Monday, August 10, 2015

Somewhat Stranger than Fiction

August 3, 2015 © Thomas J. Kollenborn. All Rights Reserved.

You can’t imagine the surprising and unbelievable stories I have heard over the past three scores of years. The tales of gold and treasure lost among the deep canyons and towering spires within the wilderness of Superstition Mountain are numerous. These tales would stir the souls of young men as well as old.

Searching in extremely rugged terrain. Karl Duess leading a pack horse through some bad terrain off of Tortilla Mountain.
The search for adventure has filled the hearts of many who have followed in the footsteps of “Coronado’s Children” as told by Frank J. Dobie. When Dobie penned his book in 1941 he never could have imagined the impact his words would have on a generation of young men who pursued the treasure trail.

I choose not to follow each and every one of these stories, however some are stranger than fiction itself. The following story is buried in the pages of a journal written forty years ago about an event that occurred in the Superstition Mountains. Since the first Anglo-Americans laid their eyes upon the rugged fa├žade of Superstition Mountain there were stories about lost gold in those mountains. Those who believe these stories can’t be deterred with facts or even common sense. They will continue their search until they can no longer walk or ride the trails of these rugged mountains.  There are but a few people who understand this devotion and dedication to a belief and a dream.

Over the years I have had many friends who were devoted believers in this lost gold in the Superstition Mountains. I had one particular friend whom I wanted to believe his story so badly, but I just couldn’t accept the facts he had gathered to support his theory. I would never discourage, but I never really encouraged him either until I realized his life hung in the balance. His dream of riches kept him alive. He would swear me to secrecy and then tell me things he actually saw in the mountains.

“Tom,” he said. “I was hiking up this narrow canyon when I saw a cave in a side canyon. I climbed over large boulders and made my way to the entrance of the cave. I could see the cave had been use many years before. I had a decent flashlight so I started exploring the cave. Near the rear of the cave was a small shaft that dropped down about five feet. The cave then opened into a large chamber filled massive crystalline rock. In one corner of the chamber there was more gold bullion and artifacts than the mind could imagine. There were hundreds of pounds of gold in bars, statues and even nuggets as big as chicken eggs. I was so excited and disoriented I didn’t realize my flashlight batteries were about to die. All of a sudden I was in total darkness with no light. I was not sure which direction it was to the entrance. Finally I gained enough composure I remembered have some matches. I struck a match and saw the tunnel I followed down into this chamber.

“I immediately headed for what I believed was the exit. The only specimen I kept was a nugget about the size of a small chicken egg. Striking one match at a time I finally made my way out of the tunnel. Once I reached the entrance the sun had set and it was dark. I picked up my pack and walking stick and made my way down the canyon and back to the trail.

“I found a place along the trail to pitch camp for the rest of the night. The next morning at sunrise I thought I would try to retrace my steps back to the cave and the treasure I had found.

“Tom, I never could find the treasure cave again. As I sat under an old Mesquite in Needle Canyon I thought maybe I had dreamed this story and it wasn’t real. Then, when I reached into my pocket and felt the nugget the size of a chicken egg I was convinced it was not a dream. For past decade I have tried to find that treasure cave in the Superstition Wilderness Area.”

Twenty years ago old Joe showed me that chicken egg size nugget of quartz and gold. I would say there was about five ounces or more of gold in the nugget.

Even as I looked at the nugget Joe was showing me I still really didn’t believe his story, but then again “truth can be stranger than fiction.”

Monday, August 3, 2015

Occupation Cowboy

July 27, 2015 © Thomas J. Kollenborn. All Rights Reserved.

There are all kinds of cowboys but there are only a few real ones. Cowboy skills are developed from years of experience with ranch life, stock and the range. A cowboy must know how ride, pack, gather cattle, doctor animals, repair tack, shoe, brand, dehorn, be a mechanic, be a welder, and the lists go on and on.

Howard Horinek, the ranch manager at the Quarter Circle U Ranch, is a good example of a real cowboy with many of these extra skills. Cowboys like Howard are far and few between these days. Old Arizona cattle ranches are rapidly becoming something of the past and obsolete. Feeder pens have replaced these old family ranches throughout much of Arizona, making real cowboys quite rare.

Howard lives a somewhat isolated life on the Quarter Circle U Ranch eight miles east of Highway 60 adjacent to the Superstition Mountains. He lives on this ranch just at the edge of modern society and urbanization. He lives his life in surroundings he is familiar with and well adjusted to.

When he is riding, working cattle, mending fence, working on water holes or packing salt he feels at home. His two stock dogs are always his companions. He knows, like any real cowboy knows, a good cow dog is better then a half of a dozen cowboys in the brush. Howard’s dogs work cattle at his command.

