. The text read, in a typical Krazy Kat mash-up of syntax and spelling: "Back again, Hey? Sure, I are, ain't that a hebit among us 'kets.'”

Herriman enjoyed meeting Navajo families and become closely attached to their communities, generously funding the installation of a movie theater for tuberculosis patients in a Kayenta hospital. In return for his companionship and charity, Herriman received a handmade book of photographs by Josef Muench, one of Arizona Highways' earliest contributors, and a rug with “GEO. HERRIMAN” woven in a newspaper's colors of gray, black and white.

Herriman drew Krazy Kat almost to the end of his life. The last strip was published June 25, 1944, only two months after his death. Foreshadowing his passing, the final comic depicts Krazy after being plucked from a lake, either dead or unconscious. With a wink, no doubt, Herriman added a very narrow panel at the bottom with Krazy floating away. Not wanting to be too far from his beloved creation, Herriman requested in his will that his ashes be spread around Monument Valley.

Unlike some strips that outlived their creators, Krazy Kat ceased after Herriman’s death. Hearst felt no one else could continue the series, which was cited as an influence by cartooning legends such as Peanuts creator Charles Schulz and Calvin and Hobbes’ Bill Watterson. Fellow mouse cartoonist Walt Disney also acknowledged Herriman’s contribution to the field.

The appeal of Krazy Kat, for those who can decipher the topsy-turvy language, is the cat’s often innocent but astute observations of life. Herriman, when interviewed, said the Arizona landscape was very important to the strip. Sure, he would occasionally go for the sight gag, like Monument Valley’s Mittens clapping, but spend some time savoring the irreverent depictions of mesas and mountains, and you’ll get more than a chuckle out of the strip.

For a quick overview of Herriman’s life, check out the YouTube video on author Michael Tisserand’s website. His book on Herriman, Krazy, was published in 2016.

— Keith Whitney, Art Director

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Nine Decades of History at the Circle Z Ranch

Horseback riding is the focus of the Circle Z Ranch near Patagonia. | Mark Lipczynski

A stay at the Circle Z Ranch, on State Route 82 southwest of Patagonia, lasts only a week but stays with you for a lifetime. Lucia Nash is proof.

In the 1930s, the Nash family traveled from Ohio to visit the dude ranch, and Lucia, then a child, rode horses there. Later, she returned with her own children, and in the 1970s, when she heard the property might be sold to a developer, she and her husband bought it.

The family has kept the Circle Z running ever since — it's the oldest continually operating dude ranch in Arizona, and last year, it marked its 90th anniversary. Lucia's son, Rick, and daughter-in-law, Diana, run the ranch now, and they spend most of the Circle Z's season, late October to early May, at the ranch.

"We've always been centered on riding," Diana says. And it's easy to see why: With access to hundreds of miles of trails, there's always something new to see. And the Circle Z has long been known for its horses, which are bred, raised and trained on the ranch. And in 2013, the Circle Z parterned with the Arizona Land and Water Trust to create a 3,265-acre conservation easement to permanently protect the ranch's open space.

The dude ranch is only the most recent part of the property's history. It began as a sheep ranch in the late 1800s, then was purchased by the Zinsmeister family of Louisville, Kentucky, in the 1920s. They built the ranch's cottages, and while some have burned down, the others are still in use today (the family's home is now the ranch lodge). The property then changed hands several times before the Nashes bought it.

Over its history, the Circle Z has hosted several Hollywood productions, including Spencer Tracy's Broken Lance and Lee Marvin's Monte Walsh. But the focus has always been on the guests. A weeklong stay (Sunday to Sunday) includes numerous opportunities to get on horseback and explore the landscape, along with hiking and birding. The ranch also hosts nature walks, astronomy nights and plenty of delicious food. Shorter stays (Sunday to Thursday) are available, but the ranch's managers note that most people who book those stays end up wishing they'd sprung for a longer one.

With 91 years of happy guests in the books, the ranch clearly has a winning formula — one that's brought the Circle Z a lot of repeat customers, including former guests visiting with their kids, as Lucia Nash did. When they arrive, they find not much has changed — and that's by design.

"We're going to keep doing what we're doing," Diana Nash says. "We have a traditional, laid-back feel to our place, and that's the way we're going to keep it."

— Noah Austin, Associate Editor

The Circle Z Ranch is located on State Route 82 southwest of Patagonia. For more information, call 520-394-2525 or visit

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From Our Archives: A War Story

Arizona Highways Archives

Veterans Day is tomorrow, November 11. In that spirit, we'd like to share this letter and photo. They appeared in the June 1966 issue of Arizona Highways, during the Vietnam War.

As if you didn't know, your magnificent magazine gets around, although even you must be surprised now and again by the latest evidence of its universality.

The other day, while hitching a hop and passing the inevitable extra hour in the quonset hut terminal of the Cam Ranh Bay airfield, I came upon the scene preserved in the enclosed negatives.

Outside the F-4's were screaming in and out, to and from strikes both north and south of the dividing line of the tortured little country of Vietnam. The room was filled with 101st Airborne vets, all reading paperback novels bearing bosomy blondes on their slick covers, and over to one end of the rows of wooden benches, a dozen Korean marines in camouflage fatigues sat chattering and perspiring. Everyone was miserable in the close, humid airless tropical heat. All — save one.

He was Capt. Yong Il Shin, medical doctor for the Republic of Korea Marines. Dr. Shin was cool and preoccupied, lost in a land 8,000 miles away, where pyracanthia berries glisten in the tinselled night, and snow flocks the firs of the peaceful days. Dr. Shin was reading your Christmas edition of Arizona Highways, a copy of which somehow had found its way halfway around the world to exactly an opposite climate.

Congratulations to you and Highways, the only thing in history to make the Vietnam climate bearable!

Don Dedera
Saigon, South Vietnam

(At the time, Don Dedera was a columnist covering the conflict for The Arizona Republic. He later served as editor of Arizona Highways.)

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Prescott's Hotel Vendome Celebrates 100th Birthday

Courtesy of Hotel Vendome

A historic hotel located in the heart of downtown Prescott is celebrating its centennial this year.

Hotel Vendome got its start in 1917, when rancher J.B. Jones bought a plot of land in Prescott and built a two-story, red-brick hotel there. As Arizona Highways reported a few years back, the hotel has been through a dozen owners since then, and for a while, it was even considered a flophouse — "the kind of place people crossed the street to avoid."

Now, though, the hotel is a sought-after lodging destination and point of pride in Prescott. It's also listed on the National Register of Historic Places.

To celebrate its 100th birthday, the hotel is hosting an open house Sunday, November 5, from 1 to 5 p.m. The event includes a tour of the historic hotel's rooms and bar, along with a reception featuring light refreshments, drinks and live entertainment. A food drive at the event will benefit the Salvation Army.

To learn more, visit

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