The Infinite Echo

B. Thomas Cooper is a freelance journalist, photographer, blogger and historian. Topics include Political Commentary, Satire and History

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Location: Phoenix, Arizona, United States

Sunday, January 29, 2006

Dang Tootin’, High Falootin’, Ping Pong Playin’ Yahoo from Texas.

The Infinite Echo
B. Thomas Cooper

Yes folks, you read it here first:
The true to life, ever-unfolding story of a boy and his dog.

Or maybe not…

After many months of cyber-hell, I finally find myself back on the business end of a word processor. I have much catching up to do, but as ‘they’ say in Washington, there’s no time like the present, providing of course, it’s election season, which it isn’t.

All the more curious, I suppose.

As for Washington…
The plague of corruption continues without notice of my absence. I assume the lot are all too busy stuffing pockets to worry themselves about accountability. My vitriol has been missed by no-one.

Good ol’ Washington…
The first president, I mean. I have spent countless hours recently, pouring over quotes by he and our other founding fathers in an attempt to glean some sense of understanding in regard to their original intent when drafting the US Constitution. I have been trying to imagine what the scene must have felt like, as Franklin, Jefferson, and the guys strolled along the banks of the Potomac, pipes clenched tightly between their lips, the aroma of hemp wafting lazily in the night air, as they pontificated the virtues of freedom and democracy.

One fact stands out above all others…
One should not expect to convey a broad message, whilst insisting on being as oracular as I tend to be.

So be it.

I’ve decided to include a few of my favorites (quotes, that is.)
Perhaps you recognize some of them from college. I’ve tried to credit the appropriate sources, but in the event I err, or credit the wrong quote to the wrong founding father… well, no harm no foul.
Some of my favorite quotes on the subject are from Thomas Jefferson himself, the man responsible for drafting the wording of the Constitution.

“The spirit of resistance to government is so valuable on occasions, that I wish it always be kept alive”

“The will of the people is the only legitimate foundation of any government,
And to protect it’s free expression should be our first object.”

I would rather be exposed to the inconveniences attending too much liberty,
than to those attending to small a degree of it.”

All great stuff, from a great thinker. Here’s a rather cryptic quote he made about corruption of government. It has a familiar ring to it.

“Our country is now taking so steady a course as to show by what road it will pass to destruction, to wit: by consolidation of power first, and then corruption, it’s necessary consequence.”

Indeed! And this from the man who penned the US Constitution and the Bill of Rights.

Ben Franklin also gave much thought to the subject.

“All wars are follies… very expensive, and very mischievous ones.”

“There was never a good war or a bad peace.”

“Wars are not paid for during wartime. The bill comes later.”

And of course, the oft referenced…

“They that can give up essential liberty to obtain temporary security, deserve neither and will lose both.”

It was our second president, John Adams who exclaimed…

“Great is the guilt of an unnecessary war.”

What did George Washington, the father of our country have to say on the subject?
“Loyalty to the country always. Loyalty to the government when it deserves it.”

“An inglorious peace is better than a dishonorable war.”

Wow! And of course, we all know George Washington would never tell a lie.

There are many related quotes worthy of note. In fact our current president, number forty-three, has made a few memorable quotes himself. I won’t get into his verbal assault on the language, as that can be addressed better by others, but I do find his remarks nothing less than revealing. Like these, for instance:

“If this were a dictatorship, it'd be a heck of a lot easier, just so long as I'm the dictator." Washington, D.C., Dec. 19, 2000

“I’m the commander, see… I don’t need to explain. I do not need to explain why I say things. That’s the interesting thing about being president.”

He also said the following:

“There are such things as roving wiretaps. Now, by the way… any time you hear the United States government talking about wiretap it requires, a wiretap requires a court order. Nothing has changed, by the way… when we’re talking about chasing down terrorists, we’re talking about getting a court order before we do so. It’s important for our fellow citizens to understand, when you think patriot act, constitutional guarantees are in place when it comes to doing what is necessary to protecting our homeland, because we value the Constitution.”

Obviously, George Bush made the latter remarks prior to disclosure to the contrary.

I think the quote that really digs at my craw the deepest is one made by American literary icon, Mark Twain. Twain wasn’t always known for biting commentary, but on occasion he made exceptions. This quote represents one of those occasions.

“Next the statesmen will invent cheap lies, putting the blame upon the nation which is attacked, and every man will be glad for those conscience- soothing falsities, and will study them, and will refuse to examine any refutations of them, and thus he will by and by convince himself that the war is just, and will thank God for the better sleep he enjoys after this process of grotesque self deception.”

