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                                           OAK FLAT

Lord, Let This Be My Heaven
Where the towering crags rise to the sky,
And touch the clouds drifting by,
And casting their shadows from on high,

Upon the silent scene.
Where the soaring eagle, from her nest,
On the rugged defile's lofty crest;
Calls to her mate, as they circle in jest.

On magic wings supreme!
Where the babbling brook flows on serene,
Through sunlight and shade in the meadow green;
Where violets bloom with their delicate sheen,

In nature's virgin wildwood!
Where grow the fresh, sweet water cresses,
Among the stones made velvet by the mosses.
Where columbines wave their golden tresses,
Like maidens in their childhood.

Where the swaying pines in the breezes whisper,
Their mystic melody of heavenly vespers,
And waft the air with their gentle gestures
In the depths of the forest primeval.

Where the wild deer bounds at the break of day
From the meadow into the forest away,
At the scent of a prowler, stalking his prey;
A warning of impending evil.

Where the night bird calls to her mate in the gloaming
From the wallowed banks where the wildcat is roaming.
And golden moonbeams through the branches are strumming

Soft music to mellow the night.
Where the twinkling stars in the heaven above,
Send their shimmering light through the silent grove,
With the spell of sleep, and the caress of love;
For rest 'till the morning light.

Let me wander here in the smog free air
With herbs from the garden, my daily fare;
And fish from the stream, and fowl from the air,
And honey from the hive on the hillside; there.
Lord, Let This Be My Heaven.

Claude Duval McBride
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

HOW I FOUND OAK FLAT by Peter Howard. McBride Sr.
Written by his son, Claude, in 1960

It was late in the afternoon on a July day when the deer trail scaling the cliff above the canyon stream led us into a sequestered nook in the lap of a deep box canyon where no human had ever ventured before. It was in the Graham Mountains in southeastern Arizona. I was leading old Cyrock, my trusty saddle horse. We had been laboriously working our way up the goat ranch at the mouth of the canyon same five miles below. Range cattle grazed on the foothills and lower slopes of the range, but for the last three hours we had traveled through territory inhabited only by deer and other wild animals. We had followed deer trails up the rugged canyon, criss-crossing the mountain stream that plunged over fall after fall through streaks of sunlight and shade. At times we had scaled the steep canyon walls in making our way around the falls.

As we now emerged from the timber into the little open -glade we surprised a herd of deer and sent them scampering into the grove of aspen and oak at the far end of the clearing. We moved onto the meadow and the deer came charging out again, bounding back and forth among the ferns and violets in frantic desperation. I soon realized that we had trapped this herd of deer in this mountain mousetrap and their only escape was over the trail behind us.

Old Cyrock snorted and threw his head high at the sight before us. It with my rifle in hand could not shoot them all, but I stood and watched with a deep feeling of reverence and compassion at this display of rare beauty in the heart of nature.

Then I led my horse to the side and watched them go bounding away big bucks with antlers, does with fawns, some still with their spots. They filed by in rapid succession and disappeared out over the trail, which had led us in.

The glade was quiet now but for the twittering of birds in the trees and the squawk of a blue-jay here and there in the pines. My eyes turned again to the scene, now peaceful and entrancing in its rare beauty. There it lay in all its untamed primeval majesty, untouched by the hand of man, a little meadowland crossed by a clear, bubbling mountain stream, with mossy springs feeding in through patches of ferns and violets, from beneath the towering cliffs that seemed to rise to the very sky on either side.

The shadows were already upon the meadow and were creeping up the canyon walls studded with oak and pine as the afternoon sun moved on. It’s westward course. Here I was, the first human being ever to venture into this cradle of nature in ~ heart of the hills. My eyes swept the distant mountainside far above at the head of the box canyon and I could see the dim line of the old mill road that skirted the canyon's rim some four miles away.

From a point called "Dead Horse Turn" on that narrow dug-way road I had often gazed down into the shady depths of this very box canyon and when the sun was high, had seen this meadowland. Many times my pioneer blood had surged hot through my veins and my curiosity had run high, and I had vowed to some day blaze 'a trail into this secluded spot. I must satisfy my yearnings for adventure and my insatiable appetite for nature's beauty.

