Wednesday, December 5, 2012


Today we were evaluating a site in the Sulfur Springs Valley, located east of Tucson.

Typical – anytime we have a site to visit there is a scramble to deal with barbed wire fences!

I had walked the site and was headed out and had to go under the barbed wire fence again!

I was alone as my crewmates were in the wash and well away from me.

The fence was tight but I thought I could get under without the extra ‘lift’ of the lower wires.

I got stuck!

I was on my belly - squirming under the wires - military style.

The barbs grabbed my windbreaker!

I managed to tilt and release the barbs.

I continued to do the military belly slide – hook and unhook the barbs.

Finally free and I was out!

As I stood up a crewmate laughingly hollered to me, “Didn’t any one tell you to act your age?”


“Don’t all old ladies belly under barbed wire fences?” I hollered back.

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Unexpected Caution

We have been monitoring sites within the Cienega Preserve since 2001 and the only ‘caution’ we have had to consider is coming upon illegal aliens or falling off a cliff!

Things have changed!

In early summer one of our sites had a very big prickly pear cactus torn-ripped to shreds!

Next to it was bear scat.

We identified the scat by a book with pictures and drawings of animal paw prints and scat.

Yep! It was bear(ursus americanus).

We were very excited, as bear has never been reported in the Preserve, at least to our knowledge.

This past Friday we were on a high ridge site on the south side of the Creek and there were 3 huge areas of bear scat.

No plants had been damaged but we think there had been several bears on site.

Also they had been there for quite sometime probably just hanging out.

Of course, I mentioned this in the report to the Land Manager.

The county biologist/ranger sent me a picture of a bear he had spotted recently in the Preserve!

In the picture the bear is walking casually down the dry Creek bed!

Often,this is our very means of traversing to sites!

It is a very handsome, big black bear usually seen up in the mountains to the north of the Preserve.

The biologist says, “It seems as though resources are lower in the mountains this year. Game and fish have been getting more calls this year about bears all over southeast Arizona. Plus they love prickly pear and there was quite a bit this year.”

So there we have it!

We add another ‘caution’ to our weekly treks!

Tuesday, October 2, 2012


Archaeological Site Steward monitoring has some interesting turns!

Last week Fran spotted a desert tortoise (Gopherus morafkai) under a rocky over-hang on the trail.

I managed to get flat down on my belly and took a picture of the tortoise with a size scale next to it.

I attached the picture to my site report to the land manager (LM).

Yesterday, the LM said a biologist, who is primarily interested in Leopard frogs, was all excited, as he had just seen a desert tortoise upon leaving the Davidson canyon area of the Cienega Preserve.

The LM emailed him the picture I sent of ‘our’ tortoise.

Now the biologist really got excited.

He emailed LM saying he is sure it is the same one he saw - 1/2 mile away!

Our two tortoises match up in size and ‘ding’ in left rear carapace!

He plans to do time travel study etc.

As the LM said “all those scientific things that we dirt archaeologist don’t do!”

To follow up I sent a reminder photo to the LM of a tortoise we saw in 2011- about ½ mile west of the present sighting.

Good heavens!

What if it is the same fellow?

I would say, “That tortoise sure travels around!”

Friday, August 10, 2012


Hi to all who venture here.

I mostly write about my experiences around Tucson and the desert.

My computer experience-ability-is limited! You may have to copy and paste the link to see where I live.

If you do visit the web site-- enjoy! Tucson is a very unique place!

Saturday, August 4, 2012


Several years ago, my Site Steward partner and I decided to do some roaming following checking on a couple of sites within the Cienega Preserve.

We stumbled upon a Historic site!

Surprisingly, the site is quite large so how did the original survey crew miss it? They probably didn’t cross the road as we did. Or maybe it wasn’t in their area to check out!

The site may not have much interest to Tucson Archaeologists as most delve into the prehistoric Hohokam culture.

This site is close to but not abutting two Railroad bridges that cross Cienega Creek.

The Railroad was built in the 1870’s along this wide meandering Creek.

The first Railroad engine crossed the westbound bridge and arrived in Tucson March 20 1880 giving rise to the growth of this Southwestern city.