He also said:

“Our country, right or wrong. Have you not perceived that that phrase is an insult to the nation?”

I can’t help but wonder if perhaps, Mark Twain ever met the likes of Bill O’Reilly, for instance? We have become a nation of no shame. On second thought, enough with these “conscience- soothing falsities“ already. It’s time to get to the matter at hand; the process of grotesque self deception. I’ll play along if you will.

In fact, I’ve decided to include a few of my own quotes I think you might relate to:

“In order for an individual to get kicked in the head by a horse, one must position one’s face within precarious proximity of the horse’s ass. This having been established, it’s not difficult to understand why I prefer foresight to hindsight.”

“Be careful what you wish for…
Reality can make for funny bedfellows”

“Information is a unique currency. It possesses an intrinsic value and is instantly redeemable. It can be transferred, stolen, manipulated, diluted…
even hoarded.”

“In order for a lie to be effective, it need not be accepted as truth…
It need only be accepted.”

“Ignorance is bliss, providing one happens to be ignorant.”

“It is neither noble, nor patriotic to guard the door, while the fox raids the henhouse.”

"It is truly pathetic, the extent to which fear has caused our leaders to betray our core values, and allow the wholesale destruction of our basic civil liberties."

In closing, I must admit to providing perhaps a few more quotes than I had originally intended, but I suppose it provides more food for thought, providing of course, you hunger for such nourishment. As such, no-one need go hungry.


The Infinite Echo 2006

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Friday, January 13, 2006

The Four Horsemen

B. Thomas Cooper

This may come as a surprise to some, but when the four horsemen of the apocalypse ascend upon Earth, they will be riding steeds with familiar names. I don't believe these names are ever actually articulated in the Bible, but they are most certainly alluded to...

Sound familiar?
These are ingredients necessary for social collapse... the loss of civility.

And so I ask of you, which of these horses have you been riding lately?

Those who fein dismay and profess to be guilty of none of the above may step to the front of the line...
you have already demonstrated a propensity for the first three horses.
Mount your steeds and prepare to ride.

I'm a fairly decent rider, if I may say so myself. I tend to favor horses two and three... Arrogance and Pride.
Admittedly, I have been thrown more than once, and on occasion I have come dangerously close to being kicked in the teeth. So far, my saving grace has been the understanding that a horse will normally kick with it's hind legs. In order for an individual to be kicked in the teeth, one must position one's face within precarious proximity of the horse's ass. Obviously, when given the choice, I prefer foresight rather than hindsight.

My point?
It can be most beneficial to learn whatever possible about the horse upon which one is riding.
Have you a firm grip of the reigns, or are you simply along for the ride? As any skilled rider can attest to,
if you have doubt as to who's in control, rest assured, it isn't you. You can also bet the seat of your pants the horse will figure this out before you do.

The Four Horsemen, indeed!
I'm certainly no expert on the Bible. Fortunately for me, my devoted wife attended two years of Bible college, and possesses a rather thorough understanding of the Good Book...
even the not so pleasant parts.

Of course, I love a good book. I love books of all sizes. My wife and I have amassed a rather impressive collection of books, many which I fear may someday be destroyed by the aforementioned apocalypse. It saddens me to imagine the works of Vonnegut, Irving, Thoreau, Rand, Homer, and even Christ himself, being trod upon by horses of any ilk. I am further mortified by the notion that such blatant disrespect could occur while someone with whom we are familiar is holding the reigns.

Don't scoff just yet... I've seen signs. Perhaps you didn't notice, but a few months back, while the eyes of an entire country were focused on Janet Jackson's breast plate, (that's Ms Jackson, if you're nasty) the four horsemen were grazing their steeds on the White House lawn.
Perhaps you're attention was elsewhere.

Then again, perhaps, just perhaps, it has been the riders among us, rather than the horses who have been sporting blinders.

They'll be back, of course... the four horsemen, that is. They'll be riding horses with familiar names, and I suspect they will indeed wreak said havoc upon said Earth. How can I be sure?
Well, for starters, it says so in the Good Book.
The real kicker?
When I listen closely, I can hear the distinct sound of horses in the distance, chomping at the bit.

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The Mining History of South Mountain

B. Thomas Cooper

South Mountain, the vast mountain range south of central Phoenix boasts miles of trails, and boundless recreational opportunity, but its rugged interior wasn’t always ideal for a family outing. In fact, South Mountain has changed little since its hardscrabble days as the second largest gold producer in Maricopa County.