The mill road led to the sawmi1l at Camp Columbine in the timber country on top of the range. The lumber was hauled down that road on wagons. Dead Horse Turn got its name from an experience one freighter had with his load of lumber and his team of horses. At this point the road sca1ed around a high cliff where it had been blasted out of the granite rock. The dugway was steep and narrow, and the brakes not too good. As the load rounded the cliff with brakes squeaking and the horses holding back on the neck yoke to keep the load under control and with the wagon tongue whipping them from side to side as the wheels rolled over the rocky road, one of the horses was thrown off the road and over the cliff. The harness held him momentarily from plunging hundreds of feet into the gorge below. The other horse was bracing himself and holding with all his strength against being pulled over the cliff too. The teamster could see that the wagon and the other horse would be pulled over unless the floundering animal could be cut loose. It was an awful decision to make, but it was the only way out. He cut the tugs and the harness straps with his jack knife and sent the luckless horse hurtling to his death in the gorge below.

It was from this point that I had viewed the canyon's rugged depths on many occasions and had realized that the best approach to its hidden treasures would be from below and not from above.

The shadows were deepening now as I stood there in solitude, and the air was cool. I would need some kind of shelter through the night from the wild beasts that would prowl in the dark. My faithful axe came in handy. Within half an hour I had chopped down enough aspen poles to start a cabin, cutting them into lengths I erected four walls high as my head, with a doorway, and with a place in one corner for a fire, and in another for a bed of ferns. By dark I had gathered ferns for my bed and wood for my fire. Old Cyrock was hobbled and grazing in the meadow above the cabin. The trail was blocked with poles to prevent him from wandering off down the canyon during the night.

I was hungry and anxious to get at the corned beef and pork and beans in my pack bag. The fire crackled between the rocks in the corner and the frying pan did its work in a hurry. The food was soon hot and ready. Never had corned beef and pork and beans tasted better in my many years of trail blazing.

Only the crackling of the fire and the steady rushing of the water over the fall a short distance below broke the still of the night. Old Cyrock was stirring in the ferns and. nibbling the grass near my rude cabin. The stars twinkled bright in the section of the canopy of heaven visible between the towering cliffs as I gazed upward out of my roofless cabin.

The quietude was not to last for long, however. With the gathering darkness came the owls of the forest out of their hiding places. The treetops were filled with them, hooting and fluttering, among the pines, some nearby and others in the distance, communicating back and forth in their owlish, dialect. At times I fancied r could hear Indian voices among them, they sounded so humanlike.

But the hooting of the owls was. only the prelude of the night 's wild medley to soon break upon us. Suddenly from high up among the cliffs came hideous sounds that set my nerves on edge--and brought old Cyrock snorting, to the doorway of my sanctuary. Screams, cries, whines, growls, snarls, filled the night with

terror. What could this be? A woman screaming from torture? A child crying? A lion challenging our invasion of his lair and ominously threatening us? A panther warning us of an impending attack?

The sounds echoed back and forth across the canyon adding to the confusion. Then from far up at the head. of the canyon came the call of another wild beast, perhaps a mate or a rival. No sooner would the echoes from one fade away than the other would answer. Old Cyrock stood trembling in the doorway with head high and nostrils wide, snorting and paring the ground.

I grabbed my rifle, and put more wood on the fire. Wild animals are afraid of fire or a light in the dark. I was glad I had gathered a good supply of firewood.

As the hideous sounds continued it became evident that they were corning from wild animals, perhaps cougars or panthers up among the cliffs, one nearby, and the other far away. At times they seemed nearer and I wondered if one of the beasts was stalking us.

Between the terrifying outbursts of the beasts could be heard the hooting of the owls, more soothing and less frightening, and the rushing and subdued roar of the water pouring over the falls all combined to make a wild medley such as could be heard only in the depths of such mountain vastness.

The owls, after a while left us, but the beasts up in the cliffs continued their exchange of calls, sometimes in ominously threatening tones, for what seemed to be hours during the long, dark night. I kept the fire burning and old Cyrock never left my doorway until daylight began to soften the darkness. The hideous sounds vanished with the night, and the dawn came with its twittering of birds and chirping of squirrels, and my faithful but frightened horse ventured back into the meadow to graze.

After breakfast I spent some time exploring the area up among the cliffs. In the mouth. of a cave I found tracks with signs of mountain lions. I had heard these beasts growl, snarl and whine before when treed or trapped, but never had I heard such unusual noises craning from a. wild beast of any kind.

The experience was so unbelievable that I would hesitate to tell it to my friends. They would not believe it. They would have to hear it themselves to believe it.

