Monday, January 10, 2011

A Hound in Disgrace

January 10, 2011 © Thomas J. Kollenborn. All Rights Reserved.

A story that might have climaxed the Arizona Republic- Phoenix Archaeological Commission’s Expedition into the Superstition Mountains in 1931 was a tale about the redemption of a Black and Tan hound named “Music.” This hound was one of the best lion tracking dogs in Arizona. Music belonged to Richie Lewis, rodeo star, operator of the Tempe Riding Academy and master of horses as well as tracking hounds. Richie Lewis brought Music along on the archaeological expedition hoping he might come across the scent of a mountain lion. Music found rustling beef steaks from the cook tent was far more to his liking than chasing mountain lions across a desert of cactus spines and thorns.

The goal of this expedition was to explore the various Indian ruins in the Superstition Mountain area. The expedition included Harvey Mott, editor of the Arizona Republic, Edward D. Newcomer, photographer for the Arizona Republic, Odd S. Halseth, archaeologist for the City of Phoenix commission, George “Brownie” Holmes, leader of the expedition and Richie Lewis.

On December 5th and 6th of 1931, Richie Lewis and George “Brownie” Holmes lead the expedition’s pack animals from Tempe to Barkley’s First Water Ranch northeast of Apache Junction. Shortly after daybreak on Monday, December 7, 1931, members of the entire expedition gathered at the First Water Ranch to begin a weeklong trip into the Superstition Mountain region.

The first day of the expedition was spent traveling to Garden Valley and setting up camp. The valley was filled with Native American artifacts and Cholla cactus. A major winter storm dumped rain all night on the expedition’s camp in Garden Valley. The next morning the expedition leaders realized this was a major winter storm for the desert. It rained continuously for two full days and nights totally paralyzing the expedition’s activities in Garden Valley.

The thief of the camp was Music, Richie’s hound. The hound had stolen and eaten all the beef steaks planned for the first two evening meals. Richie Lewis later said if Music hadn’t been such a good lion hound he would have shot him then and there. Music certainly was a hound in disgrace as far as the expedition members were concerned.

On Thursday morning, December 10, 1931, the expedition started for Charlebois Canyon. Finally the skies had cleared, but it was extremely cold for the Arizona desert and the ground was very muddy and difficult to ride across. The mud was so bad it was constantly loosening shoes or pulling the shoes off the horses. Richie and Brownie had tightened shoes on the pack and riding animals on several occasions. Brownie Holmes was in the lead, followed by Ed Newcomer, than followed the pack stock. After the pack animals were Harvey Mott and Richie Lewis. Odds Halseth brought up the rear of the expedition.

Music roamed back and forth across the trail trying to pick up scent. Suddenly he broke away from the group as if he was following a scent. He headed directly for a small Palo Verde tree sniffing and then baying. The pack train stopped temporarily to see what Music had found. Music was staring into the sightless sockets of a human skull in the shade beneath a small Palo Verde tree.

The expedition dismounted and the horses were quickly tied. The expedition members walked toward the Palo Verde to examine what Music had found. Newcomer called out for everyone not to move the skull until he had a chance to photograph it. With camera in hand Newcomer photographed the skull beneath the Palo Verde. Finally “Brownie” picked up the skull and held it while Newcomer photographed him. Brownie and Richie Lewis were quite convinced the skull was that of Adolph Ruth, a Washington D.C. treasure hunter who had disappeared in the Superstition Mountains the summer before on June 14, 1931.

Halseth placed the skull in a gunny sack and the expedition continued on to Charlesbois Spring for the night. Music’s reputation had been redeemed with the discovery of Ruth’s skull. The expedition made camp that night at Charlebois Spring. Halseth was quite convinced the skull was not that of Ruth, but that of an ancient Indian. Holmes claimed there was still flesh clinging to the skull when he picked it up. The skull was far too fresh to be that of an ancient Indian insisted Holmes and Richie. The consensus of the group agreed the skull was far too fresh to be that of an Indian. It was agreed by all members of the expedition they would return to Phoenix the next day.

Halseth hung the skull in a tree for the night so that animals would not haul it off or damage it. After nightfall a slight wind caused the skull to do a footless dance as it dangled from the branch of a large Sycamore tree.

Music had been redeemed, Adolph Ruth’s skull had been found and the expedition had obtained two out of three of its original exploration goals, however this did not please the expedition leader. Halseth wanted to continue on to Roger’s Canyon, but Harvey Mott wanted to return to Phoenix immediately to report the finding of Ruth’s skull. A majority vote of the expedition members decided the fate of the expedition. On Friday morning, December 11, 1931, the expedition returned to First Water Ranch. The next day newspapers reported the finding of Adolph Ruth’s skull in the Superstition Mountains. The discovery of Ruth’s skull ended one of the most enduring missing person mysteries of the Superstition Wilderness region.

The mystery of Adolph Ruth’s disappearance in the Superstition Mountain had finally been solved by the keen nose of a hound named “Music.”