Nine miles from the heart of down town Phoenix, South Mountain Park serves as a backdrop for the growing, ever diverse, Valley of the Sun. At nearly seventeen thousand acres, it remains the largest municipal park in the US, and for many visitors, its rugged allure is difficult to resist.

Some come to South Mountain to test their hiking skills among the nearly 60 miles of scenic trails. Others visit to experience the magnificent view of the valley from atop Dobbins Point, 2330 feet above sea level. There is always a virtual plethora of wildlife and desert fauna to delight the eye, and limitless recreational possibilities.

Spectacular petroglyphs, located throughout the park, tell of long lost cultures that once inhabited the region, including the Hohokam, dating back to 300 AD. The Hohokam built over 130 miles of canals throughout the valley, diverting water from the nearby Salt River to irrigate crops.
In 1867, Jack Swilling, with the help of others, established Salt River Project, repairing the ancient Hohokam canals and digging new ones, returning water to the dry valley floor. Soon, the valley sprang back to life. Darrell Duppa, an associate of Swilling suggested naming the fledgling city after the mythical Phoenix Bird, a splendid winged creature that arose from its own ashes. The name stuck, and the city of Phoenix was officially incorporated on Feb. 15, 1881.
By the late 1800’s however, it wasn’t just water attracting new residents to the valley. Mining was becoming big business in the Arizona territory. With statehood (and air conditioning) still years away, the main attraction within the rocky range south of Phoenix was gold! Claims for gold, silver, copper and other precious metals sprang up throughout the region. South Mountain was no exception.
By February of 1900, while William McKinley was beginning his ill-fated second term as US President, George and Nora McClarty were filing the earliest known claim within South Mountain, the Richmond, along the northern face of the range. Several more claims soon followed in the San Juan Valley southwest of Central Avenue, including the Maximillian and Delta claims. By 1909, these claims, collectively known as the Max Delta Mine, had produced over $30,000 in gold and thousands more in other precious metals.
Although the mines were never consistent, nor particularly profitable, they were numerous and remained productive for many years. By 1913, shafts had been dug to depths exceeding 500 feet, and ore was shipped by pack train, and then by wagon to an arrastre near the Gila River.
Conditions for the miners were miserable. There was no running water at the mines, and ice had to be hauled in from Phoenix. An unskilled laborer could expect to earn two dollars for a days’ effort. Experienced miners earned about double. A boarding camp was erected on sight, consisting of a few small structures and no real amenities of which to speak. Life was hard.
The mines’ shareholders seldom fared much better. The Max Delta changed hands often, with each new owner facing similar obstacles. In 1914, as the First World War erupted, many miners found fighting in the trenches of Europe preferable to digging for gold. For a time, the mines went silent.
By the early 1920’s, residents of the valley were beginning to appreciate the recreational value of the rugged range south of Phoenix. In 1921, a group of prominent citizens led by Carl Hayden began a campaign to promote the mountain’s natural attributes. James C. Dobbins, Chairman of the Parks Committee for the city of Phoenix, convinced city commissioners of the need for preserving and protecting the land, and in June of 1924, the 68th Congress passed an act transferring ownership of the range from the federal government to the City of Phoenix for $1.25 per acre.
Mining did not cease in the park, however. Although the act of 1924 specifically stated the park was for recreational purposes, the federal government still held the mineral rights, which allowed for prospecting and removal of minerals from the park.
During the 1930s, with depression gripping much of the nation, mining and prospecting returned to South Mountain with renewed interest. Indeed, the year 1935 proved to be the most productive for the mines. That year, the Max Delta was the fourth largest producer of gold in the US, and the second largest producer of gold in Maricopa County, yielding 1,423 ounces. The Vulture Mine, west of Wickenburg, produced the greatest quantity in the county, yielding 1,802 ounces of gold.
Mining continued at South Mountain, although sporadically, for many more years. Eventually, through a procession of lawsuits and legal challenges, the mines would close. Finally, in 1993, the City of Phoenix received the deeds to the remaining patented claims on the property, and set about rehabilitating the land.
Most of the old claims no longer present a threat to park visitors. The adits and entrances have long been bulldozed or dynamited, leaving little or no trace of the old mines. Ironically, much remains of the Max Delta. Its bulkhead and massive tailings are still quite visible from nearly any view along the San Juan Valley. The old road leading to the mine is no longer accessible, and visitors are discouraged from curiosity. Still, the remnants of the Max Delta Mine remain a reminder of a near forgotten era, when an outing to South Mountain was no family picnic.

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