I gathered same pine gum and black walnuts and ate some delicious wild gooseberries from the bushes along the banks of the stream and surveyed the possibility of blazing a trail on up the canyon. And out on top of the high ridge where the mill road crossed it and started up the dug way that skirted the rim of the box canyon.

Sleepy after a hectic night I packed up and led old Cyxock back down the trail. Despite the harrowing experience, or perhaps because of it, I felt well repaid for my trip. I blazed a trail as I went down a canyon and across the foothills. The next summer I blazed another trail from the mill road down to meet the one caning up.

The following summer I built a real log cabin on the spot where I had spent the night in awesome sleeplessness. The trail was worked by the mill company and made into a pack trail for carrying supplies to the mill at Camp Columbine.

After reading the story of The Founding of Oak Flat it .is fitting to tell of the things father did while there. After a few years work father succeeded in clearing off the trees and brush, which was a job. He built a shanty there to protect his belongings and a shelter from the weather. He succeeded in planting potatoes, beans and other vegetables, some fruit trees, and strawberries. After a few years he had a comfortable summer home there which he dearly loved. He loved the cool shady trees, the cold water and the pleasant atmosphere found there in that secluded spot. He tried to run his farm and live in the mountains. Frank and Howard were just kid’s not old 0enough to assume much responsibility. The only way to get to Oak Flat was by horses and burro. Dad would pack them up and leave for the mountain about 4 or 5 o’clock and travel all night to get out of the hot summer heat. Stay up there a week hoeing weeds and watering his potatoes, then come home in time to go to a practice or some entertainment and he was always on the go. Four o'clock in the morning never found father in bed, he would do a half days work before breakfast and was a very hard worker. When the first frost would come in the fall father would round up his burros and Si and Shiner and go to the flat where he would dig potatoes and pack them into a cellar under ground to stay until spring and bring a load home for family use. A few years later he found a place southwest of the Grahams where he cleared some ground and also planted potatoes there four several years, putting them away as he did in Oak Flat. It was there that several of the family went at different times to help with weeding, watering and harvesting the crops, which included mother, Clyde, Claud, Grace, Flo and Bessie. Mother didn't care much for the mountains, neither did Aunt Ruth. This second potato patch was called "Chesley Hollow" and today there is a sign there, which says, "Peter's Flat."

I have been told there is one of father’s old ploughs he left in the forks of a young tree. The tree has grown up tall almost covering up the plough point. One man here in Pima says he was going to go up there cut the plough out and put it in the Museum for safe keeping.

It was a rugged life dad led in those mountains, full of adventure and fortitude, but it was the life dad loved. Oak Flat became quite famous as a halfway stopping place for vacationers going and coming to and from the mountaintops. A crowd of people have traveled to this flat and enjoyed the beautiful scenery and places to rest and see Mother Nature at her best all the long summer months for many years. But today Oak Flat has about disappeared, there have been such good roads made from the valley to the mountain tops from both ends of the mountain, and the flume which was built through the Flat so many years ago has been abandoned for so long I suppose the flat has gone back to her original state. This flume carried lumber from the saw mill, in the tops of these canyons for many years going down through the middle of Oak Flat, down great water falls carrying, lumber by the millions of feet, depositing it at the terminal at Lone Pine just above Cluff’s Ranch, a great resort for tourists Several children tumbled into this flume and were sent scooting down in the water for many miles but none of them were ever killed. Father always used to smell like a. pine tree when he came home from the mountain. By Laura Mc Bride Smith


Mt. Graham Life of Peter H. McBride as told by Clyde McBride, his son

I was asked to relate some of my father, Peter H. McBride’s, mountain life and experiences – which are many and varied. It would take volumes to record them all. Some of the stories will be just hearsay, but most will b e dad’s own experiences as told to me and by me.

"In the Beginning" many years before my time Dad told : The Cluff brothers planned to build a sawmill at lower columbine. But, before such a project could be started, there had to be a road built to transport all the necessary machinery and equipment up on the mountain.

There is where my father entered the scene. He told of working several summers on that road with only horsepower, manpower and dynamite. The equipment consisted of many horse drawn slip scrapers, shovels, picks, crowbars, axes, two man cross-cut saws, sledge hammers, steel drill bits and single jack-hammers for drilling holes in solid rock for placing dynamite sticks. As a kid I remember seeing several unused drilled dynamite holes along that old road.