We are sure this historic site was the major campground for the crews who built the railroad bridges that crisscross the Cienega Creek. The archaeologist, who came at our request, recorded the site and agreed it was a significant campsite for building crews.

On this site we have rusty hole-in-top cans (1820-1917); purple glass (manganese used in glass ended in 1917); white ceramic sherds; sardine cans and lots of flat-sided hinged tobacco cans post 1910! And tobacco cans lidded but not hinged 1849-1910. And more!

There is a nice rock alignment with a stovepipe nestled in the alignment. We are sure the stovepipe indicated that this was the cook’s work area. Also there are piles of rusty lard and food cans nearby that are good indicators of a cook’s domain.

Dating of the site will be tricky but we won’t be doing it. Tricky because there are also two bridges built for car traffic crossing the Creek. They have dates of 1923 stamped into the concrete. So is the campsite from the RR crews of the 1870s or from the road bridge builders in the 1920s? As I mentioned the hole-in-top cans and purple glass is datable BUT those could have been used well after their manufacture. Somehow I doubt it! But then we have many tobacco cans from 1910! It is a “time use” mystery that a historic archaeologist may have fun interpreting. Of course the camp may have had long term use-by both railroad bridge and road bridge crews.

It has been a year since we visited the site.

Today, the stovepipe is missing! It was easy to get out as it was not truly buried and was under a cactus growing over the alignment. Slight marks for digging and pulling it out are evident. Did they take anything else? We don’t have a total artifact inventory.

If and when caught, vandals can receive $250,000 fine and may be subject to 5 years in jail. This is a felony according to the Federal and Arizona Antiquities laws.

The chance of nailing these creeps is zip, zero, nil, nada.

Meanwhile, information is lost to researchers.

What in heavens name will these felonious perps do with a rusty stovepipe?

Sell it?

Guess I’ll keep an eye on eBay for a while!

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Artifact Recovery

We had found a Cortaro point (arrowhead) (3500-2100 B C) on a site in the Cienega Preserve.

I took a picture of it and sent the site report with the picture to the Land Manager.

I was so surprised when the Land Manager e-mailed me back asking if we could go back to the site and recover the point.


We have seen many of these points the Preserve, so I had not taken a GPS reading of the point only the picture.

We have never been asked to recover an artifact from the Preserve.

I emailed the Land Manager back saying we would give it a try but it would be a ‘needle in the haystack’ situation I feared, as the site is huge.

I asked the crew to have their lunches with them as we could be a long time on this search.

We planned to do a really tight ‘shoulder to shoulder’ sweep of the area for the point.

On site we stopped to put up flagging tape at the start of the ‘thought it is about here” area.

There it was at boot tip!

We had been on site less than 10 minutes!

Of course, we had a good laugh and high fives went all around!


Thursday, July 12, 2012


We were to have a new Site Steward join us in our weekly treks into the Cienega.

We were pleased because our partner of many years had retired and now there were just the two of us.

It is an isolated area that we go into; one that is used by illegals on their treks into the US or drug carriers who bring in the illicit drugs.

The area can be dangerous and really, it is very isolated.

Several days before the new Steward was to join us I received an e-mail from him, "Do you take you’re your lunch with you or do you take a break and go to a restaurant?"

I really had a good laugh but I responded sedately, "We take our lunch."

This "restaurant’ bit has taken on a life of its own. We always break for lunch about 11:30.

The best places for our lunch breaks are at the Creek's edge amongst the tall and full Cottonwoods.

But with the summer’s heat and the monsoon upon us, we tend to stay away from the Creek with its possible flash flooding events.

We find shade in the Rail Road concrete culverts!

Last week our large culvert was dated 1914.

"This is the finest restaurant in the area," declared our new Steward!

Appreciation is so appreciated!


Saturday, June 30, 2012


When we are out monitoring sites we usually find something not noted on the site card.

Maybe it is an archaic projectile point; or maybe a Hohokam shell bracelet, or even a beautiful turquoise bead!

Usually, not always, we GPS the item and place the info on our card info sheet or at least we take a photo of the artifact.