Howard was born in Stratton, Nebraska, on July 8, 1948. His dream as a youngster was to become a cowboy. Howard has worked with horses and stock since his high school days in Atwood, Kansas, where he trained colts. Howard’s father owned a farm in Atwood. He was a veterinarian as well as a farmer. Howard grew up caring and working with animals. His father taught him many skills needed to train horses and deal with sick or injured animals.

Howard joined the United States Marine Corps in 1967. He had been in Viet Nam just nine days before he reached his nineteenth birthday. He spent most of his time driving a truck which was no easy task. He spent two tours of duty in Viet Nam. He returned to the United States and entered his first rodeo.

Howard attended Colby Community College in Colby, Kansas. He participated with the College Rodeo Club. He also attended classes to learn how to make boots and saddles, and he is an accomplished saddle maker and boot cobbler.

After college he thought he would try to be a feed salesman, but found no real future in sales. He then decided in 1973 to try his luck at being a feed lot cowboy in Yates, Kansas. He worked for the Flint Hills Beef Feeders for about six months when he decided it was just too cold working outdoors in the winter for him. Howard hired out in the summer months to the Cross Mill Iron Guest & Cattle Ranch in Wyoming. He worked eight years wrangling dudes and breaking horses in the summer months in Wyoming. He broke over 600 head of horses in seven summers while working for Lonnie Mantle. He guided dudes in his spare time taking them into the Wind River Mountains.

In 1983 Howard moved to Arizona and found employment on the Hat Ranch, working for Mick Holder north of Globe, Arizona. In August of that year he was working for Lee Woods near Chama, New Mexico when he broke his hip while on horseback. While recuperating from his broken hip Howard started thinking seriously about what he was going to do with the rest of his life.

He was offered a job managing the JH6 Ranch (Old Horrell Ranch) west of Globe. The ranch belonged to L.R. Layton. He put his life on hold again because being a cowboy was his calling.

Howard worked on this ranch from 1985-1996. He spent eleven years gaining more valuable knowledge about cattle ranching in the desert environment of Arizona. After working for Layton for eleven years Howard finally decided he needed to settle down. He bought a house in Superior, Arizona and started a horse shoeing business. He shod horses from 1992-1999 for ranchers and horse owners in the Superior area.

The call of the range brought Howard back to a cattle ranch in 1999. Judy and Chuck Backus were looking for someone to manage their Quarter Circle U Ranch. Howard had finally found an ideal ranch to work on. Chuck and Judy were really happy to find Howard; especially a man of his expertise with stock.

Howard Horinek is still working cattle, shoeing horses, doctoring cows, making boots,  building saddles, packing salt, repairing water holes and windmills. Howard has found his niche in life because he is a real American cowboy. He is doing what he loves most.

Howard doesn’t have the pressures of modern society to deal with and enjoys Chuck Backus’ environmental methods of cattle ranching. Occasionally he may have an arrogant cow or horse to deal with but those days are for the most part over. Most of the cattle on the U Ranch are gentle compared to average old time range cattle.

There was a day when Apache Junction was known for its cowboys, prospectors and miners. If we look hard enough we can still find a few real cowboys living near Apache Junction.

Howard certainly epitomizes the spirit of the American West and the cowboy.  You can find Howard attending mass just about every Sunday at St. George’s in Apache Junction.

Here is a poem that Howard might enjoy….

My Horse
Riding my horse till the sun goes down
In deep canyons and over rough ground
Far from cars, trucks, planes
And those noisy trains
Until my heart becomes free
Now with this you may see
Why riding my horse is so dear to me.
© Tom Kollenborn 1963

Monday, July 27, 2015

Cherokee Mangus

July 20, 2015 © Thomas J. Kollenborn. All Rights Reserved.

Who was Cherokee Mangus? She was born March 23, 1950, on her Grandfather’s farm in Wayne County, West Virginia. She was of Irish and Native American heritage.
Vel “Cherokee” Mangus, artist, musician, songwriter, historian,
editor, publisher and a unique part of the
 rich legacy of the Superstition Mountain Area.

As a young woman she excelled in art and music. Her teachers thought she was a natural born artist and musician. In high school her art teacher showcased all of her drawings at the main entrance and she was chosen as “Artist of the Month” receiving much publicity, especially in her high school newspaper.

She soon realized that there was little opportunity in Wayne County for her talent in art and music. Yes, she could have played in a “Hillbilly Band,” but she chose not to. Her dream was to go to Nashville with a successful song that would lead to a career in music.

One of Cherokee’s original quotes was, “You have to accept what life throws at you and shape it into a work of art.” She was very gifted, had confidence, and started her journey with imagination. She wrote a challenging poem: “Naive, I played by all the rules, thinking surely I can win. It was nature laughing at my back and time staring with a grin.” This was a quote from that poem.