The road began at the foot of the mountain…then a long steep incline led up to the first mesa. Dad said that part of the road was finished on the first day of April. What year? I wish I knew. From then on that part of the road was called "April Fool Dugway." I believe it was about the steepest part of the entire route.

Other points along the road were: Cluff's Lower Goat Ranch, Cluff's Upper Goat Ranch (later known as Horse Camp), Dead Man's Turn, Dead Horse Curve, then on up over Bellows Hill, up past Slick Rock, then on up to Lower Columbine - the future Mill sight.

All the necessary machinery was hauled on heavy freight wagons drawn by 6-8 and 10 horses. Just west of Bellows Hill the road went around a very sharp and rugged curve - with a deep cliff on the lower side. One time while 8 or 10 horses were struggling and lunging as they dragged a large freight wagon loaded with a huge, heavy steam boiler, one team-of horses was jerked clear over the cliff. They cut their tugs and they fell to their death, so I was told. Thus the name "Dead Horse Curve." I never learned the details of Dead Man's Turn.

Dad told many stories about the Mill after is was completed and operating. He told of freighting lumber from the sawmill to the valley with two horse-powered lumber wagons with only two wheels having hand power-brakes.. A load of lumber was too much for that non-hydraulic system, so at times they dragged logs behind the wagons to serve as a booster brake. Now, what became of the logs at the end of the trail? I am

sure they didn't drag them back to the Mill. Dad never mentioned pay or compensation but I am sure he took several loads in kind. He built homes, barns, corrals, pigpens, chicken coops, head gates, etc. with lumber from the Mill. Again, that was many years before my time.

After many years of hard wear and tear, being washed away by storms, getting blocked by fallen trees and rocks and other-:natural causes - that old road was finally abandoned in favor of the flume. The Flume could only transport material one-way - 'down.' So here is where Dad contracted hauling supplies to the Mill.

He hauled hay and grain for the logging horses and everything needed for the cook and the kitchen, plus anything ordered that could be carried in a saddle bag.

Dad's Mule Train was a usually 8 or 10 burro. He would load the wagon (with supplies the Mill had ordered) at the warehouse, back of Webb's store in Pima - where the REA is now located.

April Fool Dugway was the next stop: He built a corral by a high cliff with a spring that supplied water. When not in use the burros were kept there where they had shade and plenty of water. Now, from home to this corral the horses were work-horses, but from there to Chesley Hollow they were saddle-horses. Then at planting time they advanced to plow-horses. "Jack's of all trades."

Each summer between times spent on the farm, was a two-way deal. Mill supplies 'up' and potatoes 'down' - usually about three or four trips each month. I will report on just one of those many such trips.

From home to the warehouse in Pima, then to the foot of the mountain, took most of the first day. The next morning we saddled up and loaded the pack train. Then, on his horse, Dad led the lead burro and the others were supposed to follow. It was always my job to follow behind on foot with a prod pole or persuader and see that they did just that.

It seemed Dad had it timed to arrive at the mill just after mealtime. Grandmother Craig and her daughter was the official Mill cooks. We were usually served roast beef or roast venison and apple pie along with many other leftovers. After climbing the mountain for four or five hours those leftovers were almost like 'Manna from Heaven. After we left the saw mill I had free transportation all the way to Chesley Hollow, with my choice of pack saddles.

The next day, while the animals rested, we dug potatoes from the pits and filled enough gunny sacks to load the 8 or 10 burros. Then the next day it was the same thing - only I walked 'downhill' instead of 'up.' We arrived at the corral at the foot of the mountain late in the evening and camped for the night. The next morning we loaded the potatoes on the wagon and headed for home.

Now this same thing went on in almost the same way for the ten years that I helped Dad raise potatoes in those old Graham Mountains. During that whole time I don't remember Dad ever going to the mountain that he didn't take me along.

At Oak Flat, Dad built an one-room log cabin. There he planted a small orchard - mainly apple, peach and plum; also a berry patch with blackberries, raspberries and lots of strawberries. But, usually by the time the birds and bears got their fill, there wasn't much left for Dad.

Just across the creek from the cabin - it wasn't the 'Mighty Oak' but the 'Mighty Maple.' It could have been the largest and tallest maple tree in the mountain at that time. Dad tapped that tree and drained sap for Maple Syrup, but again he didn't have too much luck. It seemed the bears craved Maple Syrup on their 'acorn' pancakes!

