Open Range and Freedom Reigns
by J. Adam Burch
Seeking relief from the city lights, hot days and nights, a gateway can be found to an extraordinary range of mountains. Snow run-off and seasonal rains feed aquifers, the higher elevations giving way to tall pines and oak. The Bradshaw Mountain Range, formerly know as the Silver Mountain Range, a rough, black range of rocks by the Yavapai, it is rich mineral and spirit, vast, open and free.
Today, those small towns and settlements are all but ghost-towns, save a few. The last of their kind, preserving a rural been-in-the-saddle style and still carrying a hog-leg, the real cowboys of Arizona. In places like Black Canyon City, noted for being the most disagreeable town in Arizona, cowboys would say this is still the old west and we like it this way. Nevertheless, unincorporated towns like these playing a different tune when it comes to business. Rather than hangings in town square, forced labor and gunfights in front of the saloon, they have adopted music, art, historic preservation of the drinking establishments and the old schoolhouses- more remote towns like Crown King, free to boast the oldest bordello.
Controversial acts in history can be viewed as offensive and perhaps too offensive to remain in as part of public display. Towns like Tombstone, Arizona are serving as models for a new birth of historic, artisan, commuter towns like Black Canyon City, that have not been given the same historic fame, nor given in to incorporation, choosing independence at any price.
There are many songs, stories and movies about the American cowboy. The modern cowboys have lists of criteria that must be met in order to be considered a “real cowboy.” Nevertheless, there can be some consensus that the real cowboy is indeed elusive, somewhat solitary and perhaps becoming endangered. Further investigation indicates he will in fact always remain free and always rides away. In a world that seems to get smaller with the passing of time, how much open range is left past that cattle-guard?
Open range beckons off-roaders who are most welcome, but must beware of the cattle that tend to stray into town. Fence Out, is the current standard according to the law, cows are free to wander, allowing everything to move a little slower and allowing for mindfulness of beauty, tranquility and peace to reign.
Here is a glimpse into history not polka-dotted with shiny rocks and commercialism, what may be found in these towns is local art, food and live local music in the most classic setting available. This is where you will find the modern version of how a country-boy can survive and where good nature of any kind is free. By now, you may have waited too long, or may only be free to see the last cowboy winding onto a dirt road that crosses the last cattle-guard.
Check out these links to find out about your next visit to Black Canyon City;