She was born Vel Adkins and spent her childhood in Wayne County. After high school she moved to Ohio searching for a better opportunity in life. Later she met and married Howard Mangus, the father of her two daughters Marijane and Amee. Cherokee learned about military life when she moved to Ramstein, Germany with her husband. She once commented, “she was off the farm on a plane with a ‘hillbilly drawl’”. Returning to the United States in the late 1970s she decided to divorce her husband and after another failed marriage she ended up in Gilbert with her two daughters in 1983.

She eventually found a job as a caretaker on an old movie set near Apache Junction in 1985. This old movie set became a paradise for an artist like herself. She painted murals, portraits, signs, and while living on the property she began a campaign to preserve the old movie set. It was here she created a miniature scale model of the old movie set some four feet by eleven feet. This model was replica of a set Ronald Reagan, Jason Robards, Kenny Rogers, Elvis Presley, Audie Murphy and many other legendary stars had performed for the cameras on. These stars made the movie set legendary.

Cherokee’s dream was the model would stay in Apache Junction forever. She always believed the model was built for the fans of the Apache-land Movie Ranch. She eventually became caretaker and manager of Apacheland from 1985-1988. Her daughter Amee said she had a dream to create a museum and history society devoted the history and legacy of Apacheland in Gold Canyon or nearby.

Early in 1990 she decided to move to Nashville, Tennessee, and try her luck at Country-Western song writing and singing. She was never really successful with her song writing and singing in Nashville. However, she got involved with Native American dancers and for nine years promoted very successful shows at the Ryman Theater in Nashville. During her stay in Nashville she also edited and published a newspaper about Native Americans. Vel Cherokee Mangus moved back to Gilbert, Arizona in 2003.

Once again she spearheaded an effort to create an Apacheland Historical Society and museum devoted to the history of this movie ranch east of Apache Junction in the heart of Gold Canyon. Originally she started her historical society out of the Adobe Meeting Hall in Gold Canyon.

Her attempt to create a historical society and museum in Gold Canyon was not  popular with the plans of Wayne Richardson’s Longhorn Ranch. Wayne’s partner was enraged by her efforts to form an Apacheland Historical Society in Gold Canyon.

Everything changed on Valentine’s Day 2004 when the famed Apacheland movie set burned to the ground except for five buildings. The so-called “Elvis Church” and the “Rifleman’s Barn” survived along with two or three other buildings at the front of the movie set lot.

Ed and Sue Birmingham made a deal with the Superstition Mountain Museum to donate the two buildings to them for preservation. I am certain Cherokee believed the surviving buildings would remain on the land of the legendary movie set. Of course, this didn’t happen and the remaining buildings were razed and Apacheland ceased to exist in Gold Canyon off of Don Donnelly Blvd.

The disagreement between some parties and Cherokee Mangus continued. It is apparent they tried to destroy her creditability and reputation. They were totally against her website of a virtual museum on Apacheland. I am certain I don’t have every detail of this disagreement precisely correct because it depends on whom you talk to.

Larry Hedrick and others assisted Cherokee on occasion with donations to maintain her website about Apacheland. Cherokee was always convinced an Apacheland museum needed to be founded and built in Gold Canyon. She never found enough support in Gold Canyon to help build that dream. Even I must agree a museum for Apacheland history should have evolved in Gold Canyon. However, I fully understand the revenue generating value of the Apacheland status for the Superstition Mountain Museum.

She worked closely with the Superstition Mountain Museum to help preserve Apacheland between 2010-2013. I interviewed Jim Swanson who played music at the museum and said he enjoyed working with Cherokee. She played in their three-piece band to entertain museum guests during the winter months. Jim said Cherokee was a very talented musician and vocalist.

Cherokee’s model set in the museum for many years before it was replaced with a small diorama. The pros and cons associated with this change saddened Cherokee because so much work had been put in the four by eight foot diorama she had loaned the museum.

There was nothing but good in Cherokee’s heart for others. However, if someone agitated her she could be verbally aggressive toward that person. Amee and Marijane, her daughters, both loved their mother and spoke highly of her and her desire to preserve history in the area.

One of Cherokee’s proudest accomplishments was being named to the “Rosa Parks Wall of Tolerance” for her work at the Ryman Theater in Nashville for the Native American Dance Theater. She was also very proud of the Apacheland scale model that sat in the Superstition Mountain Museum for several years. She was proud of the fact she and Larry Hedrick helped organize the museum’s first Apacheland Days that was so successful for the museum. Yes, in her own way Cherokee Mangus contribute to her community in many ways.

Cherokee continued to work on various preservation projects plus keep up with her job at the Unified School District bus barn. It was sometime in November, 2014, Cherokee’s daughter noticed something wrong with her mom. By the time her problem was diagnosed it was too late to help her. Vel “Cherokee” Mangus passed away on December 5, 2014, from a malignant brain tumor.