Dad raised only a few potatoes at Oak Flat - just enough for his own use. At that elevation, at times irrigation was necessary. When the Flume went thru, it sometimes dried up the creek. So Dad reserved the right to tap the flume when needed.

How Dad loved Oak Flat! It was always his favorite mountain retreat. Oak Flat was really Dad's 'Paradise on Earth.' regardless of the birds and bears.

UPPER COLUMBINE

At Upper Columbine Dad built a two-room lumber cabin. He piped water from a spring to the kitchen sink. No faucet, continual flow, plus 'no water bill.' There he had a small garden but no potatoes. This cabin was located a little south and across the creek (east) from Dave Weech's cabin somewhere in the area of Bertell Weech's present cabin.

PETER'S FLAT

Dad often mentioned the Joe Claridge Potato patch (presently Peter's Flat). How he came into possession of it or how many crops he raised there was never mentioned - likely Joe just walked off and left it and Dad just took it over. .Thinking back now - the first time I went to the mountain with Dad, we stopped there. He opened
the trap-door to the larger pit and there was last year's crop of potatoes; tons of them, floating in water. Again, how many crops he raised before that - I was never told. But, this I do know for sure and certain: That was the last crop of potatoes Dad ever raised there. That should have been about 1902.

CHESLEY HOLLOW

Chesley Hollow was Dad's only commercial producing potato field in my time. It was about one-half mile down the south slope from Chesley Flat. There Dad had eight acres with a pole fence around it except for the places too rough for the pack animals to escape. Dad never built a cabin there. We always camped in a tent.

Dad's Kitchen, etc. was: One big kettle with a baling wire handle, Dutch oven and frying pan (all cast iron) - knives, forks, spoons (all of steel), plus butcher knives, paring knives, cups., plates, dish pan (all tin). His kitchen table was a four legged 2'x12" slab.

His Laundry was salvaged flour and sugar sacks - plus a bar of P & G soap (also used as hand soap): Grub Box was: flour, sugar, salt, pepper, baking powder, salt pork, small bucket of lard and plenty of jelly and strawberry jam. I can shut my eyes and still taste those hot Dutch Oven baked biscuits filled with strawberry jam that Dad served at least three times a day - along with potatoes and brown gravy .... A meal fit for a queen - and her king. Dad was an A-1 camp cook and he loved to cook.

Dad always brought a large bag of hard candy along. On rare occasions I was issued a lump or two!

Over by the East fence Dad built a small cellar to store seed potatoes for the next spring planting. We sometimes cut potato sets till 9 or 10 at night. Each set should have one or more eyes "to see its way up through that rich mountain soil" plus enough meat to sustain the plant till it took root.

Dad had a little 10-inch plow, powered by his two saddle horses old 'Si' and 'Shiner.' At planting time my equipment was a nose-bag hung over my shoulder - filled with potato sets. As Dad and the plow went around the field, I followed and was supposed to drop a set every step - but only every other round. It didn't seem to make any difference how deep or how shallow they were planted - they came right up. At potato harvest time it seemed most of them came up twice.

Once I lagged a long distance behind and suddenly I heard a lion roar. It sounded like it was just across the fence-- and much too close for safety! The blood rushed to my head and it seemed my heart would jump right out of my mouth. I started running and dropped sets as I ran - at that rate I could've planted the whole field before breakfast! When I got to the plow I yelled "Hey, Dad! Did you hear that lion roar?" He said, "I sure did and so did old Si I could hardly hold him from running with the plow, Shiner and Me." I stayed close to the plow the rest of the planting season. After that, Dad strapped his 30-30 to the plow handle.

At harvest time Dad, Claude and I and two other men (with shovels) dug potatoes all fall. Dad dug a long trench pit over by the west fence. We filled it and then had to dig the second one. We filled both pits to about 2' above the ground - then covered each with everything Mother Nature had on hand: Such as grass, leaves, pine needles and at least a foot of dirt. Then we dug trenches around each pit for drainage. The next spring when Dad opened the pits, not one potato was lost. I believe the winter storage improved their quality.

At Chesley Hollow, Mother Nature furnished the necessary moisture along with the roofing material. Now this same program was repeated in almost the same way every summer that I helped Dad raise potatoes on the mountain. Dad raised potatoes at Riggs Flat many years before my time, so I was told.