A crewmember found an archaic projectile point last year - an early one at that: Gypsum 8000 BC. A real find for us, and one that really thrilled our Land Manager. Luckily, we had taken a picture of this rather rare point (rare for the area).

This year we looked for it and the crewmember said she put it next to a stump!

Four of us searched around every stump on the site and there were lots of stumps! – no point to be found!

On another site today we went looking for yet another point found last year. We had a photo of it too-- and some one said that it was next to the stump!

Well this site had no stumps so we decided the stump was next to the point!

Hey! When it is 102° and 5% humidity you make jokes when you can!

Monday, June 4, 2012

Just Another Day

The four of us had traveled a long, winding, dusty dirt road just southwest of Tucson to get to a site we were to record.

We completed recording the huge Hohokam site - sat down for a quick cool off and began wondering if we could get back to the main road another way.

Bruce H. pulled up the topo map on his GPS. Sure enough another dirt road and the route looked shorter!

I started the drive on our ‘new’ dirt road. It was rockier and it was climbing.

We came to a strange rocky area and decided to investigate. We were on a bluff and below us, a lovely valley with a helicopter-way off in the distance.

I said to the crew, “There is a helicopter and they have noticed us!”

“Na. They haven’t. They are too far away.”

We walked about the bluff. There was an adit with a massive chain anchored into a side boulder. The chain extended about 20 feet down into the steep sloping mine entry.

The sloped ramp was full of backpacks, water bottles, clothes and all the other usual illegal immigrant debris. We were on an illegal migrant’s trail!

Small lumps of Chrysocolla, a lovely blue to green mineral usually found with copper, were scattered about our feet.

I looked up and the helicopter really was headed our way.

It was time to be on our way. As we drove we noticed to the side an old miners campsite complete with rusty cans, stove pipe and a rock foundation.

The road was narrowing and becoming too rocky and basically petering out. Time to turn back to the other road.

Now the helicopter was very close and low!

It started to get lower and I could see guns pointed at us!

I said, “Ken open the door and run!” A 'trick' that is often mentioned in our Newspapers regarding illegals in trying to get away. He just grinned at me and we all laughed.

Ahead of us - in the distance - we could see a cloud of dust - heading our way and moving fast.

Now the helicopter was low, very low overhead and circling us.

I kept driving – slowly.

The cloud of dust was upon us - Border Patrol! I pulled off the road to let the vehicle by but it pulled in to block me.

The helicopter kept circling overhead. Guns pointed at us.

I think the Ranger told the helicopter crew we were “gringos” and ok.

They left.

A short chat with the Border Patrol Ranger then we all had a good laugh-- after we showed the Ranger our State Permits!

Saturday, May 19, 2012


We had 20 newly trained Site Stewards at a State Park to do extended field training.

We were not able to offer “feature” identification to them in class other than through photos via Power Point presentation so this was an opportunity to expand their archaeological knowledge in the field.

There were 3 of us to do the training and we each took a group. I was doing surface artifact ID, Bill G. from the Forest Service was taking a group to a higher level to show them a ballcourt and waffle gardens (agricultural fields), and Dave M. also from the Forest Service took them to view walls, rooms and other features known to be on site. We each spent about 45 minutes with our group then rotated groups so all could see the various things the site had to offer.

At the end of the session with my last group as I was showing them some artifacts and explaining the need to look at the desert floor for color changes when one Steward said, “Look up! There is someone with a shovel! Felony in progress!”

We looked up from the desert floor and sure enough there was a man about 300 meters from us feverously working with a shovel.

All who had cell phones had them at the ready!

But who to call? We were far away from the other two trainers – they were not in eye-sight nor within earshot.

I said, “Does anyone have Bill’s or Dave’s number?”

Much shaking of heads and “Nope.”

There was great discussion and much consternation over “what to do?”

We just had to wait until we caught up with the other trainers who, by the way, are also trained in Law Enforcement.

When Bill G. approached we told him about the man we saw with the shovel. Bill said he talked to the man and it was a Park worker cleaning the trail. Whew!

One Steward said, “I would never noticed that man and questioned what he was doing had it not been for this training.”

I was so proud of the group and of our training!