Tuesday, June 8, 1999

Wayne Ellsworth Barnard: Storyteller

June 8, 1999 © Thomas J. Kollenborn. All Rights Reserved.

Please note: The archive copies of the Apache Junction News received by the library did not include Issue 24, which contains Part II of this article.

As a child I recall my father talking about “Barney” Barnard and his many tales about the Dutchman’s Lost Mine and Superstition Mountain. Barney was as much a part of the folklore of Superstition Mountain as was the mine itself.

I remember my father stopping in Apache Junction on our many trips to the mountains and spending a few minutes talking to the old timers about the happenings in the area. He listened to Barney’s stories and to the information about people coming and going in the Superstition Wilderness Area. Father always had a keen interest in the news and rumors involving the mountains because he prospected the area since the 1920s.

My trail crossed with Barney’s one miserable summer morning in late July. It was one of those days on the desert when the temperature was about one hundred and five degrees by 10 a.m. The air was hot and motionless, the desert dwellers had already shaded up for the day, the gnats were humming in your ears and and irritating your eyes. The sun really bore down and the distant heat waves obscured your vision. You perspired even in the shade and your throat was dry. The heat radiated off the mountain like a blast furnace and mirages danced on the desert horizon.

Bill Barkley and I were returning from the First Water Ranch with a load of feed when we spotted an old car stalled along the Apache Trail. Standing beside the car was Barney Barnard. His towering frame, sun-baked skin and big Stetson hat personified him as a real American cowboy in my mind.

Barkley said, “Old Barney’s broke down. He’s the man who owns and operates the largest cattle ranch in these here parts, yet he doesn’t own a solitary cow as far as I know. We had better give the old son-of-a-gun a hand before he dies from a sun stroke.”

Barney’s problem was a broken fan belt. We provided him a lift back to the Junction. This gave me my first opportunity to really meet and talk to the famed storyteller. Barney owned and operated the famous Superstition B-Bar-B Guest Ranch near the base of Superstition Mountain.

Barney quickly reminded us he first arrived here when Goldfield was still a booming mining town in 1895. Barkley chuckled as old Barney spread it on thick for me and continued his history lesson for my benefit. As we pulled to a stop in front of the old Yucca Station, Barkley asked Barney how many bodies he had packed out of the mountains this year. Barney didn’t respond to the question, but graciously thanked us for the ride.

My father had known Barney since the late 1930s when Barnard first arrived in these parts. Barney was a great storyteller, and like many storytellers, he took the liberty to stretch the truth a bit. After all, someone once said, “don’t let the truth stand in the way of a good story.” And Barney was never guilty of that.

Barney came here with a vision to build a guest ranch for dudes. Through hard work and sweat he constructed the legendary B-Bar-B Guest Ranch on the slopes of Superstition Mountain, and was one of Apache Junction’s earliest pioneers.

Barnard certainly belongs on a special roll that recognizes those people who suffered unbelievable hardships before the advent of any type of cooling for homes or vehicles. Try sitting in your house without a fan in 117 degree temperatures day after day.

Who was Barney Barnard? Some will tell you he was the biggest windbag in all of Arizona. Others will tell you he was one of the great pioneer storytellers and noted author on Arizona and the Lost Dutchman Mine.

We would call Barnard a “Cowboy Poet” today. He told tall stories, some true and some untrue, and he told his stories to entertain. He indeed published a book on the subject of Jacob Waltz and his mine. The book was reprinted twenty-one times between 1952-1977.