When I was about ten or eleven years old, apparently Dad was getting discouraged making that long trip to the valley - almost 30 miles one way. He decided to check on a new route - Haul the potatoes by team and wagon around the west end of the mountain and then back to the valley. We loaded six or seven Donkeys with potatoes and headed for Fort Grant. There, Dad said he had arranged for a team and wagon to meet him at a pre-arranged time and date. We waited two or three days but the team and wagon never showed up.

Long before my time and before Dad's time in the mountain, Fort Grant was built and maintained by the Army to protect the towns and ranches from Apache Indian raids. When we arrived at Fort Grant, apparently, the soldiers had run out of Indians. The Army had been transferred and all that was left was a demolition crew of 10-12 men. Dad tried to interest them in potatoes. No Soap! He contacted several ranchers and settler’s -then dumped the whole mess and headed for the hills. He told me later that he got $3.00 for that 7 or 8 hundred pounds of potatoes. So that was the end of that new and 'hoped for' potato-shipping route.

It was only about 9 or 10 miles from Chesley Hollow to Fort Grant and I believe Dad intended to stockpile potatoes there at some convenient location ...maybe a store or a ranch house. From there a wagon could be loaded according to capacity and horsepower (near to a ton). It could have been a success but maybe not. At least it was a very good idea. Beside the potato deal, it would have saved me many many miles of 'foot' wear plus several pairs of shoes. Also the donkeys would have had more to 'bray' about.

Peter H. McBride was born in Scotland but his love for the Irish potato leads one to believe he must have had Irish ancestry somewhere along the line.

Believe it or not - at one time Dad built a modern 'up-to-date' Ice Plant just south across the creek from the sawmill at Lower Columbine. It was a water tank constructed with 2x12 planks. The first time I saw it, I estimated it to be about 8' square and maybe 3 planks deep, and likely was water-proofed with Pinesap -'pine gum.'

Late in the fall or early winter, he filled it with water. By early spring, with the help of Mother Nature, it was a solid block of ice. By removing a few planks he could saw blocks of ice any size needed to place in pack-saddle bags. Then by packing the ice with sawdust, which was always plentiful at the sawmill, there was very little loss by the time he reached home. Ice packed in sawdust keeps well, even in warm weather. He usually shared ice with a few friends and had enough for ice water and ice cream. How he loved Ice Cream!

After the government trail from Fort Grant to Hospital Flat was abandoned, Dad took advantage of it and kept it in good repair from Chesley Flat to Columbine. The present Highway, and I mean 'High' way, follows that same old government trail from Hospital Junction to Riggs Lake with few variations.

Twice I remember Dad's stay at Chesley Hollow out-lasted his Grub box. We headed for the cabin at Columbine. There, we found only a few dry beans. Dad boiled those beans until bedtime. We finally had to chew them like hard candy - no pressure cooker!

Another time while in search of food, Dad stopped at the Joe Foster cabin at Columbine. At present the Dave Weech cabin is on the same spot. The only door to the cabin was locked and chained. With Dad's help, I got through a small window on the west side. I checked all the cupboards and shelves. The only thing I found that rats couldn't nibble on was a jar of raisins. So we had canteen water flavored with raisins the rest of the way home.

Late one evening dad decided to go to Columbine (I knew not why) but I went along. Just as we left Chesley Hollow it began to sprinkle. Before we reached the trail, it was a real cloudburst. It seemed the whole sky was falling on us. Dad usually had rain slickers strapped behind the saddles and this time was no exception. By the time we reached the trail it was absolute 'zero' visibility and maybe a little below. We had only gone a short distance when Dad called me and said, "tie the reins to the saddle horn and give the horses their free rein and they will take us safely there." That was a hard thing to do but I did as I was told.

There was one very rough place along that old government trail where the soldiers had blasted a narrow trail around a cliff. Every time I rode over that part of the trail, I almost held my breath for fear the horse might stumble and we would fall almost straight down for at least 500 feet. The first landing looked to be half way to Fort Grant. After almost an hour of total darkness, the horses stopped. By that time the storm had cleared a little - and there we were right in front of Dad's cabin at Columbine.

I never had the least impression of going around that rigid and dangerous part of the trail. I have often wondered if a horse have eyes like cats or is it just 'natural intuition?' Either way, it was like a miracle to me.

LATER: Can you feature anyone for any reason going to the mountain in the dead of winter -other than just to see how deep the snow was? In that case, it was "mission accomplished." This time Dad took Claude and I along for the ride. From the sawmill on, the snow was 4 feet or more deep and frozen solid. Otherwise, the horses never could have made it. We wrapped our feet and legs with gunnysacks to keep them from freezing. At Columbine, Dad's cabin was covered with snow. We had to dig the snow away to get down under the porch - so we could get to the front door. Dad always left a good supply of wood and kindling in his cabins in case of emergency. This time it was a home-made emergency. We soon had a booming fire going in that old cast-iron cook stove.

Out back of the cabin was a ladder by a pine tree.. Dad said it had 12 rungs. The snow was up to the top rung, of course, with a little drifting. Now, is there anyone living or otherwise, who has seen 9 - 10 feet of snow in the top of the old Graham Mountain? I believe we got home safely the next day.

Dad seldom left the mountain empty-handed. This one time we left Oak Flat and arrived at Cluff's ranch just about dark. Thinking it over later, he must have planned it that way for two reasons: First, it was a long way home 'on horseback.' Second, it just happened the fruit season was in full swing at the ranch. Now, it was too late to sit "in the shade of the old apple tree' or have "peaches in the summertime." But it was "apples in the fall" and we really did enjoy the fruits thereof.

Soon the word was spread that Uncle Peter was camped for the night. Then, it seemed every family at the ranch gathered around and insisted he entertain with song. Now you might say it was 'Sing for your supper' ...and he always sang his own compositions.

Dad had a fine baritone voice and he loved to use it. Throughout the valley he was dubbed, "Mister Music" .

His second love could have been a toss-up between music and Irish potatoes.

This story came from Dad to Howard - to Herald - to me: Again, many years before my time, my Dad, Peter H. McBride, planned to build a tower at High Peak. There was no road from the mill to the top at that time. So Dad dragged timbers and lumber with a saddle horse - clear from the sawmill to the top of the mountain. What a monstrous and wearing undertaking that must have been for both man and beast!

There, with only saw, hammer and nails and with the help of one other man, Dad built the first and only tower ever built at High Peak, and the first tower built on the mountain...so I was told.

The first time I saw that tower I estimated it was originally at least 30 feet high or more. There was a ladder from the ground to the platform on top - and from there (to the south) one could see all over Sulphur Springs Valley and to the Mexican border. To the north, one could see all over the Gila valley, Clifton, and Morenci and most of the higher parts of the White Mountains, again so I was told.

The High Peak Tower was built just about 100 years ago .... "Believe it or not!"


In the late summer of 1926, Zeke and Herald McBride planned to take their girl friends on a little tour to the mountains. They invited my wife, Zela, and I to go along as chaperones. We left early one morning with six saddle horses and enough pack-horses to carry about a week’s supply of food and camping equipment. We went up Taylor Canyon, past Nuttle’s Mill – then topped out at Chesley’s Flat. We arrived about ten o’clock that night – a mighty tired bunch.

After a day to two’s rest, Herald, Zeke and I rode up to High Peak. It took us most of the day to make the round trip. We saw what was left of the old tower that Dad had built so many years previous, it was still standing…but the top platform and most of the ladder had fallen away. I climbed as high as I dared and from there I could still see all over the Gila Valley, Morenci, Clifton and the higher peaks up in the White Mountains. The south view was obliterated from view by a tall growth of pines.

In 1977 or 1978, our daughter and son-in-law (Jake and Nina) took Zela and I to the mountain for a short vacation. We camped at both Riggs Lake and Soldier Creek for a few days, then they decided to take us up to High Peak. At that time the road was not kept up, so only 4x4 vehicles could make it to the top. For the last half mile or so we crept along at a snail’s pace in the lowest gear. At times we had to guess where the old road once was, but we finally made it.

When we arrived it was a sad and rather awesome feeling. The only thing left to identify the spot where the old tower once stood was a few, and very few, pieces of almost completely rotted timbers. Now, if those ‘rotted’ timbers could talk, the stories they could tell would be almost priceless today.

                                             AN ODE TO THE BUILDER

Praise to the man whom was called ‘Uncle Pete’.
By such adverse conditions – performed such a fete.
With only saw, hammer, horse and saddle.
Now maybe the name, "The Old High Peak Tower".
Should be changed to the biblical "Tower of Babel."

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